A Travellerspoint blog

January 2008

Day 151 - We make it to Becky's (Photo's Added)

We toured an old Mission in Goliad, then headed to San Antonio where my sister, Becky, lives with her family.

overcast 60 °F

We got to Becky's Wednesday night, a day earlier then we had otherwise planned. However, she was able to get one of Mom's prescriptions filled that we'd been having trouble with - so we decided to just go ahead and get that taken care of.

Before leaving Goliad, we went through the Mission Nuestro Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, which is actually located within Goliad State Park.

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This was moved to La Bahia (now Goliad) in 1749, where it was thought it could be more successful then an earlier effort on Matagorda Bay. Spanish Franciscan missionaries worked here for 70 years to convert the Native Anarama people and teach them craft skills deemed necessary to become good Spanish citizens. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored the Chapel, Granary and workshops in the 1930's. The original priests quarters, seen below, have not been restored.

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Part of the Mission is being used as a museum, which was quite good, although somewhat small. Everything in the Museum is either from the period or demonstrates or explains how Spanish Missions operated. Their goal was to be self sufficient communities. At La Bahia (this community, before it was renamed Goliad), the only really successful venture was cattle. In fact, the mission's cattle herds became the foundation for the modern cattle industry in Texas.

Here is an example of an Ox cart wheel such as would have been used at the Mission in the mid 1700's. This is a much heavier wheel than I've seen on wagon's and buggy's from the 1800's of course. Spoked wheels were invented prior to the 1700's, but I suspect a solid wheel such as this might have been easier to make.

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The Museum also had a copper perol that was excavated from the site.

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If you don't know what this is, as I didn't, don't worry - they also have a nice diagram explaining how it was used to distill liquor for use in the Mission, both as drink and for medicinal puposes.

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There was quite a bit of signage explaining how a Mission functioned during this period as well as some excellant diorama's. Mom especially liked these, they certainly convey a sense of what things would have looked like during the last 1700's.

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One room in the Chapel was called "The Old Sacristy", which is a room for storing church objects and records.

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The workshop was in a separate building from the restored Chapel & Museum. It houses reproductions and signage to explain the crafts employed/taught at the Mission, including a blacksmith forge, weaving loom, and other items.

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After visiting the Mission, we drove down to the San Antonio River. This is still in Goliad State Park, but further down river from San Antonio where the river is better known. (I suspect it's also prettier in the spring when everything is green - it's still January here afterall).

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Since we were originally going to go back to the coast before heading to San Antonio, we ended up driving east as far as Refugio before changing our minds and going west instead - a bit of backtracking unfortunately. I remembered that there were a lot of cool looking old houses in Refugio from the day before, so this time I turned off long enough to take a couple of pictures. This log house was built in 1876 for John and Virginia Linney by his father as a wedding gift. They raised eight children here.

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...and this house is for sale, any takers? It's giagantic (probably converted to apartments from the looks of it, but I'm not sure).

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So, other than taking a couple of pictures of old houses, we turned around and headed to my sister's (Becky) house in San Antonio. The family, Becky, Raul and their daughter Ana are at work today so we've spent some time cleaning & organizing the RV. Depending on how much longer we have before they get home - I might be able to get the blog caught up again.... (OK - that didn't work, but the good news is I didn't take very many pictures the next couple of days, so they won't take as long to write.)

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 172
Camped at - Sister's House in San Antonio

Provisions Procured
...Gas $30.00, 10.137 gallons at 124,510 miles

Sightings:

Wild Animals - caracara, hawks, deer
Domestic Animals - cattle, horses, goats, chickens

Posted by jl98584 12:34 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 150 - Aransas NWR and Goliad (Photo's Added)

We went back to Aransas NWR this morning, then drove to Goliad where there is an old, Spanish Presidio that played a significant role in the Texas Revolution.

semi-overcast 76 °F

When we arrived at Aransas NWR yesterday, it was already fairly late. Since we'd been able to find an RV park fairly nearby, I decided to go back to Aransas this morning before leaving the area (it didn't hurt that we'd had a pretty good time yesterday either).

We had to stop by the Visitor's Center again to register. As a National Park, they charge a fee for entrance, but Mom's Golden Passport gets us in for free. We still have to register however.

