Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Brownsville Texas to Buffalo NY - Thanksgiving

November 26 - 28, 2013 
Tuesday morning the 26th we were up at 2:30 am so we could catch the hotel shuttle for the 15 minute ride to the airport.  Our flight departure was at 5:15 am so we were trying to get there at least an hour before the flight.  I had only been on a plane in this airport as a stopover so neither of us knew how really small it is.  

When we arrived at the airport at 3:45 am it was closed.  We could get in to the public area but security and the gates were closed!  We had the option of taking the later shuttle at 4:30 am and arriving at 4:45 am which would have been more than adequate time.   The distance from the airport entrance to the gate is maybe 150 feet! We could literally see the airport entrance from our gate.  We could have arrived at 5 am for our flight at 5:15 am.

The flight left on time and we arrived in Houston TX a little after 6 am.  Our flight to Indianapolis IN was at 7:29 am so we had over an hour to get to the gate.  The Houston airport is much bigger than Brownsville airport.  We needed to take the shuttle train between terminals but we still made it with more than a half hour before the flight.  With the spare time we had I went and got coffee and a cookie for the flight.

Both of our flights today were on the dreaded (for me anyway) RJ (Regional Jets) planes.  I am very claustrophobic so I really am very much on edge in these tight planes.  I always try to get a seat as near the front as possible. The RJ out of Brownsville was the smaller of the RJs with the 1x2 seating. From the back of this plane you can’t even see the front due to the people taking up all of the space.  I managed to get us in the first 2 seats on this plane and I was still just a little panicky, especially if the plane stops moving.  The plane from Houston to Indianapolis was the larger RJ with a first class section and 2x2 seating.  I am fine a plane this size.  On our return flight after Christmas we are on the small RJ for 2.5 hours all of the way from Indianapolis to Houston.  We are again in the first 2 seats on the plane and I have 33 days until then; just not going to think about it!

We left about 10 minutes late from Houston because the plane needed fuel.  One would think that they would have taken care of that before it was time to leave, but what do I know.  However, we did arrive just a couple of minutes late in Indianapolis which was OK by us as were done flying for the day.  Now were getting a rental car for the next 33 days and driving to Buffalo for the first leg of the trip.

We got the rental car and started out on the 500 mile trip to Buffalo.  We decided that we would drive until either the weather turned bad or it starts to get dark.  We were hoping for 300 miles before we stopped for the night and that’s what we got.  As we traveled further north east past Columbus OH it started snowing pretty good.  By the time we got to the Dayton area it was getting dark at 4:30 pm with a decent amount of snow and the temperature was below freezing. It was officially time to get off the road! We had also just hit the 300 mile mark leaving us just 200 miles Wednesday. We still were not sure what the weather would be like going into Buffalo tomorrow so now with just 200 miles to go we could take our time traveling. 

We got up and were ready to start out around 10 am on Wednesday the 27th.  We went across the street to have breakfast at Bob Evans first.  We also found out that the weather warning was canceled for the Buffalo area so we were going to have an easy 3 hour drive.  We had breakfast and were on the road by 11 am which would put us in Cheektowaga (suburb of Buffalo) by 2 pm.  We are staying at Patty’s sister and brother-in-law's house (Cheryl and Joe) for the next 10 days.   

Our rental car at the hotel in Ohio on Wednesday Morning.  Patty had already cleaned off the snow.

 Thanksgiving day we started off with a 3.25 walk around the neighborhood of Cheektowaga.  

On our walk we went through the high school Patty graduated from.

Now, at least we feel better about stuffing ourselves later :)  Cheryl and Joe, as usual, hosted the Thanksgiving meal at their house.  It was a small family group of just Patty’s parents, us and Cheryl’s son Brain.  All together we had 7 family members.  The food was great and everyone was full just like it is supposed be on Thanksgiving.  After dinner and some football we played some LRC (left, right, center dice game) and then watched an old movie, the Cone Heads. Patty and I had never seen the movie; it was good!  

