Sunday, December 29, 2019

Final Post: South Padre Island

This will be my final post of the trip. During lunch today we evaluated the week. We agreed traveling the week of Christmas is nice. Compared to an all-inclusive in Mexico the girls agreed this was better because we are able to keep busy doing things. They aren't into the beach-chair-reading scene as much as I am, and I get that.

Yesterday Paradis and I visited Sea Turtle, Inc. It is a really nice rescue center. Afterwards the three of us walked the beach, hung out at the pool and watched the sunset.

Today the weather wasn't great. It was warm but cloudy and foggy. We had lunch at the Painted Marlin so Paradis could get her seafood fix. After that we hung out at the apartment and did our thing. I washed all the sheets and towels in our Airbnb. That is part of my thing.

Ceviche and a Bloody

Our Airbnb host has been fabulous! We arrived on Christmas Eve at 9pm, after all the grocery stores were closed, so our host picked up an order for us from Walmart. That was fabulous since all the grocery stores were closed the following day as well. Because our flight wasn't until 9pm today she let us stay in the apartment until as late as we wanted. I would definitely recommend this place. It was a quick walk to the beach and had plenty of space. 

Our last meal was well planned out, as we wanted to experience a Whataburger. 

Overall, this was a great week. I love hanging out with my girls. I made a couple connections on the island regarding some rentals, and even went and looked at a one-bedroom on the water. I could see myself coming down here for a few weeks over the winter. It is very quiet but the prices are pretty reasonable. We shall see.

Happy travels my friends and Happy New Year!

  • Days: Six (6)
  • Countries: Two (2)
  • States: Two (2)
  • Miles: 4,437
  • Views on blog: 71,161

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Day Three & Four: Turtle Release and Mexico

The last couple days have been pretty chill on the island. Thursday the girls and I attended a sea turtle release.

After the release we went to Walmart to resupply food and drinks and settled our butts back on the beach. It was beautiful out, although a bit too chilly to go in the water. Paradis and I finished our books and Annelies settled into her video zone on the beach. 

Friday we made our way to Mexico. We were told Progresso was the best place to cross. We stopped at the bank for change and drove for about an hour-and-a-half avoiding the toll roads since going on them in a rental gives you a $30 penalty...hate that! It was nice to drive the back roads and see the agriculture and small towns.

We set our GPS for Progresso International Bridge and easily saw parking for only $2. We crossed into Mexico by paying $1, in quarters. No guards. No passport check. I guess they didn't care if we entered.

Annelies gets anxious in crowds and being in Mexico where the streets are very crowded with vendors and people are constantly asking you to buy stuff almost puts her over the edge. I'm proud of her for going. We stopped at the Red Panty Bar (yep, that was the name) for $4 margaritas and churros.

The majority of the stores are dentists or pharmacies. You can tell lots of older Americans are crossing over - it is definitely not marketed toward young spring breakers! Although I'm not on any prescriptions I couldn't help wondering if I should be buy some just in case. We purchased some candy, a couple scarves and couple small bottles of tequila.

To get off the streets we settled in for $12 pedicures. Lovely.

Next up was lunch at Pancho's Bar for some yummy food and a few more drinks. The country music in the background enhanced the atmosphere and we had a really good time. 

Crossing back into the states was pretty simple. They had two lines - with documentation (e.g., passports) and without. The wait was only about fifteen minutes since we had passports. It was a great day and I would definitely recommended going over for a bit of entertainment and cheap food and drinks (as well as some dental work if you need that sort of thing!). 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Carbon Offsetting

I'm interrupting this regularly scheduled program to give you an environmentally friendly post.

If you are a long-time follower of my blog you know I like to travel. A lot. You may not know though that I am also a Master Recycler - a regular citizen who gets excited about waste reduction and inspiring others to make environmentally-friendly choices.

Air travel is the furthest thing from being an environmentally-friendly choice. I know that. I think about it often. I have actually lost sleep over it. I realize all this but drive a Prius, work from home keeping my daily commute to nothing, compost in a home that requires me to drive my garbage to a off-site location, do not use paper towels (cloths only) or Kleenexes (hankies only) and bring my own containers for leftovers when eating out. I work hard to reduce waste and make better choices. But what about my air travel? I can't "hybrid it"...but I can offset it.

Every time I fly I offset the environmental impact of my flight by protecting forests and supporting communities. I realize this is nothing compared to Greta Thunberg sailing across the Atlantic, but at least I am doing something. And admittedly, it makes me feel better.

Interested in offsetting the environmental impact of your flight as well? Great! There are several sites you can use, but I'll be honest in saying the information is overwhelming. There are so many organizations getting into this game, along with regulatory non-profits, and I do not have the energy to keep up. So regardless of what airline I fly I use Delta's offset link hoping they have someone on their team that is doing all that ground work. Click here to visit Delta's site. For this trip the girls and I contributed 1.267 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere (sorry Mother Earth) and therefore donated $10.14 to the Southern Cardomom REDD+Project. It doesn't cost a fortune and helps me sleep at night.

Happy (carbon offsetting) travels my friends!

