Tag Archives: Mission

We Celebrate The Holidays In Mission
December 31, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 61 days
Wednesday, December 31, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 7 Months
Sunday, December 14. I celebrate my birthday with a boat tour on the Rio Bravo
We wait for our boat tour at Riverside.

We wait for our boat tour at Riverside.

We all wanted to take a boat tour on the Rio Grande and the Sunday of my 69th birthday seemed like a good time to do this.  It was a beautiful sunny day with a nice breeze — vintage Mission, Texas.

So we presented ourselves at the Riverside Club, which is located very near Pepe’s by the River where we’ve gone several times for appetizers and dancing.  The Riverside Club also serves food and there is a dance floor.  We bought our tickets and parked ourselves outside around the picnic tables to wait for the departure of our three o’clock tour boat.

The one-hour tour took us upriver with the American side of the river on our right and then we turned and ran near the Mexican shore passing the Riverside Club and going south downriver towards the International Bridge at Reynosa.  Then we turned again and returned along the American side to Riverside Club.

I don’t know what the Rio Bravo might have been in the past before dams and irrigation or what it might be like today during a storm.  It is fairly deep and wide in this area although it was only a trickle of water upriver in El Paso.  It is not a beautiful river and the scenery on both sides is monotonous.  The boat ride was very pleasant and we all enjoyed being on the water with a fresh breeze in our face.  We were able to satisfy our curiosity about the appearance of the river on our side and the Mexican side.

The historic chimney at Chimney Park was part of the first “Lift Station” in the area.  Begun in 1907, this first pump station was built out of hand made brick from Madero.  The chimney is 106 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter.  The chimney carried smoke from wood-fired boilers, which produced steam to drive the pump.  The lift station provided water for irrigating crops. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Lift_Stationhttp://www.campingfriend.com/ChimneyParkRVResort/default.asp?file=Home

The Mexican side has the more affluent homes and there are several large activity parks.  They make better use of the Rio Bravo shoreline.  The American side has no homes or parks that I saw except for Chimney Park and an RV park next to that.  If I did not know better I would have mistaken the Mexican side for the American and vice versa.

A park on the Mexican side. We wave to the kids.

A park on the Mexican side. We wave to the kids.

To the south near the International Bridge we saw in the distance the wall our government is constructing to keep Mexican aliens from crossing over into the United States.  It seems we never learn from our history.  Wasn’t the Berlin Wall bad enough?  This wall, at great cost to our economically broken country will not succeed at all in its declared purpose.  Desperate people will find a way — or die trying.  We saw border patrol boats along the river and all around the Rio Grande Valley we see border patrol vehicles.  This is an easy river to cross.  I don’t think the authorities care about stopping Mexicans from crossing the river.  They are caught when they try to leave the area in a car.  I think the border check stops with their dogs and trained officials are probably very effective in stopping illegal immigrants from leaving the Rio Grande Valley.

After our boat ride we drove along the levee a short distance south to Pepe’s by the River.  We found a table near the balcony where we could enjoy the sun and the view and also see the dance floor.  We had margaritas and appetizers.  Betty has twisted her knee so she and Jay couldn’t dance.

Monday, December 15, 2008.  We decorate Theresa’s golf cart for the Christmas parade and take Karen to the airport.

We spent the morning helping Theresa decorate her golf cart for the Leisure Valley Ranch golf cart decoration contest and Christmas parade.  I’m afraid we were scandalous.  At Theresa’s request, Karen made two signs, “Sponsored by Viagra” that we hung on either side of the cart.  We hung double balls everywhere and tried in every way to impose Christmas phallic designs upon the frame of the golf cart.  Theresa had a battery in the cart that ran all her Christmas lights.  I went over to HEB and purchased more supplies including a decorative Christmas pail to hold Viagra tablets — and blue jellybellys to put in the pail.  In the parade she threw these to spectators and was received with great hilarity.  I made Theresa wear a costume and we threw together an outfit that was meant for her to be the Spirit of Christmas. I found a white garland at HEB to use for a wreath and scarf as part of her costume.

Theresa gives Nancy a ride in the parade. Nancy looks like an elf. Theresa's golf cart got third prize.

Theresa gives Nancy a ride in the parade. Nancy looks like an elf. Theresa’s golf cart got third prize.

Unfortunately Karen had to leave at 3:15 pm so she didn’t get to see the parade or attend the results of the golf cart-decorating contest held that night in the clubhouse.  Where did our ten days go?  They flew by.  Thank you Karen for visiting us and cheering up my Christmas season.

There were a dozen contestants with decorated carts and they drove all around the complex of circular streets in both Hidden and Leisure Valley Ranches many times.  Tom, Dennis and I followed them in the Honda and took photos of their progress.  It was very funny.

Appetizers were served in the Hidden Valley Ranch clubhouse afterwards.  It was chilly out and Dennis and I were caught in our black velour sweatshirts that we were given at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival so we didn’t look very Christmassy.

We were there to find out how Theresa came out in the contest. I told her if she didn’t get first, I would stand up and say, “You were robbed!”  She got third place and I didn’t do it.  First place was a golf cart pulled by lighted deer.  The boat got an Honorary Mention.  It was all in good fun and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Saturday, December 20, 2008.  Dennis and I tour the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg, TX.

On Saturday we decided to drive to Edinburg to see the Museum of South Texas History.  We were very glad we did.  Founded in 1967 as the Hidalgo County Historical Museum, this small museum is very complete and extremely well presented.  The lighting is excellent and the posters are unusually well written and the entire museum is very beautiful.  http://www.mosthistory.org/

Entrance to the Museum of South Texas History.

Entrance to the Museum of South Texas History.

As we entered we first saw a giant prehistoric mosasaur and an ice age mammoth.  The goal of the museum is to preserve and present “…the borderland heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico.  Prehistoric plants and animal fossils, native people and European colonization exhibits, and a steamboat replica are but a few of the fascinating displays to see at the Museum of South Texas History. For almost 40 years the Museum has chronicled the heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico, preserving its rich history.”

In 2003 the Museum installed the first two sections of a new exhibit called, the Rio Grande Legacy.  With beautiful painted dioramas with scenes of ancient men and animals we learned about the prehistory and history of the region.  “The first section, River Frontier, illustrates the geological origins of the area, its ancient animals and plants, its native peoples and their encounters with Europeans and the establishment of the region as a frontier of New Spain.”  We followed the history of the Coahuiltecan Indians, the Spanish exploration and colonization, the Mexican War, the U.S Civil War, the Steamboat era, and the Cattle Kingdom.  The last section, River Crossroads “…takes the visitor through the prominence of the “Citrus Era,” the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution, and ends the journey with most recent area history.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_South_Texas_History

Wednesday, December 24, 2008.  Christmas Eve

By Christmas Eve I finally had our bus decorated and we looked ready for Christmas.  I lined the dashboard with a row of six small poinsettia plants and a small rosemary tree.  In front of them I laid out a jeweled garland of pearls and red stones together with Christmas lights.  I set my wrapped gifts on the front of the dashboard.  My sister knows I like the Jim Shore ornaments and for my birthday she sent me a Santa Sleigh filled with tree ball ornaments.  I saw a Jim Shore Santa on sale and added that to complete the scene.  I thought I took a good photo of that tableaux but I didn’t so I can only show part of it.  On our cupboards I hung some ornaments with a bit of green garland tied in ribbon.  We went to Camping World and bought one of those little tables that get propped up on the driver’s wheel.  They come with a little round white tablecloth.  On this we set a tall skinny $9.99 fake tree and I decorated it with lights and two sizes of small red or silver balls. 

On the dashboard, I placed wrapped gifts in front of a small rosemary tree and six small poinsettia plants

On the dashboard, I placed wrapped gifts in front of a small rosemary tree and six small poinsettia plants

It all turned out very well and I was pleased with the look.  I wrapped some colored Christmas lights around the rosemary tree and hung small candy canes on the wires of the lights.  Big mistake!  The candy canes all melted and dripped on the rosemary and on the mat I keep on the windshield shelf.  Oh well!

On Christmas Eve the neighborhood group near the Crane’s planned a cocktail party.  On Christmas Day afternoon they planned to have their Christmas dinner.  Both events were to take place at Marilyn and Ed’s casita and the idea was to sit outside around a firepit as there was not enough room indoors.  Betty and Jay suggested a gift exchange game.  We were each to bring a wrapped gift worth five dollars.  I brought a round stone paperweight decorated to look like a globe.  Dennis brought a package of jellybellies.  We also brought crackers and a plate of brie covered with a sauce of apricots and cranberries.

It was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed sitting outside.  There were five couples so we had ten gifts to fight over.  You know — you draw numbers and select a gift to open.  Then the second person can steal the first person’s gift or open a new one.  My globe was selected first thing and was then stolen three times before it was retired.  The jellybellies were stolen once.  I received envelopes of hot chocolate and a box of cookies.  Dennis got a box of shower items like a seaweed scrub.  This was fun and we had a pleasant evening.

Thursday, December 25, 2008.  Christmas Day

Christmas morning was another bright and sunny day.  Betty and Jay came over about 10:30 am for coffee and stollen.  We surprised them with some housewarming gifts for their new casita.  We wanted to show our appreciation for all that they have done for us since we met them last June.

We bowed out of the planned Christmas afternoon group dinner and accepted an invitation from Tom and Theresa to have Christmas dinner with them.  We chose to go over to the Embassy Suites McAllen for their two o’clock Christmas dinner seating.  They have a beautiful hotel atrium and they presented a very complete and delicious buffet.  I loved the atmosphere and we always enjoy kidding around with T&T — Tom and Theresa. http://embassysuites1.hilton.com/en_US/es/hotel/MFEMCES/index.do

After dinner we decided to drive around La Joya Lake. Located near US-83 just west of the Martin Valley Ranches and the little town of Penitas, the lake is the result of La Joya Lake Dam on La Joya Creek in Hidalgo County and is used for irrigation purposes.  There are lots available and homes built around part of the lake and we had fun driving around looking at these homes and guessing at their values, which mostly ran up to $250,000.    Two casita lots in Leisure Valley Ranch now cost about 40K and there were lots by this lake for 50K with room to build a house….  But no thank you, I do not want to settle in the lower Rio Grande Valley area.

I can't resist dressing Margot and Rudi in red outfits on Christmas morning. I think they've worn these twice...

I can’t resist dressing Margot and Rudi in red outfits on Christmas morning. I think they’ve worn these twice…

When we came back to Leisure Valley Ranch Theresa and I decided to drive around in her Christmas decorated golf cart with all the Christmas lights ablaze.  It was last light just after sunset and very beautiful.  We began to sing every Christmas song we know and soon we were singing at the top of our lungs as we drove around the streets lit with Christmas lights.  I had promised to drop in on the end of the Christmas group dinner for dessert but I knew Dennis did not care about it and I was not in the mood either.  Instead Theresa and I caroled that outdoor party as well everyone else in the neighborhood.  We stopped in front of the Crane’s casita and RV and stood outside their door singing a loud rendition of “Dashing Through the Snow.”  Then the four of us walked over to the party singing together and soon we had everyone sitting outside singing along with us.  Theresa and I kept this up for awhile and then we quietly left.

I certainly have a great time with Theresa.  I know it’s my problem but when I am around these mid-west older couples, I feel constrained and self conscious and locked into my role as an old married lady. When I’m with Theresa, I revert to my carefree teenage self, cavorting with my girlfriends.  I love hanging out with Theresa!  She dropped me off at our bus and I came in feeling like I had had a very happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008.  New Year’s Eve

The LED monitors on our Sleep Number 4000 air bed made by Select Comfort gave out.  We couldn’t read the numbers as we pushed our up and down buttons.  Then the pump gave out on Dennis’s side and it wouldn’t change from firm to soft or vice versa.  We called the company and they were very accommodating.  They sent us a new pump with the attached monitors and asked us to send back the old one, via UPS, prepaid.  The replacement arrived on the 29th and the next morning Dennis ripped apart the bed to install the new pump.

Margot is absolutely worn out from all those holiday parties.

Margot is absolutely worn out from all those holiday parties.

We ended the year quietly.  We dropped over to the clubhouse with an appetizer contribution and stayed for a few hours before slipping out early.  They don’t have a sound system installed and the poor things were trying to dance to the strains of a small and weary boom box.  We came home to crawl into bed and watched the new crystal ball drop at Time’s Square at 11:00 pm our time.  Happy New Years!  I’m afraid we were asleep by midnight Central Time.

Now our two months in Mission are finished and we can plan to leave.  We are staying a few extra days to see a highly recommended performance by RV couple, the singing comedians, Bernie & Red. Among RVers, they are quite well known and that show will be on Monday night, Jan. 5th. Tom and Theresa are leaving on January 6th to meet their son and his wife and the grandkids in San Antonio. They will spend ten days together on an RV travel vacation. We will wave goodbye to them and leave on January 7th. We plan to spend a few days in Port Aransas on Mustang Island at the Pioneer RV Resort.

We Sightsee With Karen
December 13, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 43 days
Saturday, December 13, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Friday, December 12. We drive to Port Isabel to see the beaches on South Padre Island and Boca Chica
We approach South Padre Island.

We approach South Padre Island.

Once again Tom and Theresa stepped up to help us show Karen around.  Karen heard me talking about seeing the beach at Corpus Christi and wanted to go there.  That is far enough away to involve staying overnight.  But the beaches on South Padre Island are only 80 miles to the east.  So Theresa drove the five of us in her blue Dodge pickup truck on US-83 east towards Brownsville.

We passed through Port Isabel and crossed the inland bay, Laguna Madre to South Padre Island.  We turned north and we passed mile after mile of empty land dotted by condos and hotels.  In a rough sort of way it reminded me of the layout of Cancun with big hotels lining the long beach.  Passing these we turned towards the Gulf and then drove north on the long, long beach.  It was a gorgeous day and it was so delightful to see the water.

We turned back and drove into the town of South Padre Island where we stopped at The Lost Galleon, a seafood restaurant for lunch.  Tom and Theresa have a very funny style.  As a couple they have exchanges that make us laugh.  Theresa says that her family says they should be on stage.  I agree.

As we drove around South Padre, Tom began to lobby for us to go to Boca Chica.  So after lunch we gave in and returned west towards Brownsville, where we turned south and then east towards a segment of beach south of Padre Island.  We took the Boca Chica Highway which skirts the southern tip of the South Bay. We ran parallel to the northern side of the river before the the mouth of the Rio Grande or Rio Bravo reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

The Boca Chica Highway took us through a flat marshy area where the stale waters of the South Bay gave off a gassy smell. We stopped to look at two historic markers and I felt very sorry for the men who had to camp here. I found this description of the area:

“Palmito Ranch Battlefield lies on a windswept plain at the southernmost tip of Texas, midway between Brazos Island and Brownsville, on sparse land characterized by marsh and chaparral with a few scattered hillocks….The name of the area comes from the Palmetto trees that dot the landscape wherever the terrain rises a few feet above sea level. Mid 19th century artifacts can be found at the remains of early ranches and railroad camps. Palmito Ranch Battlefield is located between TX 4 (Boca Chica Hwy) and the Rio Grande, approximately 12 mi. E of Brownsville in Cameron County.” http://blue.utb.edu/localhistory/historical_landmarks_page 4.htm

As we drove, we came across several historic markers. A lot of action took place in this unlikely location on a flat and unremarkable terrain.

Battle of Palmito Ranch (Marker Text:)

Map of Brownsville, the Boca Chica Highway, Rio Bravo, and Boca Chica Beach.

Map of Brownsville, the Boca Chica Highway, Rio Bravo, and Boca Chica Beach.

“The last land engagement of the Civil War was fought near this site on May 12-13, 1865, thirty-four days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Col. Theodore H. Barrett commanded Federal troops on Brazos Island 12 miles to the east. The Confederates occupied Fort Brown 12 miles to the west, commanded by Gen. James E. Slaughter and Col. John S. (Rip) Ford, whose troops had captured Fort Brown from the Federals in 1864. Ordered to recapture the fort, Lt. Col. David Branson and 300 men advanced from Brazos Island. They won a skirmish with Confederate pickets on May 12. Barrett reinforced Branson’s troops with 200 men on May 13 and renewed the march to Fort Brown. Confederate cavalry held the Federals in check until Ford arrived with reinforcements that afternoon. Ford’s artillery advanced and fired on the northern end of the Federal line while the cavalry charged. The Confederate right charged the southern end of the Federal line and captured part of the Union infantry. Barrett ordered a retreat toward the U.S. position on Brazos Island. While the Confederates reported no fatalities in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the Union forces reported four officers and 111 men killed, wounded or missing.” http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasGulfCoastTowns/BocaChicaTexas/Battle-Of-Palmito-Ranch.htm

Camp Belknap Site
As part of the U.S. declaration of war on May 13, 1846, Congress authorized the raising of up to 50,000 volunteers from the various states. Camp Belknap, established in July 1846, was named for William Goldsmith Belknap, a regular army officer. Located on a long, narrow rise of land called the “Loma de la Estrella” (Spanish for “Hill of the Star”), it was one of the largest volunteer troop encampment sites of the Mexican War. This Texas Historical Commission marker, erected in 1996, stands near the site – on Boca Chica Road, (State Hwy. 14), about 15 miles east of Brownsville. A joint effort of the DMWV and the Cameron County Historical Commission, it was formally dedicated in May 1997.

