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Posts from the ‘Travel & Places I’ve been’ Category

A Purple Weed-Chopper

Today was a lovely hot day with puffy white clouds floating across the sky, perfect for the rescheduled fly-in at the local municipal airport. We arrived around eleven in time to see some parachutists landing. Vintage cars lined the tar-mac and then there were the planes. Mostly smallish ones–two or three passenger ones at best—and then there were the ultra-lights or experimentals.

In the background is the Polyethylene plant–I used to work there as the occupational physician. I learned a lot about people and management and work processes there. The plant looks to have tripled in size since I was there and sometimes I wish I was still there.

A friend from those days, husband’s partner and son, and another friend from motorcycle days were there with two vintage cars. Husband thought he could have parked Tessie there as it was the only one in the parking lot. That would have been nice as there was a huge turn-out and we parked a good distance away on the side of Keith Road.

As we caught up chatting—the habit of pandemic seclusion a bit challenging to break—a truck drove up in front of us towing a what is lovingly referred to as a ‘weed-chopper’.

I thought it might be a glider with its wings furled around a center mast—the wings are made of rip-stock nylon identical to sails—and made by sail making companies. The man, his son and two grand-children carefully prepared the plane—-taking about an hour to fit all the pieces together. I was graciously allowed to sit in the pilot’s seat—-

It was a bit of a chore to climb through those struts with my back not bending very much.

I took more photos of some of the other ultra-lights, flying planes—and a lot of sky with clouds and no plane—and then what my engineer-minded husband and sons think of as rather odd—engine parts.

I do not know what this is or what it does. I have been accused of thinking like a surgeon at times–‘i.e. stop talking about the problem, let’s figure out a way to fix it’ but maybe with a bit of pruning, it could be part of an engineering bent.

I will do a bit more editing of the photos I took—and upload them into my Texas 2021 folder on Smugmug.

An unexpected visitor

With the pandemic we have not had many household visitors. We have chatted with a few neighbors and workmen outside—fence repair, roof repair. Our two dogs are somewhat diversionary—and of course there is social media and the internet—such as we have here.

Flat Stanley arrived in a small envelope with a return address of my grade/high school in Wisconsin. After some investigation we determined it was from a great-niece—but not before we had planned all sorts of grand adventures for Stanley.

For anyone reading this who does not know, Flat Stanley is based on a book and is the focus of what is called the longest running literary project. Flat Stanley has been to war, with the Senate, and I think perhaps to astronaut training. His website is full of adventure.

Flat Stanley will be staying here for about two weeks; he is an ideal guest–no complaints about the food or his bed or how long it takes to go somewhere.

Here he is arriving

The Cat Tail Marsh is part of the sanitary system for the city. It is a great place to walk around the levees.
Besides ducks and other water birds there are alligators.
This alligator was on the far side of one of the ponds–too far away for a personal up-close photo.

Today’s weather is forecast for rainy misty–not the best day for photos but we will find someplace fun for Stanley to visit.

Sweet Gum and Pitchers

Fall in Southeast Texas is not nearly as dramatic or colorful as it is in Wisconsin where I grew up—but if you look hard enough, there is some color to be found.

We live on the outskirts of the Big Thicket. The section near us has a wide diversity of plant life and ecosystems ranging from pine forests to cypress swamps to marsh. During our time here, we have hiked many of the trails in the several sections here. One section features a controlled burn every so many years.

Then there are the sundew plants—and the pitcher plants—insect eaters. We did not expect to see the sundews but there were plenty of pitcher plants.

Is that an Alligator?

The day was a bit chilly with a bit of a breeze but sunny, a good day to take a walk around the levees at Cat-Tail Marsh in Tyrell Park. It is the tertiary treatment area for the city’s sewage system and although that sounds rather off-putting, it is one of our favorite places to go walking.

The ponds are separated by various levees all topped with either gravel or grassy roadways perfect for walking/running/bicycling. I don’t run anymore, unless someone yells fire–and in which case, it might actually be a fast walk. But it is a lovely place to walk, there are birds everywhere, some days more than others.

Today we saw egrets, ibis, a little green heron or two plus lots of coots and gallinules. The gallinules seemed to walk on water as they traveled across the water hyacinths in search of lunch/supper. I suspect they don’t really separate out meal times–it is just eat all day as long as the sun shines and even if it doesn’t.

