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Enjoying Winter in Texas

While Gramps is fighting off the cold I thought I would highlight the joys of traveling south for the winter as do those of us fortunate to be free of the attachment to a job. It is Saturday and today I spent the morning getting our motor home ready for a trip to the shop. We blew a tire, outside dual on the drivers side, and it took a bunch of fiberglass off the left rear of the coach. It has been ten weeks since we got an estimate from the shop and they ordered parts. Ruby from Bert Ogden RV called yesterday and said I should bring it in next week. So I'm getting everything ready to be parked on their lot for several weeks. While I'm doing this, Louise volunteers at the local Food Bank on Saturday mornings. After a morning of hard physical work, she is taking a nap to restore her strength. She is part of the crew that gathers boxes of food from the bulk stores. These boxes of food are then distributed to those in need of assistance.

Our temperatures are in the 70's right now. We've had a few nights in the 40's. I think it may have dipped into the 30's once or twice. We can get freezing weather here but it is almost always a single day or two when the temperature dips below freezing for several hours overnight. So I don't worry about winterizing the coach. I keep the furnace on, set to 50 degrees and the coach is parked right next to the house and has pretty good shelter from the cold north wind that usually accompanies our coldest nights. If it is going to be real close to freezing I'll turn on the winter heating system which warms the fresh and waste water tanks not that they are filled, just some residual water and connecting pipes which may not be completely drained.

Tomorrow I'll play tennis in the morning with several of our friends. Monday looks like a great day for golf with temperatures starting in the 50's at tee time but it won't stay there very long. The high for the day is forecast to be 74 degrees. Most everyone wears shorts and short sleeve shirts under a light jacket. It is just glorious playing golf on a fine 60 to 70 degree day in the sunshine. I've been able to walk the course this year and am really enjoying being able to do that for the first time in quite a while. I used to walk all the time but my knees became so painful I had to stop. Since my knee replacements the summer of 2011 I've been able to get back to the activities I love like tennis and golf. Louise usually plays golf with me but has been practicing for a dance number in a production here in the park. They practice on Monday and Wednesday mornings after Zumba.

Tuesday Louise and I lead a bicycle ride for our park. The forecast for Tuesday matches Monday's forecast so we should get a good group to go with us. Our destination this week is Anzulduas County Park and Anzulduas Dam which is the last dam on the Rio Grande River before it reaches the ocean. The dam produces electrical power for Mexico. We'll also visit La Lomita Mission, one of the string of missions started by the Spanish missionaries who served the first settlements in this area. The town of Mission gets its name from this humble mission and its small chapel. The Alamo was also a mission started by the same group of missionaries.

Tuesday evening I am in charge of training classes for the Texas Master Naturalist program in the Upper Rio Grande Valley. I have an excellent committee to support me as we take a group of 20 volunteers through three months of training to become naturalists and volunteers for the many parks and nature areas here in the RGV. I don't have to do the instruction for the most part, just facilitate the classes. We meet at Bentsen State Park one night a week and also have field trips on the weekends.

Wednesday is an open day for me. If I can get on the tennis courts, I'll play tennis. Occasionally someone in our golf group will get together a foursome and if they are short one player I'll join them for another round of golf but this doesn't happen too often.

Thursday I put on my volunteer hat as a Texas Master Naturalist and spend a most of the working day at the Edinburg Wetlands and World Birding Center. Most of the work there has been working in the plant nursery taking care of the plants that are being grown to transplant on the grounds of the facility. Almost all the plants at the facility are native plants and many are attractive to birds and butterflies. On a warm spring day the park is absolutely alive with critters of all kinds. Photographers regularly patrol the park looking for photo opportunities. Sitting in my car taking a lunch break this last Thursday I watched a blue grey gnatcatcher working its way along the chain link fence picking bugs (maybe spiders) from the joints in the fence. Behind him in the trees a nuthatch worked its way up and down the tree trunks looking for bugs. I was startled as a buff-bellied hummingbird zipped up to my windshield to see his reflection, or was he also hunting bugs? He hovered less than two feet away from me through the glass and then, zip, he was gone.

Friday morning Louise and I bowl in a Winter Texan league with a large number of our friends from our park. As with the bike ride, part of the fun is stopping somewhere for lunch after the activity. After lunch we are off to the HEB grocery or Wal-Mart to shop for our weeks supplies. We always meet some of our fellow bowlers or other friends from our park who are doing the same thing.

Saturday is another opportunity to play tennis but during the Texas Master Naturalist classes it will be a field trip day with the class. Sometimes on Saturday or Sunday mornings I have been volunteering, helping a local teacher with his bird banding research. This is also a Texas Master Naturalist activity. Mark considers me in training, mostly putting up and taking down the mist nets and transporting the birds that are caught once they have been removed from the nets. It is really exciting to see the birds up close and interesting to learn about them from someone who knows them in detail. Over time, I'll be one of his assistants who removes the birds from the nets. I get practice at that now, keeping the nets clean, picking sticks and leaves out of the nets.

Last Saturday was really special. Louise and I joined two others from our park to participate in the Port Isabel to South Padre Island 10K Causeway Run/Walk. I gave up running years ago but enjoy hiking and walking. So we walked the distance with one of our friends. Our other companion is a runner and at age 74 he took top honors in his aged division with a 10K time of 53 minutes and a few seconds. I really wish I could do that but my body is no longer up to that punishment.

My last blog entry had to do with the necessity of keeping active to maintain good health. This is my attempt to show that I'm not one of those people who say, "Do as I say, not as I do." I greatly enjoy the intellectual as well as physical activity that this lifestyle gives me through the winter. As Louise likes to say to those who are still working, "We are the light at the end of your tunnel." We wish everyone a a Happy and Healthy New Year. Keep active no matter where you are or what your are doing.


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