Last night we had storms pass over us that were truly impressive. Lightning flashed on all sides of us from before dark until around 7:00 this morning. Thunder was almost continuous and some close strikes resulted in two wide-awake geriatrics sitting up in bed wondering what made the noise that awakened us. It rained 6.82 inches between 10:00 PM last night and the end of hostilities at about 9:00 this morning. We went to sleep parked on an emerald green lawn and awoke along the edge of a brown lake.
We bailed out of bed early, despite not getting a lot of sleep last night. Peggy made us some Cream of Wheat using a technique that made it non-creamy but we shoveled it in anyway and then hopped into the truck for a bit of exploring.
Louisiana is crisscrossed with a myriad of skinny roads lined with gorgeous wildflowers at this time of year. Right now they are also dry linear passages between flooded swamps and fields because of last night’s shitstorm of rain. We made a loop around the country northwest of Alexandria (not Egypt) and it is very pretty where it is not underwater. We also stopped in at a Louisiana State Park called Forts Buhlow and Randolph where the Confederate Army made extensive earthworks and dams to prevent the Union Army from passing up the Red River. Unfortunately, the Union never showed up after all the improvements were completed.
We rewarded ourselves with a second trip to a tiny restaurant in Alexandria called Pamela’s. Again, we were delighted with the food and the prices. Their burgers are large and tasty. Peggy had the fried chicken and alleged it was also hunky-dory.
There are a few photos of today’s travels. Click here
This morning the weather started to look sort of ominous until about 10:00 AM when instead of looking ominous it started acting that way. The first thunderstorm of the day dumped about six or seven tenths of an inch of rain in a remarkably short time. We turned on the Weather Channel on the TV and many handsome weather persons were explaining that they had lots of data and multi-colored diagrams to indicate the weather was going to be ugly with flash flood warnings, tornado warnings and nasty thunderstorm warnings but no real, detailed information about where all the nastiness was to take place. It turns out is was here.
The arrival time of the storm front was revised many times and, since nothing was really happening where we were, we decided to go to a restaurant called Tunk’s in nearby Boyce. Tunk’s is located at the edge of Kincaid Reservoir and offers superb views of the water from your table. It ain’t cheap but the food was superb with Peggy’s shrimp dinner and my Snapper Ponchartrain served up by a sweet kid named Desiree. Right about time we finished gorging ourselves, the next thunderstorm let loose a truly amazing torrent of water, delaying our departure about 20 minutes until we could walk the short distance to our truck without getting soaked. One of the locals waiting with us on the roomy porch claimed the downpour was a “frog strangler.”
The downpour continued throughout our drive home when the storm ratcheted up to delivering about a half inch an hour mixed in with spectacular lightning and almost continuous very impressive thunder. By bedtime, the large drops of rain drumming on our fiberglass and plastic home had created a din inside the trailer that was sure to make sleeping tough.
Again we were awakened by our resident pissed-off cardinal who got going with her head banging routine only about a half hour before sunrise. Fortunately, we were obliged to leave Toledo Bend State Park today to continue our eastbound trek because we: A.) didn’t have any more space in our waste tanks and B.) ran out of reservation in our great “premium” campsite. “Premium” means along the shore of the reservoir and cost $5 more per night but our spot was terrific with nice shade, lots of animals and a great view of the lake.
We followed fairly narrow Louisiana state and farm roads east through gently rolling hills with blankets of wildflowers covering the shoulders. There was thick mixed hardwood and conifer forest along the highway most of the way but near Alexandria, the land started to flatten out and after a bit we were driving through dead-flat agricultural land. Everything is very green and quite pretty.
In the Town of Boyce, near Alexandria, we pulled into the Alexandria RV Park. It is a tiny little place with only about 10 sites but they have full hookups, 50 amps, rudimentary wifi and a cute little shower and restroom building. The place is located in a small grove of big hardwood trees and the ground is covered with mowed lawn. It is quite pretty although I think I saw some railroad tracks nearby and those guys love to blow their horns when passing within 2 miles of sleeping humans. We also spotted a pileated woodpecker on arrival. They are big pterodactyl-looking critters. We’ll try to get some pix.
This morning we were again awakened by a rhythmic thudding on the side window of our trailer. Apparently, our resident head-banging female cardinal arises before us and was at her tricks again. For some unknowable reason, she is pissed off at our living room window which she demonstrates by giving the window the stink-eye, jumping off her perch right outside the glass and smashing her head, body and feet into our tinted glazing. After each collision, she returns to her perch in the adjacent shrubbery and starts the process over. She sometimes attacks with only a 3-second interlude but at most times it is about twice per minute.
