Monday, January 28, 2008

Padre Island National Seashore

After all the rain, we finally had a couple of nice days. Went for a bike ride and took lots of pictures of flowers. Yesterday, the weather was even warmer so we decided to go to Mustang Island Sate Park.
The drive was only 2 miles and involved riding on the ferry, a short ride and a small ferry. Renita did see a dolphin. I would not like taking our home on this ferry but we did see a fifth wheel loaded on the other ferry so it would be possible.
Anyway we drove though a lot of developments, I was not impressed, until we got to the state park.
It's really nice! We drove to the beach and discovered that people here drive onto the beach itself. I tried, promptly started spinning my rear wheels, and put it into four wheel drive ad escaped. We parked and walked back onto the beach. There were lots of people shelling and fishing, and lots of shells. We found four sand dollars in a short time. Of course Renita found the biggest ones! I walked out onto the Jetty and found a nice bobber and the bottom half of a cooler. Flotsam is so much fun! Watched some people fishing for pompano but didn't see them catch any.
Returning to the vehicle we decided to drive further south and crossed onto Padre Island, where we saw signs directing us to the national shoreline. As we followed them we lost almost all the traffic, went through the park entrance where our parks pass worked, and discovered a wonderful place!
The shoreline runs for 70 miles and is the longest undeveloped Gulf Coast shoreline in the United states. We listened to the park ranger explain the various wildlife exhibits and then drove onto the beach itself. It was wild. The camping on the beach is free! There was fifth wheel as big as ours,(we did find a campground that has electricity and costs 8 bucks a night, that we would prefer as there is no way we are driving our house onto the beach)!
The ranger suggested we drive 18 miles south until we came to big shell beach and then walk it,(in a short walk we found coral that looks like electrical wire and a complete inkpen shell)! . We did drive a little ways but the speed limit is 15 mph and it was too late for such a long drive so we returned to the road. Definitely a place to return to. We returned by going through Corpus Christi and then home. A long and tiring and enjoyable day. Clear skies.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Corpus Christi

The weather here has been cold and rainy, since I last posted so it is time for an update,(It is going to warm up today).
I needed to have some tests done, to make sure the medications were doing their job, so we looked up a Doctor in Portland,(just north of Corpus Christi. I was actually able to walk in, fill out the forms and get in to see the Doctor(The Doctor was real young)! After setting up another appointment for the test, we drove across the bridge and into Corpus Christi.
The first site you see is the aircraft carrier The Lexington, which is permanently moored and is open to tours. They even have an Imax theater inside, along with a bunch of different planes, which are o the deck. We didn't tour it, just drove near, took some pics, and continued into the city.
Continuing along the seawall we came across several nice seaside parks and some really fancy homes. Definitely not the poorer section of town.
WE then retraced our route and went in search of a seafood shop called the Big Fisherman. Several people had raved about the seafood specials, 5.95 for lunch, so we had to try it.
As our new friend Mike said later,"You get what you pay for". While the food was plentiful, it was some of the greasiest food on the planet. It was also overcooked and bland. Definitely not a place to go back to,(they have a chicken fried steak day special of 1.75 ad thousands of retired people show up!)
Anyway it was a nice drive and we got some medical work done so all in all an okay day. Clear skies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bridge Fishing

I finally got a chance to go fishing as the weather warmed to the 60's. I went to the bait shop, bought some live shrimp,(the live shrimp are way bigger than popcorn shrimp so its hard using them for bait), and had Renita take me to the bridge over Copano Bay. I invited her to fish with me but she opted out and went shopping instead.
Now it costs two bucks a pole to fish there so I stopped at the building to pay and it was locked up so I went walked out and started fishing.
The north end of the bridge is 1.1 miles long. It is cement covered and has wood pilings so most people fish for sheephead,(Not related to the fresh water fish), by dropping live shrimp along the pilings and waiting for the sheephead to show up. Some people chum by breaking open some oysters and dropping them in but I didn't have any so I started fishing a piling and then moved to the next and so on until I caught a fish.
Surprisingly I only fished three pilings until I caught three sheepheads. They were to small to keep so I fished some more and then walked back to the shack to pay. Still not open. I went back and the fish had quit so I started working out farther. I had bites but they were small and so I couldn't hook them. I did see a man catch a really big sheepshead, so that was pretty exciting. He seemed to know what he was doing as I saw him catch several more.
I continued out, fishing the pilings and having bites but I could not hook them. Talked with several others who were also catching small ones. I ate my lunch and started working my way back, finally catching another sheepshead and then a red drum.
By the time Renita picked me up I had walked about two miles, pulling my cart,so I was tired and ready to call it a day.
All in all a successful day. I do wish I had taken the gps along to mark the pilings that held fish. Next time! Renita had a successful day shopping so it was a nice day for both of us. Clear skies.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

