Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 34 days
Thursday, December 4, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Monday, December 1. The Cranes move to their new Casita.
This was a big day for Betty and Jay. The hookups on their site are ready and they were able to move their motorhome to their own lot. We walked over to see their progress and offer congratulations.
Tuesday, December 2. Theresa and I plan a Get-Away to Corpus Christi.
Tuesday morning at 6:30 am Betty knocked on our door. She looked white and frightened. She asked if I would drive the Honda and help her look for Jay. I quickly dressed while she walked back to her RV and then I picked her up. Jay went in their car to a clinic last night for a sleep apnea test. He was supposed to be released at five but he wasn’t home yet. We drove out the gate and down Western towards the freeway. Fortunately, we saw Jay’s car pass us so we turned around.
They have two gates they lock at night here at Martin Valley Ranch. Turns out Jay couldn’t get back in so early in the morning so he went for breakfast and waited! But he didn’t call Betty and when he was an hour and a half late she worried that he’d been in an accident. I know just how she feels and I too would have been very worried.
On Monday, we had left a rent check in Tom’s mailbox and on Tuesday morning we walked the dogs over to Tom and Theresa’s casita looking for them to make sure Tom received his rent. We also wanted to put in a request for a key to the gate. We don’t want to be locked out after nine o’clock! (Later in the day Tom presented me with a “key”. He took an old laminated card and cut it down in size. He strung it on a Christmas cord and presented it to me as a gift. Very funny. So that’s all it takes to get through the gate…. And who needs a locked gate anyway?)
T&T, as I refer to them, both came outside to say “hi” and Theresa told me to come inside. She and I visited while Tom and Dennis stood and talked outside with the dogs on their leashes.
I get along very well with Theresa. She is down to earth and honest. She has a sense of humor and she’s very funny. We have the same kidding around style. Although they own property and a casita and stay here part of the year, we both agree that Martin Valley Ranch is very unattractive. I call it “Gray City” and she calls it “Tent Town” or “Shanty Town”. (Tom calls it “Limp Dick Subdivision”.) However, Theresa doesn’t mind Mission and the spread out McAllen environs. She knows her way around and has found the places where she needs to shop. For her, life here is easier and more convenient than living in Fairbanks.
I don’t know how it happened but suddenly Theresa was suggesting that she and I drive up to Corpus Christi for an over night shopping trip. I was probably saying that I don’t mind south Texas but I wish we were by the ocean and that I’d only had a day to see the beach on Padre Island. Being from Fairbanks, Theresa is used to the concept of what she calls a “get-away”. On occasion she flies with a girlfriend to Seattle for a week or two of shopping. From this area, she goes with, Nancy, her friend who is just now out of the hospital. Theresa takes her motor home and stays with Nancy at Pioneer RV Park on Padre Island for a month. I was pining to see the ocean and happy at the thought of a change of scene. I have never run off and left Dennis for an overnight trip with a girlfriend, but nevertheless I jumped at the chance to try this experiment. Very excited and giggling like girls, we went outside and broke the news to the guys.
We have husbands who are very similar in many ways. Both are definitely HOH (Head of Household) types but they are both laid back and easy going. They have a similar background in construction and get along together very well. They make jokes about being run by their women and they laughed and looked resigned and did not spoil our fun and anticipation. We made a plan to leave early the next morning.
I came home and tried to figure out what I would pack. Like Dennis, I don’t have a suitcase but I dug out a deep carry bag and put in a few things. Betty dropped by and upon hearing my plan, reminded me that we have tickets for a Thursday night dinner. A group of us plan to drive to the Texas border town, Hidalgo, to see their famous Christmas display of lights.
I called Theresa in the afternoon and said, “I hope you haven’t packed yet.” Theresa is a force and was not to be stopped. She and Tom did not have tickets for this event. She said Tom could use my ticket and go with Dennis as his date — just as Theresa was my date when we all went to the Dickens “Christmas Carol” play. So that problem was solved and we went ahead with our plans.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008. Theresa and I run away to Corpus Christi.
