Thursday, February 28, 2019

Texas - Crystal Beach, part one and the two stops to get there

Berwick, LA

January 18, 2019 is the day we started our trek to Crystal Beach, TX. We did a one night stop at the Cypress Lake RV Resort in Berwick, LA. After having a hard time figuring out how to get into the campground - GPS tried to take us through a gas station, our troubles weren't over. Once in the park we followed the signs for the office only to get ourselves stuck on a dead end road. The owner came out just a little too late to tell us we needed to pull along side the building. We cannot back up the RV when our tow-dolly is attached so Les tried to make a U-turn and almost got stuck in the wet grass. So we had to take the car off and drop the tow-dolly in order to get the RV out.
Once in our site we tried to put the tow-dolly back on the hitch, but because of the bike rack we couldn't. (Tip on last post tells about the bike rack) So Les had to take the bikes off and the bike rack, put the tow-dolly on and then the rack and bikes back on!! Yes, we were not happy campers. So what should have been an easy pull through site for one night tuned out to be an almost 2 hour set up.
With all of that the campground is pretty nice, the view of the lake from our site was very relaxing. The site was plenty long enough and level. There are a few permanent residents that are not kept up very well. The owners just recently purchased the campground and are trying to make improvements. We paid $40.00 with our Good Sam Discount. You can easily walk to a convenience store and a number of casinos.

Sulphur, LA

Our stop in Sulphur, LA on January 19, 2019 was at the A+ Motel and RV Park. This is a large park, all cement sites and pretty narrow. There is a patch of grass, a picnic table and a grill. This was a much easier stop, pulled into the site hooked up the electric and we were done!
Nancy was sick with a cold so she never left the RV, Les did all the dog walking. We paid $40.00 with our Good Sam discount.

Crystal Beach, TX

January 20, 2019 we landed at the Bolivar Peninsula RV Park in Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston. We were here for a month and a half stay. The park is very well maintained.

We were in Site 29, a grass and gravel pull in with full hook ups and a view of the lake on site. There is a cement patio with a picnic table and a grill. We paid $16.67 with a monthly discount and Passport America.

We were entertained by the birds every day and enjoyed some beautiful sunsets at night. There were Spoonbills, Great-tailed Grackles and Muscovy Ducks. Along with Pelicans that proved to be very camera shy.

Walking the whole park is about a mile, which made Nancy very happy. There were also lots of picture opportunities of flowers, weeds and raindrops.

The beach was just a short walk away and we went there whenever the weather permitted.
You can also drive along the entire beach so of course we took advantage of that as well.

Both Nancy and Mielikki found lots of shells and seaweed. Most were left behind but a few came home with us.

Most days the walk was around 2-miles but one morning we were feeling extra adventurous and managed over 3. Luckily, there are porta-potties along the way, those who know Nancy well, know that she was very glad. The porta-potties are hidden in these cute little shacks. Unfortunately there was a need to clean up lots and lots of trash left behind by others. This bag is one sample of many that we filled. 😞
The beach is lined with Crosses, most just plain white wood but some were more elaborate. The majority of them are for people who died in Hurricane Ike back in September 2008. We also came across these metal poles, they are what is left of a pier that used to be here.

Our first night here we were able to watch the Lunar Eclipse. We didn't get great pictures but it sure was cool to watch.

During out excursions on the peninsula we came across a few quirky things. A Flip-Flop Pole in one of the neighborhoods. The first coffee shop we have seen with a Raised Drive-Thru. There are a large number of RV's that have Patios built above them - keeping this thought tucked away for future use. The Bolivar Point Lighthouse was built in 1872 and served the area for 61 years before being retired in 1933.

Fort Travis is a United States Army Coastal Artillery Facility. It is at the western end of the peninsula where the Intracoastal Waterway meets the Gulf.
Two of the batteries were built in 1898, with additional construction taking place over the following years up through 1941.
It is now a large park, with four of the batteries remaining and the foundations of a number of other buildings. Along with a playground and bird watching stands.
Battery Davis
Battery Davis was the first battery built. It was built from reinforced concrete. It contained two eight-inch, breech loading guns that could be elevated for a longer shooting range.

Gun Station

The building is in great disrepair, all of the buildings suffered damage from Hurricane Ike. We were actually surprised that people are still allowed inside the building as the walls and stairways are crumbling. There are weeds growing in just about every crack and crevice. 

