Pico de Gallo

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We have been big fans of Pico de Gallo ever since we first went to Mexico together in 2003. That was our first big Mayan ruins trip in the Yucatan and we encountered an especially delicious form at Chicanna, on the way to the ruins at Calakmul. They called it salsa fresa and we have been making and eating it ever since.

Click here for more of our Mexican adventures 2003-2011.
We went to ruins all over the Yucatan.

Anyway…
Pico is a great Happy Hour food, no calories except the chips you scoop it up with. We eat it on tacos all the time too.  And eggs. And straight out of the bowl sometimes. It is that good.

Here’s how to make it. The secret for making it perfect is simple: eyeball the same amount of tomato, onion and cilantro. Then I add back a little more tomato. Add jalapeño peppers to taste; I usually use about three for about a quart or so. Kosher salt, ground pepper and lime juice add the final touches.

Roma tomatoes
Cilantro
Onion (red or white)
Jalapeño peppers
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
Lime juice to taste. Don’t scrimp here, this makes it super yummy.

Chop everything up, mix together and let it sit for a while so the peppers take effect.

While you’re at it, make some guacamole to go with it as pictured above. Just smush up the avocados, add back some of the pico, some salt and lime juice. The key to making sure the guac doesn’t turn brown is to cover it with Saran Wrap and push the covering right down on the guac so no air is in there. Some people leave the pit in for the same reason, but this can lead to a surprise when serving.

We’re having tacos tonight with beans, avocados, olives, chicken, lettuce and pico (of course!)

Enjoy!

February 16 and All is Well

How is it already the middle of February? We are still wrapping our minds around the fact that we consider a cold day when the temperature is about 50 and the wind is blowing. Today it was about 80, but the temperature is dropping fast and will be in the 40s tonight. EEK! We gleefully sorrowfully follow the news of epic snows in the Northeast, and even Ohio and Tennessee. Even parts of Texas are under the weather, so to speak. In Dallas, which is about  500 miles north of us, it was in the 40s today. So you can see that it’s easy to get spoiled.

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So February 16. My brother, Duncan, would have been 60 years old today. He died when he was 38 on the day before Mother’s Day. February 16 is also the day my mom died in 2012. As my sister Cherie said, “Dunc came down and scooped her up in his strong arms.”

It also looks like February 16 may be the birthday of Jim’s niece’s baby. We got a text that she was in labor earlier today. Edited to add: Ransom Andrew Smith born at 5:04 PM. May the circle be unbroken.

We have been so fortunate here; people are always stopping by and asking if we need a ride to the store or anything picked up. Today we had two offers, both of which we accepted. Whenever we ride into town on our bikes, somebody from the park always sees us and reiterates their invitation for a ride or loan of their car. One lady told me that she saw us in town on the bikes and told her husband that they should stop and take us wherever we wanted to go. I told her that was not necessary but much appreciated. In fact, the last time we biked in for groceries, we bought more than we ever had. We had to bungee some stuff on; usually it all fits in the saddlebags. So a ride is nice from time to time and we are grateful.

Today I swam laps and relaxed at the pool (!) and read. Jim played water volleyball. We picked up a couple of free patio chairs for our site. The kitties had a long outing. Tonight we are celebrating Valentine’s Day with steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli. We saw a well produced local play last night. Tomorrow there is a Super Happy Hour, body painting and Mardi Gras parade in the park.

Life is good. Happy February 16.

Office and Okies

Time is flying by here in the Rio Grande Valley and we are definitely having fun. The weather is turning nicer after a few cool rainy spells but we have absolutely nothing to complain about compared to those enduring winter farther north. This is the first winter I have spent in a warm climate and I have to wonder why all those folks up north don’t move south immediately. And why we didn’t move south sooner. Oh yeah, jobs and all that.

Speaking of jobs, the cool weather has been a great opportunity for me to work ahead. Jim installed an extendable laptop arm for each of us and I have been making the most of mine. The granite tabletop was not conducive to long-term use; it was uncomfortable to sit for so long and the granite froze my forearm. This arrangement is much better.

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When not in use, the arm folds up flat against the wall between the charging station cabinet and the passenger seat. Genius!

