Friday, January 22, 2010

Mission, TX

After Sanibel, I went back to Georgia, first to Winder, GA and then to the North Georgia Mountains.  I ended up staying a bit longer than I expected because my mother had surgery.  This was during the time that the cold weather hit everywhere.  I was really concerned about how to survive in the RV.  I wasn’t so much concerned about me – I can stay warm.  But was concerned about the RV itself.  I managed to make it through the weather with just a few minor problems. 

I was expecting the frozen valves because I decided not to wrap the valves in warming tape, but that wasn’t too bad to take care of.  The one thing that I didn’t expect was that my tow bar froze.  I don’t know if the oil on the bar froze or there was water in it, but I couldn’t pull the tow bar loose to hook it up.  It took me about 30 minutes to get it unfrozen!

After my mom’s surgery, I left the area the day before the bad ice storm hit Georgia.  I stayed one night in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas before arriving in Mission, TX. 

Mission, TX is known for “Winter Texans”.  Typically it is warm in the winter so many RVers come there for the season.  I stayed in Bentsen Village RV Park, which is right next to Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park.  This is a very nice RV park.  While there wasn’t as much space between sites as I like, it wasn’t as close as some.   They had several park like areas throughout the campground.

This area is known for birding.  One thing I read said that it was one of the top ten spots in the nation.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know that much about birds, but I do enjoy watching them.

It was kind of funny, I was intrigued by the Green Jays and the Kiskadee’s and they are common birds in the area.  But I just hadn’t seen them before.   Other people (Those who knew birds) got excited about  birds such as the Rose Throated Becard, which is apparently rare in this area.

Kiskadee - 










Green Jays in the feeder -








Green Jay after a bath -









Oriole (I think an Altamira Oriole) -










I saw both a Screech Owl and an Pygmy Owl, this is the Screech Owl -








Rose Throated Becard -









There was also other wildlife.  I saw a small bobcat one morning, but no picture as I was riding my bike when he crossed in front of me.  They have a big population of javelinas.  One day this mom and baby walked extremely close to me and I started getting a bit nervous, they do have big teeth!  They eventually walked away and a man close by said that she was probably begging for food. 










Other than riding my bike and hiking in the park I didn’t do too much here.  The last half of my stay here got warm, more what I wanted.  It was in the 70’s for several days!!  I’m currently in Port Aranasas and will blog about that later.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sanibel – part 2

My sister and her family arrived 2 weeks into my 3 week stay.  They are from Wisconsin, so of course the first sand sculpture they made was a snowman!  Below is Parker and Summer and their snowman, I mean sandman -

Below is work on their Sanibel Holiday greetings and the final results -

  My sister, Amy, and 2 of her daughters, Chelsea and Morgan putting the finishing touches to the Holiday greeting!.

Above are my nieces and nephews around the snowman – Gavin, Morgan, Parker, Chelsea and Summer.








Morgan asked her mom to take a few pictures and I snapped some while Amy was taking “official” pictures.

I visited the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary twice while in South West Florida.  It’s a beautiful place.  I didn’t see as many birds this time as I did in March, but it was still a great place to visit!

If you look closely at this swamp lily, you will see in the lower right and corner a small tree frog.  Below is a close-up of him.







I also went to Shark’s Valley in the Everglades twice.  The first time, I went by myself and rode my bike around the 15 mile trail.  The second time I went with my Mom, brother-in-law (Tom) and my nephew (Gavin).  Tom and I rode bikes around the trail, while my mom and Gavin took the tram.  Unfortunately this day was a cold and we didn’t see as much as I did the previous week.

sanibel_shark_valley_alligator1 Part of the welcoming committee.  He is guarding the bike path that you can see at the bottom of the picture.

Even the birds like the bike/tram path!

My mom and I rode our bikes to the campground that I was supposed to stay at.  They have a mini-zoo in the campground.  Below is a picture of my mom getting to know a campground resident -

Other sand and shell sculptures by my sister’s family are below.  They joked that they should put out a tip jar because so many people took pictures of them.  The picture below is a fish that they did created using pen shells as the scales. 

The starfish above is made out of urchins.  There were thousands of these urchins on the beach this trip.  I’ve been to Sanibel many times and never seen this many urchins.

They also made a large sandcastle.  Below is a picture of the castle and then a close-up of the center part to show the detail.

A few pictures of folks just goofing around -

Morgan and Summer, Summer is the one upside down!







Parker found a coconut and decided to see what it tasted like!


Parker, Chelsea and Summer out for a run on the beach.






Chelsea showing us her fish face--






This isn’t something we made, but I found it on one of my walks on the beach.  Somebody had made a Christmas tree out of shells and seaweed.  Notice the starfish on top of the tree.

I’ll end with a couple more pictures of the beach -


Sanibel – part 1

My original plans for Sanibel Island, FL were to be in a condo for the first 2 weeks and in the campground the last week.  But after my first week on the island, I decided to check to see if my condo was available for the last week and it was.  So I ended up staying in the gulf front condo for all 3 weeks!   It was rather funny.  If most people left something at home, they would do without or have to go buy it.  But for me, I could just go to the parking lot and get it out of the RV.  I was fortunate that the condominium complex let me park it at the complex.

My mom was there for a week and so was my sister’s family.  I have so many pictures I want to post that I am going to do this in 2 parts.  Note, these are not in date order.

I have to start off with a sunrise picture -

and a sunset picture -

Here is a picture of the crowded beaches -

OK, one of the reasons I love this beach – the real crowds -

It did start getting busier the closer it got to Christmas.  But nothing like the crowds at many beaches.  Another favorite activity is shelling.  Sanibel Island is considered one of the top shelling locations.  I’ve collected so many shells over the years that I didn’t collect many this trip, but I still find them (along with other beach/ocean life) very interesting.   Don’t forget you can click (or double click) on a picture to enlarge it.

Above is a picture of my mom and sister shelling on a chilly morning.  My sister was collecting shell’s for one of her kid’s classmates

The weather was interesting.  For the first couple of weeks it was warmer than average.  It was in the high 80’s for a couple of days, we even had a tornado watch one day (with a warning in the next county).  Then the temperature dropped.  For the last weeks it was colder than normal.  Several days in the low 60’s.  But for the most part we still did the normal beach activities.  Below is a picture of my nieces trying to get a suntan!!


Below is a picture following the Tornado watch.  The path led from our condo complex to the beach.   We were under a high tide advisory for a couple of days and because of the storm the next several days brought about some interesting shelling.

  Above is a live Florida Horse Conch (no collecting of live shells!).  This is Florida’s state shell.  This particular one was probably 12 inches long. The day after the storm, there were many (100 or so) large live shells like this within a mile of our condo.  If you’ve never seen a live shell, the animal in this shell is the orange part.  In some cases the animal is black, like the live tulip shell below, this shell is 3 or 4 inches long. 

Above is a picture of a small starfish on an urchin under water. 

One day on the way to the pool, I stepped on an iguana’s tail.  He was on the sidewalk to the pool and I didn’t notice him.  I learned that they have become a problem.  They are not native and have no predators on the island.  He didn’t seem to upset at my stepping on his tail as a few seconds later he posed for the picture!

I also like to watch birds. I don’t know the names of many, but I enjoy watching them.   Some of their behaviors are very interesting, such as the Spoonbills dancing below.   I really don’t know if this was a mating dance, or a way to bathe or what – but it was interesting. 

I watched the Night Heron below go after a crab.  He got the crab and turned his back to me so I have no picture of him with the crab. 

The  bird pictures above were taken at Ding Darling Wildlife refuge.  This is a great place to bird watch.  I rode my bike there several times and drove through a couple of time.  Riding a bike is the best way as you get to see more.

Below is another picture of a Rosetta Spoonbill. 

Stay tuned for part 2 of Sanibel!