Sun, Wind, Rain – Repeat

Lately, each time I decide to start a new post, I’m amazed to see how much time has elapsed since the last one. Has it really been two weeks? This is our sixth campground since my last post, so I’ll just hit the high spots.

You are probably sick of hearing me rag about the Texas spring winds, but they were truly incredible and uncomfortable. When your camping plans include cooking and eating outside everyday, the last thing you want are howling 30mph winds.20180412_130530-1799708842.jpg They plagued us at our stops at Lofers Bend WestΒ and Ratcliff Lake. Both were pleasant spots to camp – Lofers Bend (on the water), and Ratcliff Lake (more of a woodsy, rustic spot). Nothing really remarkable about either of them, but both nice enough for a return trip for a quick overnight. I did have a horrifying encounter with this gigantic spider in the shower at Ratcliff Lake, but I think a few years of therapy will help me get past this. That’s a quarter placed in the vicinity for size perspective. That thing was a monster!20180414_1101071864957766.jpgNearly every year since we’ve been on the road, Galveston Island State Park has been a place where we’ve tried to land for several days. Although the Beachside campground is nothing more than a parking lot with decent-sized lots, firepits, and picnic tables, it IS right on the Gulf of Mexico. Listening to the roaring surf every night, having miles of beach to wander every day, in addition to all the historical sites of the area is a treat. (It was slightly less of a treat because of the extremely high winds when we were there, but…)20180415_1627591612159452.jpgFrom the campground, we can cycle on the beach, then down the Seawall all the way to the historic end of town – about 15 miles one way. It’s a great ride. Although you can’t tell from this photo, the seawall is about 6-8 feet above the sandy beach.20180416_1201491253756854.jpgThis year, we tried to do a couple of new things – we cycled all the way to the south (or west?) end of Galveston Island down the beach. The sand on the island is perfect for cycling. Just find the sweet spot between the not-too-wet, and the not-too-dry sand and crank away. It’s doable, but still much harder than trail or road riding.20180418_1043002011903451.jpgBy the time we made it 15 miles down the beach, we were whipped! But, we would not have been able to do this (with our mountain bikes) on the sand at San Clemente in CA, or along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s all about sand texture, baby.

On the way back, we mostly took the road, which was a comparative breeze! (pun intended) Along the way, we stopped to chat with an old hippie guy who had a bunch of kites up in the air. His biggest was 19 feet long! At one point, he had nine kites up at once.20180417_170808823855851.jpg20180418_1327161389457496.jpgFunny thing – the shark kite on the far right took a dive just as were were leaving – it punched over the string of the kite to its left, which then got tangled up in the string of the gigantic blue octopus kite. Both crashed onto the roof of a closed-up beach house. Lesson: Sharks are dangerous. Hope the owner was able to retrieve them. We didn’t hang around to find out.

The other new thing we did was to explore the Ocean Star Museum. This is an 1970s era Gulf of Mexico drilling rig/platform which has been turned into a museum. It was fascinating. Did you know that the oil company that President George HW Bush was an owner of the company that developed one of the first offshore drilling platforms? This particular rig was put into service in 1969, and decommissioned in 1984 – a reliatively short life, due to rapidly changing technology. Much of the original equipment is still there to see, as well as lots of photos and artifacts of life on the rig. Can you imagine having 28 people evacuate into this emergency “bell” lifeboat? It had food, water, and automatic sprayers on the outside to spray seawater on it to keep the occupants cool until rescue. It’s hard to tell size from the photo, but I can guarantee you that 28 people would be nose to nose inside. 20180419_1334521414555063.jpgA diving suit from the same era was also featured. Again, I was horrified at the thought of being encased inside.

The Ocean Star was designed to drill up to 5 miles deep, and to accommodate 100 workers. There were scale models of many types of platforms, and an area devoted to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast.

What was most fascinating to me was how these platforms are installed. They are erected onshore then towed into place on huge barges, which then tip the platforms off into the sea where they are fastened down by underwater robots and secured by cables stretching miles out from the platform in every direction. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see one on the move?20180419_1409251212290084.jpgFrom our campsite at Galveston Island, we could see several working platforms in the Gulf – there are hundreds of them out there. At night especially, the lights twinkle in the distance. Three other mothballed platforms, either undergoing repairs or waiting for a new assignment waited in the harbor. These smaller exploration platforms are called ‘jackups’, because they can be jacked up on a base, then moved when their task is finished. The larger production platforms are permanent until decommissioned after approximately 30 years.20180421_133503675878780.jpg It was an interesting afternoon. There’s much to be learned here – a bargain for the $10 entry fee.20180419_1402071281299882.jpgOf course, we had to wander around Galveston for a few hours. After Hurricane Ike in 2008, many homeowners turned their downed trees into sculptures, primarily by three chainsaw sculptors. How about this one with a Wizard of Oz theme?20180419_1528511278978464.jpgLots of interesting things to do and see in Galveston. We’ll be back again.

