And…….we’re off!

LOCATION: Galveston Island, not far from Houston
CAMPGROUND: Galveston Island State Park. We had reserved, so we luckily have a site on the beach. Those without reservations are inland around a mosquito-y swamp. Really nice new bathrooms/showers. Each site has a sun shelter with a picnic table and firepit. $20. Water and electricity at each site. 4 stars out of 5
WEATHER: Muggy. Windy. High 88

We left Mission at 7:00, right on schedule! We have to be in eastern Ohio by Friday, so really have to push it every day. We drove 385 miles today, much longer than we like to do.

About 1:00, we said we should look for a city park or somewhere with shade and picnic tables. Voila! Instantly, we saw a park with lovely live oak trees, with a pond, and picnic tables. A bunch of geese and ducks came out to great us.

As we ate our lunch (potato salad), the geese and ducks licked off bugs and dust from our truck. Very strange!

We passed a lot of oil refineries and followed mostly secondary roads. We pulled into the state park at about 3:30 – a long day!

After setting up, we took a nice walk on the beach.

PHOTO
We had a little disagreement. George hates the 50-amp cord which we call the Anaconda (it lives up to its name), so he tried just the 30-amp smaller cord. The 30-amp only can support one A/C, which just didn’t cut it. George gave in to my pouting and complaining, and we hooked up the 50-amp cord. I am now sitting in air-conditioned bliss!

DINNER: Before we left our tiny house in Mission, I cooked several meals as I didn’t know what to expect on this first leg. George did a beer-can chicken on the grill, and I used the cooked chicken to make several meals – chicken parmesan, North African chicken, chicken salad, chicken broth….you get my drift. Tonight I warmed up the chicken parmesan, which was pretty good.

Fishing Trip to South Padre Island

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Hot (97) and sunny

We took off early this AM for a fishing trip from South Padre Island. We almost missed the 8:00 AM boat, as we miscalculated the time to get there, considering school zones. We called and they held the boat for us for a few minutes. Then, off we went!

We saw Elon Musk’s SpaceEx in the near distance. We fished in one place for awhile, and George sadly didn’t catch anything while others caught a lot of redfish. Then, we went to another place and suddenly he and the others caught a lot of whiting. Back to the first place, he finally caught his redfish. Very nice!

I just went along for the ride. The boat trip ended at noon, when we were all ready to head in due to the sun and heat. The guides cleaned our fish for us. This was the total haul…

On our way home, we stopped at a nursery and bought some bushes. Interestingly, it is the end of the planting season here, so plants were on sale. We bought oleander to plant around our unsightly utility box and some jasmine to coax along our back fence, to help with privacy.

DINNER: Whiting, of course! I dredged it in a little flavored panko, then seared the filets in butter. At the end I added sliced ginger and a sprinkle of soy sauce. Sides were Asian vegetables and rice. You can’t get much fresher than this!

BOOK: I finished a very strange book today. Written by Swedish author Jonas Joanasson, “The Further Adventures of a 100-year-old-man” is quirky and politically very incorrect. He lambasts all politicians, especially Trump. I would rate it a 9 out of 10.

Back in the USA

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Yucky hot. 96

Our community, Retama Village, seems changed after only two months away. Everything is green, green, and lots of flowers and bushes are in full bloom. There are a few butterflies munching on their favorite bushes in front of our house.

The other big change is all the new construction and “Sold” signs around the village. Business must be good! It looks like they are building all types of houses – regular houses, the tall RV port homes, tiny houses, and cottages.

See http://www.bentsenpalmdevelopment.com for photos of home types.

We had a huge, strong rain one morning. More than 3 inches in less than 15 minutes. The streets flooded, a bit scary. A tree even fell down onto a houses.

We are busy packing up and tying up details here in the house. I am also back to exercise classes – chair yoga and water aerobics. It is good to do the classes again.

Another change is more WALL construction. This was an empty field before we left; it is now fencing materials for the you–know-what.

We took a drive down some country roads near our house and saw lots of this….


DINNER: We have been grilling quite a bit – hamburgers and hot dogs. I made a good side dish with lots of veggies in a light cheese sauce.

Back to the USA!

LOCATION: From Tlaquepaque, Mexico, back to Mission, Texas via Houston
WEATHER: Rain in Houston. Cloudy here. High 80

Today is Mothers’ Day in Mexico, a national holiday. Everyone is off work. After breakfast at our B&B, we strolled to the plaza to work off some of those refried beans. The streets were jammed – people everywhere. Traffic was at a standstill and people were looking for places to park. We walked down the pedestrian mall. In front of each restaurant were long lines of people waiting to take their mothers to breakfast.

We said “adios” to our B&B and took an Uber to the airport. After a quick 20-minute ride, we arrived at the airport.

We had lots of time to wait, and then we got an announcement that our plane was late. It had to come from Houston, where there was bad weather. I already had a tight connection, and now was worried that I wouldn’t make my connecting flight.

While at the Guadalajara airport, I saw this billboard……It says that this hospital in Guadalajara is now in collaboration with Mayo Clinic (my former employer), the #1 hospital in the USA. Go Mayo!