Marker Text:
“In May 1846 when war was declared against Mexico, the U.S. Congress authorized the raising of 50,000 volunteer troops to supplement the regular U.S. Army. General Zachary Taylor was quickly inundated with volunteer soldiers arriving at Brazos Santiago, and was forced to place them in temporary encampments. Camp Belknap, located on this site, was established in the summer of 1846. The camp was located on a long narrow rise of land, measuring about 2 miles in length and one-half mile at its widest point. It was the first high ground encountered after leaving the Gulf Coast. Thought to be the largest encampment for volunteer soldiers, troop estimates total 7,000-8,000 men including several regiments from eight states. Soldiers suffered exposure to the elements, unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, biting insects, thorny plants, and disease. Many died a premature death, often resulting in one two two funerals daily. No enemy attacks took place despite one false alarm. During August and September most of the volunteers were moved upriver either to camps nearer Matamoros, or further to Camargo. The camp was completely empty by December 1846.”
http://www.dmwv.org/mexwar/mwsites/cameron.htm

The beach and the tower on the far side marks the border of Mexico.

The beach and the tower on the far side marks the border of Mexico.

Once again the highway came to an end at the beach. If we had turned north I believe we would have come to the break between South Padre Island and Brazos Island. As my son, Jeff, is a surfer I must insert the following for him. “South Padre Island surfers know anytime a tropical storm system is in the Gulf of Mexico, surf conditions will be epic in the Brazos Santiago Pass….” http://gotexas.about.com/od/texasphotos/ss/SPISurfers.htm

However, we turned to drive south towards the Mexican border.  Ahead of us we could see the waters of the bay bending around the corner towards the mouth of the river.  On the far side of the river and bay we saw a tower on the Mexican side. Naturally, we presumed that it was a bastion for official surveillance, although I wondered why such a thing would be on the Mexican side.

I think Tom is onto something. This is what I found out about Boca Chica Beach.

“Many visitors know about the desolate stretches of beach available along the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi. And, thousands of tourists flock to the sandy shores of South Padre Island each year. However, few people realize there is a beach which combines the qualities of these two popular Texas beaches.

Boca Chica Beach is located just east of Brownsville.

Boca Chica is a sandy peninsula separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande River and detached from South Padre Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass. Aside from a few stilt homes near the pass, which can be viewed from South Padre Island, and a jetty protruding into the Gulf of Mexico, Boca Chica Beach has no development whatsoever. The State of Texas does own land on Boca Chica which, technically speaking, is a state park. However, there are no park facilities on this land.”

Although Boca Chica has little in the way of modern amenities, it does offer a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including fishing, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, kiteboarding and birdwatching. It is also the ideal place to get away from everything.

Getting to Boca Chica is a snap. From Brownsville, take Highway 4 east until it runs out. Once you hit the beach, you can either go right to the mouth of the Rio Grande or hang a left and cruise up to the north end, which is directly across from South Padre Island. http://gotexas.about.com/od/outdoorsintexas/a/BocaChica.htm

My 'ole buddy, Karen. We've been friends for a long time.

My ‘ole buddy, Karen. We’ve been friends for a long time.

I did some research on this tower and discovered that it is not ominous. It is a lighthouse. “Boca Chica Highway ends at the beach, where the sand dunes open up. If it’s a weekend, fishermen will be scattered up and down the beach with their pick-up trucks. If it’s a weekday, you might be the only person here. There is no development, just 7 miles of high dunes and white sand being pummeled by clear, warm water. To the right, you can drive to the mouth of the Rio Grande River. On the south (Mexican) side of the Rio Grande is a large concrete tower, a working lighthouse. This is how you know you’ve reached the small outlet of the Rio – if it’s a year in which the river actually reaches the sea.” http://www.waymarking.com

Boca Chica Beach is very beautiful and I was very glad we got to see this US/Mexican border area by the Gulf.  We walked around and then turned to drive home.  We had a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008.  Tom shows us Quinta Mazatlan, a bird refuge in McAllen.
On Saturday morning Tom offered to show us one of his favorite places, a nearby bird refuge on 10th St. by the McAllen Airport.  Quinta Mazatlan soon proved to be far more than a bird refuge.  With beautiful grounds, it is an elegant and historic estate.  http://www.quintamazatlan.com/

As I have felt somewhat starved for the sight of pretty homes and gardens, this lovely realm soothed my soul.  I learned that in this flat and thorny land one does not have to settle for concrete or gravel or a patchy brown field.  It is possible after all, to have a beautiful garden with flowerbeds, tall trees and blooming bushes.  I loved walking through the beautiful architecture of a Spanish style home with thick walls and open hallways — designed to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  No ghastly brown mobile homes here….

“The legend of Quinta Mazatlan begins with an understanding of the name. The word “Quinta” in Spanish translates to a country house, villa or estate. When the owners began building the home in the 1930s, the area was surrounded by grapefruit orchards. The word “Mazatlan” has an ancient Indian translation in Mexico meaning “Land of the Deer”. The owners, Jason & Marcia Matthews, frequented the city of Mazatlan in Mexico and were clearly inspired by the Spanish architecture of the area.

‘Tamaulipan thornscrub” is the plant community that once covered the Rio Grande Valley with a mix of cactus, mesquite, thorny underbrush and river-bound wetlands. By 1900, the landscape began to change as the wild thornscrub was cleared and burned to accommodate the growing number of settlers and industry. The native plants were replaced by railroads, irrigation canals, cattle ranches and citrus groves.

The Quinta Mazatlan estate.

The Quinta Mazatlan estate.

‘Composer, writer, and adventurer, Jason Chilton Matthews (1887-1964) traveled the globe collecting artifacts and stories while serving in 11 countries during World War I and even fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia. When he finally settled in 1935 with his affluent Pennsylvania wife, Marcia Jamieson (1891-1963), they built Quinta Mazatlan at what Matthews called the “Crossroads of the Western Hemisphere.

‘….The main house, which has 6,739 square feet of living area, was the next building constructed. This house is where Jason, his wife Marcia, daughter and son lived for 30 years…. The Matthews published the (New) American Mercury magazine from their home at Quinta Mazatlan during the 1950s. This leading conservative magazine expressed strong pro-American views. The original American Mercury magazine was founded in 1924 by H.L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine featured writing by some of the most important writers in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s….The family lived at Quinta Mazatlan for 30 years. Marcia Matthews died at the age of 71, on May 22, 1963. Jason Matthews died a year later….

‘Between the years of 1964 and 1967, Quinta Mazatlan was up for sale…. In the later part of 1967, Hurricane Beulah destroyed much of the roof, leaving the adobe home in shambles. In 1968, Frank and Marilyn Shultz purchased the eight acre estate and its buildings which comprised of more than 10,000 square feet for $24,000. They began restoring the home to its former splendor by adding beautiful cantera (stone) patios and expanding the home. They planted exotic flowers, shrubs and trees, while welcoming the re-growth of the native thornscrub.

‘In 1998, Shultz put Quinta Mazatlan up for auction. Because of the property’s premier location to the airport and mall, developers targeted the area for other business goals. The City of McAllen, however, won the bid and again Quinta Mazatlan and its wildlife was saved. It would become a home with a mission…. The McAllen Parks and Recreation Department, now the steward of Quinta Mazatlan, expanded the property to 15 acres, built nature trails, renovated the grounds, and hired a staff that encourages visitors to restore native habitat “one backyard at a time”. Quinta Mazatlan, which opened to the public in 2006, looks beyond its city limits as a member of the World Birding Center, promoting conservation and restoration of native habitat throughout the Rio Grande Valley.”

“Leafcutter ants are social insects found in warmer regions of the Americas. These unique ants have evolved an advanced agricultural system based on ant-fungus mutualism. They feed on special structures called gongylidia produced by a specialized fungus that grows only in the underground chambers of the ants’ nest.

I took a closeup of the ants but my camera isn't up to the task so I borrowed this photo titled, Atta colombica workers transporting leaves, by Tim Flach—Stone/Getty Images http://student.britannica.com

I took a closeup of the ants but my camera isn’t up to the task so I borrowed this photo titled, Atta colombica workers transporting leaves, by Tim Flach—Stone/Getty Images http://student.britannica.com

Different species of leafcutter ants use different species of fungus, but all of the fungi the ants use are members of the Lepiotaceae family. The ants actively cultivate their fungus, feeding it with freshly-cut plant material and maintaining it free from pests and molds. This mutualist relationship is further augmented by another symbiotic partner, a bacterium that grows on the ants and secretes chemicals- essentially the ants use portable antimicrobials. Leaf cutter ants are sensitive enough to adapt to the fungi’s reaction to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus the colony will no longer collect it.

The only two other groups of insects that have evolved fungus-based agriculture are ambrosia beetles and termites….A mature leafcutter colony can contain more than 8 million ants, mostly sterile female workers. In Central America, leafcutter ants are referred to as “Wee Wee” ants, though not based on their size. They are one of the largest ants in Central America. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafcutter_ant

After walking around Quinta Mazatlan Tom took us to a delicious Greek restaurant and deli called, Sahadi Cafe, located on 10th St. in McAllen. I had Pacific smoked salmon and lox and it was delicious! After lunch we browsed in the deli. For my birthday (tomorrow) Karen bought me a delicious German stollen coffee cake. She knows stollen is a Christmas tradition for me. We will all enjoy it over coffee in the morning.

Saturday, December 13, 2008.  In the evening we attend a Christmas Pageant.

Our day was not finished.  A group of us had tickets for a Christmas concert.  I was ill pleased with this performance and wrote a scathing report in my journal.  Rather than adding it to the end of this page I will post it as an essay.  If you care to read it you can click on the title here or on the Essays button in the Menu Bar above.
McAllen Christmas Pageant

Awhile ago I discovered that none of the Christmas decorations I used last year are with us.  We must have left them in storage.  When we left last March, I guess I thought we’d be back before Christmas! I don’t want to spend too much money when I already have a fake mini tree and other decorations that I bought last year for the bus.  Now I have to figure out some other way to decorate. Probably my artistic friend, Karen, will help me find some inexpensive substitutes.

Karen Visits Us For Ten Days
December 11, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 41 days
Thursday, December 11, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Friday, December 5. My old friend, Karen, comes to visit us from California
Karen arrives at the Miller-McAllen Airport and Dennis puts her suitcase in our car.

Karen arrives at the Miller-McAllen Airport and Dennis puts her suitcase in our car.

Weeks ago I talked to my old friend Karen M.  I met her in the early seventies when we both worked for the Pic-a-dilly stores at Atherton Industries.  More like sisters than friends, we’ve been squabbling together ever since and have never parted ways.

When I met her, Karen lived on J St. in the Noe Valley of San Francisco.  Since, she has lived in various areas around the bay area but a few years ago she bought a house and moved up to Clear Lake near Kelseyville.  We visited her there when we brought our new bus home a year ago last autumn.  (Click on link below and skip down to Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, Konocti Marina.)   Recently retired, with time on her hands, I begged Karen to use her freedom to come visit us in Mission.  Foolish girl — she agreed. http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/Bus/20HomeBase.html

It was a very cold and windy day when we drove to the McAllen Airport to meet Karen’s 10:15 am plane from San Francisco (via Dallas).  We wore jackets and explained that the weather here seems to vary with days that range from 37° to 87° in temperature.  This was a 37° morning.  After driving many extra miles on the frontage roads that lock you into loops of one-way driving on either side of the freeway, we managed to find the Cracker Barrel where we took Karen for breakfast.

Then back to the bus where we pulled out the couch bed and made it with our newly purchased bed mat and sheets and pillow.  We decided to leave the bed up for the duration of her stay so she would have a home base — a corner where she could stow her stuff and sit.  The couch pulled out as a bed was not inconvenient nor much in the way.  She was able to push her suitcase underneath the bed.

We hung out for the rest of the day.  We walked the dogs and showed her the Martin Valley Ranches.  I was so happy to see an old friend and a familiar face — someone who knows me well — warts and all.

Saturday, December 6. We take Karen to a bird and butterfly refuge.

At the Overlook we see a portion of an Oxbow.

At the Overlook we see a portion of an Oxbow.

We’ve let a lot of time go by since we got here and we haven’t done much to explore the area or play tourist.  We didn’t want to let Karen’s ten days go to waste so we made a good start on her first day.  The area is famous as a world birding center so we decided to take a tour of the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.  This was a very successful outing and we spent three hours walking around this large refuge.  There is a tram that takes you on a tour of the entire hour and you can get on and off.  It comes around once an hour.  After we got our bearings, we hopped off and walked around some of the trails. http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/sites/mission/

We did manage to see many birds that we have not seen before.  There were blinds so when we stood quietly we were rewarded with flashes of color.  We saw a bright yellow bird (warbler?) and a bright red bird (tanager?) as well as swallows and woodpeckers and hummingbirds.  We also so the Plain Chachalaca, a large brown bird that looks something like a turkey.

However, the big hit were the javalinas that were seen crossing the open park meadows or diving into the high grasses.  I had never heard of them before, much less seen them.  They were very odd looking creatures.

Resaca Trapping Precious Water
(Trampa de Agua Preciosa)

“What is a Resaca?

A Resaca is an oxbow lake or abandoned river channel.  Resacas provide important wetland habitat for birds and other animals.

The word Resaca comes from the Spanish resacar (“to retake”), which relates to how resacas function — by capturing and dissipating river floodwaters.  Naturally cut off from the river, the resacas along the Rio Grande have no inlet or outlet except when the water is high.  Some are dry until filled with rainwater.  Some are used as reservoirs filled with water pumped from the river.”

“How Do Resacas Form?

Periodic flooding changes the river’s course and creates resacas.  Here’s how it happens:  Slow moving river water deposits silt on the insides of the meander.  Water on the river’s outer edges flows faster, eroding the banks along the neck until the loop disappears, leaving an oxbow lake.  Without the river current to move the water along, sediment builds up over time and fills in the lake creating a “dry” resaca.”

These Javelinas are not afraid of us but neither are they aggressive.

These Javelinas are not afraid of us but neither are they aggressive.

Javalinas are not wild pigs. They are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Also known as Tayaussa or Musk Hog, they are in the Tayassuidae family. The Collared Peccary is the only wild, native, piglike mammal living in the US. They roam in bands and their range includes the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts of southwestern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as southward through Central America to northern Argentina. They are called Javelina because of their razor-sharp tusks, Spanish for javelin or spear. They commonly eat agaves and prickly pears. http://www.desertusa.com/magnov97/nov_pap/du_collpecc.html

While we were walking on the Acacia Loop, a butterfly landed on my visor. Dennis managed to get some photos of it.

Later, I looked for photos of “my” butterfly as found in the South Texas area.  I ran across a web page with beautiful photos of butterflies.  http://www.carolinanature.com/butterflies/txleps.html
I wrote to the contact, Will Cook of Duke University in Durham, NC and sent him my photo.  He very kindly wrote back saying “Nice one,” and he identified it as a Malachite (Siproeta stelenes). Thanks, Will!

Will referred me to photos on a web page produced by the North American Butterfly Asso.  I learned that the malachite is named for the green mineral of that name.  The Family, Nymphalidae, includes Brush-footed Butterflies | Admirals, Fritillaries, Emperors, Satyrs and Milkweeds. I borrowed this “Santa Ana” photo of a malachite with wings that are brown instead of black. There are several lovely photos on this page.
http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabast/malachite.html

A butterfly lands on my visor...

