Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lakeside living...

One of my sons lives in Texas, and up until now has been renting a home in Plano, just outside of Dallas.  For years he's had a dream of owning a home that over looks a lake.  He's always been a "water baby", swimming, all kinds of fishing, boating...if it involves water, he loves it!  So, having a home next to the water, one filled with fish, was bound to be in his future..."some day".   As we all know, homes "along the water" don't come cheap, so one's "dream home" usually takes awhile, and a lot of hard work.

Well, that "long while, and hard work" has finally paid off, and this past week my son's dream finally came true!  We arrived just in time to help him and his young family move into his wonderful new (to them) lake home! This lovely home sits right beside Lake Lavon in Princeton Texas with their back yard going right down to the water's edge.


Each evening we all sit outside on their patio and just take in that beautiful view, smiling at how wonderful it is and talking about all the plans they already have.  An added bonus (for us) is that he has enough land around the house that we can park our RV on the property too!

It was so fun the first weekend.  We had gotten a storm the night before, which left some nice puddles out on the front lawn.  The family came over to the RV to join us in the morning, and as we sat there talking, we saw out our window a mallard duck and it's mate come waddling up and make themselves comfortable in the puddles!  My young grandson and I had quite the joy watching the two of them just swimming around in his new front yard!  Later that morning, as we were all working in their kitchen, we watched as a handful of rabbits played in the side yard.

Each morning and evening we are serenaded by the frogs and birds.  Country nature at it's best!  Its truly wonderful here.

North American Cardinal
Every parent's wish is for their children to own their own home, hopefully the "home of their dreams".  With this last move, I can now rest that my three children are all now "in their own homes" happily paying mortgages", albeit all in different states, and in all different types of homes, but hey, they are all happy!  Yea!

Living the "RV lifestyle" certainly helps with "commuting" from west coast, central, and east coast just to see my three kids!

We couldn't leave Texas without one last "tornado watch!"  So, just a couple of days before we were to leave, sure enough, true to form, the weather folks told us to "button down and get ourselves ready, because it was coming our way!"  So, we did.  Pulled in the sides and moved the rig close into the house, and waited.  And waited.  Well, 'round about 9 O'clock the lightening and thunder started and then came the rain.  Well, that lasted on and off until about 4 am and then that was it!  Some wind, but not much.  Fine by me!
Next day, the sun came out as if there had never been a storm!  Gotta love Texas!

We've had a nice long visit here.  Helped some.  Enjoyed seeing my kid's dream come true, seeing my littlest grandson getting bigger, celebrated a couple of birthdays, and seen some new areas around Dallas we haven't seen before, so it must be time to leave.


As we leave them to get settled in (which we know will take "forever") we will finally leave this great state of Texas for now and head "our sweet home" to a new state for us, one we've not ventured into before...Arkansas!  I'm excited!

...on the road again,  Marie

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Great Week in Galveston!

When we decided to head to Galveston for a week, all I knew was that it was along the Gulf of Mexico, so that meant "sunshine and beach"!  Good enough for me!  We couldn't get a campsite at our first two choices because they were booked over the weekend, but were able to find a place along the bayou, still close to town, and that's what we wanted, so good enough!

We were greeted with a beautiful day full of sun and a light breeze to keep the humidity away, so who could ask for anything more?  Once camped, we headed to town and as our usual manner, straight to the Visitor's Center.  We met a super nice lady who gave us a mini history lesson about Galveston, tons of brochures, shared about the crazy pay parking situation, but showed us how to avoid it by parking in their lot or other off streets, told us about the great senior discount day at Moody Gardens and other discounts, then suggested we start with the Tree Sculpture Tour as it would give us a good overview of the town itself as well as seeing some of the beautiful homes too.  So, arms full, off we went!

