Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Fulton

Dec. 11 to 26, 2007

Winnie 1 – Carol Anderson
Winnie 2 – Carol Rayburn

Winnie 3 – Elizabeth Baldridge
Winnie 4 – Roberta Cox

We’ve settled into our spaces at Driftwood RV Haven. Above is a photo, taken near Winnie 2’s motorhome, of the tree-abundant campground.

Every time we are near the bay, we never get bored with watching the great numbers and varieties of seabirds. Winnie 2 managed to get some great photos, including the four-shot sequence of a pelican snagging some lunch.

Winnie 2 temporarily abandoned us for a few days – but for a good cause. She drove her Honda 1,200 miles to Hurley, South Dakota, to have Christmas with her family and to bring Mom Rayburn back to Texas. They will be here in a few days.

The weather has been fickle – warm one day, cold the next, and even cold/warm/hot on the same day. windy one day and calm the next. This has required us keep a variety of clothing at the ready.

Winnie 1: So far today I’ve gone from shorts/short sleeves to slacks/long sleeves.
And then back again to shorts/short sleeves. Once the sun starts going down, those warmer things will be back on.

Days have been a variety of activities, too. We’ve bicycled, walked, shopped, taken car trips and enjoyed the outside when possible; and then we’ve hunkered down to read and do inside projects on other days.

On a walk, Winnie 1 took this photo of the early morning Fulton Harbor.

Or-sters and/or Er-sters!

It is oyster season – some Texans pronounce them “or-sters” and some say "er-sters" – and the afternoon arrival of the oyster boats is a good outing for us. Oysters are bagged in large ‘oyster bags’ (think gunny sacks). According to one of the oystermen, each bag weighs about 110 pounds and holds about 300 3-inch-or-more oysters. Bags are loaded 16 to a pallet and await the arrival of the ‘authority’ that checks them for size before tagging them as authentic Texas Gulf Bay Oysters. Then they are trucked to seafood distributors.

Winnie 4: I scolded Winnie 1 for a lack of any Christmas decorations, and on a stop to the dollar store I found an 8-inch high $1 artificial Christmas tree along with some tiny ornaments.

Winnie 1: She neglected to say that I’ve taped the Christmas cards that arrived in the mail on my kitchen (supposed to call it a galley, oops!) cabinets. And e-cards were saved to watch several times.

Christmas in Fulton

We weren’t without Christmas spirit. The fun in Fulton just never ends! At a large tent on the beach, they had a four night program called “Christmas in Fulton”, complete with hot chocolate and cookies for each night. Turns out this is a great way to view the local talent of the area….good and bad! We saw line dancers, the sheriff playing a saxophone, an elf with corny jokes, gospel singers, a children’s choir, little ol’ ladies band playing in a sticks, rattles, and etc.

The four night program ended with “Santy” Claus, who arrived with several sheriff vehicles and fire trucks, sirens a-blazing! Here's Santa being escorted by the Fulton Mayor.

Winnie 4: Winnie 1 and I made through three programs but Winnie 3 “wimped” out halfway through the first one. Where is that girl’s Christmas spirit??? Ha! I think she mumbled something about a good book to read. We had some laughs and good times and can now say “we’ve done that”.

At each performance the February Oyster Fest was announced. On one night, the master of ceremonies had some oyster buckets to give away. Winnie 1 managed to get one. (Winnie 4: Managed? She jumped up when the guy with the buckets came by to get his attention!)

Here’s a photo of Winnie 1’s cat exploring the oyster bucket.

Christmas at Driftwood RV Haven

Aaaah, let the eating frenzy begin! At camp here, it is time for the annual Christmas Eve potluck and Christmas Day mimosa brunch. Winnie 4 had previously told us about the downside to Driftwood RV Haven….far too many good cooks!

There were about 30 for the occasion. Foodwise, enough for 200! All wonderfully good! Where does one start and end? As usual, a nice group of people, lots of laughs and good feelings…a pleasant experience! By the end of the two days of feasting and merriment, we are all “waddling” and vowing never to eat again.

The clubhouse and the tables were beautifully decorated.

As this entry is being written, Winnie 3 is off with two friends – Doris and Jeanne – visiting from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Winnie 4 has finished the morning’s aerobics class. Winnie 1 is hoping the wind will decrease so she can take a bike ride. Life is good! Oh, yes – Happy Hour continues!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter Texans Settle In

Dec. 1 to 10, 2007

Winnie 1 – Carol Anderson

Winnie 2 – Carol Rayburn

Winnie 3 – Elizabeth Baldridge

Winnie 4 – Roberta Cox

The Winter Texan Winnies arrived at Driftwood RV Haven, Fulton, TX, mid-day on December 1st. Gaynor, the owner and a widowed British woman, met us and saw that we were all parked in an efficient manner. She runs a tight ship but is very hospitable and seems to consider her guests as family. She said she wants folks to feel like they are at an inn while they are here. She has traveled and lived about the world a lot and has interesting experiences to share.

