Hudson River Valley

We travelled to Tarrytown NY to attend a wedding.   Tarrytown is in the Hudson River Valley about 30 miles upriver from New York City. We arrived in time to catch some of the fall colors and had a full day to explore both before and after the wedding. Our first venue was Lyndhurst, also known as the Jay Gould estate, a Gothic Revival country house that sits in its own 67-acre park beside the Hudson River.

New York-12
Lyndhurst Castle

Although the website, the sign in front of the street entrance and a sign on the front entry all said it was open, it was in fact closed as they had gone to their winter hours.  We did peek through the windows.  But, the grounds along the Hudson were beautiful and we enjoyed a walkabout.   I like this photo of red leaves on the ground.  It might make an interesting background wallpaper or something.

New York-2
Leaves on the ground

Here’s the tree they came from with my lovely wife.

New York-4
Mary Lou with color coordinated top
New York-6
A closer look at the red leaves

Below is another shot that might make a nice wallpaper.

New York-21
Into the forest

Not all of the leaves were red, here’s proof.

New York-31
Mary Lou and fall color

Also on the grounds was an old apple orchard.  Living in warm climates, Texas and previously California, we don’t often get to see apples growing.

New York-38
New York Apples

As we wandered through the orchard we spotted movement at the base of the tree and I snapped a photo of this creature before it scooted into its burrow. We assume this is a groundhog, but having never seen one before it’s just an educated guess.

New York-40
Groundhog?

We next ventured to the former house of Washington Irving, writer of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

New York-55
Washington Irving’s Home

Although he was considered middle class in his time, he had 5 servants, plus a live-in brother, who managed the property and outside help, and 2 live-in nieces who managed the house, meals and inside help. The design for this house was inspired by estates he saw during his travels to Europe, where he was when he wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Unknown to us before this trip, Sleepy Hollow is an actual town just north and adjacent to Tarrytown. We had lunch there and bought some apples at a farmers market.  It’s a very charming village.

That was it for our pre-wedding exploring.  The wedding was held at Stone Barn at Blue Hill. It’s an old farm estate restored to a stunning hotel, restaurant and event venue.   Since we arrived after dark and there was no photography allowed during the ceremony, you’ll be spared from the wedding photos. Here’s one of the bride, who we’ve known since she was a child.  It was the most classy wedding we’ve ever attended.  The food and service were spectacular.

New York-63
Mary Lou and Meredith

Meredith’s dog, Roo, was in the wedding. Mary Lou painted a portrait of Roo as a wedding gift.

New York-67
Roo Photo
Roo iPhone Photo
Mary Lou’s work

 

 

 

 

 

We had a great time at the wedding. Many of our California friends were there that I hadn’t seen in a few years. I enjoyed the evening and took few photos.

On Sunday we did brunch and then headed into the city where we went to the 911 museum.  It was a sad but moving and meaningful experience and I urge anyone with the opportunity to see it.

We also got Googled.  We were using Google Maps to navigate to our pre-paid parking near the museum.  As we approached the final turn there was no left turn allowed.  Google Maps solved this by having us continue straight on West St through the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, 1.7 miles under the East River and an $8.00 toll, then making a U Turn and coming back through the tunnel, another 1.7 miles and another 8 bucks, so that we could now turn right into the street where our parking was.  Yikes!

We returned to Tarrytown and had dinner with the parents of the bride. It was a nice evening with old friends.

Our flight back on Monday was until 8:30 PM so we had time for one more adventure.   Our first choice, since it was close, was to see Stone Barn at Blue Hill during the day.  It is a working farm and ranch and they raise much of what they serve there.  When we got there my one concern was confirmed – Closed Mondays. Instead we drove out to West Point and toured the military academy. Here a few of the more interesting photos from the tour.

New York-79
Cadet Chapel

New York-85

I thought the above photo came out pretty well for a handheld shot with my little G7X that was later cropped to about 5% of its original size.

I’ve always been impressed with pipe organs.   The one in the cadet chapel has 23,236 pipes and has the world’s largest horseshoe console.  It is one of the top 3 pipe organs in the world.

New York-83
Cadet Chapel Pipe Organ

Here’s a great shot of the Hudson river as it makes a turn at West Point.