We were thrilled to see what we thought was an alligator with just its eyes and snout showing above the water line–and worked hard to get some great photos—but after a bit of maneuvering decided it was just a bit of vegetation floating along—and then we did see an alligator on the opposite bank–but neither of us wanted to venture close enough for a great photo.

see the snout and the two eyes
his head was stuck under the vegetation

Even so, it was a pleasant day—and we returned home–me to my sewing room to work on a project, Glen to look at his photos. I’m starting to compile this year’s photos in a single album labeled Texas 2021. I suspect we will have much more of pandemic lock-down/limited travel. I miss my friends and my family—the orchid society, the astronomical society, my quilting friends, the motocross/racing…..but then missing them will make the time we can meet again all the more sweeter.

Buzzards on the prowl

There is an old German axiom that whatever you spend New Year’s Day is how you will spend your year. In the past, i have spent the day dismantling the Christmas tree and putting away the decorations while watching the Rose Bowl parade. This year is certainly not traditional. I’ve done assorted things ranging from a hike/working/cleaning and organizing my work area. But this year is clearly not a usual year.

We are fortunate to live on the western most reach of the Great Mississippi Flyway which means there are migratory—and stationary(?) or perhaps residential is the proper term for the shore and water birds. We are also fortunate to have ready access to several wildlife refuge areas including Anahuac National Wildlife Nature Preserve. There is a new visitor’s center just out of Winnie but it is currently closed due to our need to social distance.

Sunny skies, no rain or wind but more than a tad chilly at 55 degrees projected to be the high for the day meant a good day for seeing birds. We remembered a previous year in which we participated in the annual bird count—great fun–we got to ride on a RollYGon–a kind of arctic marsh vehicle through the swampy areas definitely off the beatend path—–but we were terrible at identifying all the birds we saw that day—easy to count the dead alligators lying on the side of the pathways. Not sure we should feel pleased or aggrieved we were not invited back to help out the next year.

A few other people were out–and all of them with what looked like fabulous photographic gear—I have a Canon SX 50–light enough for me to hold relatively steady and a foldout screen to accommodate my fairly large blind spot. Coots…..a black duck type bird with a white bill swims along with its head down scanning the undergrowth in the water, then dives down and all you will see is the concentric circles in the water–then it pops up two or three feet away.

A caracara flew past us with a brown feathered object dangling from its claws. Three buzzards were intensely interested in this event; as we drove silently along–Tessie is a great bird-watching vehicle–needs a convertible top to be truly useful—the caracara would fly a few feet with the buzzards walking solemnly but purposely behind.

We spied a large groups of birds on what we might call an island—with one of the faboo photographers taking photos—it was a flock of egrets mingled with spoonbills. My camera would not zoom close enough to see those awkward bills but I did see the pink plumage.

A bit further down the road was a /green heron, a snowy egret, and cormorants perched on a road sign.

But we needed to hurry home for our cabbage, black-eyed peas, Mexican cornbread and champagne to welcome in another new year.

Plumbing, Coots, and a Great Blue

Living in an old house on the Texas Gulf Coast where houses are not designed for cold weather and freezing temperatures……let’s just say the house is charming but challenging at times. I had noticed a black spot appearing on the hallway ceiling over the front door. We speculated replacing the front pillars some years ago–they were rotting with some plastic ones had altered the roof just enough to permit water to run in; then we also thought perhaps the shower pan was no longer functional and discovered a place where the grout had fallen out on the side of the walk-in shower.

Husband crawled up there on our ladder and after some poking and sawing away of the drywall we had put up instead of the plaster in repairing the shower pan leakage incident, found a hole in a pipe—a pipe that ran underneath an electric wire. That repair necessitated turning off the power and the water to the house while a patch was attempted.

I repaired to the shop where I started quilting a surprise for my oldest son—well, maybe not a surprise if he reads this; and after rethreading the Gammill twice and taking out some bad stitches, I called to inquire about the status of the repair.

I will spare you the images of the hole in the front hallway ceiling but instead end with this photo taken of the Anahuac Wildlife Refuge and direct you to my gallery featuring more photos of the afternoon. Coots were in great abundance and I took dozens of photos but they do not pose as nicely as do the marsh reeds and other vegetation.

For more photos of the day take a look at this gallery

There are two other galleries featuring our trips to Anahuac AND

There are better photos of the coots and a great one of an alligator swimming in the marsh.

We didn’t drive along the entire roadways there, just the one loop.

Flying high (Eventually)

There was a car/plane show at the municipal airport this past weekend. We arrived just as the planes were beginning to fuel up and return to their respective homes. I have been to several car shows but never a plane show and this was interesting.

I learned it is very difficult to get good photographs of planes. They are Big! Even the ones that are meant for just two or maybe four people, it is hard to get a good photo. And then I was shooting into the sun or had my shadow included in the photo.

