Monday, September 9, 2013

The Final Leg of our 2013 Trip South

September 9th
Well, not a lot to report today. Left Albuquerque thismorning and headed east on I-40 for about 60 miles to Clines Corner, where we turned south onto 285, then nothing to see except cactus, sand and flatland all the way to Roswell. Even going through there, there were no aliens to be seen, so no pictures today. Another 100 miles and we were finally in Texas. When we went through here in the spring the wind was blowing, the sand was drifting, and we thought this to be a very poor area, but today was surprised to find quite a different story. The fields are growing lots of potatoes and other veggy crops undetermined by us what they might be. Irrigation sprinklers were everywhere, and all was very green.  Not sure why we did not see the same thing in the spring. Maybe it because it was the end of the day and we were just looking for a place to rest our heads. Arrived at Big Springs, Texas at 5:00PM (now in Central Time Zone) and was going to check in at a La Quinta Hotel, but they wanted $199, so went one block back and checked into Advantage Inn for $78, tax included. And it sure is not a dump!! Dinner at a steak House adjacent, and again ate too much, but this was a celebration for us. 52 Years of marriage. How about that!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finally heading South Again

Well here we are, after that disastrous summer final heading south for a couple of months to see if we can finally slow down a d relax a little. Last couple of days we spent trying to get everything under control and packing the jeep in preparation for the trip down.
Now I am going to fill you in on the whole dastardly summer activity, but do not expect an immediate update as an awful lot happened during the summer, and is going to take me sometime to tell you all about it. I am going to show you from time to time when I have done an update with a link and you should be able to click on it an go directly to the new data - well I hope that is the way it works -----

September 1st
So anyway today we left High River this morning and travelled down #22 to Lundbreck and to Pincher Creek
Had Breakfast Porridge with Don, Shannon, Caitlin, Samantha, Mike and kids before we headed south. Went through Cardston, and Carway border crossing with out an issue, and then to St Mary's, Browning, Choteau, and on to Helena to the Hamptons Hotel for the night - Had supper at the Overland Express, and will retire early.

September 2nd
Left Helena this morning after breakfast at the hotel and headed down the valley towards Yellowstone. Stopped in Wheat at the sandwich deli and bought some sandwiches for lunch.
Smoke from Idaho Forest Fires
Harvest Time in Montana

Arrived in West Yellowstone about 12:30 and decided to continue on into the park. It was raining so we just drove on with few stops until we reached Old Faithful. She had just erupted shortly before so Denice bought a few nick-nacks, and we decided not to wait until the next Old Faithful event as we have seen them many times in the past.
South from Earthquake Dam

Just a Local!!

Old Faithful at a quiet moment

Headed south to the South Entrance and through the Grand Tetons, then into Jackson Hole. The rain has let up, but still very overcast. Took a room at the Elk Refuge Inn for $140. We originally went to the Rustic Inn, but they wanted a mere $260!  Sorry, not interested!!
Jackson Downtown park

September 3rd
Breakfast this morning at "The Bunnery" in Jackson Hole, then headed south on 191 through a lot of Wyoming sage brush country all the way to Rock Springs, Wyo. West on I-80 for 13 miles then south again on 530 toward Flaming Gorge.

Fall is coming!!
Crossing the Oregon Trail
A nice Buck

Seemed we were just seeing a lot more sage brush until we finally did come to the Gorge. It was GREAT and well worth the drive. A long way down a steep grade to the bottom of the gorge, followed the bottom for a few miles and the climbed the long 8% grade out of the canyon. Many overlooks and great scenery. Stopped at Red Canyon overlook for another photo op and then headed south to Vernal, Utah where we checked into a Best Western for the night. KFC for dinner.

September 4th
Slow day today - had breakfast then drove east a few miles to a Dinosaur Park. A great facility with lots of uncovered dinosaur bones - they call it a log jamb of bones left from some event that caused hundreds of the beasts to die, many by drowning and floating down a river to be buried in the sand.

A very Large back bone ( could not spell vertebrae???)

The indoor excavation area

Now there is a femur ( or is it a drum stick?)

 After a couple of hours there headed south on 191 to Moab. Arrived there early and checked into the Holiday Express. Jut rested to rest of the day.

September 5th
Hot breakfast at the hotel before heading off to to Arches National Park. Been the a few times in the past, but it is always a great place to visit. So many photo ops!!! It is about a 40 or 50 mile round trip so we did not get back to the Visitor Center until noon. Of course could not pass there without stopping and giving them some business!

As You can see from the Captions, I borrowed these

Then on the road again down 191 through Montechello, Blanding, and Bluff. A few miles out of Bluff turned east onto 160 to Colorado and 4 Corners. Here is the only place in the USA that 4 states meet at a common corner. Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all join here.

Very nice facility with a lot of native art wares displayed for sale. And of course we supported them!!  Then on to Cortez, Colorado for the night.

