Connie, Tammy and the Kids Last Days of Vacation…….Part 4

Now that Tina and the kids had left, things quieted down a bit.  I took a day to take Connie site seeing and shopping.  Our first stop was the Museum of Arts and Heritage.  It contains the actual house belonging to the founder of Harlingen, Lon C Hill.  Also their was the first Hospital of Harlingen and the Stage Coach Stop that was moved in from several miles out in the country.  Then on to the Iwo Jima Memorial.20190418_1158548738467382576573432.jpg

This is such an impressive site to see.  It is the original first sculpture.  It is the clay cast that was made to mold the bronze Memorial in Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC.  It was a picture that was taken by an AP news photographer, of 4 soldiers raising the flag of the United States at the battle of Iwo Jima against the Japanese in WW II.  It was later in years made into a sculpture to honor our soldiers in battle. 20190418_1159311359531357824814867.jpg

One of the flag raisers was Corporal Harlon H Block, just a young man from  a little town west of here, Weslaco Texas.  He is buried at this site.  20190418_1208047820625982269052270.jpg

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Little did he know he would be killed in battle 3 days later.  This sculpture was given to the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen for several reasons.  1.  The Marine Military Academy was across the street.  2.  The street in between was already called Iwo Jima Blvd.  3.  Harlon Block was a home town boy.  It arrived on 10 semi flat beds in 1981 and was reconstructed.  In between the sculpture and the Military Academy lies a beautiful parade grounds used by the Academy for Military Parades.  Many visitors from Harlingen as well as far away including the students families come to view the Parades.  Nearby is a small but wonderful Museum filled with a wealth of historical memorabilia from World War II.  Also we seen a 32 minute black and white slide show, many actual shots of the Battle of Iwo Jima.  I never get tired of watching it.  It is so impressive and informative as to the reality of the war.

We drove across the street and slowly drove thru the Marine Military Academy.  I showed Connie the dorms, Gymnasium, Cafeteria, Class rooms and many others.  The school is a private college preparatory academy for classes 7th – 12th.  It is extremely expensive to attend therefore I have been told the average stay for a student is 2 years.  If the student attends all 6 years, they will likely graduate with an entrance into West Point or any other High ranking college, graduating with a very high rank.  Next we went shopping.  Amongst others Connie wanted to do Burlington Coat Factory.  First time for me.  We seen lots of bargain stuff.  I bought Carly an outfit.20190418_1711324737293413788877434.jpg

Of course we found something else.  This cool unicorn trunk to put stuff in.  We also went back to the Island to the new Sea Turtle Inc.  They rescue and treat the injured and keep the ones that cannot be rereleased in the waters.  It is a new building with a number of huge tanks for the ones that have found their forever home.20190419_1307384700962464836390273.jpg

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This one is Gerry.….Hes been here since 1980 and was on Johnny Carson.

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This one is Allison, she arrived in 2005 and has rudder attached to her back.  She is missing 3 of her 4 flippers. 20190419_1340591719390303973342248.jpg

Their was a very interesting display on the garbage that is found in the ocean waters and how dangerous it is to animals.  So much plastic is thrown overboard or washed out to sea.  The turtles think it is food and take bites.  It is so dangerous for them to ingest.

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The girls found a tank with a bubble in the bottom.  They crawled in from underneath.  It looked like they were in the tanks.  From their we went to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.20190419_1437415067563501753533916.jpg

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It is a beautiful place full of birds, butterflies, and some alligators.  Its trails are all boardwalks that are built above the ground.  The birds, gators and wildlife have so much area to roam and be free and we are above them and…..SAFE…..20190419_1458192968984700477143471.jpg

This was a sleeping Alligator.  Or at least he looked like it.  He never moved.

