Monday, February 27, 2012

Port of Brownsville Tour

We rode the Wilder Bus with a bunch of people from Winter Ranch and Trophy Gardens today heading for South Padre Island. We all boarded a BreakAway Cruises boat for a tour of the Port of Brownsville. The boat was pretty crowded because there was another bus load of people on with us. The boat managed to stay afloat though!

There were a few problems with the tour. The first was the fact that we left at 9 AM in the morning and didn't get any meal until after we came back so we were all starved on the trip. The boat ride through the port was four hours long and it took us quite awhile to get down to the port.


 The one thing that really made the trip was the dolphins. We saw tons of them on the way up and some on the way back. But when we were about an hour from shore one dolphin decided to race us. He stayed right on our side until we just about reached the dock. We were all standing and waving and yelling at him and he seemed to enjoy all the fuss! It was great! I took a ton of movies of him so Lee had to look at bunch of stuff to find the few moments we put here on the Trip Journal.

Nora Minor, Joyce Brandt and Karla Arrasmith

Brown Pelican


Free Beer Being Served

Nora making a toast

Charlie and Nora

The tour of the port held the men's interest much more than the women. The Captain talked about each boat that was being torn down as we passed it and gave us a history of the boat. The women made it to the end where we turned around to head back and we though we could just head on back. No such luck, he talked about all the boats on the other side on the way back. We were ready for a speed boat! That was also probably due to the fact that we were all starving!

Joyce Brandt chugging beer
 However, the boat provided free beer on the trip so a lot of our Winter Ranch friends had a great time. We don't drink beer but it would have been a disaster if we did on an empty stomach. People were eating chips and cookies from the snack bar to keep them going. Our friend, Joyce Brandt, had her birthday today so she celebrated. The young man that was serving the beer gave her the pitcher at one point. But, of course, it was almost empty when he did that. It made for good pictures though!

Ron and Edna Odendahl

Lee heading to the restaurant

Dave and Karla Arrasmith

After we docked, our tour included dinner at the Shrimp Haus. However, this was the second problem. There were several of us who bought our tickets from a lady from the cruise line that came to the park. She handed out a menu of what we would get to eat at the Shrimp Haus. We got our tickets at the RV Show and we were promised the same menu. However, the menu they gave us was really limited and didn't include the coconut shrimp which the Shrimp Haus is known for and that is what we all wanted. We had several talks with the waiters and got no where so I had my phone and I called the cruise line office and told them what we were promised and told them they had 12 people who were going to be awfully upset if we didn't get coconut shrimp as promised. After several phone calls and talks back and forth between the restaurant and the cruise line, we 12 all got our coconut shrimp. I was the heroine of the day! And, it was worth it. Their coconut shrimp is just outstanding. 

Coconut Shrimp

Later on we heard from our Activity Directors that they then tried to charge them for 10 extra people. When we got there Lee followed the bus driver in and gave them our tickets because they were purchased separately from the group. However, we didn't know anything about the other 10 people who purchased them after a Wednesday morning meeting. The Activity Office had a devil of a time with them so we now will never be taking the bus for any of their cruises.

Oh well, for all of the craziness, we still all managed to have a good time. The dolphins sure helped!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Resaca de la Palma State Park, Brownsville, Texas

Visitor Center
This morning we took off on a bus tour to the Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, Texas. The park is part of the World Birding Center in the Rio Grande Valley and has 1200 semi-tropical acres to explore. It is situated on the Rio Grande River and is a wilderness that is preserved but only a few miles from the large urban area of Brownsville.

The parks has six miles of trails to explore and four decks that overlook the four miles of resaca. There is also a 3.2 mile tram loop that winds through the park. The new trams come from money provided by the Obama Administration Stimulus money.

Our Group In Briefing Room

Our Guide on the Hike and Tram Ride

Getting Ready for the Hike

Spraying for Mosquitoes

View Behind the Bird Blinds

Man-made Blind Out Of Nature's Materials

Of course, there was no way we even got close to exploring the whole park today. We did take a tram ride through part of the part and we took a short hike to two of the decks overlooking the resaca. Unfortunately, this was one of the days that the birds just seemed to evaporate into thin air and the mosquitoes were in full force. Although I sprayed myself before we started on the hike, they just thought I was lunch. I was smeared with blood all over my legs by the time we returned to the Visitor Center after our hike. Before we went on the tram ride, I washed my arms and legs off thoroughly and then put on more DEET. They didn't bother me much on the tram ride or walking around after that so apparently the lotion I was wearing under the DEET was something they loved!

We only saw three birds the whole trip. A Pee Wee, a red-tailed hawk and an Eastern Phoebe. Lee was only able to capture the Eastern Phoebe on camera. 

Eastern Phoebe
Although we didn't see much in the park, one of the guides brought along his red-crowned parrot and two snakes and told us about them. The parrot was almost dead when he got him from some type of stuff that got all over his feathers. He brought him back to life and he's looking pretty good now. He would like to return him to the wild but it is hard to chase down the flock of parrots so that he could reintroduce him. We've tried to find those same parrots so we know what he means.

Red-crested Parrot
The snakes he brought along were the Hog-nosed Snake and the Red Milk Snake. The Hog-nosed Snake can get confused with a rattle snake but he obviously isn't poisonous because Lee and Richard and the Guide held onto him. The Red Milk Snake looks like the venomous Coral Snake. However, there is no yellow on the Red Milk Snake. He is really quite pretty but I'd still rather not run into him out on a hike!
We just got off the tram to hike to a resaca

First stop was a pavilion to see the snakes!

This is a Red Milk Snake

The hog-nosed snake

Richard holding the hog-nosed snake

Lee trying to hold the hog-nosed snake

Lee is happy to get rid of the active little critter!
We are planning on going back to this park one of these days on our own. I'm sure we just hit a bad day for birds. Also, the red-tailed hawk was circling over the area behind the bird blind and he probably chased everything away from there so it was just a bad birding day. We've had them before in places where we've seen tons of birds the time before.

These are beetle homes - the opposite of an ant hill!

Theresa Hoffman, Bonnie and Dave Langfield Getting Ready To Leave

After the tour, we got on the bus and went to the Coyote Canyon Buffet. It was a pretty nice place and the food was good. Everything looked fresh. We sat with Richard and Donna to eat lunch. 

Coyote Canyon Buffet

In Line to Get In

Pretty Salad Bar

Then we all headed back to the bus and Winter Ranch.

Our Bus Driver - Joe Roethel from Trophy Gardens