Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sea Glass

Oh my are we in trouble. We have been picking up seashells for the past two years and then last summer we started collecting petrified wood and jade. Where do we put it all? Now, as if the problem wasn't enough, my sister Connie has introduced us to collecting sea glass!
The weather here on Grand Isle has been pretty bad, with high winds and choppy seas so we haven't been able to get out as much as we would have liked, but still we have quite a few shells. However yesterday the wind shifted and so Gary and Connie took us to a protected place to search for sea glass.
Now I wasn't really thrilled about the idea, but Renita has been making jewelry, and it was a new adventure, sooooo, we went to the marina, got into their boat and took the short ride to an island where they have found beach glass.
Connie explained that the sea glass wasn't the stuff that you watch out for so you don't cut yourself, but old broken glass that has been weathered smooth. She also explained that the rare stuff was purple and red and blue.
Almost immediately we started finding lots of glass! At first we picked up every piece but soon started to ignore the fresh glass and only pick up the old stuff. I was surprised at the amount of light green glass from coke bottles, so I started to pick up that. Walking ahead of the girls Gary and I waded a bit along the shoreline, carefully stepping among masses of sharp oyster shells. Looking down I noticed a piece of old blue glass, and in that instant I was hooked.
I showed the piece to Gary and he shared his discovery with me, a piece of purple glass. perhaps the neck of an old pepper sauce bottle,(Connie showed us a complete bottle, circa 1898, that they had found on another day). We started back and met the girls, Renita showed me her large bag filled with sea glass, Oh my!
Where will we put it all? Maybe I can rearrange stuff again....... Clear skies.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blues and Pinks and Reds and Yellows

As we headed from Boerne, Texas we first drove on Texas 46. It took us past Guadalupe State Park, and wound through the Hill Country ending at Seguin. Getting on Interstate 10, something I had been dreading, an unexpected pleasure was waiting, spring flowers!
We noticed the large patches of blue that lined the ditches for mile after mile. It was the height of the spring flowers and we were hitting it perfectly! Interspersed , with the bluebonnets, were pink flowers of evening primrose, red Indian paintbrush, and yellow daiseys . The traffic wasn’t as bad as we expected and so I could actually enjoy the calliope of colors, although not as much as Renita who exclaimed her delight!
The distance from Boerne to Alleyton, Texas, and Happy Oaks Rv Park passed pretty easy, which was good as it was the longest we had drove in awhile, (It was only 179 miles but pulling the house is tiring as you have to really concentrate). Checking in, the manager seemed happy to have someone to talk to and he explained the advantages of being a welder. Sometime later we finally broke free and managed to setup.
Needing to head to town for fuel and dinner, we grabbed the camera and didn’t even make it out the driveway, before we saw a huge expanse of flowers, and so we took picture after picture. It was our first spring in Texas and it was all so new.
The next morning we got up early as we had to drive through Houston, on Interstate Ten, and it really wasn’t so bad, just a long 300 miles. It was Sunday morning and the traffic was enough to keep me awake. We only had a few cars try to cut me off when we needed to change lanes, but it wasn’t a problem as I signaled in advance and was able to force them to give up their intended lane, (drivers of little cars just don’t realize how dangerous it is to zip around our blind spots). They backed off and it went well, we didn’t even get the one fingered hello!
Traffic picked up as we neared the Texas Louisiana border and road construction pylons dotted the sides of the lanes. Soon cement barriers narrowed the roadway and it was the good old crummy Interstate Ten that I had been dreading. Don’t they ever get it done, (It didn’t seem like they had made any progress in over a year)?
Crossing the border we stopped at the Louisiana Rest Area and Information building. The building was landscaped with bushes, filled with beautiful azaleas! The attendant at the information booth told us a different way to go to Abbeville, (Our nights stop at Betty’s Rv Park), and so we drove to La 13 and turned south for La 14. A mistake as the road was so rough that we actually had some damage inside our house.
Betty’s Rv park was just as advertized, a small spot in a yard, but filled with friendly people. Betty herself was recovering from the flu but remembered our friends Jim and Nancy, as did several of the other campers. We had a nice talk before retiring for the night.
The next morning we hitched up and took La 14 to Interstate 90. From the Raceland exit we turned south on La 1 and thoughts of family warmed our souls, (Grand Isle is one of our favorite places and I could live there, becoming a Cajun Coon Ass, but the shopping is a little sparse for Renita). The drive was uneventful except for a short stretch broken by some construction near Leeville. As soon as we drove across the bridge onto Grand Isle, sand was everywhere. The surge from Hurricane Ike had broached the levee and they had to use bulldozers to clear the road. The beach was under the houses and it made everything look quite different. Connie and Gary met us and led us to their friends souvenir shop, where we able to setup our house next to the gulf beach. Renita pointed out more flowers alongside our fifth wheel. Blues and pinks and reds and yellows, graced our day. Clear skies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Class of 2007 Escapees Reunion Rally

