Saturday, March 25, 2023

Free Beach Camping at Magnolia Beach

 Location: Magnolia Beach, Port Lavaca, Texas

When planning this trip, I had two days that I couldn't find reservations for in between the last campground at Goose Island and the next campground at Mustang Island. My original plan was to stay at the Padre Island National Seashore at Malaquite Campground for those two days. It is a first come, first serve, $7.00/night boondocking campground. It is about 20 miles from Corpus Christi and the last time I visited it I was camped at Mustang Island. It was worth the drive to spend the day and I put the campground on my list of future places to camp with an asterisk of "no cell service" and if you get there and they're full up, your screwed. So, that was the plan. Spend 5 days at Goose Island, then 2 days at Malaquite, then 5 days at Mustang Island. Big Ut oh, I checked the weather forecast for those two days and it said a high of 97 degrees on Friday and 95 for Saturday. Remember, boondocking means NO Air Conditioning. I'm not a hard core boondocker so I needed to reevaluate my plan. One of the common phrases some RV travelers use is their "plans are made in jell-o", meaning they can change quickly and easily. That phrase made a lot more sense many years ago when very few campgrounds ever reached 100% occupancy. Now-a-days though transient workers use RV's instead of apartments/motels and lots of people are using RV's as a regular place to live instead of renting or buying a house. This has been a boon for campgrounds because they are full most of the time. Other places, like State Parks, are mostly reserved about 6 weeks in advance. Times have changed, so we travelers have to adapt. 

Another campground that has been on my list for a while was Magnolia Beach, which is where I'm camped now. I had planned to stop here for two day in between Mustang Island and Galveston Island. That changed and I came here instead of Malquite. The weather forecast showed Magnoia being 13 degrees cooler than Malaquite and has strong cell phone/internet service. That cinched it for me. My plan officially changed.

Magnoglia beach is owned by Calhoun County and is opened to anyone, free of charge, on a first come, first serve basis. There is room for at least 100 RV's with most being able to camp within 15 feet of the water. The water is a huge bay, named Lavaca Bay. It got hotter than they predicted yesterday after the weather front moved through and the wind stopped blowing. Once the breeze picked back up it became tolerable. Today has been very comfortable with the outside temperature running in the mid to upper 70's and a nice breeze blowing. When I was sweating yesterday, I was thinking about hitching up and finding some electricity, but now I'm glad I didn't.

Once you get to the beach, you just drive along it until you find a spot to pull-in/back-in. There are everything from very large and fancy Class A motorhomes to home-made campers. 

I found a nice spot and although it was a very tight location, I was able to back in without hitting anything. 

This is looking south along the beach. It's not a nice sandy beach for playing or making sand castles, but it is nice for RV's.

You have to bring your own shade, ie. your RV or vehicle. Remember, Port Lavaca is an international port and receives ocean going ships.

The view out my back window.

Sunset on Day 1.

Sunrise on Day 2. Sipping coffee, made using my inverter.

The above is a video to remind me of the sound of the waves when I view it in the future. That sound is what will stick with me after leaving here. Very nice.

I started traveling nine years ago and during that time had only boondocked two times, both in Walmart parking lots on my way back to Louisiana from Idaho. The weather was perfect for it back then and my AGM batteries did just fine for such a short time. However, even after those two times, I never got bitten by the boondocking bug. It just didn't fit my way of traveling and exploring. These two days here at Magnolia still have not convinced me to do more boondocking although I will probably come back here for two more days before getting to Galveston. 

When I ordered Liberty2 back in May of 2022, I did not include the optional solar power package. Well, either good luck or bad luck, Liberty2 was built in the first week of the 2023 model year and the solar package  had become standard equipment. Liberty2 came with a 200 watt solar panel, 30 amp controller and a 2000 watt inverter at no additional cost. After learning that I had solar I thought, well, crap, now I have to learn a little bit about solar. So, I learned the minimum. To "shrinky dink" it down, in my simple mind, solar does two things. One, the panel and controller charges the battery and two, the inverter powers up the 120 volt receptacles so I can make a cup of coffee. So far, everything is working as it should. I have two fans that that helped during the temporary heat wave yesterday but so far today have not needed.  

These two days here at Magnolia have been very peaceful. As I'm writing this post, I can see and hear the waves through my back window as a cross-breeze is blowing through Liberty2. It is a good way to relax and review your life, even without a bench.