New York-89

That’s it for our late fall New York trip.   We have another trip planned, so stay tuned.

New York-94
In the city

 

Winslow on the Shire

We travelled to Pagosa Springs for Mary Lou to attend an art class. We all stayed at Winslow on the Shire just outside of town. It’s an amazing facility. It has 11 bedrooms on 4 floors. It’s furnished in sort of Victorian funky, but it’s quite nice.

Pagosa Springs-453

Here’s the view from the kitchen window with the San Juan mountains in the distance.

Pagosa Springs-1
Not a bad view
Pagosa Springs-3
Horses grazing right out back

We spent the first day in Pagosa Springs, including the balloon festival. (see previous post). On Monday morning, the artists got to work.

Pagosa Springs-426
Art class in progress

They painted in the mornings and we had afternoons free to venture out. Pagosa Springs is a beautiful place. The river flows right through town.

Pagosa Springs-30
Pagosa River

When we were there, the aspens were justing starting to show their fall colors.

Pagosa Springs-333
Aspens among the pines
Pagosa Springs-327
Young aspen up close

During class I took slipped out to see Chimney Rock National Monument, which is nearby.

Pagosa Springs-387
Chimney Rock

Here’s some of Mary Lou’s finished work from the class.

Pagosa Springs-447
Rooster
Pagosa Springs-456
Longhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pagosa Springs-445
The Girl in the Chair

It was a great week.  We all had a good time.  We visited Carlsbad Caverns on the way home and it was great, but I didn’t take photos – just enjoyed.

That’s all for now. We have another trip planned, so stay tuned.

Balloon Ascension – Pagosa Springs, CO

September found us in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  Our first adventure was the balloon ascension.  We had to get there at 7:00-ish if we wanted to watch the balloons getting inflated, so we did.

Getting ready
Getting ready

They started by laying out the balloon on a ground cloth, then attaching the basket.

Here's the basket
Here’s the basket

Next they use big fans to fill it with air.

Filling with air
Filling with air

Once it’s pretty full they carefully use the burner on the basket to begin heating it. Before you know it, it’s upright and ready to go.

And they're off
And they’re off

There were 26 balloons on a crystal clear and, at ground level, windless morning.

Off they go
Off they go

Evidently, as part of a balloonist’s skill test, they try to dip in the river. You’d think they drift off but there was no wind as long as they didn’t go up too high.

Dipping in the river
Dipping in the river
Dipping in the river
More dipping

Finally, a few of them rose high enough that they began to float away and their recovery teams jumped in their trucks and headed off.

Floating away
Floating away

It was an interesting morning and great for taking photos.   We’re in Pagosa Springs for Mary Lou to take an art class next week.   Watch for the next post….

You can see more photos if you’d like by clicking on the More Photos link on the left (laptops and desktops). If you’re using an iphone or ipad, touch the menu button (button with 3 horizontal bars) just to the right of I Refuse to Live an Uninteresting Life, then scroll down to More Photos.   If you’re using an Android you’re on your own.  🙂

 

Goose Island State Park – Part 2

Strong thunderstorms and possible tornadoes were headed our way and looked to arrive around 4:00 AM. We’ve seen what even small F-0 tornadoes can do to trailer parks and decided we’d need a better option. As we prepared to call it a night around 10:00 PM the line of thunderstorms was still over Mexico, but heading our way.  We did our nightly dog walk and decided that if we had to seek shelter, it would be the restroom building.  It’s made out of cinder blocks. There really wasn’t any other choice, but still this building looked pretty stout. We walked down to check it out, it was about 5 campsites away, and found a large group of tent campers packing up by flashlight. It turned out to be a wise idea.

At 2:00 AM both of our iPhones went off with a loud alert sound, the same one they use for Amber Alerts, with which you may be familiar. TORNADO WARNING. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. We jumped into our clothes, grabbed rain jackets, flashlights, Chloe and iPhones and the three of us walked to the restroom building. Mary Lou, being the more risk averse or smarter (you pick), sheltered in the lady’s room. At this point there was neither rain nor wind, so I hung out just outside the men’s room where the roof extends forming a small porch.

A look at my weather radar app showed it would hit us in a few minutes – and it did. We had heavy rain, thunder and lightning and strong winds.  I was ready to duck into the men’s room at any time but it never came to that. After 20 minutes or so the line of thunderstorms passed and all that was left was a little light rain.