A butterfly lands on my visor…

I also found information on Wikipedia and borrowed another photo that shows a malachite with black on the wings.  “Siproeta stelenes (or malachite) is a neotropical brush-footed butterfly. The malachite has large wings, which are black and brilliant green or yellow-green on the upper sides and light brown and olive green on the undersides. It is named for the mineral malachite, which is similar in color to the bright green on the butterfly’s wings. The wingspread is typically between 8.5 and 10 cm. The malachite is found throughout Central and northern South America, where it is one of the most common butterfly species. Its distribution extends as far north as southern Texas and the tip of Florida, to Cuba, as subspecies S. s. insularis (Holland, 1916), and south to Brazil.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siproeta_stelenes

Is it a Yellow Warbler? http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/sites/mcallen/index.phtml

Would you like to have a checklist of birds? Click on this site and download the Quinta Mazatlan bird checklist as a pdf file.  On that list are 52 Parulidae or Wood Warblers.  Could the bird in my photo be a warbler?  Might it be a Wilsonia canadensis, Canada Warbler, or a Dendroica petechia, Yellow Warbler?  I have no idea and I wish I knew for sure.

After walking all over the refuge, it is very pleasant to sit in the sun and watch the river. Karen and I are catching up on our lives.

After walking all over the refuge, it is very pleasant to sit in the sun and watch the river. Karen and I are catching up on our lives.

Karen wanted to see the Rio Grande and we thought it would be fun to sit on the deck at Pepes’s by the River.  I knew it was nearby but I did not know exactly where.  I asked one of the helpers at the desk and he made me a very funny map with few street names but many squiggle drawings that indicated landmarks.  Chimneys? That was a park with tall water towers. Watermill? That was a place by the road that sold water. His map was perfect and took us straight to Pepe’s.

We sat on stools at a counter facing the water.  Dennis and Karen had Margaritas and we split an order of their Nachos Supreme.  Karen loved this place and we all enjoyed watching the river.

Sunday, December 7, 2008.  Mexico with Theresa and Tom.

Karen felt she might be coming down with something and wanted to buy a prescription drug in Mexico so we made that our priority.  Theresa and Tom agreed to drive us over and show us around.  I felt much more comfortable going with them.  I still do not feel completely at ease when we cross the border to shop.

This time Theresa drove across the border.  People in the street wave to you and show you where to park.  Once parked, Tom hired some guys to wash his truck.  It was sparkling and waxed when we returned.  We spent our time wandering around as we did before.  I am tempted by little and am soon bored with looking at the merchandise in the tourist stores.  But Karen looked at everything carefully and made some good Christmas gift purchases.

I was persuaded to go into one of the numerous dental offices where I let a technician clean my teeth.  I am long overdue.  This procedure took thirty minutes and cost $30.  It was a very half way job but I suppose, better than nothing.

An impromptu parade went down the main street of Progresso. By the time I got my camera out the fancy guys had gone by. This is the tag end.

An impromptu parade went down the main street of Progresso. By the time I got my camera out the fancy guys had gone by. This is the tag end.

We also followed Tom’s example and bought some drugs.  My sister has fallen into the insurance “donut” so we bought Cymbalta for her.  She says it costs her $350 w/o insurance and $60. with insurance.  We bought it for $50.  We also bought one of the tiny Azopt bottles I use each month.  They are eye drops to control glaucoma and each month I have difficulty getting my prescription renewed from my doctor in Palo Alto because I haven’t been in for a check-up.  I had all of this done in Billings, MT but I can’t get the record straight at home.  Besides, with insurance the portion we pay is $75+.  We bought it for $40.  Even with insurance, we saved $35.  Without insurance this bottle would cost $120.  That’s a disgrace.  What is going on?  Both bottles come from the same place — Alcon Labs in Ft. Worth, Texas

We had lunch at the Red Snapper and it was very good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008.  We visit Hidalgo to see their Christmas lights display.

Betty is our organizer here in Leisure Valley Ranch.  She reads the local papers and chooses interesting activities. Mostly, someone volunteers to go buy a group of tickets and then collects the money and distributes the tickets.  I bought tickets to see the Christmas lights in a little border town called Hidalgo.  We are in Hidalgo County and Hidalgo is a small town about twenty minutes away.  It is opposite Reynosa, a Mexican town that we don’t visit as it is reputed to be less safe than Progresso.  The group went early to meet in a park where they sat at picnic tables and were served a box dinner.  After dark they got on trolleys and took a tour around Hidalgo to see all the Christmas lights.  That was the night that Theresa and I went to Corpus Christi so Tom went with Dennis in my place.

Tom and Dennis told us the lights really were amazing so then Theresa and I wanted to see them and we were spurred on by our wish to entertain Karen.  So we decided to drive to Hidalgo to see the lights.  We figured the guys would know all about it but we were wrong.  We needed someone like Betty to get us organized.  Theresa drove her blue Dodge truck and we went early so we could buy tickets for the box dinner and the trolley tour.  We found a ticket booth but there was no one in it.  We found a crowd of people at picnic tables waiting for their dinners but we were told we couldn’t buy a dinner as they needed to be ordered in advance.  We had a long wait before dark to see the lights so we decided to find a restaurant.  Nothing doing.   After inquiries and much driving around we did find one — but it closed at five o’clock.  There isn’t much going on in this border town after work hours!

Our plans to eat at the park and buy tickets for a trolley tour went bust.  We finally drove north towards the McAllen Airport and trouped into Tony Roma’s on 10th St. for an excellent dinner.  We got into a hilarious mood after all this wasted effort and I’m not sure we cared whether we saw the lights or not.  After dinner we went back to Hidalgo and drove around town under the direction of our guides, Dennis and Tom.  They tried their best but we felt we were missing some areas until we saw a trolley.  We turned and got right behind it with a line of cars following us.  Cool move — NO — bad move.  The trolley was old and left a strong trail of diesel fumes. This made us more hilarious and finally we begged Theresa to lose the trolley.  However, we left Hidalgo feeling that we did see most of the lights and we all agreed that they were very impressive.

This big house and yard is covered with lights.

This big house and yard is covered with lights.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights were remarkably windy. Winds in Mission are usually steady at about 10 mph. But strong winds can crop up suddenly — often at night. On Tuesday we had temperatures from 78° to 91° with an 11 mph SE wind. Winds did not disturb us while we looked at the Hidalgo lights. But that night the wind reached speeds of 36 mph with gusts up to 47 mph.

It died down during the day on Wednesday the tenth and temperatures turned cool, ranging from 53° to 65° because the wind switched coming from the NW at a steady 19 mph. That night it rained and we got very strong winds with maximum speed of 39 mph and gusts of speed up to 47 mph.

The wind and rain woke us and gave us a restless night. Fortunately we are parked facing NW so the wind hit us from stem to stern and not cross-wise. But a wind like that shakes the entire bus and especially the slides. It rattles the canvas that rolls out over the top of the slides to keep out water when it rains. It got so bad that we finally decided to get up and put in the slides. We had to put on the lights and wake Karen who was sleeping soundly — what a talent. We moved the ottomans out of the way and put in all four slides. Then I had to crawl over Karen’s bed because it blocked the aisle to our bedroom. We slept a little better knowing that the slides weren’t getting beat up for no good reason.

Thursday, December 11, 2009

Thursday morning I noticed that a neighboring Prevost also put in their slide: Better safe than sorry. The weather calmed down and winds switched coming from the WNW with maximum speeds of 17 mph and gusts up to 24 mph. It was a cold 36° in the morning but temperatures climbed to 71° by the end of the day.

Of course we spent some days with Karen just hanging out.  We walked the dogs around the complex and talked a blue streak. We did errands.  I had Christmas gifts to wrap and mail; Karen needed to go to the bank and she was on the lookout for small gifts.  I was on the lookout for ways to decorate the bus for the Christmas season. As we drove around, we showed Karen more of the Mission area.  We grocery shopped and Karen did some of our cooking.  She showed me how she cooks Huevos Rancheros for breakfast and her method for making a lunch of quesadillas.

I give Karen a bowl of oatmeal while she works at my desk. Karen has grabbed photos from my collection and is making a composite.

I give Karen a bowl of oatmeal while she works at my desk. Karen has grabbed photos from my collection and is making a composite.

Karen is an artist and a professional graphic designer.  She knows programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop like the back of her hand.  Years ago, she took a class to learn how to design a web site using Dreamweaver so she knew a bit about this also.  Like me, she is used to spending long hours working on projects on her computer.  So we shared mine and she began to make an alternative design for my website.  We both learned more about Dreamweaver as we worked on this project.

For me, it was just lots of fun to have someone around who shares my interests.  I have no one with whom to compare notes or to get help when I have questions.  Most of the people I meet think I am crazy to spend so much time on the computer.  Maybe I am but I don’t think it so different from gluing myself to a sewing machine and making a quilt.  I find it relaxing and stimulating and always a mental challenge to conquer each task or problem that arises as I work with these programs.  Karen understands this and we share the same interests.

Awhile ago I discovered that none of the Christmas decorations I used last year are with us.  We must have left them in storage.  When we left last March, I guess I thought we’d be back before Christmas! I don’t want to spend too much money when I already have a fake mini tree and other decorations that I bought last year for the bus.  Now I have to figure out some other way to decorate. Probably my artistic friend will help me find some inexpensive substitutes.

Theresa & I Take a Getaway to The Beach
December 4, 2008
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.
The view on Lost Greens Dr. shows the empty lot next to the Crane's lot with their casita and motorhome

The view on Lost Greens Dr. shows the empty lot next to the Crane’s lot with their casita and motorhome

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.

Corpus Christi waterfront

Corpus Christi waterfront

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.

Map of Corpus Christi, Mustang Island, Port Aransas, Rockport and Fulton

Map of Corpus Christi, Mustang Island, Port Aransas, Rockport and Fulton

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.

Theresa drives by the pier that Dennis and I saw from a distance when we were here.

Theresa drives by the pier that Dennis and I saw from a distance when we were here.

“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

View from the hotel pier looking south.

View from the hotel pier looking south.

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 sat outside our bedroom door on "my patio" and watched the sunrise over the water.

I sat outside our bedroom door on “my patio” and watched the sunrise over the water.

“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.

Here is my favorite — a classic beach home.

Here is my favorite — a classic beach home.

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!

Thanksgiving Week
November 30, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 30 days
Sunday, November 30, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Monday, November 24. Night 7 — Dennis gone
Great-tailed Grackles perch on the top of our bus and peck on shiny surfaces. This makes the dogs bark.

Great-tailed Grackles perch on the top of our bus and peck on shiny surfaces. This makes the dogs bark.

Pretend you are a web designer.  How would you feel if the first page of your second website plants itself over the first page of your first website — and you don’t know how that happened or how to change it?  Or let’s say you are a publisher and you sent two different books to the printer and you got them back with the same first page in both books. What can be done?  That’s what happened to me. The index (first) page of LFAB planted itself over the first page of CSD sometime last August.  I haven’t known how to fix it until now — three months later.  Yesterday I managed to replace the LFAB index that plopped itself over the CSD index months ago.  I made a new CSD index and it actually went up and the links work so that problem is fixed.  Yippee, Hurray!

But when I tried to place a new page, “We’ve Moved” and add a new line and a link to the Contents page on CSD, they didn’t go up — or not where they are supposed to go.  I can’t find them.  So I am stumped again.  Last night I copied CSD as it is on the Internet (Remote view) and it copied all but one file into a new dated folder on my computer (Local view).  So now I have the “breadcrumb” to trace back, as Roger said.  Maybe Brian at Ipower can help me or maybe my Dreamweaver tutor this afternoon.

At four, GeniusDv called and I got a free lesson using their remote software.  It was fun and very helpful.  My tutor put me in a “classroom” and I clicked on something that turned my cursor control over to him.  I could use the cursor also.  He talked to me on the phone and opened windows and showed me how to do stuff and solve various problems.  It was cool!  However, the program costs $500 for three hours so I can’t afford it — especially as the Internet often has slow reaction time with cell tower access.   Oh well.  I learned as much as I could in my free hour.   http://www.geniusdv.com

Today I shopped at HEB and found packages of fresh cranberries, thank goodness, and I got some other stuff.  I bought a 10+ lb. turkey that I hope will fit in the convection oven.  It’s defrosting in the refrigerator.  I also bought a box of “china” with a turkey motif.  It is a four-piece set of four place settings for $14.95 — less than a dollar each for sixteen pieces.  It’s inferior china but it’s not plastic.  We can use it at the clubhouse dinner where we must bring our own place settings.

There is a new fast food place on the corner called Roble Rey.  I parked in the back corner of HEB and walked to it because the congestion on Abrams and the frontage road is awful.  They make an excellent hamburger so that’s a find.  I got it to go and came home.

In the afternoon while I waited for my call, I pulled the closet and all my drawers apart and reorganized.  Everything is put away nice and neat.  I did a laundry and I still have lots of ironing to do.

This morning I sent an email to Dennis with a request for him to bring home certain books — primarily Spanish language books.  Becky P. came over and helped to find them.  I would love to have my little French bedside lamp and she looked but I don’t know where it is and I doubt she can find it.

Betty dropped by and asked if I wanted to go with them to dinner.  They’d had a busy day and were starving.  I went with them to Red Lobster but sadly I’d eaten breakfast and lunch and wasn’t hungry.  I brought most of it home in a box.

I walked the dogs a long ways this morning and meant to take them for a walk this afternoon but what with going out to dinner, they got skipped.  Poor dogs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008.  Dennis comes home.

This is a typical casita with lots of gravel, two small palm plants and a small decoration.

This is a typical casita with lots of gravel, two small palm plants and a small decoration.

Dennis had to leave San Jose at 6:30 am PST and he arrived in McAllen at 2:30 pm CST.  I spent the day picking up around the bus.  I had the ironing board up and project papers spread around. so I got everything back to normal.  His plane was a bit early and he was waiting outside when I pulled up and he got in the passenger seat.  I was so happy to see him that I cried.  We came home and the dogs turned themselves inside out when they saw him.  They’d been watching for him all week.  Dennis was glad to be home too.

Poor Dennis left with a daypack and had to carry back an extra bag but it was small — a little overnight suitcase.  It was filled with all my Spanish class textbooks and workbooks and notes.  He also brought a loaf of real sourdough bread.  Hurray! You just can’t find real sourdough anywhere else.  And my sister made her famous spicy pumpkin pie and sent it with Dennis in a plastic box.  Delicious!  Now it feels like Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008.  Theresa comes with us to Spanish class.

Theresa has a smattering of Spanish and also wants to learn more.  Betty and Jay had errands to do after class so Theresa came with me in the Honda.  It’s a three-hour class but Dona Julieta gives us a small break. 

One block away, you would swear you are in Mexico. I believe that "Mayoreo y Menudeo" means one or many.

One block away, you would swear you are in Mexico. I believe that “Mayoreo y Menudeo” means one or many.

Theresa and I walked one block west from Broadway to S. Main St., a busy shopping street.  On this street you would swear you were in Progresso, Mexico. We walked into a shop that was jam crammed with bundles of tiny decorative objects.  You can buy one or the bundle.  They would be great for a decorative sewing project like a wall hanging with embroidery and little objects attached.  They also sold food and drink.  We ordered nachos at the counter and paid and she gave us a little slip of paper.  We presented that at a window outside the store and got our nachos.

We never should have ordered nachos — very messy.  We were late as we hurried back to class, eating nachos as we walked and giggling like naughty truant girls.  I did type a page of verbs for our teacher.  She made some corrections and I’m going to make the type larger so I’ll bring it back next time.

In the afternoon I made my fresh cranberry jelly and cranberry sauce to contribute at tomorrow’s dinner.  I cook them and then they jell in the refrigerator. I divided the jelly and sauce between the four soup bowls of my new turkey china so they could be scattered down the table.

Thursday, November 27, 2008.  I survive Thanksgiving Dinner — barely.

In the morning we made a fast run to HEB.  Someone thought it would be closed but I knew better.  It was crowded.  We kept it fast and simple and just went to the liquor aisle to look for a couple of bottles of wine.  Dennis likes reds instead of whites at Thanksgiving.  The pickings were slim.  Maybe the good stuff was already bought and gone, or HEB in this poor economic area doesn’t carry anything better.  There were a lot of jug wines.  Dennis finally chose two inexpensive bottles of Cabernet and Merlot to contribute to our dinner.

Towards the back is an open kitchen where volunteers work.

Towards the back is an open kitchen where volunteers work.

Dinner in the Leisure Valley Ranch Clubhouse was scheduled for three but Betty felt we should go over at two to socialize.  We each drove over with our contributions.  Betty brought homemade rolls.  My four cranberry bowls were on a tray and then we each had to bring our own plates and flatware.  I brought my new turkey dinner and salad/dessert plates and Dennis brought his two bottles of red wine.

