It was the worst of times…

Let’s continue with my Charles Dickens theme from the previous post  –  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolish.sandhill cranes

I’ve already shared “it was the best of times” in the previous post which means it’s time to share it was the worst of times.

Wouldn’t you know, now that we’re getting the wheels ready to roll on the RV the sun decides to grace us with her presence.  Over the past three months, she has played a regular game of hide-and-go-seek …. with a lot more hide.  Needless to say, I have not found it amusing.Gulf of Mexico

Back in early November when we first arrived in Galveston, we were greeted with beautiful, warm, sunny, beach going weather.  It didn’t take Al and I long to don those shorts and T’s and head to the beach for a nice long stroll.  Yep, we were looking forward to a month of glorious weather while our relatives to the north would endure snow and freezing temperatures.

Texas Coastal birding trailWas there a little gloating?  Perhaps, but I’ll never admit to it.

You know what they say, “Karma’s a bitch”. That gorgeous weather lasted all of two days.

By day three we were hit with gale force winds and torrential rains.  I remember Al and I looking at each other wondering if we needed to review the hurricane evacuation route.

The sideways driving rain blew with such force that it penetrated the rubber seal on one of our RV slides saturating the carpet and some Atlas’ we had stowed along the side of the couch.

It caused enough of a concern that from that day forward during and after a severe rainstorm, Al and I could be found on all fours crawling around the RV checking corners for leaks.  Sorry folks, no photos of us checking for leaks because that would just be wrong…. on so many levels 😉  Fortunately, no new or old leaks have been discovered since that one time

Cuddle Duds
The sun may be shining but the temp was just over freezing with cold winds dropping the wind chill. Long Johns and heavy socks!

and we’ve encountered PLENTY of rain over the past three months.  So if we had a serious leak to be concerned about, we would have found it by now.

Oh, but Mother Nature didn’t end with a Tropical Storm.  Oh no, she had to send a Polar Vortex followed by an Alberta clipper.  I’m sure this was the result of all my Canadian friends just wanting to share.  Awe, thanks guys ….. not!

When the weather did cooperate, we took full advantage of those days.  Cooperating might mean a sprinkle instead of a deluge, the sun shining but freezing temps, or just a calm gloomy day.  Yeah, the word ‘cooperating’ took on a whole new meaning these last few months.

That said, more than half of our Texas Gulf Coast stay was met with GRAY overcast skies, driving winds, torrential rains, and near freezing cold.  This was typical Midwestern weather that I just wasn’t accustomed to anymore and nor did I intend to get used to it.  So it was certainly not the kind of Gulf Coast – beach weather I hoped for nor the kind of adventure I had in mind.

Obviously, I was not a happy camper.

seagullSo aside from the disagreeable weather, what else could go wrong?  How about getting sick?  The day after Christmas found me at the Urgent Care and a few days later at an Eye Doctor.

I contracted some kind of virus that effected my eyes and glands/lymph nodes.  After being so ill last year, I tried so hard not to be around crowds of people this winter in hopes of averting illness.  No such luck.  Oh well, on the bright side I did recover in less than a month while last years illness took several months to recover from.  Plus since I was house bound recuperating, I managed to add a new Page (tab) to the blog giving you guys a tour of my home – Our RV.

I’m all better now and even learned to shoot my camera with 20/60 vision.  The bad vision was caused by the virus and was temporary.  Before leaving the RV in search of photo ops, I would set the camera for a center focal point only. I had a few other custom settings already set up so all I’d have to do is turn the dial. I won’t lie, it did have an overall negative effect on my photography enjoyment and mood.whooping cranes

Big birds like the whooping crane make big targets that made the process a little easier.  While looking through the viewfinder all I could see was a big white blur. Yes, it was very frustrating. Thank goodness for auto-focus. I’m very grateful my vision has since cleared.  That’s not to say life still isn’t a little blurry, but I think that’s due to extenuating circumstances 😉Rockport Fulton Texas

It was the best of times; exploring new and fun places; socializing with great, like minded folks.   It was the worst of times; bad weather, illness, and less than stellar accommodations.  (I’ll do a separate post on the places we stayed)

Next up…  it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishblogging

BetterPhoto Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro

It was the best of times ….

