Friday, January 27, 2012

Quinta Mazatlan



No, we didn’t go back to Mexico, it just sounds like it. During our visit to Estero Llano Grande State Park, we talked with a gentleman who recommended that we not miss Quinta Mazatlan, an estate and birding center now owned by the city of McAllen. Last evening they were having a birding program by nature photographer Luciano Guerra, so we arrived early to have time to wander the house and grounds and hopefully see the green parakeets that come to the area.


There were many bird feeding stations but it was quiet and we only saw a few chachalacas hiding in the bushes, no parakeets.



This guy had the feeders all to himself.


And this cute little rabbit nearly ran right up to us on the trail.


Giant butterflies among the palms.


And the 1935 house was beautiful, very luxurious for it’s time. This is the grand hall where the program took place.


Tiles around the windows.


An antique piano.


And even a Roman tub.


It’s been fun learning more about birdwatching but we will probably never become serious birders. I can’t stop and be still that long. The other day at the state park the volunteer told us a woman came from South Padre Island to see the Clay Colored Thrush that’s been hanging around the park. She waited four hours and the bird never showed up. The next day we rode our bikes into the park and stopped for a minute to see what was at the feeders. There was the clay colored thrush! Guess the poor woman came a day too early.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another First


As we were taking a walk through Bentsen State Park late this afternoon, we spotted this bobcat at the Resaca Vieja trail head. First time we’ve ever seen one in the wild. It slowly walked off into the woods as we approached. I watched it with the binoculars while Jim tried to get a picture. What a beautiful creature.


Speaking of creatures, yesterday was Cinderella Pet Rescue day, and this crazy cat was climbing the rafters. It gives me great pleasure going there and interacting with the cats. Just wish we could find good homes for them all.


A beautiful end to the day.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Always Doing Something


Seems like we are always doing something, and by the evening I don’t feel like writing a blog post but I need to catch up.  I got a belated birthday present the other day. While at the laundry room we saw a for sale sign for a Nook Simple Touch. One of our neighbors bought it in December but decided he wanted a color Nook, so I now have my very own e-reader. I really like it, and so far have taken 2 bags of books to the “library” here at the park. I still have one more spot to clean out and by the time I get rid of the rest we should have lots more storage space and be much lighter. And no more books falling on our heads when we open the overhead storage!

They had an open house at Retama Village Friday afternoon. Retama is a development adjacent to Bentsen Palm Village RV Park, where you can purchase a lot for your RV which includes a coach house, or glorified shed. Many people were showing off their coach houses for the open house, so we had to go take a look. Most have the interiors finished to use as extra living space, containing small kitchens, bathrooms, and comfortable sitting areas with TVs. They were all impressive, and looked larger than their 12x24 size.


This is one of our favorite RV lots. They have an oversized lot and did some beautiful landscaping.



Also in the open house was a New Horizons 5th wheel. It was 41 feet long and cost $187,000. Quite lovely inside! If you get the F450 truck needed to tow it, you’d have over $240,000 invested. Certainly not for everybody but it’s fun to dream.

I’d like to see us get that many people in our Lazy Daze.





Yesterday we attended a program at Bentsen State Park given by Seth Patterson, a conservationist and nature photographer. He had some great photographs and interesting stories to go along with them. We really enjoyed it.

Today we took a ride to Estero Llano Grande State Park, with a stop along the way at Don-Wes Flea Market. It was pretty windy and dust was blowing like crazy so it was a short shopping trip. We didn’t go to Quartzsite this year but between the dust and all the usual junk for sale we felt like we were there!

Estero Llano Grande is a wonderful state park, part of the World Birding Center. With a lake and several ponds, there are lots of birds to see, and plenty of trails to hike.



We ran into our neighbors at the visitor center, and being avid birders they marked our map with places along the trails where we would see certain birds.

Here are some of the highlights. The pictures aren’t all that great but we got to see several birds for the first time. Besides the usuals like cormorants, egrets and hawks,




We saw our first black crowned heron.


Roseate spoonbill.


And our favorite, a common pauraque. Look closely at how well it blends into the ground. It is nocturnal and sleeps on the ground during the day. Had it not been pointed out to us we would have never seen it.


A closer look.


There are also alligators in one of the ponds. We spotted this big one on the other side.


I liked the part about yielding right-of-way on the trails. They really didn’t need to tell us that!


We would highly recommend a visit to Estero Llano Grande if you’re in the Rio Grande Valle. We will probably go back again while we’re here.

And finally one of the very friendly burros at Cinderella Pet Rescue. We have to walk through their area to get to the kitten room. They were disappointed when we had no food for them. Need to bring them carrots tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Good Day


Jim with Charlie, one of our favorites.


Last week one of our neighbors turned 60. In honor of her birthday she rode her bike 60 miles. She challenged me to ride 57 miles on my 57th birthday, which was today. So this morning we started out with the group breakfast ride. 24 of us rode about 7 miles to Las Cazuelas, an authentic Mexican restaurant in Mission. Mexican breakfast food consists mainly of eggs, cheese, and meat, but they did have oatmeal, which was pretty soupy, but better than nothing. On the way back to the park, several people were talking about going for a longer ride, and 5 of us ended up doing 23 miles. That meant 34 more miles for me today. We stopped home for a bite to eat, then got back on the bikes and rode another 20 miles.

Still smiling after almost 40 miles. We stopped here to peek through the gate of a mansion that takes up an entire block.


We had to get back to the park by 3:00 because I didn’t want to miss the produce vendor that comes every Tuesday afternoon. We filled our bags with grapefruit, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, avocados, bananas, plums, and a jicama, all for $10. So much better than the stuff at the grocery stores.