Joe carving the turkey.  Their turkey is always good and they cook it on the grille outside.

Patty's dad relaxing before dinner.

OK, another Thanksgiving come and gone.  By the way, it is really cold up here in Buffalo.  The last 2 days it has not been above freezing.  It’s really not that bad, Patty and I are just having a one month winter and then we are back to the warm south Texas weather.  This is just a little break.
We don’t have any real plans while we are here.  We are just going to go with the flow.

Stay tuned!

Sun Fun, Old Friends. and Heading North for the Holidays

November 21 - 25, 2013 
Thursday and Friday the 21st and 22nd we basically soaked up as much sun as we could.  The temps were in the high 80s both days with on and off clouds.  There were enough clouds to make the heat and humidity tolerable.  Just as you get really hot, a cloud would come over for a little relief.

Then on Friday late afternoon around 3pm the temps fell through the floor.  At 2:30pm the temperature was 88 degrees.  By 3:30pm it had dropped to 68 and by 6pm it was 57!  Friday evening and night we had wind gusts to 35 mph with a sustained wind of 20 mph all with torrential rain. Our area of Harlingen got 5.5 inches of rain by midnight. Patty and I were all snug as bugs in our RV though with just a little rocking from the wind.

Outside our rear window.  Note palm trees bending.  What a difference a couple of hours make.

Saturday the 23rd we met up with old friends of Patty's (Sheila and Savvas) from the Elmira NY area.  They moved down here 18 years ago and Patty had not seen them since.  We met at a Bass Pro shop about 1/2 mile from our site.  This Bass Pro had a restaurant as well as a 20 lane bowling alley.  We were surprised at how big this place was. Sheila and Savvas also brought along their 3 youngest kids; oldest is in college.  We had a great time talking and bowling as well as Patty doing a little catching up.  Neither Patty nor I had bowled in over 10 years so it took a few frames to even hit the pins!
Patty, Gwendolyn, Dimetrias, Savvas, Sheila, Constantine (boy in hiding!!!)

Sunday the 24th it is still cold outside at 45.  We got all of the laundry done and we packed for our trip north starting Monday.  We also went through our winter clothes looking for stuff to get rid of.  We both again piled up a lot of surplus clothes for the charity bin.  I think the amount of winter clothes is about as low as we can go now.  This time we cut right to the bone and got rid of clothes that we really like.  I just had too many things that I really liked and could not wear them all.  It really does feel good to cleanse yourself of "things". You know what you have and so when you get something new you get rid of something you already have. For me, knowing what you have just makes it easier to make that mental connection when I am getting something new now.

Packed! We have warm weather clothes (top of the left suitcase) to stay in our truck for when we return at the end of December.

We have our winter clothes under the bed as well as extra towels and Patty's guitar.  We now after a year and a half have lots of room under the bed.  We really are getting down to being minimalists!!  Love it!!

Monday the 25th we got out of bed at our usual time of 7:00 am.  However, this morning we just spent 45 minutes on-line and then we started the RV closing up routine.  Actually we don’t have a routine for closing up the RV as we have only done this once before, last year.  The big difference with closing up the RV over just closing to move is basically with the refrigerator.  The fridge is going to be turned off so we need to remove all of the leftover food and clean it out.  
Since the temps here are usually hot and humid we need to make sure things are clean and dry to prevent mold and bugs from entering while we are gone.  The other things we do are turning off the propane and disconnecting the house battery.  I also made sure the kitchen vent is closed so insects can’t get in there either.  We did however leave the kitchen ceiling vent open so there is some ventilation in the RV.  We were going to spray insect repellent around the base of the RV but it was so muddy I didn't feel like doing that.  Really hope that wasn't a mistake!

Really do not have much to get rid of in the freezer.  Our neighbor took some stuff.

Rosey is really liking the weather here.  Now she has a babysitter for the next 33 days.

We pulled the RV into the storage space at 11 am then went up to the office and checked out.  We paid our electric bill of $54, returned the gate remote and got back the $40 deposit. That was it, we are on our way!