Our Texas excursion is nearing an end.  On Thursday the wheels on the RV will once again be rolling and I can honestly say I’m ready for a change of scenery.  As I reflect on our overall Texas Gulf Coast visit, these words come to mind, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolish’.

Charles Dickens
“Dickens on the Strand” was a very fun festival in Galveston

Charles DickensThis opening line in the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities may refer to the French Revolution and the cities of Paris and London, but as I see it, it can easily relate to my three-month stay in Texas.

I know it’s a stretch, but humor me and allow me to spin my own little tale with a recap of our Texas Gulf Coast adventure.birding in Texas

It was the best of times……
Our Texas journey began in early November when we visited Galveston Island for a month.  We were pleasantly surprised with how much there was to see and do in Galveston and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  We were never bored or at a loss of places to explore.  We even had the pleasure of connecting with fellow bloggers.

the best sunrisesTo read about our stay in Galveston, start with this post – click here.

From Galveston we traveled south to Mustang Island with a quick 3 day stop at Goose Island State Park.  At Mustang Island State Park we fit in more socializing and lots of explorations.

Corpus Christi and Port Aransas hold nostalgic memories for both Al and I.  Al lived in the area for a couple of years during his Navy days B.I. (before Ingrid) and has the fondest recollections of those days.  We shared a great day visiting the first aircraft carrier that Al flew on and off of ….. the USS Lexington

aircraft carrier museumsYears ago, my parents became winter Texans each year as they spent six months in Port Aransas at the Pioneer RV Resort and six months back in Illinois.   My kids and I would visit them in Port A each season either over Christmas break or Spring break.  My dad loved to fish while my mother loved to walk the beach collecting seashells.  They developed a core of friends and stayed active and happy in this part of Texas for a number of years.

When Al and I returned to this area in December, it conjured up feelings of returning home for a visit. I couldn’t help but feel a flood of fond memories wash over me;  thoughts of my mother and her exuberant joy as she walked the beach collecting sea shells.  She was always smiling as she loved digging her bare feet into the sand.  Ah yes, she is missed.where to duck hunt in Texas

After our stay on Mustang Island, we moseyed up the road 45 minutes to nearby Rockport, Texas (technically we stayed in the teeny town of Lamar), where we spent the month of January.  Why Rockport?  Rockport is a Mecca for angler’s, duck hunter’s, and avid birders.  It’s a Sportsman’s duck hunting in Texas

You won’t find any beaches for a stroll around here. So beach goers will want to take a pass on Rockport and stick to the beautiful beaches on Mustang Island.

fishing in TexasWe rolled into the Hidden Oaks RV Park within hours of our friends on December 29th;  long time friend’s and business associates from our Colorado days.

Al’s buddy brought his boat and the guys were on a month-long male bonding mission.  Manly men, doing manly things in a sportsman’s paradise.  Ah, the real reason for our second January stay in Lamar emerges!

With hubby occupied, I’m left to my own devices and find great pleasure in exploring the area for photo ops.

whooping cranesroseate spoonbillDid I already mention this place is known as a ‘birders paradise’?  The endangered whooping cranes winter within walking distance from the RV park and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is just across the St. Charles Bay.

There are over 25 specified birding areas within 40 miles, and then there are birding boat tours, guided birding walks, and bird seminars.  Whew, a birder could get worn out around here!

That said, hubby and I had a rather nice three-month visit to the Texas Gulf Coast.

But wait the story doesn’t end there.  I did mention it was the worst of times.  We’ll talk about that in the next post…..Panasonic cameras

Thank you MonaLiza for the above photo of me.  I had a blast birding with you 🙂

Express Yourself

It’s a rainy and cold morning along the Texas Gulf Coast, perfect for me to stay home and get some much needed housework accomplished.  But first, I’m inclined to share some photos I took this past week while taking full advantage of some fabulous weather.

Brahma calve
looks like someone has some skin to grow into!

Today’s WordPress photo challenge is Express Yourself.  Initially I was at a loss as to which photos to share but then I remembered visiting these cute little Brahma calves.

