Saturday, January 31, 2004

Goose Island

Wow! It was a long and loud night. Wind came up. And up. And up. By midnight, it was shaking the whole rig. There was lots of noise. It sounded like branches scraping the roof. We're not parked next to a tree. Vents flapped. Awning straps slapped. The wind blew all the water out of the bay. By daylight it was calm. That's no way to leave, after a rough night like that. We signed up for another day. New oyster beds to see. Birds discovering the uncovered oyster beds to watch.

I dried my hair without any electrical incidents. I made sure there was no electric heater or coffee maker running at the time.

Last night we watched a car drive through the moon. Late at night, eleven. The waxing moon set, through the binoculars, an orange crescent going silently flat on the bottom. Then, suddenly appearing again! It was setting directly behind the Copano Bay Bridge. Just then, a car drove past, clearly visible in the darkness, back lit entirely by the light of the moon. Wow. I wonder if the people in the car felt it?

Decided we needed another Port Aransas day. Drove there. Crossed the ferry. Shopped. Did the bird lagoon. Had lunch on the beach next to the jetty. Checked out a few more things. Drove home. Got home just in time for another great sunset.

It was a good moorhen day. Saw several. Saw a moorhen chase a coot. Saw another rail. Saw another ruby crowned kinglet. Tiny little thing. About the size of a hummingbird. Ducks, mergansers, loons, grebes. You know. Took a little side trip to a good ducking spot. Spotted a few. Then found Judy's swan again. The swan that's not supposed to be here. When I could finally get Judy's attention diverted from the swan, we checked out some ducks I couldn't recognize. They looked a lot like a duck we've never seen before: the American Black Duck. They're not normally around here so there wasn't much chance, but, That's it! They match exactly. American Black Ducks. Gottum.

Checked out a little park on the way back. It's called Lighthouse Lakes Trails Park. Sounds good. It is a low-lying saltwater marsh, honeycombed by marked trails, with a lighthouse on the other side. The Lydia Ann. We always look for it. You can see the lighthouse off in the distance from the road. We've seen it from up close on the water in the sailboat one year when we sailed out to Port Aransas from Corpus Christie. You can put your kayak in the water at this park, and paddle all the way over to the Lydia Ann and back in sheltered water. That's a good thing.. You don't have to worry about the headwind coming up after you have crossed the bay. It will always be a reasonable paddle back in relatively calm water. We'll have to remember that spot for next year.

We're not stopping in Glenwood Springs on the way home. The office picked up another out of town job while we've been gone. The new client in Glenwood Springs wants it done right away, so I tried to set it up for next Monday and Tuesday so we could catch it on the way home. They want it done soon, but not that soon. When we go home, we'll just go home.

The TV remote puzzles us. Not because we can't program it. No surprise there. What puzzles us is that when you push the button to turn the television off, the television goes off. Then it blinks back on. You blink it off again. It goes off. But it blinks back on. Again. And again. Persistence always pays. It will turn off and stay off. Eventually. A trick TV remote? A party gag?

I want to talk about the north star, and the ferry current, and two bathrooms, and the water/fuel separator, and full-timers, and kayaking in the wind, and going room-to-room, and the other kayak fisherman, and the two switches, and Cut and Shoot Texas, and Luling Texas, and traffic light triggers, and cold hands, and banking on the road, and the walk-in clinic, and gas pump shutoffs, and candy canes, and the retractable extra axle, and truck cabs. But I'm running out of time. Maybe while I'm driving home, nothing new will happen and I can write each evening about the rest of this stuff. Maybe.

I know! Another trip. I can spend my time on the next trip asking the questions I didn't get to on this trip. But then.... Oh well.

Goose Island

Time to leave.

No way! It's way too nice to leave. Let me drive home on a rainy day. We're staying.

It was a busy morning too. It started with the osprey. Osprey out the front window and coffee. He circled, circled, circled, forty feet high, then dove for the kill. He didn't crash headlong into the water like the tern. He crashed talons first into the water. A respectable splash, he's a big bird. A brief struggle to get airborne, and the fish dropped off just above the surface. It was a big fish. A big fish with an osprey story to tell now, supported by the badge of courage on his flanks. We got twenty minutes of osprey fishing. Meanwhile, those goldeneyes drifted by again. Fishing. But wait! One of them doesn't look right. Out come the binocs again. He's not a cormorant, Not a loon. The loon is drifting way out at the edge of our binocular range, but you can just see the flashes of white from his throat. Yesterday, while on the kayak, he called to me. Or at me. When I spotted him from the boat, he wasn't very far away. I paddled his direction. I waited for him to dive, then paddled right over to where he had gone under and coasted, waiting to see where he came back up. He rose about fifty feet away, called once and dove again. He came up a lot farther away the next time.

