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Enjoy your drive, but please come back

20240320 Wildflowers LM 082 webWhat beautiful weather we are having. It’s time to go outdoors and enjoy our beautiful South Texas weather. Maybe it is for a game of golf or just a walk around the block, or better yet, maybe a stroll on the beach. Whatever – enjoy our beautiful Spring.

As I sit at my desk, I often longingly look out the window at my back yard just to admire the lacey, emerald green leaves on the graceful mesquite trees. The view brings back memories of my growing up in central Texas. I knew for sure when the mesquite leafed out that Spring was just around the corner.

Now, unfortunately, for those of us who live here year-round, it means that very soon our Winter Texan friends will be packing up and heading home. We will miss you terribly as you bring such a refreshing, enriching culture to us.

As you drive home, enjoy the scenic beauty of Texas when the wildflowers are beginning to poke their little heads above ground. Just a few weeks ago, I drove to Falfurrias, just a bit more than an hour north. Of course, the fields were ablaze with the earliest bloomers – the miniature yellow daisies that spring up in pastures. Hugging the roadsides were blankets of wild purple verbena.

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Planning for next season

Goodness me – how this season has just flown by. Spring will soon be here, and I know many of you are thinking of going back to your summer homes. The phones have been busy asking about next season, especially for the Houston Quilt Festival. And yes, we already have about one third of the bus full. Departure is scheduled for October 30 with return on November 2, 2024.

Sorry, I cannot give you a definite price right now, as I am still waiting on another bid from a hotel in Houston. All I can do is estimate that it may run somewhere around $550 per person in double occupancy. A triple will be a little less, and a single is always much more as you are paying the entire cost of the room. The tour will be made by charter motor coach and that price and reservation I already have. I just need the hotel contract.

I am delighted that a quilt aficionada has agreed to be your guide. I am not a quilter, but I very much appreciate all the beautiful quilts that my mother and grandmother gave to me. My memories go back to the time when the quilting frame was raised to the ceiling when not in use to be lowered again when the ladies met to quilt and socialize. I am quite sure that the ladies of the small farming community where I grew up were all judged by how small and delicate their stitches were just as the men were judged by how straight the rows were in the fields they plowed.

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Hand wash or dishwasher

Good morning. Or is it good afternoon? I have been looking back at some of the previous On the Road articles that I have written for you. Would you believe that just about a year ago, I told you that I felt guilty for maybe wasting water as I washed dishes. At that time even the Farmers Associations were stressing that farmers should plant more crops that used less water. Sure enough, when we did our early February Farm Tour, you could see that there were more and more crops being planted that used less water.

Just recently, the local sugar cane mill has announced that they must close. There is no longer enough sugar cane being produced to pay for the expense of operating the mill. Growing sugar cane from planting to production reportedly takes more water than any other crop that is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. I am anxious to go on the next Farm Tour and see how the crops are doing.

All of us – from the housewife who washes dishes and does the family laundry, to the teenager who loves to take those long, exhilarating hot showers, and the farmer who doesn’t watch the border breaks when he irrigates – we all need to become more conscious of our over usage and waste of that precious commodity. And our climate changes, which affect us as well as those in Mexico, is not helping.

As I thought about what more I could do to conserve water, I was reminded of a housekeeper from Mexico that once worked for me. She handwashed dishes differently than I did – and I think it probably did save water. Her method was to take a soap filled wet sponge and scrub each cup, saucer, and plate with the sponge before placing those soapy dishes in the sink and proceeding to rinse them with hot running water. That method probably used less water than rinsing each individual item one by one… especially if you leave the water running as you scrub each utensil. I also wonder if any studies have ever been made over which method uses more water – using an electric dishwasher or hand washing the same number of dishes and utensils.

Some of you guys out there that have an analytical mind figure that one out, will you? And let me know. My dishwasher has been broken for months and replacement parts have not been available. Shall I just continue to wash dishes by hand? After all, that is how I grew up. We didn’t have electricity, much less an electric dishwasher.

Enjoy the weather, sports, and a tour

St Cyril and Methodius painted church Texas sanctuary interior webWhat beautiful weather we have been having lately. After those first few days of freezing weather, the last few days have been divine as far as temperature goes. But how ferocious the wind has been. Makes me wonder what this does to the golfers. Do you have to judge the wind velocity and how it will affect your drive? What a challenge!

