All about Luck

Luck! Do you believe in luck or are you a believer in people making their own luck?  I was thinking about luck this past week with all the hubbub surrounding the Power Ball lottery.  Since I’m a firm believer in both, I joined the ranks of lottery purchasers with the high hopes of being one of the lucky ones.  After all, you can’t win, unless you play…. right!whooping cranes

When I came home from the grocery store and told Al I bought a lottery ticket(s), he was surprised considering we can count on one hand the number of times we’ve bought lottery tickets.  Just like millions of other American’s, I was lured in by the hype and insane amount of money. I justified my purchase by considering it a donation.  Lottery money is usually used for good causes.  In Colorado, the money supports parks and recreation.  Here in Texas, the money goes toward education and veterans.  Realizing my chances of winning anything were slim and none, I sought solace in knowing my ten dollars worth of lottery tickets went to a good cause.

Ibis
Ibis

But the fact that I didn’t win any lotto money doesn’t mean my week wasn’t full of good luck.  Ah, to the contrary!  A blogging friend recently commented to me, that a person has better luck at winning the lottery than seeing a whooping crane in the wild.  (It was after this comment, that I bought the lottery tickets…. hoping I was one lucky gal LOL)

how lucky - 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill in fight
how lucky – 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill flying by

The majority of whooping crane photos featured on this blog are photographs of WILD whooping cranes.  They aren’t banded and their lineage dates back to the 1940’s to the last remaining fifteen whooping cranes in the world.  Whooping cranes were close to extinction and still remain high on the endangered species list.

whooper_map_EThis group of whoopers that winter in the Rockport, Texas, area are referred to as the Wood Buffalo National Park wild whooping cranes.  Their migration takes them from the far northern reaches of Alberta, Canada, south 2,500 miles to the Texas Gulf Coast.  Looks like these Canadian cranes have joined the ranks of RVer’s who escape the harsh northern winters by heading south and becoming winter Texans.

So, do I consider myself luckier than a lottery winner?  Maybe I should….. but just think of all the good I could’ve done for the cranes had I won the lotto…. even second place would’ve been quite acceptable  😉

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – If a heron sees his shadow……

Just like the lottery, bird photography requires a certain amount of luck;  being in the right place, at the right time, with the camera at the ready.  However, I have to take the effort to make that luck happen.  In this case, I have to make my own luck and get lucky in the process  (hubby’s ears perked up with the last part of that sentence).Bird photography 

Getting lucky might mean hanging around a place watching the clouds roll by for an hour or more in the mere hopes of catching a glimpse of a rare or endangered bird, let alone a photograph.  This is where patience and perseverance pays off, and a little luck is always welcome.photograpy

Driving around scoping out great locations in hopes of capturing a unique sunset or sunrise photograph can also be challenging, but is there such a thing as a bad sunrise or sunset?  I think not.  Some are just Birdingmore spectacular than others and I consider myself lucky to be able to capture those truly amazing ones.

The other morning, I was dressed and out the door by 6:50 a.m. with my travel mug filled with hot, black coffee and my camera battery full.  I had high hopes for a beautiful sunrise and I was going to capture it so I could share it with all of you.

I drove to a couple of my favorite little spots along the coast.  I tried some new spots as well.  Then I waited, and waited some more.  The thick cloud cover wasn’t producing the results I had hoped for.

A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo op moment I had hoped for.
A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo-op I was looking for.

With the photography a bust, it was time for me to run a few errands.  First stop was the post office.  I arrived at 8:40 a.m. thinking they’d be open by 8:30.  Wrong – they didn’t open till 9:00.  Ah, what’s a gal to do for twenty minutes with a camera and empty media card sitting in the passenger seat?

Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top of them.
Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top.

How about a little exploring?  What was supposed to be twenty minutes of aimlessly driving around to kill some time, turned into over an hour of discovering one unique sight after another.   When I came upon an enchanting grove of wind-swept oak trees topped with dozens upon dozens of Great Blue Herons, I swiftly pulled the truck off the road.  Wow!  This was so worth the post office not being open.

