Sunday, January 31, 2021

Fully Covid-19 vaccinated- What to expect!


Four weeks after our first Moderna Covid-19 vaccination it was time for our second shot. The day before we read up to be fully prepared for what the possible side effects would be and were mentally prepared for them. However, neither of us slept great the night before but I slept worse than Sharon as I was only able to sleep about three and a half hours.


The day to drive to our vaccination appointment finally arrived. We made the short 30 minute drive over to Brownsville, Texas and parked. The last time we were here we stood in line for hours and hours before getting our shot. This time it was much simpler. The guard entering the parking lot and another at the door verified that we were there for our second vaccine and we were allowed us into the building.


Once inside we were greeted by a person who had us fill out a form and then she placed us in a queued line waiting to check in. Once inside the check in area we were asked a lot of questions and were signed in for our shot. We then waited to see one more check-in person but neither of us understood fully why this step was necessary or what it was that she did.


Once finished with check-in they placed us in another queue. In each of the lines we were placed 6 feet apart. As soon as we made our way to the front and a vacancy inside was available we walked into a room with several vaccine stations. As our turn came up we were seated, received our vaccine and the nurse placed a band-aid over the vaccination site.


Next we were ushered into a waiting room where chairs were socially distanced apart.  We were told to wait there for our prescribed time (some were told to wait 30 minutes but we were told 15 minutes). This was a precautionary step to ensure we didn’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Allergic reactions are the most serious side effect to the vaccine but thankfully are very rare. If we were to have had an allergic reaction we were assured they had everything there to treat us to ensure we left healthy. Water bottles were provided for those who wanted one.


After our 15 minutes were up we left the waiting room to check out. The attendant at the check out table punched our names into the computer and filled out our vaccination cards. As we departed we felt triumphant in knowing that in a few short weeks we would be fully vaccinated as it takes two weeks after the second shot to achieve the full 95% efficacy against the virus.


Now the wait began to see if we would experience any of the well known side effects for the virus. The word is that you will start noticing side effects 6-12 hours after your second shot and they could last 24-48 hours. Upon our departure we decided to stay and do a walking tour of the UTRGV college campus. We also did a little birding at their Resaca knowing we were good for at least 6 hours.


Once back home we waited with hopes that neither of us would experience side effects. Nine hours later Sharon started getting a headache and very slight fever. Hoping I had been spared time marched on. Before going to bed that night I was beginning think I was lucky.


The next morning I noticed a slight headache and noticed my joints (especially my knees) hurt when walking. Otherwise I felt fine. Sharon on the other hand was down for the count. Not only did she have fever, chills and headaches, now she ached all over, had no appetite and felt very tired. As a result  she slept nearly the whole day. By mid day I too had a low grade fever of 100.5 F but otherwise felt fine.


I did go to bed early that night and when I awoke the next morning I felt completely fine. After Sharon got up she too felt fine but still felt tired however not tired enough to skip a long walk to the beach. We are now past 48 hours and both feel fine. We are so glad that this is now behind us and feel fortunate to have been vaccinated from this nasty disease.

NOTE:  Photos taken at the South Padre Birding Center. We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas until March 1st…

Friday, January 22, 2021

Choosing Joy and Vaccines…


It is hard to believe it has been a little over a year since the first person to have Covid-19 was announced in America. Over 400,000 people have died since then, quite the tragedy. And on the 20th of January America swore in a new president who hopes he will be able to turn the tide on this pandemic. We all certainly hope so.


Sharon and I were able to receive our first Covid vaccines as “Winter Texans” about three weeks ago. We had the Moderna mRNA vaccine and will receive our second shot next Thursday. Our daughter in North Carolina, a health care worker, had her second shot of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday.

For those who don’t know the Moderna vaccine requires a second vaccination four weeks after the first one. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second vaccination three weeks after the first one. They are nearly identical mRNA vaccines and as such seem to have the same side effects.


Sharon and I had sore arms with redness around the vaccination site as did our daughter who had the Pfizer shot. Sharon also had a very slight fever and a minor headache the first night.. After a few days both Sharon and Katie’s arm soreness and redness dissipated. My soreness stayed a day longer but my arm redness (and it was warm to touch) persisted for about 11 days.


I have read a lot about the side effects after the second vaccine so we will know what to expect. It seems the worst side effects are similar to a bad flu for 12-24 hours. It apparently is worse in younger people as they have a more robust immune system.