We planned to leave between seven and eight. Theresa is known to sleep in and I’m known to be up early — so I figured on 8:00. But Theresa pulled up at seven and I wasn’t ready! I quickly showered and we pulled out at 7:30 am. Tom says in his lilting Kansas accent, “Oh yeah, when Theresa is going shopping she gets an early start.”
Theresa is an excellent driver and her blue Dodge truck is so comfortable. I was able to relax and really enjoy the ride. We entertained each other with stories and the time flew by until we arrived at ten. Theresa drove right into Corpus Christi to the downtown waterfront where big cities generally have an elegant waterfront drive together with a tall phalanx of dressy hotels and restaurants. I was so joyful to be in a big city and to see the sparkling expanse of the bay that I told Theresa I’d probably cry from happiness. We parked and there was a marine breeze and palm tree fronds were blowing in the wind and I definitely felt tears of joy. That became our joke for the rest of our trip. She would ask if I were going to cry and I would say yes but that they were tears of happiness.
Theresa stopped at a favorite crab restaurant that serves breakfast but they didn’t open until eleven so we drove on. (Joe’s Crab Shack, 444 N. Shoreline. http://www.joescrabshack.com/) Theresa wanted to eat at her favorite steak restaurant for dinner and stop at some fabric stores but other than that, we had no plan. Because neither of us had an agenda, we played it moment to moment and that was wonderful. We stopped at a Visitor’s Center but we decided not to go to a particular place like the aquarium. We just knocked around and explored. http://www.corpuschristimarina.com/pr/marina.cfm
We were hungry so we went to Theresa’s restaurant, Mountain Mike’s on Staples in Corpus Christi. We were going to have filet mignon there for dinner but it was nearby so we had our dinner as an early lunch! It was delicious. I kidded her about taking me to the ocean and then making me eat at a Montana beef restaurant.
After lunch we drove over the bridge on SR-358 to Padre Island and then headed north on SR-361 over Mustang Island towards Port Aransas. On the way I saw the state beach Dennis and I investigated on our one-day of exploration when we were in Rockport. We stopped at the Pioneer RV Resort (120 Gulfwind Dr., Port Aransas) where Theresa usually stays with Nancy. It is large with normal size sites. There is a bridge that leads to a big empty beach with ocean waves. It faces south towards the Gulf of Mexico. Winter Texans stay there but it is an RV park and you don’t buy sites or lots or build casitas. We stopped in the office to get information. A site costs $450 per month and there are many more events offered than we have at Parker Ranch. I looked at a crammed schedule and right away I spotted a yoga class. Theresa enjoys staying there because it is pretty by the beach and convenient to shopping in Port Aransas on the island or across the bay in Corpus Christi. It looked like heaven to me. The beach is so empty at this time of year that the dogs could run free. They would love it and so would I. http://www.campingfriend.com/PioneerBeachResort/
I showed Theresa the upscale Gulf Waters RV (Gulf Waters Beach Front Resort Community) that Dennis and I saw when we were exploring. We drove around and stopped in the office to get information. It is much more expensive to rent — let alone to buy, plus there are classes and activities offered at Pioneer. http://www.gulfrv.com/
Theresa stopped at some of her favorite little shopping malls in Port Aransas and we explored the little beach shops. We both like to poke around and window shop. I saw some small Christmas items and it was great fun. Then I got into trouble when I ran into a group of small stores behind Pelican’s Landing Restaurant. Island Woman Boutique carries my favorite clothing brand, “Fresh Produce”. I haven’t seen it since I left St. Augustine, FL. Soon we were both trying on outfits and I added two cotton knit pants with matching sleeveless shirts and a zip front cotton knit jacket to my wardrobe — as well as a fun pair of lightweight shoes.
“Shop ‘till you drop.” We picked up cokes and drove to the Port Aransas beach. You can drive on this beach so I saw the pier where Dennis and I walked and the breakwater at the other end. We parked and watched the brown pelicans diving in the waves in the warm four o’clock afternoon sunlight. Oh it was a beautiful sight!
“Are you going to cry?” Theresa asked with mock solicitude.