Birding trifecta!
Birding trifecta!

As I ventured further down the road, a shot of pink caught my eye.  I quickly found a place to pull over and park.  I donned my favorite camo shirt and green hat and slowly walked through the weeds.  Talk about winning a birding trifecta …. boo-yah!   I hung around with this diverse group of locals until they wandered out of sight.Birding

It was well past 10:00 a.m. when I finally headed back over to the post office. Talk about an interesting morning.  What started out as an unlucky morning with a poor photographic sunrise and the post office being closed, turned into a lucky morning of birding.  If I had sat in the post office parking lot waiting for it to open instead of aimlessly exploring, I never would have stumbled upon these wonderful sightings.  Was it luck or did I make my own luck?  Hmm, when’s that next Power Ball drawing 🙂

“Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet” – Pierre Trudeau

You can read about my trip to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge here and here.

Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck!
Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck! Does that mean I should buy another lottery ticket?

sunset

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The Same, but Different

Our first full week along the Texas Gulf Coast whizzed by.  Even though our weather was a mixed bag of cold, warm, sunny, gloomy, wet and dry, I have no complaints.  It’s been a great week exploring some familiar turf.Texas Gulf Coast

This is our third January hanging out in Rockport, Texas, just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  We’re staying in a private RV park surrounded by some familiar faces and some new faces.  Although the RV park is much the same, there’s a few subtle improvements which are always appreciated.  There’s also a few changes in the neighborhood, a couple of blocks away from the park.

This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph
This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph

The first thing I noticed were the lack of sandhill and whooping cranes hanging around the neighborhood.  Turns out, one of the homes in the area changed ownership, and the new owners decided not to keep up with a feeder.  The locals aren’t too happy anyway about all the tourists and photographers parking in the middle of the road to capture glimpses of the rare, endangered whooping crane.  Plus, Texas has received an abundance of rain resulting in a bumper crop of Blue Crab, the whoopers favorite.

A homeowner maintains a feeder filled with cracked corn
Last year a homeowner maintained a feeder filled with cracked corn
Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during seasons of drought
Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during times of drought
whooping cranes
Endangered Whooping Cranes taking flight

I’m not sure what it is about these coastal birds that has me intrigued, fascinated, and totally enthralled.  It’s captivating to watch these magnificent birds take flight or land.  They exude a sense of weightlessness and perhaps even power that is mesmerizing.  Yep, I’ve definitely developed a passion for cranes.

It's amazing to watch these large birds in flight
It’s amazing to watch these large birds in flight

Whooping cranes

I’m a little disappointed I won’t be able to photograph these gorgeous birds this visit as easily as I did last year.  I might make a special trip out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge or I’ll focus on photographing some of the other beautiful coastal birds.  There’s no shortage of birds along the Texas Gulf Coast and a little patience and perseverance usually pays off.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Who can pass up an opportunity to capture the pink beauty of a Roseate Spoonbill?

an Egret prepares to land
Snowy Egret prepares to land

I find Egrets to be particularly elegant.  I wonder how they manage to stay so white.  If only I knew their secret so I could have the same results with my socks 😉

Week one was off to a fabulous start, and thus I can’t wait to see what I’ll discover over the next three weeks.  Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  If you’d like more information on the endangered whooping crane, you can read my post here (I give some statistics) and here (my second trip) and here (my visit to the International Crane Foundation).

Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)

A Fresh Start

I love watching the sunrise, and just like the beginning of a new day there’s something refreshing about flipping the calendar to a new year.  It’s like being given a fresh start.  As one year comes to an end a new year begins.  I’ve been known to make a New Year’s resolution or two in the past, and although I haven’t made any official resolutions this go around, I do have high hopes and plans for the New Year … I’m sure there’s something in there about diet and exercise as well – me along with millions of other American’s, huh 😉 sunrise

We hit the road three days after Christmas…. two days later than we originally planned.  Bad weather in southern New Mexico and western Texas necessitated an adjustment to our schedule, considering parts of Interstate 10 were temporarily closed due to ice and snow.  While hubby and I kept an eye on news reports pertaining to the Whooping craneslatest happenings including airport closures and flight cancellations, we agreed we sure don’t miss those years of air travel.  The flexibility associated with RV travel has really spoiled us and we can’t imagine traveling any other way.  Well, yes we can imagine it, we just don’t ever want to do it again.

That said, our drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Rockport, Texas went well with the exception of having to deal with unwelcome cold weather.  We spent the first night in Deming, New Mexico, at the Dream Catcher RV Park (an Escapees park), and although we had a full hook-up site, we kept the water hose and sewer pipe stowed choosing to hook up to electric only due to the below freezing temps.

Snow in Deming, NM
Snow in Deming, NM

Night two was spent at a regular stopping point for us; the Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton, Texas.  We thought about overnighting at the Walmart but once again with the extreme cold, we opted for hook-ups.  I will say it was interesting as we passed the Walmart the next morning, the parking lot looked like an RV Park.  I don’t ever recall seeing so many RV’s overnighting at a Walmart.  Turns out, not only was the Hilltop RV Park full that night, but so was the Walmart.  I think the inclement weather affected a lot of people and their travels causing Fort Stockton to be overflowing with RV’s.

Moving on – We planned on spending night three in San Antonio at the Elks Lodge.  I was looking forward to revisiting the Shops at La Cantera , located within walking distance from the lodge.   From an architectural and aesthetic point of view, this outdoor mall is absolutely beautiful and it was my hope to see it decorated for the holidays with lots of Christmas glow.  However, as we approached the Elks Lodge we encountered a sea of RV’s.   I’m not sure how they all managed to squeeze into such a small parcel of land, but every nook and cranny seemed to be wedged with various RV’s.  An RV chili cook off festival at the lodge had us moving on down the road in search of plan B.  A holiday visit to the Shops at La Cantera will need to be saved for another time.

About an hour south of San Antonio off Interstate 37 is the Choke Canyon State Park. We scored a great site – #133.  We enjoyed the campground and would definitely stay here again.

On day four with twelve hundred miles behind us, we arrived at our destination just before noon.  While I helped hubby position the RV into our new spot for the month of January, I’m greeted by a familiar sound in the distance; the sound of whooping cranes.  As Al steps out of the truck to assess his handy work, I assault him with a child like exuberance that has him rolling his eyes.whooping cranes

He quickly remarks with a chuckle, “Can we please finish setting up and have lunch before you run off to see your birds?”  With a hesitant nod, I slowly respond, “But of course!  After all, I have the next thirty days to commune with my feathered friends.”

So folks as you might have guessed, we’re back in Rockport, Texas, in the very same park and site we were in 365 days ago.  Seems as though we’ve come full circle and returned to a familiar starting point to kick off the New Year.  We’re once again rendezvousing with the birds along with friends from our old sticks and bricks neighborhood in southern Colorado.   What started out three years ago as a sojourn whooping cranesstrictly for hubby to get together with a buddy to engage in sporting activities has since turned into my opportunity to commune with birds.  I don’t consider myself a birder, but merely someone who has a passion for cranes …. and maybe spoonbills, egrets and herons, but who’s counting 😉

This has obviously turned into an unexpected passion for me, and I can see myself returning to this area time and again.  You can click here to read more about how my passion for cranes developed.

endangered whooping cranes
Last winter, it was quite exhilarating to have these two whooping cranes fly right over me. I could literally hear the rush of wind as they flapped their wings. A rare treat considering there’s less than 500 of these magnificent birds left in the world. Photo taken at 160mm zoom.

