Monday, December 13, 2010

Hangin' in Harlingen...

Well, we've been in Harlingen for almost 5 weeks now and we're lovin' it! The weather stays between the mid-60s and the mid-80s and is usually in the 70s range. The winds can be pretty brutal...sometimes as much as 40 mph, but we were forewarned about that! As I speak, there's not even a slight you never can tell!

Since our last blog, we haven't done a whole lot of sight seeing...this trip is definitely a laid-back, relaxing trip. We did head down to Brownsville for an afternoon to see an indoor fleamarket that's advertised on billboards all over the town...not worth it! Most of the booths were shut down and the ones that were open consisted of yardsale-type junk. It took us about 30 minutes to walk the entire flea market! Brownsville is right on the Mexican border so we did see the the crossing into Mexico. This crossing leads into the Mexican city of Matamoros, which is one of the high-crime cities that is constantly in the we're not planning on visiting there!

I flew to Greensboro, NC three weeks ago to visit my sister and her family for 5 days...and had a great time! While mom and dad spent two nights in Myrtle Beach, Annabelle, Katiebug and Wawa were very busy! We went to the movies and saw 'Tangled' (I love these movies so it's a great excuse to go with the kiddies!); we went to an indoor gym filled with jumping rooms and slides...and of course I had to join in the fun! And we went to a place similar to Chuck E Cheese...lots of arcade games, etc. I'll tell ya, Wawa was exhausted when she got back to TX! It took a week for me to catch up on my sleep! I think I wore out the kiddies too!

Let's see...what else have we done in and around Harlingen, TX? Oh, yeah! We went to McAllen (about 40 miles west of Harlingen) for a holiday crafts show and had a great time! Of course we had to buy a few things...locally made jellies, jewelry cleaner, and the McAllen Junior League cookbook (the Junior League sponsored the crafts show). I love cookbooks!

After the holidays, we're going to head over to South Padre Island...supposedly a 'must-see'! I imagine it's alot like Marco Island in Southwest Florida...very touristy and ritzy. And we'll probably head back to McAllen...there's an outdoor fleamarket there that everyone loves...we'll see!

Other than what I've already mentioned, we've pretty much stayed around Harlingen and relaxed...which is what we planned on doing this trip...ahhh! We've found all the local necessary stores...Target, Walmart, H-E-B (the local grocery store), and the mall. Every time we venture out, I take different roads so that we now have a good feel for the town...I love getting lost...Ed not so much!

We've decorated the RV...a wreath on the front grill and candles and garland in the front window. Many of the RVs and park models in the park really go all out with decorations! One night soon (before Christmas), we'll take a night drive around the neighborhoods to see the lights.

Well, everyone, we hope y'all have a very merry Christmas! And let's remember what Christmas is really all about....sharing, worshipping, and reaching out to those less fortunate. God bless everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harlingen, TX

Hi y'all!

Well, we've been in Harlingen, TX for a week now and are very happy with the Tropic Winds RV Park. The park is on the outskirts of Harlingen, so it's very peaceful out here. I have to say that we're also very close to the Valley International Airport...but the noise is minimal. The only two major airlines that use this airport are Continental and Southwest and there don't seem to be too many flights daily. And certainly, there don't seem to be any flights overnight. So we can deal with the occasional airplane flying overhead!

The trip here from Connecticut was thankfully uneventful! We spent most nights at Flying Js (these are truckstops right off the highways that are RV friendly). Alot of people don't like staying over at Flying Js because they are pretty noisy with trucks coming and going 24/7...but the noise doesn't bother us and we like the's a safety issue with us! They also have dumpstations, and easy access to pumps (our gas tank is on the back so it's tough finding a pump that we can use), and a restaraunt if we're hungry. Ed likes their coffee in the morning, too!

We met up with some friends of ours on the way down and stayed at a Walmart with them one night. Dinner at an Outback was alot of fun with them, too! The next day we stopped at a rest area and said our goodbyes as they headed to FL and we continued on to TX. Thanks Bonnie and Frank for keeping us company and amused!

