Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Sweetness of Savannah

Renita has long wanted to visit Savannah and while it wasn't on my list we were heading through Georgia and so we stopped to check it out. As usual she was way ahead of me and now its a city that we will most definitely come back and visit again.
The rv park we stayed in wasn't the greatest but it was handy and it was right off of interstate 95. We were able to get our prescriptions filled at a nearby Walmart so that is always good. We talked about taking the tour but discovered Savannah's free express shuttle and ferry service, connecting the historic downtown, River street, and the Trade Canter.
Parking at the visitor center it didn't take long before the shuttle arrived and we loaded aboard, heading for River street. It started to rain and even begin to rain hard but it stopped temporarily when we got off at the DOT shuttle stop River Street.
Now the whole street is lined with shops and I could see that I was in for it, but you never know, and it turned out I was pleasantly surprised as we quickly discovered a shop filled with local artists displays. It turns out the city is filled with galleries and shops and it was fun to be in a city with so much art on display. Renita even showed off her pendant, she was wearing a piece I made called "Red Desert at Night", and a shop owner asked us if we would sell her some of our work at wholesale! An interesting idea but something that would turn our lapidary and wire artistry into something too much like work.
It started to rain again, and this time harder, so we boarded the free ferry and cruised across and back, enjoying the view of the river front and the small but elegant city ferry. Savannah definitely has style!
Landing back on River street we checked out a few more stores before walking to Congress Street, looking for Paula Deans restaurant.
It poured harder and so we camped under an awning waiting for the shuttle. When it finally arrived the driver stopped and started again so quickly that I had to chase it waving my umbrella.Some of the other riders saw me and the driver stopped  and we loaded aboard.
The next day we got up early and arrived downtown in time to get our name on the list at The Lady and Sons Restaurant,(They start taking names at 9 am for lunch and fill quickly). It was a beautiful day and so we walked along the City Market checking out all the art galleries. There were so many and all filled with local artists work. It was a pleasure to see something different from the usual imported tourist junk from the same overseas countries,(It has been surprising to us that so many places sell the same imported items).
Lunch time arrived and we were quickly seated, ordered, and served. I had the crab cake and Renita decided on the asparagus sandwich. We even ordered a plate of fried green tomatoes, something we have never had before. It was fun to share bites from our plates. We both decided that fried collard greens were a unique and acquired taste. My crab cake was filled with blue crab and Renita's sandwich was excellent,(Did I say all the food was fried, except the rice and black beans?).
Of course I had to have the Key lime cheesecake with almond slivered crust. I could barely it it all, but I managed to finish the huge piece, savoring every bite. We really enjoyed our meal, the waitress was top notch and we even had a nice chart with the manager. Its on our list of a place to return to again.
We walked  around the historic town center filled with tree lined boulevards and beautiful squares. To see a city built for beauty and not simply a place to fill with shop after shop was a real joy. The edges of the Historic area was lined with massive churches. Of these two were open to the public and we marveled at the beauty of St John the Baptist Cathedral and The Lutheran and Presbyterian church's architecture.

The magnolias were in bloom, the massive live oak trees lined the squares, and we felt safe and secure as we strolled thought the area. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful city. We were treated to the southern charm and hospitality by everyone we met. Yes, Savannah is a place we hope to return to someday. Clear skies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Suwanee River State Park, Canoeing Down the Suwanee River

The water almost looked black, but it was really a dark tea color stained by the rain running though so many leaves. It would than become acidic and full of tannins causing such a unique color. Rising above the water the banks were interspersed with layers of white sand and porous limestone rocks speaking of the caves that lie below.
The banks were broken by fingers of cypress roots, looking like arthritic hands really, that seemed to reach for the water. The cypress trees were full of bright green foliage and beards of Spanish moss reached down ten feet or more contrasting the color and matching the brown trunks. Suddenly the water erupted as a giant prehistoric fish rose and cleared the water.
Leaving Alabama we had continued our journey, looking for a place to spend the night. Lo and behold we found a small park that sounded familiar, Suwanee River State Park. It turned out that it was the river that Stephan Foster used for his famous song, Way Down Upon the Swanee River, (yup he misspelled it).
Of course we had to stay there and of course a canoe trip on the Suwanee was in order.
Our campsite was large but difficult to back into, although there were some really good spots in the small campground. Setting up, I took a walk and talked with a couple that had canoed the river. They talked of the large splashes but said they didn't know what the cause was. That evening we finally found out that Gulf Coast Sturgeon were in the river on their annual spawning run.
The park rangers even warned us of people getting seriously injured as the leaping fish, some as big as 300 pounds, would crash into boats. We decided we would stay along the shallows and be as quiet as possible during our canoe trip!
The next day we launched early and paddled upstream. We quickly passed a family wading in warm water as a spring flowed from a large sinkhole. A little futher and we were rewarded by a large splash as a sturgeon rose into the air before crashing back into the water. Luckily it was quite a ways away as were all that jumped for us today.
As we rowed we saw numerous large turtles on snags. They would usually slide off into the water as we approached, but one especially large lined box turtle stayed his gorund and dared us to take his spot. I guess when your a large turtle there is not much that scares you!
Renita remarked that the cypress roots reminded her of gnome castles, their many spires reaching into the sky. I told her that it couldn't be gnomes as they only inhabit the shores of Minnesota lakes. Perhaps they were faries instead of gnomes, but I knew that I better keep my mouth shut.
We didn't see any water moccasins on low branches and we were both glad of that as we have heard so many stories of agressive snakes. Luckily we have never encountered any of these and the ones we have seen in our travels have been asleep or aware and warning us to stay away, a warning that we always obey.
Too soon we grew tired as we paddled upstream. The river wasn't flowing very fast but still we were fighting the current. Turning downstream we floated a bit and Renita took image after image. We didn't find any rocks to collect and thats ok, we have too many already in our rolling house.
The joy of fulltiming had rewarded us again with an unexpected treausre of a new found place of beauty. Landing we talked with a family that had also just finished their float and we all agreed it was a fine morning to be way down upon the Suwanee River. Sorry, I couldn't help myself :). Clear skies.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, and Rainbow Plantation, Alabama

We left Grand Isle and drove on the worst roads that we have been on in four years of travel, Louisiana should have taken the stimulus money and fixed their roads! Driving to Summerdale, Alabama, we arrived and set up the fifth wheel at the Rainbow Plantation, an Escapee Rainbow park, If you travel as we do you need to become a member of Escapees).
The first order of business was to fix the damage from the rough roads. Books had spilled out of the upper cabinet, two glass display cases broke, but luckily not a single one of our rocks were damaged. Next was a to do list and after a trip to Lowes we replaced our kitchen faucet with a Moen, what a difference and it has a lifetime warranty!
Being on a roll we rebuilt the bathroom sink and quickly made short work of little problems that have irked us for some time. You would think we would have done this while in Texas and winter camp but we are both procrastinators....
Anyway we finished the  repair list and so it was time to play! Deciding to go to Dauphin Island we headed south to the beach and then east to Fort Morgan where we discovered the ferry trip was thirty dollars! As it was already noon we decided instead to explore some history and walked the battlements of the fort.
The fort was five sided and made of brick, an old style fort,(crennulated/ this style fort is where the name fortification agate came from as the agate  pattern resembles the aerial design). Perhaps the neatest thing was that we were able to walk along the moat and so we got a really good appreciation of the walls and structure. The museum, I thought actually took a neutral stance on the Civil War and had nice displays,(Unlike the Mississpipi rest stop where a prominentt picture was the sinking of a US Iron Clad and a picture of Jefferson Davis was also displayed, I am curently reading Us Grants autobiography and he didn't have a high opinion of Davis ).
A days outing to the beach was also in order and so packing a lunch we headed south to Gulf Shores. Four years ago we had parked near there and so it was nice to go back and have drink at the same beach pub, after walking the crowded beach, it is spring break here. Renita accused me of taking pictures of ladies in their bikinis but can I help it if they are in the background?
Now the beach here was the first time we had seen white sand beaches and the beach sand had actually squeaked when we stepped on it. It doesn;t squeak anymore, thanks to Bp, and we did find tar balls on the beach at Fort Morgan.
We enjoyed our time at the park vising with other escapees and we even shared our wiring techniques with Linda and Jan and Pat, three ladies we met during the beading group meeting. Linda actually collects rocks and so of course we had to show her and Joel our collection. We even traded some beach glass for some Lake Superior agate!
It was nice to revisit a place where we had started our journey four years before. The damage from Katirna has been mostly repaired and a lot of new construction marks the shoreline.. There is even a new condo high rise being built. The crowded beach and the water front condos reminded me of why we don't like the Florida and Alabama coasts, and why we winter on the Texas Coastal Bend. Clear skies.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Every Day is a Blessing, The Beauty of Grand Isle