We did arrive late in Houston. Customs and Immigration were a breeze and then…….Security (again!) I just don’t understand why airports require a TSA check for a connecting flight, when one has not left the secured area. In any case, there was a long, slow-moving line, with only one TSA checkpoint of course. My carry-on was pulled out for a second review. (I was bringing some silverware to our homeowners which was suspicious, I guess). I had mere minutes to catch my flight. I ran to the gate and boarded the airplane, saying goodbye to Alexis while running.

George picked me up at the Harlingen airport, and all is well.

DINNER: Halibut sauteed just slightly in a butter sauce. Side salad with heirloom tomatoes. Yum!

Good to be back!

Tipplin’ Trip to Tequila!

LOCATION: Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 90

We had researched ways to go to Tequila, another one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos”. The Tequila Train is a popular method @ $100+ USD. Tours were equally expensive. So, we decided to take the local bus. When we arrived at the bus station, the Tequila Plus bus was just getting ready to leave…

A 2-hour bus ride was about $5 each.

Tequila is only about 35 miles from Guadalajara, but it takes more than one hour just to get out of town.

As we neared Tequila, we started seeing a lot of agave ranches.

We were the only gringos on the bus. When we got off, we refused offers for distillery tours, and started exploring on our own.

First we found the town square with its beautiful cathedral (with a tour bus in front)

Tequila is everywhere – almost every shop is a bar or a retail tequila shop. We checked out the luxurious Jose Cuervo distillery, the oldest tequila distillery in the world – from the 1500s.

We decided not to do the tour, and headed straight to the tasting room. The bartenders were super friendly. We shared a sample of an expensive one and a medium-priced one, to compare the two.

Then, we stumbled upon another tasting room – this one representing hundreds of tequilas from Tequila. The bartender was really knowledgeable. We were the only ones there, and she spent a lot of time talking with us.

Then, the 2+hour bus ride back. I would recommend the bus to anyone wanting to visit Tequila on a budget, but there were some drawbacks…..on the way there, the driver had some music playing very loudly. On the way back, the A/C wasn’t working and we sweated profusely all the way.

Back at our B&B, we showered and hit the streets again. We walked around the busy plaza, then had a drink at another rooftop restaurant. It was a high-end place and we didn’t feel comfortable, so we found a really cute restaurant for dinner on a side-street. Alexis had a shrimp dish and I ate her side dishes – bread with a sort of ricotta cheese.

A very nice day to end our trip to Mexico! Tomorrow we head back to the USA.

Travelin’ around Tlaquepaque

LOCATION: Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico
WEATHER: Sunny. High 90

Frida (our dog) has been sleeping in the extra bedroom the entire housesitting assignment. However, last night she must have sensed something was different, as she slept with Alexis.

Ray and Rose (our housesitting replacements) arrived with their things. We turned over keys, said goodbye to Lilia and Frida, etc, and then they took us to Guadalajara. A bit complicated – they were there to pick up a rental car for their son, and to drop off the current homeowner’s car. After all of that, they took us to Tlaquepaque. It is another one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos”.

Alexis and I checked into the same B&B where George and I had stayed about 6 weeks ago. It is small 6 rooms – and they remembered me. A BIG room key!

Afer dumping our bags, we set off to explore charming Tlaquepaque.

First stop was the brewery where we refreshed ourselves from the heat.

Then, we stumbled upon a very nice, traditional restaurant where we decided to have a small lunch.

We did some window shopping (lot of tourist shopping opportunities available here), and made our way back to the plaza for the 3:30 mariachi show. It is in El Parian, a group of 15 restaurants/bars that circle a plaza with a bandstand where the musicians perform. They put on a very nice show, and it is free (although the drinks and food are more expensive here).

We shared a drink that is unique to Tlalaquepaque. It is called a cazuela, which simply means claypot dish.

It is made with grapefruit wedges, orange wedges, some juice, and a bit of salt. They serve it with a shot of tequila that you add to the drink. Pretty tasty!

Back to the B&B to rest and cool off. Then, I pushed us onward. We walked Tlaquepaque’s pedestrian street that has a lot of artwork, galleries, shops, and restaurants. We stopped at La Casa Luna, a very fancy restaurant, to sit at the bar and people-watch.

We decided to have a pizza for dinner and found a wood-fired pizza place with a rooftop terrace. We sat just a few feet from the Tlalaquepaque Cathedral and watched the sunset and sites below. Great view, delicious Smoked IPA, and Margherita pizza– not too bad!

All Around Ajijic

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 90

We caught an early bus for Ajijic, where I did my final line-dancing class. It has been fun dancing with a different group, but all of the dances were new to me, and I felt clumsy much of the time. Oh well – great exercise!

After the class, we took photos of the beautiful grounds.

We walked around the streets along the lake. There are many beautiful haciendas; most of them are so colorful.

We peeked into this beautiful, historic posada (inn). The decor and furniture are all “old Mexico”.

