Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just Because

This is a “just because”  posting.  As you can see, we have changed our header to reflect one of our new feathered friends here at Reynolds Creek COE Park.  Watching animals and birds in the wild is an interesting endeavor.  When we first arrived on the 10th of this month, all of the animals we saw would bolt out of sight as soon as we saw them, with the exception of some of the older deer.
This is a regular sight now, in the tall grass around us.

Our Motor home is on the far upper left and behind the shrubs.
One morning judy looked out the window and saw
about 7-10 does directly across the street from us.
Now, there must be a pattern of recognition going, because the roadrunner that hangs out across the street  allows us to get within 25 yards as he goes about his roadrunner habits. 
This roadrunner didn't even run whern I got out of my SUV!

It's a pretty safe bet that we'll find one of these bandits
trapping himself in the dumpster.  The key point is not to get too
 close when we open the lid.  He may launch himself
and go for a ride on your face and shoulders!
A few nights ago, right about deep dusk,  as we drove about on our closing round, Judy and I were able to park about 50 yards from a dead tree alongside the creek with a mature bald eagle perched atop.  It was too dark to even try for a pic, but it really gave me hope for the future.
Yesterday, J. T. (a.k.a. Catfish) and his wife, Glenda, a couple of our newly acquired friends (human in this case), were going through on their regular morning drive through the park when they spotted a large bobcat on the side of the road.  As luck would have it, they were about 200 yards ahead of me and around a bend.   By the time I arrived, the cat had disappeared. 
A few days ago, a couple using the equestrian park (we have about 20+ miles of trails for bikers, hikers and horses) reported spotting a Puma on one of the back trails. “It appeared to be about the size of a German Shepherd and its tail was dragging behind him.”  Most of the horsemen are able to spot these animals without spooking them, because the wild animals don’t differentiate between a lone horse and a horse with a rider.  This same couple reported a 4-wheel  drive mud-riding on some of the closed off sections of the park and, since this activity is forbidden here, in addition to criminal trespass, the various rangers, as well as all of us volunteers, are trying to identify the offender.  When they do apprehend him, it will turn out to be an expensive hobby.
The last couple of days, we spent our volunteer hours trimming brush at the entrance, mostly crepe myrtles that have not been attended to for several  years.  At our age, it hurts, but we look forward to getting into shape for Colorado next May, so we are pushing ourselves.  We have now cleared the park of litter and only have a few pieces here and there to pick up each day.  The remnants of the devastating flood of several years ago are reminders of how bad it got.   There is even a telephone pole in the upper reaches of the trees about 20-30 feet off the ground next to the lake.  What was once an area of beautiful campsites has now been abandoned.  and It is going to take a lot of work and expense to get that part cleaned up.  I personally think that all they have to do is open it to tent campers and allow the campers to pick up the wood for firewood.  However, this is a federal park and it probably won’t happen.
We toured the closed area of the park and found it be absolutely gorgeous.  All campsites overlook the lake and are located on a high bluff above the water.  Why didn’t we know about this park when we were tent camping?!  If anyone is looking for a beautiful place to camp during the summer, this is it.  Waco Lake is fed by the Brazos and Bosque Rivers, keeping a fresh supply of water flowing, and the fish have a beautiful , clean taste.
We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves and invite anyone in the area to drop in (after calling to be sure we’re home)!  Merry Christmas and more news to come later!  ~Dick~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We've settled in!

As most of you who follow our blog know, Judy and I moved to Reynolds Creek Park on Waco Lake (near Waco, TX) on Saturday, 12/10/11, and set up as camp hosts for the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) for the next 3 1/2 months (through March 2012).  Well, we finally got moved in and surveyed our situation to begin working on the site - between rain storms.

Our RV pad is situated in a grove of Arizona Ash that chose the week we moved in to start shedding its leaves so, as soon as I got our front yard cleaned up, a breeze pops up and dumps a couple more bags on the lawn and across our patio.  Oh, well, we’ll get there eventually.

Last Monday night, I went out to the car and realized we were being serenaded by 2 different groups of coyotes.  This wasn’t the type of lone animal howling and having another answer off in the distance.  This was 2 packs of at least 5 to 10 each howling together – loud enough to hear inside with the windows closed and the TV on.  I think Judy was just a little freaked out. 
This past week, we were busy trimming trees, raking leaves, patrolling the park and picking up some of the litter people have shamelessly thrown out of their vehicles, too lazy to go by a dumpster.  Earlier, we spotted an eagle and have a general idea where it is nesting, so my plans are to get close enough to get some decent pics, yet stay far enough away so as not to disturb.  One day last week, while doing a patrol, I got out of the car and walked out toward a spit of land sticking out into the lake.  As I approached, I watched about 6 does move away from my location and, right behind, were several coyotes leisurely following.   

