Friday, February 26, 2010

Johnson's Space Center

Arriving at The Space Center Houston

Nose of Space Shuttle displayed in Visitor's Center

Inside the Shuttle

The Orion Space Suit worn by the astronauts

The Historical Mission Control Center (Best I could do because of the lighting)

Looking through glass at the Space Mockup Training Facility

Picture from the tram approaching Rocket Park

The Saturn V Rocket in sections for display

Here at Galveston Island, we aren't far from the Johnson's Space Center in Houston. Less than and hour from here, it was a nice adventure for the better part of a day. So, yesterday we left here late morning and arrived there around 11:30 am. We figured since they were opened until 5pm, we would easily be able to take in everything in one day. Well, we were wrong. We could have purchased a yearly pass for just a few dollars more, but we aren't sure when we will be back in the area again.

We arrived at the Visitor's Center called "Space Center Houston" and walked around to see what there was to do first and decided on The Starship Gallery and watched a film titled "On Human Destiny" This film was very good as an introduction to the space program. It brought you through the various stages in space exploration through the years. Watching the first walk on the moon again was so much fun. The astronauts were practically dancing up there (well jumping around would be more acurate). One part that was particularly chilling was the Challenger exploding and the reaction of those that were at Mission Control when it happened. These are trained professionals and you could see the shock and saddness on their faces. I think we all know where we were when this happened.

We went on a Tram Tour that took us to through Nasa's Johnson Space Center. Before getting on the tram we had to empty all our phones, cameras, wallets, watches, purses etc into a container (much like at the airport). Al had a large western belt buckle and he had to remove it from his belt. When you think about the fact that there are thousands of employees at Nasa, you realize the necessity for this type of security. Once we got on the Tram, we were on our way to Mission Control. This was the Mission Control that was used in the earlier days. It is now considered the "Historical Mission Control"as it has now been replaced with a more modern Mission Control. We didn't get to visit the current one for some reason, and I had read that that was supposed to be included. It was pretty amazing to be there and know all the things that happened there during the early days of space exploration.

Our next visit was to the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. Here is where the astronauts train. For obvious reasons, they can't do their training up in space, so there are various types of equipment that duplicates the space experience. It was quite an elaborate operation. I can't imagine the billions of dollars that went into this facility, let alone on the real thing.

Our next stop was to the Saturn V Complex at Rocket Park. The man who gave us the presentation was a retired Rocket Scientist. The rocket he showed us was a 3 Stage Rocket and was actually to be used as Apollo 18. Unfortunately, Apollo 18 will never happen do to the fact that the program ran out of money.

The Auto Tram tour was supposed to take 1 1/2 hrs, but we were actually gone for 2 1/4 hrs. All in all it was a very good tour and we learned a lot about our space program. When we got back to the Vistors area, we were tired and it was almost 4pm, so we looked around at some more displays and decided to call it a day. We would like to go back maybe next year or the year after and see all the things we missed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Galveston Island State Park

Path to the beach from our campsite

Galveston Island Beach

Our campsite with Cabana

We arrived here on Saturday, and it was cool and windy. Wind is a big thing here in Texas, no matter where you go. Yesterday was a nice fairly sunny day, so we went out to the beach, and I picked up some sea shells. Then we headed into town, and stopped and got a few groceries. We checked out an Italian Restaurant that looked good, and decided we would go there tonight! I have been dying for some good Italian food since we left New York over 4 months ago. We did find a place in Rockport that had great pizza (NY style).

One nice thing here is, you can see the ocean from our campsite, and the sound of the waves lull you to sleep at night. Unfortunately, this place was severely damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. They used to have many more sites near the beach, and now I would estimate there are only about 25% of them remaining. It is sad to drive around the area and see signs for Restaurant's and businesses with nothing remaining other than some concrete. Many places have been rebuilt in a relatively short period of time! There are also many beautiful homes that appear to be new.

It's been a rough year for Texas as far as the weather goes. I guess it's been the same for many southern destinations. It still beats battling the ice and snow and frigid cold temperatures at home. We really don't mind cold as much, as long as there is sunshine! Regardless, we are having a really great time.

On Thursday, we plan to go to the Johnson's Space Center in Houston. It is only 25 miles from here. That will be another blog, that's for sure.

Back home we are excited about our new little grandson, Christopher. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to meet him in April. We miss all the grandchildren back home, but before we know it, we will be back to our former life in New York. It's nice to look forward to things. We will always look forward to going home, and we will always look forward to our travels. Life is good!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blessing Hotel Coffeeshop, Blessing, TX

Sign at side entrance of Hotel

Buffet set-up

Here are the two wood stoves keeping the hot food warm

Front entrance of hotel

Front desk of Hotel

We left Goose Island, feeling very sad. We loved it there, loved the friendly people, the scenery and the peacefulness. But, it was time to go. So we said goodbye to Wayne and Julie, and headed toward Galveston Island. Wayne had suggested that we should stop in Blessing which is right on our way. They have a very unique little place called "The Blessing Hotel and Coffee Shop." He told us all about it and it sounded like a great idea and I just knew it would be good "Blog Material!"

