Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A week in Texas

It doesn't matter where I have an opportunity to go, I'm always up for a new experience. Even when I went to Yuma to visit my parents a couple years ago, I found it exciting (I've heard people say the longest month they spent was a night in Yuma ;) If it's a new location to visit, it's a new adventure. Also, it qualifies as an even better adventure if my camera just adds to the memories. I love the area where I took this first photo. I did some computer magic and created almost a drawing from the photograph. (The photos only show up as thumbnails, so feel free to click on them to see larger versions).

I spent last week in a little town called Mercedes, Tx. I went down with my free ticket from Southwest to visit my parents and Sonny and Karla. You may all remember Karla from our escapades in Sedona earlier this year. The journies this past week involved a couple trips to Mexico, shelling on South Padre Island, a trip to the Iwo Jima monument (yes, there is one in Texas too), and some shopping. Actually, what would a trip with my mom and Karla be WITHOUT shopping!!!!
My adventure began with me staying up 24 hours before my plane took off last Tuesday. I figured if I needed to get up at 3:00 am, I might as well get some work done and stay up all night. Hmmm, staying awake all night doesn’t seem to be as much fun as it did when I was in high school:) Unfortunately, my dad was sick for the better part of a week, so my first full day in Texas involved me staying alone in the “tube” (as we affectionately call the homes on wheels in which my parents and Sonny and Karla live). I could not believe how windy it was the first few days I was there! I hated to see dad sick, but I definitely got some much needed sleep while they were out; well, in between my occassional visions of the wind picking up the trailor and planting me in another state, or country for that matter! Can you just see it; my parents coming back from the doctor and not finding the trailer, or their daughter, anywhere around! :) I certainly was glad that hurricane season is over!!

Mexico was our destination on Thursday and was mom and Karla ever ready to hit the ground running. Although auntie wasn't with us on this trip, I was again, driving the "Ms. Daisies". They couldn’t wait to begin our day of fun…actually, neither could I! After we paid our 25 cents to enter the country, I was amazed to see what was awaiting us. We were not across the border for three minutes when the armed guards in Mexico came after me! Maybe I should explain :)
I wasn’t expecting to see soldiers in tanks, and foot soldiers holding automatic weapons so I wanted to get a photo. Naturally, one of the guards walked up to me, quite briskly I might add, and demanded “NO PHOTOS SENORA!!!” Well, naturally Karla “harassed” me all day about how they thought they were going to have to bail me out of the Mexican prison! I was in Mexico at the Yuma border, and didn’t remember guards like that!

It’s so sad to see the citizens of a country such as Mexico, have to work so hard for so little. Being in surroundings like that really makes one stop and think about the complaining we do and how unjustified it truly is. From the small children to the very elderly people (not to mention the obviously too young pets, that are sold on the street corner), you have to wonder how they survive day to day. I know it’s all about perspective and our lifestyle, but we have become so accustomed to being spoiled by the extras in life, that when you see someone in an impoverished area, it’s almost embarrassing to think of the things we complain about.

We shopped in a great little “emporium” that we found and I got some cute, handmade souvenirs. Ali’s request when I was in Mexico was to bring home some pure vanilla. As a bonus, I found some vanilla beans and picked up enough to last her quite some time (I expect some homemade crème brulee this week :) We decided to try a little restaurant just above our new shopping find and were we glad we did!!! We had some GREAT Mexican food and margaritas!!! These were probably some of the strongest margaritas I’ve ever had (well, except for the time that Becky accidentally got the proportions of the mix and the tequila mixed up :) As I was making my purchases I decided to bring Cass home some goodies from Mexico for her Spanish class. I thought it would be fun for her to have authentic receipts (with pesos labeled), pages from a Mexican newspaper and some cookies made in Mexico. It should be fun for all her classmates to see how things are labeled entirely in Spanish. One of the things I realized is that none of the food products have nutrition information on them. If they’re not produced or shipped to the US, it’s not a requirement.
Before we headed to the car we noticed an ice cream shop that advertised “2 banana splits for $2”. Since mom bought lunch I said I’d buy the ice cream and they weren’t bad for a buck a piece! ;)

Day three began with mom and me trying to decide what movie to go see. I don’t want to offend anyone’s taste, but personally I would not spend the money on “Four Christmases”. Movie prices are fairly cheap in Texas, so I didn’t feel too badly about spending the money on it. We decided after the movie we’d go shopping. The problem was, we didn’t know the name of the outlets we wanted to go to! Between two fairly intelligent women, and two not so intelligent GPSs, I can’t tell you how many times we got lost. At one point Ali was texting me and I told her how lost we were. I said “The GPSs are sending us in circles and Granny is singing to weird ‘50s music!” She said it sounded like we were in the middle of a bad sitcom :) We finally found the outlets and spent the next couple of hours just doing some shopping and hanging out together. Being the oldest of four kids, having several neices and nephews, and being the mom of three daughters, the time I get to spend with my mom alone has never been a common occurance. The older I get the more I marvel at how much I love being with her by myself. I guess that's why I try to spend one on one time with my daughters...makes for some great memories!!!