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This was a beautiful walk out to the pier.  This was all shallow water full of crab, fish snails and ducks. 20190419_1515471042480478050570140.jpg

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Such a beautiful view of the bridge coming from Port of Isabel to the island in the distance.  On the walk we seen several turtles.  They loved to dig in the mud. 20190419_1552485231534597102920834.jpg

Many bird watchers were their with their binoculars.  The area was full of lush foliage that was a home and haven for birds and wildlife.  We came across 1 more pier and found another sleeping alligator.  He was right next to the post and never moved.  He was much smaller than the other one.20190419_1603116609505219380753557.jpg

Finally after a full day, time to head home.  The next day we took off to Boca Chica Beach again.  Tammy loves that place because she can drive down the beach in her jeep.  We went through Brownsville and past the Border Patrol check point, past Space X again and right down to the beach entrance.  I wouldn’t let her go south as that was Mexico.  So we went north on the beach.  It was such a beautiful day.  I had also checked the Tide report.  I certainly didn’t want to be marooned on the beach.  We drove 4 or 5 miles on the beach, watched the ocean waves beside us, passing  vehicles fishing and grilling out.  Just enjoying a fun day of sun and water.  We approached the end and found ourselves in front of the Port Of Brownsville inlet.  Just across from us was South padre Island.

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It was so pretty.  We parked the Jeep and climbed up the big concrete/stone retaining wall.  Right in front of us was South Padre Island and one of the Dolphin Watch Cruises.

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It was windy but so pretty.  Behind us was a number of houses on a hill.

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These houses do not have any utilities to them.  They are all owned by private owners.  All water has to be trucked in from Brownsville.  They all require generators for power.  We are told when you take the Dolphin tours that if these houses are ever demolished in a hurricane, the government will not let them be rebuilt.  They don’t want them their.  So far they seem to be fine.  What a great Vacation home away from civilization.  But I bet the weather is brutal at times.  It gets the direct wind and rain from the Gulf.  We turned around and started driving back slowly.  Tammy, Connie and Carly started walking the beach while I drove the Jeep.

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It was so beautiful watching them walk, listening to the waves roll in from the ocean.  The wind blew and the sea gulls swooped and fly from the shore line to up in the air, chasing anything that looked like food. 20190419_1911514184852462720873849.jpg

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I came upon a log that had been washed to shore.  It had apparently been submerged for a long time.  It was full of barnacles that had attached to it.  I had never seen them before.  Pretty interesting. 20190419_191923165950046638024157.jpg

It was nearing time to go.  We still had to go over and visit my friend Gail Rollo.  She has written a series of Childrens books.  I bought Carly one last year and now her and Tammy wanted to purchase one for her First grade Class.

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Gail was so Happy to see us and Carly Gail dedicated a book to the first grade class.  Carly was so excited.  She read the whole book to Gail and all of us.

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She really reads well for only first grade.  Gail has just released her 2nd book in the series.  Its called …..”Gorilla of My Dreams”……Its a dream she had as a little girl and has never forgotten it.  She has self published her books and they are available on Amazon as well as many book stores.  She is an ….”Awesome”….. lady.  You can also check her out on Facebook as well as Amazon.  Finally it was Easter Sunday and time for them to go.  We went to Golden Corral for Breakfast.  When we came home guess who had been their…The Easter Bunny…

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Carly was so happy.  She thought the Easter Bunny might miss her.  She got her bag and started collecting all her eggs and surprises.  The Easter Bunny left Cassidy her new hair iron that she has been wanting.  Now they had to pack.  You  would never believe all the stuff they had to pack.  The little trailer was so loaded down.  They had bought so much, including bags of fruit.  They also brought back the things Tina had bought that she couldn’t put on the plane. 20190421_1251364733610969203983122.jpg

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Finally it was time for them to leave.  Their was just enough room the kids to sit.  After Hugs and Good Byes they took off loaded to the hilt.  24 hours later they pulled into home again.  I can’t imagine driving with her,  packed in tight like the kids were, but it is what they do.….lol….. and Connie survived….

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“GET IN THE CAR CONNIE !!!!!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tammy & Tina, Their Trip Down Boca Chica Beach…..Part 3

We packed up all our stuff from our fun day at SPI Beach, our shells, towels, beach chair, and tent, etc. Rich, Connie, Cassidy and I went home. We were tired. The girls and the 3 little ones decided to go for a drive on the beach in Tammy’s 4 wheel drive Jeep. Last year Tammy found Beach Access 6, and drove on the beach for miles. On the trip back she got stuck in the sand trying to exit the access. She had to get help to pull her out. So now they want to do this again.…..Crazy…..Tammy drove all the way north on the main and only road passing the last of the hotels and restaurants, horse back ridding, Zip Line and all the beach Accesses.