Harlingen, TX is a city about 35 miles north of the Mexican border and about 40 miles west of South Padre Island. It is the third largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, behind Brownsville to the south and McAllen to the west, covering about 35 square miles. We've been exploring the area during the week we've been here...we've found the Valley Mall, Walmart, Target...all in the same area, and we've found the downtown district, which reminds us alot of State Street and Bank Street in New London, CT (our hometown). In the downtown district, there are several antique/flea market store fronts, along with cafes and restaraunts. There are also many empty storefronts. We found a restaraunt called O'l D's Soda Shop, which we think is located in an old Woolworth store...complete with the soda fountain and barstools! We talked to the owner, David, for quite a while and he was telling us how he's been open for only 2 months and is trying, along with others, to bring the downtown district back. There's alot of dissension tho...many people would rather have the activity on the outskirts of town, where the mall is. He invited us to come back on Saturdays, when he has live entertainment consisting of oldies and country music.

Well, we took David up on his offer and on Saturday we found a local Catholic church, went to the 5:30 mass and afterward, headed on down to O'l D's for a hamburger and entertainment. When we walked in, we were very surprised to find the restaraunt jam packed! So we grabbed a couple of barstools at the soda fountain and just watched everything! David came by and told us that they had two parties (one of which was supposed to be 30 people and turned into 70!) and that he only had 2 of his 6 waitresses working! We ordered our meals and just sat amazed, watching the activity. David is a true entertainer and kept the masses entertained and happy while they waited for their meals and I think the night was a huge success for him (if not quite stressful!). We'll definitely go back again!

Today is Monday, so after a week of relaxing and exploring, I'm heading out to the local Kelly Services to see if I can find a part-time job while we're here. I'm having such a nice time relaxing tho..... :-)
Not sure when we'll post another blog...we're not really travelling far...but we want to head over to South Padre Island and the surrounding cities, like McAllen, Brownsville, and Weslaco. I'll be sure to fill you in on these trips! When we leave here in early April, we'll head up to San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas and then over to New Orleans and home.
These pics are for mom!

More later!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Texas Here We Come!

Well, it's been 5 months since our last blog, but it's time to start up again! Tomorrow we begin our trek to Harlingen, TX. Don't ask me why we chose Harlingen to spend the next 5 months...actually, we were planning on returning to FL this winter, but just couldn't decide where we wanted to stay...sooooo....since we have never stayed in TX, we decided to keep our wanderlust going and head to TX! Harlingen is about 40 miles west of South Padre Island and about 35 miles north of the Mexican we don't plan on crossing into Mexico...too much violence for us snowbirds. It was in the 80s today in Harlingen...and since winter is fast approaching in CT, we're excited to be heading to warmer weather. I was glad to be able to watch autumn pass through here this year...last year we were already in AZ by the time Autumn made its entrance. I think the fall is the most beautiful season of the year, especially in New England!

Anyway, we should be in Harlingen next Sunday (not even a week away...yeah!). We're staying at the Tropic Winds RV had excellent reviews, so hopefully we made the right choice! While we're there we plan on taking a week or two and heading up to San Antonio to see the Alamo and the River Walk, and then on to Dallas. My dad was born in Dallas and I'd love to see where my grandparents are buried and the house (if it's still standing!) where we used to visit them when we were kids. Ed also wants to tour the Dallas Cowboys stadium while we're there. And I'd love to stop in Austin to visit my nephew Jeremy and his beautiful wife, Ana!

After our stay in Harlingen, we'll be heading home in April, making several stops along the way. I can't wait to see my sister's new house in VA and visit with my sweet nieces in NC! We also have to stay in a few states so we can add them to our map!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Visiting Drew and the girls in Wabash, IN

Our final destination on our 8 month journey was a stop in Wabash IN to visit my brother Drew and his two daughters, Melissa and Alicia. We also wanted to see the newest little addition to the family... our 15 month old grand-niece, Lylly!

We arrived at the Honey Bear Hollow Campground in Peru, IN late Thursday afternoon, which is about 20 miles west of Wabash. It was the closest campground in the area and it was very pleasant. Their claim to fame is a disc golfcourse, which was very busy the whole time we were there.
I first met little miss Lylly on Friday, and fell immediately and totally in love with her! Not only is she a real cutie, but she's smart to boot! Always on the go and very inquisitive! When Mel and Alicia got home from school, we all went out for a great Mexican meal... thanks, Mom! Our nieces, Melissa and Alicia, are both gorgeous and fun and very smart. Both are on their respective cheerleading squads too... very talented young ladies! It was so nice to see them after a 3 year absence.