When we first toured the campground, we were treated to sightings of deer at every bend.  Last Sunday, we went to the dumpster to dispose of our trash.  When I opened the dumpster lid, I was face to face with a terrified raccoon that had maneuvered himself into the container only to have the closed lid trap him.  We made a makeshift ladder for him from our trash and left the lid open while we drove around.  When we returned, he was gone.


Last Monday evening, when I closed and did my final round after dark, I stopped to let a lone coon cross the road in front of me, only to turn and see him come right up to my door and stand on his hind legs making little chirping sounds at me.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather broke down and the animals evidently decided to "hunker down" and few were to be seen.  I only spotted 1 lone buck - granted, a beautiful animal with what looked like 8 to 10 points with a beautiful wide spread.  Luckily, he’s safe here, but he would have been a beautiful trophy for some hunter.  Just maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to situate a camera blind well enough to get a good trophy picture.

Wildlife is plentiful here and, besides the above-mentioned, includes roadrunners, hawks, bobcats and cougars (mountain lions).   Forgive the lack of pictures so far, but most of our sightings have been when we have been doing our volunteer work and were not prepared.  I pledge that with the ample wildlife here, pictures will be coming.

A perfect ending to our first week in our "new" location was having our friends Dave and Sue come for a visit (with their 3 puppies) on Friday (12/16), followed by dinner at the Cotton Patch Cafe - and Judy actually had some great fried shrimp!  I actually ordered grilled shrimp with blackened tilapia, which was topped with a crawfish concoction.  Delicious! 
OH, and did I say, WE LOVE IT HERE!  ~Dick~

Let the clean-up begin!

Here are more details on the clean up and our first week-and-a-half at our "new" site!  Dick started cutting the low-hanging branches from the trees and blew all the leaves from our campsite, only to have the winds blow leaves from the trees everywhere. This past Saturday (12/17), Dick blew leaves again, since the trees are almost barren, and I loaded 6 huge garbage bags. It has been fun being outside and getting some exercise, which is preparing us for Colorado next summer!


Sunday (12/18), I looked out our bedroom window and saw 8 or so deer across the road. I quickly grabbed my camera to take pictures – and then realized that my card was in my computer and not in my camera. Later in the morning, I saw 2 of the deer return. What a beautiful site!

Sunday afternoon, Dick used his new chain saw and cut up the branches and we had a big bonfire – since the burn ban has finally been lifted. While watching over the fire, we heard what turned out to be sand hill cranes heading south ahead of the next round of cold weather. What amazed us is that it is so quiet in the park that we were able to hear them before seeing them flying in formation. Another beautiful site but, unfortunately, not captured in pictures!

Yesterday (12/19), we attended a Christmas party and lunch, with a White Elephant gift exchange, at the COE office and met more people, as well as seeing others whom we had already met. Dick made his chicken and wild rice dressing, and has had requests for his recipe. It was yummy! For gifts, I got a $10 (our limit) gift card to Walmart, and Dick “stole” a handmade sign which he knew I really wanted (see picture below)!


Standing - J. Morris,
Volunteer Coordinator



Joan and Terry - hosts at Koehne Park
and our friends from Seabrook, TX

We are continuing to perform our volunteer duties this week and will get ready for a road trip to visit the kids, grandsons, family and friends for Christmas and New Year’s in the Houston area and Southwest Louisiana. As you can see, the gifts are bought and wrapped and we are ready!

See ya next time and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ~Judy~

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We’re Moving

This is the entry to our new home.  The cluster of trees to the right of the gatehouse
is where our pad is. It includes an over-sized picnic table, a smoker, and a firepit with adjustable grill.  Also, in the back yard is a small grove of plum trees.  The lake is about ¼ mile through the trees on the left.

