Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Two Very Different Walks, Part 2 - Sunday, April 22, 2018

I admit it, I am an adrenaline junkie. My addiction is roller coasters; the wilder, the better. Our second walk today was at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, a complete about-face from the nature walk earlier. 

After the 10k walk, I changed my clothes at the Comfort Inn from long jeans and hiking boots, to shorts and walking shoes. The windbreaker jacket stayed in the car.

We drove 1/2 hour to Six Flags Fiesta Texas amusement park where we have Season Passes and Dining Passes (Dining Pass = lunch, a snack, and dinner per person each time we go to Six Flags). I had my pass with me. Unfortunately, Bob left his pass at home. So, he dropped me off at the front gate of Six Flags and he made the one-hour round-trip drive home to get his Six Flags Park Pass. 

Meanwhile, I took photos, rode the Superman and Batman roller coasters, and rode the Sky Screamer (a drop tower) twice. 

Superman: the Ride
Superman: the Ride
Batman and The Hustler spin ride
Batman (up close!)
Sky Screamer
Then I got a text from Bob saying, "You will never believe this. I got my Good Sam card, not the Six Flags card. Headed back home. Talk to you in another hour."

Wow. He tried to use his Good Sam RV card to get into Six Flags. The guy at the entrance gate said, "What kind of card is that?"

I ate lunch because I was awfully hungry after walking 6.2 miles, and then almost another two miles around Six Flags. At Blues BBQ, a turkey leg was calling my name and I ate it. 

Bob still wasn't back, so I went on the BIGGEST coaster in the park, Iron Rattler, my favorite. It had been closed earlier for testing, but when I got there, the line wasn't very long. I figure they must have just reopened it. 

Fresh off the Iron Rattler coaster...all smiles!
When I got off the coaster, Bob texted and said he was in the park at our usual place to eat. I joined him at Blues BBQ just as he got in line. He got a pulled turkey sandwich and potato salad.

After Bob ate, we rode The Hustler (spinning ride), and Pandemonium (a roller coaster with cars that spin like teacups as they go along the track). Then, we went over to Hurricane Force 5. Bob sat that one out. 
Pandemonium coaster (cars spin)
Bob waiting in line for Pandemonium
Me in line for Pandemonium. Poltergeist coaster
is the blue one on the left behind me.
Hurricane Force 5 ride
We were going to go on the Scooby Doo Ghostbusters Blaster Ride, but it was all closed up. It looks like they're going to make a pirate-themed ride there instead. We'll see if they keep Scooby Doo and gang as characters.

The long-awaited Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster is built. The cars just arrived and are now on the tracks. The next two photos show the coaster. The train cars are single rider, with about 10 cars in a line. It should be interesting to ride this one!

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster
Wonder Woman statue
 The park is decorated for their Mardi Gras Celebration which starts April 27. 

Rockville High School

Bob and I sat in one of the air-conditioned restaurants to cool off. He got his snack, a cinnamon cookie. Mmm. I ate a Magnum ice cream bar earlier in the afternoon. 

I wanted to go on the Poltergeist coaster. That's the one that shoots you out of the station at 70 mph, then you go through what looks like a tangle of tracks. At some points in the ride, you don't know which way is up. Crazy! Bob stayed in the restaurant and waited for me. When I got off the ride, I had a burger and fries for dinner in the restaurant. 

Then he had a turkey leg for dinner at Sanger Halle. While he ate, I went on the Goliath coaster. That's the one with tracks on the top where your legs dangle free. After that, we headed home to watch "60 Minutes" and "Instinct."

Today was quite a day!

I have four days left until I retire. Then I plan to go on Social Security. Wow, I never thought that day would arrive. Now I'm looking it in the face and I like it!

Time for me to get some sleep. Good night all. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two Very Different Walks, Part 1 - Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018

Sunshine, and lots of it, made it an easy decision to drive to Boerne, Texas, 45 minutes away from our house. The temperature was coolish with a chilly breeze for most of our 10k walk. Randolph Roadrunners Volkssport Club hosted the guided walk today. We had people from San Antonio, Kerrville, and even Pennsylvania!

