KAY’S TAKE: My Rio Grande Reflections

I really love the sun and beautiful weather in the middle of winter.  We didn’t have that many great days this past season—not nearly as many as usual—but it was a ‘weird’ winter everywhere.  So cold in the North and especially in Canada.  Some of our friends won’t get thaw until May or even June. Even we weren’t immune.  Norfork has had 17 snow episodes this year.  The 17 is happening now as we sit in Maumelle Park in Little Rock visiting kids.  

Dancin’ in the valley could be an every day occurrence.  We went to dances at our clubhouse, went to Riverside Club which is packed every Sunday, went to Don Chilo’s on Friday nights which is a real dive but one of our favorite Country bands plays there, and we discovered a new night spot called Buchanan’s which had a great dance floor and again our favorite band plays there on Thursday nights.  We love dancing the two step, the country waltz and were getting fair at the cha cha.  We went back to our dance lessons in Dec. and Jan. just to brush up on our steps and movements.  Donald’s really become a good dancer and leaderyes, I have to remember not to lead – hehehe!  We really have a good time dancing and it’s good exercise.  Wayne and Bessie love dancing too, so we kind of encourage each other to meet at the clubs and dance.

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I really love the people, especially the ones in Circle 300.  What a great bunch of interesting, fun loving, helping, caring folks.  We are one of the few ‘token’ Americans amongst many Canadians from several provinces.  Yet they tolerate us very well.  We laughingly discover the few language differences between us.  Some I especially enjoy are bathing the dog (not bathe); garage the car (pronounced like rash), and the last letter of the Canadian alphabet is pronounced zed not z.  The Canadian bacon we buy really isn’t Canadian.  At least our Canadian friends don’t know it or use it.  Their Canadian bacon is called peameal bacon, I think.  [NOTE:  Peameal bacon originated in Toronto, Canada.  According to Wikipedia, the name reflects the historic practice of rolling the cured and trimmed boneless loin in dried and ground yellow peas, originally for preservation reasons.  Since the war years, it has been rolled in ground yellow cornmeal.  It is low in fat, and slow cured.  Peameal bacon is made from boneless port loins, short cut from the leaner portions of the loin, to ensure a more uniform product.  External fat is generally trimmed to within 1/8 inch (3 mm).  Smokeless and tender, this product is sweet pickle-cured and rolled in a traditional golden cornmeal coating.]  I also learned about a ‘tickle’ box that is for children or grandchildren.  It is a box for playing make believe and such—play clothes like Cinderella, etc. or grown up clothes to dress in for children.  Gosh, I hadn’t ever heard of such but it’s a great idea.  Any way, it’s been so interesting learning a bit of their lives and culture—it’s a shame that we are so behind them in caring for our environment.  They are absolute masters at recycling.  Our friends use their travel down to the Rio Grande Valley as an opportunity to see much of the US and boy! do they ever see our country.  They are often traveling 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) plus to escape the cold, so they think nothing of adding another 1,600 kilometers (1000 miles) exploring on the way down or up.  I so admire their traveling, exploring and adventure-loving spirit.  We have vicariously enjoyed their stories of traveling in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the British Isles, China, Japan, and even Africa.  Most of all, they’ve seen more of the US than most Americas ever will—our National Parks, historical sites, and cultural sites.  

The culture of the valley is very interesting also.  The political scene is quite different than our area.  They held local elections while we were there and I had never seen so many ads for elected offices in my life, even offices that have no real value or position in our state such as Justice of the Peace.  Can you imagine someone paying for a half-page ad in a large city newspaper for Justice of the Peace?  Why? I asked myself.  I could only surmise that being in the in-crowd politically might be tied to more power and pull, especially if corruption, etc. were part of the norm.  They even had these kinds of races over their school board members—full page ads, etc.  Being so close to the border perhaps is the answer.  Corruption, bribery, etc. is the norm for Mexico business and dealings, and perhaps that translates to ‘norm’ north of the border also.  So if you are a school board member, perhaps that means you can influence where your cousin’s wife can work, which nephew can get a large construction job building a new school, etc.  I don’t know—just speculation.  Anyway, we sure were glad when the elections were over.  

