No sympathy?

The last couple of days have been cold and dreary along the Texas Gulf Coast.  I know, all my friends to the north suffering from below freezing temps and snow measured in feet versus inches are rolling their eyes as I complain.  But remember, I’m living in an RV.  Thin walls and single pane windows do not make for high insulation ratings.  Still no sympathy?  No, I didn’t think so!roseate spoonbill

snowy egretSo with the RV being pelted with a steady down pouring of rain accompanied by a cold wind, I figured this is the perfect opportunity to stop complaining and get the blog caught up with our travels.

Between sightseeing, socializing, and Christmas the past two weeks have flown by.

We pulled out of Galveston, Texas, on December 9th and meandered our way via a series of county back roads to the little town of Lamar where we set up camp at Goose Island State Park.  The trip took us about 3 ½ hours traveling south along the Texas Gulf Coast from Galveston. Goose Island State Park

Goose Island State Park offers two different camping experiences.  Bayside sites, which we chose, are near the water.  The other loops are located within a grove of oak trees.  Some of those sites with low hanging tree limbs could present a problem for larger rigs.  It’s also very shaded which in winter isn’t necessary.  I’ll opt for the sun at this time of year, thank you.Goose Island State Park

Mustang Island State Park

After three very relaxing days watching sunrises, sunsets, and birds, it was time to move on.  We traveled a mere 45 minutes to our next destination; Mustang Island State Park located near Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, Texas.Mustang Island

This was the first time our RV had the pleasure of enjoying a ferry ride which lasted all of about ten minutes.  Since we started in Rockport and were heading south, the shortest route to our destination was via highway 361 which requires crossing the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.Texas Department of Transportation Ferry

Texas Dept of transportation ferryPort AransasThe Aransas Pass Ferry operates in lieu of a bridge allowing free movement of the many ships moving through the channel.

This free ferry is operated and managed by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The Ferry connects Port Aransas to the mainland and operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

This was just the beginning of our fun two-week stay.  Next up… cavorting with fellow bloggers and RVer’s.


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Warmth of Friendship

It’s the day after Christmas and today’s WordPress photo challenge prompt is Warmth.  This is the perfect opportunity for me to share the warmth of friendship.Mustang Island State ParkWe had friends Mona Liza and Steve over for Christmas and just because we live in a RV doesn’t mean we can’t cook up a fine meal….. a meal that one might even refer to as gourmet.

Lumpia
Cozy warmth of our RV. Starting off with appetizer; Lumpia

While listening to the waves crashing in the distance in the cozy warmth of my tiny RV kitchen I managed to prepare a pork loin accompanied by sides of veggies and mashed potatoes.  ML prepared Lumpia, a Filipino dish, as our appetizer.

Filipino egg rolls
MonaLiza frying up the Lumpia – a Filipino favorite.
RV cooking
Al and Steve sit at the adult table while Mona Liza and Ingrid sit at the kids table…. 🙂

The wine and laughter flowed freely.  Our meal ended with one of my specialties; Bananas Foster.  Our guests were duly impressed with this flaming desert and even more impressed that a fire extinguisher wasn’t needed.Bananas FlambeWe had a lovely day even though the weather was a tad on the blustery and cool side.  That said, the weather didn’t curtail the two birding buds from taking a walk in search of photo ops.Bananas FosterI hope all my friends in the blogoshere had an equally special day shared with the warmth of family and friends.  Now my thoughts ponder….. “How can we possibly top this for a New Year’s celebration?”Herons

French Classics Made Easy

Quacking Carolers

I think its obvious based on my last few posts that hubby and I enjoyed our month on Galveston Island immensely.  Hopefully I’ve done the island justice by sharing our discoveries and adventures.seagull

photographing birdsThe one thing left for me to share is where we stayed.  Galveston Island offers everything from high end accommodations like the San Luis Resort, to vacation home rentals, to a State Park, and everything in between.

Al and I knew we wanted to spend a month on the island therefore a RV Park would be our best option.  After a bit of research, we booked a reservation at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort located 10 miles south of the town of Galveston and only 3 miles from the state park.

