Friday, January 24, 2014

I've Gotta get this Blog going Again

Getting up to date in 2014
Well here it is January 24th and nothing reported to date on my blog.  Shame, shame!!
Ok what have we done so far?  Arrived Dec 29th from Calgary vie air. Next door friend, Wayne Lively picked us up at the airport and drove us home to ELTORO.
Thanks Wayne!!
A few days to get settled in, but as we had left the power on and the frig running, every thing seemed OK. We did have to make a fast trip to the HEB grocery for some supplies so we had food in the house. One small glitch was that as we had drained the hot water tank, we of course had no hot water. We are used to having the tank full and one of Denice's jobs is to start the turn on the propane to it to initiate some hot water, Without the water there the thermostat over heated and burned out. Lesson Learned!  Thankfully the tank has two heating systems so after filling the tank with water, turned the electric heater on and soon we had hot water. Left the tank that way for a week or so until able to get Premium RV repair to come by and replace the thermostat. Also when they came by, the furnace was acting up, so they did some testing and found nothing more serious than a corroded ignitor. Repaired and happy now.
Weather has not been too great, especially for Texas, but warmer than High River. Watching the weather there daily and it definitely is winter back home!  The first few days back here were highlighted by steady rain and cool. Then it started to warm up, and sometimes to near 80 Deg F. Today was remarkably cold with only a high of about 40. Understandably we spent most of the day inside with the furnace running. Cities like Houston and San Antonio were reporting icy bridges and recommending no travel. Yesterday morning we had frost on the top of our jeep, but seemed no damage to our flowering plants along our site. Forecast is for warming over the next few days back to seasonal temperatures. Sure hope so!
What have we been doing with ourselves you ask.  A lot of reading, eating, sleeping! Isn't that what we are supposed to do when retired? We have been doing some day trips to see the birding areas around here. Often we just walk over to Bentson State Park across the road from us. There are lots of trails and places to see and while we observe the birds we do get our daily walk in. Sometimes up to three miles, but that is a little much. We have also gone to The National Butterfly Center just down the road, Santa Anna National Wildlife refuge, Salineno (60 miles NW  along the Rio Grande River) and yesterday to Edinburg to their Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center. Main reason to go there was to possibly see a Tropical Parula. Denice took lots of pictures, but we were unable to find the elusive parula. It was not until we were back home and she was reviewing her pictures that she noticed that the very first bird she took a picture was that parula!  How about that, and didn't even know that was what she was looking at! Salineno is always one of our favouries. Hosts for that site have a couple of 5th wheel trailers that is there homes during the birding season. It is right on the Rio Grande River and rather secluded. So much so that last year they were not allowed there, as it was thought unsafe, with illegal Mexican activities so close, but this year they relaxed there requirements and are up and running again. they have about 20 chairs set up and bird feeding is always on. All you have to do is sit and take pictures, and there always seems to be a feeding frenzy. All the birds we enjoy are there. Orioles, Kiskidees, Green Jays, Warblers, Wrens, Thrushes, Cardinals, Doves, and a host of others.
One day we went on a boat trip up the Rio Grande
At the Dock

A Mexican Mansion - Did Drugs pay for it?

Another Mexican Villa

Our Protectors - The Border Patrol

Flying Egret

Looking up the Rio

Screech Owl

Black Headed Grosbeak



Indigo Bunting

Black Phoebe

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Great Kiskadee

Another Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Monk Head Parakeets

Behind ELTORO we have 7 or 8 bird feeders out offering a much varied buffet for the birds. We have daily visits of Kiskadee's, Green Jays, the odd Cardinal, Warblers, Woodpeckers ( both ladderback and golden fronted), Doves, occasionally an oriole, a million sparrows and a million blackbirds, and grackles. Also a few squirrels.
Some more updates
Again been some more catching up to do. We have now left Mission, Texas on our somewhat indirect trip northward. We are trying to outlast the last remnants of winter back in the frozen north.
It was a great winter in Mission, although not as warm as we might have wished, but still we did not have to shovel!! We spent a lot of time "birding" in and around the area. I will not add a lot of photos, as most of the birds are repeats of ones we have already seen and posted on this blog.
We made a lot of new friends in the park, and will be keeping in contact with all of them.
One day we made a trip down across the border to Progresso, Mexico and snapped these pictures.
A field of Broccoli