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Eventually the rode ends, and it becomes just sand. Because of the winds, the road blows over and covers with sand. The plows have to plow every so often to keep it open. They found beach Access 6 and found they are charging now to gain access with your vehicle. So they decided against that. But of course their is another place to drive on the Beach. Boca Chica Beach is further south, the other side of Brownsville on the Mexican Border. It is probably about a 45 minute drive from Padre. They have to drive around the Port of Brownsville which is a 17 mile man made deep water sea port. This takes you into Brownsville to get to the other side. Then you follow the Port on the south side all the way back out to the Gulf. This area is very large wildlife refuge, full of Wildlife, Dunes and secluded beaches. Their is 1 small Village, Boca Chica Village that was built in the 70’s. It consists of 1 street with a boulevard of Palm trees down the middle. The ranch houses on each side are falling in a state of disrepair.

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A hurricane came through many years ago, and destroyed all their utilities. Now the homes that are occupied have generators and water tanks. It is quite a unique little village that is simply standing still with time…………...until now.

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Stargate Office

Right next door we have a new development. Space X, owned by Elan Musk. Several years ago we heard of the possibility of this being a Space Launch site. Finally this past year they have started building. Their are 2 sites. The first one is just west of the Village.

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The Launch site is further east past the Village and almost to the Beach. They have been building what they call a Hopper. It is not the actual rocket ship, but a test vehicle to test the engines. It is tethered at all times. Last January we had severe winds and the tethers broke and it fell over. Really rather funny I thought. The nose cone was broken. Several weeks before the girls came they started testing. They fire up the engines and keep it tethered to the ground, running their tests. When this happens the road coming out of Brownsville (the only road) is closed to all traffic.

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Right past the Launch site is the opening to the beach. The road just dead ends on the beach on the other side of the dunes……Absolutely beautiful……Now Tammy was on the beach. She decided to head south…..Oh No…..What is south????,………Mexico, mouth of the Rio Grande River. I‘m not sure if they thought of that at first. On the way down they stopped and the kids collected shells.

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Dead Jellyfish like the one that stung Mileys leg.

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Kids had a great time. Finally they arrived at a point where the beach ended. They looked across the river area and seen cars and people walking around. It didn’t register with them yet that they were at the mouth of the river and Mexico was on the other side.

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As they sat their watching, a car drove up and parked in front of them. Suddenly they seen a boat appear on the shore. 2 women got out and got in the car……OMG….It suddenly hit them…….They just witnessed 2 illegals crossing the river to the US. They better get out of their. They turned around and high tailed it back up the beach. Suddenly the car was right behind them. They were worried as to what their intentions were. Tammy got over to one side and the car flew by them up the beach…..Whooow….They were safe. They drove all the way back towards Brownsville. Several miles before you enter Brownsville, their is a Border Check point. As they approached they seen the car stopped. They stopped for the officers to check them. They seen one of the ladies being escorted into the office. The girls told the agents what they had just seen. The officer asked, “Was their just one lady?” They said “No their was 2 that got out of a boat”.….the agent said……“Ohhhhhh, Thank You, Have a Nice Day” Away they drove back into Brownsville and civilization and back home.

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Now theirs 2 reasons I would not have done this. First the obvious one is the Illegals. They were crazy to be near that desolate area, …..ESPECIALLY IN THE EVENING AND OUT OF STATE PLATES...….and a pretty red Jeep with 2 women and kids in it…..Who knows what could have happened to them. Secondly, …...THE TIDE….If you look at those beach pictures, when the tide comes up, their is no where to go as their are high sand dunes. They had no idea when the high tide comes in. It is around 5 miles or so down the beach to the Rio Grande. They could have been marooned.

They finally returned home after dark. The kids came in whimpering. Suddenly they realized they have gotten sunburned. As the moms took off their shirts, the whimpers became crying…..lol….Then out came the lotion and spray. The crying escalated into some screaming……lol….Miley took it pretty well but Carly was really hurting. They were so red. They all slept in the living room on the sofa recliners. In the morning the lotion and spraying process was repeated. Poor Carly’s ears looked like Dr. Spock. They had a huge blister on the top of each ear. We decided to keep them home for the next 2 days. We broke out the Adult Coloring books and pencils. They played Airport in the bedroom. I walked in and Miley was selling tickets to Austin. He bought a ticket, and Miley told him to enter and board the plane.….So Cute…..