As I look back over my high school and college days, I wonder why I never learned to play golf. I was active in almost every other sport that was available at the time. Softball was probably the sport I participated in the most, playing on the girl’s intramural softball team at my university. I loved all the sports – swimming, tag football, basketball, ping pong, and bowling. I even learned to play tennis at age 40. At one time, I shot quite a bit of pool.

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Making a difference by sharing your talents

You know, we are never too old to learn. And I just learned something wonderful. It’s all about love. What is love?

All of my adult life, I have always volunteered – as an Outreach person for my church while I was in college, as a Girl Scout Leader for over 20 years after I became a mother, and as a volunteer chairman for a money-making endeavor for my local church. When I started Go …. With Jo Tours, I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to share what I had learned while traveling to a foreign country.

When I plan a tour for you, I try to imagine what I would want if I were buying that tour. As I plan a tour, I try to share with you the beauty, history, and culture of our world. For instance, the Monterrey Tour, the Painted Churches, or any of the tours – what can I share with you so that you too can enjoy the experience?

But recently, I decided I could do more. I decided to follow the example that so many of you have set for us. I wanted to contribute more. I wanted to make a difference. So, I offered my services as a one-on-one reading tutor at the Boys and Girls Club in one of the local schools. I am brand new at tutoring, but since my background is in teaching and counseling, I thought surely that I could make a difference.

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Lots to learn on a King Ranch Tour

King Ranch On the Road IMG 6059 webGood day to y’all. Please accept my apologies if I have confused you with two different King Ranch Tours. They are similar, but they are different – let me explain. First of all, let’s talk about what is the same in both of the tours.

You will be met at your departure point by a Go … With Jo! Guide who will stay with you from the beginning to the end of the day when you are returned to your departure point. That guide will share a lot of history of the Rio Grande Valley and will ask you to help watch for the native wildlife. You might see Rio Grande Turkey, or the elusive Nilgai and possibly some White Tail Deer or a wild hog or a javelina as you travel along in your charter coach.

Once you arrive at the King Ranch, another well versed guide will board the bus – one who is especially schooled in the history of the life of the King Ranch founder, Richard King and his wife, Henrietta. This guide might have even grown up on the ranch. Travel over a twelve-mile loop road through the ranch as you learn all about its founding. A Texas style barbecue lunch is included on both tours.

Now the tours begin to differ a bit. On the King Ranch Tour, you will visit the Henrietta Memorial Museum located in an old icehouse which was very important to the vegetable farmers of the Rio Grande Valley. Still to this day, vegetable farmers ship their produce to northern points, but now the vegetables are generally shipped in modern refrigerated trucks. The first stop to ice down the vegetables was in Kingsville at what is now the museum. If you look carefully at the brick walls of the museum, you can see remnants of salt that was used in producing the ice.

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Mexico, Butterflies, and King Ranch

Go With Jo Monarch webI missed seeing you at the Winter Expo. There was some misunderstanding as I generally am there in person. However, this year I decided that I would rather do a personal presentation in the parks or at the club meetings of retirees or those who are ready to travel. So, if you are interested in a personal presentation, just give me a call. A few days have already been reserved, but I am sure we can find an open date for you.

I will be guiding some of the tours which I am really looking forward to. One of my favorites is the three-day trip to Monterrey with one already requested for the end of February. Another favorite is the Monarch Butterfly. If you are driving in the Rio Grande Valley during the month of October, you will probably recall how those beautiful little creatures smashed into your radiator and made a terrible mess. I am not sure how many of the butterflies die in that manner, but others die from pesticides and from people stepping on them as they hike the trails in Mexico.

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Volunteering, travel, warmer days ahead

I read each publication of the Winter Texan Times from cover to cover and vicariously join all the parks in their activities. And do you ever stay active. Not only do you have so many fun things, but you somehow find the time to contribute to our communities by volunteering. I especially liked the headlines of one of the stories – “It’s better to give than receive.”

And how true that is. Just this past Wednesday I reported for my first tutoring session with the Boys & Girls Club at Bonita Park in Harlingen.

The girl who was assigned to me was the younger sister of the teenager that I helped with her Christmas shopping. They young lady even came over to tell me hello. What a sweetheart! And so when I left the hour long tutoring session, I felt happy. I felt fulfilled. And yes, it is better to give than receive.

