Saturday, April 15, 2017

Texas - 2017 (3)

April 13, 2017.
I left Bandera at 7:00 AM and arrived at the Malaquite Beach campground, on Padre Island, at about 12:00 noon. The campground is about thirty miles from Corpus Christi.

I saw some motorhomes and trailers belonging to WINs but they were all gone to do sightseeing or going out for lunch.
I took a camp site and when I was going to pay at the little kiosk I noticed that that site was taken but the person was gone and did not leave anything on the site.
I had to move to another spot. From the motorhome I can see the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

People were fishing and one person had three good sized fish in his bucket.

The 5:00 PM meeting was at 5:30 PM because the group came back late from the King ranch. From here it is seventy miles one way to the ranch. I would have liked to go.

April 14, 2017.
Last night, at 9:00 PM, I heard two big Diesel powered motorhomes come into the campground. One parked next to me. The camp host was out there with a big flash light directing the person.
When I woke up this morning I checked who it was. It is Bill. The other WIN is Ken with his 45 foot monster motorhome.
I do not like to arrive at a camp ground when it is dark. Especially out here where there are no lights.
In the morning some of us went to the Visitor Center and took a guided bird watching tour on a twelve passenger van.

We stopped at several places and observed all kind of shore birds and other birds. The guides set up a telescope and they also had binoculars on board.

There were white pelicans in the water.

We also spent some time in the Visitor Center and learned about the program they have, with the cooperation of Mexico, to save endangered sea turtles.

In the afternoon we drove to Corpus Christi and played Mini Golf. It was fun. I did not do well.

After we were done we went next door to Ocean Treasures.  It is a big place and they sell all kinds of merchandise. The front of the store looks like a giant sand castle.

On my evening walk, on the beach, I watched people set up tents. It will be a crowded weekend since it is Easter.

The campground is full. Bill and Ken were lucky. They got the last two camp sites.

April 15, 2017.
This morning I went to the King Ranch Museum in Kingsville. I watched a thirty minute video of the history of the founder and of the ranch.

At the museum are vehicles used over the years. They range from horse drawn buggies to a special Buick hunting car. The car has pockets, over each front fender, for six guns.

I did not go to the King Ranch because the video showed me what I would have seen on the two hour guided tour on a bus.
The first vaqueros (cowboys) at the ranch were hired by Captain King from Mexico. The present cowboys are the third or fourth generation from the original group. It is a family business. The cowboys get a house, several horses and a pick- up truck.
From the museum I went to Old Town and then to a big HEB store with bakery. They had the bread I like and I bought two loaves.
When I got back to Padre Island National Seashore I watched wind surfers at surfer beach. It must be fun to go over the water that fast.

April 16, 2017.
Some of the WINs went to the Easter Service early in the morning. The chaplain came to the campground.

My neighbors were getting ready to go fishing.

I went to the South Texas Botanical Garden in Corpus Christi.

Besides plants they also have birds and reptiles.

There were many beautiful orchids in a green house.

Some of the bushes were in bloom.

The Monkey Mansion seems to be for children. Since it was Easter there were not many visitors at the Botanical Garden.

At the Butterfly enclosure were some beautiful butterflies.

At 2:00 PM we had our Easter pot luck. We had ham, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, broccoli salad, green bean casserole, fruit salad and a cake and cherry pie.

On my evening walk I found a kite. I flew it along the beach hoping somebody would claim it. Nobody came forward. I have a kite now.

April 17, 2017.
This is our last day at Corpus Christi. Three WINs left already and headed for the next stop.
We ate the leftovers from the Easter dinner today and most of us got ready for the move tomorrow.
I walked on the beach again hoping to see a turtle come ashore. It is nesting season right now. Volunteers are riding along the beach checking for turtles. They take the eggs and bring them to an incubator. This insures that the eggs have a chance to survive predators.
The young turtles are brought back to the beach and they walk to the water. This way they know where to come back to.

April 18, 2017.
We moved thirty three miles east, to Port Aransas, on Mustang Island. The County Campground is on the beach.

When I arrived here this morning it looked like it would rain any minute. This did not bother Garth; he was trying to catch dinner. He is one of the WINs who came here yesterday.

The office of the campground is above ground, so are many houses. In case of a storm we have to get out of here.

In the evening I walked along the beach to the jetty. Large cargo ships were leaving the harbor.

