LIfe has blessed us in so many ways, not least of which is the friends we have made throughout the years. Two of our dearest are Dale and Michelle from Gillette, Wyoming,(I taught with Michelle and met Dale when he was a Uniserve director. Renita and Michelle took girl trips and danced together). So it was great when Dale called and said they were thinking about coming down during Christmas break. They arrived here on the 27th and I made my shrimp ettoufee,(Actually Connie's recipe). It was well received, which was good as I made it a bit spicy for some. We sat and talked of the possible adventures and decided to fish the Port Aransas Jetty and to explore Mustang Island State Park and the Padre Island Seashore. Shortly after they left a strong cold front arrived and plunged the temperatures from the upper 70's to the upper forties so we loaded up the cars and prepared for a blustery day at Port Aransas. We forgot to get bait and found out there wasn't any live shrimp on the Island, so we went to a seafood market and bought some small bait sized shrimp. At the jetty we found a spot and cast out, using split shot. letting the current wash the bait into the rocks. It didn't take long and we were snagged. Now we had been told that this method was snaggy but that it did produce sheepshead, so we continued using it until our patience was at an end,(and my tackle box was rapidly emptying). Switching to surf sinkers and rigs I cast out and caught a hardhead catfish. Another cast and another fish. While I wasn't always hooking them the bites were furious and it didn't take too long to convince Dale to switch rigs. Soon he was catching fish also. Catfish, croakers, and whiting gave us action and made us forget the cold north wind. A couple arrived and cast out sand lice, catching a really nice black drum. Dale talked with them and they gave us one, which we promptly put on to no avail. The tide went slack and the bite stopped, something our new friend Pete had told me about. Renita and Michelle decided to go sightseeing, after lunch, so the didn't see the tide coming in. It was really amazing to see the murky water moving fast through the channel. The pelicans rode the edge of the mud line eating confused bait fish as the darted out of the murky water, into the clearer bay water that had filled the pass. The girls arrived and we called it a day. No fish fry that night but our friends took us out to a local seafood restaurant. The next day arrived, along with easing winds and so we headed to the beach. Stopping first at Mustang Island State Park, Dale and I checked out the jetties, while Renita and Michelle shelled and beachcombed. There were a lot of ghost shrimp holes so I returned to the truck and got my minnow bucket and shrimp sucker. Dale got good at finding large holes and it didn't take long before we caught some nice bait. Leaving the park we headed south to the National Seashore. We drove out on North beach, set up the lawnchairs, and had a nice box lunch picnic of friend chicken. It was so nice to hear the roar of the surf, I think Dale liked that the best! The surf was pounding the shoreline with waves of six to eight feet so fishing was out of the question. Michelle and Renita talked as the ever present seagulls edged nearer, hoping for handouts. All to soon it was time to go. We did stop at the park headquarters and drive out on the beach at the end of the road. Driving home we got caught in a traffic jam at the ferry. A combination of rush hour and having two bays closed for repairs made for an unpleasant hour long delay. We finally crossed the pass and drove home, arriving tired from the long day at the beach. The next morning arrived and Dale and Michele had to head back to Wyoming, all to soon. While Dale and I drove around and bought shrimp and pineapple oranges, Michelle and Renita walked out on the pier. They were blessed with the sight of dolphins cruising back and forth. The wind died and they were able to see the clear bottom. Dale and I arrived at the pier and they pointed out all they had found. It was a moment of peace that you hope will never end...... All to soon the time for them to leave arrived and we headed back to our home to say our goodbyes. Thank you Dale and Michelle! Clear skies,
I set the hook I knew that the fish was not a small red. It fought stronger than anything I had caught....... At Christmas dinner, George and I had talked about going fishing, as Renita and Val had shopping on their minds. The next day we loaded into George's car and went in search of bait, intending to wade fish St Charles Bay, near Big Tree. The bait search was not good as place after place had an out of bait sign or had taken down their bait flag. Duh, none of the shrimpers had gone out for Christmas, and many had even taken off till New Years! We were able to find one bait stand that had fresh dead shrimp,or at least he claimed it was, and so we bought a pint and headed to St Charles Bay. It was with some trepidation that I followed George out, as we passed the alligator warning sign. George had assured me that the gators were somewhere else keeping warm, and so we waded out, past the duck blinds and cast our dead shrimp. The bites were almost immediate! George caught a red fish and then another. As usual he was giving me another fishing lesson. Finally I caught a red, and then another. Then a fish bit and took off! It worked the drag and ran in a series of strong powerful runs. I realized then that I had something different, on a black drum. I was impressed with the fish, and it was a small legal one, they grow to huge sizes as fifty pounders are not unheard of. The bite stopped as the tide went slack, but it was a fun morning, catching three species of fish, reds, sheephead, and black drum. We returned to the park where I watched George clean the black drum. Fresh fish for supper! Clear skies.