Our next camp was a fisherman’s dream at S. Toledo Bend State Park, just across the border into Louisiana. If you’re into bass fishing, Toledo Bend is sacred ground. Ours was one of the few campsites that didn’t have a bigass bass boat parked alongside.20180420_1816101022983571.jpgWe had a great site there, and enjoyed all the commotion of a busy weekend. Kids and bikes everywhere – 50 Cubscouts, a gigantic thunderstorm, and a free concert by a group of mountain dulcimer enthusiasts. 20180421_155536650940952.jpgWhile I have to admit that each song sounded pretty much the same (even the ones they sang), their warmth and dedication was infectious. This guy tapped on the board (secured by his butt), and it forced the little wooden dolls to dance.Β 20180421_1559351717086712.jpg

I did a bit of wandering on my bike, as I wanted to see the dam that formed Toledo Bend. I managed to get down a sandy road on the back side of the dam. There were folks fishing everywhere, although there didn’t seem to be too many fish being caught. Sometimes it’s more about the fishing than the fish, I guess. I did see one guy down at the shore who was bowfishing. Ugh – I gave him a pretty wide berth.20180421_1226111968847915.jpg20180421_12332946344939.jpgThere was just one gate open in the dam releasing water to the back. Probably 100 white pelicans were hanging around there, watching the water rush down the backside of the dam, waiting for a fish to fly past. Pity the poor fish who thought he had finally made it to freedom from the pursuit of 100s of fishermen to be nabbed by a pelican on the final burst to freedom.20180421_13070898435999.jpgWe spent a single night alongside the Natchez Trace in Mississippi as we plow eastward. Perhaps on a different day this would be a pleasant stop, but we were terrorized by thousands of mosquitos, each easily the size of a Buick. We could hardly cover up enough to run down to the bathroom. omg – it was awful at Rocky Springs Campground

But tonight is our reward. A lucky pick of a campground at Deerlick Creek Recreation Area (Corps of Engineers) in Tuscaloosa has rewarded us with probably the most beautiful campsite we have ever had.20180423_1620001136378522.jpgOur own deck, water/electric, and a great view of Deerlick Creek. Every now and the a barge rumbles past, pushing some unknown commodity down toward the Gulf. All this for only $13/night with our Senior Pass. Although we’ve only been here for a few hours, we’re already sad that we can only stay two nights. If any readers of this blog are Spartan fans, you’ll be happy to know that we thumbed our noses as we passed Nick Sabin’s Crimson Tide cathedral on the way in. We may have to cycle over there to explore a bit tomorrow.

22 thoughts on “Sun, Wind, Rain – Repeat

  1. Excellent picture of a tarantula. Harmless, but a ferocious looking creature. The tarantulas in Lubbock, Texas, where I grew up were the same size or larger but were much furrier; the hair was a lot longer. One tarantula had a home just outside a classroom door at the junior high school I attended. I saw him every day, during warm weather, when I stepped out the door. / I like the way you intersperse fotos within your written content. I’m wondering if I can do the same with email. I send my trip reports out by email and send the fotos as attachments. I wonder if I can copy fotos from where they are stored on my hard drive and plop them down, one by one, within the body of my trip report. Has anyone ever tried doing something of the sort? Sylvia

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    • Yikes! I had no idea that was a tarantula! Although it probably doesn’t make any difference, it makes me feel justified for being such a spider weenie.

      There isn’t any charge from Word Press for hosting a blog. It’s fairly simple to explore. Just go to WordPress.com and follow the tutorial for starting a blog. It might be easier for your readers to “follow” you that way, as opposed to getting large email with attachments. Once you get the hang of the WordPress thing, it’s pretty easy. You upload the photos to their site once, and insert them in your writing. They have pretty complicated!ete instructions on how to get the results you want. There are other blog hosting sites too…blogger.com is a popular one.

      Check it out.

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  2. You never disappoint with your picturesque travel blogs. I sure hope you are keeping all your posts. You should publish them some day. Every single one is filled with information, pics, history, commentary, and personal reactions in colorful language and good fun. Hope you continue to have a wonderful time as you wend your way back to Michigan. As to that wind??? No thank you! It’s too mean!!! LOL

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    • Part of the reason for doing the blog is that WordPress stores the posts on their server indefinitely. For me, you, anyone….it’s our memory book. If they were to blow up and suddenly remove them, I’d be very disappointed.

