Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

There's gotta be a tasty morsel down there somewhere -- Photo by Pat Bean

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.”– David Herbert Lawrence
Bird Talk
Went birding this morning instead of posting my blog. So all you get today is a picture of the great egret I watched fishing for its dinner at the Sea Center in Lake Jackson, Texas.  I hope you had a great day, too.

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Palo Duro Canyon, located south of Amarillo, Texas, is awesome, but travelers don't have a clue until they get to the rim and look down. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My Favorite Places

A landscape carved by water and wind. -- Photo by Pat bean

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

NaNoWriMo Update

One Day, 14 hours, 20 minutes – and counting down

In a comment I made on a blog this morning – Galen Leeds Photography http://tinyurl.com/3bakmuv – I meant to tell the author to keep crossing “roads” to take pictures. Instead I wrote, and posted before I proofed – keep crossing “words.”

I guess I have NaNoWriMo on the brain. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

I read a quote this morning that inspired me for the coming challenge: “Having a dream to chase is what makes life worth living.” I’m not sure who said it, but it spoke to me. As does Helen Reddy when she tells me I “can do anything.”

What inspires you?


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 “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck

My wandering mind waa on green jays as i drove Highway 36 toward Lake Jackson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

With my canine traveling companion, Maggie, snoozing away in her co-pilot seat, I left Harker Heights, and my oldest son’s home, early for our drive to Lake Jackson, and my middle son’s home 250 miles away. It’s a very familiar drive for me, one I’ve made many times.

As I passed oil rigs, grazing cattle, cotton fields, mesquite trees and roadside sunflowers that let me know I was in Texas, I was glad to see the color green still existed. It had been missing on my drive two days earlier down Highway 190, clear evidence of the dastardly drought the state has been suffering. .

To all Texans living where heat and drought has scorched the landscape, I just wanted to show that green does still exist. This is the view from my RV window in Lake Jackson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While admittedly things weren’t quite as lush as I remembered from past drives down Highway 36, the landscape was still a far cry from the brown and dying cedar trees, lack of grass and stunted and yellow cactus that had dominated my entry back into the Lone Star state on Tuesday.

The driving this day was easy with little traffic. As usual under such circumstances, my mind begins to wander. This day, it went south to the Rio Grande Valley, perhaps because I was thinking about when I would be able to go there and do some winter birding.

From Lake Jackson, where I was headed, it’s only a half day’s drive. I would have to see what bird festivals were going on down there in the coming months, I thought as I drove.

My mind must have still been with the fantastic green jays down there when I came to the Highway 35 turnoff, because I took it. I was looking for it in fact.


I then realized that what I had actually been looking for was the Highway 36 turnoff that I always took when I returned from the valley. But then I had already been on Highway 36.
I guess I should have been paying more attention to where I was than where I wanted to go.

Anybody else out there have a mind that plays tricks on them like that?

If so, I hope you have a traveling companion like Maggie. She never yells at me when I take a wrong turn.

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“I think we are bound to, and by, nature. We may want to deny this connection and try to believe we control the external world, but every time there’s a snowstorm or drought, we know our fate is tied to the world around us.” Alice Hoffman

This isn't how a willow tree is supposed to look. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

From the heights of the morning’s glorious Texas sunrise, my first since mid-April, my journey to just north of Austin descended into horrifying reality of the drought the state has been suffering.

The sights hit me especially hard when I left Interstate 10 to follow Highway 190 for over 200 miles.

The scorched earth, brown and dying cedar trees, total lack of grass and yellow and stunted cactus were hard to stomach.. While I had been luxuriating beside a lake enjoying a mild Idaho summer, my native Texas had been suffering record temperatures without rain.

My Texas family had frequently informed me that this was so, but seeing it still broke my heart, especially when I saw skinny deer wandering the roadside huddled around one small patch of grass. It was very close to the road, and the deer stayed nearby instead of scampering away as my RV approached.

Laughter is not a bad thing when faced with hard times.

It made me glad I was traveling a lonely stretch of highway, especially since a bit farther on I passed two deer that had given their life for staying too close to the road. The turkey vultures seemed to be the only ones prospering on the landscape.

At my oldest son’s home in Harker Heights, I found his usual green lawn brown, and the limbs of the vibrant willow tree in his back yard scantily clad. And today, the water pipes buried in his front yard sprung a gigantic leak.

“It’s happening a lot all over the place,” said the plumber, who was too busy to come until the next day. As the landscape dries, it shifts around, often breaking things in the process.

Even Maggie noticed how things were different. A bit of a tenderfoot, she found the stiff dry grass on the edges of the road we walked not to her liking.

I watched as she carefully place one paw down, and then looked for a softer spot to place her next step. When she didn’t find it, she quickly came back onto the paved road to continue our evening walk.

In some places, this beautiful lantana plant is considered an invasive weed. It looked awfully good to me, however, when all else was suffering from the drought. -- Pat Bean

My daughter-in-law, meanwhile, has still managed to maintain a bit of color around their house. Her backyard flower bed , filled with what she called hardy plants, hinted that all was not lost.