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The kids spent lots of time in Grandpas new Man Cave watching TV. I stayed home with the kids while the girls went to Walmart, the outlet mall, and several flea mkts. Rich went back to Progresso with them, and Tina bought several MK purses for her friend. We finally let them go back into the Spa. They sure heal fast.

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Austin sporting his new Deer Head…..Crazy Kid….

Back home Tina is a member of her local Rotary Club. I contacted our local Rotary that has adopted our park for the Flag Sponsorship Program and arranged for her to attend a meeting as a visiting Rotarian.

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She brought a flag from her Club and a Flag exchange was done at the meeting. I was invited along, and found it very interesting to be present. Thanks to the North Harlingen Rotary Club, Landon Jennings for inviting us. Finally Tina and the kids week was over. She was flying out on Wednesday. It was such a fast week. Tammy was staying until Sunday.

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We drove them to the airport and let them off at the door after hugs and goodbyes. They had had such a good time. The kids didn’t want to go. Tina was hoping the plane was overbooked and she could take a voucher. The week before she heard they were offering $1000 Vouchers..But no such luck….The Plane was full but not overly full. We drove back home and Tina said the kids wanted us to take a picture of their plane. We are only a mile away so we patiently waited and their they went…….

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Back in Chicago with Ed picking them up….and of course, DEE DEE

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Now we have a few more days of fun with Tammy, Cassidy, Carly and Aunt Connie.

.……Its Not Over Yet…….

I

Tammy & The Kids Visit….Part 2

FB_IMG_1516214053865.jpgWe had a fun day in Progresso Mexico and then headed back over to the US side.  We headed for South Padre Island which is about a 45 minute drive.  Rich and Cameron were in our car leading the way, and us girls in Tammy’s Jeep.  We arrived after dark at our motel and settled in.  Now we had a number of things planed,  but the weather was going to cause us a problem.  Cameron wanted to do a Deep Sea fishing Trip in the Gulf.  We also wanted to take the Port of Brownsville  Tour and see the ship yards where they dismantle the decommissioned Navy ships.  The USS Ranger is their and the USS Independence just arrived last May.  The weather has not been stable at all this season.  The forecast changed from the 70s to the 60s with some rain.  We had tickets lined up for both but they were both cancelled because of the weather.  FB_IMG_1515893032735.jpg

Tammy did manage to take several drives up the beach.  The first one she was very excited to finally drive up to the end of the road.  South Padre Island has only one main road down the middle.  It continues north until it turns into sand.  It passes all the beach access points, the hotels, condos, restaurants and bars.  It also passes a Zip Line area.  They also offer horse rides on the beach.  It is the farthest north facility on the island.  Then it turns into sand a ways up the road.  It gets so windy the road is always blowing over.  The plows regularly have to plow and maintain the road.  As you see it was sputtering rain on her windshield, but that didn’t stop her.  She drove back to Access 6 and entered the beach.  She said she drove a number of miles north.  On the way they passes the horses out for a ride.

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It was chilly to be on the beach.  The wind blows in from the ocean constantly.

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But I guess if you love horses and the beach, it doesn’t stop you.   It probably was a dream come true for some of those people.  The weather just didn’t cooperate.

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Along the way Tammy stopped and they looked for shells.  She actually found some large Conch shells.  They probably had washed up from the storm that had just come in a day before.  Carly brought her fish net and loaded it up with all her special shells she found.  They loved ridding on the beach.  Its such an exhilarating feeling as the wind blows and the sea gulls fly and chirp.  The feeling of peace, tranquility and Freedom.  Mother Nature at her best.

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Carly on the upper deck…..It was so Cold and Windy

The next trip we did was the Dolphin Eco Watch.  The boat is a double decker.  It holds quite a few people.  It is around a 2 hour trip in the bay, looking for dolphins.  They also drop a net to the bottom and drag it to catch different types of fish.  It was so cold.  We bundled up in our sweat shirts and jackets and boarded.  The girls had so much fun….Even Tammy.  We seen the dolphins many times just swimming around near us.  They would surface and then go under and come up a ways ahead.  The deck hand had dropped the net and reeled it in.  He had quite a few different variety’s of fish.  He cleaned them out of the net and put them all in a bucket with water.  He took them out 1 by 1 and showed them to the kids and adults.

