Monday, December 8, 2014

Fall in South Texas

Fall has arrived.  The trees have turned from green to yellow, red and orange. Last week we spent a few days in the hill country, about 75 miles from here, visiting friends.  Was a very cold, windy day when we were visiting. Not many people out and about, but we did get to see lots of deer,including some good lucking bucks with large racks.  We took a short walk from their RV which lead us to the Medina River.  The water was so clear and clean.  The banks are surrounded by cypress trees which were dropping their leaves into the water.

Medina River

water was crystal clear

A drive to see more fall color lead us to Garner State Park, along the Guadalupe River.  This is a large camping location with hikes and kayak rentals available.  We definitely need to come back here in the spring.

Garner State Park view of  Guadalupe and mountains

one of many large trees

Guadalupe River
 Since then, the weather has warmed up again.  I was able to do a bit of plant potting.

And, just to stay in the holiday spirit, we got out our bob;wire Christmas tree.  We are not doing lots of decorating since we will be in Seattle for Christmas.

Well, time to get some chores going.  Stay warm and dry.
Your friends,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Owls and beach time

We have been enjoying a bit of down time after our mega trip this summer. Until November, most of our days have been sunny and warm,which is why we live here.

A few weeks ago Fred started on phase two of our new porch project. He made and  installed porch railings, so we are no longer in danger of falling off the edge.   Whew! Next phase will be to paint and install some lattice around the base to give it a more finished look.  All in good time.

A week ago we signed up to attend a Medina River Natural Area evening owl program.  We were intrigued by the write up for the program which said that they would be calling owls.  Okay, let's go see what that means! Only requirement for attending is the ability to be quiet for at least an hour, yes I could do that and bring a folding chair and flashlight.  A Park staff person and two volunteers did a short presentation about owls. Barred owls, which are the most common owl in our area, eat small mammals they find in the woods and by the river, moles, rats, squirrels, frogs and snakes.   We learned that one of the foods the great horned owls eat are skunks, since these owls have a poor sense of smell.  Thank you great horned. While this was happening you could color your own eastern screech owl cut out as a souvenir.  We skipped that part.  Once the talk time was over, the 40 of us trekked off in the dark in search of owls along the river. After about 12/mile walking in the woods, we reached the magic spot and sat down and just waited quietly for something to happen. Our park guide started to "call" the owls using pre-recorded barred owl calls.  Called the owls you say, sure.  Well after about 15-20 mins of call/wait, an owl called back to us.  Turns out there were actually two owls that responded.  One of them came to where we  were.  The volunteer had a high powered flashlight, so we were able to see him sitting on a tree branch for quite a few minutes.  It was quite an incredible evening performance!
barred owls
Medina River Natural Area

Sunday we went down to Rockport on the Texas Riviera, along the gulf of Mexico.  The weather was just wonderful, in the low 80s and plenty of sunshine.  We stayed at the Angel Rose B+B, our second time to stay at this 1880s Victorian home. The house has 3 guests rooms, all very comfortable with beautiful  antique furnishings and knick knacks throughout. The owners, Rusty and Jennifer, are very friendly and share their knowledge about the local history, as well as things to see and do in the area.  Rusty makes delicious gourmet breakfast every morning, which are enough to get us thru the whole day. We really enjoy visiting with them.

Angel Rose B+B

We took a day to explore the barrier island that is just off the mainland.  To get there we took a free, 3 minute ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas.  The ferry holds about 12-14 vehicles and runs back and forth continuously. Port Aransas is a fishing/tourist village at one end of the island with restaurants, hotels, RV parks and condos. Once past all of that, you are on undeveloped barrier island, first Mustang Island State Park and then Padre Island National Seashore. Miles of beach walking, swimming, fishing, wind surfing, bird/hummingbird watching and spring turtle migrations are part of the activities offered at the parks. The island is part of a great migration path for many birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. There is also limited camping for RVers and beach tent camping at both.


Padre Island National Seashore

In talking with staff at Padre Island Seashore learned that this is a nesting area for Loggerhead, Greens and Kemp's  Ridley(the most endangered species) sea turtles.  The turtles migrate here in the early spring to lay their eggs.  The park staff gather the eggs and incubate them.  This is done to keep predators such as coyote and man from taking the eggs.  The Park does announce when the hatchlings will be released, on a phone hot line and the park FB page,so the public can attend.  The release starts at 6am until finished, with as many as 4,000 people attending the event.   No real warning about when it will happen since it all depends on the hatchlings. You wait and wait till suddenly it's announced for the next morning.  
While walking on the beach, we were surprised to run into a "ghost crab" walking around on the sand.  This is normally a nocturnal crab, so why he was out and about in the middle of the day was strange.   He was quite surprised to see us but after a few pictures we all went our own way.

We also saw what we thought were small clumps of yellow string on the beach.  Turns out that this was string coral.  We have never seen anything like this before. I am disappointed I did not get the official name for this coral. I would have like to learn more about it but am not finding anything in my Internet searching.

yellow string coral

washed up on shore: coconut split open

Pelicans taking rest on washed up tree limbs

Ghost crabs

We both really enjoyed our time at the beach and will return to do a few days camping at Mustang State Park.