She was right!  What fun we had, driving all over town, seeing over 17 different sculptured trees that had once been beautiful 100+ year old Live Oak trees, then nearly destroyed in 2008 by hurricane Ike.  Then, various area artists decided to turn a "bad situation into something good" and instead of just chopping down all those trees, began carving them into beautiful pieces of art.  Of course they couldn't save every tree, and the Galveston Island Tree Committee along with hundreds of locals used much of the wood in recycling projects and more than 100 tons of the former trees were selected for the restoration of America's only remaining whaling ship, as well as other large projects.  They have also planted more than 8000 new trees since Hurricane Ike.  Good going!

Looking around, except for the signs telling you about it, you would never know that a hurricane had been here.  The homes here are so beautiful, so majestic and well cared for.  Each one different from the other, you can easily tell that this was a port that brought so many different ethnic groups of people in, Spanish, Germans, Mexicans, and freed African slaves.


Homes that withstood both the devastating hurricane in 1900 and Hurricane Ike in 2008 were mostly built out of brick and stone, like that of the Moody Mansion and Bishop's Palace.  However, there are still a lot of Victorian-style homes, but I think they came after the 1900 hurricane.  All, different, all beautiful.  We enjoyed going through the Moody Mansion, built in 1895 in the Romanesque style.


As the days passed, we visited such attractions as the Galveston Railroad Museum which showed off the Golden Age of rail travel!  They have the most marvelous collection of Renfert Dining china & silver I've ever seen!  They also decorated their original Gulf, Colorado, and Sante Fe Union Depot in the 1930's art-deco style with "Ghosts of Travelers' Past" with imagined conversations while they wait to board the train....we had fun joining in on them!



We made a quick stop to check out the 1943 USS Cavalla Submarine too, pretty impressive.  Jack quickly decided that at 6', he never would have made it aboard such a vessel!  Me, I had no problem getting around it!  ;-)


On Tuesday, as suggested by our trusty Visitor's Center lady, we promptly went to the Moody Gardens.  It's quite a complex, 3 large pyramids, each with different experiences.  We chose the Rainforest.  Three floors filled with lush gardens of orchids & trees of all kinds, lots of endangered plants and animals from the Giant Amazon River Otters and Komodo Dragons to free-roaming birds and Saki Monkeys, what's not to like?


Afterward, we went on their 1800's replica Paddlewheel Boat, the "Colonel", for a leisurely hour-long cruise along the Offats Bayou.  We even passed by where our campsite was and saw our RV!  Now that was different!  


 No trip (for us) would be complete without a bit of antique shopping, and Galveston has some fun shops to explore, from nautical to restoration, as you can well imagine with it's history!  Traveling like we do, we've seen all kinds of things...and there are things we've looked for in particular, that we very rarely, if at all, never seem to see.  One of those things is "floral frogs".  For most people, it's just that round glass thing with holes that you put in the bottom of a vase to put your flower stems in to hold the flowers up right.  Well, that's the "common" variety.  But...many years ago, they used to make beautiful ones, in all shapes and sizes that you would put in your clear vases, that would hide the stems, and be pretty as well.  These floral frogs are hard to find, and over the years, I've seen very few, if any in my many, many searches.  Until the other day.  We came upon an antique store here that had about twenty different ones!  I could hardly believe my eyes, such a find!  It was so much fun just to look at each one...lucky me, I bought two, albeit, small...but yea for me!  I love those sweet things...


Sandy beaches with sea shells for my collection, sea gulls serenading us each day, cooling breezes to blow away the humidity, sun shinning most the days...Galveston treated us nicely...thank you, we'll be back someday!

...on the road in Texas,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sand, Sea, Birds and a Big Tree...

I was ready for some sand between my toes and the smell of sea air, so we headed for the coast!  The closest one from were we were coming from, was Corpus Christi, so that's the direction we headed.  We found a really nice campground in Aransas Pass, just outside Corpus Christi, so that's where we settled down for a week's stay.  The sun came out and greeted us with open arms!  What a glorious week it was going to be!

