Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Family Fun in the Texas Hill Country

Hi all -- Dianne here.  We had a great time in the Texas Hill Country and San Antonio with our daughters and granddaughter last weekend.  As you can see, we took the girls to Luckenbach for a photo shoot with my favorite longhorn steer.

Both flights arrived at the San Antonio airport right on time, and after stopping by the Guadalupe River RV Resort in Kerrville to give the dogs a quick walk, we drove on to the Grape Creek Winery (our favorite), outside of Fredericksburg.  

Amanda and Robyn enjoyed a wine tasting inside, while Roger and I enjoyed a glass of wine outside with Kaia (she had Coke), listening to the live music.  Kaia amused herself by taking silly photos with her mom's iPhone.  She took this one of me:

When Robyn and Amanda finished their wine tasting, they joined us for a glass of wine outside. 

 Lots of silliness ensued when I tried and tried to get a photo of Robyn.  At the last minute each time I tried, she'd make this face:
Of course, I was laughing hysterically by then:
When we left the winery, we stopped in
 Fredericksburg for dinner and a little shopping. 

Easter Sunday our choices were slim, as most places were closed.  Luckily, Luckenbach had music scheduled for Easter afternoon, so off we went.

Robyn, of course, mugged for the camera when it was her turn to pose on the steer.  

We enjoyed some Shiner beer and live music.  I managed to get a short video of the longhorn steer being ridden to work at the photo area:

Monday meant a return flight to Los Angeles for Robyn, which also meant a return trip to San Antonio. We walked up and down the Riverwalk and stopped for margaritas (Coke for Kaia) and appetizers at the "Republic of Texas" cafe.

This photo of my three pretty girls requires a bit of explanation. You'll notice a yellow arm in the left side of the photo. This photo of Roger was so bad that all four of us females laughed hysterically to the point that he insisted I crop him out of the picture. It's a shame, because I know all of you would have enjoyed a laugh, too! 

Another laugh that we all enjoyed is just out of range of this photo, down at Mandy's behind. A pair of mallard ducks were lurking around, looking for a handout. When none were forthcoming, the female mallard (instinctively knowing the person in our family most likely to give a handout) kept pecking at Mandy's bottom! Lots of laughs and a good time on the Riverwalk.

Robyn modeled a silly hat she saw at one of the tourist shops. By now I'm sure my cousins who read this blog have decided she is her mother's girl, after remembering my photo exploits in younger days.

One highlight of the day was the "Bird Man" who approached Amanda with his birds. It was dad's money well spent to get this photo:

Here's another pretty girl, our grandaughter, Kaia, posing with her new purse and headband that her PopPop bought for her in Fredericksburg at the "Sassy Lassie" boutique.

The pet photo of the day shows Bandido cuddling with Kaia on her bed in our motor home. I wasn't sure how their meeting would go, because Jasper's death hit Kaia really hard. She had grown up with Jasper, after all, spending every day with him at our house from age 2 to age 10. I couldn't interest her in Bandido over the phone, but it didn't take long for the puppy energy to steal her heart when they finally met.

Amanda and Kaia drove to Mission with us and will spend the next few days here, flying home to Florida from McAllen on Saturday morning. Kaia has expressed an interest in writing another "guest blog," so check back soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting Ready for Family Fun

Hi all -- Dianne here. You may have noticed a new look for our blog. You may have also noticed that we are still calling it "Travel with Whippets," even though that title is no longer correct in the literal sense. Jasper has been gone for three months now, and I felt it was time for the blog to allow for that change and add Bandido into the mix.

As for Bandido, he is one smart little doggie! He does the agility course with ease now, even without treats. He has learned how to use the lever door handle of the coach house to open the door to come out whenever he wants (not a good thing!).

The most amazing thing so far: The other day Roger asked him if he needed to take a walk. He walked over to where the leashes were hanging, picked out his leash (not Chaplin's), and brought it to Roger in his mouth! I've only seen dogs do that in TV commercials. We did not train him to do that; he figured it out on his own (just like the door handle!) Jasper left a big hole in our lives, but Bandido has worked his way into it and into our hearts.

