Monday, December 24, 2007

Busy – and lazy – Texas days

Dec. 11 – 24, 2007

The only hustle and bustle appears to be the local Walmart and HEB supermarket. The RV park is relatively quiet. This can partly be attributed to the cold front that came through. Winter sweaters and scarves came back out.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,

you gota put up with the rain.”

So wrote singer Dolly Parton.

So if I want warm winter weather, I must put up with it being occasionally cold. One chilly, cloudy day I walked to the beach and took this photo.

It got downright cold (high in 50s, low in 30s) a couple days, making them great days to hunker down inside Jeremiah to read. And in between the cold times, you could find the Winnies bicycling around in short-sleeved t-shirts! The Rockport/Fulton area terrain is fairly flat and there are lots of tree-lined streets allowing us to avoid Business 35 highway.

Fishing is big here and there many opportunities to buy fresh seafood, restaurants specializing in seafood, and some folks even buy from the boats as they return in the late afternoon.

Bicycling along the bay provides plenty of entertainment from the birds. Carol Rayburn took this photo sequence of a pelican.

Later she got this photo showing the pelican’s wingspan.

At the twice-monthly farmers market at Fulton beach, I got the most delicious head of cauliflower. And I got acquainted with the gal who has a vegetable garden – and got an invitation to come to her farm in January.

Dinner one evening was at Captain Benny’s where I had some delicious fish tacos. Another evening we ate at Moon Dog. This bay-front eatery has three areas: inside, outside in a sheltered patio and out in the open air alongside the water.

The Winter Texan fish fry I wrote about previously was just the beginning of activities. Fulton also held a 4-day Christmas in Fulton event at the harbor. Roberta and I went for three of the four evenings to enjoy the variety of musical entertainment. Cookies and hot chocolate also were served.

Each night the town former mayor and current town mayor (father and son) kept things lively. One evening the former mayor got volunteers to “make the mayor and the sheriff into snowmen/santas” using a roll of toilet paper. Lot of laughs. The next night as they promoted the Oyster (many locals pronounce it ‘or-ster’ or 'er-ster') Festival in February; and gave away cute oyster buckets – I was one of the lucky recipients.

On Day 4 of the Christmas celebration, Santa arrived on a fire engine with sheriff escorts. Here you’ll see the Fulton mayor leading Santa into the large tent where he handed out candy canes to children.

I discovered line dancing classes at Paws and Taws “convention center”. This facility on Fulton Beach was built by the local square dance community. It felt good to be back on the dance floor.

My current book, which keeps me entertained on cold days and long winter evenings, is a biography of Theodore Roosevelt (author is Edmond Morris).

Tonight’s Christmas Eve celebration will be dinner for park residents in the clubhouse. And tomorrow morning is a potluck brunch.

I’m certainly enjoying my time here. And that time is made sweeter by my Winter Texan Winnies. I am blessed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sweaters, scarves packed again

Dec. 1 to 10 - Fulton, Texas

Of course Happy Hour continues. I took this photo of our first Driftwood RV Happy Hour; Park Owner Gaynor joined us.

2007 will go on record as my warmest winter in a bunch of years!

When I awake about 5 a.m., the temperature is in the 70s and the humidity percentage is in the 80s! Bedtime is a duplicate of morning. In the day time the temps rise a bit, but humidity stays the same. In short – it is hot and muggy here. Everything seems sticky. After a shower I towel off, then I towel off, then I towel off, etc. Quite a change from cold, dry New Mexico winters.

When summer comes here, Winter Texans aren’t the only ones to leave town. The Locals say it is way too hot to be here and head for cooler areas. The summer visitors are folks coming to the Rockport-Fulton area for fishing and boating. Known as the “Charm of the Texas Coast”, visitors come to escape real winter and to enjoy more than 20,000 acres of land-locked bays.

Weather aside, this is a good place to be for the winter. “Real” Texans appreciate Winter Texans and the boost to the local economy. (they do not call us “snowbirds”) And there is a lot to do.

