5 Tips for Visiting Mesa Verde National Park

5 Tips for Visiting Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park cannot be explored in 1-day unless you have someone not capable of much walking/hiking. Many people underestimate Mesa Verde National Park. I cannot tell you how often I heard people only planned an afternoon in the park. WHAT!?!? I would exclaim. I worked at a gift shop in the park, and often geeked out over how spectacular the park is. The coolness is a whole different post. Today, we discuss our 5 tips for visiting Mesa Verde National Park.

The view looking out from Long House.

1. Plan in Advance

I cannot stress this enough. And I am not a planner. There are 3 ticketed, guided cliff dwelling tours. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House. All tickets are sold online only and up to 14 days in advance. They sell out quickly, so it is a good idea to be online at 8:00 AM MT 14-days before your date. All three cliff dwellings are worth the tour.

A view of Cliff Palace from within the cliff dwelling.

2. Plan Enough Time

From the main highway/visitor center/park entrance, it is about a 30-minute drive to the top. And all you get there is another gift shop with a cafe and coffee bar. Plus the lodge and dinner restaurant. The closest cliff dwelling you can see, not go in, is another 5-10 minutes down the road. Add another 5-10-ish minutes for Cliff Palace and Balcony House. Down a different road 45-ish minutes is Weatherill Mesa. Weatherill Mesa houses a few cliff dwellings and the only bike-friendly trail. It is all mountain driving while it may only be 15 miles, those miles will be slow.

Wild foal.

3. Water. Water. Water

Make sure you are drinking enough water. At 8,000+/- feet, your body acts differently than it does at sea level. It is common to get light-headed, a headache, and sometimes sick. Making sure you drink plenty of water at all times can help you stay hydrated and hopefully keep altitude sickness at bay. When we hike we fill a cooler with ice and a couple gallon-sized water jugs. We fill our reusable water bottles before we leave home and then use the jugs on the go. The cafe at the top has a water bottle filler in the wall that counts the plastic bottles it has saved. We use that to conserve our jugs of water, also.

A design in the remains of a structure at the Far View Sites stop.

4. Sunscreen

Have you heard the Baz Luhrman song, Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen? Sunscreen is paramount every day. It is especially crucial at 8,000 +/- feet hiking and exploring the outdoors. When you’re that high it doesn’t take long for the sun to do its damage. A hat and sleeves are a good idea, too.

View from the top of Point Lookout Trail.

5. Down Shift. Do Not Ride Your Brakes. Use Pullouts.

IYKYK. Your brakes can really start on fire. And they can really fail you. Do not ride your brakes all the way down the mountain. If you are scared and going slow. That is okay. Use the pullouts and a lower gear. Only use brakes when you must. And when you do brake, slow down to a slower speed as it doesn’t take long to gain. There are many pullouts for slower traffic. Use them. It is okay to go slow and be cautious. It is not okay to go slow and hold everyone else up while passing pullouts.

A view of Balcony House’s exit from the Balcony House overlook.

Mesa Verde is a bewildering park rich with history, amazement, and wonder. Be sure to research all it has to offer before planning your trip. You may want to plan more time than you think.

5 Places to Visit in South Florida

5 Places to Visit in South Florida

Southern Florida (mainland) is like visiting a different world where you don’t belong. Nature takes over, and you become an alien on Earth. You can’t imagine it until you experience it.

In early to mid-2022, we spent a few weeks exploring Florida. Particularly the Southern and wild parts of the state. Here is our list of places we will continue going back to.

Pond with RV sites at Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve.
1. Midway Campground

This campground has both RV and tent sites. All the RV sites face a pond in the middle – in a horseshoe shape. Signs warn of alligators, and they aren’t lying. We saw multiple. One under our neighbor’s RV. This was our introduction to the area, and we loved it. We called this campground home base for about a week while we explored the area.

Little alligators on our bike ride along the tram trail at Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades NP.
2. Shark Valley Visitor Center

The visitor center is not the main attraction here. It’s the 15-mile tram trail that takes you into the wild. 1/2 way through is a tower you can walk to the top of and look out over the wilderness. We rode our bikes, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The trail is mainly flat, but it is hot and humid. There is also a tram you may buy tickets for. We were passed by many of those. We saw many different birds and had little alligators sitting on the trail. Such a neat experience.

Alligator seen from the boardwalk and next to the road.
3. Oasis Visitor Center

I am confused about whether or not the visitor center/gift shop is still open. We were told the day we were there was its last day, but Google Maps says it is open. Who knows! Either way, it is worth a stop. We saw wild alligators up close. Lots of alligators. It’s located on what they call alligator alley, and if you keep your eyes peeled while driving you will see why. There is a boardwalk above the canal full of alligators. We were there in dry season (April) and saw 20+ alligators along with gar and cichlids. That’s where we learned about cichlid farms and the displacement of fish into the wild in hurricanes.

M talking to Don, the Post Master, at the smallest Post Office in the United States.
4. Nathaniel P Reed Visitor Center & Smallest USPS Office in US

There’s a boardwalk behind this visitor center where you may see alligators. If you are lucky, you might see an alligator. When we were at the visitor center, they had a photo from a few months earlier when an alligator ate a giant python right behind the visitor center. We didn’t see a single alligator there. We did buy a postcard so we could send it from the smallest USPS office in the US. Don – whose name we discovered because we were reppin’ our favorite Don’s Country Kitchen in Oceanside, CA, and he said he liked our hat – has worked there for years, was super-friendly, and full of knowledge about the smallest post office.

2 Osprey in a nest. One of these 2 was the one who didn’t want to flee the nest.
5. Flamingo

This is the southernmost area of the Florida Mainland. You have the gorgeous Caribbean-colored water on one side and crocodile-infested canals on the other. We watched as an osprey family encouraged the last little to flee the nest. We even did a little cheering and uplifting ourselves. We kayaked in the canals, passing many crocodiles. We even came upon a mama and baby manatee who hung out with us for a bit before we moved on.

There is so much to see and do in Florida. It is hard to choose just 5 places to share because there are so many cool ones.

Where would you add to this list? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

5 Things To Do with Kids in Baton Rouge

5 Things To Do with Kids in Baton Rouge

Do you enjoy a good birthday celebration? We do!

Baton Rouge wasn’t far from Lake Charles, but being a 90’s country fan, I had to stop. Garth Brooks, anyone? We also needed to PLAN (who plans?) where we would be for the girls’ birthday so they could plan how they wanted to spend their birthday.

In our world, you choose the menu/food and what activities we engage in for the day. So what the heck do you do with twins?!? You give them each a day and alternate who chooses on their actual birthday.

Two girls with cupcakes and birthday candles
Happy Birthday

Liv wanted to sleep-in and play an escape room. M wanted to visit the Blue Zoo Aquarium and the Baton Rouge Zoo. After looking at the weather, we decided to split the activities and plan the outdoor activity on the sleep-in day. You should’ve heard the complaining about having to share their day! I almost had to call Justin Timberlake so he could cry them a river.

Let’s talk 5 things to do with kids in Baton Rouge.

Le baton rouge – Red Stick

The Red Stick in Baton Rouge, LA

So, who knows there is a red stick in Baton Rouge? Who knew Baton Rouge even meant red stick? Tom, of course! We had to visit before we left. That’s what we do.

Visit Baton Rouge says the red stick was a cypress pole on a river bluff covered in animal blood. Two indigenous tribes argued over hunting grounds, and the cypress pole was their solution. In 1817, when the town was incorporated, the name Baton Rouge stuck. Today, a red stick stands on Scott’s Bluff along the Mississippi River on the Southern University campus. It is said to be where the cypress pole stood all those years ago.

We parked across the street and walked over to the Red Stick. There were a few different educational signs explaining some of the history of the area and the Red Stick. We took our obligatory selfie, then headed home to finish packing up for travel day.

Blue Zoo Aquarium

$19.95 13+ | $16.95 3-12 | $17.95 Military

Blue Zoo Aquarium Parakeet Room
It’s a bird – at the Blue Zoo Aquarium

For me, this aquarium is a little strange. To start, it’s located in the Mall of Louisiana. We’ve been to multiple aquariums, but this was our first in a mall. AND with birds. A whole lotta parakeets.

The birds were the highlight of the entire aquarium for the girls. They went into their exhibit and fed them twice because they just couldn’t get enough. Holy sensory overload in that little room with a gazillion birds chirping and children screeching excitedly.

Liv loved feeding the parakeets

The other exhibits were ok. Very hands-on touching rays, starfish, and such, and we are not a hands-on, touching wildlife family.