      Looks like it might finally be safe to come back home. See you in a couple of weeks.

      Get that TT bike prepped and rolling!

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  3. Love the faces in holes! Remember they call it fishing, not catching. Sorry to hear that we won’t see you at the BRR :-(

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  4. If you’ve been on the Natchez Trace then I can imagine you’ve made it close to our neck of the woods. Since I don’t know where you are or what direction you’re heading, I’d recommend Amicalola Falls State Park here in north Georgia if you’re in the vicinity. It’s the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi (176 feet) and with the torrential rain we’ve had lately, they ought to be roaring :-)

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    • Thanks, Neil. We are headed into northern GA tomorrow. Going to Tallulah Gorge SP for three nights. I think it will be the first water release of the season – looks like a gorgeous area.

      Like your new camper! Hope you have many happy adventures with it.

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  5. That last campsite is indeed a 5 star … wow! Those blustery winds do get old after awhile. We’ve been enduring our fair share in northern AZ. Galveston is a fav of ours as well – that is, when the winds aren’t howling πŸ˜„

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    • Hi Ingrid. I guess when you’re camping that it’s much easier to be held hostage by bad weather. A day or two is part of the gig, but the relentless battering over ten days or so took a toll on our happiness quotient.

      You sure have found some great spots near Page. I’ve made note of the hikes, and look forward to visiting them next year. Are you going to be rolling into Prescott for an extended time, soon? I think that’s still my favorite AZ town.

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      • We’ll be leaving Page sometime later this week based on ‘winds’ 😣 and going into Prescott Valley for the summer May 1st. I think you two would really enjoy the hikes and sights around Glen Canyon National Rec Area. We’ve discovered a few hidden gems away from the tourist crowds … which is definitely the downside to the area. Unfortunately, this is a major stop with international tourism – tour buses and rental RV’s abound … sigh!

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  6. I love your posts! Are you a teacher. There is always something to learn in your posts. I had never thought about how oil platforms were moved about or installed. Very interesting. I am thinking about getting a bike to ride around where I camp. It is going to take a lot of building up to be able to ride 15 miles one way. Hats off to you.

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    • Mary, you will love having a bike to tool around the campground and area, even if you don’t want to ride longer distances. Most of the time, we ride our bikes up to the bathroom! For us, cycling comes pretty easily. John and I actually met in our local bike club at home. I hope cycling is always something that we will enjoy.

      When do you start your camp host gig? Excited?

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  7. You three are certainly the great travelers! I hear you’re out until the BRR? We won’t see the group this year either as daughter Kelly is getting married, so we’ve got our hands full! Safe travels!

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    • Hi Sandi. We aren’t going to the BRR this year, either. It’s just too late in the season for us. It’s time to get home and get to work on all the projects we’ve neglected for the past six months. But first, I’m going to Cabo with my gal pals for a week. Then work. 😊

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  8. I have to begin with the last campsite, if I found a spot like that, I’d reserve it for life if it were possible!

    Texas and wind seem to go together, which may explain way they are so different down there. ;)

    I found the tour of the oil rigs quite interesting, the life raft maybe crowded if used, but it would beat death, at least I think it would.

    The spider was large, but there are spiders that large here in Michigan that live near the water. If you have a fear of spiders, don’t take up kayaking, at least not on rivers. You’re sure to run into a few of the very large water spiders as you fight your way through brush that has fallen in the river.

    There’s something about hearing music live and played by amateurs isn’t there? They may not be as technically skilled, but their enthusiasm more than makes up for it, and it’s hard not to enjoy such a show.

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    • Camping is all about the campsite sometimes. And this is one of them. After being on the road for a long time, it’s great to have a beautiful, peaceful to unwind. We’re running a raggedy operation these days – we got some broken stuff, and certainly we have that tired, patched together look. Here, I can turn my back to the whole mess and just think about how much I love camping.

      Even Texans were bitching about the wind. So nice to be in a calm spot. And were not even plagued by mosquitos.

      I’ve seen wolf spiders, which perhaps are bigger and more menacing-looking. In my heart, I know they won’t hurt me, but I’m so thoroughly creeped out by the thought of being crawled on that I react irrationally at the sight of any large spider. Daddy long legs are about the limit of my spider tolerance.

      Visiting the Ocean Star Museum made me wish for an upclose glance of one of the current production rigs. The technology employed is beyond my imagination. It’s scary to think of the scale of things that can go wrong. Seeing all the tankers and rigs out in the Gulf is a reminder that we’re probably fortunate that there haven’t been more large-scale accidents and spills than we have had. It really dominates the landscape here.

      Excited to get back into the hills before we come home. I definitely like mountains and woods better than beach and desert. The best may be yet to come.

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