Although the weather this first week in January is expected to have less than stellar conditions for gallivanting about with the camera, I’m still excited to be back along the Texas Gulf Coast.  Cranes are considered to be a symbol of luck. I’m hoping by starting off the New Year hanging around these intriguing creatures of luck, that 2016 is a great year.

One of my most memorable places in 2015 was camped amongst 20,000 plus sandhill cranes.  You can read about that visit here.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year filled with lots of good wishes AND good luck!

Good luck y'all and Happy New Year!
“No lady, you can’t rub my head for good luck!”

 

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Moving down the coast

Whew!  We made it back to Arizona and are now camped near the town of Benson.  All I can say is Texas is one BIG state.  Before I start posting about our Arizona adventures, I want to finish up with the places we stayed while in Texas…….Rockport Texas

After a very fun stay in Galveston, Texas it was time to hit the road again.  We had four days in between reservations.  That meant, we had four days to do a three and a half hour drive.  Now that’s what I call meandering.

We still hadn’t firmly made up our minds about where we wanted to stay during that four-day time frame.  So we just hit the road moving south along the Texas Gulf Coast.  We had two options in mind; the Matagorda Bay Nature Park or Goose Island State Park.  Hmm, decisions!

When you purchase the yearly Texas State Park Pass for $70, you and your accompanying guests get free access to all Texas State Parks plus you’re given four cyber coupons good for 1/2 off a night of camping.  With that in mind, we decided on Goose Island State Park and put one of those coupons to use.

Beach camping
Goose Island State Park – Bay side campsites

Goose Island State ParkWe opted for a bay side site wanting to bask in as much sunshine as possible.  The other camping loops are nestled in a grove of oak trees with lots of low-lying branches and plenty of shade.  The folks at Goose Island State Park are very accommodating and upon check-in they will allow you to drive through the campground first and pick out Beach campinga site.  That’s a huge bonus as many of the bay side sites are not very level.  Some have a huge hump.

The campsites located in the loops with the oak trees could be challenging for bigger RV’s, so it’s nice to lay eyes on the sites first.

We lucked out with excellent weather during this 3 night stay.  Keep in mind while camping close to the water that salt spray is very corrosive and it only takes a couple of days for rust to show up. Last year, when the wind and weather kicked up, we saw a wave or two actually hit some RV’s camped in these bay side sites, but it doesn’t take actual contact to start the corrosion.

FYI – this part of Texas has sketchy Verizon coverage.  We had no problem with our internet but we did have issues talking on the phone.  This is AT&T country.  We received about 3 TV channels with our Jack Antenna.

Texas State Parks
A view of the fishing pier out my RV window at sunrise at Goose Island State Park
Mustang Island State Park
Mustang Island State Park – parking lot style camping

Port Aransas TexasFrom Goose Island State Park we continued down the coast to Mustang Island State Park for our scheduled two-week stay. This was a 45 minute drive and included a ferry crossing.

The campground isn’t the greatest but we love the area.  Within a short walk from the campsite over the dunes are miles and miles of gorgeous beach.  Corpus Christi, Texas is an easy 20 minute drive away with plenty of sights and shopping.  The quaint beach town of Port Aransas is 10 minutes up the road.

At Mustang Island State Park we had good Verizon coverage – internet and phone.  We pulled in a dozen TV channels with our over the air antenna.  When you book a week, the rate is discounted. The on site bath house is probably the oldest and most rustic we’ve encountered in the last couple of years.  I’m trying to be diplomatic, but between you and me, I thought the showers were pretty bad – old with lack of privacy. But overall we enjoyed our stay at Mustang Island State Park and would definitely stay here again.

Sand dunes
Me relaxing amongst the dunes and listening to the waves at Mustang Island State Park

How about some other camping options on Mustang Island?  Trust me when I say, you won’t run out of choices.