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He actually caught a Sting Ray.  He explained the danger and how to react when near a Sting Ray.  He also showed a Puffer Fish and several others.  Finally he dropped them all back into the bay.  Then they took the boat clear out past the Jetty’s of Padre.  The wind was blowing, the waves were blowing high and splashing against the Jetty Rocks.

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It was so beautiful to see all the hotels at a distance and the beaches.  We also seen Dolphins clear out here.   Finally after almost 2 hours we went back to the docks.

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Now we were all hungry.  We decided to go to Pier 19.  It is a restaurant out on a dock.  Very cool atmosphere.  Every table is by a window.  It is a long and narrow restaurant as it is built actually on the pier.  We had seen Dolphins near the restaurant when we were on the boat, so decided it would be a great place to eat.

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They had some great food.  I had a Hawaiian Burger.  It was awesome.  I can’t wait to go back.   The next day we decided to go to Brownsville to the Gladys Porter Zoo.  It is situated on 31 acres.  The zoo houses about 400 animal species and over 250 tropical and neo-tropical species and subspecies.

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We didn’t see to many animals as it was still so cold.  But we sure seen Flamingos.  It is such a beautiful unique zoo.  The animals are all housed in areas that are natural to their habitats.  You don’t see many in cages, as they are all in natural out door settings.  But since is was so cold, I think they were mostly brought into their indoor areas to escape the unusual cold weather.  Just Carly, Tammy and I went here and we had a great time.  We also took another side trip out to Boca Chica Beach.  It is on the south side of Port of Brownsville.  It is a desolate beautiful area just a stones throw from the border.  After a 20 mile drive it dead ends into the beach at the Gulf of Mexico.  Several years ago they anounced that Space X had bought some ground for a new Missile launch area.  It is being built now, but we were told it would take another 2 years before the first launch.  That night ate out at Louies Backyard on the Bay sideTammy and Carly stayed at the hotel as they were tired.

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Glen and Kathy from the park came down to spend a nite.  They had spent the afternoon at another Club listening to the singer “Leslie”.  After she was done their, she came to sing at Louies.  We had some good food and fun times.

The next morning, Tammy wanted to go for another drive on the beach.  Rich and I and Cameron stayed in the room.   Awhile later, Tammy called…….”Dad do you have a tow rope in your car?“……lol….Oh no…..They had driven into Access 6 again and drove for miles up the beach as it was low tide.  They had a great time until they came back and tried to get back through the Access area.  In these areas the sand accumulates into drifts.  If not cleaned out regularly with a plow, it is like snow drifts up north.  You simply get stuck and end up bottoming out if you keep trying.  Well that’s what happened.   The other thing was, all this time she thought she was in 4 wheel drive.  Cameron had showed her to put the switch in 4 wheel but neglected to show her the other part of the process.  She was lucky she never got stuck earlier.  Well “Dad” didn’t have a tow rope…….Rich and Cameron drove out their and their was a whole crowd helping her.  She had of course bottomed out trying to get out.  Several vehicles tried pulling her but to no avail.   Finally another Jeep hooked up and pulled her right out.  She was so excited that she never took any pictures.  She was disappointed when she realized others were taking pictures but she didn’t get any.  So another Adventure for her to talk about…..lol….But no pictures.   Later she had to wash the Jeep as she was so full of sand.

Our stay at the island was coming to an end.  We had nice rooms.  Cameron stayed with us in ours so the girls could have their room to them selves.  Our room was obviously quieter.  When you went into Tammy’s room it was a disaster.  Clothes all over, and Carly always had her little toys out on the table playing with them.  She always has to have play time with her little toys.  We had a great Breakfast every morning down in the Lobby.  All the cold cereal, donuts, bagels, and toast as well as eggs, potatoes, waffles and juices.  Anything you could want for breakfast.