A man was feeding the Laughing Seagulls. They are very pretty and make a strange noise.

I was lucky today and got two of my problems fixed. To heat up lunch I turned on the generator. As soon as I started the micro wave oven the generator stopped. I disconnected the microwave oven and started the generator again. Then I turned on the motorhome air conditioner. The generator stopped again.
I knew that Bill had the same problem. I asked him how he fixed it. He told me to turn off the breakers and turn them on again; it worked.
I did not use the dash air conditioner in the motorhome for a long time. On the coast it does not get that hot. This morning, while driving, I tried to use it and it blew only warm air.
I checked all the fuses today and made sure the compressor kicked in. Rod and Stephen came over and it was decided that I was low on the gas which makes the thing work. It used to be Freon.
Rod had a charging kit with one can. We used that can and it was not enough. I went to the hardware store and bought two more cans. We used both cans and Stephen, who is a mechanic, told me that the gage on the charging kit does not work properly and that there is enough gas in the system, and he was right.
I was trying to make it three successes and worked on the TV antenna. It is difficult now to raise it.
I set up my telescoping ladder and lubricated the mechanism of the antenna. It did not help much.
I probably have to take it completely apart. I will do that when I will stay at a place for a few weeks.

April 19, 2017.
This morning we went to the Marine Science Education Center of the University of Texas, Austin.
The center is involved in studying methods of cleaning up the ocean in case of an oil spill. They also are working on species of animals which seem to be on the verge of extinction.

At the children section Laurie caught a fish. The fish is hooked with a magnet. There is a chart on the wall with different sizes of a fish. The angler has to check whether the fish is of legal size. This display is part of teaching children about fishing.

The Marine Science Education Center is located on the shipping channel and surrounded by beautiful landscaping.

Our next stop was a pizza restaurant.

Near the shipping channel are in storage three large oil rigs.  An investor bought them and hopes the price of oil goes up so he can sell them for a profit.

In the evening we walked to the site of the Texas Sand Fest. The Sand Fest is one of the reasons we are staying in Port Aransas. Artists from all over the United States and some foreign countries will create sculptures from sand. The event starts on Friday.
Organizers are getting ready. The outdoor toilets are in place and the parking is set up. Large mounts of sand are ready to be shaped into figures.

To get to the event site we had to walk about two miles on sand. They expect one hundred thousand visitors. Parking will be a nightmare. During the day walking two miles one way is no fun. It is too warm.
I will walk to the pier and then take the shuttle.
This evening I was glad when I came to the pier on my way home.

April 20, 2017.
This was a busy day. On my morning walk to the jetty I saw this ship with the rising sun. I really enjoy my stay in Port Aransas. The breeze from the Gulf of Mexico keeps the temperature down and the town is a nice little place.

On my way back to the motorhome I encountered Laurie who had seen a strap on the beach. She tried to pull it out and was not successful. She took a shovel and dug a deep hole. She had to give up because the strap was buried very deep. She never found out what was on the other end.

At 10:00 AM we had an appointment with Rick Pratt, the director of the Port Aransas Museum. He met us at the Farley Boat Works. The row boats the company built were instrumental in keeping the local fishing industry alive.

The boat works is part of the museum and people can build their own boats. The parts are supplied by the boat works.

When outboard motors were available the design of the boats changed to accommodate the motor. The first outboard motors were strange looking devices.

President Roosevelt enjoyed catching a big fish while visiting Port Aransas.

We learned a lot about the history of boat building and the town. Rick told us we should come to the museum and watch some of the old movies from the twenties and thirties of the last century.
First we ate some very good tacos at a small walk up restaurant.

Across Texas are thousands of signs explaining the history of buildings and other facts. I never saw so many sign in other states. This sign tells about Mustang Island.

We went to the museum and saw some of the old movies and Rick told us more about this region and the island.
On my evening walk to the pier I took a picture of our motorhomes. Mine is the one on the right.

April 21, 2017.
The Sand Fest started today. There are plenty of vendors who sell food.

The amateurs finished their projects this morning. Some are very nice.

The masters will work today, tomorrow and probably Sunday morning. Judging will be done Sunday afternoon.

