Showing posts from January, 2010

El Niño

We have a little more wet weather to put up with the next few days. Long-time Winter Texans (as we're called down here) tell me that weather patterns like this happen every few years. It's noticeably colder and wetter than most years... the "normal" years. People that are knowledgeable about these things, experts, tell us that this is an "El Niño" year. Just what is El Niño? The following is from Wikipedia: El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a quasi periodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific with a roughly 5 year cycle. It is composed of an oceanic component, called El Niño (or La Niña), which is characterized by warming or cooling of surface waters in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, and an atmospheric component, the Southern Oscillation, which is characterized by changes in surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific. The two components are coupled: when the warm oceanic phase (known as El Niño) is in effect, surface

Faster Verizon

A little over a week ago I wrote a Journal entry about our slow Verizon internet connection here in Rockport [Link] . Briefly, we connect to the internet by using the broadband data capabilities of the Verizon Cellular Phone system with a little device called an aircard. Depending on where we're camped, that connection could be fast or it could be slow, it could be steady and reliable, or it could be weak and undependable. When we're camped out in unpopulated areas, far from major highways and cities, I expect the connection to be slower. But I was expecting a better connection than we've been getting here in Rockport. That's what I wrote about then. But things have changed in the ensuing days. Here's the story: In the past, I've had our Verizon AirCard and router located in the front of the bus-house, on the dashboard. My thought was that the big windshield would provide the least resistance and interference from the bus-house framework to the radio signals

Mustang Island Redux

After my island experience Monday, Dar and I returned to Mustang on Tuesday. The day was predicted to be sunny, but a little windier than the day before... but still a grand day to be on a beach in January. To get onto the Island, the State of Texas maintains a full-time (24/7) ferry service across the ship channel that separates Mustang from the mainland and serves as the only deep-water access to the Port of Corpus Christi. This narrow channel could be easily spanned by a bridge that would certainly be cheaper than operating this ferry system (6 ramps on each side, 5 big 16-car diesel powered ferrys, and scads of people)... except for one thing -- the bridge would have to allow passage for the big ocean-going ships that must traverse this channel and it would have to be some very high (and expensive) structure. I'm guessing the ferry is the simple and cheaper solution in the short term anyway. The ferry dumps you into the heart of the little community of Port Aransas (popu

Mustang Island

First off, Happy Birthday to Son Justin, or "JT" as we call him. We hope you and Kaytlyn have a great day, and know you have a few reasons to be celebrating this year. "Hee Haw" and we'll be thinking of you more than usual today. Another really nice day here on Monday. Dar was off to work at 6:15 this morning and I went over to Corpus Christi with neighbor Bill. Our mission was to harpoon a GPS that was on sale at Best Buy. Bill's existing GPS is getting old and needs a database update -- and it looked like he had the option of updating the database in the existing unit for $69 or buying a new one he found on sale for $89 -- kind'of a no-brainer. Upon closer investigation, the on-sale unit was loaded with a 2009 database that's already more than a year old (the 2010 version has been out for months) -- so it wasn't such a good deal after all. He decided to pass and wait for future deals. With that behind us, we stopped at a couple more places

Quiet Weekend

Our weekend was calm and uneventful at the old RV Park here in Rockport. Dar felt good enough to work on Saturday and, with a busy ward, a lot of patients, her 12 hour shift turned into 16 hours. She came home feeling much better physically -- the flu bug is gone -- and energized by her busy day of helping other people feel better too. I finally got around to preparing my expense tracker spreadsheet for the new year -- not difficult but time consuming -- and then I had 22 days of expenses to enter. I also do a budget every year and was pleased to see that some of our cost-saving moves (high mpg car; cell phone savings; dropping satellite TV) are having a real effect. We had a cold front move through the area on Saturday night. The wind blew hard out of the Northwest and the temp went down -- we woke to a breezy 48f. More importantly to me, the dew point and humidity dropped significantly. Sunday was nice -- high of 70f under full sun. Sunday we went out to Chili's for lunch a

Nice Day... If You're Able to Enjoy It

From a weather standpoint, Thursday was probably the nicest day in Rockport since we arrived on December 2nd. The official high temp was 77f after a morning low of 57f. Add bright sun and light winds, and you've got the makin's of a dandy -- And it really was. Unfortunately, Dar woke up feeling a little " under the weather" and couldn't enjoy it all. We're not sure, but at this point it looks like a stomach flu. She stayed inside and laid pretty low all day. I prepared the slow-cooker dinner we had planned for today and did other chores around the bus-house while it cooked. Unless something happens that compels me to write, I'm going to take the weekend off from journaling. Have a great weekend everyone... I'll be back on Monday. Working on my tan in Texas... Thom