If you have not volunteered, why not look around you – someone out there needs your help. It may be just changing a ceiling light bulb – not everyone can still climb on a ladder. It may be with sharing a recipe or taking a shut in or an ill friend a hot soup for lunch. Or it could be a child who needs an extra attention and help with reading or math.

For those of you who are ready to travel, please continue to be patient. My e-mails into Mexico and overseas are often misdirected – both incoming and outgoing. Consequently, I do not have my hotel nor transportation costs in place. It is taking longer than usual, but hopefully the situation will improve. My local tech support person has spent almost two full days here working on my computer. We think we have the problem corrected. Just please be patient while we work through this problem.

In the meantime, stay warm. Although our winters seem colder than usual, remember those cold snaps generally don’t stay around too long and soon the days will be more pleasant and we can all be out and about again… the beach is waiting, the golf clubs and fishing poles have been neglected. Soon it will be time to enjoy our Rio Grande Valley again.

Have Fun!

Memories, volunteering, and tours

Hello, it is now past mid-January and my mind keeps going back to Christmas. Maybe it is because I am reminded daily of the wonderful time I had with family and friends. One half of my dining room table is covered with a thousand-piece puzzle of the nativity. And then my bedtime reading is a historical book given to me for Christmas. It is about the revolutionary women of Texas and Mexico. So many of these women organized for equality mainly in education. But also, for the right to vote and for the right to choose who they wanted to marry.

Perhaps it was this book that finally pushed me into volunteering to be a tutor for children who were having problems with reading. Or maybe it was because I had so long admired our older citizens and Winter Texans who volunteered. Truly they make a difference. So yesterday I reported for my first day as a tutor to help children who had reading problems. Surely the ability to read is one of the most important skills that we can learn.

Earlier in the school year I asked my fifth-grade nephew how he was doing in school. His reply was that he made an A+ in science and in Math, but that you could not make an F plus or an F minus, it’s just an F. He was getting an F in reading. Later in the year, those math problems became written problems and his excellent grade in Math began to drop. Fortunately, some wonderful person volunteered to serve as his tutor. Finally, the book, the example set by so many retirees and my nephew’s experience encouraged me to volunteer.

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Grab a partner and come on a tour

Time is flying by for here it is, almost the middle of January. I am sure by now that the Christmas decorations have all been stored away. Really it makes me a little sad to realize that Christmas is now behind us. What a wonderful time we had with the entire family enjoying the Christmas festivities and the dozens of tamales that we consumed. Christmas is truly a very special time.

But now it is time to think of 2024 and all the wonderful travels we can plan for the coming year. Just yesterday, one of our passengers came into the office to tell me what a great time she and her son had on the Christmas in Mexico tour. This passenger is new to the Rio Grande valley and very eager to learn more about this special corner of Texas. She mentioned that the King Ranch Tour had been recommended to her. It is a good tour – loaded with history and nature. I am busy scheduling and very shortly should have completed arrangements for at least two King Ranch departures in February, two more in March and possibly one in April. There will be other tours soon to be announced, so check our website as well as this weekly paper for updates. Tours are selling really well, so grab a partner and sign up soon.

Texas wildflowers are a sight to behold and are especially beautiful in the Hill Country. Bluebonnets are just one of the breath-taking displays that show off for us in the Spring. Close to home are wild verbenas, some bluebonnets, different varieties of yellow daisies and the brightly colored Indian paint brushes and wine cups with an occasional out cropping of blue bells. We can even do a one-day trip sightseeing the display of wildflowers in the Sarita and Kingsville area.

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Memories and resolutions

The Holiday Season is now behind us and what a wonderful time of the year it has been with friends and families joining together to celebrate the season. Now it is time to put away the Christmas decorations and store away the memories of this special time. On Christmas Eve we recalled some of the past Christmas celebrations.

How about the time that the tree shoppers just couldn’t seem to find the perfect tree. Finally, they found one to their liking. But there was just one big problem…it would not fit through the back door as it was just too big. The big, beautiful tree had to be carefully wedged through the double wide front doors. Or how about the time that the Christmas tree fell over on my tiny mother-in-law. She was absolutely buried under the tree. After that we always tied the tree with fishing wire to an overhead ceiling beam.

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Where do you want to go?

