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Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Change of Scenery --- Port Aransas, TX

Tequila in a Stand Down with a Sand Crab

Roger here...  We seldom post travel blogs in the winter while staying at our home at Retama Village in extreme south Texas.  However, as I sat in our back yard  enjoying the garden and the shade, I felt a compulsion to share our week at Port Aransas, TX from the previous week.  It has been a while since we have enjoyed extended time on the beach.

The four-hour drive to the Corpus Christi area was uneventful.  For those of you who do not travel in motor homes...  uneventful is a good thing.

RV Site from the Front
Our digs for the week were courtesy of our Retama neighbors, Don and Sue.  They generously offered us the use of their RV lot at the Gulf Waters Resort, a resort located directly on the beach. 

The huge RV site was nothing short of spectacular.

The Very Tropical Palapa
This palapa over the bar and eating area was one of the extensive improvements that they have made to their lot.

The Back Area of the Site.  Bandido likes it.
This was such a restful and beautiful place.  The weather (in the 70s and 80s) was perfect for reading and napping under the palm trees.






Roger in the Shade on the Phone.  Pets Lounging in the Sun.



Landscaping along the Back


We had no real agenda here other than relaxing.  The site was so nice that it was difficult to leave it.  However, the beach beckoned.

It actually beckoned 2 to 3 times a day.  A short trek on a boardwalk over the dunes led to.....








... a pristine, wide, uncrowded beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  We took the dogs on long walks along the beach every day.  Bandido chased his ball in the surf.  Tequila chased Bandido.  Dianne and I chased the dogs.

We encountered the usual seaside sights as we padded through the sand...  pelicans, fishermen, gulls, sandpipers, etc.  We also found this huge log covered with shells. This piece of driftwood must have been in the sea for some time to be this covered with life.  Here is a closer look.


Our walks were always followed by more reading... 


... and some times a frosty drink under the palapa.  Such stress.


We chose a non-windy day to spend some extended time in the sand.  A two-wheeled dolly worked well for rolling our umbrella, mats, beach chairs and various items to the soft sand.

Time to Set Things Up
This picture gives a nice perspective of the length of the beach (actually no end in sight), the dunes, and the relative isolation.

Nice Shade under the Umbrella

The view and sounds from under the umbrella were so relaxing.


The dogs had a great time, as well.  The opening picture of this post shows Tequila in a Mexican standoff with a sand crab.  (No crabs were harmed during our adventure :-).  The picture below is a good picture of Tequila --- continually watching for those pesky, sideways-walking crabs.

I think I see one over there!  They remind me of lizards!

Our only concern during the day was whether this motorized hang-glider would crash into us as it passed over.


Back at the campsite,   my well-practiced skills of shoveling snow served me well while I shoveled tropical leaves.  This is fake news.  I really did not do any work,  other than...

... grilling food on our grill.















We only left the Gulf Waters Resort for a short time.  We were in the mood for some seafood.  We had a tasty meal of fried shrimp at Fins Icehouse and Grill.  The view from our table on the deck was perfect for our laid-back week on the Gulf.


The "Snow Moon" dominated the night sky on our last evening at Port Aransas.  

 Here is an early shot of the moon in a lavender sky. A short time after taking this picture, we walked to the boardwalk to take this picture of the moonlight on the sea.


Before retiring for the evening, we took these shots of the palm trees on our RV site for the week.  What a great time we had.  Thanks again, Don and Sue.







Friday, September 23, 2016

Fredericksburg, Texas --- a week with friends


Roger here....  We are nearly back to our home in Mission, Texas.  However, before that last leg through south Texas, we spent a week in Fredericksburg with our long-time friends, Jay and Nancy.  They flew into Austin and stayed at the Hoffman Haus in Fredericksburg.  Dianne and I set up stakes at the nearby Fredericksburg RV Park.  

It was an action-packed week of museums, shopping, driving, eating, music and wine.  We did not take pictures of every place we visited.  Dianne and I have been in the Texas Hill Country many times, so picture taking seemed redundent.  Also, we were too busy enjoying ourselves. However, we did take a few photos.