My daughter showed me a business in Maumelle that had just opened up and asked me what I thought it was.  I knew what it was—it was an adult day care center just like they have all over the Valley.  She was quite intrigued as she has never seen one and she’s traveled extensively.  I told her that they are on every street corner in Mission and McAllen and she was amazed.  I think that is an admirable thing in the Latino culture—they take care of their elderly in their families and keep them with their families.  If the adults have to work, then they take them to the day care facilities during work time.  I saw very few nursing homes in the valley at all.

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I digress.  One of the things I like most about the RGV is the sense of community we have in our RV park, but especially in Circle 300.  We all usually gather in our communal palapa in the late afternoon 4:30 on, to visit and talk; some have a beer; others a coke, tea, or water; we just enjoy each other’s company – telling jokes, stories that are new to our friends, learning about each other.  Laughing a lot!  One mental picture I shall always remember is a large group gathered in the palapa at 6:00 a.m. to watch the Canadian men win the Olympic Gold in hockey (their women had already won gold).  Someone had set up a large screen TV with a Canadian satellite hook up so they could see it in ‘real’ time (not delayed).  Several of us ‘tokens’ were there, too, to support them—I made the group pecan pie muffins!  They had coffee, and someone went for donuts.  Another lady brought egg casserole.  The group responded to the play on the TV with singular movement and sound—rising up in their chairs with a ooohh!  when the Canadians played well; and aaahhh!  and slumping down when they messed up.  It was like watching the ocean swell and dip, swell and dip.  They are a grand bunch of folks who love their hockey and curling.  I’m still trying to understand that curling thing.  hehehe.

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What is it that I like about Bentsen Palm Village RV Park?  It’s 95% RVs only.  I really like that.  Most parks are park models with about 25% RVs.  Our park is a younger-acting bunch of folks also.  Many people walk every day; most of us ride our bikes.  There are two “nature” parks almost touching ours:  Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and the National Butterfly Center.  We enjoy both.  There are 15 miles of hiking/biking trails right next to our park.  There are also many roads with bike paths and Donald has ridden miles and miles of trails down here.  Some days he’s ridden close to 50 miles.  My personal best I think was 16 in one trip; but I believe I could ride 20 or more if I built up to it.  I love getting into the hot tub after a good ride.  I enjoy the pool and sunning in the afternoon.  I really enjoyed the wood shop this year and I’ve already started thinking about the bowls I want to make next year.  I finally got energized and finished my first Swedish weaving which I am very proud of.  I started my second one and have been going great guns with it too.  I enjoy doing it in my spare time in the motorhome, even when were driving down the road and my navigator help isn’t needed.  I work on it when we’re watching TV at night also.  I think I’m turning into my mother!  She used to sit in front of the TV and knit all the time—she was making an afghan for each of her kids, sons-in-law, and grandkids.  I don’t think I’ll get that many done, but maybe.  Perhaps as I’m getting older, I want to leave something behind that I personally made/designed as a remembrance of me.  Just a thought.

Oh, yes, I have loved playing bridge this year!  It was great fun playing in the clubhouse with the bridge folks, but I especially loved playing extra bridge with Sharon and Al Crawford.  We learned a lot from playing with them.  Sharon also introduced us to two new clubs:  the LEO club (Let’s Eat Out) and the SKI club (Spend the Kid’s Inheritance).  We joined both!  Hehehehe!

Now we’ve got to get back on track and lose some weight we gained.  It’s pretty hard, eating out and eating healthy.  

Something else I enjoyed immensely was going to the local schools (high schools and college) to see musicals and Mariachi programs.  Wow and Wow!  They were fabulous—each in a different way!  Rowe HS did a great musical:  Annie Get Your Gun; the McAllen HS Mariachi Band was musically the best we ever heard; and the LaJoya Mariachi program had the best dancers we’ve ever seen off NY.  We saw the Rock City Rockettes in Branson, and the LaJoya kids were better!  Incredible arts programs in this valley.  Of course the schools are gorgeous and well-funded too.

Well, it was gorgeous when we left and it was hard leaving our friends.  They’ve become extended family members for us.  Now we’re counting the weeks when we can return.  

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