Holiday Survival guide…join the birds;)

We left Tucson, planned an overnight stop in Yuma, well, Winterhaven West of Yuma exactly, land of the aged, if you don’t have a walker or a cane at the RV park we stopped at your are regarded with great suspicion…”Just WHAT are we doing here?”…people walked by without even acknowledging you were there…geez, maybe we weren’t? maybe we were in a parallel universe and just thought we were there;) Maybe it WAS 1935…and this car was new;)

No wonder no one wanted to look at us, people from the future…we certainly would be dressed oddly;) As we dieseled up at the very busy Corner gas, Circle K, possibly the slowest diesel pump we have ever encountered, 20 minutes to fill the tank…some patient and not so patient people were coming and going in a very chaotic way. The diesel pump had a TV on it blaring out various commercials. I had a flash of “Blade Runner” and the talking billboards….as we sat there for 20 minutes…”Where have we brought ourselves to?” I asked Mike…1935 to 2019….OMG, that is the year Blade Runner was set in! Ha! Knew it! We hightailed it first thing in the morning before the people from Cocoon showed up;)

I had to include a smattering of billboards from the I 8 as we headed into Yuma;) Wait for the California ones;)

Sunday traffic, coming back…never again on a Thanksgiving weekend will we do this. This could be my movie quote blog maybe but it looked like a cleaned up version of “Mad Max” as at every on and off ramp muddy toy haulers and trailers, A classes and cabovers, from shabby to multimillion dollar rigs, it felt like a dystopian world was getting onto the Interstate 8 at every turn, all headed West, some unaware of how to merge;)…After getting to the 4th summit and into San Diego county having passed dozens of these vehicles, I was feeling perplexed by the number of trailers and trucks, driven by one man, no family, no friends, just one guy, and his toys…crawling along at 35mph on the grades up into Devils Canyon, ascending 3000′ in 11 miles of almost bumper to bumper Mad Max traffic!

It was with a sigh of relief we hit the last summit and started our downwards descent into El Cajon. I wish everyone towing a trailer, or a bike would stop and take a moment to check their tire speed rating, obviously many are not aware they are rated at 55 mph…and try to pass you at 85 with the entire rig fishtailing around the road…Darwin awards are in order…

California Billboards…hahahahaha!

We settled into a familiar spot at Santee Lakes Campground and were a bit perplexed by how empty it was, not something we are used to seeing here in December. All the nicer:) Was hoping for some beach weather but the rain clouds came and gave us a soaking, one morning I went clothed in shorts and a T-Shirt with an old yellow wet weather gear top and proceeded to scrub Myrtle, the trailer from top-to bottom:) If the weather Gods give you rain..well…Use It! We now have clean windows, Yeah, and a rather respectable looking rig I must say…some other wives may have been muttering to their husbands “No way sweet cheeks, not doing that” as several husbands could be seen the following day cleaning theirs;) One afternoon the sun came out I got out and around the lakes to look at my bird friends:)

The regulars were about. Hordes of Northern Shoveler pairs are swimming in tiny little circles around each other in a strange mating ritual it seems. The Ring Necked and Rudy ducks have arrived, but no Wood Ducks or Widgeons yet. A great deal of Mallards as usual and the resident Egrets and Herons. I even caught the Greenie in the reeds after a Snowy chased him away from a favourite fishing spot no doubt!

This is my refuge, these beautiful feathered creatures. Made the mistake of shopping late in the day and forgot what this time of year is about, cranky, humourless people in a hurry…I even put my big ole Grinch boots on for a bit until I saw this quote by Edward Abbey-”  I am not an atheist but an earthiest. Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. To die alone, on rock under sun at the brink of the unknown, like a wolf, like a great bird, seems to me very good fortune indeed.”

You did notice he said “good bread”…hard to find here;) As an Earthiest. I really don’t celebrate Christmas, it would be hypocritical of me, maybe a solstice drink instead;) All this rush, and fuss, and glaring lights, people stressing about money and gifts, really bad elevator Christmas music and a life size Santa at a family members house broke my mood and made me howl with laughter, that would scare the shit out of you if you got up to pee in the middle of the night…I wonder how many have been shot at! You could pick up a pair, Mr. and Mrs. they are on sale for $749.99, reduced from $999.00…Welcome to America, the land that takes everything, and commercializes it until has no meaning anymore…

It was way too much fun googling life size Santas…I couldn’t find any Indian or Muslim Santas, nor Chinese or even Star trek ones;) A few drinking wine with rosy cheeks and a wicked looking pot smoking one! ha! To each their own this year for me. If it brings you joy do it, it just does nothing for me. In the spirit would be stopping for a pedestrian, instead of nearly running them over, holding a door, saying please and thank you. Instead of buying and wrapping a gift, plant a tree for someone, or a few hundred;) we are going to need them Greta says!

Now some more about those birds….they keep me coming back!

The joy of coming to this West coast city is not really the city itself or it’s millions of people but a just few special ones that are our clan:) I’m the favorite niece, usually said with a grin as I always remind my uncle I am his only niece;), my fabulous rabbit loving cousin, check out Bronle’s amazing work, Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit and her jaw dropping art at: https://bronlecrosby.com/ and my wonderful brother and family. When he is not booked solid for months working on some multi million dollar yacht…http://offshoreoutfitters.com/ he always makes time and comes to the rescue for all my silly electrical and otherwise questions! These people are my heroes!

