With a strong cup of coffee in hand while watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico … Ah, could there possibly be a better way to start a new day? I know it’s one of my favorites; a strong cup of coffee and a beautiful sunrise.
The dawning of a new day brings about a sense of hope, a sense of new beginnings, a fresh start. All the problems of yesterday are just that – yesterday’s problems.
I love watching a beautiful sunrise, but I don’t always love jumping out of the RV so early in the morning in search of those wonderful views. Summer is particularly difficult for me to photograph sunrise considering the sun graces us with her presence so incredibly early in the morning.
It’s too tempting to stay snuggled up in the RV until a more reasonable hour. I guess that’s why I enjoy visiting the Texas Gulf Coast during the winter months. Sunrise is at a more sensible hour and I have no trouble loading up my travel mug with a steaming cup of strong black coffee, tossing the camera in the truck, and heading off in search of capturing an inspiring sunrise photograph. It’s not uncommon for me to be driving along the coast, sipping coffee, long before the sun makes her appearance.
I find these early morning solo excursions to be refreshing. It’s the perfect way to start my day, and I always look forward to our visits to this special place in Texas. I was so looking forward to repeating our usual January – February Texas sojourn, but after much discussion and lots of hemming and hawing, Al and I have decided to stay in Phoenix, Arizona, the entire winter and forgo the Texas journey … this winter, anyway.
I’ll miss those Gulf Coast sunrises, but now I have the challenge of finding the perfect sunrise view in the desert southwest. Hmm, I think I’m up for the photo challenge! If anyone is interested in joining me on a photographic outing in Arizona this winter, please, do reach out … I love company and exploring new locations.
I will miss those coastal views and shore birds, but I look forward to embracing new views, new photographic challenges, and meeting new friends. A new day, a new view, and a new adventure … bring it on!
For this weeks photo challenge, let’s share images of sunrise. Feel free to share a link in the comments below or link back to this page on your own post. I’d love to see your favorite sunrise location.
Wandering Wednesday –
Each Wednesday I post a different photo prompt / challenge as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like-minded bloggers. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy, share and connect 🤗
Upcoming prompt – Zoo …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!
I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by. It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking. Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather. I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.
Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots. For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my camera. With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me. How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.
I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers, a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us. It’ll be our secret 😃 After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds. Then it just wouldn’t be the same.
Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds. But I do!
Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites. My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own. And they’re really bad about checking in with me – almost as bad as my children!
Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map. I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most. I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.
With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!
After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest. Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, but with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.
Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10. The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio. Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.
Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds. Poor Al 😫
Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.
Talk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.
Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough. Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.
I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two. But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west. Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.
So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas? On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort. Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town. You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.
We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend. Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.
On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….
Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!
After a fantastic two month stay along the Texas Gulf Coast, we’ve hitched up and started our journey back to the desert. I love having the freedom to split our time between two such diverse places; the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert. I’m grateful I don’t have to pick one or the other because each place offers something special and unique.
First, let’s talk about the water. Gosh, what’s not to like about water, beaches, and sunsets, or in my case, sunrises! All this water is the main attraction and the reason folks year round flock to the Rockport area.
You won’t find much of a beach scene around Rockport/Fulton, but it is an anglers delight. For miles of sandy beach, you’ll want to visit Mustang Island. With that said, there is a small stretch of sandy beach to enjoy at the Rockport Beach.
The Rockport Beach is a one mile long strip of land with sandy beach on one side of the road and a migratory bird area on the other side. This is a fee use area and you’ll need to leave pooch at home.
There’s a small area roped off so nesting birds won’t be disturbed, making this a worthwhile stop for birders and photographers. It’s also the perfect place to get in a little kayaking and paddle around an island to view nesting migratory birds.
Although summer is considered peak tourist season, you’ll find plenty of snowbirds in the winter hanging around and calling themselves winter Texans…. us included.
Because this is such a popular place to escape the harsher weather to the north, you never know who you’ll run into around here. Our friends, Faye and Dave, were wintering on Mustang Island, an easy one-hour drive away from our camp and we enjoyed a few get togethers with this entertaining couple. We also managed to squeeze in a few other social engagements.
This was our fourth year spending January in this part of Texas and our first time spending February. Thus, I’ve had time to put a dent in this list – 51 things to do near Rockport.
Rockport/Fulton are quaint, small town communities where everyone waves. You won’t find any high-rise condos around here, although it is a very popular spot for folks from the big cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to own second homes. There’s also no shortage of RV Parks.
The original draw for us four years ago to visit the Texas Gulf Coast was for Al to meet up with his buddy and do manly things with manly men 😉 Little did I realize during that first visit, how I’d come to embrace and relish our visits to the Texas Gulf Coast.
