Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mission, TX, to New Braunfels, TX, to Calgary

Nov 23rd to 29th
Just spent the week getting settling in on Loren's RV Pad - Well I guess it's now sort of our RV Pad since he does not have an RV and we are the most common user.

ELTOROs home away from home for the next 5 weeks
 Anyway, we spent a couple of days just enjoying the stay, and local scenery and chatting and getting caught up with the happenings around New Braunfels since we were last year in the spring. Then on Friday the 25th it was Black Friday so we started the day with a great Buffet Breakfast at the Golden Corral in New Braunfels, then over to Kohls for some shopping and to Penny's for more. Denice claims she saved over $100, but I'm not sure how much she spent to get that savings, but there really were some good deals. The next day, while Denice was doing some washing, I made a trip to Camping World for a few items I needed. Always "Lots of good stuff" at Campers World. I picked up a 30 AMP extension cord and another length of sewer piping to complete the hook ups on "Our" RV Pad.

Then one day we took a short run up into some of the Texas Hill Country, although New Braunfels is actually in the hill country, but we drove up to Canyon Village. A large Dam has been constructed on the Guadaloupe River backing up water to form the Canyon Lake.

The Dam

A Few Poor People live around here

Nice Holiday Vehicle
These poles must be 100 feet high to be above the high water
  Of course where ever there is a Lake there are people wanting to build houses around the shoreline. Canyon Village now has a population of some 16,000 souls!
One day while we were in Mssion, I was outside sitting in my easy chair with a good book, and somewhere in a lull of activity I took a short break and was just looking around the area. TOADONE, our jeep was sitting facing me and I noticed that the front tires seemed to have a little extra wear on the insides. A closer examination confirmed that there was indeed some wear more than normal, so I knew a wheel alignment was in order. So, as we were not that busy in New Braunfels it would seem the right time to get that wheel alignment. Loren had advised me of a new shop just opened up that does all types of mechanical repairs and he recommended them so I went down to Franks Repair and had it done. They seemed like nice folks and completed my work quickly while I waited. I was only the 6th vehicle to have their alignment on their new state of the art machine. Appears like a very professional job and cost was not out of line at $73!

The last day in New Braunfels was reserved for packing and getting ELTORO settled in for a 5 week layover until we return on January 6th. The packing did not take long as we will be traveling light with only one suitcase. We decided to bring in supper for the Partridge Family ( Hettie, Loren, Theresa, Kayly and Jake) so made a trip down to Rudy's Bar-B-Que again and came home with all the fixins, Brisket, chicken. Ribs, spuds, creamed corn, and Banana pudding.  Had a feast!!

The next morning we had a flight from San Antonio to Houston leaving at noon, so we left New Braunfels at 10:00AM arived at San Antonio airport at 11 AM and boarded a 737-800 for a 40 minute flight to Houston. Once on the ground in Houston we had a 4 hour lay over before boarding an Air Canada Jazz flight to Calgary. The flight was another 4 hours so we did not arrive until 9:45PM in Calgary. We had decided since it was late that rather than have son Ross take us home after his shift at 11:00PM wewould just get aroom in the Airport Delta Hotel and spend the night and then he could take us home to High River in the morning.
Well, "Best Laid Plans!!!!"
The next morning when we got up we were in one of those Canadian Blizzards. There was about 4" of snow and it was coming down big time. We callled Ross and told him to just meet us on the south side of the City at a local restaraunt. We jumped in a cab and headed down the Deerfoot Trail, but traffic was backed up for miles, but in about an hour we finally reached our first destination, for a $60 fee. Oh by the way the Delta room was only $329!!!  For about 6 hours rest not bad EH!!! Anyway after breakfast Ross did deliver us home. As I said "Best Laid Plans," If we had known we could have had a taxi take us all the way to High River for a much lesser cost. Oh well, "What the Hell." You only live once!!

Nov 22nd

Hooked up and on the road by 8:30AM this morning. Chose a route to by pass San Antonio. Took Interstate 83 Freeway through McAllen, then swung onto 281 north for about 150 miles th George West, then east for 25 miles on 59 to Beeville, then again north on 181 to Karnes City, and then 123 to Segiun, and 46 into New Bruanfels, and cousin, Loren and Theresa's acreage. Total distance 292 miles. Just out of New Braunfels we hit a rough railway crossing, and jarred something loose inside ELTORO. I was unable to figure what it was until we got set up at Lorens. Looked every where to try and find something loose and finally by accident bumped the TV mounted in the front and "Voila" it moved and rattled. Obviously the supporting screws must be loose or have fallen out. I tried to figure out how to get into that TV compartment but never succeeded today - Another Day!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Mission - Texas that is

Nov 2nd to -----Nov 22nd
Week Three

Highlight of the week!! Another Mexican body reported as found floating in the Rio close to our area. Seems, as reported by the locals that this is not a rarety. A couple of times we have seen increased Border Patrol activity at their station beside our park. The boats make regular excursions up and down the river 24/7 and helicopter fly-bys are common. One thing rather unique to the boat patrols during the night is that they patrol without lights, even in complete darkness. I talked to one of them and he said with the aid of night vision goggles and GPS that lights were not required. I would like to see through a set of their goggles, but he never offered! Yesterday, at the height of the acivity a took a couple of pictures. Obviously, fire power is some times required in their operations!