Their cuteness and expressive little personalities captivated me and when these three started walking towards me I couldn’t help but think of the opening scene to the 1970’s TV show the “Mod Squad“.Brahma cattle

Oh, how I wanted to be Peggy Lipton.  I was in Junior High School at the time sporting brown frizzy curly hair and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t achieve those silky straight tresses.prince charmingFailing to achieve that Peggy Lipton look, I wondered would there ever be a prince charming on a white horse in my future?Chesapeake Bay Retriever One can pray, hope, and look to the skies for answers, but only time will tell if one is fortunate to find true love.roseate spoonbillIn the end, I found it was important to be myself and not try to be something or someone I’m not.  And  then, only then did I discover love…. love for myself and a partner.  Be true to yourself and free to express yourself 🙂Texas Gulf Coast
The Mod Squad – Season 1, Volume 1

Two Birders of a Feather – Port Aransas, TX

Two Birders of a Feather – Port Aransas, TX

My friend, fellow blogger and RVer, MonaLiza just wrote a great post with some gorgeous photos that I just had to share. Hope you enjoy her post as much as I did.

Lowes Travels

Northern Mockingbird Is this mockingbird unhappy to see us?

Two deep-south states – Texas and Florida – are known for their amazing assemblage of birds and other animals.  The “Sister States in Birds”, as they are sometimes called, share many of the same birds – even going so far as to both claim the Northern Mockingbird as their state bird.

Texas gets more western birds, while Florida hosts some Carribbean species and Atlantic sea birds.  Both states have extensive birding trails throughout the state, and I’ve seen many birds here that were also present in Florida.  But those are just some birding facts; today I’m writing about “human” sisters in birds, Ingrid and I.

American Alligator This guy made sure we kept our distance from the water!

I can probably be most accurately labeled as a “wanna-be birder”, who just loves to photograph them.  When two lady bloggers share the same interests they instantly become sisters – in this case…

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Majestic Beauty

I’ve been a little under the weather as of late and thus a tad on the quiet side.  That said, few words are necessary when it comes to the Whooping Crane.  Allow me to share the majestic beauty of the endangered Whooping Crane.  Watching these guys always leaves me speechless.

whooping crane
Beautiful family of three. Mother, Father, child.

With less than 500 left in the world, I feel privileged to be able to see these magnificent creatures every day as they winter just a couple of blocks away from our RV Park.whooping crane

It’s also not uncommon for me to hear their loud, distinctive calls while sitting in my RV.  I can’t see them from the RV, but I sure can hear them.

During one of my morning strolls, a foggy morning I might add, I managed to witness a heated exchange.

whooping cranes
the 3 teenage whooping cranes eyeing the young juvenile.

The exchange took place because dad did not like the way the three teenagers were looking at his daughter (I don’t know if the juvenile is a girl, but it sure did look like an over protective dad protecting a daughter).  As the three teenagers (yes, they are teenagers at 2 years of age) started walking toward the family, dad was quick to let them know it was time for them to move on.  The loud whooping calls continued amongst the group until the dad had finally had enough and ran toward the three teenagers.

whooping cranes
Dad is not happy with the teenagers. “Stop looking at my daughter!”
whooping cranes
the teenagers are run off by dad

This type of encounter is common as families are territorial and don’t like to mingle with others when they have a child.  Their priority is protecting their young one.

whooping cranes
the teenagers hang out with the sandhill cranes

The three teenage whooping cranes are still too young to partner up thus these three whooping cranes can be found hanging together all the time and sometimes they hang out with the Sandhill Cranes. Once they do find partners, they mate for life.whooping cranes

Even though the 3 whoopers have lost all the rust coloring of juvenile status, they don’t come into mating age until they are about 3 years of age.whooper

