Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sam Houston Jones State Park

On January 25, we made the drive and ferry ride to Sam Houston Jones SP, that is just north of Lake Charles, Louisiana. In my last entry I forgot to mention something we saw that was interesting. As we took the ferry ride from Galveston Island to Port Bolivar, we crossed the Houston Ship channel. This is the entry to the port of Houston. Out to our right there we a number of large oil tankers, just sitting there at anchor. I have been told that these ships are full of oil. As we all know, there is an excess of oil right now. There is so much of an excess that the oil companies have run out of places to store it. They have resorted to filling the tankers and using them as storage.

A few oil tankers at anchor just off Galveston
 We were looking for a stop about half way to New Orleans. Looking at our options we decided to stay at Sam Houston Jones SP. It is not far off of I 10, and sounded like an interesting place to hang out for a couple of days. We ended up staying three days.

After arriving and getting set up, I decided to check out the many hiking trails in the park. This area had some heavy rain over the past few days.

There were water puddles all over the campground, but the roads were paved and fine. 
The walking trail was a bit wet, but it was a nice walk along the river that runs through the park.

Calcasieu River
The trail was paved with crushed stone for part of the way making it OK to ride bikes on it.

Nice Trail and nice scenery
I ended up walking along the river for about 2 miles. I did not see any interesting birds, but the cypress trees are cool to look at.

They call Louisiana the "Sportsman Paradise". These guys are taking advantage of that.
On the 26th, it rained most of the day. I decided to take advantage of day by getting my oil changed in the truck. The last time I had the oil changed, we were is Sequim, Washington. It seems like forever ago.

On the 27th, I decided to go for a longer walk. I chose the longest walk in the park. There were wooden bridges and walkways constructed along the trail to keep you out of the wetlands.

The blue blaze on this tree was the primary trail markings.
I ended up walking over 5 miles. I really enjoyed the walk and felt good about the accomplishment. 

While I was was out walking, we got an RVillage message from our neighbor in the campground. Mike and Jodie are full timers and were parked right next to us. They were going to have a campfire in the evening and invited us to join them. Kim forgot and took a shower and did not want to get smokey, so I went over and was social for the evening. I really enjoyed our time talking about life on the road and sharing experiences. It was a very pleasant evening. Kim did meet Mike and Jodie the next day before we left. They have only been on the road for about 4 months, so it is all new to them. We are beginning to feel like the old pro's. It is great to talk to people that understand our lifestyle. It really reminds us of what we love about the way we live. 

I had to grab this shot as I went out to enjoy the campfire.

From there it was on to the New Orleans area. Come back to see if we were able to stay out of jail. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Galveston Island

We arrived on Galveston Island on January 20th. We had to be a bit careful because we did not want to be seen by Kim's uncle Kenny. His surprise birthday party was not until the 23rd and we would have a hard time explaining our presence.

We spent the first few days at the SP enjoying the beach when the weather allowed. We had a warm day followed by some colder days with some very strong winds. We had gusts of over 50 mph. This was the same storm that dumped all of the snow out east over last weekend.

I did get out for my daily walks. Some days I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and other days I was in a hoodie with a coat over that with a stocking cap and gloves. That is just the way the weather is on the Texas coast this time of year. The good news is no freezing weather. It is just so much easier living in an RV when we don't have to worry about freezing up.

Some days, I walked on the beach and one day I walked on the bay side. Galveston Island SP has extensive trails around the salt marshes and small lakes on the bay side of the highway. Here are a few pictures:

You can barely see one of the wildlife viewing towers in the distance.
This is an abnormal picture. The tide was as low as I have ever seen it. It even exposed the sand bar just off the beach. This was caused by the strong north winds.
On Saturday night we went to Kenny's party. He was completely surprised. My pictures did not turn out well. I had played with some settings and they came out blurry.

Here is a shot of Kim and her uncle Kenny.
The party was held at the Lighthouse organization building. This group, which Kenny is a part of, provides help with charity events and also feeds people in need in times of need, like after Hurricane Ike a few years ago. They have an extensive inventory of vehicles and cooking equipment. We all got the tour of the place and then had a nice shrimp and gumbo dinner.

