Wednesday, April 24, 2013
We've spent the last week in Oklahoma City waiting for a warm window so we can head North and home for the summer. It's been interesting with weather below freezing, winds that make Winnipeg, or Texas's Rio Grande Valley, look calm. Unbelievable.
After leaving Pharr we went to New Braunfells for a couple of days in our favorite RV resort there. Then we moved on to stay a few days at the Winstar Casino near Thackerville Oklahoma. www.windstarworldcasino.com This was our first kick at Casino Camping and it was enjoyable to say the least. We went to the casino a couple of times and gambled heavy, :-) , until our $15 was gone and then we went home. Did you know they still have penny slots? We had some to die for ribs in Toby Keiths`s, "I love This Bar" in the casino. The RV park was awesome, beautiful full concrete sites, great services. It was a really good first time "Casino Camping" experience. We'll be back there for sure.
From there it was on to Oklahoma City to hang out for a week with our friends Jim and Lois, staying at our favourite RV Park.
Our 10 days in Oklahoma has been eventful to say the least. We spent one night sitting up watching for tornadoes while we were at Winstar. Then we moved to Oklahoma City (Norman) where we have dealt with freezing temperatures and howling winds that reminded us of Winnipeg and The Rio Grande Valley. Weather aside, we have had some great fun.
Last weekend Jim and Lois took us to Jim's home town of Guthrie Oklahoma http://guthrieok.com/ . Did you know that Guthrie was the original capital of Oklahoma. There's some neat history here. Jim took us by his family hoime and high school. It was fun. We did "Sunday In The Park," a magical day with of fabulous Blue Grass music. We watched a couple of world class performers that got our feet to stompin. There was a group called "Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Band." This guy plays a fiddle like you have never seen. They had just come back from a tour that ended in Russia and boy was he fun to watch. Check him out at https://www.facebook.com/HorseshoeRoad or do a you tube search. We've never seen anything like it and I'll surprised if you don't agree.
They were followed by another world class, Blue Grass, band called The Bryon Berline Band. If you like Blue Grass you`ll love these guys and if not you"ll still enjoy them. They`re really good at what they do and play all over the world. http://thebyronberlineband.com/
BUT now the time has come. We have three days left until we must be out of the US or else............. Tomorrow AM we`re on the road heading back to The Peg (Winnipeg) our home town. 1150 miles, three days, nothing to it. Simply dodge some weather, dodge some floods, deal with some freezing weather, and we`ll be home. It`s all good, we`re anxious to see the kids and grand kids, and yours truly is ready to get back to work. Winter was fun, we had a great time but I hear my truck calling, she needs me back behind the wheel.
Talk to ya"ll later and thanks for stopping by.
Neal and Bernie
Sunday, April 21, 2013
A couple of weeks ago we went to The South Texas Museum and learned a lot more about the history of the area. The museum takes S. Texas from ancient times to the nuclear age and explores it’s, sometimes very violent, history.
Their architect designed the foyer to offer a Big Texas feeling as you enter. The foyer is three stories, high. It's all wide open with a big old chandelier hanging from the middle. Made me think I should have had my boots and spurs on. You have to go upstairs via a magnificent double staircase. Definitely a Texas kind of entry.
Then you are welcomes by this little, ancient, fish. I didn't measure it but it has to be 25' maybe more. It is a replica of an actual fossil found in the area.
As centuries passed the water receded and the animals moved in. They were all really big and o
ne of them was the ancient Mammoth. This little fellow is copied from another fossil and he to is an actual size replica. Fortunately for other wildlife he ate plants. When a good lookin Mammoth came around it must have been quite a battle those tusks are HUGE.
The Europeans arrived and slowly the native tribes who had been here for more than ten thousand years disappeared over the course of about 300.
There is a great display of Spanish ship models. By today's standards they are so small but in those times these HUGE boats criss crossed the Atlantic all the time.
Two of the reasons the Europeans were so successful in the Americas were their horses and their weapons. I never really thought about how they got their horses here, in fact I never actually realized that horses aren't native to North America. They only got here in 1519 with early explorers. Our wild horse populations are actually horses that have escaped or been released over the last 500 years.
This is how they brought them over on those HUGE sailing ships.
In calm seas they allowed the horses to stand but in rough water they suspended them in slings, as depicted here. Hoses don't have very good sea legs so to keep them from falling and being hurt they hung them up and let them swing. My bet is there were a lot of very sea sick horses. It sounds like they likely ate a lot of horse meat on those boats because many of them did not survive the journey.