Week Two

Well another week has passed by without a lot of fanfare. We have basically just hunkered down and enjoyed the leisure time here. We are getting  a taste of how long term residents pass the time. Most of the people here are "Long Term." And we see a lot of "Q-Tips" if you know what I mean. For those that are unfamiliar with "Q-Tip," just compare a Q-tip to an aging white haired individual, and you will get the idea. Every Thursday night is "Pot Luck" night, and a bunch of the residents gather in the rec hall for some great dinners and conversation. We have gone twice now, and Denice's dishes have been a favourite both times. The first time she took a big crock pot of her great stew, and the second time her Pistachio Pudding salad. It was Yummee!!! But everybodies dishes were very delicious, and such variety.

 Over the last while that we have been here we have visited some of the area points of interest in the area. These include the Benston Wildlife Refuge, The Butterfly Center, Santa Anna Wildlife Refuge, Quinta Mazatlan, and yesterday an all day trip to South Padre Island. Denice has become quite a "Birding " Person, and anything with wings intrigues here. I, on the other hand, like to see unique birds with different coloring, but ordinary drab birds do little for me. Sometimes we lock horns over some of these, but I do try to allow her to get the camera shots she wants. Here is a bit about each of the sites we have visited:

Benston Wildlife Refuge
One of top birding destinations in the country, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in deep, South Texas well deserves its status as headquarters of the World Birding Center. Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of "Valley specialties", tropical birds found nowhere else in the United States. The 760-acre Bentsen - Rio Grande Valley State Park, together with over 1,700 acres of adjoining U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, promises a year-round nature adventure in the richest birding area north of the Mexican border.
The Land
Constructed of layer upon layer of sediments by centuries of Rio Grande flooding, the land at Bensten- Rio Grande Valley State Park is a rich and fertile alluvial plain. Native shrubs and forbs are shaded by Cedar Elm, Sugar Hackberry, Rio Grande Ash, Texas Ebony and Anacua trees. The habitat at Bentsen is especially valuable as very few riparian woodlands remain intact along the Rio Grande.
Our Birds
As one of the larger tracts of Rio Grande floodplain forest remaining in this area, Bentsen is a magnet for the "Valley specialties" that make this park famous. Green Jays & Plain Chachalacas congregate regularly at feeding stations within the park. Other neo-tropical varieties such as Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Clay-colored Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, and Gray Hawk are also likely. Virtual clouds of migrating Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks are a popular spring and fall spectacle.

Green Jay

Golden-Fronted Wood Pecker

Altimira Oriole



The National Butterfly Center is dedicated to education, conservation and scientific research on wild butterflies. Its mission is "Growing Connections". The National Butterfly Center connects people to butterflies, which are intimately connected to native plants, which themselves are connected to the earth.

Mission National Butterfly Center
The 100 acre National Butterfly Center is the premier location in the United States to experience the beauty, drama and emotion of wild butterflies. You will see incredible numbers of kaleidoscopically-colored wild butterflies. The clouds of butterflies are at the National Butterfly Center because, by planting thousands of plants that the butterflies need for nectar and for caterpillar growth, we have created a butterfly paradise that sustains large populations of hundreds of species of wild butterflies.

