Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #7

There’s only one place I want to go and it’s to all the places I’ve never been.
Nikki Rowe

Sunday, February 17, 2019: Woke to foggy and cool weather off the Texas Gulf Coast and prepared to leave Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. Departed under clearing skies at 1000 hours and meandered through the countryside toward the northeast intersecting I-10 an hour later.

An uneventful transit, with a few rest stops, before pulling into Beaumont, Texas and seeking a recommended RV Park for the evening.

Gulf Coast RV is a nice and well managed campground…the overnight sites are a bit tight but nice and long.

Our rig is only 45 feet long in total…however, a number of newer fifth wheel trailers and their tow vehicles exceed 60 feet which makes some parks rather restrictive due to lot size…this was not one of them.

Entering the camper after six and a half hours of riding on some of the more poorly maintained roadways on our nations interstate highway system, we encountered this!

That table is supposed to be upright and held in place by rather large fasteners…however, the screws stripped right out of the floor and the table toppled!?!? No harm, just righted the thing and used even larger screws from my inventory of miscellaneous hardware to fix the problem!

 

Sunday, February 17, 2019: Woke early and after some e-time we strolled down to the office complex for a nice continental breakfast…a complimentary feature unusual in the average campground!

And, Texas being Texas, the variety and quantity were quite large…and, as an added touch, the waffles were formed in a distinctive shape.

Following the hearty and delicious breakfast, Kit and I got underway at 1016 hours and hopped back on Interstate-10 heading east under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 54 degrees.

Forty-five minutes later we crossed the Louisiana border, and rolled through Lake Charles. Then following a stop at The Walmart in Jennings, Louisiana, we cruised over the Atchafalaya Basin…

…and stopped at their very nice and informative Visitors Center for a break.

The Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland in the United States, is a swampy area we have cruised over many times in the past. Historically, there were a dozen communities in this area engaged in hunting, trapping, fishing and logging the Tupelo-Cypress swamp forest.

Photo Credit-Google Images

The frequent floods combined with depression era flood control projects, forced the residents to move onto higher ground and the swamp slowly reclaimed their former homes.

At 1609 hours we crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, and thirty minutes later exited onto I-12 to skirt the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Within an hour, we arrived at the Covington, Louisiana home of our longtime friends from the Key West days, Johnnie and Eileen.

It’s always a treat to visit these old friends and accept their hospitality of setting up camp in their spacious circular driveway. Following a nice meal, and great conversation, it was time to call it a night.

 

Tuesday, February 19 and Wednesday, February 20, 2019-Covington, Louisiana: We have visited these pleasant folks many times over the past eleven years of our Excellent Adventure trips, and have seen most of the regional sights, so this stop was all about getting caught up on our lives and enjoying each other’s company.

Kit and Eileen have many hobbies in common as do Johnnie and I…while the ladies visit in the house, we head to Johnnies well appointed woodworking shop to, well…talk shop!

Another hobby we share is eating good Cajun food such as the Shrimp Gumbo that Eileen prepared one evening.

The dinner, as well as the company, was incredible!

As in the past, Kit and I treated Johnnie and Eileen to a meal out to thank them for allowing us to campout in their dooryard. A regional favorite of ours is Lake Pontchartrain Restaurant…one we like to visit annually on our trek through the area. Oysters are their specialty, whether they be on the half shell…

…or fried…

…they can’t be beat for quality, taste and texture! On this particular occasion, we were joined by their delightful granddaughter Shelby, a high school senior with a developing art talent.

Kit and I had a great time folks, thanks again for spending part of your week with us!

 

Thursday, February 21, 2019: Up at the crack of dawn and headed for our traditional Louisiana morning refueling spot…

…an outpost of the original in NOLA’s French Quarter, Café Du Monde (french for The Peoples Café) features the perfect morning elixir…Chicory Coffee! And the freshly baked Beignet’s pair nicely as well!

Well fed, and fortified, we eased onto I-12 and headed east. Since we left so early, and have no particular destination in mind, Kit and I decided to move over to US-90, which parallels I-10. This is a more scenic, albeit slower, route toward the East.

