Monday, December 31, 2007

The Trip To Galveston, by sea!

After leaving Sam Houston Jones State Park, we returned to a horrible interstate 10, which continued to be bad into Texas. As we had been unable to reserve a spot in Texas, due to the Texas State Park System redoing their reservation system, we tried again and again to book into Galveston Island State Park to no avail.

Finally we gave up and called a private park, Jamaica Beach Rv Resort, in Galveston and were able to reserve a spot for three nights. The upshot was that the owner told us to go a different way, than through Houston, and we ended up taking the house on a free ferry! It was wild! Before we could board, Homeland Security inspected us, but we passed and loaded. We were the biggest thing on the ferry! As we crossed we were able to spot dolphins and view the many ships leaving port.

After disembarking it was a short drive to the park. We set up and rested for the rest of the day. Clear skies.

Sam Houston Jones State Park

After leaving Grand Isle, we drove 250 miles north and West until we got to Lake Charles and Sam Houston Jones State Park. Now to be on the safe side I had called ahead and reserved a spot in a premium spot. As we arrived, after driving on about the worst road we had been on, interstate 10, we entered into a beautiful park. However when we got to the campground we were met with an old, uneven and crowded site.
The site was so uneven that I bent both jack pins, 110 bucks. I should know better, that when the electric jack motor starts to strain something is binding. Oh well another thing for the learning curve. It did have sewer, the last one on the park.

So the site was actually two sites with a thin rock line between ad site 11 was almost impossible to back into with me in site 10. Worse, it was reserved for the next night. However when the people got there, they swore a bit, and then moved to another site.
The electrical was so bad that we blew the breaker, supposedly 30 amp, but more like ten.
It was only for two nights so we prepared to tough it out in our home:) It turned out that the park is replacing the campground next year.

As to the park itself, it is a pretty park. The locals we talked to said that it had been damaged severely by Hurricane Katrina. It really looked in good shape, compared to where we had been.
We enjoyed walking in the park and resupplied the house with a trip to home depot, to buy bolts for the damaged legs. A nice resting spot none the less. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sea Otters and Rosetta Spoonbills

I can't close the blog on Grand Isle without mentioning the wildlife we viewed. Among these were sea otters, Rosetta Spoonbills and Dolphins.

The dolphins are ever present. Especially when you are fishing. One day I walked up to Batteria Pass and fished from shore. There were so many dolphins that when I caught a fish, one would swim over and splash with it's tail, saying go someplace else! Renita's favorite animal, by far, is the dolphin, so Grand Isle is special to her for this reason.

On our way to New Orleans, and while fishing with Pair of Dice Charter, we were unexpectedly treated to viewing three sea otters that were feeding and frolicking in the salt marsh. I didn't even know they had sea otters there and here I got to see three! They swam away, after we spotted them, and we left them alone, as it should be! The picture was taken along Palmetto Bay.

Finally, we were able to see Rosetta Spoonbills. It was our third trip to Grand Isle and the first time we spotted them. Connie said winter was the best time, and we spotted them both times we went up the bayou. I was also able to see one when we were fishing for redfish. The picture was taken along Highway 1.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sight Fishing Redfish at Grand Isle

Christmas Day came and we celebrated it at Connie's with a huge meal. Danny and Janelle and Blaine had arrived so it was a full house. The food was excellent, especially the turkey! We also were joined by Connie and Gary's friend Keith, whose wife was working as she is a nurse.

After dinner Keith invited us to go fishing the next day. Now Keith is a fishing guide, Captain Keith and Pair of Dice Charter, so we readily agreed to meet him the next day. We met him at 7 am and after a 30 minute run, at 55mph, we started fishing for speckled trout. We tried several spots and it was neat watching him deploy a Cajun anchor, which is a slender stainless steel bar which is slammed into the mud and attached to the boat with a line. However we didn't catch any specks. We tried another spot, after another run, and still no specks. IN the mean time Keith and Gary start casting for red fish.