I have been a member of this family for 36 years now. I have come to really appreciate the entire Wegner family, but especially Kenny. He is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He has always been so nice and welcoming to me. I just love the guy! It was great to see him and spend some time with him and his family.

We also had a gathering at Kenny's son Mike's house on Tiki Island on Sunday. Many came over for breakfast, but then had to leave to head home. We ended up staying all day and watching football games.

Shot of Kenny's son Bobby, Nephew Tim, that came all the way from Washington State and myself.

This is a shot of all cousins in descending age order. Sadly a few were missing.
Amber came all the way from Washington State with her daughter Emma.
We had a great time, but on Monday January 25, it was time to move on. Kim and I took one last walk on the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day with temps about 70.

We Left Galveston by way of the ferry over to Bolivar. This allowed us to totally miss Houston traffic on this trip. And the good news is that Texas ferries are free!

Our rig on the Bolivar Ferry.
We saw a few dolphins while we were on the ferry ride.

Kim was born on Galveston Island. She loves it there. I have come to love it also, It is just a special place to both of us. In less than a year we have both visited the place of our birth. I am not sure of why that is important to us, but it just is. We love our family and that is one of the big reasons we love this lifestyle so much.

Onward into Louisiana.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Keeping Secrets...

It has been about a week since I last made a blog post. We have been very busy with family stuff. I have also had to be careful to not write about where we were going because we were all keeping a secret.

Kim's family is having a surprise 80th birthday party for her Uncle Kenny. Kenny lives on Galveston Island. The objective of the first leg of this trip was to make it to his birthday party. The party was on January 23rd and it as expected to be a large family gathering. Kim and I love family gatherings. For many years, I missed many family gatherings because of work requirements, I love the fact that I now get to attend.

Before I get into the party, I need to catch up on a few happenings before we left Goose Island.

On January 18th, we made the drive and ferry ride over to Port Aransas. This is a small beach community where Kim's sister Erin, and her husband John lives. They just moved into a new home and we were looking forward to checking it out. It is a really nice home that is on the bay side of the island, very close to the ferry landing. I had the opportunity to play some wii with their daughter Halle and then we played a game called "Crimes Against Humanity". Their adult daughter Daisy joined us for that game. Let's just say it was interesting? The house is very nice and we really enjoyed dinner and the visit.

January 19th was our anniversary. I talked about what it meant to me in a post last week, but on the actual day, we just relaxed and had a fairly normal day. We did go out to dinner, but that was about it for abnormal. We went to dinner at a place call "Moondog Seaside Eatery" it was a cool place with a large deck with an open wall looking out into the bay.

The food was OK, but not great. We enjoyed sitting and talking and looking out at the boats in the marina. Kim commented that she really preferred when we ate at home. I agree. I love to cook and I really think I can cook food that tastes just as good and it is much less expensive. How is that for being full of myself. It was a nice compliment. It may also speak to the fact that we are cheap.

They had some funny chairs that we both had to try out. It was pretty appropriate that I selected the back side of a horse.

After dinner we went for a walk on the pier at the campground. It was a beautiful evening. Two fish had been caught on the pier. They were large black drum. One was 42 inches. Kim enjoyed the fact that both had been caught by women. Maybe I should just let her do the fishing in the family. 

Here is a shot looking from the pier back to our campsite. 
We ended up spending 8 days at Goose Island. We had a real mixed bag of weather. We had some beautiful 70+ degree days and we had some 40 degree days with wind and rain. The good news is no freezing weather. 

On January 20, it was time to move on. We decided to drive through rural coastal bend Texas to get to Galveston Island. We drove right by the South Texas Nuclear project. My family knows the significance of the project to us. 