Crossed into Mississippi at 1005 hours and encountered a thick fogbank as we neared the coast. Decided to pull over at an oceanside parking area in Gulfport, Mississippi to wait out the fog and figure out where we may want to spend the evening.

Well, you’ll have to take it from me…about fifty yards from our parking spot lies the Gulf of Mexico, but the fog is so heavy it’s hard to tell.

There were camping opportunities at both Gulfport Naval Station and Kessler Air Force Base, but since it seemed a bit early to stop, and since we’ve spent time at both places on previous trips, and since I had made numerous business trips to nearby Pascagoula, we decided to roll on.

Moved back to I-10 East just east of Ocean Springs before crossing into Alabama at 1146 hours and abruptly came to an all stop as we neared Mobile.

Traffic near large cities is usually heavy, but this was extreme. We inched along in the travel lane as I-10 dipped into the 3,000 foot-long George Wallace Tunnel under the Mobile Bay.

Ventilation in this 3,000 foot-long tunnel is normally very good…at 60 MPH. However, at 2 MPH it was beginning to get a bit fumy, so I shifted the trucks AC to recirculation mode and the cabin air freshened.

Slowly emerging from the east end of the tunnel we noticed traffic was merging into a single travel lane and so we did likewise. Shortly, we learned why everything was so backed up on I-10.

I’m guessing the Community Coffee delivery driver had not had his coffee today! Hidden from view between the box truck and the cement truck, where emergency personnel are working in the photo above, was a small sedan…and the blue compact pickup wedged between the box truck and bridge wall was involved as well. The good news was that apparently everyone was OK and none of the vehicles plunged into Mobile Bay.

At 1347 we crossed over into Florida and pulled into the welcome center for our complimentary orange juice and some maps.

A quick “Bill and Kit” planning session resulted in us bypassing Pensacola, a spot we’ve camped at many times in the past, in favor of heading to Eglin Air Force Base located on the Emerald Coast, as it is called, near the town of Destin.

Pulling on base, we discovered that we could only score four nights due to the extra personnel staying in the campground due to the evacuation of Tyndall AFB which was heavily damaged during Hurricane Michael. Much to our delight that one camp spot was in the more rustic of the two parks’ where the environment was much more to our liking.

Lacking many of the amenities of the newer campground, Post’l Point offered much more by its incredible location. Setting up camp at the end of the point, we enjoyed a commanding view of Choctawhatchee Bay and the barrier island town of Destin in the distance.

And to add frosting to the cake…we were treated to a gorgeous sunset!

Goodnight!

 

Friday, February 22 through Sunday, February 24, 2019-Eglin AFB, Valparaiso, Florida: Woke early to birds singing outside our window. As spectacular as last nights sunset was, this mornings sunrise across the small bay bordering the north side of the campground, was equally as pleasant!

The weather today is projected to be partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 70’s…my personal threshold for the wearing of shorts.

This is our first venture into this region of Florida. Generally, Kit and I are on a mission to get out West and so only touch the Pensacola portion of the state. So…this trip we are taking the opportunity to see as much of the Emerald Coast as possible.

One foggy morning, we drove out to the resort town of Destin by way of the Midbay Bridge…

…and in route, a seagull challenged me to a race…and won!

At the far end of the bridge was a large boatyard that was painted in colorful undersea scenes.

Murals such as this are scattered about the country and are the product of a very talented and prolific artist by the name of Robert Wyland. Born in landlocked Madison Heights, Michigan, a fourteen-year-old Wyland viewed his first ocean on a family vacation along the California Coast. He was infatuated with the sea and its sea life which focused his burgeoning art talent toward ocean themes. Wyland has designed and created one hundred of these murals starting in July 1981 with a small painting of a Grey Whale and Calf in his adopted hometown of Laguna, California…designated as Whaling Wall #1. The painting in the above photo on Florida’s coastal town of Destin is Whaling Wall #88 and is titled…Marine Life off the Gulf Coast.