Harvesting the Broccoli

Crossing into Progresso

Welcome to Mexico

Inside the Canada Store in Progresso, Mexico

ELTORO gets a wash job
At the park, there is a great wood shop with a lot of the guys, and ladies, doing great woodworking projects. There are about a dozen privately owned lathes and 3 park owned so a lot of "turning" takes place there. Now I am supposed to be the turning guy, so you would think that I would have a lot of projects on the go. Not so! Just did not seem to ever get the time or the urge, but at the end of the season they had a craft show, so here are a few of the projects that were completed. I even bought one myself!
Looking Down the Table

A Nifty Design

Multiple Segments

A segmented Bowl

Dyed wood inserts
Some of the selections. I bought the one on the bottom left
We even had a dog show one day!

And our neighbors Steve and Kim's dog won

We had planned on returning every year for the winter, so had reserved our Super site #722 for the year from April 15th 2013 to April 15th 2014, and certainly planned on extending it for another year. The super sites included a 12 ft  x 12 ft. Garden shack on our large cement pad. All the pads are bordered with flowering shrubs that the birds and butterfly's are attracted to. Ours was Great and I added new grass seed to the back yard to increase the appeal there. However, as time wore on, we had that wanderlust feeling that there was still a lot of things we wanted to see, before we got too old to enjoy them.
A couple other shots around the area:
Horned Lizards

Female Cardinal

Munkhead Parakeet

Decision time.
With a bit of sadness, we made the decision that maybe it was time to move on, we will probably return to the Rio Grande Valley someday, sometime in the future!  We are not the only ones seeking new adventures, our near neighbor/family/friends Wayne and Jan are also moving on....Arizona is their next stop (Wayne and Jan from Michigan are full timers).  We are not sure where our travels will take us, but, we do know we will enjoy the fun and adventure wherever the 'new' road will take us.
  So, we pack up Eltoro AND Toadone, because we seem to have gathered up more 'stuff' while sitting in one spot.....a swing, a 12 x 12 shade canopy, more tools, more craft stuff, two tables etc and now Eltoro is packed, every last little nook and cranny is full....oh yes Dennis's wood takes up a compartment!!!! And then, as I never did get involved in the wood working shop, I had elected to do some stained glass work instead, so had purchased all the tools and equipment need for that endeavor. Like grinders, a glass saw, cutters, soldering equip, and a whole bunch of glass of various colors and textures. Another compartment!! 
But the Denice is not totally left out. We made a couple of trips to Harlingen to buy material, threads, and equipment for her the work on a quilt to replace the one she lost in the High River flood. She had purchased a new sewing machine, again a flood replacement, before we left home and brought it down with us in Toadone last fall. Now we need to find a home to store all that away as well.  And then there were her books --------!!!
On March 14th we headed north to Rockport, where we met up with the wonderful people we call friends from when we were there before. Two weeks did not give us a lot of time to visit and do everything we wanted to do.  We visited our favorite birding sites.......Goose Island State Park, we saw lots of warblers, water fowl and most importantly nine whooping cranes.  Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, not to many birds but we did see nine alligators (hmmm, nine again). We also had quite few birds at our feeders (happy Denice)! 
Hooded Oriole

Can you seethe Owl?