Tomorrow is moving day and I have to backtrack a little to get to Mustang Island State Park. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe, I'll Cya down the road.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lunch with Fellow Traveler and another Dang Museum

 Location: Goose Island State Park; near Rockport, Texas

There are lots of RV travelers and bloggers on the roads now a days. Sometimes, our paths cross. My path crossed with Barney ( at a pretty good Mexican restaurant in Rockport yesterday. It was good food and good conversations. Barney has been on the road for a couple of decades now. Be safe in your travels Barney.

This picture was a surprise. I didn't know I had it until I was transferring pictures to my laptop. This was when we were talking about taking pictures with cell phones. 

After leaving the restaurant I went driving along the beach road to see what I could see. I came upon nice looking house and found out it was a State Historical place called the Fulton Mansion. It was originally built back in the late 1800's and you can take tours of it, for a price. I wasn't interested in touring a house, so I took some pictures from the side of road and continued on down the road. 

The Fulton Mansion from the late 1800's

This is the view from the mansion. At least from the street in front of it.

The road came to the marina and I was surprised by the amount of activities for a weekday. There were lots of people working on their boats and some just hanging out. Next door to the marina, was The Texas Maritime Museum. I haven't had good luck with museums lately so I figured I was overdue. Perhaps this museum would break my jaded view of these types of museums. There was a $6.00 entry fee and that was about $4.00 too much. I did learn something new, thus the two dollars I was willing to pay. The thing I learned was about the  Texas Navy back during the Texas War of Independence. Come to find out, Texas bought a few small ships at the beginning of the war to raid Mexican merchant ships and help with possible blockades. Whoever made the decision to buy the ships was right on the mark since the Texas Navy was instrumental in winning the war and the decisive Battle at San Jacinto that ended the war. One of the Texas ships captured a merchant ship full of ammunition and food that was headed to Santa Anna. Before the final battle, both Mexican and Texans were running short of ammunition and food. When the Texas Navy delivered the captured goods to Sam Houston and prevented it from reaching Santa Anna, it helped tilt the battle in favor of the Texans. After Texas became part of the United States, its Navy was absorbed into the U.S. Navy.

You can't have any kind of maritime museum without an anchor (I think it is federal law). By the way, that's Freedom in the background.

I liked this picture of part of the marina from under the tree

This was the best picture I could take from inside.

One good thing about the museum is it had a third floor observation platform. Here is the seaward entrance to the marina.

Nice wide view of area from the third floor.

Back at the campground I went for a walk on the newly rebuilt fishing pier. It is a pretty long pier at 2/3 of mile round trip. It was the middle of the afternoon and about a half a dozen people were fishing. As I walked by each of them, I asked how things were going if they caught anything. Every one of them said they hadn't had a single bite. When I reached the end of the pier, there was a man fishing and a woman was sitting under an umbrella reading a book. He also said he hadn't had any bites but, he said people were catching Black Drum like crazy last night. I asked if the woman was for moral support and he said she was his good luck charm. I mentioned he hadn't had any bites yet and he said he may need to re-think the good luck charm. She quit reading and gave him a jokingly mean look. We all laughed, I said goodbye and turned to walk back to Freedom. On the way back, I informed all of the other fishermen that the guy at the end hadn't had any bites either and they all said, they weren't surprised. Oh well, I played the messenger role the best I could.

Freedom looking out to the fishing pier. I just noticed something on the passenger side running board. I have no idea what that was but it isn't there this morning, I just checked.

Looking back from the end of the pier.

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed to Magnolia Beach for two days of free beach camping. I should be set up about 15 feet from the water. I just hope it won't be too hot since I'll be boondocking plus a weather front is suppose to pass through with possible wind and storms. I guess it's time to try out my solar setup that came with Liberty2 as standard equipment.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Ferry, A Hike and Laundry

 Location: Goose Island State Park; near Rockport, Texas

Since I explored north the other day, today I went south. I needed to do some laundry so I loaded up and headed south to find a laundromat and see what I could see. As I was crossing the bridge into Rockport, I remembered a laundromat I went to years ago in Port Aransas when I was staying at Mustang Island State Park. I remembered, it had good vibes. Alright then, there was my destination. Of course, since I was exploring, I took the scenic route through the tourist area of Rockport. Lots of traffic and not very scenic.  

