Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Florida Bound From SPI

     We departed SPI on Saturday 2/25/17, and our first stop was just up the road in Port Aransas, and the Padre Island National Seashore. We arrived without incident at the Port A RV Resort, newly opened resort property located a short distance out of Port Aransas.  The park was well groomed and under new management, and seemed to be doing quite well.  The sites and roads are paved, with lots of grass around.  The sites were a little tight, but we were only there for a few nights, so that wasn't an issue.  We ventured into town after setting up, and stumbled into a bustling marina area.  There was adequate parking available, and we enjoyed a stroll along the waterfront, watching massive seagoing vessels passing through the channel, causing waves that sent the shoreline fishermen scrambling for higher ground.  Those that weren't paying attention, received a nice drenching which woke them from their daydreams.  In the marina we found numerous fishing boats, sailboats, and an occasional trawler that reminded us of our time with Capt. Chris.

 As the sun set and the temps dropped enough to warrant an extra layer, we headed over into town for dinner.  We stumbled upon a "family style" restaurant displaying an all you can eat shrimp special, called MacDaddy's.  Inside we found a cozy bar displaying multiple beer taps, and I figured this was going to work just fine. It worked so well, that we returned the 2nd night and enjoyed another delicious meal.  
     Our second day in Port Aransas led us to the Padre Island National Seashore, the main reason for our visit.  After passing through the unmanned front gate, we stopped at the Visitor Center to get our bearings and see what the park had to offer.  Padre Island National Seashore boasts 60 miles of beach which is completely accessible by vehicle, and of course we couldn't pass up the opportunity to wander south on the beach and enjoy a picnic on the shore.  We drove south about 10 miles and it started to get pretty lonely.  There's nothing but beach and sand dunes, and occasionally a car or truck would pass us.  We had several campers come from further south, and the trucks were loaded down with fishing and camping gear.  Everyone looked like they had a good time.  Even this Ranger!



    We thoroughly enjoyed Port Aransas and the bustling marina area.  We do seem to like having boats around.  Traffic through and around Corpus Christie was easily managed, and the highway to north to Beaumont was quite pleasant. After a quick overnight near Beaumont, we continued east on I-10 across Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama. If you have never driven across Louisiana, you're in for a real treat.  LA has some serious issues with their highways!  They are some of the roughest roads we've found in our journey, and they really give the rig a pounding.  Amazingly, the roads look like they're in pretty good shape, but the seams in the roadway about every 8 feet, just pounded us.  Some engineer made a serious mistake designing the roadway.  And LA has no rest areas along the I-10 corridor, so you'll find the welcome center in Mississippi is a busy place!
     We intended to stop somewhere along the coast in Alabama since we had heard of the wonderful beaches there.  Unfortunately, again this year, we are traveling during Mardi Gras season, there were no available sites along the coast unless you were willing to pay over $100/night!  Yipes!  So Debbie got busy hunting an overnight stop near Mobile, and we stumbled onto a couple of jewels that I want to mention.
     Our first stop was All About Relaxing RV Park, in Theodore, AL.  It was an easy drive south from I-10 into the park, and we found our site and every site surrounded by blooming flowers and decorated for Mardi Gras.
A chalkboard on each site welcomed us, which was a nice little touch.  The  park has 41 sites, and there's a heated pool, and immaculate laundry facility on site. All the sites are paved, and when we experienced satellite trouble from a tree on our site, management stepped in and moved us.  We do like to be able to watch our news stations!
     The following day we meandered around Mobile Bay and enjoyed visiting Dauphin Island and the Gulf Shores.  We found many beautiful parks around the bay, and many boasted some magnificent views of the coastline.
                                                                   
 We also found beautiful beaches, with white sand that felt like powder in our hands.  It seemed like the beaches were just getting ready for the summer season or the spring breakers coming, so I don't know what they are like during the winter months.  The locals told us the weather is a little cool Jan & Feb, and the area comes alive during the summer season.
       From Mobile, we moved east just a short distance, and Debbie found another gem at Twin Lakes Camp Resort  in Defuniak Springs, AL.   This gated RV resort, located along the shores of 2 lakes, is a beautiful park with numerous paved waterfront sites.  The azaleas were in bloom throughout the park, and parking among the Florida pines made us feel right at home.
                     
