Monday, March 11, 2019

Wintering in Southern Texas

For the past two months we have been in Mission, Texas, enjoying the warm weather (sometimes) and meeting up with our fellow RVing friends.  That is one of the highlights of being an RVer, we get to see friends and meet new friends each year we come down here.

We stay at Bentsen Palm RV Resort which is near the Rio Grande River and right next door to the Bentsen Palm State Park and the National Birding Center.  The area is beautiful and peaceful and one of our favorite RVing places.  This year, as in the past, we hosted the Annual Pet Parade to earn money for the Cinderella Pet Rescue based in Mission, Texas.  A no-kill shelter, they survive mostly on donations to feed, house, and maintain 70 plus dogs, some cats, several horses and a few donkeys.  Cinderella Pet Rescue is an act of love started and maintained by one person, Suzanne Herzing, who has given over her life to helping lost, abandoned, abused, and neglected animals.  The Pet Parade is our opportunity to help her cause.

The weather here has been up and down like most of the nation.  Many warm days and then several rainy, cold days so it is hard to prepare any type of outdoor event.  We spent most of January and the first week of February getting ready for the event.  Since we have to book the palapa a year early for our event we find ourselves at the mercy of the weather.  This year the days leading up to the event were sunny and nice but the forecast for Friday, February 8th, was ominous.   Most of the weather apps predicted a cold, windy, and rainy day.  My app, however, said it would be cold but the rain percentage was minimal so everyone hoped my app was right but most doubted it.  As we neared the event date I started making bets with our fellow Rvers.  If it didn't rain they had to throw an additional $5 into the Cinderella Pet Parade fund.  We never did really formalize what the payoff would be if I was wrong. Lol

Brett and I were blessed with wonderful RVers on the planning committee who generously gave of their time and talents to make the parade a success.  While they were doing that work we went out to the local vendors asking for donations of money or gift items to raffle off during the event.  Our begging was successful with restaurant discount cards, merchandise gift cards, tools from the local hardware stores, baked items, hand-crafted gifts, and many other items.  The whole event takes a good deal of time to prepare and coordinate for everyone involved.   

The Captain making sure everything is ready.

Our day started out with everyone bundling up for the cold but at least it wasn't raining and we knew the pups would enjoy the cooler weather.  We started setting up in the outdoor palapa at 10:00AM with the event to begin at noon but we knew the crowd would come earlier as they did in previous years.   

Everyone was ready for the cool weather.

Our goal was to make $5,000 this year because we had two anonymous donors who said they would match the proceeds as long as we hit the $5k mark.  What a challenge!

We also sold raffle tickets that the purchaser could drop into a bag in the hopes of winning a gift they liked.

This beautiful wood table was handcrafted by one of our fellow Rvers who winter here each year.  Needless to say, it brought in the most money.

Our generous sponsors were listed on the board.

We served hot dogs and brats, chips, and beer and soft drinks.  Dessert was a bake sale item.  Nothing was free but everyone joined in and the weather gave them all a good appetite.

Cinderella Pet Rescue showed up in their bus with several of their adoptable dogs.  

Suzanne Herzing, the founder of Cinderella Pet Rescue, walked through the crowd with one of her adoptable dogs. 

Throughout the event the Captain kept the crowd going with words of encouragement, anecdotes, and the great work that Cinderella Pet Rescue does for the dogs.

Brett's sister, Deb, kept track of the money earned and updated the chart.  Our daughter, Beth, was here, too, but she was busy taking pictures of all the pups.  The two of them flew in from the Carolinas  just to help with this event.  They also came for the warm weather........

Say what?

This picture was me talking to Deb and believe me it was cold that day.  But luckily no rain so I was able to collect on the the bets I had made earlier in the week.  

We had big dogs and little dogs, rescue dogs and pedigrees, fancy dog costumes and others just walking in the parade with their owners.  It was a grand time and no one complained about the nasty weather. 

This is Scottie, a dog we fostered last year who was lost and sick and needed a home.  He was adopted by good friends, Terry and Bev, and now lives in British Columbia. In the winter they come down to the Rio Grande Valley.

This big boy's name is Winston.

This wonderful dog is named Miles and he can retrieve and hold 3 tennis balls in his mouth at one time.  It is quite a sight to see. 

Bob and Molly who are also from Canada.

This sweet pup is named Rocky, with his 'dad' Jim, and they were visiting from North Dakota.  

A perfect costume for Valentine's Day. 