One of the benefits of going to Port Aransas was being able to cross the Corpus Christi Ship Channel by way of a TexDot Ferry. Texas Department of Transportation operates two ferry routes in the state and doesn't charge a toll on either of them. They operate around the clock with weather permitting. This one at Port Aransas is only a quarter of mile across the channel so it is quick. But while talking to some of the TexDot ferry workers at the landing, they said there are times during the day where there may be an hour or two wait time just to get on the ferry.

The ferry ride in both directions was nice and short since I crossed around noon. The laundromat was not busy and it still had that same peaceful vibe I remembered. I could say I didn't take a picture of the place so as to not jinx the vibe, but actually, I forgot. And also, I'm not crazy for driving 30+ miles to do laundry just to ride a ferry that I've ridden several times before. Well, not real crazy, but maybe a little "touched" or as the cajuns would say, I was being a "couyon". Anyway it was a nice scenic drive.

Before you get to the ferry you have to cross the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. The view from any ICW bridge is always good. 

On the ferry. I took this picture because the TexDot Ferry worker in my side mirror stood like that for the entire trip. If he had a rifle he would have seemed like a prison guard keeping an eye on us. Oh well, we all behaved. 

TexDot operates 6 ferry boats at this location. They are smaller than normal ferries and carry about 20 to 25 cars per trip.

Ships passing in the night day, with a seagull keeping watch.

This is the waiting lanes on the Port Aransas side. It's been built since I was here last and is a great improvement. They said it gets full almost everyday. I don't want to be there when that happens.

On the way back to the campground, I stopped at H-E-B for a few things. Man, I'm sure going to miss that store when I leave Texas. I'm not posting any pictures of my grocery haul because I don't want to get into a bad habit, but if I did, I would post a picture of the Italian Seafood Salad. It sure was good. After getting back to the campground and eating a little bit I felt like taking a walk before the rains came. Notice I said walk, not hike. I intended to walk on the road going around the campground. But, about half way around, I noticed a nice trail wandering off the road. I said, what the heck, and hit the trail and turned my walk into a hike. (hike means off road, uh?). 

A big Coastal Oak in the campground. I found the hiking path when I went to see the bench.

The hiking path with tree limbs reaching out to touch you.

This is a test. Two trees on each side of the road have became entangled. Are they like Romeo and Juliette or are they fighting each other?

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (mostly pictures)

 Location: Goose Island State Park; near Rockport, Texas

Yesterday was day 2 of 5 here at Goose Island and I backtracked a little for some exploration. The route here from the last campground came in from the north and passed through a flat coastal plain. I knew it was part of or near the Aransas NWF. I've never really gotten turned on by NWF's in the past because after a mile of driving or a half mile of walking, they seem to repeat themselves. It's like what Ronald Reagan said about the Redwood trees, "If you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen them all". I agree, that may not be fair and I'm prejudging NWF's, but that's all in the past now since I explored one yesterday. 

Once I decide to explore a NWF, I knew I needed to look up an old blog for some information. One of the many blogs I followed, before and after I hit the road, was by a woman named, Judy Bell (RIP). She traveled in a Class A motorhome and volunteered her time at NWF's around the country. The NWF's would give her a campsite, usually with full hookups, in exchange for her volunteer work. She was a true bird expert and knew almost every bird by sight. If you're interested, her blog is still online and the name is Travels with Emma. Emma was the name of her dog. I was hoping she had volunteered at Aransas and would give me some useful tips about the place. Surprisingly, although she visited it on the way to another place at which she volunteered, she never stayed here for a while. Oh well, I guess I was on my own. 

Aransas NWF has been around since the 30's when FDR first helped establish it. After he signed the papers, the CCC began work on building the infrastructure of the area. Although I didn't see everything in the area, I also didn't see any of the tale-tale signs of CCC work like I have seen all over the country.

The rest of this post will just be pictures to help remind me of the place in the future.

The scenic way to the NWF is through privately owned fields that have been recently planted. I initially thought it was NWF property that had been leased but found out later it was privately owned.

As regular readers know, I look for places like this. They all tell a story, at least in my mind. There are never anyone around to ask about the place, so I have to believe what the wind and vibes tell me. This place is located on the side of the roadway and the edge of a massive field. It looks to have been abandoned decades ago and built many decades before that. The first question: Why is it still there? My guess is it has some sentimental value to the owners of the property. Perhaps and old home place? Maybe the old home of a friend or kin? It has been saved for some reason. 