We bought swim goggles and have been making up for the lack of 40+ mile bike rides by swimming laps. It also helps to counteract all the deliciousness we encounter here in the park and in town. Before 2014 was over, I had over 1000 miles on my new bike, all since mid-July. My goal for this year is at least 2500 miles. We are still riding to the store, of course, but that is only about a 20 mile round trip. We have to do a bit of dog dodging; whole packs seem to lay in wait for us but it just gets our adrenaline up and we bike faster. And if the wind is blowing, which it often is, one leg of the trip goes much faster than the other. It helps to be loaded down when the wind picks up.

We also need to figure out where we are heading when we leave here. We know we will go west but have been so busy eating and drinking having fun and socializing that we haven’t really figured out any specifics. I know I want to get back on the Bike Trail Tour, so we just need to spend some time on that. We have friends in Arizona, California, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado we want to see too. We probably won’t make it to Alaska this summer. That is the last state I need to check off my list.

Jim has started playing his ukeleles and he sat in on his first gig at Pub Night last week. A couple of musicians in the park have taken him under their wing and it is fun to sit outside under the awning listening to them jam during Happy Hour. He is playing The Big Rock Candy Mountain in the variety show next weekend and has been practicing diligently. For just a month or so in, he is pretty good and improves daily. I will try to post a video soon.

Our good friends from Oklahoma are coming to visit next weekend! Yay! They call themselves Dos Okies. We met in Mexico at a similar venue and hit it off with them right away. When our hosts in Mexico said, “The tie-dye people are coming tomorrow” I asked why she called them that. She said “You’ll see.” And we did. They have perfected the art of tie dye and create some fantastic designs. They always wear tie dyed stuff; I have never seen them in anything else. We visited them in Oklahoma one long weekend a few years ago and had a marathon tie dye session. I predict a colorful weekend with friends. We can’t wait!

 

Junior’s Deserves its Own Post

One of the things we were a little worried about before we got to our Winter Texas spot was the proximity of groceries. We had asked about it before coming, of course, but you know how you just need to see for yourself. Since we would be depending on the bikes, we needed to be sure we could get the goods.

When we got here, we were assured that there was Walmart, Costco, HEB and other stores nearby, like within 8 miles or so which is definitely do-able. Somebody also mentioned the “Mexican” grocery store, which is the closest,  and that sounded good to us but other people said, “We never shop there.” We needed to check it out. Once we got the bus parked, we didn’t want to be taking it out to get groceries. We needed to use the bikes.

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The most excellent “Mexican” grocery store is just five miles away by bike. It’s called Junior’s and it has a whole lot of goodness packed into a small space. This place is unbelievable, a dream come true.

The produce and meat departments go on forever and would put our grocery in Kansas to total shame. The meat department extends for miles. They have all the usual stuff, except thick steaks KC style, plus all kinds of goodies like marinated chicken, fajita skirt steak, arrachera, chorizo, ribs, crawfish, frog legs, pig feet and even pig heads. Last time I went they also had cow heads, complete with teeth. Only $1.39 a pound. The pig heads are only 99 cents a pound! I must say I have never seen pig (or cow) heads in the grocery before. When you see them in peoples’ carts, they usually have an entire cart full. What on earth do they make with them? I bet it’s good. When I see somebody’s grocery cart loaded up with pig heads, all manner of peppers, spices, beans, onions and tortillas I just want to go home with them and see what they cook up.

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These are the cow heads, Cabeza de rez. If you look closely, you can see the teeth. At $1.39 a pound, they are huge, since they go for about $40. We didn’t buy one.

They are heavy on the Hispanic stuff which is fine with us because we can’t get enough. The spices are packaged in environmentally friendly bags, not hard plastic throwaway containers. Some of the types of peppers I had never heard of, but we are busy trying them all. We make pico de gallo and guacamole a couple times a week, the avocados are cheap, large and delicious. There are scores of types of tortillas but not much bread except the spongy white stuff. The tilapia fillets are perfect for fish tacos and the selections of beans and peppers are amazing. There must be a hundred kinds of peppers, both fresh and dried to choose from.
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We have been eating lots of fish, arrachera, avocado salad with olives, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and salsa. Yum.

It is also interesting to observe grocery store behavior. Coming down the narrow aisle with your cart? Those large Mexican ladies are not going to stop their conversation and scoot our of your way. You just go with the flow. We are in the minority, after all. It works.