Driftwood RV Haven – where the Winnies are staying (Carol R, Elizabeth, Roberta and I) is delightful. It is a small park owned and run by Gaynor, a widowed Brit, who has a great sense of humor, works hard to keep the park a desirable place, and is grateful to all “her campers”. RVs are parked on grass, with large Oak trees along with a lot of bushes, plants and flowers. (My mailing address until Jan. 30 is Carol Anderson, Driftwood RV Haven, PO Box 1749, Fulton, TX 78358.) The park is just three blocks to Aransas Bay, one mile to the HEB supermarket. The terrain is pretty flat making for great bicycling.

We had barely settled in before the town of Fulton held a Fish Fry for Winter Texans. The fish – local catch – was cooked up by the Volunteer Fire Department and served by volunteers. It was a sit-down dinner; two seatings for a total of 800 grateful visitors.

Next Gaynor planned a ladies luncheon at a harbor-side restaurant in Rockport. The route we took required a ferry ride.

The Chamber of Commerce (theme: Fall in Love with Rockport-Fulton) multi-page Visitor Coupon Book has a variety of offers. They include such things as a free ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, restaurant coupons, oil-change specials, discount on art classes, a free ‘scrap dive’ at a quilt show, and free membership in the NavyArmy Federal Credit Union.

The next big event was the 2007 Historic Home Tour. The focal point of the tour was the well-preserved Fulton Mansion that is now a Texas State Historical Site. Building of the home started in 1874, and when completed it was the only house in the region to have central lighting, heating and running water. The eight homes featured on the tour were hosted by volunteers in period clothing. The day ended with candlelight Caroling on the front lawn of the Mansion.

It has been good to stay put for a while and have time to take care of projects. Cat mostly sleeps, but does tolerate her harness/leash to be outside for short times. She is very skittish – doesn’t like noises and “monsters” (dogs being walked by). RVs are spaced out nicely, and the other folks are pleasant.

In my reading the past few days, I've come across two quotes about "choices".

"We're free to make choices but we can't choose the consequences. Our choice chooses for us." (unknown author)

"Every act, every choice I make, no matter what age I am, has consequences....Every act, every choice, sows a seed. And it will reap a harvest. The challenging thing is that the harvest isn’t usually immediate." (Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Adventures in “The Hill Country” and beyond

Welcome the unexpected!
rarely comes in neat, predictable packages.

I read the above somewhere and it certainly applies to traveling. Many of my adventures have been unexpected. I’ve had some delightful surprise encounters in all my travels.

SPECIAL NOTE: You’ll notice that instead of just my name and my profile on my personal blog, it now lists the four Winnies. I’ve tried to fix this, but so far no luck.

Del Rio to Fredericksburg

On Nov. 23, we got an early start – today would be our longest travel day: about 200 miles. Our drive took us east on Highway 90, through major deer hunting areas during hunting season. Somewhere along the way I saw a business with a sign that said, “Creative Taxidermy” – perhaps they put the head of one animal on the body of another? Why must the taxidermist be “creative”?

At the town of Hondo, we turned north of Highway 83. We went through the country-western town of Bandera. Everything there was ‘cowboy’ themed and the town was packed with tourists. Had there been a place to park three motorhomes, we might have stopped and explored. Instead we continued north to Kerrville to State Road 16 that took us into Fredericksburg.

We (the 3 Winnies: Carol R, Elizabeth, and I) would be camping at the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park for the next four nights. We parked under mature, bearing pecan trees. (the Friends of the Park sell shelled pecans in the office). Besides RV parking with hookups, the large city park includes a golf course, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and a stream flowing through. Elizabeth and Carol R will be staying longer.

Just when I thought I had brought turtleneck sweaters, long underwear, wool scarves and a heavy winter coat for nothing – a cold front with rain came through Texas on our first couple days in Fredericksburg. Night temps got down to 32 degrees for two nights. Then on Day 3 we woke to sunshine in the morning and went to sleep with the stars and moon.

Fredericksburg was established in the mid-1800s by German immigrants sent by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. There’s more descriptive information on our “Four Winnies” blog:

On the rainy and cold days, we drove around and shopped some of the tourist-oriented stores. And one night we had dinner in one of the German restaurants. We also discovered the Rather Sweet Bakery for lunch one day.

