Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Long Day


Today is going to be a long day – not just here at the Boggy Thicket, but all over the world.

It seems that the gravitational pull of the moon has slowed the earth’s rotation, so whoever does that sort of stuff is adding a second today at 6:59:59 local time. 

This slowing isn’t anything new, it is constant and ongoing.  The last time a “Leap Second” was added was in 2012.

You probably won’t notice the difference.  About the only people directly affected are internet systems administrators, folks involved in electronic stock market trading and, of course, the guy who sets the atomic clock.

Actually, I do the same thing here. 

We have a grandfather clock that I have to reset occasionally.  The clock has an adjusting nut at the bottom of its pendulum; running the nut up speeds up the clock, and lowering it slows the clock down.  I suspect that things like temperature and humidity (and for all I know, the moon) affect its accuracy – anyway, every few weeks the clock will be a minute or two fast or slow, so I adjust the hands accordingly.

Monday, June 29, 2015


I didn’t write this, but I almost wish I had.  It’s a poem I came across on line, and had to share.  


When I'm an old man, I'll live with each kid,
And bring so much happiness just as they did.
I want to pay back all the joy they've provided.
Returning each deed! Oh, they'll be so excited!

When I'm an old man and live with my kids.
I'll write on the walls with reds, whites and blues,
And I'll bounce on the furniture wearing my shoes.
I'll drink from the carton and then leave it out.
I'll stuff all the toilets and oh, how they'll shout!

When I'm an old man and live with my kids.
When they're on the phone and just out of reach,
I'll get into things like sugar and bleach.
Oh, they'll snap their fingers and then shake their head,

When I'm an old man and live with my kids.
When they cook dinner and call me to eat,
I'll not eat my green beans or salad or meat,
I'll gag on my okra, spill milk on the table,
And when they get angry I'll run if I'm able!

When I'm an old man and live with my kids.
I'll sit close to the TV, through channels I'll click,
I'll cross both eyes just to see if they stick.
I'll take off my socks and throw one away,
And play in the mud 'til the end of the day!

When I'm an old man and live with my kids.
And later in bed, I'll lay back and sigh,
I'll thank God in prayer and then close my eyes.
My kids will look down with a smile slowly creeping,
And say with a groan, "He's so sweet when He's sleeping !"

Sunday, June 28, 2015


My niece made the local news this past week when a pair of baby goats she had bought as a fathers day gift for my brother in law were stolen off her back porch.

Jennifer has posted flyers and is offering a reward.  I hope she gets them back, but don't think it's likely.  Can you say Cabrito?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You Look Just Like….


You know, you look exactly like ______! 

Has anyone ever told you that?  It has happened to me more times than I can count, but I have never actually seen anybody that really looks like me. 

I just haven’t.

Like most folks, I do have two eyes, two ears, one mouth and a nose that’s more-or-less centered on my face, but that’s about it.

In honesty, I suppose that I should admit that the guy looking back at me from the bathroom mirror doesn’t really look all that much like the image of myself that’s stored in my mind.  Even so, I simply don’t look much like anybody I’ve ever met.

My baby pictures and those of my grandson, Nash Robinson, looked so much alike that if you were to see them on your computer screen - and couldn’t compare the age of the paper - you probably wouldn’t be able to say which picture was Nash and which was of me.  That didn’t last long, though – by the time he was a toddler, he had developed his own unique features, and as a teenager he is much more handsome than I was at his age.

I suppose it is possible that I do have a doppelganger out there somewhere – I’ve just never seen anyone who comes close.

In spite of all the people over the years who swore I looked like someone they knew, I’ve only been mistaken for someone else once that I can remember.  That was years ago, late at night, and a certain amount of alcohol was involved.

Friday, June 26, 2015



Sculptor Don Featherstone died on Monday at the age of 79.  He was the inventor of the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament that became an icon of American suburban values of the 1950s and, later, a symbol of postmodern, ironic detachment that hinted at a sense of cultural superiority.

For Featherstone, who designed the bird for Union Products Company’s Plastics for the Lawn line from pictures in a National Geographic magazine spread, the bird was a surprise hit – and the start of a cultural craze.

The company had tried marketing ducks, geese, swans, even ostriches, but nothing came close to the success of the flamingo, with its echoes of Florida exotica, that went on to sell 20 million pairs.  It’s been noted that there are literally more plastic flamingoes than real ones.

