Wednesday, 18 February 2009

No End of Excitement

Yesterday we met Ken and Donna at their place in Weslaco.

We then drove down to Progreso. We parked the car adjacent to the bridge across the Rio Grande (called the Rio Bravo in Mexico). We paid our 25 cents and walked through the turnstile and proceeded to walk the few metres across to Mexico. I took this photo from the bridge. The river is very narrow there and the water so shallow, one could easily wade across.

We only walked a couple of blocks. The sidewalks were lined with merchants peddling their wares - silver, wood back scratchers, fabric bags, etc. etc. There were many dental offices where many people from the US and Canada go to get major dental work done for a fraction of the cost. Also there were scores of pharmacies where all drugs could be purchased over the counter, again, for a much lower cost.

Here's Skip at a bar that served drinks right on the sidewalk.

We ate lunch at Arturo's, a nicely appointed restaurant which catered to the majority of people coming over from the US at this time of year - Winter Texans.

We then walked back and I noticed the little tank in the middle of the street. Yikes!

The military are trying to wrestle the power away from the drug cartels (los narcos) but are having a very difficult time of it.

Earlier that day about 20 mi. up the valley at another bridge, there had been a protest on the Mexican side by 'los narcos' against the increased military presence and the increase in the cost of diesel fuel. Shots were fired and 10 people were killed. On the news people have been advised to 'be very careful' if crossing to Mexico.

We then paid our 30 cents and walked back to the US where our passports were scanned and we were waved on - no questions asked. And at the next post we were asked if we had any booze or tobacco. And that was it. I'm sure it's a bit trickier crossing in a vehicle but crossing on foot was a breeze.

We then drove over to the Subaru dealer in Pharr - about 20 miles to the west - to get a second opinion on the persnickety car. It was decided to change the spark plugs as they hadn't been changed during the last tune-up over a year ago. How did we know this? We called the dealership back home. It was also discovered that our oil was very low, which was perplexing because it had just been changed before we drove down here. We got the oil changed as well.

This morning, the car wouldn't start. It was clearly 'missing' on a couple of cylinders and the engine just wouldn't 'catch'. We called the AAA to get a tow to the garage in Port Isabel. The tow truck guy, Hector, wasn't given complete instructions on how to find us by the dispatcher and he was unable to call me on my cell phone because his service wouldn't connect to mine so we waited 1.5 hours for him to show up. Finally, he drove into our parking lot and I flagged him down.

He had the nifty kind of truck that just pulls the disabled car onto a flat bed on the back.

Once off the truck, the mechanic, Robert, got in and the CAR STARTED RIGHT AWAY!!!! Argh. However, it was clearly 'missing' on at least one cylinder. He has the new spark plug wires on order so we just left the car there and dejectedly left on foot. Hopefully the part will arrive tomorrow and it can be fixed by the weekend - not that we have any big plans but it would be nice to be able to explore another area of the valley.

There is a free bus, The Wave, that makes a loop through Port Isabel, across the Queen Isabella Causeway then up and down South Padre Island. It runs every half hour from 7am to 7pm. We were able to hop on a couple of blocks from the garage and it took us within a couple of blocks of the grocery store on the island where we stocked up on provisions for the next couple of days. We then walked back to the condo - about 4 km.

With all this sitting, I've been getting a lot of knitting done. I have completed 65% of the Peacock Tail and Leaf scarf already. At this rate, I should have this scarf done by the end of the weekend.

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