I told Jim since I was only 14 miles shy of the 57, I just had to go finish the ride, which I did. And I felt pretty good when I got done. It was such a lovely day, mid 80’s, sunny, just a slight breeze, perfect for a long ride.

Capped off the day with dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse. They started in Chicago as a deep dish pizza place, and when we ate lunch there a couple weeks ago we had pasta, so we just had to go back and try the pizza. Excellent! They even have whole wheat crust. And their beer is great. Birthdays aren’t such a bad thing!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Peaceful Week So Far



All’s been quiet with our musical neighbors this week. Thanks for all the comments. At least we know we aren’t the only ones who think they’re out of line for playing outside. After much thought, Jim has decided if they have another jam session he is just going to talk to the guy alone before going to management. Hope it won’t come to that. For all we know, someone else complained first.

Sunday we rode our bikes around Bentsen State Park again. It was an active day for the birds. They especially seem to like these feeders with peanut butter in the holes.




These big, noisy chachalacas are so funny to watch.


But we especially got a kick out of this bicycle riding dog. Her name is Maggie, and she will only wear the glasses while they’re riding. Needless to say, she’s had her picture taken many times.


Jim went to Cinderella Pet Rescue on Monday to help me with the cats. He only found three he wanted to take home. They really liked his shoelaces.


Yesterday we met fellow bloggers Paul and Marsha of Where’s Weaver for lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse. They’re spending a couple months at a nearby RV park, and have been fulltiming for over 2 years with their cat, Bella. I knew we’d hit it off since they were cat people!  We had a great time talking with them, and hope we can get together again before we leave the area.

Jim is really getting into these PVC projects. We stopped at Home Depot yesterday after lunch so he could buy more to build a bike stand. Maybe now the wind won’t blow them over. It might be challenging finding a spot to store all these things he’s made when we get ready to leave, but they’re nice to have. And he only cut his finger once today while working on it.


We took another bike ride this afternoon. We’ve found a couple nice golf course communities we can ride to and get in a good ten to twenty mile or more ride without having to go on busy roads. That’s one reason we really like it here.

And tonight was Margarita hour at the clubhouse, always a good time. We ended up sitting around outside and talking with fellow Lazy Daze owners Bill and Tina from Maine, who came in over the weekend for a 3 week stay. We had met them once before in Albuquerque in 2009. That makes four Lazy Daze here in the park now. And we found out this week our friends Don and Dorothy from Montgomery will be here next month. We just may come back here next year, too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Would YOU Do?


Our next door neighbors moved in after Christmas, nice couple from Missouri. He’s a musician, and plays guitar on Tuesdays in the clubhouse jam session. Thursday after lunch we hear “mike check”, guitars tuning up, then country music (not our favorite). It is at this point we realize it’s coming from the site next to ours. Jim’s immediate reaction is to go to the office and see if we can change sites. I, being more level headed, suggest we wait and see if this is just a one time thing or a regular occurrence before we make waves. We go off on a bike ride and they’re finished when we get back.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. We rode bikes for a few hours and it was such a pleasant day we were looking forward to coming back and sitting outside to read. As we approached our site there is another jam session taking place. And this is amplified music, not just acoustic, so the sound can be heard all around the park. Several people bring chairs to sit and listen. We just get more irritated, go inside and shut the door. Jim decided he would talk to the guy later, but as he sat and fumed he decided to go to the office and talk to the manager. She was already gone for the day, so now he’s trying to decide how to approach the issue. Are we wrong to think this is inappropriate?

What would YOU do???

Since I didn’t take photos of the band, I’ll post a couple more cat pictures from Cinderella Pet Rescue. I haven’t learned all their names yet.



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge



Yesterday we put the bikes on the car rack and drove 20 miles east to Santa Ana NWR. There is a paved 7 mile road to ride (no cars allowed) and lot of trails to walk. Too bad the website didn’t mention that biking wasn’t being allowed at this time due to construction. The volunteers said it could be another month or more, and they weren’t too happy about it, either.

This is a semi-tropical forest along the Rio Grande, with beautiful Spanish moss hanging from the trees. There are several small lakes and one of the trails went along the river for a short distance. This is another popular birding area, and we saw kiskadees, hawks, ducks and grebes, and several other birds we couldn’t identify.


We had fun climbing up to the 25 ft high swinging rope bridge, and the adjacent 40 ft observation tower. 


Didn’t get a picture of the tower but this is what we saw from it.


Also saw this tree with big berries or nuts. Not sure what it is.


Jim didn’t take many photos since there were lots of mosquitoes and we had to walk fast to keep them away. Even I got bit several times whenever we stopped. If they open the park for biking before we leave the area we would like to go back. We’ll be sure to bring the bug spray next time.

On another note, Jim got creative and built a ramp for our sewer hose, using a piece of plastic gutter and PVC for the supports. Much cheaper than the accordion-like plastic support you can buy and doesn’t look too bad.


I went to Cinderella Pet Rescue Monday and spent a few hours with the cats. This guy Sylvester is my favorite so far. He wouldn’t leave me alone and was sitting on my lap when I took his picture.


I can’t remember this cat’s name, but Jim liked the picture so I will share it.


We’ve been riding bikes almost every day and Jim is very happy to be on a recumbent again. And we love our new binoculars. Today at the state park we ran into one of our neighbors. They are serious birders and have $2000 binoculars! Carol wanted to see ours and she let us look through hers. I was almost afraid to touch them, since I tend to drop things a lot, but we both tried them and couldn’t really tell a huge difference although there must be. After looking through ours she said they were very nice for entry level binoculars. There were lots of birds today and we finally got to see the black-vented oriole that’s been hanging around. Didn’t get a picture though, since it only stayed a few seconds. Besides Jim needs a much longer zoom camera for good bird photos. Maybe one if these days.