So back to our duck that wasn't exactly a duck. He was not a cormorant, not a loon, not a grebe. It was a merganser. We're used to seeing mergansers once in a while. They have a distinctive head, different from a duck, but this one didn't look quite like the common mergansers we normally see. This was a red breasted merganser. Not a new bird for us, but an unusual one. Common mergansers don't like to winter in salt water. Red breasted do.

To identify birds, we usually start with what he looks like. More and more now, though, we find we hear a bird, then go look for him. The sound he makes at least tells us which direction to look. Sometimes the sound tells you what type of bird you're looking for, so you have a better idea where to look. Sometimes you know exactly which bird you're looking for because you recognize the sound exactly. Yesterday, I passed the marsh habitat where the clapper rails are. We've seen several there. It took me a long time to spot the rail that was calling. I didn't have any binoculars with me because I wasn't birding, I was running. The sound was check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check. Without interruption. Finally I spotted the bird. It looked just like a clapper rail. But it wasn't. It was a King Rail. The first we have seen this trip. They look just the same, the only way you can tell them apart is by the call.

Anyway, we're watching the osprey, the goldeneyes, the merganser, and the dolphin. What is a dolphin doing in this water? We paddled all over the bay yesterday, and kept bumping into the bottom. Our kayaks draw three inches of water. Once we even had to get out and walk the boats back off the oyster bed and into water deep enough to float them again. There must be channels two or three feet deep out there, and he was better at finding them than we were. We'd see the baitfish start flying all over the place, and look through our field glasses for the disturbance in the water where the dolphin was. He'd get into a pack of them and thrash about, causing quite a commotion, and probably getting lots to eat.

I love the baitfish. They're shaped kind of like trout, but a little rounder at the head. Every kayak trip is escorted by leaping baitfish ten or twelve inches long, splashing all over the place. Fish we'd love to catch from the river at home.

So there is no way we could have left today, anyway, what with all the birds and dolphins, and excitement out the window.

We found a roadside fruit market that is keeping us stocked with goodies. Today we wanted some fresh meat, so we located the meat market. That provided an opportunity for some Texas humor. We got to discussing different cuts of meat, with the butcher, and he recommended the porterhouse steaks. They looked like big T-bones to me, and I wondered how they were different, so I asked, and he answered with a long explanation of loins and shanks and brisket and which came ahead of the other. I stared blankly. He stared back.

I told him I was wondering which part of the cow they came from, if you could imagine a cow standing right there. Was it an arm or a leg, or what? He volunteered: "Boy. You need a lesson in Cow 101." That was the funny part, but you have to read it in a South Texas drawl. Lucky for me, he had the lesson right there on his wall. He directed me to a picture of a cow hangingl, showing where all the different cuts of meat came from. It helped. I've now been exposed to Cow 101.

We had an electrical mystery today. I decided to try again to look my best, and got the hair dryer out. If I don't use the hair dryer, my hair looks like I've been on the beach. So I fired up the hair dryer. Judy had the coffee maker on. Everything stopped. It's not really much of a problem. We have ground fault interruption outlets, one on either side of the motorhome. They control all the 120 volt outlets. Half each. You press the reset button, and everything works again. I checked the one for the left side. It reset. I checked the one for the right side. It wouldn't reset. We flipped all the breaker switches in the bedroom. Nothing helped. I must have fried the outlet, and now nothing on that side of the motorhome would work until I replaced it. Is there very much connected through that side of the motorhome? Let's see: the satellite dish, the television, the coffee maker, the washing machine, the microwave, the bedroom fan, and the hair dryer. We decided it was worth fixing. A call to an RV repair guy, a trip to the hardware store, a purchase of multiple outlets to make sure we got the right one, and the trip back to the motorhome. As I was messing with the new outlet in the store, I realized the new outlet was acting just like the old one that was supposed to be burned out. It wouldn't work properly until it had power supplied to it. When we got back I explored the motorhome for more switches. I found one in the left rear outside corner of the coach that looked promising. I threw the switch, but it didn't help. In fact, by this time, I had thrown so many switches, nothing would help. Everything was screwed up. So I disconnected the shore power entirely, let everything reset, and started over. Everything worked! Nothing needed replacing! That last switch did it. Hey, this electricity stuff isn't that hard at all.

More Goose Island

More Goose Island.

Goose Island

This is it. Last day out. Time to start the trip home tomorrow.

Woke up to a beautiful blue-sky morning. Wow! Could it get any better than this? Sat in our picture window sipping coffee, watching the terns fishing in front of us. Bright white terns, flying twenty thirty forty feet high, focused on the water below. They spot a meal, and crash unmercifully into the surface after it. It looks like a devastating crash, but they gulp, and pop right back up into the air to do it again. Kamikaze feeders.

Did my morning ramble. The cardinals and mockingbirds are in full voice.

The sea is glass. We put the boats in the water. We paddled for hours. Headed around the other campground peninsula, back in the slough, tucked into a canal neighborhood, cruised the canals and visited with a few of the residents, turned down more than one offer of a can of beer to go, ducked under the bridge to the boat launch area, past the pelicans, around the oyster beds, under the fishing pier, and back around our campground peninsula, to our start. We circled the entire goose of Goose Island. Came home and put some sunscreen on. I need somebody to invent after-the-fact-sunscreen.