When you least expect it, opportunity knocks, and opportunity has come banging on our door.  As many of you know, our original plans were to stay at the RV park until next April.  However, things were not as described and circumstances not as promised so, after 3-½ months, when we received a call from an agency that needed a couple to serve as park host, we weighed our situation and decided to move on.
As of next Monday, we will be volunteering at Reynolds Creek Park, Waco Lake for the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers.  We will be working 20 hours per week opening and closing the gates, as well as other tasks involving maintenance and any other duties where we are needed.  Judy and I look at this as a great opportunity, as we will be the only campers (at this time) in the campground.  This is a pretty large park, but this winter, a large part of it has been cordoned off and the rest turned into day use only.   We visited today to check out our site with some friends, and saw at least 20 nice deer, including a few really nice bucks.  The area rangers have told me of some nesting eagles and I believe I spotted a fish hawk atop one of the tree skeletons along the lake.  There are a number of stump-studded coves around the lake that will offer some good kayaking and hopefully, great fishing.  I already know that with the photographic opportunities of the previous items mentioned I will get some super trophies.
Unlike the noise from the heavy truck traffic and the lowful wail of diesel engines from the tracks behind us at Waco North RV Park, we were greeted with the beautiful sound of wilderness - so quiet, my tinnitus became painfully evident.   I think this winter will be that of relaxed enjoyment.
Watch for further updates!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Celebration

Well, here I go again.  Our blog would have been updated sooner, but I didn’t compose it in Word and, as I was adding the pictures to it, “something" happened and I lost it all.  This time, I’m doing it in Word first; then, I’ll copy it over to our blog.  I apologize for the length, but it brings us up to date.

We had a fantastic week approaching Thanksgiving.  Michelle and Logan drove up on Friday, the 18th, to spend the week with us, and Mike, April and the two boys drove up the following Thursday (Thanksgiving), to spend Friday and leave Saturday morning. Thanksgiving week was full of activities and good family visitation.

The Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, we headed for Waco to the Downtown Farmer’s Market that had its opening weekend.  It was super easy to find and parking was ample but, still, we were not early enough to avoid missing the good stuff.  There were tons of people and I personally was surprised at the variety of meats that were being sold by a number of area organic farms.  Everything from chickens to goat was being sold and we were told repeatedly the turnout was way beyond anything that was expected and, hence, everyone was selling out early.  Product variety was amazing and included honey, jellies, jams, preserves, pickles, delicious-looking mushrooms and mushroom kits, winter greens, flowers, cheeses, nuts, fruit and much more. This is one market we are definitely planning on returning to, only making it an earlier visit. 
Area Honey
The mushrooms were only samples
for the growing kits.  Really looked
yummee good!
Just Lookin'
Barnyard (free range) chicken

We left the market and drove up to Hillsboro to attend the holiday crafts fair being held at the factory shops.  This mall has suffered so badly that only one in five shops is now open, but the fair attracted hundreds of people and it looked alive and well.  Judy and Michelle used this as an opportunity to pick up a few Christmas gifts, and I found  a booth manned by the Lone Oak Winery from Burleson, TX.  There, I picked up a bottle of port to sip with after dinner chocolates.  My initial tasting said “buy it” but, after getting home and having a glass, I realized that I’ve had ports costing less than half of what I paid and tasting far better.  Lesson learned!

We returned to the campground early that evening to sit out on the patio and visit when a group of scouts who were bivouacked here stopped by to invite us to attend a Flag Retirement Ceremony and guitar singalong.  This was the first time any of us had ever seen this and it was really interesting.  After some patriotic songs, the group of scouts gathered around the flag, stretching it out.  One of the scouts with scissors began by cutting the stripes, one at a time and the others, each in turn, would take that stripe to the fire and lay it atop to burn completely.  When one had burned, the process would be repeated, until all 13 stripes signifying the 13 original colonies in their order of statehood had been burned.  Then, the remaining field of blue with its 50 stars, representing the great union this country has grown into, was laid atop the pyre and burned to ashes.  Nothing else was burned in the fire and, when cooled, the ashes were recovered to be buried as prescribed in the scout policy.  Afterwards, the scouts gathered round the guitar and America the Beautiful was sung to finish the ceremony.  As we mingled about afterwards, I was able to pick up some great scout recipes for fruit cobblers in a Dutch oven that I can’t wait to try out!
The flag was held as the stripes were
carefully and individually cut out.
After each stripe was cut,
a scout carried it to the fire to be consumed.

Finally the blue field, with the stars, was placed atop the fire.