Last year we were blessed to spend Christmas with my sister and her family, so we were a little concerned as Christmas drew near and this Christmas would be our first without family. Needless worry. We decorated an artificial tree and put lights both inside and outside, (Renita talked me into it and as usual she was right). Our other neighbors also decorated their rvs and so the park was brightly lit up at night. We went to Christmas eve mass which included a half hour of caroling, singing all the favorites. Two young ladies led the congregation,(college students?), and one of the singers had one of the best soprano voices I have ever heard. Mass ended and we stopped for some takeout as the parks festivities were to began. Every year the rvers get together and have a different kind of gift exchange. Everyone buys a ten dollar gift and then the fun begins with the exchange. When we entered we were each given a bingo number, mine was forty one and Renitas was fifty six. As the exchange began the person with number one went up and selected a gift and opened it in front of the crowd. Then came number two, and so on. Now when your turn arrived you had a choice, either open a new gift of steal one from someone who had unwrapped theirs. The last rule was that a gift could only be stolen three times and then it was safe. Stuffed toys, bottles of wine, and a box of the tv advertised towels exchanged hands often. Renita got a embroidered towel and I got some fishing lures! A fun time. Christmas morning awoke to find that Santa had found our house, in Texas. All is well! At one pm we gathered to celebrate Christmas with a huge Christmas buffet, the park had supplied turkey and ham and the tables overflowed with desserts and other entrees. Everyone had outdone themselves. It was like being at fifty family meals as everyone had made their special favorites We brought my key lime pie and Renitas sugar free cranberry sauce, (made from scratch). Each table had a song and ours was drawn first. Singing jingle bells we took our plates up and feasted on the meal. It was too good as both of us pigged out, but isn't that what you are supposed to do for Christmas? We sat and talked with our new friends, George and Val from Colorado. Later we talked with Patty and Matt, and even got a note from Jenny,(She is in Nicaragua and she called the next day). Again, we have been truly blessed. Clear skies.
I saw him set the hook and land another nice fish. He cast out and was immediately onto another. He had a fish on every cast! It wasn't very long before he had his limit of ten speckled trout! Mimicking him I cast parallel to where he was fishing, so as to not disturb him and caught a small fish. While the fishing was good for me he was catching six fish to my one, and they were bigger! Unable to contain myself any longer I waded over to him, as he was leaving and congratulated him on his nice fish. Luckily he was in a kind mood and as we talked he said it was the best fishing he had had this year. He even gave me a plastic body and told me what jig size he was using. The next day Renita accompanied me to all three tackle stores until I found the same lure and jig head. She was glad to get rid of me as I went fishing and even got the spot he was fishing. As I begin to cast, the same guy showed up waded out and caught a fish on the first cast. Another repeat of the day before, his six fish to my one. Puzzled, and frustrated, I finally realized my stupidity. I was getting snagged on the oysters and he wasn't. Looking at my jig head I saw I had on a quarter ounce jig instead of the eighth ounce he had told me. The fish stopped hitting soon after but at least I had three nice fish and a fresh fish dinner was assured. The next morning I returned and caught two,one keeper, before an oyster boat moved in and the keeper fish stopped biting. We had fresh fish for for dinner. Now I wouldn't say that I am at the top part of the curve, but at least my speckled trout learning curve is staring to go up. Clear skies.
Everyone knows what a sock hop is, but what is a jelly roll and who sang "Wake up little Suzi" ? Here are some more, what word was used to describe having fun and what was the fad toy of the fifties? These are some of the questions that we didn't know at the parks annual sock hop. Wine and beer, along with ice tea and decaf coffee flowed freely as we rocked to the oldies but goodies. Heck we even saw one couple have two beers as we drank our whataburger ice tea. Prizes were handed out during the spot dances, best costume awards were given, and the dance prize was easily won by the oldest couple in the park, Earl and Raebell. They really knew how to dance! It was confusing at times, with the Elvis impersonators, looking the same but it all worked out. We sat and met Doris and Charlie, who are from West Fort Worth and that's what its really about, meeting new people and listening to their stories. We enjoyed the evening and even stayed up and partied until 9 pm! Oh and by the way the answer is an Elvis style haircut and the Everly Brothers(At the sock hop we were told it was Danny and the Juniors but a sharp eyed reader, Connie Snyder, promptly corrected me. It turns out it was the Everly Broters who took the song to the top the week of October 4th 1957. Danny and the Juniors hit was "At the Hop", in December 13 1957. A special thanks to Connie!). A "kick" was the word for fun and the hula hoop was the fad. We only got two of the ten questions right. Clear skies.