In the afternoon I decided to go to Aransas Pass. The town is only eight miles from here, but to get off the island one has to take the ferry. I knew it was a bad day to leave the island. Getting over to Aransas Pass was easy; I just drove on the ferry and ten minutes later I was driving off the ferry.
I went to Walmart and did some shopping and then headed back. It took forty five minutes to get on the ferry. People were going to the Sand Fest. There were five ferries going back and forth. I do not know why the state does not build a bridge. The ferries are free.

Two of the ferries are coming back.

April 22, 2017.
Since it is warm again and I did not feel to walk down the Sand Fest I drove to a neighborhood street and parked the car.
I walked a short distance and took the free golf cart shuttle to the Sand Fest area.
The artists have made progress with their creations.

After visiting the library, doing my computer work and saying goodbye to the two nice librarians, I went back to the motorhome and took it easy the rest of the day.
People in those small towns are friendly and helpful. I have not encountered one mean person since we came to Texas.

April 23, 2017.
I went early in the morning to the Sand Fest to check the progress. The sculptures were almost finished.  I was surprised that last night’s storm did not do more damage to the sculptures. It was really windy and it got cold.
At 3:00 PM I went back and enjoyed the work of the masters and amateurs. Tomorrow a bulldozer will destroy them.

Our motorhomes are dirty and covered with salt. That is the price we pay for camping on the beach.

The seagulls have their mating season. This is going on all over the beach.

On my evening, walk on the jetty, this pontoon boat with happy passengers came by.

April 24, 2017.
Part of the group went today to the Texas State Aquarium.
I went to the car wash and checked out how to get in one of the bays and what time they are open. It is a twenty four hour operation.
I have to get the salt off both vehicles.
Then I went in the salt water and splashed around a bit. To be able to swim I would have to walk quite a distance. The water is very shallow near the beach. Kids have a lot of fun.
We have our beach back. The weekend crowd is gone. There were a lot of tents set up.

After taking a shower I took the motorhome to the dump station and emptied the holding tanks and filled up the fresh water tank.
I hooked up the car and I am ready for an early start tomorrow morning. As soon as we get away from the Gulf of Mexico we probably encounter a lot of hot weather.

April 25, 2017.
I got up real early this morning. At 5:30 AM I was at the car wash and used the water spray to remove the salt from the motorhome. At 6:00 AM I drove on the ferry. There was only a car and my motorhome with my car going across the shipping channel.
I arrived at the Walmart in Alvin at about 10:00 AM. We are staying two nights here. Our group shrank to eight rigs.
Ken had an accident on the way here. A large farm combine was on the road and Ken’s motorhome and the combine got too close together. On Ken’s motorhome the awning and support arms were ripped off. There is damage on the slides. They will not come out. The rear wall is ripped open. He has to tape it in case of rain.
Ken will leave us tomorrow morning to have the damage repaired. Then we will be only seven rigs.

When I came through Alvin I noticed they have an Aldi store here. After I set up the motorhome I drove to the store and put a quarter in the slot for the shopping cart. I had brought my own bags.
The cashier does not bag the purchases, they go in another cart and from there one has a choice, use your own bag or buy a bag or use boxes.
They had large eggs on sale for 99 cents.  

April 26, 2017.
At 9:00 AM we were at the Space Center in Houston.
I went my own way and took a tram to the NASA Johnson Space Center. There we visited the Apollo Mission Control Center. I saw it many times on television during the height of the Apollo Missions.

Our next stop was Rocket Park. There are some small rockets, but the main attraction is the Saturn V Rocket.

After I came back to the
Space Center Houston I jumped on another tram which went to the NASA’s Mock Up Building. Here are Mock Ups for the Space Station and future missions, like going to Mars.
There are parts of the Russian side of the Space Station and parts of the US and Europeand and Japanese side. Astronauts train here before doing a mission.

The Orion module for the Mars Mission is there too.

A rover for the Mars Mission is in development. Since it is very cold and inhaling dust on Mars can be very dangerous the vehicle in enclosed.

Back at the center I went to the Boeing 747 with a mock up of the Space Shuttle on top.

Without the seats the airplane appears even longer than it is.

There is another vehicle on display for the Mars Mission. It will be used for the mission without humans on board.

On the Main Plaza are a great number of displays.

There are also displays of the Space Station.

Equipment used in prior missions is located throughout the center.  