In the meantime I am also having fun with my new camera. I was even fortunate enough to capture a photo on one bird I have only seen a few of (taking a bath) and one I had never seen before, a “lifer” for the birders out there. I will add photos in a later blog but will tell you the first was a Clapper Rail and the “lifer” was a Least Bittern.


Sharon too is getting acquainted with my older camera and having fun now that she can zoom in on things.She enjoys taking pictures that reflect happiness whereas I focus on nature. She has become quite the photographer. Her favorites lately are landscapes where she often pronounces “I choose joy!” and as such so do I.


Everyday life has been different and challenging in the midst of the pandemic but we would like to invite you to choose joy with us as we continue to travel on our Road of Retirement…

NOTE:  We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas until March 1st…

Monday, January 18, 2021

Buying a New Camera!


We have been visiting the South Padre Island Laguna Nature Trail a lot where we have been taking nature photos of birds, plants and insects. I began to notice that my trusty Nikon Camera was not performing to its high standards. It use to take great macro shots (or close ups) of plants and insects but lately it has difficulty focusing.


Also, I noticed that it struggled taking good photos in dim light like at dusk. Furthermore, I would often use it to zoom in on butterflies 4 to 6 feet away so I wouldn’t startle them and now it has difficulty focusing on them . All of this frustration  led me to begin researching new cameras.


While I would love to have one of the Digital SLR’s I really don’t feel as if I would use it as much as I would one I can simply tuck into my pocket. So after a lot of mental debate I finally decided against getting an SLR and focused on the smaller compact high zoom cameras. After all, my Pixel phone takes fabulous photos but just lacks zoom capabilities.


After scouring the web for camera reviews and features I finally narrowed it down to the Canon Powershot SX740 HS compact high zoom camera. While it is a bit larger and heavier than my older camera it offers a much better zoom. After all, what nature photographer wouldn’t want the biggest zoom they could get.


Here are the features that sold me:  it has an impressive 40x optical zoom, it records videos in super-high definition 4K, it has built in WIFI and has a compact body relatively light in weight making it easy to carry.  I found a great package deal on Amazon and now it’s mine!


The added bonus in my purchasing a new camera is that Sharon always has complained about not being able to zoom in on birds and wildlife with her Pixel phone. Although she has the new Pixel 5 which we recently bought, she still yearned for a zoom. We decided to repurpose my Nikon camera and it will become hers to use as a zoom for wildlife and birds because the Nikon still works great on bright sunny days and sports a 30x zoom as well. She was thrilled!


So look out world Sharon will be learning how to take zoomed in shots and the blog will be filled with nature shots lovingly taken by us both!  We are really happy we decided to winter here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas with all its birds, insects, plants and wildlife not to mention the beautiful ocean views.We really couldn’t be in a better place for us during this Covid-19 pandemic.

NOTE:  We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas until March 1st…

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Laguna Nature Trail, South Padre Island, Tx…


One nice thing about staying on South Padre Island is this area is well known for it’s birding. I realize a lot of you aren’t birders but it offers something fun to do during the pandemic and can be done outdoors practically anywhere. A pair of good binoculars is a must.


One of our favorite birdwatching places here is the Laguna Nature Trail. It’s owned by the city and is located right behind the South Padre Island Convention Center. There are two short boardwalks taking visitors through the various habitats one would associate with this part of coastal Texas.


Our first visit we took the boardwalk to the left upon entering the Nature Trail leading us by a pond. Before the pond one of the endemic birds found in this area greeted us. The Kiskadee Flycatcher in all its glory was perched on the handrail of the boardwalk and was seemingly cheering us on.


The pond never disappoints as every time we visit we see a few common species along with something new. There are a few logs situated in the middle of the pond where various waterfowl can often be found sleeping.


The mud flats around the pond offer additional habitat providing for a few different birds to see. Just past the mud flats there additional open water harboring more secretive waterfowl. Lots of marshes in the wetlands provide cover for many species of rails. We have been fortunate to spot the very elusive Sora Rail on several occasions scurrying between and through clumps of marsh grass.


The other boardwalk takes visitors on an upland wooded section where flycatchers, warblers, thrashers and catbirds try their best to find food and hide. A long stretch of mangroves are found next where Mangrove Crabs, Kinglets and Yellow Rumped Warblers are common.