Portland Maine was the grateful recipient of Whaling Wall #36 in June 1993, which was painted on the exterior surface of a Bath Iron Works Shipyard Building along Portland’s iconic Commercial Street and is titled Whales off the Coast of Maine.

Photo from Google Images

His final mural, Whaling Wall #100, was painted in Beijing, China in June 2008 and is titled…Hands Across the Ocean.

Destin is set up as the typical beachside tourist town with shops, restaurants, street musicians, and pale northerners strolling down the manufactured promenade.

The town was once a sleepy little fishing village, and along its waterfront there was a magnificent tree that served as an early navigation aid to fisherman returning to port. The 170-year-old Magnolia finally succumbed to the ravages of time, storms and man. Rather than uproot the deceased tree, it was decided to memorialize it in sculpture.

In 2014, famed artist Marlin Miller who is nationally recognized for creating similar public works of art, was contracted to design and sculpt the tree into images depicting Destin’s marine heritage, including sea life, aquatic birds, and even the legs of a flippered diver.

After strolling Destin Harbor Walk and peeking into a few tchotchke shops, Kit and I made our way to nearby Gulf National Seashore, a largely intact and undeveloped beach of this long barrier island…

…where I stumbled upon a group of political representatives locked in verbal discourse…

…then one politician, losing the battle of wits, flapped about and soiled the area before flying off to attend a fundraiser. See, one can find the absurdity in today’s dysfunctional government in the most benign subjects.

Tourist towns can have some of the best restaurants, and Destin is no exception. The Crab Shack is set on a dock overlooking the bay and features delicious and unique fare…

…such as this Crawdad Po’boy…

…which was very good and didn’t taste a thing like chicken!

 

Of our three day stay, Kit and I only made one trip off the reservation because our campsite was so relaxing. As mentioned, Eglin AFB has two campgrounds…a newer facility with more modern facilities, and the one we are staying at that features a great location but lacks full hook-ups, and other conveniences of the typical RV park. But you can’t beat the location and views!

The campground sits on a small peninsula with a saltwater pond teaming with life on one side.

Yep, that’s a nesting eagle in the tall dead tree top!

And on the other side is a nice clean white sand beach…known locally as Sugar Sand!

This sand is powdery fine, unlike the more course sand on our native California beaches, or the pebbly sand in our adopted state of Maine.

The only potential problem with this location, especially if you have pets that are small in stature…

… are native wild animals that are much higher on the food chain than little Muffy.

The campground is also next door to the welfare and recreation gear issue and a nice marina…

…where paddle, power and sailing craft are available for rent.

Kit and I have noticed throughout the years that campers take on the personality of the campground they prefer, or visa versa. On one hand, Resort type facilities tend to attract the upper crust who generally do not socialize much outside their million dollar rolling estates. On the other hand, more rustic campgrounds tend to attract the more laid back and friendly folks. On the third hand, there are vagabonds such as us that pull their gypsy wagons in whatever direction their mood strikes them…this campground had some of the later such as Willie and Karen.

The recently retired couple invited most of the small campground’s inhabitants to a chicken barbeque at their camper. We had a great time meeting other ne’er-do-well folks and sharing stories from the road…some of them actually based in reality.

As the evening came to a close, and the sun set across the bay, Kit and I joined the remaining campground scalawags and raised a cocktail to another fabulous day in Florida.

Goodnight!

 

Monday, February 25, 2019: Underway from Post’l Point Campground on Eglin AFB at 0955 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 56 degrees.

Made our way using the local roads of the Florida Panhandle toward Interstate 10, which we utilized to continue toward the east. Along the highway, we witnessed several areas still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Michael in October of 2018.

At 1204 we crossed back into the Eastern Time Zone and lost an hour of the day. Four hours later we encountered Interstate 75, the former Sunshine State Parkway, and headed south.