After signing in at the Comfort Inn at 9:00 a.m., we drove to our respective start points. The 10k and 6k walkers had different start points. 

The 10k walkers parked in downtown Boerne and took the Old No. 9 rails-to-trails path to the nature park. We crossed over a bridge and caught a glimpse of Fern Brush Falls.

Fern Brush Falls
The flags in Boerne City Park are at half-mast for Barbara Bush.

Herff Spring flows into the restored marsh at the Cibolo Wilderness Trail and on into Cibolo Creek.
Herff Spring
Antelope Horns (Asclepius asperula)
The four of us who did the 10k caught up with the 6k walkers at Cibolo Nature Park, the destination for today's walk. Wildflowers are in bloom, bluebirds are nesting in the boxes, and we had a lovely time.

On our walk, we covered most of the trails in the park, including a boardwalk section. Some good news for everyone who likes the Old No. 9 rails-to-trails bike path, it is being extended. We saw some of the construction on it today.

As we entered the nature center, we saw the Cibolo Preserve Natural Habitat Laboratory for Research. Didn't anyone ever tell researchers that "natural habitat" does not include big barbed wire fences?

Proof we were here. [Photo by Robert.]
The restroom building had a pretty mural on it. I particularly liked the ringtail portion of it, so I enlarged that.

Mural on restroom
If you want to see dinosaur tracks, they have those here too. Paleontologists decided that the larger prints belong to a giant tridactyl (3-toed) theropod from the Early Cretaceous Period about 110 million years ago.

Giant Tridactyl dinosaur trackway
Bull Nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus)
The playground
The main trail along the river
Volksmarchers coming out of the woodwork!
Cibolo Creek
A yellow-bellied flycatcher, perhaps?
Tree of Life Arboretum
Here's where we crossed new rails-to-trails construction through Boerne City Park and Cibolo Nature Center. 

Miles of new trail on the way!
A beautiful red husky
The photo below shows our group crossing a boardwalk over a spring-fed pond. 

Doesn't the following photo remind you of The Beatles' Abbey Road album cover...only no Beatles, and no road? It's the thought that counts. 

From the spring, marsh, and the forest, we crossed grasslands.

A Bluebird on the nesting box (sorry,
it's a bit blurry)
Our walking group today
Heading back through Boerne City Park
Agricultural Heritage Museum in Boerne City Park
Such a pretty walk with great people!
The bridge out of the park
Engelmann Daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida)
The thistles are little works of art!
Old No. 9 bike path...don't forget
you're crossing a road here!

After a very satisfying 10k walk, we headed back to our cars to get on with the rest of the day. Bob and I continued on to our next destination, Six Flags Fiesta Texas. 

Continued in Part 2...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Best $6.00 We Ever Spent! - Sat., March 31, 2018

After a great night's sleep at the Inn at Chachalaca Bend Bed & Breakfast in Los Fresnos, Texas, we headed to McAllen, Texas, to make the 8:00 a.m. birding tour at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center.

Tomorrow is Easter and at 9:00 a.m. today, thundering hordes of kids will descend upon this place for an Easter egg hunt and other activities. Oh my, do slap-happy kids and birders go hand-in-hand? I don't think so. 

We paid our $6.00 admission ($3.00 each) to visit Quinta Mazatlan historic adobe mansion. The birding tour is free. We had time to explore the beautiful mansion before our tour.

Ready to go birding!
I couldn't be happier (unless roller coasters
were involved).
Quinta Mazatlan has a Folk Art Room which is an explosion of color. A sign on the wall explains the contents of the room: 

"Folk art - the art of the people - expresses creativity and imagination using simple materials while exploring themes of nature, family, humor and spirituality. We see in this collection...both a celebration of the shared cultural history of South Texas and Mexico and a newly transformed magical world where the artist/collector has lent her hand and color palatte to create a vision greater than the sum of its parts."
Folk Art Room
Folk Art Room
More interior photos of Quinta Mazatlan follow:

Hall/Sun Room
View from the dining room to the sitting room
Formal dining room with fireplace
Formal sitting room with fireplace
Roman bath

Roman bath entry steps
One room is now a dedicated art gallery:

"Mariposa Azul," by Dalice
"Leopardo," by Dalice
 There is a beautiful inner courtyard complete with pools.