Lunch was a shared shrimp skewer at a restaurant along the lake. Unfortunately, since it is a tourist place, we had to endure all the vendors who approached us selling their wares – fruit, jewelery, blankets, hats, and garlic bulbs. We noticed that they approached the Mexicans, too, not just us gringos.

Then, we walked along the malecon (boardwalk). A delightful breeze kept us deceptively cool, and only later did Alexis discover her sunburned shoulders.

This is our final day in this part of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Ajijic has been a fun place to visit while we stayed in smaller, quieter Jocotepec.

Back home, we packed up a bit and played with Frida, our dog.

DINNER: Being our last night, it was leftovers, of course: stir-fried orzo and rice with Asian-style cauliflower and onions. Side was a salad of nopales (marinated cactus), basil from the patio pot, and tomatoes.

Hanging aroud Jocotepec

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 88

After taking Frida for a nice walk to the Malecon, we hung out at the house.

Frida was extremely happy with this.

Ray and Rose (the next set of housesitters) came over with some of their luggage, and then we all went to Frida (as in Frida Kahlo’s) restaurant for lunch. Lovely

Alexis has several shows she likes to watch on Netflix, so she was happy just “chilling” around the house.

Later in the day, we walked to a nearby seafood restaurant. It is all outdoors. Very informal. We shared a shrimp ceviche appetizer.

DINNER: We supplemented leftover salad from Frida’s Restaurant with additional tomato, red onion, and avocado. Very healthy!

An un-Cinco de Mayo

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny (it hasn’t rained in all of 2019). High 90

This was the biggest fireworks day so far. They blasted all night, with a special wake-up burst at 6:00 AM. People tell me that it is some Saint’s Day.

We walked downtown to see if there was anything special going on, to buy some street food, and to do some veg shopping.

There were a lot of people out for their Sunday morning stroll. Alexis bought some pepitas (pumpkin seeds), roasted (aka burnt) peanuts in their shell, and some beans that we couldn’t identify. I have been seeing them sell a lot of these beans. So, we asked the guy selling them for the word, looked it up, and discovered they are garbanzo beans – still in their shells. This guy is also selling elote – corn on the cob which unfortunately looks better than it tastes.

We stopped in a couple of vegetable/fruit stores. It is so nice to be able to ask the clerk to help you pick out something perfectly ripe. Today, I asked for a pineapple that would be ripe later today, and an avocado perfect for tomorrow. It is also wonderful to buy just one of something, instead of an entire package. And the best thing is the price! So inexpensive!!!

Back home, we made smoothies with the pineapple for lunch, and cooled off.

A few hours later, I cracked the whip and we were off again, this time to the string of restaurants along the highway facing the lake. We took the 20-minute bus ride to this area called Piedra Barrenada – Drilled Rocks (whatever that means).

We shared a glass of Vampiro and a glass of Michelada, the two most popular drinks here. They are both made with tomato juice or Clamato. The Vampiro also has some sweetness, and the Michelada is made with beer.

There was live music with a guy singing quite loudly. The women at the next table urged me to get up and dance with them. I obliged.

There was a stiff breeze today with some whitecaps on the lake. The breeze felt good, but the breeze curtailed the pontoon boat rides.

We perused the menu, with no intention of ordering. I do not like to mix savory and sweet, so it is a good thing we weren’t planning to eat shrimp. The menu features….shrimp with mango, shrimp with coconut, with tamarind, and with pineapple. And could it be….. OH NO – cucaracha shrimp!!!!! (I think it just means roasted)

We caught the bus back to our house. I always just flag the bus down along the highway.

Unlike in the USA, Mexicans do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo much. Alexis and I had our obligatory margarita, though…

DINNER: Stir-fired cauliflower and onions with a Thai peanut sauce over orzo. Marinated nopale (cactus) salad on the side.

BOOKS: Somehow I squeeed in a book in a very busy day today. I finished “Oh Danny Boy” by Rhys Bowan. A very light detective series featuring an adventurous Irish girl in NYC. 8 out of 10.

Saturday fun in Jalisco

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 88

Fireworks and church bells woke us at 6:30 again. These guys just party on and on!

While it was still cool, Alexis and I took Frida for a nice walk.

On our way, we passed this beautiful nursery. Then, a horse and baby colt in a lot…

And then, we saw this wall mural that turns one into an angel!

After dropping Friday off at home, we hiked downtown to a restaurant Alexis had found online that serves nice brunches. We had great food! We were the only gringos, which was nice.

We wandered the streets of Jocotepec, brimming with Saturday morning shoppers. We bought some cactus (nopales) and a pineapple.

Back home, we found this dead scorpion on the living room floor. Glad he didn’t sting us before he died!

After a restful afternoon, we caught a bus to San Juan, about 10 miles from here. There we met Steve and Ada, friends of our homeowners, for dinner and a dance show.

Each Saturday evening, the dancers perform songs and dances from one of Mexico’s states. Tonight’s performance was from Nayarit.

The men danced with knives.

Alexis and I shared a shrimp dish, served in a steaming-hot lava molcajete (mortar and pestle).

It was a very nice evening.

Then, we walked the streets of San Juan, and caught a crowded bus back home.