Mustang Island State Park

Boondocking
These tents were pitched along the shipping channel near Charlie’s Pasture Nature Center
Port Aransas
This RV was parked on the beach in Port Aransas near I.B. Magee Park

BoondockingBoondocking in the area?  YES!  Overnight camping is allowed in quite a few areas on Mustang Island but requires a permit from Nueces County for a fee.  Padre Island National Seashore has miles of sandy beach geared toward tenting and offers two dry camping campgrounds for RV’s.  Fees are very inexpensive

On the Aransas Pass side of the channel there is free boondocking and usually one or two RV’s at any given time can be spotted.  On weekends it can be busier.

Do note; the ground is rutted with some soft, sandy spots.  It would be wise to be able to read the lay of the land and have a good understanding of low tide versus high tide.

Mustang Island offers a multitude of private RV parks.  My folks used to winter at Pioneer RV Resort and it’s a very nice RV park.  If luxury is your thing, check out Gulf Waters RV Resort.  There are at least 3 more RV parks I drove by in the town of Port Aransas but they all seemed cramped and something I wouldn’t be interested in, not to say they aren’t nice, just not my cup of tea.

Polly Anna
Buy shrimp right off the boat in Port Aransas

Ok, let’s wrap up this post with the RV park where we spent the month of January.  This was our second January at this park and I viewed it a whole lot differently this year than last year.  I found it more enjoyable this go around, perhaps because I knew exactly what to expect.

Hidden Oaks RV Park
Entrance – Hidden Oaks RV Resort

First, the park was chosen by Al’s buddy and if you recall the whole reason for us being in Rockport, Texas, was for the guys to do manly things with manly men.  That said, Hidden Oaks RV Park is a no frills, rustic kind of place and located just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  It’s an ideal place for Sportsmen.  There’s even an apartment available in the club house for a nightly/weekly rate.

Although there aren’t any Park Models on site, there are trailers kept here year round as second homes.  The sites are close together, grassy with some gravel.  There are oak trees and low branches making maneuvering a bit of a challenge in spots.

Hidden Oaks RV Park
We stayed in one of their newer sites this year

The unique oak trees are pretty much a theme around Rockport as are goat heads…. you know, those tiny little burrs that stick to everything including pooches poor paws. We’ve encountered those little suckers everywhere in southern Texas and boy do they stick…. and hurt!

Last year I did check out a bunch more RV parks in the Rockport area and did not find anything more inviting than Hidden Oaks. On that note, let me share what I DID enjoy about the place.

Hidden Oaks RV Resort is located in a rural residential area and just down the street from the state park making it great for bike rides and walks.  Whooping cranes and Sandhill cranes hang out just a couple of blocks away and I could hear the cranes from my RV.  On occasion they even flew over the RV Park.  Management and guests are ALL extremely helpful, friendly, and engaging.  And the price is right at $300 for the month plus electric.  It fits our needs and interests and we would stay here again.  Remember this part of Texas is a birder’s and angler’s paradise.

Verizon and TV coverage is sketchy – same as I noted for Goose Island State Park.Corpus Christi Texas

So that’s it for my Texas campground review.  Let me know if I missed something or if you have any questions.  Happy trails!

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Let’s talk campgrounds

I don’t normally do campground reviews or talk too much about the places we park.  First, there are a lot of great bloggers out there that do a much better job in that department than I could ever do.  Second, reviews are subjective.  I’d feel badly hurting anyone’s feelings or recommending a place only to have someone else sorely disappointed.

Brahma calf
Can we talk?

After our 3 month Texas Gulf Coast adventure, I’ve had a few bloggers express interest in the places we camped and would appreciate a little more information.  Thus, I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty on my Texas campground experience.

photographySo let’s grab a drink and I’ll tell you the where, why, and MY opinion.

I’m not always fond of making reservations because I like to keep our plans fluid.  What I mean is if we really enjoy a location and want to stay longer, I want that flexibility.  The opposite holds true as well, and yes, there have been plenty of places that were a total let down and I couldn’t wait to move on.