And now it’s a toss-up as to which one of us looks more forward to these visits. Thankfully it doesn’t matter considering we’re in full agreement that we’ll continue returning until it no longer fits.
Fishing and hunting is extremely popular round these parts. We usually roll into town sometime during the last week in December which happens to be duck season.
The airboats can be heard going out every morning starting around 5:30 a.m. Once the Christmas/New Year holiday week is over, the morning noise lightens up during the weekday but continues in a steady stream on weekends. By the end of January, duck season is over and the only airboats going out are anglers and they tend to go out at a much more reasonable hour.
The St. Charles Bay can be rather shallow which is why airboats are so popular. But during certain tides, the sight of oyster boats are common. Oyster fishing is huge business around here and the first weekend in March is the Oyster Festival.
A lot of anglers fish from shore or don chest waders and fish while standing in the water. There are public duck blinds for anyone to use on a first come basis for duck hunting during the season.
Texans love their outdoor recreation. Allow me to share my winter Texas neighborhood along with the diverse activities taking place within relative close proximity to one another. AND everyone gets along, respecting recreational choice.
I alternate between walking and riding my bike around the neighborhood. Envision me having a Julia Roberts moment – a scene from the movie Eat, Pray, Love. There I am riding my three speed bicycle with a cute basket on the front (gotta have the basket, you know), camera slung across my body. As I pedal slowly, I glide down the tree-lined road.
My long flowing hair blows gently in the breeze (inreality the uncontrollable curly frizz is tightly bound and tucked under a cap in a battle against the extreme humidity and gusting winds 😖). I take in the sights and wave to passerby’s. As I exit the trees, I’m greeted by the expanse of the bay in the distance. Further down 8th Street, I see several cars parked along the road. The endangered whooping cranes can be seen in the field along with my favorite Brahma calf and a slew of other birds can be seen mingling near a pond.Of course, I too stop and start taking photographs (duh! like I’d pass up a chance to work that shutter). Folks from around the country and the world visit this part of Texas for the birding. Seeing a family of endangered whooping cranes is a rare and special treat.
There’s several of us lined up along the fence taking photographs of the whooping cranes. Locals and visitors a like engage in idle chit-chat. The loud boom, boom, bang, bang in the distance has a visitor questioning what the noise was. I, considered a winter local, along with another local dweller, exclaim nonchalantly, “Oh, those are the duck hunters in that blind out in the bay”. With that said, we were back to our photo taking and chit-chatting about the birds.
After snapping the camera’s shutter one too many times, I continue my bike ride along Lamar Beach Road. I ride by several fishermen enjoying the day. A kayaker in the bay was off paddling while the duck hunters were gathering up their decoys. I roll by pedestrians and other bikers and regardless of who I pass, hellos and waves are exchanged as if we know one another.
A short time later, I’m pedaling around Goose Island State Park. Although the shore birding around the park can be hit or miss, I can always count on pelicans to entertain me, especially if there’s someone cleaning fish at the cleaning station.
Let’s see, so far I’ve biked around the neighborhood. I’ve taken hundreds, actually more like thousands, of bird photographs. I’ve also enjoyed photographing interesting sights and amazing landscapes.
I can’t forget to mention, a visit to a marina shouldn’t be missed. There’s so much character and intrigue to see. Or how about doing a little shopping at Rockport’s historic downtown or touring an art gallery or two. This gal always manages to work in a few days of frivolous shopping.
On a rainy day, I get a kick out of visiting gift shops and checking out the crazy souvenirs. Who thinks up these things, and who buys it? 😉 Oops – guilty!
Hmm, I might write up one more post about the Texas Gulf Coast and then we need to move on. Ah yes, I already miss her…. miss the water and the birds and look forward to returning at the end of the year. But the desert is calling. The desert in bloom can’t be missed!
Valentine’s Day … a day for love. Love is in the air here along the Texas Gulf Coast and it hasn’t eluded me. I have a new love in my life whom I find totally irresistible and adorable. Oh, not to worry, I haven’t replaced Al …. yet 😆
First, I’ve been thoroughly entertained by observing the Great Blue Herons in the neighborhood. They have been hard at work building their nests.
And while it seems the Great Blue Herons have already partnered up, some of the other shore birds are still in the courting stage.
AND now for the latest love in my life ……
I am in love with this little brahma calf. Isn’t he the cutest? So adorable and irresistible. Think Al will notice the elephant brahma in the room.
This is one time, Al is grateful we don’t own acreage. Unfortunately, I’ll be saying goodbye to Bammi the Brahma soon. I have high hopes for this little stud muffin – a world where he never hears the word hamburger.
