If Packer and Steeler fans were expecting balmy weather for Super Bowl week they didn’t get it. They brought the cold with them though it is probably still warmer here in Texas as opposed to Green Bay and Pittsburgh. I can’t remember in my 40 years in Dallas when the windchill factor was below zero!
One week ago…
I’ve been home for four weeks now. It was time to sneak in a short road trip. I spent the night at my dad’s farm in Mabank. I’m not exactly sure how his place got labeled “the farm” since there are only a few cows on the property, but none the less, it is a fun place to visit. The house sits adjacent to a 23 acre lake stocked with bass, crappie, and catfish which is also a safe landing place for a variety of ducks during hunting season. Below the dam, the barn houses among other things two 4 wheelers that became the weekend entertainment.
Petey and I arrived at the farm at around noon on Saturday. Shortly thereafter, my friend Don, his son Daniel, and Daniel’s friend Jimmy joined me with lunch in hand, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Texas weather hadn’t been that great over the last few weeks, but Saturday it was nice enough to enjoy our meal outside at the picnic table.
After several attempts to start the ATV’s, we finally got them running and the boys, both 15 years old, took them for a spin through the back pasture, by the lake, and up and down the long, dirt driveway. Of course, they weren’t even allowed to go riding until they got a lesson and a lecture from us both. While the boys were being boys, Don and I simply relaxed and played a few thoughtless games of Yatzee. What a nice feeling! Since being home, I had been running around taking care of finances, attending health care needs, volunteering at the ER, and meeting up with friends and family. In other words, I have been relatively busy taking care of mounting past issues and possible future issues for a years time in one month. As we lazed around, the boys decided they wanted to go fishing via boat. The old fishing boat with a battery operated outboard motor rested on the grass while the boat dock was being remodeled.
Don and I helped them connect the battery and drag it to the lake. The boys grabbed their rods and fishing tackle and motored to the middle of the lake. It was a little too cold and relatively windy for fishing, but 15 year olds will be 15 year olds. They tied lures onto their lines, cast a few times, and were probably content once Don and I left them alone and returned to our Yatzee game.
One roll after the next, Don was the lucky winner. Every once in a while we glanced out the window to make sure the boys were alive. Don said they were at the far end of the lake. I just looked up and asked, are they stuck? I had failed to mention that end of the lake was shallow and muddy. Don walks out on the porch, returns and says, Daniel looks like he is pushing on something with the oar! We let them attempt to unwedge themselves a few more times before we arriving on the scene with cameras in hand.
It turns out the wind overpowered the small motor thus the boat could not make the upwind travel back to the house and dock. Knee deep in mud and water, the boys pushed the boat from the reeds, over the mudbank, and to the side where we began the towing process. Out came the Gator, a vehicle like the carts used to tote injured football players off the field. Without a tow hitch, we devised our own towing process. Jimmy and Daniel hopped in the back of the Gator and got to hold the bowline to the boat as I slowly drove back to the house. So much for fishing…back to the 4 Wheelers until dusk.
We enjoyed burgers, beans, and tator tots for dinner and donuts and fruit for breakfast. Another 4 wheeler ride and some more fishing, this time from the dock, consumed the morning before making the short trip back to Dallas. I must say, the adventures was 24 hours of giggles!
My soccer friend Heidi came in town for a short visit from Chicago. In honor of
her visit home, my friend Laura organized a brunch. Amazingly, almost all our soccer girlfriends were able to attend. In our twenties, we saw each other at least three days a week: Wednesday night Sport and Social, Friday night co-ed indoor, and Sunday women’s outdoor soccer. Wednesday and Friday night soccer were also social and much fun! Of course as people’s lives change with job relocation, marriage, and kids, soccer decreased in priority. About half of us still play, but we don’t see each other nearly as often. It was so great that we could all meet up!
This post just consists of sporadic events and thoughts which aren’t necessarily in order…the pictures follow along to a degree.
Well, I took basically a three week break from blogging. While it’s hard for me to write, I enjoy seeing people’s comments so it is worth the challenge. I’ve spent my days here in Dallas catching up on paperwork…healthcare, bank, taxes, etc…so not much exciting to write about on that front.
My nights have been mostly spent catching up with friends and family. I’ve seen almost all my old soccer friends (at least on the girls side), a few old co-workers, and handful of folks I have met in my travels over the last three years. In fact, after a week of non-stop work, I have finally completed my photo album of my safari in Africa…a trip I took with five of my travel friends just before I took my tour across America. I must say, Africa may rank as my most fascinating trip yet! See my two photo books at links below.