We entered the large clubhouse room, which was set up with a center aisle leading towards the open kitchen and with three long tables branching off to each side.

Each group was responsible to set and decorate their table.  So we arranged our place settings and placed our food contributions at a table placed like a T at the end of our long dining table.  We stood around and visited as the members of our group of twelve arrived.  I felt weepy and depressed but I had given myself a good lecture and I made a big effort to be outgoing and sociable.  I think I held up my end.  We made small talk but everyone seemed stiff and uncomfortable.  Mostly we exclaimed over the bowls of food that arrived or complimented our casual outfits.  I took some photos.  Arriving couples added their plates to the table.  Our table for sixteen was not full so we left a gap at the food end of one chair on each side.  Betty, Dava and I sat on one side of the table facing our husbands and we three chatted.  Unfortunately newcomers left a gap in the middle so three more couples sat at the end of the table.  We were as disjointed and as little unified as we were at the food-planning meeting.

Volunteers prepared the turkeys on Wednesday along with stuffing and gravy.  These were brought out on three serving carts set up in the aisle — one for each two tables.  Buffet style we got our turkey and side dishes and then sat down.  It was very well organized.  The turkey and trimmings were delicious and all the food brought by our group was exceedingly good.  I cannot complain about the quality of food, as it was excellent.  We ate and visited — basically in two groups of six each.

Then a strange thing happened.  Everyone jumped up and started clearing the table.  Mostly women, we knew we had to go into the kitchen to rinse our plates before packing them up to take home.  Our food had to be packed up and removed also.  All of us were too full to want to eat dessert right away.  Many chose their dessert selection among the many offered, placed them on their dessert plate, covered it and took them home to eat later.  I hopped up also and stood in line to rinse my dinner and salad plate and then I packed up my bowls of cranberries on a tray and commenced to put everything in the car.

Everyone mills around arranging their food contributions or anticipating the feast.

Everyone mills around arranging their food contributions or anticipating the feast.

Dennis and Jay were ready to sit back and socialize.  But then they had each enjoyed the better part of a bottle of wine whereas Betty and I do not drink.  Sitting on a hard chair when conversation is not particularly engrossing is not appealing to sober women.  The atmosphere was not beautiful.  There was no background music, no dimmed lights and no pretense of candles — fake or otherwise.  There was nothing to keep us there.  Personally, I couldn’t wait to get out of there but apparently I wasn’t the only one.  There was a general trend to pack it up and leave — perhaps to go home and take a nap after all that tryptophan!

I was simply glad to get out of there, as once again I felt weepy.  I thought of the wonderful harvest dinners Dennis and I used to produce under the arbor on our patio for two dozen of our family and friends. I was extremely depressed for the rest of the day.  Both my sons called me and that was the highlight of my day.  Chris in Santa Cruz was having dinner with friends and they ordered Marie Callendar takeout.  Jeff is on vacation in Oceanside near San Diego staying with friends and they are cooking their own dinner.  Jeff is vegetarian as are most of his friends.

Friday, November 28, 2008.  Theresa takes me fabric shopping.

Yesterday and today we reached highs of 85° with SE winds averaging 10 mph. Theresa and her friend, Helen, planned to go to two fabric stores and asked if I wanted to go along.  Would I!  I jumped at the chance to get out and do something different.  They took me to Life’s A Stitch Quilting in McAllen.  I have my Bernina with me but I haven’t used it since we left Mountain View last March.  The only sewing project I have in mind is a Camp Barlow flag for my brother.  It requires rip-stop nylon and I haven’t been able to collect all the fabric colors I need. 

Theresa and Helen are quilters so they shopped for their sewing projects.  The store had a lot of ideas to spark my creative juices.  I ended up buying two books.  One is Landscape in Contemporary Quilts; Design and Technique by Ineke Berlyn.  The other is Laurel Burch Legends; 9 Quilts Inspired by the Earth, Sea & Sky. I’m a big fan of Laurel Burch jewelry and all her colorful designs.

We also went to a big craft store like Michael’s called Hobby Lobby.  I found a few rolls of rip-stop nylon.  I want to sew a flag so I must check the colors I have and see if there is anything they have that I need.  It was fun to walk all around the store looking at the thousands of craft and seasonal decorating items.

Shopping makes you hungry so we stopped at a Taco Tio and had a late lunch that served as dinner for me.  I had a Chimichanga.

I had a good time with these women and I am learning more about how to navigate in this area and where to find certain stores.  I am feeling more comfortable.

I like Theresa a lot.  She is funny and honest and direct and very easy to be with.  She and Tom took Nancy out to dinner for Thanksgiving at Mimi’s Cafe and said they had a good dinner.  She had invited us to join them but I felt I couldn’t.  I’m glad I satisfied my curiosity about how it works at a Clubhouse dinner.

Among the twelve, there is general agreement that something was missing with the Clubhouse Thanksgiving dinner arrangements.  It is suggested that the long tables should have been placed together in a square to create the feeling of a large round table so that we could all relate with each other.  A long narrow table is awkward and does not promote congeniality for a large group of twelve or sixteen.  A round or square table would also allow dishes to be passed around family style rather than the crowded melee of a buffet table.  It is also said that the crowd had no reason to stick around.  Music and dancing or a performance or something would have been an attraction to keep the crowd in the room.  Currently, talk among eight couples at our table is to skip the clubhouse dinner at Christmas and gather in someone’s casita.  If the weather is good they can spread out to the patio.  It is felt that this might be a more homey experience.  Betty and Jay are community people and disagree.  They prefer the large crowd of the clubhouse and I don’t think they found anything missing in the experience.  They would vote to do it again.

Owners Betty and Jay Crane pose with their framing sub-contractor.

Owners Betty and Jay Crane pose with their framing sub-contractor.

Dennis and I might choose to go out to a good restaurant — I’m not sure.  Alone but together, in a beautiful environment that creates the experience with décor, music and food has worked well for us before.  I remember a wonderful week years ago when we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley for my birthday.  And of course, we were privileged to enjoy two Christmas Bracebridge dinners there with family members.  We’ve also had many wonderful holiday dinners at resorts in Kauai where for a number of years we used to stay through Christmas and New Year’s.

Construction of Betty and Jay’s casita continued on Friday. Work moves along quickly here. It is amazing to watch.

Saturday, November 29, 2008.  Dennis and I cook our own turkey dinner.

Construction on the Crane Casita continued promptly Saturday morning. Once again the neighbors dropped by to watch.

Dennis loves turkey — especially a turkey leg, so I bought a 10.5 lb. turkey before Thanksgiving.  I had it thawed in the refrigerator.  I measured the dimensions of my convection oven and the dimensions of my cooking pan that fits in the oven and I took my measuring tape to my frozen turkey before I bought him.  The turkey could not be more that 6” H x 8” W x 12” L. 

Saturday morning we made a run to HEB to buy stuffing mix and all the other ingredients for a successful Thanksgiving dinner.  We are old hands at producing big turkey harvest dinners but this was an experiment.  We had to work within the confines of our small kitchen, the limitations of two burners, a small convection oven, limited pots and pans and a small turkey.  We worked on this all day and it was fun.  We stuffed our turkey and wrapped it in foil.  It took four hours to cook.  I made my yam and pineapple dish and we cooked green beans.  We had my cranberry sauce and I served rolls and a store bought pumpkin pie.

As we were not sure how it would all work out, we didn’t invite guests.  We just gorged on a delicious turkey dinner all by ourselves.  Everything worked out well and now we know we can do it in our little kitchen.

Sunday, November 30, 2008.  Dennis and I invite Betty and Jay for turkey dinner.

We made another run to HEB to add more ingredients to our dinner, like mashed potatoes and fruit salad and more rolls, bread and an apple pie.  We came home and had turkey sandwiches for lunch and then served up a full meal for dinner. 

It's a nice day so I sit in the shade at the front of the bus to groom Rudi.

It’s a nice day so I sit in the shade at the front of the bus to groom Rudi.

This time we invited Betty and Jay to join us and I think it was good timing.  They are in the middle of long days of searching for materials and watching their casita be built.  Usually Betty cooks and likes to eat at home but they ate out on Saturday and they were very happy to have a good dinner served up on Sunday.  Jay and Dennis had some wine and we had fun visiting with them.

Tomorrow is the first of December.  I must start thinking about Christmas decorations.  All the darling things I bought last year for the bus were left in storage.  We didn’t know we would be gone this long.  Now I must start from scratch and find a few inexpensive ways to make our home reflect the Christmas season.

We Attend A Folklorico Concert
November 23, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 23 days
Sunday, November 23, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Sunday, November 16. We attend a Folklorico Concert at the La Joya Performing Arts Center
Mariachi Los Coyotes.

Mariachi Los Coyotes.

After falling flat on my face Saturday morning, I spent a restless night.  I couldn’t put pressure on either side of my face and I generally sleep on my side.  At 5:00 am I got up and took an Ibuprofen and then fell asleep and managed to sleep until 7:30 am.  My neck and jaw — even the front of my face ached.

Last night Myrna called.  It was so great to hear from her.  We caught up on news and discussed the election and California’s Prop 8.  We are both horrified that it passed.  She asked why I hadn’t posted anything on Cute Small Dogs since last May.  I told her about my Dreamweaver difficulties.  She said that Roger uses Dreamweaver and maybe he could help me.  Roger got on the phone and made a date to call me Sunday morning.

Roger called me at 10:30 am my time and he was a huge help.  He told me how to made a copy of what I have currently posted on the Internet.  That way when I make changes I have a trail of “breadcrumbs” so if something goes wrong I can go back to an earlier version.  He also told me how to delete files on the Internet that I posted inadvertently and that I don’t want.  Now I can do that without worry because I have a backup.  So he was a huge help.

Today is our big event day.  We have tickets to attend a Folklorico music and dance performance at La Joya High School.  After my talk with Roger I had to hurry to shower and dress.  I painted under-eye white cover-up over the bruise on my chin and neck and then I wore makeup.  Everyone was worried that I couldn’t go but except for an achy jaw I felt fine.  I took a Tylenol with me just in case. We arrived early so we could get good seats.  Some of the group chose to sit in the rear of the theater but we headed with the Cranes for the fourth row center and I saved seats for Tom and Theresa.

The audience during intermission. The control booth is in the center just beyond Dennis who is in the aisle with a red shirt.

The audience during intermission. The control booth is in the center just beyond Dennis who is in the aisle with a red shirt.

The La Joya Performing Arts Center on N. Coyote Blvd. in La Joya was a big surprise to me.   It is a beautiful, modern theater that was built by La Joya ISD (Independent School District) in 1998 for a construction cost of 9 million.  It has 1,500 seats with a superb acoustics and A/V system.  The audio system is powerful enough to support the music for folkloric and other dance programs.  The control booth on the floor level was just above our fourth row seats.  It has a loudspeaker system with a capability for stereo imaging.  Both the systems and layout were designed for ease of use by students and to support their music program. http://www.acousticdimensions.com/projects/pac/lajoya.htm

The concert was absolutely wonderful.  It featured Mariachi “Los Coyotes” with 17 musicians and singers, Grupo “Folklorico Tabasco” with 44 dancers and Conjunto “Los Diamantes” with 15 musicians and singers.  The sets, lighting, sound, makeup and costumes together with the demeanor and quality of performance on the part of these teenagers was professional.

The high school has produced variations of this concert for 26 years.  Graduates return to help coach students and I can only imagine that younger students practice and train from elementary and middle school onward to earn a place in this theater performance.  I am sure it has affected their attitudes about education and their ability to succeed as adults.  There was a lot of pride in the history and culture of Mexico demonstrated in this concert.  I did not take photos during the first half of the concert as I didn’t want to blind the dancers with the flash. I did after the Intermission when I saw that others were permitted to take flash photos. I found a sampling of some of the performances that we saw on YouTube.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K81vLF4aIDs&NR=1

The opening scene was titled “Maya” and we saw six Mayan dances in front of a temple.  The dancers had beads around their ankles that added percussion to the rhythm of their movements.  A princess emerged from the group and was sacrificed to “Chac”, the god of rain.  The photo on the left is borrowed from http://www.lizgallego.com/folklorico_cuadro.htm

Next the Mariachi Los Coyotes performed three songs against a backdrop of a masonry wall with arches, as if in a town square.  They stood in a semi-circle all wearing matching traditional beige and white Mariachi costumes.  The band consisted of four violins, three trumpets, a Mexican harp, two large base guitars, three small (treple?) guitars, and four medium size (tenor?) guitars.  Abigail Silva sang “Gorrioncillo Pecho Amarillo”; Abigail and Izamar Salinas sang a beautiful duet to “No Vale La Pena”; Mario Cantu sang “El Son De Mi Tierra.” All performed with great poise and aplomb.  http://mariachiloscoyotes.tripod.com/index.html

Then we saw amazing ribbon folk dances from the district of Sierra Gorda de Queretaro which depicted an October harvest celebration with homage to Mexico’s patron saint, La Guadalupana, with “La Danza de Xochipitzahautl” and three other dances.  Sixteen men and women danced in four groups of four carrying long ribbons of white or red or green as they performed amazing intertwining of ribbons. I found a similar dance on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A45KubQ17Pw

Abigail Silva sang "El Corrido Del Gallo De Oro". She performs like a professional.

Abigail Silva sang “El Corrido Del Gallo De Oro”. She performs like a professional.

Conjunto Los Diamantes was a mariachi band wearing black with sequins in an old fashioned nightclub setting.  They played three Tejano selections that combine European, Spanish, French and Polish influences in this northern section of Mexico.

Calabaceado were exciting dances from the northern part of Baja California.  French influences from the state of Sonora brought the addition of the accordion to the band.  The men wore cowboy outfits and the women wore short cowgirl skirts and they all danced with boots.  With toe and heel stomping and kicking the partners danced and whirled faster and faster as they imitated cattle movements to “La Loba.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urq4kspPx2c&feature=related

In “Epoca de Oro Del Cine Mexicano,” a movie screen showed clips of old Mexican movies with famous stars of the 1940’s singing on screen.  We had glimpses of legendary figures such as Maria Felix and Libertad Lamarque in movies like “Dona Barbara” and “Pepe el Tor”.  We saw popular renditions of three songs including a shawl dance called “Si Me Han De Matar Manana” performed by Pedro Infante and Sofia Alvarez.  Dancers on stage performed the traditional shawl dance that went with this song.  They also danced to the music of “Escuela De Musica” and “Dos Tipos De Cuidado” while the film musicians played and the film stars sang. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlOhG-AC6i8&feature=related

There were five lively dances from Veracruz with women wearing ruffled lacey dresses and the men in white pants.  They tapped an intricate rhythm with their boots that reminded me of Spanish Flamenco.

The Mariachi Los Coyotes put in two more appearances with traditional and popular selections sung by students and one performed by their teachers, alumni from La Joya turned professional, Izamar Salinas Cantu and Mario Cantu.

The concert ended with a bang with everyone on stage performing a carnival dance from seashore cities like Mazatlan in the Sinaloa district.  The music and dance reflected the European influences in steps,  theme, instrumentation and costuming.  In the grand finale Aphrodite emerged from the sea.

Our audience of older retirees stood and gave the performers an enthusiastic ovation.  We were all amazed that they are still young teenagers and not mature professional performers.

The entire cast takes a bow.

The entire cast takes a bow.

The music and drama program of La Joya ISD was a huge surprise to me.  When I was in elementary school I had music and art classes.  When my kids were in school, I saw classes in the fine arts discarded in favor of emphasis in science.  I always thought that the skills learned in fine arts were less direct but no less important for the development of a disciplined and accomplished student.  The program at LJISD seems to prove my theory.

I discovered that it has been ongoing for twenty-six years and sprang from the needs of the student population.  One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the LJISD covers 226 sq. mi. and it has an increase of 700 students annually.  Roughly 24% of the student population comes from migrant families so the student population fluctuates throughout the school year.  The motivation has been to discover the best ways to train and support teachers in the use of drama-in-education techniques in their classrooms and to research the impact of drama work on student achievement. In the Fall of 2000, a two-year pilot project was implemented to test these goals.  Results showed that the project had a significant and demonstrably positive impact on TAAS scores in the La Joya ISD.  www.villageprofile.com

The LJISD program has also been supported by the outreach resources at the U of Texas at Austin for Theatre & Dance: Youth Programs. “Drama as a Teaching Technology (K-12) “Our Drama as a Teaching Technology program provides instruction for K-12 teachers in ways to use theatre games, improvisation, and role-playing as teaching tools. Research shows that these techniques actively engage students in the learning process and have the ability to transform children’s lives by introducing them to new ways of communicating and approaching problems as well as enhancing their academic studies. These techniques also contribute to the development of lifelong skills such as making informed judgments and evaluations. While our efforts have been restricted to schools in the Austin area, our Drama for Schools initiative specifically targets school districts throughout the state for long-term partnerships. For example, our Drama for Schools pilot project in La Joya, TX is providing a template for connecting with school districts across the state.”  www.finearts.utexas.edu

Pepe's by the River. The dance floor is at the far end.