I like all the fishing piers here. Some fishing piers are built on purpose. Great long wooden piers stretching way out into the bay. Some fishing piers were already there, under a different use. We're into at least the second generation of bridges. That means the old bridge outlives its useful life, so they build a new, higher bridge next to it, rearrange the road to hit the new bridge, cut a piece out of the middle of the old bridge for boats to go through, and call the old bridge a fishing pier. Two fishing piers, in fact. There are many fishing piers all along the coast, and new ones popping up every year.

Experienced a sunset to match the morning.

Goose Island

From: Steve Taylor []
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2004 10:11 AM
To: Bill Taylor (E-mail); David Taylor (E-mail); Tom Taylor (E-mail)
Subject: 25b

Another innovative RV setup.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Goose Island

Admiring the view. Smooth gray water, the Rockport/Fulton Peninsula a couple miles away across the bay. Aransas Bay. It is perfectly calm. Sixty degrees. Six posts in the water fifty feet out, occupied by five pelicans and one cormorant. One cormorant, pretending he’s a pelican. But then one of the pelicans is poised, wings out, drying them, pretending he’s a cormorant. Low clouds. The Copano Bay Bridge off in the mist to the right. Three Savannah Sparrows working the grass for seeds, between us and the water. One laughing gull, wearing his transitional plumage between winter and summer, black head almost complete, on a post next to the water in front of us. The tide is in. A Willet wanders by in the oyster-bed shallows. Three Goldeneyes drift into view, one fishing, two snoozing. Somehow they stay together. A flock of peeps zooms past from right to left. Complaining. The pelicans shuffle. A few more fly in and land. A few fly off. Now there are three Pelicans, one Cormorant and two Royal Terns. I can barely hear the water lapping against the seawall. I can smell the sea grass. The rain starts again. Lightly.

This is the big storm day. They’ve been watching this one come for a week now. I set the alarm for seven. I still had a chance to take a birding walk, if the weather was good, and see the sparrow and wren. Can’t pass that up. I was saved by the rain. Just as I stood up, the wind and rain hit. Finally. I went back to bed. Later, I got up to admire the view. The storm only lasted two hours. It moved on.

Went back inside. I checked the propane. It’s half full. Judy did some chores. Vacuumed the armadillo. Watched the Australian Open. Judy found a house for sale in the paper for $35,000. It’s only one bedroom and one bath, but a house for $35,000? That’s pretty reasonable.

Checked the propane. It’s still half full.

Decided to try to something new with the motorhome. Instead of driving it out to dump it every few days when we stay at state parks, you carry some gray water away from it periodically. We bought a portable gray water tank with wheels. You leave the motorhome where it is, drop some gray water into the portable tank, drag the portable tank over to the dump station with the car, and dump it. It worked. It was a little heavy, lifting the tank with twenty gallons of water in it. Let's see, twenty gallons, eight pounds per gallon. Yeah. It's heavy. You only have to lift one end, so it's not so bad. It tilts to dump. I think after we do it a few more times, we’ll get the rhythm of it.

Talked with our neighbor on the left. He paddles his kayak all over, fishing the bays. It’s a pretty good setup. He has a couple rod holders on it, a clip to hold his paddle while he’s managing a fish, an combination tackle box, ice chest on the back to hold the gear and the catch, and electronics on board to tell him water temperature, depth, and when he’s over fish. He doesn’t need the depth finder or fish finder here. You can just look down into the water and see how deep you are and whether there are fish or not.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Wharf cat

Put on your long sleeves and long pants. We're going out on the boat. The Wharf Cat. The Whooping Crane tour. It leaves from the Rockport Harbor. We can stay inside where it's warm and look out the glass if we want, but we never want. We end up out on the deck in the wind, watching the birds, and enjoying the ride. We enjoyed the ride.

The boat cruises north up the intra-coastal waterway, which passes right through the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the winter home of the whooping crane. The summer home of the whooping crane wasn't even known until the 1950s. It's way up in the Arctic Circle, in a Canadian National Park, which had already been set aside for the preservation of the Wood Buffalo. Wood Buffalo National Park. In their winter home, they split up into family groups, two adults and one chick. The chick is big, it has already migrated thousands of miles to get from the arctic breeding grounds to its winter home, but it still wears the brownish juvenile coat. Family groups always consist of either two adults, or two adults and a chick. They lay two eggs, but only raise one chick. They start incubation as soon as the first egg is laid, so the first chick gets a big head start on the second one. The second egg is just a back-up. They never raise more than one chick. Except this year. This year there is a set of twins. Only the third time ever, that twins have been recorded. We didn't see them from the boat, but Dovie's daughter is a wildlife photographer. Dovie gave us one of her daughter's pictures of them.

