Saturday, May 24, 2008

09-08 San Antonio Texas

Texana State Park

Braunig Lake Rv Resort, San Antonio Tx. A Passport America park. Clean neat concrete paved pads and patios. With nice grassy area in between each site. Full hook ups and cable Tv. Most site have no shade. Half price $18.

My couple of days at the Texana Lake State Park was very pleasant. Lots of shade trees and a great view of the lake. I had two doe (deer) come by my site every evening. One evening, I was sitting outside reading, and they came up on either side of my chair from behind. I was quite startled for a minute. They both have those unbelievable big dark eyes and they really do have huge eye lashes. I never knew that. But they came up so close, I couldn’t help but notice. How Cool! Saw an armadillo as well but couldn’t get a picture because the little dog next door chased it into the woods.

I drove the back roads, hwy 87 from Victoria, through the small towns of Cuero, Smiley, Pandora and Nixon. Cuero though small was just charming with a couple of nice shops and restaurants. Neat and clean as a button. It just looked like it had gotten stuck in time in the old west. Not a bad thing in this hectic life.

I’ve arrived at my next campsite, Braunig Lake Rv Resort and it is a nice clean place. They told me they have a Friday night dinner and karaoke music and breakfast is served on weekends. I’ll look forward to that. It’s hot as all get out here. Just hit 100 today. Yikees, I’ve got to get to the mountains soon!

I’m having to take care of a bit of business the first couple of days here. Getting a new tire for the camper and bringing the truck in for it’s first oil change, and various filters that need changing the first time around. Then I’ll visit with friends Linda and Trine.

Had a nice visit with Linda and Trine. They live on the north end of town and never get down to the south end where I’m staying. They live in the new section of town.

I’m down where there are corn fields and the southern end of the Mission Trail.

I did some exploring today visiting three sites along the San Antonio River and the mission trail. The Mission Espada, the Espada Aqueduct and Mission San Juan.

The missions date to around the 1690-1731 era. Both missions are currently active and have services. They are part of the 5 missions in the San Antonio area run by the National Park system. Had a chance to witnessed two baptisms today which was quite a treat.

The missions taught the native Indians much about farming and building in the European style. The aqueduct and irrigation enabled the native Indians and the missionaries to grow crops and stay in one place.

While I was exploring the missions, I noticed a National Park sign showing some intriguing rocks that had cross hatch and parallel type lines on them created by an ancient civilization. They are called Gault Lines. The actual site where the small stones were discovered is in North Central Texas in an area called Gault.

The artifacts are attributed to the Clovis era of 11,500 to 11,000 years ago. These native tribes would have seen the extinction of the mammoth and the horse in North America. Some research shows that there are only two known sites in the U.S. that relics with these lines appear. All are on small rocks or stones.

Check out this site for more info:

I’ve never seen any markings like these on the Petroglyph and Pictographs I’ve seen out west.
It’s fun discovering new and exciting tidbits about the history of our planet.

Live, love, laugh, explore, discover, learn, share.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

08-08 Corpus Christi Texas

Colonia Del Rey Rv Park. A Passport America park ($14 a night 4 nights, weekends full price). This park is very close to Padre Island. Small swimming pool and hot tub. Concrete pads, full hook-ups, includes cable Tv.

Corpus Christi Tx. I’ve made it to one of my destination points this year. My goal is to check out the town and see whether I would enjoy staying here this coming winter. I’ve already checked out a number of other Rv parks as well. The park I’m in is one of 4 parks owned by the owner in residence.

Lake Texana State Park. $15 phone reservation. $16 for Elec. And water site. $3 daily entrance fee. Beautiful park on the lake. Lots of deer, a few gators and icky snakes. What one has to put up with to be in nature.

My first impressions are that Corpus Christi is a good sized town. Like Goldilocks, it’s not too big and not too small, it’s just right. I’m within 6 miles of a good shopping area and restaurants, within minutes of getting to the beaches and Padre Island National Sea Shore.

The weather, this is pretty much summer down here right now, is currently in the mid to high 80’s and lots of wind. Seems the locals are a bit perplexed at the constant winds over the past year or so, but it does appear to be pretty consistent and windy most days.