Santa Ana Wildlife Refiuge
Considered the jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge (NWF) system, Santa Ana is also the most popular and best known wildlife refuge in the Valley. It's 2088 acres has nearly 400 species of birds, half of all butterfly species found in North America, and rarities such as the indigo snake and the endangered ocelot. A butterfly garden is next to the Visitor Center. During the winter, a 60-passenger tram traverses the refuge three times a day. A friendly naturalist from the Valley Nature Center leads the hour-long, guided, seven-mile ride. The refuge is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Access is via Alamo Road (FM 907) from Expressway 83 or Business 83.
New Treetop Observation Tower
One of the tallest observation towers in the lower Rio Grande Valley will open to the public on Friday, December 1, 2006 at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, south of Alamo, Texas. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., will showcase the new 43.ft tall tower, after which it will be open to visitors during regular Refuge hours of operation.
This innovative and unique aluminum tower features an open air design and two observation decks. From the upper deck, visitors will be able to experience striking, panoramic, 360 views of the entire 2,088 acre Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and see as far away as the cities of Alamo, McAllen, Mission and Weslaco, and across the border to Reynosa, Mexico.
“The new tower will give visitors an excellent opportunity to see the entire refuge and its different habitats from a unique perspective. Additionally, folks will be able to have the extraordinary experience of viewing birds in flight like nowhere else in the Valley,” says refuge manager Jodi Stroklund. Originally designed as a tool to enable refuge biologists to count migrating raptors and survey plant communities more effectively, managers explored the possibility of making the tower serve multiple functions. Fire management officer Patrick Pearson describes the new tower as “an excellent fire suppression tool, affording firefighters 360 views of the Valley they help protect from wildfires.”
“While the primary purpose of the tower is as a wildlife management tool, we thought that with a little creativity in design and construction materials, we could make it into a great wildlife observation facility as well,” reports Ken Merritt, project leader of the South Texas Refuge Complex.
“I think birders and other visitors will really enjoy seeing and hearing birds they might not see at ground level. I’ve seen hawks, vultures and many different songbirds flying at or below eye level from the top deck, and watched woodpeckers and kingbirds forage in the treetops just a few feet away,” says Merritt. “This new tower will allow the public to understand and appreciate Santa Ana’s forested habitats and diverse bird life”.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is located on Highway 281 (Old Military Highway), ¼ mile east of FM 907 (Alamo Road), 7 ½ miles south of Alamo, Texas. The Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset, and the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Quinta Mazatlan

Eight-acre estate and one of the largest remaining hacienda adobe homes in the state of Texas which was built in 1935.
La Quinta was purchased in 1968 by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Shultz.
In 1998, the City of McAllen purchased the beautiful historic estate to serve as part of the World Birding Center network. Many special events and gatherings have been hosted at the estate, which has also provided the public an opportunity to enjoy the unique wildlife and vegetation that abound the property. Over 110 species of birds have been identified and over 150 different species of exotic trees, flowers, and plants can be found throughout the eight acres of native thicket.
Quinta Mazatlan is a distinct and unique part of the history of McAllen, Texas.
South PadreIsland
We always like South Padre!!!!!
Located on the tropical tip of Texas, South Padre Island is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. Beautiful beaches, warm Gulf waters, fishing, boating, bird watching, shopping, and a diversity of year-round activities await every visitor.

Port Brownsville

A Jackup Drilling Rig

From the window of Dirty Al's where we had dinner

South Padre birding center

Here's looking at you

South Padre Convention Center

A Bird ??????? Ask Denice

From the top of the Bird Center facing south

Facing North

Of Course there are lots of Fishermen

Enjoy the Beach!!

MMMMMM - Very Nice

Watched a fisherman pull this one in. Just before he realeased him back into the surf.
 As the days wind down with breathtaking sunsets over the bay, night clubs and restaurants come alive with conversation, dining, music and dancing. Many restaurants will even cook your catch! No matter what your interests, South Padre Island offers one of the most fantastic beach vacation destinations in the world. Be yourself... in a place you really want to be. South Padre Island.

Week one
Well now that we are all settled in we are very pleased with the park and surroundings. To get into the park we go over the levee along the Rio Grande and down into the high water risk zone, although I do not think there is much of a risk as there is no high water marks along the banks and we are at least 10 to 15 ft above the river. We were given a prime site right against the river on a concrete pad.

Site #74

Border Patrol Base

River Cruise

Our Protectors on Patrol

Must be a Safety Meeting

 We have complete hookups, all except cable TV, but that is not a deal breaker with us anyway. WIFI is free and good as the cell is almost directly above us. The park is named Chimney because there is a very large historic chimney just two sites away from us. It is at least 100 ft high and was constructed in the early 1900's and used for steam generation to power irrigation pumps.

