Sunday, November 29, 2020

Back Into Texas and We Found a Nice Hike…


With a bit of sadness in our hearts we departed Louisiana and moved on into Texas. We both were disappointed not staying longer to enjoy the Acadian region of the state of Louisiana but we fully realize Covid would have kept us from enjoying the many offerings we so enjoy.


Our next stop was another 128 miles east into Texas for a short stay at another Passport America Park called Gulf Coast RV Resort in Beaumont, TX.  We planned to stay three nights to get us through the weekend.


One fun hike we found near Beaumont was at the Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh. Beaumont's largest city park which has this beautiful 900-acre Cattail Marsh wetland. What a great place to be outside for a hike in this wonderful wetland habitat.


We discovered lots of waterfowl  sitting on the open ponds scattered throughout the marsh. Common Gallinules were clucking while hiding in the reeds and we saw plenty of them around the edges of the reeds with their showy red ornate bill. Lots of teal were flying through the skies and an assortment of herons, egrets and ibis dotted the marshland.


Not mentioned online about this park was it also has a disk golf course on it. Had we known sooner we would have made time to play the entire course but we were still able to play nine holes of it that day as it was our last day in Beaumont. Man, you better bring your best driver discs for this course as holes over 600 feet were common and we even played one that was 750 feet to the basket!


The next morning we made the drive through Houston Texas on Interstate 10 another 99 miles east. We stopped at Buc-ees for diesel, brisket and kolaches. Buc-ees is a must stop not only for an easy fill up but for the huge store attached. Its truly an unbelievable Texas gem.


Our next stop was a little (slightly run down) Passport America park named Happy Oaks RV Park in Alleyton, TX.  It was filled with mostly permanent older rigs yet was perfect for an overnight stay adjacent to I-10. The manager was very friendly and helpful so even though it wasn’t the prettiest park  we felt perfectly safe for our one stay before moving on over to San Antonio Texas to see our son and his family for carefully planned socially distanced Thanksgiving celebration.


NOTE:  We are currently in Riviera Texas for two nights before heading south to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas for the winter…

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Hello Louisiana and Hello Shrimp Po'boys!


After enjoying our brief stay in Mississippi we moved on over to Louisiana after a 168 mile drive. We pulled into a familiar park at Fontainebleau State Park, near Mandeville, LA. We planned to spend three nights and just relax inside the park.


There are some nice trails to hike and with part of the park on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain it even has a small beach. One of our favorite places within the park to visit is the picturesque pier. The sunsets there are spectacular especially when the clouds are just right. We weren’t fortunate enough to have good clouds this trip but have seen some beautiful sunsets in the past.


Our favorite hike within the park includes a walk past gorgeous stately oak trees draped in Spanish Moss leading to a small piece of boardwalk out into the marsh on the north shore of the lake. We hiked it a couple of times and each time spotted lots of nice shorebirds as well as a few alligators. We love walking along the boardwalk and hearing the Common Gallinule’s send out their alarm calls or seeing yet another new bird on the expansive marshland.


I also had some fun mountain biking the a five mile loop trail in the woods of the park. It wasn’t an overly challenging bike ride but certainly was an enjoyable one.This stay sure was a nice respite to our frantic travel lately Pausing to simply enjoying the park was a true pleasure.


After our three night stay we moved on down the road another 139 miles to a new park for us in Duson, LA called Frog City RV Park. Our main reason to stop there was to go to our very favorite po’boy shop in Lafayette Louisiana called Olde Thyme Grocery. It is hands down one of the two best shrimp po’boys we have found in Louisiana.T(The other is at Bon Creole).


Another favorite stop in Lafayette is a place called Marcello’s. This is a great discounted wine store where we always find quality wines at incredible prices. This time was no different as we bought a few cases of wine to help us endure the winter in South Texas. Betty Bernard of Betty’s RV Park told us about this store and our only regret was knowing how close we were to Betty yet but not able to visit due to Covid… Most definitely next year!!!