Monday, we set out early to go to the Waco Mammoth Site, only to discover enroute that they were closed on Mondays.  I had heard the Mayborn Museum touted as a great replica of the site along with other discoveries, so we headed to Baylor University instead.  It wasn’t nearly as good as the true Mammoth Site, but Logan was given the challenge of a “scavenger hunt” for informative  tidbits and this, as well as their gift shop, kept his interest up for the duration.  On the whole, though, I felt the best part of the museum was the entry to the exhibits where a fossilized mammoth skull and tusk was suspended above a glassed-in case housing a “baby” mammoth and a 19-foot skull from a humpback whale that was discovered in South America were displayed. 
Those guys were BIG!!
Mammoth babies were the size
 of large dogs
19-ft. skull from a whale

Pre-historic turtle

A model of the original dig


After leaving the Mayborn Museum, we drove downtown to The Dr. Pepper Museum where the original Dr. Pepper was bottled and sold.  It was pretty neat, but I would have liked to have seen the actual bottling operation in action the way it was back then.  A real point of interest was all the other soda companies under the Dr. Pepper umbrella.  Jones Sodas, which includes “Turkey and Gravy” and “Candied Sweet Potato” flavors, all of the “Crush” sodas, and many other root beer brands.
Site of the original drugstore and plant
Judy had to buy our way in

The Pharmacy
Turn of the century soda fountain 
Need anything be said?
Ice-cream float break
It's scary, but I remember these.  And it's in a museum...
Our next stop was the Texas Ranger Museum.  This was an interesting exhibit that  featured some of the more famous Texas Rangers.  Sorry folks, but Walker was not one of them!  Here again, Logan was presented with an informational scavenger hunt that kept his interest up and gave him an education on the Rangers.  One thing I found amusing was a display of Bonnie and Clyde.  The museum displayed a picture (I have an original that I picked up a number of years ago.) of the guns that were taken from the couple when they were killed.  The display seems to lead visitors into believing they were captured (killed) in Texas.  If you read the really fine print under the picture, you see that they were actually ambushed in Louisiana…Oh, well…!
Logan wanted to practice his art

Bonnie and Clyde's legacy

On Tuesday, we headed for the Dallas World Aquarium that we had heard so much about.  This is a “must see” for anyone visiting the Dallas downtown area.  Not only is this a phenomenal aquarium, but it has a great series of zoological exhibits that top some we have seen in actual zoos.  For Michelle, the highlight was the live manatees, which she was able to view from only inches away through the Plexiglas enclosures.  For photographers, the presence of Plexiglas enclosures, rather than wire fencing, made capturing images as though in the wild much more pleasurable.  I think Judy’s pleasure here was seeing the way Logan bounced from one display to another, thoroughly enjoying himself.  All of us liked the “tunnel” under the aquarium that allowed you to sit and let the fish (sharks, saw fish. rays, turtles, etc.) swim all around you.  This was “quiet fun” as well as an educational place to visit.
Dallas World Aquarium
Candidate for the "Ugliest Bird" Award

On the way home, Logan developed a persistent, hacking cough that developed into a low grade fever later that night.  We attacked it with Musinex and Tylenol (children’s) and the next morning it was entirely gone.  We did take it easy, though, just as a precaution against its return for the whole day.
Judy and I had to work on Thursday but, since she took the first shift, I began preparations for the campground Thanksgiving dinner .  It was a potluck dinner and she and I were to bring a dirty rice dressing and Shelly wanted to make her green bean casserole from scratch.  Charles had me close up early and we all gathered in the rec room to give thanks and share the meal.  John, Joan, Charles and Mindy supplied the turkey, gravy, a delicious cornbread dressing and Logan’s favorite, candied yams. Jodie, Carl and Jerry showed up with some really good deviled eggs, and Valerie and Austin brought a corn casserole that her Aunt had made.  All-in-all, it was a super Thanksgiving get-together.
While dinner was going on, Mike and April arrived and April came over to the rec room to meet everyone.  Colby pulled a “shy" guy on everyone while Ben was “Mr. Personality.”   Valerie went out to get “Wilber”, her pet miniature hog.  I hate to say it, but this was the cutest little thing ever.
This is Valerie with Wilber
Although we had to work Friday, I had prepared a stuffed pork roast Wednesday and put it on for our family dinner here on Friday night.  Friday was a day for "catching up" and talking about "things" while the kids played and the adults talked.
Joe stopped by with Friend for a brief visit.
Morning gossip between "sisters"

Friday morning breakfast
He gets to read to them now

As Mike’s usual custom, he and his family were packed and ready to leave early Saturday morning and were on their way.  Later on Saturday, Dave, a long-time family friend, stopped by for a planned visit and treated Logan to some special tattoos (a sideline business he started).  Before leaving for Dallas, he and Shelly went out for a bite at “Up In Smoke”, a local bar-b-que place up the road with some really good food and pies.


The process begins
Prep work

Why does school have to be two days away?


Sunday morning, Michelle and Logan were packed up and ready to roll on back to Houston by the time I got up.  Strangely enough, she only left behind a couple of items this time.

Until next time!  ~dick~