As most of you know, we don’t plan our travels too far in advance, and a few weeks ago had no intention of diving south into Florida. However, the cooler than normal winter temperatures this year, coupled with the presence of some great friends that are wintering over in the Tampa area, attracted us to explore parts of this haven for winter refugees.

At 1547, it was time to seek shelter for the evening so pulled into Travelers RV Park in Alachua, Florida, which came highly recommended by fellow RV’rs.

Well, this closes out the most recent chapter of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure…stay tuned for Fun in the Sun with Maine Snowbirds, coming soon to an inbox near you…goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s: We have thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of weeks as we begin to explore a bit of Florida. Having more time as we wander about, has been quite nice. We haven’t had to rush to keep moving on quickly or to get home by a certain time. More time to spend exploring. One thing I’ve noticed is the green landscape vs pale green and brown landscape out west. Since I’m originally from Minnesota, I’ve always preferred green over brown.

Advertisements

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #6

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from. Unknown Author

Friday, February 8, 2019: On the road from the South Texas town of San Marcos at 1055 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 37 degrees. What the heck’s with these cold temperatures…it’s a balmy 39 degrees in our Maine hometown. Gotta head further south, it’s way too chilly in this neck of the woods.

I noticed during my pre-underway safety checks that one of the camper’s tires was a bit suspect, so calling the local Discount Tire store, I was able to get an appointment this morning to get it changed out. After the repair, we decided to head over to the Canyon Lake, a recreation facility in the Texas Hill Country managed by Lackland AFB. As we gained altitude, it began to sleet, and the temperature continued to drop…yea, we’re nuts!

After checking in, we set up on a nice campsite leaving the truck and trailer connected as we do not plan on traveling anywhere beyond walking distance.

As much fun as it was co-camping with Rey and Darlene, we got a bit behind on our domestic chores, truck and trailer maintenance, and journal writing…so the next couple of days should prove to be a nice quiet stay to catch up.

 

Saturday, February 9 and Sunday February 10, 2019-Canyon Lakes, Texas: This military recreation facility is located on its namesake lake an hour north of Lackland AFB and Fort Sam Houston.

In addition to camping, it features cabins, a marina, picnic areas…

…and hiking trails…

…where, if one is quiet as they walk along, they are likely to happen upon some unsuspecting wildlife.

The weather remained cool and overcast, a perfect opportunity for Kit to enjoy cooking some of her signature breakfast fare.

Yep, it was as good as it looks…and, as a bonus, there were leftovers for the next morning!

Well, other than chores and some walking about the park, we didn’t accomplish much to write home about during our two day stay…but it was relaxing!

Like to close out our stay at Canyon Lake with a sunset photo but did not see the sun at all…so here is a substitute taken last summer from the porch of our family ‘campupta’ Maine.

Goodnight!

 

Monday, February 11, 2019: Up and gone by 1025 under cloudy and misting skies, with a temperature of 56 degrees.

Wound our way back east using a variety of local roads until intersecting Interstate 35 where we headed south, and hopefully warmer weather.

After about four hours, including one rest stop, Kit and I were on the Texas Gulf Coast and pulled into Corpus Christi Naval Air Station to set up for a few days in their oceanfront RV park.

It was twenty degrees warmer, but a whole lot more humid! Hard to tell in the photo above but the sun was shining, however the air was so saturated it looked overcast.

 

Tuesday, February 12 through Saturday, February 16, 2019-Corpus Christi, Texas: Spent a very relaxing and enjoyable time in this park sitting on the Gulf of Mexico along the Coastal Bend area of Texas. A prime salt water fishing habitat, the Gulf was a mere 50 yards from our campsite.

And with the consistent coastal breezes, coupled with wide open spaces, it made for a prime kite flying venue as well.

I spent many an enjoyable hour flying a variety of kites in the hazy skies, including my newest acquisition, a dual-line Prism Parafoil with a 75-foot tube tail…yea, another kite…it’s a sickness!?!?

 

During our stay, Kit and I enjoyed a day in the city of Corpus Christi located just across the bay from the Naval Air Station.

