Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life’s a Beach-Padre On!


We took grandkids Maya and Ben to South Padre Island for their first trip to the beach and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. AJ and Erin went too; Erin had only known  the cold water and rock-lined beaches of Santa Cruz, California, and AJ had not been back to Padre since he was about in the sixth grade, so those were good reasons to go. Never mind that I had just made a trip to Wyoming that traveled four states for a total of 1386 miles. This round trip turned out to be 1775 miles- and we never left Texas.

IMG_5068Texas A&M Kingsville

Bill and I met when we were students at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, now Texas A&M Kingsville, and since Kingsville was on the way, we  took a nostalgic tour of the campus which is still lovely and quiet, and looked pretty much the same, except bigger. My dorm, Lewis Hall, was even still there, as were all the buildings we remembered.

IMG_5073Lewis Hall

We stayed at the Isla Grande, which used to be the Radisson. The grounds are covered in palm trees, oleanders, hibiscus, all manner of tropical plants, and has two  swimming  pools to enjoy before you ever make it to the beach, which is right there behind the hotel.

The view from our hotel balcony.

We ate shrimp every day we were there, spotted dolphins from a boat that had a dolphin-loving dog, watched newly-hatched Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles make their way to the surf, visited the sea turtle hospital, stood at the top of the Port Isabel lighthouse, shopped a few  junk stores, but mostly spent hours floating on the waves, boogie-boarding,  swimming to the second sandbar, walking the beach, and, considering all the time we spend in the sun, miraculously not getting sunburned beyond repair.

IMG_5319Maya, Ben, and Gorkie watch for the dolphins.

IMG_5335And there they are!

IMG_5232Baby turtles begin their big adventure.

IMG_5237Almost there.


Port Isabel lighthouse.

IMG_5148Maya and AJ catching the waves.

IMG_5143Ben riding the surf.

IMG_5187That’s AJ and Ben in the middle of the picture.

IMG_5152Ben, Erin, Maya, AJ.


In the distance you can see  the causeway linking the island to Port Isabel.


The sea gulls are always on the lookout for a handout.

IMG_5182This may be why Bill didn’t come home sunburned. He spent a fair amount of  his  time on the beach just like this.


We watched for pelicans as instructed. They are in abundance during the summer.

IMG_5395If you like the beach, South Padre is the place to go-just not during Spring Break…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 17th Annual Tour de Muleshoe

Back in 1994 the Muleshoe Heritage Foundation needed a fund-raiser. Lonnie Adrian, a bicyclist himself, hit upon the idea for a bicycle event. The Tour de Muleshoe has gone through some changes since then, but it still exists and still makes money for the foundation.

IMG_2612The Santa Fe Depot, headquarters for the Muleshoe Heritage Center.

Originally the tour included a Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Race, which involved riding in two events, a 40-mile road race and a time trial, which, if a person made enough of these functions and accumulated enough points, might qualify him or her to be considered Olympic material. Staging timed races, however, is more costly than just a riding event, and since this was for the purpose of raising money for the foundation, the races were dropped and the rides were continued.

No one seemed to mind dropping the race because the  tour has grown from 55 riders that first year to a record 317 last year, with riders anywhere from 6 to 82 years of age pedaling down the highway for ten miles, 40 miles, or 100K (60 miles), stopping at one or more of the four rest stops along the way, and then getting to eat a high carb meal of spaghetti when they finish up at the Bailey County Civic Center, which is also their starting point.

Besides all the free sweat, for the $25 registration fee, riders get a t-shirt, water bottle, goody bag of small items from local merchants, the meal, and a chance to win door prizes also donated by local businesses, and if they pre-registered, a chance to win a $500 door prize. The only requirement to be a rider? A safety helmet must be worn or you don’t ride. Period. And the tour is not in the business of supplying riders with helmets. So BYOH.

IMG_5512P.J. Sullivan from Lubbock was the winner of the $500 this year. Presenting her with the loot is Lonnie Adrian, who conceived the Tour de Muleshoe and has organized it for the past 17  years.

The ride is always held on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend so there will be no conflict with some other ride or race. It has never been rained out nor called off because of heat.

