Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring is here but another winter storm is on the way.

Location, Home, CA

Today is my mothers 94th birthday. I called her this morning to wish her a happy birthday.

Yesterday was cleaning day in the RV. I dumped and flushed all the tanks while Clyda vacuumed the inside. The refer is all washed and cleaned as is the bathroom. I think it is ready for another trip. Well, not real soon anyway.

Of course the yard needs a lot of work as the weeds are big right now. I have been picking asparagus also. The orange tree is in bloom but we still have a few oranges left from the winter. They are nice and sweet so we will pick and eat them soon.

There are still a few cymbidiums in bloom also.

We had our taxes done today. They are way too complicated for us so we have a professional do them. Also, I am of that age when I need to start drawing from my IRA. I will take the minimum amount I am required to take. It will be nice to get but then again, I will be required to pay taxes on it. A catch-22 if ever there was one.

It is supposed to rain for the next few days. They are calling it a “winter storm” even though we are into spring here. It has been really nice the last 2 days.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We are home.

Location, Home, CA

A quick entry to bring the blog up to date. I forgot to post this picture from Goose Island State Park in Rockport. The sign says it all.

We left Deming, NM on Thursday morning with frost on the windshield. Spring is still a ways off here I suspect.

We again parked at the Elks club in Casa Grande and called our friends who live in Sun Lakes (part of Chandler, AZ) and as good fortune would have it, we were able to get together late in the afternoon. We had not seen Don and Lois for two years so it took a while to get caught up on family news.

We know Don and Lois from years ago when they lived here while Don worked on a construction job. We have kept in touch since and have visited them several times at their Minnesota home on the lake as well as at Sun Lakes.

After a nice dinner out at a Mexican restaurant, we talked some more before traveling back to Casa Grande.

On Friday we drove to the Elks Club in Indio where we have stayed before. We did have wind during this drive but it was from the side and not as bad as a head wind. I just drove a little slower but still, we were glad to get off the road. The temperature was very pleasant for which we were glad.

We called an old friend, Joanne, whose husband had passed away last year and invited her to stop by and visit. Later, we went out to eat. Joanne’s husband Tom and I were “shirt tail” relatives. We both worked for the same company.

Early Saturday morning we left Indio and again had wind but mostly a rear quartering wind which helped us on our way. Roads in California are in bad shape and with high fuel prices; the joy of traveling is tough to take. Lots of people bypass California for those two reasons. I wish I could, especially through Los Angeles.

Eventually we did get home and then started unloading. I think I carried things from the trailer to the house for 4 hours. We carry way too much STUFF but maybe some day we will need it all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deming, NM

Location, Deming, NM

I have posted 3 new blogs to cover our time since we left Houston more than a week ago.

From Del Rio, TX, we drove west on US-90 to Sanderson, TX and then north on Hwy 285 to Fort Stockton. Hwy 285 was a new road for us and basically follows a wide canyon northwest to Fort Stockton. The country is Texas brush with few ranches. Once in Fort Stockton, we drove west on I-10 to Saddleback RV Park near Balmorhea, TX.

We stayed at Saddleback (a Passport America Park) on our way east in February.

The temperature reach the high 80’s late in the afternoon but dropped quickly when a weather front moved in with high winds. We had a few rain drops overnight with the winds moderating as well, thank goodness.

We arrived in Deming by 2 PM today with balmy weather. Hopefully it will stay nice for tomorrow.

Our large 27 inch TV in the living room died today. I can hear it sizzling when I turn it on. Time to buy a new flat screen TV I guess.

No pictures today, just driving.

On to Casa Grande, AZ tomorrow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Choke Canyon State Park

Location, Del Rio, TX

We left Goose Island State Park late yesterday morning. It was cold and very windy. Our goal for the day was the State Park at Choke Canyon south of San Antonio.

Our route of travel was mostly by Farm to Market roads which in Texas are 2 lane country roads. It afforded us the most direct route northwest as our preferred route to home.

The wind did drop our mileage so I kept our speed moderated for most of the trip.

It was our hope to find a campsite for one night at Choke Canyon and let the wind blow itself out overnight.

Our luck held, and there were sights available even with spring break in full force. I think the wind kept people away this weekend.

Choke Canyon State Park is located on a peninsula at Choke Canyon Reservoir. The sites are large and far apart and each has a shelter. All sites have lake views. As with all Texas parks, you pay an entrance fee plus the camping fee unless you have a State Park Pass.

Today we again headed northwest on Farm to Market roads with Del Rio our intended destination. This was true west Texas ranch country which is mostly brush and cactus. There were lots of wildflowers today. Fields of bluebonnets, small yellow flowers, thistles, who knows what else. It made for a very nice drive.