Getting a good car photo is also not so easy–and there was a Delorian—such a fun car—and Back to the Future!

As we wandered around the planes, they were fueling up and taking off–again hard to get photos as the runway was to the west–and that sun which made such a wonderful day at the beach made for ‘no photos of planes in the air’.

But we did find one guy who knew the answer to my question—what sort of plane did Sky King fly? It was the Cessna Songbird. And now you know too.

Here is the link to more photos from the day and if you keep scrolling through you will also see the beach images.

Happiness is

A day at the beach!

We had planned to take a short trip for nearly a week, hoping the weather would cooperate—-and it did. Sunshine, a tiny bit of a breeze, and temps in the low 70’s made for a perfect day. We also had the beach mostly to ourselves–a man with his daughter played in the surf and a Hispanic man fished the surf with three lines (didn’t catch anything while we were there).

While many people go to the beach in the summer, we far prefer the winter time. I think it is the solitude–the quiet–although the waves and the surf were rather noisy yesterday. A huge flock of gulls congregated near the water’s edge and I took dozens of photos. This wasn’t the easiest as I cannot use the viewfinder due to my eyesight, but must use the little fold-out window. But the shells and the feather held quite still for me.

As we had considerable number of miles left on Tessie’s battery, we stopped by what used to be Dick Dowling Battleground–now renamed in view of political correctness as the Sabine Pass Battleground. A dozen or more fishers lined the bulkhead, a few tourists arrived and wandered around the various markers—a miniature set-up of the guns and the ships–the USS Clifton, USS Sachem and one other were arranged in the grounds. And then there was the huge walking beam used to power the ship.

We ate our lunch of sandwiches, a satsuma, and two chocolates at a picnic table under a tree while Glen threw bits of satsuma peel at the grackles who had already decorated our table—I always bring a small hand-towel to use as a table-cloth–so no worries.

Next up was a trip to Riverfront Park in Port Neches, everything due to the pandemic (will it ever end?) Several groups were having outdoor birthday parties with balloons marking their tables.

And then home to a pot of rice and pinto beans and two dogs who smiled as they ventured out to the dog park.

It was a good day.

Some of my photos of the day are posted here:

Cotton Fields

My grandmother had picked a stalk of cotton during one of her trips to Georgia and displayed it in a vase on top of her upright piano. In that same vase were some stalks of oats I had picked for her on the edge of one of our fields. She had covered the grains with brightly colored aluminum foil–a painstaking task occupying many hours. I always wondered where she had gotten so many different colors–purple, green, blue, red—we only had the plain silver. And now that I think back on it, I am sure she scavenged that foil from floral arrangements from the three cemeteries she maintained as one of her means of income.

I wondered what fields of cotton would look like—maybe like a field of white roses near Geough Georgia, a small town consisting of a cotton gin, a post office/general store and a school. I had been volunteered as a newly minted MD to supervise a health clinic at the school– I think they mostly talked about diet and brushing teeth.

Texas does grow cotton and here is one of those fields. Menger was a cotton farmer who developed several different kinds of machinery to process the cotton. I stood at the side of the field to take this photo; there was cotton as far as I could see on both sides of the road.

cotton flower

A Bonsai Tree and a Fountain

Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment in Houston. I normally schedule these to include a trip to the art museum to see the latest exhibits and to check in on my favorites—Matisse’s bronze backs in the Cullen sculpture garden and the European impression wing; I’ve stopped by the Menil on occasion too–but the Menil is closed and the MFA is open by appointment. Not knowing how long a doctor’s appointment will last, I contented myself with a walk through Herman Park.

While it is not as large as Central Park in New York City, it is not small either. There is a golf course, a zoo, a small railroad, bikes for rent and many long trails and pathways for walkers and runners. The bird population is plentiful ranging from ducks and geese to pigeons and I’m sure others–but those were the ones I saw begging on the pathways. It reminded me of student days in Madison where no-one dared sit near the path–they would be covered with birds seeking bread.

img_4260-mThis tree near the ticket booth for the zoo has always fascinated me. Although it is full size, to me it looks like a bonsai tree—something a few of my medical school classmates and I tried during student days—not money involved in raising one from a tiny sapling dug from the side of the road somewhere and destined for mowing. My bonsaid morphed into miniature roses when I did my residency—but they stayed behind when we moved to Texas.

img_4262-mIt was warm—no–HOT—and this fountain looked deliciously appealing. Two paddleboats circled around it, the passengers laughing as they encountered the spray. Had I been more appropriately dressed and with a companion blessed with a good pair of calves, I would have joined in.