Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand - Saturday, December 30, 2023

Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand - Saturday, December 30, 2023
Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand - Saturday, December 30, 2023

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Austin Marathon and Spring Lake Preserve - Sunday, February 15, 2015

After our great Sunday in Port Aransas with Faye and Dave, and seeing whooping cranes for the first time, it was back to work for Bob Monday through Friday, and Wednesday through Saturday for me (second week in February).

On Saturday, Bob drove 1-1/2 hours to pick up his Austin Marathon packet. At 4:00 am Sunday morning we got up then headed to Austin at 5:00 am. The marathon start was around 7:30 am for Bob's bracket. The plan was for me to hike in San Marcos, have lunch with the group, then pick Bob up about 1:00 p.m. As RVers we all know about plans made in Jell-o, right?

I dropped Bob off in Austin near the marathon start point and headed south to San Marcos, Texas, to hike with the San Marcos Area Trail Walkers on a four-mile, two-hour hike in the Spring Lake Preserve near Aquarena Springs. We were to meet at 9:30 am.

I was there by 7:15 a.m. Because I had been to Aquarena Springs/Spring Lake before, I knew I could do a short hike to the Wetlands Boardwalk and see if any interesting birds were up early. I love the light for early morning photography.

Below is the old Spring Lake Park Hotel which is now Meadows Center for Water and the Environment run by Texas State University.

Meadows Center for Water and the Environment
The springs that form Spring Lake come from the Edwards Aquifer. From the Edwards Aquifer Website is the following description of San Marcos Springs:
"One of the greatest outflows from the Edwards Aquifer is the San Marcos Springs. More than 200 springs burst forth from three large fissures and many smaller openings. Early travelers and settlers described the large ones as fountains, gushing water several feet above the surface of the stream they created. Today, the Springs lie at the bottom of Spring Lake and are viewed through the floor of glass-bottomed boats."
I walked along the lake toward the Wetlands Boardwalk. In the leaf-naked tree I saw a beautiful red-shouldered hawk. As I was taking photos, another red-shouldered hawk flew by, landing in a nest in the crook of a tree.

Red-shouldered hawk
Red-shouldered hawk on its nest
After watching the hawks take turns on the nest, I headed onto the Wetlands Boardwalk. Not too many birds were out in the wetlands. I saw turtles, fish, and some interesting water plants.
The back, unlocked entrance to the boardwalk
Water lilies and another interesting aquatic plant
On this early Sunday morning, a number of scuba divers were suiting up to jump in and explore Spring Lake. 
Scuba divers entering Spring Lake
Meadows Center for Water and the Environment
It was close to 9:30 a.m. so I made my way back to the parking lot to meet up with the hiking group. Introductions were made and we set off into the Spring Lake Preserve. This was my first time hiking with this group, although I soon found one lady with whom I had hiked a few times with the San Antonio Hill Country Hikers.

Spring Lake Natural Area Trail
Our hiking group on the trail
Our hike leader, Rob, talking about the trail
View from the top of a hill
Pencil cactus - look at those spines!
New development next to a historic structure
It was at this point in our hike, a little over half-way into it, that my cell phone rang. Bob called to tell me he wasn't feeling well and opted to do the Half Marathon, not the full one. He was finished and waiting for me in Austin. He was feeling dizzy and nauseous. It was at this time that the rain started.

What a dilemma. We had about 40 minutes left in our walk. Because I did not know the way back, I stayed with the group.

We debated what this building was used for.
Hike with a view
Unusual cactus next to the trail.
As soon as we returned to the parking lot, my phone rang. I had hiking poles, umbrella, camera, and car keys in my hands. The rain was coming down steadily, I was wet, and trying to get into the car, remove my wet coat, and answer the phone all at once. It was Bob telling me he was waiting on the curb outside an IHOP in Austin.

In my haste to get out of my wet coat, my hiking pole hit my glasses, knocking them off my head into the gravel. My hearing aid went down with the glasses. No harm was done to either accoutrement.

I used the restroom, said good-bye to the group, hopped in the car, and made my way 1/2 hour to Austin to pick up my ailing honey. There he was waiting by the side of the freeway access road. Luckily it was only drizzling in Austin.

We headed home. Bob slept most of the way. When we arrived home, he promptly fell asleep in the recliner for the remainder of the afternoon. I'm proud of him for recognizing the Half Marathon was his limit today. He received a beautiful Austin Half Marathon medallion. Way to go, Bob!

Travel Bug out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Day with The Wandering Camels - Sunday, February 8, 2015

On a foggy Sunday morning, we headed south to Port Aransas, Texas, to meet up with our friends Faye and Dave. A year ago, we walked in Corpus Christi with Faye, Mui and Erin. We didn't actually met Dave until this visit. Faye writes the blog, The Wandering Camels.