Pepe’s by the River. The dance floor is at the far end.

After this wonderful performance we came back to our homes to quickly walk and feed our dogs and change clothes to “dress down” for a dancehall called Pepe’s by the River.  We put on our Texas togs — jeans, shirts and boots and six of us went to Pepe’s for dinner and dancing.

Pepe’s is a huge hall with an open wall and a veranda facing the Rio Grande.  The high ceiling is decorated with a Hawaiian-like thatched roof.  The room is filled with tables and a bar.  Waiters serve nachos and such.  At one end is a dance floor and on a stage a band played Texas line-dance type of music.  We shared two orders of nachos and we all got on the dance floor for a few dances.  Jay and Betty led the way as they love to dance and grab every opportunity to hit the dance floor.  It was noisy and crowded and lots of fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008. We get Dennis ready to fly to San Jose. 

In the early morning we went over to the Crane lot to watch the fun. Big excitement as the pad is poured with concrete.

Betty and Jay pose in front of their lot with the cement mixer behind them.

Betty and Jay pose in front of their lot with the cement mixer behind them.

Dennis made some business appointments for Thursday at the office.  He thought he would fly on Wednesday and return on Friday.  But I felt that he should go a day early to rest and be well acquainted with the financial reports.  And against my own best interests I felt he should stay through Monday just to be sure he put in enough time at the office.  We looked at various flights and costs on Expedia and chose a departure Tuesday morning and a return the following Tuesday morning.  He will be there six days and nights.  With tax the cost is $437.50 to fly round trip from McAllen, TX to San Jose, CA.

After much pain and labor Dennis got e-tickets printed.  (It’s not something we do every day.)  Then he had to get packed.  We have no suitcases so he shoved a few things into a daypack.  I may have to dump the black tank next week so he showed me how to do that.  We ate our Carrino leftovers for dinner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008.  Night 1 — Dennis gone.  I get my nails done.

We left at nine o’clock and drove to the McAllen-Miller Airport off 10th St. It’s an easy drive on the freeway and only took us twenty minutes.  The airport is small with easy access in short-term parking.  We went in and got his ticket and then waited in a small café until 10:15.  Then he went through Security and we waved goodbye. 

His plane was to board at 10:45 and depart at 11:15 but he later told me it left an hour late.  He boarded an hour late in Dallas but the plane still arrived in San Jose on time at 3:40 pm PST or 5:40 CST.  He called me right after he landed while he was waiting for a shuttle to go to his rental car.  Thank god he arrived safely.

After Dennis left, I drove around the Macy’s mall on 10th St right near the airport looking for a Vietnamese nail salon — but no such thing.  Finally I chose a nearby salon from my list.  It was west of my location on nearby Conway and south of the freeway and I was curious about the area so I drove there.  It is in a terrific location, a development called Sharyland Plantation.  The salon was in an upscale, small mall but they didn’t do gel nails.  From my list I called Da-Vi Nails and asked if they were located in Wall-mart because I went to Da-Vi Nails at a Wal-mart in Billings, MT.  Sure enough they were and they told me to come in.  So I drove further west (always towards home) and north to Wal-mart on 3 Mile Rd.

In fact, I haven’t gotten nail fills since Billings.  My nails were way long and I’d lost three — two busted off (bent backwards) when I fell.  Kim inspected the damage and wanted to start from scratch so I agreed and she took them off.  I ended up getting $118 worth of the works — wax legs, a massage spa pedicure, new gel nails and she suggested she wax my eyebrows so I agreed.  She did a terrific job on all counts and I was glad I went for the extras.  I gave her a twenty-dollar tip.  I was there for two hours and fifteen minutes and I left feeling like a new woman.

Kim asked about my achy-breaky jaw so I told her about my fall.  I asked about the lack of Vietnamese population here.  She gave me the scoop.  She rooms here in Mission, with three other women who work at Da-Vi, (which means nails in Vietnamese).  They cook family style and save money.  On a six-week rotation they go home for a week to see their families in Houston.  Kim has a husband who works in Houston and two boys, four and ten.  Because of a large Vietnamese population and stiff competition, she couldn’t find work doing nails there.  Here, she has work but the family won’t move here because there are few job opportunities in the McAllen/Mission area.  She said I would love Houston because it is a big city with all kinds of shops and restaurants.  (I later told Jay about this and he shuddered saying Houston is hot and humid and the pits.)  But to Vietnamese who come from tropical Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), humid subtropical Houston probably seems terrific. And who knows? Seeing as it’s a large city with much to offer, I might like it too.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch and it was two o’clock when I left Da-Vi.  Across the parking lot I saw a restaurant called Taco Rico Palmhurst.  Betty invited me to dinner at six so I didn’t want to take the edge off but I needed something to tide me over.  I used to love Taco Supremes from Taco Bell (forever a gringo) so I took my book and book prop and went in.  What a pleasant surprise.  There was loud Mexican music but otherwise it was great.  I got a booth and set up to read.  I ordered 3 tacos and they were excellent.  I didn’t take too much time because I needed to get home to the dogs.  By the time I returned they’d been alone for six hours.

A new mobile home has just been moved onto the lot opposite the lot where we are parked. I stand in our driveway and that shadow is from our bus.

A new mobile home has just been moved onto the lot opposite the lot where we are parked. I stand in our driveway and that shadow is from our bus.

When I pulled into my driveway I saw that the neighbors across the street had their mobile home delivered.  One day there is empty land, the next concrete is laid and soon after a house is in place and more concrete is laid.  Now our view through to the street beyond is blocked.  At any moment the empty lots on either side of us could be built and would hem us in further.  Right now I enjoy looking at the empty expanse of lawns across the undeveloped or unsold lots.

I rested and later I had an excellent dinner with the Cranes.  I’ve turned them onto Dancing With the Stars so we watched the recap show before the results.  Then I came back and Dennis called me at six his time, eight my time.  He was driving to the home of my sister, Sally, where he will stay for the week.  She lives in nearby Palo Alto.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008.  Night 2 — Dennis gone.  I go to a Spanish language class.
The dogs were alone six hours yesterday and never got a long walk.  Today Betty had us signed up for a three hour Spanish class in downtown Mission from 9 to 12 and they wanted us to leave at 8 to be sure of how to get there and where to park.  So I didn’t have much time to get up and get ready.  Especially as I woke up at 2, finally put on the light at 3, and read for an hour before going back to sleep.

I took the dogs out and walked them as far as Tom’s corner.  I brought my mug of coffee and toast with me in the car.  It was a nice sunny day — not too hot or too cold.  The class was quite full of Winter Texans like us.  It was held in downtown Mission on Broadway at the Centro Cultural Mexicano.  Our instructor is Dona Julieta C Ford, a woman in her fifties who has lived in the US for only four years.  She speaks German and has passable English skills.  She is an elementary school teacher and she was entertaining and lively.  She skipped from one lesson to the next about every 15 minutes, which suited our elderly minds so that we didn’t get bored and sleepy.

Of course I’ve tried to take Spanish three times previously and have some of the basics.  So I tracked fairly well.  We plan to return next Wednesday — although it is the day before Thanksgiving.  I would have been way too busy in previous years!  Dona Julieta gave us an astonishing number of handouts.  These classes are free and she asked for a donation to cover the cost of copies.  They are all handwritten.  I plan to type some of them for her so she can copy from typed masters.  I believe her motivation is to bring us closer to Mexico, her country that she loves.  She takes her classes on field trips to Mexico both for the day and on longer trips.

We reviewed nouns and verbs and some handy phrases.  As the class is on-going, she must teach the more advanced and the beginners.  Quite a challenge!  Now I wish I had my Spanish textbook, workbook, notebook, tapes and CD — all stored.  Would Dennis dig them out for me?

After class the Cranes drove down 10th and under the freeway so I could buy a pound of coffee at Starbuck’s.  I was all out and had none for Thursday morning.  Yea gods!

Then we stopped at McCoy’s Door and Millwork on Bus 83 and 29th St. They have a beautiful showroom and we learned about the various kinds of doors.  Betty planned a pocket door but by the time we were done they were leaning towards a regular door.  They had ordered a regular door for their exterior door and learned that it must be a solid exterior door and that fiberglass is best.

In the past week the Crane’s have poured cement on their pad and now they are ready to have carpenters frame their casita.  But they have no contractor and it is a strain to understand what type of materials they need to buy.  They’ve spent a lot of money and Jay seems tired.

We got home at 1:30 pm and I lay down to rest.  Later I took both dogs on the one-mile loop around Bogey Dr.  I did it by using the 68” long red leashes and looping each one around my waist.  The leash attached to the lead on their halter gives each dog about 43” of latitude.  I keep both dogs on the left, Rudi far left and slightly in front and Margot near left and closer to my feet.  I can let Rudi go but I have to hang on to Margot’s leash and constantly haul her back in towards me saying, “heel”.  Twice a caravan of some eight golf carts passed me as they made the same loop in the opposite direction.  They waved at me.  What are they doing — exercising their golf carts?

I talked to Dennis.  He was at Sally’s watching the news.  She gets home about 6:30.  He said he would try to get her to go out to the Fish Market for dinner.  He’s talked to our San Francisco friend, James, who plans to come down and see him for lunch on Friday — if he is free.  And Myrna called to invite him to dinner on Sunday night.  I think he will go to San Francisco to hang out with James and Lilia on Saturday.  Tomorrow he will be busy with meetings and I will be thinking about him.

Dennis asked about the weather here.  He says it was foggy and chilly all day there.  But he did say the fall leaves are blowing across the street.  It was a nice day here with a low of 49° and a high of 78° and a SE breeze from 4 to 14 mph. But I don’t notice or celebrate the weather here the way I did in the Bay Area.  I loved October and November on those sunny, breezy, cool days with the bright colored Liquidambar leaves blowing everywhere.  Those were days to notice and celebrate.  Dennis says he doesn’t want to be there — probably because of the fog and chill as well as the masonry troubles.  But I would like to be there!

Thursday, November 20, 2008.  Night 3 — Dennis gone.  I attend a meeting to plan our Thanksgiving dinner menu.

I didn’t sleep well again.  I read from two to three.  I am not frightened, just restless.  Today nothing is planned until five when I must meet others from our Thanksgiving table to plan a menu and divvy up the work.  It’s my first free and unstructured day all week.  I want to work on my website and I plan to iron and organize clothes.  I must also grocery shop.

My jaw and knee are feeling better.  My ears are still partly clogged and my jaw aches but not as much.  My chin is getting a scab and of course the black and blue is clearly evident.  My neck still aches but I did not aim for the Ibuprofen first thing this morning so I guess that is progress.

I spent a few hours on the computer just answering emails and fooling around.  Kevin chatted with me for a few minutes.  Then I walked the dogs again with the leashes around my waist.  This time I didn’t bother to pull Margot back.  I just let her pull against my waist.  We walked a shorter loop and by the time we came back she was heeling.  She gets herself tired by hauling on me.  If she walks right in front of me I almost step on her hind legs — but not quite if she keeps moving.

I ran into Jay on his bike coming back from a homeowners meeting at the clubhouse.  He seemed more cheerful and relaxed.  He says his only job today is to put numbers on his mailbox.

I didn’t want to do it, I never do, but I needed to grocery shop and I figured if I didn’t get it over with early in the day, I never would.  So I drove to the nearby HEB on Abrams on back roads.  There is a lot of construction but it only takes eight or nine minutes.  The HEB stores are huge so it takes a long time even if you have a list and skip most of the aisles.  It took me fifty minutes but now I have stuff to eat.

In the afternoon I finally made myself take out the ironing board.  I turned on the TV and found “Ghost” to watch so I got several shirts and pants done.  I left the board up to continue tomorrow.  That is something I can’t do when Dennis is here.

At five Betty came to get me as I’d forgotten the time and I was to go to a planning meeting about food for our Thanksgiving table.  This year the clubhouse will not do a potluck.  They will provide the turkey, stuffing and gravy.  Groups of sixteen will bring their own side dishes for their own table.  Our group was already gathered on Dava and Bill’s cement pad where Bill is putting up a small garage size casita.  Betty told me to bring a chair.  Others sat in a semi circle in their chairs on the pad.  In the opening of the circle there was a picnic table and three people sat at that.  This blocked my view of people on the other side of the semi circle and I was looking at the backs of the people at the picnic table.  I am very sensitive about seating for groups.  For unity you need to sit in some semblance of a circle — if you are all supposed to relate to each other.  To me, this wasn’t a good start.  I wished that the people at the picnic table would move it to the outside of the circle, face us and be sensitive to the rest of the group.

Betty introduced me.  I quickly waved and sat in the nearest open space by Jay.  With a blackened jaw and without Dennis on hand I felt ill at ease.  On my other side was a woman who had a large piece of monk cloth in her lap and she was adding decorative yarn by weaving it through the weft.  She is into decoration and crafts and seems nice.

Dava tried to get control of the situation but she did not succeed.  She asked that we all introduce ourselves and we did.  I said that my husband was gone on a business trip.  I felt very weird in this all couples group.  I said little except to volunteer homemade cranberry jelly and sauce.  This exchange took little time and then the picnic table went back to loud joking and laughing while the rest of us sat and listened.  I was bored and irritated and couldn’t wait to leave.  I love a formal dinner celebration and I concluded that this would be an informal mishmash dominated by male, jokey loudmouths.

As this was a planning meeting about food, I felt it should have been a gathering for women only.  None of the men volunteered to make food except Jay.  Jay was uncharacteristically quiet.  Other than stating that he planned to make two desserts, he did not join in at all.  Several of the men talked about cheap box wines and how they prefer beer.  The seating arrangement and circumstances made it difficult for the group as a whole to get acquainted.

Someone mentioned we would be spending Christmas together.  I began to feel like I was going to cry.  I felt so disappointed.  Thanksgiving is special to me and I miss my beautiful dinners and the sense of family togetherness.  Christmas dinner with this group of strangers?  It seemed unthinkable.

Mind you I am not feeling at my best right now.  I wasn’t able to rise above the circumstances and overcome them as I sometimes might.  I just wanted to run away — my usual impulse.  I thought about leaving my chair and just saying to Jay that I need to go get a sweater and then not coming back.  I knew Betty or Jay would retrieve my chair for me.  Finally when it was clear there was to be no further social progress and no more planning I asked Jay for the time.  It was 5:45 pm and I said I expecting a call from Dennis at six.  I picked up my chair.  Above the chatter, someone across the circle said, “Are we done?”

I replied, “Well, I am.”  I left without goodbyes or good to meet you niceties.  I do not blame the entire group.  I think some other couples also felt uncomfortable and were also very quiet.

Later Betty dropped by with planning information about another matter.  I asked some questions and discovered that these couples are neighbors who live near their lot.  They’ve been here in prior years and know each other.  Betty and Jay know Dava and Bill and us but have just met the others.  There will be twelve couples in all at our table.  She said we would have more opportunities to get to know them better.  Although I lectured myself to not show my feelings to Betty, I rolled my eyes.  Betty added, “—if you want to.”

I said bitterly, “I have no wish to get to know these people better.”  So that kind of tied it.  I made my unhappiness known because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  Jay was awfully quiet and may have had his own thoughts, I don’t know, but I doubt that Betty found anything wrong with this social interlude.

I told Dennis about it when he called.  I could tell that he didn’t want to get into details about his business affairs.  It was probably a tough day and he wasn’t ready to talk about it.  So I vented to distract him and he was sympathetic.  I said that next year I want to eat out and go to a Yosemite, Ahwahnee Hotel, Bracebridge Dinner type of event.  One way or another we are with strangers and I think that would be preferable to the Leisure Valley Ranch clubhouse in Mission, TX.  But the jury is out.  We will have to see.

Friday, November 21, 2008.  Night 4 — Dennis gone.  We have a cold and windy day.

