Feb 27, 2012

Feb 27 - Spheres of Education

One of the newer attractions here in the Rockport/Fulton area is the Bay Education Center. Completed just over a year ago, it's the facility at which the public connects up with something called The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

From their website:
The mission of the Mission-Aransas Reserve is to develop and facilitate partnerships that enhance coastal decision making through an integrated program of research, education, and stewardship. This mission allows us to achieve our vision of forming a center of excellence that creates and disseminates knowledge necessary to maintain healthy Texas coasts. The Reserve has three primary goals: (1)to improve knowledge of Texas coastal zone ecosystems structure and function, (2) to promote understanding of coastal ecosystems by diverse audiences, and (3) to promote public appreciation and support for stewardship of coastal resources.

And from the Bay Education Center website:
Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, this new addition to South Texas is a ‘must see’ and is free and open to the public, Tuesday through Saturday, 1-4 pm, with daily presentations at 2 and 3 pm. So many of us are drawn to the local estuaries, but know little about the important role they play in our ecology. The Bay Education Center provides the visitor with an innovative way of exploring and learning about these important bodies of water and the life they support. Step inside the exhibit hall to be serenaded by the sounds of an estuary, and greeted by a life-sized Whooping Crane and giant oyster. Stroll at your leisure to enjoy our hands-on exhibits and check out the current water quality in our bays. An added attraction is Science On a Sphere®, a spherical display system created by NOAA to illustrate Earth science concepts to people of all ages. Stop by for a visit and it will be an experience that will inspire new appreciation and knowledge of the world around you.

We found the "Science On a Sphere" presentations particularly interesting as we've never seen this projection technology in use before. The center of the room is dominated by a 6 foot sphere hanging from the ceiling. It's painted white, doesn't move, and serves as a screen. Four projectors, controlled by a computer, project images, onto the sphere making it come alive as the earth, the moon, or any other celestial orb. The images are specially processed photos or "data-sets" that can be static or they can move, making the object appear to be spinning just as if the observer is in orbit above the surface of a planet. As mentioned in the paragraph above, the Center puts together hour long public presentations that focus on various aspects of the planets, and the earth's atmosphere, oceans, or land. Perhaps because it's something new and different, we found it a good way to spend an hour learning a little more about our world.

There are only 80 of these "Science On a Sphere" systems installed worldwide... about 50 of them in the United States. I'm not sure how they did it, but little old sleepy Rockport Texas was somehow able to snag one of them.

The Big Blue Marble... Earth... seen from space. All history, good and bad times, happiness, wars, empathy, and hatred are contained on the surface of this spaceship earth. You'd think we'd figure out how to live together peacefully... since this is all we've got. If we screw this up, there are no alternatives.

Feb 20, 2012

Feb. 20 - Northern Dreams

The real core of Winter in the USA is January and February.  And, as we near the end of February, one of the early signs of Spring is the slow start of the Winter Texan migration back north. After 2 or 3 months packed tightly together with others in small sites at cramped RV parks, nerves start to visibly fray, routine evolves to boredom, and thoughts gravitate to the return trip back north. The local touristy sights have all been done... repeatedly in some cases. Excuses for shopping trips to Corpus Christi or Victoria become flimsier. Happy hours start earlier and last longer. There's a palpable desire to get moving.

Today our friends from Minnesota, Doug and Kay, leave Sandollar and begin their 6 week trek northward. In another week, our Washington friends Jimmy and Julianne will start heading west too. By the first week of March the RV park starts to resemble Swiss Cheese. If last year was any gauge by the first of April we're one of only a small handful left... but we'll be leaving about that time too.

I've still got a big list of to-do's to finish in the next few weeks. One of the big ones is finding a good deal and a good dealer to install a new set of tires on the bus-house. Tires on RVs rarely wear out. They "age-out". Our 6 big Michelin tires were manufactured in the 42nd week of 2006, which, if I did the math right, means they're going on 5 and a half years old. Sparking my desire to spend big $$ to buy new tires isn't their age, however. It's the fact that sidewall cracks have started appearing that concerns me. The last thing I want is a blow-out of a front tire as we're on some narrow mountain road someplace. Oh, and, of course, the Safety Director (Dar) is of the same opinion.