“Oh yes,” I sobbed — and I felt like it. I used to walk every day on the Baylands of Mountain View and Palo Alto. I loved to watch the brown pelicans dive into the deep pools of the sloughs and watch the big white pelicans swim in herds to drive fish in front of them as they scooped them up. I knew they flew to the Gulf in the winter — and here they are. I was thrilled to see “my” pelicans.
Theresa had not seen Rockport where Dennis and I stayed so we took the free ferry over to Aransas Pass on the mainland side and then turned north driving along the coastal road. After exploring Rockport and Fulton we stopped for dinner in Fulton at Charlotte Plummer’s Seafare Restaurant (202 N. Fulton Beach Rd.). We ate upstairs where it was too dark to enjoy the view but we could see the lights on the boats docked below. We had seafood and Theresa pronounced the oysters to be the best she’s had in a long time.
After dinner we wandered through a large tourist gift shop across the street. I found some little Christmas gifts and ornaments. Just down the street on the waterside we saw an imposing white hotel so we stopped to see about a room. I thought Theresa would choose a cheap motel but to my delight she aimed for the best. After all, we were sharing expenses. It was dark and getting cold and windy when she let me out while she parked. She told me to ask for a view room. I did and got the last one, No. 3 on the ground floor, for $139. Breakfast was part of the deal and as I walked to our room I could see people visiting and listening to piano music in a large and well-decorated lounge with a buffet beyond. With Christmas lights and a tree, it felt so cozy and warm and convivial!
Oh boy, our room was wonderful. We had two double beds, lounge chairs, a desk and a TV in a cabinet. We entered indoors from a hall but the room was a suite with a locked adjoining door and also a door that stepped outside to a patio and walkway and a seawall. We were right on the water! I was in seventh heaven. http://www.lighthousetexas.com/index.shtml
We walked to a pier built for the hotel that stretched out over the shallow waters. A protective roof at the end provided shelter and we met a man fishing there. Nearby, under water lights created turquoise pools of light in the dark choppy water. A brown pelican flew by and dove into one of the lighted areas. I think he was more successful than the fisherman.
The lawns and walkways along the sea barrier in front of the hotel were lined with palms and well lighted, giving the entire area a romantic look. It was as close to Hawaii as I’m going to get and I felt very happy.
We crawled into our comfortable beds and turned on the TV and guess what? One of the pay per view choices was “Religulous” with Bill Maher. Neither of us had seen it and both of us wanted to see it. We both loved it.
Thursday, December 4, 2008. Theresa and I return to Mission.
Mostly, Theresa likes to sleep in and I’m an early riser. In the morning I quietly dressed and slipped out the back door. It seemed too good to be true that I was actually by the ocean — that is to say, open water, the sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the bay — whatever. It was very cold and windy but I am an ocean girl. I didn’t care. I used a hotel back door to check out the breakfast buffet and went back to report to Theresa. I offered to bring her coffee but she is a sport and quickly dressed to keep me company. We had eggs and juice and I made a mess trying to cook a Texas shaped waffle.
It was early so we agreed that Theresa would crawl back into bed for an extra nap and I would sit outside to read or write. At about 8:30 am, in my journal I wrote the following.
“I’m sitting in a rocking chair outside the back door or our hotel room at the Lighthouse Inn. Room Three is a view room on the ground floor. In Aransas Bay the water laps at the sea wall ten steps away. I have a little patio alcove with some protection from the wind. I face due east — or the sun rose directly in front of me. It is a cold, windy morning and I came out here wearing the hotel cotton robe over my clothes and a sweater. It keeps the seat from feeling so cold and hard but now I’ve shucked the sleeves on the robe and sweater. The sun is shining straight down on me at about 35° above the horizon and it has warmed me up. There is a stiff wind that makes noises above me in the fronds of the California Fan Palm Trees (Washingtonia filifera). I am protected from it but if I step out on the lawn to the sidewalk I am exposed. The wind must be 10 – 15 mph and it feels as the temperature is in the fifties.
‘My view straight ahead to the horizon is the choppy waters of the bay. The tide flows towards me on an angle — left to right. The bright sun reflects off the ripples of the small waves. There is little foam. On the same angle, to my right from the beach, just past the waterfront of this hotel is a wharf that is maybe 400’ long. On the far side, near shore, a fishing boat is tied up. Beyond, the coastline bends towards the bay on the same angle as the wharf. Behind it, across from the water, I see houses and palm trees.
