Texas – The Second Month and Beyond

As I said in my last post, we moved to La Hacienda RV Resort just off Lake Travis in the Northwest quadrant of the greater Austin area. We immediately felt we had made a wise decision as the resort was much closer to the more urban things we both enjoy.

The RV Resort was much larger and the southern end was very sparsely occupied. The older part of the park had a much higher population density and many looked as though they may live there full time. We opted for the southern end for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the satellite reception was bound to be better there due to the lack of older trees.

We would be in for a treat in our third week at this park as there was a rally for Marathon Coaches hosted by La Hacienda and some 46 huge coaches which had been custom built by Marathon were all parked in our end of the park. We got to go window shopping every time we came and went from our spot. For those who are not familiar with luxury motor coaches. Marathon built coaches range in price for the low one million and change to over two million dollars. Most are built on either Prevost or Newell chassis and most are 45 feet long. The toads these folks had were pretty amazing as well. We saw Lexus, a variety of Cadillac models and many other high end autos being towed or trailered behind these monster coaches.

Our month at La Hacienda was mostly a get to know the area visit, but there were some notable highlights I should share.

Although there are a lot of golf courses in the Austin area there is only one on the west side that is open to the public. On the east side of town there are several public courses and even a few owned by the city. All the east side courses required way more planning than I was willing to put into a single round of golf. So, we opted to play the only course on our side of town that would have us. That course is Falconhead Golf Club. We were planning to play because our friend Carla Morley was coming down from Dallas to play golf with us and I wanted to pick a course that would be easy to get to and close to restaurants that were not too far from home as I knew we would conclude our late afternoon round with dinner. The course was absolutely beautiful. The quality of play was mixed. Connie who plays only very rarely did quite well for herself. She kept the ball in the fairway and mostly out of the sand. Carla’s game was a little off. On the front nine no one could tell which way my ball would be going. At the turn we made our minds up to play a scramble on the back so as to cause an early end to the pain. However, I hit a pretty great tee shot on ten and my second shot was a magic shot that scooted under a tree branch and landed short of the green and then rolled through. I wound up with a par and of course the women got the same score as we continued to play my ball’s position for each shot. On the next hole I put my second shot in a fairway bunker and told the ladies to play one of their spots as I wanted to play out of the bunker. I made bogey on that hole. Before the round was over I had shot a 45 including a birdie two on the first par three on that side. My tee shot landed within 18 inches of the hole and took one little hop towards the hole. I was pumped. Of course the great back nine made me want to go back and work on the front nine at least one more time. Unfortunately, we found ourselves with a pretty full schedule late in our stay and the weather became pretty uncooperative.

We also took a drive to Inks Lake State Park and walked along a nature trail in search of birds. Of course we were there late in the day and the bird watching was less than spectacular. However, the wildflowers were really wonderful. I took a bunch of photos and have uploaded many of them to a web album for your enjoyment. Just click the photo below and you will go to the web album where you can watch a slide show of those photos.

We also visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on the south side of Austin. This was a great treat for me, as I was able to photograph wildflowers and the plaques that identified them. Now I have a little catalog of some of the more popular Texas wildflowers. A couple of those images turned out really nice, so I have included them in the web album as well.

Our Second Month in Texas

Connie and I also went to Balcones National Wildlife Refuge to participate in a bird walk. There were two target birds, both rare and becoming rarer due to habitat loss both here and in their winter home. The first bird we searched for was the Golden Cheeked Warbler. We were teased by a few of these elusive creatures. We heard them singing, but we could not spot a single one. We moved on to a different part of the refuge where the habitat supports the Black-capped Vireo. We were much more fortunate at this stop as one was flying along the bushes on the opposite side of the road from our position. I got a really good look at the bird. Unfortunately, Connie was positioned further forward in the group and had too many obstacles in her line of sight to get a clean look at the bird. After the bird walk concluded the volunteer guide told us of a public accessible location where we might find the Golden Cheeked Warbler. Connie and I plus two other couples went to that location and after a short walk through the woods to the location we were told to go to, we turned to head back to the cars when we started hearing a bird none of us recognized. I finally spotted the Golden-cheeked warbler at the top of a tree just a few yards off the trail. He was in full sun and singing his little heart out. We all got really good looks at him before he moved on. The song he was singing was different than the one we had been hearing earlier in the day. Turns out they have an A and a B song.

During the guided portion of the day we got to talking to our guide and we learned that she is a full time RVer and she spends a lot of her time volunteering at National Wildlife Properties. We told her our story and of course she knew we are birders. A few days after the walk we got an e-mail from her asking if we might be interesting in taking her position next winter and spring as she will not be coming back. Well, to make a long story short, we have had an interview with the Outdoor Programs Director and we have sent him our references and are now waiting on an answer from him. If we get the position, it will be our first experience as wildlife educators. We are looking forward to the opportunity both with great anticipation and a good bit of near fear as well.

