"On a New Shore," steel silhouette sculpture by Brian Norwood of Jal, NM @ Indianola, Texas, 2/5/19

"On a New Shore," steel silhouette sculpture by Brian Norwood of Jal, NM @ Indianola, Texas, 2/5/19
"On a New Shore," steel silhouette sculpture by Brian Norwood of Jal, NM @ Indianola, Texas, 2/5/19

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Loopy Look at Texas Wildflowers - Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday morning we slept in after our partying of the night before. Bob took me out to breakfast at IHOP. Very good food and service at our favorite IHOP location in San Antonio.

We then headed off on our Sunday wildflower driving adventure. After getting stuck in a major traffic jam heading out of San Antonio, we then had clear sailing (sorry about the mixed metaphor) to Fredericksburg. As we were stopped on the Interstate 10, I was able to get a great photo of a field of bluebonnets in the median.

Bluebonnets growing in the I-10 freeway median
First stop on our journey was Wildseed Farms, a family-owned business that grows wildflower seeds and works with landscape designers and highway departments to fulfill their demands for seeds. We've been to Wildseed Farms when all the wildflower gardens were in bloom. However, on Sunday, only the bluebonnets were in full bloom. Red poppies were just starting to bloom. Most of the display gardens were empty. it may be another week or two before they're at their best.

Wildseed Farms bluebonnet field
Wildseed Farms
Wildseed Farms Texas bluebonnets field
After spending about 20 minutes at Wildseed Farms, we headed north on Hwy. 16 to Willow Loop Road. it's supposed to have spectacular displays of wildflowers in the spring. Two years ago, I went there with my mom and sister. We were too late for the prime display. This year, we were too early. Oh well, we'll have to try again in a couple of weeks.

The fence of old boots
People have put their old boots along this fence
Bluebonnets amongst the pink granite
Texas prickly poppies in the wind
Flowering yucca
Bluebonnets and cacti
Texas prickly poppies in the bluebonnets
A dry wash creek bed
After we drove the 13-mile Willow Wildflower Loop, we went north on Hwy. 16 to Ranch Road 965 and headed southwest to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

History of Enchanted Rock
It was our first time to drive this road. What an awesome view of Enchanted Rock's pink granite dome from this road! If you enlarge the photo below, you can see people hiking on the rock.
Enchanted Rock from Ranch Road 965
Ranch Road 965 and bluebonnets
Pink granite
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
We did not stop at Enchanted Rock this trip. It was too warm, and we weren't wearing the appropriate footwear to climb the rock. It's awesome just to look at.

From Enchanted Rock we went back through Fredericksburg and decided to drive Old San Antonio Road to the Old Tunnel State Park. Be sure NOT to take your RV on Old San Antonio Road! It is very narrow and curvy, with steep drops to creek crossings. Whee! But not in your RV.

From May through October, the Old Tunnel State Park is known for millions of bats that emerge from the old railroad tunnel each night. At this time of year, though, it's deserted.

History of the local railroad
Bat viewing info
Info about activities when bats are in residence
Seating to view the bats (in season)
We will have to come back in better hiking shoes to do the 1/2 mile steep trail on loose rock. After we finished reading signs and poking around at the top of the hill, we continued south on Old San Antonio Road. I was driving and saw a sign for James Kiehl River Bend Park. Since we were in the area, we headed onto the side road to check it out.

The park is dedicated to James Kiehl, a U.S. Army hero, who died in 2003 while defending the Army's 507th Maintenance Company during an ambush in Iraq.

The park has very interesting signs about the area's local history, flora and fauna. Bob said the sign about Texas leafcutter ants is the most interesting informational sign he has ever read.

Did you know leafcutter forager ants carry more than six times their body weight while moving quickly over significant distances? According to the sign, "A proportionate task for an average adult human would be to carry 660 pounds while running a marathon at a four-minute-mile pace."

Local farmers report the leafcutter colony at James Kiehl River Bend Park has existed there for over 150 years. Leafcutter ants are beneficial, they are not pests.

Texas leafcutting ants excavate underground nests that may cover more than half an acre and be twenty feet deep. They contain numerous chambers interconnected by tunnels. Colonies can survive for many years and contain over five million inhabitants! That is mind boggling.

History of the area included prehistoric Americans, American Indians, Spanish explorers, cowboys, military troops, and then European settlers. To the east, near the settlement of Sisterdale, was the ancient and well-traveled Pinta Trail. Another trail ran through an early 1850s shingle camp known as Brownsboro. The Brownsboro settlement included the building of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad.

In 1874, the San Antonio and Fredericksburg Narrow Gauge Railway Company was chartered to construct a line from San Antonio to Fredericksburg. There is even more history outlined at this little gem of a park.

We also learned some interesting tidbits about armadillos. When faced with crossing a body of water, because their heavy armor-like shell causes them to sink, they walk across the bottom, underwater. However, when up against a wider body of water, armadillos swallow enough air to inflate their stomach to twice its normal size. This increased buoyancy allows them to swim across.

In addition to the signs, people were down in the creek playing in the water. A father and his young daughter were headed down to fish.