A very muddy area for the RV.  Hopefully it gets drier before we come back.

We went to a close IHOP for some late breakfast and then headed the 22 miles to the Residence Inn near the airport.  

We are now checked in and have a shuttle reservation to the airport at 3:30am.  Yes that is 3:30AM!  

The Residence Inn has a social hour tonight with free wine and beer and includes food.  So we are in the room with no real reason to leave the grounds until tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow our flight leaves Brownsville at 5:15 am to Indianapolis, Indiana with a connection in Houston Texas.  We arrive in Indiana at 10:48 am.  We pick up a rental car and then head to Buffalo NY for Thanksgiving.  We will spend the night around half way and arrive in Buffalo on Wednesday sometime in the afternoon.

We are not looking forward to the bad weather in the Buffalo area that is being forecast.  There is a weather advisory in effect for Tuesday evening until Wednesday evening for most of northwestern NY with 6-7 inches of snow.  This is the time we will be driving in from the southwest!  The good thing is that we are in no real hurry so we can wait it out if need be; just arrive in time for turkey on Thursday!

I will probably not post a new blog until after Thanksgiving.  

So, everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Hannukah and, stay safe!

Stay tuned!

Golf and Nuevo Progresso, Mexico

November 19 - 20, 2013 
So the rain predicted for Tuesday the 19th didn't happen. This seems to be very typical here in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley).  Since no rain, the Park golf outing went off as planned without fear of the weather. 

We had 23 golfers in the “best ball” golf outing, 5 foursomes and 1 threesome.  The organizer gave out playing cards to each of us and the golfers whose card numbers matched were then teamed up.  This put Patty and I on different teams which was fine with us. I drew the 6 which meant that I was in the threesome.  

The course was fairly short with the longest hole, a par 5, at 450 yards.  We all teed off at 12:30 from the same hole so it took a while for my team to bring up the rear.  It was OK as we only played 9 holes.  The outing was really more of a social event.  The real golf is played on Thursdays.  Anyway, Patty’s and my team tied for first place at +1.  We each received $3.50 for being in the winning teams.  We had a fun time.

The first tee box.  All of the tee boxes are lined with concrete cowboy hats.

After dinner Patty and I went to the hot tub as usual.  Only tonight we had a visitor in the form of a Palmetto bug (Large American roach which can be up to 5 inches long in Texas). I was in the tub and Patty was sitting on the edge when all of a sudden Patty started swatting here back.  She jumped up and there was a roach about 2 inches long.  It kept coming at Patty so we both splashed water at it until it finally got in a crack but still visible.  It just didn’t seem to be afraid of us at all. Well, now we were now done at the hot tub!  We now do not walk anywhere without shoes on in the dark!
For obvious reasons, we are going to put a lot of bug spray around and in the RV while it is stored here!

Wednesday the 20th we went across the border into Mexico to the town of Nuevo Progreso.  There are 2 border crossings near here, the other being Matamoras across from Brownsville.  We were told by numerous people that Matamoras was not safe.  We parked our car just feet from the border and walked across the International Bridge. The border fence actually borders the parking lot.  It cost $2.00 to park all day and it was $.50 to cross the bridge to get into Mexico and $.35 to go back to the US.
Border crossing

Rio Grande River with US on the right and Mexico on the left.  Note the border patrol on the right on the US side.

We were only visiting Mexico to check it out for the day; we were not going to buy anything.  Well, that didn’t work as planned!  We ended up spending all of the cash I had and some on a credit card.  We bought some Christmas gifts, ate lunch, and I got a haircut.  Then we had a couple more drinks when I got a little nervous as we only had $1 in cash left and we needed $.35 each to cross back into the US.  I really don’t like being that low on cash while outside the US.  Of course we made it back to the US and we were back to the RV by 4PM.
Downtown Nuevo Progreso, Mexico

Lunch for 2 with 2 Margaritas each cost $28 total.

Haircut for Mark cost $5 plus a $2 tip.

