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.

The Next Exit 2015: The Most Accurate Interstate Highway Service Guide Ever Printed

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

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

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Have you ever had a place or the name of a city in your head that you just had to visit?  Perhaps you’ve read a magazine article or seen photos of a location and decided right there and then, “I have got to visit that place”.  Or how about the lyrics of a song causing a sense of intrigue?Galveston Texas

Galveston oh GalvestonI was but a wee little lass back in 1969 when Glen Campbell sang one of his most famous songs;

Galveston, Oh Galveston ….. I still hear your sea waves crashing ……. Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun….. 

At Galveston, at Galveston

Although I was very young, I was old enough to have the catchy tune stick in my head.  I remember asking my mom, “What’s Galveston?”Galveston State park

So this past summer while basking in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, hubby and I were formulating our winter excursion.  Since our friends from Colorado wanted us to join them once again in Rockport, Texas during the month of January, we knew we’d be returning to the Texas Gulf Coast.seagull

IbisThat said, this was the perfect opportunity for us to visit a place I’ve been curious about for a super long time.

And Galveston has not disappointed.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and enjoying our stay very much…. well, the weather hasn’t always been cooperative, but those storms are soon forgotten once the sun returns.

Speaking of storms, Galveston has survived it’s fair share.  On September 8, 1900, Galveston island was struck by the United States’ deadliest natural disaster; a devastating Category 4 Hurricane with 145 mile per hour winds.

On September 13, 2008 a Category 2 hurricane struck with 110 mile per hour winds. In addition to excessive winds, Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage with a 22 foot storm surge and widespread coastal flooding.

Ashton Villa
there’s a plaque on the wall indicating the water level caused by Hurricane Ike

Ashton Villa

The above photos were taken at the visitor center located in downtown Galveston, Texas.  Throughout the city are little reminders of Ike’s devastation.The StrandMuch of the island has been rebuilt since 2008, but there are still some buildings that remain in a state of disrepair and serve as a constant reminder of the devastation Hurricane Ike caused.Galveston Island TexasNext up girls go wild, or rather bird crazy ….  in the mean time, I’ll keep humming Glen Campbell

Galveston, Oh Galveston…. I still
hear your sea waves crashing…..
At Galveston, at Galveston….
Pleasure Pier


When in Rome!

We’ve been on Galveston Island along the Texas Gulf Coast for a little over two weeks now.  We’re enjoying our stay more than we ever imagined and the time is flying by.
birding in Texas

Our time has been spent in a variety of ways.  We’ve toured downtown Galveston and taken in it’s history, we’ve taken long walks on the beach, we’ve hung out with great friends, we’ve explored the island, and I’ve communed with lots of birds.Texas birdingSince our friends have moved on, we find ourselves this fine Thanksgiving Day enjoying some quiet time …. just the two of us.  We’re faced with a dilemma.  Whatever shall we have for dinner?

Texas birding
This guy recommends the fish!

When it comes to food, Al and I have always had the attitude “When in Rome, do as the Romans“.  (you didn’t think I actually traveled to Rome, now did ya?  Although I do love Italian food)  So when in Rome….. In other words, when we travel to Boston, Massachusetts we order seafood and when we’re in Omaha, Nebraska we order steak, Chicago it’s pizza – I think you get the point.Texas Pelican

So here we are in Galveston, Texas along the Gulf Coast.  The locals, as in Mister Pelican, recommends the fish.  With such an accredited recommendation coming from a fish aficionado, hubby and I agree to have fish for our Thanksgiving dinner.Texas coastal birds

Al and I shared our first Thanksgiving together 34 years ago as co-workers.  Al was a pilot and I a flight attendant.  We found ourselves on a layover in Philadelphia over the Thanksgiving holiday. Yep, we were the lucky ones working on the holiday.  Someone had to work, so why not us?Brown pelican

It was late in the day when we landed in Philadelphia and almost everything at the airport was closed, it was Thanksgiving Day after all.  None of the crew members had eaten the better part of the day and thus were all starving.  After scouring the airport, we found one restaurant still open, but not for long as they were preparing to close.  Our only option was a Phillie Cheese Steak Sandwich…. “Five sandwiches to go, please!”

brown pelican
It just doesn’t seem to want to go down. Perhaps it’s time for a drink… help the digestive process!

brown pelican

Galveston Texas
going in for a ‘big’ gulp
brown pelican
Still doesn’t seem to want to go down!
RVing in Texas
Perhaps Dory is just a tad too large for me to swallow!

And boy were those sandwiches good.  When you’re as hungry as we were and with very few options available, we were grateful for the sustenance.  Sure it wasn’t the whole turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry kind of meal, but it was a meal none the less and we were thankful.  After all, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?

Texas birdingAfter our airline years, we ventured into a business and that too included the need to work on holidays.  Thus, Al and I have never put a huge emphasis on holidays or the holiday meal.

The important thing for us has always been about making time for family and paving our own family traditions.

One of our traditions includes not eating ‘traditional’ meals but rather opting for foods we thoroughly enjoy …..  turkey and cranberries just don’t fall into the ‘favorites’ category in this household.

Back to “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s”   We’re in seafood country.  On Galveston Island we have the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the bay on the other.  In other words, we’re surrounded by sea that’s loaded with fresh fish.  So while our extended families to the north gobble down turkey we’ll be feasting on baked Flounder and bacon wrapped Shrimp with sides of mashed potatoes and green beans almondine.

Galveston Texas
Hey Miss Ingrid, watch this….
white pelican
I’ll take that fish off your hands!
Galveston Texas
a successful steal !!!
Texas birding
Yum and down she goes!

For those of you celebrating, may I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Celebrating or not whatever traditions you share, may your day be filled with joy, laughter, and plenty of food.  And hopefully you won’t have a big white pelican swoop in and steal your dinner.

Galveston Texas
ruffled feathers …. justified indeed!


Angular Galveston, Texas

As I was writing a  post in an attempt to get caught up with our travels, I’m distracted once again….. but in a good way by today’s Daily Post photo challenge.  The word ‘angular’ is perfect to share some of Galveston’s beautiful architecture.daily post

daily post photo challengeSince we arrived in Galveston, Texas 10 days ago, I’ve had the opportunity to walk around downtown Galveston a couple of times.  I’m in love with the beautifully restored Victorian homes.  Sure there are still signs here and there of a devastating hurricane that occurred in 2008 – hurricane Ike, but restorations are on going.photographyIn my short time in the area, I do believe I’ve fallen in love.  Galveston has so much to offer and hopefully I can convey all of it’s beauty in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned!Architecture Victorianarchitecure photography

photography architecture

hurricane Ike

the Great Dane dog sculpture was carved from a downed tree caused by hurricane Ike.  There are more tree sculptures located throughout the downtown area.  Talk about a great way of ‘repurposing’

Panasonic DMC-ZS40K Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Black)


Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography