Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mission TX, 3rd Week - 1st Month

Jan 23rd ( Monday)
This morning we needed to do some shopping. We had a few things on the grocery list, Denice needed that "Oval Cutter"from Michaels for here scrapbooking and we needed some more food for those throngs of birds(Mostly black birds) that we are attracting. They sure seem to eat a lot!! So off to HEB and buy the few things on the LIst. We had a $100 worth of goodies,I'm sure, before we ever started on the "List"
Super HEB is a great store here in Mission. There is also another one, of many in the area, not too far away, but it does not seem to be as clean and organized as well as this one. Once out of ther down to McAllen and buy Denices "Oval Cutter" as well as a few other things. Yep, just a few I might add, then back home and put everything away. Now its's starting to get more and more difficult to find homes for all these "necessities" we are buying, But Denice is a master at re-organizing shelves, cupboards, fridges, and freezer compartments. I kid you not, when you open our freezer compartment you would swear it was one big block of meat, but she has it like a jig saw puzzle. Each package fits perfectly with the one beside it. Not a bit of space left. And I thought the Egyptians were good at arranging the blocks on the pyramids!!!

Once everything stored away, it was now time for me to return to my stained glass project. Get all my paraphanelia out of the compartment and lay it out on my table one more time. The order of the day today is to copper foil all those pieces of glass.

Getting Prepared

Tools of the Trade

The "Foiler"  at the bottom

The Grinder

The Glass ready to Solder - I Think!!

Jan 24th (Tuesday)
Some excitement today around here. Friend Tom, from Warner had sent me an email a few days ago showing a new boat the Texas Hiway Patrol had built for use on Falcon Lake for Mexican deterrant. Here are some of the specs of it:

New 36 ft. Patrol/Gunboat powered by three 300HP mercs
armaments include 5 - static mounted [2 dual & 1 single] FN M240B 7.62×51 mm NATO
Light machineguns, 2 - Barrett .50 BMG Sniper Rifles, and other assorted
5.56 rifles, 9mm sub machineguns, and grenade launchers.!
Tom had asked if the boat was near where we are, and I responded that no it was not here but Falcon Lake is only about 60 miles away as the crow flies. Well Guess what, this afternoon what shows up but, not one but two of the subject boats. They were launched into the Rio Grande for what I am sure was a test run. They cruised around for a couple of hours, mostly testing the engines and manuverability. No not the guns !!! They did give one pass at a much higher rate of speed, likely in the neighborhood of 50 mph, but I think those big engines were still only at half throttle. They did create a tsunami wave the washed right over our cock and drenched a couple of our local fishermen
But what a sight!!! What Boats!!! Great photo opportunity and I got many shots. Even a great video of them screaming by!

Check out that fire Power

Not to be challenged

Some Power eh!!

And they are off

Back up Support

Check out those Bullets - Don't think they are blanks!!

Now this did not totally detract from my Stained Glass project. Today was soldering day, and if I do say so myself, did fairly well. Was able to complete soldering both sides of the project. It was not without a learning curve of the best way to do this. I had already done a fair amount of reading to learn the best and proper way to proceed, so it just took some fine tuning until I was soldering like a pro! Well. sort of! Certainly learned some of the things of importance to produce a quality project. There is no better teacher than mistakes! A few of these were:
- ensure all foil covered with just enough flux, not too much, not too little
- Cutting precision pieces of glass the fit together with a minimum of space between them is very important
- Foiling need to be accurate with equal amounts of copper folded over each side of the glass
- Need to initially solder each individual piece temorarilly together with a drop of solder before starting the real soldering program
- The soldering iron does not need to touch the copper foil to produce a copper bead on top of it
- fine finishing can be produced by going over the entire project and remelting the solder already placed there. This can be accomplished by just gently touching the solder and keep moving along to keep a melted bead behind the iron.
End of the day a fairly good representation of the sail boat I was working on, except this was only with clear glass
Now the real test with colored glass, Maybe tomorrow??

Another GREAT Sunset!

