Archive for March, 2009

Water, Water, Everywhere

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The art of getting water to where you want it is quite a business in the Rio Grande Valley.  The Rio Grande is a source of water for farming through its entire length.  We observed the river being used in New Mexico last spring.  Most of the water is used up before reaching Texas, so we have to start all over again and manage the watershed areas.  This dam is the beginning of much of the local source of this irrigation water and is located just west of McAllen, TX.


From here they pump the water through the valley using a series of canals.  These canals seem to be everywhere.


Above you will see a typical canal.  However, all is not as it appears.  This is actually an intersection of two waterways.


That’s not the end of that story.  Here is a shot of the same “overpass” as it directs the water through a pipe under a road and into a ditch on the other side.


The fields are watered by a either flooding the field or by the use of enormous sprinkler systems.

All over the area you will see strange cement standpipes along the road and in fields.  Usually there is a valve wheel visible at the top of the pipe and a ladder up the side.


They vary in size from only a few feet tall to the size shown above.  Below is one of the shorter ones with Tinka beside it.  You can see the handle sticking out of the top of the next pipe down the road.


I couldn’t figure out what they were for so I stopped in at an area irrigation control office to ask and was surprised to find out what they were.  It turns out that these pipes are large “shock absorbers” that reduce the hammering effect of the water, similar to the risers set up in household pipes.  Without these systems, there would be greater risk of damaging the pipes and causing leaks.  As it was explained to me, the larger the standpipe, the more pressure the line will take.

Going to the Dogs

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Click for Harlingen, Texas Forecast

Here’s a fun time.  With our friends, Ruthi and Frank, we decided to check out the dog races in Harlingen, which is the town just north of Brownsville.  The Valley Race Park  is located on the southwest side of town and is a beautiful facility.


The best part of this evening of fun is the cost.  $2.00 gets you in the door and you can pick out your air conditioned box seat (booth). [CLICK ON PICTURE BELOW FOR PANORAMIC VIEW]


Each seat has a good view of the track plus an informational terminal/TV.


Dinner is served at your table from a limited menu, but the food was excellent.

The betting is done in the same manner as horse racing.  Once you figure out how to read the racing form, it is pretty easy.  Picking a dog “across the board”, to win – place – or show, seemed to work out for us.

I guess that any time you go to a betting venue and you walk away with your meal being the most expensive part of the evening,  you had a successful experience.  The evening was a blast and we can’t wait to try it again.

The Blue Ghost

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Click for Corpus Christi, Texas Forecast

The USS Lexington aircraft carrier, known by several nicknames, including the “Blue Ghost”,  was launched in September, 1942 and is now a floating museum in Corpus Christi Bay.  When you’re in the Corpus Christi area, this is a must-see.


aaa-lex-map.jpg By Corpus Christi’s North Beach.


Since it was Spring Break,  we had to park some distance from the ship in a parking lot under the Causeway Bridge.  The charge is $4.00 for the day.  Most parking meters along the street are for 4-hours only.  Four hours is pushing it if you want to see everything.  We were there for five hours and didn’t see two of the self-guided tours.  There is a little tram that will haul you up and down the ramp.

The flight deck was serviced from the hangar deck below and was lined with aircraft from many eras. (Click Photo to Enlarge)


The flight deck provided a great view of Corpus Christi and a glimpse at some of the anti-aircraft guns that helped to protect the carrier.


The bridge has a bird’s eye view of the activity.



We were amazed at how skinny the Huey Cobra attack helicopter is.  I guess it makes it a little target as it approaches.


The F-18 flown by the Blue Angels drew our attention.


Ayden tried her hand in the cockpit.


The ship has a movie theater and we watched a movie about fighter pilots that was quite interesting.  Outside the theater, justice was served.


Be sure to wear tennis shoes instead of sandals.  The climb up and down between decks was achieved by the original ladders.  Don’t worry, even with my back issues, I had no trouble moving around.