Texas RV Parks
checking in at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston Island, Texas

Jamaica Beach RV Resort

Once we arrived and were all hooked-up, I realized this was the first time in 6 months that we had full hook-ups.  Talk about luxury!  However, there are always tradeoffs.   I may not have had the need to worry about water usage, but I no longer had any fabulous views out my RV windows.  I will say the RV Park was lovely and the sites were nicely spaced in comparison to other RV parks.RV Parks in Texas

TurtlesThe Jamaica Beach RV Resort had plenty of amenities as well as an onsite Pirate themed mini golf course complete with Dora, the turtle.

Just across the road was the beach access. With its close proximity to the state park and the beach, this turned out to be a great place to call home for the month.  However, the wildlife was a problem…. wink, wink.

A problem instigated by moi, I might add.  It all started accidentally.  Al and I were reorganizing the basement and the corner of a small bag of bird seed tore spilling some seed onto the pavement.  Not interested in continuing to store this bag, I spread the rest of the bird seed into the grassy area.  Huey, Dewey, and Louie loved it and thought this would become a regular event.Serenade

From that day on, every morning I could hear them singing (in a rather quacky way) as they waddled down the street.  The serenade would continue at our door.  “Oh, how cute… Quacking Carolers”.

Donald Ducks nephewsHowever, I don’t think they were quacking “Deck the halls” as much as they were saying “Feed us more, Miss Ingrid“.

They looked under fed, don’t they?  Gosh, I could practically see their ribs.  That’s exactly what these three little beggars would have us think.

They do know how to endear themselves and made their rounds throughout the RV Park regularly.

Since we no longer have a dog, I found myself quickly bonding with Huey, Dewey, and Louie… they’re rather cute, I’d say.quacking ducks

I’ll admit, it was kind of nice being greeted by these three entertaining chaps upon our return from a day of explorations.  Numerous times, we found the green headed characters napping under our RV.  A regular washing down of the RV site quickly became a necessity 😉

Mallard Duck
The Duck whisperer…. How to train your duck!

photography birdingThe three Amigos did add some enjoyment to our stay at the RV Park and made up for any lack of views. I guess I’m easily entertained these days.

We would stay at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort again and feel comfortable recommending it.

With the state park just 5 minutes away, I did spend a fair amount of time strolling around that park.  I think if we were to camp at the Galveston Island State Park, we would stay at the campground on the bay side.  It seems a little more protected from the winds than the ocean side plus the birding is better.

bird photography
Will sing AND dance for food …. coochie, coochie!

We also checked out Dellanera RV Park and Tiki Tom’s.  Tiki Tom’s seems to be geared more towards anglers and kayakers while Dellanera RV Park is geared towards beach goers.

All and all, our month on Galveston Island was a great experience. We’d return 🙂

Jamaica Beach RV Resort
I’m outta here ….. That lady scares the crap out of me!

 

 

 

Yellow makes me smile!

photo challengeWhen I saw the topic for this weeks WordPress photo challenge – Yellow.  I knew exactly which photos to post.  I’ve always loved the color yellow.  It’s one of those colors that just makes me smile.photo challenge

For those of you who have been following my blog, you also know birds make me smile.Yellow challenge

I wouldn’t refer to myself as a ‘birder’ but rather someone who just enjoys the beauty of these unique creatures.WordPress daily postphotographyphotographyBut I couldn’t stop with just the birds.  I can’t look at Sponge Bob Square Pants without thinking of my children which brings on more smiles.  I sure do like the color Yellow!photography
Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)

A little something for everyone!

Texas Gulf CoastOur month in Galveston has come to an end and we’ve moved four hours down the Texas Gulf Coast to Mustang Island.

Normally by week four in one location I’m more than ready to move on.  Such was not the case regarding Galveston Island.

I was actually a little sad to say good-bye.  There really is a lot to see and do on the Island ….. a little something for everyone you could say.

I think it’s safe to say, most folks come to Galveston for the Beach.  There are miles and miles of beach with public access for all to enjoy.  I assure you, Al and I took full advantage of that beach access with regular walks.