The "Chimney" at Chimney RV Park
 Jan 25th (Wednesday)
Nope, never got back to the stained glass at all today. Last night was a windy night all night long. I had used those tools I spoke of a few days ago, and had added more grommets along the bottom of the awning skirt, and bungeed it down better, but all night long just kept hearing tho flop flop of the awning and envisioning having it torn off. Both of us were up at about 2:00AM and talked about going out and taking the awning in, but now its quite a large deal with all the tie downs we have. AND we would have to get dressed to do it. Don't think it proper to be out in the wind with nothing but a house coat on, in 20MPH winds. I know we are seniors, but REALLY!! Anyway we wandered around a while and finally deicided to go back to bed and see what happens. Guess we must have gone back to sleep, and when we awoke again some time near 400AM the wind was calm.
Just a note about staying in one of these parks were most of the RV'ers are long term: We originally had some concerns about staying in one place for 3 months as we have never done that before, and we have never stayed in a park that catered as much as some of these do to the long term residents. We are still unsure if this is for us!! Most of the people around us have been coming back here year after year for 5, 7, 10, or 20 years. This makes them all friends and any newcomers (US) are sort of out siders. Seems that a lot of them get just a little cliguey, and although maybe not unfriendly, do not go, in any way to be friendly, to us. Not really a big deal to us as we would just as soon travel around, just the two of us, and see whatever there is to see in the area, but already we are soul searching to see if this is our niche. Need to give it more time to see!
The big Highway Patrol boat returned to here again this aft and had a helicopter and TV crew filming what they tell me is to be a PR video for them. Only a single one of the big boats was here, but together with 2 of the smaller ones made many trips up and down the Rio Grande, with the helicopter circling overhead. There was lots of photo ops, and I took advantage of a lot of them, but how many pictures can you take of the same boat at different angles, going and coming, fast and slow. etc, etc. Someting like Denice and her birds. Not just a good picture of each species, but a shot of evey individual. Well, what can I say? I have a hundred pictures of the same boat in an assortment of different positions, and kept looking for more opportunities. But it did keep me busy all afternoon, so never got to the stained glass again.
Jan 26th (Thursday)
Today is Thursday and "Pot Luck" Supper tonight. At the last grocery shopping day at HEB we bought a ham with a big bone in it. Funny how they can camoflage that great big bone in a little ham with no part of the bone showing and just a minimum amount of meat surrounding it, but in this case it was what Denice wanted as she is making Beans and Johnny cake to take to this supper. Well the bone went in the pan to boil on the stove for a couple of hours first thing in the morning. Then about 11:00AM the broth from it, along with a plentiful amount of white beans, and a whole bunch of other ingredients, that I am unsure of all went into the crock pot and simmered away the rest of the day. Late afternoon came the making of the Johnny Cake. First batch was a mix. Flopped!!! Once baked was rather thin and not quite the taste that the chef was after. Next batch, Oh shit, need canola oil instead of olive oil. Dennis the gopher off to HEB to buy. Then home. No more than sitting down and Oh Shit! again. We have no baking powder. Gopher back to HEB again, And back. Batch a success this time, and now it is time to take all to the rec room for the gathering. Another Great meal with many, many choices. Johnny Cake and Beans seemed a real favorite, at least very little came home.
Jan 27th (Friday)
After a healthy breakfast this morning we took off and drove to Estero Llano Grande State Park to see more birds. Spent several hours there wandering around through the park that has a tropical area, a wetlands zone, Butterfly gardens and Alligator pond.

Really have not seen too many of these guys yet

This bird falls under the "Not Sure" catagory

Pretty Flowers Too

And  another Green Jay

Old Woody!

View of one of the Ponds

Looks bored doesn't he?

Couches King-bird

Some sort of a "Shoveler." Not to be confused with Roseate Spoonbill!

And there was this butterfly"Brown Longtail"

Another of the Ponds

Just standing here thinking about "Goin' Fishin"

"Holy Shit" didn't mean to scare ya!

Anyone for Turtle Soup?

OOHHH  Big stretch!
 We did see some new birds that we hadn't seen before, but we powered out before we were able to take in the Alligator pond. It is quite a long walk and it was rather warm. We did not take a picnic lunch, so a trip to the Olive Garden in McAllen seemed to take presidence about 2:00PM. From previous experience we have learned what is best to order, at least for us. We have the "Choose Your Own Sampler 3" appetizer. We have Calamari, Stuffed Mushrooms and Chicken Fingers. Then the "all you can eat" salad and a soft drink. It is "All we can eat." We have tried an Entre as well or the soup and salad, but we are never able to eat it all and most of it goes home with us. But what we had today was more than adequate, and all for less than $20 bucks. The Salad is Free!!!