Asked in 2007 to explain why he thought the plastic pink flamingo was such a hit,  Featherstone told the Chicago Tribune: “We sold people tropical elegance in a box for less than $10. Before that, only the wealthy could afford to have bad taste.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mower and Mower


As I mentioned back on the 14th, I have been having serious issues with our old lawn mower. My post back then was a little optimistic – the hour or so I thought it would take to get the mower back together became almost a full day.  Even after I got it all together, I found that I had to make another trip to the hardware store for a spacer washer – something it hadn’t needed before. Once it was finally up and running, I had one blade that just fell off – Twice!

I finally got everything working properly, and was able to mow most of the yard yesterday.  I finished up this morning – except for one small area that no longer drains properly and was still a little too wet to mow.

Then, just before I was through, I somehow managed to get the mower caught on an old stump.  I’m not sure how it happened – I’ve mowed over that area before without any problem, but today, it snagged so badly that I had to use the tractor to pull it off. 

I was able to finish mowing, but the system that raises and lowers the mower deck no longer works, and it looks like the entire mower deck has shifted forward.  I don’t know what caused that – what may be bent or broken – but it looks like the mower and I are scheduled for another round in the shop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boomer and Speed



This week’s news carried stories about Boomer, a 40-year-old Grizzly Bear, and Speed, a 150-year old Galapagos Tortoise.  They were big attractions for years at their respective zoos, but they made the news this week because they both were euthanized.

Speed had been at the San Diego Zoo since 1933, but suffered from various aged-related maladies including severe arthritis.  The zoo staff had attempted to treat him with medication, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, even acupuncture, but decided on Friday that it was time to end his suffering.

Boomer was a resident of the Houston Zoo.  He came to the zoo in 2007 after being rescued from a private owner who was keeping him in unhealthy conditions. He was euthanized on Tuesday after a long period of declining health. Chronic arthritis, infections, and a bout with lymphoma had weakened him in recent years.

When does quality of life deteriorate to the point that it is better to end a life than attempt to prolong it?  It’s a tough decision, and one that should be made not simply from a practical standpoint.  It’s a decision that has to be made with love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Houston – We Have A Problem


People have argued for the last 45 years about whether Neil Armstrong said “man” or “a man” when he uttered his famous quote from the moon.  Now, after all this time, we learn that what we knew about the first words spoken on the Moon were wrong. “Houston” may have been the first word broadcast back to Mission Control, but the first word actually spoken on the Moon was “Contact.”

Here’s the story as reported by KHOU-TV:

HOUSTON - Here in Space City, it is the stuff of legend: Houston was the first word spoken on the moon.

The governor has bragged about it. Advertising campaigns have been built around it. It even turned up in the lyrics of a mayor's campaign song.

Only one problem with that idea: Sadly, it's just not true.

On a hot Sunday afternoon 45 years ago this weekend, Americans sat transfixed in front of their television sets as Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin achieved what had long been the impossible dream of landing men on the moon.

With no live television coverage of the descent to the lunar surface the camera wasn't deployed until later, after Armstrong stepped outside viewers of network TV coverage heard but didn't see the landing.

That caused confusion. CBS News, hailed for its coverage anchored by the revered Walter Cronkite, showed animation of the lunar module sitting on the moon before it had actually landed.

So perhaps the world could be forgiven for the mistaken belief that the first words spoken on the moon were "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

The New York Times, beneath the headline "Men Walk on Moon," published a transcript of the transmissions from the lunar surface beginning with Armstrong s dramatic announcement.

The Houston Post ran a caption beneath a picture saying, "First Word Uttered From the Moon Was Houston."

"So that became the sort of statement of record of the first words spoken on the moon," said Andrew Chaikin, the author of "A Man on the Moon," perhaps the definitive history of the Apollo program.

"In fact, I once saw an advertisement or a poster from the city of Houston that said, 'Houston: First Word Spoken From the Moon.'"

In fact, a closer look at the transcripts reveals the landing clearly happened several seconds before Armstrong said, "Houston."

"It's a technicality, but if you want the first words from the moon, they were contact light," Aldrin told KHOU 11 News.

Aldrin spoke those words the instant he saw an instrument panel light that illuminated as probes extending from the lunar module footpads touched the moon's surface.

His next words were telling: "OK, engine stop."

Once the engine had shut down, the lunar module was sitting on the moon.

Aldrin rattled off some more technical mumbo-jumbo. Then after a moment of silence, Mission Control basically asked a question.

"We copy you down, Eagle," said Charlie Duke, "the capsule communicator in Houston, which was another way of saying, Looks like you guys have landed."

Only then did Armstrong transmit the announcement beginning with the word "Houston."

The first symbolic word was "Houston, Tranquility Base." Aldrin recalled. "However, before we got to that point, when we touched down I said because I watched the light Contact light, engine stop."