Interestingly, no one else joined us. They either stuck it out in their RVs or sat in their cars, the latter being the tent campers. Anyway, it was over and we made our way back to the RV, which was now in a huge puddle and went back to sleep. We did each have a shot of Jameson’s to calm us down, a habit we picked up following earthquake aftershocks in Southern California.

In the morning I peeked through the window to see if the puddle had returned. It had and was bigger than it was before.

Goose Island-119
Might be a little rough getting into the Jeep from this side
The other side was worse. It doesn’t show real well in this picture, but our campsite had turned into a small pond. The water outside of the trailer door was about 2 1/2″ deep and too big to jump over. While it had rained all week in Texas, this storm was the first of 2 knock-out punches that caused all the flooding in Central and Gulf Coast Texas.

Goose Island-128
Passport Lake
Hmmm. Problem or opportunity? As we looked around, we could see folks packing up. It was Sunday morning of a three-day weekend, so some of them may have planned to leave. But, I had a feeling folks were bailing out. I proposed the idea that we might now be able to get a spot on the bay front, which was already full when I made the reservations months ago. And so we did. We did a light pack up and headed over to the bay front, taking the opportunity to dump our grey water in the process. We can last 3-4 days without dumping, but this gave us room for another shower. We only have 30 gallon tanks (all 3).

Once we got settled into #7, it was time to relax. The waters of St. Charles Bay were maybe 20 yards from the back of the rig.  There was a stiff breeze blowing right off the water.

Goose Island-130
Lemons into lemonade
I watched who I assumed were locals casting into the surf. As a fairly experienced fisherman myself, decided to give it a try.

Goose Island-133
Casting into the wind
There were many failed casts where my bait ended up 6 feet in front of me, but eventually I was able to get it where I wanted to be, conditions being considered.

Goose Island-135
Waiting for action
We fished for probably 6 or 7 hours.  Beer was consumed and lunch was eaten. It was quite pleasant. We saw two fish caught all day. Neither was very big and neither was caught by me. But that’s fishing.

Here’s a shot to the north where you can see the Hwy 35 bridge that goes to Rockport.

Goose Island-122
Bridge to Rockport
Here’s a couple of shots of our campsite.

Goose Island-124
Site #7
Goose Island-125

Each site had covered picnic table.

It was nice to be on the beach, but Monday we had 200 miles to drive home and there were predictions of bad weather in the afternoon. So, we hitched up, dumped tanks and headed out. Fortunately, we had no mechanical problems on the way home.  No spare either.

As we drove through Gonzales TX we saw that the Guadalupe River had overflowed its banks and flooded a large area that included a golf course, park and baseball facility. It didn’t affect Hwy 183 so for the time being we were okay. As the weather continued to deteriorate, we decided that we’d grab a quick lunch in Lockhart and keep rolling. It was cloudy with no rain when we entered the restaurant but while we were eating we got FLASH FLOOD WARNING message and the sky opened up. We just stayed where we were and waited for it to pass.

It was mid-afternoon and our plan had been to take the trailer home for a good cleaning before we returned it to the storage yard. But with rain and the threat of severe thunderstorms approaching we decided to take the trailer directly to the storage area and offload our clothes and food into the Jeep. The weather continued to deteriorate as we approached Lakeway.

tornadoes

As we got nearer we received alerts of tornado warnings in Lakeway. It seemed wise not to drive into the area right then so we pulled into a large parking lot in Bee Cave to wait it out. After 30-40 minutes it seemed to brighten up ahead of us so we resumed driving towards the storage yard.  We arrived there without anything other than light rain and backed into our spot.   But, before we could unhitch the sky opened up again and we jumped back into the Jeep to wait it out.

Goose Island-137
Serious rain
It rained like this for over an hour.  We considered all of our options but there wasn’t a better one than waiting it out.   And then it passed on by.

Goose Island-136
After the storm
This was the second of the big storms that went through Central Texas and this line of thunderstorms and tornadoes created the major flooding in Texas. We finished unloading the trailer and went to see how our house looked.  It was generally fine. We had some standing water 2″ deep in low spots in both the front and back, but it soaked in after a few hours.