Then on the way home stopped off at Hobby Lobby. I needed a set of "Running Pliers" for my stained glass project. You use the Running Pliers to chase the crack along the glass cutter scored line, as it has a concave set of pinchers on the end that put pressure on the exact score point. I was able to find them here, as well as a "Fid" and a set of safety goggles. Don't be shy, a "FID???" Yes that is what it is called. It's no more than a small plastic pressing, smoothing tool for the copper foil, but I needed one. Funny thing, when I go to Home Depot, Denice never want to accompany me into the store. She would just rather sit in the jeep and read until I come back, but at Hobby Lobby, she is out in a flash and about tramples me,to get to the store. Once inside she goes her way, I go mine, but when we meet at the till she always seems to have her hands full. Usually I can pass my stuff to her for her to pay, but today that back-fired and I had to foot the bill.

Then returned home.
Jan 28th (Saturday)
All of a sudden lots of birds at our bird feeders. First time we have had the Orioles there.Today two of them kept coming back to feed on the oranges we have out. At one time we had Green Jays, many Kiskadees, Golden Fronted Wood Peckers, three differnt kinds of Doves, a Titmouse, Mockingbird, and a thousand Blackbirds. Lots more photos!!!

A few days back I had been searching the area on the web looking for a possible source of Texas Ebony and Mesquite wood for my "Turning" hobby. I came across a man by the name of Gerardo Garcia who sells on Ebay and the good news is that he lives right here in Mission. I sent him and email asking if I could buy direct from him and he immediately responded affirmative. I said I would come by and see what wood he had, so he gave me his location in town, so today had made an appointment to drop by at about 1:30PM. We easily found his address and he was out in his yard cuttingup various pieces of wood he had salvaged from different plces in the area. He was very accomadating and he has lots of wood. Some cut in various lengths, widths, and depths of planks. from mesquite and Texas Ebony as well as some others I was not familiar with. We wandered around his full yard of collected pieces and finally chose 1 plank of each species about 4 ft long and 12 inches wide x 3 to 4 inches deep. Enough to make some great bowls!! His charge was really quite reasonable, I thought. The ones I had chosen were already advertised on Ebay, so I agreed to pay that price. He had said his price was negotiable, but I thought I was getting a good deal so did not quibble. In the end he threw in a couple of smaller pieces of Texas Ebony, another Mesquite and a piece of Huisache. Huisache is a smaller tree seldom getting a trunk more than 6 inches in diameter, but the wood has a nice pink coloring. Should make an interesting bowl! Now all I have to do is get them back to Alberta. At the border: "To claim or not to claim" that is the question.

On our way over to Gerardo's we were traveling up Conway, and noticed all the side roads shut off. It was then that we remembered today was the "Citrus Fiesta" Parade. We contimplated stopping along the way some where and waiting for it to come by, but since we had a 1:30PM appointment decided we should just continue on. We made our purchases, and headed back only to find the parade had not started yet, so we found a place to park and walked a half block to the parade route. We were there by about 2:00PM. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. When we first arrived, few people were in the immediate viciniity, but as the day wore on, more and more showed up.

Looking north along Conway

Looking south along Conway
 All were of Mexican desent, and spoke little English. Street Vendors were selling all kinds of Mexican food, and since we had had no lunch we did indulge. Nacho's in cheese, a cob of corn with mayo spread, then chili sauce and sea salt (Different, but good ) and a Texas Bar-B-Que bun.

Street Vendors

Another Vendor

Beef On-a-Bun
 Finally some people came along that spoke English, so we asked when the parde would start. They advised 4:00PM!! So we waited some more and near 5:00PM it became a reality. It was good, but I'm not sure why so late in the day.
Finally, here it comes

Lots of Floats - all with a citrus theme

And Pretty Girls

Each Representing some citrus type

Military was well represented as well

And More Girls

And Floats
And Another

And Another

We watched and took pictures until it got too dark near 6:00PM, and we elected to get on the move before 100,000 people had the same idea. We did some circling around to try to find our way home on an open route, but made it without incident. Glad to be home.
Jan 29th (Sunday)
Over  to Walmart and HEB for a few things and some bird food to keep our feathered friends happy

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mission, TX - 2nd Week - 1st Month

Jan 16th (Monday)

Yup, thats what we did!!!! And we had a good time doing it. Stayed pretty close to home to ensure RV Awning stayed with us. We have it tied down with tie down cables, but its still flopping a little. Thought we came here to get away from the wind. Appeared it followed us all the way to Texas.  But at least it's a warm wind.