The parade finished and the table items were raffled off and it was very near the end of our event and we had made almost $4,700.  The Captain, after talking for nearly two hours, announced the dollar amount and asked for a little more money so we could hit our goal and get the 2 for 1 match.  People started coming up and handing overs 20's and 50's and even 100 dollar bills and we went over the top.  Everyone cheered !!!

When it was all said and done, with the matches included, we made $16,500 for Cinderella Pet Rescue.  What a day! And what a great group of people who braved several hours in the cold to help meet the goal. 

The week after the pet parade we took it easy and just enjoyed the rest of the week with Deb and Beth.  We took them to Pregreso, Mexico, to have lunch and check out the town.  We also knew Deb was looking for another dog to replace the older girl she had lost a few months before.  

Wes had been recently found and was taken to Cinderella Pet Rescue.  He was a mess.  All dirty with knotted fur and he looked as though he hadn't been taken care of for quite some time. After taking him to the vet for neutering, getting his shots, and starting him on doxycycline because he had heartworm, he was given a much needed grooming and turned into a handsome prince.

Well that little prince got to fly back to North Carolina with Deb and is now living the good life with her and a senior Beagle named Chester.  Fairy tails do come true!

The remainder of our stay in Mission was quiet and we were able to spend time with all our friends.  The weather was up and down like most of the country and before you know it the time had come to head home. 

We will be bringing back three dogs from Cinderella Pet Rescue and entering into our South Carolina dog rescue called Dog4U.  They will then be transported to Massachusetts and forever homes.  

It will be interesting driving home with five dogs in the rig.  Lucy and Desi have no idea what is coming up very soon.  More to follow as we head back home.  Peace! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Slowly Heading for Home

We left Boise and started heading south with the intention of avoiding as much mountainous country as possible.  We were concerned about the thermostat in the rig and didn't want to push it.  Even going over moderate inclines the temperature gauge shot up so we tried not to push it too hard.  

Driving thru Utah we saw lots of farms and thousands of hay bales along the way.
Our GPS  'Betty'  got confused a few times.
Surprised at the name of the town considering it was  very hot outside.

The road seemed endless.......

Now that's a steer, or is it a cow?

Heading into Salt Lake City we saw what looked like a haze and thought it might be some type of pollution.  As we got closer you could see the smoke up in the mountains and we realized there was a fire going on.

In Utah and Nevada we saw the beautiful red rocks these areas are known for.

And homes built up in the hills.

We stopped in Las Vegas for a few days to see my sister, Sandy, and decided to get the rig checked out again at a Cummins Service Center there.  

Vegas in the distance.
The traffic in this city is unbelievable.

We made an appointment and got the rig into the shop.  They checked it out and said our radiator and thermostat were bad and needed to be replaced.  Because our rig is 11 years old they had to go through the manufacturer, Tiffin, to get a new radiator.  Imagine our surprise when Tiffin told them it would take 45-60 days to get the new radiator to us.  Wow! That really put a crimp in our plans.  The Cummins place tried to find a radiator shop that might be able to replace or rebuild it but had no luck.  After several days the Captain suggested they empty out the radiator and put some cleaner into it to see what would happen.  They drained it and filled it with distilled water and a solution and let it run for a few hours and then drained it again.  They completed the process a second time and noticed a green fluid coming out of the radiator.  According to them, coolant for diesel engines should  be red, not green.  Nothing was leaking out so they refilled the radiator with the correct coolant and we decided to try and get home.    

While we were in Vegas we visited my sister and in the evening we went to a show.  We saw the Beatles show LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage and it was fabulous.  The second night we went to Absinthe at Caesars Palace.  Save your money.  It was in a tent outside the casino, the chairs were old kitchen chairs crowded together, and it was very uncomfortable.  The acrobatic acts were quite good but the rest of the show was not. We would never watch it again or recommend it to anyone.  

The next day we were on the road heading further south to Arizona and then across to New Mexico and Texas.  

A beautiful sunset in Nevada.
Continuing south we touched on a part of California.

Arizona was very dry and the highway we were on wasn't the best.

Permafrost in Arizona?

Traveling through a barren desert.

I guess when you are young and there is nothing around for miles you find other things to do. 

Finally a bridge....

and water ....

and crops.  We knew we were back in civilization.
Going through a checkpoint near the Mexican border.  

We stayed in an RV park one night in a town called Dateland.  Well named.

We continued driving, the rig was behaving, and we just wanted to get closer to home in case it started giving us problems.  

Our days consisted of driving, staying in RV parks for the night, and stopping to fill up the tank.

Can you believe these diesel prices?