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Behind the Visitor's Center was a pond with several ducks and birds around it. While I was wandering around looking at the ducks, an Osprey flew overhead and landed on a tree. I thought this was pretty cool!

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We didn't see any more Whooping Cranes this morning, but saw some more Roseate Spoonbills feeding and some alligators.

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At another pond, we saw some Northern Pintail Ducks (you don't want to know how long it took me to find out what these were! I just don't know my birds very well, and don't recall having seen these before.)

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We also checked out the tower this morning, but the Whooping Cranes weren't out yet so we didn't get to see them. Mom wanted to drive the long loop drive through the park, but just as I prepared to turn onto it, I read the sign saying No Vehicles over 8' Tall - my RV is 10', so we had to skip that route.

After spending quite a bit of time at Aransas, we finally headed west to Goliad. The reason I went to Goliad is that man at the Texas visitors center strongly recommended we visit this if we really wanted learn about Texas history. I'm not so sure he was right, it seems like Texas probably has more interesting destinations then this. However, based on the Visitors Center guide recommendation, it seemed kind of interesting so I thought I'd check it out. During the drive, it got kind of warm (& humid) - I actually ran the A/C a bit!

As we neared Goliad, we saw a very unusual structure off the road to the right. This turned out to be the Presidio La Bahia, which is the key historical feature of Goliad.

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This was built by the Spanish in 1749 to help protect their claims to the Texas area. Of course, by the 1900's it was largly in ruins, but was carefully restored (rebuilt?) in the 1960's. It is the oldest fort in America west of the Mississippi and the only structure significant to the Texas Revolution that appears as it was in 1836. After Santa Anna defeated the Texans at the Alamo, one of his generals, Gen. Urrea, overran the Texan's who had been defending the Presidio La Bahia. When the Texan's realized they could not prevail, they negotiated and surrendered to Gen. Urrea - not realizing that Santa Anna had ordered all enemy combatants (Texans) be executed as 'pirates'. Gen. Urrea was aware of the order, but led the Texans to believe that they would be treated honorably as prisoner's of war. A few days after they surrendered, the Mexicans marched them in separate groupd to a short way from the fort and opened fire. 342 Texan's were massacred that morning, which helped galvanize public sympathy and support for the Texans, both in Texas and in the United States. When Sam Huston's forces defeated the numberically superior forces of Santa Anna a short time later, the rallying cry was "Remember the Alamo - Remember Goliad!"

Here are some other views of the Presidio:

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Presidio is a type of fortress build by the Spanish. This one has bastion's, which are fortified corners that extend out from the corners to allow defenders to protect the walls with a cross fire.

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Here's another shot of the Presidio from the Memorial, which give's you an idea how far out it is.

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By the time we finished at the Presidio, it was late enough that we decided to stay in Goliad State Park. Also, since this was the 150th day of our trip - I decided we should go out to eat to celebrate. Little did I know, there was only one restaurant in Goliad! (Excluding a couple of fast food joints).

Goliad is a very old, but very small town, even though it's the county seat for Goliad County. The main business section of town is in the form of a square, with the County Courthouse in the center. There is a very old, giant oak tree outside the courthouse called "The Hanging Tree". During the 1800's, the area was fairly wild and lawless and, yes, the tree was used as described.

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Across the street from this was the only (open) restaurant, called appropriately enough "The Hanging Tree". This is a view of part of the town square from in front of the restaurant.

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After eating too much at "The Hanging Tree", we settled in the campground for a good night sleep. We'll probably visit the Mission in the morning - then head back to the coast for a little more sightseeing before visiting Becky (she has to work the next couple of days).

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 83
Camped at Goliad State Park

Provisions - Gas $39.71 for 13.89 gallons at 124,390 miles.
Dinner at "The Hanging Tree" Restaurant, Goliad, TX

Sightings:

Wildlife: Alligators, Roseate Spoonbills, Ibis, Osprey, Northern Pintail ducts, Brown & While Pelicans, Snow Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, Caracara

Domestic Animals: Cattle, Horses, Goats, Black Faced Sheep, Chickens

Posted by jl98584 20:26 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 149 - Gulf Coast to Aransas NWR (Photo's Added)

We drove hard to get to a NWR north of Corpus Christi where we saw Whooping Cranes

overcast 65 °F

Sorry to have gotten behind on the blog again, it doesn't seem to take much to knock me off schedule I'm afraid.

