Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in the Valley, Meeting Goals & Having Fun

Hi all, Dianne here.  We've been back in the Rio Grande Valley for a week now.  First goal was to finally get some extra planting areas started, so that we could get lemon tree into its permanent spot.  Roger is very happy that we won't be lugging lemon tree all around the country in the RV for another year. 

Look how healthy it looks!  It obviously likes it here in Texas.  (As I always tell people, "I knew it when it was a seed.")

As soon as the guys finished our planting areas and rearranged the drip irrigation system, Roger and I made a trip back to Home Depot to find some Texas-style plants and some fun-looking cactus. 

The Retama landscaping crew planted my lemon tree and a prickly pear cactus for us, and we tried to plant the rest.  The reason I say we tried is that we had never experienced hardpan  Texas dirt before.  It's like concrete!  

I wish we had a video of Roger and I planting this false saguaro (without gloves) by deftly using the plastic flower pots to maneuver them.  It was definitely a comedy routine in the making.   We finally resorted to propping them up with rocks.  

In the area where we will try planting purple coneflowers and black-eyed susans next fall, we spent $1.50 each for our very own little Texas bluebonnets to surround our anacua tree.  We also moved our birdbath to the area for our resident gang of mockingbirds.

I apologize for boring my readers with photos of our new plant specimens, but because we use this blog as a virtual scrapbook for ourselves, I want to see how they grow while we're gone, and if they'll survive the brutal summer.  Lucky for lemon tree, it now has a drip irrigation ring surrounding it.

One more photo, just to show how pretty our front area looks right now.  The rose bushes are covered with blooms, and the purple verbena is creeping far beyond its boundary.

Our second goal was to get back into an exercise routine.  What we've discovered works best for us is for me to head out early for an 8-mile bike ride  around the state park next door.  The heat of the day arrives early now, so beating the heat is my obvious goal.  Yesterday a roadrunner ran across the road right in front of me, and today I saw a number of hawks.  

Roger varies his exercise routine between the weight/exercise room, an 8-mile bike ride, and swimming laps.  On his bike ride the other day, he saw a bobcat!

Having fun has always been our goal.  We certainly met that goal by attending a "tail-light party" at the Retama clubhouse Thursday evening with Bob and Linda.  This was the final party of the season before the tail lights come on and folks head their RVs north.   Bob and Linda each wrote a much better description of this party in their respective blogs (Because-we-can and Because-we-can II), so I won't try to compete with their clever prose.  If you're interested, scroll down to their prior party blog.  They even have a photo of Roger and Bob performing the YMCA song with a bunch of guys.

Here are some brief descriptive words and photos of the evening:  lasagna, wine, good friends, jello shots, karaoke, conga line, and man-in-the-pool.  Who says a 55+ community would be boring??

 Spring came and went, and now it reaches the 90s most afternoons here in Mission.  

Remember as a kid the free feeling of riding your bike to the local swimming pool to hang out with your friends?  Roger and I are discovering that it's just as much fun in your 60s.  The guys bob around and talk about sports, and the women bob around and talk about much loftier topics.

The pet photo of the day shows our handsome boy posing with his spiffy new name tag.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Texas BBQ + Kayaking on the Guadalupe River

Hi all, Dianne here.  Our final two days in the Texas Hill Country with Chuck & Cindy included a trip to Llano for some authentic, old-time Texas BBQ at Cooper's, driving the scenic Willow City Loop, and an afternoon spent kayaking on the Guadalupe River.

First was the kayaking expedition:  When Cindy made our reservations at Guadalupe River RV Resort, we reserved sites on the river, thinking we could launch our kayaks right from our RV sites.  When we realized that the water was only ankle deep there at the campground, we knew that wasn't gonna happen. 

 The helpful desk clerk at the campground gave Roger and Chuck some alternate ideas, so we checked them out.  Our best bet seemed to be a short drive to Louise Hays Park.  On Thursday we loaded our gear into Chuck's truck and headed off.