Before retirement, I had found the Escapees Forum online, found that a group of people were all retiring and going full time in 2007, like us, and signed us up. We had been unable to attend the first rally, at Quartzite, in January of 2008, and had kind of forgotten about the group until we met Nancy and Jim Tidball, who shared with us the plans for a rally at Boerne, Texas. We were a little unsure of our decision to attend a rally as we had never been to one before. Would we fit in? Would the others be friendly and welcome us or would the group have formed a closed circle?
As we pulled into our spot, at Alamo Fiesta Rv in Boerne, Norah walked up and introduced herself to us. She was the wagon mistress for the rally, and invited us to join the group after we had parked and setup. The warm welcome meant a lot to us and all of our nervousness evaporated.
The motor homes and fifthwheels were parked the around the Rally Hall, where group coffees, meals, happy hours, and workshops were all planned. We finished parking and went over to meet the group, and after introductions, easily forgot about all of our concerns.
The first day of the rally officially opened with registration, followed by Happy Hour. It was our first introduction to Margarators. No kidding, these were actually machines that were set up and running, dispensing either margaritas or frozen strawberry daiquiris! Joe poured us a margarita and Marsha, Molly and Nancy styled their party sunglasses for us.
That evening we had Hobo Stew, a concoction of stew made from cans of food brought by each member of the rally. Bob, of Bob and Molly, explained to me how the stew was prepared, and we had a wonderful meal, after drawing a number for table seating(At each meal Bobbie had everyone draw a number for table seating, to help in meeting new people, an excellent idea).
We had volunteered to hold our star party that evening and so we went home and got our materials ready. We hoped people would enjoy the party and made it a game with silly prizes that people would get for being the first to sight the first eight stars and planets. Before long everyone was there and people were pointing out and shouting their discoveries of each star. It was so nice to see the people enjoying the workshop and I was barely able to keep up with the questions as Renita handed out the prizes.
The next two days were filled with workshops and endless tables of snacks and food. Hank gave a great workshop on Geocaching, an activity we had been meaning to start.
A genealogy workshop was presented by Marty, whose passion for genealogy was easily apparent. The final workshop on blogging, was led by Molly, who gathered us all together as we shared our blogs and helped each other with tricks and gadgets,(Perhaps you can notice the neat travel map, taught to me by Jim and Marsha).
We both learned so much from the activities!
The last evening was filled with a huge Thanksgiving meal,(deep friend turkeys cooked by Bob and Joe and a host of others), followed by a brown bag gift exchange! It was similar to the one held at Watersedge at Christmas. Renita ended up with a coffee grinder and coffee beans. I traded mine gift several times and finally got stuck with an oyster knife that I had tried to give away,(It was the gift that I had originally brought). How funny!
People ask us as to why we sold our house and went fulltime rving? We tried to explain the need to see all of the USA, to live on the coast, to cross the prairies and mountains, to feel the dry desert wind on our faces. All these are good enough reasons, but the best reasons for going full time is being able to make so many new friends. The rally was the best! Thank you all for your welcome and friendship. Clear skies.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Luckenbach, Texas