But time to go, a rest has been had, now it is time to head South, home, to Baja. It always feels that way. You should visit, turn off your Fox news and talk radio and just go, smile and that smile will be returned…it is a wonderful feeling having a simple communication that states “I honour your presence as another human being!”

Saludos amigos!

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Hello Arizona

I could have stayed at City Of Rocks and explored for a lot longer than we did, but it was a bit of a scouting trip, we’ll be back. The area is so full of history but we had reservations in Tucson. Our go to place when we can get in (it is fully booked for February and March) is the Desert Trails RV park. The sites are quirky, the park close to miles of walking and biking paths and the overall vibe friendly, not quite so old as some spots, they call themselves an over”40″ park;)

It sits where an old amusement park used to be, complete with slides;) Quirky but fun, and the people who run it are very kind. The sites out at the edges provide the best views for wildlife. Bunnies and quails frolic, as well as the occasional coyote in broad daylight. The laundry and gym are wonderful and hey, food trucks come in twice a week! The minuses are there is a gun/skeet range close by and on the weekends the boom of gunfire in the distance can be a drag:(

As we were pulling into the RV park arriving from New Mexico the Progressive insurance car was following us in:) We have dealt with Brett before and has always been a very kind and fair to deal with, unlike some people’s insurance woe tales. He hopped up on the roof and started taking notes of the damages and was wrapped up in no time flat. He saw damage I didn’t! We’d done some homework on where we might want to take Myrtle for repairs but with the unsettled weather we will have to wait for February and a sunny week as they are going to replace the entire TPO roof which had several tears from a rogue oak going into Del Rio, Texas on a suburban street:( In the meantime, a caulking gun has helped seal the roof tears as well as some duct tape on the smashed skylights and roof vents:) Over all the repairs will take a week we were told so we have also started scouting for cat friendly places to take the kids;)

Other area bonuses-well the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is down the road:) you can not go wrong with a visit to this beautiful living museum. Their Raptor Free flight over the winter is such a beautiful sight! Stay for both the 10am and 2pm flights as the birds are different. Skip the restaurants and cafes though…not very good from our experience unless mediocre Mexican tacos, weird taco salad bowls (yuc), pita bread pizza and sad soggy burgers are your go to foods;)

Best time of year-late Spring when everything is blooming and the hummingbirds are migrating but it is a treat anytime of year:) We got to watch a beautiful barn owl as well as the stunning Gray Hawks and finally the Harris Hawk family-giving polyandry a good name;)

The peregrine falcon was so fast I didn’t even get a shot off…too slow;) The rest of these beautiful birds co-operated with perfect spots from where I was standing to both watch and photograph them:) Ended the visit with a trip to the Hummingbird aviary after a walk through cat canyon:)

The Broad Billed and Rufous were very busy but I didn’t see a Costas or Anna’s, maybe later in the year. A beautiful Queen Butterfly put on quite a show in the pollinators garden.

You didn’t have to go to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum to see birds. A pair of Gila Woodpeckers drove the cats nuts as they sat on the wooden fence behind the trailer. Cactus Wrens and Curve Billed Thrashers scurried about in the cholla cactus. Rocket learned about prickly stuff on his walks!

I put our feeders out and we had all kinds of visitors over the week. An Anna’s hummingbirds immediately took over ownership of the feeder stuck to the window, and another to one hanging off the ladder.

Our Thanksgiving surprise came in the form of a messenger message from fellow DRV owners Debby and Garth whom we met in New Mexico at a Harvest Hosts Winery, this same time last year! A pair of lovely fellow Canadians! She saw our Astrogypies wifi when they stopped and hooked up to the Desert Trails internet and said! “HEY! We know them!” Three trailers down!! We enjoyed several wonderful conversations and a few bottles of wine, as well as a fabulous Thanksgiving Potluck meal with many of our fellow RV and trailer neighbours! What a treat to catch up and hear their adventures and mishaps and new places to go! Look forward to seeing them in Tombstone on our way back where they are spending the Winter!

I sometimes have to remember to take more pictures of the trailer and where we are at, instead I wander off in search of birds, plants, bugs and sunsets, not a bad thing but I often think, wow, I should have taken a picture of where the trailer is, and around the different parks so mental note to self…vary the photography;) Stay tuned as we head further South, survive the cocoon zombies, minus the alien fountain, in Yuma and the Thanksgiving weekend traffic returning to San Diego! Saludos amigos!

Our neighbours were on their roof navigating around solar panels with his tripod photographing the sunset, I was not quite that ambitious;) Ha!