The entire whooping crane population was down to a count of twelve, they say. They were within just a year or two of total extinction. Now there are several hundred. I thought there was a critical mass for species, below which there was not enough variety in the gene pool to support a healthy population, or a comeback from the brink of extinction. I have heard that discussed in regard to the endangered Florida Panther that inhabits the disappearing swampland there. I guess that rule doesn't apply to whooping cranes. A healthy population of hundreds inhabits the planet now.

Reestablishing a breeding population was only part of the battle. They are still vulnerable. One hurricane could wipe out the entire flock. That's what happened to the Louisiana flock. But once a bird is conditioned to migrate to one location that's it. You can't just tell them to go somewhere else. Researchers have been making good use of that extra egg. The backup. After several well-intentioned, failed efforts, there are now three flocks of these cranes in the world. Winter homes in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.

We saw several family groups. We got a twenty-minute look at a family not fifty yards away. They're not spooked by the boat at all. As long as we all stay on the boat, it can pull right up on the bank next to them.

Enough about cranes. Enough about birds. We've done it. We're completely birded out. No more birds.

Chatted with a guy on the boat. He has a hobby, in addition to birding. He commented that this vacation was unusual for him. He usually drives a lot more. What is his usual vacation? Visiting every county in the United States! I mean to visit every state. I never thought to aspire to visiting every county. He says he's about 40% of the way there. It's getting more difficult though, because he has to drive over 800 miles just to pick up a new one. When he found out where we were from in Colorado, he said: "Aah. Boulder county. Nice place."

Talked to another guy. He just moved here. He used to live on the Florida Panhandle, Fort Walton Beach, but he made a mistake. His job moved to Virginia four years ago. He went with it. When he tried to move back, he couldn't buy his house. Now it costs twice as much as when he left. He moved to the Texas Coast instead. It's more affordable here.

Still had to go look at the ducks. We're through birding, but we couldn't let Fulvous Ducks pass. Drove back to the pond where we saw them yesterday. They weren't there. Looked all over. No whistling ducks anywhere. We gave up and drove back to the park. Stopped at the gas station to look at something, and there were whistling ducks, in the air, swirling all around us. We watched them land in the bay. We drove around and found a vantage. Two hundred black bellied whistling ducks. We looked at all of them. No Fulvous Whistling Ducks. This was a different flock.

Just before dark I went back out to look at the ducks again. The flock of two hundred whistlers was still there. Still no Fulvous. Drove the back roads looking at ponds. Found the flock from the day before. Examined every duck there. Mostly whistlers, but there was a Mallard. There was a Mrs. Mallard. And there. A duck that looked different from the back. His back was black. Fulvous ducks have a black back. It was the longest time before he would turn around for me to see his bill. A bright orange bill and it's a black-bellied whistling duck. A gray bill, and it's a Fulvous whistling duck. That's it! Gray! Another new bird. I never expected the see this one here. That's enough. A break from the birds.

Took a walk on the fishing pier here at the campground. It's an old wooden pier, about a quarter of a mile long. It hooks way out into St Charles Bay. Night herons stand on the rails. Nine o'clock at night, only one other person there. Fishing. We watched him fish for a while, and watched the surface of the water start to boil. There were fish popping the surface all over. We've never seen that before. Not in salt water. It was speckled sea trout eating something. It looked like there was a hatch on, but there were no bugs. Guess there can be other kinds of hatches. It could have been minnows. It could have been shrimp. Who knows? But it looked like a hail storm out there. We watched him catch several fish, but none were quite the required fifteen inches, so they all got tossed back. Nice looking trout, though.

The Big Tree. It is a thousand years old. Forty feet high and eighty feet wide.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Goose Island

No birding this morning. It sprinkled, and the master birder called it off. Too wet to bird. What is that? A little sprinkle and we can't watch the birds? We were signed up for the afternoon boat tour out of Rockport over to the wildlife refuge to see the whooping cranes. They did the morning tour, and called ours off. Too wet. Guess it was a little rougher out on the water. Judy and I wandered around and saw a few. Hung out at the house. Then we drove around and saw a lot. Mostly water birds. Tons of water birds. A whole pack of black-bellied whistling ducks. Don't see those just anywhere. Big duck. Bright orange bill. Gray head. Reddish brown body. Broad white wing stripe. Black belly. Bright orange legs and feet. Clearly a committee effort.

Talked with some neighbors about bird successes. Turned out we covered the same territory today, just at different times. Then they went and ruined our whole day by asking: "Did you see those fulvous whistling ducks mixed in with the black bellied whistling ducks?" Fulvous? We didn't see any fulvous whistling ducks. We've never seen any fulvous whistling ducks. It's too late to go back tonight. It's too dark to see them. Now we have to go back to the same place tomorrow, hope the birds are still there, and see if we can find the new duck.