I felt it was geared toward littles more than older children. There were a lot of hands-on exhibits, which is fantastic if you’re into that. My 14-year-olds colored and played in the children’s area at the end. Liv enjoyed that it was “cool and interactive,” while M said, “it was very fun even though it was aimed at younger children.”


$8.75 +tax 13+ | $7.75 +tax 65+ | $5.75 +tax 2-12

BREC Zoo Giraffe Frame
Happy Birthday at the Baton Rouge Zoo

A lot of the zoo was closed for remodeling of enclosures. They gave us free tickets for a future visit when we purchased admission. We ended up giving those to a family of four in the parking lot as we left. We have no plans for being back in Baton Rouge.

There was storytime at one of the pavillions, and many children were in costume. Somewhere along our path, we saw a child dressed as Anna, and Liv said, “Hello, Little Princess,” and the girl ran away screaming. Liv has a way with littles. We all laughed while Liv looked horrified and offended.

What we did see were decent-sized enclosures with active animals. They had a ton of birds. Liv said, “5 out of 10. Tigers are amazing.” M found the zoo small and easy to walk through in a short amount of time. She also enjoyed the plastic Mold-A-Rama machines.

13th Gate Escape Room

$32 per person

Photo Stolen from 13th Gate’s Facebook Page

Our first escape room as a family. And we sucked. We were stuck in the first room for what felt like forever. After we made it into the second room, we moved a bit faster. But not fast enough. 

While working on the clues in the third room, the girls started using me as a human shield each time they were scared. When the Game Master came in because time was up, they grabbed and pushed me in front as they hid behind me. Screaming. Do you notice they are both taller than me?

We did not escape. We had 80 out of 60 minutes because of all the clues we used. The best part was we had a blast and laughed. A lot. 

Tabasco Factory Tour & Jungle Gardens

$12.50 12+ | $9.50 5-12 | $11.25 55+ | $11.25 Veteran

Barrel Aging Coopering

Let me start by saying, this is really a small road trip from Baton Rouge. An hour and a half-ish each way. We were not Tabasco people before this tour. Tom found it and thought it might be a fun side trip. We never get enough of traveling. 

What a fascinating experience! We started at the restaurant, and that was just an eh experience. We headed over to check in at the museum, where we were greeted by a woman handing each of us a pack of miniature Tabasco bottles in different flavors.

It was interesting to read about the company’s history and brand. I loved seeing all the tchotchkes Tabasco put their logo on and the fan artwork. I also found it interesting that the Military put Tabasco in 2/3 of their MREs in the 80s.

Inside the Tabasco Factory

After learning all about what we would see, we set off to see it. We saw pepper plants growing in a greenhouse and where they store the mash in barrels. Then it was time for the factory.

We moved from blending to the salt mine. (I had no idea there was a salt mine involved. Now I know. And you do, too. It was the first rock salt mine in North America.) Then onto bottling and labeling, where the machines were fussy. We ended the tour in a room with giant Tabasco bottles.

Liv’s favorite part was the labeling and bottling. M thought it “was cool to see all the different stages but not a fake set-up.” Tom found the history of the brand “amazing” and finds it intriguing it has remained a family project for 150+ years.

The road through Jungle Gardens

Jungle Gardens was created by the founder’s son, who studied the plants and animals on Avery Island. The gardens are amazing. Tom said he would love to see it in full bloom because it would be even more spectacular.

M has never seen rose bushes so large, and Liv wants to build a garden like it someday. We drove through, got out, and walked. We enjoyed the peaceful serenity of the place.

It was also the ONLY place we have visited where an animal listened. We have seen bear, elk, horse, and sheep signs, and NEVER has an animal been standing next to it as it should be. FINALLY, an animal who listened.

The alligator is posing with his sign as he should be

BONUS in February – Mardi Gras Parades

Sorry. All we have is this selfie before the parade got to us.

We did not realize we would be in town for Mardi Gras parades, but we’re Mardi Gras newbs, so it is to be expected. M chose to attend a parade after dinner on her birthday choice day. What an experience!

The energy, the vibe, the throws. We wondered why people were showing up with reusable shopping bags. By the end, we knew. Toward the end of the parade route, where we were told to go, they started throwing beads by the bag. 

We attended two other parades that weekend and had as much fun at each and collected over 300 beads. We highly recommend checking out their parades if you’re near Baton Rouge for Mardi Gras. 