Sunset in the desert

Hello! New Mexico-home of the “THING”…0_0

Ah, nice to have a change in billboards;) You know you are in New Mexico when “the Thing” billboards start to show up several hundred miles before the actual “thing”. We must have stopped here 10 years ago to poke about the moccasins and trinkets that look like they came from Mexico but are made in China and the dusty displays of the odd and curious. According to Wikipedia:

The exhibit—which used to cost one dollar for adults and seventy-five cents for children to enter—used to lead to three prefabricated corrugated steel sheds with overhead fluorescent track lighting. Inside are a variety of exhibits, including odd wood carvings of tortured souls by famous wood carver Ralph Gallagher, the “Wooden Fantasy” of painted driftwood purchased from an Alamogordo, New Mexico collector, framed 1880s to early 1900s lithographs, historic engraved saddles, guns and rifles of historic Western significance, a Conestoga wagon from Oklahoma! (Southern Pacific 1673, also appearing in Oklahoma!, is located at the Tucson, Arizona, train station), a buggy without a horse, and a vintage American automobile from the 1930s. Most of the exhibits are dusty but historically significant, and worthy of restoration. A sign by a 1937 Rolls-Royce mentions that it may have been used by Adolf Hitler, a supposition reiterated by the originator of the exhibit. Winding corridors and exhibit halls with painted monster footprints on the floors eventually lead to the “Thing”, a mummified, likely female “Mother” of possibly Chinese or Native American descent (note the facial features and the addition of the Chinese worker hat and clothes) who died or likely was killed in the 1880s to early 1900s, and a mummified “Child” age and descent unknown but inferred to be the son or daughter of the “Mother”. They are presented in separate but closely linked displays, coffin, and small coffin, bedding, and scratched plexiglass covering. One story as to the origin of the “Thing” are that the “Mother” and “Child” were illegal border crossers who were found and slaughtered by unknown cowboy bandits during a shootout and found decades later as mummified bodies by a rancher in the area who sold them to the owner/originator of the “Thing”. But in this story, the harshness of the truth will never be uncovered, and the “Thing” will remain a mystery.

In August 2018, the Bowlin Travel Centers unveiled a brand new modern museum building and other updates to house, in some order or theme, most of the items formerly ‘stored’ in the three sheds. The new owners have also added a new Alien & Dinosaur theme that visitors first encounter upon entering the museum. In addition to the upgrades, the cost of admission has also increased to $5 per person or $10 per family. It is worth a stop if you never have;)

Our first night we spent at a lovely Harvest Hosts-Sombra Antigua Winery near Anthony, New Mexico. They have electric available for a $12 charge and as the temperatures were headed South we decided to plug in, keep old Beezil’s fireplace going;) The next day dawned clear and cool as we left for City of Rocks State Park. We only managed to get a reservation for one night, only two of the electric sites are reservable at all but hoped we’d get one of the first come/first serve sites. The clouds and wind started to roll in as we headed North at Deming, the park is about 30 miles off the 10. We were treated to the most spectacular rainbow we have ever seen, the colours were so vivid! Rain and sun, rain and sun until the turn off to the park, past a hot springs resort called Faywood and on to this small 640 acre park.

“City of Rocks gets its name from the incredible volcanic rock formations found here. The park encompasses a one square mile area in the scenic Chihuahuan desert region of southwestern New Mexico at an elevation of 5,200 feet. The “city” is a geologic formation made up of large, sculptured rock columns, or pinnacles, rising as high as 40 feet and separated by paths or lanes resembling city streets. These rocks were formed about 34.9 million years ago when a very large volcano erupted. Then, erosion over millions of years slowly formed the sculptured columns seen today, creating a stunning, otherworldly landscape.” Thanks Parks New Mexico!

We had site #8 reserved for the night but #6, a first come first serve site was also available so we took that! Yeah! at least two nights here! We wandered down to the beautiful visitor center and told the ranger we had switched sites, no charge, and paid for an additional day. There is a total of 9 W/E sites here with 30 and or 50 amp hookups but no sewer, or dump station except at the Valero gas station in Demning. The cats were waiting at the door. They missed their walk at Sombra Antigua Winery due to the old, but large loose German Shepard on the property, they were chomping on the bit to get out! It was a 5 paw stop they said after their walk, the highest rating there is;) Excellent paths, rocks to climb on, bunnies and birds…heaven:)

We had a few showers and by morning the rabbits and hares were huddled under the bushes, a few house finches had found the feeder but it was cold and windy. A Raven came and wandered about the site. We crossed our fingers for it to clear for the upcoming meteor shower:)

We contemplated going for a soak at the Faywood Hot Springs next door but the thought of getting in the truck and going anywhere kept us walking and exploring instead. next visit, as there will certainly be one on the way back!

It did eventually clear but the wind was howling and it was cold and sadly…we only saw four or five meteors in several hours of watching. There was a pair of Great Horned Owls hooting back and forth at each other! Magical! I did take advantage of the dark sky to do a short star trail, I headed in after 57 minutes! Getting too cold! I should have had my Canadian parka and long underwear! The trailer who had a light on that I was cursing actually lit up the rocks a bit for the shot so I forgave them;) Who in their right mind leaves their outdoor lights on in such a beautiful dark sky!

Sad about the meteor shower but you never know with these things! The sky was sensational! They have regular star parties here so hopefully we can meet up with some fellow sky gazers in the future!

I have to admit to wanting to stay longer but with our reservation made in Tucson it was time to pack up and go. Progressive Insurance was also scheduled for a visit to look at the branch damage done we think, going into Del Rio, Texas. Our bathroom skylight was torn open, bathroom vents flung to the ditches and the Digital TV antenna swiped off and everything scratched and scraped on top including some roof tears…but that will be another story;) Saludos amigos and stay tuned for Tucson!

To tuck, or not to tuck, we’ll get into this later, but first…how can they proclaim this to be God’s Country or did word come from above?

