Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tour of Southern Louisiana State Parks

I am writing this entry on Sunday, January 21. It has been a busy week since my last entry about our time in the Houston area. We were sitting at Bayou Bend on Saturday morning when we got a text from some god friends that we have made on the road. The last time we saw them was two years ago in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They were planning to be in New Orleans at the end of the week and asked if we wanted to join them. We quickly said yes and set our plans to make that happen. Or at least that was the plan.

We left Bayou Bend RV resort on Sunday and drove about 90 miles to Sam Houston Jones SP near Lake Charles, Louisiana. We have stayed at this park before and really like the park. It was Sunday of the MLK holiday weekend and the weather was nice, so the park was busy with families camping.

Busy campground with plenty of families enjoying the holiday weekend. 
We love to see families in the campground. We just hung out in the rig the rest of Sunday and watched the football games. I still can't get over the finish of the Vikings-Saints game. We planed to leave on Monday, but decided to take a walk on a beautiful day. We ended up hiking about 2 miles on the river trail. There are over 10 miles of trails in the park. I had walked most of them on our previous visit. The park is built in a swamp along a river. There are beautiful Cypress trees and lots of birds.

There are some very nice homes built on the far side of the river.

I took a few bird pictures, but none of them are worth publishing. We looked at the weather and saw that a major cold front was coming in the next day, so we hitched up and decided to move further east. We chose Palmetto Island SP near Abbeville. We wanted to go to see the Acadian Museum. I have read about the people that moved to the area and wanted to learn more. The weather was perfect when we arrived at Palmetto Island. There were about 5 rigs in this beautiful park. We knew the weather was coming in, so we went for another walk. Two in one day for Kim and I, that has to be a record.

This lake was right by our site. 
We really like Louisiana SP's. The are reasonably priced and have free washers and dryers.

I kind of liked this little black bird.
The storm came in as expected and we found out our friends were not going to make it to New Orleans due to closed roads. This part of Louisiana has bridges all over the place and when it freezes, it gets ugly. We had temps down in the teens and an inch of ice and snow. It was much worse just a few miles north. We never made it to the museum. 

Not often you see ice on a Palmetto
We ended up having to extend our stay to 3 nights at Palmetto Island. We spent most of the time hunkered down in the rig staying warm. I did take one long hike, but it was cold. We really wanted to do the paddling trail, but it was just too cold. 

We left Palmetto Island on January 18th. We waited until around 1 PM to leave to ensure our tanks could be dumped. We drove north to I-10 only to find that it was still closed. We had planned on getting to New Orleans and staying in a park just north of the lake, but that was not going to work. Kim did an excellent job researching on her phone on the fly and we switched our destination to Bayou Signette SP, just to the west of New Orleans. We made it just before dark. We had to switch sites due to the first one being very unlevel, but we were still settled before dark. 

The following day, January 19, was our 38th anniversary. I got up and went for a long bike ride. We then went out for an early dinner and then just relaxed for the rest of the day. I did get some wildlife pictures right from our site. 

This Coyote just came strolling through our site.
Then this beautiful hawk stopped by for a visit. He just sat there while I took about 10 shots. I think it is a Cooper's Hawk, but I am not sure. 

We made plans with our friends to meet up in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Another couple that we met back in 2015 in Texas are staying in Gulf Shores for the winter. We are looking forward to seeing everyone. It looks like we are back to normal weather for the south for the next couple of weeks. We are ready to stay warm. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Houston Supercross

As most of the people that read this blog know, I am kind of into off-road motorcycle racing. The most well known of the different types of racing is Supercross. This is where the bikes and riders compete on a closed course with large jumps and other obsticles in a stadium. The biggest Professional Series is called the Monster Energy Supercross. They have a 16 race series held at some of the largest stadiums around the country. The teams race 16 out of 17 weeks each winter/spring. I love to go watch the best riders in the world competing in the comfort of football stadium. This year is especially interesting because of a number of reasons. I will not go into why because my readers that follow the sport know all about the major story lines and the ones that don't care, well, they don't care.

Let me say now, MOM, this is NOT the type of riding I do. I did an amateur form of this type of riding when I was young and more stupid than I am now, but now I ride on trails in the woods.

NRG Stadium - Home of the Houston Texans of the NFL

We left Hanks Creek Park on January 12 and drove the 90 miles south to Baytown, Texas. I had made reservations (yes, reservations) at Bayou Bend RV Resort. BB is a nice new park. It is a Passport America park and was $25 after the 50% discount. It left us 37 miles to the NRG Stadium on the south side of Houston. We were able to totally bypass the Houston traffic with the rig. I did not take any pictures of the park, but all the pads and roads were concrete and the entire place is not very old. The only problem is we were about 100 yards from I-10, making the road noise significant.