I slept hard until 2:30 am when wind and rain woke me.  There was a NW wind at 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Darn!  I think without that I would have slept through the night.  I checked the windows and I did go back to sleep and slept until 7:00 am.  I’ve been doing emails and stuff since I got up.  I wrote a long letter to Dick Peeke.  It was 48° out there, gray and windy but not raining.

Dennis called.  He told me about an ad with five acres for sale at Melby Ranch, CO in the San Luis Valley.  It is at 7,500’ el. and north of Taos, NM.  Sounds beautiful.  I sent an online request for a brochure.  Later that night I got a call from them to check our address.  I need to spot a mail delivery truck to be sure they deliver mail to us.

It was very cold all day. A high of 69° was posted but it didn’t feel like it.  It was windy with low, gray clouds.  I walked the dogs on the short leashes wrapped around my waist.  I wore my balloon festival ski jacket!

I spent the day ironing or on the computer.  I didn’t go out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008.  Night 5 — Dennis gone.  I have a social day.

Today we had a low of 48° and a high of 68° with heavy low clouds and a 10 mph wind from the WNW. It did not feel warm.  I got myself in hot water with Jay.  I was invited for a chili lunch to meet a couple they met recently that they like.  Jay and Barb are doing a work camp by the coast at a wild life refuge.  They came over on their day off to visit the Crane’s.  They have a sweet little Schnauzer.  When I arrived for lunch, their first words to me were congratulatory with reference to how much they like it here and how impressed they are with Parker Ranch.

It took me by surprise and I made a face.  “Why, don’t you like it here?”
“No, I hate it!” I said with drama and some humor.
“What don’t you like?”
“It’s flat and gray and there are no trees.”  (I didn’t say it’s UGLY!)
Jay said, “Well there’s two kinds of people — those who want scenery and those who want to be sociable.  This here is the social choice.”

I said I agreed and then we all agreed that it’s very CHEAP here.  (Everyone agrees on that.)  They were a very nice couple and we had a fun lunch.  I asked them about living on the coast.  According to them, the weather has been about the same as it is here.  We are invited to go visit them and see what it is like over there.

After lunch they planned to see the area and I left.  Jay wouldn’t look at me when I made my departure.  He fiddled with the blinds and wouldn’t say goodbye or make eye contact.  I hurt his feelings and I felt bad about being a tactless Sagittarian.

I went back to my ironing and computer.  I am supposed to connect with Theresa about plans for going to see Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” at the University of Texas in Edinburg tomorrow.  Tom is home after a hernia operation yesterday and won’t be going to the performance.  Theresa and I are to be “dates”.  So after awhile I walked over to their home.

Theresa had gone out but I found Tom in the little living area in a comfortable chair watching TV.  He was anxious to talk and have company so I settled in.  They are watching Nancy’s dogs while she is in the hospital — two beautiful and charming little Shiatsus.  Tom gave me his take on the social life and the people who live here.  He and Theresa avoid larage groups and choose their friends.  They are less social and outgoing than the Crane’s.  They don’t plan to do Thanksgiving at the clubhouse. I had a good time talking to him and after I left, I felt better with a new perspective.

I walked back and Theresa dropped by later.  She wants to cook her own Thanksgiving dinner and invited us.  But I said I didn’t want to offend Betty and Jay by dropping out of our table.  I suggested we do a joint dinner on Friday or Saturday but I think she wants to do it on Thursday.

Dennis never called.  He probably had a busy day with James and Lilia in San Francisco.  They are probably enjoying soft shell crab appetizers at Minora, their favorite Thai restaurant.  I’m jeolous.

Betty dropped by and told me to come over for Chili leftovers dinner.  I said that Jay was mad at me.  She said he wasn’t and that he was in a good mood.  The couple that visited never left Parker Ranch!  They spent the afternoon driving around looking at lots and they were disappointed that the office was closed.  He was wearing a large cast on his foot and he is a cancer survivor.  He was in Vietnam and is losing his bones from working with Agent Orange.  I think he wants to get his wife settled in a safe place in case he doesn’t make it.

I dropped over for a bowl of chili and told Jay I was sorry for being negative and gave him a hug.  He isn’t mad.  The Cranes are very positive people.

Sunday, November 23, 2008.  Night 6 — Dennis gone.  We all attend Dickens’s “Christmas Carol”.

The sun finally came out mid-morning and with a low of 48° and a high of 79° we got a moderately warm day at last.  A SSE wind blew at 15 mph. Theresa met me here at 12:15 as per instructions from Betty who told the group to be ready then.  Theresa and I are both the rebellious type that don’t like to go with large groups.  I called and said I was driving with Theresa and we knew how to get there.  So off we went to the U. of Texas — Pan Am campus in Edinburg.  We took the back roads and had a good time visiting — instead of sharing a ride with others.

The play was in a small intimate semi- circle theater with seats sloped up high to the ceiling.  Students did a lively and original rendition of the “Christmas Carol”.  We all turned out to see it because this is a big favorite of Jay’s and Betty arranged it.  We had fun but I didn’t wear long pants or bring a jacket and it was very cold inside the theater.  We were seated by 1:15 for a 2:00 performance.  I don’t know when we got out — probably 3:30 or 4:00 but I was a frozen block of ice by then.  Theresa and I stopped at Starr’s drive-in and brought back hamburgers and fries and drinks for Tom and us.  I came inside and ate quickly and then came home.

At night before going to bed I copied Cute Small Dogs from the Internet.  I put it into an empty folder with the date, as Roger showed me to do.  I bet it took all night.  That’s a big file.

Tomorrow Dennis will be home. I’ve missed him terribly.

We Visit Progresso, Mexico
November 15, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 15 days
Saturday, November 15, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Sunday, November 9. We go to Progresso, Mexico
 I am on the bridge looking towards the US when Dennis, Tom, and Theresa walk towards Mexico greet me like a long lost friend

I am on the bridge looking towards the US when Dennis, Tom, and Theresa walk towards Mexico greet me like a long lost friend

We had no plan for today and we figured we’d hang out with the Cranes and see what they need to do to get their Casita started.  However in the morning Tom dropped by in his golf cart and asked if we’d like to go to Mexico.  Mexico! — Well, why not?  We changed clothes and quickly got ready to go.  It was very overcast and looked like rain but it was not cold at all.  They came back in their Dodge super cab truck and picked us up.  To my surprise, Theresa was driving and the guys rode in the back seat.  It turns out that Theresa belongs to the Teamsters in Fairbanks and is a professional truck driver.  She drives their motor home and like Dennis, she is the one who always drives when they go out together.

We had a really fun day.  Theresa understood that I like to window shop so first we stopped at Ganji, a shop near the border but on the US side that has unusual household goods and clothes.  There were some very nice modern styles and it was fun to look around this shop.  Then we came to the border and parked in the US.  We walked across the bridge to the town of Progresso.  It is safe and Americanized and preferred by people in this area — just as Algodones is popular near Yuma, AZ. 

We walked around a bit and then went up to a third floor restaurant.  It was pleasant with good service and good food.  It actually rained while we were there so our timing was good.  After lunch we window-shopped and Tom bought some drugs for a relative.  (People talk about being in the “donut hole” with insurance.  That’s when they shop for their prescription drugs in Mexico.)

As Thersa pulled into our driveway, we ran into Betty and Jay so they were introduced.  A big group from Leisure Valley Ranch plans to go to a performance next Sunday.  We invited Tom and Theresa and they will join us.  The concert is well known and has a popular reputation.  Produced by La Joya High School it features, Mariachi “Los Coyotes”, Grupo “Folklorico Tabasco” and Conjunto “Los Diamantes.” We are told that they train for years and the Folklorico dancers are excellent.  Tickets for Sunday at 2:00 pm cost $6.

Monday, November 10, 2008.  Tom offers to sell his double corner lot to us.

Tom has a corner lot on W. Bogey.

Tom has a corner lot on W. Bogey.

This morning Tom dropped by and asked if we wanted to see where the nearby post office is located.  Why not?  We’ve got nothing going.  So we hopped in his truck and left.  We left the windows open and thought we’d be back shortly.  But we weren’t!  Tom had a bunch of errands to do and we ended up keeping him company for several hours. 

Tom drove west on US-83 and showed us that it soon quits as a freeway and becomes a boulevard.  We drove past the little town of Penitas to La Joya.  Tom likes the closer and smaller post office in this nearby town. He pointed out a development around a lake in La Joya.  Later we saw the Mission Post Office, which is much farther away and he says it is always crowded.

Tom is talking to us about buying one of his lots here in Leisure Valley Ranch.  I don’t know why we’re talking to him about it — probably boredom.  We liked planning our last house and it is tempting to plan something here.  Tom has a double lot on a corner just down the street that we like.  I don’t want one of these narrow lots lined up in a row.  But a double lot on a corner is tempting to me because it offers space for a garden.  No one here puts in more than one or two token plants.  There are few gardens although there are many wonderful trees and bushes that grow in this area.  Dennis is tempted also.  The most tempting thing about this place is: PRICE.  It’s cheap.  A 1.5 lot down the street is 26K.  Tom wants 40K for his corner double lot.  He says he thinks he only has 6K into it and he thinks his monthly payments are $400.  We would pick up his payments.

If we bought a lot, we would have a more or less centralized place to stow a few things during the year.  And it would give us a place to sit and rest for a few of the colder northern months.  But mostly, Dennis and I are builders and people who like a project.  I like to design and Dennis likes to build.  So we’re talking and asking questions and looking at dimensions.  The lots are 40’ wide and 75.06’ deep so Tom’s corner lot is almost square: 80’ x 75’.  Some build a pad for the RV and a rectangle or an L-shape casita and some leave a small area for a garden.  A corner lot lends itself well to incorporating a small amount of landscaping.

The other temptation is a time crunch.  This development is almost finished.  After it is 95% complete it gets turned over to a homeowners group.  It would be easier to get a plan approved by the owner/developer than by a committee.  Tom says we can take over his monthly payments.  He says we should get a plan approved and pour a concrete pad right away: lock it up.  That way we are not at the mercy of a committee a few years down the road.  Prices have gone up so I suppose if we want to develop our own design here, it is now or never.  Later, if we want to sell we could do that and perhaps make a small profit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008.  Betty and Jay get their casita started.

Sunrise on 11/11/08 at 6:58 am. I took this from the door of our bus looking down Bogey Rd.

Sunrise on 11/11/08 at 6:58 am. I took this from the door of our bus looking down Bogey Rd.

Betty and Jay are getting ready to start their casita.  Their plan is approved and they have Oscar, the local cement guy, lined up to pour the concrete pad tomorrow.  Things move quickly here.  In Leisure Valley Ranch, ‘tis the season to be building.  Everywhere we see equipment scraping off “the organic matter” and then concrete poured and then a framework going up.  What is built is classified as a shed, not a home, and you are not allowed to sleep in it — although people put in Murphy beds and do.  With simple structures and without the kinds of codes required in places like California, things move fast.  Betty and Jay are excited and involved in all the decision details.  They are acting as their own contractor so they have to do a lot of research.  I haven’t actually had time to visit much with them.

Today we did a few errands but not much else.  I did a fast thirty-minute walk yesterday morning.  This morning I did thirty minutes of core exercise with the balls and stretch cord.  I don’t want to overdo it and then get discouraged so I’m taking it slow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008.  Financial reverses at the masonry.

Tom dropped by and gave us more details on his lot.  He has 15K into it so that is what we would have to do for a down payment.  And his monthly payments are something like $575 — almost $600 a month.  So this would be a stretch for us.  It would be nice to do business with Tom because he’s been here six years and he knows all the ins and outs of developing a lot here.  He would be helpful and facilitate construction, I’m sure. But it’s a big outlay for us so Dennis said he’d think about it. 

No sooner had Tom left than Dennis got a call from Sylvia, who works for Dennis at the masonry.  I could tell it was bad news.  No money has come in.  Once again the masonry is in jeopardy.  Some jerk hasn’t paid and jobs aren’t starting because money is tight.

Dennis got very quiet and very depressed.  I hugged him but didn’t make him talk too much.  What can be said?  He will probably need to go home to see what can be done.  We are an eight or nine day drive away from home.  It is almost 1,900 miles.  Fuel costs are down but all in all, it would take about $1,000 or more to drive home.  We both noticed that the minute we thought about extending ourselves financially, we got a warning shot across the bow!

We didn’t go out.  I published webpage number 60, “Bryce Canyon Mules”.  Now I have posted ten new letters since October 24th.  I’m making headway.  That is better than three per week and that is quite good.

In the evening Tom and Theresa dropped by and we shared our news.  We can’t consider buying a lot at this time.  And the truth is we were saved from ourselves.  We are not so enamored with this place that we would choose to return every winter.  There are so many other places to be!  For one, I’d like to be nearer to my family during the holidays.  What about somewhere near San Diego or somewhere in the desert near Palm Springs?

Thursday, November 13, 2008.  Dennis may have to fly to California — wish I could!

This morning we walked the dogs and then we went over to the Crane lot to see what progress there is today.  It was overcast and breezy and in the mid-sixties.  (Later we reached a high of 77° and a 17 mph NNE wind brought rain.) I left to do my fast walk around Bogey Drive.  Betty came by in her car to ask if I wanted to keep her company on a quick errand.  We drove to La Joya ISD, the school district where she is registered to be a substitute teacher.  I did not mention our financial worries.

Tom and Theresa came by in their golf cart and he put up the mailbox.  Theresa came inside the bus to visit for a while.  She has a friend in the hospital, Nancy, who will have heart surgery tomorrow.  She is worried.

Dennis called Sylvia and got email copies of office reports and the latest financial status.  I didn’t ask whether he would have to fly home.  I just got busy and used Expedia to look up airline costs.  He could fly direct from McAllen to San Jose round trip next Monday for $390.  If he must fly home I don’t want it to drag on into Thanksgiving week.

Fill dirt is spread and forms laid for concrete on the Crane's lot. I am standing on a pad to the rear and one lot over where the Crane's are staying temporarily while they develop their lot.

Fill dirt is spread and forms laid for concrete on the Crane’s lot. I am standing on a pad to the rear and one lot over where the Crane’s are staying temporarily while they develop their lot.

About four, we decided to go out and look for a decent nearby local restaurant.  We drove west to La Joya to the post office and turned north on Tom Gill Rd. where we found a substantial building that didn’t look too run down and it had several cars parked by it.  So we decided to try El Meson de Poncho Villa.  We chose from the Platilloes (plate) menu and had a very adequate meal.  The place was large and clean and the waitress spoke English.

After that, we drove to the closest HEB on Abrams Rd.  What a mistake to go at 5:00 pm after work.  It was rush hour traffic and the store was crowded.  It started to rain as we parked and it was raining heavily when we came out but it stopped shortly after that.

We know the shortcut now to return to Leisure Ranch but there is construction and it is pitch black at night with no streetlights on these country roads.  Back at the ranch we saw a fair amount of flooding so we drove around the development to see what parts get most flooded.  Dennis says Tom got a map and figured out the high ground before he bought a lot.  Some areas were very flooded and there are big drains on the streets for run off.

Friday, November 14, 2008.  We go out to dinner with Betty and Jay.

We woke to heavy morning fog.  It was so thick one wouldn’t want to drive.   With this kind of ocean weather, why not live on the ocean?  Later it cleared up and the sun came out and it got quite warm with a high of 82°. Winds from the SE reached speeds of 14 mph.

I was late going out to walk and by the time I did it was hot.  I decided to take Rudi and make him heel so I could do my fast walk.  I put on his halter and used a short leash that I tied to my belt.  I took a baggie and some ties.  I walked on the left and made him heel on the curb.  Without Margot and on a short leash he was very good and just trotted along with no barking.  I was able to walk with free hands.  When he pooped, I tied the baggie to his halter.  There are no pet trash bins anywhere on the Martin Valley Ranch grounds — a pet peeve of mine (pardon the pun).  I am going to buy a small stuff bag and tie it to his halter — or buy a saddlebag!  I’m tired of holding a poop baggie for an entire half hour walk.

This method worked so well I came back and got Margot.  We took a shorter loop and she also did very well.  Both dogs seemed to enjoy themselves.  Afterwards I drove the Honda around Bogey Dr. loop.  It is 1.2 miles and I walk it in about 25 minutes.

I spent the day assembling webpage 61 “Chase Crew 101” about the first day of the Salina Balloon Festival.  I arranged it as instructions for a Chase Crew with a complicated arrangement of 77 photos.

In the evening we went out to dinner with Betty and Jay.  She asked where we wanted to go and I suggested Carrino’s, an Italian chain that we’ve run across in other cities.