But there’s so much more to Galveston Island than the beach.  From that first day as we crossed the bridge onto the island, I knew I had to explore and discover all that she had to offer starting with the three pyramids that I couldn’t help but notice glistening across the bay.  Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to figure out what exactly were those pyramids.things to do in Galveston

things to do in GalvestonMoody Gardens is an educational tourist destination featuring three main pyramid attractions: an Aquarium, a Rainforest, and a Discovery pyramid.  Also onsite: Zip Line and Ropes Course, Water Park, Golf Course, IMAX Theater, Paddlewheel Boat.

Although I didn’t indulge personally in taking in these attractions, I did stroll around Moody Gardens out of curiosity. There is a separate fee for each attraction.

Each year for the holiday season they feature a Festival of Lights.  This mile long trail boasts over one million lights themed to holiday music.

Festival of Lights
It was a cool misty late afternoon, thus I didn’t stay for dark to see all the lights in their glory

Moody Gardens huge event this year was being held in a large commercial tent; Ice Land.  Thirty-one internationally-acclaimed professional ice carvers from China transformed 900 tons of ice into a holiday wonderland with a Sponge Bob Square Pants theme.  To maintain this work of art, the tent is kept at a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  For obvious reasons, I took a pass on the experience.Sponge Bob Square Pants

Besides I got to see Sponge Bob Square Pants at the Dickens on the Strand parade.Bikini Bottom and Sponge Bob

Pleasure PierAnd then there’s Galveston’s Pleasure Pier.  This amusement park is relatively new having opened in 2012.  However, this isn’t Galveston’s first Pleasure Pier.  Ah, more hurricanes and history.  If interested, you can read about it here.

The Lone Star Flight Museum was on our radar but we never did make it there.  Although hubby doesn’t miss his aviation career, he still drools over the possibility of going up in a by-plane.  His face lights up whenever there’s talk about open cockpits or acrobatic flying.

Hurricane Ike damageOn one of our last days in the area, we took a quick drive over to Pelican Island to visit Seawolf Park.  Before Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, this was known as a premier park to visit complete with restaurant.

The building was destroyed by the hurricane and remains in a state of disrepair.  For an additional fee, there’s a WWII submarine and destroyer that can be toured. These days the park is pretty much frequented by fishermen and pelicans, but there are plans for renovation and even putting in a RV park.

Not only is fishing popular around Galveston Island, but so is kayaking.  The state park even has paddling trails outlined in their trail guide; land and water trails.

Great Blue HeronThe weather wasn’t always agreeable during our thirty day stay.  We did get our fare share of rain, cold, and wind but I won’t complain because during those most inclement weather day’s places to the north were getting buried in snow. So on the bad weather days we would run errands, go Christmas shopping, or do daily chores.

There are plenty of places to shop within 25 miles of Galveston…. from an outlet mall to regular malls and everything in between.  I found myself visiting Best Buy and Kohl’s a couple of times.

We also discovered a great RV Center called Ron Hoover RV.  It’s a small place with a parts department, service department, and onsite RV Park.   We thought the parts prices were very reasonable and before heading out of town, we picked up a few additional items.

Makers Mark Bourbon
Steve, Ingrid, Mona Liza, Al

I think it’s obvious, we loved our time on Galveston Island and were never at a loss of things to see or do but our favorite pastime was running into fellow bloggers.  We had a blast sharing a special bottle of bourbon with Mona Liza and Steve in addition to a couple of other get togethers with these two energetic RVer’s.

RV get together
I’m sampling the Makers Mark Bourbon as Mona Liza gets ready to slice into their homemade bread!

blogging buddiesI also had the pleasure of meeting Russ from Russ on the Road.  Russ is a solo RVer who shares my interest in photography.  He and I met for lunch and the conversation flowed freely for nearly three hours.

I’d love to run into him again somewhere along our travels.  He’s a very accomplished photographer that I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from.