I was very excited when we got up on Saturday. Kim was...well, willing to go along. One thing I like about going to a race is that they have the pits open from 12 to 6 and they have qualifying going on at the same time. So, you can go check out the team haulers and even meet some of the riders and get autographs. Then, you can go watch the fast guys try to get the best qualifying times for best gate pick and the slower guys try to make the show. The top 40 make the night program in each of the two classes (450 and 250).

My favorite, Team Red Bull KTM
Monster Energy Kawasaki team. Last years runner up Eli Tomac's Bike #3
Is that a beautiful motorcycle or what?
I tried to take a few shots of the guys riding the track, but you just can't do them justice without using video.

#25 Marvin Musquin of Team KTM
You can click on this link to get a video I shot track side during qualifying practice.

Houston Supercross Qualifying

The race was good except my favorite rider got hurt in the first heat race and did not ride the main event. #21 - Jason Anderson riding a Husqvarna won the race on the 450's. #23 -Aaron Plessinger won the 250 race. I had a great time.

With this event crossed of the list, we were now heading east. Come back to see where we go next.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hanks Creek COE - Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas

We left Oak Park on January 9. We decided to make one more stop before going into the Houston area. We selected another COE park on a lake. Notice a pattern here?

We selected Hanks Creek Park on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas. The drive was about 170 miles. We went more East than south, but it was a nice drive through the East Texas piney woods. I have been having a strange issue with the truck, so that creates a little anxiety, but I don't think it is a major issue. I will write more about that as I do some troubleshooting.

We were a bit surprised to find that the park's office was closed for the winter. There are volunteers working in the park, but they just do maintenance. I talked to one nice lady and she told me to just go on the website or call the toll free number to get a site. We had very weak cell signal, but I was able to get a call through. We waited on hold for over 30 minutes. I decided to just move into a spot and hope they would eventually get on the phone. They did, and we got set up for 3 nights. Kim really liked one site that was right along the lake (She is still all about the view), but there were some guys with a cherry picker working in the area trimming trees. She went to ask them if it was OK, and they said, "no problem".

The site was $26 per night with 30 amp and water. We had a few TV channels and very weak Verizon cell signal. We were out on a point jutting out into the lake. We had no signal in most of the rest of the campground. We were the only rig in this part of the campground. We loved it!

I went for a long bike ride around the park and neighboring roads. It looks like a nice quiet lakeside community.

After the bike ride, I decided to take full advantage of the day and go for a walk with the camera. The forecast for the next day was for rain and wind. I had walked for about 100 yards when I noticed two large birds at the top of a tree. I thought the profile was that of an Eagle, but I moved closer to be sure. Sure enough it was a mating pair of Bald Eagles. They look to be young, but had the distinctive white head and tail. I did not have the best lighting, but I did the best I could. This is the reason I was excited about this camera that my son is allowing me to use.

As I moved closer, one flew off, but the other stayed for a bit longer and let me take a few more shots.
One Eagle taking flight

It was an awesome experience. I love Eagles, and this photo session was special. I did get a shot of what I think is their nest.

The rain came as expected the following day. We stayed inside and just read. I have not taken some time and just read a book since the last time we were on the road in May. It does not take too long to settle into the "rhythm of the road". We were in a very good place.

We got up on Friday the 12th to temps about freezing. We waited for a bit of warming and then headed south to Baytown, Texas. Why would we go to Baytown? I will tell you in our next entry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Time to Relax – Oak Park, Navarro Mills Lake

Many people think that “Relaxing" is what we do all of time. That, for the most part is true, but we have been very busy since we left the ranch. It was a fun busy visiting with family, but we were ready for some down time. We love to find a quiet, empty park in a natural setting and do very little. Kim likes to read and I do a lot of blog stuff and go for hikes. This time, I have an added thing to enjoy. Our son Mark has allowed me to use his Nikon D3400 DSLR camera with two lenses on this trip. He traded with me for the GoPro that he bought for me. This has given me a much better camera to shoot wildlife and other natural features.

This guy even posed for me
We arrived to Oak Park on Navarro Mills lake mid afternoon after a 90 mile drive. We were just looking for a COE park that was not too far and looked like would be empty this time of year. We were greeted by very friendly camp hosts that have been full timing for a long time. I think there were 4 sites occupied when we arrived. We drove the loop and Kim chose site 48. It had the best views of the lake out our back window.