So, this wasn’t the best of camping trips. The weather was lousy and the conditions at Goose Island State Park weren’t that good. I don’t think we’ll go there again in spring or summer. Not to mention the flat tire that ended up having to be replaced at a cost of $200. But still, we had some fun and it was an adventure. As you may know, we refuse to live an uninteresting life.

Goose Island-120

 

We’ll be back soon with another adventure!

Goose Island State Park – Part 1

For our Memorial Day Weekend trip we chose Goose Island State Park on the Texas Gulf Coast. There was the threat of rain all weekend, but we decided to go anyway. The other option being to sit around the house and find maintenance tasks to occupy our time. As is often the case, we pack up in the morning and head out around 10:30, so we don’t get very far before it’s time for a lunch stop. Today we stopped at Black’s Barbecue, a Texas legend in Lockhart.

Goose Island-1
Oldest BBQ joint in Texas, since 1932. Open 8 days a week!

Goose Island-2

While the food was excellent, there are so many great BBQ places in central Texas it’s hard to tell the best from the really good. As we left Lockhart we drove by the Caldwell County Courthouse, built in 1894 in the Second Empire architectural style.

Goose Island-8
Caldwell County Courthouse

It’s just under 200 miles from our house to the gulf and we made good time until the low tire warning came up on the dash.   We were about 5 miles from Victoria TX and had 26 lbs left, losing about a lb per mile.  We figured we could find a tire shop, get it fixed and be on our way again quickly.

Goose Island-14
Flat tire

Wrong again.  We found a tire shop but after two hours of unsuccessful patch attempts they pronounced the tire unpatchable. So they mounted the spare and we resumed our journey.

We arrived at Goose Island State Park about 4:00 in a light rain. We were surprised when the park attendant came out to our rig under an umbrella to check us in. We were further surprised when the first thing he said was “the mosquitoes are really thick”.  We could see them landing all over him and had to roll the window up and down as we checked in to keep the little buggers out of the Jeep. We found our spot and backed in. Note spare on left rear.

Goose Island-16
Lantana Loop #114

The next morning, after thoroughly spraying with insect repellent, we ventured out. The weather was great.  It was a beautiful campsite with shade from large oaks and large grassy spaces between the campsites.

Goose Island-24
Big Tree

Near, but not actually in, the park is the simply named Big Tree.   It is over 1000 years old.   We drove over to see it and were the only ones there.  Well, except for 1,000,000 mosquitoes.  The wildflowers were pretty amazing.

Goose Island-25

Goose Island-26

Goose Island-29

It was a brief visit due to mosquitoes getting in your nose and ears and buzzing around.  They managed to find places to land and bite that were either missed during the spraying or they just didn’t care.  We drove over the bridge on Highway 35 into Rockport and then on towards Port Aransas.  We’ve been there before in our pre-RV days and weren’t surprised by the ferry crossing.

Goose Island-34
Mike and Chloe wait for the ferry

It’s a short ride and it’s free. It just crosses the deep-water ship channel. You can easily see the shore of Mustang Island across the channel.

Goose Island-39
Ferry Crossing

Mustang Island is a resort-y kind of place with restaurants, shops, beach condos and a beach you can drive along and/or camp on. Due to the recent heavy rains, a sign posted declared Beach Driving Conditions: Poor.  You can see why below.

Goose Island-48
Beach Driving Conditions: Poor

But the Jeep has 4 wheel drive so off we went.  We slipped and slid in the wet sand but just enough to make it fun.

Goose Island-49
4 wheeling

Although the wind was blowing a good 15-20 mph right off of the water, there were brave souls out on the beach.

Goose Island-51
Braving the winds

There are posts that separate the driving area from the camping/day use area and folks have taken to decorating them.

Goose Island-54

Goose Island-53

We also came upon this row of brightly painted houses

Goose Island-57
Painted Houses

We returned to Goose Island by the same route and had no issue getting on the return ferry quickly, but due to the 3 day weekend, the line to take the ferry onto the island, as we had done in the morning, stretched out 5 miles. We guessed those people had at least a two hour wait to get to across.

We’d done our auto hike, so the next day we decided we needed to hang by the beach.  We went over to the picnic area in the park and set up a day camp. We were right on the water in a grassy site.  The wind was coming off the water,  but it was pleasant and we had a great view into St. Charles Bay.