Every day is a blessing and every day we have been here we have found beauty despite the negativeness of the previous posts. Days spent with my sister and her husband are always joyful and special as they guide us to hidden beauties of this place.
One day they took us hunting for sea glass and for pirate treasure, old pieces of pottery/china from the days when Jean Laffeyette ruled the region. Another day Renita and Connie went up the bayou while Gary and I went fishing near Grand Tere. A third day was spent at the annual bird festival and we even got a new life bird!
Being obsessed with rocks, it should come as no surprise that we also collect sea glass so of coarse they took us to their secret place where we found lots and lots of old coke cola bottle glass. The pieces we really like have something written on them and we found pieces that had Thibidaux and Baton Rouge, We even found one with Sherman, Texas, the story that glass could tell!
The pottery we found was in a new place and I will give you a hint It involved wading and finding the pieces in the surf, not on land. We found more then we have found in all of our trips to Grand Isle and we have some with different patterns then we have seen before.
Last year I had the best fishing of my life as Gary took me to Grand Tere and the reds were running. There we caught red fish on every cast and they averaged thirty four inches long. This year we couldn't land on Grand Tere as BP were still cleaning the beach there and we watched as a line of workers walked the surf picking up tar balls. While the fishing was off considerably I wouldn't read anything into it as I did manage to catch a nice 28 inch red and we watched as the dolphins corralled a school of pogies and fed and fed. One slapped the water four times with his tail, stunning the fish and then calling the other dolphins as terns dived and rose from the sea carrying a large pogie in their beaks.
A third day was spent at the bird festival and we walked the paths through the Nature Conservancy Land. We walked past a group of birders who told us of their find, a black whiskered vireo. I looked at the picture and asked them how they knew it wasn't oil on the birds whiskers and they didn't even laugh, don't make jokes with birders!
Every day spent here has been a blessing and we leave tomorrow with sadness but also with anticipation of new states and new birds, and best of all the unexpected beauty we find with this lifestyle. We give thanks to God for our many blessings. Clear skies

Friday, April 15, 2011

Walking Beaches, Another day on Grand Isle

Another day arrived and this time we decided to walk the beach near the state park,(the state park beach is still closed). To get there we drove down to the fire station where there is a beach entrance, marked by a couple of palm trees courtesy of BP.
As we crossed the beach and walked toward the park we saw a much different beach. There were shells here although they were dark in color. Apparently the beach we had walked on was actually steam cleaned as its the city beach and the place relies on tourism...
Here the beach became a much less inviting place. Before long we walked into a real mess, not sure what it was but it was a real mess. There were birds here which flew away as we approached. Three vans filled with men working cleanp up for BP passed us as we walked. Thye waved and my brother in law told us of an encounter he had had last year after the spill.
He was wade fishing and a Coast Guard  person approched along with a BP hirling. The Coast guard man waded out to him and told him that he was not allowed to be in the area. Now you have to know Gary to appreciate this.... he asked him who says so and the Coast Guard person pointed to the unknown man and said he said so.
So of course Gary asked him who he was and said that if the unidentifed man wanted him to leave he should tell him so as he wasn't breaking any laws or trespassing on land. So the Coast Guard person waded back and had a discussion with the unidentified man who them waded out and told Gary he had to leave.
Gary repeated his statement, asking him who he was and why he could be ordered off. Suffice it to say that he wasn't arrested and the two people left. It seems that BP set up a bunch of shell companies so that they could put blame on others. Hmm, kind of like the original drilling problem.
Both Connie and Gary told us of closed daily briefings where the press and public were not allowed even though the Coast Guard and public officials gave reports on the progress. They told of armed deputies patrolling the beach and ordering/keeping people off. They told of how they had lost respect for the Coast Guard as they simply were toadies for BP. How sad. Clear skies

