Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Speeding Ticket in Texas?

This is Texas.  How does one ever get a speeding ticket in Texas?  This State will apply a 75 MPH speed limit to any road that it can.  You rarely see a cop out on the road.  Can our car really do more than 75 MPH?  Well it wasn’t a ticket in a 75 MPH zone and it was in a town with local police notorious for speed traps.  And worst of all, we had been warned not to get snared in this particular speed trap.

We were on our way for a day trip to South Padre Island.  Our friend John here had warned us a week ago that somewhere down here there is a town famous (or infamous) for its speed traps and ticket writing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t process that information adequately.  We were passing through the little town of Los Fresnos.  As we were well beyond the town we saw a patrol car with its lights flashing ahead of us pulled over on the shoulder behind another car.  Gary moved left a lane and in checking his mirrors saw another set of police lights coming from way back.  He remarked that maybe it was coming as backup for the other officer we already had passed.  But he sailed right on by the other officer so Gary pulled off the road on to the should to let him go by unabated.  But he didn’t go by.  He stopped on the shoulder immediately behind………..US.  So, we are thinking, did we have a taillight out or some other equipment problem.  The officer comes up and asks for license and registration and Gary asks why were were pulled over.  The officer says “I clocked you doing 43 in a 30”.  What?  We don’t speed, we were slowed down in the town, we were just following the flow of traffic like we always do.  Oops.  We remember that somewhere back there we came up in the right of two eastbound lanes behind an extremely slow moving pickup truck with the driver talking on his cell phone.  He was going so slow that Gary moved over and went around him, but as Gary saw that there was traffic coming up in that second lane he did a quicker pass and moved right back into the right lane in front of the truck.  It must have been at that very instant that we were clocked.  Gary explained and explained.  He begged and begged.  But as this was all a part of an ongoing, notorious, speed trap, revenue-raising operation, there wasn’t going to be just a warning or even a reduction in the reported speed.  The officer assured us he had a picture of our car with the speed reading right underneath it that he would show the judge.  And he didn’t even have to “write” a ticket.  He had a fully automated ticket generating machine in his car with a little handheld unit he carried to and from our car.  He just entered our license plate number, swiped the drivers license, and typed in just a few bits of info and out came a beautifully printed  traffic citation.  This type of revenue raising speed trap operation isn’t really much welcome to drivers anywhere, but again –THIS IS TEXAS.

But there is one saving grace.  It appears that here in Texas, Gary can agree to take an online defensive driving course and upon completion, the “points” will be taken off his record; but, of course that will be after he has paid the fine and related costs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Pinateria and Another Local Delicacy

Before our D-League game we had made a day out of it with John.  We stopped at an outlet mall. Shopping is huge here in the RGV as not only do you have around a million people living in the valley, but there are all the “Winter Texans” here from the North and then millions of people from Mexico to draw from for the shopping as well. John said some of the shopping here has among the very highest grossing sales in the country.

2013-02-23_16-31-46_921We also wanted to take in an RGV flea market of which there are many. We weren’t especially wowed by the offerings but one thing really caught our eye – a pinateria –a store that sells pinatas. There were super colorful pinatas of all sizes and images along with bags and bags of the candy to fill them. Sales seemed to be brisk.  But look at the last picture below.  Who buys a pinata of beautiful young woman to have their children beat it with a stick?  And if filled with candy, that is exactly what is going to happen.  And the bottom left picture – that’s John.