One interesting thing about the tour is the awarding of the Timmy Harendt Scholarship to someone who has been hurt or sick during the year who managed to recover and ride in that year’s tour.  Lonnie Adrian’s nephew, Timmy Harendt, spent his senior year of college at Hardin-Simmons battling cancer, recovered, and rode in the next Tour de Muleshoe. He is now 29 and tries to ride each year that his schedule permits. The Adrian family identifies a deserving candidate and  supplies a $100 scholarship to that person for overcoming their difficulties and his or her  participation in the tour.

IMG_5514Lonnie Adrian awards cancer survivor Shayla McGiel from Hobbs, NM, with the $100 Timmy Harendt $100 scholarship this year.

Rest stops this year were sponsored and manned by the Jennyslippers, Fabian Martinez and Family, Muleshoe Road Riders, and the SCAC (Student Community Action Club) of  Muleshoe High School.

IMG_5484Fabian Martinez and his children Michael, 17, Jose, 14 (this year’s Muleshoe mascot), and Nadia, 11, have manned a rest stop for the past six years. Fabian said it is fun visiting with everyone while offering them fruit, wet towels, and drinks.

IMG_5498Michael prepares fruit for the riders.


Jose cheers the riders  on. And what’s a rest stop without a potty?                       

Corporate sponsors this year  included  First Bank of Muleshoe, Muleshoe State Bank, Bailey County Electric Co-op, Plains Cotton Co-op Association (PCCA) and COTTON, Atmos Energy, Leal’s, Helena Chemicals, and  Five Area Telephone. Their sponsorship pays for the expenses of staging the tour.


Heritage Foundation member Bobbie Harrison models this year’s t-shirt, designed by Hellen Adrian. The t-shirts are  a different design each year, with all the corporate sponsors highlighted on the back.

The riders are organized and lined up inside the civic center and when everything is ready, normally around 9 am, off they go out  the west end of the center  in a blaze of color. They have a police escort all the way down American Boulevard (Highway 84) to our one red light, where they turn north, go over the railroad tracks and are on their own to ride the route they have chosen.





Back at the civic center, the meal is prepared and waiting the riders’ return where they can chow down and hope their name is drawn for one of the 20 to 30 door prizes that are given away when everyone finishes.

IMG_5503Christi  Sampson cooks the spaghetti and sauce for the meal.

IMG_5510And people eat throughout the afternoon.

David and Liz Tipps from Muleshoe were gearing up for the ride when I showed up this year. I asked David why they rode, and he said they just enjoyed the ride and visiting with everyone. Liz, who is a nurse, also made the comment that she was encouraged to see so many women taking part, since bike riding is good cardiovascular exercise and heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S.  Donnie and Debbie Proctor from Hereford were also preparing, so I asked them why they went to the trouble to come over and was told pretty much the same thing-it’s fun to ride their bikes and share in the camaraderie.

Participation was down a bit this year, I’m thinking due to gas prices,  with 262 riders showing up, but that is still a good crowd breezing down the road. The bank thermometer said it was 94 degrees when I left the civic center around 2 o’clock,  not as hot as it could have been, and the wind wasn’t blowing people off the road, and only one or two riders had to be rescued due to mechanical breakdowns, all of which made for a successful day.


So next year about this time if you are looking for an excuse for a road trip, dust off the old bike and head for Muleshoe. Even if you decide you don’t want to ride, you can treat yourself to a nice spaghetti meal and make new friends.

According to Delores Harvey, secretary and tour guide at the center, the oldest rider this year was 75 year-old  Jim Dixon from Friona. And believe it or not, the people who traveled the farthest to get here were from North Pole, Alaska! We don’t know if James Lapointe and Jeremiah Lapointe came all the way to Muleshoe  just to make the tour;  perhaps they were here visiting or something, but nonetheless, they came a heck of a long way to get here for any reason.

And one last shot- in the middle of  town on American Boulevard/ Highway 84 traffic was slowed down and backed up for a couple of the last riders, and not far behind, a combine in the parade of vehicles. Just another day in small town Texas.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wyoming for the Third Time


I couldn’t resist. Page Lambert was having another Literature and Landscape of the Horse retreat at the Vee Bar Ranch outside of Laramie. I left a big rock there last year that needed a new home, and the extra practice and tips on writing are always helpful. Besides, there were horses to ride and new country to see. What a deal.