Nancy of course was fascinated with the old iron pieces and crumbling cement. 

At one end of the battery is a very steep staircase. Les and Mielikki ventured up while Nancy was taking pictures below. She decided to join them and once she got to the top of the stairs she realized that it was not a good idea. In fact during her slight panic attack she had somehow enable Siri on her phone and when she yelled out to Les that "this was a terrible idea", Siri picked up on that!
They are very steep steps - and yes it was a terrible idea to climb them.

Once at the top Nancy realized she couldn't go any farther, the narrow and slopping passage way was more than she could handle! The problem was she still had to get down. So very slowly she went down backwards one step at a time. She was able to snap a few pictures while at the top.

Battery Ernst 

Battery Ernst was the second one built. It contained three small caliber "rapid fire" pedestal guns with searchlights. It is at the farthest end of the fort and it's purpose was to defend the harbor entrance. Top pictures are of the gun pedestal, or what's left of it and the location of it. There is a great view of the Gulf from here.

Battery 236 was built in 1941, by this time the Coast artillery no longer named its smaller installations. It contained two long range six-inch guns connected by an earth and concrete casement which contained a power plant, magazines, fire control facilities and crew quarters.

This battery was designed to defend the approaches to Galveston harbor from minelayers and submarines. Ironically, by the time the battery was finished almost all mine laying was done by aircraft, making it obsolete as soon as it was built. The structure is no longer safe to go inside.
Battery Kimble was started in 1917 and was completed in 1922. It had twelve inch guns that could be elevated to gain a range of 17-miles. Shortly after WWII the battery was made vulnerable by the advent of accurate aerial bombing. The circular gun platforms provided the perfect aiming point. The battery was then abandoned and its guns sold for scrap. This is the only surviving example of this type of battery, more than a dozen similar ones were built in the U.S. and the Philippines.

There is still one freestanding gun hole left in tact, good thing for Les no one was practicing their shooting.

There is not much on Bolivar Peninsula so any shopping was done in Galveston and Port Arthur, which will be covered in Part Two.

In order to get to Galveston we had to ride the ferry. The Galveston/Bolivar Ferry runs 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. It is considered to be part of the highway system and is free to ride. We had a variety of weather on our many trips back and forth. Clear skies, fog and rain. They have a screening lane where someone from Homeland Security checks your car. They really don't do much, look under the hood, in the trunk and the glove box but through the drivers window!
The sign says "Please do not verbally abuse screeners or staff. Verbal abuse of screener may be cause for denial of boarding." Pretty sad when a sign like this is needed.

Along with shopping we of course did some sightseeing. We found a few Roadside Oddities.

Galveston has its share of Seafood Restaurants and of course they have Giant Seafood on their roofs! The house in the bottom picture was built from an old water tower! Would love to see inside.

This area has had its share of devastating Hurricanes, the last one, Hurricane Ike in 2008 destroyed much of the surrounding area. One of the deadliest hurricanes was in 1900. The death toll was 8,000, most of these occurred in the vicinity of Galveston. The water surge inundated the entire island with 8-12-feet of water. After the storm the shoreline of the island was raised by 17-feet and a 10 mile seawall was erected.

The sculpture is a memorial to those who lost their lives. The seawall has a sharp curve to help keep the water from coming over it. The stairs are a small portion of what is left of the original seawall. The bottom left pictures is the tide coming in. Watch your step!

One of the touristy things along the seawall is the Galveston Pleasure Pier. Yep, that really is the name! We didn't actually go into the amusement park but the lights did give us pleasure!

In Kemah, TX they have painted their Water Tower to look like a Lighthouse.
In a park in Texas City there are two planes on display as it is claimed to be the "Birthplace of the U.S. Air Force." In 1913 the 2nd Division of the U.S. Army was deployed here to guard the Gulf Coast during the Mexican Revolution. Nearly half of the nations land military personnel were here. This also included the 1st Aero Division that had recently been created and later became the U.S. Air Force. The Wright Brothers trained dozens of soldiers as military pilots, hence their claim to fame. In August 1915 a hurricane completely demolished the base and the camp was moved to San Antonio.