Kiskadee and Clay Colored Thrush

Cedar Waxwing

Vermillion Flycatcher

  We took two days and headed up to New Braunfels to see Denice's cousin Hettie and Hettie's family, Loren and Teresa, their children Kylie and Jake. Visited downtown, old town, New Braunfels, that was settled by mainly German people and has a great history!  We also took in a few shops and spent a FEW dollars! Had dinner out with all the Partridge family at the Grist Mill in Gruene, good food, wonderful people. Gruene incidentally is pronounced green, so the German influence.
  Back in Rockport, we were invited to go with our "Jaxsen Heights" friends to China A's, our favorite Chinese food restaurant and then before we left Rockport on the 14th we again, with the same people and a few more went to JD's Seafood Restaurant. First we had gone to a place called Moon Doggies and after all 11 of us had sat down, we told that our bill could only be split 2 ways. Customarily when a group of this size gets together we usually have bills for each couple. We said "OK, we will just separate the tables and order individually." But they told us we had come in as a group and would have to order that way. We said "No," and got up and left. My parting words to the manager was, "I hope you realize you just lost about $400 income and 11 peoples business for ever!" However we went on down to JD's and were welcomed in. I had a chicken fried steak that the size of a platter, enough food for three people (and it did two more meals).  We will miss our Jaxsen Heights friends and will look forward to seeing them in the future.  Of course we do keep in touch with all our Winter Texan friends via e-mail and FB.
  On the 28th of March we headed north-east to Galveston, a trip of a couple hundred miles. We had reserved at Jamaica Beach RV resort. We found it to be a very nice, clean park with lots of amenities. Since were only there for four days we found them a busy four days. One of the guys I had hired while I was a Shell employee is stationed in Houston and as we do communicate occasionally had expressed an interest in meeting up for dinner, so that night he and his wife, Linda, came to Galveston and we had dinner with them at Gaido's Seafood Restaurant. It was great and we chatted for 3 hours, Rob bringing me up to date on a lot of the happenings in the Shell World and where a lot of the guys and gals I had worked with, but had lost contact with. Denice and Linda also chatted a whole lot, and found they had so many of the same interests, Stitching, quilting, scrap booking, and birds. We had never met Linda before, but were sure impressed! The next morning we again met them for breakfast at IHOP. Another 3 hours!! So glad we had done that!
For the remainder of our time in Galveston we visited along the Seawall, went to the Strand ( Galveston's Business section) Ocean Star ( An Off Shore Drilling Rig Museum), The Alissa Museum (An old Tall Ship that is still sea worthy) and to the Moody Gardens (A )  Moody Gardens boasts 3 large glass pyramids featuring and aquarium in one, discovery center in one, and a tropical forest in the other. All were very interesting and time consuming. We visited some birding sites as well, but one of them that we wanted to see was closed down due to the old spill in the harbor the week before where a Liberian tanked rammed a barge carrying bunker crude. 160,000 gallons were lost in the harbor. We saw little of the oil on the beaches or along the port, but there sure was lots of Oil Spill activity happening. Ironically, this is the exact area where 30 years ago, as a new Shell employee, I was sent to take an oils spill course and how to clean up one!
April 1st we loaded up again and crossed the Galveston Bay on the ferry onto the Boliver Peninsula. Crossing the bay on the ferry is about a half hour trip of a few miles, but very interesting to be so up close to the seagoing ships and freighters. At any time there are up to a dozen ships lined up waiting to enter the bay.
Once across the Bay we continued on down the peninsula to High Island, about 25 miles. We had booked here for a week as this is rated as probably the #1 birding spot on the Southern States. High Island town has only about 300 people and one RV Park.
A bit about High Island:
It is called a dome. A lot of Texas has a thick salt layer some 30,000 ft down and with a tectonic movement millions of years ago a column of the salt was pushed up, raising the surface about 35 feet higher that the rest of the surrounding area. Trees were now supported here and flourish. Oil collected around the outside of the dome and back in the 30's a multitude of wells were drilled here, and the town flourished. A few are still producing, but most are just rusting pumper hulks. But new life for High Island! Birds migrating northward in the spring and southward in the fall, to and from the Uccatan Peninsula in Mexico, find this a haven to either rest from the crossing, or to fatten up for the 600 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently when the small birds, mostly a variety of warblers, strike out across the Gulf, they leave Mexico at dusk and fly non-stop for about 12 hours through the night until they reach Texas. By now they are totally tired and hungry and land as soon as they can. High Island with its lust growth is most appealing to them! And where there are birds, there are Birders!!


  1. Boy you are learning a lot. When we were in Texas with you there were just little brown birds and larger black ones. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.