Near the end of this boardwalk is an open saltwater bay where lots of wintering waterfowl make their winter homes. Rafts of Redhead Ducks are seen nearly every time we visit as are Brown and White Pelicans, Egrets, Herons, Gulls, Terns and other species of ducks. Occasionally we are treated to sights of Roseate Spoonbills sleeping in the mangroves or soaring Black Skimmers skimming the surface of the water.


We sometimes encounter a few people on the boardwalks and most (but not all) wear masks as we pass each other on the boardwalks, Signage indicate masks are required.


What we like best about this park is we see different things every time we go out and with this trail being free if fits our budget better than the $14 it would cost the two of us to visit the adjacent South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. It is something we both enjoy and a good way to spend a delightful couple of hours during Covid.


NOTE:  We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the winter… 

Friday, January 8, 2021

South Padre Island is just Beachy!


We find ourselves relaxing here at Isla Blanca Park (South Padre Island, Texas) by taking daily walks to the beach and we thought we would leave a post here with photos we have taken.  We hope to spread a little peace out into the world with calming photos to look at during these tumultuous times in America…



NOTE:  We are currently in South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the winter… 

Friday, January 1, 2021

2020, Recapping a crazy Covid year and the vaccine!

A year ago we were sitting in Mesa Arizona happy as clams. In less than a month the news broke that China was experiencing what could become a pandemic. By late January Covid 19 found its way to America (and likely had made it here sooner). By the end of February concern crept into our minds as to how this would affect our travel plan for the summer.


Our Arizona stay would end March 1st so we decided instead of making a trip up to Washington, Oregon and Montana for the summer it would be best we just head to Texas and “hide out” until things cleared up.  We made a mad dash to the Hill Country where I had a two week reservation on Canyon Lake at a Corps of Engineers Park.


We planned to use those two weeks to figure out where we would shelter in place. Alas, a few days into our stay all COE parks closed including the one we were staying in but a Ranger visited us to let us know those of us who had reservations could stay so as to allow us time to find alternative stays.


A few days later we had another visit where we were told that since the park was closed the management decided after realizing many of us were full-timers with nowhere else to go that we could stay in the park until it reopened. Relief!!! We had a safe refuge!


How lucky were we to be able to stay at Canyon Lake in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas while the world around us tried to figure out how to live with Covid! We fell into a routine quickly and let the days pass hoping for an end to the pandemic. As the weeks passed the management became itchy to reopen and we were told that the park would reopen in May.

Kiamichi Recreation Park 13

We now had to make new plans. We decided that we would just move around in the more rural areas as Covid seemed to be more rampant in the cities. We worked our way through east Texas and into Oklahoma. We planned to just slowly make our way  to North Carolina. Along the way we had a surprise invitation to stay at a friend’s farm in Virginia. Again, how lucky we were to have another beautiful place to hide out.

Belle Grande COE OK3

A few months later as time rolled into September we moved on down to North Carolina to socially distance visit our daughter. While in NC we made a reservation for Key Largo hoping that by the time we arrived there things would start to ease up and we could winter in southern Florida.


As we ambled our way through South Carolina, Georgia and into Florida it became apparent that we would likely not be wintering in Florida. The Florida Governor wasn’t the least bit concerned about Covid and it seemed as most of the Florida residents weren’t too concerned either. So after our stay in Key Largo we ambled our way out of Florida and beat feet to where we decided to winter.


That brings us to where we are now in South Texas on South Padre Island! We have been here a month and feel as if we are very lucky to have chosen this destination. It is really easy to social distance here as our site is spacious with lots of vegetation, birds to watch and we can visit the beach everyday with a short walk,  We will be here until the end of February. As we approach the year’s end we had one more lucky thing happen to us.


A friend of ours who lives in Brownsville Texas told us that if wanted to get the Covid vaccine early we should go the the University of Texas -  Rio Grand Valley and park our butts in line to maybe receive the vaccine. I read online how to register for the vaccine and off we went to stand in line for 6 hours, (yes 6 hours}. It took that long because those with appointments would jump to the front of the line while every now and then a trickle of those of us without appointments would be called in.


Yep, 6 hours later we were happy to have had the first shot of a two shot series of the Moderna vaccine. Four weeks from now we have our appointment for the second shot and two weeks later we should be fully vaccinated. Sharon had a headache with a low grade fever that night and both of us have a little arm soreness at the vaccination site, but otherwise all is good. Even during a pandemic we feel like we have been very fortunate this year…


Happy New year!

NOTE:  We are currently in Port Isabel in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the winter…