Our first day out we headed into Rockport to talk with the Visitor's Center folks, as we had been in the area four years ago, and I remembered a beach with a lot of shells, but I couldn't remember where...they would know!  Well...it turned out, they didn't have a clue...said, to their knowledge, "no beach anywhere around here has any shells to speak of".  However, they did make some other suggestions of things to go see, such as "the Big Tree", which we had never seen, or even heard of before.  Also, they pointed out where a few Whooping Cranes are still hanging around at, and the story of why Live Oak trees look the way they do (they are "windswept"= moist ocean air pushing the trees in a constant direction). 

So, with maps in hand, off we went on our first excursion, to see the "Big Tree"!  Little did we know, it would be quite a drive...but well worth it!  As we drove, and drove, and drove I started to wonder if (1) were we lost?  (2) was this a wild goose chase? (3) was it going to be a dud?  But, finally, we came to a clearing, and there, it was, bigger than we both had imagined, was this beautiful, grand, lovely, 1000+ year old Live Oak Tree!  It stands over 44' tall, 89' across the crown, 11' across the trunk and 35' around.  It was worth the drive!  Surrounded, were "her offspring", almost as large and as lovely...  Truly, a lovely little forest.  We were so glad we were told about this gem.


Back in town, we visited the area where the Whooping Cranes are still wintering on top of the "windswept" Live Oak trees, and checked out the Big Blue Crab sculpture that started out on the Del Mar Grill back in 1957.  It's had to be redone since then, but it's an icon now in Rockport, and pretty impressive, I must say! 


Rockport preserves some of their beach area for bird nesting.  It's pretty cool.  They just rope it off, and put signs out asking you not to disturb the birds.  You can get up pretty close, the birds are used to the people, so don't really mind you watching, etc.  They have several acres of sand and grass.  All kinds just fly in and out as the seasons change.  While we were there it was mostly Franklin's Gulls and Black Skimmers in one area and  in another. 


The beach itself is really pretty too.  It was clear, warm and washed up these tiny, round stones of various shades of brown.  We scooped up a bunch to take home.  I'm going to add them to my drift wood pieces as accents. 


Later in the week we headed into Corpus Christi for sight seeing.  Stopped and saw the Selena Memorial.  It was quite nice.  They have a recording playing in English and in Spanish explaining it and one short song. People constantly come and play homage to her and bring flowers, etc.  It's right along the harbor's edge.  

Great harbor, with a lot of wonderful Brown Pelicans! 


From there, we drove out to Padre Island (not "South" Padre Island...just because I wanted to see what was there...not much.  A very  l o n g  drive.  Once we finally got to the Ranger Station, we listened to a nice talk about what you could find along the beach (interesting!) and about the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles.  I had hoped they would be hatching and ready to be released into the sea...but, actually they are just now starting to lay their eggs and it won't be time for them to hatch for another 45 days!  Oh well, bad timing once again...
Anyway, we took a walk along the beach, enjoyed watching the cute little Sanderlings, then turned around and headed back for the very  l o n g  drive back out again! 


The rest of the week...we just enjoyed the sun, propping our feet up, relaxing and reading!  Life is good...

...On the road in Texas

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Sunday, April 3, 2016

A few days in Fredericksburg

After visiting Austin, we decided to backtrack a bit and spend a few days in the small town of Fredericksburg Texas.  We had passed through it on our way to Austin, and craned our necks as we drove through this charming town.  It has a very  l o n g  Main Street chock full of quaint shops, eateries, galleries, etc. that just looked to good not to explore.  Checking our AAA Book, we learned that it was first settled by German farmers who began arriving in 1846.  The town borrowed its layout from villages found along the Rhine, as it also parallels a creek.  Modern-day residents carry on many other old country traditions serving "bier, bratwurst and everything in between".  It sounded to fun not to check it out!

Of course, our first mission was to check out that "Main Street"!  We managed to do half of it, anyway.  When I say it was l o n g, I mean it!  Plus, they have a few side streets that I'm not even counting!  Phew, that's a lot  of buildings to go in and out of!  Of course, it didn't help that it was on "Good Friday" and extremely crowed!  Oh well, so much for timing...once again! 