Winnie 4: Gaynor, Driftwood RV Haven owner, was out to meet us when we arrived....four gals, four motorhomes, three with cars! It was good to be back here, lots of nice people and a small park. I stayed here last year and really enjoyed it. Not everyone (returnees from last year) is here yet, so more nice people to come!

The RV park is small—about 60 sites with about half of the owners parking trailers/coaches here full time. Many residents are here in the summer or on weekends only, so the park is not crowded. Most sites are among Live Oak trees that provide a lot of shade.

PHOTO Carol R took of the park

Winnie 2—I didn’t know there was a species named “Live Oak” but there is. Looked it up on the Internet and found it described as “a massive shade tree with evergreen foliage.” It grows to 30- 40 feet tall and its horizontal spread is generally 40-60 feet. We have seen numerous live oaks pointing inland from the onshore winds here which makes for some interesting shapes. If not thinned, they can become very dense thickets which are near impossible to walk through.

Fulton is adjacent to the larger town of Rockport and is located on Aransas Bay about 35 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. The combined towns’ population is around 6,000—fishing and tourism are major sources of income. Here's an early morning photo of fishing boats in Fulton Harbor.

The population spikes in summer as people come to fish and boat and it spikes again during the winter as Winter Texans come. There is also a substantial artist community in Rockport.

Winnie 2--I’m not sure how the other Winnies feel, but my sense is that Texans tend to appreciate their winter visitors a lot more than Arizonans do. They really want to make you feel at home and they tend to show their appreciation for your presence in numerous ways. I have felt welcomed ever since we arrived in Texas.

Birding is a favorite pastime of natives and visitors alike. The Gulf Coast is a flyway for many that migrate south of here plus it serves as a wintering area for many other species. We have particularly enjoyed watching the brown and the white pelicans, as well as numerous blue herons and snowy and great egrets, on our bike rides and drives around the area. We will likely be writing much more about our birding adventures here.

Carol R. wins the "best bird photo" with the one below.

Weather here has been extraordinarily hot and humid since we arrived—at least that is what the weathermen and the locals are saying. Suffice it to say we have awakened to temperatures in the low 70’s several mornings with highs in the 70’s to low 80’s. Humidity has been 80-95% A LOT. The locals assure us this will change.

Winnie 1: When I awake about 5 a.m., the temperature is in the 70s and the humidity percentage is between 80 and 85%. Bedtime is a duplicate of morning. In the day time the temps rise a bit, but humidity stays the same. Everything seems sticky. After a shower I towel off, then I towel off, then I towel off, - never feeling quite dry. Quite a change from cold, dry New Mexico winters.

Winnie 2—This self-described “desert rat” is really feeling the humidity. It feels like Washington, DC, in August only the temperatures are 5 to 10 degrees lower! Winnie 3 flew the coop to Colorado on the 4th for a few days. Guess she needed a snow fix ‘cause that is what she is getting!

Winnie 4: Weatherwise, we are in humid conditions, not to my liking! It is supposed to end soon and be back to "normal" sunny conditions for this time of year.

Hot, muggy weather not withstanding, the Winnies continue their daily Happy Hours. Here’s our first one. Carol A. took this picture.

We had barely settled in before area activities began. The City of Fulton shows appreciation for the Winter Texans and the boost they give the economy by putting on a free fish fry. Somewhere between 800 and 1,000 folks showed up, the volunteer firemen/women cooked the fish and volunteers served our sit-down dinner.

One night we were treated to some bright, colorful fireworks; we bought tickets to the Historic Home Tour; and joined locals for the candlelight caroling on the front lawn of the Historic Fulton Mansion.

Gaynor organized a ladies’ luncheon at a seafood restaurant in the Rockport Harbor area. Carol R. took a photo of us.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The famous "Hill Country"

Winnies 2 and 3 - Nov. 23 through 28; Goliad State Park Nov. 29 and 30

Winnie 1 - Nov. 23 through 26; then San Antonio Nov. 27 through 29; Goliad State Park Nov. 30

Friday, Nov. 23, the three Winnies drove to Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. This was a very pleasant 200 mile drive – the longest drive so far – through rolling ranch country between Del Rio and San Antonio. We turned north at Hondo and the grades gradually got steeper as we drove into the heart of the “Hill Country”. We saw quite a lot of wildlife on the drive and some rather exotic animals, which we haven’t yet identified, on some of the ranches along the way.

It is deer hunting season in west Texas so we saw a lot of deer stands set among the scrub oak in the pastures and many modified jeeps, “Mules”, and other assorted 4-wheelers being towed or hauled on the road. Hunting is BIG here!

Upon our arrival in Fredericksburg, we pulled into Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, where we have full hook-ups at a very reasonable price in a park setting. Other facilities available at the large city park include a golf course, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and a stream flowing through. The two Carols are parked at the end of one row and can look out their windows at a nice rose garden complete with blooming roses. This is definitely a good place to park for a few days or a few weeks! Winnie 3 is nearby.

