Friday, February 27, 2015

Messin' With Texas - The Rio Grande

The Rio Grande (Spanish for river grand) flows from south central Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is 1,896 miles long and is the fourth longest river system in the United States.  The Rio Grande serves as a natural border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Sine the mid-20th century heavy water consumption of farms and cities along with many large hydroelectric dams has left only 20% of its natural discharge to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.  Near the river's mouth is the heavily irrigated Rio Grande Valley which is an important agricultural region.

We took a drive one afternoon and saw acres and acres of crops growing in the fields.  This was a field of cabbages. 

This field was growing green onions.

And this field was filled with a crop as far as the eye could see.  On closer observation we realized it was  broccoli.

   Thousands and thousands of heads of good looking broccoli.  So how come a broccoli head is so expensive in the stores?  It sure looks plentiful  around here.

Driving in McAllen, which is a larger city right next to Mission, TX, we noticed this international taxi bringing someone here from Mexico.  In fact, we saw many cars with Mexican license plates in and around  the cities in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley). Many  Mexican families drive across the U.S. border for shopping, restaurants, and to see the sights.      

This is a Volkswagen truck which I had never seen before.  It was from Mexico and is built in Argentina for South American, Mexican, and European sales.

The RV resort we are staying at offers pontoon boat rides on the Rio Grande so, along with a few friends, we decided to take the trip.

Our boating friends, Greg and Barbara Jones and Dianne and Roger Norris joined us at the boat ramp. 

It was a beautiful sunny day and you can tell we were all excited about going.
The boat was parked in a narrow inlet off the Rio Grande.  Laying in the water was this small alligator.  According to the tour guides, another couple from the RV resort, there is another gator quite a bit bigger that lurks in the area, too.

Turtles were enjoying the sunny vibes all along the banks of the Rio Grande.

A big bird in flight.  Where we are staying at, the U.S. side of the river is mostly uninhabited with a good part of it belonging to the Bentsen  Rio Grande Valley State Park. 

On the Mexican side there were many more buildings.

Some of the homes were very beautiful and children were swimming in the water.

Other buildings seemed to be abandoned  but had one time been used for water sports or family outings.

The bird in the tree is a Crested Caracara looking for a meal in the water.
It's mate was also looking for a meal and the Captain got this great shot right after the bird pulled a fish from the water.

It even posed for us with the fish in its claws while we pontooned past 

and then flew back to its mate with dinner.

Another large Heron taking flight as we past.

There were several other boaters on the water although it was a week day so things were slow.  These Border Patrol men were taking a quiet break.

Along the banks on the U.S. side you could often see rusted out vehicles that ended up in the river after being chased by the Border Patrol.  Or so they say......others tell us the autos are used to prevent erosion along the banks :)  

But there was always the presence of the Border Patrol or the Texas State Police on the water and on the land.  

The Border Patrol are on horseback, in helicopters, on 4 wheel ATVs, in trucks and cars and there are select viewing towers watching for illegal immigrants.  Along with them are the Texas State Police, the National Guard, the county police, the city police and so on.  There were days while we have been here that we saw more police vehicles than Winter Texans!  All the people patrolling are very friendly and everyone seems to co-exist easily.  There have been two incidents where the Border Patrol caught illegals crossing over to the U.S. near where we are staying.  They were arrested and driven back to the border and released in Mexico.  I'm sure they will be trying to cross over again.

But I are more pictures from our boat ride!

In the water near a park was this statue. 

One of the dams that controls the Rio Grande water.

A great deal of water is kept back for the irrigation canals which are vitally important in the Rio Grande Valley.

There are new homes being built on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and they are very beautiful.

This home had a thatch roof but the front side of the roof was filled with moss.
This party boat is very popular on the weekends.  It is parked on the Mexican side but flies a flag for both Mexico and the U.S.  The band plays Mexican music and everyone has a great time. 
More new construction going up on the Mexican side of the river.

So different from the U.S. side of the border.

We had a wonderful three hour tour and really enjoyed cruising on the Rio Grande.  The most exciting part was when we returned to the bay outlet to park the pontoon.  Just as we pulled into the narrow inlet (with the alligator) the motor died on the boat and wouldn't start up again.  We were several hundred feet from the dock and the water was starting to pull us back into the Rio Grande. There was one oar on board but it seemed to move us back into the river instead of toward the dock. Well, what excitement!!!  No one wanted to jump into the water and swim to the side to pull the boat in knowing there was at least one gator in the water, but luckily, there were several expandable aluminum poles on the boat so the Captain and a few others used them to move us through the inlet to the dock.  It was great and we all had a hearty laugh about it.

February is the month to enjoy Mardi Gras so some of our park residents had their own Mardi Gras parade.
There were decorations and pretty beads.
Hey, what can I had to be there.  Peace!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Messin' With Texas - New Adventures

Bentsen Palm Drive heading towards our RV park several miles outside of Mission, Texas.  The RV park is 1-2 miles from the Rio Grande River based on all the twists and turns of the river route.

It is a friendly, nicely maintained park.  Many people will stay here as long as six months while others, like us, only spend one month.

Many of the people pick the spots on the outer edge of the park and they also have cabanas to use.