The sun finally came out and so it was time to do some more exploring. Off we went to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Now before we had gone there by boat so today we drove the 33 miles and entered the main gate.
We went inside and showed them our national park pass and talked with the people about the possibility of doing volunteer work. The ranger gave us a packet, we looked at the exhibits and pictures and took off to explore.
The refuge has a total of 16 miles of public road and lots of stops and trails. It became obvious that this place is not a one day visit. As we drove along we saw our first live armadillo, we saw lots throughout the day. Always wondered what armadillo tastes like, I heard that it is kind of like pig, hmmmmmm.
Anyway we passed several stops and walked to several vantage points. The most noticeable was Jones Lake where Renita spotted the biggest alligator we have eer seen! It was at least ten feet! Luckily it was on the other side of the pond. As we watched it float around ducks kept approaching it but it must have been full as we didn't get to see it feed. Darn.
WE then drove to the observation tower to look for whoppers but didn't see any. he usual egrets, herons, rosettes, were all present but no whoppers. The tower is really eat as it is higher than the oak canopy and provides you with a great view of the refuge and the intercoastal.
Our last drive, in the refuge was a one way road that wound through the marsh for 11 miles. It had warning signs as to a size and width limit, but we had no problems and I actually could have driven our house down it. The only problem was there was no place to park it as the turnouts are about 30 feet or so. AS we drove it I wished we had brought our bikes as the total trail is 16 miles and it would have been a beautiful ride. Next time!
On our way home we stopped at a tiny place called Hoppers Landing. It's 3 miles from the refuge and has rv parking with full hookups! Amazing. I was kind of reminded of the movie, "Deliverance". In other words a great place to hunt and fish between trips to the refuge! Clear skies!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Raining in Rockport

While we have had some notable rains, in our travels, the last week in Rockport has been the most we have seen. It has rained off and on for four days, The first rain was about two inches, followed by another rain of three inches. So life here has been pretty uneventful.
The most excitement has been moving from one spot to another. Yesterday we had to move to spot 2 from spot 88, basically from the upper forty to the lower forty. We knew this was going to happen as the office lady was unable to get us in unless we agreed to the move. We had hoped for cancellations but it never happened.
The new spot is very close to the ocean and so when we step out we can see the gulf, about 100 feet away. WE are also closer to the restroom and shower although I like the shower in our house.
The temperature has also fallen as front after front blasts through, but it is supposed to warm to normal,(We don't seem to get much sympathy from Matt and Jenny who talk of 30 below wind chills). It is also supposed to clear today so it's off to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge for a day of exploring. I might happen to fish a little as well:)
In regards to the picture, it is in a small spot, on the beach, in Fulton. The people of the Gulf Coast pray a lot to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for safety from the sea.
AS this place gets hit often by a hurricane, on average every seven years, one can understand the need for such prayer,(I looked up the frequency of hurricane strikes and found averages, for the places we have been on the Gulf, of from every five to every seven years. I am surprised, here in Rockport as to the style of houses and the lack of readiness for hurricanes. I talked with a man from here who said many of the older houses lost their insurance as they were not built to any hurricane standards or codes). Clear skies.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Whooping Cranes!