At the last park we were in, I noticed hardly anybody ever left. In state parks and KOAs and such, people pull in in the afternoon, then there is an exodus the next morning. Not so at the Gulf Waters RV Park. We'd see one or two people leave each day, but most people were just planted. Then I noticed something else. Usually, there are more motorhomes than any other kind of RV, but here, across from us on the north side of the pond, of the thirteen units we could see, eleven of them were trailers. Nine fifth-wheels and two travel trailers. That leads me to a theory. People that want to go to one place and just park it, tend to buy fifth-wheels over motorhomes. Makes sense. Why pay for two vehicles you can drive, when you can buy a nice truck, then buy a big fifth-wheel that costs a lot less than a motorhome? So, people that want to go everywhere and do everything must prefer motorhomes. People with motorhomes are less focused than fifth-wheelers. People with fifth-wheels do the same thing over and over. Wow! You can tell a lot about people from what they drive.

I explained my new insight to Judy. She pointed out that on our side of the pond, there were nine spaces occupied, and seven of them were motorhomes. That didn't fit my conclusion at all, so I decided the south side data was an anomaly and threw it out. My theory stands unchallenged.

Switching the pet dishes didn't work. Each animal still goes straight for the food intended for the other every time. Guess we'll have to go back to the name-tag idea. That should take care of it.

We have a nice view. Found a specimen oak tree in the forest campground.

Goose Island State Park

Drove to Goose Island State Park this morning. Driving in here is like coming home. What a warm familiar spot. You can choose between bayside and oak forest sites. The birding is better in the oak forest. More bushes and trees as cover for little forest birds. They even have a feeding station set up there where you can go sit and watch the birds come in to the food and water. We chose bayside. Can't get enough of the open water. Logged in for five nights. We'll occupy ourselves with bay views and shorebirds.

The boat covers are off again. We put the boat covers on, the wind blows them off. We put them back on. It rains. They keep the rain out. The rain stops, we have to drive the car and stop it fast to dump the cockpit lakes onto the windshield. The wind blows again. The covers blow off. If it ever blows and rains at the same time we're screwed.

My separated shoulder is healing nicely with the enforced racquetball layoff. We didn't even pack the racquetball gear so we wouldn't be tempted to find some place to play while we're out. The Orthopedist said after two weeks of rest, no reinjury, it would be okay. I have rested and iced it to death. It still catches and crunches, but that's just normal. I'm ready to resume racquetball when we return. I still can't sleep on my right side, though. I wonder if that means anything.

We started making this trip to Texas years ago with the pop-up VW camper. We've upgraded vehicles since then with the 20 foot Eldorado, the 27 foot Jamboree, the 35 foot Bounder, and now the 40 foot Bounder. Each upgrade has not changed the character of the trip. They have only made the trip more comfortable each time. Finally, though, this last move to the heavier motorhome changed one thing. For the first time, we didn't take the house out to park right on the sand for a few days. We talked a lot about it. We could have taken it out. It just never felt quite right to subject it to that. So, finally, a change in motorhomes has made a change in out trip. It's okay. A good trade.

We've had so many conversations about the perfect motorhome for brother David. A go-anywhere, do-anything RV. We finally found it out on the beach yesterday. It has everything.

Today was a day for travel, setup, and errands. A very leisurely pace. A forty mile day. Tomorrow we may do the unthinkable and set the alarm. If we can drag ourselves out of bed at seven am, we can take a bird walk with a trained professional. If we are going to see birds here we haven't seen before, that will be our best chance. He says he can spot seaside sparrows and sedge wrens. I'd like to see that!

Friday, January 23, 2004

Back from the wilderness

We hit the beach at low tide. 9am. Best to get back up the beach and out before high tide at 5pm. We did it. Boy did we do it. 170 miles, round trip, counting the commute from our spot on Mustang Island to the beginning of the beach on Padre Island. 100 miles of four-wheel drive beach. It wasn't that bad, really: 98% of the drive could have been made by a two-wheel drive sedan. Lots of 40 mph freeway beach driving with just the occasional swerve to dodge flotsam. Is it still flotsam after it hits the beach, or is it only flotsam while it is still floating? I know the difference between flotsam and jetsam. Beach junk, anyway. Old floats, buoys, entire trees, pallets, that sort of stuff. Driving hazards.

The actual four-wheel drive part was really interesting. The longest, toughest stretch was a half-mile of soft sand a foot or so deep. It caused me some concern on the way out. We haven't been in deep sand with the Jeep before. I hit it pretty hard and stayed pretty fast all the way through. I was feeling more confident with the Jeep's capabilities on the return trip, went into it slower, and messed around with it a bit. What a great car! Not much directional control through that stuff, it really floats, but every time we started to bog down, I could hit the gas and get right back up on top. Didn't feel like any real danger at all. We played a lot in the shorter sections of deep sand after that. Well, actually, Judy did. Except for that one long deep section, she drove it all the way back up the island. She had a ball, even through the one section that made her head hurt from the blood pounding through it from the excitement. A good adrenalin rush. She spun donuts. She crashed through the surf. She was awesome. We made it home.

She even found dead blue jellyfish on the beach with their air sacs still inflated, and hit them with the wheels to make them pop. It's a loud pop. Now the underside of the Jeep is coated with disgusting things. Blue hanging things.

Driving down the beach, we spotted the tracks in the sand, somewhere between the 30 and 35 mile markers on the beach. Thought it was a bicycle track at first, because some of it had washed away, but soon it was clear. These were two parallel tracks. It wasn't two bicycles. They were too consistent. The gears started turning. What were we looking at? Two wheels. Narrow track. It wasn't a trailer, because there were no vehicle tracks with it. Not a car trailer. Not a bicycle trailer. We stopped for a look. Footprints! There were footprints between the tracks. Which way was it headed? Down island. Now it was 40 miles down the beach and still going. We needed a story. What makes parallel bicycle tire tracks with footprints in the middle? One of those jogging strollers. That's it! Who pushes jogging strollers? Not Dad. This is Mom out for a jog. A really long jog. We had been following these tracks for between ten and fifteen miles. The tracks are still headed out. There is only one set of tracks. She hasn't started back yet.

By this time, there are only two sets of car tire tracks ahead of us for the day. So here is what happened. Mom wanted to take a long run. Dad wanted to fish. He dropped Mom and the kid off for a run, then proceeded on to his favorite fishing spot. Great explanation, huh? Works, doesn't it?

At mile marker 45, the real explanation presented itself. There was a shelter built up against some beach junk. There was a young guy there. In his early twenties, we'd say. There was a two-wheeled cart with him. He had walked all his stuff down the island with a two-wheel cart as a hiking trailer. Wow! We waved and drove on.

Found the end of the island. Hung out for a couple hours exploring the dunes, having lunch, watching the birds, relaxing in the sun.

On the way back, we stopped and chatted with the hiker. We offered him a gallon of water, but he said he still had four or five gallons left. He thought he was okay. Nice friendly guy. Told him we were from Colorado. Asked him where he was from. He said he grew up in Wyoming but really wasn't from anywhere. Guess he hasn't found the place he's from yet. Drove on.

Back home safe and sound from the big adventure. Tomorrow? Who knows.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


A quiet day. A catch-up day. No birding.

Watched both games yesterday. Our record is still perfect. No team we have rooted for has advanced. We’ll let you know when we pick a favorite for the Superbowl so you’ll know where to put your money.

We haven’t tried to drag the Jeep sideways for over a week now, and we’re close to Corpus Christi, so we thought we’d go ahead and replace the worn front tires. Judy got the names and addresses of the larger tire stores in Corpus Christi, and I put the addresses into the Navigator to find out which was closest and most convenient for us. It worked. We prioritized the list. We called the best one. Then we called another. And another. And another. With all the tire sizes available, why would Jeep have to go and invent a new one? None of the existing ones already invented would work? I don’t think so.

Apparently our 2002 Jeep is still new enough, that the round of tire replacements has not begun. Basically, we’re driving on tires that no one has ever heard of, except for Jeep designers of course. We decided the front tires are just fine until we get home. Then our local tire shop can order them for us.

We struck out with that effort, but the oatmeal and coffee while sitting in our sunny front window went well. We signed up for a couple more nights here. I messed with the water pump and some fittings. Judy did some laundry. Called the office to see if Jamie needed to send anything to us here to sign. Had lunch. Watched the northern shovelers, cormorant, killdeer, and snipe in the pond in front of us. We don’t get to see snipe very often. Decided to go find Dovie.

We find Dovie every year. Judy has a couple shirts hand painted by Dovie. Egrets, pelicans, spoonbills, that sort of thing. Most every year, Dovie is not at the shop in Rockport we found her at the year before. We always find her, though. Sometimes we find her at her house. This year we found her at “4 the Birds”. We drove to Port Aransas. Struggled through a 20 minute ferry wait by watching smooth gray bottlenose dolphins rolling through the water. And pelicans. But this is not a birding day so we didn’t look at the pelicans very much.

These are sixteen car ferryboats. Two rows of four cars each on either side on the control tower(Bridge?). The part that holds the ferryboat driver, anyway. On the way down from Galveston, we crossed this ferry with the Bounder. Towing. They put us on one side of the ferry, along with one other car. Eight cars on one side, the Bounder, Jeep, and a pickup truck on the other. So. One Bounder = six cars.

We drove on. We were headed for Rockport. It wasn’t a birding day, so we didn’t slow down as we passed the kingfishers, cormorants, and ducks. There were probably some ducks in there we hadn’t seen yet, but we were focused. Driven.