It was almost noon when we got there. We weren't sure what door to go in, so we went in the side door where there was a sign for the coffee shop. Upon entering we saw tables with lots of people sitting at them and a buffet-type set up. There were two old wood stoves, that reminded me of a stove my grandmother used to have. On top of the two stoves were lots of pans with steam coming out of them. Next to the stoves there was a long table with salads, fruits, bread etc. Beverages and desserts were set up on another table. No one came up to us to greet us, so we just stood there and took it all in until one of the guests hollered out to us, "Just git yerself a plate and help yerself!" So, we did!

The food was wonderful. Southern cooking at it's finest! I don't know how they do it, but Southerners have a way of making vegetables taste the best! I went back for seconds on the vegetables. There were three meat dishes, many vegetables, potatoes and gravy, rice, etc. This was all made from scratch. For just $8.50 the beverage and dessert was included and you can go back for as much as you want.

There were lots of bikers there as well as local people, but people come from all over to this restaurant, according to the owner. I chatted with her after the meal and she gave me a brief history lesson. She told me that until 1983 the guests helped themselves to the food right off the stoves in the kitchen. However, the health department stepped in and they were no longer allowed to do this. They now cook in the kitchen on more modern stoves, but use these wood stoves to keep the food hot. This restaurant has been featured in Southern Living Magazine and has had many things written about it in the papers.

The hotel was built in 1906 by Jonathan Pierce. who also founded the town. According to different records I have read, Mr Pierce wanted to name the town "Thank God" because two railroads intersected there. The post office decided against it so he named the town "Blessing" instead. The hotel is still open for business.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Goliad State Park & Goliad, TX

Wayne, Floyd and Julie McNutt
The Empresario Restaurant where we had lunch

The Town's famous "Hanging Tree"

Inside the Sanctuary of Mission Espiritu Santo

This is the fort called "Presidio La Bahia"

Outside of Mission Espiritu Santo

Al and me with Julie and Wayne at the Goliad State Park

Today is our last day at Goose Island. Wayne and Julie suggested we all go to this little town about an hour northwest from here and visit the Goliad State Park and the town of Goliad.

Goliad is a very historical place. In 1754 Spain established a mission here called Mission Espiritu Santo. They also built a fort nearby commonly called Presidio La Bahia. It was customary for the Spanish to build a fort nearby a mission to protect it. The Spanish missionaries were there to introduce Christianity to the Native Indians who lived there. In exchange for offering food and shelter as well as protection from other tribes, they agreed to live there and learn about the Roman Catholic faith. Spain's purpose here was to gain occupation of the area.

We saw pictures of the ruins of the mission before it was rebuilt. The rebuilding began in the 1930's. The mission stands on the grounds of the state park. We toured the inside and outside grounds and also visited a little museum they had set up there.

After visiting the state park there, we went into the little town of Goliad. Goliad has just over 2000 residents. A very quaint little town with very nice shops and restaurants. "Remember Goliad" became a Texas Revolutionary battle cry honoring Col. James W. Fannin, Jr and his men who were massacred there, 342 in total.

We stopped at a very nice restaurant and had a wonderful lunch. Wayne and Julie recommended this place and we weren't disappointed. We walked around the town and visited the "Hanging Tree" known for many hangings that took place there. On our way home we stopped at the Fort called "Presidio La Bahia" and took a few pictures, but didn't go inside.

We had such a great time with our friends Wayne and Julie today. We will really miss them, but we will visit Goose Island again, so we know we will meet up with them again. They are from Ontario, so they don't really live all that far from New York so, maybe we can talk them into visiting our area sometime, hint, hint!

For various reasons we have decided not to go to Padre Island National Seashore this year. We visited there two different times during the day and we really love it there, but the weather forecast still isn't good. We have been here for over a month and decided it was time to visit another area. It is less than a month until the start of the Montana Rally, and then after that we slowly make our way back, stopping again in San Angelo. We have a couple of other places on our list that we want to visit, so we made reservations for Galveston Island State Park and will head there tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Visit To Padre Island National Seashore

We couldn't get on this ferry and had to wait about 10 minutes for next one.

A common sight here in Texas. Spotted these deer today at Padre Island National Seashore

While driving on the beach on Padre Island, we spotted these seagulls. Aren't they cute!!

I couldn't resist taking this picture! A seagull on each post!

Al's new friend!

Sundown on Goose Island from our campsite looking at the bridge that gets us here!