The story got more complicated decades later, when NASA released previously un-publicized recordings from inside the lunar module. Shortly after Aldrin said the word "contact," Armstrong is heard saying "shutdown."

Chaikin contends the spacecraft wasn't actually sitting on the moon until that moment.

"Neil says 'shutdown,' which means that he has at that point shut down the descent rocket, the descent engine of the lunar module," Chaikin said. "And he only did that after they were actually on the moon."

Aldrin bristled at the suggestion Armstrong uttered the first word on the moon. He was there, he said, and the first words were his.

"Let s not deal with trivia as to what the recording was," Aldrin said. "Andy may want to do that for his book, but what I recall I just told you."

So Aldrin believes the first word spoken on the moon was not 'Houston,' but 'contact.' Chaikin, the historian, believes it was 'shutdown.'

At least there s no argument that the man who said the first word on the moon, whoever he was, came from Houston.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rx Robbery

No, nobody held up the local Walgreens.  Well, they may have – I don’t know or care – that isn’t what this is about.

This is a rant about the cost and/or availability of prescription drugs.

Honey had refill prescriptions for two drugs she uses on her face.  One is an ointment and the other is a cream, and she has used one or the other on alternate weeks for over ten years.  Now, Medicare has made them impossible to afford.  The co-pay on the “cheap” one has jumped to $186, and they won’t cover the other one at all unless she can prove that she has tried at least two alternative medications that did not work!  The cost of a tube of that one – not sure if it’s the cream or the ointment, and don’t really understand the difference – is well over $600.  

That led to a trip to the dermatologist this morning, and there may be light at the end of the prescription tunnel, after all.  She gave Honey a sack full of samples to try, and she will write a prescription for them if they work. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Talk

My Father’s Day post may be a little odd, but it’s what came into my memory when I sat down to write, so….

My dad was a great guy, literally one of the best people I have ever known, but – except for delivering spankings, etc. - he left my raising pretty much to my mother.  One noticeable exception, and one of the most awkward moments of my life, came when he tried to talk to me about sex.

It was summer.  I was fourteen years old, and helping my dad in his air conditioning business.

We were riding in his truck when he asked me to get him a pack of cigarettes out of the glove box. I opened the glove compartment, and right on top was a big box of Trojan condoms!  He explained in stumbling fits and starts that there were some women who would let you do certain things, and, if you were going to do that, it was probably a good idea to wear protection.

That was it. 

That’s all there was.

He never mentioned sex to me again.

And - I never saw condoms in his possession again. 

I don’t think he was ever unfaithful to my mother – even if he had the inclination, which I doubt – the way he worked, I don’t know how he would have found the time.  I’m almost 100% sure that the condoms were put there as a conversation starter – strictly for my benefit.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Life After

I’ll willingly admit that I do not know if there is life after death, but I don’t think our opinion on the matter should affect the way we live the life we’re in.

I came across this on line, and thought it was worth sharing:

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other:
“Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Barry and Mario

ZeVan292wBack in the 70s, KTSP-TV in Minneapolis-St Paul had Barry Zevan, the Weatherman, one of the country’s first formally trained weathermen. 

Now a member of Minnesota’s Broadcast Hall of Fame, Barry was immensely popular. He once pulled an almost unbelievable 51% audience share in the Twin Cities – not because he was so good (his forecasts were about as accurate as anybody else’s) but because he was so BAD! 

He did his entire broadcast facing the map – away from the camera – only occasionally looking back over his shoulder with a smirk.  His weathercasts were more fun than improvisational  comedy, and I thought that no trip to 3M headquarters was complete without watching Barry do his thing.  Minnesotans proudly claimed to have the worst weatherman in the country.

marioFor several years now, KHOU-TV in Houston has had a weathercaster that could give Zevan serious competition for that title.  Unfortunately, he just isn’t funny.

I’m sure that Mario Gomez is a nice guy.  I know he likes dogs, and dogs like him – he does the weekly adoption show from the Houston SPCA – but if you ever actually listen to his weathercasts, you’ll see that he seldom makes any sense whatsoever.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


billTropical Storm Bill has come and gone.  There were some heavy rains west of Houston, and there are predictions of heavy rains along its path all the way to New England, but basically it was a non-event.

Here at the Boggy Thicket, northeast of Houston, we only got a total of about two inches of rain spread over about 48 hours.

My old friend and former coworker, Dave Szostek, posted this on Facebook:

To all my friends not in the Houston area, we are safe! Mom, please stop watching the weather channel! We did have some slight damage into the $5 range when I left a bag of charcoal on the woodpile. I'm afraid it's a total loss. Will also need to spend a minute or 2 picking up some trash and leaves that blew into the yard. Filling out my FEMA application later today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Bill

ts billStill nothing on local TV except Tropical Storm Bill. 