The ladies at the front desk were more than  helpful, and asked Debbie whether she preferred to see the sunrise or the sunset.  And the site we were assigned afforded us the opportunity to enjoy both.
 Down on the tip of the peninsula, the park has built 2 tent structures overlooking the water which are designed for the ultimate luxury in tent camping.  Inside we found a nice comfortable bed, a claw foot tub, and soft seating that opened up to a front porch on the water.  Of curse, they're not as comfortable as Big Red!  
      We slowed our pace a little and enjoyed 2 nights at Twin Lakes, and I was able to get a little fishing in from the boat launch.  I had another successful day at fishing, as the fish did not bother me!  Thankfully we're not dependent on my fishing for food!
      Now we are settled in at Sun-N-Fun in Sarasota where we will enjoy all the offerings Sarasota has to offer for the next month.  We definitely looking forward to catching up with some old friends and making some new ones.  We're going to get over and check out the game if disc golf which looks pretty interesting, and getting into those bogo's over at the pool.  Plus we'll be spending a little time out on the gulf enjoying the weather and taking in a little fishing.  It should be an interesting month.  
                               

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Enjoying South Padre Island

     Well, we've survived our first week here at the South Padre Island KOA, and we seem to be staying pretty busy.  The area south of us was actually the site of the final battle of the Civil War.  I never realized that the waterways down here played a vital role in supplying resources for the Confederate forces, and was also the port where slaves were taken out of the country and put on ships bound for Europe.  The most unfortunate part was the fact that the final battle occurred about 4 weeks after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.  Guess the mail was a tad bit slower back then.
We continued on past the battlefield site and ended up on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  If we had driven south a short distance we would have arrived at the border with Mexico.  Going north we would arrive at the northern tip of the Boca Chica peninsula overlooking the south end of South Padre Island. The beach was deserted and we decided not to venture too far either direction  We don't have a tremendous amount of experience driving in the sand, and discretion tends to be the better part of valor.

      Heading back toward Brownsville, we headed for the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park, which preserves the site of first battle of the U.S.-Mexican War in May, 1846.  In that battle, Gen. Zachary Taylor moved hos forces south from Port Isable to break a seige on Fort Texas.  Gen. Arista moved to block this southward movement, and spread his forces a mile across in front of Gen Taylor.  Though outnumbered, Gen, Taylor's artillery maneuvers were able to decimate the Mexican forces, and ultimately end the siege at Fort Texas.  The
Texas territory north of the Rio Grande in U.S. hands.







     On Thursday we climbed aboard the local tour boat for a tour of Brownsville Harbor. Very interesting tour, and Debbie really seemed to enjoy the complimentary shrimp which were provided on the return end.

     I worked at fishing both in the surf and from the jetty down at the county park, but luck wasn't with me this year.  I was told a story by the local bait guy that the sheepshead wouldn't start running until the white flowers came out on some local plant.  Do you think that was true??  But I always have my GMG smoker, and for Valentines Day, we feasted on surf and turf at the campsite.
   
      Our Canadian friends, Al and Nancy, finished up their family visit, and our last 3 nights in SPI seemed to include extended Happy Hours.  The first two nights we seemed to have forgotten food, but our last night, we were treated to a wonderful night out on the town, with dinner at The Painted Marlin.  The girls enjoyed some "girly" drinks, which Debbie described as delicious.
It was a very lovely evening and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  Unfortunately we had to say goodbye for 2 years, as Al and Nancy will be RV'ing through New Zealand next year.  But we've already made tentative plans to meet back in SPI in 2018.  They should have lots of stories to tell and photos to share.  We strongly encouraged Nancy to start a blog so we can keep up with their travels.  We'll have to see how she does with that.  The group photo was captured by the waiter.  I hope he keeps his day job!

     Our 2 weeks went by very quickly, which often happens when you're enjoying the location and the company.  We are truly fortunate to be able to do these things.  Our plans take us north to Port Aransas, and a visit to the Padre Island National Seashore.  Then we'll be over to Florida for March and part of April, taking in some baseball and who knows what else.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back at South Padre Island

