Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Salt Life

I am writing this entry on November 29. Yesterday, we left Padre Island National Seashore. We ended up spending 11 days in their campground. We enjoyed it immensely. It is a beautiful place, but not beauty like we have seen at many other National Parks around the western US. There are no large mountains to take pictures of, there is just the solitude and beauty of the unspoiled gulf coast.

There are few places in the country where the coast is undeveloped. Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the world. To drive or walk for miles and miles without seeing a single structure is something to treasure. Have I mentioned we LOVED this place. I can promise one thing, I will be back as often as I can for the rest of my life. The good news is that Kim loves this place as much as I do.

Many days, I would go out and try to capture the beauty of this place and I was just frustrated by my inability to do so. These pictures just do not do it justice.

The downside of staying at PINS is the salt air. Everything that is exposed metal will get surface rust. I used WD-40 to lubricate and protect things like the hitch, stabilizers and a few other things. You just have to be vigilant. I will also have to wash the entire rig including the under carriage after we leave the coast.

I spent a bunch of time fishing while at PINS. I talked to many other much more experienced fishermen and learned a bunch. I now know when to fish and when it is not as productive. I know what bait to use and what fish are good to eat and what are not. I did catch three keeper Whiting.  I had been told that they are not great eating, but that was not correct. They are actually one of the better eating fish you can catch down here. I must have caught about 100 that were too small to bother eating, but the three keepers made some excellent meals.

I really wanted to catch a large fish, but that did not happen. The largest fish I caught was a Gafftopsail catfish. It was about 24 inches and a good fighter. I did have to be careful getting it off the hook and returning it to the gulf. They have large spines. Unfortunately no pictures of that dude. I really wanted to catch a fish called a Pompano. They can get quite large and are great fighters and good to eat. I finally caught one, but it was too small.

I think I fished every day except one while we were at PINS. How is that for a tough life?

Thanksgiving came while we were at PINS. We were invited to go to Kim's Sisters house over in Port Aransas. We had a very nice day and it was great being with family on the holiday. On the way home that evening I was presented with a moral dilemma. As we were driving, I saw a box fall off of a car in front of us. As I approached the spot, I thought it was a tackle box. The car kept going into the night and did not seem to notice. I decided to stop and see what it was and indeed it was a tackle box full of fishing gear. I looked inside and found no identification. I guess I now have a new tackle box, but I really wish I could return it.

We have now moved on and I will write about our new home and surroundings in my next entry. It is just about time to leave the coast and head west, but we have a wedding to attend before we go.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Padre Island National Seashore

We left Goose Island SP on November 17. We drove about 80 miles through Corpus Christi in a fairly stiff breeze. I didn't mind because I was really looking forward to where we were going. We had been to Padres Island National Seashore one other time, but only stayed three days because the campground has no hookups and we did not have a good battery and solar set up. I was very eager to try out our new setup.

The campground is a first come/first served campground, but we were there by just after noon, so we were hoping for a good site. We scored site 9, which is the best site in the park in our opinion. Most of the sites are close together, but site 9 has a little space on the door side. This is still a tighter campground than we like, but the view out the back window makes up for it. We have found ourselves getting up early to see the sunrise.

We were planning to camp in the campground for a few nights and then move down to the beach. The campground is $8 per night ($4 if you have the senior pass). The beach is free camping. You can pick up the OTA TV stations from Corpus Christi, but the Verizon signal is weak at best. We could text, but phone calls will not work. In some ways the lack of communication adds to the experience of this place. We love it! This may go down as one of my all time favorite campgrounds. The first thing I noticed was the “vibe”. There is a totally different feel to the National Seashore in comparison to the SP's we have been staying in. The campground is full of people that like to live off the grid. It is just a different group than the RVers that want to have hookups. Everyone is very friendly without being overly so.

These two shots could be stitched together.

I came here to fish and I was happy to meet a number of other folks that were here to fish also. The surf fishing is very good this time of year and you can go to the back side of the island, that is a 4 mile drive away, and kayak and fish for trout.