Our view behind the rig
I was ready to walk all over the area taking pictures. The variety of birds was excellent. I had fun with the zoom lens.


Cedar Waxwings
Mallard Duck taking flight
We ended up staying 6 nights. Kim read 5 books and I watched countless football games and caught up on a number of blogs and paid the bills. We really enjoyed our time at the park. On the last day we decided to take a drive to hit the Walmart in Corsicana and take a drive around town. I did not bring the big camera, but I took a few with my phone. It is a historic town that is the county seat of Navarro County.  
Cool street of old buildings
Court House of Navarro County

Christmas Tree right in the middle of the street
Beautiful United Methodist Church
We extended our stay twice. We really loved this little park, but it was time to move south. Another cold front was coming and we need to be in Houston by Friday. We made reservations and everything! 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Happy 80th Birthday Mom

Kim and I are very lucky people. We both have both of our parents still alive. The reality of that fact is that we have parents that are getting up there in years. The fun part of that is getting together to celebrate milestones in their lives. When we left Missouri, we had a timeline because of my mother's 80th birthday on December 29. My brothers and I had planned to celebrate this milestone with a night on the town.

The only bad thing about the night was that my youngest brother, Bob could not attend. We did have Alan and Denise, Brian and Julie and Kim and myself. We started the evening with an early dinner at the clubhouse at the community that my brother Alan lives in. We had a nice dinner, but Mom and Dad had no idea what we had planned for the rest of the evening.

Yep, that is me wearing a tie. There is only one person in the world would wear a tie for. Alan's oldest daughter, Erin and son Colby joined us for dinner. 

Just my three brothers and my Mom and Dad. 
When we arrived back at my brothers house, the limo was waiting for us. My Mom was giddy with excitement.

We all fit, but it was a bit tight. 
We headed out to Irving. We went to see The Manhiem Steamroller Show.

It was a very good show. I really like to listen and watch live music. I think the night was a success. Mom and Dad enjoyed the show and we enjoyed the time together. A special thanks to Alan for doing all of the planning and Denise for most of the pictures in this post.

We did get in a few more visits while we were in the DFW area with both my brothers and with Kim's parents. Phase one of this trip was complete.

We left the Benbrook park on January 3. We had to wait until after noon to leave to let our rig thaw a bit. We were not able to dump the galley, but we got the grey water in the front tank dumped. We moved about 90 miles south to Oak Park on Navarro Mills lake. We were able to get the back tank dumped when we arrived. It was 50 degrees. That was the first time we had seen above freezing temps in 4 days. We have really enjoyed our time at Oak Park. I will write all about that in my next entry.

Friday, January 5, 2018

On the road again

We left the ranch in Missouri on December 21, 2017. We were very ready to move. We only went 60 miles to Ozark, Missouri. We invited ourselves to our daughter and SIL's house to moochdock in their driveway and enjoy the Christmas holiday with the family.

Our son Mark came down from KC on the 22nd. It was great to see him. We were sad to hear that our son Michael's youngest son, Cameron was sick and they were not able to make the trip. I also got a call from our son Scott. He was replacing the water pump in his truck and was having problems. I headed down to his place near Branson to give him a hand. We got it done and we also got to spend some quality time together. That worked out just fine. That night it got cold and we got a little bit of snow, so we can say we had a white Christmas.

Kim's sister's oldest son was on his way to Oklahoma for Christmas and stopped in Ozark for a night. It was great to see Ryan and his girl friend Cherida and daughter Cienna. We really enjoyed our time together.

Shannon, Amelia, Jake, Isabella, Will Cherida and Ryan playing spoons at Shannon's huge dinner table.
Kim, Mark and I decided to make the drive down to see Michael and his family. We went down on the 23rd and just stayed one night. Michael just moved into a new house a few weeks before. We had gone down to help him move, so we had seen the new house, but Mark had not seen it yet. Michael's wife Audrey did a great job with the decorating and the place looked great.

Michael and Cameron cutting loose his new tractor
Connor and Cameron opening presents
We arrived back at Shannon's on Christmas eve just in time to make the Christmas Vigil mass. After church, Brian, Mark, Brian's BIL Jimmie and I read Christmas stories to the kids. 

Me reading to the group. I chose the original Christmas story.
Me and Will. I just like this shot by Mark.
Isabella and Amelia
We all went to bed and waited for the kids to wake us up on Christmas morning. We had a very traditional Christmas day of opening presents and playing games. It was great to be part of it this year. We missed it last year.

Chaos on Christmas morning. Just the way we like it.
We played a crazy game where you wrap up prizes in celophane wrap and try to unwrap it. It got a bit wild.
The kids then played with all of the new toys.