Boasting a population of over 320,000 folks, Corpus Christi is the eighth largest city in Texas, and the Port of Corpus Christi is the fifth largest seaport in the United States…it is also the homeport of the USS Lexington.

Built in 1941, The Lady Lex served in the Pacific during WWII before becoming a training ship in 1969. As the fleet training aircraft carrier, many newly minted naval aviators developed their skills in the art of landing high-performance aircraft on a constantly moving airstrip. Decommissioned from active service in November of 1991, she served our country for an astonishing 51 years! Today she serves as a museum ship with the distinction of being the world’s oldest Attack Carrier still afloat. Touring the Lexington is well worth the time, which I had accomplished on a previous Excellent Adventure trip so passed on the opportunity today.

Corpus Christi is a modern city with a bustling commercial port with bulk cargo and containerized ships utilizing its deep harbor. Oil and Gas production and distribution is also a main industry with many oil drilling platforms based here.

And, nestled up to downtown Corpus Christi one finds a thriving waterfront park where private yachts are berthed.

The cities residents are friendly, but I believe this fellow was overly comfortable with tourists as I was able to get quite close to the majestic bird.

Also located downtown is a unique museum for a Gulf Coast city.

The Texas Surf Museum was established in 2005 to promote and document the Texas Surf culture. In addition to photographs and displays, the museum hosts a nice representative sample of surfboards shaped by Texans for the particular demands of surfing the storm produced shore breaks of the gulf.

And others that were specially shaped for the unusual sport of Tanker Surfing!

Deep draft vessels that transit through a shipping channel throw of a small bow wave, when that wave encounters relatively shallow water near the shore it grows into a larger more rideable wave. Very patient Gulf Coast surfers wait until conditions and shipping schedules are right then paddle out to catch these waves which they can ride for miles.

A display in the Texas Surf Museum that particularly appealed to me were the tools and materials to create a surfboard.

A foam blank is shaped with this equipment into a suitable form, then wood strips and stringers are sandwiched in the foam to provide decoration, and rigidity. The final step is to add the skeg (fin) and layers of fiberglass to protect the foam. So, why does this process appeal to me? Well, back in the early 1960’s many a cash strapped San Diego kid built their own boards from cast off foam blocks the commercial surfboard shops couldn’t use…and I was no exception.

A skinny 14-year-old Bill in the photo above is holding board number two of four total that he kluged together. My very first board was a piece of junk, and although pretty, rode terrible…this one was rather plain but rode quite well. I decided my fortune was not going to be made in the surfboard shaping arena so turned my attention to more productive challenges, like trying to win Kit’s affection.

Speaking of Kit, she quickly tired at looking at old dinged up surfboards and made her way to the many shops in the area, one of which had a beautiful painting on the treads and risers of a staircase going to the shops second floor…

…which she fell in love with…

…and ever since has been trying to figure out which one of us has the talent to replicate such a beautiful work of folk art at our Maine home.

Well, this brings to a close our visit to downtown Corpus Christi, one of Texas’s iconic coastal cities!

 

On another nice sunny day, we took a ride out to the coastal barrier landmass of Padre Island. At 113 miles, it is the world’s longest barrier island…and the second largest island by area in the United States, just behind New York’s Long Island. During WWII, the government looked at Padre Island as a candidate for testing the first nuclear bomb, but wisely choose less populated White Sands, New Mexico instead.

The barrier island is separated by a narrow artificial channel known as the Mansfield Cut which provides more convenient access for Port Mansfield based watercraft to access the Gulf of Mexico. This navigable channel divides the island into North Padre and the far more commercial South Padre Island…the mecca for college spring breakers. The crown jewel of the northern segment of the island is Padre Island National Seashore.

This National Park unit, at 70 miles in length, is the longest undeveloped seashore in the world and the protected habitat of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle…

… the rarest sea turtle on earth.

The park road that winds south from the entrance station is picturesque, without the urban sprawl that has built up on many coastal areas of the United States…

…thank you, National Park Service!