Courtyard with pools
It is time for us to gather for the birding tour. Bob is not much of a birder. He usually goes along quietly but gets fidgety quickly. Not so today. 

The leader of our tour is an ornithologist who grew up identifying birds. He kept our attention and spotted birds left and right, up and down.

Yellow-bellied flycatcher pair in this bush.
Part of our birding group
Yellow-bellied woodpecker
Below is a pair of birds common to South Texas: chachalacas. Normal behavior for a courting pair is to hang out at the top of a tree. When the male is courting a female, he will collect food and feed it to her. We had a nature moment when a male chachalaca fed a female on a chain-link fence right in front of us at eye level. 
Chachalaca pair high in a tree
Altamira Oriole with nest (sculpture)

Our guide led us through the property at Quinta Mazatlan. Our next stop was the bird-feeding station.
Chachalaca feeding on the ground
Great Kiskadee at the bird feeders
From the bird feeders, we headed down another path. Our guide stopped dead in his tracks and set up his spotting scope to zero in on an Eastern Screech Owl in a hole in a pole. This little owl is just darling!

Eastern Screech Owl
Male chachalaca getting ready to feed the female.
Our birding group 
Great Kiskadee high atop a tree
Me birding
We were looking at a dove sitting on her nest.
Two yellow-bellied woodpeckers on top of a palm snag
Our tour was just about over. We finished at the house where we watched a video about the birds of Texas. The movie was just a teaser to keep us wanting more birding opportunities.

We then headed out on a Volksmarch of McAllen, Texas. Quinta Mazatlan is the start point. So far, the temperatures were tolerable (before 10:00 a.m.), but, we had been walking on shaded paths in the compound.

As we left the grounds, we had less and less shade. We walked along a city street with the street on one side of us and a country club with golf course on the other. We did our best to follow the walk instructions, but we messed up somewhere on the golf course grounds. I don't think we were supposed to actually be on the golf course!

Blooming bougainvillea separated us from the golf course.
How we ended up at a Forward Tee I have no idea.
We found a path to take us off the golf course. For the next mile or two, we would be walking on a bike path along another busy road with no shade in sight. The temperature was in the high 80s. AND we were hungry! The bike path followed a canal. 
At this point, we figure the canal goes under the freeway
After walking another 1/2 hour or more, we found a fast food Mexican restaurant and had a delicious meal there. We continued walking through neighborhoods. 

Our walk instructions then said to walk through the cemetery. Apparently, the cemetery did not like those instructions...all entrances into the cemetery on the side we were supposed to enter were locked. Since we couldn't go into the cemetery, we walked all the way around it.

Only one open gate
From the cemetery, we headed into old town McAllen and walked a few blocks in downtown. 
Mexican olive trees in full bloom
A colorful mural
Old town McAllen
A beautiful mural!
Obviously, a birder lives here.
A mural about the following musician:
Narcisco (Chicho) Delgado

As we finished the Volksmarch in McAllen, the temperature was 90 degrees. It was time to cool down. We drove the hour back to the Inn at Chachalaca Bend where we showered, changed clothes, and cooled down. I took a stroll out to the resaca to see if any birds were about. 

A yellow-bellied woodpecker was drumming
on a palm tree snag
Black-bellied whistling ducks
We decided to look for red- and lilac-crowned parrots, and yellow-headed parrots at Oliveira park in west Brownsville. Apparently, a number of parrots took up residence in the park and the adjoining neighborhood. The parrots head to the trees to roost for the night. Our eyes scanned the sky for the birds. Other birders were in the park as well. A few parrots flew over but they all went into trees in a neighborhood.

We saw another Great Kiskadee in the park.
We waited until it was almost dark and finally called it a day. No close-ups of parrots for us. On the way back to our B&B, we stopped at DQ for dinner.

Sunset from Oliveira Park
The day was long and hot, but we enjoyed it. Our overall walk was 11.7 miles! Travel Bug out.