Sunday, July 25, 2010

Part Three - Texas Visit

Trip itinerary. Please forgive me if some of the days are sketchy. There are some things that I can't remember too clearly, and some days when we really didn't do ANYTHING except kick back. On those days where I don't have much listed, the kids were swimming in the indoor pool, or playing in the orchards, or riding dirt bikes, or visiting the horse, or just hanging out with family, which was probably the best part of the visit.

Day 1, Saturday July 3 - We had fully expected to be sleeping in the RV, except for those kids who found a place to crash in my cousin's home. However, my cousin Jennifer married into a pecan farming family, and they graciously offered us the use of a older, vacant house on one of their properties. When they said "empty house," I had visions of something that had seen better days. Instead, they showed us into what Brian described as "a Spanish hotel." It was very cool and beautiful, with tiled floors, thick adobe walls, a tiled roof. It even had a billiards room, which quickly became the first destination for the kids in the morning. Some people eat breakfast, some people exercise, some shower . . . not us - we headed downstairs for our morning game of pool.

Sleeping in was impossible, however - the morning sun heartily greeted the bedroom windows first thing in the morning. Even though I had been up until well past two a.m., I was wide awake by 7:00 a.m. That day we hung around the house until early afternoon, unpacking and organizing, until all the kids had gotten up and moving. The rest of the day was spent exploring the farm and letting the kids get to know one another. We also had a houseful of El Paso relatives who came over to hang out. Andy spent the afternoon with Kevin, Jen's husband, making himself useful.

This was the day that Jen's youngest daughter, Sophia, fell completely in love with my oldest son, Scott. While we were there, Sophia was just a few days shy of her third birthday. She took to him immediately and was soon calling him "my best friend." Pretty soon he was completely unable to get away from her, and she started calling for him first thing in the morning.

After we left, Jen told me that Sophia was crying that her best friend Scott was dead, that was why she couldn't find him anymore.

Day 2, Sunday July 4 - Attended Mass at San Lorenzo parish in Clint. Afterward, my cousin and her husband threw an annual 4th of July bash at their house on the farm, with food, fireworks, and scores of children.

Day 3, Monday, July 5 - I got up early (again) thanks to the sunrise and the thoughtful farm worker who decided to mow the lawn around the house very thoroughly, and went over to Jen's house alone. Half of my kids had fallen asleep there, anyway. Everybody in the house was still asleep, but Jen had arranged for a housekeeper to come in to help clean up after the party. The housekeeper and I worked together and I got to dust off my Spanish, trying to communicate with her.

Later that afternoon, since it's no longer safe to visit Mexico, Jennifer took Sarah, Scott, Clare and I to a Mexican-style mercado (market) called Pro's Ranch Market. It was very crowded and had loud Mexican music playing over the speakers. There weren't too many major differences - you could still buy Gatorade and Cheez-Its - but nowhere in our Pennsylvania markets can you buy beef lips, beef cheeks, or an entire skinned beef head.

Besides practicing my Spanish and giving Clare a vocabulary lesson, I picked up some ingredients for a dish called sopa, which is basically Mexican Rice-A-Roni (but still delicious), and some interesting candies. I always get a kick out of ethnic candies. This place had Bubu Lubu (chocolate-covered marshmallow with strawberry jam) and Obejas (wafer disks with melted caramel in between) and foil-wrapped soccer balls with eggnog flavored creme filling.

She also took us to a store that sold quinceanera dresses - this is a very big deal ceremony for 15yo girls. There's a Mass and a reception and it can be as expensive as a wedding - sort of like a Sweet Sixteen on steroids. The dresses are out of this world - very elaborate. My wedding dress wasn't as nice.

Day 4, Tuesday, July 6 - our 20th wedding anniversary passed without much fanfare. This may have been the day that my only pair of sandals broke, so I think this was the day that we went shoe-shopping, then hit up Costco for provisions for the trip home.

Day 5, Wednesday, July 7 - today the main item on the agenda was a driving tour of all the places I knew while I lived in Texas. My church, grade school, old neighborhood, and relatives' houses were all stops along the way. It was Kevin & Jennifer, myself and Andy, my cousin Tom (Jen's oldest brother), Sarah, Scott, and one of our cousins, 16yo James. Kevin also took us along what's known as Scenic Drive, which climbs a couple thousand feet onto a mountainside and offers a panoramic view of all of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

This is the Zaragoza International Bridge, the only legal way to get in and out of Mexico. They tell me it's relatively easy to get into Mexico, but what you see here is a zoomed-in shot of the six lanes of stopped cars stretching beyond the bridge, waiting to get OUT.

The view is quite tremendous, and it was here that the oft-mentioned stolen camera was actually stolen. Scott, never conventional, decided that the scenic overlook wasn't quite high enough, so he took off his flip-flops and started to scale the rock mountain, barefoot. Never mind the rattlesnakes. He placed his camera with his flip-flops (unbeknownst to us), and it was gone when he came back down.

This could be the face of the thief - doesn't he look like he's chuckling to himself because he just scored a free camera??
Truth be known, I was too upset by his brainless stunt to even watch. This is THE MOST accident-prone of my kids we're talking about. I just went a few yards away and looked at the clouds until he came down.

Day 6, Thursday, July 8 - okay, now I've lost complete track of the days. I think this was the day we tried to find something Southwestern to bring home as gifts, but the only exit on I-10 we needed was closed, so we ended up driving the same half-mile stretch of busy interstate back and forth for an hour. Traffic was terrible. We then tried to find someplace to eat, but kept getting turned around, eventually ending up at what was probably the most expensive seafood restaurant in El Paso, but by then we were so hungry we didn't care anymore. We accidentally ended up at a restaurant about five minutes from my uncle & aunt's house, so we called them and they came over and chatted with us while we ate.

That evening we took two truckloads of children out to the desert to look for artifacts. Kevin took his authentic Army truck,
and the kids had a blast going up and down the sandhills.

Most of my family was surprised at how green and brushy the desert really was.

I found a real, live tumbleweed!

We didn't want to find out what lived in this hole.

We didn't find much in the way of artifacts, but one of the kids saw a strange rock, and before you knew it, Brian had unearthed a complete cow skeleton.

Friday, July 9 - was this the day I showed Jen how to make pierogies? One thing's for certain - they irrigated the pecan orchards this week. Jen neglected to mention that when they irrigate, she lets the kids go out and play in the mud.

Brian and Isabelle, Jen's oldest daughter.

This part was fun. For me, anyway. You should have seen the solid mud caked in his ears.

Saturday, July 10 - Kevin took Sarah and Scott to see Viva El Paso!, with some sight-seeing and a stop at a cafe on the way. The rest of us just hung out at the house, shooting the breeze, fully aware that this was our last night with them.

Sunday, July 11 - last day on the farm. We attended Mass at San Lorenzo again, and then readied both RVs. My family, Jennifer's family, and all four of her brothers traveled up to Carlsbad, NM. That is where I'll pick up next time.

I'm going to publish this, unfinished, and confer with the family tomorrow to see what I've left out. Anything new I add will be in a different color next time, so it's easier to spot.

1 comment:

  1. How fun! I love your pictures. I love that part of Texas. It really is beautiful! I love the mud pictures too.:) That spanish style guest house looks amazing. Sounds like an exhausting, but great vacation.