Saturday, December 30, 2017

Well, that was for the birds…

large white egret flapping its wings
A Great Egret takes flight 
One of the things we enjoyed seeing were all the birds on our excursions around Galveston Island. While not a “bird watcher” in the traditional sense of sitting in the bush waiting for birds to come by, it was still fun to catch them on the fly (literally, sometimes!). After all, we don’t see too many egrets, spoonbills or pelicans (and some I have no clue what they are) in the Black Hills!

We had fun watching the pelicans, and they were quite accessible to photograph as we spent a lot of time on the waterfront and the free ferry run.

They brought to mind the limerick...

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican
                              by Dixon Lanier Merritt

3 brown pelicans
The Three Amigos - Pelican Style?

Great Egret, Snowy Egret and a Roseat Spoonbill
Great Egret, Snowy Egret and a Roseat Spoonbill
A short run on the free ferry to Bolivar got us to an Audubon bird sanctuary.

While there wasn’t a place to park and walk, we did get to see a few egrets and spoonbills who were kind enough to be hanging out closer to the road.

And then, of course, are all the birds that follow the ferries! Yup. Seagulls.

Admittedly, seagulls are plentiful in WA and elsewhere. We’ve seen quite a few of them. But they are still fun to watch as are the little sandpipers and /or plovers that scurry along the water's edge at the beach.

A neighboring RVer passed a bird book along to us. Looks like I've got some learning to do if I keep taking bird photos!

 Yup…this part of Texas is for the birds. Right on the migration path for many varieties. Like I said…some I have no idea what they are and we only saw a few of them. But when you can get that close (with a telephoto lens to help!), you can see the beauty of God’s creation in even most common of birds!

two roseat spoonbill birds
Roseat Spoonbills. 

a small brown and white shorebird
I think this is a Plover

Small gray and white shorebird
and this is a Sandpiper

dark grey water bird
Common Moorhen in the RV park pond

brown bird sitting on a ship's rope
I have no clue what this bird is. Do you know?
I suspect it is a type of crow.
(But I do like the photo.)

brown bird sitting a the side rail of a ferry boat
Hitching a ride on the ferry

black bird sitting on the side of a truck
Yup..this looks like some kind of crow.
Light was hitting his feathers just right.
They looked almost iridescent.

Large white egret flying
Great Egret was right by the road

Great Egret walking
This Great Egret really posed for me.

a flock of seagulls flying behind a ferryboat
Seagulls follow the ferry boats.
Passengers are allowed to feed them from the back of the boat.

Ferry boat hitchhiker

Three seagulls sitting on a life raft canister
I wonder what they know that we don't?
This trio of gulls is sitting on a life raft.

brown pelican flying low over water
It's a challenge to catch birds in flight

Brown pelican starting to fly off
Fly pelican! Fly!

Brown Pelican sitting on a piling
The brown pelican is native to the Texas gulf area

Grebe sitting on a stem in the water
I think this is a grebe. It shows up here at the RV park

Grebe sitting on a stem in the water
"Is this my good side?"

A grebe, a type of water bird, swimming in water
Spotted this grebe at a marina in Port Bolivar.
Pelicans know where the fresh seafood is.
A Fishing boat captain is about to give them a treat.
Yes, we bought some seafood here later.

Brown pelican with wings in full down stroke over water
OK, I admit I liked catching pelicans flying

a group of white pelicans sitting on rocks
White pelicans!?! Yup. They winter here in the Gulf.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We’re camping tonight...

road with RVs parked on each side
...on the ol' (or new, or middle-aged or...) campground. 

That’s our lifestyle now as FT RVers…the ever-changing address, view, etc… Here’s how we currently choose where to stay (at least for now)

To find a campsite, first we’ll figure out where to stop. We seem to be settling into a 2-3-hour drive day and 2-night minimum stay pattern for most travel between major destinations (like getting to Galveston from Texarkana) Once we’ve picked a town, we’ll see what Passport America and Harvest Hosts has to offer. If nothing is available, then we’ll grab we check Allstays and cross reference what we find there other sources such as RV Park reviews and the Good Sam book.

For the most part, we’re staying at a lot of Passport America campgrounds…we’ve had pretty good luck with them so far. Member campgrounds offer sites at typically 50% off. Ones we’ve been to have ranged from pretty new to pretty old, but have all been pretty decent or even better. Usually restrictions apply, like valid only Mon-Thur, no holidays, 1 night only, etc… But as I said, we’ve been pretty lucky and it’s been great to have full hookups all along the way.