L: Anchor 2-miles away ~~ C: Propeller 1-mile away ~~ R: Anchor 1- mile away

Top: Miss you ~~ Grief
Bottom: the grave numbers of 63 unidentified bodies
from the blast ~~ Helping hands 
On April 16, 1947 the town suffered another disaster. A French ship, the Grandcamp, containing ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded while docked. It is regarded as the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. The fertilizer from Nebraska and Iowa overheated. The blast devastated buildings, blew away warehouses and showered shrapnel in all directions for miles. A second ship, the S.S. High Flyer was released from its moorings by the blast and ignited, it rammed into a third ship the S.S. Wilson B. Keene. Both of those ships also contained the fertilizer and exploded. 581 people were killed, over 5,000 people were injured. The entire Texas City and Port Terminal Fire Departments were wiped out.
There is a Memorial Park in Texas City to remember those lost in the blast and those who have died in battle.

War Memorial - each walkway is lined with quotes 

Part two will be posted when we leave here. You will hear about Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin, more on Galveston and a Mardi Gras parade!

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way. 
~ Tip will be on part two.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Mississippi ~ Pass Christian

Pass Christian

On December 18, 2018 we said good-bye to our friends Peggy and Paul and headed west to Pass Christian, MS.
A short uneventful drive just like we always wish for. Pass Christian RV Park was home for a month. This is the second time staying here. The first time was in January 2018 on our way to New Orleans.
This is a small no frills park with mostly permanent residents. It is well maintained and there are bathrooms and a laundry room. We were in Site 2, a level gravel pull through with grass and a picnic table. Sites are about average width. There is no WiFi but our Verizon signal was strong. We paid $16.00 a night with their monthly rate and Passport America discount.

Lots of dogs in the park and Mielikki loved making friends with them. One morning when we came outside we discovered that through the night the ants had been busy and built an ant hill inside this cone! Shortly after this picture was taken we got rid of them as they were red ants - and boy do they hurt when they bite.

There are lots of places for dog walking as there is very little around here. Nancy and Mielikki got their 2 mile walks in most every day. There are a number of dead end roads that have no houses on them - some where nothing was ever built and others where houses were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Of course water and birds everywhere and we loved the faded and vine covered stop sign. One day Nancy's hip was bothering her and she didn't bring her cane so she found a large stick to use but Mielikki thought for sure it was for her! Yes, Nancy finally gave up and let her have it.

One of the best parts of staying in one place for a month is that it gives us time to work on projects. We have been on the lookout for a new table for months and being cheap we didn't want to spend a fortune on a new one. So every Good Will, Salvation Army, Habitat and Antique store we passed we would stop and look.
Well, we finally found one at a Salvation Army in Gulf Port. It is the exact size we wanted and it was only $60. Taking out the old table was much easier then we thought. We now have so much more room for cooking, crafting and anything else.

In fact Nancy put it to good use right away and covered our boring dining chairs. She had a tablecloth from her friend Sarah who passed away a few years ago and it is the perfect weight and color for chair covers.

We celebrated Christmas here with our tradition of going to the movies. While the houses in the area didn't have a ton of light displays there was a Light Show put on by the Island View Casino.

There were some fun holiday items. A giant Sandman on the beach and a Crab Cage Tree in Pass Christian.

 A whole neighborhood street in Bay St Louis had wooden Christmas Cards on their lawns. What a fun idea.

We had a mix of weather while here lots of sunshine but also plenty of rain and foggy days. The rain we could do without but we do love the fog. We walked to the end of the Libby Milner Roland Pier in Gulf Port.

One of the foggy days made it very hard to see the bridge that connects Pass Christian and Bay St Louis.

We also enjoyed a number of sunny days on the beach as well. Mielikki loves the beach. She searches for seaweed and driftwood as much as Nancy does.

Our new friend gave us quite a show one night.

Even though the day of the kite show in Long Beach was a little rainy there were still a lot of kites in the air. It is so much fun watching them float about.

The Visitor Center in Bay St Louis is in the historic L & N Train Depot. A beautiful Mission style building.

One half is a small history museum. The Mississippi Blues trail goes through Bay St Louis and they have a wall dedicated to blues musicians. There are cases with local artifacts and Hurricane information. The shores of both Bay St Louis and Pass Christian are lined with carvings like this angel. Carved from trees destroyed in the hurricane. The link at the beginning of the blog has lots of pictures of them.
The upper right picture is of a Hurricane Ball, these unusual balls have been found all over the world's coastlines and are composed of plant fibers native to whatever coastline from which they were generated. They are apparently created through continual and strong wave action common in hurricanes. This area was a popular place for Pirates back in the day, our Captain tried to sneak away with some gold.