Gifts (now we have to get it back to Indiana)

We liked the "today and tomorrow only" on the permanent sign.

Gifts being made while we had cocktails.

Interesting drinks!

As we leave across the International bridge this hand with a cap comes out asking for money.

Now for the weird weather here again.  Thursday, tomorrow and Friday the temps are in the high 80s.  Then on Saturday and Sunday the temps are to be a high of 45, about a 45 degree difference!  So coming up north will not be as much of a shock.  We plan to get as much of the sun the next couple of days as we can.  Then for the weekend we will get ourselves packed up and the RV ready for storage on Monday.

Stay Tuned!

Pool, Hot Tub, RV Maintenance, and South Padre Island

November 15 - 18, 2013   

So far the weather here has been all over the place, cloudy/clear, cold/hot, and rain.  This all in the same day! Just in the past few days we have been up to 93 and down to 45.  The cold weather here is called a “Norther”.  The local weatherman said that this happens off and on throughout the winter here.  Anyway, we really like it here in the Rio Grande Valley so far, even with the weird weather.

Sunrise over South Texas and our RV on Friday Morning.

Friday through Sunday the 15th to the 17th we spend a lot of the day at the pool keeping cool as the temperature reached the 90s with around 80% humidity each day.  We are currently in a slowdown time getting ready, slowly, to close up the rig and head up north for the holidays.  This means using up all or most of the food that is perishable.  We actually started this a couple of weeks ago.  We will, in the next few days, go through our cold weather clothes again and get rid of more of those.  I know I have clothes I have not worn in 2 years now so it is time to donate.  So I will pick out my favorite cold weather clothes for a 5 day cycle. Any other stuff I plan to donate.  Anyway, that is the plan!

Temperature at the pool was around 95!

On Sunday I decided to flush out the hot water heater.  I haven’t done this at all since we have owned the RV.  So I used the internet as I do a lot for this sort of stuff to see how you do it and how often I should do it.  I found that I should do it at least every year, but since we are full time maybe every 6 months.  I think I will decide between 6 months and 1 year interval after I see how hard it is to do.

Well, it isn’t hard at all.  It is actually easier than doing it in a house and there isn’t much like that in an RV.  Basically you use common sense.  Remove the power and water supply to the hot water heater and then drain it using a very easy to get to nylon plug.  After draining, replace the plug, turn on the water and supply power, you are done.  It took me about half an hour to flush the tank.  I guess I will be doing this every 6 months since it is so easy. 

Monday the 18th we decided to visit South Padre Island. We had no real plans to see anything specific, just wanted to become familiar with the island.  We left around 10:30 am for the 50 minute, 40 mile trip.  We arrived and headed to the visitor center that is just across the Queen Isabella Causeway.  We picked up some brochures and made a plan to have lunch at one of the local eateries on the water.

At the entrance to Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge at Port Isabel Texas.

Entering the causeway to South Padre island.

Entering South Padre Island.  Note the heavy fog. It looked like some of the building were floating in the fog along the shore.

There is a sandcastle competition every year.  This one is in front of the visitor center on the island.

We picked the Pier 19 restaurant located on the bay side at the south end of the island.  The restaurant also has a fishing boat for hire.  When we arrived a small crowd was watching the latest fishermen with their catch at the pier. We were amazed at the amount and the size of the fish that they caught.  It seems that the local game warden was also amazed at the catch and that was the real draw for the crowd.  We are not sure what exactly the problem with the catch was but it had to do with the fact that one of the stringers didn’t have a tag and nobody including the crew knew who owned the catch.  It was funny listening to the antics of the crew telling the warden that the stringer just appeared on the boat and nobody knows from where.  We never found out if anybody got a citation or not.

Just a little finger pointing with the game warden looking on.

We had a nice lunch of fresh seafood and a couple of drink specials with a view of the bay.  The food was better than most tourist seaside restaurants, but not by much.  The real deal though was the low prices.  We had 2 fish lunches and 2 mixed drinks each for $29 and were on the water.  Actually this has been the best surprise so far with south Texas, it’s low cost for everything.  As an example, the cost of diesel fuel is normally around $3.47 and gas is $2.89. 