News teams went into 24-hour storm mode yesterday while Bill was still an unnamed tropical disturbance, and they keep repeating themselves over and over even though, so far, there is really nothing of significance to report.

Bill was predicted to make landfall about midnight last night, but as of 9:00 a.m., the center was still offshore – not necessarily a good thing.  Forecasts still predict a couple days of heavy rains with totals up to a foot or more in hardest-hit areas.

When it wasn’t raining yet at 7:00, Honey decided to try to get in her morning walk.  It almost worked, too.  She had been out for about an hour when it started pouring.  I grabbed my keys and my cell phone and headed for the door, but met her coming in as I headed out.

Monday, June 15, 2015


The sun is out this morning, it’s 76° and muggy, but all the talk on local TV is about rain and possible flooding.

Several things converged to make this happen:

  • Hurricane season began June 1st.
  • We just got through the Memorial Day flooding that caused multiple deaths and millions of dollars in damage.
  • Tropical Storm Allison, with its 9 Billion dollar price tag, hit this area in June of 2001.
  • TV news and weather folks Love to talk about disaster.
  • There is a disturbance in the Gulf that is headed our way.


rain map

If the disturbance becomes a tropical storm, and weatherfolk are saying there’s up to an 80% chance it will, it will be named Bill.  Even if it doesn’t, it looks like we are in for a wet week.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

No Mower

We have an old riding lawnmower that was made by MTD and marketed under several brand names. Ours is a White Outdoor brand that I bought from Tractor Supply. I’ve had to repair one thing or another several times over the years, but it has given good service and lasted longer than most.  I plan to keep using it until it falls completely apart.

Back in the last week of April, I was mowing the lawn for the last time before leaving for our trip when the mower deck started making an ungodly racket. A bearing had failed on one of the spindles that transfer drive to the mower blades.  I tried to finish the job – I was almost through – and ended up ruining the pulley as well.

My local Tractor Supply didn’t have a replacement.  Their store in Liberty, TX, thought they did, and I drove over there just to find that it wouldn’t work.  The O-E-M part from MTD was outrageously expensive, but I found an after-market replacement  on line at Powermowersales,com.  I saved the information  and ordered one while we were on the road, expecting it to arrive just after we got home.

When it didn’t come, I called them and found that the part was back-ordered from the manufacturer and wasn’t expected to ship until the end of August.  Amy, the young lady who took my call, was able to find an alternate vendor and mailed the part by Priority Mail 2nd Day delivery.

The package made it to the Miami post office and then it just disappeared for over a week!  Amy was ready to ship me another one and to file a claim with the post office when it finally showed up.

spindleThe spindle assembly finally arrived yesterday, but instead of looking like the one above – the picture of the one I ordered – this one came without the pulley.  I tried calling the vendor, but they were closed.

As  I have mentioned before, Ray DeSpain's, just down the road on the way to New Caney, may be the best chain saw shop in existence, and they do carry lawnmower parts.  I stopped there yesterday, and they were able to match the damaged pulley.

When I get it all back together in an hour or so, I’ll have a functioning lawnmower again.  Of course, it’s been raining for the last 24 hours, and it’s too wet to mow.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Up In Smoke


It has been almost three years since I posted a rant here about Texas charging sales tax on cigarettes  AND on the excise taxes they had already applied - (Insult to Injury). I still think it’s an outrageous practice that ought to be illegal. but it hasn’t stopped me from smoking.

Cigarettes are still slightly cheaper in Louisiana than in Texas, but may not be much longer.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed raising the cigarette tax from 36 cents to 83 cents, bringing it more in line with the higher tobacco taxes in other Southern states. The governor's team said this increase would help drive $100 million more dollars into higher education. It would pay for a tax credit given to students and families who would otherwise be expected to pay higher fees at public colleges and universities this coming year.

The cost of maintaining a smoking habit ranges  greatly from state to state, and I guess that I should be grateful that I don’t live in California or New York – not that I would want to, anyway – but I was amazed to learn on our recent vacation that cigarettes were a full $20 a carton cheaper in Georgia.  I was able to buy three cartons at a Savannah area Kroger’s for less than the cost of two cartons back home.

I hadn’t really thought of Georgia as a tobacco-producing state,  but, depending on the criteria used (whether you go by acreage or tons produced) Georgia is either number six or number three, right after North Carolina and Kentucky.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kids and Parks

Wednesday’s Michael Berry show on KTRH (and syndicated across the country) spent a lot of time talking about a single mother who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter go play at a nearby park while she worked at McDonald’s.  It really got me thinking about how much things have changed in my lifetime.