The happy hour group had planned a surf fishing adventure, so when we heard about it it was a natural to learn from the experts. So after a late start we headed for Port Aransas and the Gulf side of Mustang Island. As we were not pulling the house there is a much simpler way to go, by ferry! We started by taking Texas 35 south and then east on to 361, managing to miss the left turn and instead going right to Ingleside. Hmmm, somethings wrong! Backtracking we got on the right road and found the Ferry. We loaded up front and had a great view of the channel. Dolphins! AS we watched several pods swam around the landing and two gracefully cleared the water in smooth leaps that only dolphins can make. Once on the other side it was a quick and easy drive to the beach where we stopped for a moment, and then headed south to find the group. Sure enough, they were at the beach marker they had told us. Most were wading and fishing is huge surf, or at least huge surf for here. We parked at the end of the line and as I readied my pole Renita took a lawn chair to where the ladies were sitting and watching,(Some were fishing also and had their own waders and Betty was catching quite a few fish). Planting my pole spike I cast out, or at least tried to with the heavy three ounce weight. My cast was not very far as the weight was simply too much for the rod. Again I cast out and again was frustrated by the weight simply overloading the rod. Switching to another pole, I used a lighter sinker. While this allowed me to cast further, the surf quickly washed me ashore, grrrrrrrrrr. Realizing that I didn't have the right equipment, I put my poles away and grabbed the camera. People were catching whiting. Wayne even caught a pompano! I was suitably impressed and Renita was having a good time chatting with the other non-fisher persons. Lunch was served as the group fired up a grill and cooked hot dogs. As the surf continued to build, and after having to move the truck we decided to head home. The tide was also coming in and the road was narrowing. We had to drive though a wave at one point,(Which necessitated a car wash)! Back on regular road we returned on the ferry, (alas no dolphins). Not getting lost the trip was much quicker. A good dues day. Clear skies.
Renita and I attended Happy Hour and one of the people we met is an obsessed fisherman form Colorado, George. George fishes about every day and invited me to go wade fishing with him. Of course I agreed and better yet Renita said it was okay, as long as she had the truck. So the next morning, after bouncing around the house like a kid, we saw George walking his cat. We talked and agreed to take off at 9:30 am for a spot that was nearby. Loading our gear into his car we first had to go and get some bait shrimp. Now bait shrimp are live, and sell for 10 dollars a quart. Its really surprising how large they are as they dwarf the shrimp buckets we ate back home,(I think they use smaller shrimp for those)! Anyway we put the shrimp in our buckets and put an aerator in each bucket. The shrimp are really delicate so you need an aerator for even a short drive. Driving along Fulton Beach Road we passed a wood piling where George pointed out a place to fish and then continued down the road until we came to the bridge over Copano Bay. There we pulled off to the side and donned our waders and gear. Everything felt bulky and out of place as we walked along an oyster reef and it wasn't until we waded out that the gear seemed comfortable. A cold wind blew from the southeast, really a warm wind but the cold front had cooled the water down and it wasn't long before the chill started to set in. I hadn't worn enough clothes! Added to the chill was the lack of fish and it was awhile before George finally caught three small trout, all 14 inches,(The speckled trout here, really closer to walleyes, have to be 15 inch minimum. Sheephead have a length limit of 14 inches and redfish must be 20). Finally, after watching George, I started to add some slow retrieving motion and caught two under size fish. Things weren't quite as cold! After taking a short break, the afternoon sun warmed things up and we got into a frenzy. George caught three trout and urged me to wade over and share his spot. Soon we were both catching fish, including a sheepshead. Enjoying the sun and fish the time went quickly. We even caught a couple of 15 plus inch fish so some fish went into the fish basket. The flurry continued for a while as we would cast, pause and then retrieve, with most bites coming on the pause. The trout would hit with a tic which was followed by a run. Of course I had forgot my net so landing them was a challenge. Looking at my watch I saw it was 4 pm and time to get home. Thanking George, we returned to the rv park tired but in time to brag about our fish. Renita was already there, sitting in the ladies area, as I pulled my chair up and joined her. A great day of learning, and thanks again George! Clear skies.