Cindy and I got a shot of each other taking each other's picture, then we headed upstream.  The current was gentle and the wind was behind our backs, so it was an easy paddle.  

The water was clear and clean.  We saw a zillion turtles (well, maybe not a ZILLION, but more turtles than we'd ever seen at any one time.)

This fine specimen stayed put long enough for us to get his photo:  
We didn't just see dozens of turtles on every available log, but saw lots of little turtle heads peeking above the water line as we paddled along.  It was yet another beautiful day in Texas!
On Friday, our last day together, we took a short road trip to Llano to give Chuck & Cindy the Cooper's Authentic Texas BBQ experience.  Roger and I ate here in December of 2009 and vowed to come back.  

As we pulled into our parking space, we could see the people lined up out front, awaiting their turn at the pit selection.

When our turn came, we had the opportunity to choose from brisket, pork, chicken, sirloin, sausage, and ribs.  As we made our (multiple) choices, each was dipped into the vat of sauce and placed onto a red plastic tray.  Each couple had a tray of meat choices.  

We then proceeded inside to the weigh station, where our choices were weighed, wrapped in butcher paper, and prices marked.  We chose sides at that station: cole slaw, potato salad, and different kinds of their famous cobbler.  (I chose blackberry; Cindy and Chuck shared a peach cobbler.  I was not willing to share mine!)  

After we paid at the register, we went to the "bean and sauce" station for some spicy beans, extra BBQ sauce, and silverware.  

Then we took our places at the long picnic tables, unwrapped our butcher paper and dug in!  The photo on the wall directly above my head shows an autographed photo montage of George W. Bush chowing down at Cooper's in 1998.  Other celebrity photos adorned the wall; Jewel and Texas Governer Perry among others.

One parting shot shows one of the huge covered, smoky pits where the meat is actually cooked.

On the way home from Llano, we sidetracked off onto the Willow City Loop.  This is a scenic drive that winds through private ranches and is known for its beautiful wildflowers in the spring.  Unfortunately, we were a couple of weeks too early for the wildflowers this time.  We did see some contented cattle.  

The scenery was typical Texas Hill Country.

Roger and I drove back to Mission on Saturday morning, and Chuck and Cindy headed north, back to Indiana.  We'll meet up this summer in Traverse City, Michigan for more good times.

It's a little more than a five-hour drive to Mission from Kerrville in a motor home.  (Told you Texas was HUGE; I always thought of the San Antonio area as being South Texas.  Hard to imagine that it's a five-hour drive south from there to Mission!)

As soon as we got just a little bit south of San Antonio, there were wildflowers blooming everywhere.  We stopped at a picnic pull-off for lunch, and I took some photos for my spring-starved friends up north:

Here's the famous Texas bluebonnet: 

 I can't identify these others for you,  but they sure are "purty."

The pet photo of the day shows Bandido snuggling up to Charlie's cat carrier as we drove south from Kerrville back to Mission.  This was Bandido's first motorhome trip, and we were anxious to see how he'd travel.  Jasper used to just climb onto the couch or chair and sleep the whole way (unless he was trying to steal our snacks).  Chaplin gets scared and has to ride in a crate so that he feels more "secure."  Bandido proved to be a good little traveler, sleeping most of the time, sitting on my lap part of the time, and -- as shown in this photo -- snuggling up to his pal, Charlie.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fredericksburg, Texas

Roger here....   Right now,we are safely tucked back in our site at Retama Village, but we still need to update our last few days with Chuck and Cindy in the Texas Hill Country.

We had a great day in Fredericksburg.  We started just outside of town by visiting the Circle E Candle store.  Our friend, Linda, recommended that we check out the candles, whose scent never fades.  She was right about that.  The instant we entered the store it was like getting slapped in the face with all the blended aromas.  Dianne picked out several "seconds" to put in a stone candle holder we could never find a place for in our old house.  It looks great in the front window of our new coach house.  She also bought a few candles to put in our other sconces.  I bought one - leather.  Smells just like leather.  Did I mention the strong aroma?  Chuck and Cindy's truck probably still smells like candles.
(If you're in the hill country, don't miss the candle store -- it's a wonderland! -- D.)