Saturday was the day I think I'd been most excited about. The three ladies were off to South Padre Island. It's about an hour or so drive from Mercedes and it was really beautiful. The weather all week had been really windy and fairly cold, so I was worried we'd have bad weather and we wouldn't be able to hit the beach. It was definitely cloudy, but as long as it was dry I was happy. We wanted to go to a restaurant on the beach called "Louie's Backyard", but evidentally they don't think anyone gets hungry until around 4:00, at which time they open ;) We found another restaurant a few doors down and had a FANTASTIC lunch!! Karla had the biggest shrimp I've seen for a long time and mom and I split the largest shrimp po' boy sandwich you can even imagine!!! When we finished our lunch I wanted to check out the gift shop at "Louie's Backyard" so I could bring Louie home a shirt with his name on it. They weren't open until 4:00, but my mom suggested I call and see if anyone could come open early for us. Sure enough, there was someone upstairs and they opened the gift shop for us nearly two hours early...what service!!!
With our bellies full I drove the daisies to a couple of the local beaches. Actually, I should say, I drove them ON the beaches. The sand is so compacted there that you can drive your car right up to the shoreline. As we looked at the scenery on the first beach we could see some buildings around us that were hit by Hurricane Dolly earlier this year. As a California kid, seeing buildings damaged by earthquakes was not unusual, but it was very strange to see buildings so decimated by storms. The second beach we visted was where we struck gold! Even when I visted Sanabel Island nine years ago, I don't remember seeing the miles of shells strewn upon the sand like I did here. I could have easily spent an entire day just walking up and down the beach searching for shells and taking photos. Actually, I think the photos I took on this beach were my favorite ones from this trip. On the way back from South Padre I made a couple stops for photos.There was a hand painted mural on the outside wall of a restaurant called "Doubleday Bar and Grill". I quickly began talking to some of the employees (I am definitely my mother's daughter) and found out I was chatting with the owner's wife. When she invited me in to see the grill I met the owner, AND artist of the mural. I really wish Louie had been there with me because he would have LOVED this place!!! Every interior wall was lined with collectibles, paintings that the owner had done and big screens all over the place. He was telling me that on all the paintings he created he had them autographed by the athletes portrayed in the artwork. I'm not a huge sports fan, but I could have stayed there all afternoon. Shortly after we left the island we came upon This was, I think, the strangest looking thing I've seen for a while. The outside intrigued us because of the large "sculptures" that surrounds the building.They all looked like something that was created from a sea themed nighmare-definitely sculptures on sterioids!!! The inside contained probably every single marine related souvenir ever created. I actually equated it to the aquatic version of Hilo Hattie's (if you've ever been to Hawaii you know the place I've talking about).

Sunday morning is when I got to visit the Iwo Jima monument. Since I saw the one in DC it was really interesting to see the one in Texas. This one was actually the original plaster mold for the one in our capitol. One of the fascinating things to find out is that the soldier at the bottom of the group who was putting the flag pole into earth was from Weslaco, Texas and he's buried near the base of the monument. I enjoyed seeing this monument with my dad. He's a marine and is really proud of that fact!! After our history lesson, mom and I dropped dad off at the "tube" and we headed back to Mexico. There were a few more souvenirs I wanted to get and we wanted to have an afternoon snack of margaritas and ceviche...mmm, mmm, mmm!! I sure was glad we went back! One of the great finds that I brought home were some GIANT marshmallows. They were about the size of your fist!!! You should have seen all of us roasting them last night around the fire pit! That day also included a trip to a great cantiina called "The Red Snapper". We had a great server and just happened to hit it at happy hour...which meant extra margaritas :)
I loved traveling around a part of the country I had never visited, but I knew I needed to get home. I was home less than 24 hours when we had two house guests arrive. Ali's friends from college, Maddie and Jena (you all know them as my "stalkers" that I refer to from time to time) flew in last night. I had no idea what was awaiting me when these two balls of fire landed on our doorstep :)
They'll be with us until Sunday morning, so I know their visit will be worthy of a photo or two. Oh, who am I kidding...they're going to "DEMAND" I post a slideshow of them :)
For now, enjoy a little James Taylor and my photos from Mexico (and Texas).

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