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Welcome to the travels of Doug and Nada. We love the Lord and are traveling full-time in our motorhome with our German Shepherd, Homer. Homer is the star attraction wherever we stop and he gets us talking and sharing with many people. DON'T FORGET: YOU CAN ENLARGE EACH PHOTO BY CLICKING ON THE PHOTO! The newest blog post is at the top and they go back in time as you scroll down. If you want to see each photo larger, you can just click on the photo and it will enlarge. If you decide to leave a comment, don't forget to sign it so we know who left it. ;-) Folks: This site is under continual construction as we travel and see this beautiful country. Check back for more updates and photos. Thanks for visiting with us! May God bless your day!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

12/31/09 Blue Moon, Altamira Oriole, and a bobcat!

As we rode our bikes out of the campground this morning at 6:55 AM the moon was just setting on the western horizon. As we arrived at the state park maintenance shed to exchange our bikes for the golf cart and pickup the bird seed, peanut butter, and citrus, we ran into one of the park rangers. Carol asked us if we saw the "Blue Moon" and we said yes. Maybe you are like us and not sure why it is called a blue moon so here is Wikipedia's explanation:
A blue moon is a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern. Most years have twelve full moons which occur approximately monthly, but in addition to those twelve full lunar cycles, each solar calendar year contains an excess of roughly eleven days compared to the lunar year. The extra days accumulate, so that every two or three years, there is an extra full moon. The extra moon is called a "blue moon."

The term "blue moon" is commonly used metaphorically to describe the rarity of an event, as in the idiomatic expression, "once in a blue moon."

So above and below are my photos of the 12/31/09 Blue Moon! My zoom photo below is a little blurry.

At our 4th feeding station, an Altamira Oriole showed up after we put out the fresh citrus. We have seen quite a few of these colorful birds but I hadn't been able to get a photo of one before. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, you might be able to see the female and male cardinal ground feeding in the background to the left of the Altamira.

I just love how they bend upside down to eat the orange.

The photo below is a photo of Doug looking out over the La Parida Blanco resaca in Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park. Resacas are former channels of the Rio Grande but after floods, the river changed its course and they were left unconnected to the river channel. Most are dry except during rainy periods (which seems to be all the time this winter!) but many are now used as part of the irrigation and wildlife habitat and are pumped full with river water.

I did not take the photos below (I found them online and put these here so you could see what I saw) - I was too much in awe as I saw a bobcat this morning at our next-to-the-last feeding station. It actually scared the daylights out of me. Doug was on the other side of the feeding station filling the sunflower and mixed seed feeders. I take care of the sticky peanut butter/suet mixture that gets pushed into holes drilled into hanging logs. At this feeding station, the suet/peanut butter log is hanging from a branch at the edge of the undergrowth. As I walked up to the suet/peanut butter feeder, the bobcat apparently had been laying under some brush about two feet away and it got up and walked away from me. It was so unexpected and happened so fast that I didn't even think of taking a photo. It didn't run away but just walked like a cat does - absolutely silent. We knew there were several bobcats in the park and my goal was to see one while we were here. I should have made that goal to see one AND get a photo of it but I might have to settle for just seeing one! They are about twice the size of a big house cat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum 12/28/09

Yesterday, we went to the Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum. I was built around the turn of the century and was instrumental in the development of the agriculture here in the Rio Grande Valley. The little tour we took was given by the man whose father was the first pumphouse master and then he succeeded his father. The pumphouse would extract water from the Rio Grande River and pump it to the towns and also to the crops via irrigation ditches. In 1933 there was a huge hurricane and the river flooded and when it declined, there was a new course for the river. In some places Mexico lost land and the US gained land and in other place the reverse was true. After that huge hurricane and its devestation, they started building dams along the river so there could no longer be such a change in course for the river.

These are outside views of the old pumphouse (There is now an electric pumphouse down stream which does the job the old pumphouse used to do) Originally, the pumphouse created the steam from burning mesquite, then it was adapted to burning natural gas.

There are beautiful grounds surrounding the pumphouse which are one of the 9 national birding sites in the Rio Grande Valley.

These are views looking toward the border with Mexico which show some of your tax dollars at work.... Yes, those are segments of the border wall recently constructed. If you klick on the photo below you can see some places where it is much taller than in other places. The tall places are where there isn't much of a drop-off on the Mexico side due to a road or such so they made the fence taller. In the places where the wall is shorter, it is because it sits at the edge of the dyke and there is a large drop on the Mexican side.

Now the problem is the wall is not continuous. Gates were to be installed where the breaks are in the wall, but we were told the Obama adminstration has cut the funding so we now have partial walls along the border with gaps!

Above is a photo of Nada in front of the wall.

I just loved these blue flowers.... I have to find out what they are since blue is such a hard color to produce in flowers.

These flowers were so unique with the yellowish centers and orange edges....

A border patrol in one of the gaps...

When we were walking outside, I heard the buzz of hummingbirds by my ear. Apparently they were attracted to my red jacket. In the photo above, Doug is looking at one of the hummers sitting in the tree. There were several hummer feeders in the trees and there was hummer warfare going on as one male was trying to guard all the feeders.

The view above is of the channel they dug in 1933 after that big hurricane move the Rio Grande a 1/4 mile south. They dug this channel to bring the water to the pumphouse so they could continue to pump water to the towns and agricultural fields. The view is looking toward Reynosa, Mexico where you can see buildings.