The new battery and solar upgrade have worked very well. We do adjust the angle of the panel a couple of times each day to maximize the input, but that makes one panel enough. The advantage of more panels is you can just set them at one angle and forget them because the one time a day they are aimed perfectly, should be enough to recharge the batteries. We have only run our generator twice since we have been here. That was because I wanted to watch a football game on a cloudy day and my batteries got down to 75%. We leave a light on all evening and turn on what we need to without as much concern for running the batteries down. I may still add at least one additional panel, but we will see. I have talked to other Rvers in the campground that have solar systems and learned a few things from them.

I started the week with a few days of surf fishing. I really enjoy the fact that you could catch one of about 50 different species. It does become an issue to correctly identify what species you have and if it is edible or not. I have spent many hours in this pose.

We got in the truck and went down island. You can drive on the beach for 60 miles. We were looking at moving down to the beach for part of our stay. It is a bit dicey taking a rig as big as ours out on the sand. I am sure we would be fine, but getting stuck would not be good. We have decided that the campground is really good and we are going to stay on the safety of pavement. $8 per night with a bathroom and shower is a good deal. I need to remember this rate when I get to California and have to pay much more. I am hoping it will all balance out.

I fished for a few hours about 25 miles down the island at a place called large shell beach. Kim picked up shells and two trash bags full of trash. There is a bunch of stuff up in the dunes. Two currents meet off shore and pushes the trash up on the beach. There is an amazing concentration of shells at Big Shell Beach. 

On the way back we saw a coyote on the beach just walking along. We passed him and took his picture.

That was how we spent our first few days at PINS. In my next entry I will write about our second week and how long we are going to stay. If it was up to me, it would be a while. Wait a minute, IT is up to us.... Hmm, what will we do?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Goose Island State Park

On Sunday, November 13, we left Quintana Beach. We were not in a hurry to leave. We really enjoyed our time there. The fishing was OK, but making new friends is always fun.

We looked at the options for moving a bit further down the coast on the way to the Corpus Christi area. I had looked at a number of free beach camping options, but none of them looked great and it was going to be in the mid 80's over the next few days. We will opt for being comfortable every time. The best option was Goose Island State Park near Rockport. We have stayed at Goose Island twice before. That is very abnormal for us. We love to explore new places, but in this case, it was the best option.

We really enjoyed our two prior visits to Goose Island, but this time I had one thing that I did not have on the other two visits, My Texas Fishing License. I thought this would allow me to get the boat out and fish many of the sand flats around the oyster beds out in the bay.

We left Quintana after saying good bye to Ty and Margarita and made the easy and flat 140 mile drive to Goose Island. We got checked in and were told we could pick our site. We ended up with site 14 on the Bay. We love this part of the Bay camping area because you get the sunset straight out the back window. We had some beautiful ones while we were there.

Just to post a bit of a campground overview for other readers that RV. This park had good OTA TV and good Verizon. The Rate is $24 per night on the bay, but you have to have a Texas Park pass that is $70. The good news is that you get 4 half price nights that pay for about half of the pass. We will be using it a number of other times on this trip, both now and when we return in May. Parking is easy and we just love to back right up to the water.

The winds were calm on the first day, so I got the boat out and inflated it and we were soon on the water. I have to be honest here, I did not paddle much at all. Kim did most of the paddling and I did all of the fishing. I was able to catch a number of small fish, but no trout.

The wind came up on Monday and taking the boat out was not an option. I decided to wade out to the oyster beds and do some fishing. The water was about waist deep. I caught a few small ones, but still no trout.

That evening we took a walk to check out the moon. It was beautiful rising over the bay. I did not get a great shot, but this is the best I could do with my camera.

It was very windy on Tuesday, so still no boat fishing. I took a long walk through the park. There are always interesting sights to see along the salt marshes. Here is a shot of a Great Egret just taking flight.