I’m still awed by these magnificent birds.  They stand 5 feet tall (1.5 meters) and have a wingspan of 7.5 feet (2.3 meters).  They can live to be 22 – 24 years old in the wild.  All the whoopers I’ve photographed here are wild whooping cranes and not one is banded.whooping cranewhooping cranesMy most memorable moment thus far was the day they flew right over me.  I can’t believe I managed to hold my camera steady as I whooping crane looked up in awe…. such a rare experience.  Did you know this group of whooping cranes spend their winter here along the Texas Gulf Coast and their summers at the Wood Buffalo National Park in far northern Alberta, Canada?  That’s a 2,400 mile journey.whoopersThere’s also another group of whooping cranes in Wisconsin.  You can read more about this group and the International Crane Foundation here.whooping craneEven though I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…. I don’t consider myself a birder, just someone who appreciates the beauty of wildlife.  And the whooping crane is one fine and rare beauty that draws me back to this part of Texas time and again.endangered cranes
The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story
Sandhill and Whooping Cranes: Ancient Voices over America’s Wetlands

A trip down memory lane

We all have a past, a past quite often filled with fond memories and memorable experiences.  Experiences that can be character building and instill a sense of confidence or strength.boat harbor Corpus Christi

Back in the 1970’s, hubby was pleased to call Corpus Christi, Texas home.  This was a very exciting and memorable time for a young man in his early twenties.  He was a flight instructor in the Navy.Lady Lex

Just two years earlier he was stationed in Pensacola, Florida, learning how to fly.  At the time, in order for a Naval Aviator to earn his wings, he was required to fly on and off an aircraft carrier.  For Al, that carrier was the USS Lexington.Lady Lex

Lady Lex aircraft carrierThe Lady Lex has since been retired and is comfortably docked in Corpus Christi Bay and has been turned into a museum.

Although Al didn’t push to do the museum tour, I knew it would be a special day filled with fond memories.  I also knew it would be something he would very much like to share with me.

Thus, on a cool overcast day we set out to explore the Lady Lex from top to bottom.

When I first laid on eyes on the USS Lexington, she looked like a huge ship but upon closer examination and assessing the upper deck – landing area I found myself reacting with a, “Holy sh*t! You landed on that?  You really were are one crazy son of ……”aircraft carrier musumsUSS LexingtonAl responded to my expletive filled comment in one of his lengthy and creative tales from those first days on the Lady Lex.

First the stories of taking off from the aircraft carrier and the sensation and G forces.  Then the story of landing on her that first time and his difficulty finding the ship.

She was most definitely a little floating area in a massive sea.  Think about it, all the while the ship is bobbing up and down, side to side, and he needed to land on this tiny, moving strip.

I don’t recall him not smiling the entire day during our visit.  He was a wealth of information and the perfect tour guide.

USS Lexington

aircraft carrier musuems

He shared his knowledge on the various aircrafts and their uses over the years…… in an abridged version mind you…. perfect for my short attention span.

walking the plank
me… ‘walking the plank’

Lady Lex aircraft carrierAnd although I was interested in the various planes, specifically the planes he flew, I was drawn to things like “the plank”.

Perhaps I’ve watched one too many Pirate movies.

I was also on a quest to see the living quarters and mess hall.  You see, hubby is over 6 feet three inches tall and I just couldn’t imagine him crawling around this ship without sustaining brain damage.  Oh dear, I may have finally figured out a few things…. haha!  Shhh… don’t tell him I said that 😉

aircraft carriers
However did you manage to sleep and live in these quarters?

famous aircraft carriersI did have a great time exploring this ship and realized no way in heck could you get me to go out to sea for even a day on the USS Lexington or any other ship.  I can feel the bile in my throat just thinking about it.

The USS Lexington is rife with history.  She was involved in some VERY important, life changing battles, one of which was the freeing of the Filipino people from Japanese occupation in the early 1940’s.

Throughout the ship are displays and plaques commemorating her history.USS LexingtonYes sirree, Al’s face lights up and the tales flow freely when he talks about those early years of flying in the Navy.  Tales from chasing Russian submarines off the coast of Alaska to a training flight that had him flying UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco…. for real, not a simulator.aircraft carrier museumsWe had a great time walking down memory lane together and just may need to do it again ….. soon  🙂aircraft carriers
USS Lexington CV-2 Squadron At Sea (34005)

Smoking meat and sucking shrimp!