(Yesterday four Louisianna people where denied entry into the BP shareholders meeting even though they held proxie passes, it seems that in England BP rules, and maybe here too.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Grand Isle, Louisiana, Walking the Beach

My sister stopped and pick up a tar ball. "You can feel that they are squishy." she said as she held it for the camera, and there were lots more. What we first thought was blackened firewood was actually tar balls, still coming ashore a year after the disaster.
We looked for shells, but Renita only found a few, a far cry from previous walks on this beach. A few shorebirds walked the surf line, but nothing like years past, My sister and brother in law told us stories of the spill and cleanup efforts and you could sense the Isle's people are still reeling.
There were signs of life and I took an image of some ghost shrimp mounds at the tide line. A school of finger mullet were backed up on shore, perhaps a school of fish had chased them there or perhaps they were resting from predators.
We had to stop our walk as we reached the state park boundary and the beach there is still closed, Why? There is much still closed and without any explanation ,(Elmers Island ). We saw some young people burying a friend in the sand and we didn't see any signs of oil as they dug down deep.
Later, we went to an art show and saw images of dead birds and spilled oil. One of the saddest things was the art work drawn and painted by the Isle's school children. So much sadness from kids who had just recovered from Katrina and now faced more turmoil. It made me think of how protected our children were while being raised on the high plains of Wyoming.
I could say more but the storied they told us are still too fresh and my mind is reeling from the promises they had been told, some kept but most still broken. The stories of greed and the stories of how some profited from the spill are what sickens me as much as anything. Of out of state doctors and lawyers buying boats and then parking them on the island. They would then register them as vessels of opportunity and receive a thousand dollars a day for a boat never used while at the same time some of the shrimpers received nothing.......
Did you know the workers on the oil rig were sequestered for two days, and not allowed to see their families, until they signed a release form excusing BP and others from any claims? There are many more stories but this post has been to negative for me, and I won't darken your mood any more. Clear skies ,(Save the Birds).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When In Doubt, Take the Ferry!

The last two years have seen us at Boerne for a 2007 Class Reunion,(Its called a graduation class and its for people who sell their house and go full time). So when we left Rockport we headed a different way to Grand Isle, Louisiana. We decided to take Texas 35 to Texas 6 and the take the ferry from Galveston Island.
The trip along the coast was fun. It was new country for us as we have never taken this road before. Passing Hog Bayou, a place we canoed, we continued along the road as refinery and refinery and chemical plants passed by. I had no idea that the Texas coast was so developed with so much industry.
As we drove through Galveston, most of the hurricane damage from Ike was no longer visible. It wasn't until we crossed to the Bolivar Peninsula we saw many new homes, lots of construction ,and a few places with slabs or wrecked houses. It reminded us of visiting the coast after Katrina and seeing so much damage but still seeing so much reconstruction taking place.
As to the ferry ride, they are always fun and so we got out of the car and walked to the observation deck. There we watched ships passing bye and basically just had a good but short boat ride. By taking the ferry we missed Houston and only had to be on Interstate 10 for a short stretcht before we parked in Beaumont,Texas.
Our rule is remember, Always take the ferry! Clear skies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stepping up to the plate, We are on the Road!

Aftre taking one look at our problem, The service manager called a motel and set us up with a room. The next day the General Manager called and told us to keep all our reciepts as they would reimburse us. On Monday we met with the General Manaager who told us we would be on the road by late Wednesday,and we were!
I have never seen a company admit their mistake and work so hard to make things right. They air freighted parts from the factory and they got us done. So no pictures this time just a big thank you to Brian and Dave at the rv repair place.. Clear skies.