Just a few more days and this year will be behind us. A New Year is just around the corner. I am sure all of us have a special plan, a dream that we want to make come true. What is your dream? Will it be a cruise? Travel to a distant country? Or just explore locally?

Travel seems to be on a lot of people’s minds right now as we are receiving a great number of calls asking what we will offer in 2025.

Organizing a tour does take some time, especially into a different country. Many hotels and attractions are hesitant to commit to a contracted rate. This has always been true but now there seems to be more reluctance as the value of the dollar, the value of the euro and of the peso is so volatile. Just look at gas prices, which have dropped noticeably in the last two weeks. But will they remain lower, or will they go back up again? Just as soon as I can get commitments from hotels and transportation, I will publish the tours we are planning.

If you are wondering about itineraries, look at our website. If a tour in the past has been successful, we generally will repeat that same itinerary. The hotels may change, because sometimes a hotel is sold, a new management takes over, and the service and quality may remain the same or it may drop in quality. When this happens, we look for other hotels, but the itinerary may continue the same with only the hotels changing.

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Christmas traditions we love

Firefly traditional christmas tree with decorations 39913 webWe are quite traditional in our family. And I bet that you too have traditions. In my family, my children just won’t let me take the easy way out. It is no trouble to pull out the artificial tree still decorated with strings of lights and glittery ornaments. Well, not in my family – my children won’t let me do it the easy way.

The tree has to be real, and the house has to smell like Christmas.

Christmas Eve begins with the traditional homemade chili and delicious tamales. The tamales have become my responsibility. This year, I decided to try a different company – but which one? I had no idea where to begin, so I turned to the experts – my Mexican friends who know much more about tamales than I. After I narrowed down the recommendations to the top two, it was time to sample and make the final decision.

Now the only way to make that decision was to sample the goods. For several days, we were eating tamales for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as we enjoyed the different flavors of cream cheese and jalapenos, chicken and cheese, pork, and spicy pork. Oh yum – Were they good!

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Showing you care

20171221 Tims Coats El Valle del Sol MILLER IMG 6698 webI will have to admit that I rarely watch the news on our local television channels. If I listen at all it is generally to world news on British Broadcasting Company. I much prefer to read the news and re-read it to get a better understanding of what is really happening in our world. For local news, my source of information is generally our local newspapers.

One of the things happening locally right now is the drive for contributions to Tim’s Coats. This is a very worthy cause. There are many needy families who could use some help in providing warm clothing for their children. Since our winters seem to be getting colder, the need for warm clothing is even more critical than it used to be.

At one time – quite a few years ago – I taught in the Harlingen Public Schools. On the coldest of days, fewer children attended classes. I wondered why – my curious mind sought the answer. We do live in an area where there are families without enough money to provide warm clothing for their family. The answer was to keep children out of schools and in bed under the covers so that they could stay warm.

Even though many years have passed, this situation still exists … hopefully not to such a great extent but poverty is still around. Even though we should encourage those of us who are able to share and to give freely to those in need, the request for money to solve the need is somewhat disturbing. Let me give you a little history as to how what we now know as Tim’s Coats started.

So here goes … There was a gentleman in the Upper Valley who realized there was a need. This gentleman – Bill Stocker – owned and operated Palace Cleaners, a business that was opened in 1929. Mr. Stocker’s family bought the business in 1951. Just this past year the business was closed. Bill Stocker was a man dedicated to his community. When he saw a need he found a solution.

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Now on to the Christmas festivities

ON THE ROAD Festival of Lights TrainRides 2012 12 15 317 webAnd how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was extra special with a visit from my grand nephew and his father. It is so great to have family come visit, especially when one of them is a champion at almost every cook off that he enters. So naturally, he cooked the turkey … and I had never had smoked turkey before. Since I had already cooked two turkeys for a special early celebration, I was more than glad to turn over the chore to someone else.

However, I still wanted to do my share and contribute to the festivities. Desserts seemed to be in order along with homemade cranberry sauce. It had been a while since I had prepared that and oh it is so good – much better than the canned you buy at the grocery store. The supply chain interfered somewhat with preparation of the pecan pie – there was just no Karo syrup on the shelves at my local store. What a disappointment. For years, our family has been ordering green label Karo from Amazon – but not to find any Karo at all on the shelf, that is really unusual.

Read more: Now on to the Christmas festivities