I drove again; if you think the airlines are making a killing on baggage fees, just imagine what bringing rocks home would be like. Well, it would never happen, of course, so off I went with an empty trunk, work gloves, and shovel, just in case.

I left Muleshoe by 7 am, which meant I pretty much had the roads to myself in New Mexico, and that was nice. No traffic, straight roads, and a 65 mph pokey speed limit. Then  in Colorado I finally hit 75 mph with a little traffic, but I had to drive 80+ or risk getting run over.  Unfortunately, the farther north I went, the worse the traffic became. Houston traffic just can’t be any worse than Denver Traffic. But I finally pulled into Ft. Collins, found a hotel, and my blood pressure calmed down.

The next morning I headed out for Laramie on the scenic route, which it is, and encountered snow drifts that haven’t melted yet, a change from previous years.I passed a sign that said highway 130  closed past Centennial, due to lingering snow I am later told. By the time I pulled into the Vee Bar I couldn’t see the mountains for the fog and mist. And it is 32 degrees. Definitely a late Spring for them.


The weather finally turned off  agreeable for the majority  of the retreat, well, except for the day Kari and I chose to dig cactus and gather rocks-and it sleeted and the wind blew 65 mph. And the last day was almost hot, so as Sheri Griffith says, there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So the layers came on and off as needed, and we had a great time.

I will tell the rest of the story in pictures with a few details here and there:

IMG_4364The wranglers brought the horses up from pasture every morning around 7, and it was always a pleasure to see them come charging in.

IMG_4387I have ridden this palomino, Malcolm, for the last three years. This year Brent let me cut a bridle path in his mane, trim his fetlocks, and shorten his tail-just a little. Now if I just had a halter class to show him in.

IMG_4405One of our many rides through one of the pastures.

IMG_4470The eagles were still there and had two babies in their nest.

IMG_4479We had several writing sessions; this one we did outside when the weather turned off nice.

IMG_4546Brent and Sheri both did round pen training demonstrations. Here Sheri puts her horse through his paces. You would be amazed at what consistency, firmness without hurt, and patience can do with an animal that outweighs you several times over and does what you ask because he wants to, not because he has to.

IMG_4679One day we got to play cowboy and moved 600 head of steers from one pasture to another. They behaved, even though Brent said a yearling steer is one of the dumbest animals alive, so it really didn’t test our cowboying skills. But it was fun.


IMG_4606The Little Laramie river runs through the Vee Bar and behind the cabin where I stayed. The  narrow-leafed cottonwood trees had not leafed out when I arrived. By the time I left, they had greened up considerably.

IMG_4614Brent, Kari, and new family member Bailey are the owners and our hosts at the Vee Bar. This picture was taken in, yep, the John Wayne Saloon there on the ranch. It is really not so much saloon as meeting and visiting place.

IMG_4625Tommy has been a wrangler every year I have been to the Vee Bar. He is crazy about this baby.

IMG_4758We all had a turn at driving the draft horses who later pulled our wagon for a little hayride/musical ride. Once you drive horses, you understand what gee and haw are all about. And you realize just how huge these horses really are.                                                         

 IMG_4765New to the Vee Bar this year were these two miniature donkeys, Kit and Caboodle, whom Brent was teaching to pull a little wagon.

IMG_4798This day the horses came in from a different pasture.

IMG_4794Rocks I had to leave there, darn it.

IMG_4795This is what you see as you drive into the ranch.

IMG_4841Another one of the views we enjoyed on the all-day ride when we hauled the horses to another location.

IMG_4910We posed for our group shot in the teepee frame. I represented Texas; others were from  Minnesota, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and three from Colorado. Sheri is from Utah, and Page lives in Colorado.

IMG_4897The aspen trees are always pretty with their lime green leaves and black markings on the bark.

I could just go on ad nauseum, so if I haven’t lost you already, dear reader, I will bring this  to a close. The trip odometer read 1386.4 when I pulled into my drive-way in Muleshoe. I traveled in four states, met eight new people, and had a great time. And besides that, Malcolm was glad to see me, as I was him.

Happy Trails, y’all.