When we got a nice, sunny day, we drove to Johnson City for a guided tour of LBJ’s childhood home and visitor center, and then went several miles out of town for a guided tour of the LBJ complex. Here is the home where he was born, the LBJ ranch property (still a working ranch), his Western White House, the Johnson family cemetery, and a combination Texas State Park and National Park visitor center and gift shop.

Afterwards we went to the famous “town” of Luckenbach.This quaint wide spot in the road was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in their country hit “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”. Actually it is privately owned and now only a bar, gift shop, dance hall, and a few out buildings. But what a step back in time! A local couple was sitting at the end of the small bar playing guitar and singing, locals were hanging out there. It was a great place for our daily happy hour.

Off to San Antonio

It was time for our trio to split up. Carol R and Elizabeth stayed two more nights in Fredericksburg.

On Nov. 27 I took Jeremiah to San Antonio to visit with my friend Maria Negri. I know what they mean by calling the Fredericksburg area “Hill Country.” It seemed like I could coast all the way to San Antonio!

I originally met Maria when she and I lived in Rio Rancho at the Islands. We have an interesting history. She and I had homes there in the late 90s, then she moved to Utah and I moved back to California, then she moved back to the Islands: at #512 Eastlake Drive. When I moved back to Rio Rancho I bought #512 from her. She now lives in San Antonio, and says her ‘moving days’ are over.

I had three super days with her. Jeremiah parked easily on the street, letting me become Maria’s “house guest” without staying in the house. She and I visited and laughed nearly non-stop. She lives in a lovely home in a tree-shaded neighborhood.

Nov. 30
All too soon it was time to leave Maria’s and reconnect with my traveling friends at Goliad State Park. My route mainly took me on my favorite type of road – 2 lanes mostly in the country. I’m not sure where or what the “Buc-eez” is (I assume it is a restaurant) but I enjoyed their billboards that were scattered along the way. One said: “Fabulous Restroom or Your Money Back”. Two others I remember were “Your Throne is Waiting” and “Don’t Make Dad Pull Over Until You Get to Buc-eez”.

Even though my destination was Goliad, I had arranged to meet my traveling buddies in the town of Shiner – home of Shiner Beer. The brewery offers two tours a day and free beer. Turns out Carol R stayed in Goliad nursing a case of flu, so the only ones that came were Winnie 4, Roberta, (who had arrived in Goliad the day before) and Elizabeth. The brewery is a 24-hour operation and very clean. In the gift shop, they passed out generous samples of their various were "limited" to four glasses! They also had lots of goodies to purchase. I limited myself to half a sample since I still had to drive Jeremiah the rest of the way to Goliad. We did stop at the local market and bought some for future happy hours in camp.

Historic Goliad

The four Winnies were finally together at Goliad State Park. Here’s a photo of our motorhomes and tow cars.

The entire Goliad has numerous historic sites. It is the third oldest municipality in Texas. Goliad State Park, just a short bike ride from town, encompasses the Mission Espiritu Santo, and is quite near the famed Presidio La Bahia. The presidio is the only fully restored Spanish Presidio in the Western Hemisphere. It was at this presidio that General Santa Anna ordered the execution of Colonel Fannin and 341 men under his command.

Our timing in Goliad proved to be fortuitous – Saturday evening was the annual Christmas in Goliad light parade around the square. And the next morning before we left for Fulton, watched the annual Pony Express event. Riders, riding relay style, were actually carrying mail.

In fact, the riders had to be sworn in as temporary US postal workers to do this. One of mail exchanges between riders occurred at the entrance to the park. With the bribery of having a hearty country breakfast after the mail exchange about 7:30 a.m., we donned our matching t-shirts and headed to town. (I had bought the t-shirts at the gift shop in Langtry.)

I’ve already added a return trip to Goliad when I head back to New Mexico in February. We’ve found the Texas residents to be extremely friendly and helpful. Course they talk funny!

The last leg of the Winnie trip

The four of us left Goliad after the Pony Express and breakfast, driving about 80 miles to Fulton and our “Winter Texan Home”. I’ll be here at Driftwood RV Haven until February 1.

My parting words today are from T. S. Eliot. I'm delighted that I decided to buy a motorhome and travel!

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."