Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waiting for the ball to drop...

New Years Eve.  No, nothing to do with puberty.

The weather weasels hit this one right one... well, with the precip.  Our high for today occurred about 7:30 this morning: 67º.  The wind changed direction, picked up speed, and the horizontal drizzle started.  Three hours later, the temp is down to 54º.  80% chance of precip all through the day and night.

We have often anchored out on New Years Eve to watch the fireworks launched from a barge off South Padre Island.  I will be surprised if the fireworks are a go this evening... it is fugly out there.

Times we have stayed home to ring in the New Year, someone on our island has put on their own fireworks display.  Fireworks are not allowed in our gated community, so they simply go across the furthest canal (one over from ours) to the undeveloped part of the island.  We could sit on our deck and watch the display.  Not tonight.

This morning, the local news was putting out the warning from the local law enforcement agencies:

"Do not fire guns into the air to celebrate the incoming New Year."

I am amazed that they have to say this, but every year it happens.  And every year these bullets obey the law of gravity, coming down to damage something or somebody.  Like a stereotypical bad western movie about banditos.

Of course, I think the solution to this would be to have the warnings state: Be sure to fire your guns straight up... that would eventually solve the problem.  ;-)

Looking ahead to 2015... hope your New Year is memorable.  Go out and make it so.


On edit:

We went out for lunch... it is cold and nasty!

I'm in for the day. Maybe the next 3 days. This weather is messing with New Years Eve around here: South Padre Island puts on the "biggest fireworks display in Texas" for New Years Eve. Lots of people on the island. I can't imagine anyone would be out in this cold, rainy, windy crap, even IF they could get the fireworks launched from the barge off the island.

So, an intimate little celebration for us tonight... just, party!! I'm thinking: some raucous behavior, lewd dancing, debauchery, drinking, and nudity. I don't know what the Blonde is planning.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Get it while you can...

We knew this week was going to be moderately lousy weather...

Rain in the forecast every day.  But, today, there was some sunshine.  A little breezy.  High in the low 70s.  We ran around on the scooters - didn't take me long to answer, "Yes, please!" when Joan asked if I wanted to go to the Dairy Queen.

Looks like we will be ringing in the New Year with rain (90% chance on New Years Eve).  Just 6 years ago, little Izzy did her first overnight on the boat for New Years Eve.  We'll be spending it at home this year.  Sure won't be out scootin'.  ;-)

But, today, we did get some scootin' in.

Monday, December 29, 2014

That's a wrap...

The Christmas season is officially over... well, for us.

Yesterday, we took our daughter and son-in-law to McAllen to get a plane out of there.  Everything was on schedule, and they are safely back in the Valley of the Sun.

It was raining pretty good on that hour and a half drive; and all the way back.  So, we put off taking down our Christmas decorations until today.  No lights outside, no more holiday stuff inside.  Yep, Christmas is officially over.

Well, mostly.  When we went out for lunch today, there was a group having their Christmas party at the restaurant.  Their dress code: ugly Christmas sweaters.

It was pretty obvious that we weren't with that group.  ;-)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

They just don't want to go home...

We had a great day with Steph and Dan yesterday.  I didn't want them to leave.  United Airlines granted me my wish.

We could see that their flight out of Brownsville was going to be late.  Not late enough to be a problem, but cutting it as close as you'd like in Dallas.  Driving to the Brownsville Airport, checking the flight app, the delay time lengthened... to the point that, when we got to the airport, they knew they couldn't make their Dallas connection.  The last flight out that night.

So, fun options: get a hotel room in Dallas and get the next flight out tomorrow.  The first flight with two open seats was tomorrow night.  Spend the night in the Dallas Airport and hope to catch an earlier flight.  The woman on the phone for United Customer Service was mostly indifferent.

We went into the airport and a nice guy at the United counter looked around and found them flights out in the morning... out of another airport an hour and a half away.  With plenty of time to make a connecting flight.

Back to the coast for another night.