How does one proclaim they are God’s country? Self proclamation no doubt! Maybe Kanye West told them…Ha! The 90 runs across Texas East to West slightly South of the Interstate and we wanted off of that! Enough freeways, these State Roads are often in better shape than the interstates and always far more interesting as you pass through the many small towns. Those billboards, guns for sale, try before you buy and more God. They seem to go hand in hand down here in Texas. We were on our way to Del Rio, Texas to an small RV park with laundry, yes it was laundry time:)

The town looked quaint, lots of little antique stores downtown in the narrow one way road through the main section then we veered into a residential area before arriving at the RV park. It wasn’t until the next day we discovered we’d found a low hanging branch that removed the digital TV antenna, the bathroom skylight and several of the caps for the vents..sigh…always something. Rocket enjoyed walking on the fence where a fabulous cicada skeleton was left after it molted. Friendly folk and and a great laundry/lounge as well but an RV park. We did a shopping run to the local H.E.B. grocery chain, hey they had potato chips made of REAL potatoes! Is it just me or is this an oxymoron? or have we the public become seen as such idiots they feel they must spell these out…I am offended;) Ha!

We taped up the damage to the roof and skylight with some duct tape and left for the Davis Mountains following the 90 along the Rio Grande and the Mexico/US border, past the migra stops and NW. This looks like old cowboy country you have seen in dozens of western movies, wide open spaces and cattle company signs dotting the barb wire fences on the range;) It is dry here, like Baja, the driest time of the year, just before the Winter storms start.

Davis Mountains State Park is one of our go-to places in this part of the world! Several sites along the hill-22, 24 and 26 are full hook up and so private, looking up the hill, the Mule Deer wander by every morning and Javelinas root about in the evening:) We had two nights reserved and when we got there, we added two more because they were available! Time for a 4 night break!

Davis Mountains campground map-#22-24 and 26 are very private pull throughs with lots of nature. They are full hook up as well!

We also wanted to visit the McDonald Observatory again, Mike needed some additions to his wardrobe, astronomy related T-Shirts-his once a year shopping spree! Ha! We decided to do a tour! Great tour guide, very informative about the two telescopes we saw but the Texans with their tucked in pant legs and powder blue boots stole the show. They arrived on a very fancy tour bus and had one of the astronomers as a guide…wealthy donors to the University perhaps? I had to google this pants tucked in thing! According to one gentleman Texan:

“If you stuff yer Wranglers, or Levi’s for that matter, inside yer boots you ain’t coming in my house. Standing in your stocking feet, you want the denim to touch the floor at your heel to insure they’ll break on the front of the boot. If a gal wants to see the stove pipes she’ll have to take her chances”

OK…that was one opinion, a strong one at that. Another:

“Don’t go up to the Panhandle of Texas and tell some of those cowboys that they are fruity. Good Lord, we have people all over Dallas with purple, pink, and green hair, with metal jewelry imbedded all over their face. And wearing boots with your pants tucked in isn’t proper??? Wear them the way you want to, last time I checked, this was still America.”

“Never tuck the jeans into the boots unless you’re doing actual work on horseback that requires it.” according to the Art of Manliness’s guide to cowboy boots;)

All very interesting reads. It seems the Texas rangers tucked, and cowboys out on the range riding through brush might tuck, but these tuckers with powder blue boots, well, not my style, and no, I don’t tuck unless I’m wearing my English Dressage boots;) Maybe it’s an older vs younger generation, seems like the young’uns…are horrified by tucking! Ha! Texas!

On our two and a half hour tour we had a remote solar telescope viewing from the visitor center (nothing going on sadly, no flares or prominences) and a look at the Harlan J. Smith telescope and even got to rotate the dome and move the telescope up and down, big kid stuff! 😉 Also the Hobby-Eberly telescope in it’s fascinating clam shell opening like dome! This telescope is studying Dark Energy and looking for earth like planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way. It was a bargain at only 13.5 million dollars;) Over all a very interesting tour we would recommend and a great guide!

Back at the park the Acorn Woodpeckers were busy at their usual spots on the electrical poles, stuffing them with acorns they gather. If you sit and watch they go back and forwards, busy busy birds! Here the deer wander across the grass in front of you. A doe with her two youngsters and by the looks of it last years as well decided Rocket got a bit too close while we were walking and stamped her foot at him and started to come towards him! Like a good survivalist he decided to tuck his tail between his legs and make for the trailer! The woodpeckers also came to drink water from our dripping water line:)

Davis Mountains State Park also has two wonderful bird blinds you can sit and watch the wildlife come and go. We met several lovely people, chatting about photography and other places to visit. A wonderful Canadian couple from Toronto who took off 89 days ago I think is what they said and we exchanged hints and State Parks to stay at going along the gulf and East Coast one afternoon! Have to love people who love our State and National Parks!

There are wonderful hiking paths around the park as well. Both North and South. The bird life was quiet, more life near the water features in the park bird blinds than up on the dry hills. The views are beautiful-especially a trip along the Skyline Drive after sunset. It is open until 10pm and gives you a spectacular view South of the Milky Way and surrounding skies!

