Monday, February 29, 2016

A Nice Week on South Padre Island

Our week at Isla Blanca on South Padre Island slipped by very quickly and restfully. The weather was sweet, except for one night when we had some pretty strong wind and choose to sleep with the slides pulled in.  (I get the short end of this, as the bedroom slide closes onto my side of the bed.)

One of the days we drove over to Brownsville and visited the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. It is reputed to be a wonderful place to see lots of kinds of birds.  We saw a Great Horned Owl that was nesting in the large palm tree next to the plantation house.  They had a scope set up so people could get a look at her. The restored rooms of the house were also quite elegant and a pleasure to walk through.

There are some lovely trails that wind around the palm forest and have a variety of benches and bird viewing blinds that the birders use.

In many ways it reminded me of some of the lovely places we visited in Florida a couple of years ago. There was even some Spanish Moss in the trees. We kept our walk short to favor my foot, but we recommend it as a nice day trip from the island area.

On another day we drove all the way up the beach to the shipping channel. About 30 miles. And once again enjoyed the sea air and beautiful surf.

Going north we spotted this guy sitting high on a dune, and when we drove back we saw him (or another?) gliding over the waves. There were also a lot of pelicans and other sea birds about. 

Saturday we took a two hour dolphin watch boat ride. (No pictures worth sharing!) And on Sunday we went out for a wonderful brunch at the Beach Side Cafe. 

Life is good!

I think of the many cold Februraries we spent in Wisconsin and am so glad we are not there now. Nor, for that mater, do I wish we were back in our California house. If we were, we would probably be discussing the next fix-up project instead of making plans for a visit to the National Seashore in Corpus Christi.

I am writing this post as we cruise along in the Alfa. I wonder what our spot in Mission TX will look like, and what new experiences we will have.  Good I hope.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Laredo and South Padre Island

I blog because ...  

I want to keep a record of where we have been,
I want my family to know where we are,
Just because!

I've really been in a blogger slump for the last few weeks. Being sick didn't help, but we are over that now, and I still don't feel much like writing.

I wrote most of a post about our days in Laredo, but found it boring and I have no real desire to publish it. We did have a nice time, went to a music festival, a parade, and some pretty good fireworks. The weather was pretty nice too.

Monday we drove two hundred miles to South Padre Island.

Walk to the beach in the late afternoon

We are staying a week at Isla Blanca Park, which is a county park right on the Gulf. There are over 400 full-hookup spaces, each with a modest side patio area. The town, sea, and climate remind me a lot of the Florida Keys, but the weekly space rent of $185 is a lot less than what we paid at the State Parks in Florida.  Also, we called ten days ahead for a reservation here, but in the Keys we were lucky to get a spot eleven months in the future.

So far, the only negative I can come up with would be for dog owners. The grass seems quite full of sand spurs, and they are hard on doggies' paws.

We took a walk on the beach Monday afternoon, and then on Tuesday drove a few miles north of town to where we could drive the Jeep right on the beach.

Our neighbor at the park told us we could drive 35 miles on the beach. We didn't go that far, and instead parked and walked along the water's edge for a way.

There were a lot of fishermen working the surf. Watching a few catches put me in the mood for fresh grilled fish, so on the way home we found a seafood market. Fresh "catch of the day" Black Drum fish is on the menu for tonight's dinner. 

Wrap-up: the black drum was very good, even if it did sound like something that should have been part of the music festival in Laredo!

Curiosity: why did our post "On the Road to the Gulf of Mexico" attract 2237 page views on Friday, Feb. 19, when most of our posts attract less than 500?  Is there great interest in the possibility of a wall along the Mexican border? What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, Laredo Texas

The small commercial park we stayed at in Del Rio was nice, the laundry was large and the weather was warming, but our next stop at a State Park in Laredo has proven much more to our usual taste.

The sites are level and quite large. We are surrounded by native plants, and the small but beautiful lake is only a short walk away.

We asked about renting a canoe for Friday afternoon, but were disappointed by the fact that boat rentals are only available on weekends. Oh well. We have plans for both Saturday and Sunday, so a canoe ride is not in the picture this time.

I'm Happy!
Really I am.

Just so glad to be feeling better enough to enjoy a quiet sunset sitting at the picnic table.

The next post will include some of the fun things we have found to do in Laredo.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Road to the Gulf of Mexico

We are heading to the Gulf of Mexico, but given that we were both quite sick, we are taking our time getting there. We did push ourselves to get out and drive a bit in the Big Bend National Park on two of the days we were there, but we also made sure we took healing naps and took all of our medicines at the proscribed times. We took the last antibiotic yesterday, and today Craig seems quite well.  I am almost there. We will continue to rest and hopefully there will be no relapses.

Monday we traveled almost 300 miles from the Big Bend National Park to Del Rio, Texas. We drove it in one day, and then rested the next.