Now the red fish, at receding tide, is butted against the grass waiting for the bait fish to swim

out so the idea is to see them first and cast a little in front. It is amazing. Gary quickly hooked up with a big red which first ate his jig and then ate his bobbe! Hungry! Keith then put on a she dog top water plug, silver and black, cast it in front of the next red fish, which attacked it like a torpedo. It litterly came out of the water and ate the hard plastic lure! It was then Danny's turn. He put on a bull minnow and after a bit caught another, and another, and another. My turn now so I cast a plastic tailed jig ad bobber to a red. The fish hit and ran for the open water. It was all I could do to hold him an I was using 17 b test line on a speros 4000 reel. What a blast!

This continued for quite a while. His trolling motor used up the battery and so reluctantly we left and went back to fishing for specks. Keith took us to his final hot spot an it worked, as we put quite a few into the boat.

The day ended as we ran from a storm and after getting back, going to Keith's house to watch him clean the fish. Now I have to buy an electric knife. Ashe was cleaning the fish he left the skin and scales on four of the big reds and told us to grill them until the scale side was black, basting them with garlic powder, salt, and butter. We took them home and cooked them and it was as excellant as the day. Clear skies.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Orleans, December 23

New Orleans December 23
Going to Louisiana, without visiting New Orleans, is kind of like kissing your sister. So we loaded up, Danny and Janelle, Connie and Gary, our fearless tour guides, and left for a day of fun. Hearing all the reports of crime and seeing the damages from Katrina were two things that weighed on my mind, and while they remained, we managed to have a very enjoyable time.
We started on tour of New Orleans on the paddle wheeler Natchez, riding up and down the shoreline and listening to the guide speak about the City. It was cold and windy, but still enjoyable and I finally got into the spirit of things when the guide stopped talking and they started to play jazz on the ship. Renita was tapping on the deck and for the first time in a while I felt the calmness of the moment. Peace.
We left the ship and went to one of my favorite places, the Café Desmond. A hot latte and beignets hit the spot and warmed my hands and my heart. I remembered when we were last there, listening to street musicians playing jazz, in the hot and humid June sun.
Connie then took us to her favorite spot, the Southern Candy Company. Oh my! The candies were all we expected and we left with a large box of assorted chocolates and pralines. Life is good.
A short walk then took us to the trolley and we rode though the flood damaged areas to Vionnes, an Italian restaurant that had been rebuilt since the flood. AS we rode you could still see boarded and destroyed buildings, along with the water mark from the burst levee. However you could also see much has been rebuilt and signs that the City has rose from the waters.
The food was excellent; we had a great house salad and a thin crust pizza, recommended. After the meal we returned to Bourbon Street via the trolley and walked down the street passing urchins that were tapping, poorly, with shoes capped with cans. It was quite busy, as a Saints game had just been played and lost, so fans were commiserating in the quarter.
The goal was finally reached as Gary led us to the Tropical Island bar where the Bourbon Street Cajuns were playing Josephine Est Pa Ma Femme and Jambalaya. We danced to the Cajun band and watched Santa Claus and an elf gets down and dirty. Before Christmas! We also watched as an old woman in red who walked in, put on her dance shoes, and proceeded to out dance everyone on the dance floor!
She also was dirty dancing with the band. We had a blast but regretfully had to leave and drive back to Grand Isle. A long but enjoyable day. Next time we are going to spend the whole day in the French Quarter, and spend a night. Clear skies.

