Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Mueller

Y'all know I really try to be flexible and open minded, but when I first came to Austin I didn't get the idea of 'green belts'.  A city park should look like a city park, right?  The fog began to clear when I hiked in the Barton Creek Greenbelt.  It's a gem!  Still, I didn't get that 'prairie' in the Mueller development.  Dry grass?  And then it was spring and the dry grass has blossomed into fields of wildflowers like I have never seen.  Yep, that's what a green belt brings to the city......wildness!

But first a nod to the sculptures and structured garden in the center of the wildness.

The last time I walked at Mueller, the Evening Primroses were the main show, now its Texas Star and lots of Mexican Hats.

Evening Primroses are fading to almost white now.


Blue salvia and late primroses.

No post about Mueller would be complete with the spider!

As if acres of wildflowers were not enough to make a perfect Sunday morning, we were as happy as this grackle when we discovered iced coffee at the near-by Farmers Market.  

(Note to Austin friends.....hundreds of sunflowers are just beginning to blooming, so except a couple more weeks of glory here!).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Goliad Arches

Goliad State Park is one of my favorites.  The church and museum were closed for the day when I walked around the grounds.  So peaceful.  (The campground was quiet too :).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Presidio Salvia

The salvia is blooming on hill in front of the Presidio la Bahia.

And the Angel of Goliad has a bouquet of roses.

That's it for flowers at Goliad this season!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

World Birding Center, South Padre Island

One of the fun things about our RV gtgs is getting to know travel pals on their home turf.  The day we visited South Padre Island I rode with S who has lived in the area since a youngster.  She has great stories about crossing from Port Isabella to South Padre in a boat before the bridge.  Her Dad didn't care about the beach; he would go over to see how big the waves were when a hurricane was coming!

After lunch our group reorganized into shoppers, beach combers, and birders.   This beautiful new facility (another  wing of the World Birding Center) is finished, while the surrounding wetlands and marshes will take a few more years to recover.  

There were many beautiful shore birds along the board walks; none worried much about us human visitors.  I'll post those pics on My Bird List.

The tower is four stories;  lucky for us, with an elevator!

South Padre was hosting a big biker event, but the closest we got to seeing them was across the salt marsh to the Convention Center.

A return visit to this beautiful island is in the works for nest winter when the big numbers of birds are in residence.  I scoped out a couple of campgrounds, stay tuned.....

Friday, April 19, 2013

Progresso, Mexico

Like the thousands of Winter Texans who spend 'the season' in the Rio Grande Valley we went to Progresso for meds and duty free alcohol.  It's a snap to walk from the US into Mexico across the bridge, but you better have your passport if you want to get back into the States.

The bridge is really interesting.  Regular traffic is in the middle with wide pedestrian lanes on both sides.  Truck traffic is routed over yet another separate section.

The border is a bee hive of activity; I was very politely asked not to take pictures.

This fountain full of Mexican symbolism that I don't understand welcomed us as we entered Mexico.

The streets were very quiet on this 'off season' day.  From the hawkers at every pharmacy "Almost free!".

Tortillas,  prickly pear, garlic, roasted nuts, all the good stuff was available along the Main Street.

The parrot dress 'almost' got me;  while very tempted by nostalgia, I decided a pic would work in place of the real thing!

We had lunch in the Arizona on the second floor of a very large building just kitty corner from the border.  The views looking back into the city were great,  my pic, not so much!

Weary shoppers regrouped on the US side of the Border.  Yep, all accounted for!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Old Hidalgo Pump House

The Old Hidalgo Pump House is now a museum and yet another wing of the World Birding Center.  Originally constructed in 1915 on the Rio Grande River, visiting was a bit of deja vu for me.   Except that here the water was moved by steam not gravity.  Construction of the pump house was a huge boon to agriculture in the Valley (think Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit!) until a hurricane/flood in 1933 moved the course of the river 1/2 mile south.  A canal was quickly dug to divert water back to the intake pipes of the pump house.

Entry into the grounds is across a set of sluice gates. (Yes, hand operated!)  The old water ways are grassy (not so green) lawns now.

The Pump House is a combination of brick and tin siding.  (Feeling very much like the old Intake Powerhouse).

A self guided tour takes visitors around a catwalk on the main floor over the pumps and penstocks.

The 125 foot smoke stack is visible from several miles away.  (OK, yes I did think it was a surge tower when I first saw it, but no gravity flow here!).   

Current employees of the Water Co are featured in a short film in the museum.  I had to laugh when they mentioned the happy day that electricity replaced steam to run the pumps; how well I remember when our manual values were converted to power!  The story here is also very similar to California's Central Valley:  fertile farming land becoming urban sprawl.  I'd hate to loose those Texas Ruby Red's for another Walmart.  

(Note to travel pals:  the parking is around a very tight turn; best to find a place down on the street)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quinta Mazatlan

Recently I spent a week with my RVing travel pals in the Rio Grande Valley.  It was all new to me and you know what that means:  I was a happy camper!   The first day we visited Quinta Mazatlan . It's one of the biggest adobe houses in Texas; also one of the wings of the World Birding Center .

We were very lucky to have a private tour of the house and property.  Our guide was so proud of her facility her buttons were bursting!   (Remind you of anyone you know?).

Unfortunately none of the original furnishings have survived, but much remains from the second owners and all is beautiful.

The living room.....

The dining room.....

And my favorite, the sun porch....

Although now surrounded by urban growth,  when first constructed Quinta Mazatlan was very rural.  As a deterrent to unwanted visitors,  Mr. Matthews put up signs to beware of the 'agapanthus'!

An extensive trail network extends around the estate grounds and is marked by beautiful arches and gates.

Water is critical to life in this arid environment.  Canals transported the water from the Rio Grande River for both agriculture and personal use in and around the mansion.

As hard as it is to even believe,  the original pool was huge, 12 feet deep from one end to the other; the pump that filled it was operated by a jet engine!

More appropriate to the area,  there's a large cistern in the courtyard.

And a Prickly Pear cactus growing out of the chimney!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gardens Part 2

Leaving the Conservatory, we walked through the Orangerie (!) and the Fern Grotto.

Firecracker is blooming throughout the Garden.

From the Overlook, we could see several storm cells building in the distance, but none looked all that threatening....

......and the intrepid adventurers continued on....

Along the top of the ridge the Acequia carries water into the lower reaches of the Garden; in an English garden this structure is call a 'rill'.  (Thanks K!)

If you are in Texas and longing for a visit to the Sonoran Desert,  the Cactus and Succulent garden is for you.  It is absolutely gorgeous!  We would not have been surprised  to meet a family of javelin trotting down the path.

The South Texas loop is an undisturbed area to show what was here before San Antonio.   Ummm, was that thunder?

As we reached the Piney Woods loop around the lake (maybe five minutes!),  the thunder was booming and lightning was flashing.  

Very suddenly it was clear we needed to get back to the Carriage House!  Taking the most direct route back down the hill; it got very scary as lightning was striking all around and the RAIN began just as we reached the shelter of the Carriage House. 

Enjoying a nice warm cup of tea with our lunch, it was easy to imagine our booth as a horse stall in a previous life.  I'm sure the horses appreciated the shelter from that down pour as much as we did!

After lunch it was just a bit drizzly as we finished up a quick tour of the Rose and Formal Garden.

And finally, an ancient fountain in the Scared Garden, a fitting way to end a lovely day.