We have been here six weeks and not much has changed in that time, except that there are now seven RVs with us in the compound and several individuals staying in the bunkhouses. The other couples are friendly and come from as far away as Vermont.
It’s good to have neighbors – most of whom we work with and see during our shifts at the Wildlife Refuge. We still work Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week and they have added Nature Store clerk duties to our routine. Ken is the real salesman and has convinced people to buy $80 hats. I have only sold soda and snacks. I really do like being the storekeeper, and as far as I’m concerned, they could just keep me at the store but our main priority is the visitor center.
The Refuge is a great place to meet and talk with people who come here from all over the U.S. and abroad – some just to catch a glimpse at a rare bird or butterfly. Seriously. The Fish and Wildlife employees we work with are a special breed and have a vast knowledge of the area’s habitat and wildlife and I think a little of it is starting to sink in on us. Above all, we work with nice people. It is not unusual to have the ranger come in with a snake he picked up from outside – last week it was a baby Indigo and the week before that was a big one. There is also a chalkboard in the visitor’s center where I have tried my hand at drawing – a first for me. My artwork consists of an Egret, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a Mexican Bluewing Butterfly and a Bullseye Moth. I wish the whole wall was a chalkboard… Aside from the larger than life mosquito’s, everything at the Refuge is enjoyable. One day, Ken and I were interviewed by a representative of the city of Alamo who came to the Refuge with a camera crew. She asked us to tell them why we are here, what we like about the Valley, and basically promote visitor attendance – that was a fun experience!
Last week, the Refuge organized and held a Teachers Appreciation Day where we played games, gave away plants, hosted free tram tours, and had free food, popcorn, and drinks all day. Now, we are planning a Thanksgiving Potluck for next Tuesday. It won’t be the same as being at home with family for Thanksgiving, but it is a nice way to treat the volunteers!
Speaking of family… Back at home Logan and Jordan turned 15 on November 4th and now have their driving permits! Alan wrapped up football season with a bang for his junior year, and Collin and Mason both had great seasons, too. And, Ellie just turned 4 years old. It is comforting to us to know that everyone is doing great! It really helps to have Facebook so we can stay up-to-date. Ken and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary on October 10th, Kimberly turned 38 a week later, and that day, Cori and Andy also celebrated their 17th anniversary.
For my birthday on November 4th, we drove an hour over to South Padre Island and went on a catamaran dinner cruise. The weather was perfect and we really enjoyed our first time on a catamaran. I’m looking forward to seeing San Antonio next… maybe for a quick getaway before Christmas.
Back at the RV… We have a bird feeder and frequent visitors include the Greenjay, a couple of Cardinals (reminds me of home), and some fun-loving Altamira Orioles who see their reflection in our windows. The laundry facilities are the only thing here I really struggle with – because there is a resident mouse (eek!), but I make lots of noise when I enter the building so he has plenty of notice to get out or hide.
Ken and I joined Weight Watchers just before leaving St. Louis and have been attending weekly meetings over in McAllen, TX about 30 minutes from where we are staying. Kenny is losing at twice the rate that I am, but we both are feeling and looking better. We realize now that eating Oreo’s and drinking beer every day was probably not a good health plan. Too bad.
We sometimes go to a matinee after the Weight Watchers meeting, but we also are fairly regular at the Starbuck’s counter at Barnes and Noble. We sometimes go to La Plaza (mall) at McAllen and we found the Mercedes Mall over in Brownsville so we could shop at Dick’s. We do like our shopping 🙂
Other entertainment has included watching the crop duster over the neighboring fields of cabbage and beets. We have stepped up our exercise by alternating walking and bicycling Monday through Thursday. We take the nearby levy road a mile and a half out and back each time, and sometimes I also ride my bike inside the compound, which has a u-shaped road. We also drove an hour over to Brownsville one day for a nice round of golf – and we really should do that again, soon. The Border Fence is interesting… it runs east/west along U.S. Military Highway 281, which is the path we take to go anywhere from the compound. On the way to Brownsville, the fence is clearly seen to the south of 281.
The weather here has been fantastic, although we did have flooding in surrounding areas due to Hurricane Patricia – nothing that really impacted us. Temperatures have been in the mid-80’s with 60-80% humidity, but I think cooler temps are coming our way soon.
You might remember that we are scheduled to be here through the end of April 2016, and we have already started thinking about where to go from here. In fact, we have talked with a number of Colorado State Parks and it looks favorable for a campground host position at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado from May through July, 2016. That would put us less than a thousand miles from St. Louis and make it possible to be home in August and in Florida by the first of September, so that is the goal. With that in mind, I will close for now.
Wishing you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends,
Dorothy & Ken
Here are some pictures to look through and see what we’ve seen and done in the Lower Rio Grande River Valley.