Our next stop was  Wildseed  Farms, touted as the largest wildflower farm and shop in the country.  (Of course it is the largest, it's in Texas).  We spent an hour looking at the wildflower possibilities for our coach house as well as picking up some cool landscaping ideas for a cactus garden.  I guess that we still have the gardening and landscaping bug. After we talk to Victor, the landscaper at Retama, we plan a return visit in late April when our daughters and granddaughter visit.

Next stop, the old German streets of Fredericksburg.  As Cindy says, "This is a hoppin' place."  Lots and lots of shops, restaurants, and happy people.  (Sorry for the old photo [with Christmas decorations] from last year.)

Since it was late afternoon and we were famished, our first stop was Auslander's, a German restaurant with an outdoor seating area.  This place often has live music, but not that day.  However, the authentic German food more than made up for the lack of tunes. 

 I had the Jagerschnitzel in a red wine sauce with sauerkraut and potato pancakes -- so good. 

 Dianne had a braut (mild white sausage) sandwich with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard).

Chuck and I ordered a couple of Spotzel beers.  
The large size was a little larger than we anticipated.  (Should have known, because we are in Texas).  

After lunch, we walked the streets - partially to get rid of all the calories (no supper tonight) and partially to diminish the effects of the giant beers. 

 Dianne had been looking for a Texas t-shirt.  She now has one. 
(You can tell the male half of this team took the photo; I would have smoothed out the wrinkles! --  D.)

 I bought a pink cowboy hat to give to our granddaughter when she visits next month from Florida. 

 (The plan is to present her with the pink cowgirl hat at the airport and get a photo of her rolling her eyes -- D.)

The pet picture of the day shows Charlie pounding on the bathroom door while Bandido patiently waits for Dianne to emerge.  (Remember when your kids were little and there was never a trip to the bathroom without a little voice calling "Mommy"?  I'm re-living it now with my cat; this is just one of his little eccentricities -- D.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tasteful Texas v. Tacky Texas -- Love them both!!

Hi all -- Dianne here, with another short blog entry.  Our busy week in the Texas Hill Country with Chuck & Cindy continued with a trip back to our favorite winery and a return visit to Luckenbach.  More on Luckenbach later.  

Our first stop was to the Grape Creek Vineyard for a wine tasting.  Roger and I visited here the day after Christmas in 2009 and saved the label from our wine bottle, we liked it so much.

We enjoyed the wines here again just as much, and ended up buying six bottles; five to take home, and one to enjoy on the patio with Chuck & Cindy. 

We were at the winery on a Sunday, and there was live music out on the patio.  Good wine + good friends -- it doesn't get much better than that.  -- Well, unless maybe it's good beer + good friends in Luckenbach!

From the winery we found the country road leading to the famous (from Willie Nelson's song) Luckenbach.  We felt Chuck & Cindy should experience some "real" Texas.  We were told to go there on a Saturday or Sunday when the bikers were there, for a better music experience.  

We weren't disappointed -- lots of bikers, kids climbing trees, people with dogs, regular people drinking beer, eating hot dogs, and listening to some really good live country music from the bandstand.

I asked the owner of the longhorn steer in the top photo if he is there every weekend (thinking we'd bring our girls here the end of April for a photo shoot), and he said, "We live here!"  (Luckenbach has a population of 3 -- wonder if the steer counts as 1 of the 3???)  This is the same longhorn steer I posed on for a photo in 2009 (see our 2009 Luckenbach posting).  His owner rides him like a horse in parades, too! (I've seen pictures -- recognize him, Linda??)

The resident roosters strutting around add to the ambience of the "town."  

The doggie photo of the day is a shot of Sophie and Bandido napping together. 

 This is a rare shot indeed -- normally these two are in  a constant wrestling match.  They will really miss each other when Sophie heads back to Indiana Saturday!