Next Adventure Previous Adventure
Welcome to Louisiana!

Welcome to Louisiana!

Not gonna lie. I was a little bit sad leaving the Galveston Island KOA Holiday on February 1, after a month. Especially in the winter. The only thing that made it better was knowing we would be boondocking on the beach in Bolivar after riding on the best free dolphin-watching tour we’ve experienced. Then it was off to explore the southeastern part of the United States. The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry run by the Texas Department of Transportation is free, and out of the 6 or 8 times we’ve ridden it, there was only one time we didn’t see dolphins. Boarding in our 38′ class A motorhome gives us the best seats in the house. The ride is short. 15-20 minutes, and when we unloaded at Port Bolivar, we bee-lined for our beach spot from November/December. When we arrived, somewhere near barrel 28, the tide was higher than we remembered. After checking the tide charts, we determined my anxiety would be better suited for My Happy Place RV Camp. (side note: the barrel is a trash can. They exist hanging from a wooden stake at regular intervals and are numbered. Which is helpful for meeting your party on the beach.) Honestly, we probably would have been 100% fine on the beach, but sometimes my anxiety is not worth fighting. This was one of those times.

The beach in Bolivar

If you’ve never been to Bolivar/Crystal Beach, you should stay away because it is horrible, and it sucks! You should never go there. Seriously. I wanna live there. Without ever spending time in Texas, I said I would never live there. I wanna live in Bolivar. It is island-y while still being rural-ish with a small-town feel. There was freezing weather while we were there. That kinda turned me off, but really, the place is fantastic.

Hangin’ out with our friend, Joe, at Buckstin Brewing in Nederland, TX

After three nights, we headed back to Nederland, and our friend’s driveway, for two nights. We have discovered that we really like breaking our trips up by visiting people we know. It gives us a chance to socialize outside strangers and the four of us. While in Nederland, we had to visit our favorite family-friendly brewery, Buckstin Brewing Co. The beer is fantastic, the food is pretty darn good, and the company can’t be beat. After a couple of days, it was time to continue on our travels. We pointed our home east, and away we went. Next stop: Lake Charles, LA.

We pulled into White Oak Park, a Parish park on the Calcasieu River with an RV park with 8 or 9 sites, and tried to figure out the best way to park. We had site #3, and it is a bit strange. Pulling in with the picnic table and fire pit outside our door meant we needed a longer hose than we had. Turning around put the picnic table and fire pit on the wrong side, and our door opened onto our neighbor’s door. We opted for backward. We parked, set up, and went to check out the Visitor Center. At the Visitor Center, we learned about the existence of the Creole Nature Trail, discovered that we had to eat at Beaux Dine’s, bought a couple of 1/2 price souvenirs the Visitor Center was trying to get rid of and tried to find the alligator that used to live in the park adjacent. After a bit more exploration of Lake Charles, we went home and planned the things we wanted to see.

We started out the following day with coffee and breakfast sandwiches (not in my gluten-free diet) on a croissant from Coffee:30. The coffee was good, the sandwiches were delicious, and we were ready for a day of adventures. First stop, Adventure Point in Sulphur, LA, before beginning our trek of the Creole Nature Trail. Tom was on the phone doing business, so the girls and I walked in to get some information. We had no idea we would walk away with so much knowledge. Once inside, we met Sharon and Will. When we walked in, we were the only visitors, so our conversation started with both. Moments later, a couple walked in, so Will walked over to help them while Sharon took the lead with us. As a born and raised local, she was a wealth of knowledge. We learned that Lake Charles was hit by Hurricane Laura in August 2020, Hurricane Delta in October 2020, the freeze of February 2021, and flash floods in May 2021. They lost 50-ish% of their population because of the storms and are a community rebuilding. There is still a lot of storm damage they are trying to recover from. It helped us see the community in a whole new light.

Sharon grabbed a map, her red sharpie, and proceeded to draw our route with Xs for restrooms, underlines for free crabbin’, circles for walks, and a square for the best jalapeno poppers she’s ever had. After absorbing as much knowledge as we could, learning and practicing crabbin’, posing for a picture as a Creole band, and petting Sharon’s Mallard duck puppet, she sent us on our way with lagniappe, a little something extra, that turned out to be some of the coolest “little something extra” we’ve ever received.