I was about that girl’s age – it was the summer that I turned 10 in August – when I won a scholarship to summer classes at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  The classes covered everything from astronomy to zoology, and we got to play with everything from live snakes to shrunken heads, stuff a 9-year-old boy thought was super cool!  Robert Vines, the museum curator, taught the classes, and had a real gift for making science exciting.

Back then, the museum was located about where the tropical bird house is now in the middle of the Houston Zoo. To get to the classes, I walked six blocks, caught the Oak Forest Shuttle bus to the Sears on North Shepherd, where I transferred to a bus headed downtown.  Then I walked over to Main Street to catch the bus that dropped me off at Fannin and Outer Belt (now Cambridge Street) between Hermann Hospital and the Zoo.  From there it was just a couple blocks to the entrance to the Zoo.

Once the classes were over, I rode the bus back downtown, walked over to Congress Avenue, and transferred to the number 43 bus back to Sears and then the Shuttle back to where I started.

I only had one problem all summer, and it was my own fault.  The bus stop on Congress not only served the 43 bus, it also served the number 34 and number 44 buses, and I once took the 44 bus by mistake.  I ended up as the last passenger on the bus somewhere in far northeast Houston in an area that I had never been to before.  The driver asked me where I was going, and I tearfully told him I had got on the wrong bus and was planning to keep on riding until I got somewhere I recognized.  He said that he was through for the day and headed for the bus barn, but he would take me to a corner where I could catch the number 43 bus.  I got home about an hour late, but still made it before my parents got home from work. I don’t think that I ever told them what had happened.

I had a great time that summer, and wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, BUT…If attitudes 60 years ago were the way they are today -when a woman can get arrested for letting her unsupervised daughter play in a park a block from work - they would probably have put my parents under the jail.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


pavingThe Bolan family has owned the place across the street from us for about forty years.  They were here when we bought the old Boggy Thicket, and when Cathy decided to move to a townhome, her son Greg bought the place.  Since he moved in, Greg has made a lot of changes – an underground sprinkler irrigation system, a big shop in back, and he had the driveway paved yesterday.

I was out checking mail when the paving foreman flagged me down.  He said that since he already had a crew and all of his equipment out here and several hours to go before quitting time, he would make us a Hell of a deal on paving our driveway.  He quoted us a price for a finished hot-mix asphalt driveway that was actually cheaper than the crushed concrete we had been driving on.

I have heard similar sales pitches before that turned out to be a scam, but in this case, it was true.  They had several dump trucks, a Bobcat skid loader, the asphalt laying machine and a pavement roller on hand, along with a crew of about a dozen men.  They got through at Bolan’s about 2:30, and we had a new driveway before 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trip Report – Final Thoughts

To be really successful, any trip should not only be fun, it has to be educational. 

Here are a few things we learned on our trip last month:

The saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” doesn’t apply to Bluebirds – we saw Bluebirds in Georgia that were over twice the size of the ones who nest in our barn.  We also noticed that Georgia Cardinals are orange compared to the ones we feed at home.  The Cardinals at the Boggy Thicket define red, they are a true, brilliant red their Georgia cousins just can’t match.

With the slides closed on our 5th wheel, it is impossible to open the cabinets above the kitchen sink.  Much of I-22/US78 west of Birmingham has been recently repaved and is some of the smoothest highway we travelled, but there are sections of I-22 so bad that the cabinets did come open and dump bowls and coffee cups on the floor.  Zip ties between the cabinet door handles cured that, and a package of 100 at Wal-Mart is a lot cheaper than replacing another coffee mug. 

Along that same stretch, the microwave even opened up and ejected the carousel plate!  Those plates are pretty generic – according to the internet, the one that broke fits several hundred models from dozens of manufacturers. I had another carousel plate at home from a microwave I’d replaced, but of course, it wouldn’t fit.

Since we were mostly staying in state parks that don’t have Wi-Fi, and we were going to have to pay bills on line, I took the advice of rv.net friends and bought my own Wi-Fi hot spot, and it worked like a charm.  Internet speed was as good as, and sometimes better than the DSL we use at home.  The clerk at Best Buy who sold it to me was very helpful, and we compared rates on several before I settled on a unit from ATT.  I asked him of he sold a lot of them, and he said no.  “That technology is  so three years ago.  Everyone now just uses their smart phone.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trip Report Part Eight

Our last stop on the way home was at the Lazy Armadillo RV Park in Teneha, Texas.  Teneha is a small East Texas town whose only claim to fame is that it is one of four tiny Texas towns listed in a Tex Ritter song from the 40s – not much of a claim, since my wife had never heard of it.