Ever since I was a child, I have read about whopping cranes and their slow comeback from near extinction. So here I am in Rockport and it turns out that it is only about 15 miles to the Aransas National Wildlife Refure. The refuge is the wintering grounds of over 200 whoppers. So it was a no brainer to take a whopping crane tour, 40 bucks each. It turned out to be money well spent!
We got up early and arrived at the tour headquarters at 7 am, a trip of about 5 minutes from our house. After buying tickets, we loaded aboard the Skimmer, with 16 other excited birders, and left port heading across Copocano Bay. The trip took about 30 minutes and we entered a protected and man made area that was constructed to provide additional habitat for whoopers. No whoppers yet as the grasses haven't taken hold, but the guide said that they have good hope for the new site. After a few minutes we continued on, into the intercoastal, which borders the refuge, and promptly stopped near a family group of whoppers! It was amazing! We were less than 100 yards away watching a rare family of whopper twins and parents catching and eating blue crabs like there was no tomorrow! Didn't matter what size, big or small crab was all eaten. The parents would whack the big ones with their beak and then hold them for the greedy youngsters,(the youngsters are 5 feet tall and can be recognized by the brownish makings on their heads.) We enjoyed the spectacle for about an hour, trading binoculars, snapping images, and simply watching. A pure joy.
As we watched, the guide pointed out bird after bird, and it was all I could do to identify them and write them down on the list provided,(I ended up with 43 different birds, of which 14 were new on my life list!). As we watched the cranes, barge traffic went past and the cranes seemed totally oblivious, of course I am too when I am eating crab.
After an hour, the tour traveled farther and saw many more birds and crane families. Lots of spoonbills, in their breeding color, herons nesting in January, and osprey after osprey with fish clutched in their talons.
Renita was as amazed as I was. It was truly a special moment for us and a trip which we will go on again. Clear skies.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fulton Mansion

We woke up Thursday morning, after having an enjoyable evening at a potluck dinner in the park. We planned to sight see, by visiting the Fulton Mansion and scheduling a bird watching boat tour, for whopping cranes.

At the dinner we met quite a few people, including Mike and Rose Bridge. They are fulltimers who have been working at the rv park and have been fulltiming for 4 years. They share their website/journal/photos with us. Nice people.

Leaving home we first went to the boat tour birding place, only to find out that the Friday morning tour had been canceled, so we signed up for Sunday morning,(I want to go in the morning as morning light is better for my photos).

Next, we went to the mansion and walked around the outside waiting for the 12 noon tour. The guide opened the door and let us in. The tour commenced in the foyer and we were treated to an hour long tour, of a French Second Empire style house. It is an enjoyable house filled with beautiful antiques. I especially liked the ornate woodwork and cornices. It reminded me of the house I grew up in on Western Street in Waterloo Iowa,(A Victorian style house that was a lot smaller:)). After the tour we walked outside and strolled through the garden. I enjoyed this as much as the tour outside. The flowers were all so different and new, compared to what we are used to. The flower pictured above is a hibiscus, there were three different colored varieties, flowering in January! Sure not a Wyoming January.

We ended our visit went home and ate and then went to the local fruit market. We spent more at the market then we planned as it is so nice to fresh produce at a roadside stand. All in all an enjoyable and inexpensive day. Clear skies.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Checking Things Out

After a couple of days of resting and staying around the house we decided to check out some things to do. Among the many things here are Goose island State Park and the Rockport City Beach.

We first went to the Rockport City Beach. To enter the beach park one must pay a daily entry fee, or buy a ten dollar yearly sticker. We bought the sticker and put it in te required spot on the windshield. Our windshield is beginning to look like a billboard! Entering the park we found a nice beach, a fishing pier, a public boat dock and ramp, and several swimming areas with showers and covered areas. Quite nice in fact!

As we walked the beach, we noticed that the beach was quite different from the other places we had been. It is made almost entirely of shell fragments. Looks like it would become coquina if it were rock. Its pretty obvious why as the only boats that are constantly out there are oyster boats,(there are also shrimp boats but they were all in port. You also don't see slabs like at Grand Isle). The wind was blowing so it was a perfect time to fly the kite we had found while cleaning out the kids rooms. It turned out to be the easiest kite I have ever flown. Renita said she has never flown a kite!

After flying the kite,we watched a person wading out and metal detecting. The beaches here are very gradual and so a person can wade out a long long way and not be very deep.

Next was a trip to the pier/jetty and I cast a doa to no avail. We talked with several fisherman, none of whom were having luck, but a couple said they sometimes catch flounder there. A place to return to!