Betty said, “Is it nearby?”  I think Betty doesn’t really like to eat out and she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on going out to dinner.

I said, “Nothing is nearby!”
Jay said reprovingly, “Oh now, Elsa!”

Jay thought I was complaining, but I wasn’t.  I was stating a fact.  There are no nearby restaurants.  You have to drive 12 miles on the freeway and another five miles on boulevards.  As we agreed, it depends on your definition of “nearby.”  We did go to Carrino’s on Nolana Dr. past 10th St., near the Chinese Buffet where we went with Tom and Theresa.  They enjoyed it and liked the appetizer we chose, stuffed mushrooms.

They are tired.  They’ve made a lot of calls and errands as their lot has begun development this week.  The leveling and forms have been done and the electrical and plumbing.  Next Monday the concrete will be poured.  They are their own contractors so they are busy making choices on roofing, siding, doors, windows, etc.

I hope our satellite is not giving out.  It has a clear shot at the southern sky but we’ve lost reception a few times the past few nights.  Maybe it’s the rain and fog?  Does it need to be cleaned?

I am in deep doo-doo.  When we first got the bus I threw dental floss in the toilet until Dennis noticed and told me to stop — but that was many months later.  I stopped before he got the macerator but that is what has clogged and broken the macerator.  It is a big mess and could be very expensive to repair or replace!  Dummy me.

Last night at 1:45 am, we woke up as a breeze came through out open bedroom windows.  From the NNW, within fifteen minutes this breeze turned full force with a maximum wind speed of 32 mph and gusts up to 44 mph. Rain spattered sideways through the window.  I closed the window and this sudden storm lasted less than an hour.  It was like a squall that passed quickly through our area.  These desert locations!  You never know what will happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008.  I fall and end up in emergency.

(This is a photo I took on Wednesday.) On Friday, I stumbled on the 3" raise of this concrete pad. There were chairs and people and the dogs and I was looking ahead instead of down and didn't see it. These raised pads are everywhere. No one marks them with tape and I think they are dangerous. Essentially, everywhere I go, I must remember I'm on a construction site — including the pad where we are parked.

(This is a photo I took on Wednesday.) On Friday, I stumbled on the 3″ raise of this concrete pad. There were chairs and people and the dogs and I was looking ahead instead of down and didn’t see it. These raised pads are everywhere. No one marks them with tape and I think they are dangerous. Essentially, everywhere I go, I must remember I’m on a construction site — including the pad where we are parked.

It was foggy this morning with a low of 47°. However by nine o’clock the sun was out but it was only 60° and the wind came back.  It reminded me of Cherokee Springs.

Today turned out to be a bit of a disaster.  I fell and ended up spending the morning in emergency.

Betty called in the morning and told us they are getting the lot ready to pour on Monday.  She told us to come over and see all the activity.  Dennis took Margot and left before me.  Fortunately it was chilly so I decided to wear jeans and a jacket and my jogging shoes — so had some padding on me.  I took Rudi and walked to the lot where the Crane’s are staying.  A group was standing at the end of their RV lot watching the work on the Crane’s lot.  Rudi was straining at the end of his extended leash to pull ahead to catch up with Margot who was barking and pulling on Dennis to meet Rudi.

I was looking ahead at the dogs and the group.  Because of the commotion caused by the dogs barking, they were turned to look at me.  All these lots have a concrete driveway and a 3” raised concrete pad that marks the end of the driveway and the beginning of a casita — whenever it will be built.  They are very dangerous as it is easy not to notice them.  We have the same thing on our lot and I have almost stumbled several times walking over it either up or down.  This time I didn’t see it so I stumbled and did a belly flop forward with my arms stretched out.  Because I was walking quickly and Rudi was pulling me, I fell fast and hard with no time to catch myself.  I took the blow primarily on my right knee and on my chin.

Betty ran to me and grabbed the dog leash.  Dennis ran to help me sit up.  I didn’t cry but I knew I was injured because my jaw felt funny where it attaches under the ears.  It felt like my jaw had been shoved up and toward my left ear.  My knee hurt and my chin hurt but what worried me was that I had somehow dislocated my jaw.  My ears and neck hurt.  Betty put me in her car and drove me back to the bus.  Dennis brought the dogs.  We agreed that I needed to see a doctor and get x-rays.

Where to go?  I took an Ibuprofen and we spent half an hour in investigation.  Betty wanted me to go to a nearby clinic that she knew about.  I called Tom and he thought I could go to a doctor with an office at the end of the Western Rd. next to the Parker Ranch office.  I looked on the Internet.  Betty’s clinic and Tom’s doctor were not open and the clinic did not have emergency care.  I chose the hospital where Tom and Theresa have been visiting their friend.  I called the Rio Grande Regional Hospital and the operator put me through to emergency, that told me to call 911.  We didn’t want to do that so I got the address and we left in the car.  It was easy to find and it only took us twenty minutes to get there.

I took a book and my notebook and I was prepared for a long wait in the emergency room.  I was remembering a long wait at Stanford years ago.  But we were surprised.  They sat me down immediately, took my vitals and got the facts.  We sat down in the waiting room and I was called within five minutes.  We spent a few hours in a cubicle with chairs, a gurney and curtains.  They put me in a gown and I was shivering so they put warm blankets around me while they got my history and my insurance.

Here’s a tip that we’ve learned and that everyone should take time to do.  We have all our history typed on a form with a list of prescription medications and our doctors, etc.  (We use a Meditag Personal Information Form.) When they come to take a history I give them the form with my information and they take it away to do their data entry.  It’s easy!

Eventually, an Indian (India) doctor came in.  He was the cold techie type who wasted no words and spent less than one minute with me.  He looked disapproving but ordered x-rays.  Eventually I was wheeled on the gurney to an elevator and up to x-ray where they took photos of my knee, neck and my “mandible” (jaw).  Back down in our cubicle we waited until the doctor returned who used ten seconds to say I had nothing broken.  I have “contusions” and a sprained knee.  I could go home.  I felt like the little old lady who makes a big fuss about nothing.  But how was I to know?  My jaw hurt badly and I had to be sure nothing was out of place.

We were at the hospital for about an hour and a half.  It was after one o’clock by the time we left and I was ready for food.  The sun was out and it was a beautiful sunny day with a high of 72°.  We drove to nearby I-HOP where I chose a minimal chewing breakfast of eggs and pancakes.  I was very hungry.  At that time I took a Tylenol.  Because of liver disease I use Tylenol very sparingly and I can’t take any other drugs for pain.  We came home and I lay down and soon fell asleep.  When I woke I finally looked in the mirror and saw a very noticeable red abrasion on the tip of my chin followed by a black bruise under my chin and on my neck.  It looks ghastly.  My knee is covered with a big bruise.  Although I hit my chin and my chin hurts, the major discomfort is around my ears.  My ears are clogged up as if I were on an airplane.  My jaw and neck ache.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the Folklorico performance so I hope I feel better by then.  I certainly will look awful….

Mission Is Not What I Expected….
November 8, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 8 days
Sunday, November 8, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 5 Months

Saturday, November 1, 2008.  We drive to our winter headquarters in Mission, TX.

We get a glimpse of Corpus Christi from the freeway.

We get a glimpse of Corpus Christi from the freeway.

It was wonderful to be near the gulf and the beach towns. I loved Port Angelus and Padre Island. I wish we could have stayed to see Corpus Christi and more beaches. But our rent in Mission starts today, so we left Rockport at 10:20 am and drove straight through without stopping until we arrived at Martin Valley Ranches in Mission, TX.

Mission is 80 miles inland from Port Isabel and South Padre Island. It is next to the Rio Grande by the Mexican border in the Rio Bravo Valley of Hidalgo County. Our drive was an easy shot south on US-77 and US-281 and it took about three and a half hours.  The scenery was tedious — typical Texas flatlands.  I think we felt tired and just wanted to arrive at our destination.  Also we were anxious to see our new winter headquarters where we are committed to stay for two months.

We were about an hour early as we passed south on US-281 through Edinburg and turned west on US-83 through McAllen toward Mission.  I called our landlord, Tom, to give him a 15-mile warning.  Tom and I both felt it might be difficult for us to find his lot in the development.  So we arranged to meet at the Martin Valley Ranches office just off the freeway at the Springer Rd. exit.  We pulled in at 2:00 pm.  Being the weekend, the office was closed so we let the dogs out in the parking lot and looked around.  The one-way frontage road parallel to the freeway is half dirt with construction to widen the road.  Western Rd., perpendicular to the freeway, leads to the “ranch” and it is paved.  Tom and his wife were visiting a friend in the hospital in McAllen and he had expected us to arrive an hour later so we waited for about forty minutes. I was anxiously wondering what we might find ahead of us on this unadorned rural road.  It was very hot — 86°. Tom and Theresa pulled up in their blue Dodge truck and we followed them the last mile to an entrance road into Martin Valley Ranches and to the section of this RV housing development called Hidden Valley Ranch.

The official entrance to Hidden Valley Ranch is Long Drive. At the corner past the flags, turn right and you arrive at our temporary lot.

The official entrance to Hidden Valley Ranch is Long Drive. At the corner past the flags, turn right and you arrive at our temporary lot.

The entrance to the ranch is certainly understated. No masonry walls or fancy gate flank the entrance. Further down Long Dr., there are some palms and flags. Tom led us to a lot with a big metal shade cover stretching over the entire concrete pad.  He parked on the grass of the lot next door so I did too.  I was wearing sandals and as I stepped out of the Honda a sticker immediately stabbed me in the foot.  I had to stop to take it out and I walked gingerly to the street.  What the hell are these things? After that I avoided the grassy area.

Dennis backed in and got hooked up.  I didn’t know that Tom had a shade canopy and I was shocked because I knew it would block our satellite reception.  It turned out that it is not his property.  He asked friends to let us use it because the electric utility company had not come out to put a meter at the electric outlet on his lot.  I was not pleased.  For one, I can’t program to record on cable.  I record with DirectTV, which only works with the satellite.  For two, we were situated right by the sewage area and you could smell it.

Tom’s friends who own the lot pulled up in a golf cart and we all introduced ourselves.  After we got situated we followed Tom in the Honda and he showed us where he lives and where his lot is located — the one we should be on.  It has no shade cover and it is not near the sewage.  He has waited for the meter for a month!  There is no guarantee that utilities will show up tomorrow or anytime soon.

No one mentioned TV reception: we didn’t and they didn’t.  We returned to our bus where Dennis reported that he couldn’t hook up the cable because the connection was a male and he had to find a female splice.  So I looked up hardware stores and restaurants and at four o’clock we went out to find the part and find something to eat.

The trouble with choosing addresses from a list is that when you don’t know the area, you don’t know what is near and what is far.  Sometimes you get a list by distance but it all takes time and we were in a hurry to get settled.  I didn’t see any Ace but I saw two True Value hardware stores so I put down their addresses and we set out.  I assumed they were in Mission and nearby.  I didn’t realize that we were not near downtown Mission but in the outskirts. This is a gigantic metropolis with a dozen small and large towns, including Mission, scattered across a very wide distance.  I put the first address into the GPS.  Unfortunately, it was 22 miles east in Alamo — past the towns of McAllen, Pharr and San Juan — a fact I didn’t recognize because the distance and time on the little GPS map are small and I didn’t look closely.  The GPS did not plot our route on US-83, the freeway but on a nearby parallel boulevard called Business 83. Half an hour later when we finally got to N Alamo Rd, we could find no hardware store.  It was gone.  Dennis was bitching that we’d gone too far and he could have found something closer.  I was saying, “By all means, find it then!”  (I’m sure I didn’t know where.)

I plugged in the second address, which took us 15 miles west for another 20 minutes back to Mission at E. Griffin Parkway between Shary Rd. and Bryan Rd. — names we were beginning to recognize.  Again the GPS did not put us on the freeway but on a road parallel to Bus 83 but further north. It is variously known as E FM-495, W Pecan Blvd. and E. Griffin Pkwy. as you pass through Camp Alto, San Juan, Pharr, McAllen, Kane, and Sharyland. This hardware store was also closed — permanently.

By this time we were at each other’s throats.  Dennis turned around on Griffin and began to drive in a mad fury —east — away from Mission.  By then I was disoriented and didn’t know up from down.  My instinct told me we were still east of Mission and needed to go west to get back to Martin Ranch. As Dennis fought rush hour traffic, we observed that the districts through which we drove were very poor and rural with empty fields and vacant buildings but with busy streets crisscrossing in all directions.  Dennis kept slowing down on the two-lane boulevards peering at the many strip zone malls as we looked for a hardware store — but none materialized.

Martin Valley Ranches are 7 miles east of Mission and 14 miles east of McAllen.

Martin Valley Ranches are 7 miles east of Mission and 14 miles east of McAllen.

Finally, near the small town of Kane, west of McAllen at W US-83 (Bus 83) and N 23rd St. I spotted a sign on the corner — Brownie’s Hardware, Farm and Ranch Supply.  Dennis made a U-turn and we pulled into the parking lot.  It was going on five o’clock and I was afraid it would be closed.  It wasn’t and it was a huge, old-fashioned hardware store so he found the splice and another part he’s been looking to find.  Having seen no decent restaurants in our travels, I plugged in I-HOP on Shary Rd. because I knew Shary was nearby and westward en route back towards Mission. We stopped to eat and pull ourselves together. I noticed our Mexican waitress seemed nervous and worried about her English and I tried to be extra accomodating. Our GPS accepted the intersection of Long and Bogey and put us on the freeway. We got back to the bus at 6:30 pm.

Dennis hooked up the cable, but no luck.  We should have known.  Tom’s friends are not using this site and it isn’t rented so they haven’t activated cable reception. So we had no TV.  I resigned myself to missing the news.  I thought, “well this is okay for tonight but what about my Sunday shows and what about election news as we approach the big day?”  (Mind you this is three nights before election day and by now we are addicted to the news.)

We took the dogs out for a walk.  There are many lawns on un-purchased lots.  The lawns, however, are kind of mowed fields with grass.  They are filled with sharp burrs that get into the dog’s feet as soon as they step off the street. We soon learned to keep them on the concrete.  Of course Margot and Rudi wanted to go into the fields, so this was just one more annoyance.  When we got back on the bus we had to pull out dozens of stickers.  They are lethal.  We’ve never seen anything like it.  The dogs limp as soon as they get one in their paws — and they get stickers immediately if they step off the street.

The evening cooled down to a nice body temperature and the sky was pink with a nice sunset.  That was the only good thing I could say about our first day in our new winter headquarters.  We got off to our very bad start indeed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008.  I make calls at the Obama Headquarters in Edinburg.

I woke up at 3:45 am.  Actually it was 4:45 daylight time but today we returned to standard time.  (Just as I get used to Central Time I’m thrown back to what was daylight Mountain Time!)  I couldn’t sleep.  I worried.  What will we do?  Will Tom’s owner friends install cable service?  How long will that take?  Can we find another lot to rent until Tom’s lot is ready?  Will Tom get a meter installed on Monday?  (I doubt it.)  Should we dry camp on Tom’s lot for the next few days so we can watch the election news?

I got up and checked my e-mail.  Kevin spotted me online so we traded a few words.  He’s the only one I know who keeps these hours.  He was back from a party.  After my wee hours chat with Kevin, I wrote some thoughts in my journal as follows.

“We have the windows open.  It is 62° right now.  Tomorrow a high of 85° is predicted and 86° for the rest of the week.  With the windows open I hear birds chirping.  They are noisy suckers.  However, I don’t hear any trains, cars or freeways.

‘I don’t like it here.  We got off to a bad start anyway and now I have a bad impression.  I was afraid of this.  Like or not, we are pretty much stuck for the next two months.  Betty and Jay love it here.  I don’t know why.

‘Well, I know they love the weather.  Betty says, “I can wear shorts all winter.”  They don’t like humidity.  It was more humid in Rockport because it’s near the gulf — but not bad.  I loved the beaches on Mustang Island.  I love the marine breezes and seventy-degree weather.  I don’t like hot, dry weather in the high eighties.  I knew it would be hot and dry here but I thought other amenities would make up for it and also I hoped it would cool off soon.

‘Betty and Jay like it here because it’s cheap.  You can buy a 45’ x 70’ lot for 20K, (they got theirs three years ago for 10K), pour a cement pad, park your RV and build a long garage-like structure next to it.  Voila, a casita and pad with hookup for your RV.  The casitas look like trailers but I guess they’re built from scratch.  Some have a metal shade canopy placed over the entire lot.  The casitas are all white, gray or beige, sitting side by side on small concrete lots.  The effect is a gray concrete monotone of streets and driveways and repetitious concrete lots with little or no trees, bushes or greenery.  There’s no space to put much vegetation and owners don’t want the maintenance.  These lots and casitas are nothing like the ones in Yuma, which are much larger.