Shuckin' on the Sea Shore

Something I didn't mention the other day when I wrote about our neighborhood fish fry was that Dar and I went together with another couple, Tim & Giselle (also from Wisconsin) to buy and prepare oysters as our contribution to the feast. This involved procuring a 105 lb. bag of raw oysters in the shell for $30 from a local fish monger. Then, on Sunday, the day before the event, we had a shuckin' party where we used various implements to pry open the shells and harvest the oysters inside. This is not an easy job, especially when we didn't have the proper implement known as a shuckin' knife -- something we will have next time. It took a couple hours for us to work through the whole 105 lbs. with two of us prying open the shells and the other two separating oysters from shells. When finished we had about a gallon -- maybe 5 or 6 lbs. of oysters -- and 100 lbs of empty shells. It was an experience, one more thing I can cross of my "bucket list". We did hold b

Fog in Fulton

Dar worked on Tuesday and I kept busy around Sandollar by helping out some neighbors with a TV antenna re-wiring job and another neighbor with getting their new laptop computer set up and connected to the internet. Of course, Dar always leaves me with a "wish list" of things she'd like done too. Under the category of "be careful what you ask for"... the good news is we finally have the warm weather everyone has been yearning for... the bad news is that it's humid, cloudy, and foggy. Last summer we bought a small dehumidifier and it's been working overtime the past couple days. I've taken a couple gallons of water out of the air inside the bus-house during the past day and a half. This air mass should hang around until early Thursday morning, when a cold front will clear things out again. Flailing in the fog... Thom

Slow Verizon

Today, Tuesday, is a work day for Dar. For some unknown reason, she's on the work schedule this week 3 days... I thought she signed up for 2? The way she turns 12 hour shifts into 14 hours will mean she'll put in more than 40 hours this week. Isn't that full-time?? Hmmm? While, the extra money in the bank will come in handy when we're fueling that 100 gallon diesel tank after resuming our travels and explorations in a few weeks, I think she'll find that third day to be a little too much. The way we connect to the internet is by means of a Verizon "air card". The common belief among fulltimers is that Verizon probably offers the best coverage of all the national cell phone companies. It may not always be the fastest, but from a geographical standpoint, it's the most widespread. We can get some kind of connection almost anywhere we go. With all that said, I've been disappointed by our Verizon connection here in Rockport/Fulton. It's usually s

Dinner Date and Fish Fry

Monday Morning It's Monday morning already. Where'd the weekend go? Where'd the last couple months go? We've also just passed the half-way point for our stay here at Sandollar and in just 6 weeks or so we'll be heading back into the high country of the west. I'm already looking forward to our new explorations and adventures. This past Saturday night Dar and I treated ourselves to a quiet dinner out... just the two of us... the closest thing to a "date" we've had in quite some time. This is something that doesn't happen often when you're part of the Sandollar Social Network, where doing things in groups is the norm. We went to Alice Faye's on the Bay, just a short walk from our camp, had a respectable meal and enjoyed good conversation -- just the two of us. Monday Night Predictions of good weather prompted our group here at Sandollar to plan the oft delayed and much anticipated Fish Fry for today. A couple times through the winte

Rainy Days in Rockport

Not just rain... but HEAVY rain. Unless my nutty neighbor snuck out early this morning and dumped a cup of water in my rain gauge, we've gotten almost 4 inches between 8pm last night and 10am this morning. The forecast is for rain to continue on and off all day today. But the bus-house is warm and dry, and we're enjoying the day inside... and using it to good advantage to do those "indoor" things that get pushed off when it's nicer outside. Dar worked at the hospital both Wednesday and Thursday. She's putting in a lot of hours but enjoying the change of pace and the new environment, challenges, and contributions she's making. For her, it helps break up the boredom that can set in when we park for a long period of time. And, even though we're usually in sync and get along well together in our small space for long periods of time, we're finding that having some time apart is good for our relationship. Enjoying the rain... Thom


After a day and a half the dust is settling and the extent of the tragedy in Haiti is becoming clear. This is one of the poorest and most desperate countries on earth. The earthquake struck at a place and in a manner that maximized pain and suffering and death on some of the most unfortunate people on earth. How sad is that? Medical and emergency services in Haiti that were marginal before the event are apparently almost non-existent afterward. The weak government is virtually gone. Much of the infrastructure... electricity... clean water... is gone. There's no way to know how many died from the quake itself but the streets are lined with dead bodies. And certainly many more will die from the aftereffects... disease, hunger, anarchy, desperation. What humanitarian assistance is provided will have to come from outside Haiti... from the USA and from other countries that have the resources and the compassion to help. It'll be interesting to see which ones step forward. I hop