We reluctantly left my cousins after a thoroughly enjoyable visit, but we needed to hit the road. Friday I had found a place a little west of here that could fix my propane problem so we headed there first. The problem wasn't so much the valve as the mechanism behind the valve that shuts it when the tank gets full, some kind of float valve system. It was shutting the valve, but leaving it shut even after the propane level dropped. So now we have a new valve, including new float mechanism and are good to go with all appliances fully functional.

BTW - the place is Coastal Butane in Richmond, TX. They are top notch!

We decided to head south since we'd heard the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has Whooping Cranes this time of year. It is just north of Corpus Christi, so is a long way from Lake Jackson. We also found there wasn't much to see along the way - but we have a few pic's from our drive.

We stopped for lunch at a little city park in Palacio on a bay off the Gulf. There were a lot of terns (or gulls - I'm still looking into this) at the park and we really enjoyed feeding them whatever we could spare (maybe we should pick up some birdfood for these occasions, might be a little healthier for the birds). This time, Mom caught me feeding them however.

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A little farther south, in Port Lavaca, we saw a lighthouse on a corner as we were driving through town. This one is no longer in service and was all locked up, but the sign described it as the Half Moon Reef Lighthouse, originally built in 1858 in Matagorda Bay. It was moved to the town's Civic Center in 1979. Just a cute little building.

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Along the highway, I spotted a very strange looking bird, I'd never seen anything like this before. Later, when we got to the NWR Visitor Center, I showed the ranger a picture on my camera and she identified it as a Crested Caracara, or 'Mexican Eagle'. That's just a nickname, it isn't really an Eagle, but is the national bird of Mexico. We have seen several more of these since, so they're not uncommon in southern Texas.

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We did finally make it to Aransas NWR. This is a cool place in general, but is mostly known for the Whooping Cranes. These normally hang out at the south end of the park during the winter. There is a large tower you can climb (by a ramp) to view the bays and grasslands - but it's quite distant from most of the wildlife. Mom actually made it all the way to the top of this!

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We did see three 'whoopers', however they were very far out. Fortunately another bird watcher was there with a very powerful scope, so we got a much better view then from our little binaculars or the park service's scope. Unfortunatly, I couldn't hook my camera up to it so this is what I got.

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Miserable Confession - I've generally been quite happy with my camera's pictures. However, when I take pictures of birds using the maximum (12x) zoom, then try to crop down to just the bird section of the shot - the pictures are never as sharp as I'd like. This is a five Megapixal camera, so isn't as grand as some of the newer models or the DSLR's of course. However, I just realized I've been taking pictures at about 1/2 the capacity of the camera - 2.1 megapixals! Ugh! Maybe if I change the settings I'll get sharper details??? (Nevery hurts to pay attention to details, the 2.1 MP looks great for most shots, afterall I'm not trying to blow them up into wall posters, but...).

OK - so now you know why my closeup's sometimes look a little blurry. Fire the photographer!

In the meantime, while still at the Aransas NWR, we saw a lot of other shore birds as well as armadillo's, deer, wild pigs and peckering pigs (the last of which we were unable to get a shot of before he disappeared into the brush).

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Just outside the NWR is a little (population 192) village of Austwell with an RV park. We have a spot with full hookup for $15/night, which is hard to beat.

