Thursday, December 26, 2019

Little Rock

We recently spent a few days in Little Rock as an interim stopover between Texas and Tennessee.  A couple months ago we ran a race around the base of Pinnacle Mountain just west of Little Rock.  This small taste of the area made me say, hey, maybe we should check it out sometime.  Trails to explore, bike paths, nice winter weather, and a downtown RV park right on the river.  All very good.

It's funny, whenever we told people we were in Little Rock (or planning to go there), a very common reaction was "why?" - not, why the heck would anyone go there, but an actual earnest question.  Like they had never thought of visiting Little Rock before.  My impression now matches the one I had during our first time through: It's quite nice, a wonderful short-term base with plenty to offer.

When we first arrived I immediately returned to Pinnacle Mountain to climb up the dang thing (since the race had only circled it, and we hadn't had time that day for the climb).

It's a fun rocky trail, mostly straight uphill:

Almost to the top:

The views at the top are great!

Plenty of water in various directions:

A far view of downtown, also the Big Dam Bridge over the Arkansas River:

Fun sign for the Ouachita Trail - I got to explore it just a little, apparently it's pretty long in total:

On another day I did a long run around town.  This sign in MacArthur Park initially gave me pause because really?  They charge for parking here?  Oh!  It's free to park on the parking lot, $500 to park anywhere else.  Clever.

I stopped in at the Central High School visitor center, which has some excellent displays and videos about the Little Rock Nine.  They braved a lot in order to attend school there, and made quite a difference in the long term order of things.  Thank you all.

It's quite the high school to look at, too!

The city has this wonderful idea of getting artists to paint marine life scenes on the sidewalks where the water drains to the river or creek - this particular one struck my fancy, even though it had construction dirt on it:

It's a new Trader Joe's as of October 2019!  Store #497 (and they have since passed #500).  I'm lucky to be here.

The state capitol building, with a nice fountain and their Liberty Bell on the lawn:

Also a statue of the Little Rock Nine, a nice call-back to one of my first stops of the day's run:

Around the statue are quotes from each of the students:

Santa and the large Christmas tree in the rotunda:

The old Supreme Court chamber, now a Senate committee room:

The top of the tree, which strikes me as humorous with its top poking out into the upper floor:

All over the Capitol there were families doing group photos, apparently a holiday thing here.  It certainly is a photogenic place for it.

One of several Lego displays:

A Peace Pole, wonderful!  It's hard to see, but I'm doing "Live Long and Prosper" with my hand shadow:

A large sculpture for the Louisiana Purchase Survey:

One of these days we'll get to try this out!

A short photo series I'm calling "fun sculptures in downtown Little Rock":

Every time I ran through here I found more artwork to look at - so much of it is off the beaten track and hidden down side trails.

Love it!

Fun pelican:

Cute frog:

And an excellent lunch location!

Walking with John over the Clinton Bridge, with a view back to the our RV park.  I wish all cities had an RV park like this.  Easy to get to, and easy to jump on the trails to reach downtown and beyond:

Hanging out at Heifer International:

I took my bike out for a rare ride and followed the lovely path along the river, up the north side and back down the south side.  There were lots of people out enjoying the fine winter weather.

And actual pelicans!

So... I think there was a flood here last spring?

The Big Dam Bridge!  What a fun name, and a really nice path over it.

One of the many locks in the Arkansas River on its way to the Mississippi:

I wasn't sure what "ATA" stands for - until I saw this sculpture out front:

This has been fun, a good place to get some work done while still doing some training and sightseeing.  Thank you, Little Rock!

Bonus comment - in case you haven't seen it yet, I launched a new website!  We're working to convert our living + travel to all-electric energy sources.  If you're interested in following along in our new adventures, check it out and let me know what you think:

Friday, December 13, 2019

Texas Thanksgiving

We took the opportunity to slow things down a bit lately, see family and friends for the holiday, and get a few things done.  We're not caught up with everything yet, but we have been enjoying ourselves!

And I do have some blog-worthy photos, so here's a collection.

I adore the "Welcome to..." pop-ups on Google Maps when you cross a state line.  It doesn't always happen, and I rarely catch a screenshot of it, but I was stoked to grab one for Texas on our drive in last month.  Yee haw!

Hey, it's Mom and Kip and Danny and Emilio, yay!!  We somehow all managed to be at Cafe Brazil in Dallas at the same time.  Super fun and entertaining lunch, thank you all!