Wishing you all a very Happy Valentines Day … a day filled with love and joy. My romantic husband has already surprised me with my favorite chocolates, a single red rose, and will be taking me out to lunch – a lovely seafood lunch. I’ll pass on the hamburger, thank you!
It was another early morning around the RV. Once again, Al and his buddy were heading to the marina by 6:15 a.m. While I sat in bed enjoying my first cup of coffee, I contemplated how energetic I felt. I determined, not very!
While sipping my second cup of coffee, I read emails and glanced out the RV window checking for cloud conditions. It looked like another morning of ho-hum skies, eliminating any urgency to leave the comforts of the RV post-haste for a photo-op.
Finally around 8:30, I hopped in the truck and headed on over to one of my favorite areas to walk. I figured I might as well get in some exercise since the day won’t be about photography. But this gal never goes anywhere without her trusty camera slung around her neck. One never knows when a rare photo-op might present itself!
There’s a relatively new housing development being built not too far away from our RV park near Rockport, Texas.
This former home builder still likes being around new construction and enjoys checking out the latest trends in the housing industry. I even enjoy the smell of lumber! I know, weird 😏
Anyway, I love getting in daily strolls in this gated community. Most of the homeowners are only here occasionally … maybe on weekends or holidays. The houses are used primarily as second homes. Thus, I usually have the “boardwalk” (their label, not mine) to myself.
I parked the truck in my regular spot and took the path to the walkway. As I started down the boardwalk, I immediately gasped in awe and glee. The little ponds in the marshes were loaded with shorebirds. Thank goodness, I brought my camera. It was a gloomy, overcast morning and my camera seemed to have difficulty focusing. Perhaps, it was camera shake due to my excitement.
Vision versus reality
I was elated to have stumbled upon so many shorebirds. I did my best not to startle them, but the slightest movement on my part seemed to send them flying off to the next pond.
I slowly followed in their direction and my camera continued to work in overdrive.
Well over an hour later, it was time for me to leave. Oh, how I wanted to stay longer, but my teeth were floating from the coffee ingested earlier. As I approached the truck, I dug around in my bag for the keys. I couldn’t seem to find them. I entered the code on the keyless entry pad on the driver’s side door of the truck and began searching the vehicle floor, ignition, passenger seat and still no keys. It is so not like me to misplace my keys.
I began to wonder if the keys had somehow fallen out of my bag while I was retrieving a new camera battery. After all, there was a lot of excitement going on and while I dug in the bag for the battery, I kept my eyes on the birds and not my bag. My keys could have easily fallen out of the bag.
So it was back to the boardwalk to retrace my steps. Still no keys. Eek! I’m frazzled and really need to pee but the last time I used the construction porta-potty, I attracted a lot of attention from the workers … something I was hoping to avoid this go around. Plus, I was in no mood for jovial sparring.
“Check the truck again, Ingrid“, I said to myself. I tried punching in the code on the keypad but had a total space out. “Oh my gosh, I can’t remember the code!” 😱 Just then, one of the landscapers yelled something out to me. In a daze, I asked, “I’m sorry, what?” He repeats,
“Did you get some nice shots?” “Oh, yeah“, I responded, still frazzled.
All I could think about was losing allthe keys on my key chain. The truck key was one thing, but the other keys, holy sh*t, not easily replaced!!!
As I responded to the landscaper, something to the left of him caught my eye. Ah-hah! There was a lone construction porta-potty in the distance and after a quick visit, I was once again able to think clearly.
I still couldn’t remember the keyless entry code on the truck though. Talk about a total brain space. 🙄
Oh well, I shrugged and thought to myself … guess I’ll just have to walk back to the RV Park and get Al’s keys which he always leaves behind while boating. I thought about calling my friend and neighbor in the RV park, but I forgot to take my cell phone with me … grrr .. talk about a comedy of errors. So calling her wasn’t an option.
Well, I needed the exercise anyway considering I got sidetracked earlier by all those birds.
So it was off to the RV Park on foot. Along the way, I discovered the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and a delightful pond. Once again, I was sidetracked and found myself meandering through a grove of twisted oak trees all the while my brain kept saying, “Focus Ingrid focus … tend to business“.
I couldn’t help but get sidetracked, but soon logic took over and I was once again on my way to the RV Park.
But then …. the unique sound of the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks stopped me in my tracks. These squeaky guys always make me smile and I can’t resist looking up to the skies when I hear them to catch a glimpse of their beautiful coloring. Little did I know, I was in for a treat. As I stood still trying to blend into the trunk of an oak tree, I watched them circle. Hundreds of whistling ducks landed not far from me. Then to top it off, a deer emerged from the brush.
