Every once in a great while a vacation comes along that does what we hope. It provides us spiritual transportation to a different, peaceful place for rest and recovery from our everyday lives. It reminds us that we are in a very special place, if only for a brief time. And it reminds us that we are surrounded by important and special people.
Alex and I were fortunate enough to have experienced all that, and more, last week on our journey to Texas. Our plan was to head far enough south so we could remember what really warm weather was like. And we wanted to see birds. We originally were thinking about going to Florida. But most people we know in Indiana who think of going south think of going to Florida. However, we wanted to experience something different, so why not southern Texas?
So at noon on Feb. 17th, Alex and I jumped in a car full of clothes and bikes and birding gear and headed south. We spent the first full day in Nashville - Alex toured museums while I did a 200K ride with the Harpeth Bike Club.
On Brevet! Somewhere around the 100 mile mark, West-Central Tennessee.
From Nashville, we headed down to Arkansas, where we spent an afternoon and evening at DeGray Lake Resort State Park - a very beautiful place.
Sunrise over DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Heading out for San Antonio.
We then headed all the way to downtown San Antonio, where we visited the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Being a pacifist, I was surprised to be moved by an inscription made by James Bowie before his end at the Alamo. If he could see what has arisen around the spot where he drew his last breath, I believe he would be amazed.
On Tuesday afternoon we arrived at Corpus Christi, our southern-most destination. There, we birded all the daylight hours we had available until Friday morning.
We've Arrived! Padre Island National Seashore.
Laughing gulls on Padre Island.
String of Brown Pelicans at Padre Island.
Royal terns on Padre Island
Big Oak and a big oak. This one is a live oak at Goose Island State Park. I'm the one wearing binoculars.
This is the Big Tree, located a little ways north of Goose Island State Park. You've got to read the plaque, below, to really appreciate how special this great big live oak tree is.
Near the Big Tree, we got to see 6 Whooping Cranes. Once almost all but extinct, there are a little more than 200 whoopers in the wild. And we got to see 3% of the population! The work of many conservationists to help nurture this tiny population is a wonderful story of success. At least for the time being. It is good to see these cranes still walking on the earth and flying in the sky.
On Friday, we departed Corpus Christi, and headed up to Fort Worth, where I got to meet, in person, several bike blog buddies. Paul, Steve A, Myles (who no longer has a blog) and his lovely wife, Chandra, and Chris all showed up to meet me. We talked bikes and other stuff for two-and-a-half hours. Way too little time. I was tired from the drive, but energized by the great time I had with these wonderful people. Although I had just met them for the first time in person, I knew each one well from the posts they've made on their own blogs and the comments they've made on mine. It was easy to resume conversations from past blog posts, as if we had met to continue our conversations from last week.
Unfortunately, in our haste to find a parking spot, I left my camera in the car. And I had to park the car a long way away from the restaurant. But Steve, Paul, and Chandra took many photos. Steve and Paul even took a photo of each other taking a photo. After we departed, Alex and I followed Chris to his home, where he insisted we stay the night.
Chris and Mrs. Pondero are wonderful hosts. We stayed up way too late talking about biking and other things. The next morning Chris and Mrs. Pondero made us a huge breakfast, which we heartily partook. Chris showed me his stable of bikes, each of which is a showpiece. All together, it is like walking into a museum.
Pondero and Quickbeam.
Saturday morning we left and headed north, passing through Springfield, Missouri, home of Ron and Tracy, where I shouted "howdy" out the window. If we had more time I would have liked to have stopped and met them as well.
We arrived safely back home last night (Sunday). After cleaning out the car and putting everything away, we turned on the Academy Awards and I promptly fell asleep on the sofa. But I did get up and go to bed, and awoke the next morning refreshed, ready for work, and feeling fully recharged. Texas is so much more than we had hoped, and we look forward to the day when we go back. For now, I have many, many happy memories of the times we had in our brief stay, and know that I have many good friends there. One day soon, perhaps we'll have the chance to ride together.
A couple of things you folks may or may not find interesting, is that Alex and I counted 32 different state license plates on the entire trip, and two Canadian provinces - Ontario and Manitoba. Not bad for a February trip, I think.
We also counted hawks along the way - but only tallied hawks while we were on the highway. By state, here are the totals:
Indiana - 20
Kentucky - 2 (it was mostly night when we drove through KY)
Tennessee - 9
Arkansas - 47
Texas - 17
Oklahoma - 32
Missouri - 36
Illinois - 6
We also saw the Sandhill crane 2012 migration under way. We saw one large group in central Illinois, two large groups in central Indiana. Go spring!
PS - Steve, here's the Tricross in its latest incarnation: commuter, or perhaps more appropriately, commuteur extraordinaire!