This little guy startled me pretty good. As you wander through you can hear a growling BIG cat but he's nowhere to be seen until you finally look up and there he is about 4 feet overhead in a rather shadowy space looking right at you. A couple of quick heartbeats later I grab a picture. :-) The picture is with a flash, in the museum he is very dimly lit.
Please be kind enough not to ask about this. Let's just agree that I lost the bet. So _______ (you know who you are) the picture is posted. The bet did not involve picture size.
This is an actual cart from back in the 1800's.
The suspension systems weren't very sophisticated at that time
The museum then takes you through the steam boat era on the Rio Grande River. The displays were too big for me to get any pictures worth posting. I don't think a steam boat could navigate the Rio Grande today but for about 30 years they did prior to the arrival of railroads in the valley.
There is a great deal of space dedicated to the Texas, Mexico, wars. The battles fought and lives lost on both sides is mind boggling in today's world.
Back then it was just the way things were. They talk about the civil war and slavery. The Alamo. Santa Anna and his, often successful, raids to the North.
There is a lot of blood stained land in S. Texas and nobody can ever say she didn't earn and pay for her place in this world.
The display covering the Texas Rangers was enlightening. Originally they were a pretty rough bunch of guys and their system of JUSTICE was rather "quick and dirty." They do however get well deserved credit for keeping things honest for a long period of time. Based solely on their pictures in the museum you wouldn't want to cross them.
This is an actual Pearl Handle Texas Ranger pistol used by a "Special Texas Ranger" during prohibition. I don't know what "Special" meant.
Being Canadian I have always thought of Canadian Rum Runners during Prohibition. We found out at the museum that the Mexicans were running their tequila North as fast as we were running our whiskey South. The authorities had as much trouble on the S. border as they did on the N. On the Mexican border the Texas Rangers carried the majority of the work load.
We spent about 3 hours in here and walked the whole thing. We would certainly would have to go back, to even begin, to absorb the information contained here. Well worth the trip. If you happen to find yourself in Edinburg Texas plan to spend some time there, it's worth it. http://www.mosthistory.org/
Thanks for stopping by.
Neal and Bernie
Monday, April 8, 2013
We had planned to head North tomorrow or the next day, BUT Manitoba is still posting freezing temperatures. What's the rush? We've decided to wait a few more days and hopefully things will warm up a bit up there.
Now it's supposed to be over 100F here tomorrow. Hmmm - go to Manitoba - run the furnace non stop or stay in Texas - run the air conditioners non stop? We'll take the air. See ya later Manitoba.
It's actually kind of nice to hang out here for another week. Most of the people have gone back North so the pace is so much slower. We're actually getting to do a few things we have never done before. Yesterday we went here for brunch with friends. http://www.ontheriver.net/index.html Great visit, great food.
Bernie's getting out for a bit of shopping which she didn't really get to do all winter. I'm putting seat skirts and carpets in the truck. Life's good.
To our family and friends in the North, we feel your pain (sort of), and hope it all goes away real soon.
Stay well everyone, thanks for stopping by.
Neal and Bernie
Monday, April 1, 2013
Having spent a month in the Vancouver BC area we weren't ready for the 33C (90+F) weather we hit yesterday when we arrived in the valley. I'll take it. It beats the cold and snow they're still fighting with at home.
March was fun. We had great times with our kids and grandchildren getting to enjoy dance competitions, hockey games, movies, dinners and more. The cookies made just for Grandpa were a special treat, thank you. We got to spend time with many of our friends enjoying dinners, visits, coffee at Tim's and more. For our US friends Tim's is a Canadian coffee shop chain that most Canadians are addicted to.
I got to have an evening with my motorcycle friends planning our ride for late June of this year when we will ride out of BC to the Napa Valley. Having spent countless hours riding all over N. America with these guys it's always a special time when we get together. We now have a number of our sons riding with us so the Dirty Dogs (our motorcycle group) seems likely to carry on with a second generation.
I did find out that I had missed mentioning a friend's name in the "Can Tab Social" post. I was so afraid I would do that and despite trying really hard not to, I forgot to mention Elwood J. who had sent me a pound or more of tabs last fall before we left Winnipeg. So - Elwood, please accept my apology, and Thank You for your help. He also presented me with a close to a half pound when we were there, getting the 2013 effort underway.
The trip back to Texas was long. The flight from Vancouver to Houston seemed to go on forever, then United Airlines decided they should leave my bag in Houston while we flew off to Austin. To their credit they were as helpful as they could be and did get it in to Austin by 8:30 AM. After a short 5.5 HRS drive to Pharr we were back in our RV. Home sweet home, :-) glad to be here.