Alas, after being sidetracked a couple of times, I finally made it to the RV to retrieve Al’s keys. I stuck my cell phone in my bag (just in case) and briskly returned to the truck. Well…. maybe briskly is an overstatement since there was a slight detour back through the oak trees and the heron nesting grounds. But I swear, it was brief 😉
By the time I returned back to the RV with the truck, Al was home. He and his buddy had a great morning out on the water. He had worked up an appetite and wanted to know, “What’s for lunch?” Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at the local restaurant dive up the road indulging in an awesome shrimp po-boy sandwich arguing over the code to the truck keypad. It seems I confused Al, as well as myself.
To wrap up the day... I had one of the most exciting bird photography mornings ever along with a very cool location discovery. My close proximity to the shorebirds is what lent to the thrill.
I lost my keys and later found my keys on the backseat floor. Don’t ask 😆
I ended up walking about four miles that day. I took hundreds of blurry photos. Therefore, I thought I had broken my camera. Oops! Can we say “user error”? Maybe! Ah-ah, camera fixed.
I confused my husband regarding the keyless entry code on the truck, but not to worry. The code was recalled in the wee morning hours the next day… I believe someone waking someone exclaiming, “I REMEMBER THE CODE” was involved.
Lost my keys. Found my keys. Walked four miles. Broke my camera. Fixed my camera. Communed with hundreds of birds. Confused my husband. Husband remains confused (living with me thirty plus years, confusion justified lol). What an exciting day. Ah, rarely a dull moment in the life of a full-time RVer. Love it!
Is there anything prettier than a desert sunset? Or how about the beautiful fall colors in the Rocky Mountains? And then there’s the dawning of a new day as the sunrises over the Gulf of Mexico.
I love fantastic scenery, and all these various places are pretty special in their own unique way. I’m grateful I don’t have to choose a favorite, at least for the time being. With my little house on wheels, I get to change up the scenery as often or as little as I like.
As I was watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico this morning, I began wondering, “Could I live here”? Sure, I’m living here for two months, but could I live here longer? You know, own a sticks and bricks house here!
Al and I know that some day, we’d like to find a home base. That doesn’t mean we’d stop RVing or stop traveling …. it just means, we’d have a place to return to and regroup.
Our original plan all along was to move into the RV full-time for a year or two until we found “that place”, that special somewhere. And here we are, four years later and no closer to finding that place. In reality, I’m not sure we’ve looked very hard 😉 This mobile lifestyle can be addicting. It allows us the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of diverse landscapes. We get to enjoy it all.
I love visiting the Texas Gulf Coast, but I already know come the end of February I will be ready to move on. I’ll want to see some mountains, some red rocks, and of course see my children.
Thus, the Texas Gulf Coast will remain a favorite place to visit, but not a place I’d want to live full-time.
Perhaps if one of my children were to move to Texas … perhaps then, I’d change my mind.
So what do I like about the Texas Gulf Coast? First and foremost is the wildlife, as in the birds. I love the shore birds and can watch and observe them for hours and quite often do.
Birds are definitely a challenge to photograph. When I do manage to snap that special shot, I get super excited. That excitement is usually short lived once the photo is uploaded onto the computer. Disappointment is followed by the desire to get back out into the field and see if I can do a better job and capture a clear image.
No two days are the same. I can never count on the birds being in the same spot. I know, how rude of them not to leave breadcrumbs for me!
I spend most every morning in search of photographic opportunities. It’s the perfect excuse for me to get out of the RV and get in some exercise …. walk or ride my bicycle. I do have to drive to some places though. There’s no beach near our RV park.
When the birds are being illusive near camp, I’ll hop in the truck and go in search. I have some favorite areas I like to scope out. When all else fails, I’ll walk the beach looking for seashells. There’s always an interesting discovery to be made, or at the very least, a photo-op.
This is my first year strolling the Rockport Beach. It’s a fee use area if you choose to drive in toward the picnic area and pavilions. I’ve been parking near the blue crab or marina and walking along the waters edge. It’s a lovely beach and a great way to get in those exercise steps.
If you’d like a bit more information on the area, you can always check out some of my posts from previous years or feel free to contact me.
Here’s a post I did about camping options along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Since this is a snowbirders haven, we always manage to connect with fellow full-time RVer’s. Here’s a post on one such rendezvous.
There’s also a bunch of museums and aquariums in the area worth visiting. Here’s the post about us visiting an aircraft carrier. (all colored text is linked)
More bird photos forthcoming …. you’ve been warned!