So that is why we come back here each year it seems, even though it is slightly off a direct route to Baja, it is an enchanting place! The towns of Fort Davis, Marfa and Alpine are steeped in history and wonderful weirdness, as well as strange lights, we’ll be coming back in the Spring to camp right at the Marfa lights…we want to believe! The towns all have interesting shops from reptiles to trinkets and old Fort Davis has a wealth of Western History as well as yes, please come into my shop armed and open carry…sigh…restaurants and food trucks as well. Sadly our favourites, The Food Shark in Marfa, and the Cow Dog were closed early in the week, we tried another spot in Alpine but came away disappointed, soggy fried chicken and cold fries as well as someone passed out at the table behind us didn’t work for us but it was interesting people watching! Lots of tuckers and non tuckers;)

In downtown Fort Davis in front of a closed Cantina there is a wonderful Osage Orange tree, new to me! The Osage orange has a long and interesting history of use by both Native Americans and early pioneers. Its wood was once in demand for making hubs and wheel rims for horse drawn wagons, mine support timbers, posts and many other uses where decay resistance was important. Osage orange was first cultivated in the south in the early 1800’s. It was brought north by Professor Jonathan Turner, a biology teacher at Illinois College, and promoted as a living fence by John Wright, editor of The Prairie Farmer. By 1847 Turner was convinced that Osage orange was the best fencing material available. He described it as “horse high, bull strong and pig tight” and it functioned as a “hedge” fence long before the invention of barbed wire. By the 1850’s Osage orange hedges made the fencing of entire farms possible. The French found the Osage Indians making bows from the wood and called it Bois d’Arc (meaning wood of the bow)….and you can’t really eat it! Ha!

Beautiful sunset from the SkyLine Drive-Venus, Jupiter and Saturn all visible!

To be honest-I could spend weeks at this park! Maybe on our way back! Next stop is a Harvest Hosts Winery near Anthony, New Mexico, then a new State Park for us! Stay tuned for City of Rocks State Park!! Saludos amigos! Keep watching the skies! The Unicorn Meteor Shower is coming up!

Winter Milky Way-Davis Mountains State Park-Texas

Watching Nature-Palmetto State Park-Texas

Watching nature;) I do it for pleasure and photography, not quite sure what Rocket and Groot were thinking when they decided to go deer stalking, tried to tell them about the “small” and “far away” differences but they cared not a whit;)

This young doe was quite tame, I walked by talking to her but she decided Groot did look quite fearsome and slowly moved off into the bush, Groot wanted to give chase but we told him was a state park and everything was protected…ahhhh…just one deer please! Nope…Rocket watched for awhile on his walk and then decided perhaps walking along the fence looked like more fun, they were after all, awfully large;)

This is a lovely park. I had a daft moment as we pulled in Sunday, went to the trailer camping area only to find our reserved site occupied..sigh…brain fart…it was Monday our reservation. We drove back out to the park headquarters and were told that no, there were no other spaces available but just down the road the Elks ran a small RV park as well, so off we went. It was within walking distance. We found a site, one of two trailers there so not a problem, and not a soul to be seen. Honour system up at the front, not too tough. There was no water due to a line break ( that may explain the empty park) but 50 amp service and lovely trees and dozens of monarchs flitting about! Paradise as far as I’m concerned;) and a bit of weak sunshine trying to make its way through the clouds.

At 11:30 the next morning we went back to check in at the park and ran into a delightful ranger who obviously loves her job and parks-such a pleasure after the grumpy camp host at the CCC campground near Corsicana. She was filled with information not only about Palmetto park but other parks along our way. Wonderful to interact with this kind of human:)

The park is named for the dwarf palmetto, which grows abundantly in the park. The San Marcos River runs through the park. The Oxbow Lake, initially created by flood waters, is now independent of the river and is spring fed. There are many bogs throughout the park that are surrounded by dense vegetation, giving the park a jungle-like atmosphere. Many of the bogs are dry this time of year it seems in this very small, 270 acre park, but it is a marvel to behold this semi-jungle like setting in a relatively dry and rolling hill landscape that surrounds it. It is an unsettling landscape with a primeval feeling to it.

Located between between Luling and Gonzales are the Ottine wetlands (pronounced “Ah-teen”. Named for Adolf Otto and his wife, Christine, who in the late 1800s founded the tiny village just north of where the park is now…there seem to be a huge number of very German names in the area! Deutschtexaners…ha! ). These wetlands, which make up part of the park, are believed to be at least 12,000 years old and are an example of a relict ecosystem, in which a type of habitat is able to thrive in geographic isolation from its original, larger community. In the case of the Ottine wetlands, the combination of a periodically flooding San Marcos River, a high water table (at one time, at least), and artesian springs resulted in the sort of boggy refuge you’d more likely come upon in the southeastern United States. Right now it is mostly dry except where water is being pumped up from an artisanal spring.

The park was constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps. The Refectory-had to look that one up-a room used for communal meals in an educational or religious institution was built between 1934-1937. It is beautiful work of local stone, primitive yet not. Not far away a path leads down to a low water crossing area across the San Marcos River that connects the tent sites with the RV/Trailer ones. This is a small park, only 18 RV sites with electric and water, a quarter are currently closed as water lines are being replaced. The sites are well spaced and shaded, really lovely. We nearly drove into the tent area and the ranger stopped us, said we wouldn’t be getting out once we got in!