Fredericksburg was established in the mid-1800s by German immigrants sent by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. This was the second settlement in a series of similar settlements planned to reach out to a land grant in which the society had purchased an interest. The town is located in the Pedernales River valley which provided water to the settlers. Wood and stone were, and are, abundant for use in building structures and the climate is mild. Limestone quarried locally has been widely used in building construction and there are many shops and homes being used that are over 100 years old.

Much of the German culture has been retained through the years with two choirs in town that present concerts in German, some church services are in German, and good German food is readily available. The town has many shops – including local wineries’ tasting rooms – that cater to tourists that visit the area on weekends.

Winnie 2: Shops are upscale—in some respects several remind me of shops in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

One style of home that is unique to Fredericksburg is known as a “Sunday House”. These were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s as town homes to be used by area farmers on weekends when they came to do their shopping, attend church, etc. They were built of wood or stone and consisted of two rooms, one above the other. An outside staircase provided access to the upper room. Several Sunday Houses are still standing and some are being used as shops and as bed and breakfast establishments.

The weather turned cold while we were in Fredericksburg as a front came out of the north. We had cold rain and wind the first couple of days.

Winnie 1: Yea! Finally I get to wear the turtle-neck sweaters that I brought. The weather did not keep us from getting out and about in the downtown area.

Visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson homes and Luckenbach

Finally the third day dawned clear (the 26th). It was time to visit “out doors” sites, so we drove to the Johnson City
area to tour the LBJ boyhood home and the LBJ Ranch. The guided tour included LBJ’s ‘western White House.”

And, of course, no visit to this part of Texas would be complete without a visit to Luckenbach. This quaint wide spot in the road was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in their country hit “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”. The town is a favorite motorcyclist destination on weekends and consists of an unpainted general store that also serves as a beer tavern and a dance hall. Large live oaks are on the grounds providing a wonderful area to listen to the impromptu music performed by locals and visiting musicians or to “people-watch”.

And the Luckenbach bar was the site of our daily Happy Hour

The Winnies split up, temporarily

Tuesday, Nov. 27

Today Winnie 1 left to spend a few days in San Antonio with her friend Maria; and then she met up with the others at Goliad.

Winnies 2 and 3 stayed on in Fredericksburg for two more nights. They visited with friends Jane and Barbara from Illinois who were camped at Kerrville the first day. The second day was spent in San Antonio where they toured the Alamo and spent time on the River Walk. Then they moved to Goliad State Park.

And finally Winnie 4 (Roberta Cox) joined us. Now the Four Adventurous Winnies were together.

And with Winnie 4’s arrival – plus the nearness to the brewery that makes Shiner Beer – a tour was in order. Since you’ve missed out hearing from her so far, she agreed to write about this.

Winnie 4 (Roberta): I finally got my motorhome out of hock and joined up with Winnie 2 and 3 in Goliad, TX. What a great little town! The State Park where we stayed was great, but that's another story. Friday morning, Winnie 3 and I started out for the Spoetzl Brewery in the town of Shiner, makers of Shiner Beer. Winnie 2 stayed behind, recuperating from a flu thing and a twisted back....or perhaps there was just a good football game on!

Liz and I got to Shiner a little early...we were meeting Winnie 1 there....and decided breakfast was needed. Just as we were getting the meal, saw Carol's Aspect motorhome go by! We finally
all met and went on the brewery tour. The brewery was started in the early 1900's by a good German man, Mr. Spoetzl. There were a lot of German farmers settled in the area and they wanted a taste of their homeland. The brewery thrived, even through prohibition, creating "near-beer" to keep things going. The brewery is a 24-hour operation and very clean. In the gift shop, they passed out were "limited" to four glasses! They also had lots of goodies to purchase.

We went to the local grocery store and my gal pals bought three cases, plus a six-pack of the Shiner stuff.....should last them a week or so. HA! Winnie 1 had been visiting a friend in
San Antonio, so followed us back to Goliad, about 60 miles away. We saw some beautiful little towns along the way. You really feel the "Texas-downhome" friendliness in this area.

Goliad State Park, just a hop-skip-and jump to the historic town of Goliad.

While our time at Goliad was short, we’ve all expressed interest in returning some day – perhaps on our drives back to New Mexico. The state park is home to the restored “Mission Espíritu Santo” and the nearby Presidio. We had convenient RV parking, with electric and water hookups, for $13 a night.

Our timing couldn’t have been better. Friday night’s big event was the annual Christmas Comes to Goliad celebration. After walking the decked out Mission grounds, we went to downtown Goliad for dinner. By 7 p.m. we had finished and then found a good place to watch the annual Christmas parade, complete with brightly lit floats and marchers.

Saturday morning was the annual Pony Express event, and there was a mail exchange at the entrance to Goliad State Park. With the bribery of having a hearty country breakfast after the mail exchange about 7:30 a.m., we donned our matching t-shirts and headed to town.

Then back at the park, we prepared to travel the final 80 miles to our winter roost in Fulton, Texas.

But before we drove off, the Winnebago motorhomes were lined up and through the magic of remote photo-taking, we had our first complete group, complete with motorhomes, shot. Check out our lovely color-changing shirts (we found them in Langtry, Texas)