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The meat department guys are so courteous and helpful and always offer to answer questions in their very good English. Then they turn to their fellow butcher and discuss the situation in rapid-fire Spanish. Everybody who works in the store, or lives around here for that matter, is fluent in both Spanish and English. I am so envious!

Aside: I know lots of people in this country are in the “English only!” and “Close the border” camp but I gotta tell ya’ that it ain’t gonna happen. Look at it this way; Mexicans (and other immigrants) speak two languages adeptly and switch back and forth easily so why can’t we? And why on earth wouldn’t we want to? As far as I know, most Americans didn’t learn the language of this land’s natives when they settled here. Note to self: Speak more Spanish!

Texas is good at packing a lot into a small space. Our grocery store in Kansas was huge. I loved it for many years, but about six months before we moved, they undertook a major renovation which made it into a trendy, wasteful, kiosk oriented, sushi bar, homemade potato chip and salad bar, overpriced wanna-be Whole Foods without quite making it. The meat department had been very good, but they totally degraded it and made it into very expensive small packages of not nearly as good a selection as they had before. It seems like if you renovate, it should get better, not worse. At some point, I became so frustrated with them that I was actually happy we were moving and didn’t have to shop there anymore. It was an over-the-top attempt to make everything oh-so-trendy while removing convenience and quality. Very American, I guess. I prefer the way they do it down here.

Another thing I have found since we started traveling is that the groceries are priced at what the market will bear. When we were in south Memphis for a week or so, we were near a Kroger and the prices were so low, I couldn’t believe it! We stock up whenever we can. Same in Philadelphia and other cities. We had been overpaying in Johnson County for years. They can’t charge more than what people can pay. We were getting thick cut pork chops and similar meats at a fraction of the price that the good old Johnson County Price Chopper charged. Like $1.29 a pound. We fill the freezer every chance we get.

One good thing about going to the grocery on the bikes is that we can carry a lot, but usually not more than we can fit into the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Self-limiting. Edinburg has a very extensive system of bike lanes, so even when we need to go to the “American” store, HEB, or the hardware store, we can get there easily. We have been very fortunate while we are here and several folks have offered us rides to the store. We take them up on it when we need something heavy, like Coke or tuna. Every time we bike to town, somebody from the park mentions that they saw us riding and offers us a ride next time or even offers to lend us their car.

We got the best of all worlds here. We’re enjoying it and we are eating really well. We love Junior’s. Plus it is right across from the tamale place. We have lunch, shop and get to ride bikes.

Win win win.

Signs of Mexico

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We love Mexico. We have been going for years, so even though it was just a day trip it was great to be back. I even had pesos in my money clip that I had been carrying around since we were there last. We had a chance a while ago to go on a day trip to the border town of Progreso, so we did. Funny how you just start speaking Spanish again.

We drove to and walked across the bridge. The first stop was the very good margarita bar. Then most of the girls except me went to the nail salon to have pedicures and manicures. They didn’t tell me about the margaritas there!

Man, is it ever catered to the day trippers. What lots of Americans go to the border towns for are dental work, liquor, prescription drugs and booze. So every store is a combination of bar (great margaritas), tourist trap shop, liquor store, and pharmacy (antibiotics, Viagra available without prescription). We did a little bit of the “No, gracias” strip touring and succumbed to a couple of bolsa bags. As soon as you get off the main drag, it is the same as what we remember in the Yucatan. Pollo asado, colorful houses, goats, friendly people. Ahhh.

Some photos. More on Flickr.

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We done got’s us one ‘o them thar Sat’lites!

IMG_6984The Journey:

We’ve had all of the TV services out there and as you know it is a love/hate kind of thang! Dish, DirecTV, TWC, etc. they are all a bunch of crooks if you ask me. My biggest bitch is they save all the best deals for their least loyal customers! If you’ve been a loyal customer, paying your bill on time they ‘thank’ you by racheting up the cost year after year. They extend the best deals to new customers. The only way to beat the system is dump your current provider every 12 – 24 months. On top of that, there are really only a dozen or less channels with anything worth watching, but you have to pay for all 250 most of which is pure #^$%. But Hey folks, that’s what competition does for you, the consumer, it provides choice and selection! It puts you in the driver seat.  So glad… Ok, rant done… well almost… actually not…

Obviously, we are really not big fans of TV, but Wendy loves her sports. In the fall its football, come winter there’s basketball, then March Madness in the spring and baseball all summer. OK, yes I like to watch too. We were missing most of it because all we could pull was the local channels depending on where we were parked. Usually that meant nothing! Sooner or later I knew this ‘over-the-air’ (OTA) thing would lose its charm. Digital broadcasting sure beats the old analog stuff, and it was the right price, but that was just about its only advantage. Nothing is still nothing.