Before changing the flights, we joked that Mother Nature was cutting them some slack - the weather was going to turn crappy AFTER they left.  Well... a norther blew in during the night, dropping the temps about 20º, with a cold north wind.  Close.

Off to "the Valley."

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Different images come to mind when you read that word.

Our daughter faces 75 kids each day.  Without a chair and a whip.  Nerves of steel.  She is not, however, a water person.  Never cared to be out on a boat.  Didn't want to play in the water.  So, I chuckled when she said, "Maybe I'll try your paddleboard when we come to visit."

I said something about trying out the board yesterday, but by the time we got home after breakfast and shopping, the wind had really piped up.  I nixed that.

But, this morning, it was nearly calm; 72º.  "So, Steph, do you want to try the paddleboard today?"

I was surprised when she said, "Sure, let's do it."

I got the board out and gave her a bit of instruction...

I suggested we keep it to a kneeling position for her first time out.  And then, she was off...

Away from the dock and on her own...

She did a few laps in the canal, then came back to the dock - wanting to try standing...

Yep, she did it!  I could not be more proud...

I think she felt pretty good about it, too...

And a link to a YouTube video...

A major policy change...

We have long joked about what happens to our weather any time our daughter visits.

Not sure why Mother Nature has long taken great joy in turning our weather to crap when our sweet girl is here?  Usually, the weather starts going down about the time their plane lands, stays crappy during their visit, and the clouds part as their plane leaves the runway.

The forecast a week ahead for the time they are here was lovely.  Closer to their arrival day, the forecast dropped by 10 to 15º.  "Yep, Mother Nature found out you were coming."

This year, though, it has stayed shirt-sleeve weather.  Some wind, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Today we're supposed to see 75º.  They leave tonight, and our forecast for tomorrow is a high of 53º, wind and rain.

Maybe Mother Nature took some time off for the holiday?  ;-)

Friday, December 26, 2014

What I really do...


We have been enjoying having Steph and Dan here.  More games through the day yesterday...

They had to solve the maze to get to the present.

Food coma...

We were up early and out to the big shopping experience at Wally World this morning.  Not much of a crowd an hour after they opened - maybe 20 cars in the parking lot.  They like to find the after Christmas bargains.  I was delighted with how light the crowd was.

Breakfast at Manuel's, a must-do when they are here.  Then, back to our place and a visit with Mike and MJ and their furry kids.  More shopping.  More eating.

We considered launching Steph on a paddleboard, but the wind had piped up.  Still, a lovely day: temps in the mid to upper 70s.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sweetest gift ever...

Steph and Dan got in... a couple hours later than planned, but HERE!

We went out for a late lunch before driving back to our place.  It has become a bit of a tradition to play games for gifts... you win, you pick a number that corresponds to a gift, then pick a directive.  The directive may tell you to give your gift to the person on the right... or you may have to answer a Christmas trivia question to keep the gift.  Making the directives is part of the fun, too.

Getting up this morning, we found that Santa came - the stockings were stuffed.  One "everybody gets" gift...

Super soft slippers.  Lots of other fun stuff, but our particular favorite was hand-made...

A set of four blocks with the letters that spell out "L-O-V-E."  Family photos on the other sides of the cubes.  All antiqued.  Steph and Dan worked on them together.  There were some "leaky eyes" as we turned the cubes around.  Very nice.

And proof that you still get stuff, even when you are on the Naughty List...

More games to play today.  Little Izzy got a "bug" from Steph and Dan - it runs around the floor, pulling a feathery puff behind it.  We all enjoyed watching it... Izzy isn't so sure.

A beautiful day here in the Tropical Tip.  Blue sky, light wind; should be around 70º.

Nice to be together for the holiday.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Not the Carly Simon song.

We will be picking up Steph and Dan at the airport today.  Can't wait to see them!

Mother Nature found out that Steph is coming and sent the cold front yesterday.  The wind howled all night but is down to about a half gazillion miles per hour this morning.  And 51º.  But, the sky is blue and the sun is shining.  And our hearts are filled with warmth.