There’s a fair amount to see and do in the area and I’ve gone and done some of the tours already. My first stop was over the main bridge leading into town on Corpus Christi Bay and Nueces Bay.
The Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington. The Lexington being a decommissioned aircraft carrier. A huge ship that could easily take many hours to explore. I spent most of my time at the Aquarium, right next door. Now I’ve got to be honest, I was expecting more from THE State Aquarium of Texas. I guess I've been spoiled by seeing some really huge spectacular Aquariums elsewhere. This one does not have any huge tanks, but what they have does give you time to reflect on each individual aquarium and what it has to offer. I particularly liked the ones featuring the various jelly fish from around the world. Some having almost an electrical quality to them. Really cool! They also had a dolphin show. Nothing unusual there, having lived in Orlando and Sea World right in our neighborhood. I’ve seen these shows before. It still brings a smile to my face and a laugh when the dolphins splash the audience.

A couple days later, after touring a couple more Rv parks, I went downtown to visit the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History and the Ships of Christopher Columbus. I was most interested in seeing these replicas of the Nina the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Two are currently on display. These were the ships that were built by Spain and given to the U.S. for the Anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America back in 1986 (?).

Corpus acquired the ships just a few years ago and they are in pretty bad condition. They were built with much of the same techniques as when Columbus sailed on them a couple hundred years ago. The guides told us that the ships usually only had a life of about 10 years. I could see the rotting wood and could easily believe that 10 year lifespan.

They were built in Spain and sent here on the US “Imagine America” Tour in 1991 for the Quinto Centenario, the 500 anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.

They were of course fairly small ships, only holding about 25 to 35 men. The Santa Maria was the largest and only ship that had private quarters for Columbus. The men were on the ships for about 32 days before discovering the New World. Not a long time when you think about the unknown route they were searching for. The tour guide talked a lot about the ships and life on board, but she told me after most of the rest of the tour had left, that they were not to talk much about Columbus, as it is now “unfashionable” to glorify his discovery.

What I got out of it was the keen feeling of being on a ship that traveled from Spain to the America’s in search of new lands. What an awesome feeling to walk the bowed planks of the deck. No surface completely level. Touching the raw wood and hearing the creaking of the mast as the wind whipped the riggings back and forth. Imagining what it must have been like on these small ships, with the sea tossing the ships back and forth, side to side. Waves constantly splashing over the sides the of the ships. Or sitting in the middle of a vast ocean without a breeze for 4 or 5 days. Not knowing how far land was out there. Needless to say, I would recommend touching a piece of history, even if it is only a replica. If this doesn’t bring history to life for you, nothing will. This one is tops in my book.

You’ll have to visit the museum to learn more about their other science and history displays, as it would take me hours to describe it all to you. The place was pretty big. One exhibit was really neat though…. They had riding saddles you could sit on to watch various movies about the cowboy way of life in Texas, past and present. What a great way to experience being on a horse while learning about the cowboy way of life.

I took the circle route around Corpus Christi Bay. Crossing over to the barrier island, onto Mustang Island and Port Aransas where I checked out some sea-side Rv parks. Thought if I liked the area, I might even winter on the island, but it just didn’t have that feel that I like. Still it was a neat drive, circling back into Corpus Christi and on back to my campsite.

I was going to go to the King Ranch today, but it turned out to be such a nice day, I headed to the beach…. Only about 2 miles from where I’m staying. I’m at the last exit before crossing the bridge to get to Padre Island. There’s not much of a community on the North end of Padre Island, but I was heading across over to Mustang Island and taking the first road leading to the beach.

After a very short ride across the paved portion over the sand dunes which are being replenished in this area, I drove right onto the flat sandy beach. Wow, just like Daytona Beach. Almost felt like I was back in Fla. Except the water isn’t that really pretty blues and greens you see along the Florida coastline, it’s more turbid and rough today. There are so many beach options in this area. You can pay to go to the State park or Padre Island National Seashore, or just go to one of the local access roads and it’s free.

A wonderful constant breeze, which wasn’t too much today, so I was able to put up my umbrella. The sun was perfect, warm, mid 80’s and the water was actually pretty warm for Mid May. Gosh it felt great to get out on the beach, read a book, go for a walk along the waters edge and just breath in the salty air.

Saturday, I’ve driven to a small town called Edna to stay at a State park, Lake Texana State Park to be exact. Crap. I had a flat tire 6 miles from the State park. Fortunately a car passing me alerted me to the situation, as I did not even realize it till they signaled me to stop. In my tips and tricks report from a couple months ago, I warned everyone about the age of tires. Mine were only 4.5 years old, but the wear and tear, especially since there was an alignment issue on the camper as well, must have worn them out before their time. Since I’ve already replaced two ahead of time, I’m going to go ahead and replace the destroyed tire as well as the remaining older tire. Believe me, it’s better to replace them early, rather than wait for them to blow.