LBJ RANCH --- TEXAS WHITE HOUSE

We spent half a day at the LBJ Ranch and Texas White House near Johnson City.  The ranch is both a  Texas State Park and a National Park.  Dianne and I have been there three times, but always discover new bits of interesting information. 


Dianne took this photo inside Air Force 1/2, the air liner that transported LBJ to and from the LBJ Ranch from larger military facilities in Texas.



LUCKENBACH...


In my humble opinion, you cannot experience the Texas Hill Country without a visit to
Luckenbach 

We timed our visit for a time when there would be music.  

On this early evening the music consisted of two performers doing their acoustic thing.  The guy in the middle was quite good.  Notice the roosters in the picture below.  There were probably ten of them (all very colorful).  They added a great deal of humor to the performance as they actually walked up the live oak trees in the performance area.  They flew over our heads from branch to branch and frequently performed with the musicians adding a hearty cock-a-doodle-doo.  After about 30 minutes, they flapped their way back to the ground.



HONDO'S...



Sticking with the music theme, we ate dinner at Hondo's in Fredericksburg.  The burgers and onion strings were delicious.  The music was great and very Texas-y.  Dianne and I had not eaten at Hondo's before, but certainly will in the future.

Eating German food is a requirement when visiting Fredericksburg.  We typically reserve that experience for Auslanders.  However, a local employee at a wine-tasting venue recommended Otto's.  The food was good, but pricey.  We shared desserts that were excellent.  The menu was limited.  Jay and Nancy treated us to the meal.  Thanks!  We will probably return to Auslanders in the future.

COOPER'S OLD TIME PIT BARBECUE...


Since we are already talking about food, let's continue that theme. The four of us jokingly referred to our week as a consummatory tour of the Hill Country.   No day was more emblematic of that statement than the day we drove to Llano for authentic Texas barbecue (followed by pie in Marble Falls and wine tasting in Stonewall).  Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbecue is our favorite barbecue place in all of Texas.  We have written about it before, but as a recap... you pick out your meat as it comes out of the pit outside; it is wrapped; then weighed; payment is made after picking up a beverage; beans are carried to the table;  everything is dumped on butcher paper for consumption.  The meat actually melts in your mouth.  Among the four of us we ate brisket, ribs, and pork chop.

On a different day we experienced another iconic barbecue restaurant near Driftwood.  Salt Lick Barbecue (in the middle of nowhere) is different kind of experience.  Also delicious.

BLUE BONNET CAFE...

The eating did not end on the day we ate at Cooper's.  We decided to drive to Marble Falls for pie!  Dianne and I had never been there before.  Our stomachs were full, but the draw of some of the best known pie in the Hill Country at the Blue 
Bonnet Cafe guided the car.  The picture below is of Dianne's cherry a la mode.  We also had chocolate cream and coconut cream --- so very, very good.  At that point I did not want to eat again for days.



BLUE HOLE REGIONAL PARK...

On one of our longer driving days we drove to the quaint town of Wimberley to do some shopping.  Wimberley is the town that was pretty much washed away in a tragic flood (multiple deaths) two years ago.  The town seems to have recovered, maintaining its quaint atmosphere.  On our way to the Salt Lick Barbecue for lunch we stopped to stroll around Blue Hole Regional Park.




If I had grown up near the Blue Hole, I would have gone swimming there on every summer day (as I did in Fall Creek in my hometown in Pendleton, IN).  


The clear water of Cypress Creek, surrounded by Cyress and Live Oak Trees is an idyllic place to swim.  It is still open for swimming during the summer months.  

WILLOW LOOP...

We took several drives around the Texas Hill Country outside the city of Fredericksburg.  A highlight was a quiet trip through the hillside ranches along the Willow Loop.  We crossed small bridges over quiet streams and saw an abundance of wildlife --- lots of deer, a fox, and lots of cattle.  



We tried to offer Jay and Nancy a wide perspective of the Texas Hill Country.  We spent half a day at the exceptional Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War.  We strolled and shopped down the wide, wide streets of Fredericksburg, we sampled wine at several wineries (on four different days) --- Grape Creek, Becker, Messina Hoff, Terre de Pietra, and Hye.  We visited the iconic Wildseed Farm (where we always spend some money).