September 6th
9 miles out of Cortez is the entrance to Mesa Verde. Arrived there by about 8:00AM and stopped at the info center to find out all the details. Advised to drive on ahead 20 miles to the Palace Ruins. The road to there takes you up over a couple passes at more than 8000 feet and through a 1/2 mile tunnel. But all very picturesque. Takes about an hour and a half to reach the Anasazi cliff dwellings.There must have been a very large civilization of them in this area as there are recorded over 4000 individual sites. We spent most of the day here and visited (or at least took pictures from the road above the cliffs) many of them. Denice has been having trouble with her left hip, so cannot walk a long distance . We are not sure what the problem is, but will have to have it looked at once we return to Canada in November.Once we had seen all that we wanted, and a couple hundred pictures, we headed back to the info center and then to Durango, a short 40 miles east. Checked into a motel right next to the start of the Durango/Silverton narrow gage railroad. Once settled in I went over and purchased tickets for tomorrows train ride to Silverton and back by tomorrow evening. Denice says that is another of the things in her "Bucket List"

September 7th
Caught the Durango / Silverton Narrow Gage Railway this morning at 7:00AM, exit Durango at 8:00AM. Was a great day! A little cool in the morning, had to wear jackets, but return trip was hot and sunny. Trip to Silverton took about 3 1/2 hours, just in time for lunch, and a little shopping at the neat stores there. Denice is starting to replace a lot of items lost in the High River flood!!
Caught the return train at 1:30PM. Our seats were on the same side of the outdoor coach so we did see both sides of the track. Great scenery!!!  Back to Durango by 5:30PM and to our reserved motel at the Best Western, who gave us 2 complimentary drinks each. Another GREAT Day!!

September 8th

From Durango toward Albuquerque for 80 miles, then a right turn onto a local road heading for Choco Canyon. First 8 miles were fair pavement, then road bed changed to Light gravel for about 5 miles, then to the worst dirt / sand / washboard that you can imagine for remaining 10 miles. Once into the National Choco Canyon Park all roads were well paved highways, but that 10 miles should be an embarrassment to the US Government. The ruins in the canyon are nothing less than fantastic.
Park entrance - after 20 miles of washboard

Lots of petroglyphs

Many, many rooms (600 I believe)

Very precise rockwork

Only a portion of the total of one site

A very large Kiva

 Rather than cliff dwellings like Mesa Verde, these are ancient Pueblo dwellings at the base of the canyon walls. These you can drive right to the edge of them and walk freely among the many individual rooms and Kivas. But, as in Mesa Verde, the sites indicate a huge population living there for several hundred years from about 800 to 1200 AD. A very advanced civilization with complex structures, dams, irrigation systems and roads. A very unique item are their road system leading to many other areas. These were clearly marked out and 30 feet wide. Seems strange as they had no horses, wagons or means of moving between the sites other than on foot. Archaeologists have no explanation of this phenomenon. After wandering around a few of the sites for a couple of hours elected to head back to the main highway over that embarrassment, the US Gov't calls an access road. Makes me feel like sending an email to Mr. Obama voicing my concerns. Once back on highway 550 headed to Albuquerque, arriving there at 4:00PM and checked into another Best Western Hotel. We had been to this one before, and found it very nice and about half the price of others we have been staying at this trip down. Sometimes I just do not understand the rational behind their rates. After settling in, called Denice's aunt and took her out for dinner to Landry's Seafood Restaurant. Very Good!!!

2013 Summer

will start to fill in as time goes on

Thursday, April 11, 2013

March 2013 In Texas

Writing this section on March 24th. This has been quite a slow month here in Mission Texas. Really a relaxing time with not a lot of activity. And that is what retirement is all about isn't it?
Normal days start at around 6:00AM, although the last few we have slept past 7, we get up and sit in our easy chairs (sure enjoying our new ones in ELTORO) and read a book or do our emails for an hour or two. Then maybe do a "Bird Walk" in one of the many Birder places in and around the RG Valley. Most of them we have been to a few times but always worthy of doing some more exploring. South Padre island is always a favourite, and although 80 miles away, makes a nice days outing.

And of course, March 11th was My Good Wife's Birthday, so I took her out to the "Olive Garden" for Dinner. We both ordered salad as well as full entre's knowing we would not be able to eat all at one sitting, but planned for left overs for tomorrow. But then left them sitting in a bag beside my chair. Ohh Well!!

Some of the days are getting a little unbearably hot with highs near 100 F. Denice does not handle them well so she spends a lot of time in ELTORO with the AC running, doing her computer stuff and stitching and reading, but I enjoy the heat so like to sit outside under the awning enjoying the heat while I read, and do my things. 