We ate dinner at Pier 99, a nearby restaurant.  Shrimp dinners and chicken-fried steak were our chosen fare.  The food was good.  A band began playing on the outside deck at 6:00 PM.

This was certainly worth the trip.  Located near the Lexington is the Aquarium, but we didn’t have time on this visit.

Spring Break – continued-

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Click for Port Aransas, Texas Forecast

Mustang Island, is a barrier island along the Texas coast and is located just north of  Padre Island, Corpus Christi, and the National Seashore.


The island is 18 miles long, but the $12.00 annual beach parking permit applies to the beaches of both Mustang Island and Padre Island to the National Seashore about 30 miles to the south.

Mustang Island is a favorite spot for Spring Breakers along the central Texas coast.  The beach is well maintained. Ayden would have been happy to spend the entire few days digging in the sand.  By the way, getting into the water isn’t part of her beach experience.


Port Aransas, a town of about 4000 residents and probably as many “Winter Texans”, is located at the northern end of Mustang Island.  Port Aransas is accessible from a highway running the length of the island from Corpus Christi to the south and by ferry to the mainland from the north.  Port A, as it is locally known, was established as a French colony in 1720 and was a favorite stop for pirate Jean Lafitte.

One of our favorite restaurants in Port A is Moby Dick’s.  The food is good, but be patient, it takes a while to get fed.


The decor in the restaurant is quite nautical.  Tinka wants to decorate a room like it when we grow up and settle down.

Spring Break!!!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Click for Port Isabel, Texas Forecast

We decided to head over to South Padre Island and spend a three day weekend at the beginning of Texas Spring Break.  We were greeted with the coldest three days of the winter.  Temperatures varied from the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s with cloudy skies and an on and off drizzle.  (Of course, the day we left SPI, it was beautiful, sunny, and in the mid-80’s.)

Many of the college kids didn’t plan on cold weather as shorts and sandals were the norm.   Jackets were few and far between.  Lots of Hoodies!!!!!

We made it out onto the beach for a drive.  Believe it or not, there were a few kids “enjoying” the water.  Others were trying out their beach driving skills doing donuts, etc.  New landmarks had been left from Hurricane Dolly.  This log, marking the nude beach, should be there a while.


The South Padre area has its share of beach accessory stores.  Here is one of the most unusual.


And the street view is even more exotic.


One of the neatest things to do on South Padre Island is to visit the Turtle Rescue Center.  The weather was in the 50’s when we went there and many of the tanks were covered to retain the heat for the turtles.  Some of the turtles have been there since 1980.  Most are released when their injuries are healed, unless they only have a fin or fins on one side of their body. They would be able to swim in nice circles, but wouldn’t live long that way in the ocean.


Restaurants that we tried out were:

Daddy’s – Seafood.  Excellent

Pier 19 – Shrimp dinners.  The food was pretty good, but not as good as Daddy’s.

Ted’s – Breakfast – Loved their veggie omelet with Swiss cheese.

Dirty Al’s – Lunch – Large Burger and Po’ Boy. Pitchers of beer are the better deal.

Denny’s – Breakfast – It was Denny’s.

There is quite a contrast between canal type homes in the Port Isabel/South Padre area.  You might find beautiful condos in a golfing community with canals for easy access to your boat.  This looks like the ideal spot to settle down when we’re ready.


Then there are canals that look like they are straight out of  Vietnam.  This one is somewhere in the middle.


Click for Corpus Christi, Texas Forecast

After three days at SPI, we headed to Corpus Christi for a few days to visit with Lance and granddaughter Ayden.  The weather was much better and the beaches were quite crowded with spring breakers.  It was after all, Texas week.

Companies and organizations set up displays and sponsored events on the beach.  This was a huge display set up by the US Army as a recruitment tool.


We found a friend that helped us watch for fish.


We’ll fill you in on the balance of our Corpus visit in another posting.