Jan 17th (Tuesday)
Now since we are going to be here for 3 months, we both need to find something to keep our Old brains and hands occupied and not let senility set in (any more than it already is).  There fore I have decided that I would like to try my hand at some stained glass art. I have always had an interest in soldering and cutting glass, and as this hobby should not take up too much room in ELTORO, it seemed like a perfect solution. I still like my bowl turning, but to bring along a lathe, that would do the bowls, I like to do, takes away too much room. Rule that one out!!  I hoped I would be able to get into this hobby with a minimum of cost too. Denice, on the other hand likes her pictures, so she is going to do some scrapbooking. Now she has many different project subjects, so she has lots of different ones to work on. I think the first is her "Front Step Pictures."  She has been taking them of almost every body that has ever visited us since to 1960's, so this will be a biggy.  Then there is "Highway Signs," "Birds," "Mail boxes," "Sun Sets," "Flowers," "Rail Car Graffitti," and "Scenery." This is going to take a lot more than 3 Months!!!!
So now to kick our hobbies off we need some supplies. I had looked on the web and found a stained glass shop in McAllen, and also a Scrapbooking store as well. I have already covered the search for these stores in a previous blog , so will not delve into that again. Anyway, now that we know where McAllen Stained Glass is, we haeded on down there this morning and bought my supplies. Here is what the nice helpful Lady at the store recommended, and since I was in no position to argue, this is what I came away with:

My Tools
 Glass Grinder (complete with diamonds - tell you something about the price?)
Glass Cutter ( The best, with lubricated cutting wheel)
Glass ( only 4 or 5 sheets for first project @$10 per)
Foiler ( auto thingy to place copper strategically along the edges of the glass)
Pliers ( what they call Groziers, whatever that means, and breaking pliers, but a must!)
Soldering Iron ( 100 watt with a steady 700 degree Fahrenheit temperature maintained)
Copper Foil ( to wrap the edges of the glass with)
Solder (about 5 lbs of 60/40 roll)
Flux ( help stick the solder to the copper)
Hammer (A special one, like a hammerhead shark with plastic end on one side and a rubber one on the other)
Nails ( Horse shoe nails, no less - Thought this was going to be stained glass, not how to shoe a horse)
Training Books ( I need lots)
Patterns ( God, I hope there is some esay ones)

Lord I thought I needed a soldering iron, a cutter, and some glass!!!
Jan 18th (Wednesday)
Today went walking in Wildlife Refuge, Benston Refuge - Lots of birds! This is the best birding area we have found so far. A long walk is not even required since they have a feeding station right at the information center just inside the reserve. There are birds in abundance, Green Jays, Kiskadees, Orioles, Chukalakas, Cardinals, Vermillion Fly Catchers, doves, and a whole host of other ones that escape my internal bird data base. For those more adventurious, a tram is available to take you around a 6 mile loop through the park. Many more feeding stations are along the route and you can jump on, jump off, where ever you please. Today we chose to ride over half way around and stop at the Hawk viewing tower. It was just past noon when we got there, so we climbed the long sloping ramp to the viewing area. No hawkes were there, but we did stop and enjoy a great picnic lunch, Denice had put together before we left home. Spent an hour or so there, then caught the tram back to the entrance, and were home by 2:00PM

Vermillion Fly-catcher

Denice climbing the stairway to the heavens --- and hawk observation tower

An Eggret

A Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Him having a little lunch

The Sassy Mocking Bird

The Cardinal

A kiskadee
Then there was another of those great sunsets!!

Jan 19th (Thursday)
 Down town for some minor shopping. HEB for a few supplies, on to Michaels in McAllen for some scrapbooking things that Denice needed, (how could I complain after I spend a bundle on stained glass supplies to satisfy my hobby), and then to Home Depot for a few items. To deal with the wind here I need to tie down the awning better. I hate to put it up every time a little breeze blows through and it seems most common that the strongest winds are in the neighborhood of 20 MPH. Everyone else in the Park seems to leave their awning down and staked. We have the awning proper anchored down with tie straps, but the skirt from the awning down is not tied well as there is only a grommet at each end, so I want to add some along the bottom edge. At Home Depot I buy some grommets and tools to apply them, as well as some more bungee straps. Then home.

"Spook" - Our neighbors kitten

A Blue Heron in Mexico

And speaking of Mexicans, here their Party Boat Comes!!