We left the Island to go home, but Tammy was still staying another day or two.  We both drove and headed for Brownsville,   77 Flea Mkt.  This turned out to be a beautiful day.  The Flea Mkt is huge.  Rich and Cameron took off and us girls started to slowly make our way through.  The girls had fun, even Cassidy.  We found a cheap stroller to put Carly in.  She would have never walked the whole thing.  20171230_133504.jpg

Cassidy found quite a few things.  Several pairs of slacks, make up brushes, and her best item was a blue tooth speaker with disco lites on wheels.  It was made like a rolling suitcase.  Great for taking to her friends or wherever she wants to go.  Tammy found a rolling suitcase for herself, and many other things and food items.  We were half we through and I was tired.  I mentioned, are you getting tired yet, but…… NO…..she wasn’t…..So we finally did the WHOLE FLEA MARKET.   I don’t think I ever walked the whole thing before…..Now we were very hungry.  We ate at a Chinese Buffet.  Good Food.  So we finally went back to Harlingen and Tammy went back to Padre.  That nite they decided to go fishing by the Causeway.  FB_IMG_1515891798874.jpg

Would you believe Cameron caught a Sting Ray.  It was being chased by a Puffer Fish.

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He finally pulled it on the dock.  A Mexican who didn’t speak much English helped Cameron get it off the hook and finally sent it back in.  FB_IMG_1515891839792.jpg

Now that is something you sure can’t catch in Illinois.  More memories were made.  The next morning they decided it was time to leave.  The kids wanted to go home.  They arrived back at our camper around 11:30.  Tammy come flying in and said….”Dad, Dad, take me to Mexico one last time….Please?”  Cameron said ” No, you don’t need to go”…..Tammy looked at Cameron and said….“I’m the mom your the kid…..You can’t tell me what to do”…..Then she looked at Dad and said ” Please Please, I want to go back one more time”.….So of course, Tammy, Cameron and Dad went back to Mexico…..I took Cassidy and Carly and went to Mr Gatti’s.  Its a Pizza Buffet.   It also has Pasta, Mac and Cheese, Baked Potatoes and the fixings and a great Salad Bar.  We went back to the park and I had 2 more things to do with the kids.  My friend Gail Rollo has written a Children’s book.  She is selling it in certain book stores and on Amazon.  She has been doing some book signings also.20171210_124501.jpg

Its a wonderful book of a dream that she had when she was a child.  After all these years, she has written the book and Published it.  Were all so proud of her Accomplishment.

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I wanted Gail to sign one for Carly so we stopped at her house.  Gail read the book to her and then signed her very own book.  Carly loved it.  She held the book with 2 hands against her chest when we left.  It was very special to her.

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Our next stop was Roberta’s.  Roberta and Ken have 2 Parrots.  Maui is a Beautiful Red and Blue Parrot.  20171231_133908.jpg

Cassidy met her 2 years ago.  At that time Maui was the only one she had.  Since then, Roberta has been given Benny.  His owners had passed away and he desperately need a family.   20171231_134030.jpg

Benny is a beautiful blue and yellow Parrot.  Roberta is so good with birds, animals of any kind and has a wonderful green thumb.  She can grow anything.  So Carly poised for this picture with her doll and they had their matching dresses on, that they bought in Mexico.  Finally Rich, Tammy and Cameron came back around 5.  They drove across this time.  Tammy had to walk almost the whole length of the shopping area that we stick to in Progresso.  She shopped and shopped and made sure she had her Margarita.  She loved it.  20171231_173423.jpg

But now it was time to head out.  I thought they would be to tired to drive, but they wanted to go.  The kids sleep at nite and travel better.  So around 5:30 the left.  I figured they would stop and sleep.  It is a very long drive.  But with Cameron and her driving, they made it straight through in 22 hours.  They pulled into home in Illinois before 4 pm the next afternoon. …. OMG….No way.
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It was a great time having Tammy and the kids here.  We didn’t get to do everything we wanted but we did a lot.   We never had a dull moment.  It was so nice after going on 4 years that one of the kids have finally came down and seen where we live in the winter.  Their is so much to offer in the Rio Grande Valley.  It is such a different life style than back home.  Harlingen area has so much to offer.  So much to see and do.  It never gets old.  Much history and many things I’m sure I haven’t discovered yet.  It is a life style that is so unique, and so hard to describe to anyone up north.  It is an area the Winter Texans come back to every year to enjoy the warmth of the weather, the beach, and the culture of the Southern Texans……It is so nice to think, the beach and the ocean are just a short drive away.   