Old railroad bridge over the Guadalupe River

Old railroad bridge
From James Kiehl River Bend Park we headed to Comfort, Texas where we joined up with the I-10 freeway heading east. For dinner, Bob took me to the Dog & Pony Grill in Boerne, Texas where we enjoyed a relaxing dinner. Then we headed home.

What a great day.

Dinner Out and Parties - Fri. & Sat., March 27 & 28, 2015

Wednesday through Saturday, I worked 40 hours. Friday after work, I took Bob to dinner at Wing Daddy's Sauce House. Our first impression was not good. First off, it was too loud. Secondly, there was too much going on. TVs everywhere, which is good if you're there to watch sports (we weren't). Third it was very crowded. We ate and headed back to the 5th wheel.

After work Saturday, we went to Random for Randall's "Get the Heck Out" Party. Randall is moving back to Oregon to be with his girlfriend, Marissa. We are thrilled. She is wonderful.

Randall worked at Random for almost two years doing many different jobs - night security, operations, ordering, stocking, bar back, prep, bartender, cleaning, opening, closing, and some construction. As Randall says, "He knows where all the bodies are buried." After his almost two years there, he will be missed.

Will Owen Gage Trio played for Randall's party. One song we thought was very apropos was "Leaving on a Jet Plane." It was a beautiful evening and Randall was honored appropriately.

Randall at his GTHO party at Random
Kids enjoying the Kangaroo Jumper at Random
A beautiful evening at Random
Long lines for beer!

Father (Bob) and son (Randall)
We had a wonderful spring evening at Random. We left Random at 9:00 p.m. and headed to our second party of the evening at the RV park.

Bob Emberton was having his annual birthday bash which started around 5:00 p.m. By the time we arrived everyone was in full-on party mode. The liquor was flowing freely. Some people had left but the hearty party-ers were there. We had our Redd's Apple Ale and some shared Fireball whiskey, chatted for a while, and then headed home.

Bob Emberton's photo.
Susan and Bob (Photo courtesy of Bob Emberton)
Wow, two parties in one evening. Wheeee! Travel Bug tipsy and out.

Cats and birds - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, I took a day off, well sort of. I caught up on my blog writing.

Being home with the cats all day, some photo opportunities presented themselves. While I don't have much to say for the day, there are a few photos to share.

Sunnie and Bowie
House finch
Bowie sleeping with his eyes open.
Bowie the box cat
This box is just right.
Travel Bug out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wildlife Watching at South Llano River State Park - Mon., March 23, 2105, Part 2

Upon entering South Llano River State Park, I know to look for birds and wildlife. My first find is a great blue heron who I scared up from the river next to the road.

The state park office had already closed, so I filled out paperwork to put in my windshield, then headed for a bird blind to see what was around. Many male and female cardinals, mourning doves, and black-throated sparrows were about. The cardinals were particularly happy in the water.

Black-throated sparrow
Female pyrrhuloxia or female cardinal???
Cardinal bathing
Having a great old time in the water!

Huh? You lookin' at me?
Well, check this out. I can almost hide.
After such a fun bird bath and no more exotic-type birds, I opted to drive around the campground, then go to another bird blind. Good choice. On my way to the campground, I saw five turkeys near the road. At this time of year, part of the park is closed off due to turkeys nesting, but hey, if the turkeys are next to the road, they're fair game for photos, right?

Wild turkeys

I drove the circle around the campground and just as I was almost out of the circle, my eye caught movement. Could it be? Yes! It's an armadillo! This is the first and only time I've seen a live armadillo in Texas. The only other time we saw one in the wild was in Costa Rica in the middle of the night.

Yes, it is an armadillo! Cool.

Feeling pretty thrilled by the armadillo sighting, I headed on to another bird blind. Three people were just leaving so I had the place to myself. My find at this bird blind was a black-crested titmouse. This is a bird I've never seen before. It flits around a lot, so it was hard to get a decent photo.

Black-crested titmouse
Black-crested titmouse
Black-crested titmouse
After hanging around watching these birds, I took a walk around the old barn next door. The sun on the old wood was awesome.

Beautiful colors in the setting sun

The ubiquitous Texas windmill
To cap off my wildlife viewing experience in South Llano River State Park, on my way out I saw two more forms of wildlife and one I had seen on the way into the park.

In a field to the south of the park road were two black bucks. I could only get photos of one due to the existing light. Exquisite.

Female black buck
Female black buck
Female black buck
I was not quick enough to get a photo of the other animal, a skunk. It ran across the road in front of me. By the time I would have stopped and grabbed the camera, it was in the brush on the other side of the road. This skunk is not like skunks in Oregon. This skunk had long white fur on its back. It looked like the following drawing, only its tail was down and the white fur flowed on both sides of its back to the ground. It looked awesome.

Hooded skunk
 As I drove out of the park, the great blue heron was still fishing by the road.

Great blue heron
Intently fishing
Great blue heron with a small fish in its beak
Majestic bird!
And that, folks, was the end of my day exploring Junction, Texas. The last rays of the sun were behind me as I headed home, arriving around 9:30 pm.

Travel Bug out.