This is our fourth winter RVing along the Texas Gulf Coast, and it has not disappointed. The weather has been enjoyable this year with no mention of a polar vortex, thank goodness. With that said, I’m taking full advantage of getting out of the RV everyday to commune with my feathered friends.
I don’t consider myself a birder, but merely, someone who admires birds, especially shore birds. My fascination with these birds was piqued during that very first visit to the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve always enjoyed wildlife photography, but bird photography was a new game. It challenged me then, and continues to challenge me now.
I always look forward to our return trips to Texas to observe and photograph the exquisite and graceful whooping crane, an endangered species who’s numbers were in the teens back in the 1940’s and are now in the 500+ range. Habitat and poaching still threaten these magnificent birds, but efforts are being made by various organizations to help these cranes.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this beautiful pink beauty … the roseate spoonbill. Her deep pink is truly stunning. Actually, it’s the male of the species that sports the deepest of the hue. This is one dude who knows how to wear pink well!
However, I find the egret embodies a certain grace and elegance. Her snowy white plumage, long black legs, and bright yellow feet have me comparing her to a princess. He or she? In the case of the egret, both sexes are bright white and thus difficult to decipher.
Tri-colored Herons feel equally as regal and exude a unique level of gracefulness. Their grayish blue coloring with patches of deep purple is truly stunning.
Ah, then there are the pelicans … oh those pelicans. What can I say about these whimsical creatures?
When in-flight they exhibit a grace comparable to the whooping crane, but when they plunge into the water fishing for dinner, well let’s just say, the sight is anything but graceful and is downright comical.
I’m still trying to capture a video of a pelican diving for fish, but am always in the midst of laughing and fail to point the camera in the right direction. I’ll keep working on that!
Overall, I find pelicans to be rather entertaining and full of character and when they aren’t flying, they exhibit absolutely no grace what so ever.
I’ve got another month hanging along the Texas Gulf Coast with my feathered friends. I hope to capture more photographs of these amazing shore birds, and in the process, work on getting in my exercise steps 😎
It’s that time of year again. The old calendar is in the trash and the new one is hanging on the wall. I’m not sure why putting up that new calendar made me smile. 2016 was actually a pretty good year for me and I was in no hurry to bring on any change.
But as I gaze at the semi-glossy calendar sporting a beautiful landscape photo, I note the lack of scribble on any of the dated boxes …. a clean slate. Oh, the possibilities!
You know that feeling you get after cleaning out a closet? (Well at least the feeling I get) Not only do I feel a sense of accomplishment, there’s a feeling of being refreshed, out with the old, in with the new. It’s a positive feeling that brings a smile to my face. I kind of got that same feeling when I threw out the old calendar and replaced it with a new one.
Al and I have just recently started talking about our travel plans for 2017. I know, kind of late for us considering the new year is upon us already. Quite frankly, I’m still relishing in the memories from some of last years excursions.
Today I’m sitting in Rockport, Texas, back in the very same spot I was in a year ago. As I type, I’ll occasionally gaze out an RV window admiring the unique and resilient oak trees. I contemplate the twists and turns of the tree trunks while listening to the pleasant chirping of cardinals.
Last years travel plans started out relatively organized and well laid out, but as the year unfolded, we encountered unexpected twists and turns. And just like I may not understand why those mighty oak trees grow in a hither and yon manor, I don’t fully comprehend how our well organized travel plans went astray in a similar hither and yon way.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the year turned out to be one heck of a fun ride. Sure, there were a few negatives thrown in here and there, but that’s life, isn’t it!
A few memorable experiences of 2016 ….. After our regular January stint of birding along the Texas Gulf Coast, we returned to Phoenix, Arizona for a little desert dwelling and hanging with the kids. In April we moved on down to Yuma, Arizona for a short stay to tend to some business which included having the RV and truck washed and hand waxed all for $150. In Phoenix, we paid $400 for the same type of work. That was a memorable price difference, wouldn’t you agree? I foresee regular visits to Yuma in our future 😉
Then it was time for a day trip across the border to Los Algodones, Mexico for dental work. I was a little apprehensive about this at first, and reached out to a few of my full-time RVing friends for recommendations. In the end, I had two crowns and a filling done for a total cost of $750 and thus far no complaints. Normally, I wouldn’t include dental work as a highlight or memorable event, but eating without discomfort allowed me to enjoy our travels the rest of the year that much more. Plus, it was a new and interesting experience that was all positive.
Also in April, I had my mind blown away by some of the most perplexing and boggling scenery in southern Utah. I’ve always loved visiting Utah, but the fascinating hoodoos that make up Bryce Canyon National Park had eluded me until that day. Trust me when I say, pictures do not do the park justice. It’s one of those places you really do need to see in person. Bryce Canyon National Park was definitely a highlight of my year and goes toward the top of the list.