As we drove toward Port Aransas, the clouds burned off. But the day wasn't exactly warm.

Guess what? Silly me...I forgot to bring my camera. All I had was my cell phone, so there are some photos I took in the blog, but the high resolution photos are courtesy of Dave Malouf (all appropriately attributed to him, photos without attribution are mine).

When we arrived at Gulf Waters RV Park, Faye and Dave walked us around the sites. What a nice park!

At Gulf Waters the lots are privately owned. When the owners aren't there, the sites are rented out to RVers traveling through. Some of the sites are huge, upscale and have outdoor kitchens, bars, and sheds with a large refrigerator (probably to store all those fish the herons don't eat, oh, and happy hour food and drink!). We were very impressed.

The park is across a sand dune from the Gulf of Mexico. Dave likes to spend his mornings fishing from the beach where he has caught everything from red drum to a stingray. His morning fishing companion is a great blue heron who likes to steal fish from his bucket.

After the park tour, we drove three miles into town to start our Volksmarch at The Tarpon Inn. The Tarpon Inn was built in 1886 with lumber from Civil War Barracks. It survived a fire in 1900 and a devastating hurricane  and tidal wave in 1919. When the Tarpon Inn was rebuilt, it was reinforced with pilings placed in concrete, extending up through the entire structure into the attic. Because the building is so well built, it has served as a storm shelter for many years. It has also been headquarters for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and military units.

By the way, in case you're wondering how The Tarpon Inn got its name, all you have to do is go in the lobby. There is a large tarpon hanging on the wall behind the front desk.

Front desk clerk showing us a tarpon.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
From the Tarpon Inn, we walked through town, stopping to read some history markers in front of the museum.

Faye checking out the dolphin sculpture.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
Bob, Susan, Faye and David in front of a historical marker.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)

The historical marker is about Mustang Island -- where Port Aransas is located -- which is one of seven Texas barrier islands. Wild mustangs from shipwrecks and Spanish expeditions once populated the island. The first humans on the island were the Karankawas, nomadic groups who stayed on the islands in fall and winter, then moved inland during spring and summer.

When we walk, we never know what we'll encounter. Today, we saw a gentleman making a sand castle in front of a restaurant. Beautiful work!

Sandcastle photo from my cell phone.
The walk took us into the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center where we might catch a glimpse of Boots and Bags, two resident alligators. The day turned out bright and sunny, but with a cold wind dogging us. Here's what we saw at Leonabelle Turnbull...

Young nutria swimming (they're basically huge rats)
(from my cell phone)
Boardwalk as seen from Observation Tower
(from my cell phone)

American Coot
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
Blue-winged and green-winged teal
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)

Roseate spoonbills
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
Bags (or Boots) not sure which--No head in photo
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
White pelicans
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
11 turtles sharing a hummock with young nutria
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
Turtle and two nutria
(Photo courtesy of Dave Malouf.)
Our next stop was the Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond. Not many birds were out, but we saw a Western Kingbird and an Eastern Phoebe.

Faye and I at Paradise Pond
(Photo courtesy of Bob Alton.)

When we finished scoping out all the wildlife, we were hungry. Faye and Dave suggested Drop Anchor Bar and Grill which was on our way back to The Tarpon Inn. As we waited for our lunch, we read the history of Drop Anchor Bar from our menus. The original Drop Anchor was in Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean. We opted to sit outside on the upper deck. We didn't wear coats, and as we sat eating our lunch, we were all getting quite chilled. Brr!

The food was delicious! The burgers and fish sandwich were super good, but their "curly fries on steroids" (as Bob calls them) were superior.

Burger with hefty curly fries.
Dave and Faye loving the look of their lunches
Drop Anchor Bar & Grill partial menu
With bellies full of good food, we finished up our three-mile Volksmarch back at The Tarpon Inn. We gave hugs around as we bade farewell to Faye and Dave. They headed back to the RV park and we took off on the ferry toward Rockport searching for the elusive whooping cranes.

On the Port Aransas ferry waiting to leave the dock.
With Faye's excellent directions in our minds, we drove right to where a pair of whooping cranes were whooping it up with the sandhill cranes. The location is at Goose Island State Park near The Big Tree, a coastal live oak. My little cell phone camera failed miserably trying to take a photo of the whoopers. I have no zoom on my cell phone.

In the photo below, there are two whooping cranes and about 15 sandhill cranes. You'll have to take our word for it.

The small white speck just about dead center is
where the two whooping cranes are.
While we were in the vicinity, we went to see the Goose Island Oak, AKA The Big Tree. It's part of the state park.