Hmm, have I told you yet where we stayed?  Let’s save that for the next post.Beach sunsets

Dickens on The Strand

When we stopped in at the Galveston, Texas, visitor center, the first thing the gal asked is, “Have you been to The Strand?”  “Ah, no”, I said totally perplexed.  From there the information started flowing from this enthusiastic gal along with accompanying brochures. For anyone visiting Galveston Island for the first time, I highly recommend the first stop be to the visitor center.  There really is a lot to see and do on this island.Charles Dickens

Victorian festivalThe Strand is the name of the main street in Galveston’s historic district.  Situated on the east end of the island and along the bay side and harbor, the street is lined with quaint shops and beautifully restored turn of the century buildings.

Forty years ago, nearly all the Victorian-era buildings that lined the streets were vacant and run down.  The area was shunned by residents and viewed as a place frequented by drunks and derelicts.

In an attempt to draw attention to the Victorian architecture and revitalize this part of Galveston, the Galveston Historical Foundation organized a call to action and Dickens on the Strand was founded.

Dickens on the Strand is an annual Christmas festival occurring the first weekend in December.  Participants come to witness and relive the Charles Dickens era.Charles DickensCharles Dickens

This 19th century Victorian London festival features parades, entertainment, strolling carolers, roving entertainers, and costumed food and shop vendors.  In 1973 the first faux Queen Victoria and Prince Albert presided over Galveston’s first Dickens on the Strand festival and the faux royalty continue to make their presence.Victorian festivals

Forty-one years later the festival is going strong.  Al and I found ourselves in the midst of this years revelry.  I’m not usually fond of large crowds, but this was a very enjoyable and entertaining event.

Galveston TexasAttendees are encouraged to dress the part.  For their efforts, they receive half off admittance.  I did find it somewhat humorous watching the use of iPhones by the costumed attendees …. not exactly from the Dickens era, huh!festivals in Texas

holiday festivalsIt was obvious, regular attendees look forward to this yearly event and some of the outfits were absolutely gorgeous.

Charles DickensThe food and shop vendors were definitely different from what you’d find at your typical festival.

The Scotch Eggs came highly recommended and Al couldn’t wait to give one a try ….. hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage dipped in bread crumbs then deep-fried.

Al loved it and ended up eating a second one before leaving the festival.

As for the vendor shop tents; there were the usual vendors you’d find at other festival and then there were ones geared more towards the Dickens on The Strand festival…. dresses, hats, boots, and accessories. Some of the items seemed a little more modern or rather risqué for the Dickens era.Holiday festivalsfestivals in TexasObviously Dickens on The Strand is a very successful festival that helped revitalize this historic downtown area.  The Strand District is now a thriving commercial area filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, and museums. During our stay in Galveston, we found ourselves frequenting the area.  I’m drawn to the beautiful buildings and their history.  I admire the resilience of not only the structures but the people.holiday festivals

Our admittance ticket to Dickens on The Strand also included a tour of The Elissa.  This majestic tall ship is moored at the Texas Seaport Museum located in the historic port of Galveston.  Elissa is not a replica, but a survivor.Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on the StrandShe was rescued from a scrap yard in Greece in 1975 by the Galveston Historical Foundation.  This three-masted, iron-hulled ship was built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

She carries nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area.  From her stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet and her height is over 99 feet tall.

During her commercial history she carried a variety of cargos to ports around the world.  Although retired and now a museum, she is a fully functional vessel that continues to sail annually.

historic shipsElissa shipMore information including a video on Elissa’s dramatic rescue and meticulous restoration can be viewed at the Texas Seaport Museum.Galveston festivals

Dickens on the StrandWe had a fabulous time spending our day at the festival.  Young, old, white, black it just didn’t matter, folks engaged each other as if we were all neighbors or long time friends.

We saw absolutely nothing negative, only polite, respectful behavior even though alcohol flowed freely.

In the photo to the right, the guy at the window was ordering some adult beverages.  No problem walking around with an open beer.

festivals in Texas

antique bicyclesThis delightful couple has attended Dickens on the Strand for the past 40 years.  They eagerly shared these special turn of the century bicycle’s and their story with Al and me.   Since it wasn’t lady like to ride a regular bike, this style was designed so gals could enjoy this new invention in a proper manner.  A regular bicycle might have cost $75 and these would sell for around $200. Thus this style bicycle was ridden only by daughters of wealthy business men.