Now I have to tell you that we are going to try something different for us while we are here. After we sat and enjoyed ourselves for a couple of days, the manager came to us with a proposal. She said if we wanted to stay for about 3 months after Christmas, she would be able to reserve a river front site for us. We have always been wanting to spend a week here, a week there, and maybe even a month in one place before moving on, so she kind of caught us off balance, but the more we thought about it the more it appealed to us. Maybe we are getting to that age when less moving around and more stopping to smell the flowers has some merit  for us. Anyway, after a short deliberation we dicided to give it a try. We will now spend until Nov 22nd here, then take ELTORO to New Braunfels, to Cousin, Loren and Teresa's acreage where we will leave it while we fly home for December and Christmas. Then Jan 6th we fly back to San Antonio, and on the 8th will drive back here, and will take possession of site 76 for 3 months until April 8th. Then the dash back to Canada for income tax time. Site 76 is not the one we are on at present but two down from us. We will be parking on the grass, but will have a very large ceramic tiled patio pad at the door and a smaller pad behind ELTORO facing the river and under a large native tree. We will be able to just sit in the shade and watch the \Rio Grande roll along. Actually here the Rio Grande is a lake backed up by the Anzalduas Dam.
So now we have a plan! As for the blog: we will be spending a lot of time doing basically nothing, so I will not be putting a lot effort in adding something everyday to the blog. I think an update every week or so should suffice. Agreed???

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And on Southward to Warmer Weather

Nov 1st
Another short day. From Loredo to Mission. Found and checked in to Chimney Park RV Resort. Very pleasantly surprised. It is a nice park. I asked and received site #74 right on the Rio Grande River. In fact the back of ELTORO is likely only 20 ft from the edge of the river.

View of the Park as you come over the Levee

The Office, Pool, and Hot Tub

At the back of ELTORO
 Just settled in and did little all afternoon. Just enjoyed the sights and surroundings
Oct 31st
A short drive today from Del Rio to Laredo. We just decided to make two short days rather than one long one to reach our destination at Mission, TX. Half way was in Loredo. We have always stayed at a small unknown RV Park just north of the  junction of 83 / 95 near Webb. Its a very "Plain Jane" stop, but nice people run it and it is handy.

 I think we have stopped here at least 4 or 5 times on previous trips. We were here by shortly after noon and settled in for a quiet afternoon.
.Oct 30th
Down the road to Del Rio today. Not a real exciting day but there was a few things to see.  One thing that we found very interesting was the purple sage (at least that is what we think it is ) is in bloom right now. It is quite beautiful along the road and out into the desert.

We, also always like the very horizontal rock formations along the highway in the cuts through the hills in this area. It would almost look like the highways had built flat rock retaining walls to hold back the dirt, but we know this is a natural phenomena. But neat!!  On down the road we did see a couple of deer, and an odd oil rig. Pretty Barren Land!!

Not much to see

Straight Roads - Why would you want a curve??

How About That - A Rig

And a Cotton Field in Bloom
 Then some small animal crossed the road in front of us. Size of a small badger, but not as flat, with a tail that stuck up. Not sure what that was. I will search in Google!  Arrived in Del Rio early and stopped at Holiday Trav-l RV Park. We had reserved this morning before leaving Fort Stockton and was adised our site with a map would be taped to the door as the office shuts down on Sundays at noon. Low and behold, there it was, along with a few others. Ours was site 42. Good one with a couple of trees. We settled in and as the weather was soo nice we just sat outside and read for a couple of hours before Denice made up some stew/soup for dinner.
Oct 29th
Waited around at the RV park for a while this AM until the fog lifted, Yes, you read it right, Fog in the desert, Really, and it was thick!! Sun started to burn through about 9:00AM so we ventured out. Soon after we were out of Roswell it started to lift, and it was clear sailing all day. We stopped in Artesia, as we wanted to take some pictures of some large neat bronze sculptures that we failed to take pictures of when we went through a couple of years back. We walked around down town and took what we needed and then on down the road, Highway 285.

A Bronze Dedicated to the Oil Drilling Industry

Two Old Boys Chatting over Events While Leaning on an Old Ford

Now Here is a Park Bench that won't go Missing

Nice Rock Formations

Another Life Size Bronze

And Another

Next town was Carlsbad, but we have been to the caverns a couple of times before, so just continued on south. They are re-building the main drag through Carlsbad so traffic is narrowed, and I do mean narrowed to 2 very narrow lanes through the city for a few miles. Mirrors were almost hitting signs along the right side of ELTORO and good thing not too many trucks to meet, or I'm sure we could have had a mirror collision there. You'd have thunk they could have found a detour around their construction. Oh Well!!  then on south and east to Pecos, cross I 20 and on to Fort Stockton and I 10. We found a new RV park south a couple of miles on 285 called Parkview RV Park. Its nothing fancy at 20 bucks per night, but it is pretty high class compared to the I 10 RV park we stopped at a couple of years ago.
Oct 28th

Albuquerque Median Decoration

Snapped these as we were leaving Albuquerque

On the road by about 8:30AM this morn. Headed south down I 25. Stopped for gas ($140 - $3.39/gal), then continued south to a little town of San Antonio ( Not the Texas City) then turned east on 380 through Carrizozo and on to Join 70. Then on to Roswell and the RV Park. No little green men around either.