We decided today would be a good day for a drive. It wasn't all that warm, but it was in the 50's and very sunny! So we went to Corpus Christi and got some supplies we needed from Sam's Club, stopped and had lunch and then headed out to the Padre Island National Seashore. It's a pretty drive out there from Corpus Christi. Kind of desolate in places, but then again, we are in Texas. We stopped by the campground to see if it was full as we plan to go there hopefully, next Sunday. There were several sites open, so we shouldn't have a problem. We plan to stay there for a week, but if the weather doesn't cooperate, we may not stay that long. If the sun keeps shining with only a few showers and clouds, we'll be ok. So, we are watching the weather closely. Remember, we left our generator home, so this will be flying solo with the solar. Anyway, in spite of this, we are really looking forward to it.

We are thinking of ways to conserve energy, and one thing has been not running the furnace too much. It has been cold here some nights and we have needed to have the heat on. Next week, it's supposed to warm up and the temps at night are supposed to be much better. So, we will see what happens. If we end up staying here on Goose Island a few more days, I can't say it would be too upsetting as it is truly beautiful here and we have enjoyed our stay here tremendously. We are just getting to know our neighbors here, Wayne and Julie and will miss them when we go!

We will be about 20 miles or more from the grocery stores, so we have to stock up on food supplies before we go. Of course, we can drive to town, but we don't want to go everyday. Al and I have a tendency to need something from the store at least every other day. Of course, we have always had many stores nearby, so we aren't used to not having them.

I can't wait to get there and post some pics from our campsite overlooking the ocean! I did take some pictures today, that I thought you would enjoy of the beach and the seagulls. We also spotted some deer in the field as we were driving there. On our way home we stopped for coffee, and a bird perched himself on the mirror of our truck and Al was very amused by him. Al even treated him to a little snack.

We drove a different way back to Goose Island. Instead of going through Corpus Christi, we headed toward Port Aransas and took the Ferry over to Aransas Pass, then Rockport and Goose Island. You just drive your truck onto the ferry and it only takes minutes to get across.

We got back home and the sun had just set. It was so pretty, but pictures can never quite capture it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

LaMardi Gras Parade

King and Queen of the LaMardi Gras

Goose Island State Park Float Shows a fishing theme-Free fishing at all State parks

Neighbor, Wayne pulled the float - Notice the Goose on top!

Does this Dune Buggy bring back memories from the 60's

I liked this one for it's vibrant colors

Sign says "This Vehicle Runs on 100% Bio-Fuels. Don't Step in the exhaust"

These are some America's finest, R.O.T.C.

After a day or two of gloomy weather and being cooped up inside, it was great waking up this morning to sunshine. I don't know if the temp even got up to 60 degress, but with the sun it seemed pretty warm. Here on Goose Island they are celebrating their own little Mardi Gras. The town here is Lamar, and so they call it the LaMardi Gras. This is put on by the firehouse here and is a two day affair. There is live music and food for sale at the firehouse. There was a Chinese Auction going on. Of course all of this is to raise funds for the Volunteer Fire Co. The parade was great and was about an hour long.

Al and I brought our folding chairs along and had a great seat to see the parade. Of course the traditional beads were thrown and we collected more than our share! The State Park here on Goose Island had a float and our next door neighbors, Wayne and Julie were in the parade. Lots of great floats that really showed a lot of talent. The King of the LaMardi Gras named Stormy is also the Manager of the State Park here. He is retiring this year, so it was great that he was chosen for this great honor.

The town of Lamar only has about 1,000 residents, so the parade was pretty impressive considering their small size. Of course lots of people came from the neighboring town of Rockport since it's just over the bridge from here.

Tonight we went back over to listen to some of the music and had some Gumbo and Shrimp which was very good. Another opportunity I found to get out of cooking! It was a really fun day and we really enjoyed it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kitchen Project

This is the cupboard between fridge and stove

Pots and Pans waiting for their new digs!

Front view of new orgainzer

Side view of new organizer

Sorry if the replies are missing from this post but it was accidentally deleted and I managed to re-create it, but cannot get back all your replies! Bummer!

Most people who know Al, know he is a handy guy. He also likes to keep busy doing things. He doesn't always get things done immediately, but sooner or later little projects get done. So, I have been complaining a lot about this one kitchen cupboard. It's the one that holds the pots and pans. It's down low, it's narrow, and it's deep. I usually have to pull everthing out to get something that's way in the back. Since cooking is a daily thing, and it's been such a pain for both of us, we looked for something that would fit in this cupboard. After taking measurements, we headed to Lowes when we were in San Angelo, and found this organizer called Rev-a-shelf. They had one that would fit perfectly in our small space.

I know it's such a little thing, but isn't it neat!? Sometimes, it's the little things that makes me happy, and this is one of those things! Besides, it was one of those crummy days, when it was too cold to go out, but a good day for a project! Thanks Sweetheart! Will you be my Valentine?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fishing on Goose Island

Our next door neighbor always has his pole ready for a catch!