Goose Island-61

We watched the birds as they fished and had the place to ourselves.  Here are some wildlife shots.

Goose Island-127

Goose Island-85

Goose Island-100

Goose Island-106

There were also a few fan boats taking customers out to fish. We hadn’t seen any of those since we were in Florida in 2013.

Goose Island-111
Fan boats, noisy but cool
Goose Island-112
Yes, Chloe got to go.  She loves/hates birds.

Farther out tankers and other large ships would pass from time to time. Check out the people, standing in the shallows, fishing.

Goose Island-116

It was a pleasant day and after we’d had enough wind we headed back to the campsite. On either side of us, kids were playing outside, but we found the mosquitoes so annoying we hid in the RV and enjoyed dinner and a movie. We were watching the weather as there were warnings of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes overnight.  More on that in Part 2……

 

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

On Monday, when everyone else was at work, we took the Passport for a visit to Emma Long Metro Park. Emma Long Park is an Austin city park on Lake Austin. It has about 20 water and electric campsites, about half of which are lakefront, a large group camping area and a day use area. During warm summer weekend days, the day use area is packed with swimmers, but not today. There were maybe 5 campsites occupied and no one in the day use area.

Nick and Lindsey-143
Lake Austin

Lake Austin is created by a dam on the Texas Colorado river (not the Colorado river). For most of the lake, it’s not any wider than the river was before the dam. Across the lake are beautiful mansions. We had a great spot right on the water. Two days before there was a big hailstorm in the area. Because of that storm, we’re getting a new roof on our house. Whoever was camping in the next spot had a rough night, too. Looks like they just abandoned what was left of their tent and dining canopy and ran for safety. A free standing truck camper was knocked off of its stand as well.

Nick and Lindsey-147
Storm damage

But the storm is long gone and it was a beautiful day. We rented a campsite for the night, but the plan was to do lunch, dinner and campfire by lake and then go home.  The plan worked out well. First, we needed lunch. Nick, Lindsey and Miss P ate in the trailer.

Nick and Lindsey-139
Lunch in the trailer

We brought along the inflatable kayak and we all did a little paddling.

Nick and Lindsey-150
Chloe, Mary Lou and Nick

I watched Miss P so Nick and Lindsey could go out. My only job was to keep her on the blanket.

Nick and Lindsey-158

Nick and Lindsey-164
Nick and Lindsey

Mary Lou is happy as long as she’s holding Penelope.

Nick and Lindsey-175

As the day turned to evening, Nick tended the campfire while we started thinking about dinner. It proved difficult to sustain until Nick came up with some dry firewood.

Nick and Lindsey-177

Nick and Lindsey-180
Nick and Lindsey

We were treated to nice sunset.

Nick and Lindsey-184
Sunset on Lake Austin
Nick and Lindsey-190
The camp

It was a great day at the lake.   That’s all until next time.

Jacob’s Well Natural Area

During a visit to Austin by my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter we took a trip to Jacob’s Well Natural Area, just north of the village of Wimberley. Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring. The water is pushed up from the Trinity Aquifer roughly 140 feet below the surface. In former days when the water table was higher, the spring actually gushed above the water surface.

Nick and Lindsey-8
Jacob’s Well

During the off season, which was when we were there, the area is unattended and swimming and diving are prohibited.  However, these other visitors were sure that this rule didn’t apply to them and they took turns jumping from rocks into the spring.  It is about 30 feet deep at the mouth, which is about 12 feet wide, before it takes a lateral turn, so there’s plenty of depth for jumping as long as you hit the center.  I’ve heard there are lots of jumping accidents but there were none today.

Nick and Lindsey-11

Nick and Lindsey-12

Lindsey, who’s an accomplished amateur photographer, ventured down to water level through a slot in the rocks to get some great shots.

Nick and Lindsey-33

Nick and Lindsey-18

The spring flows into Cypress Creek.

Nick and Lindsey-35
Cypress Creek

We took the opportunity to  take some baby photos there, as we did everywhere.

Nick and Lindsey-39
Miss P
Nick and Lindsey-41
Mom and Grandma

We were about half way back to the car when thunder started and the sky opened up, but we had a nice visit to Jacob’s Well.

Nick and Lindsey-31