Now for some sunshine…which never materialized:( cold, windy and temperatures hovering just about freezing were what we had, but hey, at least no snow! and it was quiet, few bird chirps, a lone Cooper’s Hawk could be heard crying and a few lbb’s (little brown birds) high in the trees. Wrong time of year for bird watching I think but the lovely White Tailed Deer made up for it! The paths are lovely, the plant life quite interesting with hanging moss and ferns, epiphytes I believe, it has an ancient air to it:)

Is it a place we would come back to? Certainly. Perhaps when it is warmer in the Spring headed back! And the first park since Canada that has recycling! Yeah! Greta would be pleased! Next stop, Del Rio and more of Texas! What a difference a bit of sun makes! Stay tuned! We are going through”God’s Country” according to the billboards;)

Cowboy Churches? Concealed carry classes and 30.06 signs…Texas and West

I start to really feel like a real curmudgeon when I can’t find something nice to say about where we are/ humanity wise, not the nature that is around us that I consider to be my church, my spiritual place, but the towns and cities we pass through. I’m not Miss gregarious but I do talk to people and respect everyone’s decision to live the life they want, but I can still ponder those decisions made by others…can’t I? Of course I can, just not too loudly in the open carry states;) This park has 30.06 signs…Handguns prohibited, Concealed carry prohibited, someone complained on Google reviews about not being able to protect their family here…WTF??? What is this crazy world we are passing through! Along the highway signs proudly proclaimed “Learn to shoot your pistol here” and “Concealed Carry School”..missed getting a shot of those but along with the “$79.50 divorce” sign (not including court costs) I think I might understand, about the cheap divorce I mean…Mike asked if he should be worried…not a chance;)

So I “googled” cowboy church and it is exactly what it sounds like, a church made for cowboys. The services include country music and visual props of cowboy culture, such as tents, wagons and rustic fences. Baptisms might be held in a stock tank, the metal tubs that normally hold drinking water for ranch animals, hopefully washed out, they do get a large algae buildup in warmer climates;) They might ride to church on their horses…that’s a green way of transport on Sunday;) From what I’ve read a couple of decades ago only a few of these churches existed but now it is one of the fastest growing cults (dare I say that?) in the US and Canada. Humans never cease to amaze me how incredibly weird they are, or their need to seek some higher power for their after life. I’m a strong believer in live for the here and now…no promises down the road;) Now, as you may have guessed, I’m not Christian, I’d say I am agnostic, there is something out there but not a dude in a white robe with a long beard that sent his son down for a visit and quick crucifixion;)

So, outside of Corsicana, Texas we found a lovely state park, they had 30.06 signs at the entrance: Handguns prohibited/Concealed Carry prohibited….hallelujah! Sounds more like our kind of place:) Not actually something I even think of, but, this is Texas;) When we arrived Thursday it was overcast and chilly and we had the park to ourselves, no one in the guard booth on the way by so we made our way to our site and parked. The camp hosts did drop by later:) Seems they are required to close from 12-2pm..nice lunch hour:)

These are nice widely spaced sites along the lake/reservoir, you can see the dam from the trailer across the way. I thought it would be bird mecca but it has been quite quiet, a lone Downy woodpecker, a shy Mockingbird (that is a first) a few grass nibbling birds but my feeder and suet remain untouched. Black Vultures and Crows seem to form in large schools over the lake and flocks of white pelicans can be seen landing across the lake but few birds nearby:( The ones that are are incredibly skittish…The Heron and Great Egrets take off as soon as you get even close enough for a telephoto. I find that behaviour really odd. Most park birds are used to some human intervention, these birds almost panic when approached. Could be that because it is hunting season everything is on edge, I wasn’t about to wander into the bush;) I did get up early, heard an owl hoot and sunrise was glorious this morning at 6:30 and very, very quiet:)

On Friday the long weekend people started to arrive, oh well, there goes the peace but it is still a lovely spot! Down the road is a BBQ truck, a hop and a skip from the State Park entrance, Big Bo Sherms food truck. Brisket sandwiches and BBQ plates. He was chatty, asked us where we were from and where we were going, “A state park near San Antonio, then Del Rios” Mike replied…”Fine, IF you like Mexicans” was his reply…YUP, we do not only like, but love Mexicans…asshole…hard to chew my sandwich after listening to that, I wanted to spit it out…Boycott Big Bo’s….but wait..there is more to come sadly…

Sitting quietly, the grass became alive with fluttering wings. I missed a pair of Monarchs dashing by but these other three are new to me! A beautiful Orb Weaver was repairing her web, spinning silk to close the gap under a shelter by the beach. Grasshoppers and crickets jumped with each footstep-so nice to see life! It saddened me to see later some children and adult campers walking by had knocked down and most likely killed the orb weaver…only for being a spider. What is wrong with people? This is really getting to be the curmudgeon chronicles…

We pulled out Sunday morning, handed in our pass to the old geezer who was watching his Westerns on the TV when we checked in, he was chatty, looked at our South Dakota plates, figured us for one of his tribe I guess, where are you headed he said…West and then to Mexico we told him, “After what happened there this week!!!” I’m assuming he meant the Mormons….I asked him how many Americans killed Americans in the US this week…he shut up and turned his back on us…good riddance to another ass. Just saying, Waco is right down the road…what is wrong with these people? First the BBQ guy, then this one…because we look like you DOES not mean we think like you. I will be silent no longer to these old fools and their racism…

Makes me feel a bit sick to my stomach every time this happens. I try to brush it off, isolated instances but no…I’ll retreat back nature and it’s amazing beauty and try to keep my distance from people like this.