Intracoastal Park – Sulphur, LA

Leaving Adventure Point, we headed south toward Intracoastal Park. The RV park was closed, and we were the only visitors to the park. We wandered for a moment before getting back in the car and heading for our next destination. We cruised down to Blue Goose Walking Trail. There was a short trail open, and we ventured out on that. The land was scorched on our left as we walked toward Calcasieu Lake, but we still saw quite a few little birds. 30-ish minutes and we were back on our way. Next stop: Wetland Walkway. We were hoping to see some alligators, but all we found was a child’s sock. Holly Beach was a great place for shelling, and in Louisiana, you are free to take all the shells you want. We hopped on the Cameron Ferry, much smaller than the Galveston Ferry, and made our way to the Pintail Wildlife Drive. We missed the pink dolphin that hangs out near the Cameron Ferry. We’ll have to go back and try to catch a glimpse.

The Pintail Wildlife Drive made up for all the alligators we didn’t see at Wetland Walkway. First, we drove past ibis, herons, ducks, and egrets. Then we hit alligator alley, and there were gators every 10 feet or less. Most were sunning in the grass on the canal’s banks; some were floating. I think I took a photo of every alligator we saw and took our sweet time meandering through. With our first day of exploring the Creole Nature Trail complete, we headed for home.

The next day we drove back to Nederland for a couple of packages we had delivered to our friend who lives there, including a new lens to replace my camera lens that zoomed in and never zoomed back out. The lens didn’t show up, but since we were down in the area, not really, we decided to check out the Pintail Wildlife Drive again. It was later in the afternoon, and we hardly saw any birds or any alligators. My lens showed up the next day, and we drove back to Nederland to pick it up.

On Friday, we started our day at the Lacassine Wildlife Refuge. Well, where Apple Maps told us the Lacassine Wildlife Refuge was. We were stopped by a man on a tractor working in his rice field. He was not happy we were driving on private land. We had no idea. We apologized, and in conversation, he became a very lovely man, just frustrated with the people coming down the road. He gave us directions to the real Lacassine Wildlife Refuge, told us where we could turn around, and said goodbye. When we found the real Lacassine Wildlife Refuge, we were greeted by an otter swimming in the canal. We spotted a whole flock of Roseate Spoonbills flying around a stand of trees as though they’d been disturbed. We saw just how many spoonbills there were when we reached the trees. As I took pictures, a man named Frank from the local birding club stopped and started telling us about different birds. He pointed out a Vermillion Flycatcher and clapped to spook the spoonbills for a photo opportunity. We saw a couple of alligators, but the spoonbills stole the show. While watching the spoonbills, we were also treated to a ginormous flock of snow geese landing a little way in the distance.

Snow geese – Pintail Wildlife Drive – Creole Nature Trail

We stopped for lunch at Comier Creole Kitchen in Gueydan, LA, and I had some mighty delicious fried chicken. We made our way to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and found it closed, so we headed for the Pintail Wildlife Drive since we had to pass by on our way home anyway. There wasn’t a lot to be seen, and we headed home. Saturday fibromyalgia knocked me on my ass, so I rested while Tom and the girls ran errands and washed, dried, folded, and put away the laundry. Sunday, we decided to give our hand at crabbin’ a go. The family started while I stayed warm in the car, then I walked over, grabbed a line, pulled up a too-small crab and an eel, and I was done. Crabbin’ is like fishin’, and I don’t have the patience to sit and wait. The girls didn’t last much longer before we were off for one last ride on the Cameron Ferry and one last drive through the Pintail Wildlife Drive. As we came down the bridge, we saw a white sea where the drive loop was. We couldn’t figure out what it could be. When we pulled in, we discovered they were snow geese. Thousands of them. A sea of white. We parked, and I got out of the car to get a little closer for photos. I snapped a bunch, and while walking on the road, I spooked the ones closest to me, setting off hundreds of geese taking flight and squawking before landing a bit farther from the road. The experience was reminiscent of the dolphin stampede Tom and I witnessed in the Pacific Ocean. Monday, we packed up and headed for Baton Rouge.

The Red Stick Sculpture

Follow along for our Baton Rouge adventure!

Next Adventure Previous Adventure
Island Living

Island Living

January on an island? Why not? We spent the entire month of January next to the cabin on stilts at the Galveston Island KOA Holiday. It was more windy and stormy than we thought it would be, but we enjoyed every minute.