I’ll be at this park for 3 or 4 days. It should be a great stay, as I’m on an island surrounded by the lake which has alligators in it. I saw one as I was crossing over the bridge to the island. There was also a warning about dangerous poisonous snakes in the park. Ekkk! I’ll have to watch carefully. The park itself is beautiful. Spreading oak trees, lush lawns going down to the lake. Canoes paddling back and forth across the lake. Lots of people fishing. Families walking and riding bikes around the park.

I’ll be heading to San Antonio to visit a bit with my friends Linda and Trine, should be there by Wednesday.

Oh, has anyone else read Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth? I just finished reading it. I’ve read many spiritual books in my time, but this one was a bit heavy even for me. Seems to me he used the conscious and unconscious to describe the spirit and eternal essence of a person and a lot of other gibberish to say what could have been said much more simply. There are some good concepts there, but it sure made my head spin a couple times, trying to figure out what he was saying. I did get his concept of space though…. Perhaps because I’m a bit spacey at times myself …..Let me know what you got out of it if you read it.

Almost forgot to tell the really big NEWS. I’ve decided to winter this coming year in Corpus. The campgrounds in this area are very reasonable for a monthly stay ($230 - 350) + elec. All the campgrounds I’ve visited also come with cable Tv included.

Some of the features I like: Being close to the water, close to good shopping and restaurants, concert series looks good throughout the year, and the weather is pretty good throughout the winter.

Anyone wishing more information, please contact me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

07-08 Beaumont to Blessing Texas and...

Gulf Coast Rv Resort. Beaumont Tx. Passport America Campground, limit 2 nights half price. Perfectly manicured lawns, all sites have concrete drives and patios. Full Hookups. Cost $17. Including free continental breakfast and waffles that you make yourself in the shape of Texas. Cool.

Chaparral Rv Resort. Blessing Tx. Passport American Campground, unlimited stay, $11 a night. Basic campsite, full hookups and cable Tv, small concrete pad. Similar rates available to anyone if you make your reservations online.

Beaumont, Tx
Blessing, Tx
To ..Corpus Christi, Tx

You know the most interesting thing about the Rv lifestyle is that you meet such a cross section of society. Not all of them are camping or traveling as I do. While I was at the Bay St Louis campground, there were whole families still living in the FEMA trailers. Trailers that were designed for weekend use, not “full-timing” with a whole family. By the way, I understand they are all supposed to be moved out by June 1st in Mississippi and by the end of July or Aug in Louisiana.

I wasn’t planning on driving almost 200 miles today, Sunday, but when I got to my destination, the campground was full up. So I called ahead, something I should have done before heading out this morning, and I’ve ended up in Beaumont Tx. I had to stop and talk to a big tall dude, as he was watching his little kids play outside in front of the biggest 5th wheel camper I’ve ever seen! He told me he’s not there much, but his wife and kids are. He’s usually off in Kazakhstan these days, working on Oil rig ventures for his company. Now why they are living in a camper, with a big 450 ford and a sports car too boot, one can only guess at. He said it’s amazing that most of the oil is found in the most desolate places on earth.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you much about Beaumont since it rained out for the two days I was in town. I do know that it was the location of the start of the oil boom in Texas and the town is noted for having a ton of museums. None of which I saw.

On Tuesday, I headed out towards the Gulf of Mexico via a short ride on I-10 to hwy 124 and then I followed 87 along the coast. The drive to the coast itself was interesting. I passed many catfish farms along I-10 and even some rice paddies. Heading along hwy 124, it was almost like being in the everglades in Florida, except the flat marshy areas are true bayous, with rivers and lakes in between the low lands dotted with small oil well rigs, bobbing up and down.
Oh, I forgot to mention the 20 mile bridge on the west end of Louisiana. It goes over those bayous, and I could see fishermen in their boats, in between the submerged trees and the bridge pilings. The water was very high as the Mississippi and other rivers draining into the Gulf of Mexico are at their highest this time of year. Hard to tell where the river ended, a lake began or the Tree filled Bayou began.

Traveling along the hwy 87 on one of the barrier islands that forms part of the Inter-coastal waterway, I saw many older stilt homes along the water. Newer stilt homes being closer to Galveston, where I got a ride on a fairy across Galveston Bay.
The fairy ride is free and I got a chance to watch the big oil tankers coming and going out of the harbor. A lady pointed out a concrete ship that had sunk in the harbor. It had been built many years ago as an experiment and sunk not far from shore. The top half still visible. I remember growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Houghton, where a man in my home town was building a concrete boat as well. I believe he finished it, but at the time I heard about it, he had no idea how he was going to get it to Portage Lake. Wonder if he ever got his boat to float?