So, Saturday, we decided that instead, we would avoid downtown and go to the Wildseed Farms.  Fields of Texas Bluebonnets and Red Corn Poppies as far as the eye could see!  Lovely!!  My kind of place, yea!  It was so much fun, walking around, seeing such pretty flowers, families taking pictures of their little ones tucked in among the blooms, photographers with their tripods, birds building nests, shoppers deciding on what and how many bags of seeds to buy (including me!) I loved it!  So much fun!  I was in my element...


After we left there, we decided to make "a quick stop" just down the road at the Texas Ranger Memorial.  It's in it's first phase, so I didn't think it would take but a few minutes, but then we were greeted by Duke...  Duke is a retired Texas Ranger who takes pride in presenting not only what the Memorial is, but what it's going to be, and the full history of the Texas Rangers themselves.  We learned a lot from Duke, and look forward to seeing their Memorial complete in the coming years, they certainly deserve it.


Next door is the restoration of Fort Martin Scott, so, of course, we had to make a quick stop to see it as well!  Ft Martin Scott was the first U.S. military post to be established on the western frontier of Texas.  It was part of a line of frontier forts established to protect travelers and settlers within Texas.  They were only there 5 years.  In 1870 the Braeutigam family of 11 moved into the abandoned fort and began operating a "biergarten".  In 1884 The Braeutigam's Biergarten was robbed and he was murdered.  The city of Fredericksburg bought the property from the family.  The guardhouse, made of cut limestone is the only surviving building from the original fort, having been restored to its original design in the early 1990s. It was the Braeutigam’s homestead.


Finally...it was time for lunch!  Jack located a wonderful restaurant that was "off the Main Street" of downtown so that we could still find a parking spot (quite a feat on Easter weekend in this town!) and still be a nice place.  The Peach Tree Restaurant was wonderful!  Can you imagine a charming southern house, with all kinds of lovely choices for lunch?  They were nice enough to have a "sampler" sandwich plate for those of us "who couldn't quite choose"!  Yum!  And in true Southern style, 3 little sandwiches aren't enough, it came with a cup of soup (another choice, so I chose a cold avocado).

That night my body decided to revolt, and for the next three days I was sick to my stomach, keeping nothing inside for very long.  So, to say the very least, I didn't  go anywhere.  I did send Jack out one day, rather than have him sit here watching me suffer all day.  He loves anything having to do with WWII history, so I sent him to the National Museum of the Pacific War.  Admiral Nimitz and his family are from here and a great deal of the complex is dedicated to him.  Jack thought it would be small, and he would be back in a couple of hours.  Five plus hours later, he finally made it back!  "Wow!" he said, that was quite a place!  "And I didn't even see it all!"  It turned out to be deceiving from the front, the building going deeper and deeper into the back, then down the whole block.  There was even more you could go see further down the street.  He was quite impressed.  I'm glad he enjoyed himself.  I rested.

 The last day of our stay, feeling better, but the weather cool and windy, we decided to see a bit of the town we never really got to see with all the crowds that first day (holiday being over, they were gone now).  I also wanted to see the two historical cemeteries that are at either end of the town.  Both date back to 1846, one is Catholic and the other is German.

I wasn't disappointed.  Der Stadt Friedhof Cemetery really showed it's age, going back to the 1800's, with all the headstones written in German, something I hadn't seen before.

St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, in contrast, even though just as old, was filled with wildflowers!  Now that was different to see, and actually quite pretty!


Needless to say, we didn't get to see all the things "on my list" that I had wanted (like the LBJ Ranch), so, I guess that just means we will have to come back again some day!

We've enjoyed our "Hill Country" visit, but it's time this gal got some sand between her toes, and the smell of salt air, so goodbye Fredericksburg, we are headed to the coast (of Texas, of course)!












...on the road in Texas,  Marie
  
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All Around Austin...