Our first field trip was to a bike shop in League City, TX. Everyone had a bike except me so that was my Christmas present. The girls are always wanting to go on family bike rides and we couldn’t. After a drive along the five-mile dike in Texas City, we wandered over to League City where my new bicycle was waiting.

Intercom system inside Moody Mansion.

Our second field trip of the month was a tour of Moody Mansion. We started with a stop at Seawall Coffee and were highly disappointed with our experience. The coffee was the hottest coffee I’ve ever been handed. I couldn’t hold onto the cup even with a sleeve. Forget trying to take a sip. I tried a sip before walking into Moody Mansion, and it still burned my tongue. When we got back to the car after our tour, the coffee was finally at a temperature I could drink it. After two sips, I was getting sick in the parking lot. Our friend has had great experiences. Maybe it was just a one-off. I won’t go back to find out, though. I have a severe dairy allergy and believe they forgot to use the fake milk we ordered. Now, onto a little Moody family history. William Lewis Moody, Sr. moved his family to Galveston in 1866 and founded Galveston Cotton Exchange. A company that compresses cotton into bales making shipping easier. It appears to still be operating downtown today. He founded the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad and served as chairman of the Galveston Committee that persuaded Congress to dredge, making Galveston a deep water harbor. His son, W.L. Moody, Jr., purchased the mansion weeks after the Great Storm of 1900.

Moody Mansion selfie

The mansion was opened as a museum by W.L. Moody, Jr.’s daughter, Mary Moody Northen, after her death in 1991. Many of the family’s belongings are on display, and the self-guided audio tour shares much information about the family. The home, art, and architecture are all beautiful, and I always find it interesting to peek into the past. Liv liked how it had a lot of history and separately decorated rooms. She found it interesting that the youngest kid got a balcony off his room. Her favorite room was where the parents greeted the guests. M thought it was cool because they owned so many businesses, and it seems like they started the financial industry in Galveston.

Ocean Star Rig & Drilling Museum

Our field trip to the Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum was a fascinating peek into the oil world. Having spent time living on the beach in Bolivar, we watched what looked like floating cities. Being able to see up-close what those oil rigs look like is informative. Who knew a boat could be an oil rig?!? Not me! We were all hungry when we finished, so we walked over to The Strand.

The Strand – Galveston, TX

“Have you been here before? No? This is how it works. Here’s our menu, here’s our restaurant week. You order at the bar and sit anywhere you like.” The employee said as we walked into The Hubcap Grill on The Strand, downtown Galveston. We had some of the most delicious burgers we’ve ever had and had to try the pink champagne cake, our favorite from Madonna Inn. After lunch, we strolled up and down The Strand entering different shops to browse. “The little girl who haunts our shop likes to play with Jack Sparrow,” the shop owner tells my family as they were picking out a pirate figurine for our friend.

Family selfie on South Padre Island

We took a couple of days and ventured over to South Padre Island. We’d never been to South Padre Island and figured we needed to check it out since we were in the area-ish. And since we were going that direction, we might as well cruise through Corpus Christi and check that out too. It didn’t take us long to determine we were not fans of Corpus Christi. It was very city-like with tall buildings and a lot of people. We did stop for a delicious lunch at Catfish Charlies. Hushpuppies, fried shrimp, and fried catfish were all delicious. We would definitely stop back in if we were ever traveling through again. We had a room booked at La Copa Inn, which turned out to be an okay hotel. We checked in, and I was pretty toast. I love traveling and exploring, but my body that is affected by fibromyalgia isn’t always as accommodating. Often, my body will decide when we are done with our plans, which was the case after check-in. We ordered to-go food that was indescribable and went to bed.

Brunch view on South Padre Island

Tuesday was our day to explore, and Wednesday was our day to head home. We woke up Tuesday morning and found a delicious breakfast on the water at Lobo del Mar. Our server was convivial, and the atmosphere was very island-y. After breakfast, we strolled along the big beach Tom describes best, “expanse is incredible.” M pointed out the shells were old, weathered, and thick, while Liv noticed the sand was like a fine powder. After a stroll, we took a drive along the beach. We went a long way, discovering that the police were serious about speeding on the beach. We watched one officer pull over 8 cars and one electric bike. After our beach experience, we headed over to the Sea Turtle, Inc. A sea turtle sanctuary where we saw sea turtles and learned a lot. One thing that stood out to all of us was the video they had playing on repeat regarding the storm in February of 2021. Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals, and when the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, they suffer cold-stun. They become catatonic and cannot swim. Eventually, they will float on the surface, and that is where the sanctuary comes in. Of the 12,155 cold-stunned turtles rescued on the third coast, the Sea Turtle Sanctuary in South Padre Island rescued 5,300 of them. Of the 12,155 turtles rescued, only 35% of them survived. The most interesting turtle was born without a flipper who now has a prosthetic flipper that allows her to swim. Definitely worth a visit every time we are in the area. Bonus: it’s pet-friendly, and Coco could walk through with us.