We tried opening adjacent windows, knocking on the glass from the inside, putting up fabrics on the interior that we keep moving using a fan but she is a dedicated birdbrain and is not easily frightened away. Late in the day we used some strips of aluminum foil and masking tape to make little glimmering strips and, initially, we thought those had frightened her off. We were wrong. She eventually cowboyed up and returned to her irritating ways. Our schedule has us leaving tomorrow. I hope her head feels better soon.
Today the temperature was 79 degrees and the wind was blowing at about 20 knots. It was quite pleasant here in the trees and we took advantage of it by doing nothing all day. I love this retirement stuff. Except for the bird.
The birds were out in force this morning, all happily singing except for the single cardinal female who is obsessed with smashing her head into our living room window. We tried spooking her away through a couple of ineffective strategies until Peggy put a print scarf up in the window and turned a fan onto it to make it wiggle. The female cardinal crashes diminished somewhat but she is dedicated so we still get occasional thuds.
Today we took a drive clockwise around the Toledo Bend Reservoir. Leaving the campground, we passed through a couple of miles of Louisiana before heading back into Texas where we followed the west edge of the lake as far as Milam. Most of the road passes through the Sabine National Forest but there seem to be little enclaves of crummy private residences spread along the lake shore. Apparently, all old single-wide trailer houses come here to die and we spotted a lot of them. Once in a while, we would see really nice Texas estates but around the lake they were pretty rare. We did spot some amazing azaleas in full bloom, masses of small flying insects impacting on our windshield and a place that sold armadillo eggs (what do you do with them?).
At Milan, we crossed the lake on a very long causeway to return to Louisiana. We returned to our campsite down the east side of the lake and, since we covered that yesterday, I’ll dummy up.
We did get a few pix. Check ’em out by clicking here
We awoke this morning in South Toledo Bend State Park in Louisiana to the sound of some dull thuds on the side of our trailer. Investigation revealed that the source of the noise was a female cardinal that had found the tinted living room window of our trailer offensive and she was on a campaign to kill the image she could see from an adjacent bush. Her technique was to give the window a stern look, then to puff herself up into a “You lookin’ at me?” stance before repeatedly flying over and smashing her body against the window. We had the same issue with a male cardinal in ’15 in Virginia but this is the first time with a female. We tried opening adjacent windows, hollering at the suicidal tweeter and waving our arms on the inside of the trailer but it was all for naught. She is pissed off about the window and seems unlikely to stop the head banging soon. The sequence she follows takes about thirty seconds so we have two thumps per minute as background noise.
We eventually gave up on our scarecrow or scarecardinal efforts and elected to take a spin around this part of Louisiana. Before we even left the state park, we stopped by the park visitor center for a bit of orientation. There was an informational display that indicated the reservoir is fed by the Sabine River, is better than 60 miles long and 15 miles wide. It has the sixth-largest surface area of any lake in the U.S. but not a lot of water because the land here is nearly dead flat so the lake is shallow. Almost every other camper in the campground has a boat and they use them liberally although I think the fishing conditions are lousy because the wind is blowing at about 20 knots today.
As we drove north along the eastern shore of Toledo Bend Reservoir, we pulled in at some lakeside communities Louisianans have settled into many Dogpatch-like residences spread out along the lake shore. The roads are mostly dirt. Once in a while we would spot a beautiful estate with lots of columns and a foundation but most places merely use unevenly spaced rocks and blocks of concrete stacked under the floors. Few houses are plumb. We also pulled over at a place called Mud Truck Madness where we met an enormous man named Kenneth. Kenneth indicated that the place not only makes funny-looking mud vehicles but is also the venue of driving in the mud competitions that those attracted to glutinous slop find fascinating. We didn’t see any vehicles that could be accessed without the use of a ladder. They even had mud golf carts or Rhinos on site.
We continued up the lake edge to two towns called Negreet and Many. There were some nice houses there, many with foundations. Along the roads, which are narrow and have no shoulders, we passed by stunning displays of wildflowers in a myriad of colors. We spotted many types we never see in the west, where we theoretically reside. We also came across a steel truss bridge that only has 12′-3” overhead clearance. Our GPS device, Randy, was giving us repeated warnings that a low bridge was approaching and we needed to circumvent it because Randy thought we had our trailer behind us and it sticks up 12′-10” into the air. We are glad the GPS has the capability to warn us that we could be headed down a road that may result in the forced amputation of our roof-mounted air conditioners.
By the time we got back home this afternoon, the wind had quit and the park’s critters were out in force. The squirrels here are black. We spotted true blue jays here as opposed to the Stellar’s jays we have gotten used to calling blue jays in the western half of the country. There are also red-bellied woodpeckers, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, barn swallows and lots of finches and sparrows. In this part of the world black vultures glide around and plenty of them work the edge of the lake looking for dead stuff.