Padre Island National SeashoreOur ten minute ferry ride took us from the mainland near Aransas Pass onto Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas, Texas, or as the locals call it; Port A.  Port A is a cute little beach town with plenty of restaurants, shops, lodging, and of course beaches.

After a couple of turns, we were headed south out-of-town about 10 miles to Mustang Island State Park where we quickly set up home for the next 2 weeks.

I wouldn’t put this campground high on the list as far as accommodations go, but the location is pretty sweet.

And let’s face it, it’s all about location.  Just on the other side of the dunes is the beach.

Mustang Island
Mustang Island State Park campground

PintailThe campground with electric and water hook-ups is pretty much a parking lot style layout.  The restrooms and showers are there, but leave a lot to be desired.  That said, we did enjoy our stay and even extended it another three days.

It wasn’t busy during our visit but that was over the Christmas holiday when most folks spend time with family.  The state park does seem to fill up over weekends.

RV socializing
Al, Ingrid (me), Steve, MonaLiza, Faye, Dave
smoking meat
Dave smoking meat

So while most folks were hanging with family, we spent our holiday season socializing with friends.  Shortly after our arrival to Mustang Island we enjoyed our first get together with fellow bloggers.

We were invited over to Faye and Dave’s place where we all watched Dave smoke his meat.  Nice job Dave!

A few days later, we had Faye and Dave over to our place to help us lighten the load in our freezer.  I needed to make room for Christmas cookies after all.  Awfully nice of them to be so accommodating and help us clear out some freezer space.

RV socializing
blogging pals – Faye, MonaLiza, Ingrid

They also had no problem being my guinea pigs for my Bananas Foster.  Although I’ve made Bananas Foster more times than I can count, it had been years since I last made it and never in the RV.  I needed a practice run before our Christmas guests.

Beach campingAnd speaking of Christmas guests, we had MonaLiza and Steve over for Christmas day.  Our RV is only big enough to entertain one couple at a time.  So we had to do our entertaining in stages since the weather was too inclement to hang outside.

As a side note; while we were camped at Mustang Island State Park,  our friends were camped just seven miles away at a beautiful RV Park – Gulf Waters RV Resort.  My folks used to winter at neighboring Pioneer RV Resort.  There’s also camping on the beach and slightly off the beach at I.B. Magee Beach Park which is right in the town of Port A.  We liked the idea of staying there in one of their electric sites, but before the cold snap the mosquitos were terrible and a paved parking lot at the state park was preferable over a mosquito invested grassy campsite.  However, the location looks quite fun… walking distance into town.  We’ll leave it as an option for a future on Mustang IslandBack to our cavorting….  Al joined Dave a couple of times fishing and Dave showed Al how to suck shrimp.  Thanks Dave for enlightening us on the ways of smoking meat and sucking shrimp.  The sucking of shrimp occurs on the beach at low tide using a contraption that exposes shrimp that the guys will then use as bait for fishing.  Sorry, no photos of the guys sucking shrimp 😦

birding Mustang Island
I know I said let’s go shooting…… I meant with cameras not guns !!!

Mustang Island photographybirding center Port AransasSo while Al was out fishing, MonaLiza and I managed to get in some birding.

We visited the Leonabella birding center and Charlie’s Pasture, both located in the town of Port Aransas, Texas.

Even if you’re not into birding, I still recommend a stop at these two places to take in the beauty of the area and enjoy a stroll on the boardwalks.

However, no trip to the Corpus Christi area would be complete without a visit to the Padre Island National Seashore.  Al and I scored a gorgeous day for our visit.

Padre Island National SeashorePadre Island National SeashoreWe checked out the two campgrounds to see if this is a place we’d have any interest in staying, and although we liked the campgrounds, we opted to extend our stay at the state park with electric hook-up during this particular trip.

It’s dry camping only in both campgrounds at the Padre Island National Seashore.

You can click here for more information on the Seashore.

Yep, our seventeen day stay on Mustang Island was over before we knew it.  But we have one more stop to share …. a stop down memory lane……fishing, hunting, birding Mustang Island

Port Aransas, Texas — Fun on the Texas’ Coast