Mom is out for the count, I've been working on the blog, we should have not trouble getting to my sisters house in San Antonio by her Birthday, Thursday - so I may head back into the NWR in the morning just so see what we can see.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 205, Cumulative 14,446
Camped at RV Park in Austwell, Tx (Population 192)

Purchased med's for Mom at Walmart in Lake Jackson, TX this morning
Propane repaired at Coastal Butane in Richmond, TX this morning

Wildlife seen: Caracara, Peckery Pigs, Deer, Armadillo, Roseatte Spoonbill, Brown & White Pelicans, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, 3 Whooping Cranes (in distance), Terns

Posted by jl98584 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Day 148 - Galveston Mansion & Oil Rig (Photo's Added)

We visited Galveston and toured a haunted mansion, an old drilling platform which is now a museum, and the seawall

overcast 42 °F

We are still staying at my cousin, Robert's house in Lake Jackson, Texas. Today he and his wife Kathy drove us out to Galveston. We were interested in learning more about the terrible hurricane from Sept. 8, 1900 - which is still regarded as the worst natural disaster to strike the US in terms of lives lost. Mom's uncle's family (Rawlings Weinmann) was living in Galveston at the time - they evacuated and never went back.

We did learn a little more about the storm, but also a lot of other interesting things.

Robert remembered an old house that used to have a lot of pictures from the storm in the basement hall. He was able to find it and it was still open for tours. It no longer had a display of the hurricane damage, but we decided to take the tour anyway. No photography is allowed inside, so I was just able to take a few shots outside. This is the Ashton Villa (Note: the web link has a photo of one of the interior rooms):

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It was built in 1859 by James Brown, who made a fortune opening hardware stores in the south. It was the first brick house on Broadway St. in Galveston, which later became known as "Castle Row". Our tour guide was Steve, who welcomed us at the main entrance on "At Home" day (when the family stays home to receive visitors - but you must drop off a calling card the day before to let them know when you'll be visiting - all very formalized process for an upper class Victorian family in Glaveston in the late 1800's).

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Steve is quite interesting in his own right. He really made the tour come alive by introducing us to the family as well as the house. Mr. Brown had two daughters and three sons. One of the daughters, Miss Betty, was quite a character and is said to still haunt the house. Steve talks to her on occasion while running his tour, he wouldn't want to drop in on a lady unannounced.

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We really enjoyed the tour, as much for Steve as for the house. In fact, I decided to buy the book about Miss Betty's life just because it sounded so interesting. However, without any more pictures - I'll move on to the next stop.

We went to Galveston County Historical Museum because the Ashton Villa folks told Robert that the pictures from the 1900 hurricane could be seen there. The museum did not allow any photography - but they had a totally new slant - to prevent plagerism! They were afraid someone might photograph their signs and copy the text, especially school student's doing reports. Seems like an odd sort of position for a non-profit, but it's their museum - so I can only show you what the outside looks like.

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They did have a display on the hurricane, but not a large one. On September 8, 1900 a category 4 hurricane hit Galveston dead on. The storm surge and winds destroyed most of the homes and many businesses. What had been an up and coming, elegant and successful city was almost totally wiped out and in many ways, never fully recovered. It is still the largest natural disaster in US history in terms of lives lost. This occured before they started naming storms, so is often referred to as The Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Another display in the museum covered the Texas City Disaster. I had never heard of this, but it was quite interesting. This was in 1947 and was the worst industrial accident in American history. A fire on board a cargo ship, the Grandchamp, ignited a cargo of ammonium nitrate, which caused a terrible explosion that destroyed the seaport, many businesses and over 500 homes. Windows were broken as far as 40 miles away in Houston. If you want to know more however, you'll have to follow the link above since I couldn't take pictures in the museum (is my attitude showing?).

By the time we finished this, it was about 12 minutes (or less) before 4. Robert had called an oil platform museum since I had expressed an interest in visiting it, and found out they didn't let anyone in after 4 PM. We sped across town and made it just before 4! Mom and Kathy decided to wait in the car, but Robert and I decided to check it out. I figure if nothing else, I could at least say I'd been on an oil platform.

This is called the "Ocean Star". It is a retired offshore oil drilling platform that has been turned into a museum.

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Robert & I decided to tour the exterior exhibits first. They have a lot of exhibits, all of which have signs explaining what the equipment was.

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Inside, there were a few exhibits about how the crew live on an offshore oil platform.

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The museum has an obvious pro oil slant, but that's understandable given where it comes from. I'm not sure it was as interesting as touring an old battleship or aircraft carrier, but I did learn a few things about the oil industry, especially offshore platforms. I was rather amazed at how many different ways they can go after oil - it almost looks like there's no place on earth that can avoid their reach. Robert commented at how it shows the lengths we go to in order to feed our oil habit - so true, especially as I cruise around the country in a motorhome (albiet a small, relatively high mileage one as RV's go).