Feb 13, 2012

Feb 13 - As Seen On TV

Black Skimmers on the beach on Mustang Island
We're approaching the half-way point in our stay at Rockport this winter and my case of "hitch-itch" has degraded to a full blown rash (roamin' rash??). No amount of salve or medication is going to remedy this problem until we can start moving again about April 1st... and that's no joke.

Dar's been putting in her time at the hospital, but not as much as last year. In her first four weeks last year she put in something like 195 hours -- not bad for a part-timer, eh? This year, same period, she's logged about 120 hours -- a more reasonable number, and one closer to what she was looking for.

Friends Doug and Kay (from Minnesota and currently in Rockport), after reading my post a couple weeks ago about hard boiled eggs, fixed me up with some "Eggies", six of them to be precise. These "as seen on TV" devices eliminate the need for peeling as the egg is cooked in the plastic Eggie after it's removed from the shell. The concept was interesting to me because peeling the egg is my big problem.

I gave them a go a few days ago and found they do work as claimed. However, each Eggie has four pieces (4!!) which fit and thread together to form an egg capsule... 24 pieces of plastic that must be organized and stored, kept track of, pre-oiled and assembled (and at least one of them, try as I might, just wouldn't screw together as it should), and then washed -- a lot to ask of someone who's trying to simplify his life. I'll give 'em another try before rendering a final verdict, however.

Recently I added the "Recent Popular Posts" widget to the right-side panel of this journal. The most often specifically requested posts during the past 30 days are displayed here, most popular at the top. One of the mysteries of blogville (at least to me) is how a dumb little post about hard boiled eggs get's so much attention (as I write this, it's number 2). And I've received far more emails, had more recommendations, suggestions, and comments on this subject than normal. Who could guess something like hard boiled eggs would generate so much interest and activity?

Dar's brother Dennis (check the past few posts for more info) is now out of the hospital and recovering at home. He's making good progress, but his biggest problem now is fighting boredom. With significant medical restrictions for a while (as you'd expect after what he's been through), and his outdoorsy, always busy, nature, he's going crazy. Knowing him as I do, I suspect they may have to restrain him, tie him down, until he's back to something like 100%. If they're not keeping track of him closely, he'll escape and, in a flash, will be outside blowing the latest U.P. snowfall from the driveway. It might be necessary to borrow one of those electronic ankle monitors from the Sheriff for a few weeks.

Some power line work... right in our side yard.

Feb 5, 2012

Feb 6 - This, That, and the Other Thing

First, an update on Dar's brother Dennis.  We're not calling him "Miracle Man" yet, but he is certainly "Lucky Louie" considering how things have worked out this past week. If he had to pick a place to have an accident this serious he couldn't have done better. His buddies called 911 (there was cell phone service), the paramedics arrived within 10 minutes (with snowmobile and evac sled), a first-class medical center was right down the road in Marquette, he was checked over and a diagnosis was made quickly - a tear in his aorta (very serious), and he was rushed into an operating room where a crack medical team spent the next four difficult hours patching him up. If he had been in a more remote part of the Upper Peninsula (and there's a LOT of remote-ness in the U.P.) the outcome, almost certainly, would have been far worse. He may well have become just another statistic.

He made it through the first night, a very good sign. And over the next few days he had some considerable ups and downs. The biggest problems were pain and nausea, the nausea caused in part by the powerful pain meds he was taking. Everyone was on the lookout for additional injuries... injuries to his internal organs from the impact. There's a possibility the nausea was in part caused by some bruising or trauma in his gut, but by the end of the week most of the equipment down there was working again. He was, however, still having a lot of pain and nausea.

Doctors said this was the largest incision they've done in the past two years. To effect this repair, they didn't go in to the heart and aorta through the chest as you (and I) would expect. Instead, they went in from the side and back, and the incision runs from front, around the side, and into his back.

He's still looking at a long rehab, a couple months anyway. But this kid has amazed and surprised people before, more than once, and I'm sure he'll be making quick progress toward getting back to normal in the next few weeks.