Through a loophole in some law, ranches in Texas are allowed to import exotic animals to raise and then hunt. Today we saw a small herd of zebra and Oryx on one ranch and shortly after a small herd of buffalo and wild turkeys. This is not something you see from the freeways but fairly common on the back roads.

Just before we got to Uvalde, we drove through fields of vegetables, which looked more like the Salinas valley in California.

We stopped today at the Elks club in Del Rio. We stayed here last year in the rain with our friends Budd and Brenda. No rain this time. A herd of eight deer came out of the woods next to our RV just as it got dark.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Goose Island, TX report

Location, Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX

This is written in retrospect after spending a week at Goose Island State Park with son Tim and his family. It was a great week with the grandkids. There was no internet and no cell service (at least no Verizon cell service), so no blog during our stay.

The park is located just north of Fulton, TX, a short distance from Texas Hwy 35. It has a mixed camping area for tents and RV’s as well as a beach area with each site having a shelter. You do need the shelter because of the wind which blows most of the time. All sites have water and electricity which makes camping in Texas State Parks much nicer when the weather turns inclement. Which it did while we were there.

It rained twice during the week so we had lots of inside activities. We did try fishing from the pier in the park but the big ones weren’t biting this week. There are not a lot of kids’ activities in the area so games were played both inside and outside.

Matthew with hermit crabs.
We had a campfire every night (except when it rained), went out for a sea food lunch one day and for pizza one night. We also had Blizzards at Dairy Queen a couple times and slept late most mornings.

The campground is located in an oak grove with lots of brush between the trees. This makes all the perimeter campsites fairly private. The oaks bordering the road into the campground and the roads in the campground can be hazardous to large RV’s as we saw happen to one RV as it left the campground. Most of the trees are marked with orange reflectors to warn you about the hazard.

There was a very large oak tree across from our site and nearby in the old town site of Lamar, is a really large oak tree estimated to be 1000 years old.
We spent one day at Aransas Wildlife Refuge north of Rockport. While here we checked out the visitor center and saw a turtle crossing the road. It was rescued by a Ranger.

We drove to the Whooping Crane observation area and walked up the tower overlooking the estuary where we have seen Whooping  Cranes the past. We were not disapointed as a pair were visible using binoculars.

Later, we drove a 16 mile road and saw an Alligator, deer, and an Armadillo. Earlier, some of us saw a very large wild pig feeding in a swampy area.
Armadillo crossing the road.

It was hard leaving the Grandkids after spending 4 weeks with them. We hope we get to see them before next year as they are growing up so fast.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ready to hit the road.

Location, Houston, TX

What a difference a week makes. Winter last week, summer this week! Trees got their leaves and blossoms all within a few days. This tree and hundreds like it are blomming in all the parkways in this area. Very pretty!

Yesterday, I actually turned on the air conditioner for a short time as the temperature was 83 degrees with high humidity.

Today we did last minute shopping for groceries, fuel for the truck, aired the tires, and dumped the tanks. All in preparation for leaving tomorrow morning.

My plan for travel tomorrow is to get out of here as early as possible because of all the people coming into Traders Village for the weekend swap meet. We do need to travel through a very busy area with lots of stop lights before we get out in the country so to speak. We are planning to travel some “blue roads” on the way to Rockport.

Tim and family will be behind us as Ivy has a soccer match at 8:30 AM. They won’t get on the road until 10:30 or so. We probably will meet up at the campground.

I have no idea if Wifi is available in the area but we will try to check email if possible.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Houston rodeo.

Location, Houston, TX

We are getting a slow start this morning after spending last night at the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show.

We left for the rodeo after the grandkids finished school. We all met at the church parking lot where Matthew had a composition class. Leaving 2 vehicles in the church lot, Tim drove us to Reliant Stadium which was an easy drive east on I-10 and I-610. Parking was easy and we got two shuttle rides through the parking lot to the Ag Center building. This building contains lots of show animals, a birthing center where large animals such as pigs, cows, sheep, give birth for everyone to see. Also, lots of small animals giving birth such as rabbits, chickens hatching, etc, a petting zoo, and vendor displays, all related to agriculture.

Free photo taken with a background of our choice. (They need to clean the fuzz off their lens)

We ate dinner in the large food area provided. You just walk around until you find what you want to eat, order it and then find a table. Lots of B-B-Q and corn dogs. How about deep fried avocados? How about a hot dog with a spiral cut potato wrapped around it? They can feed a lot of people.

Prices are high as you would expect for “fair food”. Beer however, is out of sight. It cost $8.25 for a draft 12 ounce beer. I guess it keeps the drinking down.