That evening, we decided to take a walk on the pier and see the moon. I took my fishing pole...just in case. When I got out to my usual fishing spot, I could not believe my eyes. The trout were hitting the top of the water like crazy. It reminded me of an evening on the Firehole River in Yellowstone. I caste my line and caught a nice trout on my fist cast. That was all I needed to see. I went straight back to the trailer and got the rest of my fishing gear. I hustled back to the pier and began a long night of fishing. I am sure that I caught more than 50 fish. It was so much fun! The only problem
was that I wanted to keep some and they have to be over 15 inches to keep. I caught a few that were 14 inches, but no 15's. At about 11PM, I decided to head back. As I was walking down the pier, I saw a place were the fish were very active. I made a couple of casts and bang, I caught what felt like a much bigger fish. It was just over 15 inches. Yeah!

The crazy thing is that you do not need a fishing license to fish from the pier. You can fish anywhere within a Texas State park boundary without a license. I love that rule, I wish other states did it also.

We were leaving on Thursday, so on Wednesday, we got the laundry done and made a Walmart trip. I got my gear ready for another attempt at catching a 15 inch trout on the pier. I once again caught a bunch of fish, but no keepers. I moved to the same place I had caught the big one the night before and caught 6 that were about 14 inches, but no 15ers. Oh well, I still had a blast.

We had fun at Goose Island, but our too short visit had to come to an end. The park was full over the weekend, so we needed to move on. We decided to head further south through Corpus Christi and out on Padre Island to the National Seashore. We had been there before also, but it was a short visit back in February of 2015. We wanted to return now that we have improved battery and solar capability. The camping at Padre Island National Seashore is camping in a small campground with no hookups for $8 per night overlooking the beach or you can drive right down on the beach and find your own place to camp for free.

Are you tired of fishing yet? Well, I wasn't and there were plans to just hang out on the beach and fish all day. There was only one problem, there is a big northern coming in with big wind and lower temps. Come back to see how that worked out. One last Goose Island Sunset shot.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fishing with New Friends in Quintana Beach, Texas

We ended up staying 10 days at Quintana Beach Park. We are kind of in a holding pattern waiting for a wedding in Port Aransas, Texas the first weekend of December. This will be the first of two weddings that we are excited about attending as part of this trip. The second will be back in Texas in May. Two of our nieces are getting married. They were both engaged on the same day.

We like holding patterns. We have enjoyed the relaxed vibe at the park and the fishing and crabbing have been interesting. Not great, just interesting. As we were parking our rig, another rig pulled in next to us. We met as I was outside doing my set up and talked a bit about them being from Idaho, which is one of my favorite states. Ty and Margarita are also full timers and have been traveling for about a year. The funny thing is that we have very similar trucks. Same brand, same color and about the same year. Theirs is a gas and mine is a diesel. Conversation came easy, and we made plans to fish together. Here is a good shot of Ty making a cast from the jetty.

We spent much of the next week fishing together. We did some cast netting and Ty liked it so much that he bought his own net on one of our trips to the store to get more fishing tackle.

Ty and I were driving around Freeport and found a fish market. We both bought a nice red snapper and some shrimp that was fresh off of this boat. I had seen them heading out the day before.

Captain Mikes Seafood is the way to go in Freeport. 

Warning: Food picture. Actually there will be two in this post. 

I cooked up the red snapper and although it was a little under cooked, it was still good. I had a snapper sandwich the next day.

On the 7th we celebrated Kim's birthday. We went to dinner at On the River in Freeport. It was very good and we had a waiter named Sean who was great. Kim is now older than me again. I love to rub that in. 

A day or two later, I prepared the jumbo shrimp that I had purchased at Captain Mikes. I make a marinade of olive oil and Tony's Cajun seasoning and some Parmesan cheese. I then skewer them and grill them. They came out great. 

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating fresh food from the local area. When on the gulf coast, you just have to eat the seafood. 

While I was fishing, I really enjoyed watching the many seabirds. I got this one interesting shot of a pelican.

We fished and fished and were catching more strange fish. Here is a toadfish that Ty caught three of.

Toadfish, very strange indeed. 
We both caught more cutlasfish and I caught this eel. 

After 5 days of fishing I finally caught something I could eat. This Sheapshead is not a great eating fish, but he was actually pretty good. Margarita did the honors and cleaned the fish for me. She is a former restaurant owner in her native country of the Dominican Republic. She did a great job and made it easy to cook. 