On Saturday, Ed came with me to visit and he fell in love with Lylly too! We spent the afternoon at Drew's and then everyone went back to the RV for steaks on the grill... yum! We topped off the meal with an ice cream at DQ.

We met at Drew's house on Sunday, where Ed walked down the street to the Catholic Church and I joined Drew, Alicia, and Lylly for the service at the Friends Church, the church they've been attending for years. Afterwards we played with Lylly at Drew's house and then I drove Ed back to the RV because Emma was home alone and went back to Drew's for another great meal... Chinese this time!

Monday was our last day in Wabash, so Ed stayed behind at the RV with Emma and did laundry and cleaned... what a sweetie! I spent our last day playing with Lylly while Drew did some grocery shopping and we had lunch with Sally, a good friend of Drew's. I met Sally years ago and she's a real sweetie. Two months ago she had a double lung transplant and has had a few scary moments since, but she looks and feels great now and is well on the way to a full recovery!

We packed up and headed out this morning and went alot further than expected. After driving 450 miles, we're staying overnite at a Super Walmart in Clearfield, PA. We only have 395 miles to home, so we'll be there tomorrow... a day early.

I can't believe we've been on the road for 8 months... it's been an incredible journey and one we will never forget! We've seen so many places... and several we'd like to return to in the coming years. It'll be hard to transition to the every day life again, but... we only have 5 months before we head down to Florida again! Yeah!! In truth, I'm a little homesick and I'll be glad to see my mom again and Kristin and Anna and Mike... you get the picture... :-)

Signing off until our next adventure!
Ed, Rena, and Emma

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fairmont, MN and Wisconsin Dells, WI

Monday night was spent at the Flying Goose RV Park in Fairmont, MN. This is a beautiful RV park, with lots of land, a lake, trees, barns, and rolling hills. The owners bought this land when it was a farm about 6 years ago and have turned it into one of the nicest RV parks we've stayed at.

Emma had a great time running in the fields and the lake and we enjoyed just walking around the grounds. For dinner we went to the Channel Inn, a rustin little restaurant in town located right on the lake's edge. Fairmont is a quaint, neat little town and our overnight stay was very relaxing.

Tuesday we headed down to Wisconsin Dells, WI and are staying at the Stand Rock RV Park, another nice RV park. After we settled in, we took a ride downtown... little did we know what a tourist town this is! Home of Mt. Olympus Amusement Park, we counted at least 5 waterparks and 5 roller coasters in town! Add to that the duckboat rides, the mini-golf, the gazillion hotels and motels.... it was amazing!
On Wednesday, we headed to Mauston, WI, about 17 miles north on I-90, to visit the Carr Valley Cheese Factory and store. They have a viewing window and you need to get there between 8:00 and 11:00 when they're making a vat of cheese. It's best to get there as early as possible, so you don't miss any of the process. We also saw a video that explains the whole process. Of course we bought several different cheeses and 2 bags of Wisconsin's favorite snack... Cheese Curds! They had samples of cheese curds... only 3 hours old... the fresher the better! They're not fresh unless they squeak when you chew them!
Wednesday evening, we decided to play a couple of rounds of miniature golf. I decided to let Ed win both games so as not to bruise his fragile male ego... ;-)

Today (Thursday) we forge on... stopping about 240 miles south of here off of I-39, at the Hickory Hill Campground in Secor, IL. Tomorrow we should be in Peru, IN, which is about 16 miles west of Wabash IN where my brother lives. We'll stay in Peru for 4 nights to visit and then move on to CT.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse (and more...)

We decided to drive to Sturgis, SD on Friday because there was a farmer's market on Main Street on Fridays and I thought it would be a good way to see Sturgis. Well, there were only 3 booths and none of them were selling vegetables! But since we were there, we decided to walk around and see Main Street. Sturgis is the site of an annual motorcycle rally held in August and this year they celebrate their 70th rally. It began in 1938 and has been held every year except for 2 years during the WWII gas rationing. We saw a few pictures of the rally and I think it's even more crowded than Bike Week in Daytona!