  The drive was cool with no traffic and only very small towns. We crossed over the bridge on the far west end of Galveston Island. I was blown away by the amount of development since the last time I was down on that end of the island. It was solid beach homes on stilts all the way to the State Park. The Galveston Island State Park is one of the few sections of the gulf side of the island that is now undeveloped. I just hope a large hurricane does not make a direct hit on the west end of the island. The damage would be catastrophic. They built a 13 foot high seawall on the east end of the island for a reason. The west end does not have that protection. The good news is few of the houses are permanent residences, most are beach houses for the affluent in Houston and other parts of Texas. 

It was really good to see the open gulf again. 
Here is a shot of some of the development along the beach. 
I will write more about our visit to Galveston and the family gatherings in my next post. I should have some time to write in the next couple of days. We are now in Lake Charles, Louisiana and it is raining and cool. (I can't say it is cold. The temps here are about 50, but that is warm compared to my friends up north)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Paddling Adventure - Goose Island State Park

As most of you know we added our Sea Eagle 420X inflatable kayak this past year. I called it then our LEV (Life Enhancement Vehicle). I have no idea how many times we have pulled it out of the truck, inflated it and then went on an adventure. Each time we do, something interesting happens. There is almost always a totally different perspective of a place available only from the water looking back to land. I would highly recommend to any person that likes to travel adding a boat to enhance your experience.

Just after we arrived at Goose Island, we inflated the boat and took it out to cruise around on the flat water. Just as we got out to the end of the pier, we had dolphins all around us. They were surfacing as close as 20 feet from the boat. It was an awesome experience.

Dolphin surfacing very near our boat.
That day was kind of cool and the wind came up after a while and we headed back to camp. We did not put the boat away and just slid it under the rig and waited for another opportunity.

On January 15, the opportunity presented itself. The wind was almost zero and the sun was out. It was around 70 degrees. We were thinking about a short trip out to some of the shell islands just off the end of the pier. We headed out there and took a few pictures of many birds including White Pelicans on the islands.

The end of the pier from the water.

Some of the barrier islands had smoke coming up off of them from controlled burns. 
White Pelicans and a few other birds
It is here that I need to make a confession. We have a problem when we go on a hike, a paddle or just about any other type of outing. We have a tendency to overdo it. We seem to get lost in the moment and when we think about going on. We seem to have a strong interest in what is around that next corner and neither of us has learned how to say no. We looked at the inward side of the bay and we thought we could make a loop around the island. We would have to get under a very low bridge, but once we did that, we were good to circumnavigate the island.

As we paddled, we had to watch for oyster beds. We hit one and later saw a small scrape on the boat, but no real damage. We then found out that there was a marked channel. We stayed in that for a while and then found what looked like a way to go around the end of the island. It was actually a lake and had no outlet. The cool thing is that there were tons of fish in the lake. As we paddled we could see them scatter in every direction. I was wishing I had a fishing pole and a license. We paddled to the far end of the lake and there was still no outlet. I assessed our situation and determined the best answer was a portage over the last 50 feet of the island to get to the open water. We both got out of the boat and carried it a short distance and then relaunched it. It all turned out fine. We paddled back in the direction of our camp along a rock breakwater. This is where I saw the birds I put in my previous post.

Still not sure what kind of birds those are.
As you can see in the pictures, the day was still beautiful with no wind. I pulled out my phone and fired up google maps. We had already paddled about 3 miles and we had about 2 miles to get back to camp. We paddled and rested and paddled and rested for what felt like a long time. The scenery was awesome and we saw many more birds and fish. We made it back to camp before dark. We were both a bit tired, but it was an excellent adventure.

We really need to be more prepared for long trips whenever we go anywhere. We did not bring enough water or food, but it was still fun and the uncertainty of the outcome is fun (for me).

Our plans for the rest of this trip is getting more defined. We have had some family items that have contributed to us actually making reservations and doing some other things we don't normally do. I will get into all of that in future entries.

Go out for an adventure today, you never know how it will work out.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2 Anniversaries

I wrote at the end of my last entry, that I would write about a great paddling adventure that Kim and I went on. Well, I lied. That will be in my next post. (hopefully) I write when I am inspired and today, I am inspired to write about the topic of this post.

