Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Catch Up post #3 --- Family Time in Austin

Atul and Robyn

Robyn and Dianne

Texas State Capitol in the Midst of Austin as viewed from the UT Tower

Roger here....  Leaving all the sadness and anger behind, Dianne and I drove to Austin where we spent a long weekend with our daughter, Robyn, and her husband, Atul.  They flew in from L.A. We picked them up at the airport.

Our rooms were at an Embassy Suites.  Swans greeted us every time we entered or departed the hotel.

The view outside our room door was of the lobby below.

Atul was a student at the University of Texas so he was able to re-live some of his college memories.  He was destined to be the tour guide for our visit.  

During the first day we walked along the river and...

.... admired some of the street art.

The view of the tower at the University of Texas was a good preview of things to come.

We ate dinner that night at a family-owned brew pub. It was open when Atul was in Austin, but was absorbed into a larger brewery.  Very recently, it re-opened under family control.  


During our stay, we visited the University of Texas several times.  

Atul led us all over the 


He took us to the Harry Ransom Center where we saw one of only 48 surviving Gutenberg Bibles.  Oh wow, history!

Atul was a student tour guide, back in the day.  A special highlight was a guided tour to the top of the tower.  The tower, which was originally the campus library, had not been open for visitors for many years, so this was something new for Atul.

During my younger days, the University of Texas football team was virtually unbeatable.  They were never expected to lose a game under the leadership of head coach Daryl Royal.  At least that is my recollection.  The picture below depicts Daryl Royal Stadium from the top of the tower.

This is a great picture from the tower of Atul's dorm during his freshman year.  It was actually an entire village unto itself.


One of the things you must always do while in Austin is watch the millions of Mexican Free Tail Bats take their evening flight from underneath the Congress Street Bridge.  However, we must be well-fed to enjoy such a spectacle :-)

Our choice was the Hula Hut.

It is always fun to eat on a pier with water on all sides.  This place is a hoot .... lots of atmosphere.

Bright colors and lights in every direction.

After dinner we walked around the marina to see a view of the restaurant from the water.
Dianne just happened to walk into this picture that I was taking of the marina, making it a usable photo.  Time to move on.  Twilight is in the offing.  We need to drive to the Congress Street Bridge!

After parking, we approached the iconic bridge and this bat statue.  We were a bit early so we ducked into the Yeti store and looked at a variety of expensive items that we would not be purchasing.  

As dusk approached we moseyed (Texas term) on over to the bridge.  There are 3 ways to watch the bats.  We opted to watch from the bridge.  Others waited along the river bank.

For a water view, you could hop on an excursion boat, or paddle a kayak.  The bridge was packed.  The bats did not disappoint. 

The video below does not do it justice, but you can get an idea:

On our way back to the car, Atul mentioned that Robyn wanted ice cream.  I always want ice cream.  So off we went to Amy's, near the UT campus.

As it turns out, Amy's is a popular place, AND it was National Ice Cream Day.  Needless to say, there was a line.  One guy in the line thought he would be getting a free cone. He was not happy.  The ice cream was excellent.  After you choose your flavor, the scoopers pound your selected toppings into the ice cream.  Fun to watch.  Better to eat!

Let it be known that Dianne and I were out on the town after dark!  


If you have ever heard of Stubb's Barbecue Sauce, this is a photo of his restaurant.  It is in the live music part of town.  Atul reserved Sunday Brunch seats for us with live gospel music.  Robyn and Atul have treated us to many experiences that we never imagined that we would get to do in Los Angeles.  Now they did the same thing in Austin.  What fun this was.

Dianne is pouring her selected bloody mary mix  from the "fix your own bloody mary" bar.  Lots of veggies here that count as a salad.

Dianne's healthy choices from the buffet were yummy.  I am ashamed to show you my unhealthy brisket with eggs. (Even worse, I went back for seconds).  We are now buying Stubb's barbecue sauce and frozen foods from our local HEB.

The one thing that made the meal special was the live gospel music.  It was a unique and special experience for us.  


Robyn and Atul had a late afternoon flight, so after we checked out of the hotel, we jumped in the car for some last minute time together. 

Robyn found a place to eat lunch in the eclectic South Congress area.  We re-crossed the bat bridge, and found this nice relaxing place.  Dianne again ordered healthy.

Actually my food approached healthy, as well.  

After lunch we drove back into the city to wander around the historic and so very classy Driskill Hotel.  Endless Texas and national historical events have taken place in this hotel.

Dianne and I used to be addicted to the TV series, Dallas.  We particularly enjoyed the Cattle Baron's Suite.  Was this the location of the Cattle Baron's Ball?  We were not able to find J.R.

It was almost time to say goodbye (until the next time) to Robyn and Atul.  We love them.  We are so very fortunate to have them --- our daughter, our son.

The Happy Newlyweds

For us, the drive to Austin is either a day, or a more relaxed day and a half.  We chose the later option.