As we drove north, from Boerne, Tx, it seemed that every hilltop had been leveled, cleared and a house erected. In the drought stricken hill region it just didn't look right. The same thing is happening in some parts of Wyoming and it just plain looks ugly.
We were on our way to Fredricksburg for a day of sightseeing and touring and I hoped that the town itself would be a real town and not just another tourist trap trying to survive by selling the same types of junk. Again, I was disapointed. All though the building were made of stone and quite charming,(the first picture is the public library), the shops were like any other.
So after strolling main street and eating an ok but overpriced hamburger we drove back to Boerne a different way, taking Interstate 290 and Texas 1376. It redeemed the Texas Hill country charm and beauty.
No mansions on the hilltops, with driveways that scarred the country, nothing really. The high fence of a game farm, a couple of small working towns that fit in with the countryside.
There was one tourist trap made famous in the song, "Luckenbach Texas". Stopping, (its really only a couple of buildings and a bar, it really isn't much as it was an old barn really, but it fit in with the country), and after taking the obligatory pictures we sat outside and shared a Lonestar beer.
A guitar started to play and it seemed so real. I looked and saw that a muscian was playing and as he started to sing we were treated to a country concert. He played and sang and it just seemed right, he was quite talented really. It reminded me of the street muscians of New Orleans.
He forgot the words to one song, could have been the beer, but it didn't matter, it was so good. I found a moment of peace, the reason for traveling like we do. We both enjoyed the music and bought a cd that he was selling. Driving back, we listened, but it just wasn't as good. Steel guitars twanged and other instruments joined his music. Why hadn't he just recorded his guitar work and songs? But it was still good, real good.
We had finally found a small piece of the Texas Hill Country that brought to us the charm and beauty of the region. Enough to make us want to return again, exploring the back roads of the real Texas. Clear skies.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Choke Canyon State Park, Spring Birds 2009

The bird's head was a beautiful snow white. The breast was a yellow orange color and a little bit of a brilliant red showed from under the wing. Renita grabbed the binoculars while I fumbled through the bird book. "Look, there's another and another. A whole flock is in the tree", she exclaimed. "Oh, look at the long tail", she added.
We left the coast and drove to Choke Canyon State Park, a short trip of only 110 miles. We had wanted to return here after our brief stay last fall, when we saw quite a few new birds including vermilion flycatchers. Arriving, we lucked out and got one of the best sites in the park, site 127. We were on the lake front and were surrounded by water on two sides of our fifth wheel.
That afternoon we relaxed at our site, before going to the seventy six acre lake for some birding and for a relaxing walk,(the lake is a large pond next to the main lake). Our first walk was along the short path, by the boat ramp. A few birds were wading at the waters edge, including a common moorhen, which was a new bird for our list.
"Look at the alligators", Renita exclaimed! Across the pond was the biggest alligator we had ever seen,(A fellow camper told us the gator had been measured at 14 feet). No wonder we had been greeted by the no swimming signs!
A nutria swam by us and waded to shore, feeding on the vegetation. At first we thought it was a beaver but the tail was wrong. It turned out to be our first nurtia and we saw another on another path.
Driving a bit further we walked on a dike that separated the main lake from the pond. Gadwalls and blue teal fed while a white ibis and a white faced ibis both preened themselves while standing on a log. Below us a family was fishing for catfish and had a huge stringer full of nice fish!
Returning home for dinner we ate and talked when Renita noticed a bird landing in the tree next to the window. You probably already guessed the bird, it was a scissor tailed flycather, showing off it's breeding plumage. A real treat, even though we had already got one on our life list.
That evening I talked with our neighbor, who had a bass boat and was putting on new tackle. I asked him about the fishing and he said he had caught two bass over eight pounds! Oh my.
The next morning a front rolled in and it started to rain. As southeast Texas was in a drought, we couldn't complain. A boat fished for bass in the bay in front of our rear window, A girl caught and released a nice catfish, hmmmmmm.
The next day, I took two poles and cast out some peeled shrimp. It didn't take long before my pole started to move lake ward and I was rewarded with a nice size catfish. Another wait and I added another to my stringer Oh my, one more and its catfish for dinner! A smaller fish bit and then the two largest fish of the morning. A nice mess,(the limit here is twenty five fish a day with two days limit being a possession limit). The wind switched to the north, the cold front had arrived. Time for lunch so I took the fish and cleaned them.
It rained for the next three days, I still fished and caught more catfish and turtles. We birded out the back window of our house and got another new bird, a black-necked stilt. Not bad for birding from the house! All in all Choke Canyon State Park met our expectations again! Clear skies.