Dropping a Tire

"That Lady is yelling something at us." Renita said and so we slowed down and she rolled down her window to hear her. The car pulled even with Renita and the lady yelled to us, "You dropped a tire!". For some reason we both thought it must be the spare but wen welooked into the driver side mirror we could see smoke billowing out of the place where the rear driver side  tire used to be . Yup used to be. I slowed and stopped and was able to turn into an abandoned Walmart parking lot without any further damage. The tire and rim and lug nuts were all gone!
Planning on leaving Rockport, Texas, on the first of April, we made an appointment for our usual maintaince, repack the bearings, check and adjust the brakes, check and test the refrigerator and propane systems. Just the usual stuff. Our appointment was fro 8 am and I fumed as of course they worked on someone else first. After all I had made the appointment a month before.
Driving by at ten thirty our fifth wheel still was sitting there and I started to fume a bit. Renita suggested we go birding and so we went to Goose Island State park for lunch and to renew our Texas Park Pass., I told her that if we weren't being worked on we should just hook up the fifth wheel and go but she said I should be patient. No telling a Brackin to be patient is wasting ones breath, but when we returned our unit was being worked on and they assured us that it would probably be done that afternoon.
They called and said it was done and we left the camper place at five pm, yeah! Two miles down the road the tire and rim came off, damaging the side of the fiver and the back fiberglass cap. We were both somewhat in shock as we looked at the damage. How could a wheel and rim come off unless they had forgotten to tighten the lug nuts?
Rentia called the camper place and even though it was after five, their closing time, she finally got a hold of the service manager who came out, took one look at our rig, and then started apologizing. He called their mechanic and a bit later he showed up with another tire and a new hub.
Meanwhile the service person had made reservations for us at a nice motel. He told us that the business would pay for all of our expenses, and told s to unhook and let them haul the fifth wheel back to the shop. Now both he and myself had already looked for the missing tire and rim and hadn't found them. A lady had stopped and told us that she had seen it bound into a swamp and thank goodness it hadn't hit anyone,(We never did find the tire).
The next morning the general manager of the business called us and said apologized for their negligence. He also assured us that they would try to have the fifth wheel repaired by Wednesday, and told us to keep all of our receipts. It had been four years since we started our full timing adventure and we had slept in our fifth wheel every night since.
Quickly the motel became tiresome and eating out every night does not make for a good diet. On Monday we met with the gm and he told us of their own internal findings and said the mechanic had stated that he got busy and forgot to tighten the nuts on the wheel. He said they were leaving no expense and were going to try and have us back on the road by Wednesday.
Now we know a lot of others who full time and who had time in the repair shop. We can now commiserate with them. With everything you own being in our fifth wheel we had to go back to the ship to get clothes, medications, etc... all the things you take for granted. While we have always tried to be prepared we had never planned for being back in a motel.
Wire wrapping, birding at Port Aransas,  getting Molly trimmed were all on the to do list. Fishing wasn't an option, nor bike riding as or poles were all put away and the bikes were also packed in the area we call the basement,(the storage compartment).
Our kindles and the computer both provided us with a means of amusement, and I joined the Kindle Nation, (thank you Bobbie for the idea). Between the two of us we downloaded over thirty free books and so we read and worked on our plans for when we leave Texas. Clear skies

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Day Birding with Lannie and Judy

Our last day had arrived, before we left Texas, and the weather was perfect. Now the plan was to pack and relax but Lannie and Judy stopped by and offered to take us on their Baby cat, birding and fishing along Matagorda Island and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Being flexible we readily agreed.
Soon we were racing along the water. We had launched at Goose Island State park and as we turned north into the Intercoastal the first pair of whoopers showed up. We passed the first two and headed further north where a pair were feeding along the waterway. Stopping in the shallows, as only a skinny boat can do, we were able to get great images of the magnificent birds. They seemed pretty unperturbed by our presence and it was a great day already!
Further up a pair with their chick were feeding and we were able to take more images. Lannie stopped and we fished for a bit and while they both caught black drum we didn't have any bites. When we left, the water was so shallow that we couldn't get up on plane and so Lannie spun the boat in a circle and was able to ride the wake up on plane. It was boat handling such as we have never seen.
The next stop was the rookery, where egrets. roseettes, and great blue herons all nest. Again the skinny boat was able to get up up close and we took image after image. It was really neat to watch Lannie run his boat through the oyster bars and while we stirred up some mud we never hit bottom.
We fished up by the junkyard, which us quite a bit past Rattlesnake Island, and there Renita out fished us as she caught some rat reds,(small red fish but fun to catch none the less).  The big fish weren't biting and Lannie suddenly said that he didn't like the looks of the weather.
Now anytime a boat captain says he doesn't like the looks of the weather its time to get off! Again the little Baby Cat boat took us along a long run before we safely arrived at the boat ramp.  It had been a great day and Renita said she wants a Baby Cat, maybe some day. Thank you Lannie and Judy! Clear skies