The evening before leaving Louisiana I noticed the truck stop next to our park had a small diner inside which was actually affiliated with one of the best boudin stores in the area. Of course, I had to visit to look for some boudin to take with us as well. We walked over to the store and bought some boudin for the freezer and picked up few freshly made pepper jack boudin balls for a snack on the way back.q1

We sure were sad not to be staying longer in one of our favorite places. We love the Acadian culture, people, food, music and festivals so we will take comfort in knowing  we will be back as soon as we feel it is safe to do so…

NOTE:  We are currently in San Antonio Texas for four nights before heading south to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas…

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rolling into and through Mississippi…


Eta finally decided to make a hard turn to the NE then back through central Florida near Cedar Key. Now that Eta is behind us we can redirect our focus on how we will get to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where we plan to spend winter 2020. While we aren’t big fans of wintering in south Texas we decided to do so since it is half the cost of wintering in Florida or Arizona and since we will mostly be staying home due to the pandemic worsening we just figured we might as well pay less to do less!


Leaving Alabama we drove another 146 miles west over to a new park for us near Gautier, MS called Santa Maria RV Resort. We chose it because it is close to the Mississippi coast and it had great reviews. Once we arrived we were pretty underwhelmed and were not sure why people rated this park so high. It is basically a gravel parking lot with hook ups.


We decided to make the best of the situation and once we settled in, we took a walk around the park. It has two sections one near the entrance and another section  in the back overlooking a pond with what looks like mostly permanent residents. We found out later that many were transient oil field workers.


The next day we drove over to the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge to walk the loop trail which we knew was a pleasant hike. We saw lots of wildflowers in bloom even now in November. While we didn’t see any Sandhill Cranes on the refuge we did see a small flock flying toward it after we left.


Another day we drove Over to Biloxi MS to walk along the beach. The sea was as calm as we have ever seen it. The walk was nice with a few shells and shorebirds to perk our interest. Lot of trees were down in this area too but not as many as we saw at our previous stop.


For lunch we drove over to Bozo’s Seafood in  Gautier MS. I read great reviews and even though it took a long time to get our shrimp po’boy (to go) it was indeed worth the wait. It was really, really good and stuffed with decent sized shrimp….a real road treat!


Before leaving we drove over to Chandeleur Islands Brewery in Gulfport MS and enjoyed a couple a pretty good brews even though we felt them to be way over priced. With the end of our stay in Mississippi I need to do some serious planning soon to map out  our way down to South Texas to arrive by December 1st…


NOTE:  We are currently in Duson, Louisiana for two nights before heading onward towards Texas…

Friday, November 13, 2020

Went all the way to Alabama to escape Eta!

We thought running from Eta was going to be pretty easy but apparently not. We planned to hang out in Inglis, Florida watching the depression but every time I looked at NOAA’s website the path seemed to be heading toward us.

On a rare sunny day so we drove over to Yankeetown on the gulf and walked some trails in the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve. We found a nice boardwalk hike which was short, a mile or so, but at least we were excited to sneak in a hike in between showers.

After spending two days Inglis Florida we moved on another 140 miles to Lamont Florida to Stones Throw Away for one night. We stayed just one night because Eta would continue altering our plans as we it seemed we were always in its track.

The next morning we broke camp again and drove another 146 miles to Bass Haven Campground in Funiak Springs, FL way up in the panhandle of Florida hoping we might have found our way out of the the path of Eta. We scored a pull through site at this Passport America park right on the shore of a large pond with a nice water view.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, cloud, outdoor, water and nature

We had rain but enjoyed the non rainy times sitting outside and watching the egrets feeding on small fish. I thought we might stay another day but after checking  NOAA’s website we were still in a slight risk of Eta coming our way.

Moving on we pushed westward  to Wilderness RV, another Passport America park we have stayed at before, in Robertsdale, AL about 106 miles further west. Finally it looked like we are out of the path as Eta which has altered its course to head back into central Florida and not up into the panhandle as had been suggested the day before.

At least here there were occasional non rainy spells so we snuck out for a drove over to one of our favorite Alabama coastal towns, Fairhope and then over to Gulf Shores to check out the beach. We noticed a lot of trees still down from Hurricane Sally which was a reminder about how active this hurricane season has been. It sure was nice to have our bare feet in the squeaky white sand ……

NOTE:  We are currently in Gautier, Mississippi for three nights before heading onward towards Texas…

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Left Key Largo and a Tropical Depression is Altering our Plans…


Wow! We got caught up in all the election results and forgot about blogging. That and there is a tropical depression out in the gulf we have been monitoring as well. When our time was up in Key Largo we drove 81 miles over to Midway Campground in the Everglades National Park near Ochopee, FL.  We planned to spend more time there but with the depression brewing up we decided to only stay two nights.