But alas, reservations are a necessity especially in popular places and during holiday weekends or special events.

Another tidbit that’s important to ME are views and space.  Therefore we prefer staying in State Parks, National Forests, or boondock in the backcountry.  I’ll gladly give up the convenience of hook-ups for nature and views.  But there is a time and place when a Private RV Park is the perfect venue, especially when near a large metropolitan area.

Knowing I wanted to spend a month on Galveston Island had me searching for Private RV Parks for that leg of our journey.  The Galveston Island State Park was already booked on the weekends during our time frame, plus you can only reserve a two-week stay. I liked the idea of staying near the state park so I could do some hiking and bird watching there and that was the main reason I chose the Jamaica Beach RV Resort.

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

It did not disappoint.  All sites are pull-thru, concrete, and level.  Each site offers a picnic table, full hook-ups, and are relatively nicely spaced.  A monthly stay in a private park is always the most economical rate versus the nightly rate with the exception of the discounted nightly rate with a Passport America or Escapees membership.  Do note: be informed and don’t assume, as discounts are not always applicable or honored and usually apply to a one or two night stay only and quite often not on weekends.Jamaica Beach

Jamaica Beach RV ResortThe Jamaica Beach RV Resort has two swimming pools, a mini golf course with a cute pirate theme, and a pond with ducks.

The on-site laundry facility was also convenient and rarely busy.

The one big negative is the beach is located across the street (a busy road) at a public access point.  Also, road noise can be heard within the RV park especially at those sites located closer to the busy road.

We did enjoy our month at this park. I would stay here again and even recommend it, but we did check out a few other options in the area for future reference.

Galveston Island State Park is ok and offers two different types of camping experiences.  They have a campground on the ocean side for those beach goers and another on the bayside for birders, kayakers, and anglers.  Our friends MonaLiza and Steve stayed on the bayside and wrote a review. Click here to read Steve’s review.  Do note; the state park does fill up on weekends.  Thus, I would highly recommend a reservation.Galveston Island State ParkI did visit the state park regularly during my stay on Galveston Island. I found the trails the majority of the time were too wet to navigate with tennis shoes.  Muck boots would be more appropriate, but I still managed to find plenty of  photographic opportunities.Galveston Texas

Here are a few other options of places to stay for a Galveston Island visit;
Dellanera RV Park is owned and managed by the county and is in a great location. There’s few amenities, the sites are gravel, and it’s on the ocean.  It looks ok.
Bayou Shores RV Park would probably be my last choice.  I didn’t like the location and it seemed a little unkempt.
Ron Hoover Oasis RV Park is connected with the RV retail store.  We found ourselves visiting their parts department several times.  The RV park looks nice and private. It’s even located next to a large county park (not visible from the RV park) with water access.  It’s actually located on the mainland and not the island near exit 10 thus it’s not that far from Galveston.  Anglers and Kayakers would like this place.
Tiki Tom’s looked like an interesting place and is definitely geared toward anglers and boaters.

Is there boondocking on Galveston Island?  I wouldn’t plan on it.  There’s no overnight camping allowed anywhere on the beach on Galveston Island – county ordinance.  I’m not sure they’ll even allow you to overnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Sorry, I failed to confirm that tidbit.  Throughout the island we did notice lots of signs stating, “No overnight parking”.  So if there is boondocking, we didn’t find it.Galveston Island

Next up, we’ll move on down the coast.

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The art of compromise

Living a mobile lifestyle with a partner in 250 square feet, requires the ability to communicate and compromise.  Compromise becomes even more important when the individuals don’t always share common interests.Lamar Texas

Compromise has never been a problem for hubby and me.  I tell him where we’re going, what we’re doing, and he says, “Yes, Dear”.  And that my friends is how to survive 30 plus years of marriage …. 😆

northern shoveler duckBut in all seriousness, Al and I have always supported and encouraged each others interests and passions.  We enjoy doing things together as well as separately.  It works for us and has for over thirty years.

