Monday, December 17, 2018

History, Jalapenos and Painted Piles

December 7-11, 2018
San Antonio, Texas

This hasn't been a season of week-long stops for us, but San Antonio has a lot of places and (as it turns out) people to see. We even end up extending a few days.

Our drive from Corpus Christi is a rainy and dreary 2 hours to a park along the San Antonio River. Referenced by Laurel (Raven and Chickadee), we set up at Traveler's World. With FHUs, open sky for satellite, and clean, level gravel sites, this is a nice park for our stay. Even with a power outage during 30 mph winds we like it here. The only ding are all the bright lights at night, but it's not unusual in an urban park.

Saturday is cold and cloudy, a good day to spend in a heated Jeep while checking out some local history. Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site includes the "Texas White House" on one of nine large ranches owned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. I laugh at the letters framed at the entrance to the small visitor's center - two from teachers scolding the President! One for use of bad grammar in one of his speeches, and another for fireworks at the ranch when a local troop was having a camping event nearby. 

At 41 degrees it's way too cold to wander around outside so we drive the scenic loop to see what we can see. Due to health and safety "issues", the tour of the home is only the exterior - so nope!

Multi-tasking tower.

A friendly yellow farmhouse peeks out of the gloom.

Closed today, the small farm works the land like they did 100 years ago.

Schoolhouse where the Johnson children attended classes.

Homestead of Samuel Johnson, Lyndon's father.

Moss-covered snake fence blends into the old growth trees.

We never see any of the famous long-horn herd, but there are dozens of deer in the park.

Johnson's Air Force One, a Jet Star, now sits in a hangar near the ranch house. The larger 707 he used for most air travel was too heavy for the small runway on the ranch. 
Lots of beautiful Austin Stone buildings.

Pretty church across the river.
While there is a lot of agriculture and livestock here, there is also a lot of environmental conservation that Johnson made a priority in his ranching. 

Sometimes a burger is an event. That's the case at Alamo Springs Cafe not far from the state park. Quirky interior, fun wait staff, honor-system beverages, and delicious eats - a good option on this cold December day.

The "Cover Burger" (famous for being on a magazine cover) on amazing jalapeno buns. We share a half order of rings.

Sunday we watch our games then head out in the evening to visit a good friend of Bill's and his family. Keith and Michelle came here eight years ago with their two kids, and have just moved into their newly built home. We pick up pizza on the way.

Fluffy Dog Heaven!

Poor Tessa has such a hard time getting comfortable....

Keith and Bill

Keith, Bill and Michelle (and fluffy bomber) 

Keith is working seven days a week with a long commute right now, and we're really happy we got a chance to catch up with them. Such a great family.

Monday is one of the those "sleep-in-and-still-take-a-nap" days with a visit to the historic Alamo in between. Although the site is in the city's downtown, the grounds are lovely, and impeccable restoration means getting to walk through original buildings. There's so much to see for free that we don't bother paying to see the inside of the church. A 17-minute movie does a nice job of covering the 300-year history of the Alamo. The sun comes out and we enjoy a comfortable afternoon, including a short section of the famous River Walk.

The River Walk downtown is a lovely way to see part of the city.

We plan to return and take a boat tour, but never make it back - next time!

Sadly there are several of these dead evergreens along the water.

One of many sad and inspiring places in our country's young history - more than Texans "Remember the Alamo".

The original barracks now house a small museum - note how thick these stone walls are!

Santa Ana refused to allow the Americans a proper burial, and instead had all their bodies burned at the site.
"From the fire that burned their bodies, rose the eternal spirit of sublime heroic sacrifice, which gave birth to an entire state."

Sculptures and engraved names remember the fallen.

 A pretty spot along the river. 
Clouds are back on Tuesday when we explore the King Williams Historic District. There's an informational tour on line with a brief history of the sites (most are on the national historic registry). Tasteful Christmas decor adds to the beauty of these vintage homes.

Need a little project? 
As is often the case for those of us who travel the country full-time, the surprises we find on the way to something planned are every bit as wonderful. I catch a glimpse of some painted piles under a highway bridge and turn around to check it out. I'm so glad I did! I read later that 16 artists are displayed here, each with their own wrap-around mural. They're planning more around the city, and I'll definitely look for them when we return.