That did give us time to check out one of our favorite bike trails in Shark Valley. We used our National Parks Senior pass for entry and rode our bikes about 12 miles on the trail. My first impression was we have never seen as much water in the everglades in all our visits until this year. There was water everywhere as we noticed immediately as the water had risen so much as to cover the road in places.


As a result we saw way less wildlife as the critters chose plenty of places to hang out rather than in the deeper waters near the visitor center. We were still able to see some alligators and a few birds while on our the bike ride. At one point I was looking out over the swamp when I suddenly saw a water snake right in front of me. If I hadn’t seen him when I did I would have surely run the poor snake over.


The highlight was seeing a hawk making a kill on the trail beside us. We aren’t exactly sure what it was but my guess was a mouse from the distress calls it was making. We took a few photos zooming in on its talons but still couldn't tell what it captured.

The next day we hiked a few of the boardwalks in the area and spotted a few more gators some of which were quite large.  After our two nights we drove on up to the WP Franklin Locks campground, a COE park. We love this park and this time scored a great waterfront site. Again our plan was to stay longer but it was now becoming apparent that the tropical storm going through Central America was going to come our direction for sure.

yellow throated

Knowing we would be making a mad dash out of the storm path we decided to stock up on groceries and made a long loop drive to include a Trader Joe’s to pick up some favorite items there as well. I also snuck in a quick visit to Bonita Beach (one of our favorite beaches in the USA) just for memories sake. We had originally planned to winter there but alas, Covid changed our minds. I’m glad we made the quick stop.


We are now sitting in Inglis, Florida still watching the depression and altering our plans as we get more info on its track.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Key Largo, Florida…

One last morning I enjoyed watching the sunrise and boats navigating their way through the St Lucie Locks. Sharon and I had breakfast afterward and hit the road. It would be a long drive down the congested Florida toll road to Miami until we pulled into our next campground for a one night stay at Larry and Penny Thompson Park in south Miami, FL.

Larry and Penny Thompson Park is a reginal park near the Miami Zoo.When we arrived it was under massive renovations as many of the campsites were unavailable. The campsites are arranged in circular pods and after checking in we pulled into our site for a night. There are some great walking/biking trails adjacent to the park and after strolling around we decided this would be a good spot for an extended stay. Maybe, next time…

The next morning we made our way down to Key Largo, Florida in the northern Keys to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, We set up camp and didn’t do much for the first few days as the weather was stormy. It rained intermittently throughout the day. but we were happy to be chilling in the Keys nonetheless.


Key Largo is more populated than anywhere else in the Keys but still has the scenery making the Keys what they are, a tropical paradise. We took many walks in and around the park taking in the sights, This state park has a few nice but short trails with one doing a great job of identifying the vegetation of the hummocks in this part of the Keys.

This park is known for its snorkeling but don’t expect as we did to see anything near the shore within the park.To really have the great snorkel experience, one has to go out to the reefs about 7 miles offshore. We did a little snorkeling off the shoreline of the park and although we saw a few fish in the sea grass covered bottom it really wasn’t worth the effort.


Sharon’s snorkel disintegrated while she was snorkeling meaning we would need a new one should we decide to do anymore. Fortunately we discovered the park has an on premise dive shop with decent prices for snorkel gear. However, after watching a few of the chartered snorkel boats leave the docks packed with people we decided in this Covid world we wouldn’t charter a boat to the reef this time around.


While we totally enjoyed our stay in Key Largo we were certainly disappointed that we didn’t get in any quality snorkeling and with the windy, choppy sea days we also didn’t bother to inflate our inflatable sea kayak to tour the mangroves. To add to the depressing circumstance of our Covid world , the park had a ghost town feel to it as we never saw more than one charter go out daily, There is also a free aquarium within the park which receives high reviews but is closed due to the virus. The normally happy, bustling park was very quiet indeed..


However, there were also highlights. We enjoyed driving further south on highway 1 savoring the views of the turquoise waters while stopping to stroll on the abandoned bridges. Our morning walks were delightful as we often saw interesting birds and even saw a foraging Ray in the sea grasses just offshore.

Best of all we were able to enjoy some little tiki bars with outside decks overlooking the waters offering that wonderful, relaxing Keys experience.Our favorite was Sharkeys! Other days just simply sitting outside at our campsite watching the birds and the iguanas in the mangroves was very entertaining. . While the green iguanas are an invasive species they are still great subjects for photos and as we watched them we couldn’t help but see the miniature dinosaurs they really are…

NOTE:  We are currently in Alva, Florida at the Franklin Locks COE Park.