The drive to Watersedge Rv Park was short and uneventful. Lucy greeted us at the office and Myron led us to our spot and helped us to back in. We got a spot in the upper level, where we wanted to be. The rest of the day was busy, unpacking and setting up the satellite dish as this is going to be our home for the next three months. The next day was also busy. We made a Walmart run for drugs and did some other shopping. That afternoon we went to the, "Happy Hour", gathering and the evenings event was the Winter Texan Fish Fry! Now some people think that retired people sit around and drink all day, and there probably are, but our happy hour is a gathering of fellow campers who talk of the days events, about things coming up, and share fish reports . Its a great way to meet people from all over! The Winter Texan Fish Fry,(free), is a yearly event put on by the people of Fulton to thank us for coming down and spending money. The emcee unabashedly said that the money we brought kept the town going though the winter months! The meal was good, all the fish you could eat, supplemented by raw oysters on the half shell! The oysters were really good but not as fat and salty as the Grand Isle oysters we had last year. During the meal, a local band entertained us with music, reminding me of the music we had heard in New Orleans. Finally it was time to walk home so we met and thanked the mayor and the servers and cooks before leaving. Clear skies.
We spent another few days at Mustang Island before making our last move to our winter camp. One days trip was to the Padre Island National Seashore and the rest of the time was fishing and cast netting at Fish Pass. The first stop at the seashore was to recheck out the camprgound at Malaquite Beach. Its a simple campground with asphalt pads, definitely dry camping, but you can see the surf from almost all of the campsites. Last year we had checked it out and were not impressed, this year we thought it was a nice spot, and large enough for us to park our house! From there we bought shrimp at the park store before driving out on the beach, for fishing and shelling. The beach sand seemed kind of rough in places and I was nervous so we only drove about five miles south before stopping. There was a lot of seaweed and I cast out and soon had enough seaweed to choke a horse. Renita had better luck shelling and quickly found some nice saw tooth pen shells. A park ranger stopped by and gave me some advice about surf fishing, He also told me not to be too concerned about getting bumped by sharks, hmmmmmm.... He told me three things: first to cast between the second and third set of breakers, second to use a small hook and piece of shrimp, and third to not wade out to deep as it wasn't necessary. All the advice was good as the fish bit almost as fast as I threw out,(I caught two redfish, four whiting, an Atlantic croaker and a catfish. The next day we went to fish pass and practiced cast netting for mullet,(I actually caught some even though my net is a little small. We drove down to a spot to fish but it was already full so we watched them catch several nice redfish. A dues day. Anyway it was time to head to Watersedge and our winter camp so we put the shells and fishing gear away and packed our house for the move. It had been a really good time at Mustang Island State park. Clear skies.
Our next door neighbor, Terry, had told us about the fishing at Aransas pass. He also told us of seeing dolphins and sea turtles so we decided to spend a sunny afternoon at the pass. He told us he was fishing just north of the Marine Research Institute and we found him easily enough by going to the beach and driving along until we spotted his white van. While getting setup a ship came through the pass and Terry waved at us and told us to watch the dolphins. Sure enough they were bow riding and one even jumped clear of the water! Renita was now completely happy, even though we didn"t get any pictures. Next, two brown pelicans flew and landed near us. Terry brought over his bag of cut bait and got one to eat from his hand. After he went back to fishing the older one came over to Renita, but he was unsuccessful in getting any of our bait or her lunch. Disgrunted, he plopped down and sat next to her for quite a while, before going for a swim. While I was continuing to fish, Renita turned into a wildlife photographer and chased a pair of sea turtles up and down the wall. They would only surface for a few seconds so she was frustrated trying to take their pictures. At last she succeeded in catching the one in the photo above! Although the fishing was great the catching was terrible so we watched the boats pass by and relaxed in the sun. Calling it a day, we loaded up our beach chairs, waved goodbye to Terry, and headed home after a successful day. Clear skies.