Al and I enjoyed Dickens on The Strand so much we would even consider a future trip planned around the date. And I assure you, we’ll be in costume next time.

Women's suffrageGalveston Texas

Amazon.com Gift Card with Greeting Card – $50 (Classic)

Major Works of Charles Dickens (Great Expectations / Hard Times / Oliver Twist / A Christmas Carol / Bleak House / A Tale of Two Cities)

 

 

 

 

From destruction to rejuvenation

After a morning of birding then sharing a yummy lunch with our husbands, Mona Liza and I bid adios to the guys and off we went to explore more of Galveston.  Two days earlier the four of us stopped in at the Galveston visitor center.  The gals at the center were extremely friendly and helpful.  This was the perfect stop to begin our Galveston explorations.

architecture in Texas
Just one of many beautiful homes in Galveston’s historic district

We left the center with plenty of information, brochures, and maps to assist us in getting the most out of our stay on the island.  Mona Liza and I used the ‘birding’ brochure that morning to help direct us to various spots for the best bird sightings.

hurrican Ike
beautiful neighborhood… these trees survived hurricane Ike

Galveston TexasNow it was time for us to pull out the ‘Tree Sculpture Tour’ brochure.  When Hurricane Ike hit on September 13, 2008, the combination of damaging winds and tidal surge led to the demise of many of Galveston’s tree’s.

A group of homeowners decided to turn destruction into symbols of rejuvenation by commissioning local artists to turn these downed and damaged trees into works of art.

These carved tree sculptures are located throughout Galveston but the bulk are concentrated within Galveston’s East End Historic District.

Although many of the beautiful, majestic oak trees are long gone, they are not forgotten.

Hurricane IkeWith map in hand, ML and I set out to see as many of these sculptures as possible.  Although we enjoyed the whimsical sculptures, we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful architecture.  Each house was unique and lovely in it’s own right.Georgian architecture

Texas architectureWithout the tree sculpture tour incentive, I’m not sure we would have ventured up and down all the residential streets, but I’m really glad we did.

I was so taken by the houses, the architecture, and the gardens that I just had to show the area to hubby.

The next day Al and I went for our morning walk up and down the streets of Galveston’s East End Historic District in lieu of the usual walk on the beach.

Tree carving
The owners of the home own a grey Great Dane and they commissioned the artist to carve a replica of their beloved dog. The tree had actually grown around the fence at the spot where the paws grip the fence.

The Galveston tree sculptures represent a very small percentage of the trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike.  Several organizations worked together to ensure 100% of the “Iked” wood was kept out of landfills.

tree carving
Yes, Toto and the Tin Man are both carved from a tree and still rooted to the ground

Some of the wood was used to restore an American historic whaling ship, 200 tons went to Malago, Spain, to build a full scale replica of the Brig “Galveztown”, and a local lumber yard took a fair amount.  And yes, 100% of the destroyed trees were repurposed in some form.

Tree Scuplture
a Grandmother reading. This tree sculpture sits in a park. How appropriate!
Geisha and Angels
A carved Geisha represents the homeowners love of the Orient. The smaller sculpture “The Angels” represents the homeowners two granddaughters. The Geisha was carved from the trunk of the tree while The Angels were carved from the top of the tree. The tree was originally taller than the home. “The Angels” carving is one of the few sculptures not still rooted in the ground.

No trip to Galveston Island would be complete without a visit to Galveston’s Historic District and that includes “The Strand“…. our next stop!hurricane Ike

architecure photography

Girls gone wild – or just crazy!

One of the more delightful aspects to RVing is running into like-minded folks; folks that share similar passions.  We first met Mona Liza and Steve a couple of years ago while camping at Cave Creek Regional Park just north of Phoenix, Arizona.Great Blue Heron

Mona Liza and I connected online via our blogs.  This was the first blogger meet up for both of us and we had a great time.  We’ve stayed in touch via our blogs and the occasional email ever since.