Just before I caught the Sheapshead, I was able to reel in a good sized crab. I boiled that at the same time I was cooking the fish. I must say the blue crab was very tasty. We would just need more of them to make a meal. 

For the next two days we converted to crabbing. We ended up catching 9 keepers. I cooked them and then Kim and Margarita picked the meat. I made a big pot of Gumbo with Sausage, Shrimp, Chicken from Ty and Margarita, and Crab. It turned out great. We all had a great meal together. We then played a new dice game we were taught while we were in Galveston called Farkle. We had a blast. We just love meeting other full timers and getting to know them. Thanks for everything Ty and Margarita. We hope to see you down the road.

I will conclude this entry with a cool sunset shot I got one night out on the Jetty. We had a bunch of them while we were on Quintana Beach.

Come back for my next entry to find out where we went from Quintana Beach.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Quintana Beach County Park

We left Galveston on November 4 and headed south off of the island. We crossed the bridge at San Louis Pass. This is a toll bridge, but it is only $2 for an vehicle including one with a trailer. We had a number of places we were thinking about, but no firm plans. My first choice was Quintana Beach Park, just south of Freeport. I had read reviews about this park and they were a bit mixed. Some good and some not so good.

The drive was only 44 miles to Quintana Beach. We pulled in and we really liked the feel of the place. We were also happy that they had an opening for the next week. They offer a weekly rate at $132, which is below our target of $20 per night. They have pull thru sites down the center of the park, but we liked the back ins on the outside of the loop. They told us it was for a 30 foot or smaller rig We looked at it and said we can fit and we did with ease. With our rear overhang behind the trailer tires, we can fit in a spot of about 30 feet. We even had plenty of room for the truck in the site, even though there is overflow parking right across the road. They have plenty of overflow parking spread around the park. We have good Verizon signal and 120 Houston OTA TV channels. We are set up in site 38. You can see our rig in the center of this picture behind the grey cargo trailer.

As you can see in the background, this is a busy port with lots of infrastructure and petrochemical storage and refineries. The good news is there is a constant breeze coming in off of the gulf and we have never smelled it. We do get to see ocean going ships come and go just a short distance from the park. This shot is taken from the side of the trailer.

The channel that leads into the port of Freeport is protected by two long rock jetties. These jetties are a great place to fish. I have already purchased my Texas fishing license, I think I am going to like this place.

Looking out into the gulf
Looking back from out on the jetty

Quintana Beach also has some history. This was the first Texas port that had to be defended during the civil war. It was also set up with gun emplacements during WW2. They have an 8 inch field gun set in one of those emplacements that is in the park.

Here is the field of view from the top of that hill. You can see the two jetty's protecting the ship channel.

They also have a fishing pier in the park. It looks like a good place to do some surf fishing without getting wet.

Speaking of fishing, I did not have any bait that first evening, so I decided to go do some spin casting along the ship channel and see what I might catch. Have you ever seen anything like this?

Look at those teeth

It is called a cutlass fish. They are shiny silver and have some very scary looking teeth. I ended up catching two of them. Very strange.

Kim told me that I should fish every day to get my monies worth from buying my fishing license. Man, I love that woman.

We originally had booked 7 nights, but now have extended it to 10. We really like this place, but we really like just about every place we go. In my next entry, I will write more about what we have found to do in this area. We also have a birthday to celebrate and an election to be decided while we are here. We also made some new friends. I am sure it will be a memorable few days.

Monday, November 7, 2016

More time in Galveston and Moving on Down the Coast

The party was fun. It broke up around 9PM. I thought it would be an early evening, but we ended up staying later with just the immediate family. We played horseshoes until about 11, and I understand the night did not end until around 2:30AM. Well I guess there was still beer in the kegs.

On Sunday the 30th of October was the day that everyone was heading home. Kim and I started the day with a walk on the beach to watch the sun come up. It was a beautiful morning.