Wednesday, we went 200 miles, south, to Laredo, Texas, "C".  We plan to stay here for five days, and then go to South Padre Island, "F" where we have a week long confirmed reservation. Craig also wants to visit Mission Texas "E", so we will backtrack a little and go there before we head east up the coast to Corpus Christi. 

Although we lived in Texas from ’78 to ’83, and have traveled across the sate several times over the years, we have never been to this part of this enormous state. Much of our route has been within a relatively short distance from the Mexican Border. Between Big Bend and Del Rio we drove many hours through seemingly endless desert and uninhabitable lands. 

We saw a couple of tethered dirigibles that we think were Border Patrol observation devices, and many Border Patrol trucks and agents. 

We did not see any great hordes of illegals. 

In my humble opinion, building a great wall in there would be both a huge waste of resources and extremely unnecessary.  

Nature has provided a fairly impassable landscape.

The land south of Del Rio, Texas is another matter.  We traveled through a lush area of agricultural land and a couple of vibrant small towns. We weren't sure where the river was, or how open the land and roads might be, but I wondered how effective a wall would be there. Farmers need hands willing to do the back-breaking field work. There are not enough American workers who are willing to do these jobs for the pay that is offered.

I really think our immigration problems will never be solved unless people stop wanting to pay less for labor and services. If  the people of the USA didn't hire illegals as farm workers, gardeners, roofers, nannies and such, and if businesses did not pay lower "under the table" wages to them, there would be less of a problem. We, the people, benefit from these lower costs, and then complain about being taken advantage of.   Personally, I want cheap produce. 


I have been watching way to much political coverage on TV. 

Sometimes my thoughts seem to boil over. So, this is probably a good place to end this post. It's just that by seeing the reality of the land, I realize that building a wall is not the answer.  That would be too easy conceptually, too hard in practice, and not really solve anything. No matter who paid for it!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Big Bend National Park

[From Craig] On Friday we decided to rise above strep, pneumonia, and Merikay's broken foot, and go for a ride in one of our country's least-known National Parks.  Hiking is still out of the question, but we made good use of our Jeep.

There are lots of hills but not many plants.  If you look carefully, coming up from the bottom are two seed stalks from plants that didn't otherwise make it into the image.

There were nice views from a hill called Sotol Vista. The plant in the front is a sotol; its fronds are good for making baskets. Actually, except for their seed shoots, these plants are not so tall.  :-)

Tuff Canyon
Tuff is a type of rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a vent during a volcanic eruption. After being ejected and deposited, the ash is compacted into a solid rock.  It's very light in weight, and erosion can carve it easily.

Mule Ears

There's a hole in this rock.  What kind of animal do you see?

This is Cerro Castellan.  If there's a path on the back side, it looks like a good place to keep a lookout.  See the little balancing rock on the left side?

The Castolon Visitor Center once pumped gas. Near the Rio Grande, it has been an Army base, a working farm, and has been a store since 1901.

The Rio Grande, with Mexico at left, approaching Santa Elena Canyon.  Wonder where they'll put the wall?

At Santa Elena Canyon, the Rio Grande has cut itself a beautiful channel through the Sierra Ponce Mountains. Left bank is Mexico, right bank US.

Looking back toward where Merikay is guarding the Jeep from bandidos.

We started back home along the Old Mavericks Trail, which seemed appropriate because we are getting on in age, and are members of the Alfa Owners Club chapter called the Mavericks.

These are soaptree yuccas, which can be used to make soap. On the way down to Terlingua the day before, we saw several trucks carrying such plants to a new role as landscaping. 

By this time the sun was down into the west, which made for these nice shadows.

This building is called a jacal.  It was built around 1890 by Gilberto Luna. Surrounded by Comanches and Apaches, he raised a large family here.  He died in 1947 at age 108.

This valley is east of Old Mavericks Trail.  I had to climb a hill to shoot it.  

I hope you have enjoyed this trip.  My apologies to those with low Internet bandwidth.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bisbee, a Big Bird, and an Urgent Care Medical Center Stop

From Tombstone AZ we drove south to Bisbee, not far and very much a part of nineteenth century American mining history. Where silver was the prize in Tombstone, copper made men rich in Bisbee. Early mines were all underground, but in later years open pit mining became standard.

The Lavender Pit mine is more or less in the middle of Bisbee. This open pit copper mine is a remarkable sight to see. 

You can see that the sides have a lavender cast, but that's not the source of the mine's name!  It was named in honor of Harrison M. Lavender, a VP of Phelps-Dodge Corp. who initiated and oversaw the development of the mine starting in 1950.

We did not do much there because we were both quite sick. We did drive around town and also walked through the city museum which was very nice. After two nights we pulled out and headed for El Paso TX. We might stop in Bisbee again sometime when we are feeling well.

On our way southeast we stopped at a rest stop overlooking Las Cruces, New Mexico. We couldn't help admire this very large metal roadrunner statue.  Beep Beep!