This is the welcome center. There are two very nice ladies that work inside. After talking with them for a while, I found out they are following in the footprints of Judy. Both are work campers volunteering their time at the NWF. Well done, Ladies.

I didn't see any gators, just a nice view at the end of the walkway.

Tidal flats where lots of stuff live.

How about lunch under the Coastal Oaks with a nice view of the bay. I started to bring my lunch on this trip but didn't because I knew I would receive grief from someone about Bologna not being healthy and I should be eating turkey.

This 40 foot observation platform is what originally caught my attention and prompted exploration.

Looking down at Freedom from the first leg of the ramps with the bay in the background.

Beside a nice view of the backwater of the bay, notice the plastic on the post caps to keep birds from resting there and leaving surprises behind from their behind.

That is where we're headed.

View from the top looking out over San Antonio Bay

View from the top looking towards Mustang Lake

The walkway over the Tidal Flats. I'm guessing the thinking bench is from when you come back and need a rest. Not so much a "thinking bench".

A little like the infinity lines. It's a nice walk to be able to see all the tracks and various things in the flats.

The end of the trail. 

A nice "thinking" bench at the end. The plate said it was donated by someone. I wonder how many hours they spent here looking out over the bay and dreaming or remembering.

The walk back to Freedom. As with most things in life, it's usually not a straight line.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.      

Monday, March 20, 2023

Goose Island State Park, Texas Gulf Coast

Location: Goose Island State Park; near Rockport, Texas

The tow was right at 100 miles on pretty smooth roads. Texas does a good job on most of their roads, right down to the Farm to Market roads. I had a gas/pit stop planned at an Exxon at about the half way point. As I pulled in to the gas station, there was a paramedic unit near a pickup in the ditch by the gas station. No one seemed to be seriously injured, so I went on about my business. By the time I finished pumping gas there were two fire engines, an ambulance and two fire chief cars. There wasn't any fire. And they were all parked at the second exit to the gas station which was my exit. With it blocked, I would have to back up the way I entered and try to make a sharp turn to leave by the side driveway. Everything worked out good and as I got back on the highway and passed the accident scene I would see the skid marks. It looked like the drivers slammed on his brakes and steered to avoid something. Oh well, he seemed to be OK, so I continued.

The sky was trying to clear and let the blue shine through. This is the tail end of the cold front that blew thru Yoakum.

You suddenly break out into the coastal plains. If you've been to the coast before, you can tell you're close. I could sense it. It will be a good stop.

I've stayed at Goose Island State Park before. It was back in January of 2015 when I was just starting my first western swing. I camped in one of the bayside campsites. It was the time when I got lucky with a picture of the water in the bay visually disappearing. It was definitely one of the "wows" of my travels. There were no bayside campsites available when I made these reservations, so I'm camped in the wooded area. It is like snuggling under the covers, except in this case it's coastal oaks. I'll be here for 5 days and have a couple of explorations planned. The weather is long pants weather, but a warming trend thru the next few days.

The welcoming committee at Goose Island. I saw this herd twice. Once, here as I was entering the park and later on my way back to the park from getting something to eat. I counted 15 in all. All about the same size. 

The one lane road leading into the campground. In places it is like a tree tunnel. I saw two trees that I didn't get a picture of, but will look for them again.

Liberty2 nestled in her campsite. Big ole Liberty may have seemed too big for this campsite. I hope she's still doing good.  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

"Come and Take It" Cannon

Location: Hub City RV Park; Yoakum, Texas

After typing, this is a longer than normal post. Beware.

Back a few weeks ago when I was planning my trip and making reservations, I found a period of time where every COE and State Park along my path had no vacancies. That period of time was this week and after doing some checking I  found it was due to Spring Break. So, I started checking into smaller towns that may not have an influx of people during the break. I found one in a little town called Yoakum, Texas. It has a city owed RV park located directly across the highway from the hospital and next to the city owned golf course on the outskirts of town. I called them and talked to a nice lady about making a reservation. In a heavy Texas "twang" accent she said, "we don't do that here". That bothered me a little bit since I like to have assurances about a place to stay, so I asked if they expected to be full during Spring Break. Her reply was classic and meant so much more than just answering my question,,, she said "Honey, people don't come to Yoakum for spring anything." I got here three days ago and found an empty campsite and set up camp. As per instructions post on the wall near the bathrooms at the entrance, I put my money in an envelope and dropped it in the "iron ranger". I was good to stay for four days.