This will be different than most of my posts. This one will be somewhat philosophical and retrospective. If you find it interesting, that is great. The intended reader of this entry is mainly my future self. I like to establish a marker to create context that helps establish how I am thinking at this point in my life. I find it interesting how my minds changes with time and how what I have and take for granted today, may not be possible in the future.

The title is "2 Anniversaries". Each one is a milestone that causes me to reflect and to appreciate the life that I have.

Kim, doing what she does. Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

#1 is the 36th Anniversary of our marriage. It is hard to imagine life without Kim. She and I are a great team. We are so proud of the children we have raised and the adults they have become. The amazing thing is that we both have an understanding that this is the best time of our lives. A family member asked us both, "What was the most peaceful time in your life?". We did not consult with each other or even look at each other, we both simultaneously answered "Right Now!" We love the lack of pressure to do anything and the freedom to choose our daily activities at this point in our lives. We have lived life without that freedom and it is only with that experience that we can appreciate our life now.

2015 was an amazing year. We visited 20 National Parks and traveled all over the western US. We spent some high quality time in New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. I am asked on a regular basis to choose my favorite place. My answer is always the same, "All of it!"

7 Waterfalls at Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Doing all of that traveling by myself would be an empty experience. What really makes it great is the wonderful life partner I have to share it with. I Love you Kim! and I love our life together.

Enough of that mushy stuff.

#2 is the 2nd Anniversary of my retirement from work. When I retired, I was not sure about my future. I had dreamed of what it would be like for a long time, but only now am I understanding what I want to do in the future. The great news is that I get to start with an almost empty palette to begin the painting of the future. I have very few things that I have to do and almost all of those are things that I want to do.

We are clearly in the third stage of retirement. The third stage is "routine". Periodically, the euphoria stage comes back and puts that stupid grin on my face, but for the most part I just go on with the daily routine.  We have a pretty fantastic routine that really works for both of us.

The future will be filled with time with our family first. We love to spend time with every member of our families and value that time immensely. Some times family time can get emotional, but that is not bad. I love an honest and open discussion of differing beliefs.

Time with family is awesome. Near Olympic National Park, Washington

Our time will also be filled with travel. We love to see new places and fantastic sites, but mostly we just love the rhythm of the road and the daily routine while we are on the road. It really is all about the journey. Many times in our travel the journey is much more enjoyable and fulfilling than the destination.

We just found this place. Holland Lake, Montana

We will also spend some time each spring and fall in Missouri. We love that time of year in the Ozarks. That time allows us to reset and spend some quality time with our children and grand children. I also get to spend some time with motivated young people that are working hard to improve at a sport that is one of the truest tests of endurance and toughness I have ever found. I have come to really appreciate the time we spend at the ranch.

I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I am in a pretty good place right now.

I hope and pray that anyone that reads this finds the same level of love and happiness in their life.

Here's to another year of living free and exploring the beauty of all that surrounds us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Goose Island State Park

We arrived at Goose Island State Park on January 12. As I said in my previous post, this is the second time we have been at this SP. We liked it so much last year, and it was right on our path, so we decided to spend some time at Goose Island.

My plan had been to just go directly south out of DFW and hit a few parks in south central Texas. I am so glad we changed plans and went further south and west. The weather man today talked about a cold front that was bringing very cold weather to the center part of the country. The good news for us is it will stay just north of us and we will stay in the 60's and 70's all week.

We were here last year in mid February. The fishing was good and we met a number of other folks while we were here. This year has been much different. The fishing has been terrible. Nobody on t he pier has been catching anything. I have not even fished the last few days.

I have been getting out each day for some exercise. I usually take a 3 mile walk in the morning. There are nice views around the park including the pier, which is over a quarter of a mile long.

There is a boat ramp in the middle of the park. A number of air boats run charters out of here. They do some fishing and duck hunting in the land around the Aransas Wildlife Refuge. 

They are kind of loud when they come in or go out, but they are gone pretty quickly.

There is a nature walk out through the live oaks. I really like the beautiful old trees.