Steerburger Grill in Rockport, TX – near Aransas Pass

We ended the day back at the hotel in the hot tub that was nice and hot, where we made conversation with a gentleman from Michigan. Dinner was a night of burgers to-go and early to bed. We were headed home the next morning. On our way home, we drove through Port Aransas and had the bestest, most delicious burger I have had in a long time at Steerburger in Rockport, TX. We ordered outside at the food trailer went inside the building to the right for drinks and restrooms. There were a few tables inside, but we opted to eat on the porch.

Art studio in Bishop’s Palace

Our field trip to Bishop’s Palace was the most informative tour. We opted for the Basement-to-Attic tour and were not disappointed. We learned that the home was built in 1892 by the Gresham family at the cost of $250,000. In 1923, it was sold by the Gresham family to the Catholic Church for $34,700. The Catholic Church turned it into a home for the Bishop. It served as a home for the Bishop then the Catholic Church turned it into a museum. In 2008, the Catholic Church sold the house to the Galveston Historical Foundation for $3.4 million. Roughly.

Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

One of our last field trips was to Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens seems to include many things. Like a hotel, restaurant, and other things we didn’t explore. We started with the aquarium pyramid. Tom called it an amazing aquarium and a must-see in Galveston. M thought it was super cool, and we all thought there could be more information on the fish. (We are sign readers.) After the aquarium, we walked over to the hotel for the coffee shop located in the lobby. We enjoyed our drinks as we leisurely walked back toward the rainforest pyramid. We were hit with a wall of heavy air as we entered the rainforest pyramid. The humid rainforest is almost a shock and takes a moment to adjust. Glasses fog, and breathing warm, wet air is weird. There are a ton of birds, plants, and animals. We were not lucky enough to see the sloth or monkeys, but we did get to see many birds and even some bats. Our last stop was the Discovery Center. Holy sensory overload. And there weren’t even that many people in there. It was cool because there were instruments to play, pipe rooms to communicate through pipes, many different hands-on activities. They even have the giant floor piano from the movie Big. There were a bunch of littles running around, everyone was playing instruments, talking, singing, screaming, and it quickly became too much. We had purchased a day pass that allowed us to watch a couple of the movies, also, but we decided we weren’t interested in those and skipped them.

Our last Sunday on the island, Tom and the girls went to Pleasure Pier while I rested/fought a bad fibromyalgia day. Liv says it was entertaining, 10 out of 10 would go again. She loved that all the rides had an ocean view and the lines weren’t long in the off-season. M said the rides were twisty-turny, there were not a lot of them, but it was fun. Tom said it was a great way to spend an afternoon having fun with the kids.

Overall, we enjoyed our month on Galveston Island. We didn’t explore as much as we would have liked because of the cool weather, but nothing was disappointing. We’re already planning future trips back to Galveston. Who knows maybe we’ll settle in the area.

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Gulf Coast Living

Gulf Coast Living

35,000 active duty, veterans, and their families served. 500,000 diapers were given out. 90% of the people who benefitted from VANC’s monthly food drive were active-duty. When COVID-19 shut the world down in 2020, 92% of active-duty spouses were furloughed. VANC (Veterans Association of North County) and American Legion 760 started a monthly food distribution as a response to COVID-19. After serving for 21 months, December was our last one. While I will not miss driving back to Oceanside, CA, each month for my volunteer problem, I am a little sad to not see these people monthly anymore. Not only did we volunteer alongside some incredible people, but we also got to know the beautiful families driving through each month. The day after our last food distribution, Tom and I attended the Army/Navy game at VANC. A rib cook-off fundraiser benefitting Walk for the Fallen. Wednesday, December 15th, we attended VANC’s Volunteer Christmas Party, our final commitment to VANC until June 2022. Leaving on December 20th was a little bittersweet. Not enough that we didn’t hit the road bright and early, but returning every month was a little like slowly peeling off a bandage. We are a part of a community in Oceanside and built really great friendships. It will be hard not seeing them, or having the opportunity to see them, every month.