On one of our birding days we went north 50 miles to Solinino. We had been there before, and there used to be some volunteers managing the bird feeding stations, and advising birders of all the birds visiting there. But since the site is immediately beside the Rio Grande, the border patrol advised it was unsafe to continue the operation. The Rio is narrow and shallow there so Illegals can enter very easily, and some are not too friendly. The bird center from Roma, down the road a few miles are still doing the feeding, and anyone who wants to go to the site are given food for the birds. We had brought our own bird food, so we set up camp there for a few hours. This is likely the best site we have been to for bird watching, with the most variety. While we were there another couple cam along, Bev and Bob Saxton, so we enjoyed an afternoon with them. One unigue bird showed up. It was a Red Wing Blackbird, but had an extra long bill. Denice got some good pictures of it, and later as we talked to real birders no one seemed to know what it might be other than a Red Wing Blackbird Syndrome.
Of course there was the usual grocery shopping, laundry and stuff like that. One day while doing laundry Denice talked to a lady from Ontario, and as they chatted found we both were leaving our RV's in the park for the summer. She asked if we had contacted out insurance supplier to ensure the motor home was covered while we were away. I had not even considered it might not be so I phoned our Cooperators in High River and asked the question. They were not even sure so had to check and get back to me. They confirmed it was not covered over 6 months out of the country. Now the process to find another supplier. The lady at the laundry had recommended a broker called Galvan. I called them and they took a couple of days to get back to me, but their rate was away too high at over one thousand dollars. I called "Good Sam," and after passing along all the pertinent info they came up with less than five hundred for  year. I accepted that, so now am confident we are covered. We did not need collision as we are not moving it, but if we decide to take a trip with it will have to up the insurance.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 2013 in Texas

February in Rockport was a fairly quiet month. Weather was rather cool most of the time with day time temperature in 40's and days usually only about in the 60's with a few days up into the 70's. We call it cool here' but back home this would be absolutely balmy!! 
We have made a couple to trips down to Aransas Wldlife Refuge to see the birds and alligators. But even they were not that numerous. Just too early in the spring yet I guess. They photo below actually show Denice 100 feet up in the observation tower. She is supposed to be looking out toward the horizon in search of Whooping Cranes. but she chose to look back toward me, scowling at me for enticing here so high in the air. Good thing the photo is far enough away that you cannot see that frightened look on her face! 

Yes, that is Denice!!

Here is a group of nice friendly guys out sunning themselves.

This one is about 14 feet long!!
But, I did not measure!!
Nice Teeth

This is the same observation platform showing above the live oaks.
Another day we went down to Lamar along the coast. There is usually some Whoopers some where in the area, and this day was no exception. Here is a couple of shots out of the hundred we took.

Spreading my wings ready for flight
Then on another trip to Aransas National Refuge we were lucky enough to see some Wild Hogs. Now these are not the the havalinas that are native to here. These are ancestors of tame pigs that have escaped confinement, and over the ages have become wild. We saw 2 mothers, each with 2 young piglets.
Oink, Oink

A couple of Sandhill Cranes - Lots of them here too.

We have great group of neighbors in our area of Bayview RV Park. On another day after the oyster dinners,
Doris and Jack invited us over for pie and ice cream and coffee at 2:00PM. The whole group of our neighbors were there.
Doris and Jack are from Louisiana 

Theresa and Nick from Oklahoma
Rebecca and Al from Minnesota
Nancy and SJ from Northern Loiusiana
Linda and Jim from Tennessee
Tony and Richard from Texas
Sheila and Dick from Edomton --
Nancie and Walt from Washington
Don from Wisconson
Cindy, Jason and Jaxsen from Alaska
Cheryl and Larry.NowTexas He is crippled from a stroke
For a change of scenery, on Feb 14th, for Valentine's Day, we left ELTORO in Rockport and made a run over to Galveston to see the sights there. We took local paved roads as close to the Gulf as we could get, and arrive early in the afternoon. It is about 200 miles.