…….We Made So Many Wonderful Memories…..

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Our Valentine Day Cruise at Padre….

On Fridays, we have Coffee and Donuts in the South Hall with a short program from an invited outside guest.  In early February, Breakaway Cruises from South Padre Island was invited.  They told us of all the cruises they offer, Dolphin Watch, The Thriller, Pirate Ship, Deep Sea and Bay Fishing, Port of Brownsville, and Dinner Cruises.  They were offering tickets at special prices.  Rich and I,  and Debby and Rick (park managers) decided to buy tickets for the special Valentines Day Dinner Cruise.  It would be a 2 hour cruise in the bay, not the Gulf side, with dinner on the top deck.  NICE…….

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On Saturday afternoon, we arrived around a half hour early for our 4 o’clock cruise.  It was such a beautiful day.  It seems like every time we had been to South Padre Island, it was overcast.  Today would be the most beautiful day we had ever been their……Sunshine and Warm…..We boarded the boat finally after we watched them load all the food and dinner supplies.  Usually this boats capacity is much more, but for this Dinner Cruise, they limited it to 25.  The tables were all set up on the top deck, with table cloths and Valentine decorations.

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This was a beautiful private boat, that was docked near ours.  Notice the bench’s on the upper part of the boat?….Just imagine cruising through the water sitting up their watching the sunset, feel the boat swaying to and fro,  and the wind blowing through your hair with the sun beating on your face…………DREAM ON……..

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We finally pulled away from the dock and began our cruise.

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Across the aisle was 2 other couples from the Park.  Gloria and her husband, and Marilyn and her husband.  We followed the Island to the mouth of the Port of Brownsville. 

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We watched as the Island became just a levee of concrete and rocks, with the Gulf on the other side.  The sea gulls were flying everywhere.  Finally we turned and headed towards the Port of Brownsville.

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As we headed in we passed a Shrimp boat heading out to the Gulf.  Ahead of him was also a tug boat.

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As we road along, their was also a Party Boat following us, doing the same trip.  Behind the party boat, you can see the dredges working on keeping the mouth of the Port cleaned out.

As we cruised the waiter began the dinner.  First we were served our drinks, water, soda, tea, or beer.  Our dinner was served.  First came our dinner salad.  Then we had a choice of Encrusted fish or chicken, with shrimp and peppers on a bed of rice.  Next we were given a small plate of fruit, consisting of grapes, strawberries, and watermelon.  Last, we had a marvelous piece of Cheesecake.  All this time we are just gently cruising in this beautiful sunshine with the gentle breezes blowing.

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Finally, we turned and headed up by Port Isabel.  We passed by an old oil rig that had been towed in from the sea.  It was waiting to be towed down river to the scrap yards.  You can see on the left the heliport.

On we went nearer to Port Isabel.  The sun was now getting lower in the sky……Beautiful….

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We passed some of the shrimp boats docked by the side.

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We went by a portion of Port Isabel that is an island.  It is only accessible by a bridge.  It was full of homes that all had water access at their back doors.  What a beautiful place to live.

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Finally we were back in the bay area near the causeway that crosses from Port Isabel to the Island.  Such a Beautiful Sunset…..

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We passed the Pirate Ship, that had been out on their cruise and was coming back…..We haven’t been on that one yet, but we did in Cancun.  This one is similar, as the staff is all dressed as pirates, and their is some “battles”  ….lol…AYE…..or so I hear….

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Finally we cruised up towards our dock area, passing the downtown area of the island, passing the tall Hotel in the distance.

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Such a beautiful  Sunset cruise……On a Beautiful Saturday Evening…..The end of a Beautiful Day at South Padre Island…….