So, I started looking into our options for TV programming that would get us that sports coverage we were missing. In the good ol’ US of A, for full time RVers there are only 2 choices: a satellite service or OTA and you already know the OTA was not working out. Of the satellite services there is Dish Network or DirecTV. There’s that vaunted market-based economy workin’ for ya, how’s that going? Both are despicable, but a man must do what a man must do for love…:)

Dish is actually just a little cheaper than DirecTV and has a slightly better customer service reputation. Surprisingly, the hardware an RV’er needs to pull in Dish Network is more readily available and a little cheaper also. There’s a gotcha, though ain’t there always – a little known FCC regulation that limits satellite services from broadcasting local channels outside a 100 mile radius! Now for those of you living in a standard brick and mortar that’s no hardship as your home doesn’t move (hopefully). For RVers that’s a problem if you want to watch network programming on ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, etc. The FCC forces the satellite services to ‘spot-beam’ for local channels Move too far out of your local broadcast area and you pass beyond the spot-beam and suddenly you can only get network affiliates via OTA. See above for the problems that incurs.

There is a ‘work-around’ for this problem: Distant Network Services (DNS). In its infinite wisdom, the FCC allows exceptions to the rule if you can prove you live in an area that is not served by local channels or you live in a recreational vehicle! Problem solved? – NOT! Dish Network ended their contract in 2014 with the company that provided DNS to its customers. So Dish customers cannot receive the DNS service anymore! So, no network coverage when you are outside your local broadcast area (based on your billing address) except – you guessed it! OTA

Nice little pickle the FCC set up for us full-time RVers, huh?

If I have to pay one of these outfits for TV coverage every month then I’m not going to settle for OTA for the network channels. Most of the time that would mean no coverage! Besides, I’m paying for 200 channels of worthless $%^& and I can’t get ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX? Ok, I know that’s mostly %@&^ too, but it’s familiar $%^$. So, for us DirecTV is the only option. However, above, I mentioned that the hardware for an RVer to pull satellite services is less expensive if you go with Dish? Well, as it turns out it is a whole HELL of a lot cheaper! Why? Because if you want to pull DirecTV in HD in your motorhome there’s only one choice of satellite dish! That’s right! Only one and it retails for $2000 MSRP! Don’t be fooled by misleading advertising. Nobody, even at DirecTV itself, will tell you this! You have to read the fine print and figure it out for yourself. Do your research carefully. None of the multitude of satellite recievers out there (not the carry-outs, nor the domes, nor any other product) on the market for RV’ers will receive DirecTV in HD, except one – Winegard Slimline SWM-3. That’s right, only one! DirecTV will actually try to sell you another dish setup, but it will NOT bring in the HD signal. Don’t believe them! And, if you want DirecTV in HD ‘in-motion’ – it’s not gonna happen at all. Also, if you want DNS (see above) don’t bother calling DirecTV because the rep. you talk to will be absolutely clueless about that. Trust me, I tried. In fact, let me save you a WOS – Do Not call DirecTV to buy or activate your service! They absolutely do not comprehend the special needs of an RVer! I was finally told by a DirecTV rep just before they hung up on me, “Don’t call us back!” Believe it…

So in spite of the vaunted marketplace competition that we enjoy, HDTV in an RV that includes the network channels boils down to one service and one receiver in static mode only. If you are considering undertaking this journey, find an online vendor that can sell you all of the equipment (including the DTV receiver) and activate your account. If you try to do this via DirecTV, you will fail.

I found such a vendor at SolidSignal.com. A good price, free shipping and a rep that understands the needs of an RVer. So I did what I knew I was going to do all along and ordered the stuff. At least I did my research and had a reasonable chance of success. If I had relied on the ‘experts’ it would have turned very, very ugly…

Once I made the decision, ordered the stuff and the money was gone… I forgot all about the trials of the journey. Don’t look back!