For our purposes, the big attraction was that the Lazy Armadillo was almost exactly half way between Crater of Diamonds and the old Boggy Thicket.  The park itself is very small, with a few open sites and only two other trailers.  One of those seemed to be a permanent resident, and the other appeared to be unoccupied. 

We were a little worried about what we’d find there – there had been tornadoes in the area the day before, and one had hit a power distribution center in Carthage, TX, the closest town north of our destination.  The whole town of Carthage was without power, and they didn’t expect to have it back for another couple days.  The RV park had not had any damage, and their power was fine.

Maybe it has something to do with my years in radio, but I’m always amused when I meet someone who doesn’t sound anything like he looks.  A few days ago, I mentioned the Indian fellow with the Georgia accent – this time it was a Vietnamese kid who talked pure East Texas. 

We had gone into Center, TX, to fuel up and get some dinner.  I went into the station to tell the attendant I needed a fill up.

“Hep ya?” he asked.

“Need a fill up on Diesel.” I replied.

“Okay - goanout an Ahl turn it on fer ya.”

When I went back in to pay, he asked if there was anything else and I asked if he could recommend a good place to eat.

“Whacha wont?”  he asked, and I told him I was in the mood for barbeque.

“Waayul, Darrell’s is OK.  It’s purty good.”

He was right, too.  Brisket that would literally melt in your mouth, and ribs that were falling off the bone.  Lots of it, too.  If you’re ever in Center, Darrell’s is a great place to eat.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Trip Report Part Seven

welcome sign

We spent the Memorial Day Weekend at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.  waterpark

That was also the opening weekend for the water park that adjoins the diamond field, so getting a reservation for the weekend was almost right up there with actually finding a diamond in the Arkansas dirt.  I wasn’t thinking about Memorial Day when I made the reservations back in February, but if I had waited another week, they probably wouldn’t have been available. 

According to their literature, Crater of Diamonds is the eighth largest diamond field in the world, and the only one where visitors are free to keep anything they find.  Less than a month before we got there, Susie Clark of Evening Shade, AR, picked up a 3.69 carat diamond from the surface of the plowed field.

3.69 diamondcampsite Campsites at the park are large, well appointed, and recently refurbished.  Ours had a large area with a picnic table, a fire ring and a cooking grill, and immediately behind that, a big level tent pad.  Unfortunately, the recently paved parking area for our trailer was not anywhere near level.  I carry some 2X10s to drive up on for just that situation, so we were able to level the trailer, but that left about a two foot drop from our bottom step to the ground.

BIG stepWe did try our hand at finding diamonds, and brought out some interesting pebbles.  According to the park ranger, we didn’t find anything worth keeping.

diamond field 3

About 10 miles outside the park, on the other side of Murfreesboro, we discovered a Corps of Engineers lake with a marina and park on the Little Missouri River.  It was a beautiful place – somewhere we might want to see again.

The last night at Crater of Diamonds, we had our only bad weather of the trip – an hour or so of heavy rain and gusty winds.  It turned out that we caught the northern end of a line of storms that brought tornadoes to East Texas and to Shreveport, LA.  Nothing so dramatic where we were – we lost our TV satellite picture once or twice, but that was about it.

Our last stop was an overnight in Teneha, TX as we headed for home.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Trip Report Part Six

After leaving FDR State Park, we made three short drives and three overnight stops on our way to Arkansas and the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Our first stop was Oak Mountain (Alabama) State Park.  We had been there before, so we knew it was a nice park. Alabama’s largest state park, Oak Mountain features a golf course, a lake with a nice swimming beach and an equestrian center.  It is also the home of the Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with rescued raptors that can be viewed from the tree top trail.  For us, the star of that show is a rare albino turkey vulture – shunned by other buzzards, and with feathers too brittle to fly well, she has lived at the center for years. We were pleased to learn that she is still there, outlasting a normal buzzard’s life expectancy in the wild.

Our next stop was Tombigbee State Park, just outside of Tupelo, MS. Google Maps sent us on a complicated series of poorly marked county roads that made us wonder if we would ever find the park.  Once there, we realized that if we had stayed on the interstate for one more exit we would have had an almost straight shot to the park entrance.  It is a nice enough park, and Elvis fans will know that he was born in Tupelo.  His birthplace and the church where he first sang in public are part of a tour of the city.

Tombigbee is derived from the Choctaw Indian word for “coffin makers,” named for tribesmen who cleaned the bones of the dead and placed them in boxes.  The Tombigbee River starts in northern Mississippi, and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway allows for barge traffic between Tennessee and Mobile Bay.  There is even a Tombigbee Lake and campground at the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation at Livingston, TX.