For our long stay in Galveston, we went to a park we saw reviewed on YouTube by “RV Texas Y’All”. See. There’s more than one way to find an RV Park. Always be flexible! We’ll have a review on our experience at Jamaica Beach RV later. (Spoiler alert: We like it!)

We also joined Harvest Hosts. You get a “free” night at farms, wineries, museums, etc. The concept is you purchase something from the Harvest Host in exchange for the free campsite.

And yes, we plan on camping at State and National Parks too. Right now, we’re still getting the hang of it all. It’s a learning curve out there folks, and we’re tackling it one bite at a time.

We haven’t done a lot of blacktop surfing (a.k.a. Wally Docking). That’s where some stores (such as Walmart, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, etc) may (or may not) let you stay overnight for “free” …. obviously, the thought is you would do some shopping and/or eat a meal there. Those are strictly one night only where you just pull in and get permission to stay before you settle in for the night. Some cities prohibit it, and some stores have been burned by the abuse of it, so always ask first! Oh, and know that there are no hookups for RV’s. You are typically just camped in the business parking lot. We have used Walmart a couple of times before we launched full time, and it worked for a short night’s sleep.

And, of course. There are truck stops. Again, an ask and confirm before you “just do it”. Many truck stops are OK with it, but some have such limited parking even for trucks, well, we’d rather let the truckers have that space. 

But since we're pretty new to this Full-Time RV thing, we know how we find our sites will morph and change. Will it be more blacktop surfing? More Harvest Hosts? Only the Lord knows for sure AS We Go about our nation! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

More FREE fun!

Thanks to a day of doing laundry, we got tipped off to another freebie here in Galveston. The Tree Sculpture Tour.

Copy of the tall-ship Elissa's figurehead next-door to a blue Victorian home trimmed for Christmas
When the storm surge from Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, it destroyed thousands of trees in Galveston. But with some creativity and perseverance, the locals worked hard with a goal to keep 100% of that wood out of landfills. The timber went to places like tall ship restoration projects, mills, and woodworking artists.

But what to do with the stumps? One answer was the chainsaw sculptor. Several home owners had
the remains of a damaged/destroyed tree turned into a work of art to be enjoyed. That created a 5-mile tour in the East End Historical District. There are 21 sculptures in that area alone, in addition to several more scattered throughout the area.

copy of Tall Ship Elissa figurehead
Tall-ship Elissa figurehead
And so, we took some time to go sculpture hunting. Not only were those pretty cool, but the period homes in the area are stunning, and range from smaller and simpler to massive.

And we haven't seen the Silk Stocking District yet! (Named for the wealthy class that could afford those silk stockings in the 1800’s)

While we didn’t find all the sculptures (some are in back or side yards and we were driving and not walking), we thoroughly enjoyed the sights in the area. Yup, another thing to come back for a do more in detail!

Have you done the Tree Sculpture Tour?

You can learn more about the tour here:

Hope you enjoy the photos!

chainsaw carving of mermaid and dolphins
Mermaid & Dolphins

Victorian stone house that looks like a castle
One of the more impressive homes

2 carved wood egrets
Egrets. They get "dressed" for holidays
Victorian home decorated for Christmas with wood Egret sculpture in garden
Where those egrets live

2 story upper-class Victorian house
Another beautiful home. 

black and white cat on a sidewalk in front of iron fence and flowers
Neighborhood Watch Cat. Yes, it watched our every move.

wood carving of a geisha girl in front of Victorian houses
This one is called Geisha.
Very fun to see the homes dressed up for Christmas 

Small Victorian home with flag
Just a cute, smaller home that was between 2 of the larger ones

yellow lab dog peeking through the front door with a Christmas Wreath hung on door
Someone else was watching me take pictures

Large Victorian Mansion with Widow's Watch decorated for Christmas
Wow. They even decked out the "Widow's Watch".

Yellow and white large Victorian house
Just another "modest" home in a 60 square block area
filled with Victorian delights of all sizes

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Holidays!

RV Christmas tree in background seem through sock covered feet resting on couch
From our “home to yours, we wish you a very Merry CHRISTmas and the happiest of New Years.

May your Christmas be filled with the joy and wonder of the birth of Christ and 2018 full of blessings and adventure in the journey of life.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Free is good….

As We Go selfie at the beach
...and We like “free”

Yup, we found some fun, free things to do while here in Galveston.