QuailI’m not sure if Mona Liza’s interest in birding began around the same time mine did, but I will say she and I were both enamored with the Gambel’s Quail during our stay at Cave Creek in Arizona.

Although our travels have taken us in different directions, we knew we’d meet again some day.  Therefore, it was exciting when we both realized we were going to be staying in Galveston at the same time this winter.

Reconnecting with fellow RVer’s is always fun and this encounter lead to several get togethers (spouses included).  Great Blue HeronBut the day Mona Liza and I were most looking forward to was a day of birding with our cameras and without our hubby’s.

We could go crazy snapping away without the obligatory comment from our husbands, “Don’t you have enough bird pictures?”  “NEVER … no such thing!”

While Mona Liza and Steve were staying at the Galveston Island State Park, Al and I were staying just three miles down the road at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort.

Galveston Texas
Mona Liza’s personal viewing platform.

girls gone wildSo these two bird crazy gone wild gals set off on a mission to photograph as many different birds as possible.

I picked Mona Liza up with the big dog (F-250 w/extended bed), leaving Al and Steve to fend for themselves.

ML enjoyed her own personal chauffeur (moi) and viewing platform.  She served as navigator using maps and information she and I picked up at the Galveston visitor center a few days earlier.

Galveston Texas
I’m all bundled up and ready to photograph some birds!

photographing birdsIt was a cold, blustery morning along the Texas Gulf Coast.  At 8:30 in the morning it was 38 degrees Fahrenheit with 20 mph winds, but these birders refused to let a little wind and cold deter them from their mission.Galveston Texas

We had a successful morning photographing lots of birds as well as sharing quite a few laughs along the way.  Occasionally our exuberance would get the better of us and we would see birds in the distance only to realize it was a fence post, street sign, or piece of garbage.  Hmm, wonder if more than one of us needs eye-glasses!Texas Gulf coast

Galveston TexasGalveston TexasMona Liza has an uncontrollable fascination with Roseate Spoonbills these days.  It’s hard for her to contain her excitement when she sees one of these pink beauties.

Case in point; we were strolling along a trail near some ponds when she grabbed my arm. She was practically jumping up and down and exclaims in a hushed tone with pointed finger, “There, there… do you see them?”  “No”, I calmly responded.

pink birds
this roseate spoonbill was photographed the next day after receiving a phone call from ML, “Come now. They’re here!”

“Look right out there”, she said with almost a tone of frustration, but sense of excitement all at the same time.  We kept our voices soft as not to startle any birds.Galveston Island

Galveston Island State Park“Those aren’t Roseate’s”, I exclaimed.  While ML says, “Yes, yes they are”, we simultaneously lifted our cameras to our faces and zoomed in our telephoto lenses for a closer look.  With slumped shoulders and a deflated tone she whispers, “Kayaks” followed by uncontrollable laughter from both of us.

The entire morning was filled with mixed sightings…. the blind leading the blind you could say.  We were equally mistaking foreign objects for birds.  “Now, that’s an unusual bird in the distance and a big one at that.  I wonder what it is”.  “I do believe they call that one a street sign”.Hawk

photographing birdsBut more times than not, we lucked out and it was indeed a bird.

The cold, the running around, and the laughter caused these girls gone wild to work up an appetite. We headed into downtown Galveston to find a place for lunch.  “Oh joy! I get to parallel park the BIG Dog”.

I find a spot along a side street and line myself up with the curb.  ML jumps out of the truck and starts providing hand signals to help me park.  I’m sure to the everyday on looker they might find our antics unusual, but for these seasoned RVer’s it’s just another day in the life.  I figured if she could direct Steve in parking a 40 foot motorhome, this 22 foot truck should be a piece of cake for her.  And a fine job of directing she did!Oil Rig

I’m almost parked when my phone goes off.  It’s Al.  He and Steve just finished touring the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and were planning on grabbing a bite to eat.  Talk about perfect timing.  Since we were all downtown, we met at Brew’s Brothers Brew Pub for a tasty lunch.

The Strand
Steve, Mona Liza, Ingrid, Al

After lunch, the bird crazy duo headed out on a quest to find tree sculptures…..Egret

Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast (Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi)