Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rockport, TX II


We apologize profusely for our long absence from the Blogosphere. Our travel paradigm this past winter was a little bit different from previous winters, when we were moving every few days, and we always had new areas, new experiences, and new pictures to share. This past winter, we stayed put for weeks at a time. This new approach made Kathy very happy (she would really like to settle down somewhere for the winter). Keith’s feet unfortunately start to itch pretty badly after a week or two, but he stayed put for Kathy’s sake. We’re not sure about the long term resolution of this conundrum.


Rockport Texas Waterfront


A Rockport Beachfront Love Affair

We originally thought that staying put would give us the opportunity to explore an area in more depth. What we found was that staying put offers endless opportunities for relaxing, for dining out, for goofing off, for dining out, for long afternoon naps, etc., etc. While this turns out to be a sort of enjoyable lifestyle, with perhaps a touch of boredom for Keith, it doesn’t generate much of interest to blog about.

We spent the full month of January in Rockport Texas. Our first two weeks are described in a previous post. Herewith, we describe some interesting things we did during our second two weeks in Rockport.

A Clean Motorhome!

One of Keith’s activities was to clean a year’s grime from the outside of the motorhome. Particularly nasty were a lot of small tar spots picked up in various construction zones over the summer. Ditto a bazillion bug spots. Keith bought tar remover and spent several mornings cleaning panel by panel, followed by a coat of spray-on wax. By the time he finished, it actually looked pretty good. It gives Keith a certain feeling of satisfaction that he can bring it back, after 7 years and 90,000 miles.

Another activity was a circumnavigation of Corpus Christi. Driving southwest on Rt. 35 from Rockport, the road crosses the bay on a high level bridge, where views of the city, the Aircraft Carrier Lexington, and the ubiquitous Texas refinery landscape.


Corpus Christi Skyline


Aircraft Carrier Lexington


Texas Refinery Landscape

Driving southeast through Corpus Christi, the freeway crosses another set of bridges, and arrives at the north end of Padre Island. Keith & Kathy spent new year’s eve in a waterfront hotel here several years ago. We have fond memories of that trip. Driving northeast on Rt. 361 takes one across an inlet and onto the southwestern tip of Mustang Island. Mustang is a mostly undeveloped, sandy barrier island, except for the northeastern tip, which incorporates the town of Port Aransas.


Port Aransas Beach and Surf


Aransas Ferry

A free ferry crosses the channel back to the mainland and the town of Aransas Pass, where the residents of Port Aransas go to shop. Here the road reconnects with Rt. 35, which takes the weary traveler back to Rockport, and lunch.

While on the subject of lunch, we have found several excellent places to dine in Rockport, ranging from the somewhat upscale Charlotte Plummers, described in our last post, to The Diner, a very reasonably priced, downhome type of place which serves tasty comfort food. We also fond an excellent authentic Mexican (as opposed to Tex-Mex) restaurant, as well as a very reasonably priced Chinese buffet, again with very good food.

Another activity which Keith enjoys is browsing boatyards. Keith cruised the Southern New England coast for 15 years in a 28 foot sedan bridge, and he misses it. We found an excellent complex of yards just south of Rockport. These are real, working boatyards, featuring real boats, as opposed to modern marinas, which feature mostly modern, glitzy, and somewhat dull sportcraft. Shown below is one of the classic boats observed in one of these boatyards. We also saw a 32 foot Uniflite, similar to the boat Keith used to own, riddled with the pox. Worst case of pox Keith has ever seen. Made him sick. We took a few photos, but will keep them private.


Thirty-One Foot Bertram – a Real Classic

A major attraction in the Rockport area is the local wildlife, particularly the winter bird population. We have already described, in the previous post, a road tour of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw a few of these birds. To obtain a better view, we took a water tour on an excursion boat. The tour went out of Rockport Harbor, through the bay, and up the inter-coastal waterway through the above mentioned Wildlife Refuge. We saw numerous bird species, few of which we remember. This would be a great place to come back to in our own boat (when we buy it) with a guidebook and camera, and spend half a day watching the birds and other wildlife (alligators, anyone?).


Navigation Marker Squatters


A Sister Bird Watcher Excursion Boat


Texas Intercostal Waterway


Feeding Egret


Blue Heron on Final


Contemplative Blue Heron on Rip-Rap

Another highlight of our Rockport sojourn was a visit with friends Bill and Pearl Speer, whom we met on a 2005 Winnebago Motorhome Caravan to Alaska. We drove to Port Aransas and met them for lunch, after which the Spears took us on a tour of the area in their spiffy new Jeep. We visited the inlet, where there is a lot of interesting commercial traffic associated with offshore oil drilling, we saw the delightful Port Aransas beach, then we visited with Bill & Pearl in their beautiful new diesel motorhome, made, of course, by Winnebago Industries. The Spears have been coming to Port Aransas several years, and have a very pleasant beachfront campsite at a local commercial campground.


Bill and Pearl in Front of Their Beautiful New Motorhome

Having found in Rockport virtually everything we need in life; i.e., warm winter weather, good friends who spend the winter in this warmth, a good supermarket, a WalMart, a lumber yard, an excellent hardware store, good local restaurants, good boatyards, good boating territory, and access to a small city with good airline service, we decided that maybe we might want to start to think about settling down in this area. This thinking led to several local real estate websites, followed by a couple of driving tours, and finally a visit to a local realtor.

Being entranced with the idea of a waterfront residence with boat slip, we visited a couple of condominium complexes with those features. We really aren’t quite financially ready for two permanent residences, and Keith isn’t ready to settle down, but with the current real estate depression, we felt we couldn’t afford not to look.

One condo complex was out in the Aransas bay on a key, while the other was on the nearby mainland. Both provided good bay and gulf access, and both came with boat slips. We found some units we liked, and became very tempted to make an offer, but we finally came to our senses and recognized that we really needed to look more before making a commitment. Also, with our entire families being in the northeast, we wondered if south Texas is too far away, especially with the deteriorating health of Kathy’s parents in Massachusetts.


Allegro Key


Canal Front Condominium on Allegro Key


Bay House Condominium Complex

Keith has decided that he doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to endure multiple hurricane seasons on a low island in the middle of the bay, so we are glad we didn’t make an offer on Allegro Key. We are still communicating with the realtor about Bay House Condominiums, which are on the mainland. We have since found that real estate values are in much worse shape in south Florida, so we are continuing our exploration there. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rockport, Texas

From Here To There


We arrived in the Rockport , Texas area on January 2nd , after a grueling 9 day trip from the frozen northland of the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts.  We have pledged that we will not again drive the motorhome south in the winter.  Next fall, we plan to drive the motorhome from the PRM to Texas in October, then store the coach while we drive the toad back to New England for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Highlights of our trip South were Christmas Eve with the Brown family in Taxachusetts, Christmas dinner with the Sheffler/McCormack family (sans Will & Larissa) in Pennsylvania, a couple of nights at the Rubenstein driveway campground in Maryland, then a series of truck stops to Foley, Alabama, where we paused a couple of nights to catch our breath, and a couple of throwed rolls at Lambert’s.  We departed Foley the 31st, and spent new year’s eve at the Isle of Capri casino in Louisiana.  Excellent buffet, and well patrolled free  overnight parking in their oversize vehicle lot.


IMG_0214_1 Christmas Eve in Massachusetts



After Dinner Christmas Nap With Keith’s Sister in Pennsylvania



Home of Throwed Rolls in Foley, Alabama



Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana



Passing Through Houston

We are camped at Waters edge RV Park in Rockport, and will remain here until February 1st.



Our Campsite at Water’s Edge RV Park



View from the Campground

The park is located across the street from Aransas Bay and is very scenic. There are warm breezes and many palm trees. Keith says this area reminds him of south Florida around the Jupiter area. Pelicans , herons and sandpipers play in the bay and are very entertaining to watch.



Windswept Oaks Line the Rockport Waterfront



Pelican in Flight



Pelicans at Rest



Rockport Waterfront Statuary

We both arrived here sick with some type of flu and we spent most of our first two weeks recuperating, so we have not dome much exploring so far.

Because this is a popular destination for many retirees during the winter, the area abounds with many dining opportunities. We have enjoyed several local restaurants:

The Boiling Pot, which is a Cajun style restaurant we will rate in 2 different ways. The gumbo and key lime tart merit 4 COWS while the boiled seafood was only 2.5 COWS.



Lunch at the Boiling Pot

We had lunch with a couple of former caravanning acquaintances, Jim and Gaye Hull, at Charlotte Plummers Seafood restaurant . It is located on the water and has a nice view of the working harbor. I had flounder stuffed with crab meat (4 COWS) while Keith had crab cakes which were fried and not exactly to his liking; 2.5 COWS.



Jim & Gaye at Charlotte Plummers

For lunch one day we stopped at the Diner. This is a small place that we passed several times and decided to try because there are always cars there. We did and now we know why! We had a very tasty and filling lunch (grilled fish and fried shrimp)for a little more than you would pay at McDonalds. We give it 3 COWS and an extra star for value.

Another restaurant that we both enjoyed immensely was Las Camales, a Mexican eatery on business Rt. 35 in Rockport. We both rated the Mexican food 4 COWS. There were many unusual items on the menu and the food was the best Mexican that Kathy can recall eating. Authentic Mexican is somewhat different from Tex-Mex. It is less spicy and seems more “down home”. Keith likes both equally well; Kathy clearly prefers the real Mexican cuisine. We will definitely go back before we leave the area.

Yesterday we took a ride to Corpus Christi which is about 30 minutes from Rockport.



Bridge Art Spotted on the Road to Corpus Christi

We visited Barnes and Noble, and lunched at Catfish Charlie’s, which turned out to be somewhat difficult to find. We saw an ad and had directions but it was hidden and away from the road. But we did manage to find it and it was worth the difficulty. The parking lot was mobbed and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table . The food was excellent. The fried oysters were light and crispy while the cat fish was very good. Hush puppies in a basket are served before the meal and are very tasty. The only disappointment was the gumbo, which was not to our taste. 3.5 COWS.



Catfish Charlie’s; At the Corner of

McArdle and Airline Roads, Sort Of



A Small Boutique Near Catfish Charlie’s (note name)

This morning we got up early and headed out on our first tourist expedition. We visited the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Austwell. Austwell is located about 45 minutes from Rockport. The refuge encompasses the tidal flats and salt marshes of the Blackjack Peninsula on San Antonio Bay. Inhabitants of the refuge include alligators, armadillos, white-tailed dears, raccoon and Javelinas (sort of a pig). It is also the winter home to more than 400 species of birds, including the endangered whooping crane.

We spent 30 minutes at the visitor center where we viewed a short video on the whooping crane and then we drove the 16 mile auto road through the refuge. On our drive we saw a flock of turkeys and many white-tailed deer. We did not see many of the birds, nor any gators.



Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Turkeys



Bird Roost at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge




On the drive to and from Austwell we saw miles and miles of cotton fields being cultivated for planting. This area is referred to as coastal prairie, which we think is kind of neat. We love the prairie, and the addition of salt water is a real bonus. A sign at Aransas Visitors Center warned of snakes. We didn’t see any, but the very pleasant volunteer hostess told us that the cotton field workers all wear high top leather boots in these fields. We did not get out and walk about.



Cotton Fields on the Coastal Prairie

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures from the second half of our month at Rockport.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On The Road Again, and Some Retro-Posts




Happy New Year!

We are on the road again, and, for the first time in several months, we are finding time to Blog. We currently are in Rockport, Texas for a month on the Gulf of Mexico. More on Rockport in another post.

In the meantime, between September and December, we:


  • Spent time visiting grandchildren in Maryland and Massachusetts;
  • Camped several weeks on the Cape Cod Canal;
  • We (Keith) labored on home improvement projects;
  • We got married;
  • We entertained for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays;
  • Keith made a “Popsicle Stick Erector Set”;
  • We had an ice storm and a tree broke our roof (and bedroom ceiling).

A few representative photos from our fall escapades are provided below:



Mendon, Massachusetts Front Yard Campground



Bourne Scenic Park on the Cape Cod Canal



Halloween at Bourne Scenic Park



A New Chair Rail (One of Several Home Improvement Projects)

Note Rail Sample on Table



A Simple Truss Bridge Made From Popsicle Sticks



Things That Go Crash in the Night


We will be composing and retro-posting separate posts on the wedding, on Keith’s Erector Set, and on future travels.

Stay tuned!