It is cool to see the palm trees and the other indications that we are on the gulf coast.

The park is full of wildlife viewing areas. You can make a walk out of just going from one to the other. You can also see many wading birds including Herons, Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans and Roseate Spoonbills in just about any pond along the shore. No great pictures, but here is the best I could get. Say hello to Mr. Pelican:

A Roseate Spoonbill:

A Great Egret in flight:

Here is one more bird shot that I have not been able to identify yet. I love the orange beak and eyes.

I will end this entry here. I have much more to write about from here at Goose Island SP, but I will save that for my next post. I will tell you that Kim and I went on what we will call the great paddling adventure. We got a little nervous, but it all worked out fine in the end. I will tell the full story next time. For now, I will end with one of our awesome sunsets at the beautiful place.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Palmetto State Park

We left Lockhart SP on Friday, January 8. We rarely travel on Friday's, but Lockhart was full for the weekend. We looked around and found Palmetto SP, just a few miles away. We were not ready for a big travel day, so a 25 mile trip sounded good to us.

Check out time was 2PM, so our normal slow start was slower than normal. We finally got going around 1. We made the short drive over to Palmetto SP and settled in at site #8. It was a very nice site at the end of the loop, which normally would mean a bit more quiet.

Normally did not apply in this case. We had two young families that knew each other move in across and next to us. We are not accustomed to having that many kids running and playing along with loud music right around the rig. We really like to see families out enjoying camping and we really don't mind the noise. We were there at one time, we get it. It was just different to all of the peace and quiet we normally experience. It really didn't matter, I was watching football all weekend anyway.

We saw a small oxbow lake in the park and it looked like there may be fish in it. We took the boat out and went for a paddle and I made a few casts. No luck on the fishing, but it was a very relaxing outing. Here are a few shots around the lake:

We saw a Blue Heron and a few other birds and a few turtles.

It was fun, but the lake was kind of small to get a real good workout. Paddling is a good alternative workout to walking and biking. Some times the old legs get a bit sore and could use a day off. 

The park has a few miles of bike/walking trails out through the swamps. This area is very swampy because of some artisan springs. They just bubble up out of the ground. Some have a slight sulfur smell, but not bad. The San Marcos river also flows right through the park. In low water you can cross the river, but the crossing was too high and slippery for us to try. 

I did a bunch of hiking and biking the 4 days we were at Palmetto. This is a great way to get out and see the wildlife and the beautiful live oaks. Here is a shot of the signature Palmetto plants:

Here is one of the many biking/hiking trails. They are all crushed stone and have a number of wood swamp crossings that are fund to jump. I really enjoyed my daily workouts while we were at Palmetto SP. 

This SP has a CCC history and like many Texas parks, was built in the 1930's. You can see the signature rock construction on some of the buildings:

On Sunday we went into Gonzales to go to church and hit the Walmart. We were able to buy Diesel for $1.54 per gallon. That is the lowest price we have seen since we have been traveling. 

There is a large white building just across the street from the headquarters of the SP. 

This is the now closed Warm Springs rehabilitation center. This was opened in the 1930's also and was built to help people that were stricken with Polio. This was as large as the famous warm springs in Georgia, but this one allowed people of all races and creeds to come in and soak in the springs. The place operated until about 10 years ago, but is now closed. 

As is usual, after the weekend, everyone left and the place was quiet. We decided to stay an extra day and enjoy the quiet. Then this bus pulled in with a very large family. We were trying to count kids and were guessing around 8. I spoke with one of the older children later and he told me that they have 15. 15 that travel in a bus and home school. That must be the definition of chaos. Here is a shot of their rig:

The kids were very well behaved and we really never heard them. 

Here is one more shot that I took of this Live Oak hanging over the lake. I just liked this shot.

On Tuesday, we decided to do something that we rarely do. We decided to go stay at a place we have been before. We loved Goose Island SP last year and decided to go back and spend another week or so on the coast. We will stay on the Gulf coast much of the rest of our trip. Come back to read my next entry and see if I can end my fishing drought.