Across from our future site is a lot under development. Forms are being set for a concrete pad. (That is another diesel pusher in the background — not ours.)

Across from our future site is a lot under development. Forms are being set for a concrete pad. (That is another diesel pusher in the background — not ours.)

‘I expected the Mission area to be rural — something like the Paunsaugunt Plateau with a town here and there connected by some highways.  Rural areas are not convenient but with fields and trees they can be pretty.  I knew there were nearby towns, like McAllen, where we could go for supplies — just as we did when we drove to Hatch and Panguitch and Cedar City.  But actually, this area is neither rural enough to be pretty nor urban enough to be convenient. It is entirely built up with a freeway running through it.  The towns merge one into another. This is about 200 square miles of a sprawling metropolis with strip zones of stores along the streets.  It is 100% flat with no landmarks in terms of hills, water or even city skyline. It is poor and shabby and ugly.”

After these depressing thoughts, I went back to bed at 4:45 am and Rudi woke me about 6:30 am.  I was amused to note that I never had to manually change any of my clocks!  My Mac and my SkySkan clock and my cell phone all switched times on their own!  Welcome to the 21st C.  I brought coffee to bed and we discussed what to do.  Dennis is talking about pulling forward out from under the canopy and buying longer cables for our hookups.  We will try pulling forward first to see if it works.

I am depressed.  I don’t like it here so I just wish I could leave.  I keep thinking about the beach.  I absolutely loved Port Angelus and Padre Island.  Of course, Dennis doesn’t like the beach because it makes his bus dirty and it causes rust.  He is fine with this place.  He is much more flexible than I am.

At 8:30 am I put on shorts and a sleeveless top and my old jogging shoes.  I wore my Omron and we walked briskly around the Bogey Drive loop.  It took 26 min. and I took 2,733 aerobic steps.  The Omron says we walked 1.4 miles.

If we try to pull forward then we have to shop for the supplies to extend our hookups.  That means, go find a Wall-mart.  This afternoon I am supposed to drive 17+ miles east to Edinburg to make calls for Obama.  Of course I am tired because I got up last night — as well as feeling cross and out of sorts.

You know what?  I would love to win that opportunity to go to Obama’s election night celebration in Chicago.  They are choosing five volunteers.  But Dennis wouldn’t.  He would put up all kinds of objections.  He wouldn’t want to do it at all.  Hell.

At 11:30 am, we pulled the bus forward until the satellite came out from under the metal canopy and could see the southern sky.  We are facing NNW.  The King Dome is over the front wheels so we are sticking out about four feet.  We have TV!  The satellite works.  Dennis hooked up again and we had enough length for the electric and water but not the dump hose.

Long St. is the entrance road to Hidden Valley Ranch and is divided with palms in the middle. We are walking towards the entrance/exit (Western Rd.), which unfortunately is next to a sewer plant (see distant tank on horizon.)

Long St. is the entrance road to Hidden Valley Ranch and is divided with palms in the middle. We are walking towards the entrance/exit (Western Rd.), which unfortunately is next to a sewer plant (see distant tank on horizon.)

Dennis looked up Camping World and printed Google directions.  He handed them to me and we left.  This was a big mistake.  I should have plugged the address into Mapquest because the Google directions were inadequate, as was the tiny map with half of it cut off.  We don’t have a local map yet.  I put the address into our GPS and because it was on E Expressway 83, it wouldn’t take the street.  I tried Highway and 83, etc.  So I tried to follow the map directions and we drove for a full hour!  I finally got us on Bus 83 and then called Camping World and we weren’t too far away.  It turns out that the Expressway is the one-way frontage road on either side of the US-83 freeway.  We were less than eight miles from where we started.  Dennis was so mad and frustrated and I was trying to stay calm and figure out where we were.  By the time we got there I was so upset I had to stay in the car where I had a good cry.  I was tired and hungry and I’ve had it with this place.  He went in and got the stuff and came out twenty minutes later.  It took only ten minutes to drive back to the bus.  We’ve been navigating our way around strange cities for a year and a half and we’ve never had these kinds of difficulties before. While Dennis took a shower I wrote the following.

“What with last night and this morning I am in despair about this town or towns.  It’s worse by far than Billings.  At least Billings was a real city with a centralized downtown and some primary streets leading like the spokes of a wheel out to suburbs (with shopping malls) and then to open country. This is spread out like LA in the late 40s but with no mountains or ocean as landmarks. It is flat and poor and just rural enough that they often don’t put up street signs at the intersections.  Our GPS for this area is not up to the task. It won’t recognize the east and west 83 Expressway addresses that are the one-way frontage roads next to the freeway, US-83. To make it worse, there is also a Bus 83 boulevard.

‘I am waiting for the homeowners association to tell us that we can’t pull this far forward in the driveway.  We should be five feet back from the street.  I am looking for any excuse to pull out of here and leave.  Although Tom has our $400 for November perhaps he could apply it towards December — after the meter is installed. I’ve volunteered to make calls for Obama so I’ve got to get ready to drive to Edinburg this afternoon.  At least when I get back we will be able to watch MSNBC and hear the news.”

At 2:20 pm I left to find what I assumed was a home address where I volunteered to make calls for Obama.  Naturally the GPS did not recognize the address.  This time I had printed Mapquest directions and I plugged in a nearby intersection.   I managed to find the address and it turned out to be a commercial plaza with an office that was an Obama headquarters.  There were four people there.  I shared an office with a Latino woman, Marsha, from Mission.  In her thirties, she had a long, thick black braid down her back and she was very forceful and funny and I had a good time with her.  I went through 50+ calls and it took me about two hours.  I was calling Florida and I was surprised to reach many Obama voters.  I got there at three and I left at 5:20 and got back to the bus at six.

The effort cheered me up and I felt better when I left.  They were grateful for my contribution.  Marsha invited me to the election night celebration at the Democratic headquarters in Mission.  I said I would come back tomorrow and try to bring Dennis.  They said Dennis could help by putting up signs.

Monday, November 3, 2008.  Countdown.

We pull forward until the King Dome can see the southern sky.

We pull forward until the King Dome can see the southern sky.

Today we ventured out for breakfast.  It was 81° and breezy when we set out just before noon.  This time we know to take the freeway east for ten miles and exit on Shary Rd. where we turned north to find breakfast at I-HOP.  After breakfast we shopped at a nearby supermarket called HEB.  It is gigantic and has nice goods but it has a very peculiar layout.  I would prefer Albertson’s but HEB is the only game in town. There are no other supermarkets to be seen.

This area is such a peculiar combination.  Every block has one big substantial building, like the I-HOP and the rest are junk business buildings, small junk strip malls and empty lots.  Corners often have left over, derelict buildings, deserted but never torn down.

I was supposed to work at the Obama Headquarters but I felt so tired that I didn’t go.  The rest of the day I was happy to rest.  I am catching up on old letters for Letters From A Bus.  I’ve posted six new letters.  Now I’m working on last June ninth, “Life in Cherokee Springs”.

In the evening we caught up on our MSNBC news analysts.  We all feel very hopeful but also frightened.  McCain could still pull it out of the bag.  Sometime this week, Rachel Maddow said, “Do you wake up at night in a cold sweat, worrying that McCain will win?”  Apparently, I am not alone in suffering from this nightmare.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008.  The nightmare is over. We elect Obama

This is the day.  At last we will know the answer to our future — one way or another.  We basically killed time while we waited to watch the election returns.  We had to renew our prescriptions so we drove east on the freeway to a big Wall-mart on Shary Rd.  Then we got fuel and after that we explored the area a little bit. 

This is a World Birding Center. It is an important crossroads between tropical and temperate habitats. Many birds are found nowhere else in North America.

This is a World Birding Center. It is an important crossroads between tropical and temperate habitats. Many birds are found nowhere else in North America.

We drove west and then turned south from the freeway.  This area is only a short distance from the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border.  It is more rural and therefore prettier with big empty fields.  We stumbled across some RV parks that looked pretty with big palm trees along the entrance streets.  We saw Green Gate Grove and Mission Bentson-Palm RV Parks.  Then we came to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park Wild Refuge.  I was looking for it as this area is well known for the variety of birds attracted here.  We stopped to walk to the entrance and collect information but it was too late and I was too hot and tired to go on a tour.

We came home and watched the election returns.  We didn’t have the excitement of going out to vote because we voted long ago with absentee ballots.  Most of my friends voted in California and watched the results with friends.  I missed the sense of community in going out to vote and then celebrating the results with my friends.  The San Francisco Bay Area is solid blue.  And it is not difficult to vote in California.  They mail a sample ballot to you and your name on the front means you are set to vote.  Polling places are local — often within walking distance and placed in people’s homes or a community building.  Lines are minimal.  I don’t understand why polling places are not plentiful elsewhere and why some states turn voting into an endurance contest.  It seems ridiculous and very wrong.

Together with CNN and MSNBC, we all kept an eye on the key “battleground” states of Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Caroline and Florida.  I used the online CNN Election Results map to keep track. At 8:03 pm EST Obama had 77 electoral votes to McCain’s 34 votes. Actually McCain always trailed.  At 8:42 Pennsylvania brought Obama up to 102 electoral votes.  By 9:38 Ohio brought him up to 194 votes.  At 10:12 he had 207 votes.

It all looked good and soon the experts were explaining that McCain could no longer win enough states to add up to the required electoral votes.  I held my breath.  The polls closed at 8:00 pm on the west coast and promptly at 10:05 pm Central Time all the channels called the results for Obama.  Wow!  That was earlier than I expected. At 11:13 EST (after the west coast closed their polls) Obama had 297 votes and it was all over.  At 11:41 EST he was up to 338 electoral votes with 51% or 46,036,833 popular votes.

Amazingly, Obama took Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.  I don’t know what happened to Missouri.  Seven states changed parties: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina and Florida.  It was an impressive and decisive win.

I wanted to run outside to wave and cheer with neighbors.  But it was dead quiet outside.  No one was celebrating in this red state — no one that I knew about anyway.  We stuck with CNN and MSNBC and then the most amazing thing happened.  The analysts got choked up.  Black and white, they were overcome with the import and meaning of that historic moment.  We listened to McCain’s gracious concession speech and finally President-elect Barack Obama came out with his family and spoke.  He and Michelle looked quiet and introspective and overwhelmed.  They fully understood the impact of history in the making.  I saw the awed faces in the crowd and I saw Jesse Jackson crying.  I saw that the brilliant Eugene Robinson, of the Washington Post and a regular MSNBC commentator had been tearful and could hardly speak and then I started to cry, and Dennis had tears also.  At last I can feel proud of my country.  At last, America rose up and did something great.  At last our citizens stopped listening to lies.  The electorate took a good look at the past eight, dreadful and shameful years and said, “Enough.”  They turned to a brilliant, young African American and said in effect, “We trust you to get us out of this mess.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008.  The country celebrates

I guess we were emotionally worn out.  We didn’t go out all day.  We should have.  I didn’t think about it but I should have gone to find a newspaper to keep.  I wish I had. 

Dennis sat outside in the shade provided by the canopy.  But it is a tricky deal.  If the bus is running A/C, the sound echoes against the canopy and it is too noisy to enjoy sitting outside.  Also the canopy makes the interior of the bus seem very dark.  It is gloomy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008.  We move our bus to Tom’s lot.

Margot is all dolled up — no more mats.

Margot is all dolled up — no more mats.

Thursday morning I got busy doing research to find a dog groomer.  Rudi and Margot are beyond dirty.  They are a matted mess.  Someone told me that I wouldn’t find a groomer who has any openings for more than a month because Winter Texans all bring their little dogs and keep the groomers busy.  Mercy!  I hope not.  I’ve put this off too long and I really need to get these mats combed or cut out and get the dogs washed and combed.  I began making calls.  Half way down my list I found Isabel, owner of Pampered Pooch.  I explained about what a Coton is like and said that Margot has hair like a sheep and probably has to be shaved.  She said to bring her in right away and she’d take a look.

So we hopped in the car and took both dogs with us.  With the help of Mapquest, we found the Pampered Pooch in one of those little junk strip malls near Bus. 83 and Conway in Mission. Isabel, the owner, is a force of latino personality. I liked her immediately. She examined Margot and said, “What would you say if I said I can save her?”  Not shave her down?  I was thrilled.  We left her right then and there and four hours later, she called us to come back.  Margot was trimmed down and had not one hint of a mat anywhere.  Isabel’s secret is a little brush.  I bought two of them.  She showed us how to remove these terrible stickers with the brush.  We’ve been cutting them out!  I made arrangements to bring Rudi in on Friday and we took home our beautiful, rejuvenated Margot.  It cost me $32 plus two $3 brushes and a tip.  What a bargain!

Meanwhile, while Margot was being groomed and we were doing more errands, Tom called and said his meter was installed and we could move the bus to his lot.  We went back to Martin Valley Ranch and moved the bus from the older development, Hidden Valley Ranch to the newer development, Leisure Valley Ranch — about half a mile away on the same street, Bogey Rd.  Tom came over to make sure everything was working properly.  He is very easy going and laid back — a pleasant man.  We no longer have the shade canopy but I think I prefer it that way.  It is hot to sit out in the sun but it is a more open location, less closed in with surrounding casitas and with less traffic.  Without the canopy we have our usual outlook with good light coming through the windows.

Today we have wind speeds up to 22 mph from the SW and a high of 84°.

A short while later Tom called and asked if we’d like to go out to dinner with he and his wife, Theresa.  Dennis drove and they told us where to go.  We got quite a tour all around town.  I think they felt badly that we’d had such difficulties trying to find our way around.  They took us out a back exit and up Abrams Rd to 3-Mile Rd. and then east all the way to 10th St. in McAllen.  We went to Lin’s Chinese Buffet, a big restaurant with a wide variety of buffet choices.  We enjoyed visiting with them and after cautious feelers we discovered they supported Obama.  They also celebrated alone but Theresa says she called a few of her Republican friends in Alaska to gloat!  Tom and Theresa come down here for the winter but their permanent home is in Fairbanks.  They grew up in Kansas and Tom’s accent reminds me of my cousin, Jim Peeke.  After dinner they showed us where the big mall is on 10th and Theresa pointed out Macy’s to me.  Hurray!  I do feel much better now that we’re oriented.

Friday, November 7, 2008. 

Friday morning at 10:00 am we dropped Rudi off at the Pampered Pooch.  His long fine hair is not as thick or as badly matted as Margot’s was.  Margot had dreadlocks right down to the skin.  We did some errands, came back to the bus and returned to pick up our “pampered pooch” at 3:00 pm.  What a relief to have both dogs clean and looking good.

Over the past few days the heat has dropped and we’ve had cloud cover.  There is a stiff and cool 20 mph northern breeze and temperatures maxed at 78°.  This is much more to my liking.  It looks like rain but it doesn’t rain.

Saturday, November 8, 2008.  The Crane’s arrive from Rockport.

Betty directs Jay as he backs into a temporary lot where they will park until their casita is built.

Betty directs Jay as he backs into a temporary lot where they will park until their casita is built.

The Crane’s have friends here who tried to contact us but we kept missing connections.  Finally Dava and Bill found our new location and dropped by to introduce them selves just as the Crane’s arrived in the early afternoon.  We were all glad to see them.  Betty was pleased to see that we are about 150 steps away from their lot.  They are allowed to stay for free on a Martin Valley Ranch lot (for sale with concrete pad already in place) situated next to their own lot while they put in a pad and build their little casita.  Dava and Bill are next door to them so we are all nearby and a feeling of old home week prevailed.  This is the third season in Mission for the Crane’s and now at last they are going to build on their lot.  Betty is very excited and I’m excited for her.

In the evening we three couples drove all the way over to McAllen to a particular pizza parlor that Dava recommended. They serve slices of pizza and other Italian dishes, buffet style.  It was quite a long drive, very cold inside and very noisy.  I thought the pizza was OK but not worth the effort it took to get there.  It was an opportunity to get acquainted with the Crane’ friends, Dava and Bill, but it was quite noisy and distracting — not a pleasant environment. I’ve noticed that the retired RV folks often gravitate towards buffets of any kind — lots of food and inexpensive.

Today I published my ninth new letter, “Fishing at Tropic Reservoir” about events that took place on 6/12/08.  My letters are hopelessly behind the times….