On our last evening together, we drove to Old Tunnel State Park at dusk to watch three million Mexican Free Tail bats burst from an old railroad tunnel.  We have done this before from further away, but on a clearer day.  It was pretty dark before the bats emerged, so the views were not all that clear, but suffice it to say, they flew all around us as they flapped their way into the sky.  It is always an amazing and unique experience.  

Here's a link to the video Dianne shot at the bat tunnel in September 2012 when we were there before.   It's an awesome sight.

September 2012 bat footage

Unfortunately, after the bat flight, we stopped by the local What-a-Burger for a quick bite to eat.  These fast food restaurants seem to be around every corner in the state of Texas.  We caught them at a bad time.  The restaurant was filled with loud and misbehaving young children whose parents sat on the other side of the restaurant ignoring the chaos --- not the best impression.

After our days together, Jay and Nancy moved on to Austin for dinner with friends before their flight back to Indianapolis.  Dianne and I are staying two additional days before a one-day drive back to our home at Retama Village.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Amarillo - Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Wild Turkeys at Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo

Roger here....   We're headed south! 

The last post ended with a few pictures from the Mountaindale Cabins and RV Park where we spent three nights.  We have a few more to share before we show you our southern sojourn.

On our last day in Colorado we took a long circular walk along the local roads.  The picture below shows a view of Mountaindale from the road.  




The picture to the left shows one of the many landscaped areas that grace the walking areas in the park.  The picture below shows one last view of our campsite before I tell the story of our trip south.  



Our first night (an overnight) after leaving Colorado was in northwestern New Mexico.  The Capulin RV Park was a quiet, family-owned park. The office was in the family's living room.  We bought grass-fed beef for our freezer before leaving the next day.  


The next morning we entered Texas.  It has been 6,000 + miles and five months since we left our home in Mission, TX in May.  Home again!  Well not quite.  We still have a few days of driving and a couple of multiple-day stops to go.

Amarillo, Texas was our next destination.  We spent four nights at the VERY nice Oasis RV Resort on the west side of town.  Our goal was to spend some quality time cleaning the inside of the motor home (Dianne) and the bug encrusted windshield (Roger).  We also did three weeks worth of laundry in addition to cleaning the inside of the car.  

We did manage to squeeze in some relaxation time, a Texas-style meal, and a scenic hike.  


I wanted to enjoy a steak dinner in Texas.  The Big Texan (actually an iconic restaurant with a gimmick) fit the bill.  The gimmick --- if you can eat 72 ounces of steak within an hour your meal is free.  Dianne kept telling me that this had to be a tourist trap.  It was.  (Dianne is always right).  That being said, the food was actually delicious and reasonably priced (for steak).  Our steaks were only ten ouncers :-)



We also enjoyed a couple of early evenings in the huge hot tub at the RV Park and part of a day at Palo Duro Canyon State Park (25 miles to the south).

PALO DURO CANYON STATE PARK...


Canyon?  What canyon?  How could a huge canyon only be three miles away from the spot that this photo was taken?   Oh, there it is.



The two-mile 10 percent grade drive into the canyon was a piece of cake for our Toyota.  It might have been a little more challenging for our motor home.


We intended to do two or three short hikes with the dogs to get a flavor of the canyon.  Intended is the operative word.  Our first and last hike was the Paseo Del Rio hike in a green area along a small stream.  It was a peaceful walk interspersed with impressive views of the colorful canyon walls.


Unfortunately, our time in the canyon was short-lived.  The sunny day quickly turned into the threat of a thunderstorm.


Dark clouds passed over the canyon much like a wildfire that caused us to evacuate four years ago --- also after a very short time.  We actually saw more this time than we did the previous time.  Maybe we are not meant to spend more than a couple of hours in Palo Duro Canyon.  Oh well, we enjoyed the time that we had.  Maybe the third time will be the charm.



We are currently in Sweetwater, Texas watching another (probably more serious storm) roll in. We have already pulled in one of the slides.  We are closely watching the radar.  Tomorrow, we will travel to Fredericksburg, Texas in the heart of the "Hill Country" where lifetime friends from Indiana will be joining us for the week.

PET PICTURE OF THE DAY....

The Pet Picture of the Day shows Dianne and Tequila at the beginning of our Palo Duro Canyon hike.