Driving along the miles of road along the Gulf, much of it unspoiled, a big rat ran across the road in front of me. Grass and sea oats covered low sand dunes separating me from the Gulf of Mexico. Some areas the road edging closer to the water. I eventually crossed back over onto the mainland and headed towards my next stop, Blessing Tx.
My goal is to get to the Corpus Christi area and Brownsville, to see if I like the area as a possible winter residence.

In this coastal area of Texas, I’ve had difficulty finding Ultra Low Sulfur diesel fuel. Most of the gas stations in the small towns only carry Low Sulfur diesel fuel. I wonder how many people with newer 07 diesel engines put in the wrong fuel without even knowing it.

Lovebugs! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I thought only Florida had love bugs. Boy, was I wrong. Spat! I’m having to wash the front of my truck daily and the front of the camper each time I move it. What a mess.

Blessing Tx. Pop. 861. Median age, 32. Household income, 25K. This is a poor community in rural America. 50% white and 50% Hispanic. Mainly rundown mobile homes with a sprinkling of newer well maintained homes. Many of the young workers here have children in the 4-5 year old range. Dogs are allowed to run free. I’ve only seen one neighbor that keeps their dog tied up. The town, what little there is of it, has a small bank and gas station. It does have the first designated Historical building in the county. The Blessing Hotel. The town was named Blessing because the railroad decided to come through here. A life line in past years for delivering goods but more importantly for getting their farm produce to market.
I had a buffet lunch at the Blessing Hotel. I would NOT recommend eating there. Lots of over cooked veggies, pasty tasting gravy, overdone rice and something fried… not sure what it was.

I’m staying at the Chaparral Rv Resort…. Well not exactly a resort. There are no niceties. Well ok, they do have a Laundromat and cable Tv, but that’s it. It’s another in between place, and I wouldn’t rush back here to stay. Next time I would stay in a small seaside town called Palacios Tx. It has the largest shrimp fleet on the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe Port Lavaca. They have a county park right on the bay.
But Blessing is an ok place to chill out and relax before getting to my next destination, Corpus Christi Tx.

Friday, May 2, 2008

06-08 Bay St Louis Mississippi

06-08 Bay St Louis, Mississippi

This past weekend at my new campsite in Bay St. Louis, it was wet and soggy. It has rained most of the weekend. In between rain showers, I did start to tour the area a bit. My campsite is about 3 miles from the Gulf, so I drove down to see where the Silver Slipper Casino is located and to drive into the Old Town section of Bay St Louis.

I’m not planning on doing much this week, but here are a few things I did do and see along the way.

I passed many home sites, that have mostly been cleared, only a few remaining stilt frames remaining. Impressive walled and gated yards, curved driveways, with not a home in sight. This is where the hurricane came on land and even the big homes raised high on their 12 foot moorings where destroyed. The homes that still remain had to be completely gutted and rebuilt. The process is ongoing and will be for many years to come. Some new homes are being constructed and a few traditional mobile homes have been put in. But what I really like are the “shotgun” homes and “Katrina homes” that are being manufactured by places like Lowes and a couple other manufactures in the area. They have the traditional small porch out front and are typically as long as 80 feet X 16 feet. They appear to be really well built and have colorful siding you’d expect to see in the tropics. Turquoise blue, Butter yellow, pink and even red. They fit the coastal area and feel like they belong. I was told that these homes are actually considered temporary and that many locals hope to see them gone in the future. I can’t understand why, they looked great to me.

I ventured into the Silver Slipper Casino which sits right on the bay today to take advantage of all their deals. For signing up with their Players Club, I got $25 in credits to play the slots, half off on my lunch buffet and a free T-shirt. What a deal. After having fun playing the slots for about an hour and a half, I left with $25 in cash, had a great lunch for all of $5.00 and of course picked up my T-shirt. Now that’s my kind of gaming. Yippee!

The beaches are clean and almost deserted this time of year as they curve around the bay like a crescent moon. The road hugs the beach separated only by a low concrete barrier with slots in it to let the sea water and sand wash through during storms and high tide. Much of the roadway had sand along one side of the road. There are two main parking areas, one near Old Town and the other being at the Silver Slipper all the way at the other end of the bay. No parallel parking along the beach. Many docks line the beaches, only their posts remain to testify to the popularity of fishing and boating that once took place here. The grand old water oaks all look like they’ve just been trimmed by a man hatter trying to make them look like huge bonsai trees. I drove over 40 miles along the gulf and didn’t see a single restaurant or place to eat. No convenience stores, gas stations, hotels. Everything was gone.