Yesterday we headed off to explore the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This is not a new place for us as we visited at least once during each of the past two years. Click here and here to read journal entries from those earlier visits. It felt good to get out with the cameras and binoculars again but we discovered much of the wildlife was out of sight -- probably hunkered down and burrowed in to stay warm on this cooler than normal day. Compared to last year, when the area was under extreme drought and dry as a bone, there was a lot more standing water in the ponds and marshy areas after the, thus-far, wetter than normal Winter. This is a good thing and much closer to what could be called "normal" for the Refuge. It certainly makes surviving easier for all the fur, feather, and scale covered denizens that call this place home. We did see a few Whooping Cranes... the 5 foot tall "rock stars" of the Refuge. These big birds are very wary and really prefer a sol

A New PC

Dar and I have two laptop computers. They're made by Dell, they're both running Windows XP (I did what I could to avoid the problematic "Vista") and they've both been reliable and trouble-free machines. Mine is almost 4 years old and Dar's is the baby at just 2-1/2. But computers grow old, eventually succumb to the second law of thermodynamics (systems tend to move from a state of order to a state of disorder) and WILL eventually fail -- it's not a matter of "if", just "when". But what's a reasonable life span? I've read that somewhere around 5 years is a good useful lifespan for a laptop. In addition to aging mechanical components and no longer adequate memory space, after 5 years much of the software itself is no longer supported or updated. You can wait for your old machine to croak, or you can save yourself a lot of trouble, pain and suffering... not to mention lost files and information... by acquiring your next machine

Slow Easy Sunday

What happened to the Packers yesterday? First off, I don't know who was on the field during the first quarter... but it wasn't the same team that annihilated these very same Cardinals just a week ago. I suspect it was a stand-in high school team. After half time the Packers Offense finally showed up. But the Defense was missing all day long. Enough about that subject. Besides watching a little football playoff action, we enjoyed the sunny and cool Sunday here in Rockport. All that frigid arctic air is moving away and, when the sun shines, things are slowly warming up again. Dar worked on a scrapbook project for much of the day and I made brownies, which I can't eat if I stick to my SAD Program. But Dar and our neighbors will enjoy them I'm sure. We talked about finding some adventure this week. I wonder what that will be? Hmm? Warming up near the water... Thom

Heating RV's

Living in an RV ain't all romance and adventure, buckaroo. No sir, at times it can be downright challenging. For instance, how do we manage to stay warm on really cold nights?... and do so at the lowest possible cost? The recent cold weather (it's been in the 20's the past couple nights) made me think this subject might be mildly interesting for some readers. And I need to write something anyway... so here goes. RV's are basically little boxes with very thin walls. When you've only got 8-1/2 feet (outside width) to work with, and because every RV buyer wants as much interior space as possible, thin walls are the resulting reality. But I don't care what kind of insulation is in those little skinny walls it's not enough to make any RV "easy to heat" in very cold temperatures. Most RV's have a collection of various systems designed, to one extent or another, to make the unit usable in most weather conditions whether connected to full hook-ups

A SAD Month

A number of years ago, after an especially big holiday season, the readout on my scale went berserk. And if you can believe the coincidence, at exactly the same time my leather belts all shrunk by an inch or two. Hmmm. As I was contemplating this odd series off events someone near and dear to me suggested that it may not be all that odd at all... that perhaps I was looking for an explanation on the wrong side of the equation. She thought it possible that it might be ME that changed and not the scale and my belts. Hmmmmm. After getting a second opinion from a second scale (what else would you get from a second scale?) I had to reluctantly agree that it was indeed ME that was different... that I was expanding just like the universe after the big bang. Holiday dinners, parties, and celebrations are all replete with calorie-loaded temptations -- candies, cookies, hors d'orves, more deserts than I have fingers, huge meals with 17 side dishes, spiked egg nog, and alcoholic concoction

Bored on the Beach

2010 began with us camped on the same exact spot in Texas where we started 2009. Sandollar Resort is a friendly place, aging and a little tired like some of it's denizens, but comfortable and laid-back. It's located on the north edge of Rockport, TX. in the town of Fulton. Besides the RV Park, the Resort includes a motel and a couple naturally heated swimming pools that get very little use during Winter. I'm told Summer is high season around here -- many of those folks baking in 100f+ degree heat in Houston and Dallas and San Antonio escape to the coast for cool breezes, but usually settle for warm ones instead. It's a different story today. It's Winter. We woke to 28f degrees this morning, but at least the north wind is strong and gusty. The past month has been cooler and wetter than normal. It looks like this will be one of those Winters to remember (or to forget?), not just here but most of the rest of the country as well. Oranges and tomatoes are freezing in F