And after shopping but before the game, John took us to Rudy’s BBQ. In the world of BBQ, Texas is especially noted for BBQ Brisket. Gary ordered a portion of moist brisket, not fully knowing what the moist part of that meant. But it became obvious that moist brisket is from the much fattier portion of a brisket. It was super tender, fall apart good, and very flavorful. Texas brisket is a very worthy addition to our ever growing list of local delicacies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The D-League

2013-02-23_19-38-13_945Major League Baseball has its affiliated minor league teams.  Although not nearly as extensive, the National Basketball Association also has its minor league – the NBA Development League or for short, the D-League.  There are nearly 200 minor league baseball teams in the US, but there are only about 15 teams in the D-League.  Some have a relationship with just one NBA teams, but others have  multiple relationships.  There are teams in places stretching from Portland, Maine to Ft Wayne, Indiana, to Reno, Nevada.  And there is also a team in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas – the Vipers.  Gary had never been to a D-League game and wanted to experience one so we took in the Vipers along with our local friend John.

The players in the D-League are an interesting mix.  Sometimes an NBA team will send down one of its players for some playing time to rehab an injury or maybe to get playing time for a rookie who is otherwise sitting on the end of the bench.  Many of the players are just short of NBA skills and with development may eventually be called up to a NBA team.  Others are very good players, but have little or no chance of ever getting to the NBA but won’t give up the quest.

2013-02-23_20-29-34_600The biggest “name” on the court was Glen Rice Jr of the Vipers.  He played some college ball at Georgia Tech but had been kicked off the team after numerous disciplinary issues with the final one being his involvement in a shooting incident outside an Atlanta nightclub.

Except for the players on an NBA contract sent down for a stint, the rest of the players make very little money.  Salaries range from $12,000 to $24,000 a year.  These guys must have other jobs in the off season and/or the financial support of family.  They most all could make a lot more money playing overseas, but then they could not live the dream of a mid-season call up.  And likely some just don’t want to live overseas or are not allowed to with their criminal records.

So in a word, what is a D-League game like?  SLOPPY!  The game was filled with turnovers.  The game was played at a very fast pace, a much faster pace than a college game would be played at.  Presumably the NBA wants these guys playing at the pace they would experience if called up.  But in some stretches it was race to one end for a traveling call to race to other end for a stolen pass to race to the other end for an offensive foul to race to the other end for a palming call.  It is frustrating to watch at times. For every spectacular play, and there were a few amazing alley oops, there had to be 10 turnovers.  There was only one player, a tall German, who appeared to be showing NBA caliber skills.

2013-02-23_19-10-42_167The Vipers organization does put on a good show.  They have a dance team – The Snake Charmers and their chief mascot is Fang, shown here with me. (He reports that his favorite move is… what else -- Snakes On A Plane.)  They also have a Chick-fil-A cow (in case you were wondering about that picture above). They have lots of local groups performing at intermissions likely to help fill up some seats with their friends and family.  They have a powerful PA system, fan cam (we were up on the screen at one point capturing Gary in a yawn), and a player introduction production almost worthy of an NBA arena.  If only the players could up their game a bit……..

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Visit With Fulltiming Friends

100_4889Last winter in Florida we met up with a couple in our fulltiming  Class of 2011 – Toni and Daryle.

This winter we both presently are in the same general area of Texas.  We were anxious to see them and their new rig.  Their first year they were living in a truck camper and pulling a motorcycle trailer.  This year they have ditched the bike and swapped for a large fifth wheel with three slideouts.  These comfy looking recliners they are sitting in never would have fit in the truck camper.  We didn’t get the impression that they are having any regrets about the change.  It was great to see them again and talk about the past year’s travels and our respective upcoming travel plans.

They were camped in a park that apparently used to be a citrus grove.  They said we could pick some ruby red grapefruits from the trees next to their fifth wheel.  You never quite know what to expect with fruit from citrus trees that no longer are being tended, but these were fantastic.  We juiced them and it was best grapefruit juice we ever had.  Toni and Daryle will visit us at our park this week.  We will have to twist their arms to bring some grapefruit with them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Heard It Is Windy In The RGV