Then there was our two month work camping gig in Idaho. I had a great time, Al not so much. I found myself doing things I never thought I could. I spent my time working in the RV Park restaurant and office. I waitressed, I cooked, and I checked campers in and sometimes I was the only one available to do all three. Oh yeah, I was hopping and as much as I impressed myself with my abilities, I was glad the job was temporary. You know what, that was the best thing about it – the job was temporary and I wasn’t in charge.
After running my own business for years, it was wonderful for me to say, “Let me get the owner. I just work here”.
Overall, it was an enlightening experience on many levels. Would I work camp again? I’m not sure. It boils down to risk/reward and every scenario is different. If I had permanently injured myself on the commercial grill, which was hubby’s constant concern, it sure wouldn’t have been worth it. While building picnic tables, Al ended up tweaking an old back injury, which took a while to realign and hampered his fun most of the summer. Risk vs. reward, definitely something to consider when contemplating work camping.
After years of dreaming, I finally made it to the Grand Tetons … not once, but twice. The first time was in early June and the second time was mid July.
I loved all the spring blooms in early June. Grand Teton National Park did not disappoint and remains a place I hope to revisit time and again.
At the end of July, we returned to our former home town of Pueblo West, Colorado. I like to return once a year to hug my stuff in storage. I’m just not at a point where I’m ready to let go of everything and give up the storage units (yes, plural 🤔). I retrieved some stuff and left other stuff behind. As I looked into the storage units, my thoughts were mixed. Some things I’m glad I’ve kept and others make me wonder whatever was I thinking. We really do need to think about consolidating and purging. But not today! I know it’s only stuff, but I like my stuff and I like embracing it once a year. Hug, hug, kiss, kiss moving on ….
We had the opportunity to see Al’s sister’s new condo in the Denver area. In the spring of ’16 she moved from northern Illinois to Denver, Colorado and hasn’t looked back. She’s loving every minute of her new home state. It was also very convenient for us to spend the night with her so Al could drop me off at the airport for my early morning flight from Denver to Chicago.
During our stay in Denver, the RV was comfortably parked at the Lake Pueblo State Park, a two hour drive south of Denver.
My visit with my 89 year old dad was very special as I escorted him to his grandson’s wedding (my nephew). Dad beamed as he watched the first of five grandchildren get married. The wedding was beautiful and the day was absolutely perfect.
Initially, I wasn’t exactly excited about returning to Illinois, but little did I realize, I was in for a special treat ……
I flew back to Chicago on a Wednesday. The Monday before, I received an interesting email. Turns out my bestfriend from junior high and high school was trying to track me down. We’d lost touch twenty-eight years ago and after several failed attempts she finally succeeded in finding my correct address. Talk about timing. That Thursday we enjoyed a four hour lunch filled with non stop talking. After all, we had a lot of catching up to do. How fun was that! Now we stay in touch via Facebook.
The day dad and I did a little yard work together was laughable. It was literally a frick and frack moment. Words like hootchie and jigma jig were used in regards to starting the lawn mowers. At 89 Dad’s brain is as sharp as a tack but he occasionally has trouble finding the right words and as far as I’m concerned, you can call it a primer, a gas thingy, or a jigma jig … I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the things started.
And once we had both the rider and push mowers started, the necessary sign language used to communicate with one another over the loud engine noise was incomprehensible to each other. I guess I don’t need to tell you which one of us used the pusher 😎 Yep, a lot of laughing took place that day and the yard work eventually got done. Without a doubt, it was a wonderful and memorable trip.
But I encountered the highlight of my year in mid August near Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m convinced travel is all about timing. Ever read someone’s blog post where they gush about a place and then when you visit you just don’t get it? Sure, it might be a nice place, but not over the top ‘oh my gosh gotta visit’ worthy. I firmly believe it’s all about what’s going on in one’s personal life that makes a place resonate with ones soul.
Another year, another time and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument may not have touched me in the same way it did. Guess it was just what I needed at the time. As much as I was enjoying the summer, it was filled with many stressful moments. Unexpected twists and turns can be a ton of fun, but they can also be a trigger for stress.
So you could say, by this point in our travels, I needed to recharge. Santa Fe and Kasha-Katuwe were my salvation, just what the doctor ordered, and remains my all time favorite moment of the year. I’m sure it was all about the timing for me.
How about politics? Although I wasn’t exactly stressed by the political climate, the commercials and news stories became an irritating annoyance. But it did make for one heck of an entertaining and memorable year in America!
Although the rest of 2016 brought about some fun adventures worth writing about, I’ll leave those tales for another post.