Made it to New Mexico and there were long stretches of open land that are prone to heavy dust storms at times.  Signs along the interstate were displayed every few miles to tell you what to do if you got caught in one. 

We made it through the state without any adverse conditions which was a relief.  Little did we know what was coming....

Driving through El Paso with the wall in front and Ciudad Juarez on the other side.

We stopped for the night in several different towns in Texas and were surprised to see where it had rained overnight in this very dry climate.

Another surprise was heavy fog we ran into while driving.
We also ran into some rainstorms that seemed to travel with us.

About halfway through Texas we stopped at a beautiful RV Park situated on the South Llano River outside the town of Junction.

From the park you could see the bridge going over the river into the town of Junction.

We went to bed that night as it started raining.  As the night continued so did the rain and it poured and poured and poured.  Several times I got up and looked outside to see if there was any excess water because we were sitting so close to the river and the rain just kept on coming down.  At 4:00 AM, the Captain got up and we looked out together and used a flashlight to check out the park.  We could still see the gravel road we came in on and the grass and trees that were between us and the river.  We were nervous but went back to bed thinking everything still looked okay.  A half hour later someone banged on our door and told us to get out NOW because the river was overflowing.  We threw on some clothes and headed for the door. When we opened the door of the rig water was already up to the first step.  Within minutes it was raising up higher.  

When we got outside there were flashing emergency vehicle lights everywhere.  The power had gone out in the area so it was pitch dark except for the emergency lights which were reflecting off the rising waters making it look like a psychedelic scene.  We had not unhooked our car because we were planning on leaving the next morning so we had to first unhook it.  Once that was done I backed it up onto the road behind us but I went too far and backed into a power pedestal.  That pushed the bikes attached to the back of the car into the rear door lift giving it a few dents in the process.  

I drove the car to higher ground and then went back to help the Captain. He couldn't drive forward because there was a large piece of wood wedged under one front tire and the water was rising fast.  An emergency worker tried to get him to back up but his rear tires kept sinking in mud and spinning.  The tow bar on the back of the rig was also getting caught in the mud.  I yelled he can't go backwards so the emergency person working with us had the Captain go forward and back several times turning the rig until his front wheels were on gravel and he was able to drive the rig out. The rig that had been parked to the left of us had already moved but they had a golf cart that was caught on some rocks from a fire pit and wouldn't move.  The man was partially disabled and couldn't get it out so the Captain waded in to help and I joined him.  Between the two men lifting the cart and me pushing and steering we were able to get it to higher ground.  We then got into the rig and car and left to get out of the way.  We drove to the interstate and a gas station that was a short distance away and had electrical power. We sat there until it got light outside so we could check our vehicles.    While we sat there we saw emergency vehicles continually driving to the RV park to help.

After it was light out and we made sure our vehicles were okay we left the area.  Crossing over the bridge on the interstate I took pictures of what the river looked like now. 

The bridge in the distance was the one I had taken a picture of earlier when we got to the park.  Right past that bridge was where the RV park had been.  If you compare this picture with the one before that I took while in the park you can see how the river had enlarged. 

They estimate 45 people were in the park at the time but they don't know for sure because the owner's building was also destroyed so there are no accessible records.  There were several rigs there for the night that were just passing through like us and we were the lucky ones.  I know the one rig parked to the left of us and one or two rigs parked on the right side of us got out.  

Many of the remaining RVs were trailers or fifth-wheelers  and the owners were longer term residents who were hired to work on the oil lines in the area. They were also parked closer to the river and they didn't have much of a chance. Nineteen people were pulled from the river including a woman who had climbed out of her trailer window and was found 23 miles downstream clinging to debris.  Another woman was found downstream clutching her dog in her arms and hanging onto a tree. She and her dog were airlifted by helicopter out of the river.  Unfortunately, four people didn't get out in time and were lost in the river.  They have found three of the bodies and are still searching for the fourth.

The pictures below show the aftermath of the flood.  Many more lives would have been lost if it hadn't been for the emergency personnel.  The owners of the park had bought it a year ago and put a lot of time and money into renovating it.  They lost everything.  The last time the river had flooded like this was in 1980.  

After we left the gas station we drove to Magnolia, Texas, northwest of Houston, and stopped for three days to see our good friends, Ian and Annette.  By this time our nerves were frazzled and we needed a break. We spent three quiet days with them and just rested knowing how lucky we were and saddened for the other people in the park who didn't make it out.

Gracious guests and good friends, Ian and Annette.

And now we are home.  It was a long trip, many miles and beautiful things to see.  We are glad we went but I think both of us are also glad to be home with the pups and back to our community and family and friends.  Peace!