After lunch we headed north on the island going to a nature trail near the convention center.  The trail wasn’t much excitement but we did see a lot of birds and fish. We then went across back south and found a free place we could access the Gulf beach.  The beach is white sand that is hard packed like that of Daytona Beach Florida, very easy to walk on.  The water is however, cold at around 70 now.  From what I have read, the water here is warmer than the NJ coast we are used to but not enough to make it swimmable in the winter months.  The temperature gets to around 60 in the winter and low 80s in the summer so they have a longer season than in NJ.  We got our feet wet and took off back to our RV.
Fog and sand blowing across the road.

The South Padre Island Convention Center.

The end of the nature trail.

A look back at the island from the nature trail.

I guess to sum up our first thoughts of South Padre island I would say that it is a very small slice of the A1A South Florida coast.  When I say small I mean about 2 miles of the commercialized part.  The rest seems to be free of anything commercial.  Very laid back.

On our way back to the RV we stopped at a well know tourist place called Bobz World.  I wish we could say more about it but it was closed this week for some sort of work being done inside.  Anyway, you can see from the pictures it is indeed a different sort of place.

Also, we stopped at the main South Texas grocery store here called H.E.B. to pick up some food staples.  So far, we have not been impressed with these stores and have not yet found a better one.  We really haven’t looked for a better one either as we have been trying to using up our on-board food supplies.  We have found that the H.E.B. stores seem old and with the narrow isles not helping much with the crowded feeling.  My impression is that the stores are an American version of a Mexican grocery store.  It is weird as the outside looks new and the inside looks like American stores did 30 years ago.  We miss NJ Shop Rite and FL Publix.

We grilled a steak for dinner and then did our usual with a soak in the hot tub before bed. It was a good day.

Tomorrow we have signed up for a golf outing for people in the park.  The weather is calling for rain but it seems that the weather can’t be predicted here with any real accuracy.  So we shall see what happens with that.  Wednesday we are planning on going to Mexico for the day.  Just go over the border at Progreso Texas and have lunch with a few drinks and just check out the place.  We are planning to visit a few times when we return to Texas at the end of December.  We are thinking of getting new glasses there, maybe!

Stay Tuned!

Moving to Palm Gardens RV Park in Harlingen Texas

November 11- 14, 2013  

Monday the 11th we arrived at the Palm Gardens RV Park in Harlingen TX.  We were told by the managers that this park is the oldest in Harlingen at 88 years.  Really, 88 years old!  

Our site in Harlingen Texas

This park looks like it started as a retirement trailer park, no RVs. At some point the original trailers we taken out, probably due to age, and were replaced by 1960ish manufactured homes that we call park models today.   Now some of these are nearing their end of life and are being removed and mostly RV sites are going in as replacements.  One of the managers told me that current retirees don’t want the new park models as they only have one bedroom.  What they want are double-wide trailers.  The problem is that they can’t fit double-wide’s on most of the old sites as they are too small for the current building codes.  So the solution has been to change the park model sites to RV sites.  I will say that most of these old park models are in pretty good condition, at least from what we can see on the outside. There are also a few new ones here too with large lots.  This is not a park for us to retire to though; it’s just interesting to see the history and to see how it is changing with time.

Typical old park model across the street from us.

The park is 55+ that caters to snowbirds, or Winter Texans as they are called here.  We picked this place for a few reasons; first it is closer to the Brownsville airport, secondly it is close to old friends of Patty’s, and lastly it is cheap.  The park is part of Passport America so the first 7 of our 14 days here is only $112.  The last 7 days is double that but the average cost works out to $24 a day. That is a really good price for a place with a hot tub and a pool that is also convenient to everything.

Ugly water tower in the park.  It looks original.
Nice heated pool and hot tub here in Palm Gardens.

Rolls/VW.  Interesting car here at the Park.

