Sunday, April 22, 2012

Roman Nose State Park, Butterflies and Blooms

We pushed hard from Livingston, Texas and drove all the way to Hugo, Oklahoma. It was an uneventful drive even counting the mental lapse where I took a turn onto Interstate 20 and headed for Shreveport, Louisiana. Luckily we only drove fifteen miles before we realized our mistake and backtracked.

There wasn’t much in the way of rv parks and so we ended up spending the night at the Walmart. The next morning we left bright and early and fought strong winds all across north Texas and Southeastern Oklahoma. Renita had a busy day as she used her smart phone  to guide me through Oklahoma City.

The cross winds got worse and I asked her to find us a place to park but most places were closed and so we drove all the way to Watonga. There she had located a campground at Roman Nose State Park. Now the park was named after the famous warrior chief, who used to camp in Bitter Creek Canyon and we ended up finding a nice spot for twenty bucks a night.

A strong front was passing through and so we decided to ride it out and spend two days and it was a really nice decision. Taking Molly for a walk we found the park was full of butterflies and spring flowers and so the walk became more than just exercise.

That night the wind increased and so we even turned on our furnace as the temperature dropped, but not too much. By the afternoon it was pleasant and we took off on a hike around the far side of the dam. Soon I broke into a sweat, as we headed up a small hill and crossed outcrops of granite and red beds.

We heard several birds and watched as turkey vultures glided on thermals. Several small lizards ran across our path and I watched for snakes but they weren’t in evidence. Stopping for pictures Renita and I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the day provided us with what we needed, a break after six hundred miles of driving.

If you are ever in the area we would recommend you spend a night or two here. We know that if we find ourselves here we will stop again. Clear skies.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Johnson Rock Shop Near Livingston, A Must See

East of Livingston, Texas is a rather unique rock shop. Run by Mr and Mrs Johnson and their kids, its a series of small buildings, all filled with beautiful rock. The buildings are connected by a walk way with inlaid stone and the last building is actually a real recording studio!
We never know what to expect when we find a rock shop but this one is one of the best! As you park you are greeted by a grove of Texas fossilized palm wood, including some massive stumps!. Continuing on you pass a covered area that's filled with beautiful rough and slabs and all of this is before you reach the first shop!,
In the first store our appetites were whetted and I realized I simply had to buy some rock, a small rough of Brazilian Chalcedony. Now I usually avoid Brazilian but this was blue and it was natural undyed stone. Undyed blue chalcedony goes for about one dollar a gram and this whole piece was only thirty dollars. So thirty dollars for a piece was ok.
The first shop also contained a slab of charoite. First identified in Siberia in 1974, it is found in only one location and is rather expensive so I hesitated a bit at the forty dollar tag. See when we buy a rock we have to be able to sell some of it to justify the cost when we add it to our personal collection.
Passing the slab up we continued on. The next store had cabs and beads and more beautiful rock. I almost bought some turquoise cabochons but they were stabilized and the lady was not sure of the origin of the stone.
Casually asking the daughter if they had any charoite rough, she lead me to a slab that weighed six plus pounds. I almost drooled as I saw it and when I saw the price I had to have it. Sometimes one must throw caution to the wind when you see beautiful rock. Besides doesn't everyone else use their ira money to buy rock?
Telling Renita we couldn't afford any more stone we continued on and again were amazed at the variety and quality of the specimens. One shop is almost entirely filled with Texas palm slabs and the color of some of the palm wood slabs is a beautiful and rare amber.
The second to last building is a museum of specimens marked not for sale. Without a doubt, it is filled with four walls of truly museum quality pieces and I almost hesitate to write about them but it is a public store.
The final stone inlaid walkway took us to an actually recording studio. Otis Johnson, the stores owner, played music for most of his life and performed with Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., and many other country music stars. It was so neat to be in such a place and again we thanked our guides, Al and Joan, to have found a shop with such beauty and history.
We took our purchases and strolled down the path, taking a couple of pictures of Al and Joan as they admired the huge cypress petrified wood. It was an enjoyable day and we may have to go back there before we leave Livingston. But not to spend more money. Clear skies

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Waiting in Livingston, Maintainence and New Friends