On the way to Sturgis, we took a nice scenic route that ran through Deadwood, SD, which is a National Historic Landmark. Wild Bill Hickock was shot and buried here. Deadwood also had the first telephone exchange in the state of South Dakota. We discovered as we walked down Main Street that the entire town consists largely of casinos and saloons! Of course I had to try my hand at the slots, and had I left when I was finished with the 1 cent slots, I would've been ahead by $1.20... but alas, I had to try the $1.00 slots and left with $5 less than what I came in with!

So that was our first day in Rapid City... on to day 2!

On Saturday, we headed to Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse... how fascinating they were! Our first stop was Mt. Rushmore and while we were there, we met Nick Clifford, the last living Mt. Rushmore worker. He worked on the statues in 1938, 1939, and 1940 and he's a wealth of information! He's 89 now and we had a lovely chat with him, and also bought his book of questions and answers about Mt. Rushmore. The memorial was created by Gutzon Borglum and consists of the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Borglum picked this particular location because of the fine grain granite rock that was good for carving and he needed enough of it so that the sculpture would face the morning sunrise. The original idea came from Doane Robinson, the South Dakota State Historian in the early 1900s. He wanted something that would entice people to visit South Dakota... this was obviously a good idea! In his book, Mr. Clifford says that these four presidents were selected for the sculpture for the following reasons: "George Washington was our first president and the Father of our contry. Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of our country with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. He also drafted the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln is credited with holding the nation together during the Civil War and he was called the Great Emancipator. Theodore Roosevelt support the completion of the Panama Canal, which would have an effect on world trade. He also set aside some of the National Parks."

One last interesting tidbit before I move on to Crazyhorse: after Mr. Borglum died in 1941 from an embolism, his son continued his work, but funding ran out before the sculpture could be completed. The original plan for the sculpture was to be of the presidents from head to waist, but that was not to be.

After we left Mt. Rushmore, we headed to Crazyhorse, which was the Indian's answer to Mt. Rushmore. Native American leaders wanted to create a statue to let the white man know that the red man has great heroes too. They chose Crazyhorse because of his values and great spirit. He died young and tragically when he was stabbed in the back under the false pretense of a truce. His statue, when completed, will have him pointing forward in answer to the white man's question 'Where are your lands now?'... his answer is 'My lands are where my dead lie buried'. The sculpture was created and worked on by Korczak Ziolkowski, who was commissioned by the Native American leaders. He won first place at the World's Fair for his sculptures and he was well know in West Hartford, CT. After his death in 1982, his wife and children have continued his work and will not stop until the entire sculpture is complete. The funding for this comes solely from private contributions and admission fees.
When we left Crazyhorse, we took the scenic route around Custer State Park. The route winds through forest and field, and we saw several deer and one buffalo. The road itself is very curvy and especially so as we headed back up towards Mt. Rushmore. There were several hairpin turns where we had to slow to 15mph, and there were 4 or 5 single lane tunnels. It was definitely worth the ride... especially as we passed through the tunnels to see Mt. Rushmore in the distance!

This area was the last 'must see' on our 8 month journey. Now we head home, stopping in Indiana to visit my brother and my nieces and grand-niece!

We left Rapid City today and are spending tonight in Mitchell, SD. It turns out that Mitchell has a national landmark... the Corn Palace! It's only 2 miles from the rv park, so we unhooked the car and headed over for a look. The Corn Palace was built in 1892 and serves as a multi-purpose center for the town of Mitchell. Every summer the structure is re-decorated with murals made from corn, grains and native grasses that follow a different theme every year. Inside and out, the walls are covered with bright, intricate murals and is really something to behold!

Oh, yeah... on the way to Mitchell, we stopped in Wall, SD to see Wall Drug... the billboards advertizing it reminded us of South of the Border in South Carolina, so we took the bait and detoured down Main Street, Wall, SD! Well, this drugstore is huge, and much more than a drugstore. It began in 1931 when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the only drugstore in town and barely made it through the lean years. It has since grown into one of America's roadside attractions!

Tomorrow we head for Minnesota, only 170 miles... but we have to stop and stay so we can add a state to our map! We'll see what sights we can see there!