Just a drive along the main drag is fun. You see a variety of houses and businesses, and unlike more “upscale” resort areas, even basic stores and eateries are mingled among high-rise resort hotels and have views of the water. In town, the road goes along the seawall and gives a clear view of the Gulf.

There are a lot of public beach access points along the Gulf side of the island. Many with free parking areas right on the beach. Oh yeah…we took advantage of that, and more than once. While there are some “upscale” homes along the water, Galveston Island has made sure public access stays available. We love beaches and salt water!

historic stone buildings on the Strand in Galveston
This is just 1 section of the Starnd
Historic Downtown (AKA the Strand) and the Waterfront. Free walking, awesome historic architecture, fun shops to browse, maritime activity (cruise ships, freighters, shrimpers, etc.), galleries, La Kings, and more. A thriving area of the city that caters to tourism and cruise ships. Well worth some time to stroll through, (and while there, a small splurge of confectionery goodness at La Kings is a reasonable reward for all that walking! You get a lot of ice cream in a small bowl for the price!) While the walk is free, you may have to pay for parking so watch where you park 😊 There’s free parking just outside the area, but it has a 2 hour limit. We did opt for a paid lot a couple times since we were going to be there several hours. Some of the old downtown buildings survived the Great Storm of 1900.

Ships at anchor as seen from a boat
A nice day for a ferry boat ride. Just a few ships at anchor
Our favorite “free” is literally a free ride, on the Galveston-Pt. Bolivar Ferry. It’s a short 15-20 minute ride across the channel and there’s not too much action on the Pt. Bolivar side. But we did find a marina to get some photos, and a bird sanctuary that we have to figure out where to park before trying to snag more photos of feathered friends.

There is also the old Pt. Bolivar light that was retired in the 1930s and is now privately owned. It provided shelter for several folks during the Great Storm of 1900 (one of the worse storms in U.S. history. If you interested, here’s where you can find more info about the lighthouse: and for more on the storm)

seagulls following a ferry boat
The seagulls get a handout from a  family
Part of the fun of the free ferry ride are the birds. You can see seagulls, pelicans and others and even feed seagulls from the back of the boat. Really. In fact, that’s part of the captain’s departure announcement. “Please feed the seagulls only at the back of the vessel” Our first trip was during wintry weather of wind and rain. No one was feeding the freeloading birds. But on other trips, those birds got their snacks from eager children of all ages.

Up in Houston, admission to the USS Texas park and the San Jacinto Battleground park are free. And if you get blessed, like we did, you may even get that free guided tour of the battlefield by the Texas State Park Volunteers! The only costs there are to take a tour of the battleship or some things at the San Jacinto Memorial, like riding the elevator to the top and special presentations. The park area itself is quite lovely and has areas for picnics and well maintained, clean restrooms.

I’m sure there are more free goodies, we just haven’t found them yet. But then, we’ve only had a couple weeks to explore the area. But here are a few more photos of what we've seen so far...

waves in the gulf of mexico
Driving back to RV park along the seawall

panorama view of sandy beach and waves
Our local beach access

seagulls on boat deck
Even seagulls figure it easier to ride than fly in blustery weather that day

car carrier ship as seen from deck of ferry
Orange ship is a car carrier passing Pelican Island and Seawolf Park

Pleasure Pier amusement park in Galveston
Pleasure Pier is another historic sight along the Seawall

view of light house tower and seaside town across the water
Historic Bolivar Light as seen from ferrt

Ferry terminal buildings silhouetted in the sunset
Bolivar Ferry Terminal at sunset

Shrimp boat at a dock
You can spot a shrimp boat by its green nets

Seagulls following a ferry boat
Seagulls love ferry boat  handouts

sunset on Galveston Bay
Our "free" ferryboat cruise at sunset

Pelican on pilings
Standing Guard
land side view of Bolivar light
Bolivar Light

cruise ship
We get to see all kinds of ship traffic for free

dolphin fin and back in the water
Always fun to spot a dolphin!

black birds sitting on ship handrail
Seagulls aren't the only ferryboat hitchhikers

sidewalk, seawall and water
This time it was a very calm day along the seawall

round house that resembles a teacup in shape
I need to find out the story on this house...

Man flying Kite next to a Jeep on the beach
Kite Flying!
Inside La Kings. We caught it at a very quiet moment.

cruise ship passing behind a tall ship that has men in the rigging
Get to see a lot of Old and New here!
Notice the men in the rigging on the Elissa!