Saludos amigos and stay tuned for hopefully some kinder people as we make our way westwards…

What a difference a week makes…the curmudgeon chronicles:)

One last visit to the dock before it came out and the water was turned off…time to head South. The constant honking of geese reminds us of migration, ours included. We will so miss this spot and all it’s wonderful qualities, so, until next Spring shall we say:)

The weather forcast was not looking good, below freezing and possible snow by the end of the week, time to pack up and head South, the most direct way possible. We lined up a few stopping spots and did a couple of 4-5 hour jumps, longer than we usually do to leave the gray behind and look for a hint of sun:) The border at Thousand Islands was a breeze with a lovely fellow who used to be stationed in San Diego and there we were, back in the U.S of A….

One night in an RV park North of Scranton, another West of Chambersburg, PA, where the bail bond stores outscored the liquor stores…0_0…and finally for a two day stay at Natural Bridges, Virginia. We’ve been here before and a bit of sunshine and hiking after three straight days of driving and sunless days were in order. Rocket behaved like a champ for his first long journey out, bugging his older sister like little brothers do, exploring the truck, playing with all and anything he could find, then settling in for long naps with Groot…what a kitten!

This is a beautiful, easy hike up the Cedar River to the Lace Falls. The leaves were turning, the walk was quiet except for a few camera questions and nice chats with other photographers. We stayed two nights at the KOA in Natural Bridge. A beautiful wooded setting with chickens roaming free, great place the cats said, Rocket was determined to have chicken for dinner but those are smart old hens;)

The first night was a wild night of wind and rain, tornadoes touched down to the West of us as a cold front came through, passing us by thankfully! The next morning dawned cool but sunny and glorious to see the sun! Robins were out and Carolina Chickadees. I saw a few woodpeckers high in the trees as well.

The local feral cat was sunning herself as her two kittens kept watch from under a KOA cabin. We donated our roast chicken from a few days before to them and they gobbled it all up gleefully. I told Rocket if the feral cat Mama hadn’t gotten a chicken, I doubt he would. Overall a quiet place except for the overzealous leaf blower…if there were a few things on earth I could ban, those would be on my list;)

Our next jump was to Sevierville, Tennessee. a four hour hop for an overnight stay at a “Christian” RV park…0_0…no lightning strikes were recorded and we made it in and out in one piece;) The cows in the field next door had the cats a bit worried but we assured them it was for one night only;) This is such an odd area-Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s Disney World) is just down the road, enjoy a show on ice including hillbillies, gateway to the Smokey Mountains and of course, places you can rent an assault rifle to fire for fun…

Next hop was to Alabama, another 4 and half hour journey but worth the drive and a two day stay-Oak Mountain State Park-it is a gem we’d found on a previous run through this part of the country and we were determined to come back. We came in through the back gate from the 459 to Cahaba Valley Road. I have never seen so many churches per square mile along dotting the landscape along this road, and they are mongo churches! Not quaint parish ones but thousands of square feet of your non-profit Christian donations going to build these monstrosities…It’s a steep climb up to the back gate gate but doable, forgot we couldn’t make the turn by the gate to go left but simply used the right hand lane as our own to get past the ranger’s booth, the lovely lady ranger laughed waved us past, no problem, this happens all the time:) “A” loop is our place to go, at the end, close to the lake and paths sites 26-29 are the best:) There are a lot of tent sites here as well, wonderful spacing in some, really crowded in others, you have to pick and choose:) Full hook up, $30 a night, wooded with paths along the lake and we knew exactly what spot we wanted, there were several but this was perfect. Forest behind and woods and ravines, cat heaven! And those reflections on the lake…beautiful!

We left by the back gate again but took the Cahaba Valley Road South to the 65 North back to the freeway past what must be Birmingham’s horsey suburbs. I’m not a big fan of some of the Southern architecture, those enormous white pillars scream ostentation to me…they make me cringe alongside the numerous McMansions dotting this road. While I appreciate Mother Natures natural beauty preserved here it has an odd feel, I told Mike, I just don’t feel welcome here, maybe it is just the crazy times we live in but after a somewhat uninspired $24 breakfast at Waffle House ( yes, we can do much better aboard Myrtle for a quarter of the price-it’s a once a year driving through the South thing) before we did our grocery shopping it left me feeling not uneasy, but sad. The forced friendliness of employees paid to appear cheerful is not how I like to start my day…Do people like that? or am I turning into a curmudgeon? Wait Mike just asked “turning”? Ha! On a positive note…Here’s a fun town!

