Sunday, 28 February 2010

Martin Dies Jr State Park & Woodville Heritage Center

After yesterday, which was a bit of a washout, when we didn’t go anywhere and spent the day working out mileages between prospective rv park locations, we woke to a lovely sunny morning.

We decided to head off to Martin Dies Jr State Park, and took route 190 East to Woodville and then across the B A Steinhagen Lake. It’s an interesting drive across the lake, a little like driving along an embankment with a bridge in one section. Spooky cypress trees dot sections of the lake.

Martin Dies Jr State Park is directly across the bridge, the Nature Center was open and the ranger provided us with a trail map and a park map and then pointed us in the direction of the Island trail. The entrance fee was $3.00 each.

We walked across the bridge and took the left fork of the trail, the forest is full of beech, magnolia and pine and there was a real carpet of leaves underfoot, the return section of the trail has views through the trees across the lake and at one point we could see some white pelicans feeding on some sort of weed out in the lake.

The island trail is 0.8 miles from start to finish.

From there we took the observation bridge over to the Woodland Trail which is just over a mile and a half long and followed that back to the park road. On this trail we saw also some stands of palmetto. It seemed to us to be a very similar habitat to that of the Big Thicket, but then this was probably once part of the Big Thicket. On our way back to the car we saw a big white heron standing silently among the cypress trees of the Neches river waiting to pounce on a passing fish.

These forests must smell wonderful when all the magnolia trees are in bloom.

We left the state park and drove back to Woodville to visit the Heritage Village, most of the buildings in the village are original, although not necessarily in their original location and it is home to the famous Pickett House restaurant, which serves food boarding house style, fried chicken, chicken & dumplings amongst other things.
The Heritage Village is interesting and we enjoyed our visit, although I have to say I’m really glad my dentists surgery is nothing like this one!

I was interested to see the wanted poster for The Wild Bunch, I didn’t realise Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid got to Texas

After a couple of interesting hours around the Heritage Village, the Tolar Kitchen and Main street are shown below

we drove back and had dinner in Pueblo Vieja which was very nice before coming back and collapsing!

We’d never dream of driving some of these distances at home for just a couple of short walks and a walk around a Heritage Village, but apart from passing through a few small towns these roads are soooo much quieter than at home.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Was I ahead of myself?

I forgot to change the time zone on Blogger from GMT to Central time, so I think I've been posting a day ahead of myself, I think.........

Today has been a busy doing nothing day, refilling the propane, visiting, Lowes, the post office and Wally's World for about the 3 millionth time, doing laundry, sitting in the sun drinking coffee and eating muffins.

Yes today has been really, really tough.

Have fun, we are!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Big Thicket

This morning was sunny with clear blue skies, but cold! We decided to take a trip to Big Thicket.

Big Thicket was once an impenetrable forest, a place to be avoided; while the Indians hunted there it was uninhabited until settlers started farming the perimeter in the 1820’s. Big Thicket is now only a fraction of its original size with the Preserve covering 97,500 acres, split into separate sections.

We had a nice drive and arrived at the visitor center around 11:00ish. We weren’t sure if or where we’d be able to hike as everywhere around here is so wet, with standing water in lots of places, but after the orientation video the ranger suggested the Kirby Nature trail.

It’s a nice trail not particularly long or arduous and leads you through different sections of the park, signs tell you not to get off the trail and I can quite see why it would be so easy to get lost if you did. I mean one section of trees looks pretty much like another to me.

See what I mean, turn around twice and you’re lost!

Although it was windy high up in the trees, it was quite sheltered on the trail and the sun was warm apart from the birds it was so quiet I thought it was a little spooky, I wouldn't like to be in here in the dark.

The cypress slough was very weird, with the cypress knees, part of the tree, but other than that don’t ask as I have no idea, sticking up out of the water. We sat for a while looking around, but we were too early in the year for wild flowers and didn’t see any animals either, although a couple of hikers reported seeing a cougar cross Village Creek.

We heard lots of birds but couldn’t actually see them – forgot the binoculars. No-one else had signed in on the trail before or after us so we had it entirely to ourselves and we faithfully reported that we’d not seen any hogs either. I have to say I’m quite glad about that.

We drove home through the back roads across The Big Sandy, which was a nice drive along quiet two lane roads.

We had a little tussle with propane changeover when we got back, but I’m happy to say we won and it is now working again so we’ll be nice and toasty tonight as it is forecast to get down to 29F. Thankfully the forecast also says it’s going to warm up after this.

Have fun, we are!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Polk County Museum, Alligators & Snow!

A visit to the Polk County Museum was recommended to us, so we decided that as today, was chilly, very chilly – we thought we’d left all this cold behind us at home – that is what we’d do. First we stopped the Jonas Davis cabin on W Church Street.
Jonas Davis was a member of the Pakana Muscogie tribe which was originally from this area and was a descendent of President Andrew Jackson’s noted spy. The silver award he is wearing in the picture below bears the inscription ‘Andrew Jackson, President, U. S. of America to John Blount, His Faithful Guide in the Seminole War’.
The award remained in his possession until his death.