The spring migration is in full force here in the Rio Grand Valley. I finally got a photo of one of the many scissor-tailed flycatchers here.

Today I took this photo of a golden-fronted woodpecker eating one of my oranges. The color dot behind his head is almost neon orange!

Our neighbor took this photo from his back yard yesterday of a funnel (or "kettle") of migrating hawks flying right above our coach houses. Can you imagine over a hundred hawks in one view?

For the most part when we're not cleaning and/or organizing, we've just been enjoying the sights here at Retama. I finally got a close-up photo of a Texas bug that I've been unable to identify. Any idea what he is? He's about the size of a sweat bee, but he doesn't bite. I couldn't find him in my Texas Bug Book.

We have organized all the storage inside and out of the motor home, and are in the final preparations for hitting the road for a short trip next week. We have reservations back in the Texas Hill Country for a few days. We will fly both daughters and our grandaughter in for some family fun. After a few days together in the hill country, Robyn has commitments which force her to fly back to L.A. from San Antonio. Amanda and Kaia will ride south with us in the motor home and visit our new digs for a few days before they, too, fly home (from McAllen).

Since we have already covered the dogs, birds, and bugs, I'll borrow the neighboring cattle for our "pet" photo of the day. Today they were running full tilt back and forth across the field, evidently just for the fun of it, but they stopped long enough for a good photo next to the dog park.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Cleaning & Cow Time at the Doggie Corral

Hi all, Dianne here.  Roger and I are making preparations to head north next month.  Roger's main task has been to plan the route and get reservations.    We're all set and ready in that regard.  Next task is to clean, organize, and make the motor home ready for traveling again.  

Last October, while we were in Coarsegold, CA for a month, we started the arduous task of removing the Diamond Shield film from the front of our motor home.  It served its purpose by protecting the paint on the front of our motor home all these years, but had discolored and was really starting to look bad. 

 We spent weeks painstakingly peeling it off, but did not have time to finish.  The adhesive under the film required special remover and was a terrible mess to remove.  Finally, six months later, we had time to finish the job.

Our goal in finally finishing this project was to then hire one of the local wash and wax crews to give our motor home a good cleaning after sitting for four months in the Texas dusty wind.  

 We hired a crew that had been recommended to us, and they did a great job washing and waxing our 36-foot motor home, all for $110!!  You won't see that price anywhere up north.

We were thrilled with the results!

Now that the outside looks better than ever, we're starting on the inside.  I have carpet cleaners scheduled for next Tuesday.  We're also going through every nook and cranny to remove anything from the motor home that we haven't used in a year.  All that stuff that we brought along just in case is outta here, if we haven't used it yet.

A side note:  Roger just returned from swimming laps and wanted it documented that he swam a mile today in the lap pool.  We're still exercising; I did my bike ride this morning, too.  Strong winds made for a strenuous ride.  

We also took both dogs in for vaccine updates in readiness for hitting the road.  Chaplin has been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma skin cancer.  We had some bad places removed a month ago, and there was one that was missed that started to grow.  Not wanting to deal with that on the road, we took Chaplin back to have several more spots removed.  We are crossing our fingers that this takes care of it for a while.  At least he'll be able to head north and hike with us this summer.  The cancer has not spread internally, so he feels just fine right now.
It's unfortunate that he's recuperating with stitches and can't run, because there are two new whippets in the neighborhood!  Bandido was able to run and play with one of the whippets at the dog park yesterday.  

Today Bandido had a "play date" with Dolly, one of the only pals he has left (all others have headed north already).  The cattle at the farm next to the dog park came over to the fence and were really interested in Dolly and Bandido.  At first Bandido, my Australian cattle dog, acted afraid of the cows, but instinct finally kicked in and he had fun running in circles in front of them.