After the walk, I started the day by driving Scott up to meet Shannon at their hotel in Texas City. He was going to help Shannon drive back to Missouri. Brian and Amelia came back to Galveston with me. The remaining family regathered at the party site for lunch of leftovers from the party. I got a good shot of Amelia with her Great Grand Father Richie before they left.

I put Mark, Brian and Amelia in my truck and made the drive to both Hobby Airport and IAH on the north side of the huge city of Houston. I made the drive without the help of GPS. It is amazing how I still remember how to get around that city after being gone for 30 years. We lived in Houston from 1980 to 1986.

I remember thinking about how nice it was not to be going "home" to make it to work on Monday morning. My life is awesome!

We spent the next 4 days relaxing in Galveston. I learned how to use a casting net and catch some bait from Kim's Dad Richie. It took me a while to get the hang of it. Thanks Richie! I have since purchased my own net and I think I have it down. I used the bait that we caught to catch a few fish from the surf at the RV park.

Here is a nice Whiting:

The second day, I caught my own bait and then caught two decent Speckled Trout. It was a blast.

During those 3 days after the party, we hung out with Kim's Mom and Dad. Kim's uncle Kenny and wife Edna and Kim's mothers cousin Jerry and Bobbie from Colorado. All of these folks are close to 80 years old, so we are about 20 years younger. It was a very interesting perspective to hang out with them. I hope we are still having as much fun as they are, when we are 20 years older.

We had a nice sunset our last night at the beach. I got a few good shots, this one is my favorite.

We were scheduled to check out of Dellanera RV park on Thursday the 4th of November. We knew we wanted to get a few miles down the coast and just relax for a while. We did not have reservations, so we were just going to see what we could find. Come back to see where we ended up.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Big Party and My Favorite Day

The big surprise 80th Birthday party for my father in law Richie was scheduled for Saturday October 29. We had my son's Mark and Scott coming in via plane and train. Shannon's husband, Brian was also flying in later in the day. We only wished that Michael and his family would have been there. We started the day at the beach with the kids.

The water felt warm and we all had a good time. 

Will tried to make a sand castle, but the tide was coming in.
Amelia loves the beach. As a now one year old, she was not scared at all. Here is a sequence of her getting hit by a wave. She did not care one bit and just laughed and splashed in the water.

After the fun time at the beach, we all got showers and Shannon took the kids to spend some time with their father. Kim went over to the party site to get things set up. Shannon was also heading to the airport and train station to pick up her brothers. This is where the "favorite day" part came in. I got to stay back at the trailer and baby sit Amelia all day by myself. I love one year olds and when they are as cute and lovable as Amelia, it is awesome. 

She was tired after her morning on he beach, so I fed her lunch and she was ready for a nap. She is so adorable when she is asleep.

When she woke up we had another lunch. I love spoiling the grand kids. 

When Scott and Mark showed up, Kim needed them at the party set up to do some raking. They worked their tails off. Thanks Men! Shannon went back to the airport to pick up Brian. They took the opportunity to have a date night and I gladly went back to caring for Amelia. 

The next day we hit the beach in the morning with all the guys. 

Shannon, Brian and Amelia loving the beach again
Then it was time to head to the party site for last minute prep and to welcome our guests. 

Before picture. 
We were expecting about 150 people. 

Kim's Godfather Steve Jamail

Grandson Jake with his "Feel the Bern" shirt. Mark and Isabella in the background

Two Birthday Cakes
Richie was both surprised and moved. He has been a great FIL for all these years. 

Richie with Walter, one of Eric and Elizabeth's twins. 
Thanks to Uncle Kenny for letting us have the party in the yard next to his beach house. It was a perfect location. 

Phyllis and Ritchie and many of their grand children and great grand children. 
This is part of what Phyllis and Richie started. 
Here is our guest of honor flanked by his living brothers and one of his two living sisters. Kay had left earlier. Richie is now 80 and the youngest in this picture.
Donna did an amazing job putting this party together and it all worked out great. She made a video of Richie's life and I could tell he was moved by that. His comment was, "at least he got to see the video while I am still alive",  will stick with me as I travel and make my own memories. 

Fun time and fun party. Mission Accomplished!