We got a few pictures along the way and you can see them by clicking here
Today was a travel day. We left Lake Conroe near Willis, Texas, and continued our eastward trek. Although we crossed I-45, oozing cars back and forth between Dallas and Houston, we stayed off major highways choosing instead to travel through East Texas on primarily farm roads. We did travel for a bit on US-190, an old federal road but all the rest was somewhat narrower.
The countryside between Willis and the Louisiana border is very beautiful with rolling hills, massive oak thickets, huge swamps, beautiful pasture lands and some rich Texans’ estates where they can go to convince themselves they are cowboys despite having no ranch hands, barns or cattle. They do have spiffy houses, though. There are a few more Dogpatch residences here than we noted further west.
After about 150 miles of bucolic wonderfulness, we crossed the Sabine River and the border into Louisiana. We have been in Texas for 51 days on this trip. We must like it more than we figured although we were not real fond of the trailer spring failure and associated damage we had in San Antonio a month ago. Not ten miles further and we pulled into South Toledo Bend State Park which borders the Sabine National Forest and the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The state park campground is right on the reservoir shore and our camping spot overlooks the water, thanks to crafty reservation techniques used by Peggy. The camping spots are large, they have 50 amp power supplies, the water seems okay but there are no sewer hookups. I guess we’ll just use the holding tanks for their intended purpose. The phone works here but the thick stand of tall pines and their lacy canopy surrounding us have eliminated any hope of satellite TV reception. I guess we will be obliged to miss our morning laugh-a-thon listening to reports of the wacky antics of the president and his early morning tweets from the White House crapper.
Transit photos can be seen by clicking here
Yesterday, I was a slug and Peggy did the wash. She found a laundry facility here in the park that is remote from the main campground and took the duds for a scrub there. She noted that the laundry facility is located such that you can get the best view in the park of Lake Conroe from the parking lot.
Today, however, we were out and about and took a drive up through nearby Sam Houston National Forest about 20 minutes north of our campground. We found a good road with a bridge that took us into the forest and across a finger of Lake Conroe. The terrain around there is pretty much big lake on one side and swampy forest on the other. We found a place down Kagle Road (no kidding) where there are many currently almost-vacant campgrounds that have an abundance of terrific campsites right along Lake Conroe. Full hookups, flush toilets, bike trails, hiking opportunities and all for $19 a night with a federal geezer pass.
Out on I-45 which bisects the National Forest, some funny Texans have erected an enormous statue of Sam Houston. Funny it’s not down the road in Houston. On the way back home we also passed by a big housing development with a strange marketing strategy. Their marketing strategy pundits must have said “we want folks to feel whole here” and the PR guys ran with it. They now have put up a series of billboards next to the road that advertise “A WHOLE community” and “A WHOLE lifestyle.” They may be right.
Check the A WHOLE’s pictures by clicking here
Today we went shopping. We hit Costco, a conjoined liquor store adjacent to Costco and Trader Joe’s and my feet are just tingling with misery after many hours on the concrete. I put forth some of my best efforts to act like I didn’t hate the shopping and Peggy made a point of acting like I was tolerable. We had substantially less money when we left than when we entered.
We are currently set up in the Thousand Trails facility adjacent to Lake Conroe. There are about 500 spaces here but not much shoreline. From our hilltop perch, we think we can see some distant cabins that may have a skinny view of the lake. The staff on site has elected to use what appears to be inch-and-a-half minus recycled road base as the paving gravel so walking can be catastrophic for those with weak ankles. I have had some near-death experiences just today trying to stroll around our trailer.
We have been naughty since the park management forbids attaching anything to their trees and we have installed a small bird feeder to a tree just outside our window. We spotted some yellow-throated vireos grazing on our seeds today. They have plumage of an almost shocking yellow.
There’s a picture of the little guy if you click here
Today was a moving day. We were prepared to leave Colorado River Thousand Trails and head to Lake Conroe Thousand Trails which is about an hour north of Houston. Our first task was to put our destination coordinates in Randy, our Rand-McNally GPS wayfinding system, and the irritating little gizmo gave us a message that it could not find a route to Conroe. We tried to trick it into compliance but it refused to cooperate.
Peggy ultimately got the errant device to get us down some nice Texas back roads using a town-to-town technique but near the new campground the little fart would not give us the info we needed so we used Google Maps on our phone.
We happily were able to almost completely eliminate freeway driving and that is always our policy when selecting routes. The Texas highways we traveled today were bordered with a riot of wildflowers and when we got into our camping spot at Lake Conroe, we found they had gorgeous eastern bluebirds in the tree next to our trailer. They are handsome little squirts.
Check the pictures. Click here