Gary's Redfish and Grand Terre December 19th

Gary’s Grand Isle Redfish, December 19th
It’s been a week here on Grand Isle and as always at Connie and Gary’s, a week of great food, company and fishing. Connie is simply the Martha Steward of the family and Gary simply is a red fishing pro!
We went out and Gary caught another huge red fish. This one was about as pretty as you can catch and about 30 inches. It was huge. He caught it on a shrimp at a point he calls the redfish point, aptly named. Luckily we had a new net and so we boated this one. Truly a trophy fish that Gary released!
We also cruised around and looked for gps hotspots, and caught a couple of catfish. So that was neat as I was able to lock in a bunch of oyster beds and other spots. The specks were not cooperating, so fishing wise it was slow, but any tie you put a trophy fish in the boat is a great day.
In the afternoon we picked up the ladies and went for a sight seeing adventure. First, we went t o the fort at Grand Terre. The fort was built in the 1830’s but never manned. We parked the boat and tried to walk the beach, to get inside, but we ran into an inlet that had mud at the bottom. I thought Connie was going to sink out of sight!
After that we returned to the boat and drove through the pass to see the fort. Gary pointed out a sunken shrimp boat and we were treated to another sight as the shrimp fleet was going out! Truly an amazing place.
Finally we boated along the waterfront of Grand Isle, the part which is full of the oil and gas terminals and the rest of the shrimp fleet. A long and tiring day, but a really fun one. Clear skies.

Grand Isle December 14th

December 14, 2007
Grand Isle

Grand Isle is a place that is still the way the Gulf Coast should be. No high rise condos, although there is a lot of money, but there are also a lot of normal people trying to make a living. In the past four days I have met a bunch of really neat people. I have gone fishing two days, walked on the beach, put out crab pots, and learned how to shuck oysters. As if this wasn’t enough, Connie has been trying to fatten Renita and me up with her usual quality food.
We got here on Tuesday the 12th, after spending the night at a beautiful state park called Fariview-Riverside. Connie and Gary were both surprised at how big our fifth wheel is but we still managed to park it along the neighbor’s camp and next to their house. We rested, talked, and made plans for the next day. We launched the boat, got fishing license, so it was uneventful, except that Connie made a shrimp boil!
On Wednesday, Gary and I got up and went to the marina, where he has his boat on a lift, and went out. We first cast at the marina and caught some white trout, Gary caught a nice speckled trout and I caught a pinfish. WE then went to Gran Tare and fished, caught some redfish and sting rays and then Gary caught a huge bull red, about 25 pounds. It was amazing! We had seen them tailing and had caught smaller ones but it was huge. So big in fact that when I put it in the net it broke right through and ended up getting away,(which was actually ok as the big ones are not good to eat and we just wanted it for pictures and to show the girls).
Thursday, we went out again. We first caught some white trout for the crab pots and then took them out and set them and then we went to a cut by Independence Island and caught 4 nice specs. We tried some other spots for specks and redfish. Gary caught one redfish and I caught a stingray. We got back to camp, ate venison stew,( I made it), and we were so tired that we rested for the rest of the day.
Friday was a rest day in which Gary took me to meet Flyod, who catches the oysters. Floyd asked me if I was going to become a “Cajun Coon Ass”, like Gary! I could easily! After returning to Connie and Garys, we shucked the oysters. I only cut myself one time. Reuban and Richard stopped by and and shucked some. Richard ate about half of what he shucked and I had some raw oysters. They were the best I have ever had! Connie got home from work and we had oyster stew and oyster po boys and grilled oysters in lime juice. Oh my! Clear skies.

Fairfield Riverside State Park December11th

Fairview-Riverside State Park
We left Gulf Shores State park and drove about 200 miles to a state park on the north side of Lake Ponchatrian, (now we could have driven to Connie and Gary’s house but it was 350 miles which it too far for me to drive when we have the house attached). The reason we picked the park was because rvparkreviews said it was the second best in Louisianna.
It is beautiful! Cypress trees along the river, huge oaks covered with Spanish moss. We walked the park and boardwalk and made plans to return. We met a couple from Idaho that were doing our trip in reverse and discussed state parks. We also met a full timer who had been on the road for 6 years. When he heard that Renita drove the truck and fifth wheel, he was impressed. He said that she was a special rarity as few wives would drive something that big. Renita liked that!
The park contains a huge house, the Otis mansion, and a steam sawmill, that was used to lumber the cypress, long ago. It reminded me of the turpentine still on St Andrews, (which is also called a cracker, hence the name crackers for uneducated people).All in all an beautiful small park. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Alabama, Golfing and Gators

Another day in Alabama. Temperature is 75. It rained the other day so we stayed in and vacuumed and cleaned and ate....