Project Sponsor 
We still have a few days of catching up with old and new friends, and more to see in this interesting Southern Texas city.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Now Tessa Wants an Otter for Christmas

December 3-6, 2018
Corpus Christi, Texas

We've been in the South the last couple months, but Monday's drive takes us further south than we've ever been. Corpus Christi is popular with snowbirds and other RVers so there are several options for places to stay. On the water for less money seemed like a good combination.

I've been wrong before.

Puerto del Sol is really a dump. A rutted dirt lot, poorly maintained park and permanent residents, it's not some place you want to get out and walk around. The noise from the highway is non-stop. We do have a water view, the utilities all work fine, I'm able to get level. People are nice and quiet. We'll stay somewhere else next time.

Not a bad place, if you just look forward :-)
A short drive into town, we find a nice spot to enjoy late lunch on the marina. Blue skies and mild temps. Yummy eats at Harrison's Landing.

Back home I catch up on blog comments and find out Faye and Dave (The Wandering Camels) are in nearby Port Aransas! April of 2016 we were in the same park in Page, Arizona, and I got sick before we could meet up. This second chance has been a long time coming! We make arrangements to get together at their place during the week.

We spend Tuesday exploring the magical Padre Island National Seashore. The combination of grasslands, dunes, hard sand beach, and very few people makes for a wonderful day. 

The small visitor center has a nice video on the forming and protection of this barrier island. 

The unique landscape changes color in the wind.

I thought I saw a Great Blue Heron along the water.....
A ghost in the tall grass.

Most of the shoreline is only accessible by driving on the beach - 60 miles of access! Then you turn around and come back because there's no outlet, no other road. We do about 12 miles, stopping to watch the waves and birds, look for shells, laugh at the silly dog. A few others are driving, a couple have parked tent trailers for the day. It's a narrow beach in most places.

Wednesday is a lazy day at home until we head out to Port Aransas. Where we have the best time getting to know Faye and Dave! Dave cooks delicious fish and shrimp he's caught since they've been at their winter home here on the coast - aMAzing! Can't remember the last time we've laughed as much - so, so glad we finally caught up with these two. Already looking forward to meeting up again down the road.

Fluffy dog hanging with her new best bud.
With Dave and Faye in their beautiful holiday home.
Expecting cold and cloudy on Thursday, we decide to visit the Texas State Aquarium a couple miles from our park. Fortunately very few others have the same idea and it's a perfect day to see all the critters. And Tessa makes a new furry friend :-)

Petting and feeding the sting rays is fun for all ages!

Even sitting still, otters are so cute!

Many of the Sea Turtles are in rehab from injuries from fishing line and hooks.

Majestic Golden Eagle
Downstairs in the otter enclosure, Tessa and this cutie have a great time playing back and forth. Too fast for me to catch them nose-to-nose at the glass. It's hysterical to watch.

I could watch these hypnotizing jelly fish for hours.
You can feel the power through the glass.

Leopard Ray in the waves.
Vivid reef colors.

Flamingos are always silly looking.

Mr Pelican takes a peek at Ms Tessa.

Southern Screamer, native of the Caribbean.

Tortoise at lunch.
Just hanging out on top of the bird's enclosure.

Male iguanas wear this bright orange during mating season.
Because of the colder temps outside, the dolphin exhibition takes place "under water". The four males are between 11 and 18 years old, still learning, and so adorable.

Tessa is also entertained.

Shadow follows his staff through the water.

A happy wave to the audience.

One last stop to watch the otters play from above. Tessa sees them and makes it known she really, really wants to go say good-bye. I take her back to the window where her pal returns to see her - I think it's love :-)


Nice views of the USS Lexington from the top floor.

Numerous aircraft on deck.

In the other direction, the popular Harbor Bridge. Construction has started on it's replacement - looks like it will be done in a few years.
For the first time since we got to Maine in September, we'll now move away from the coast for several months. Of course it will still take a month to get across Texas :-))