This receiver is COOL! It mounts to the roof of the bus. It will stow/deploy itself automatically. Upon deployment, it unfolds, scans across the southern sky and locks in three different satellites! That’s what allows it to pull in DirecTV in HD – you’ve got to be able to lock in to all 3 of the satellites at the same time. When it is time to hit the road, it stows itself nearly flat on the roof. AutoMagic!

The Installation:

The installation instructions are decent and available online and they ship with the antenna. I also ordered a thin sheet metal mounting plate. I don’t really know if it was necessary, but I think it simplified the installation and added another layer of strength to the rooftop mounting. If you think you might do this on your RV, download the installation instructions to see if this is something you want to do yourself. Its not difficult, but does involve making holes in your roof – and sealing things up so it doesn’t leak.

Step one is to find a good location on the roof that is free of obstructions. This thing is bigger than it looks from the ground! I’d hoped to install it in front of the fore A/C unit, but that was not possible. So I put it down the centerline behind that front A/C unit. I still have room for solar panels, so this position will work well. That big plastic carbuncle will also protect my dish from low-hanging branches. Proper mounting requires a free and clear 34″ radius from the center of the mounting plate and nothing higher than 10 inches.

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Sheet metal mounting plate in position.

The pre-drilled plate needs to be anchored to the roof and screws are provided. The roof of the bus is slightly rounded, so there were small gaps between the edges of the mounting plate and the roof. Generous quantities of a good quality roof caulk ensured a good seal.

Mounting plate secured and sealed

Mounting plate secured and sealed

FedEx delivered to our door, but Wendy and I had to figure out how to get it up on the roof! It weighs about 50 lbs, so we needed a good plan… At first, I thought I’d just heave it up into my arms and carry it up the ladder – NOT! Wendy had a better idea wherein we used our heads vs. my old back and brawn. So we wrapped the unit in blankets and towels and looped a rope around the base. With me on the ladder and Wendy below, using a piece of cardboard as a slide we hoisted it up the ladder onto the roof. Nothing and no one broken.

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Wrapped and ready to slide up the ladder.

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Up on the roof…

The mounting plate is also pre-drilled for the satellite dish! So using it just simplifies the installation. The instructions caution you to be sure to seal the bottom of the dish where it contacts the roof/mounting plate so no moisture can seep under the dish and eventually corrode the internals. Here again, a generous application of caulk should do the job.

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Mounted and sealed, ready for cabling.

Cabling was next and I decided to use an existing hole in the roof that I used to install an external antenna for our mobile hotspot. You can see it in the upper right corner of that last picture. The hole wasn’t big enough to accommodate the satellite dish cables, so I had to pull the external antenna wire and enlarge the hole with a drill and a grinding stone. The roof is aluminum, so that job only took a couple of minutes. Besides the big control cable a 30′ coax cable is provided with the dish and must also be run to the roof, but they only crimped a coax connector on one end of the cable!? Presumably so that the installer could cut the coax to length. I didn’t have a way to crimp a coax connector so I just used a shorter coax cable I’d purchased for another little project. That meant some coax cable will be forever coiled up inside the cabinet, but I just didn’t feel like pedaling 30 miles round trip on my bicycle for a shorter length. The dish also comes with a nice plastic cap (screws included) to cover and seal the hole in the roof. Again, generous application of caulk will ensure a long-lasting seal.

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Cables installed, routed and sealed.

Now it was time to see if all the equipment would fit into the cabinet down below. Besides the NAS that was already in the cabinet, I now have to fit the following components and all cables and power supplies: Satellite control box, satellite power inserter, control cable, coax cable and AC power supply, satellite coax splitter; DirecTV receiver and power supply, DirecTV CKK (for LAN connection) and AC power supply, Blu-Ray DVD (w/ LAN connection) and AC power supply. Here’s a picture of the results. I hope it works the first time! I don’t want to pull all of that stuff out.

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Amazing! It all fits.