Right behind the cabin was Locomotive number 5, it was built in Philadelphia in 1911, used to transport lumber in Florida in the 1920’s it was then purchased for use in the Texas logging industry between Angelina and Polk County Mill towns on the Houston, East and West Texas railway tracks. The locomotive contributed to the development of the areas timber industry.
We didn’t realise that Polk County was named after the 11th President James K Polk who served from 1844 – 1849 and died of cholera 3 months after leaving office.
Museum exhibits show the history of Polk County and Livingston.
A 19th century Wedding dress, obviously this bride didn’t eat donuts!
A nice line in sun bonnets, although today rain bonnets would’ve been much more appropriate!
While we were visiting the museum, the very nice lady told us that alligators abound in the creeks, river and Lake Livingston and that wild hogs, bobcats and a few black bear live in the forests.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Museum and won’t hesitate to return when we’re next in the area.

Mind you when we got back to the Cougar, big fat silver dollar sized flakes of snow fell from the sky for a while so maybe its polar bears we should be watching out for not black bears!

It is still raining and a whole lot chillier than we expected Texas to be at this time of the year and from what I’m hearing it is a whole lot chillier than Texans expect Texas to be as well!

Still tomorrow is another day and the forecast is sunshine, hurray!

Have fun, we are!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

We're on the road

It’s been a while since I posted, but you have no idea how busy you get being retired, how we ever found time to go to work is mystifying.

After lots of expected hanging around, we’re finally on the road, we have our Big Black Texas Truck, BT for short, and our Cougar fifth wheel, so meet BT and the Cougar.

As you can see the truck is huge and being somewhat vertically challenged I really need those running boards, especially as Mike has said that one day he may even let me drive it on the road he just didn’t say which year that would be!

The fifth wheel is lovely and we are very pleased with it and the service we got from Tony and the team at Genuine RV Stores in Nacogdoches but, as with most things it’s not built for small people so I now have a small step and I can almost reach some of the high cupboards.

We’re currently at the Rainbows End, Escapees park in Livingston, Texas where plan to stay for the next couple of weeks while we familiarise ourselves with both BT and the Cougar.

Barely a day goes by without a trip to Walmart for one of those little things you always have at home, but as home is about 6,000 miles away we can’t just pop back for something. I wonder if Walmart give frequent flyer miles?

After we leave here the plan is to head to Big Bend National Park via Bandera the Cowboy Capital of the World, well at least that is the plan today who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Have fun, we are!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Lake Livingston

Sunday was overcast and grey with a promise that the sun just might break through.

We decided to drive over to Lake Livingston State Park and possibly hike a couple of trails. Lake Livingston is very pretty and on a warm, sunny day would be gorgeous, but due to the recent heavy rains there was lots of water lying around and it was chilly, so after a drive around and a walk around the marina we gave up on the idea of the hike.

After leaving the park we drove over to the townsite of Swartwout which was at one time a ferry boat crossing and the original county seat of Polk County. Unless I missed it there is really nothing left to see.

Mobile Broadband

We still had the mobile broadband to sort out, so we decided we were going to have to go with the very expensive pay-as-you-go option, but only use it for banking. As we were staying in Livingston, we decided we may as well go back to the very helpful Jennifer in Walmart and get it from there, now it’s all set up and ready to use, but with a very careful eye on how long we’re online.

Things are starting to come together.

We have a fifth wheel!

We drove up to Nacogdoches on a sunny Saturday morning to check out a fifth wheel we’d been following on the website of Genuine RV

The dealership was very busy when we arrived, but the very nice lady on reception gave us the key and told us to go ahead and have a look around she’d send someone out to us as soon as she could.

We found the model we’d been following and spent the next 2 or 3 hours poking our heads into every nook and cranny. One thing we couldn’t understand was how come the propane storage areas didn’t have a lock on them but apparently it is illegal in the US for them to be locked unlike at home where everything is locked.

We now have a fifth wheel! This is soooo exciting!

We bought a truck!

We bought a truck! It is a fabulous beast with 4WD, a camera for reversing and, especially helpful for vertically challenged folks like me a cute little step! It has lots of other stuff as well, but I’m not technical and as long as it tows what we need that’s all I need to know.

We took it for a test drive around the block, Mike drove out and Mike survived me driving back – he is a terrible passenger!

We have a Big Black Texas Truck!

Mobile Broadband

None of the Wifi we’ve come across is secure enough for us to use to do our banking, so mobile broadband was a must. All the information pointed us to Verizon as having the best coverage for our needs.

The best option would be to take out a monthly contract, but as we’re not US citizens and have no SSN we weren’t sure this route would be available to us.

The Verizon store manager assured us it would be doable, unfortunately Verizon’s credit control department disagreed, so despite his best efforts, that was the end of that.

Sorting out legalities

Thursday we drove up 59N to Livingston to sort out the legalities. We now have an address so that we can legally register our vehicles and thanks to the very helpful Jennifer in Walmart we also have a pay-as-you-go cell.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Houston, we have………………

Wind, cold, rain! After leaving Newark where it was cold but sunny with lots of melting snow from a storm that had passed through earlier in the day, we arrived in Houston to wind, cold and rain!

This may not bode well for a few days on Galveston beach I could get sand in my margarita!