The Big Tree - a coastal live oak, over 1,000 years old

Offspring of The Big Tree...glorious.
One more stop before heading back to San Antonio. We wanted to see the main part of Goose Island State Park and check out the campsites. First off, you have a choice of campsite locations: next to the water or in the trees. If you're next to the water, you get all the wind and salt water spray, not to mention the stench of rotting seaweed at certain times of the year. If you plan to camp in the trees for more protection, be sure to watch out for low-hanging branches. The road in, and many of the sites, have trees with very low branches. If you have a motorhome or 5th wheel with high clearance you will have to be very careful where you go amongst the trees.

While at the main part of Goose Island State Park, we found the Goose Island State Park Fishing Pier, which we walked to its end. There were many people out fishing, even in the cold wind.

Goose Island State Park Fishing Pier
Bob walking down the pier past fishermen
Fishing must be good here
The sandpiper in the water enjoys fishing too.

Tide's coming in. Love the artsy rock spit of land.
Looks like Bob just climbed out of the Gulf waters!
What they're fishing for
With that, our day trip to the Gulf Coast faded into the setting sun as we drove back to San Antonio. What a wonderful day spent with friends, and out in nature.

Travel Bug out.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Alive and Kickin' It - Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yes, we're here. Busy as all get out.

Plus, I've been having computer issues. Seems as though some type of malware attacked my computer. It is now excruciatingly slow, I'm getting strange error messages: "rejected handshakes...error_inappropriate_fallback_alert," etc. Norton Antivirus originally caught the nasty bug. I've used Malwarebytes which has found and corrected some bad stuff after Norton found and quarantined the malware, Spybot Search & Destroy, CCleaner, but still having trouble.

Then I got bogged down on one blog. I forgot my camera and took photos with my cell phone. Had to transfer all those photos to my computer. [Faye and Dave, I haven't forgotten about our walk together, but I finally have all your photos and mine loaded into my computer.] As soon as we are not so busy, I will write that blog which is next on my list.

A great big THANK YOU to my mom, who made a charm necklace for me. She knows how much I love Volksmarching so she put on the following charms: camera, hiking boots with walking stick, water bottle, roadrunner (I'm in the Randolph Roadrunners Volksmarch Club), a backpack, and one that says "never, never give up!" She saw a photo of a charm necklace made by one of our Volksmarchers, Susan Ives, and thought I'd love one too. Yep, I love it!

"Charm"ing necklace

Since I have your attention, here's an update on our jobs and health. The travel blogs will continue in a few days.

Bob has a new job as Controller with the third largest electrical contractor in San Antonio. He is on the Board of Directors. Bob couldn't be happier. The job is challenging and he loves it. When he was hired on a Friday, he was supposed to be part time. He planned his life around that and had another employer for whom he was working 20 hours per week, and a few accounting clients as well.

When he went into work the next Monday at his new job, the General Manager called him into his office. Bob was told they wanted him full time and he would need to leave the other company, and give up his accounting clients. Bob likes the new company very much, but he needed time to think about it.

We talked it over Friday night and over the weekend. Monday, he agreed to the full-time position. Since then, he has felt part of the team and likes the corporate culture. He has health, dental and vision insurance through his new company, and will be eligible for 401(k) after he's been there a year.

As you know, I started full-time at the RV park late last year. This week, our company rolled out benefits. Starting March 1, I have health, vision and dental insurance. My contribution to the insurance is half of what I was paying on my own. In addition, I am contributing to a 401(k) that has a 4% match and I signed up already. It starts March 1 and I'm fully invested at that time!! Woo hoo.

Tuesday of next week, Bob will have Mohs' surgery for basal cell carcinoma in his neck. He had had an area frozen in Hawaii about five years ago. In the past few months, one of the areas he had treated started bleeding and would not heal. His dermatologist said the skin cancer was too deep for him to treat and referred him to a specialist who does Mohs' surgery.

In Mohs' surgery, the area that has cancer is expanded outward and down with small cuts. Each section of skin that is taken is then sectioned, put under a microscope to look for cancer cells. If any cancer cells are found, those sections are noted and more tissue is taken from those areas until the edges are clear of cancer cells. With this procedure, there is a 95% success rate getting rid of cancer in the area. The procedure will take a minimum of four hours. One complication in Bob's case is a nerve that runs next to his surgical area. The nerve controls your ability to shrug your shoulders. Is that specific or what?

Other than that, all is well. We've been taking day trips in Texas, hiking, birding and meeting friends. Watch for more about our activities soon.

Just for the "awwww" factor, here are the fur-kids, Sunnie and Bowie...

"Oh how we love lying in the sun!" Bowie and Sunnie
Safe travels to you all, especially those of you in the grips of the "Siberian air" hitting the East Coast and Southeast parts of our country.

Travel Bug out.