There was a very large exhibit with models of different types of platforms, showing both the above water and seabottom portions. This photo only shows about half of the exhibit, it went on both sides of the round tube in the center.

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Here are more details of a couple of the platform models. A bit of blue plastic sometimes represents the sea surface.

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There were also other types of exhibits. Here is one link from a chain anchoring down a platform, it was so big I asked my cousin to stand by it as a point of reference. Also, here is a diving suit that could be used as deep as 2,300 feet. And of course they had a display of several different types of drill bits.

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As we left the Ocean Star, we walked by some shrimp boats. This time, we saw quite a few pelicans, both brown and white, waiting for scrap fish. On the other side were two very large cruise ships. Galveston has become a cruise terminal for the Carribean it would seem.

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There are a few mansions in Galveston and also some neighborhoods with lovely Victorian homes. However, there are also a lot of run down buildings and homes. I guess the city really is still trying to recover it's place in the world. One area that has largely recovered is the main historic business district is called "The Strand". When we visited, teh streets were completely blocked off for Mardi Gras, but I was able to take a couple of pictures from around the edges. The US Customs House wasn't really in "The Strand", but was close enough to it that I thought I'd include it in this batch.

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Robert then took us to dinner at a restaurant he remembered as being really good. However it had been some time since he'd been to Galveston and maybe it had changed hands a few times? Now, it was either really good, or not good at all - depending on what you ordered. Also, our waiter was just too busy (or ?), but another waiter generously agreed to take our picture for us and even allowed me to take his picture (Mom liked his Mardi Gras beads). Of course, I asked him his name - but I didn't write it down, so of course I forgot it! (Fire the Scribe!) I did give him a card, so can only hope he'll log in and drop us a comment so we know who to give credit to for the saucy beads (and taking our pic).

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The restaurant was right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. These beaches in Galveston are rather interesting. After the terrible devistation from the 1900 hurricane, the city erected a seawall along the key sections of downtown. I had heard of the seawall, but expected it to be just a "Wall". It is a wall, but is also filled in behind it and a four lane highway plus businesses run along it for several miles. In addition to building the wall, the city raised the elevation of much of the city. Along the wall, it is elevated to the top of the wall, then to lesser degress farther inland.

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Mom collected some sand of course, then we started heading home. Along the way I was able to capture one sunset picture (Robert is probably glad to get rid of us - at least he can drive along now without stopping every five minutes to take a picture!)

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Once we got back to their house, I made everybody play another game of Rummy Cubes (the pictures I took last night didn't come out very good). Actually I don't think I had to work very hard to convince them, but when Mom isn't winning, her face really shows it... That's OK, I didn't win this game either.

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We were a little sad to go to bed tonight, knowing we'd be leaving these nice people tomorrow. But we all had things to do and places to go, so we called it a night.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - none (Robert drove again)
Camped at - Robert & Kathy's house in Lake Jackson

We did see both domestic and wild animals (birds especially), but I was too lazy to write them down. I've been trying to capture this sort of information in the spirit of the Corps of Discovery - a scientific expedition should record it's sightings. Of course, ours is not a scientific expedition, but since we're using theirs as an inspirition I should do a better job of this... I've certainly developed a much deeper respect for those who keep more accurate journals!

Posted by jl98584 21:10 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (6)

Day 147 - Visiting at Lake Jackson, TX

We rested a bit, then visited an Aquarium with outside fish ponds and a Jetty at Surf Side Beach

overcast 50 °F

Robert and Kathy took Mom to the Brazoria Seventh Day Adventist Church today. Kathy played a flute solo and also played the piano for the service. I stayed behind to get some much needed rest and also catch up a little on the blog and a couple of chores.

When they got back, they took us to Sea Center Texas.

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We went through the Aquarium first. They had several tanks, including a very large one with a Grouper and two large nurse sharks. My pictures didn't come out very well, but the nurse sharks just lay on the bottom of the tank. Many people think there's something wrong with them so they put a sign up explaining that this is normal behavior for this type of shark.