Sea Rim State Park – Gulf of Mexico in background on right

With all of our commitments completed, it was time to head East while staying below the snow line. Which seems to be getting farther South each year. Anyway, we booked it over to our friend’s in Nederland, TX. Rest areas became sleep areas on the road, and we made it to SETX. (Southeast Texas for all y’all who aren’t locals HAHAHA) Thursday, December 23rd. We slept one night in Joe’s driveway, then headed for Sea Rim State Park on Christmas Eve Day. “No wrestling the alligators,” we were told at check-in. Do people really try to wrestle alligators? Is that a thing? Sea Rim introduced us to the Texas state bird, the mosquito. I’m not sure we’ve ever killed so many mosquitoes in our home, just from entering and exiting. They feasted on us while we slept and bit us in places we didn’t realize they would go. M and Liv will forever remember getting eaten alive in Sea Rim State Park. Tips: remember to apply bug spray. It doesn’t work while sitting in your cabinet. Apply bug spray before bed.

Our Christmas morning gingerbread house creations

We spent Christmas morning creating gingerbread houses, then took a stroll along the beach where we had our first experience with Portuguese man-of-war. Their transparent bodies look like soap bubbles lying on the beach. Soap bubbles with bright blue fringe, and you want to scoop them up and put them back in the water. Those soap bubbles with the coolest blue fringe I’ve ever seen will also cause you the most pain you’ve likely ever experienced. I’m glad M had read up on these creatures, and we knew to keep our skin out of contact. After seeing these things, I had to Google them. I discovered that many genetically identical zooids all work together and create this fantastic creature. It has no control over where it is going, it just floats along on the surface because of the soap bubble, and its tentacles can be 165 feet long. The soap bubble is really gas-filled to help it float. Many people think it is a jellyfish, but it isn’t. It’s a whole different species. We also saw a beached ray and various shells. Tom called it a mini-seashell paradise. The day after Christmas, we wandered into McFaddin Wildlife Refuge. We were able to check seeing an alligator off our Christmas list.

Junk food extravaganza

It was time to move the day after Christmas, and we back-tracked to Bolivar Peninsula. When we spent time in the area in November, we ended up making so many side trips we didn’t feel like we’d really explored as much as we would have liked. We booked the week at My Happy Place RV Camp and pulled in. We love Bolivar; so much the girls have already moved there. They want to settle down in January and have chosen Bolivar as that place. So far. We have more Earth to explore before a decision is made. We were scheduled to leave Bolivar on New Year’s Eve day, but the owners of the RV camp talked us into staying for their beach bonfire. We started the day with a junk-food extravaganza. While visiting a friend, we realized the girls had never been introduced to Hostess treats aside from the cupcakes. We bought one package of cupcakes, one package Twinkies, one package Ding Dongs, and Ho Hos. We are typically a plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free family at home, and processed foods are not usually purchased. The girls determined they only liked the cupcakes but didn’t need to eat them ever again, either. Later, we mingled with a few other guests at the beach bonfire and supervised the children lighting fireworks. At midnight, the entire 27-mile stretch of beach lit up with fireworks. It was a magical moment of celebration. Not that I claim to understand why we must blow things up to celebrate. It looks cool, though. We are glad we stayed for the celebration.

Aboard the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry

On January 1, 2022, we waited in a long ass line to board the ferry on our way to Galveston Island KOA Holiday, where we were booked until February 1st. If you’ve never taken the Galveston/Port Bolivar ferry, you need to take it next time you are in the area. We travel in our 38′ class A with an Equinox tow vehicle, and we drive right on. I prefer riding in the RV because we sit so much higher, and there is typically an abundance of dolphins as you make your way across the bay. Walk-on passengers are also allowed. Work and school always come first, then we get to explore. On our list for January:

  • Moody Mansion
  • South Padre Island
  • Ocean Star Rig & Drilling Museum
  • Bishop’s Palace
  • Moody Gardens
  • Pleasure Pier

Unbeknownst to us at the time, painting the interior of our home was on the list for January, also. 

Portuguese Man-of-War

Follow our journey for January’s adventures!

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