Our trip would not have been possible without the support of our neighbors at Retama Village.  When Tequila was ill and at the veterinarian, we cancelled our boarding arrangements for the dogs and assumed that we would not be going to Austin.

After her passing, we hoped to reschedule our trip to Austin, but the boarding facility was then full.  Bandido had no place to stay.  Our neighbors stepped up.  They took turns walking, feeding, and playing with Bandido at our house.  Without their help, we would not have been able to go.  Thanks so much to Bob, Linda, Stuart, Lynn, Don and Sue.  

Thank you dinner at a local steak house

One more "catch up" post to come.


After our return home we discovered that Bandido's Bark Box had been delivered.  The delivery of a Bark Box is a HUGE deal for Bandido.  So much so that any brown box delivery sends him into a frenzy.  The photo below shows him with one of his new toys.

 We will fill y'all in later about
our new little girl, 

Needless to say, we are adjusting extremely well.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

catch up post #2 --- happiness, anger, and a very sad time

These Brahman cattle live directly behind our back yard.

Roger here.... This is the second "catch-up" post since our return to Retama Village in December. 



Dining and bidding on auction items
Quite a bit of our time is dedicated to the rescue dogs at a local no-kill pet shelter.  Every year our neighborhood at Retama Village organizes a fund-raiser for the shelter.  Our neighbors, Stuart and Lynn, coordinated this successful event again this year.

The day after the fundraiser Dianne and I hosted a happy hour for all the Cinderella volunteers....

... and their dogs.

We were so happy that Suzanne, the founder of Cinderella Pet Rescue, was able to attend.  So were the dogs that she rescued that are now living in loving homes.

Pure love on Bandido's face - they both remember and love Suzanne, even years later

State of the Art McAllen Convention Center
During the McAllen Home and Patio Show at the McAllen Convention Center, Dianne and I helped with a Cinderella booth inside, as well as an adoption event outside.

Roger and our friend Sharon

A very generous friend of Cinderella donated this bus to the organization to facilitate events such as this.

High School volunteers helped walk the dogs throughout the day.
Many dogs, like this cutie, now have full-time homes due to the efforts of this volunteer-run organization.

To learn more about Cinderella Pet Rescue and see the sweet pups currently available, click on the link.  --

Dianne and I normally walk the dogs twice a week.  It can be a dirty operation :-)

After some big dog lovin' from Sebastian (since adopted)

Note the old clothes and even older, muddy shoes!
Here is Dianne, ready to go!  Two hours later she is just as happy, but not quite as perky.

Dog walkers during the summers are rare, but our friend, Lynn, is almost always with us.  

Most of the dogs are easy to walk.  Chicory here, gets sooooo excited to see us, that a second harness makes things easier for both human and dog.

Walking these dogs is good for us, both physically and emotionally.  Worries that sometimes nag at us seem to melt away.  

Dianne here:   Even on mornings when we hate getting out of our lounge chairs and would rather laze around and have another cup of coffee, once we're there it's all good.   They are SO excited to see us.   It's a real ego boost to be the highlight of somebody's day.

This is Takoda.  He is spending his last few weeks at Cinderella.  Our good friend and fellow volunteer, Kathy (and Ken), have adopted Takoda.  They will be bringing him home when they return from Colorado next month.  We brought him to our house for an afternoon and took him over to Kathy and Ken's backyard.  He felt right at home.  Now that the 100-degree afternoons are over, we need to do that again.

Lucky Takoda

Here are a couple of pictures of Bandido, my buddy, the first dog that we adopted from Cinderella Pet Rescue.  

Handsome Boy!

He loves his toys.

Happiness, then anger...


The Ebony Grove

This is the walkway that leads us from our home in Retama Village to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.  We take this path every week (except during those blisteringly hot summer days).  We hike. We ride our bikes.  We walk the dogs.  We watch the wildlife --- a good place.  It fits our lifestyle.  It is one of the primary reasons that we bought property at Retama Village.

 BUT WE MAY LOSE IT!   If the "wall" is built on the levy, as expected, most of the state park would be inaccessible.  All of the bike paths, bird blinds, the hawk tower, and the hiking trails would be in the "no-mans-land" between the wall and the Rio Grande River.  The ownership of the land would revert back to the Lloyd Bentsen family.  The park would likely close unless a gate is built with guarded access.  

Dianne and I have never been protesters, even during the turbulent hippy years of Vietnam.  Dianne was a young Republican and Goldwater Girl!  I was too focused on getting through college and finding a job.  But honestly, for us, this is more than we are willing to tolerate without expressing our views.  It may be a losing cause, but thankfully we still have the right to express our opinion.  So we attended our very first protest rally at the park.  

It was locally covered, but not nationally covered. (not a good sign)  We wrote the obligatory letters to our congressmen and governor. 

 Several people were there, including some of our neighbors.  I wish there had been more.  

Below is a banner of the "official" stop the wall logo.  If we lose Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, much of the luster of what has been an ideal retirement home for us will vanish.