100_4887We typically research a destination before we arrive.  One thing we consistently read about the Rio Grande Valley is that it is windy.  So when we arrived last Saturday we were pleasantly surprised that the winds were light – about 10 miles per hour.  But ever since Saturday…………. Today the winds are forecast to peak at about 32 mph sustained with gusts to 45 mph.  And even during the night they are predicted to stay above 20 mph all night.  We have awning toppers over our two slideouts.  Generally they keep dust, leaves and other debris off the tops of the slideouts for when you pull them back in.  But in winds like these they flap and when they flap they become noisy.  And the head of our bed is underneath one of the these toppers.  So we have been experimenting with methods to reduce the 100_4880-001flapping.  Somewhere we read about people using partially inflated beach balls stuffed in between the top of the slideout and the topper.  It seemed like a good idea to us and we purchased some beach balls back when we were preparing for full timing.  But we never had used them until we arrived in the Texas gulf coast region.  We first tried them out in Port Aransas.  They reduced the flapping but they had a tendency to work their way out and blow away.  One of them we never did find.  We are trying them again here in the RGV.  And we are chasing them all over the park.  We have put a phone number on them so that if someone finds one, they will hopefully let us know.  We keep stuffing them in a little father under the toppers and hopefully this is going to work.  If they don’t work, we are going to have a hard time sleeping with the noise.  At worst case, we could have to pull in the slideouts.  Yes, it is windy in the RGV.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Port Aransas to the Rio Grande Valley

100_4866On Saturday our month was up in Port Aransas.  It went by too fast as almost all of our destinations do.  We didn’t do and see everything we had planned.  We did get to Corpus Christi one more time and had an encounter with birds almost as if out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  We pulled up to a stop light and at this one and only one intersection there were birds everywhere on the power lines.  They were all yapping and it was very noisy.  Verrrrrrry Scarrrrrrrrry

100_4869But back to our move.  We packed up and left Pioneer RV Park.  Our trip was about 165 miles south.  The landscape changed south of Corpus Christi.  It was much drier and there were many cattle ranches with tons of scrub brush.  We passed the area of the famous King Ranch but did not stop for the tour and other activities there.  Others have said it is worth the stop so maybe on our way back out of the Valley.

We now are staying at Tropic Winds RV Park in Harlingen, Texas.  It is a very central location to take in the activities of the Valley.  We plan to stay here for two weeks  On Sunday, we connected with a college buddy of Gary’s, one he had not seen in over 30 years and I had never met.  John lives here in this area and gave us plenty of tips.  We will catch up with him again while we are here.  We also hope to connect with some Class of 2011 fulltimers who we met back in Florida last winter.  As usual, we will have more than enough to do here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine’s……………KITE???????

So what did Gary get me for Valentine’s Day?  Flowers – nope.  Candy – nope.  Dinner – nope.  Card – nope.  On Valentine’s Day I became the proud recipient of a brand new…………….KITE.  But don’t get me wrong.  I thought it was a great gift and I love it.  As far as I am concerned it was a far better gift than any of those other alternatives.  We already have one kite and we enjoy flying it at the beach.  Now we have two kites – his and hers - and we can fly them both at the beach.  (Except that our travel plans this year don’t really have us at the beach.)  My new kite is really long, as long as any kite I ever have seen.  And it has this cute little koala bear at the top.  And here is your kite flyer in all her kite-flying glory.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Texas-Sized Potluck

Ok, we know we have already blogged about potlucks a few times and recently as well, but this time we added a new element to our potluck repertoire.  In our last blogpost, we mentioned that Gary had purchased something at a garage sale that we were keeping a secret.  Well now it is time to unveil that secret in all of its food-laden glory.  Gary purchased a Texas-sized and Texas-shaped ‘‘plate” for a dollar and unveiled it at our most recent potluck here in the park.  Isn’t it a beauty?  Meat loaf in Amarillo.  Slaw in Dallas.  Baked Beans in Texarkana.  Potato salad in Houston/Galveston. Jalapeno pie in the Corpus Christi. A bacon- wrapped jalapeno in the Rio Grande Valley. A deviled egg in Laredo.  Bread in El Paso.   But who ate San Antonio and Austin before the picture?