The afternoon seemed like it would never get there. We had the canoe loaded and were waiting for the wind to go down and the temperature to warm up. Finally, about 1 pm the conditions were good so we drove to Fish Pass, (maybe a mile), The east side road started out good, but quickly became a series of ruts and mud traps. Some seemed large enough to swallow our truck! Well maybe not swallow but perhaps high center. Another truck approached and we waited to watch his path, before negotiating the labyrinth. Parking, we immediately saw a crested caracara, which posed for a picture. After putting on my waders I waded out in search of bait, saw some, and threw the net. It flew in a perfect circle, almost! Pulling the net in, we got nothing, as the bait were too small and escaped. Repeating the process, and getting nothing, we moved and had better results. A blue crab, some cocahoes,(desired), and some small pinfish! After a few more throws we got the bait we needed so it was time to launch the canoe. We waited as another man launched his kayak, and then launched ours. It took awhile, before I finally waded into the water and steadied the boat so Renita could get in. Starting to paddle we headed toward the bay, perhaps a mile in the distance. The float went quickly as we skirted the edge, Renita pushing us away from shallow spots. We passed some waders, who were catching small redfish and finally reached the bay, where the expanse of water intimidated us so we stopped for a bit and then paddled back, looking for a spot to fish. Now we had been fishing, but we had the wrong hooks and leaders, so our bait kept sinking to the bottom and weeding up. As we passed the waders, we watched their technique, and moved father up the pass to imitate it. Casting out the poles the canoe kept drifting away. How I wished for a cajun anchor! Finally grounding the canoe, we cast out two poles and waited as the late afternoon sun neared the horizon. A bite and then another, both missed. One pole was jerked almost out of the canoe as a redfish grabbed the minnow and swam away. Missed it, damn! Although we wanted to stay longer we paddled back to the truck. We were rewarded as we passed a rosette spoonbill, feeding too greedily to notice us. Renita pointed out the iridescent sheen of its pink feathers, as the setting sun reflected off its side. Tired, we loaded the boat and returned home. Clear skies.
I cast a DOA plastic into the water at the pass, and let the outgoing tide carry the bait towards the bridge. As I took in the slack, the line tightened and I wondered, could it be a fish on the first cast? The last day at Choke Canyon was windy and cloudy, so we took our time and waited for the wind to subside. It did around noon so we hooked up and headed for the coast, arriving at 3pm and getting a good spot at Mustang Island State Park. We had made reservations for 10 days, taking us through Thanksgiving weekend. We settled in, as the wind blew strong and the rain hammered the roof. Our neighbors were in a tent and had just gotten it set up, (they had problems and I offered to help but they were determined to get it done). What a night! It reminded me of the times we had tented in heavy rains. Anyway the next morning arrived and the rain stopped so I headed to the pass, to try fishing. People were lined up on both sides, and the reason became apparent as I saw their flounder. I put on my favorite white and red DOA plastic and caught a nice speckled trout on the first cast. Three more quickly stuck and I was excited to say the least! Returning home we ate lunch and then went for some shelling. Renita found a sand dollar, of course, and I waded in the surf, looking for dolphin. We walked past debris, from the hurricanes. The surf was strong, and as much as I wanted to go deeper the wise choice was to just get our feet wet. People were fishing at the jetties but the waves were too much for them to have any luck. That evening I went to Fish Pass to cast net for bait. John Wheeler had given me a four foot net and it really worked! Thank you John! I quickly caught bait for the morning. The next morning I went back to the pass. It was packed with people, but some left and I was able to get a good spot. I caught another trout and then went through the bait, after losing a large fish. Getting more bait I finally caught a nice flounder. By the time I returned to my spot a "friend" was in my place. He even cast across my line four times and I had to untangle his line from mine as I fought in a fish. I was proud of myself as I didn't cut his line! Finally I ran out of bait and called it a day. Fresh flounder for dinner! Clear skies.
The bird was the brightest red of any bird we have ever seen, vermilion in fact, and so we saw our first new bird for our life list! We would see many more. After Guadalupe State Park it was a short drive to our next new place, Choke Canyon State Park. As we checked in, the ranger gave us a bird check list an told us of Green Jays, golden-fronted woodpeckers,and ladder-back woodpeckers, birds that we had never seen before. So with our appetite whetted we found our campsite and set up, with the back window facing the lake. A great blue heron and a snowy egret waded near our house, and turtles lined the snags sticking above the water. with an anhinga sharing their spot. American coots fought each other and cackled as they greedily feed in the shallow bay. We ate lunch and it was with a great deal of expectation that we drove to the 76 acre lake, to bird and to walk Molly. As soon as we got out we saw a vermilion flycatcher, followed by an indigo bunting. After walking out to a point on the lake, Renita spotted an alligator. There was a do not swim warning sign! We walked around the lake and Renita spotted our next new bird, a flock of black bellied whistling ducks. A black scoter swam nearby, all new life birds. We saw other birds of course, northern pintails, common and great tailed grackles, and then another new bird, a scissor tailed flycatcher! What a beginning! The next morning was a another treat. Driving to town for diesel a crested caracara landed on a telephone post and posed for a picture. The two toned, carrion eating beak is unmistakeable! No camera! That afternoon we hiked the emperor's trail. Renita saw a green jay, I identified a greater kiskadee,(Oh no, we both thought the other had brought the camera). Eastern phoebes were in the tree tops and yes, we saw the woodpeckers. Molly got into the act and tried to get us a thanksgiving wild turkey, but the leash stopped her. Definitely a place to come back to! Clear skies.
