We Jammin’

“We jammin’
I wanna jam it with you
We jammin’
I hope you like jammin’ too…”

Today was another beautiful beach day on South Padre Island. With the roar of the waves in the background, Betty, Charlie & I relaxed on the sand in the afternoon sun. Bet had another book to read, Charlie had another big smile on his face as he watched the passers by commenting “Cute dog!”, and I had my favourite play list tickling my ears. We jammin’…!

As I sit back on the beach with Bob Marley’s songs soothing my head, I think about the play list that is keeping me mellow for the afternoon: There’s lots of Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac, The Tragically Hip, Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, and of course, Bob Marley in the over eight hour sound track. But there are also other lesser known artists that resonate, like Rodriguez, The Proclaimers, Savoy Brown, The Hooten Hallers, and The Jerry Cans, to name a few. The latter two made big impressions at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in past years, with unique talents that keep a smile on your face as you listen to their groove.

Created a couple of years ago now, I played the sound track during tedious renovations on our home; while shovelling mounds of snow from our walks, garage, and parking pad; and while mowing the lawn in summer. Each song takes me back to a memory of a far less relaxing time.

Now sitting on the sand with the sun warming my face, I can only say a big amen to Bob Marley:

“We jammin’, to think that jammin’ was a thing of the past
We jammin and I hope the jam is gonna last…”


Practice Makes Perfect

One of the hobbies I’ve taken up on the road is photography. Before we left
Winnipeg I picked up a decent Nikon digital SLR and some related equipment, and am happy with all the photogenic images we are seeing all around us on our adventure. BTW, I chose this brand of camera because of Paul Simon, and not for any other reason:

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”

Unfortunately, I am not at all happy with the quality of my photography, and am regularly flummoxed by the myriad of buttons and settings on the camera. While not a total Luddite, I tend to be intimidated by electronics, and easily frustrated when the “SnapBridge” app, for instance, doesn’t immediately transfer pictures to my iphone and MacBook. Prior to beginning this post, it took me so long to transfer all my recent pics that I have lost my train of thought…

Betty has known for some time now that I am losing my mind, but it’s still disconcerting when I see the thought train pull out of the station without me! LOL

Anyway, where was I? Yes, well you may not know this, but I tend to have perfectionist tendencies at times. So when the images I have recorded are not as exciting as the images my eyes are capturing, it makes me wonder whether I should change hobbies. Attached to this post are a number of my recent attempts, with none yet up to the standards to which I aspire. Hopefully, as our adventure continues, my photography will improve and we can all have a good laugh at these early attempts!


“Way down here you need a reason to move
Feel a fool running your stateside games
Lose your load, leave your mind behind, Baby James

Oh, Mexico
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun’s so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I’ll have to go now…”

“…Oh, down in Mexico
I never really been so I don’t really know
Oh, Mexico
I guess I’ll have to go…”

As James Taylor sang, there is a lure to visiting Mexico when you spend so much time on the other bank of the Rio Grande River in Texas. While Betty & I have stayed at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, we were a little more apprehensive about visiting a border town, especially with all the negative press about drugs, gang violence, and corruption in Mexico.

Here on South Padre Island, many visitors make the day trip to the other side, so we took up the offer of a nice couple from Sutton, Ontario, to go with them and their Clint Eastwood look-alike friend from Newmarket, Ontario, to Nuevo Progreso Mexico. While there are closer crossings, the hour and a half drive to Progeso, Texas took us through some of the farm country that borders the Rio Grande River, with the border fence curiously stopping and starting along the way, presumably to provide river access for the adjacent farmers.

Once in Progreso, we parked our vehicles and walked across the short bridge to Nuevo Progreso, joining hundreds of other North American tourists who filled the sidewalks of the border town. The Customs check was so minimal I don’t remember it, but before we knew it we were walking the streets of a very different land. On both sides were drug stores catering to anyone who wanted cheap pharmaceuticals which elsewhere are sold by prescription only, but are there sold over the counter at a fraction of the price. Interspersed were dentist offices (stores?) where one can receive everything from a cleaning to a root canal at a much lower price. And on every block, both sides of the crowded sidewalks were full of local vendors, selling everything you could imagine, along with some unimaginable items!! Now living in a motorhome with limited space, we had to take a disciplined approach, not picking up the many hand-carved and hand-painted keepsakes being sold at discount rates.