After leaving Tombigbee, we crossed the Mississippi at Memphis and spent the night at Delta Ridge RV Park in Forrest City, AR.  This is a small park with additional sites under construction.  Almost everyone there was just there for a overnight stop.  It is located behind a pretty good restaurant which I think is owned by the same man who runs the park.

Crater of Diamonds tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Trip Report Part Five

We never made it into downtown Savannah - the closest we got was driving by the stadium where the Savannah Sand Gnats play Triple-A baseball – but after a week, it was time to head west.  Our next stop was in Pine Mountain, GA at the F. D. Roosevelt State park.

IMG_5271The statue above is at Dowdell’s Knob, a place FDR was said to come often to sit and think. 

It is a nice park, but the only sites with 50 amp service were too small for our 37 foot 5th wheel.  We did get a nice 30 amp site with a view of a pretty little lake.

our campsiteDown the hill from the park is the town of Warm Springs, and FDR’s Little White House, also a Georgia State Park.  We took the tour, and found it much more interesting than I actually expected it to be.

little white house signlittle white house  Among the historical tidbits we learned – when Roosevelt learned that the light bill for the Little White House was over four times the cost of electricity for his Hyde Park mansion, he instituted the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) that led to low cost electricity for farmers across the country.  The docents did not discuss the rumors of FDR’s affairs, but did confirm that, while Eleanor almost never came to Georgia, his secretary  was always with him.

treatment pool 2A few miles away, but part of the same facility, are the treatment pools that brought him to Warm Springs in the first place.  Polio victims would soak and exercise in the 88° water from the springs.

Just out the back gate at the other end of the park is Callaway Gardens, a nationally known destination that features a PGA golf course and a lake that was hosting the national water-ski and wakeboarding championships.  I might recommend visiting the gardens in early April, when their thousands of azaleas are in bloom, but by the time we got there, there really wasn’t much to see.

still a few azaleas bloomingThere were still a few azaleas blooming – enough to hint at how beautiful it must have been a month earlier.butterfly house  They do have a very nice Butterfly House, but be sure you are well hydrated before you go in.  The keep both the temperature and the humidity inside somewhere in the upper 90s.

One more thing before we leave – not something I saw, but something I heard.  I had stopped for fuel just outside that back gate, and the 20-something clerk at the convenience store/gas station looked and sounded like a typical immigrant from the Indian sub-continent.  When I went back in to pay, he was deep in conversation with a local, and he sounded just like any other red-neck good ol’ boy  from the foothills of the Appalachians.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Trip Report Part Four

Almost everywhere we went while staying at Skidaway State Park required us to drive on Highway 204, and every time we did we passed a small unobtrusive sign that read Pinpoint Heritage Museum.  Our curiosity finally got the best of us, and we decided to go see what it was all about.  The sign for the entrance to the museum is even more well hidden than the sign on 204, so we actually saw all of the town of Pinpoint before we found the museum.

MuralShortly after the Civil War, a group of recently freed black men bought the town site and founded the town  of Pinpoint.  Their descendants still live there today in a small close-knit community with one cemetery and one church, the Glory of Eden Baptist Church.

They are all of Gulla-Geechee heritage.  When they speak to visitors they use excellent English, with a typical Georgia accent, but among themselves they speak Gulla, a dialect so incomprehensible to outsiders that it might as well be its own language.  If you ever read Pat Conroy’s book, The Water Is Wide, about his years teaching in a Gulla school, you’ll know what I mean.

The one industry in Pin Point was the A. S. Varn & Son Crab and Oyster Factory.  That business closed in 1985, and its buildings now house the museum.


Crab House The tour starts with a well-produced 20 minute video  that provides insight into the history and culture of Pinpoint.  They are proud of the fact that they are so close – If someone gets into financial trouble, neighbors will join together to pay their mortgage, and all adults can and do exercise the right to discipline anybody’s kids.

Their approach does seem to work; everyone we met seemed to be friendly, healthy and well educated.

You can’t take the tour without them bragging a little about their favorite son.  Pinpoint is where Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was born and raised.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Trip Part Three


Although most of our trip was carefully planned, we had three delightful surprises while staying at the Skidaway Island State Park. 

The first came when we learned that our daughter, Cheryl, had bought us a Mother’s Day dinner at the Driftaway Cafe.  Located just a couple miles from our campsite on Skidaway Road, the Driftaway features what they call “Casual Coastal Cuisine.”  The service and the food were excellent – their house salad, mixed greens with a home made balsamic reduction vinaigrette, was enough to make you come back again.