The axis buck stopped for a moment as if to show off it's large antlers, before trotting into the oak trees after it's harem...... After leaving Waco, it was a short drive to Guadalupe State Park. The Park is located just north of San Antonio so we could also get Renita's meds. The park is noted for the tubing, canoeing, and kayaking along the river. It is also known for its birding as the river draws wildlife. We arrived Sunday, about noon, and most of the campsites had been vacated from the busy weekend. Finding a really nice site we were able to set up the satellite, which was surprising as we are crammed into live oak trees! The next day we took a long walk along the river and saw a plethora of wildlife. We spotted a new bird, a blue headed vireo, along with a wren that we couldn't identify. An opossum walked across the campground,(I haven't seen one in thirty plus years). Everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas, but the deer are tiny. Full grown bucks are about the size of a German Shepard,which is to be expected as the hotter an area is the smaller the body size of mammals. The walk included a viewing of six axis deer, trotting across an open field,(Axis deer were imported from India and released in the Texas wilds in 1982). One of the deer was a large stag, with an impressive rack! We weren't able to canoe as the water is really low here. The area has been in a drought for some time and the flow was only 32 cubic feet per second. Another reason we didn't try to launch the canoe is that the access is really bad here and we would have had to portage the canoe a long way, both downhill and then uphill. We did take a bike ride, but the bike path is really rocky, the worst bike trail we have been on. After abandoning it we returned to the road and explored the other campgrounds. All in all a pretty park, with nice facilities. We were glad we came here. Clear skies.
After staying in a succession of national, state and county parks, any private park would pale in comparison. However we needed to get some business stuff done and so we drove to Waco and checked into the I 35 Rv Park. The park itself was ok, it was fairly cheap, and the people were nice, but it was an older park quite full of permanent/long term residents. Walking around the park, we saw some crazy motor homes. One was covered with Jelly Belly pictures and was a commercial vehicle with a matching painted car. Another, pictured above, was how a wild man from Minnesota, takes his boat south for the winter! It was certainly a stopper as person after person would walk by stop and scratch their head. The other picture is of Renita and Molly at the parks petting zoo. Molly was pretty weirded about about the goats. The guard dog came rushing up to protect the goats from Molly but it soon lost interest and concern in any Shit tzeu. As to getting stuff done, we had a mixed bag on that. Renita was able to see a doctor, but she was unable to find any pharmacy that carried her insulin. After three hours on the phone she did find some in San Antonio, near where we are going next. Laundry, groceries, diesel, and getting lost filled our remaining time in Waco. It's a crazy place, with one way streets on both sides of the interstate. They also have these suicide exit ramps. Here you exit directly onto the access road, in an extremely short ramp, and hope the drivers yield. Both of these caused us a lot of problems and detours. All in all Waco is not a place we will stay again. Clear skies.
Last year, we discovered Lake Texoma State Park and camped there for two days, making a note to return to such a beautiful place. This year we found ourselves passing the same way as we turned west to avoid hurricane damaged areas. The drive from Daisy State Park was uneventful all though it was with a sense of relief when we crossed the border into Oklahoma. It wasn't that we didn't like Arkansas but that the roads there are some of the worst we have seen. Arriving at Lake Texoma we found out we were one of five people camping in the whole park so we went back to Ben's Campground and got a great spot with a view of the lake. We set up camp and the rain begun, raining hard all day and night and into the next. The ranger told us the area was in a severe drought and so the rain was welcomed. The next day we went to Kingston to buy fuel, get a few groceries, and check out a shortcut. Oklahoma 32. The diesel was 2.65 a gallons, less then half the price we paid in Yellowstone Park. The taxes on the groceries made up for it as they were over nine percent! At least the shortcut showed an easier and shorter way to head to Texas, so we returned home with a feeling of accomplishment. The rain cleared out the next day and we spent it resting and building a stabilizer for the canoe. Now the canoe is pretty stable, for a canoe, but we had seen stabilizers advertised that allowed one to stand up and fish. They cost over 200 bucks so trying to build one was an obvious money saver,(Besides it keeps me out of trouble. My Mom always told me an idle mind was the devils workshop!). The next morning, after taking one look at the stabilizer I tore it apart and rebuilt it using a steel crossbar instead of a wood slat. It was a little heavier but oh so much better. That afternoon we took the canoe to the lake and tried it out. It actually worked as I stood up and shifted my weight without getting wet! Look out Texas red fish! Clear skies.