Merry Christmas one and all!


On edit: the anticipation expands... they have to change planes on the way here, and the plane that is supposed to bring on this last leg is delayed.  First an hour... now, pushing two.  I feel bad that my baby and her Honey have to sit it out in an airport, but this only increases the anticipation.

Just don't want a repeat of "the Christmas miracle of 2004" when we actually got a dusting of snow here... first time in 109 years.  And Steph and Dan got caught overnight in Houston on Christmas Eve.

We were planning lunch out after picking them up.  Hoping that still happens, but in the meantime, I am snitching sweets... so much for being good.  ;-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends...

RIP Joe Cocker.

Joe Cocker passed away yesterday.  His raspy voice and on stage gyrations are what most folks remember.  He made 40 albums and had dozens of hits.  The US first heard of him from the kick-ass version of "I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends" at Woodstock... pretty impressive when you can take a mellow Beatles song and turn it into a powerful classic.

In 1971, I took Joan to see Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a rock-umentary film of a Joe Cocker concert.  We were two of the few people in the theater.  Two older ladies sat behind us - I remember hearing one of them saying to the other, "I think this is an English comedy."  It wasn't...

While volume that can push you back into your seat may be common in today's movies, it wasn't back then.  This movie opened up loud and continued to kick.  The two little old ladies didn't make it 10 minutes.

That was Joe Cocker's music... you didn't just hear it, you felt it.  He didn't simply sing a song, it was coming out of every pore.

I still play three songs that were hits for Joe Cocker: With a little Help From My Friends (the Beatles), Feelin' Alright (Dave Mason), and You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker).  I have read that You Are So Beautiful was Cocker's favorite song from his catalog... "It was originally a gospel song, and Billy Preston rewrote the lyrics to make it more of a love song."  Joe Cocker doing love songs?  Yep, and like no one else.

RIP Joe Cocker.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Today's tag...

The scooter tag for today: a gym.  I can do that.

No, not do the gym.  But, I do know where there is one.  I've thought about opening a bakery called "The Gym."  Sell memberships.  "Yeah, I like to hit up The Gym before work and maybe after, too."  I could call the glazed donuts "a workout"... as in: "Did you get in a good workout today?"


But, I digress.  Again.  I am an over-achiever.  Here's the Gym...

You can tell it's The Gym, because it says, "The Gym;" right there on the front of the building.  The over-achieving part?

This gym has the bow of a wooden ship coming out the front of the building.  It used to be an upscale gift shop... it helps to have "a hook" to draw people in around here.

While we were out and about, another poster from the scooter forum asked if I would mind showing our scoots side-by-side; he is planning to get one, but is deciding the color...

Oh, we got some other things done today, too.  Joan spent most of the morning baking.  She thinks some of what she baked will still be around when Steph and Dan get here in two days.  Not if I get to it first.  ;-)

While Joan was baking, I put our outboard "to bed."  No real need to winterize things here, but, without a dinghy, I don't have a use for the motor.  I siphoned the fuel out of the tank, drained the fuel line, then ran the fuel out of the carburetor.

While I'm in the photo taking mode, I had a request here a while back for photos of the two-wheel cart I use to flush or work on the outboard.  Here it is...

The curved handle on top comes off by pulling one pin.  With the board attached to the frame by U-bolts, the cross-bar on the handle would be in the way when mounting the motor.  With it off...

The motor mounts on the board, with plenty of room...

The plastic tub holds the water.  Easy set-up.


Mother Nature found out.

It's a regular joke: when Steph comes to visit, our weather turns crappy.  OK, not really a joke... it happens.  Two days ago, the forecast for Christmas Day was 78º.  Now, the forecast is for 68º, with a low that morning of 49º.  The wind on Christmas Eve is forecast for 20 to 30 mph.

Oh, it was breezy today, but in the upper 70s.  Pretty darn pleasant.  For scootering.  And messing with the outboard.  And eating stuff Joan baked.  :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice...