Spent the remainder of the day reading up on stained glass instructions. Maybe more to learn than I had bargained for!
Jan 20th (Friday)
Craft Fair at Park today. Bought a few small items of interest, but nothing of to much importance, then went back to ELTORO and decided to start a stained glass project out of ordinary glass as trial run. Now everybody says, "You really should take a beginners course," Not, Na Na I'm not that kind of guy. Lets just do it, and learrn real time what mistakes I make. Then have to fix them, now I will never forget, right? Ok thats the way I am going to go. Lets get started. Unload my box and bags of goodies and lay them out on the table to "Get a Feel,"for them. First the glass cutter. Its a nice little green pistol griped one with a reservoir for lub oil. They tell me kerosene and motor oil mix is best. Then the foiler. Its has a base with three pins arranged in a circle, and about three more little thingy-a-bobs sticking up around the outside, then one with a slit in it just before a little wheely thing with a raised rims and a rubber o-ring in the center. Behind and above is another small flat pad, and that completes the so called "Foiler"  Guess I better read!!!  Against my better judgement!!!  After perusing several pages, it says I should put my roll of copper foil over the three pins arranged in a sort of circle, with some talc powder on the base to keep it from sticking. Talc Powder? isn't that something you put on a baby's bum? Now why would a couple of old Q-Tips like us be carrying talc powder? How about just a piece of plastic that the foil is wrapped in to ensure nothing sticks. Now pull the end of the foil out and go around these 3 thingy's around the outside and then pull about 6 inches of the protective coating of the start of the foil and place the foil through the slot of the last pin and then center it in the rimmed wheel with the o-ring. Simple eh!! now we are ready to foil some glass. Next item is the glass grinder. This is a sort of table about a foot square with a grid work top surface and a shaft sticking up. I guess some where down below is an electric motor, hidden from my view, but I know it must be there as there is a plug in cord attached to something.  More reading on its directions!! Now to get it put together. Directions say to remove the grid and fill reservoir with water to overflow and replace grid. Now take the 3/4 inch DIAMOND bit and insert it onto the shaft and tighten the set screw so that the glass will contact the diamonds. Now place the splash shield around the diamond bit with a sponge pushed down onto the water and contacting the diamond bit on the opposite side to where you will be grinding the glass. Sounds easy!! But it only sounds that way!! After several attemps was finally able to make it work. Now what else?? Various smaller stuff like learning proper way to use this fancy glass cutter, stting up the soldering iron holder and iron and how to use the pliers. And More. But after the first Day pretty well had it all together and reaady to start the project. Tomorrow!!
Jan 21st (Saturday)
Today is the day we try all this new stained glass stuff. Set all the stuff up again, as I have to put it away each evening as I am working outside. Take out my pane of clear glass that I bought at Michaels, and open up my pattern book and choose a sailing boat design. Now my instructions say to lay the glass on top of the pattern and trace with a marker pen each individual piece of the design, making the best use of the glass with a minimum of waste. taking into account the pattern on the glass you are using. Mine is just clear for this test so no issue there. Directions say that alternately a more experience person should be able to cut right on the pattern without tracing onto the glass. Thats me!!! so lay the glass on the pattern and take the cutter and "voila" make the first score on the glass. Lift the glass up and tap on the back side, and break it off, Success! Nothing to this!  Now try an inside curve. More difficult to follow the line with precise accuracy. Found better to push the cutter rather than pull as when pulling its difficult to see the line you are attempting to follow. In the next hour or two was able to cut out all the pieces for the project. Once cut, I placed them on my table top on the sheet of 1/4 inch plywood I purchased. Arranged them all into the shape of the sailboat pattern. Some do not quite have the accuracy to make a perfect fit, but I surmise I should be able to just filll those cracks with solder. I now start up that grinder, I purchased and smooth all the edges of each piece. Now, (a few days later) hindsite is always 20/20. If I had known then what I know now, I would have done a lot more grinding th make each piece fit together with its neighbor, a whole lot more accurately, it would have simplified things a whole bunch - "Live and learn." Lessons??  uh uh!!!  not yet convinced.
Jan 22nd (Sunday)
Start the day with the usual two cups of coffee and some reading and catching up on the internet of Calgary news, then we do the Sunday Morning weigh in and blood pressure check ( Blood pressures not bad, Denice good, me a little high, but about normal for me, but weigh in - bad news, both up a little, must quit eating). Then about 9:00AM the full meal deal breakast of bacon and eggs, hash browns and fried green tomatoes. Now I know that just after saying we must cut down on the food intake, this sound like an oxymoren, but it is Sunday!! Sit outside for a while watching the birds, We now have an assortment of feeders out the to try and attract all those exotic birds from down here. The most we attract are the Red Wing Blackbirds - They are here by the thousands, and make short work of my bird food, But we are getting an increasing amount of Kiskadees, titmouse, and an odd green jay. After all that breakfast we SKYPE the kids and talk for a long while. Always good to hear from them. Kids, Grandkids, and Great Grand kids!  Seems the day just went too fast. Never did get back to my stained glass today.

A Water Skiing Paradise

Here Comes the American Cruise Boat

Nice Afternoon for a Boat Ride