The party even continued into the parking lot...

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving at the Beard Farm, with my only regret that I didn't get any pictures of people on the zipline.  Yes, there is a zipline in Frankston TX.  Stop by when you're in the neighborhood and check it out.

Kip had to leave not long after (too soon!) but Mom was able to spend more time in Texas.  We drove down to the coast in search of whooping cranes.  A new bird for Mom's life list - hopefully we'll see some.

To increase the odds, we booked a boat tour from Rockport into the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.  Looks like a good morning for a little cruise:

Heading out across the bay, ready to search for "whoopers"!

Lovely sunrise:

And just like that, Captain Tommy found us a whooper.  Thank you sir!  He parked the boat right next to the marsh so we could watch it search for food.  Amazingly, it pulled up a blue crab and had breakfast right before our eyes.  I didn't get a good picture of that, but the bird itself was easy to photograph even with my little camera.

Enjoying our excellent viewing location - this is really a great way to go birding:

One of a pair of whoopers, also concentrating on hunting and ignoring our presence:

And one more, this one made from a PVC pipe, super cute:

More bird-spotting as we walked along the shore:

The great blue herons were fun to watch.  Sometimes they would get annoyed, make a loud "gak!" and fly to a different perch:

On a driving tour through the Aransas wildlife refuge, checking out the sights from the gator watching platform:

Just taking a nap in the sun...

Possibly a tricolored heron - we could learn a lot about bird ID'ing from Captain Tommy, but we also like to wander around on our own and make guesses:

Hmm, I wonder what they are looking at?

Oh I see!

Strange nest-type hole in the grass:

The whooping cranes like to eat little berries, possibly some like these, which are maybe Carolina wolfberries (how's that for a strangely-formatted sentence?):

The rare Mirror Duck:

An armadillo!  We were just talking about trying to find one so Mom could get a look, but we expected it was going to be feet-up on the side of the road.  But then we ran across (without running over) this adorable dude.  We named him Dilly.  Thanks Dilly!

Another heron looking at us suspiciously:

More alligators...

A GIANT viewing platform, with a crazy-long ramp going up it:

We got some great views from up there, including roseate spoonbills and a bunch of pelicans.  Those required binoculars to see.  This sunning buzzard, however, did not:

A crested caracara!  We caught a glimpse of one earlier in the day but it flew away before Mom could spot it.  So we paid close attention to all the telephone poles and eventually came to a quick halt when this rare-to-us bird came into view.  We were quite stoked to find it.

The Big Tree of Goose Island State Park, 1000 years old:

Another wonderful day of birding!

The next day we made a few more stops on a driving tour around Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and over to Corpus Christi.  The nature preserve at Port Aransas was a great place to watch for wildlife:

A bunch of Bowling Ball Ducks:

Another gator and some birds that seem pretty oblivious:

A heron doing some fishing in the small current running into the pond:

A gazillion tracks:

We weren't sure what this one was, but Mom told me later that my guess of a juvenile black-crowned night heron was probably right.  Cool!

Cinnamon teal ducks (for once I know the actual duck name and didn't have to make something up).  Update!!  Mom just told me that they are actually northern shovelers.  Which is another new bird for her life list - very cool!  So I'll update this tag to "cinnamon and teal-colored northern shovelers":

Excellent boardwalk over the pond:

White ibis in silhouette:

Fun pelicans!  They were finding a bunch of fish to eat, which they did by scooping up water and fish and all, then squeezing the water out through the membrane under their bills.  When the water was gone, they gulped down the fish.  Crazy to watch.

The long jetty of Port Aransas (and fellow bird-watcher/jetty-walker):

The very end of the jetty, looking off into the Gulf:

An apt sign in a bird refuge near Corpus:

One more new (to us) bird!  This is a great kiskadee, with interesting white/black and yellow coloring.  John and I spent some time with various methods on our phones figuring it out.  We were pretty proud of ourselves, until we saw a labeled photo of it on a sign at the entrance to the trail.  Well, at least we were correct.

That seems like a fitting place to end the birding tour of the Texas coast.  Thank you Mom, we had a great time!

And one last photo, another fun time with family - test-driving a Tesla in Tyler with John's parents.  Even in the rain (or perhaps even moreso), it was impressive.  Always love any chance to experience a Tesla!

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!