Outside was the real treat however. There are several large fish ponds and a couple of marshes. Some are fresh water and some salt water. In the salt water marsh, we saw a couple of Moorhen's, which are related to coots.

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We also saw Ibis's, a Great Egret and several ducks. At the far end we finally saw Roseate Spoonbills that I could actually photograph!

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These are listed as a common bird in East Texas, but seem to be less common as more wetlands are lost to development. We certainly haven't seen very many, so this was quite a treat (and they are beautiful birds).

Then Robert decided to take us out to a place called Surf Side Beach where there is a jetty from which you can often see dolphins. It took awhile to get there and we saw miles and miles of Dow Chemical facilities along the drive. (Note: these are not oil refineries.)

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We got to the jetty eventually and it was a pretty cool place. It runs along the Brazos Rover. This is an old, abandoned oil drilling rig that is just stuck there. The company who owned it went bankrupt, so the state may have to step in and spent the money to cut it up. In the far background are more facilities from Dow Chemical. (That is just water vapor or steam clouds - if anything else escaped they'd be shut down pretty quickly.)

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Robert, Kathy and I walked out to the end of the jetty with their dog. We saw quite a few dolphins swimming off the end of the jetty. Given how hard it has been to photograph moving targets such as dolphins, I set the camera to Movie and tried just pointing it in the area. These shots were frames captured from the video, not great quality but at least you can see them a bit.

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I also took the opportunity to take a picture of Robert & Kathy and their dog,bubby.

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It turns out the Brazos river is used for more than just feeding dolphins and storing old oil rigs. While we were out on the Jetty, a couple of large container ships came by. One was from Chiquita Banana - Robert says a couple of these come in every week from both Dole and Chiquita - the area is a big banana importing site.

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We also saw this shrimp boat heading out to the gulf for his next catch.

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We headed back to the park area where Mom had been waiting and found that she had struck up a quick acquaintance with a 92 years young lady visiting her daughter from Sweden. Inga had also been a bit chilly, so Mom shared her blanket with her and the two really hit it off.

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As we started to leave the beach area, I couldn't help but notice that almost all of the houses and many businesses along the coast area here are built on stilts. We don't think they'd survive a direct hit from a major hurricane, but maybe could survive a glancing blow or tropical storm better than a regular house. Still, it seems a lot of people are building all along the gulf coast knowing that someday, some of their homes aren't going to survive.

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It was getting pretty late by this point, but Robert took a route back to their house that took us along a canal. We saw many more Ibis and some ducks, but also Nutria's. These are very large rodents from South America that were unfortunately brought to the US to try to raise for their fur. The fur farms didn't succeed and now the animals are in the wild and causing problems. There were quite a lot along the canal.

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By this point it really was getting dark, so I figured we were done sightseeing for the night - but we found one more place to stop (Robert's been reading too many of my blog entries!) They took us to the historic Gulf Prarie Cemetery. This is where Stephen F. Austin was originally buried, the founder of the first American settlement in Texas. However, the buriel site is just a marker now, as Mr. Austin's remains were moved to the state capital in 1982. I wonder if he ever gets homesick?

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I guess we were homesick (or tired), since we finally headed back to my cousins house in Lake Jackson. Mom & I taught Robert and Kathy our favorite game, Rummy Cubes (Robert seemed to catch on a little too fast for Mom's taste). Mom went to bed at a reasonable hour, but the rest of us stayed up talking so late I didn't leave time to finish the blog. Ugh - why aren't there more hours in the day? Oh, nevermind - I'd probably overfill them no matter how many hours they gave me.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 0, Cumulative 14,241
Camped at - Still at My Cousins house in Lake Jackson, TX

Provisions Secured:

Temporary med's for Mom (just three pills to tide her over until she can get the full prescription filled)

Animals Sited:

Domestic - Cousins Dog & Cat, Cattle and Longhorned Cattle, Horses,
Wild - Squirrel (Heard an Owl several times last night), Nutria, Roseate Spoonbills, Ibis, Moorhen, Great Egret

Other Observations:

Dow Chemical - extensive facilities in the area

Posted by jl98584 10:08 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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