 As I looked out on them this morning, I saw house wrens playing among the blossoms, while bright cardinals, finches, mockingbirds and sparrows visited the yard as well.

. I think they liked the color, too. And perhaps the bird feeders scattered about the yard as well.

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“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters.” Ursula K. leGuin

African Safari: A Texas Prelude

The Johnson Space Center was busy the day Kim and I visited, and dreamed of what it would be like to leave this planet's gravity. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Kim’s arrival at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in August should have been greeted with 100-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity. Instead the temperature was about 80 with little humidity.

The sadist in me was disappointed. I had told Kim what to expect of Texas summers, and now my native state was making me into a liar. Oh well, much better for the two days of sight-seeing before we left for Africa.

Our first stop was the Johnson Space Center.

I was living south of Houston, near all the glamorous astronaut happenings, when Neil Armstrong set the first human foot on the moon, uttering the historic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I’ve been fascinated with space travel ever since. And Kim and I both expressed awe at the idea of an adventure in space. She even oohed in awe when she actually touched a moon rock. I had taken a couple of grandkids to the center previously and recalled doing the exact same thing.

Our sight-seeing continued the next day with a trip to Galveston via the Blue Water Highway that runs from Surfside, parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, to San Luis Pass and then across a bridge to Galveston Island. My son and his family came along, and we did some birding on the way over to the island.

I had earlier infected my son, Lewis, with my passion for birds, and the others in the party were patient with our dawdling drive. They might even have enjoyed the sight of brown pelicans flying low over the horizon, snowy egrets gathered in the shallows and a lone great blue heron patiently fishing along the shore that we saw this day.

Hurricane Ike, just as a matter of trivia, took out the Blue Water Highway the next year, but it has since been rebuilt.

Laughing gulls and royal terns are common beach-side sides along the Blue Water Highway. -- Photo by Pat Bean

In Galveston, we walked along the sea wall, whose water-front sandy beach has been disappearing in recent years. Afterward, we stopped at the Rain Forest Cafe for dinner.

The cafe, which looks out on the Gulf and has an amazing rendition of an exploding volcano on its outside facade and a waterfall and computer animated wildlife on the inside is a popular place. We had an hour wait to be seated.

What helped make the wait worth the time was how the hostess finally announced that our table was ready.

“Bean, party of seven, your safari is ready to begin,” she said.

It seemed so apropos, as tomorrow Kim and I would fly to Africa and our safari would begin for real.

Next Episode: Flight to Nairobi

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“Spring’s last-born darling, clear-eyed sweet, Pauses a moment with white twinkling feet, And golden locks in breezy play, Half teasing and half tender, to repeat her song of May.” –Susan Coolidge

Looking out over Lake Walcott on a cool day through tree branches that are just now beginning to green up. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Today is the last day of May, and supposedly summer should be on the way. In fact, it was already being felt mid-April when I left my family behind in Texas, where yesterday they had temperatures in the 90s.

Here in Southern Idaho, yesterday’s temperatures were only in the 40s, but the weather gurus say it’ll be in the 60s today.

I think the birds, who have mostly been staying sheltered during the past few days of cold, wind and rain, might have heard the news as well. I was awakened by their blaring symphony outside my RV.

Barn, rough-winged, violet-green and bank swallows are making the landscape outside my window look as if it’s full of moving polka dots. Bright orange-chested robins are courting and building nests. Canada geese are already raising goslings. Western grebes are dancing on the lake. Common nighthawks are circling overhead in the evenings.

American goldfinch have already emptied my thistle bag twice. Killdeer are loudly squealing on the ground as they lead trespassers away from their nests in the grass. Starlings are going in and out of a hole in the self-pay kiosk outside my RV. Mourning doves are gobbling up the birdseed I threw on the ground. And brightly colored Bullock’s orioles are preening their puffed-out feathers.

I’m a happy birder.

It’s also been a delight the past two weeks to watch spring, which everyone says is quite late this year, come out of hiding.

A Bullock's oriole outside my RV in a cottonwood tree with his feathers all puffed up to ward off yesterday's wet coolness. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While the process happened almost overnight in Texas before I left there, the cool weather here has caused the change to take place in slow motion. It’s been a delight to be able to watch it in such detail.

Daily, I’ve seen leafless tree branches green up, beginning to hide the nests being built there by stick-transporting birds. I’ve watched as dainty lavender and yellow wildflowers have slowly peeked up through the grass, while the dandelions that came before them have shed their blossoms and are now scattering their puffy white seeds.

And now I’m going to walk Maggie and see what other wonders I’ll discover this last day of May. Life is good.

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One crow in the road at Texas' Cedar Hill State Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

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I think Maggie was as surprised as I was on seeing a circular sidewalk, landscaped with funky art, that led nowhere off to the side of the Western Star RV Ranch in Liberal, Kansas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I saw turkeys alongside the road when traveling Highway 83. — Photo by Pat Bean


“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

Travels With Maggie

After rising early, drinking my cream-drenched coffee while posting my blog, catching up on e-mail and reading the New York Times online, then waking and taking my dog, Maggie, for a walk, I decided to get a few extra miles on the road this day.