Tuesday the 12th the temperatures were in the 80s with loads of sun.  We went to the Walmart to pick up a few things and Patty got a haircut.   We also went to a Mall across the street to get my watch battery replaced.  This is a watch I really like but it stopped working over a year ago. After the battery was replaced it stopped working again.  I guess it is not the battery.  I am going to go to a watch repair place next.

We bought a pair of jack stands for use under the RV steps.  We saw this at another park.  It really makes the steps much sturdier solid.  
After another great Fajita dinner we went to the hot tub to relax before bed time.  We met 2 couples from Alberta Canada who arrived the day before us.  They are staying until March.  One of the couples has been going to Puerto Vallarta Mexico with their 5th wheel for several years.  OK, WOW!  That’s something we are thinking about for the future.  So we sat in the hot tub while I picked their brains about going there.  First of all, Puerto Vallarta is a long trip of 3 days (1,000 miles) to get there after crossing the border. It is also not cheap anymore at around $700 a month plus electric.  I would rather just be a day from the border, 200 – 300 trip.  This is something we are tossing around for 2015 winter so we still have a lot time to think and plan more.

Wednesday the 13th the temperatures changed big time.  The overnight temp was 55 and the high was 59!  We decided to mostly hang around the RV and stay warm.  We took a walk around the park and talked to the manager about storing the RV here.  They have a place for us at just $25 for the month!  So now we are just paying $25 for the month in storage fees as the truck is free at the hotel.  Also we won’t need a taxi or any fuel to take the RV to a storage place.  It is nice when things fall into place!

Tonight is to be the coldest night of the week at 49.  We brought in Rosey and Patty made a cold weather meal for dinner of beef stroganoff.  Very tasty it was!  

Thursday the 14th the temps got near 70 by mid-afternoon. However, in the afternoon we had intermittent rain showers. All in all it was a decent cloudy day, just not a day to do much outside.

My main task for the day was to check the electrical and plumbing inside the RV under the bathroom. There is no issue, I am just being cautious.  We have now bounced the RV around for about 14,000 miles and I just want to make sure that there isn't something that has come loose or needing attention.

To gain access to most of the wiring and plumbing I needed to remove a 2 section wall in the basement area of the RV. Before I could do that I needed to clear out our stuff stored there. We really do have a pretty good system of storage now so it only took about 5 minutes to unload the basement. Then it took another 10 minutes to unfasten the 2 wall section and push them out of the way.  Now most of the wiring and plumbing is exposed.

I first checked the electrical connections on my power management system. The wiring in these RVs are single strand and, coupled with screw type connectors, can loosen even in a house environment.  Next I looked for any areas that showed signs of being wet that would suggest a water leak. I didn't find any major leaks but I did find a very small leak on the back of the hot water bypass valve.  It looks like a crimp was put on a little off center and is allowing a little moisture to pass.  The leak is so small that I decided to not do anything with it right now.  The floor under it is not even wet.  It looks like a drip forms every 30-40 minutes.  I will fix it though when I get a small hose clamp in the future. Anyway, everything looked real good, just about the same as it did when it was new.

After the RV inspection Patty and I went for walk around the park.  We decided to have beef baby back ribs for dinner and cook them in the convection oven.  I have not done this before so we will have a learning experience.  So while we were walking the ribs were baking at 250 degrees for 2 hours.  When we got back we put the ribs on for another 45 minutes at 325 degrees.   I didn't use BBQ sauce, I used a dry rub.  They came out good but not excellent   Next time I want to try this method with short ribs instead of the baby backs and use BBQ sauce.  I also think I will adjust the temperatures and timing a bit.

Tomorrow it goes back to the temperatures we like, 80s in the daytime with 60s at night.  We are going to a watch repair place and to the post office for our mail tomorrow.  We will also use the nice pool here too.  We are hoping that Patty's renewed passport arrives with the mail so we can plan a trip to Mexico next week before we go up north for the holidays.

There are many fruit trees in the park.

We picked a couple grapefruit and ate one. 

Stay tuned!