No, this isn't about pagan celebrations.

Tonight is the Winter Solstice - the longest night of the year.  On the bright side, starting tomorrow, we will start gaining a couple minutes a day of daylight.

Living as far south as we do (latitude 26), it isn't unbearable.  When we lived in the frozen northland, it would be dark until close to 8:00 am and start getting dark again around 4:20.  That meant we went to work in the dark, and came home in the dark.  Of course, being retired, and this far south, means that we start to see the daylight just before 7:00 am and sunset is around 5:40... and don't worry about work.  ;-)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The busiest shopping day of the year...

That's what we saw on the news this morning.  Doesn't matter - we weren't planning on going anywhere.

We have had some very nice weather the past couple weeks.  Last night, a cold front moved in... it was 62º when we got up this morning, and didn't change much during the day.  Wind from the north at 15 to 20 mph.  It was a good day for hanging around the house.

By this evening, cabin fever was getting to me, so we made a quick trip to Wally World.  I suggested we swing by there, and if the parking lot was packed, just keep moving on.

The Christmas lights in the promenade median area on the main drag are put up by the city... and they do a nice job.  Lots of palm trees and shrubs, covered with lights.  Very festive looking.

The parking lot at Wal-Mart was as empty as I've seen it in a long time.  Probably no need for this particular WM to stay open 24 hours until Christmas.  Inside, the aisles were blissfully non-populated.  OK, good for us, probably not good for business.  We picked up the couple things that we kinda needed, browsed through the Christmas stuff area (not a lot left), and didn't have to wait in line to check out.  Easy.

We drove back through town, and decided to see what was decorated on South Padre Island.  Not a lot.  Not much traffic.  Some of the restaurants seemed to have good crowds, but the motels that list their price on the signs were still at the low, low price of $29.99.  No doubt, the winter visitors will come rolling in after Christmas.

Small town living.

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Valentine's Day??

Out getting some scooter "tags" again today.  Joan needed to stop at Wal-Mart "for just one thing."  Since were were there anyway, I thought I'd look for some Russell Stover's chocolate covered marshmallow Santas.

Nope.  Not in the candy aisle.

And in the seasonal aisle...

Valentine's Day stuff?  Before Christmas??  I understand getting the "retail jump" and moving in the Christmas stuff around the 4th of July.  But, really, do we need this much of a jump on Valentine's Day???

Not only that, they didn't have any chocolate covered marshmallow hearts... or Cupids... or whatever Russell Stover's is pushing for V-D.  Yeah, they probably don't call it that, huh?


It isn't a job, it's an adventure...

Going to the store.

Joan suggested we go out for breakfast; I'm always up for that.  After breakfast, it was off to HEB (Texas grocery store chain).  I was in charge of the list... an awesome responsibility.  She goes to the store to shop - I'm along for the lookin'.  Around here, there is always something that I can't identify.

"What's that?"

I'm sure I sound like a little kid.  I'm at that "curious stage" - old enough to have been around the block a time or twelve.  Old enough that I don't really give a furry rat's rear what someone passing by thinks when I ask the Blonde, "What is this?"

Those little round things in the middle of this image are tejocotes... at one time, the most common smuggled fruit.  Smuggled, because these were forbidden for import to the US due to "exotic insect pests."  South of the border, the tejocotes (a crab-apple like fruit) is an indispensable ingredient in ponche, a hot punch that is popular around the holidays in Mexico.

Or how about a nice chunk of sugar cane stalk?

The bin with the red bow?  Yep, piloncillo, a tasty cone of raw sugar cane.

Sound like a sugar overdose?  Not much different from eating candy corn.  (Which doesn't appeal to me, either.)

My favorite part of shopping, though, is the people-watching.  I'm not trying to make this a "people of Wal-Mart" bingo game, but my favorite today was the 70 year old woman (my guess) wearing the "official Keg Stand shirt" t-shirt...