Texas Gulf Trawling Shrimp Boil & Tour

Monday Feb. 22, I had a car pool trip scheduled to Brownsville to the Texas Gulf Trawling Co.  It’s about a half hour drive, located at the Port of Brownsville, which the mouth opens up to the Gulf of Mexico.  This company is one of the largest Shrimp Company’s in the area, with 15 boats in their fleet.  At the height of the business, they had around 30 boats.  They fish for shrimp from the Rio Grande River in Mexico up to Louisiana.  Where they fish is according to the season of the year.  The boats leave with a crew of anywhere from 3 to 6, depending on peak season.  The crew consists of a captain, header, and a rigger.  Their is always just one captain of course, but more of the other 2.  The headers job is to dehead the shrimp when they are brought aboard.  He is also a cook.  The riggers are dropping the nets and bringing them in.   They are the lowest pay of the jobs.  They are out in the gulf for min. of 30 days, but can be up to 60 days.20160222_112642When we first got their, we were taken to a metal building out by the basin.  It was open to the water at the shore side.  Their was 2 conveyors running from this building to a shrimp boat by the dock.20160222_094718

This is how the shrimp are unloaded from the boat.  We were served coffee and cookies.  Finally it began.  The son told us the history of the business.  It has always been family owned starting with his grandpa.  In the 50’s they not only were building boats for others, but now built their own boats to go shrimping.  At the peak year, they built 22 boats.  They no longer build them.  Their last boat was built in 2001.  They no longer foresee building anymore as the shrimp industry in the US. is dwindling to 10 percent.  The foreign markets are now flooding the stores with farm produced shrimp.  Many of them contain antibiotics, growth hormones or animal  byproducts.  Texas Gold Shrimp are wild caught.   The are caught in the deep Gulf and headed and immediately frozen to keep them fresh.

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We were taken on the boat and the father continued with the tour. In the back of this picture, this boat had just come in while we were in the building.  It had been out 33 days.  They were now repairing and getting all their duties done.  This also includes emptying their freezer before they could leave the boat.  They were busy with nets and hosing of the decks. The father was full of info.  He answered all the questions that were thrown at him.  We seen the freezer which was in the hull.  It was huge and a walk in freezer.  The header came aboard and gave us a demonstration. He puts a shrimp in each hand and simply flicks the head off with each thumb. He must be extremely fast to keep up with the catch.

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20160222_122743It is his job to dehead all the fish that is dropped on the deck as the nets are pulled up.  The boat is equipped with 4 nets that are dragged on the bottom.  Wooden doors on the nets, keep the mouths open as tickler chains drag the bottom and keep it stirred up, driving the shrimp into the nets.    The nets are lifted every 45 mins or so to see if they are needed to dump on the deck for the header.  The nets are dumped and immediately put back in the water and the header keeps deheading.

We were then allowed to walk through the cabin area…..What an Eye Opener……Not a Job for Me….

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The Kitchen area….so so tiny…Their was just enough room to walk through.

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The booth were they eat their meals…..Notice the edge on the table, so their food wouldn’t fall off.

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Their were 2 bedrooms with bunks….The crew might have to take turns sleeping if their are more than 3.

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Oh My ……the bathroom…..Rather disgusting….lol…

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Then up the stairs to the captains helm.

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The view from the windows…

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Rich and another girl from the park, Pat in the cabin.

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Nice soft seat….lol….Our neighbors Gayle and Marjo and one of the employees.

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Finally time to go back in to our tables and get ready for a shrimp feed and contest….

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They were preparing all the shrimp as we walked in.

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The son showed us how to use a deveiner.  You can devein the shrimp with out the tail or leave it on.    Your Choice.

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We had a contest and 2 of our girls competed against each other.  Who could be fastest, Marilyn on the left or Terri on the right……Well Terri won.  She LOVVVVES Shrimp. She won a free Deveiner.

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Rich tried it also just to see how easy it was.

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Finally it was time to try the shrimp……Well I don’t like it at Alllll……So Rich ate mine.   Margo decided to try it even though she doesn’t like it…..lol

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Look at that face…..hahaha….After we left, we stopped at McDonalds for me….lol…It was a very fun morning.  We learned so much.  Again I have only shared a portion of what we learned.  They covered all about the market, what wild caught means versus farm raised,  quality, and the processing of the shrimp that takes place in Port Isabel, which is only about 10 miles away.  We also learned that this summer they will be refurbishing 2 of the boats, including the one we were on.  The price tag is over $120,000 each.  So much information.20160222_095719