Our Health:

First, my foot. While walking through the Bisbee museum, the velcro strap on my boot broke. Since it has been six weeks, I decided to try not wearing it. Unfortunately I still felt some pain, and so I got an appointment with a podiatrist in El Paso. After getting new x-rays, the good news is I do not have to continue wearing the boot unless the pain gets much worse. I am currently wearing my hiking boots with the laces tied firmly. The bad news is I do have a bit of tendonitis and one of the fractures is only about 80% healed. The doc told me to keep taking it easy, and not try any hiking for at least two more months  Oh well. At least I'm out of the boot, and I can drive again!

For six weeks, both Craig and I have had what we treated as bad colds. Robitussin and Mucinex became a regular staple in our grocery purchases. I thought he sounded worse, he thought I did, but we both had deep barking coughs, particularly at night. Knowing we were heading south to Big Bend National park, where doctors might be far and few between, we decided to go to an Urgent Care Treatment Center in El Paso. For people like us, these walk-in centers are a perfect solution for everyday medical needs. 

Some do not take all insurances, so if you do stop at one, be sure to ask before waiting for help. If you are having a heart attack or other serious event, go to the nearest ER!

The doctor and medical technicians that saw us were all very good.
It was also nice that they saw us as a couple, at our request, since we both had the same problems. After throat swabs, chest x-rays, and examinations, we were both diagnosed as having Strep infections that have gone to our lungs, and pneumonia.  Good thing we went in!

We were each given two shots, in our butts, and an inhalation therapy treatment in the office, plus five prescriptions, including antibiotics and inhalers. 

Because we are travelers, we won't be able to go back, so were given a print-out of our diagnosis and treatments and told to not hesitate to see another doctor if we don't see full improvement. It might take a week or so, but we should be OK.

And finally, more from my new hobby, Adult Coloring Books!

Owl Image from Blue Star Stress Relieving Animal Designs, Adult Coloring Book.
Colored with Prismacolor  Pencils and Sharpie Ultra Fine Markers.

Owl Image from Blue Star Stress Relieving Animal Designs, Adult Coloring Book.
Colored with Sharpie Ultra Thin markers and Recollections Masterpiece markers.
[From Craig]  As I finish proofreading this, Merikay is outside looking for Marfa lights here at the Viewing Center south of Marfa, TX.  Hope she doesn't stay out too long, so that our medical conditions improve together.  Guess I'll go look too. Life is Much Better!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kartchner Caverns and Tombstone AZ

The weather has been very cold in southern Arizona! We are very happy with the double pane windows and furnace in the Alfa. They  do a good job of keeping us nice and warm in the night. On Monday we just missed the stormy weather in our driving. The wind had rocked the coach enough for us to pull the slides in Sunday night, but died down in the morning. Our drive from Tucson to Kartchner Caverns was just under 80 miles, and except for the last few we had no cross winds.

But by the time we were parked in our spot at the campground a few flakes of snow were flying. When we woke in the morning it was to a clear sky with just a dusting of snow on the ground.

I had bought our tickets for the cavern tour online so we knew what time to go over to the Discovery Center for the tour. I had read that the cave was always 72° so we only took our light jackets.  Big mistake since we had to ride in an open tam to get to the cave entrance. Brrr!

But once inside, it was a very pleasant temperature. Photography is not allowed inside the cave, so the following two pictures are from the web image file.

If you like caves, as we do, this one was very good with numerous formations. It is still a wet, growing cave, with new formations growing over the millennia. 

Thursday's adventure was a drive over to see Tombstone AZ.

Because my foot is not yet healed, and I am still handicapped by the boot, we decided to take the trolley tour instead of a walking tour.

The cost for the trolley tour was only $8 each, and if we wanted to buy the combined trolley tour and gunfight show the tickets were only $12. The gun fight show was not the re-enactment of the showdown at the OK Corral. Instead it was a rather lame, but delightful little comedy presented by four silly actors.

The seated audience was encouraged to cheer and boo. The actors made a lot of corny jokes, but fun was had by all. Hey, what do you expect for $4?

After the gunfight show, we were driven around on the enclosed trolly (good thing because it was cold) and the driver told us yarns about the buildings and the history of Tombstone. 

Another type of tour can be taken in one of the several stagecoaches that clip clop around town. I could hear the blather coming from the stage and noticed a mike on the driver, so his passengers must have been getting a story as well.

We also spent some time walking the main street and looking into the shops. There were several rather nice places that sold authentic looking period clothing. 

On the way out of town, we stopped to visit the Boothill graveyard.

Since it is a real graveyard there is no fee to walk through it. A large part of the downhill graveyard was destroyed by flood waters over the years, but up on the hill the markers have been restored and the stone cairns kept up. 

Most of the graves that had names on them were dated 1880 - 1883. 
I wondered who  put flowers on a 135 year old grave.

There were also several examples of grave yard

This was just one of the views we had while driving back to the campground. The color was soft, and the sky a brilliant blue.

Next stop ... Bisbee Arizona for a Mine Tour and a town walkabout.