‘In front of me is a lawn and a sidewalk. They stretch along in front of the hotel rooms. The sidewalk drops off into the water. It is a breakwater wall. The height of the sidewalk above the surface of the water might be five feet. The depth of the water might be six or seven feet. The wall goes down two or three feet and then stops so the water can flow under the wall, as if into a cave. Perhaps the natural beach line has been retained under the sidewalk and lawn where I sit. How deep are the roots of a palm tree? (I know that young ones can be grown in pots or tubs.)
‘To my left, out of sight behind my alcove wall is a wharf for the hotel. It is wide and sturdy and goes out 100’ or less to a T covered with a roof. There are chairs and you can fish from there or just enjoy the water and admire the view.
‘Along the stretch of lawn and sidewalks, the hotel keeps white rocking chairs and white vinyl woven chaise lounges. Seagulls roost in the sun on the sidewalk.
‘The sky is a pale blue-white on the horizon and stretches up towards a deeper blue beyond the height of the sun. There are streaks of high cirrus clouds. It is a beautiful winter day.
‘The hotel is a Colonial white clapboard structure. At $129 for our room ($65 each), we have affordable luxury. Our room has two double beds and it is very pleasant. Beyond the lobby is a bar and lunge. Breakfast is served on a buffet in a semicircle in a round bay addition. Tables by windows catch the morning sun and look out on the water.
‘The water is not as beautiful as I’ve seen in many other places. It has a gray-blue equality. The scenery is not as beautiful as say, Hawaii. But it totally gorgeous compared to Mission. For scenery, how can you beat the seashore? How can you beat the sparkle of sun on water? How can you beat the mesmerizing sight of millions of pinpoints of light riding the bobbing caps of a current always in motion? This beats the sterile and static quality of Parker Ranch concrete and gravel by several light years.
‘Theresa got up and kept me company for breakfast. Now she is napping and I’m sitting in the sun. We’re going to stay until checkout time and get our money’s worth!
‘Cormorants swim in the water here and dive. Yesterday I saw brown pelicans diving and white pelicans in the waves near the shore. The brown pelicans were diving in the gulf waves on the Port Aransas beach. Here they have wharfs in the water with under water lights. Last night I saw a brown pelican dive in the water by one of the lights. The white pelicans prefer the beaches and small waves near shore in this bay.”
Eventually we packed up and set out to explore more of the Rockport-Fulton area. I wanted to find out how to get out to the houses I saw on what appeared to be an island. We found the turnoff and drove onto Key Allegro with homes and docks facing both the bay and the gulf. It is an upscale area and reminded me very much of Newport Beach, CA. It is very pretty.
Next we looked for Golden Needles & Quilts in Rockport and spent time looking at the large supply of fabrics. I decided to do a quilting design exercise, small 4×6 samplers of horizontal strips of fabric for impressionist landscapes in Leisure Valley. Even this store didn’t have enough varieties of gray….
We were hungry and made a spur of the moment decision to try a plain looking Mexican restaurant called Los Comales. The interior was a large warehouse of building block with no windows but staff was putting up Christmas decorations and it was a quarter full — clearly a popular place. Wow! We stumbled on a dining gold mine. We had the best flautas ever — and it was inexpensive. We want to go back with Tom and Dennis. In fact, by now, we were planning another over night get away for the four of us.
At two, we turned south towards home but this time Theresa took the coastal route on US-77 to Harlingen and made one more stop at the Picket Fence Quilt & Fabric Shop. However, we were both tired and didn’t stay long.
At five, we headed west on US-83 towards McAllen and made it home by 6:30 pm. Dennis and Tom were still in Hidalgo and returned later. They reported that the lights were spectacular and well worth seeing.
Theresa, thank you! It was a fabulous get away.
Tomorrow my friend, Karen Magnuson, will arrive for a ten day visit. I can’t wait to see her. Maybe the two guys will have to take us three gals back to Hidalgo to show us the Christmas lights!