I spent a lovely Christmas Eve with two sets of my family. First I had dinner with my dad, stepmom, brother D’Arcy, sister-in-law Marti, my neices (twins: Molly and Elizabeth) and nephew Jack. Santa visits my dad’s on Christmas Eve and the kids were charged up! It was fun to watch the excitement. After a little while at my dad’s, I visited my Aunt and Uncle’s, Jennifer and John. The kids are a bit younger and are just beginning to understand Santa and Christmas. All the adults grazed over finger foods while enjoying good cheer. We tried some Maker’s Mark chocolates I brought home from my trip. I don’t remember them being quite so strong! Regardless, they were good. We have a family tradition to play bean bag. My cousin Chad usually instigates the game, but he was home with a sick baby, so we didn’t end up playing. It may have been the first time we haven’t played! The game was out, but in a different location…perhaps that tricked us. Except for my flat tire and the pouring rain, it was an enjoyable evening.
I spent Christmas morning with my mom, stepdad, brother Ed, sister-in-law Cindy, and my two nephews. George was born in October, so my first time to him was Christmas Eve! Frank, my other nephew who is two, didn’t quite get into Christmas. He was more interested in my mom’s ipad. Next year will be the year for him!
As always, my mom’s tree looked magnificent. It was decorated with over 1,000 ornaments. We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, and sticky bun before we opened gifts. She also had a great taco party a few days before Christmas as my brother Bart, sister-in-law Katie and my neice in nephew, Mollie and Sam, respectively were in town for nearly an overnight visit!
I spent Christmas afternoon at my brother D’Arcy’s house. I had hoped to catch my dad there, but just missed them. They were headed to the farm. I may need to visit the farm before I leave Dallas. It’s about an hour southeast of the city. Christmas night my mom, Bart, and I continued the tradition of a turkey sandwich at Dottie and Rees’s house (for those of you that have been following my blog, they lent me their condo for a few days in Destin). We watched the Cowboys stink up another game, but I think they have a better chance of winning now that Jason Garrett is the coach!
I spent New Year’s Eve at Carol’s and Liz’s with another friend Suellen. It was a low key night. We had a few martinis, played a few games, watched a little TV, and I crashed in VANilla. It was my first time to sleep in the van since I’ve been home.
The first week of January was a mix of emotion. On the 6th we celebrated my mom’s birthday and on the 7th I had to send Scout to doggie heaven. My mom’s birthday dinner was lovely. We dined at a French restaurant known for its filet douse in pepper sauce. As for Scout, I already made a post for her. She was an awesome companion, enjoyed an amazing three months of hiking in every state east of Texas, and looked very peaceful when she left this world for a better place. Now I’m just focusing my affection on crazy Petey.
In the weeks to come, I plan to make a few more volunteer visits to the Parkland ER, meet up with some more friends, and soak in the last of football season! In addition, I’ll probably add to my cache list…I think I’ve found six around Dallas, and may even snap a photo or two soon. Believe it or not, outside of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I haven’t taken a photograph…they are borrowed! Best wishes in 2011. ETB
Best wishes in 2011!
I set my alarm last night to get up and watch the solar eclipse, but it was too cloudy. Oh well, in another lifetime I guess! This morning the dogs and I took the trail from the San Augustine campground, which is operated by the City for either short-term or long-term residents. The restrooms may have been the best of any campgrounds I’ve been to so far. The trail led us through some woods, around a field, and past a historical marker. The marker indicated the route of Kings Highway, Old San Antonio Road. On our walk, we saw more cardinals and a blue jay, so on our way out I got my good camera ready for some bird shots…by then they had scattered!
Before leaving San Augustine, we stopped by its downtown to get a glimpse of the courthouse. My aunt and uncle, Jennifer and John, have toured several of the Texas courthouses and plan to make it to everyone some day. This one was very modern looking relative to many of the others I’ve seen, despite being built in the early 1900s. In front of the courthouse, time capsules are buried and marked by headstones with a future date they are to be opened. That will be interesting!
We continued north to Caddo Lake State Park to walk the trails through the piney woods. I loved the mid-seventies temperature…almost warm enough to break a sweat. The dogs on the other hand were panting, turning to the nearby creek for water, and regularly turning back toward the car. It was more like a heat wave for them! I would have walked for much longer, but they looked miserable, so we turned back toward VANilla after only a mile or so. Before we left the park, we stopped at the pond peppered with bald cypress covered in Spanish moss.
We continued on to Jefferson to see the Excelsior House, a hotel that has operated since the mid 1800s. Guests in the past have included Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B Hayes, John Jacob Astor, and Oscar Wilde. I spent a few minutes walking around the town and picked up a cache in a nearby picnic area across from the police department where three prisoners stood outside. I tried to grab one more on a statue situated in the middle of an intersection, but too many muggles were nearby.
The dogs and I returned south to Marshall. We plan to enjoy the Christmastime Wonderland of Lights tonight. The courthouse is currently lit up and kids are skating at the temporary ice rink on the square. In one hour, the lights on the courthouse will blink to music. Visitors may have their photograph taken inside a life size snow globe. In addition, many visitors take train and bus rides around the city to witness one of the nation’s largest holiday displays with over 6 million light bulbs brightening the city. I think I will enjoy the holiday spectacle at the courthouse and drive home tonight to surprise my mom with an early arrival!
NOTE: I can’t get the first picture to rotate, sorry…you’ll have to read the marker sideways. I lost my point and shoot camera on the last day of my trip, so I don’t have the pictures of San Augustine courthouse or of Pat or Gerald…bummer. I will try to post a video of the lights, but so far I’m technically challenged.
Texas – Monday
With my belly full from two cinnamon rolls and a cup of coffee and VANilla decorated with Mardi Gras beads, compliments of Pat and Gerald, I ventured southwest to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, a little over an hour outside of Houston. I talked my Uncle Casey into joining me literally in the middle of nowhere. If I hadn’t been meeting him, I probably would have turned around. I arrived at the east entrance of the Refuge at the same time Casey arrived at the west, 6.5 miles apart. We spent the morning walking around a pond and driving 15 miles of gravel roads looking at a variety of birds. Thankfully he knew his birds better than I did. We saw Canadian geese, snow geese, teal, ibis, egrets, herons, and more. It would have been a goose hunter’s dream. One shot would have taken at least three geese at a time. Thousands of them honked, took flight and landed in flocks on the field covering it in all white.
After the morning at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, I spent the afternoon at Big Thicket National Preserve. The preserve is home to four of the five insect eating plants. The Reader’s Digest book claimed I could learn the best places to see the plants by stopping at the Visitor’s Center. The teenager working the front desk didn’t know, but there were plenty of trail maps, so I took one and off we went. The dogs and I took the 1.6 mile Kirby Nature Trail beneath the pines and along the river.
After our walk, we continued north to camp in San Augustine, Texas for the evening.
Day 96 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA
Louisiana Bayou Byways
The dogs and I spent the morning walking the trails and geocaching in Lake Fausse Pointe State Park where we camped last night. We completed two loop trails for a total of 2.35 miles through the woods. In the process we found five caches! One trail, Cardinal Run, was aptly named. Cardinals were everywhere! Too bad I was only carrying my point and shoot camera…close up shots eluded me. Upon returning to VANilla, I was able to grab the zoom lens and snap a few good shots of a great blue heron.
After a lovely, though slightly nippy morning outside, we took the levee road north to Henderson, our next stop on the Louisiana Bayou Byway, where jet boat tours of Atchafalaya Basin leave from McGee’s Landing. I pulled off at Pat’s Restaurant to look at a map and get my bearings when a former client Max called. This area of Louisiana used to be her stomping grounds. She knew exactly where I was, told me to have lunch at Pat’s, check out the dance hall at Whiskey River Landing, and go on the swamp tour.
Whiskey River Landing
The crawfish etouffee at Pat’s was excellent. The Cowboys were playing at the same time the Saints were playing, so I settled for Saints football over lunch. I returned south about a mile and turned on a gravel road cut over the levee to find Whiskey River Landing on the other side. I would have never known it was there! The Cajun music and dancing didn’t start until 4 on Sundays, so I drove a half mile further down the levee to McGee’s to check on the swamp tours. I just missed the one o’clock tour and no one was signed up for the three o’clock tour, so it wasn’t going to launch unless I paid the price of five people. I decided to listen to the Cajun band and walk the dogs around instead.
These were our last stops on the Louisiana Bayou Byway before the dogs and I to our home state, Texas. Max’s parents, Pat and Gerald, put us up for the night in Groves, Texas. Pat is a big football fan, so we enjoyed an evening of chatting and Sunday night football. Pat and Gerald have been married over fifty years, have four children, seven grandchildren, one great grandchild, and a boxer named Harley.
Signing off for two weeks while I’m in Africa!