I could have this as my address:)

Mike was getting tired of the 4 plus hours jumps so we picked a few three hour trips as we turned West across Alabama and Mississippi. So far the I-81 until Knoxville had been pretty smooth traveling, a few bits of road work and drivers who couldn’t/didn’t look ahead but otherwise good roads but so much traffic. The I-20 was no exception. Truck after truck after truck….and where were my crazy billboards. A few years back the “(855) for truth” crazy christians owned most of the billboards along the freeways, their billboard budget must have run out;)..aww….what to do while Mike is driving;) Plan our next stop! Roosevelt Lake Dam State Park in Mississippi…

… you can tell I’m following a lake trend here:) How could you resist? I made a reservation online for the last spot it said on the lake…it was a quick one mile off of the I 20 but felt like you were in the wilderness, a few trailers and Rv’s occupied some sites but it felt fairly empty. This park looks like it has seen better days, like many state parks. The roads need work, the shoulders are breaking apart, potholes to be avoided and the roads and turns are very narrow…but not impossible. Would I bring a 44′ trailer in here…NO…we finally found our site at the CCC campground, no one at the gate house, maps were faded and hard to read but we did decipher them and figured out which way we had to turn. After getting to our reserved spot, we tried to back in before giving up and taking another one further down. The roads were so narrow and the ditches so deep you could not swing to make the turn. We took the last spot at the end, #92 and I called Reserve America to make sure it was not reserved for the night. There were no posts with numbers, no reserved signs, nothing to indicate the spot was free or not. Reserve America was good, saying they didn’t have a reservation so to go ahead and take the spot but try to find a camp host or ranger as well. Finally found a number up at the gate house on the faded maps, not the friendliest of rangers but told them what we did and they said “Fine, we’ll note it” never did see a camp host or ranger…I should remember to take more pictures of the spots we are in, we never did quite get level the slant towards the lake was so great but hey, it was one night:) I read some of the reviews later on about the park and facilities and they were not very cheerful.

The cats spent the afternoon with us wandering around near the lake, climbing trees, not so many paths as Oak Mountain but there was a duck family that they found very interesting:) and we could leave the window open ALL night it was so warm. The traffic noise from I-20 was quite audible but it is a nice one nighter, certainly not a destination stop, but better than any RV resort:)

The next morning was gray and windy, no sunrise shots or reflections…time to move on to another favourite spot from previous travels. Beaver Dam campground in the Kisatchie National Forest North of Minden. It is a few miles out of the way but we so enjoyed it, huge spacious sites, neighbours hardly in sight and a fantastic variety of forest floor mushrooms!

and yes…more lake views;)

Beaver Dam Campground is located in the Kisatchie National Forest, the only National forest in Louisiana. It is nestled in the forested piney hills and hardwood bottoms of seven central and northern parishes. It is part of the Cenozoic uplands and has large areas of longleaf pine forests. No camp host was at the campground and it was first come first serve according to their website so we cruised along until we found the perfect spot and backed in. These sites are HUGE! Brand new tables and fire pits, the price has gone up over the last few years but it so quiet, peaceful and for $25 a night with electric and water ( and really good drinking water from the tap as well!) it can not be beat. Site #11 was perfect but 7-13 would all be fabulous as well. Views to the lake, small paths leading to the shore and mushrooms wherever you look!

Skip the fried chicken at Cottons in Minden, it looked good but…no. Everything seems to be a weirdly grotesque kind of McMansion or it needs a coat a paint. It has the air of being left behind and lingering with a mild desperation for something better. Is this what the Republicans do for a state? The local water/ice refill station along the highway filters were so clogged you got a gallon and a half of water when you paid for 3 gallons, we ended up dumping it out it smelled so strongly of chlorine, and that is purified water? and it is a dry parish! Perish the thought;) Dixie Inn next door is not but hey, great campground, but we limited it to one night as another rain front was coming in and we were going to check out a new state campground after Corsicana, Texas for three nights of rest! But I saved the best for last, the crazy billboards started started to appear along the I-20-a whole new fresh batch!

This Gordon lawyer bible talking guy made the very bumpy drive through part of Shreveport very amusing as well as the scattering of Jesus billboards…such a very odd country we are passing through:)

Looks like we’ll be getting fresh tortillas soon and wondering at the meaning of the “Cowboy” Churches with huge cow penning arenas. Could it be a homage to the old bad ass Yahweh God of the old testament? Busting balls and broncs? Stay tuned and we’ll be looking for the truth..it’s out there, along with Google;)

Cowboy Churches????

Fall at the lake

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono

The early morning sun hits the trees and creates a golden glow over the changing colours. I call this bathrobe photography;) here I sit in my pyjamas, jacket and plush robe to keep everything warm as frost is in the air and the stillness of the lake is mesmerizing:) Loons calling in the distance…hard to leave.

September started with snapping turtle rescue after we went to take some farewell pictures of the Lee family as they sold their home at the end of the road. Baby snapping turtles were emerging from the gravel and getting lost and stuck so we started to scoop them up and set them loose in the lake! I could swear I still see a head popping up every now and then and wonder if it was one we set loose!

The Tussock Caterpillars are literally falling out of the trees!

“Some of the hairs on this caterpillar have barbs, and can get stuck in your skin. They then break off, leaving small ‘little spears’ in your skin which can cause an allergic reaction. The longer black hairs do contain a venom and when these get stuck in your skin they can inject a chemical. If these hairs break off, excess chemical can also be spread onto the surface of your skin. Both situations can cause an allergic reaction. Is the hickory tussock moth caterpillar poisonous? No, however it is venomous.”

So, best not to touch, at least we keep telling the cats that! A new batch of chipmunks are out and the cats are dashing too and fro on their leashes running after them. We uncovered a beautiful Blue Spotted Salamander under a log in our travels and the resident Orb Weaver Spider that lives in my clothespin bag has been relocated;)