This part of Coastal Texas, as well as some beaches in North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, and Cape Cod, are open to vehicular traffic for beach driving.

The generally hard packed sand provides a relatively smooth surface for driving; however, care must be exercised as if you get to close to the surf line and bog down, it’s a very expensive proposition to have your automobile extracted from the watery trap as the tide relentlessly encroaches on your once treasured conveyance!

Automobile beach access is allowed in order to allow fisherfolks access to the more remote portions of the shoreline and to allow campers, with proper permits, to park above the hightide mark for overnight oceanfront stays.

Leaving Padre Island National Park, we stopped for an early dinner at a local fish shack…

…and enjoyed an excellent seafood dinner. Fried Gulf Shrimp, Hawaiian Butterfly Shrimp and Hush Puppies for me…

…and fried Fish and Chips for Kit. Both meals were excellent and plentiful, in fact we took half our meal to cover dinner the following day.

Returning to the camper, Kit and I enjoyed the sunset while also enjoying a cocktail…

…goodnight!

 

While in the area, we took a ride north to the small resort town of Port Aransas, located on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Named for the fort that guarded the entrance to Corpus Christi Bay, Port Aransas began as a haven for pirates including Jean Lafitte…

…the dapper buccaneer who became a beloved cult figure along the Texas and Louisiana coast in the early 1800’s.

In addition to being a commercial port, “Port A” as it is called, is a mecca for Houston and San Antonio city dwellers to recreate on the ocean when the year round population of 3,480 locals can swell to 60,000 folks or more…especially during spring break season.

Protected by opposing sand bars, Port Aransas is a prime natural anchorage, and to ensure safe passage, the Aransas Pass lighthouse guides vessels through the narrow channel into port.

Prior to its construction in 1855, many a merchant, and a few pirates, found themselves hard aground on the sandy barrier island that protected Port Aransas. Ironically, the steamship that was carrying bricks and other materials for the new lighthouse itself floundered on the sandbar while trying to navigate into the inner harbor, with the resultant loss of the ship and most of its cargo. To add insult to injury, a year later, when another ship finally delivered the lighthouse materials, winter storms had shifted the sandbar over a mile to the north, so back to step one of the process to find a geologically suitable location for the lighthouse.

Today, the village of Port Aransas is a vacation spot and tourist mecca primarily devoted to boating, saltwater fishing, and other ocean activities. As at Padre island National Seashore, driving one’s vehicle on the beach is legal and a favorite pastime here as well.

A hardpacked sand road parallels TX-361 a few blocks to the west and allows access to prime swimming, beachcombing, and oceanside camping.

Port Aransas is replete with the typical tourist related establishments including T-shirt and gift shops. One massive store that caught Kit’s eye was The Destination Gift Shop featuring its unique entrance.

And, not lost on the more observant customer, the more unique exit from the large shark into the store…considering the chotskies that are sold inside, the sharks rear exit seemed appropriate.

As in most oceanside towns here about there is no shortage of seafood restaurants…one that was highly recommended was the Trout Inn and Marina.

Where Kit and I enjoyed a very nice meal overlooking the marina, which by the way, was reduced to wreckage during Hurricane Harvey a few years back.

 

Returning to the camper, we received the following photo from our daughter Kim…

…which shows Maine Street of our home town after the most recent storm. Kind of reinforces our decision to escape the worst of the winter weather in our adventure-mobile.

Well, its time to close this chapter of our trip, as tomorrow we head east, but not before enjoying one final dazzling Texas Sunset.

Goodnight, stay safe, and stay tuned for episode six of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: So, what’s not to like in this area of the USA? Having grown up in San Diego, we frequented the beaches, Bill spent many hours on his surf board, and we ate Jack-in-the Box fast food. Not seafood, mind you, but hamburgers. Fortunately, we have acquired a taste for seafood over the years so, we’ve moved up a step or two. This is one of our favorite areas and, it’s closer to home and, a lot more reasonable on our piggy bank. Plus, it reminds us of our long-lost youth.