"Tourists, (I don't think I had ever heard that word said with such derision and contempt), Look at them wondering around in that plowed field. The park people plowed three weeks ago and it will take about 1000 inches of rain to expose any rocks or diamonds. If you want to find a diamond go over there and look where.... The grizzled prospector returned to his hole and started digging,(He also warned me about putting the picture of his payload zone on the Internet). We had left Toad Suck and drove south and west to Daisy State Park, located on Lake Greeson. There Renita had reserved us a great spot on the lake. The park itself is a dense mature hardwood forest. Its filled with oak and hickory trees, many of which seemed to fall and hit our truck and house. Two days later we were at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, looking to find a stone big enough to name. We were both surface picking, as it was the first day we had ever been here and really wanted to learn how to look for diamonds It was such a mystery, the proverbial needle in a haystack, except the needle was in a 37 acre field. Everywhere people were either surface picking, dry sifting or hauling their load of soil and rock to the washing stations. There they would wash and settle the soil before flipping the pan over on a table, where the diamonds had, hopefully settled to the bottom. Taking a break we sat at a bench and ate snacks. Renita showed me her specimens. I told her how the prospector had bemoaned the fact that the state had found another 88 acres that held as much as 58000 carats of diamonds and wouldn't let people search there. We decided to go over to the boundary signs that stated that no prospecting was allowed beyond the crater. At last we were seeing lots of rocks. Large boulders of a very resistant conglomerate lay around the area. It was so hard that even a sharp rap with my rock hammer barely showed any scratch. We both searched the low ground far from most of the people. Digging down some lamprolite could be found, highly weathered. Finally tired and hungry we decided to call it a day. No luck finding diamonds but still a trip worth taking, as we both agreed that it wasn't the finding but the searching that makes life so exciting. Clear skies.
ps the prospector had told me to look for hematite stained soils, that they were the key to the diamond bearing layer.
As we move around the country we pick places to stay by using Woodalls, Rvpark Reviews.com, and by recommendations from friends and family. So as we continued our southward migration, we got online and looked for a park halfway to Daisy State Park. Looking on the map, Conway, Arkansas was halfway so we got online and found a park named Toad Suck Park. The reviews were good so we decided to head there. What a nice surprise! Toad Suck Park was named for the river bargemen who used to stop here and suck on a whiskey bottle till they swelled up like a toad! Its a four loop campground, below the lock and dam, that is a pretty, scenic place. Finding a nice level spot, with water and electricity, we parked and setup. We were even able to find our satellites for tv, although there are many channels the air antennae picked up. Walking around the park we saw pecan trees but unfortunately there were no pecans on them. The campground host said that this is a sign of a really bad winter! He also said the squirrels were burying whole clusters on acorns, another sign. We walked all four loops, three are along the river and one a little further back, and all were nice places to camp. The next day Dave and Jean stopped by to say hello. We met them at Branson and they are also heading to the Diamonds State Park. They had heard us talk about Toad Suck and decided to camp here! What a nice surprise! Although we are only here for a couple of nights, this is definitely a place to stay again. Clear skies.
It was time to continue our southward travels so we left Lake of the Ozarks and drove south to Table Rock Lake and Table Rock State Park. Its near Branson, so we decided to stay a while and do some exploring. The lake itself is huge and the campground at the state park is really nice, Missouri definitely has good parks and campgrounds. The bike/hiking trail is 2,2 miles long and goes from the marina to the dam. It's a pretty nice ride with a little up and down but nothing really hard. The views along the way are picturesque, with eastern bluebirds, red headed woodpeckers, and lots of chickadees providing company. The Branson Belle, a paddle wheel theater, greets you as you round the bend. Kind of funny, the ship was built locally and they launched it by greasing the slip with bananas! Talk about environmentally friendly! We also had to post a picture of the albino squirrel to contrast that with the black squirrels we saw in Minneapolis. We don't think its a true albino as it doesn't have pinkish eyes, but it posed nicely, probably waiting for a treat. Anyway we are enjoying it here and have only been lost twice while driving to find a grocery store. Luckily we stopped before driving over a cliff and found our way out of the silver dollar city parking lot. WE do think the teenagers in the area might be a little ou of control. Other than that no misadventures. Clear skies
The noise of two different woodpeckers drilling in dead trees greeted us as we walked on our morning stroll. One set of tapping was the loudest, a distinct low pitched thump that made me hope for a view I hadn’t seen in thirty years…… Driving in rain from Keosauqua, and Lake Sugema, we headed east and then south. Our goal for the day was to reach Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The drive itself was slow along good roads and the park itself was so nice that we decided to stay for four days instead of the two nights we had planned. Towing the house through a dense hardwood forest, and narrowly avoiding the tress we found a great campsite, into which our house and truck fit, leaving room for more. The ground was filled with leaves and hickory nuts, which luckily had all fallen from the tree above. A neighbor camper came over and pointed out the tree branch ready to fall on our house, (I think he was trying to save the spot for a friend). The next morning the rain stopped and Molly and I took off exploring. As we walked the campground we had to avoid stepping on the nut husks and persimmons that littered the forest floor. Nearing our campsite, loud tapping greeted us and then stopped as two pileated woodpeckers flew though the trees! Now the pileated woodpecker is the one that woody woodpecker was drawn after and is a huge woodpecker, about the size of a crow! The red topnotch is so distinctive that identification is simply. The last one we had seen was in Renita’s folks back yard, over thirty years ago. Later we saw the pileated woodpeckers from inside our house. The park itself is over 16000 acres of hardwood forest and lake. Later that day we went to Osage Beach, for supplies, and discovered condos and marinas and a whole city, next to this beautiful park. That evening we walked Molly along the lake, in the lower campground. The people here were so smart to save this place as a park!