So yesterday we went for a bike ride, to the beach, and saw the biggest gator we have seen so far. Renita spied it sunning itself on the bank. She's getting good at spotting critters! This is in the campground, just down from us, at campsite 475.

Beach was nice, as usual, its about three miles long and there were 4 other people. The surf was big. There were a lot more shells here so we looked for a while but only found one new shell, a mollusk.

Went golfing for the first time here and made some new discoveries about golfing in Alabama. Namely, don't hit into the water and when you do don't look for your ball. Need I say why? I also learned that it's hard to hit the ball if you lift your head, hmmmmm...... Anyway I shot a 95, so pretty usual game. I played Gulf Shores State Park Course. The greens were a really thick grass, and really slow. The cost was 31 bucks for 18 holes but you couldn't walk until 11am so I had to rent a cart to play. Golf was meant to be walked. It wasn't very busy but really humid. I was sore from swinging as it had been a while.

Met some nice people from Mobile yesterday. They were camping next to us. Maybe play some tennis today, but it is a pack day as we are leaving for Louisiana tomorrow! Clear skies.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Alabama and the Drum

On the way to Florida we passed the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, in Mobile Bay, so when we returned I had to play history buff and take the tour. The tour also included the submarine Drum. What a neat day.
The battleship looked huge. In the picture on the left you can see me standing below the 16 inch guns. Once inside the quarters were amazing and I was surprised how compartmentalized everything was. We walked the entire ship. The view from up near the conning tower was acrophobic. The 16 inch shells were huge.
The submarine was so small, and it was a fleet submarine from WW 2. The picture is of Renita in the conning tower. I was surprised at how cramped everything was. Definitely claustrophobic. I could barely fit through the watertight compartment doors! I sure have a new appreciation for submariners. Clear skies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Returning to Gulf Shores

We left Topsail on the 3rd and drove back to Gulf Shores, Alabama as we both wanted to check it out. The drive was more of an adventure than I wanted as we missed a turn in Pensecola, again, and ended up driving down a residential street. Luckily there were no overhanging trees or underpasses so we were able to turn and get back on the road without incident.
Drove about 100 miles and got to Gulf Shores State Park. What a place! The campground has over 400 campsites and even has month long parking! It was only about half full and we were able to get a great campsite on a lake, facing the sand dunes on the gulf. The area is still recovering from Hurricane Ivan, so there are many dead trees and some damaged structures.

Anyway we set up camp, facing the lake, and paid for a week. The campsite usual costs 30 bucks a night but the winter rates are in effect and it only costs 134 dollars for a week. Under budget,(Did I say I made a retirement budget?)! Monthly rates are 330 bucks which includes electricity, water, and sewer. Nice. We then rested for the day as towing the fiver makes me tired and we went to the grocery store to restock the pantry. A good day.

The next day we got up and went for a walk and then a long bike ride. We did see an alligator in the lake, There are warning signs everywhere. Amazing. In the afternoon we drove to the golf course and fueled up so we are good to go. Another resting day. Clear skies.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I finally caught a pompano, 17 inches long, and it may be the best tasting fish I have ever eaten, (Florida has a size limit of 11-20 inches and only one over 20 with six fish being the limit).
I went fishing at the same place as yesterday, threw out a shrimp, set out the second pole and promptly caught a pompano. It fought good, not as good as a bluefish, but had several good runs. I caught two more bluefish and lost another pompano so really had a fun time.
The pompano stayed alive on the stringer, really hardy, and filleted very easily into two big thick fillets. A fish made for eating. The meat is white and very firm. I grilled it, left the skin on, and put some lemon pepper marinade on it as it cooked. Again, it may be the best fish I have ever eaten. Renita says it's definitely as good as Mahi Mahi. We have to go to town today to get more bait. Hopefully I can find some live mole crabs as they are pompano's preferred bait. I also need to buy some doc's goofy jigs, for pompano. It's 6am so it's time to wake Renita and make a bait run!
Clear skies!