Not being snarky, but hers did not appear this trim.  You have to appreciate the sense of humor, though.  Let me help create the mental image: an old woman standing on her hands to chug down beer from a keg.  Not enough to make you spit-take your beer?  Imagine those 36 longs hanging out the top of the... ohhhhhhhh.

Taking a short-cut from the back corner of the store to the check stands, we passed by the baby items.  I was unaware of the brand called NUK.  And a pacifier called a Nuk-Nuk.  When did we do away with "binky"?  Then, Joan had to tell me how she and Steph laughed so hard when the subject of me remarrying... a younger woman... and having another kid.  Which generally leads to the Blonde getting ticked at me for remarrying.  I nipped that in the bud by asking, "If I get remarried and have another kid, would that make you the Grandma or the Aunt or what?"

"It doesn't make me anything - don't even think about me watching your kid!"

I have no idea how these conversations get rolling.  Or how I wind up being in trouble for a weird imagined situation.

Pretty sure I'm back on "the Naughy List" again, though.

I love shopping.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


No, not twerking.  I tried that once... hurt my back.

My carbon fiber guitar was making a "twanging" sound on a couple of the frets last week.  Oh, I know what you're thinking: "Nothing to fret about."  Do you get any funnier?

I had recently put new strings on the guitar.  Even so, I took off the offending string and replaced it with another.  That seemed to take care of the twang.  Until this morning... I got the guitar down, played a chord, and the twang was back.  I swapped out guitars and kept playing, keeping in mind that I needed to do something with the first one.

After lunch, I went to work on the carbon fiber guitar.  It has been more humid than normal for this time of year, but the carbon fiber isn't affected by that.  I checked the neck relief, and it seems normal.  Even though the carbon fiber "should never need a neck adjustment" (quote from the manufacturer), I decided to tweak the neck...

Not a big deal.  With my wood guitars, they sometimes require a small tweak with the change of season or climate.  The CF neck hasn't moved, going from the Pacific Northwest to the desert of Arizona, to the Gulf Coast, and all around again.  I adjusted the neck a bit and tried it... better, but the twang wasn't completely gone.  A bit more tweak.  Better.  A bit more.  I was concerned that I might go too far... nahhh.  Finally, the twang was gone.  I will never make in the country music biz.  ;-)

Yes, the island in our kitchen is a good height for guitar work.

A little Christmas song...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tag - you're it...

It turned out to be a windy day here... I was surprised when Joan came home from a run to the Post Office and said, "Do you want to take the scoots for lunch?  I'm feeling like a burger."

Easy choice for me: I'm almost always up for a scooter ride, and burgers are one of my four main food groups (the other three being pizza, BBQ, and bacon).

It was blowing 15 to 20 as we went across the causeway - and you feel that on the scoots.  Not bad, just the occasional lean-into-the-wind-gust moment.

As long as we were out on the scoots, I took the opportunity to try for the next scooter "tag"... the last thing tagged was your scooter with Christmas decorations.  No not decorations ON the scooter, decorations in the background... or the foreground.  Something Christmas-y.  I knew that would be an easy tag...

The lower photo has Christmas characters on palm trees - the tree in the middle are holding letters that spell out "JOY."  I'm particularly fond of the pink flamingo on the right, with the Santa hat.

LOTS of options.  One was a menorah, but it wasn't close to the road.  Then, I'm sure I'd have to post something with Kwanza candles or a Festivus pole... just to stay politically correct.

Then, if you get the latest "tag," you have to post another photo with the next tag.  I considered using this shot from the Coast Guard station on South Padre Island...

Joan stayed back a long ways while I got this shot... pretty sure I saw the camera at the gate following my every move.  I considered this...

I reconsidered, since there are people from all over the country in on this... and, really, finding a tiki hut may be hard to come by in the frozen northland.  ;-)

I like to pick tags that are easy for people to get - it keeps the game moving.


Your scoot by RVs.  Easy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A link to some tunes...

Recorded directly into the little mic on the iPad Mini...

For my Honey.

No, we didn't fall off the face of the Earth...

Just took a few days off from posting.