Will playing with his new BB gun out in the snow. 
We were never able to get all of our kids in one place, but we did get to see all of our kids and grand kids and that is what it is all about. 

We left Shannon's on the 26th and headed south. Jake, Isabella and Will were going to spend some time with their father in Texas, so we decided to take them as far as Dallas. It was the first time we have traveled with the grand kids. It was fun and a little challenging. We made one stop in Eufaula, Oklahoma. We stayed at the Terra Starr RV park. It is very nice and with our Passport America discount was only $13 for full hook ups.

And then we made the drive through Fort Worth to Benbrook, Texas. We like to stay at the COE park called Holiday (Texas). It is a bit pricey at $28 per night with W/E, but the location is perfect to see all of the family. 

Huge site in Benbrook, TX in a grove of Live Oaks. The only problem is that we were frozen up most of the time we were there. Oh well, all part of the adventure. 
We had a very eventful time in the DFW area. I will write about it in my next entry.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I'm Back!!

I am making this entry on January 2. That is my “Freedom Day”, that I celebrate each year. That is the anniversary of the day I declared my plan to quit my job and start my new lifestyle. The rest of this was written a couple of weeks ago.

It has been over 5 months since I wrote my last entry. The rig has not moved since we arrived at the ranch around May 25. After arriving, we settled into life at the ranch and the surrounding area. The Springfield, Missouri area is where we have lived since 1992. It does not take long to reintegrate ourselves into society.

Our Site at the Ranch
First off, we both agree that we have had a very good time over the last 7 months. We have been able to spend a great deal of quality time with our grand children that live close by. We badly needed that. Kim has been watching our youngest grand child, Amelia a couple day each week. That requires her to make a 60 mile drive to Ozark, but the reward of some one on one time with the now 2 year old is worth it. She also stays one night and gets some time with the other 5 kids in that family. They are now very busy teens and sub teens, so it is not easy to get time with them. I have also made many trips over to spend time with all of the kids. We have also had them come out to spend time with us at the ranch.

Kim and Amelia enjoying breakfast

Kim and I with 7 Grandchildren and my bike
We have not been able to spend as much time with our grand children that live about three hours away in Arkansas, but we did get some time with them over the past few months.

Time at the ranch for us has been very busy. We were involved in 5 events over the last few months. That included 4 races and one rally. All of the events went well, but kept me very busy. Kim also helps out with the events on the weekend of the event. I spent weeks and weeks working on the trail set up and marking. It is hard work, and it can get frustrating, but I do enjoy it.

I have also spent a great deal of time working on my own riding. I have raced off road motorcycles for many years. When I retired and moved into our trailer, I thought I was done with all of that. When I got back here, I was motivated to do some riding. As I rode and got myself in shape, I felt very good on the bike and found myself pushing the speed more and more. I was riding 3-4 times a week for most of the 7 months that we were here. I was doing a bunch of riding with much younger riders. I really enjoyed that and it motivated me to keep up with some that are as young as 1/3 of my age. I have spent some time helping the newer riders with both riding and bike maintenance. I really do enjoy that. After doing all of that riding, I decided to test myself and enter a couple of races. I took home two second place trophies in the over 55 C class. I am pretty happy about that.

A shot taken of me riding through a creek bed. Shot by Carol Brooks
I had a good day. I actually got 2nd.
As I wrote in my last entry, we spent very little time at the lakes this past summer. I did get a little skiing in, but it seems this year was a motorcycle year.

I really enjoyed my time with my friends in this area. We even had some visitors from around the country. Some are friends that we made since we started traveling and one from my former work life.

My Friend Gordon driving my boat

I have wondered how much the problems with the rig last spring influenced our decision to stay here for all of this time. It may have, but I think we were just ready to get off the road for a while and spend time with family and friends. That is the beauty of this lifestyle, there are no rules, you get to do what feels right.

We are now ready to get back on the road for the winter months. We are very ready to get started. We will depart the ranch on Thursday, December 21.

I do not know if I will get inspired to write when we get back on the road. I have always had a rule about writing. I will not write if it becomes something that I do not enjoy. I have not written these past months because I feel that my life is too much like “normal” people. Most “normal” people don't write blogs, so why would anyone be interested in reading about my “normal” life? I have been very surprised how many people read what I write and have asked me to start writing again.

If you are still with me, Thanks for reading. We are now in the DFW area to see family. We are heading south from here. We have some new plans in Houston on January 13th that I am really looking forward to. We will then head to the SE US.