Even more amazing – It worked! I plugged the power strip in and powered it all up and voila that thar sat ‘lite just set right up pretty as ya please! Once it locked on to the 3 satellites, a quick call to SolidSignal and the dish was activated on the DirecTV network and we were in business. IMG_6990 IMG_6989IMG_6988IMG_6986

All in all, the install was fairly simple. Now we have TNF, SNF, MNF and all the playoffs plus more talking heads than anyone could possibly need. How is it possible to have SO MUCH TO SAY about football? I like HBO too.  March Madness in the spring, and so much more. Oh how did we live without this??

Merry Christmas from the Rio Grande Valley

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Merry Christmas to all.

Being here in south Texas doesn’t seem like a “normal” Christmas. Warm days, flowering trees, swimming and bike riding aren’t what we are used to in December. But we are working hard on them daily and we are making much progress! I am really enjoying the low key/low expectation season.

Now I think all the hustle/bustle of the holidays is (even more) manufactured to keep peoples’ minds off the weather. How’s that working out for ya’?

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December Days

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Where does the time go? We are six weeks into our Winter Texan gig and it is working well. I am managing to work ahead on magazine stuff during the cooler days and I finally have time to switch over to the new computer I bought in April. We are enjoying the 70+ degree weather immensely, wearing as few clothes as possible, playing water volleyball, swimming, doing yoga, riding bikes, taking the kitties on walks, attending happy hours and eating up a storm.

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We hosted our first Happy Hour last week. It was lots of fun. Everybody brings their own beverage and chair and some bring food. It lasts about an hour and is a great way to meet lots of nice people. There is one every night somewhere and no, you don’t have to drink. I can’t start drinking that early anyway, 4:00 PM?

The kitties are going outside daily and people get a kick out of them in their harnesses on a “walk.” Mostly we try to keep them from getting tangled up with each other and out of the engine compartment of the bus.

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Carmella says “Come ON!”

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Astrid is the shyest although she has ventured out more the last few days. She runs for the bus on a regular basis. We keep the door open so they can run right in. They don’t like it when the wind picks up; it is automatic cat control.

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Tikita concentrates on eating grass. Oh and getting into the engine bay.

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Jim installed a satellite and Direct TV in/on the bus just in time to watch Monday Night Football for the first time this season! We decided what the heck. Even if we only watch a few things like football and March Madness and some PBS. He will post about that but it went smoothly. He is awesome.

We made a great discovery, Delia’s, specializing in tamales. I found this place on my Yelp app and we biked in to eat lunch last week before we shopped. It’s always good to go to the grocery store on a full stomach! We ate a half dozen spicy chicken tamales and ended up buying two dozen more to take back to the bus. Delicious! The greenish sauce at the topping station turned out to be habañero, not avocado like I thought when I lavished it over my plate. Clear your sinuses much?
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THIS! So delicious! Watch out for the green sauce next time…

A few recent Texas sky pics.

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Next up: Welcome to Junior’s, best grocery store ever. It deserves its own post.

 

 

We Washed It! Finally…

After traveling since July, the bus was getting really dirty. The paint job keeps it from showing too much at a glance but it needed a good going over. Once we got to our winter destination, we decided to tackle the task. It took all day, but we did it!

Jim started on the roof and we worked our way down. We weren’t real sure what to use to clean it up, it was so dirty! I had bought some degreaser in Falfurrias, Texas for the engine back end where it was especially dirty. When I read the directions, it said not to use on painted surfaces. Great…

I tested a little swatch and it seemed OK but it didn’t work that well and required a lot of what my mom called “elbow grease.” We decided to start on the sides.

We put  about two gallons of water with a healthy pour of Advanage Wonder Cleaner in a bucket and used a brush and scrubber sponges soaked with a shot of Wonder Cleaner full strength. I have been using this stuff for years, diluted or full dose depending on the dirt. You hardly ever need a full dose. I alternated with white vinegar routinely on floors, countertops, mirrors. I used to clean the garage floor with it. That stuff is amazing! It really is Wonder Cleaner. Would it work on a bus?

BEFORE
The engine bay doors. We didn’t think these would ever come clean. That Detroit Diesel 6V92 may be a little dirty, but does it ever just go down the road. We can live with the dirt.

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BEFORE and AFTER
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We figured it would take us several hours to wash the bus ourselves and it took most of the day. We used the Wonder Cleaner soaked scrubber sponges after we went over it with a soft brush wet liberally with the bucket mixture. The brush loosened the dirt and we followed up everywhere we could reach with the sponges, which is where most of the dirt was anyway. Then we rinsed with the hose and nozzle.