Al and I are fortunate in that we’ve both had the opportunity to travel extensively over the years internationally and domestically, but that travel was predominantly to metropolitan areas.  Thus, we now enjoy focusing our travels on small towns, back country roads, and all things nature which makes this RV lifestyle a perfect fit.  Neither one of us has a so called bucket list, but we do have a mental list of “wouldn’t mind visiting there”.  It’s sort of a …… if it works fine, if it doesn’t work that’s fine too kind of list.

duck hunting in TexasAl’s pretty laid back and easy going about our travels and for the most part leaves the planning up to me.

After I brief him on tentative plans, we’ll bounce ideas back and forth. He’ll occasionally add his two cents or express any concerns, and then the trip planning commences followed by a few necessary reservations.  For the most part, he rolls with my whims.

On that note, last summer during our winter planning phase, Al mentioned how he really wanted to do a repeat of the previous January and meet up with his buddy again in Rockport, Texas, to engage in sportsman stuff.  Initially, I wanted to stay in the desert southwest, but since this was something he really wanted to do, I felt it was my turn to roll with his whim and compromise.

Plus, I didn’t think returning to the area  would be so bad.  It would allow me the opportunity to commune with whooping cranes and all my other feathered friends while hubby was occupied elsewhere.roseate spoonbill

And then I got to thinking since we were coming to Texas anyway, this would be the perfect opportunity to explore some other areas along the Texas Gulf Coast, which is how we ended up spending time in Galveston and Port Aransas.

Texas Gulf CoastAlthough I have had a relatively nice time along the Texas Gulf Coast, all things considered, the lure of an Arizona sunset is hard to resist.  The abundant sunshine and dry heat of the desert beckons.

As our scheduled stay in Texas was nearing an end, Al started dropping hints about extending our stay.  He said something along the lines of, “We have no commitments in February.  Why don’t we just stay here a little longer”?

He asks this question as the winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and I’m bundled up in layers of clothing trying to keep warm.

I ponder…..  Keep that thought in mind while I digress for a moment….
From the moment we purchased the RV, Al made every effort to train me on all her workings and we split the driving so I’m comfortable towing her.  When I became so ill last winter, it made an indelible impression upon us just how important it is that he and I are both able to handle all aspects of this lifestyle.  With the exception of backing her up, I’m quite capable in the handling of all duties.

As for Al’s cross training, he has improved in doing laundry, vacuuming, and cooking (well, his culinary skills are still lacking, but edible. That’s a work in progress – hehe).  Both of us can handle the demands of this lifestyle together and independently.

QuartzsiteSo back to me contemplating Al’s thoughts on extending our Texas stay.  Remember the weather is nasty as we have this discussion.  I wait for the loud furnace to shut off so I’m sure he can hear my response.

“You’d like to stay in Texas longer?”  I confirm. He nods.  “No problem honey, but please check with Denny to make sure his couch is a sleeper, because come Monday the jacks are coming up and the wheels will be rolling.  Whether you’ll be sitting next to me is your choice.  I’m flexible”.

Adirondack chairAl burst out into laughter and said, “Ah, you are a wise one. Perhaps it was foolish of me to see to it that you can handle all aspects of this RV because I have no doubt to your capabilities.  I assure you, when you have this puppy ready to roll, I’ll be sitting next to you”.

It was the best of times; exploring fun new places and getting together with fellow bloggers.  It was the worst of times; nasty weather and illness.  It was the age of wisdom; as we age, we hopefully become wiser.  Al is second guessing the wisdom of his actions in making sure I can handle the RV by myself.  It was the age of foolish; We’re never too old to act a little foolishly.  It’s all about the laughter.  In the end, I am no fool and would never dream of leaving my partner in crime beyond.

Arizona here WE come!whooping crane

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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

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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 paradise.best 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 🙂

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