If you don't have a motorhome you can also rent a one bedroom villa to stay in.

The inner section of the park has the rigs facing around a grassy circle with palapas in the center.  Here's our rig enjoying the view.

This is what we get to look at each day from the front of our rig.  It makes everything feel very open.

The palapa is quite roomy and the thatched roof keeps the rain out.

This palapa has pool tables in it while others have different forms of entertainment or places for larger groups to meet.

Two years ago we had met another couple, Greg and Barbara Jones, who live next door in Ratama Village which is another part of this enterprise.

In Ratama Village the RV spots are purchased and can be lots with very nice cabanas or houses where you can park your rig and live in a 2-3 bedroom villa. There are many nice variations to choose from.  

The complex is still being developed with acres of land nearby waiting to be filled.  Both Ratama Village and Bentsen Palm Village are only for those 55 +.

Across the road is a multi-family development called Tanglewood.  These are 3-4 bedroom homes and are in the 200k to 400k range.  Next to the complex is an IDEA public school.  It is part of a network of tuition-free K-12 charter schools serving students throughout the Rio Grande valley.  For the past consecutive six years the school system has graduated 100% of their students and all of them have gone on to college.  The  IDEA schools are targeted towards Hispanic kids in the Rio Grande Valley but all races are accepted based on a lottery system.  The schools are ranked as some of the best in the country. Very impressive!  

All along the area are popular hiking/biking trails.  Since we have been here we have gone on five mile hikes each day and biked 10 miles, too.  Phew!  You'd think we would get lean and mean but too often the good Mexican food and the margaritas get in the way :) 

One Sunday afternoon we went to the Riverside Club situated on the Rio Grande River and joined the Winter Texans who come here to dance.

The place was hopping.

The band was going strong and so were the dancers.

Line dancing was also quite popular

and the dress code reflected the area.

What can  I say........ black socks are always in.

Our friends, Greg and Barbara Jones, were 'cutting a rug', too.  I had to chase them all over the dance floor to get this picture. 
Outside the dance hall the Rio Grande River flows by. 

Fisherman and jet skiers were racing down the river.  Occasionally, the Border Patrol came past in one of their boats.

Next door is the restaurant area of the cafe where you can dine on the water.

As I said in our last blog, our adventures continue.  Our friends, Greg and Barbara, had recently adopted a dog from the Cinderella Dog Rescue in Mission, TX.  This is a no-kill shelter that survives on volunteers and donated money and the woman who runs the place has dogs, cats, and horses living there.  Many of the animals were abandoned or abused and were in dire straits.  We decided to take a look since our Lucy was moping around and seemed despondent being the only dog.  

So this is our new adventure.  His name is "Desi".  He's a mix of Labrador Retriever and Beaucheron (a French herding dog) who has been living at Cinderella Dog Rescue for most of his life (almost three years) waiting for a forever home.  He's a big, goofy pup who is just full of love and trying his hardest to do the right thing.  

Lucy is taking it in stride as long as "Desi" doesn't touch her toys or get in her space.  He immediately knew she was the queen and accepted his new role quickly.

Now I just want you to know I wasn't fond of the new pup's name. The owner of the shelter thought it would be cute and everyone with us immediately agreed (including the Captain).  I thought it was pretty corny! Interestingly, the younger generation doesn't pick up on the naming convention but all the older folks here understood.  Wherever we walk in the park we hear people calling out to Lucy and Desi.

Some of the pups we see in the dog park are this goldie, Miles, who can catch and carry three tennis balls at one time.  

One of my favorites is Berkley,  the Newfoundland/Lab mix who loves to wallow in a watering trough  in the dog park.  He is a real lover but such a wet mess most of the time.  I don't envy his owners. 

We drove into Mission for a three day festival where Mexican wares were brought in.  I was surprised to see many cars with Mexico license plates but people from Mexico often come into the US to shop, go to dinner, etc.  

Because Mission is so close to the border, there are police everywhere.  This police box on stilts can be seen in shopping centers and crowded areas all over Mission and outlying cities.  There are cameras inside watching the crowds. 

Mission, TX, is the home of Tom Landry, the football coach, and this mural can be seen in the downtown area.
This group called The Cruisers were rocking to 60's music.

I think they knew the songs from the past pretty well.

And people got up and danced to their oldie but goody!

There were a lot of goods to look at but the prices were often steep.

Some old lady was purchasing another set of earrings :)  She got a new purse, too.
Artists were drawing chalk murals on the street.

Hispanic performers were waiting to go on stage.

Across the park there was a venue for Winter Texans with more oldies being sung.

It had quite a crowd.

This was a family performing for the group.  The young man in the middle was rocking out a Jerry Lee Lewis song.  Check out his classic black and white shoes.

Near our RV park there are large canals that are used for irrigation.

On the upper banks along the canals are biking trails and walking areas so there are many places to exercise the pups.
Off the asphalt trails are dirt bike trails that many of the younger people use.

But you have to be careful because the cacti are everywhere.

Lucy jumped into the canal to cool off and Desi decided to harass her.

He finally jumped in and decided it was a good way to cool off.  The canals have fish in them so you will see people with fishing rods along the banks.

A lovely view of a sunny day in southern Texas.  What a way to spend a winter month.  Peace!