The next day we went to Goose Island State Park. Its about 8 miles away from out home and is in an area, called Lamar, that was destroyed from bombardment in the civil war. While there we first met and talked with a man from Sheridan, Wyoming, who has been coming here for 8 years. He talked about wading and fishing for reds and specks and I later saw him catch two, far from shore. We walked the fishing pier, they were catching small black drum and blue crab, drove the campgrounds. discovered I had fire ants all over my legs,(no bites), and visited the oldest and largest tree in Texas.

The tree is a live Oak,(Virginia Oak), that is over 1000 years old. It was called the meeting tree, by the native people. The tree is 11 feet in diameter, 49 feet feet tall, and has a spread of 89 feet. I was actually a little surprised as I had expected a bigger tree. Anyway the tree is the biggest and oldest tree in the state so that was pretty neat. Quite a few people visited it while we were there. Clear skies

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rockport, Texas

We headed out of Galveston, crossed the bay into Texas City and promptly missed our turn so we added a few miles and then got back on track. Our goal was Rockport. Mapquest said it would take 4 hours and 5 minutes. Hah! I didn't think they know we are towing a 37 foot fifth wheel, in high winds.

Anyway six hours later we travel the 230 miles and get to Rockport. As we traveled< Renita was on the cell phone calling place after place looking for a place to park. Most were full, but she was able to get us a spot at Watersedge Rv, at a reasonable price, and with it's own fishing pier.

When we arrived we were warmly greeted and helped in parking our home. We plan on staying here for a month, which will be a record for us. Parking was tight, but better than Majestic Oaks in Mississippi. We have a nice spot and there are no teenagers is sight!

Walked Molly and took a few pictures, today we plan on exploring the area. Lots to do, including looking for Whopping Cranes! Clear skies

Saturday, January 5, 2008


There are a lot of neat things to do in Galveston, but we didn't do them. As we were getting in the truck, on Wednesday, Renita noticed a red fluid dripping from the engine area. I shut the engine off and looked, and she was right,(notice how I had to check myself:)).
Anyway, red is not good, so I went inside and located a chevy truck dealer who told us their location and said they could get us in! I drove there, waiting for the steering to go out, or for the transmission to start overheating but we made it across the island without incident. The service man took our keys and had a driver give us a ride back home, about 15 miles.
The waiting begin. Around 5 pm he called back and said that the transmission cooler had a leaking line and that they had ordered the part. He said it was a quick fix and that the part would be in the next day. To make a long story short we got the truck Friday afternoon.
We were lucky this hppened n Galveston.
It had been cold and windy, so we were inside for most of the two days of waiting. Only having the afternoon, we decided to take a drive to the west end of the island and cross the toll bridge, looking for a short cut to Rockport. Good idea! The shortcut turned out to have a narrow bridge entrance that we would barely? fit through, so we decided that we would go the normal route to Rockport.

We did drive up the coast a bit and did find some deserted Texas beaches, but a lot of new building. We parked the truck and took a walk on one of the beaches at treasure island, before returning to Galveston for a pizza and home. Next year we will return and see more! Today we head to Rockport. Clear skies.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Galveston, Texas

I had taught about hurricanes, for many years, and so it was a must to see the sea wall at Galveston and view the island. For those that don't know, a hurricane in 1900 wiped the place out and killed over 6000 people. It had a storm surge of 15.7 feet. Add to that that the city has actually sunk 10 feet due to ground water removal and oil and gas extraxtion, and you can see that it is set up for another catastrophy.
Anyway we got to Galveston and set up at Jamaica Beach RV Resort. On the way we passed the fishing pier, the longest pier on the Gulf, so I had to fish it. I got my poles ready and waited anxiously for the next day to arrive.
It's amazing how you can think you have a clue and then catch nothing at all. I shouldn't feel bad though as only one fish was caught, by a Japanese. It was about two inches long and he kept it, mumbling sushi! There were about 50 more fisherman there and no one caught anything, until an Asian man and wife showed up with live shrimp. He caught five sheephead in a row and soon was crowded out by other people. Now I had watched him closely and let him fish by me as I wanted to watch him some more. He was so nice that he let me use his shrimp. I did have a bite but missed it and so I left, after thanking him again for the fishing lesson.

Renita had better luck than I did as she finally found some nice plates for our house! Clear skies.