SPI in the RAIN

Our winter adventure continued this week on the Texas Gulf Coast and South Padre Island (SPI).  We had envisioned SPI as white sand beaches that go on forever and sunshine all day long. While the beaches didn’t disappoint, the sun certainly did.  Considering we had rain and a stiff wind five of the seven days, it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Nevertheless we made the most of it.IMG_8920.jpgOn one of the sunny days we took the bikes out to explore the area.  SPI has some beautiful beach boardwalks that allowed us to bike right alongside the sand and surf. IMG_4011.JPGOn another day we took a drive towards Brownsville and stumbled upon the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, the location of the first major conflict in the Mexican-American War.  America’s victory here led to the US invasion of Mexico and eventually the definition of our southern border. Yes, even Mia enjoyed the excursion.IMG_7575.JPG While in SPI we stayed at the KOA.  We are becoming KOA regulars and this location had its pros and cons.  We enjoyed meeting snowbirds from all the “cold” locations during the campground’s social activities. In the week we were there we attended a sunrise breakfast, ice cream social, and watched water zumba while sitting out by the pool.  Even Mia, the camping queen, enjoyed the views.IMG_8913.jpgThe KOA was a little cramped and we would have enjoyed a little more space. However, we’re leaning that it’s common to be packed into many of the RV resorts.

We’re now on our way towards the Hill Country, between San Antonio and Austin.  Along the way we made a stop at the legendary King Ranch, the 825,000 acre cattle and horse ranch. Two giant Texas Longhorns greeted us as we entered the ranch property and were a reminder of the long history of cattle growing in the region. IMG_7593.JPGWe missed the ranch tour but tried our hand at roping. Clearly we are both novices at this skill and need to leave it to the ranch hands.IMG_7595.JPG      Our last stop in Kingsville was at the King Ranch Saddle Shop, which produces and sells luxury leather goods including incredibly made saddles that any horseman would love. We know a few folks who would have been in heaven in this place.

Our adventure continues as we move northward toward the Texas wine country.

Varadero, Cuba

Our last few days have been spent in the beach resort area of Varadero, at the all-inclusive Iberostar. All inclusive resorts are nice because, well, everything is included. Steve could drink an unlimited amount of rum and food is available 24/7.

It’s kind of like a cruise on land. We even had dinner one night at the Japanese restaurant and learned to make rum drinks.

9F6FBC54-EAFD-477F-90D2-C58018AFF070The cool thing is that we are still on “program” with Marathon Tours which means we have one or two excursions per day available to us that allow us to “support the Cuban people.” This is where the real fun is.

One excursion included a trip into the town of Matanzas which is the location of Cuba‘s oldest baseball stadium Palma de Junco.D51C25EB-278D-4CEC-A076-2575B391A8C4 It’s also home of the newly created Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball is huge here, and we were able to meet a Hall of Famer, Jose Estrada Gonzales, “Pepito” and get our picture taken with him, along with a signed ball.

We watched up-and-coming Cuban baseball stars practice and then got a turn at bat.339BFDAF-E0B4-4B23-9F54-221D1A4F6F84.jpeg10158526-748A-48FD-9ED2-E76E86281B7B0501DC00-D4EF-42D9-A08B-88E1B211D475

From there we did a walking tour of the town and interacted with locals on the way. I always have candy in my purse. Sweets and a smile is a good icebreaker worldwide.

Another excursion was a trip to the Cuban Dance Academy where we watched and then danced with folkloric dancers. 3BE080C7-114C-4C58-B3AF-7D236809AA16
Our time in Varadero was relaxing and rejuvenating after the race but now we are headed into the countryside to explore another slice of this mysterious island.C60130EF-5CAE-4A1F-ABC5-A04DFC40D146