The Delta site tells you how your Total CO2 Emissions

Our Carbon Offset Beneficiary

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Day Two: Christmas on the Island

Merry Christmas to my friends that celebrate! We landed in Harlingen Texas late on the evening of Christmas Eve and seamlessly made our way to South Padre Island and settled into our Airbnb. The girls satisfied my need to take a photo next to the city sign.

Christmas day we slept in a bit and made our way to the beach, which isn't more than a two block walk. The weather here is beautiful. It was sunny and warm. It is always a transition when you leave frigid temperatures to figure out what to wear. It is almost as if you don't trust the thermometer but instead need to just test the air. We walked back to the condo and sat by the pool for a bit.

We showered and made our way to Isla Grand Beach Resort for their Christmas Buffet. It was a beautiful view overlooking the pool and beach, the food was great, and the company was perfect.

After dinner we walked through the "World's Largest Sand Castle" display. These things are just amazing to me. Snow sculptures are the same, albeit much colder upon viewing. We returned to our condo where we all took naps and despite our goal of walking the beach or going out for some southern dancing our butts never left the sofa. The night ended as it should have with my two favorite people.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Day One: South Padre for the Holidays

I am, once again, sitting in the airport about to depart for another adventure. This time I will be with my two favorite people, Paradis and Annelies. We are on our way to South Padre Island for some warmth.

Traveling this week is becoming a tradition. The girls and I have gone over Christmas the past three years. It works well when your children have different schedules and vacation is a premium. But as a girl who grew up in northern Minnesota, where your father had to shovel snow away from the windows so you could escape in case of a fire, being somewhere warm over Christmas still seems odd. I grew up in a Christian household where Santa was sold. To me Santa was paired with snow, not sand.

Today I recall one of my first holiday seasons away from the cold, which just happened to be my first airplane ride as well. It was in 1988 when I was a senior at the College of Saint Benedict. I was a nursing major and we were being recruited by the Air Force since there was a shortage of nurses. They offered to fly us to Florida to visit a base. How could I say no to a free escape from the cold and my very first airplane ride?

My very first flight, at age 21, was on a United States Air Force C-130! I look back and realize how adventurous I was at that age. I didn't know anyone going on the trip and it didn't matter. The C-130 is a cargo plane so no pretzels and G&Ts at 30,000 feet...oh no. It was an open airplane with no sound proofing, but earplugs were handed out upon entry. Our luggage sat at our feet (no roller bags my youngsters) and your seat belt was an over-the-shoulder harness. There was no bathroom, but we could ride up front with the pilots as long as we wanted. It was awesome!!

My Young Self at 21 sitting on the Pilot's Lap

The Nursing Recruits

Inside a C-130

I end with this photo of me, with my first Santa in warmth and my first holiday on the beach. I made him leave his post at Walmart to stand next to a palm tree because I thought it was so cool! I remember repeating over and over "this is so weird to see Santa while it is warm outside!" I'm looking forward to seeing a few this week while enjoying the warmth of South Padre Island with my girls.

In the beach photo I am with my then new friend Genie, who I ended up working with at Mayo after graduating the following spring. Genie was most likely one of the first friends I made while traveling solo. 

No, I did not join the Air Force, but I did have a lot of fun seeing what life would be like as an Officer in the Air Force, during a long weekend in December of 1988. 

For those celebrating, I hope you have a joyous Christmas Eve and sleep in anticipation of the Big Guy's arrival tomorrow. 

Rae Ann in Green

Genie and Rae Ann

Saturday, December 14, 2019

36 Hours in Chicago

What does 36 hours in Chicago look like? A $50 holiday drink the size of my head pushed by a marketing genius, the Christkindlmarket, Beercade, lots of laughs at Second City, yummy bloody marys, Millennium Park, Cloud Gate and The Art Institute. Jam packed.

I traveled with my friend Naomi who was looking for a get-away as well, but was understanding when I had to return early due to a bit of a crisis at home. Full disclosure: The reason I took this trip was to qualify for Delta's Medallion program. I'm a point chaser and I'm chasing them harder now that I'm traveling more.

That $50 drink I mentioned (and I'm not kidding...$50 for a delicious Moscow mule!) was at Rudolph's bar. They call it a "pop-up" bar where they decorate like mad for a few weeks before the season and charge you a ridiculous amount for drinks and food. Brilliant.

Across the street from Rudoph's is a Christkindlmarket, which is next door to Wrigley Field. Although I do not celebrate I love this holiday - the lights and music are wonderful.

Naomi is a pinball player so we spent some time at Beercade where I played pinball for the first time in probably....35 years! She said I wasn't all that bad.

My favorite saying of all times!

We went to a show at Second City, which was fun. And that was all the first day.

I flew to Chicago early Friday morning landing at O'Hare at 8:30am. I spent the full day working from the airport before taking the train into the city. I love the flexibility of my new job. Not to mention FREE airport lounge access using my Chase Reserve credit card (where I earn three points for every travel and food dollar spent!)...I told you I was a point chaser.

Saturday we had a lovely breakfast, walked to Millennium Park to see the iconic Cloud Gate and I dropped Naomi off at The Art Institute before flying out that afternoon. Chicago is beautiful this time of year and a great way to spend the last $134 to make my Delta medallion upgrade! Woohoo!!