Since my last weekly update post discussed hard boiled eggs and nothing else, I really should bring the record up to date with a few notable items. Last week not one, but two pairs of friends arrived here at Sandollar in Rockport.  Fellow explorers Doug and Kay showed up without warning. These are the folks we stopped and visited with at their summer home in Lake City Minnesota last August. They practice a form of travel that's unique in the world of explorers in that even they have no idea where they're going, when they'll arrive, or if they'll stay. So just showing up like this is something those of us who know them kind of expect. As you might expect, they have no idea how long they'll be here or which direction they'll go when they leave, but they will be back in Lake City Minnesota sometime in the Spring to reconnect with grandkids and family.

Then, just a day or so after Doug and Kay arrived, our friends Jimmy and Julianne drove in with their truck and fifth wheel. As opposed to that couple in the paragraph above, we expected their arrival and they were right on time. We had just crossed paths with these two back in Coarsegold California this past Fall and spent a couple days exploring Yosemite National Park with them. Since settling in, Jimmy's been keeping busy hunting fish in the bays around here while Julianne works away at her craft as a wordsmith. Here's a link to Julianne's blog "RV Wheel Life" and another to Jimmy's "Another View".  We think they'll be here into March before they have to leave and head back west and eventually to their summer camp near Spokane Washington. It's good to have fellow explorers stop and spend time here at Sandollar. They add spice to the melting pot nature of our winter camp.


The weather's been warm compared to previous years, marked by an electric bill for January that was about 25% less than the past two. But with warmth comes humidity when you're parked right next to the Gulf of Mexico, and humidity is one of my least favorite things about this area. It's not uncommon for us to pull a full gallon or more of water out of the interior air of the bus-house with our dehumidifier on a sticky day. But, you know... it is what it is. It's the nature of the place. What you see (or feel) is what you get. Ain't nobody gonna change it. The best feature of an RV is that set of wheels it has under it... and they will roll you to a different place any time you choose.

Despite my comments about humidity, we did have a cold front come through here Saturday morning. This one was accompanied by clouds and showers... really more than showers... more a steady rain all of Saturday night. With the exceptional drought in this part of Texas, the rain is a much welcomed thing.

We drove over to Mustang Island Saturday, knowing it wouldn't be a great beach day but having to get out of the house... see something different. As I mentioned earlier, a cold front was working it's way through. The solid cloud deck, pushed along by a gusty cold north wind, wept a few showers, here and there, now and again. The usual gulf scent... the smell of the sea... was gone. A north wind will do that. Even in February Port Aransas attracts throngs on weekends... but not today. A north wind will do that too. We found a restaurant near the harbor, Virginia's, glommed onto a table next to the windows, and were entertained by a couple pair of dolphins while we ate lunch.

All ocean going traffic in and out of the bustling Corpus Christi harbor must traverse the ship channel that runs past and around Port Aransas. Three large ships moved through during our visit. They don't poke along either... and you realize how fast they're going when you try to chase one down with a car to find that perfect spot for a photo.

Windshield wipers slappin' time,
Darlene clicked a shot or nine,
We ran down every road that driver knew...

... and away the ship still flew.

Ferry to Mustang Island

Wind-surfer in Gulf

Look closely... dolphin jumping out ahead of bow wake from large ship (click to enlarge)

The busy ship channel into the Gulf at Port Aransas
More photos from our day on Mustang Island can be viewed [here].

Feb 1, 2012

Feb 1 - Snowmobile Accident

Monday, January 30, Dar's brother Dennis had a serious snowmobile accident. A Marquette Michigan resident and long-time "Yooper", he was out on the trails with a few other guys when he somehow tangled with a tree. His buddies and the authorities apparently worked quickly and efficiently to get him to the hospital where the full extent of his injuries were discovered.

He suffered a tear in his aorta, a very serious injury which many, maybe most, don't survive. He was rushed into surgery. It was all happening so fast. Laura, his wife, was scrambling to alert family and friends. But there was nothing else to do but wait.

Dar was working when Laura called. I, in turn, called Dar and filled her in. Being more in the know about medical things she knew right away how serious it was. Carrying the burden of this terrible news, it was hard to keep her mind on her work and duties. Her supervisor was able to find a nurse to relieve her so she could come home and wait for more news. She connected up with other family members during the watch.

About 7pm we got word that he had made it through the four hour surgery and was stable, but still in critical condition. If the next day, two, go well, his chances for recovery are good.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the news continued to be positive. Thanks everyone for your concern.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...