We've been to Texas a number of times, but never to the "Hill Country" area and not  specifically to Austin, which is one city I'd heard was "a fun one to visit" and "a must see", so this time, I was determined to make the time to get there, so off we went!  Well, as they say, "timing is everything"...and sometimes you just can't help when you get there.  We knew it would be "spring break", but were told that everyone goes to the coast, so it shouldn't be to bad, even tho Austin is a college town.  What we didn't know was that it was hosting the SXSW.  Which is a huge music, film & multimedia arts convergence that comes to town for 12 days.  Hundreds of thousands of young folks pay hundreds of dollars to attend and listen to hundreds of bands, see Indie type films, eat, drink, party, etc all day and night all along several blocks down the main city streets downtown.  Tents are set up and streets are blocked off.  This thing was BIG.

We arrived on it's last two days, not knowing where it was taking place, innocently deciding to see the famous "6th street area" so, headed downtown!  Oh boy!  Was that an experience!  Jack got to drive the gauntlet of detours with what seemed like 100 traffic cops, while I got to listen (?) to what seemed like 50 bands all trying to out-play each other at one time, since they were pretty much side-by-side, all while thousands of young people were doing their best at walking along so crowded together they could barely move (is that called a herd?).   Long lines were everywhere, outside restaurants, bars, the theaters, port-a-potties, etc.  Yet, everyone was dancing and having a great time!  I had Jack drive around a couple of times just so I could take it all in.  Ah, youth...were we ever that young?

We came back on Monday, after the festival was over, just to see if the area survived...it was completely clean, almost all traces gone.  All the stores, restaurants, bars, etc were closed though - exhausted!  You could almost hear them sleeping...a well deserved rest.  We never did make it back there...

So, instead, we enjoyed SoCo, or South Columbia Street!  Much more our style anyway...It's more Bohemian or funky, or as my kids say hippy.  Lots of fun murals, unusual stores, including a Tom's Shoe Store (1 of only 5) some great food places, some live music, and cool art stores.  Every time we visited this street we found something new, something different, something fun! 



When we weren't down on SoCo, we were off "seeing the sights", so first off was the State Capitol!  Quite impressive, I must say, although, hey, it's Texas, right?  Of course it's BIG, and of course the star dome is beautiful, but what was an unexpected surprise was the Rotunda floor.  A composite terrazzo design of the "Seals of the Nations" with the Seal of the Republic of Texas with its Lone Star in the center.  It's absolutely beautiful.  The details throughout the whole building are awesome, from the door hinge's to the various statues. 


Austin also is home to the LBJ Library, and we all know that Johnson was all Texan!  Visiting his library was both interesting and tough for me as it brought back a lot of memories.  Having lived through those years personally, it brought them all back.  Reading a lot of the material, I didn't envy Johnson taking over when he did, it was a tough time, and it no doubt was the reason he died so young.  He was in a no win situation.  Things are bad now, but back in the 1960's we were facing a war that not only where ALL our own family and friends were in; that we really didn't understand, and many didn't believe in, but we were fighting one here as well.  A war against each other - a race war like this generation has never seen.  Awful.  One that killed not only everyday people, but our leaders, both black and white ones.  I don't believe our country has ever been the same since. 

I needed something cheerful after that, so we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center!  Lovely place, acres full of beautiful Texas Bluebonnets, Paintbrush, Evening Primrose, Spiderwort, Yellow star, Crossvine, trees, ponds, and all kinds of fun walking paths and things to explore.  It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon! 


It was suggested by a 'fellow Texan' that we go see the  Bullock Texas State History Museum, so we added it to our agenda!  It starts out with the discovery of the La Belle (c1684) and the restoration that's  currently taking place.  Then, of course, they talk about Stephen Austin, the Revolution, they move on to cotton, slavery, ranching, the oil boom, movies, and end with the iconic space scene "Houston..the Eagle has landed"(1969).  Cool.


It was finally our time to end our visit to Austin and move on to other parts of "the Hill Country" of Texas while the wildflowers are still blooming and the sun is still shining! 


...on the road in Texas,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/