     We had a wonderful trip from Santee, crossing several states and lots of desert, but now we've settled in at the South Padre Island KOA.  What a treat to again experience warm temperatures and high humidity.  My sinuses are loving it!  Our site is tucked in the back corner of the park, and we have a wonderful view into South Padre Island from the rear of our rig.  We seem to like it better than being out in the park, surrounded by fellow campers in kinda cramped quarters.  I'm not crazy about having to walk on the small rocks on our site, but I'll get over it.  The park is full of wonderful people, and our friends from Winnipeg, Nancy and Al, were on hand to welcome us back.  Sounds like we're going to have to miss them next year, as they have plans to visit New Zealand and wander around in an RV down under.  That should be an awesome trip!  As a bonus, Al came out with a bottle of 12 year old scotch last night, as we stopped to welcome more of their family down visiting from Canada.
     As we came across from Santee, we stayed over at one of our frequent stops in Las Cruces, NM, and met some wonderful travelers from Burlington, VT.  Joanne and Dean were coming from Las Vegas after visiting family, and they pulled in behind us as we were checking in.  We had a nice visit that night, and discovered they were also heading for Sarasota, Fla.  So we're looking forward to getting to know them better when we meet up over there in a few weeks.
     Yesterday we finished up all our preparations for visiting SPI, by stopping over at the local county office and getting our beach pass valid for 30 days.  Entering the county park costs $10/visit, or you can get a 30 day permit for $25. Seemed like a no brainer since we anticipate a lot of beach time.  But wait....it gets better.  At the county office, the clerk asked if I was a veteran, and I just happened to have my new NY license which has Veteran across the top.  We were given our 30 day pass for $12.50!!  Can't beat that.  Next I'll see if I can get a discount on my Texas fishing license.
     It was such a beautiful day, that we wandered over to the Isla Blanca County Park,  The park is located at the southernmost point of SPI, and features over a mile of beachfront with several pavilions.  Today it was packed with families and tourists enjoying the 80+ degree weather.  There's also a 600+ full hookup RV park here, which looked pretty full to me.  It's quite a bit cheaper than our KOA, but the lack of shade would stop me from staying there.  There's also a large jetty along the entrance to the bay, which was lined with hopeful fisherman trying their luck.  All the fishing I have dome is further north up the beach, out in the surf, but this looked interesting.
   
     There's quite a massive statue of Jesus overlooking the entrance to the bay which serves to protect the sailors passing by.  Numerous plaques memorialize those who have lost their lives out on the water.
     As we worked our way north through the village of SPI, I spotted a DQ, a made the command decision to cool our cores with a DQ Blizzard.  We're not really sure how they had evaded us for this long!  If you ever get the chance, a DQ Blizzard will rapidly cool your core on a hot day!
     Returning to our site, the GMG smoker was fired up, and dinner was soon on the grill.  Happy hour drinks, and a tasty dinner, was a great way to end our first full day on SPI.  Not sure if we will be able to survive another 2 weeks!
     For all of our friends and family experiencing a pretty significant snowfall yesterday and today, we can only say that we feel your pain.  But, as you can see, this heat and humidity takes its toll also. Be safe everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On the Road Again

    On Friday 2/5/17, we departed Santee Lakes RV Resort after visiting with Liam, Jamo, Ben and Joanne for nearly 2 months.  We had a wonderful time there visiting with Liam almost every day, getting acquainted with our grandson.  I wasn't sure Grammie was going to climb on board Friday morning, but she did, and we headed eastbound on I-8 with our first stop scheduled for Tucson.
     In Tucson we stayed at the Tucson Lazydays KOA, which proved to be on of the nicest KOA's we've ever stayed at.
       The park had a pretty easy on/off I-10, but we went with the directions from the website instead of Satellite Sue.  She had us going 1 exit further, but that probably wasn't that big a deal.  Our site was gravel with a cement pad, and we backed up to a very nice putting green in the back yard.  We also had a nice grapefruit tree out back, and we picked some very nice looking grapefruit.

      On Saturday we headed over to the Titan Missile Museum, located just a short drive south from Tucson on I-19 in Green Valley, AZ.  Now, you might ask why would anyone visit a Titan Missile Silo, but this is the only missile silo in the country, that has a Titan Missile in it!  Who can pass that up!
      After working our way down a flight of stairs and through 4 blast doors, we entered the control room, where a missile launch would have occurred if there was ever a need.  And our very own Debbie Doody, AKA: Grammie, was selected to simultaneously turn one of the two keys necessary for the successful launch of a Titan missile, and destroy the world as we know it!  And after successfully entering the launch code transmitted by POTUS, she, without hesitation, inserted her key, and participated in the destruction of the world!!!
   