We left the Gulf Coast and headed north. Getting as far as Livingston, Texas, we stopped at Rainbows End to check out the headquarters of Escapees, and now its a week later and we are still here. Its been such a busy time that we are extending our stay here until next week.
Now the plan was to use this place to get caught up on some maintenance and to do some Alaska planning. Basically get the rig ready for the trip up north. The one of our concerns has been to secure our new tv so that it won't bounce onto the floor when we get to the frost heaves on the Alcan highway. Another has been to work on rust from exposure to the salt air along the coast.
See our old tv was dying and the new leds have gotten so cheap that we were able to buy one that is four inches bigger and yet weighs only eight pounds. The problem was twofold, it didn't fit into the old space and the screws holes that secure it to the swinging wall mount are pretty lame for a moving and bouncing fifth wheel.
We talked and looked and thought and decided to construct a mantle that supports the weight so that tv won't go anywhere. After several trips to Lowes, I built an upper and lower frame and then Renita finished it in provincial oak, hoping to match some of the interior woodwork. Now, besides sitting on the bottom mantle the tv is actually locked into place by an upper and lower wood molding that velcros the set into place(I do have one more trip to Lowes to make some side panels and finish the frame). The molding removes easily to allow us to access the back storage area when needed.
The second project was to attack the rust on the hitch and rails. Using a steel scrapper and a wire brush I removed as much of the damaged area as I could and then painted it with a rustguard paint. I have no illusions about my work actually stopping the rust but at least covering the damaged areas will stop them from coming in contact with oxygen and slow further damage.
Besides working on the tv mount and chipping, brushing and repainting the hitch, I actually washed the rig and then set up the Genie, to grind some cabochons. Now in an Escapee park, setting up something outside is a great way to meet others and soon Al and Joan stopped by. It turns out they are rockhounds and also make and sell rock art, wood whirlygigs and spoon pendants. During our visit they told us of a rock shop outside of Livingston and we agreed to make a day of it, just to see the place.
After they left, I continued grinding on rock and before long a Rhino atv pulled up and Greg introduced himself,(Chief Neon). It turns out he and his wife Karen are 2007 class mates,(An Escapee group of people like us that retired and started full timing in 2007). Oh and they also love rocks. Greg naps them into beautiful arrowheads and Karen does silversmithing, including making the most beautiful silver chains we have ever seen.
So we are still here and now we have been blessed with making more friends. That is one of the blessing of our lifestyle and the blessing of belonging to the Escapees organization. We now have friends all across the United States. Friends who are all filled with the spirit of adventure! Thank goodness we sold our house.  Clear skies

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Matagorda, Beautiful Fish and Dangerous Riptides

We watched from a distance as a group of people gathered near the shore. A body had been pulled in and soon was placed in an ambulance. The crowd dispersed and not an hour later three people were wading near where the person had drowned.
The rip tides were visible from the fishing pier and while I am a really good swimmer there is no way I could survive in such turbulent water. The fishing was good and so we commented on how stupid people are and looked away. Alas, before too long another rescue was underway. Another group of people formed on the beach and another emergency vehicle arrived. Yeah,  two in one afternoon in the same place,(One dead and three more rescued the day before, also in the same place).
You wonder if people can't read the large warning signs, even though they are in English and Spanish? Seriously I doubt if some of the people can read. Being able to swim isn't the issue. We haven't seen many with boogie boards or any lifesavers. I have never seen such ignorance anywhere else. No lifeguards and a death trap for swimmers.
Seems somewhat callous to talk about the fishing but it was good. I caught two more sharks, a bonnethead and an atlantic shovelnose. Dave lost another huge red and I caught a big stingray that took me a good half hour to bring to the net. Big whiting and and hard headed and gaff sail catfish rounded out the morning,(we released all the fish to the amazement of the other fishermen).
Renita and Jane walked out and brought us lunch. Grateful, we devoured our sandwich's as the wind picked up and the waves grew larger. The water turned from stained to a milky chocolate color and the fish stopped biting so we called it a day. At least people stopped wading in the surf and there were no more rescues.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Matagorda Fishing, Big Reds, Sharks, and Weeds

I watched Dave work his fish. It was a big bull red and Dave played it perfectly. He was using twelve pound test monofiliment but he had his drag set right. Several times it tried to run near the barnacle encrusted pilings but he was able to maneuver the fish away from the danger. The fish finally tired and I held the hoop net steady as the fish swam into the opening.
We measured the fish at forty inches long and with a twenty three inch girth. We had to settle with the measurements as we didn't have a camera and I watched as Dave released the fish back into the sea. Big brood stock fish like this one shouldn't be harvested but need to return to reproduce and to perhaps provide another angler with the chance of a lifetime bull red.
Later I caught two bonnethead sharks, and as tonight's dinner was fish I kept a legal fish and returned the other. We already had some gaft sail catfish and a whiting on the stringer so we had plenty. Farther down the pier we saw another fisherman keep a bull red with out tagging it and we wondered why the game warden never seemed to walk out on the pier, (We have only seen one other bull red released. In Texas you may keep one but must tag it and then are allowed to receive a second tag a year).
The next day we fished the surf, or should I say we tried to fish, as the seaweed was heavy and each cast resulted in dragging in several pounds of the floating vegetation. Still we continued to try, hoping for a big fish but it was not to be. A truck full of fisherman stopped to watch Renita pull in what they first thought was a big fish but was a giant mass of grass.
Perhaps though they had never seen a fisherwomen wading in polka dot boots, regardless she tried and tried for a big fish and I had to admire her tenacity. Tiring of the ordeal we ate our picnic lunch and Dave talked of how it was the worst surf fishing he had seen, but I just remembered the big fish from the day before.
That evening ambulances rushed to the beach as some swimmers had ignored the do not swim signs, telling everyone of the dangerous rip tides. We didn't go down to watch as I have seen enough recovery searches and the last thing the emergency personal need is a bunch of gawkers.
We might stay another day here to fish for big reds, but regardless this is a place to add to the come back to list. The fishing is almost as good as Grand Isle, Louisiana, or at least as good as it used to be before the BP spill,(I shake my head when I see the propaganda commercials from BP touting how the Gulf has recovered). Hmmm, its pretty easy to digress, perhaps its my age? Clear skies.