Monday, February 16, 2015

Howdy Hondo

Saturday of last week we stopped at PJ Shrimp Co., filled our ice chest with fresh fish, shrimp and oysters, and said goodbye to funky little Rockport and its colorful vehicles and buildings.

Mid-morning found us en route to Hondo, Texas.  On the way, we passed scores of enormous wind turbines like these busily generating electricity.  Most were some distance off the road, but this one was close enough for us to get a good look.  Environmentalists say that these oversize windmills kill thousands of birds every year.  We looked and were relieved that we saw no dead ones on the ground.  

There was also plenty of oil drilling and pumping activity.  These pump jacks looked much larger to me than others we saw.  They dwarfed the tanker that had stopped to load crude oil.  

We stopped for a divine lunch at Rocky’s Roadside Grill in tiny Devine, Texas.  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)  It’s an unassuming place, and Rocky and his wife have been expanding and improving the place since it opened in 2003.  In addition to the fantastic cheeseburger and fries that John and I split, they offer a variety other sandwiches and pizza.  The dinner menu also looked interesting, and there was an impressive selection of wines.  We recommend you stop if you’re in the area.  

In Hondo, we stopped to visit RV friends Jay and Anita, whom we got to know last summer during our stay at Custer’s Gulch RV Park.  They showed us around the Escapees SKP Lone Star Corral RV Park where they are staying.  

The park is located between Hondo and D'Hanis.  Park residents have long-term leases on their RV sites and all have a definite personal touch.  Most sites have not only space to park an RV, but outbuildings.  Some of them are quite spacious and could be called “casitas.”  

Jay and Anita also showed us around the area, which includes the settlement of Old D’Hanis.  The ruins of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church are there.  The congregation was formed in 1847 when the town of D’Hanis was founded by settlers from Alsace, France.  The church was built in 1853, but has not been used for many years.  As small sign in front says that a restoration is being considered.

Tombstones in the old churchyard date from the burial of a child in 1847, and the cemetery was used until 1893.  

After our short area tour, the four of us stopped for dinner at El Charro.  The food was very good, and I had a true Texas-size "two-handed" margarita.  It was excellent as well.

We had a great time visiting Jay and Anita and exploring the area, and look forward to going back.  

On Sunday, there was a heavy fog and we knew we could not get back home in time for church.  We did have a special treat, though.  We drove into San Antonio to worship with our friends Josh and Cara de Koning.  Josh is senior pastor of the newly “planted” Harvest Bible Chapel San Antonio, and we were thrilled to join them for services.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Post from the Coast

January passed with John tolerating “cedar fever” with less discomfort than we feared.  Perhaps it was the earlier treatments by Robert R. Thoreson, DO, or maybe we just got lucky.  Regardless, we were pleased that the sneezes were fewer than in other years.

The RV came home early this month with the damage from last fall’s double blowout repaired and some additional work done on the roof.  We missed our planned trip to Port Aransas, but were glad to have the coach weather-tight again.  

On February 4, John and I dropped the dogs to the kennel and drove to the coast to spend a few days visiting friends and stocking up on fresh seafood.  On arrival, we got together with Rick and Linda at Paradise Key, a new restaurant on the water just outside of town.  The food was great, especially the gumbo, and we enjoyed watching the dolphins swimming in the lighted viewing area just outside the restaurant.  A couple of days later, the four of us had lunch at Hu Dat, a Vietnamese restaurant that is a Rockport institution.  It was good to see friends we had met in Custer, SD, and we look forward to spending more time with them next summer.

Another memorable meal was at one of our favorite Lockport/Fulton establishments.  I don't know if you would call Caroline's a "diner" or a "dive," but the food is outstanding.  

John and I split the Friday special...chicken fried steak.  We had plenty to eat to say the least!  (That is one order!)

While in Rockport, we stayed at The Sandollar Resort.  It’s an older motel, but our room had a kitchenette, comfortable bed and a good view of the water.

Even though the weather was gray and windy, shrimp and oyster boats and an occasional barge  moved across the far side of the bay.  And the birds kept us entertained as they came and went.

Brown pelicans, cormorants and other sea birds loved to perch on this row of pilings.

And the white pelicans and gulls were regular visitors at the fishing pier.

We made a couple of morning excursions across the bridge to Lamar to visit one of our favorite whooping crane viewing areas.  This small pasture lies between some homes and the water, and is a regular feeding spot for the whoopers and sandhill cranes.

The crane family shown below (father, mother and chick) claim this pasture as their territory.  It isn’t the same family as the one we saw in 2011.  At least, the female is different.  This one does not wear monitoring devices on her legs, and that one did.  

Their behavior is much the same, however.  The male was emphatic in enforcing the rules and chased away these two interlopers when they came too close.

We had a couple of “bonus” bird sightings when we were looking for cranes.  This turkey vulture was conveniently perched on the pasture fence, and didn’t mind in the least when I photographed.  I think he gives new meaning to the term "ugly."

We also saw this magnificent great blue heron, all decked out in breeding plumage.  He sat still for a couple of minutes, then became suspicious and took flight.

We also paid a visit to Goose Island State Park, where we hope to spend some time next year.  We saw this lovely, old live oak tree in the park.  It is not as large as the "big tree" of Lamar that is said to be over 1,000 years old, but it's pretty big...several hundred years at least.  We found it interesting that since the park service erected a metal support for one of its limbs, the tree has outgrown the device.  It has doubtless been climbed many times by park visitors, and shows no sign of giving up any time soon.

Our last morning (of course!) dawned bright and clear. 

As we sipped our coffee on the balcony and enjoyed the sunrise, we wished we could have spent another day or so enjoying the lovely Texas coast.  However, our ice chest was full of shrimp, fish and oysters, so we couldn’t tarry.