I did just that – making it from Vernon, Texas, to Liberal, Kansas.

Vernon lies along the route of the former Great Western Trail and millions of cattle passed through the town during the late 1800s. Liberal lies along the route Coronado took in his search in the mid-1500s for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold.

The distance between the two historic cities, if you take Highway 287 west to Childress and turn north on Highway 83, is 261 miles. It was an eye-opening journey.

The landscape was mostly occupied by agriculture fields with an occasional oil rig plopped down in the middle. Sometimes the pump was rusted and still, sometime rusted and pumping.

The flatness of the land was broken by stumpy hills whose summits looked out for miles and miles to an almost endless horizon.

A multitude of birds were out enjoying relief from the high winds that had dominated the outdoors for the past several days, during which I had mostly only seen turkey vultures. This day I identified robins, great-tailed grackles, house sparrows, mourning doves, meadowlarks, red-tailed hawks, horned larks, rock pigeons, Eurasian collarded doves and even a half dozen wild turkeys.

Then there was the dinosaur near Canadian, a funny name for a Texas city I thought. A bit of internet research after I had settled in for the night told me the town was named after the Canadian River. Since the river’s headwaters are in Colorado, that left me wondering where the name of the river came from.

I’m still wondering about that, but I did learn more about the dinosaur that sits on a prominent Mesa for the viewing pleasure of Highway 83 travelers. The 50-foot brontosaurus was created by artist Gene Cockrell and named Audry after his wife. You can see a picture of the long-necked creature – the dinosaur not the wife – at RoadsideAmerica.com

I laughed when a huge RV overtook and passed me towing a fancy barbecue smoker with all the works. Then I wondered where those folks were going to settle for the night and if I could finagle an invitation to dinner. The rig disappeared over one of the hills, however, and I never saw it again.

Almost before I knew it, the miles were behind me and I was hooking Gypsy Lee up at the Western Star RV Ranch on Highway 54, five miles outside of Liberal.

The park had a a circular sidewalk, leading nowhere and with funky landscaping art, where I took Maggie for a walk. A patch of sickly grass with stickers, however, lay between it and the graveled RV area.

Poor Maggie got a sticker in her paw. She stopped, lifted her foot and demanded with a painful look that I Remove the nasty offender! After it was out, I then got the toasty brown-eyed look that said Carry me to the sidewalk.

Of course I did. She’s the boss, or so my kids are always telling me.

I also shared the red beans and rice leftovers from the night before with her before we settled down to watch an episode of Castle on my DVDs. She got a doggie treat and I got some peach yogurt to eat as we watched.

As my travels go, it was just an ordinary day. But I loved every minute of it.

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View of Wichita Falls from the top floor of the world's smallest skyscraper. -- Photo by Pat Bean


The four-story, 80-foot tall skyscraper. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” Pete Seeger.

Travels With Maggie

After leaving Lake Arrowhead, I stopped in Wichita Falls to see the world’s smallest skyscraper. That’s right. I said smallest. Not everything is Texas-sized in the Lone Star State.

The mini-brick building was constructed in 1920 with $200,000 that eager investors poured into the proposed skyscraper after seeing its plans. Thinking more of future profits than the construction project, the backers failed to notice a major flaw. .

Those architectural plans, as presented to them by a Philadelphia scam artist, were drawn in inches instead of feet. The result was a four-story, 10-foot by 16-foot building one-twelfth the size expected. And the investors had no legal recourse because they had signed the plans.

Well, except they did get back the cost of the proposed elevator, which never was put in. The only original access to the top three floors was a ladder.

Someone later added rough wooden steps to the fourth floor, and I climbed them with permission of owners of the Artifact Emporium, which is now attached to the skyscraper. You can access the skyscraper through their store, and they say they get many visitors daily who do just that.

Looking out at the city from the top floor, I thought about all the times I had signed papers without thoroughly reading the fine print. I think I’ll be more careful about doing that in the future.

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“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” Lillian Smith

Has life shaped you like a gulf wind has shaped this Goose Island State Park tree? -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Standing in a field of grass patterned with bluebonnets at Goose Island State Park is a tree that’s allowed wind blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico to shape its profile.

It wasn’t much different, I thought on first seeing it, then how life shapes us humans.

For some odd reason, I thought again this morning about that tree, which I had photographed last April when I spent a week with my dog, Maggie, on Goose Island birdwatching. I think my brain was triggered in that direction after reading the quote: “Normal is a setting on a washing machine.”

On finding the photograph, I decided to blog about the message the tree had conveyed to me.

I’m not sure now that was such a good idea.

My thoughts, just as I placed my fingers on the keyboard, became such a jungle of contradictions that I’ was suddenly struck wordless. That’s a rarity by the way.

Do I write about how walking into a newsroom the first time pushed the rest of my life into a direction as slanted as that tree? Or about how coming out of a raft and being pulled beneath it gave me more appreciation of life? Or about how travel has opened up new worlds and new ways of thinking?

I couldn’t decide.

Perhaps some less confused blog readers can help me out. How has life shaped you? I’d really like to know.

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