After another half day being tourist in the area we headed home. By the time we got to San Antonio, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees as the Arctic front had started coming in as promised. Normal temperature for this time of year is normally about 70 degrees, so we forgot that it was mid-November after all.  We are as of tonight running about 30 degrees below normal, which puts us in the low 40s.  Some pretty cold days and nights for the next week it seems.  Ah well, this gets us more in tune with the weather we will have when we are in Seattle at Christmas.

doing a section of River Walk in 40 degree weather with Arctic wind blowing :(

Your friends,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where the North and South Collide

As usual, the road to our next destination is never in just a straight line.  We often find some highway marker indicating a bit of a detour as we move along down the road.  This time it was in Elmira NY.  Elmira is a college town and very pretty with many beautiful old houses to see as we drove to the Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemmons gravesite.   Since we love checking out old cemeteries, it was an easy and successful detour.

Back on the road and no sooner do we start down the road then we see another sign that catches our eyes, Corning Glass Museum in  Corning NY.   So with a name like corning, we expected to see how they make corning ware.  Well what a surprise, the museum has displays of glass from antiquity to current glass art, not a corning dish is sight. The amount of items from many different time periods and parts of the world is overwhelming.  In addition there is a section of exhibits on glass in industrial uses. People do seem to find out about this museum, as we did, so it got crowded during the afternoon.  Don't let the crowd discourage you if you happen by this area.

city scape

all glass

beautiful fruit

Egypt 1150 BC

glass with carrying case belonged to daughter of Marie Antoinette

Baccarat crystal 1889

Corning Museum of Glass

Finally, we arrive in Gettysburg. The battle of Gettysburg took place over three days, July 1-3 and resulted in over 50,000 casualties.  In the end this was a major Union victory, but as we all know, did not end the war.  The town of Gettysburg was part of the battlefield, with the Union holding it in the morning, then the Confederates taking hold of  it in the afternoon one day. Fighting was along the streets and alleys of Gettysburg.  Once the battle was over many houses and churches became hospitals, however the number of casualties out numbered the facilities and many hospitals were out in the open.
 A big draw at the Visitor center is the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama. It was been painted in the late 1880s, by the French painter Paul Philippoteaux.  He took pictures of the battlefield, talked with survivors and read about the battle in an effort  to be as authentic as possible when the work began.  Phiippoteaux and 30 assistants worked for a year on this painting that is longer than a football field and over 4 stories high.

Gettysburg Cyclorama

The Visitor center also houses the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War.  Plan on a few hours here since it is an extensive museum full of artifacts, pictures and stories about the military involvement and the civilian issues during the 3 days of battles.
We love to attend Park Ranger talks when possible, so we chose the one about medical care of soldiers.  Well, basically there weren't many options since medical knowledge was still pretty limited during this time. There was very little information about germs during the Civil War, so if you managed to survive a wound, infection and then death were common. Mostly doctors amputated, end of discussion.
You have two ways of actually seeing the battlefield, you can do a self-guided auto tour  or you can take a guided bus tour.  Since it is such an extensive battlefield, we chose to take a guided bus tour.  Our guide was not only able to give us battlefield information, but was also entertaining.  " What kind of camera should you bring to Gettysburg?......a Canon"  Hey, I didn't make it up, just reporting what we heard.  Ha Ha!

We did take some time to just stroll around town, which is quite pleasant.  Walking in town we passed many houses that had plaques by their front doors indicating they were Civil War homes.  We visited the Shriver house, a private museum, where we learned the family story of survival during the battle and once it was over.  Bricks in their attic wall had been pushed out to allow Confederate sharp shooters to shoot at Union soldiers on a nearby hill.  The story came from family letters and a first person account written by one of the Shriver daughters.  The visit to the Shriver house really added a personal view to the Gettysburg battle.

seen in Shriver house gift shop

Shriver House

Next on our need to see was the Gettysburg Diorama, the largest military diorama in the states.  Lots and lots of tiny blue and grey soldiers on the enormous 800 sq feet of battlefield depiction. The lights go out and the battle starts, with flashing of guns and smoke as the narrator tells us about the 3 day battle.  We actually thought that it was pretty well done, so you might want to add this to your list of things to see.


Gettysburg Diorama

The following is a simple version of honoring the dead after the battle. It was decided that a Soldiers' National Cemetery should be established. A local attorney, David Wills, was asked to make all the necessary arrangements.  He had been active in keeping the site sacred and not letting the country forget what happened at Gettysburg.  Wills contacted Edward Everett the leading orator of the time and Abraham Lincoln to come to the dedication on Nov 19, 1863. Everett was the keynote speaker and gave a 2 hour oration.  Lincoln was asked to make just a few comments.  This is when he gave his now famous 10 sentence Gettysburg Address, "Four score....". Sad to say but Lincoln's speech was not very well received by most people at that time.  Amazing how time can change things.

bed Lincoln used when in Gettysburg, with original quilt

David Wills

It was time to take a break from the Civil War, so off we went to visit the Dwight Eisenhower farm, which is right next to the Gettysburg battlefield.  Dwight and Mamie had bought this, the only home they ever owned, in 1950.  Eisenhower had been assigned here during WWI to train troops and so he and Mamie had learned to like the area.   At the end of  his second Presidential term they retired here.  Eisenhower spent his time here raising Black Angus cattle,  being a "gentleman farmer", painting and playing golf.  His goal with farming was to restore and use the land in what we now call an "environmentally friendly" way.  There was definitely a lot more to Eisenhower than we ever knew.  Don't miss stopping here if you come to Gettysburg.

Eisenhower farm front

check out foot stool on left

back yard

Eisenhower art work

Eisenhower farm Gettysburg

Well it was time to hit the road again.  We plan to head to Shenandoah and do the Skyline Ridge Drive.  We press on....
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!