     On the way south on I-19 we could see Mission San Xavier del Bac, first founded in 1692 by Jesuit Missionary Father Francisco Kino.  It is the only remaining active mission in Arizona, and visitors can view the ongoing attempts to preserve and restore the interior paintings and sculpture.  San Xavier is an active church, and located next door we found the mission school. The school has been operating since 1873, run by the Franciscan Sisters of Charity.

      Inside we were amazed to find a statue of St Kateri Tekakwitha, and were reminded of her ties to us over in New York.
     From Tucson we continued east, with our next destination being a 2 day visit with Randy and Retha in San Angelo, TX.  Delicious meals and lots of visiting makes the time pass way too quickly.  And now we may have to wait till next year or possibly 2018, before we can get together again.  R&R graced us with a beautiful Dresden Plate quilt, handmade by Randy's mom, which we will cherish forever.
     There is quite a gap in my blog's timeline, but I promise I will fill in the gaps over the next few weeks.  We're headed down to South Padre Island for a few weeks of surf and sun, and should be there on Saturday.  Our friends from Winnipeg, Nancy and Al are awaiting our arrival, and keep sending us pictures of Blue Bell ice cream.  We can't wait to get there!  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Preparations in Santee

      Frost on the pumpkin!  Yes, believe it or not, this is the 2nd morning in a row where temperatures have dipped below 32,... and we don't think Mother Nature is very funny! Yesterday morning, we were 7 degrees warmer than the boat launch at Chateaugay Lake, and that's just wrong!  But in defense of So Cal, each day, by 10 AM, we've had to open the windows and cool Big Red off, as the morning sun visited us through the front window of the bus.  Nothing like sitting in a nice warming sun, enjoying that morning cup of coffee.

      The Christmas tree is up, inside and outside, and decorations are visible all through the park, as Grammie goes into Christmas mode, in preparation for Santa's arrival in just a few days. No one enjoys Christmas more than Grammie, and even though the entire extravaganza is starting to tone down, basically because of lack of space, Grammie continues with the traditions that make this time of year so special.








     And I think Grammie is having a special time, passing those traditions on to Joanne, and their special little helper, Liam.  Nothing says Christmas like cookies, and with just a little preparation, Liam was ready to go.  If you check with Liam, he'll tell you that apron is a hand me down from his father.  And Debbie loves to continuously remind me about the long line of pastry chefs on the Lagasse side of the family!!

     It didn't take Liam very long to figure out what sugar cookies were, and it seemed like his favorite part was putting on the icing!

     One of the nice things about staying at Santee Lakes, is the close proximity to Ben's house, and being able to coax Ben into bringing Liam over to enjoy the happenings over here.  Last weekend, a pretty big celebration was held here, and that included lost of events for kids.  Most seemed to enjoy tubing down the "snow" covered hill, although Liam didn't seem that interested.  But when he discovered the swing and the slide, his day started to perk right up.  Grammie and Ben did most of the work, and Papa just took pictures.  Consider yourself fortunate that you don't have to sit and look at all of them!
     As you can imagine, Liam has taken center stage this year, and that's to be expected.  Of course Jamo still like to get in some cuddle time with Grammie, and if he can get past Liam, he takes advantage of it.  But I really don't think Grammie minds too much.  
     It is always special to watch the curiosity of a child at Christmas, even though he doesn't truly understand what going on.  Twinkling lights and big blue snowflakes will attract almost anyone.  

And then of course, there's always Papa's lap!

Debbie managed to stay pretty busy for a few days making cookies for Ben and her brother back in Ohio.  Every year, Debbie sends cookies in a tin to Bob, and ever year the tin returns full of buckeyes!  That's a pretty good trade. 
    MaryAnne will be flying in for Christmas tomorrow night, so of course, everyone is pretty excited about that.  She'll bring a little life to the party!  Can't convince her to jump on the Trolley and ride it out to Lakeside though, so I guess we'll have to drive in to the airport and pick her up.  
     
     And of course, no Christmas story would be complete without a picture of the baby on Santa's lap, crying his head off.  I've never understood why parents are so mean to their kids, and why we all seem to get such a chuckle out of it!!
     Merry Christmas to everyone from the Doody's.  And may the New Year brings lots of blessings to your family.  And if not, remember the Golden Rule:  Keep Calm.....Call Mom!