I passed this campsite on my way out of Jim Hogg Campround. Loss for words.

Windshield view of the area between Austin and Yoakum

There are occasional hills with trees.

And you can't have a windshield view without some cattle now and again

This is my power pedestal. When I opened it up, I was a little surprised. I went to the other open campsites and they were all the same. I plugged my surge guard in and it said everything was fine. I thought about it for a while then decided to go for it and set up camp. By the way, that is the water faucet attached just above the electrical box. Water and electricity get along with each other, uh?

My campsite. Even with the questionable electrical box, I'm satisfied. Full hook-ups for $13.00/night, not bad. 

The view from my laptop desk. 

One of the things that has been on my list of things to see for a while is within a thirty mile drive. It's a cannon. Not just an ordinary canon, but a special cannon to the State of Texas. The reason it is special is because it helped start the Texas War of Independence. 

A quick (I hope) history: 

1821; Mexico wins Independence from Spain with Texas becoming part of Mexico. To populate Texas and keep the Indians busy, Mexico encourages Americans to migrate to Texas in exchange for free land. 

1830; Mexico begins to worry about the large amount of Americans migrating to Texas so they pass very restrictive laws against the Texans. The Texans don't like it one little bit.

1831; Mexico gives a small cannon to the town of Gonzales to help fight the Indians. It was so small, it could only be used to scare the Indians, if it worked. But it didn't work because the Mexicans had spiked the cannon so it couldn't fire. Spiked means they drove a nail into the firing port so there wasn't a way to light the gunpowder.

1833: General Santa Anna elected President of Mexico

1835: General Santa Anna tears up the Mexican Constitution and declares himself Dictator instead of just President.

September 1835: Texans were becoming too independent-minded for Santa Anna, so he did what all dictators do, he started to dis-arm the citizens of Texas. One of his acts of disarming was to send a corporal and five soldiers to Gonzales to get the cannon. The city politely said "no". 

October 2, 1835: Santa Anna didn't like that answer so he sent 100 soldiers from San Antonio to take the small cannon by force. Obviously, the cannon, which Mexico thought couldn't be fired, had become a "bone of contention", a "point of principal" to both sides. The 100 Mexican soldiers where met by 18 militiamen from Gonzales who were flying a flag that had a picture of a cannon, a star and the words "Come And Take It". The 18 men held the line until it was reinforced by militiamen from other towns. Eventually, it was 150 Texans against 100 Mexicans. And, oh, by the way, the Texans had "unspiked" the cannon, so it now worked. Again, it was so small, it wasn't effective militarily but when it fired, the 100 Mexican soldiers ran away. It is considered the first shots of the war and made an exclamation point in terms of Texas Independence. The flag became known as the Gonzales Battle Flag and helped rally Texans in their war.

October 13, 1835: The axle of the cannon broke so it was abandoned and buried in a creek. 

April 21, 1836: After the massacres at Goliad and the Alamo, General Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas became an independent nation. 

And as Paul Harvey (youngsters will have to ask a seasoned citizen who that is) would say,,,, "and now the rest of the story",,,,,,. In July 1936, after heavy rains erode the banks of a creek near Gonzales, two guys find the cannon. They tried to drag it back to town but gave up and dropped it alongside the road. Apparently, a postman saw it and made arrangements for it to be picked up and placed in the basement of the post office where it stayed until 1968. In 1968 Henry Guerra traded for the cannon and loaned it to a museum in San Antonio. Somehow it finds its way to a gun show in the late 1970's and is bought by a Robert Vance. In 1979, Dr. Patrick Wagner buys the cannon and in the year 2000, upon his death, it is gifted to the Gonzales Memorial Museum which is where I saw it yesterday.

As a side note: the Battle Flag of Gonzales has been designated by the FBI to be an "Extremist Symbol". Something ain't right.

The cannon barrel is original. The wheels and caisson are modern items. That little thing is what sparked the war. Amazing, uh?

A big state has to have some big flags. 

A cold front blew thru yesterday bring cooler temperatures, wind and rain. The high today is 53 and tomorrow (moving day) is suppose to be 58. 

This is a replica of the Gonzales Battle Flag. Maybe lots of honest patriotic citizens should fly it and tell the FBI to "come and take it"? Just a passing thought.

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll finally make it to the coast. It will be good emotionally to see the Gulf of Mexico again.   

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.