Just an aside...  A few days after the protest, one of our local news stations, Channel 5, sent a reporter and cameraman to cruise our neighborhood asking opinions about the possible closing of the state park.  The found me.  I clearly expressed my opinions.  When we tuned in that evening, I was surprised to see that my opinions were corroborated by the Mayor of Mission, TX.  By the way, Dianne made a non-speaking cameo appearance.  She looked great. 


Sue and Amigo
Our next-door neighbors Don and Sue (and Amigo) took us for a short ride along the levy on their "Honda" one day to see the 900-year-old Montezuma
Cypress Tree.  It is on private property and maintained by the owners.  At one time cypress trees such as this one were prevalent near the river  We were glad to see it while we could.  It will also be on the wrong side of the wall.


No, I am not growing a pony tail, and Dianne has not turned into a "flower child", but it seems that we are in extremely close proximity to another national controversy.  The Border Patrol Detention Center (the one with the children in chain link cages) is only six miles from our house.  We knew that there was a gathering nearby, so at the last minute, we decided to check it out.  The temperatures were over 100 degrees, thus the umbrellas.  There were many people there.

The photo below shows a crowd surrounding Julian Castro as he attempted to deliver hand-written notes and toys to the children who had been separated from their parents.

A local lady gave Dianne a homemade sign to hold.  There were several speeches from notable people, including Julian Castro and many members of Congress who toured the facility.  

I got to shake Julian's  hand.

Julian Castro
For those who know us,  you need to know that we support the Border Patrol.  They are great and do a wonderful job.  We also know that the border needs to be secure, no question.  We respect other points of view and everyone's rights to express them.  We do not think that a wall is a feasible deterrent.  In our opinion it is a politically-motivated expense that will not solve the problem. 

  We know that removing children from their parents is abhorrent.  (Please no hate mail.  We will not respond.)

The media coverage was national and  extensive.  Dianne was able to talk to Mariana Atencio.

BTW... We sadly watched a bus full of children being transported to another facility during the rally.  

Dianne again:  We shouted "We love you" to the children on the bus, and it was heartbreaking to see their little heads and tiny hands waving back to us.   There were several adults in tears after that encounter.

 A few days later there was another rally, just down the road from the detention center.  It occurred on the day that several nation-wide protests took place.  We went.

Dianne made her own sign this time, which landed her face on a variety of media web pages:  Time Magazine, CNN, and Huffington Post.  Yikes!

OK, hmmmm.  It is probably time to move on to more positive things.

Back to happiness...


It is hard to comprehend that it was 50 years ago when I graduated from a small high school in central Indiana.... Pendleton High School, home of the Irish.  I still remember it as an idyllic place.

I flew up for the reunion and stayed with long-time college friends, Jay and Nancy.  They introduced me to Dianne during my college years. We were in each others' weddings back in the summer of 1972.  What do friends our age do when they get together?  We compare blood pressures :-).

The first part of the reunion was held at the town's historical museum in Falls Park.  I used to swim in those falls when it was a public pool.  After the get-together, I walked to town to have lunch with my close colleague from work, Brian.  We were both junior high school principals in a nearby school corporation.  We talked for a couple of hours.  It is so easy to talk with old friends.

Many of the classmates who I really wanted to see were at the reunion.  This is my friend, Greg, and his wife Peg.  We were in each others' weddings.

I did not get a picture of Doug, who I have not seen for 50 years, but he was there.

I was so afraid that Dan and his wife, Pam, might not be there, but they were.  We had a special bond.  I spent most of the evening catching up with Dan.

No class reunion from Pendleton High School Class of '68 would be complete without a picture of our leprechaun mascot, Jeff.  


There is really nothing to describe here, but at least for me, it is fun enjoying pictures from our back yard in this semi-tropical setting.  Dianne and I spend hours back here, reading and enjoying the tranquility.

Amaryllis grow in the ground down here as perennials!

"Firecracker" bush - hummingbirds love it

Jasmine Vine on our pergola - heavenly smell


This is so unimaginably difficult to write.  In July we lost Tequila.  Bandido has always been my buddy, but in reality Tequila has been the heart of our Texas and traveling family.  She was so affectionate, not only to us, but to everyone.  She was a French kisser, who frequently caught people off guard.  She was so very, very funny.  One of her favorite antics was to lie down on her back in the middle of the street and wiggle.  She would not get up until she was finished.  She loved to egg on Bandido ---  stealing his toys from out of his mouth, then galloping away --- her favorite thing.

She was only six years old.  She seemed so healthy, and then she stopped eating.  When we took her to the vet, we were shocked to hear that her kidneys had failed and there was nothing to be done.  :-(         We still miss her so much.

Here are a few of the pictures of our girl from her last months with us.  

When I took this picture of her reflection in a window, I had no idea that she was fading away.

Our next-door neighbor, Sue, paints and hides friendship rocks.  They are all over Retama Village.  She gave us this one the week that Tequila passed.

Goodbye sweet girl.