While we appreciated the industrious nature of the locals in Nuevo Progreso, the underlying poverty was extremely disconcerting, to the point where it has taken a few days to process the experience. Under the circumstances I felt uncomfortable taking pictures of any of the inhabitants, so there are no photographs connected to this post. Now we have been, I wish I could join James Taylor in singing:

“Oh, Mexico
I never really been but I’d sure like to go
Oh, Mexico
I guess I’ll have to go now.”

Pun Of The Week

Last Sunday morning Betty & I attended the church service at Chapel By The Sea on South Padre Island, as has become our custom here in paradise. After we were seated and without warning, a line of about 30 people appeared from the back of the sanctuary, marched to the front, and lined up facing the congregation in 3 rows. Betty & I looked at each other quizzically for a second, until Betty quietly proclaimed: “Oh, it’s a choir!” Not being accustomed to seeing a group of singers at the front of the church, I replied: “Well I guess it’s an a-choir-ed taste!”   OK, I can hear our kids groaning over the Internet all the way from Winnipeg. Get over it… LOL

Our Encounter With The Bard

Who says Shakespeare is dead? Last night Betty & I attended the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of “William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)” at the South Padre Island Convention Centre. What a hoot!

In about 2 hours of high intensity acting, three performers played 46 roles from The Bard’s 37 plays, combining them into a hilarious presentation which came with the following “Warning: This show is a high-speed, roller-coaster type condensation of William Shakespeare’s massive first play and is not recommended for people with heart ailments, back problems, English degrees, inner ear disorders, people inclined to motion sickness, and/or the humor-impaired. The Reduced Shakespeare Company cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers.”

In addition to all the outlandish impersonations of such characters as Hamlet, King Lear, Lady MacBeth, Ariel and Puck, the show was full of familiar quotes that were twisted into punny expressions that those with a twisted mind like mine could truly appreciate. In re-telling, I cannot do justice to the “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” speech that ends with the death of a Caesar salad; or the comic portrayal of Macbeth’s 3 witches as they stir the pot with “double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…”. “To be, or not to be…” is compared with Frank Sanatra’s “do be do be do”, and one of the characters pulls out a joint for “doobie, or not doobie…”

At one point one of the actors challenges the statement that all Disney movies are based on themes established by Shakespeare in his plays. In answer, the actors quickly describe elements of Disney movies, with another giving Shakespeare’s earlier take on the theme. Hilarious and amazing that Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor, and Marco Antonio Vega are able to remember so many parts from so many plays, and present them so flawlessly!

No pictures were allowed in the theatre, so I must end this post with a pic of the flowers I picked up today for my sweetie, in celebration of Valentine’s Day next week. Cheers!

Adolfe Thomae, Jr. County Park, Texas

This week Betty & I continued our adventures in wonderland by exploring Adolfe Thomae Jr County Park, about an hour’s drive north of South Padre Island. Part of the Cameron County Parks group, this beautiful but rather isolated spot is on the banks of the Arroyo Colorado in Laguna Atascoso
National Wildlife Refuge. On the way, we passed through a few small communities, but mainly farmland, including a number of large wind farms. There were very few other vehicles on the well-maintained road, and we had little or no expectation of what we would find when we reached the end of the road. Fortunately, our park pass for Isla Blanca Park also activated the gate at Adolfe Thomae, and we were able to go exploring.

The park was alive with unique (to us) flora, fauna, and wildlife, and I had to smile as I thought of camping trips as a kid where my mom never left home without her little books describing the plants and animals we would be seeing. My apologies to the readers of this post who see some of the pics taken along the way that don’t adequately identify the bird beside the pelican, for instance, or the type of cactus, or the flower on top of the palm… Well, with the mix of sun and shadow, they all made good shots anyway!