The RV seems to have survived very well. Thanks to Ken and Doreen for babysitting it while we were away. You can tell it was hot here because one of Bernie's candles candles, a taper, was partially bent over. It had obviously softened up from being warm and was laying over quite a bit. Kind of funny until you think how hot it must have been in the RV.
We have some maintenance things to do before we head back North in 10 days or so. The weather is just beginning to break up there so we aren't in any particular rush to get back to the cold and snow. Not to mention the flood that's likely going to cover a huge swath of the Red River Valley again this year. If you're interested there is a short video at this link that tells the story. For those who are reading this from anywhere warm, you might find it especially interesting.
For now, I have to run to the store to get some white stuff for morning coffee. Have a super day and thanks for stopping by.
Neal and Bernie
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Up early the next day to get to the airport in lots of time to get good seats on the four + hour flight to San Francisco. To our dismay 3 hours early on a domestic flight isn’t enough. We ended up with two window seats, on opposite sides of the plane, and in different rows. Good old Air Canada. We tried to do seat selection when we booked and couldn’t, only to be told at the airport we should have done seat selection when we booked. Figure that one out.
Ok – so accept the fact you can’t sit together, that’s a done deal. Now we head down the ramp and comment on two basketball player tall, football player wide, guys in front of us. Remember this is a small commuter jet, no 747’s here. Guess who ends up squished like a wee little canned sardine in a window seat beside one of these two jolly green giants. Four plus hours of this? Oh NO, can it get worse? Turned out he was a nice guy, we had a good chat, but seating was VERY TIGHT.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Last year at this time we gave our collected tabs (just over 5 lbs) to them and promised to try and double that effort and get 10 pounds for this year.
So as some of you will know I started, at this time last year, harassing everyone I know to help me. In this world there are people that like to help and some who don’t. Bernie and I are blessed with a beautiful family and a great circle of terrific friends who are willing to help.
So last night the 2012, 2013 effort came to a conclusion with a small get together at our place. I called it the can tab social, where we had some fun and some food, to bring the collection all together. We had to weigh it to see IF we had met our 10 pound goal. I thought this would be a good place to post some pictures of our first “Can Tab Social.”
Good friends, good food, and for our friends up North - 80 ABOVE ZERO
Each of our five children helped out and I want to thank them all right off the top. Second, I really want to thank Grandsons Cole and Brendan for an extra special effort.
I introducted you toRaphael, the young fellow who is indirect beneficiary and the motivator for our efforts.
This is Raphael and his younger brother with last year’s collection effort.
Meet Denis and Therese Lebrun our good friends and Raphael’s Uncle and Aunt who spearhead this whole effort.
This is the pile.
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH TO ALL WHO HELPED OUT.
I don’t want to appear ungrateful but the effort continues and we must start now on next year’s collection. The goal - we’re looking to collect a minimum of 15 ponds this year, somewhere in the area of 25,000 tabs. We need all the help we can get. PLEASE.
Ten tabs or ten thousand tabs we'd love to have you at next year's "Can Tab Social."
Neal and Bernie
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Bernie and I first came here because of the gym. Yup – the gym. We were at home, in Winnipeg, searching for a place to stay when we got here. We found pictures on the Tropic Star web page of the gym and decided to start here. The plan when we left The Peg was to spend a week here while we searched through the valley for what we wanted. That was six winters ago and it’s likely we’ll be back for a seventh.
So back to the question at hand, “Why Tropic Star?”
With six winters almost finished we have visited most of the parks in The Valley. Maybe a dance, a craft show, visiting, or maybe just plain snooping. We have met hundreds and hundreds of people from all over and chatted, sometimes at length, about what makes their park, their choice. Most of the better RV Resorts have similar things to offer, some a bit more, some a bit less, some a bit more expensive, some cheaper, but most have similar offerings.
Lil, Lois, and Gaylord
The first time we came to Tropic Star we were checking out the resort looking for a lot to call home for a week or so. We bumped in Lil T. who told us we had to come to her side of the park and recommended her street. What a great way to start, a really nice lady, on a really nice street, and a great first winter. Lil and Bill are still here each winter and are looking forward to seeing them later this week.
As newbies we were anxious to get to the pool and did so at the first opportunity. While cooling our jets in that beautiful pool we met Lois M. who asked us what we were doing for Thanksgiving dinner a few days later. Since we had no plans she invited us to join them at their table in the dining room. We did go for dinner and, yes – you guessed it - Jim and Lois have become very good friends. You may recall my posting about our stops in Oklahoma City. That’s where Jim and Lois are and we look forward to seeing them every single time.