In the meantime, keep in mind, life may take a bunch of unexpected twists and turns and we may not always understand why, but remember, we are a resilient thriving bunch just like those mighty oak trees.
I send you warm wishes for a wonderful New Year. Let’s start filling in our calendars with intriguing travel adventures … cheers!
I’ve discovered that there’s a major difference between going on vacation versus living a mobile lifestyle. A vacation has a definitive beginning and ending with very little to no flexibility. A mobile lifestyle offers oodles of flexibility.
As a matter of fact, flexibility is key to enjoying this full-time RVing lifestyle. After all, we’re pulling/driving our home full-time and arriving to our next destination safely and fully intact is always the goal. With that said, a key component to a long travel day is the weather. The ability to change travel plans on a whim based on the weather is wonderful.
Al and I had allowed ourselves fourteen days to travel the 1,165 miles (1,872km) from Rockport, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona. That gave us the flexibility to roll with the weather, as well as give us options; get to Phoenix a week early, or take our time meandering along the way, or extend our stay in Rockport, which we seriously thought about – considering I wasn’t quite ready to bid farewell to the scenery OR the birds.
But that weather…. winter weather at that, made the decision for us. We hit the road while good road conditions prevailed. Plus, we usually prefer driving through major cities on a Saturday or Sunday. Sunday morning (January 31st) had us navigating through San Antonio, Texas toward the northwest part of town without issue. We settled into the Elk’s Lodge for what we thought would be a quick overnight stay.
That evening, we easily made a change of plans while reviewing the weather and road conditions for Interstate 10. High wind warnings accompanied by brown out conditions (blowing dirt) followed by freezing rain along Interstate 10 in west Texas and New Mexico had us hanging out in San Antonio for an extra night, then two.
Ah, what’s a gal to do parked in a less than scenic parking lot without a vehicle at her disposal? How about visit the neighboring mall for a little retail therapy and architectural photography? The Shops at La Cantera did not disappoint.
The weather was gorgeous which allowed me to hike this beautiful outdoor mall a couple of times. While strolling the mall, I enjoyed the window shopping, the trickling sounds of water features, and the fragrant smell of all the lush vegetation.
Although the mall had all the usual stores, the architecture was anything but boring. There was a unique feel – a combination of new, yet old. I think it was the blending of materials and angles that attracted my attention. One minute I was walking on concrete, then the next I was moseying across cobblestone pavers, then it was on to ceramic tile, or stone, or slate…. and that’s what was happening just under my feet.
Overhead was another visual delight; a combination of canopies, overhangs, or open blue sky adding another layer of ambiance. Each store front had its own special detail, wall color, and finish. Some of the stone used throughout the outdoor mall had a resemblance to that of the Alamo.I must admit, for a split second I felt a little guilty about being in San Antonio and spending all my time at the Shops at La Cantera. This city offers so many fabulous things to see and do, but since we weren’t unhooking the truck from the 5th wheel, driving anywhere was not an option. Plus, during previous visits to San Antonio, we’d already visited the River Walk, Alamo, and Missions.
The Shops at La Cantera is a rather large mall, which allowed me to get in plenty of exercise, but lead to working up an appetite. The day before departure, I retrieved hubby, and we were off to visit Penny at the Cheesecake Factory. Their large size entrees are perfect for taking half the meal home providing lunch on the road the following day. Yum!
Our flexible schedule allowed us to avert inclement weather, and extend our stay in San Antonio. The delay was indeed pleasurable and I might have even pulled out of town with a few new items in my already full closet, but I’m not admitting anything 😉
With blue skies and dry roads, we were on the road again. And for anyone who has ever driven across Texas knows, it goes on for what seems forever. We try to avoid staying in Van Horn, Texas, but we were on a mission to head west as quickly as possible in an attempt to avoid the next wave of weather expected to hit this part of the country.
It was a 6-7 hour travel day between San Antonio and Van Horn, Texas (431 miles or 694 km). We found a less than memorable campground to overnight in since the Walmart is out of the question. Yep, no overnighting at the Walmart allowed in this town. Van Horn? – you know the saying, “if you can’t say anything nice……..”.
The next morning, we along with the rest of the RV’s were quick to exit Van Horn. We made it through El Paso and into New Mexico and I was hugging rocks by early afternoon ……
There’s a major up side to returning to familiar territory. I think we can all relate; we go on vacation to some new and exciting place and have such a wonderful time that we can’t wait to return again and again and again. And although that may mean we’re not exploring other exciting destinations, that doesn’t mean new discoveries aren’t made.
To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie for the second or third time. Character lines are heard that may have missed the first go around, or there’s a better understanding of a plot. I feel, some movies are actually better the second time around.