Judy visited with Dovie. I got to run around the marina. Dovie agreed to make a couple things for Judy. We’ll pick them up at the end of the week. We drove on. We took a walk around the Rockport Art Center. We looked for our brick. I sent them money and they agreed to put a brick in the walk for us. We never found the brick. They were closed today, so we couldn't ask them where to look. We drove around the marina and wrote down the phone numbers of some birding tours. They run tours by boat over to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see the wintering whooping cranes. It's not just about whooping cranes, even though that would be reason enough. They put an ornithologist on the boat and he’ll point out fifty species of birds or so on the trip. We've done it a few times before. It’s always an interesting trip. We decided to drive up to Goose Island State Park to take a look. We’ll probably move to there next, but we drove up there anyway. We didn’t stop to look at the ducks in the Bay, because this is not a birding day. Well, we did stop to look at the cormorant, because he didn’t look quite right. In the Binocs, he turned out to be a loon. Cool. We drove on.

Passing the Aransas Bay park, Judy told me to turn the car around and go back. We were in construction traffic, so that took some doing. Eventually we did get back to where she had spotted……

The Swan.

There are no swans here, so it made no sense at all for a swan to be in the bay, but there it was, The Swan. It was not a Trumpeter Swan. We’ve seen them. It was not a Tundra Swan. We’ve seen them. We looked in the book. It was a Mute Swan. It is not supposed to be here, but there it was. Unmistakable. An adult Mute Swan. A new bird for us. A pretty good score for a day when we’re not even birding. We watched it for a while, then moved on. To Goose Island. We cruised out onto the peninsula area to eyeball how the Bounder would fit. It’s right on the bay. We looked over the ducks in the water. What’s that? A Golden eye? We’ve never seen a Golden eye! A Common Golden eye. Not common for us. This day just keeps getting better. We struck up a conversation with some other birders there. We told them about the Mute Swan. They left to go find it. We watched a 30” cormorant swallow a 15” fish. That was impressive. We drove on. About ten feet. There was a little sparrow looking bird picking through the rubble on the shore. Big for a sparrow, but streaky chest like a sparrow. Like one of those crummy Savannah Sparrows. But it wasn’t a Savannah Sparrow. We looked some more. It didn’t act like a sparrow. It was walking instead of hopping. There is something else listed for here called a pipit. We’ve never seen a pipit, so we didn’t know if this was one or not. We looked it up. That’s it! An American Pipit! Three new birds in one day. A good day.

A tour of the forest part of the park. A visit with the resident birder. A quick ferry ride. Dolphins. Pelicans. Texas barbeque in Port Aransas. Raced the sun home.

A 150 mile day. Round trip in the Jeep.

Tomorrow. The adventure begins. One hundred twenty miles round trip down the beach. One hundred miles of that is four-wheel drive only.

We’ll take water. We have a shovel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


We’re staying at a fancy park. Most commercial RV parks, you rent a space, stay as long as you want, then leave. This kind is different. Each space is for sale. It’s an RV space condo. You buy your space, which is about 100 feet long and 45 feet wide. You sculpt it, landscape it, put in fancy brick patterns if you want, and it is your own. Now you can stay there anytime you want for the rest of your life. You own it. When you’re not staying there, you can have them rent it out for you if you want. People like Judy and I come rumbling down the road and rent it for a few nights. That helps offset the cost of owning it. It could make a nice home base, or seasonal home base. A retired person could buy one in each section of the country and just rotate. But then a person could just rent space by the month in a park like this for $300 or $400 a month and stay anywhere they wanted too.

We usually spend some time with our motorhome parked out on the beach away from everybody, but we don’t think we want to do that with the new Bounder. We drove out to take a look today. The beach is nice and firm, but that’s a lot of weight to put out on the sand. We can stay in this park, and take the Jeep out. That’s what the Jeep is for. Take it out to all the rough messy places. Get the Jeep dirty and keep the house clean.

There must be something misleading or confusing about the Bounder. When we checked into the park at Port Lavaca, the guy at the shack looked back and asked us how long we were. I told him, but wondered why he had to ask. We’re forty feet long, just like every other full-size Class A on the road. There are a few super-size ones at forty-five feet, but we’re obviously not one of those. He shook his head like he didn’t believe me and told me I could go look, but he wasn’t sure they had anything we could fit into. We didn’t have any trouble finding a spot.

When we checked into this park, we got the same thing:

“How long is that thing?”

“Forty feet.”

“Forty feet? Looks like forty-five to me.”

These are people that do this for a living. I don’t know what it is about the Bounder

I’m happy to report that Rags the cat still has his tail. Judy and I were in the front room when we heard a loud clunk, followed by a few muffled cat meows. Judy had been doing laundry and had the clothes separated into piles on the bedroom floor. The clothes hamper was empty, but it was still open. It is a heavy tilt out cabinet in the bedroom, that pulls out at the top and pivots at the bottom. When we went to check, it was closed. It had a cat in it.

We find all the usual suspects on the beach here. Laughing, herring, and ring-billed gulls, sanderlings, willets, ruddy turnstones, black bellied plovers, piping plovers, and royal terns. Nothing new yet. We’ll keep looking.

