Friday, December 27, 2013

Crossing the Border to Mexico

Nuevo Progreso is a Mexican town in Río Bravo Municipality in the state of Tamaulipas located on the U.S.-Mexican border. The Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge connects the town with Progreso, Texas. This border crossing is about 35 kms from our RV resort. There are border crossings closer to us ( as the crow flies we are less than a kilometer from Mexico) but they are not considered safe. So last Sunday we drove to Progreso, Texas, parked the car at the international bridge and walked over to Mexico.
Just as we entered the bridge was this sign:
Are they afraid we will stay in Mexico
As a side note, In Texas snowbirds are welcomed and several events are staged in the communities where they stay to welcome them back each year. We feel much more welcome here that we ever did in Florida.

The traffic to enter the US from Nuevo Progreso was lined up on the bridge:
Most appeared to be Texans returning from Christmas shopping across the border
But there were not a lot of people walking over the bridge with us:
The usual sign at the centre of the bridge:
The Rio Grande is not very wide in this area thus making it a prime spot for "undocumented aliens" to swim or paddle across to the United States. But that is a subject for another blog post.
No customs officers greeted us as we left the bridge and entered the town. And there was only one officer processing cars, and no line-up:
As we entered Nuevo Progreso we were greeted by a street lined with shops on the inside of each sidewalk and street vendors along the street side of the sidewalk.
The vendors were all hawking their wares but were not overly aggressive and there were no street beggars. However, under the bridge as we entered the town was lined with people begging for money. The area was fenced off and they could not come in contact with shoppers but it was very sad to see and makes you realize how poor these people are.

The main thing many Americans and Canadians come for is to have prescriptions filled and dental work done. Both are very inexpensive here. This dental mall was right at the bridge:

It is common to see businesses that serve alcohol as well as offer dental services. An interesting business diversification idea:
Most of the products for sale were made in Mexico:

An integral part of native religion in Mexico is the depiction of many gods as skeletons. Skeletons are considered good luck and are a symbol of fertility, the dicotomy of life. The god Quetzalcoatl is said to have stolen bones from the the god of the underworld to create the different races of mankind. It is believed that the god Mictlantecuhtli and his wife preside over the world of the dead. They are always portrayed as skeletons. 
Skeletons are featured during the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos (the day of the dead), a two day festival when Mexicans honor their ancestors. Every year the departed come to visit, to feast and party with the living. The next day all go to the cemetery, where the party continues into the night. Then the living go home, and the dead await the next year.

There were lots of hammock vendors along the street selling hammocks of different styles:
This gentleman made these hammocks
As did this one
Not to sure about these
After a couple of hours of wandering and looking we returned across the bridge and cleared US customs:
Picked up our car and returned to Bentsen Palms Village RV Resort.

To enlarge the pictures simply left click on them
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Lights of Hidalgo

Very close to our RV Park in Mission Texas is the City of Hidalgo, Texas.

Hidalgo is known for two things:

Firstly, calling themselves the Killer Bee Capital of the United States and celebrating the fact that their town is the spot where killer bees first crossed the US border in October, 1990.

And, secondly,  for its amazing Festival of Lights, the largest Christmas light display in Texas. The light display is free but for $12 they offer musical entertainment by a local group, a roast beef dinner and a trolly tour to visit all the city light displays. What a bargain!

So, one evening last week, a group of people from our RV park headed out to see all that Hidalgo had to offer.

We caravaned in our cars and met in the parking lot just before sunset.
Dinner was served on the veranda of city hall:
Which was beautifully decorated for the occasion:
Each evening a different organization from the town prepared and served the dinner as a fund raiser. On this night it was the local high school. After dinner we were entertained by the Sweet Adelines.

Then we hopped on the tram for a tour of the town:

I think it is important to note here that Hidalgo has a population of about 11,000. What an amazing feat it is to stage this event when you consider that the light display, dinner and  tram tours are offered every night during the month of December.

And wait until you see the light displays: (Left click to enlarge the photos)

In front of City Hall:

These two homes were across the street from city hall:

This is the home of grammy award winning Mexican entertainer Ramon Ayala
And then around the town:

aliens from outer space where there

The biggest alligator we've seen
The National Butterfly Centre is just down the road from our RV park
The Candy Workshop
Cinderella's Pumpkin Coach
Dinosaurs were everywhere
Chinese Christmas Display

A ladybug for Ruby
A Killer Bee, of course
Visitors from the North Pole:
Are there penguins there?
Including the big man himself:
Santa brought his house - a fellow RVer?
RV Transporter some day?
Apparently wild peacocks wander around Hidalgo

This is but a very small sample of the displays we saw. A truly amazing display of community participation and pride.

From Mission, Texas Arch and I wish you a very happy holiday, Merry Christmas and to all:

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Beachdocking At Padre Island National Seashore

The Padre Island National Seashore, a 70 mile stretch of beach, sand dunes, prairie and wind tidal flats is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. An trust me, it is undeveloped. There is one "developed" camping area tucked into the dunes which consists of a paved parking area and a sewer dump station. And then, at the end of the road, there is the beach:

One of the "must-dos" for this trip was to stay on this beach. And last week we did so. It was an amazing experience to be so close to the power of the ocean and yet so protected by our little home.

At the visitor centre we were told to simply drive on the beach and select a spot on the hard sand. But don't go too far down as the beach really narrows during high tide:
So we drove on past the folks you see in the photo above and chose a spot about 200 meters further on:
By the time we got settled in the sun was disappearing behind the dunes. I walked back to the entrance to the beach to drop our registration in the box (there is no charge to camp here - other than the cost to enter the park - but you must register so they know who is there) and enjoyed watching a storm passing to our south east:
The next morning I was up with the sun (not too early at this time of year) and headed out for a walk along the beach. Pretty foggy at the start:
You see the trucks heading down the beach in the photo above. Later in the morning we found them fishing about 15 miles down the beach. Fishing is a serious activity on Padre Island:
I bumped into this guy looking for breakfast:
By the time I returned to the Adventure Bus Arch was up and enjoying a coffee in the morning sun:
You can see a tent behind Arch. This belongs to Cathy.
The wind came up at sunset the night before and blew a gale all night. As I returned from my walk to deposit the registration form I noticed a woman attempting to erect a small tent in the space between us and the RVs down the beach. The tent was blowing all over the place and there was no way she could set it up alone. So I went to help her. But the wind was too strong and I was no help at all. She was about to give up and go home. Cathy was from Austin, 4 hours away, so I suggested that we take the tent over to the protection of the Adventure Bus and see if we could set it up there. So off we went with the tent flapping between us. Arch saw us coming and was laughing so hard he forgot to take a picture.

After much struggling and by lining the inside of the tent with some heavy pieces of firewood we had with us, the three of us set the tent up and got Cathy settled in for the night. She took her two little dogs for a walk and we when on about our evening. The next morning she was out for a walk when we got up, said she was up at 4:30 am - it was a little hard to sleep in the tent with the wind blowing so strongly. Fortunately the wind died just before sunrise and the rest of our time at the beach was uneventful.

Sunrise, day two at the beach:
We loved beachdocking but, several days later, we are still digging sand out of the nooks and crannies of the car and Adventure Bus. The price you pay I guess.

We are now parked at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission, Texas and will stay here, enjoying the luxury of a full service RV resort, friendly people and an urban environment until January 1st when we head out to San Antonio and then points west.

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