Along the road - Just before we ordered a Texas Steak

One of our favourites - Roseate Spoonbill

Stilt Village

Denice on the beach

A tanker coming to Port

One  of the Ferries to Bolivar Penninsula

Fun Time at the Beach

He,s got the whole World in his hands!
 First item was to go to the local info station and find what there was for a tourist to see in their town. We were told to check the old town area where the hurricane Ike in 2008 had destroyed a lot of the old trees, and a chainsaw artist had made many of the stumps into wood  carvings. Then we would have to do the harbor area, The Strand, and Moody Park. After getting all this info and a recommendation to stay at the Commador, a beach front hotel, we headed over there and checked in. We still had many hours of daylight, and as our time in Galveston was limited we decided to take a run across the Galveston Bay to Boliver Peninsula, on their free ferry and travel a little farther east toward Louisiana, but we did not get that far before turned around at headed back to our hotel. An interesting bit of trivia was that near the Ferry terminal on Bolivar Peninsula there is a lighthouse. Not a terribly impressive structure but obviously very sturdy, for in the 1900 hurricane that completely destroyed Galveston with the loss of over 8000 lives, All the people on the Boliver Peninsula for the length of over 20 miles were lost, except for 132 that huddled on the stairs inside the lighthouse until the hurricane had passed.  Again with Hurricane Ike in 2008, every house on the penninsula, except for one was destroyed. There is little evidence of that destruction today as hundreds of new homes have been built, but now all on stilts, hopefully high enough to weather the next event.
After returning to Galveston we stopped at Joe's Crab Shack for a great seafood dinner of shrimp, oysters, mussels and other delights.
Morning of the 15th, after breakfast at IHOP we headed down town to the old section. The info bureau had given us a map of a route to veiw all the wood carvings. It was an area of about 6 blocks square, as we just went up and down each street and the map indicated where each carving was. All were in private yards, but he local residences were more than happy to have you stop in front of their houses and take photos. During Ike, there was about 5 feet of water over the whole area, and the salt water was the culprit that killed the old live oak trees.

Just one of about 20 in the area
Next stop was the waterfront. Lots to see there, so we took a harbor tour on a tourboat with an excellent guide. He took us slowly around all the points of interest and pointed out each in detail. From Shrimp Boats to Yachts, to drilling ships, to dry docks, to oilwell service boats, drilling rig museum, Disney Cruise Ship, and even some dolphins.  An hour well spent!! 
A Disney Cruise Ship

A Jack Up Rig in for repairs - On the left a Submirsable Dry Dock

Off Shore Rig Supply Boat

Galveston Harbor


Oilfield Service Boat

The Submirsable Dry Dock

Need one like this on your fishing Boat!

On the Drilling Platform Museum

 Then lunch at a local pub, and a short drive to the Strand. This is the touristy part of town with all the quaint shops to part the tourist and their money.  And it works!!! To see the whole are we hired a buggy pulled by a tired old nag..  Clop, clop, around the town. Not maybe the best guide, but the horse responded well to spoken commands like "step left" for a left turn, or "stop" for a red light. "Go" on green and so forth. But you know, he has probably done that same route 500 times, and likely needs no commands.  But it was a good way to see that part of town.

Looking Down Broadway

Our Taxi
Now getting late in the day and time to go to Moody Park. A very well done upscale area, highlighted by 3 huge glass pyramids, housing an aquarium, a Rain Forest, and a nature center. We were too late to get to see all, as they close at 5:00PM, so we chose the Rain Forest. Lots to see here in their humid atmosphere, and took over an hour to wander through. Now getting dark, and time to head back to the hotel. AS IHOP was on the way, decided to try them for a nice ordinary seniors meal. Pot Roast and Pasta was the order of the day.

A lot of Birds to See

One of the Three Pyramids

Tankers at Anchor at Sunrise pumping Off the Cargo onto an Off Shore Terminal

16th, and time to head back to Rockport via a different route. We had been told that we should take in Brazos State Park, a little closer to Houston, so we headed on up there as it was not too far out of our way. It is a nice park with a lot of water. They call them lakes, We would call them sloughs. But prime habitat for alligators, They claim there are hundreds here and I would have to believe them, but since it was a rather cool day we were only able to see a few. I guess the rest were hibernating, or what ever gaters do during cold snaps. Lots of birds for Denice to photo. 

Spanish Moss

The Everglades -Texas that is!

Three Whoopers and same Sandhills near home in Rockport
 Then home to Rockport by 5:00PM.
February 22nd we packed up and moved on down to Mission, Texas. A little sad to leave all those great friends and neighbors in Jaxsen Heights, but time moves on and since we had a reservation in Bentsen Palms RV Resort we knew it was to be our new home for the next year or so at least. We are sure that we will have new friends and neighbors there as well. Last spring when we were here for a couple of months we did meet some very nice friendly people. It is a great park, with lots of activities if you want to join in, or if you wish to "do your own thing", it is your choice. We had no more than got settled in, when we found that the next day was a park Bar-B-Que for $5 each. Was a very large gathering and enjoyable time. We sat at a table with 6 other Canadians ( Quebecers ) but very friendly, although a little short on the English Language, but not a problen communication with them. But we did not talk politics!!

Then another day we walked over into Bentson State park, and wandered along for 2 or 3 miles taking in the sight and photographing birds. Alway a nice enjoyable walk, and being righ adjacent to our park is so easily accessable.

Another day went down to the Butterfly Gardens that are less than a mile away. They have big gardens of plants that attract the butterflies, and Denice loves to take pictures of them. I am not nearly as excited about butterflies, so they have a bird feedin station with comfortable seats and tables to sit at, so I get comfortable there while Denice scours for the elusive rare bug --- Oh sorry, betterfly.