I think the same can be said about traveling to a familiar place. This was our third January spent in the Rockport, Texas, area and our best visit yet. I’ll be the first to admit, this is a place I probably wouldn’t recommend to most folks unless one’s interests are either birding, photography, or sportsman activities (fishing/hunting). Considering Al and I enjoy that stuff, it works perfectly for us.
For those more interested in beaches, quaint shops, and plenty of dining options; Port Aransas on Mustang Island is the place to go. I even found myself visiting the island three times during the month of January exploring some of my favorite places.
Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi area hold special memories for Al and me individually. During Al’s Navy days, he was stationed in Corpus Christi and the aircraft carrier he was trained to land a plane on has now been turned into a museum. My memories center around my parents and their RVing days. It was not uncommon for the kids and me to visit my parents during their winter sojourn to Mustang Island. Fond memories, indeed.
Back to Rockport – Fulton and my new discoveries … these two quaint Texas coastal communities offer plenty of options to keep me entertained (in addition to my birding, that is). After a two-year renovation, the Fulton Mansion was once again open to the public and at the top of my list to visit. This 1870’s French inspired home has been beautifully restored. (click on any photo to enlarge into a slide show)
The dining room
one room upstairs, shows materials
The basement was for the servants
kitchen appliances from the 1800’s
sits on a beautiful piece of property
I found the self-guided tour of the mansion interesting as I was transported back in time. One of the rooms on the second floor was left as original as possible showcasing damaged lath and plaster walls. Parts of the ceiling and flooring were also left exposed to share some unique materials used in the construction. I never would’ve thought to use sand and seashells as insulation between floors. My Real Estate background had me reading each word displayed regarding ownership of the property and the prices each party paid. Back in the 1960’s the front yard was actually an RV park and all the historical photos were extremely entertaining.
Touring the grounds alone is also worthwhile with its wind swept Oak Trees, manicured garden, and serene ocean view.
There was more history for me to discover in downtown Rockport. Since I didn’t have anything to shop for, I strolled the main street looking for things to photograph. Architectural photography remains a challenge for me, so I’m always looking for opportunities to practice.
No shortage here of things to photograph as all the buildings are unique and one of a kind. And just because I didn’t have any knickknacks to shop for doesn’t mean this former shopaholic didn’t step into a shop or two.
Even the local hardware store stocks items for tourists
Should I get the seahorse or the flamingo?
What was once a gas station is now a shop!
a local Tom protecting his neighborhood
Most of the shops cater to the tourist crowd, even the local Ace Hardware store gets in on the action. Aside from exploring the little shops in the downtown area, I found myself visiting stores throughout the community. Stores I normally wouldn’t visit if it hadn’t been for my quest to find a pair of rubber boots. You see, I was in dire need of a pair of rain boots if I was to go out on the boat with Dennis. His funky little boat required that I board from the water and the temps were way to cold for my Keen’s, thus the need for boots. But not just any old rubber boot would do. Come on, they had to be somewhat fashionable after all.
Finding rubber boots wasn’t an issue in this coastal community. It was the fashionably cute part that was difficult. I wound up running all over town, including the hardware store, feed store, stores an hour away in Corpus Christi, and eventually turned to Amazon. Every time I found a pair of boots I liked, they didn’t have my size!
Whew…. all that shopping had me working up an appetite and this year’s new restaurant discovery was just five minutes up the road from our RV Park. Stevie Lew’s is a locally owned, family run business with everything homemade. My chicken BBQ sandwich was delicious as were the chicken tacos that I tested on visit number two.
They even roast their own coffee beans and it smelled wonderful. I forgot to buy some coffee on my way out 😦 Next time! See, there’s always a reason to return.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful markets around here. Texas is home to a grocery store chain called H.E.B. I’m always able to find what I need at a reasonable price and the employees are usually very helpful and friendly. I’ve never had a bad experience at a H.E.B. And then there are all the local seafood market’s which need to be explored. We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, with every square inch of our RV freezer filled with fresh shrimp and fish.
Our time along the Gulf Coast flew by, and I’ll admit, we weren’t ready to leave. That said, we’ve talked about spending two months along the coast next winter, but then again, the desert has a strong pull. Ah, we’ll need to sit down and do a little scheduling and time management. There are worse things to contemplate!
Last year I did a post on the places we camped in this part of Texas. Click here if you’d like more information on camping options.
So, I think I’ve about summed up our time along the Texas Gulf Coast – shopping, museums, photography, fishing, hunting, birding, photography, eating, boating, sunsets, sunrises, did I mention photography. That’s a wrap! Next up, we’re back in the desert southwest .