April 27, 2017.
This was a driving day.
It took me two and a half hours to drive the 65 miles to Anahuac. Going through Houston was no fun. I left Alvin at the wrong time and hit the commuter traffic in Houston.
We are seven rigs now and parked at the Fort Anahuac County Park, near the water. We dry camp for free.
I had hoped we would be near Houston, but the distance from Anahuac to Houston is 57 miles. The setting is beautiful. We had a fantastic sunset. 

April 28, 2017.
Today we went to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

We were taking a simulated trip on an air boat through the refuge and swamps. While watching the movie we were sitting in something what looked like an air boat. It had a large fan in the back. We felt the wind during the ride.
At the Alligator Incubator one could learn all about this animal.

While walking on the long board walk we could see turtles in the swamp. We did not see any alligators.

The cypress trees have knees which grow around the trunk.

Unfortunately we did not see any birds at the photo blind. There was food for them but no birds. We could hear them though.

April 29, 2017.
This was not a good day for me. Yesterday I exchanged my empty propane tank for a new one. In this small town is no propane filling station.
When I put the heavy tank in the car I hurt my back.
The weather was lousy too. The sky was dark and it looked like it would rain any minute. The wind got strong and shook the motorhome. In the morning I went to the library and the rest of the day I spent on the couch.
Part of the group went to Houston to see the Beer Can House, and some people went to the southern part of the Anahuac Wildlife Refuge.
The group is falling apart. Every day somebody is leaving us.

April 30, 2017.
The weather was great again. We went to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.
This is the place where in 1836 Texas won its independence when the Texan Army defeated the Mexican forces.
The San Jacinto Monument, at 567 feet, is the tallest memorial stone column. 

In the base of the monument is a museum which tells the story of the battle and the history of Texas.

Special attention is given to the men who were instrumental in the creation of Texas.

Of course Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna gets a spot in the display area too. He won the battle at the Alamo, but lost at San Jacinto.

The battleship Texas is also located in the park. It was built in 1912 and served in both World Wars.

May 1, 2017.
This was another driving day. I left Anahuac at 5:30 AM and it was easy going through Houston. There was traffic but not stop and go.
Yesterday afternoon Elmer and I made reservations for the Emma Long Austin Metro Park. We did it over the Internet and forgot to check what size motorhomes the camp sites can accommodate.
When I arrived here I knew right away that Elmer could not park his 40 foot long motorhome and his large trailer here.

I managed to fit my motorhome into the site. I could not face Austin Lake though. I had to back into the site so the overhang in the back passes over the end of the asphalt.
Christine came later and she had no problem with her short Class B motorhome. I had called Elmer and told him of this situation. He will be staying at a nearby RV Park.
Across the lake are beautiful homes with boat houses.

May 2, 2017.
Elmer and Judy met Christine and me at the Texas State Capitol.

Elmer is not happy with the RV Park where they are staying. Christine and I love it at the Emma Long Metro Park.
The Land of my Dreams statue reminds me of the little museum in Fredericksburg. The emigrants who came here in the 1800’s had it not easy.

The rotunda in the building supposed to be the highest in all the State Capitol buildings. It does not surprise me, everything is larger, higher, bigger and whatever in Texas.

We went to the senate chamber, which was in session.

The other house was in session too.

There is a large painting showing the surrender of Santa Anna on one of the walls.

Our next stop was the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas Austin.

There everything is oversized too.

I have now seen many copies of the Oval Office in Presidential Libraries and every President has his own layout of the office.

Lady Bird Johnson had an office in the library too.

When I came back to the motorhome I watched three young people with a boat try to feed a swan. When the young man turned his head the swan took the food.

I went swimming after a little rest. City driving is not easy.

May 3, 2017.
I took it easy today. After doing some computer work at the library I went to the grocery store and did some shopping. Back at the park I went swimming in the lake.
Since it was hot today I turned on the air conditioner and took a long nap.

May 4, 2017.
This is the last day of our Texas Trip. There are five more planned stops. I will do them on my own, but will stay only a few days at each place.
Elmer, Judy and Christine are waiting for Patricia to arrive and then do the same thing. Patricia has problems with a wheel bearing on her trailer and is waiting for the bearing to arrive at the repair facility.
There is some wildlife in the park. This squirrel seems to be nursing babies.

Turkey vultures are hanging around the garbage cans.

There are also beautiful blooming trees.

I got the motorhome ready for an early take off.

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