Not a lot to write about... we ride the scoots, I went for a paddle this morning, I make some music, Joan does stuff around the house... and we're just enjoying our time here in the Tropical Tip.  Not sure where the time goes every day, but we don't run out of things to do.

Mother Nature has been pretty nice lately: the weather has been more typical.  Most days are shorts and t-shirts; jeans when we're on the scoots.  I'm hoping the weather stays nice when Steph and Dan visit for Chistmas.  We joke that Steph brings the crappy weather with her... and then it turns nice again as their plane taxis out for departure.

Joan asked if I'd record some music for her to have on her iPad.  No, not iTunes stuff - she wants stuff that I play.  As long as I've been playing (got my first guitar 50 years ago this month... whew!... I really should be better than I am), I have never gotten into recording.  Oh, bands I've played in have made demo tapes, but nothing that required much in the way of planning.  Since the technology has gotten more user friendly (so I've heard), I downloaded an inexpensive "recording studio" for the iPad.  I thought a direct line out from my PA to the iPad would make the recording easy... that didn't pan out: the iPad didn't like that interface.  So, I just played into the little built-in mic on the iPad Mini; surprisingly, it didn't suck.

So, I'll have another "project" to keep me from doing anything essential.  ;-)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Perhaps the dumbest thing I've seen in a long time...

I've mentioned "stupid driver tricks" here in the Tropical Tip... this one takes the cake.

A lovely Saturday.  The Blonde said, "I'll let you take me out for breakfast... if we can take the scooters."

"You drive a hard bargain."  I suggested a restaurant we frequent, but have never done breakfast there.  They have live music from 9 to 1 on Saturday mornings - a guy playing fingerstyle guitar and singing.  We've heard him before, he is very talented.

Driving the scoots across the causeway, I had to look twice to see if I was seeing what I thought I saw... yep... there were two persons of the female persuasion who had stopped their car on the causeway (going the other direction).  They got out of the car to take a photo of the water!!

"Why is that bad?" you ask.  Thanks for asking.  The speed limit on the causeway is 55 miles per hour.  Four lanes, two each way.  No shoulder; no place to pull to the side.  It is not unusual to have two cars running side-by-side at 65 mph... with no place to swerve.  The people stopped the car IN THE LANE!  Between people speeding, looking at the water, texting, and driving while involved in all manner of distractions, they are often NOT looking ahead of them.  Imagine stopping on the Interstate... in a traffic lane... to get out and take a photo... with the car doors open.

This would be a way to get seriously dead AND take a bunch of other people out with you.

Stupid.  With a capital S... and all the rest of the letters.

We pulled up to the restaurant...

This place has good lunches with great views of the Laguna Madre (it sits on a pier); we didn't know what to expect with their breakfast.  As it turns out... two big thumbs up.  The food was great, the prices in line, and our waitress was friendly and efficient.  The music was a treat, as were the views out the window.  What's not to like?

The restaurant wasn't busy, so we sat for a while when we were done eating, to enjoy the music.

Out to the scoots.  We have a "routine" on lazy days when we're on the island - I like to drive by the Convention Center to see the Orcas painted on the sides of the building.  Then, we decide if we're going to take a walk.  A walk was in the cards today... we started with a stroll through the butterfly gardens...

There are memorials here, where friends and family have dedicated a tree to someone who has passed.  We took the time to read some of the memorials.  And view some of the flowering plants...

This leads behind the Convention Center, opening to the Laguna Madre...

And a large group of winter visitors: white pelicans...

We walked back around past the Convention Center and to the walkway over the marsh.  I could feel it: today would be the day we'd see an alligator; haven't seen one here in quite a while.  We came across this group of roseate spoonbills...

Checking the marsh closely for a gator...

Other birds, fish, and turtles...

A likely spot...

Nope, still no gator.

More birds...

But, no gator.  Back to the scoots...

Even without a gator sighting, it was a good day to be out and about.  And no stupid people coming back across on the causeway.  Well, none that we came across.  Never under-estimate.