Pam and Roy offered to take us to the Amana Colonies, and since we hadn’t been there in years we loaded up and headed north and east for a day of antiquing, furniture shopping and exploring. The drive was pleasant and the time passed swiftly as we visited about our kids and family and general stuff. Arriving there we parked and started our shopping tour by visiting one of the largest craft antique stores we have ever seen. As we wandered we both laughed as we saw a nut grinder that was twenty five dollars and nowhere as nice as the one we had at home, (ours cost .10 cents at a garage sale). The store seemed endless as we passed though room after room of high priced antiques and newly made to look antique products. Still there was enough old to justify the wanderings. From there the next stop was lunch and we ate at a restaurant that served the food family style. Sauerkraut was one of the staples! The food was good but pricey, is there a pattern here? The furniture store was next! A walnut table and chairs greeted us upon entry and it was a fine example of the exquisite furniture the store contained. One room was filled with clocks, all set to different times so that the chimes rang almost continuously. Closing our eyes the Westminster chimes transported us back to my grandparents’ house. Luckily, none of the furniture fit into our fifth wheel as the prices were the highest we have ever seen, anywhere. The Amana Woolen Mill was the next largest building we entered and there for the first time we got to see looms running full blast, making rugs and clothing. They were working at a much faster rate than the Navajo loom we had operated in Cortez, Colorado! The smell of machine oil filled the air, much like the battleship and observatory. Machine oil runs the world, (Of all the stores and shops this was my favorite)! Tiring Roy and I sat on a bench outside, while Pam and Renita continued their exploring. Luckily the stores finally ran out and it was time to drive back home, to Keosauqua and Lake Sugema. A fun day, and a place worth visiting. Clear skies (Two days later Pam showed us an Amish furniture store outside of Keosauqua where the furniture was one fourth of the price, and of equal quality), of what we had seen in Amana. We found and purchased an oak end table that was perfect for our traveling house.)
The forecast for St Paul was cold, so we decided to head south and did so in a steady to hard rain. It rained all day so we drove a lot further than we planned,390 miles, all the way to Keosauqua and our intended new campground at Lake Sugema.There we found a nice spot with full hookups and had a place where we could sight see around southeast Iowa. The Lake itself is about 600 acres in size and is a really beautiful lake. Geese are protected here and they wake us each morning with their honking. Blue jays fight with robins out our back window, (I have yet to get a good picture, grrrrr). We did get a great view of the moon, reddened from the Alaskan volcano. From there, we either drive into Keosauqua where we meet Pam and Roy and began our days adventures or they pick us up at the lake. So the days have passed quickly as we have explored the area. One of our trips was to Bentonsport and Bonaparte, two small and old towns on the Des Moines river. Once thriving communities the towns nearly died before being reborn as historic sites, filled with red brick buildings. At Bonaparte we ate the best tenderloin sandwich we have had in quite a while! Greasy but good, (pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa are the Louisiana equivalent of oyster and shrimp poorboys), After antiquing, and sampling the local fudge, we next drove to Bentonsport. There we watched a blacksmith, working on an custom iron gate. (It made me want to work the bellows and then pound the iron....maybe another lifetime.) One antique shop was actually filled with antiques, not the usual modern crafts stuff,(that I detest). Luckily, we don't have a lot of room so we only bought a hand drill, like the one that we had in my parents basement. Another interesting spot was a small private museum filled with arrowheads and fossils. The bridge had been redone into a pedestrian bike and foot bridge, and we remembered when we had driven across it many years ago. Returning to Pam and Roy's, we discovered our niece Krista, had arrived and so we looked at her rock and fossil collection before eating and returning home. Another fine day, we are truly blessed. Clear skies.