Today dawned warm and windy. Offshore wind blowing the tops off the waves. By evening it seemed to have blown the entire ocean flat. Hardly any swells. Hardly any waves. Just a slightly rolling smooth quiet ocean with a monster purple sunset. While we were down at Malaquite, checking out the beach, we got to watch the white-tailed hawks surfing the wind coming off the dunes. Stationary to us, they rode the ridge, sliding back and forth watching the grass for any sign of their next meal.

Did I mention the armadillo? Not the one Judy befriended in the campground, but the one on the dashboard. Nice looking little stuffed guy. He’s up there next to the orca and the manatee. He got joined today by the stingray. Each other critter up because he’s cute, and he relates to something we did. The stingray is just up there because he’s cute.

Here’s a picture of what a bigger motorhome looks like. Longer than ours, and it has an extra axle.

Monday, January 19, 2004


It was a dark and stormy night .......

It was an awesome storm. It has been warm, foggy, overcast, and rainy off and on for the last couple days. Last night it all broke loose. Midnight thunderstorms, frightening the dog and pounding the motorhome. Judy got up to look, and said it was like someone making a movie in the rain under pouring fire hoses. It rained in waves. The ocean was wild. The ocean got closer to us while we slept. Our 100 yards of beach shrank to twenty yards. I snoozed warm and dry in bed until it was over. We're happy to report that the Bounder, slides and all, weathered the storm flawlessly.

It was a noisy night. It was great!

This morning dawned flooded. Our site was fine, but the one directly across from us was completely under water. We had our oatmeal and coffee: a leisurely morning in the fog and drizzle, then headed out for Mustang Island 200 miles to the south. We left 65 degrees and foggy and arrived at 80 degrees and blue skies. It was good.

We drove loops in the parking lot to calibrate the compass. It worked.

You know how you can check the accuracy of you speedometer, by watching the highway markers? You find a watch with a second hand, hold sixty miles per hour exactly for one mile and time yourself. If it takes exactly 60 seconds, you're lucky, and your speedometer is accurate. If it takes something more or less, not only is your speedometer off, but you have to be able to do arithmetic to figure out how much it is off.

There is another way. You ask Judy how fast you are going, she pushes a button on the computer, and the GPS Navigator announces "current speed, sixty-one point seven miles per hour". Instant. Agrees with our speedometer. We're lucky. This measurement is not tied to the vehicle at all. The speedometer is driven by the wheels and road. The computer is corresponding with satellites overhead that all agree our speed is sixty-one point seven miles per hour. Last time I asked the computer which satellite it was using to track us, it listed the eight satellites that were currently engaged. Big Brother? We are currently being monitored by eight big brothers. We'll be careful not to do anything nefarious while the GPS is online.

Just when I thought there would be no more clues forthcoming in the great cream cheese incident, a resolution presents itself! But I have to start somewhere else. I have to start with diet. I have discovered recently that the afternoon food fades I've experienced all my life are due to carbohydrate poisoning. Nature's most perfect food: complex carbohydrates? Starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, and bread. They're poison to me. I eat them. My liver panics and floods me with insulin. The insulin sucks all the sugar out of my blood. My forehead hits the table, or whatever else is in front of it. It leaves a mark.

Every person needs carbohydrates to function. Now what do I do? The solution is elegantly simple. All vegetables are made up of carbohydrates, but they don't deliver as heavy a load as the starches do. I don't have to abandon carbohydrates altogether and try to figure out some other way to survive. All I have to do is abandon potatoes, pasta, rice, and bread altogether, and eat as much of every other kind of fruit and vegetable I can, and I get all the carbohydrates I need, and I feel awake and great. How cool is that? And what could possibly go wrong?

Cream cheese. It's all about the cream cheese. I had discovered a new favorite snack. Celery and cream cheese. It gives me some fat in the cream cheese, balanced by the carbohydrates of the celery. Nothing complex there. I've been eating it every day.

Now I have to digress one more time. When my blood sugar gets low, I get to feeling generally lethargic. One of the symptoms of being lethargic is that I don't think things through well, often failing to recognize that I'm feeling lethargic, and not considering that I might have a blood sugar issue. I had been feeling lethargic for several days. The only little change in my diet lately, has been the addition of the perfect snack. Celery and cream cheese. That was it! The cream cheese! I read the labels. Cream cheese is about 50% carbohydrates. Hard cheese is about none. I don't know what it is about the carbohydrates in the cream cheese, but that was the problem. I substituted hard cheese for the cream cheese the next day, and the energy was perfect. Which brings me to the great cream cheese incident. Here, all this time I was wondering if a pet could possibly be involved in appropriating my cream cheese for their own benefit, but without any clues, who's to say? Now I realize I was completely wrong in my suspicions. It was not a matter of pets putting their interests ahead of mine. It was our animals, who are much more in touch with inner processes than I am, protecting me from myself! They knew, days before I figured it out, what I was doing to myself, and at the first opportunity leaped to my defense. They fell on the grenade. They sacrificed their own energy levels to protect mine.

What noble creatures.