Easy as bread. Remember the TV show that’s from?

But it is still a lot of square footage to cover and lots of ladder climbing and moving. We had picked the perfect day, warm but overcast so we weren’t getting beaten down by the sun all day.

When we got to the engine bay doors, we just kept on with the Wonder Cleaner and didn’t even need any of the degreaser and not much of the aforementioned elbow grease. We started with a 3/4 full bottle of the concentrate, of which I happened to have two. By the time we were done, we still had cleaner left in the first bottle. I guess we have enough to wash it again. We still need to do the bike bag.

AFTER: It really did make it lighter and brighter.

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Needless to say, I highly recommend Advanage Wonder Cleaner. The quart bottle we used costs about $30 but it is a bargain. Best cleaner ever.

And no, this post isn’t sponsored. I wish it was. This is just some seriously good stuff.

 

 

Winter Texans

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This being our first winter of full-timing, we knew we wanted to get as far south as possible. We didn’t want to do too much moving around since the spots fill up fast, apparently. At state parks like Padre Island National Seashore, you can stay for 14 days but then you have to pack it up and move for at least 48 hours. And you can only stay a total of 56 days in a year. Those sites are first come, first served and especially in the winter, you can’t be assured of getting a site. We didn’t feel like spending the winter at Walmarts and we wanted to be plugged in because we knew we would need heat besides the Aqua Hot.

Jim started checking into places like Key West, Florida, Texas and Arizona many moons ago. Places in Florida are booked way early and they are kinda pricey. We just wanted a nice quiet spot with a good place to take the kitties out, and hookups. Nothing fancy. A pool is always nice but we weren’t too picky on that aspect. Laundry was essential, of course, and close proximity to groceries and ice as we would be traveling by bike to those locations. We figured we could rent a car or buy one if we needed to.

As usual, Dr. Google (aka Jim…)  zoned in on the research and narrowed it down to a couple of places that fit our criteria, one in Florida and one in Texas. We know Florida, down south anyway, is warm at least through Christmas since we were at our friend Jonathan’s a couple of years ago. It was 85 out and you could wear as few clothes as possible. We wanted a place like that.

When we decided to park it for the winter, we weren’t sure how we would like being in one spot for so long. We are used to being on the move, on to the next bike trail! On the other hand, it might be nice to just settle down and not think about where we would land next and what would it be like when we get there.

Jim’s research paid off and we are tucked into a very nice spot just north of the Mexican border at Reynosa. We have actually been here two weeks already and the time has gone fast. When we first arrived, we still weren’t sure how we would like being parked for so long and we asked about that. “What if we want to leave?” But it is pay in advance, so we did.

We are liking it. The first week or so, it was warm enough for swimming. In the very nice pool. All the things we were looking for are here: nice people especially. Some folks live here year round and some are like us; they just keep coming back every year. Everybody says, “Once you come here, you will never leave.” Kind of like the Hotel California, except in a good way. There is a bath house, exercise facilities, laundry, the aforementioned pool, yoga studio for classes and self-practice, bike rides, book club and they even serve meals a few times a week. We can get mail here. We are already signed up for Thanksgiving dinner.

These first two weeks have flown by. We have attended several happy hours; there is one every day somewhere. The well-stocked Mexican grocery is just five miles away on the bike and there is a small abarrottes just a mile away where we can get ice. Essential for those happy hours. A group rides bikes weekly. We have been making use of the yoga studio. We have been eating lots of pico de gallo and avocados and grilled fish.

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The kitties have been getting almost daily outings. Astrid even ventured ALL THE WAY OUTSIDE the bus one time! They know to run back to the bus if a dog approaches. The dogs are well behaved. And did I mention that it is warm here and the people are so nice?

The last few days have been kind of chilly, high temps in the 50s, but apparently everybody north of us is freezing their asses off. These cooler days are a good time to catch up on work, bus projects, kitty walks, yoga, sleeping, reading, eating and just hanging out. I even went to the book club, which involves two of my favorite things, no three, books, wine and food. We have a front row view of the large central square, which is a big square dog park with palm trees and grass.

It is quiet here. We like it.