Friday, March 31, 2017

Mar 31 2017 - Huntsville to home.

Another day in paradise.  First order of the day - make tea!

Yes there are gators in that lake

Then pack up the van and go pay - before coming back in to explore.

Hear no evil, see no evil......
After basking in the sun for a while and enjoying breakfast by the lake its off to the Sam Houston monument.
This massive white statue is visible from the freeway - and if you visit it you are pretty much standing on the shoulder with trucks whizzing past at 70 mph. But the flowers are pretty this time of year.

Just a teaser of the way

With Clare for some scale!

Then off into town for lunch and a look around. Huntsville is a great town.  Its a university town so you know it must be affordable.  Lots of interesting history to poke around at..
Guess who died in the "steamboat house"

Final place we went to was the Texas Prison museum.. We weren't expecting much here but ended up spending a couple of hours.  Lots of famous and infamous folks passed through the Texas prison system and the story of how punishment has evolved over the years is more interesting than it sounds.

Here is old sparky...

And here is a sample "last meal" request...

So thats it.  3 hour drive home and we are done.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mar 30 2017 - Visas then San Jacinto

After flicking a few more caterpillars we drove into Houston to pick us the Visas.
Would have cost over $400 if we had used an agent.  Our cost? $60.  While waiting in line we watched several 'agents' picking up bundles of passports and putting them straight into FedEx envelopes.  Looks like an easy way to make a living!

After a quick stop in the massive British Store we headed east to the  San Jacinto Monument
This is where Texas and Mexico had a bit of a skirmish during the Texas revolution
At 567 feet tall its the highest monument column in the world.

For a few dollars you can ride an elevator almost to the top.
The view from there is quite big.

After yesterday's rain the reflecting pool is overflowing

USS Texas on the ship canal

Houston in the distance

Then its off to scramble all over USS Texas - the only ship to see action in WW1 and WW2

Tonight we camp at  Huntsville State Park - wot no caterpillars?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mar 29 2017 - Brazos Bend and more caterpillars

Another day in paradise.
We were expecting a storm to skim through today so we head south to avoid it.
Brunch in West Columbia (parked under a large tree just in case) then to Varner Hogg Plantation
Lots of history behind the Hogg name in Texas - and he had a sense of humor.  He called his only daughter "Ima".  (Rumors that he had another daughter and called her "Ura" are apparently untrue)

They say that 1 million bricks were used to build this place - seems a lot but who are we to argue. The bricks were made locally from the mud in the river - and that in turn allowed ships right up to the plantation to transport the cotton, then pecans.  Many houses were built from wood and did not survive the massive hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 - but this one did.  In later years, oil and gas on the property provided a fine income.

 Next stop was Surfside Beach. We like beaches.
We didnt like this one.  Still have tar on our shoes.

Ugly houses IN the water - what were they thinking?

Beautiful trash cans - quite enchanting...

You can drive on this beach - not sure why you would want to - the road is a few yards away.
And that stops you enjoying the beach for fear of being run over by a local in a pickup truck.
Despite that we gamely strolled around anyway because that's what Brits do.
Saw some nice houses and some that well - needed a bit of work

Back at the State park, the rain had scooted away so we cycled around Hale Lake as sunset approached.  Saw a few more gators and load of ducks.

Finally it was back to the campsite for - guess what - more caterpillar flicking, a fire and a cold one.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mar 28 2017 - Brazos Bend State Park.

Another fine day at Brazos Bend State Park
First task of the morning (after brewing tea and flicking caterpillars of course) is to go back to the office to pay for last nights stay.  You are supposed to be there before 9AM or they think you are free-loading.
So,while Clare organized the van, Jim cycled to pay.  The usual wildlife was out and about but squeaky brakes on the bike scared them away when stopping for photos.
Then it happened -  my "North by Northwest" moment. (kids - google it)

There is a long straight section of road and I was half way along it when I heard a plane - low and slow. It gets louder and louder then bursts into view flying straight at me.  The trees on either side are tall enough to save me - and naturally its only a crop duster lining up for a run outside the park
I watched it do a few circuits before it waved goodbye and was gone.

Got to the office at 8.30.  It opens at 9 so back to 40 acre lake for a look-see.
There were a couple of Japanese on the fishing pier with some serious looking bird-watching gear.
They seemed to be excited about a gator that was a maybe 10 yards offshore.  As I approached they split up and there was one at each end of the t-shaped pier.  I said hi to the wife and she asked me to confirm that what she was looking at was indeed a gator.  I said yes but then pointed out the other one that was right under her husbands feet.  That caused some merriment when he finally realized....
Just a few inches away....

First walk of the day was to Elm Lake.

So much wildlife - its hard to show just a few..

Next we popped into the Nature Center.  Lots of fun stuff in there but the most interactive part was the baby alligators.  Last  year at nesting time the water was much higher than usual so many nests were built too far away from the real water. As the water receded the Park Service took it upon themselves to rescue some of the eggs as they knew they wouldn't make it so far from water.  They now have maybe 50 baby alligators.  Fascinating little creatures...
Did you know they have a different number of toes front and back?  Nobody is quite sure why.

Then we zoomed a few miles up the road to George Ranch Historical Park.
This is a great place to visit if its not too hot.  4 generations of farming/ranching are on display with reconstructed (or moved) houses from the 1830's to the 1890's
1830's dogtrot house - cool breezeway down the middle

separate kitchen in case of fire - and to keep the heat out

19th century dude on a cell phone

Victorian mansion

That last picture is interesting. Look carefully at the cup he (no its not Billy Connolly) is holding.
You might not be able to make it out - but it was used by gentlemen with waxed mustaches to drink hot soup. Think about it.

Finally its back to the campsite to flick a few more caterpillars, light another fire and crack a cold one.

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