Monday, March 9, 2009

THe Surfs Roar

You read about the roaring surf, but until you feel the sound against your body you just won't understand. Closing your eyes the sound is so loud that you swear you are surrounded by water, yet you are reclining on you beach chair and dry. Sometimes reading can take you there and sometimes not.
For the past week we have been at our old favorite, Mustang Island State park and the surf has been a constant background noise. The week has been a goodbye to the Texas coast, a week full of shelling and fishing and listening to the roar of the surf.
Our morning is filled with an early walk on the beach. The shelling has been the best ever at low tide as the large surf has brought in a lot of shells and every morning it is different. The key is to get out there first and beat the other beachcombers. The first morning the beach was covered with Portuguese man-o-wars, the next translucent jelly fish followed by a morning with sea weed washed ashore in rows.
As we walk we find large cockleshells and sand dollars. The best morning was yesterday. We found four and the largest sand dollar yet.
We spent three days in Port Aransas, I fished the jetty with George and Gary and Dave while Renita spent two of the days shopping with Val and a third day watching the dolphins. The fishing for sheepshead has been great, with the usual loss of lots of tackle to the rocks. Renita has now been to every shop in the Port and has enjoyed her time with her new friend Val.
The campground has been full each night as spring break has arrived, and yet we are insulated from the spring breakers. It's happening on the beach camping, not here, as Texas bans public drinking in state parks.
And so our week draws to a close, but there is still time to sign off and take one last walk on the beach, before heading inland for birding at Choke Canyon State park. Clear skies.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leaving Winter Camp at Rockport

With both a mixture of sadness and excitement we leave from our winter spot at Rockport, Texas. Sadness, as we leave the many new friends we made here, until we meet again, and excitement as the road beckons and the, "Hitch itch",(A condition where the rver wants to get the fifth wheel hitched up and hit the road), sets in.
Our stay here has been the longest stop for the past two years and the people here have made us welcome. George and Val. Wayne and Betty, Dave and Jane, Charles and Jane, Pete and Werna, Loretta and Mike, Jim and Linda, Lannie and Judy. The list could go on and on. To all of you thanks for the memories. We look forward to seeing you again, next winter, or as a chance encounter on our travels.
Perhaps it can be all summed up in the pictures above, at one of the Happy Hour fish fries, put on by Wayne and Betty.
But the road beckons and pulls us toward it. Our first leg is about a mile as we plan to Wallydock as we wait overnight for an appointment for routine maintenance on our fifth wheel. Then a week at Mustang Island, and Choke Canyon, and an Escapees Rally at San Antonio, and then of course Grand Isle.
From there our route is north by northeast. Mike and Loretta mentioned the Natchez Trace and so we will go that way. Perhaps Niagara Falls, most definitely Connecticut as we hope to see Mike, Mona, Yasmeen, and Louise. It's been to long. From there the Upper Peninsula calls us. Minnesota and Jenny, North Dakota all call to our soul, before we return to Wyoming. Safe travel to all and many thanks to our new and old friends. Clear skies