The other section is dedicated to a Mardi Gras Museum, local participants of previous parades have loaned their beautiful costumes to the museum.

picture from the internet - her
beloved beagle was always
at her side.
The second floor is where you will find the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum. Miss Alice as she was called started painting at 65 to help relieve some of the stress of caring for her mom who had Alzheimer's. She was 79 when she moved to Bay St Louis, she came here for an art show and fell in love with the town. The link will take you to the website for the museum and her history along with pictures of her paintings.
You are not allowed to take pictures in the museum, but we did get a picture of the house she lived in which is right across the street from the museum. We bought this print with a rainbow over Bay St Louis for our niece Lillian who loves this town.

Just down the road from our campground was our favorite place to have breakfast. Daddyz in The Pass. Good food and great service, Heidi was our waitress just about every time and we miss her smiling face. She always gave "Santa", as she called Les and Captain a hard time!
There mural was the perfect place for a Captain selfie.

We found all the Roadside Oddities the last time we were here. On that visit the Giraffe and Elephant in Gulf Port were dressed for Mardi Gras. This time they are decked out for the holidays.

We learned about the Abita Mystery House from Roadside America. It is in Abita Springs, LA. John Preble was inspired by the Tinkertown Museum in New Mexico. We visited there in October 2016

The museum is in an old Standard Gas Station, or at least the unique gift shop filled with all kinds of fun trinkets is. 

The museum itself is contained in numerous buildings behind the gift shop. They are each filled to the brim with everything you can imagine. 
The sign at the front door lets you know the type of people they don't want, the ceiling of the gift shop is covered in circuit boards. Nancy was wondering if any of them came from Circuits DMA, where she worked back in the 1980's. Tin men and Robots could be found everywhere. 

There are showcases filled with tiny vignettes of towns, circuses and more. Some are animated and all will make you chuckle. 
Teri the three faced dog-seal-dog is one of them. 

Every inch of the walls are covered with pictures, hand painted signs, license plates and even bottle caps, old phones and tools.
Nancy's mom had pictures very similar to the ones in the upper right picture. There were also a number of shadow boxes filled with all kinds of crazy things.

The grounds outside were as wonderful as inside.

The "body" is inside the airstream 


Aliens landed in one section. There is a whole shack dedicated to Hot Sauce.

Alligators and other creatures could be found lurking around every corner.
Buford the Bassigator
Buford is the creation of Dave Kelsey and John Preble. Using the measurements of a real alligator head and a bass fish they created this friendly guy. He is made of plywood, chicken wire, fabric and beach balls for his eyes. Then covered in fiberglass to create the textured skin. 

After all of that excitement we needed to wet our whistle and what better place than the Abita Brewery. We enjoyed a flight and great conversation with the bartender.

What is claimed to be the worlds largest Ronald Reagan statue stands in a park in Covington, LA. That statue is 10-feet tall and sits atop a 6-foot pedestal. Covington had been a Democratic stronghold for a century. Then hard times fell on the town during the oil bust while Reagan was in office. Seems strange but the town turned Republican and in 2008 the statue was erected.

We will leave you one of the beautiful sunsets we enjoyed during our stay.

Next up Crystal Beach, TX

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to you!

Tips and things we have learned along the way. 
~ Traveling with bikes
It is amazing the things there are to make RVing life easier.
We purchased a Mulli-Use Ball Mount and Hitch Receiver at Harbor Freight.
We also had to go back and purchase a new ball as the one on our existing hitch did not fit. So check the size of everything before you head to the store.

This now allows us to attach our bike rack to the top portion and our tow-dolly to the ball.
We also have bike covers that we use that are not shown in the picture.

We had actually stopped taking our bikes with us because prior to this we had to put the bike rack on the back of the car when moving from one place to the next and then take it off once settled in so we could get into the back of the car while out and about. Then we had to repeat this for every stop. This is so much easier.

Note: On one of stops we realized that you cannot attach the tow-dolly to the ball while the bike rack is attached. So make sure anything you are towing is attached before you put the bike rack and bikes on!