The rest of these views are inside the pumphouse. The city of Hidalgo decorates the inside at Christmas with Snow Village as part of the Hidalgo Festival of Lights (see our previous post of the Christmas Lights if you haven't already)

The following photos are looking down on the model train layout. The smell brought back memories of our train layout and made me think of all "the smells of Christmas" that we take for granted.

These views show the boilers that produced the steam to pump the water....

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Homer and his friends 12/28/09

Here are some photos of Homer and his friends at the dog run. In the first one, Doug and Homer are waiting outside the gate until the owners get their dogs under control. Once inside, then it is play time for the dogs once the owners know the are all friends. They have so much fun together. The Dobermans keep buzzing around Homer and he takes off chasing them but can't catch them - They are much younger and much more agile. It would be so interesting to know what their barks and grumbles are really saying! The most vocal and bossy dogs are the tiny little guys who don't listen to any commands and jump trying to nip at the big dog's noses and heels. For the most part the big dogs just ignore them!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Merry Christmas from south Texas to all our friends and family! This Christmas, instead of shoveling snow we are swatting mosquitoes at the southern tip of Texas! We are missing our friends and family but we are enjoying the warm weather. May the meaning of this season be real in a personal way to each and everyone of you.

Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Goin' to Progresso, Mexico

We have had the beautiful weather these past few days that caused us to choose this location to spend this winter. Days in the low 80's and nights in the low 60's. Hopefully those cool wet days are behind us!

The night before last Doug broke a tooth while munching some popcorn. Soooooo today we crossed the border to Progresso to have some dental work done. We asked around with the Winter Texans (the term used here for the northern folks that come to stay here in the warm weather for the winter) to find a qualified dentist. We knew many go across the border to have their dental work done at a fraction of the cost but we didn't know where to go. Several folks gave us some glowing recommendations so off we headed this morning.

The view above is from the American side of the International Bridge. We park on the American side and walk across. We have shopped in Progresso before but today our purpose is different. Dental work is 1/4 the price in Progresso than it is in the US. Many dentists have offices on both sides of the border. It is basically a liability and money issue... They live in the US but have an office in Mexico. They are allowed to bring $500 cash per day into the US tax-free. So you can do the math – what that means in tax-free income per year.

I had to take the above photo of the welcome sign as we started walking across the International Bridge. On the Mexican side of the bridge their was a small army presence with several soldiers due to an incident about two weeks ago.

The photo below is what we termed the "dentist courtyard." These are all dentist offices.

The photo below is looking from the "dentist courtyard" toward the shops and street vendors. You can buy every imaginable item from medicine to movies on DVD that haven't been released yet to $2000 cowboy boots. I walked a few blocks down the street to see if anything had changed. There are still lots of street vendors, little kids offering pieces of candy and gum, people selling everything under the sun. I don't like to barter. Doug does that for me. ;-D So without my tall tuff-guy, I was just "looking" today. I prefer the John Wanamaker principle.... You probably know he was the first merchant to put price tags on his goods. Up until that time, each person got charged whatever the merchant guessed the buyer could afford. John Wanamaker didn't think that to be right and he priced his goods with a price tag which was the same for everyone.
We didn't do any shopping today but we will do some when Doug goes back two weeks to have the temporary crown changed to the permanent one. May you all have a Christmas filled with the love and joy of our risen Savior.... "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:11

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our Christmas Tree

We decorated our tree inside today and wrapped presents. Oma, notice the ornaments hanging from the cupboards.... One is Mt. Vernon that you got us last year on our trip with you and two are the angels you sent us. Others are decorated catcus (our theme for this year) and Texas-related items.

A different view.... Notice my dulcimer finally found a place to hang when we are parked. I just found a large group of other dulcimer players here – several which are just new players. Hopefully I can get some help and learn better than I have been.

Decorated RVs in our resort

We're having a contest for decorations in our RV Resort. We elected to do a combination of day and night decorations.
We got a bunch of live poinsettias (see below for the legend) to put in decorative planters in front with a white lit garland at their base. We have 15" snowflakes hanging in our tree lit at night with some white rope lights. On our front windshield we have a manger scene that is lit at night by a light - unfortunately it just shows as the white shade in the photos. We have a little Christmas tree sitting on our patio table which you can't see in these photos.

Here are various other RVs decorated in our park. Clicking on each photo to enlarge the photo might help to see them.

Here is how we came to have the Poinsettia:

It was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett (1825-1829) who promoted them best and made the plant popular. Some believe Poinsett found the plants growing on a hillside near Taxco, Mexico, in 1823, and others say he first saw them adorning the churches of Taxco. Wherever they were discovered, Poinsett realized a gem, and introduced them to the United States around 1825 to 1828.

Poinsett, an enthusiastic botanist, brought the plant to his home in South Carolina. There he not only propagated the poinsettia in his greenhouse for family and friends and community, he sent the plants to different botanical gardens around the world. While Poinsett was not considered a great ambassador, his promotion of the poinsettia was definitely his greatest achievement.

The first Poinsettias were sold in the United States about 1850. Today there are over 50 million sold each year. While the common red is most popular, there are actually over 100 varieties in many colors.

This is the Legend of the Poinsettia
( Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night)

A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

"I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes," said Pedro consolingly.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro's kind words: "Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.

Today, the common name for this plant is the poinsettia!