And then there was Gaylord. As nice a guy as the Good Lord put on this earth. Bernie and I were doing laundry, shortly after arriving here, and in walks this guy with a pony tail and big black motorcycle boots. He told us his hot water tank was broken so he had come over for a bucket of hot water. HMMMMM what’s this all about, we thought. Remember we’ve been here only a few days at that point and were pretty unsure of the whole thing. So then he asked if we want to go for a drink at Peppies, or maybe Sophies, or how about a day trip to Progresso. We had no clue what Peppies, Sophies, or Progresso were but over the next few days Gaylord took us to each of them. We enjoyed them all and now enjoy seeing Gaylord at church every Sunday. Not what we expected that first day in the laundry room. Now the guy in the laundry room is – yup – you guessed it – a good friend.
The volunteer base in our park is unbelievable. As we talk to folks from other resorts we often hear about their inability to get things done because nobody wants to help. It’s not like that here. We are blessed to have a group of volunteers that give, and give, and give some more. We have had countless meals, gone to countless events, and had countless good times here. Each time volunteers are manning the show in one way or another. Literally seven days a week, volunteers are making this place a home for all of us. Some are in the kitchen cooking a five star meal, some are playing the music, or singing in the 40 member choir, or ushering 400 +/- or us to our chairs on Sunday, or teaching a ceramics class, or a painting class, or a stained glass class, or giving swimming lessons, or giving tennis lessons, or maybe sewing lessons, or taking out the bike riders, or working the two bingo nights, and the list goes on and on.
Oh – and let’s not forget Square Dancing. Bernie and I don’t square dance but hundreds and hundreds of people do. As a matter of fact they consider The Rio Grande Valley to be the Square Dance Capital of The World. Joe Saltel, http://www.joesaltel.com/ one of the top Square Dance callers in the U.S. calls Tropic Star home. Joe calls all over the world and here at Tropic Star he has Square Dances and/or classes six days a week. A couple of weeks ago we went to a Country Dance(not Square Dance) in our ballroom where Joe and a friend of his, Jerry Storey, another world class caller http://www.jerrystory.com/ spent three hours singing and we spent an equal amount of time on the dance floor. This event was so successful that as the event was winding down the crowd quit dancing. We all stood around the stage just listening and singing along to great music. Where else can you get to spend an evening up close and personal with two “World Class” entertainers. Square Dancers come here from all over the valley so you can imagine how many people show up all week long. Hundreds is not an exaggeration.
The people of our resort are huge givers. Giving is a personal thing so I won’t go too far into this. I do believe one of the main reasons this is such a happy place is because it’s giving place. The people here are generous beyond belief. One of the streets here, Banana St., has a charity auction each year where people donate things, baking, new, used, etc and then everyone in the resort is invited to come over for the event to buy something. All proceeds go to a shelter for battered women. They have a real life, auctioneer doing his thing. We watched people pay silly amounts of money for things they wanted, maybe even thought they needed. Like $25 for a used picnic basket or $8 for a loaf of someone’s home made bread, or $20 for a pie.
Banana St. Auction.
And - now back to the original question “Why Tropic Star?” The answer is The People of Tropic Star. Without the people it would just be a nice chunk of real estate owned by some super rich dude. The people make Tropic Star and that’s why we come back, looking forward to seeing our friends, doing what time permits with each of them, and feeling like we’re a small part of the Tropic Star family.
If you’re clooking for a place to call your "winter home" give Tropic Star a look over. http://www.tropicstarrv.com/gallery.html http://www.tropicstarrv.com/
Thanks for stopping by, maybe we’ll see you here.
Neal and Bernie
PS, no I didn’t get paid for this huge, free, ad for the resort. :-)
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
This Christmas we seem to have spent quite a bit of time, with friends, reminiscing about our kids, childhoods, parents, brothers and sisters and so forth. It really makes us realize how blessed we really are to have our health, a great family, super friends, and the opportunity to do what we're doing. To live the life most of us have here in North America.
Christmas makes us all think of Christmas's past and who we celebrated them with. We were so blessed to have spent a couple of them with Thom and Dwaina Sprague. You may remember from previous posts that Thom passed away last summer. He's been on my mind allot and I know I'm only one of many people missing him this Christmas.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
“Black Bellied Whistling Ducks” sitting outside our RV.
This guy seemed to be the alpha male, the lookout, maybe the “boss” duck, I don’t know but he always maintains an “I’m cool” stance away from the others.