Oh, the Silver Slipper has a campground right on the bay. Basically a clean parking lot with individual concrete pads for each campsite. $35 with Bay view and $25 for the Inland view. Seems a bit pricey for my taste.

I went into “Old Town” Bay St Louis and had a great lunch at the Buttercup. I sat out on their porch, a wonderful breeze and a sparkling sunny day. The owner of the shop talked to me about the area. The downtown area still looks devastated from the hurricane, but many shops are opening up and they are really busy on weekends. He told me not only the locals but so many of the volunteers and workers re-building the area come downtown on their days off. Good to see them supporting the local business’s.

Since I was so close, I toured the John C Stennis Space Center. This is where they test all of the rocket engines for the space shuttle. There are over 30 agencies that work on this 135,000 acre base. The base is so large as to provide a buffer for the sound created by testing those huge engines. Trent Lott was able to get many agencies moved to this remote location and to bring jobs to Mississippi. When I worked for the Navy, our personnel department and all personnel actions for the Navy ended up going to Stennis. Created a heck of a mess as I recall. For years while I worked for the Navy, I thought Stennis was a person, not an entire base. Dahhhh.

The exhibits are mainly for the kids. I was hoping to see a mock-up of the space station, but it turned out to be a tube made out of nylon tenting material, with a few flat displays inside. Not very realistic. They did have an Apollo capsule on display and a story board showing the new space vehicles that will one day fly into space. Looks to me more like the first Apollo missions, except there will be two rockets, the Ares I and Ares V. Ares I will transport humans into space, where as the Ares V will be an unmanned vehicle, transporting larger payloads into space for the astronauts to use once in space. They also had displays from NOA, The Naval Oceanographic Administration. An interesting computer generated film showed the current influences (updated constantly) on the planet, like volcanoes, earth quakes and weather changes. When looked at from a global perspective, our planet is in constant change. Well worth the time it took to watch the film/presentation.

Back in Old Town (Bay St Louis) I had to visit the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum.

Wow, what an inspiring story! A brilliant young Lady, who was destined to graduate from college with honors, has her life put on hold after her father commits suicide and leaves a note to her to drop out of college and take care of the family. After years of doing just that, marrying at age 26, finishing college, becoming a teacher for most of her life, she begins to paint at the age of 65, as a way to stop from going crazy after taking care of a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s.

Her wit and charming personality along with some of the best folk art paintings in the country can all be experienced here in Bay St Louis. A bonus is a collection of art pottery, art glass and Americana that is also on display. Originally collected by her son and thought to be lost in the hurricane after it hit New Orleans where his collection resided. His home was destroyed, but most of his collection survived. By the way, each one of her paintings tells a story. Charming, inspiring. A reporter asked her for some great wisdom at her ripe old age of 92 and she said she didn’t have any great wisdom. She had accepted the good and the adversity in her life and had learned from it. And the only thing she knew for sure, was to be true to yourself. Be true to yourself. Not what you think others want you to be, or what you think they want you to be. But to be true…. To…. You.

The finally was my attending the New Orleans Jazz Festival on Thursday. It was the first time they had Thursday on the agenda since Hurricane Katrina. Glad I went that day, ($40 one day) the rest of the weekend is expected to be rainy. It was partly cloudy with a great breeze most of the day. Besides, the crowds were just manageable on what was supposed to be a slow day. For me, it got pretty crowded. If you’ve never gone, it’s held at the race track downtown and there are about 10 stages set up maybe more… lots of booths and food vendors. Lots of walking between venues. I enjoyed about a half dozen of the stage acts with everything from Zydeco, Jazz, Blues, some black heritage music. I missed the Gospel music, but I did get to the main grandstand for one of the acts. There weren’t any famous people singing while I was there, but it didn’t matter. All the musicians were seasoned performers, as in gumbo and crawdads. And what fun people watching. Cajuns love to dance at a drop of a hat. And I saw a lot of fun old and young couples throwing off their shoes and hats and dancing on the grass. Talk about rhythm. These people can dance! The wild hats, fun clothes, good Cajun food and of course the music that went on way into the evening. Whew, I’m exhausted.

Ok, so I guess my week was busier than I thought it was.