Not wanting to burn any bridges we decided we should check with the folks at La Hacienda about the need for reservations for next winter should we not get the volunteer position at Balcones National Wildlife Refuge. The person I talked to asked me why we didn’t just apply for a volunteer position at the RV Park. Well, now there is an idea. At this writing we have no idea what we will be doing. We need to get an answer from Balcones before we can make any other inquiries or put in an application at La Hacienda. Regardless, we will be in the area for at least part of the spring next year.

We spent one wonderful afternoon with another of our birding friends, Brenda Muncrief. Brenda and her husband live in Huntsville, TX. While that was a bit far for us to travel for a day trip, we made plans to meet a few hours away in College Station, TX for lunch. We had a wonderful lunch that was just the catalyst for the great conversation and reunion that surrounded the meal. We thoroughly enjoyed getting back together with Brenda; It had been a long time since we had seen her.

Of course I continued to train for the marathon. I found a great area to run just to the north of the resort that gave me several options for distances and numbers of hills to work through depending on day and mood. I had a pretty darned good month of running. I even got a speed work session in at the local high school track. That was a fun break from all the hills I have been running over for the last two or three months.

Finally our time at La Hacienda came to an end and we found ourselves packing up and moving out. Our next stop was to an Army Corps of Engineers RV Park on Lake Lavon northeast of Dallas. This was the second time we stayed at this park. It is fairly near to both our Dallas based birding friends, Carla and Bonnie. We got up there on a Wednesday and spent that back half of the week visiting with Bonnie and Carla as well as doing some shopping and, of course, eating. We even managed to taste some local wines while in McKinney. I cooked dinner for all of us on our last night in town and we all had a wonderful evening of telling and listening to stories.
We didn’t have far to travel after leaving Lake Lavon as our next stop was just 80 miles away at Lake Texoma, on the Texas side, to visit our friends Tammy and Ernie Cathay from our winter at Fort Huachuca two years ago. If you have been following this blog since the beginning you might remember that the winter at Fort Huachuca was a party looking for an excuse. Tammy and Ernie were among a large number of us who rarely missed an opportunity to huddle around the tables in the rec room and have a great time eating and sipping a favorite beverage over all sorts of storytelling. Tammy and Ernie are runners and had been training for the Senior Olympics while staying at the fort. I ran with them on a ten mile run one morning. I thought they were going to kill me. We all survived the run and had a great time in the process. They have been on my mind ever since as they were such an inspiration to me and my running. Tammy even provided me with the music I have been running to ever since our meeting. When I started thinking about running another marathon, it was my memory of Tammy and Ernie that gave me the motivation to step off into another several months of training in order to complete the task and hopefully do it in a respectable time for my age.

When we all went our separate ways two years ago we said we needed to get back together in the future. Tammy and Ernie had told us about their place at Lake Texoma and gave us an open invitation to stop by when we are in the area. But, you know, one is never sure just how sincere those invitations are. Connie and I would never want to intrude on our friends or family members, so we purposely planned for a one night stay with Tammy and Ernie. Upon our arrival at the Cathay property we were greeted with the great warmth that we had come to recognize as a north central Texas hospitality. We were treated like long lost family members and made to feel right at home. When they realized that we were only staying the night, the disappointment was quite visible. Well, we made the very best of our short time together by catching up over a beer or two. That was followed by a driving tour of the local area while on our way to dinner. Dinner was at the local Carino’s Italian restaurant. The food was great and the company absolutely exceptional. Ernie and I jibed a bit about running and we ended up making a date for an early morning run. I lobbied for six to eight miles, but as it turned out I was happy that it ended after just over five and a quarter miles. Yes, Ernie dragged me around again. It was funny, because in the early part of the run I was holding back as Ernie likes to start slow. Well, somewhere around three miles he found another gear and I had to hold on for the ride for fear that if I let him get too far in front of me I would get lost before getting back to their property. As it was I missed his last turn and I ran past by a few tenths of a mile before realizing I was going the wrong way.

Ernie has me by seven years, but even though he has not been doing a lot of training lately he can still bury me once he gets into his stride. My respect for him as a runner continues to grow.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Cathay’s where we had full hook-ups for the motorhome as well as some great friends to share our time with. We were, however,
in a little bit of hot water as we left because we were leaving so soon.
Our great concern is getting through Oklahoma and Kansas with the weather that is forecast for the next several days. So, we had to leave this morning.
We are spending tonight, May 18, at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. So far, the weather is okay.


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