Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Marge's Great Getaway

Hoping to briefly escape WI winter, Carol’s sister Marge arrived in Mission just in time to experience a rare killing frost. That pretty much blew our cover story about warm, sunny Texas weather. Over the next ten days the climate in the Rio Grande Valley suffered below normal temps further diminishing our credibility. Still, watching a major snowstorm and plummeting temps in WI from afar, Marge felt that our weather was, relatively speaking, far better.

Our temperature dip put the kibosh on on our immediate plan to sit outside at Pepe’s on the River sipping Margaritas. But just down the road the Riverfront Club offered indoor seating, dining…and Margaritas. Close enough.

Marge and Carol at Alligator Pond, Estero Llano SP

Teaching Marge the fine art of finding roosting Common Parauque

Over the course of her stay we introduced Marge to local birding areas: Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, Estero Llano SP and Santa Ana NWR.

Further afield we took her to Laguna Atascosa NWR and the South Padre Island World Birding Center. Of course what would a trip to South Padre be without stopping at Dirty Al’s for shrimp.

In between birding sorties some shopping opportunities were squeezed in and then on Wednesday morning we packed up for a two-day jaunt up the Texas coast and an overnight in Corpus Christi. This included stops at Mustang Island SP, Leonabelle Turnbill Birding Center (formerly Port Aransas Birding Center), Port Aransas, the Rockport-Fulton area, and birding stops along the causeways. On Thursday we braved colder temps and ventured out onto South Padre National Seashore (with wind chill factored in it was 31 degrees!) before heading back to Mission.

As promised (or was it threatened?) we took Marge across the Rio Grande to dine in Mexico on Friday. Not the Mexico we have been accustomed to on the west coast in Nayarit or Sinaloa but it was official nonetheless.

We parked on the Texas side for $2 and after dropping a quarter each into a turnstile (felt like we were getting on a subway) we hoofed it across the international bridge to Nuevo Progreso. Owing to the shootings that occurred last week, security had been visibly heightened. There were scads more Federalis with really neat armored cars, automatic weapons, and bulletproof vests.

"What shooting!?" you may be thinking. It seems a spat with a local drug cartel and the Federalis, which had started in a neighboring town, ended up in Nuevo Progreso when the drug dealers’ vehicle crashed in the middle of the main street. This coincided with a big "Welcome Winter Texans" festival. From all accounts folks never saw Winter Texans (hey these are elderly folks) move so fast to get back across the border. The bridge was shut down for a few days but eventually people started returning. No Americans were injured during the hour-long shoot up so I guess it didn't count owing that the news coverage in the US was skimpy.

We wondered if perhaps Neuvo Progreso might take a page out of the wild west days like so many US western towns have and do a drug cartel shoot-out reenactment program. Thrice daily.

Anyway, we cruised the downtown, which was jammed with venders hawking their wares. Again, very different from the nice stuff we've seen in San Jose or San Blas, etc. It helped that it was muy frio - most of the venders sat huddled in their down jackets and didn't hassle us too much.

 Trio at Artuo's
Aside from buying some very good and very inexpensive booze, our main goal was Arturo's, THE place to eat in Nuevo Progreso. The Margaritas? Oh, let's just say they were damned fine - some of the best we've ever had. Wonderful wait staff, live music, and as you can see from the photo, comfortable atmosphere. Note, also, Carol has TWO Margarita glasses in front of her to our one each.

After dinner and Flan au Cognacs, we sauntered back to the international bridge where Marge tried to take photos of the hunky Federalis. We could have TOLD her they don't much care for their photos being taken but oh, no, she was determined. At least until one of the Federalis came up behind her and explained in so many words that what she was doing was a “no-no.” “No-no” in Spanish means the same in English only a bit stronger when the accent is on the large automatic weapon.

Back through another set of turnstiles (30-cents each this time), paid our booze duty (a Texas tax stamp it seems), flashed our passports, and we were home free.
On our way back to Mission we made a pass through the city of Hidalgo famous for its Festival of Lights (click on the video link). The web site’s admonishment of “You have to see it to believe it!” couldn’t be any more accurate!

 Tom, Robin, Carol, Karen, Gayle, Jerry, Harvey

The weather remained at odds with us but we (Marge and Tom) managed a walk-through at Bentsen Rio-Grande SP while Carol remained at home preparing for Tom’s birthday party. Marge was most pleased to finally get a good look at a bobcat crossing the road. The party was a cookout at our RV with friends. It was chilly with a stiff breeze but we hung on outside – at least until it began to mist forcing us inside for cake cutting.
Marge’s return to WI came all too quickly. Fortunately, her flight out of McAllen wasn’t until late afternoon, which allowed for one more hike through Bentsen. All in all it was a fun visit. Marge hopes to come back again – perhaps when the weather will be more welcoming!

1 comment:

  1. Tom and Carol, hope you had a joyous Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. We are headed off on Monday to Minneapolis to marry a daughter, so we'll have a great start to 2010 with a New Year's Day wedding.
    Hope you start a long and productive 2010 List down there, best,