The few RV sites located in the park are large attractive full-service spaces, nearly all backing onto the river. While there is a small children’s playground, the main activity of campers was fishing, with both a large boat ramp and adjacent parking area, and a number of wharfs jutting into the river. While we don’t fish, Betty & I agreed that this isolated spot would be ideal for anyone seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

On the way back home to SPI, we passed groves of orange and grapefruit
trees, with some heavily laden fruit trees adjacent to the highway right-of-way. We were tempted to reach out and pick them, as we had done on a trip to Florida when we were young and foolish, when we saw a hand-written sign “Grapefruit for sale”. We turned down a farmer’s lane and arrived at a stand in the orchard, with grapefruit in various sizes of bags. On the stand was a jar full of cash, and the sign invited us to put in our money and take our fruit. We chose a bag of about 30 grapefruit for $8., left our payment and drove off, never seeing the vendor. While we’re still not sure what we’ll do with 30 grapefruit — it seems all our neighbouring campers have their own — these grapefruit are sweet and juicy, and we are enjoying them with almost every meal.

For those who are familiar with my famous margarita: Yes, fresh grapefruit is a key ingredient. Unfortunately, this happy drink only comes out when the temperature is stinkin’ hot for a number of days running. We have been experiencing one or two days a week with the temp. over 80f (26c), but not enough sustained heat to put together the necessary fresh ingredients for the perfect drink. So we have to settle for wine instead. Does it sound like I am whining? Life is so tough here on the island! LOL.

If you’re looking for a unique campground, far from the madding crowd, consider Adolfe Thomae Jr County Park. It makes for another great adventure in wonderland. Cheers!

Sun, Sand, Seagulls, Skycraft and Steak

All the “S”s have come together this weekend to create a great experience in paradise!  While the sun has been rather elusive in south Texas for the past 3 weeks, today is a beautiful sunny beach day, with the current temp of 80f (27c) and a light breeze blowing down the shoreline. (Reported high of 90f (32c) while we were at the beach!) Apparently we can expect more of the same in our final three weeks here, although the forecast continues to be unpredictable.

Betty, Charlie & I have just made the 2 minute walk from South Padre Island’s fabulous sandy beach, back to our motorhome. Charlie has had an outdoor shower to rinse off some of the excess sand, and I have cracked open a chilled bottle of Walmart’s finest Pinot Grigio as we relax on our little patio.

There’s a lot to see and do in south Texas. This week we drove to the end of the road looking for Boca Chica State Park and found ourselves on a totally undeveloped sand beach. Apparently the area was declared a State Park in order to protect it from development, with the closest sign of civilization being a curious Elon Musk SpaceX installation near the end of the road…

As we drove also to the north end of the road on SPI we were reminded of driving in Canadian winters, where the wind swirls and sweeps snow drifts across the highway. Except for us this week it was warm, fine-grained sand being swirled and swept across the road: Much more enjoyable!

Yesterday we drove to the large sand flats just north of SPI’s convention centre and met up with a large flock of seagulls that seemed as interested in us as we were in them. Here is a picture of them standing quietly on the sand, just before Betty dropped a handful of trailmix outside our Smart car window. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Birds” you will get the sense of our experience next, as we attempted to outrun the seagulls before they picked up our little car and carried us away! Total mayhem!! LOL

Our main reason for going to the sand
flats was to see a free exhibit of the most amazing sky craft ever! Kites of all colours, shapes and sizes hovered over us, and we witnessed a fascinating ballet in the sky, as individual and group kite flyers danced their kites in front and above us to music. We have no idea how 8 – 12 flyers could choreograph such tight, exacting moves in the air without getting their kite lines all tangled. The attached pictures do not do justice to the deft skill of the experienced flyers. Simply amazing!

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I must end another post with the final “S” of our title. For my birthday this week Betty took me to a Fleetwood Mac tribute concert where some great surf ‘n turf was served: lobster tails and bacon-wrapped filet minion – very tasty. However, last night’s bbq offering was also a mouth-watering delight. Attached is a pic of our steak, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and baked potatoes on the barbie, paired nicely with a Valpolicella.

This weekend’s experience of sun, sand, seagulls, sky craft, and steak again  reminds us of why we came to paradise!