After a few rides on the Midway by the grandkids, we headed for the Rodeo arena. Ivy is fearless, the higher, faster, twistier it is, the better. Matthew is a little more sedate but will ride on some rides with Ivy.

The rodeo is held in Reliant Stadium where the Texans play football so it holds a lot of people. Our seats were fairly high up but no seat is bad. We were right above the stock chutes where the Bronc and Bull riders started. At the far end is all the calf roping and bull dogging events. All of it is displayed on big screens overhead. They really know how to run a rodeo here. Events go off like clockwork with no delays. It keeps everyone interested.

After the rodeo, a large round stage is driven to the center of the arena, unfolded and a concert starts. Last nights performer was Darius Rucker of Hooty and the Blowfish fame. We stayed for about half the concert as the grandkids were more interested in getting back to the Midway and more rides.

We left the rodeo about 11 PM and got home around midnight.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Soccer and yard work.

Location, Houston, TX

The day started with rain just before we got out of bed. Later we had a brief thunderstorm and passing showers, heavy at times. We had to wait out one down pour at Gander Mountain later this morning.

Saturday was 2 soccer games miles apart but fortunately, enough time between games to allow us to get to the second one. The weather improved during the day so by the end of the second game it was quit pleasant.

Yesterday was warmer and after church and breakfast I helped Tim get a load of mulch to put around all the plants Diane planted on Saturday. We also framed in the play house in the back yard for Ivy. She wanted a second story. We managed to get all the mulching and the framing done even with a small rain shower.

With all the rain, soccer practice is canceled for today so we will go over to the house and play games with the kids this afternoon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A day at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Location, Houston, TX

Today we went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Tim and the grandkids for a morning of home school activities with other home school children.

Matthew had spent the night with us last night so we really had to get moving this morning as we had to be at the museum which is located near downtown Houston by 9 AM. We actually arrived shortly after 9 AM by driving the HOV lane, bypassing most of the morning traffic.

The children were separated into 2 groups by age, given name badges, and assigned Chaperones. They proceeded to a classroom in the basement where the younger group (Ivy) studied Canines with a teacher while the older group (Matthew) went to the Challenger Learning Center in the same area.

The Challenger Learning Center is designed to introduce real careers to young students. As the brochure says:

“In a Challenger Center Mission, students take on the jobs required to complete a space mission successfully. As students on the Space Ship and Mission Control become engineers, environmental scientists, doctors, research scientists, information specialists, and more, they are introduced to the careers available in the Houston area”.

While the first class period was ongoing, Clyda and I wandered through the dinosaur exhibit, the energy exhibit, and the Americas. At 10:45 we went back to the basement and joined Ivy in the Challenger Learning Center for a simulated voyage from an Earth orbiting space station to a landing on Mars.

After the kids were divided into 2 person work groups and assigned a job aboard the space craft and following brief instructions we all proceeded through an airlock into the space ship.

It was a really neat experience to witness all the kids going about the jobs assigned to them to make the mission happen. All instructions were issued through a communications net, manned by kids, as well as the results of all experiments performed to Mission Control. This is a real sophisticated setup with lots of Astronaut memorabilia on the walls.

From an adult observer (me), it was really great watching all the activities. The kids built and launched a space probe from parts provided, monitored space ship environment, did medical studies, did geology with rocks in an isolation booth with rubber gloves, manipulated robotic arms, in all about 10 different stations which had to be completed before Mission Control would allow a Mars landing.

All data collected was entered by a data group into a computer and passed to communications for verbal transmission to Mission Control.

It was a really great experience!

Earlier this week we took the kids for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, did some shopping, had the oil changed in the truck (way over due), got a haircut and played games with the kids after their school work was done.

Tomorrow is soccer, two games (miles apart), and Ivy will stay overnight with us.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Washington on the Brazos.

Location, Houston, TX

We had rain early yesterday morning. It was quit heavy at times. It also rained again later in the day but not for long. Weather is still cool but expected to warm up later this week to the low 70’s. I am ready for it.

On Sunday we drove to Washington on the Brazos, about and hour northwest of Houston to celebrate the birth of the nation of Texas 174 years ago. The town site is now a state park and had many activities slated to celebrate the day. We inspected Independence hall where the constitution was signed, watched canons fire, explored an early farm where volunteers live as people did 174 years ago. We watched cooking being done in Dutch ovens in a fire place, wool being spun, rope made, wooden utensils being carved, blacksmiths working iron, oxen preparing ground for a garden, and musicians playing period music.

The farm has pigs, chickens, oxen, and turkeys. It was a very interesting venue.

We ate a picnic lunch then attended a birthday celebration with political speeches (short thank goodness), music, a salute to the state of Texas with muzzle loader rifles, and a birthday cake.

It was a very nice day with fairly nice weather.