The pet photo of the day isn't even our pet.  Had I been just a bit faster with my camera, I would have had a great photo of this cow licking Dolly on the nose!

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Retama Fun and Future Travels

Hi all -- Dianne here.  Not much to write about, so I'll try to be brief.

Most mornings we still do our separate exercise routines.  As our friends/readers Bill and Nancy reminded us, good health is what makes all the rest possible.  That is so true; it's good to be reminded of that now and then.  

While riding through the state park the other morning, I stopped at the hawk tower and joined some serious birders at the top with my binoculars. April is hawk migration time through the Rio Grande Valley, and the official count while I was there was 161 hawks in a "kettle" (new term for me) circling on the updrafts.  It was amazing to see that many hawks all at once.

The acacia, Mexican olive, and retama trees are in full bloom right now.  Our development, Retama Village, is of course named for these beautiful trees.  The photo would have been even prettier with a bright blue sky backdrop; however, I plan my morning bike rides while the cloud cover remains.  As soon as the morning clouds dissipate, the blazing sun immediately makes the temperature soar!

We have a pretty little Mexican olive tree in our backyard which is blooming right now.  Here's a photo of a more mature Mexican olive tree at the state park. 

 Here's a close-up of the beautiful white flowers that fall to the ground and give an impression of snow.  I hope this is as close to "snow" as I ever get.

I also finally got a photo of one of the the resident roadrunners at the state park.  The second photo doesn't show his topknot as well, but it's a clearer photo.  I also saw my first bobcat this same morning.  He was starting to cross the road in front of me, but quickly "turned tail" back into the brush.  I got a good look at his bob tail, but no photo.

I finally stopped to read the historical markers inside the state park. 

A second marker gave additional interesting information about the history of this area.  We know there are still Zamoras living in this area.

Here's a shot of the bike trail as it looks in front of the Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort and also leading up to the Retama Village entrance.  There are miles and miles of bike trails down here.  This particular bike trail continues for five miles, between the state park and Conway Street.

We met some friends at the club house to watch the Butler final four game on the big screen TV.  Go Dawgs!  We plan to reconvene this evening to watch the final game.

What might seem exciting to some has become a common occurrence down here, the presence of the border patrol cars and helicopter. 

 Here's a shot of the helicopter right over our pergola.  We quipped that a good way for the illegals to blend in and get past the border patrol would be for them to  congregate outside with a glass of wine and watch the helicopter fly over!  If you've seen the program "Border Wars" on the National Geographic channel, you know that it's no joke and that the border patrol is very, very busy down here.   They work hard to keep this area safe and we appreciate all that they do.

The only major excitement this past week was the finish of our friends Bob & Linda's coach house next door.   (Roger here....  Actually, I think that Butler winning the first final-four game and making it to the national championship game was also kind of exciting!)  Since we were in Indiana while our coach house was constructed, we enjoyed watching the process as theirs was completed. 

 Here's what the drip irrigation system looks like under the sod and planting areas.

I happened to have my camera handy when our new neighbors "moved in."  I've seen photos of this motorhome for the past five years, and now it's parked right next door!

Our end of Mallard Drive looks complete now.   Looks like a matched set, right down to the Motosats on the roof!

Last evening we inaugurated their RV pad with Bob's delicious strawberry margaritas, Linda's gin and tonic jello shots, and some of our Grape Creek wine.  I have to admit that I wasn't feeling so good this morning!  We enjoyed a delicious meal and talked into the evening.  Just a taste of good times ahead!

I sent Roger back to our place for a second bottle of wine, and he came back mugging like a wine sommelier!  Linda captured it on film and e-mailed me the photo, so I'm adding it here.

Roger has been busy spending his days planning our summer travels.  If you can hang in there for a few more weeks, we'll get back to writing about our travels. This summer our plans include Big Bend national park, Custer State park in South Dakota, travels across Highway 2 in northern Minnesota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Stay tuned!!

For the pet "fix" of the day, here's a very amateur video of Bandido and Charlie the cat:

Go Butler!