The second surprise came during our trip to Tybee Island.  We went there for the day for more great seafood and a dolphin-watching cruise – the surprise came later.

dolphin5tybee lighthouse  After the cruise, we went to Stingray’s

stingraysWe had been there in 2007, and had the best seafood we had ever tasted.  It was so good in our memories that I was almost afraid to go back, but the food this time was just as good. The surprise came when we learned that we came to Tybee on the day of the Annual Beach Bum Parade.  Residents and visitors line the street with trash cans and pickup trucks full of water, then the people on the floats and the people on the sidewalks shoot each other with an amazing variety of huge water-guns.

beach bum paradeWe took off early, before the festivities got into full swing, but still managed to get squirted a few times before we got off the island.

The third surprise was a place called Pinpoint, but I think it is worth a post all its own.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Trip Report Part Two

As much as we enjoyed it, it was time to leave Stephen Foster behind.  After all, even the park literature admits Foster probably never saw the Suwannee River  made famous in his song.

In the deltas just southeast of Savannah, GA lies Skidaway Island, home to huge, moss covered oaks, subdivisions full of huge, expensive homes, Georgia University’s Institute of Oceanography, and Skidaway Island State Park.

Skidaway campsite 2We had seen great reviews of Skidaway SP, but were still surprised.  Our campsite was a full hook-up pull-through site that was easily 100 feet long – we could (and did) park our truck in front or in back of our trailer with plenty of room to spare.  It is the first state park we’ve ever seen where full hook-up includes cable TV, and the quality of the signal was better than most commercial RV parks that offer cable.

We did a lot of sight-seeing while we were here, and we took one day off.  If you haven’t taken an extended vacation, you may not realize that – no matter how much fun you’re having – after a couple of weeks you will need some down time. 

From our base at Skidaway, we visited Wormsloe Historical Park,

Oak-lined drive Wormsloe Historical ParkThis is the site of one of Georgia’s first plantations, founded by Noble Jones, who came over with James Oglethorpe in the early 1700s.  There are Jones descendants still living on the property, but most of the plantation is now an historical landmark open for tours.

IMG_5181The “Tabby Ruins” is the site of the original homestead.  Settlers kiln- baked oyster shell to get lime, which they mixed with sand, water and unbaked oyster shell  to make concrete blocks they called tabby.  It worked pretty well, because after floods, hurricanes and 300 years of wear, much of the foundation and walls are still standing.

IMG_5183 You can’t tell from the picture, but our tour guide – the young lady inside the blacksmith shed – did the entire two-mile trip through the woods barefoot.  She explained that she was being historically accurate because shoes of the day were expensive, very uncomfortable and only worn on special occasions.

That’s just part of what we did in the area, but I’ll pick up again here tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Back Again

We’ve been back home for almost a week after spending May on the road.  We got back last Wednesday, and our 5th wheel trailer got back yesterday.  We had a couple of minor issues, and one potentially major one that turned out to be a false alarm, so we left our trailer at Terry’s RV Service on the way into town.

It was a great trip, and I would have shared a report before now, but Google Blogger has been having compatibility problems that were only corrected last night.

We traveled a total of 3,000 miles, but I kept the miles between stops pretty short – the longest was 257 miles, and the shortest was 150.

Our first stop was Frog City RV Park in Duson, LA – just an overnight on the way to Grand Isle State Park.  Grand Isle is a great park with excellent facilities – and the fish were biting!  We spent five days there before moving along.

Not everything was perfect – our TV antenna went up fine, but when I tried to rotate it, it wouldn’t turn and I ended up breaking it.

IMG_5152gulf piergulf

After Grand Isle, we spent one night in Alabama at Meaher State Park on Mobile Bay, and one at Torreya State Park in Florida.

Torreya SP is named for the Florida Torreya, which is also known as the Stinking Yew. It is a small park with large mosquitoes, but ok for an overnight stop.  We were able to buy a new TV antenna at a big RV store along I-10 in Alabama, and I installed it at Torreya.  The old one broke because when they were repairing our roof a few months ago, the tech had put so much Dicor sealant around the antenna it had locked it in place.

Our next stop was the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park, a  park on the banks of the Suwannee River in Florida.

Our campsite SFSPIt is a beautiful park with old oak trees, and it features the Stephen Foster Museum

Strphen Foster Museum 2  And a carillon that plays Foster tunes several times a day.

Bell TowerThe tower was being refurbished, so we didn’t get to hear the bells, but that was the only disappointment.  It is a great park.

From there, we headed to Georgia, and I’ll pick up there tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Not Just Me

Still can't post from Windows LiveWriter to my blog, but I'm not alone. A check of the help forum shows it's happening everywhere. Also seems to apply to Raven, and other blog composing software.