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lamardi Gras, Big Tree, Whooping Cranes, Garage Sales and Bloggers

100_4820We went exploring back on the mainland, which means we took the ferry off the island.  But his time it was just the car and without the apprehension of loading the motor home on to the boat.  We had a few things on our agenda and one was possibly to drop in on a couple sets of bloggers we follow who we knew were camped in this area.  Our first visit was with the Cruzin2some – Dawn and Denise --   They belong to our Class of 2011 – people who began full timing in 2011.  They were also among the first people to sign up for our blog.   We were so glad we made this stop.  It was great to meet them.  They told us a better place to go birding than where we were headed.  And they also told us about a local festival we could take in that night which we did.

This coastal area of Texas tends to have lots of marsh land and back bays of water.  Not only is this wintering ground for many people from the heartland, but it is also the wintering ground for many different types of migratory birds.  The star of the bird show is the only flock of wild whooping cranes remaining in the world.  Theses birds are the tallest in North America.  They have come back from the brink of extinction.  At one time there were 15,000 in North America, but in the 1940’s their number dropped to as low as 21 birds. Today there are around 250, but that still leaves them as an endangered species.  Their Summer nesting ground is in a very remote area of north central Canada, a journey of 2,600 miles from their wintering grounds here in Texas.  We were able to snap a picture of an adult pair as well as a younger pair that hadn’t yet turned fully white.







In the same area as the cranes is a famous local natural attraction – The Big Tree.  This tree is a coastal oak.  It is over 1,000 years old.  It’s base is over 11 feet in diameter.








Along the way we also took in three garage sales.  We were having garage sale withdrawal.  We hadn’t been to one in some weeks.  And Gary did score a couple of treasures.  One was a crock pot cook book for 25 cents.  You can always find a few good recipes in any old cookbook and this one appears to be no exception.  There is a cheese soup recipe Gary will be trying soon.  Gary’s other buy will have to remain a secret until an upcoming blog post – oh, the suspense of it.

And our last stop was at “Lamardi Gras”.  There is a small unincorporated community in the area named Lamar.  Every year in support of their volunteer fired department, they host a  two-day celebration of Mardi Gras, which in their case becomes Lamardi Gras.  We stopped in and shared some orders of Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Red Beans and Rice.  We didn’t stay long, but did hear the start of the band and looked through the tents of the craft vendors.  The Cajun food hit the spot. 

By this time it was dark and more than a bit too late to try to drop in on our other pair of bloggers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Another Local Delicacy–The Tamale Truck

100_4769We have reported on a number of local food delicacies during our travels.  Our latest was found right here in our RV Park via the tamale truck.  Of course we are familiar with ice cream trucks but this was our very first time seeing a tamale truck.  The tamale truck passes through the park two to three times a week.  They have tamales with a few different stuffings.  The order quantity is a dozen, but they are relatively small and it is very possible for two people to down a dozen in a sitting.  (Ask us how we know this.)

We also stumbled upon the best deep-fried shrimp we have ever had.  We decided to go out for dinner one night and targeted a particular restaurant, but not every restaurant here is open every night.  Sure enough, the one we wanted to go to was closed.  We drove by another one and it was closed too.  So we made our way over to Kody’s which we had seen was open on our way into town.  They had a Wednesday night all-you-can-eat fried shrimp special.  With an all-you-can-eat special, you might well expect a batch of uncleaned, overcooked, rubbery, and heavily-battered shrimp.  These were fantastic – large, butterflied, lightly battered, with plenty of juicy tenderness left in.  We will go back!

100_4818And as long as we are on the subject of eating – Sunday morning, Gary made breakfast.  While our motor home was in the paint shop during the holidays, we emptied everything out of the refrigerator and shut it off.  Gary lost his precious jar of bacon grease in the process.  With the bacon we had Sunday, the new bacon grease jar now has been topped off and all is good again from the standpoint of cooking with grease.