The pelicans are waiting for their free dinner! Come on! Hurray up I'm hungry!

Notice the pelican are anxious for a handout!

Watching this guy filleting fish was interesting! He was really fast!

One of many boat docks in Fulton

Fishing is a very popular sport here on Goose Island. In fact this whole area of Fulton/Rockport is known for it's fishing. Fulton and Rockport kind of blend together. The first town we enter off the Island is Fulton and then Rockport. Both are popular for their plentiful RV Parks and their small town charm. You don't really feel like you are in a touristy area, but Rockport has become a chosen place for snowbirds or as the Texans here call us, Winter Texans. The people who live and work here seem to enjoy the influx of people as it's good for business. I would say that Texans are the friendliest people you will meet anywhere you go. Anyway, it is a very laid back kind of place.

Lot's of people come into the park every day and take their boats out to do some fishing. We noticed today the man pictured above, cleaning fish at the fish cleaning station. He had a couple of other guys with him. We found out he had taken them out in his boat for a day of fishing and this was their catch, which he was filleting for them. Lots of pelicans, (both brown and white) and a couple of seagulls were hanging out ready to get any extras tossed their way. We asked the guy how much does he charge for a day of fishing and he says he gets $600 for 2-3 people. I suppose that's not bad, but we decided to pass.

Also, being parked right here on the Bay, many RVer's just put their pole out and leave it there all day if necessary. The guy next to us always has his pole out. Unfortunately, trying to fish off the shore right now has not been too successful I am told, because it has been too windy.
Since we have been here we have been waiting for a weather forecast that shows at least a few sunny days in a row. We are very anxious to go to the Padre Island National Seashore about 4o miles from here where we will do some boondocking and use our Solar panels. We are really looking forward to going to this beautiful area. But for now, we get one of two sunny days, then rain for several days, then more cloudy days. The weather has definately been off for the whole country this year. Honestly, we love it here right where we are, so we look ahead at the 10 day forecast and just keep renewing our stay here. Sooner or later we will get there. We aren't complaining as we are having a great time, meeting nice people here, and we will miss it when we leave.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rainy Day here at Goose Island

This has been an interesting winter here in Texas on our first year on the road. All the Texans keep apologizing to us for this crummy weather, saying it's just not typical at all. Well, all I can say is, it doesn't have to be sunny everyday. It doesn't need to be 70 degrees. It's not snowing, but the wind is blowing, and it is raining pretty hard. It's about 59 degrees out, but not the kind of day you would want to go for a walk. It's actually kind of gloomy! I can think of some February days that I have enjoyed in New York. I am thinking of one of those brisk 40 degree days where the sun is shining and the cool (but not cold ) air is actually refreshing. One thing is for sure, Mother Nature (actually God) is in charge of the weather, so we aren't complaining one bit! Life is good here, and today was a good day to stay in and do some chores. I even enjoy chopping vegetables now! I used to hate doing that, but now I like it and I made some homemade soup. I made so much that I have to freeze some of it.

If anyone is wondering if this type of lifestyle is affordable, I have to say in our case it has been. Al and I are certainly not rolling in dough, but we know how to cut corners when necessary. I am actually finding that we are spending less out here on the road than when we are home in the house. We just buy less, I guess because we don't have all that much room in this place. We don't spend as much as we could on camping fees either, because we are willing to stay at State and National Parks. In fact we rather prefer them over the Resort type RV parks. Many of the parks we have looked at have the sites so close together that you can barely get your slides open. While it is true they have some ammenities we might like to have, we really like the peace and quiet and the space we have here, and at many of the other parks we have stayed at. One of the things we did do before retiring is to make sure we have no debt. We sold our home and downsized to a smaller place with less maintenance and less expense.

We never know how many years we will be able to enjoy this lifestyle, but for now we are living in the moment. It has been really great these past few months, but when it's time to head home, that will be great also. We miss our family and friends back home, so once we start heading that way in April, I'm sure I'll be just as excited to get there as I was to leave there in October. Yes, I think for now, this is definately the life for us! We have the best of both worlds!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Big Tree

The Big Tree

Click on the sign and read the beautiful poem about the tree

Here at Goose Island State Park there are many things to see and do. The birds are abundant and besides all the water that surrounds you there are some really beautiful old live oak trees. Their trunks are twisted and they may look ugly to some, but I think they are really beautiful.

We kept seeing signs for "The Big Tree" so we decided to take a ride and see what it is all about!

This park is huge, and it was a couple of miles to get there from where we camp. The "Big Tree" is fenced off, but you can walk up very close to it.

This tree is considered to be the largest live oak tree in Texas and amongst the largest in the world.

It is over 1000 years old. The trunk circumfrance is over 35 ft. The height is 44 ft. and the crown spreads out over 89 ft.