Monday, October 31, 2016
Sunday, October 30, 2016
I had good intentions this morning of getting some sunrise photos. Mother Nature had other plans.
When I woke up, just before 7:00, I thought I heard the wind blowing... nope, it was pouring down rain. The rain didn't let up until well after the sun was up. I decided to go for a slight change (after the rain quit), and took the quadcopter out. I haven't used it since before we left for the summer; pretty much like starting over with the learning curve.
I had the batteries charged up, so it was just a matter of where to go. On the way across the swingbridge, I got another sign from Mother Nature...
Read it any way you want, I came up with: off to the beach. If it isn't too crowded, I'll give it a try on the beach.
At the first parking area, there were a handful of cars, mostly surfers. At the next parking area, only one other car... I should be able to fly this without an audience or concern that it would bother anyone. I fired up the controller, then the quadcopter - it still works!
First shot, looking out towards the Gulf...
There were no seagulls nearby when I first launched - I think they were curious. Looking up and down the beach...
I made some landings and take-offs to re-acquaint myself with how it all works, took a few more photos...
Then, called this stop a success. On the way home, I decided to stop by our swingbridge; I've photographed it from the land and the water, but it is a more interesting perspective from the air...
Just west of the swingbridge is our boatramp...
For liability sake, it isn't open to the public. You pick up a key from our guard shack when you want to launch or retrieve. There is a chain-link fence around it... I did consider what I'd do if this thing ran out of juice and decided to set down behind that fence. No problem.
With some juice left on that battery, I went to the far side of the developed part of the island, to take a photo towards the Port Isabel Turning Basin (the end of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway)...
There are two drilling ships (the taller structures) moored there, and one smaller oil platform (on the left) in the turning basin. The wind began to get a little gusty - I took a quick photo down the Sea Cottage canal...
You can see there is no development beyond the Sea Cottages. No seawall on that far side. This is the canal where we enter to head towards our canal, when arriving by boat. Oh, and that wind I mentioned: I had launched between a palm tree and one of the Sea Cottages - probably 25 feet between them. On the flying instructions, it is recommended that you stay at least 100 feet from anything tall where you launch. When I got the drone out over the canal, it was swaying in the wind... I slowly maneuvered it back between the tree and the house to get it back over a tall curb where I could land on something reasonably level.
Still some battery juice left, didn't break anything... I'm calling this a good start to relearning to use this thing. :-)
Thursday, October 27, 2016
... summer. Another warm, but windy, day in the Tropical Tip. I got in a nice e-bike ride this morning, before the wind kicked up. It was around 80º while I was out, plenty of sunshine. I rode off our island (over the swing bridge that crosses the ICW) and around Port Isabel. It is seriously flat around here. ;-)
We decided on lunch at Pier 19 today...
The views out the window are of the Laguna Madre - a surprising amount of excursion boat traffic, considering this is a weekday in late October. Dolphin Watch boats, fishing boats, and a parasail boat. Glad to see the activity. Oh, and lunch was tasty; food always tastes better on the water. :-)
From there, we spent some time at the beach...
The wind had kicked up, making for some surf action. Only one kite surfer out there taking advantage of it. I got a bit of sticker shock when Joan went into the park office to renew our annual entrance pass (an electronic sticker on the windshield) - we paid $58 for the annual pass last year, it is $100 now! You can get to beach access all up and down the island, but using Isla Blanca Park gives you good parking and beach amenities (not all open in the "winter" months).
Back home, we got a call to join friends Mike and MJ at their new house (less than a block from us) for happy hour. They are getting moved in, and the place looks great! A lot of work, but also the excitement of a new home for them. A pleasure to get caught up on what we've all been doing since we saw them last.
Still 80º at 9:00 pm. Yep, still "summer" here.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
My waist? Um... no.
Another excursion today to narrow down the search for "the next boat." Heading off our island, the water is looking absolutely beautiful...
Yeah, I am getting the itch for another boat - if those views of the water don't do it for you, nothing will.
Back to the likely candidate...
The more we talk about it, the more it leads us to... a pontoon. I have to admit that I have some biases, based on personal experience: years ago, we shared a 2-boat slip with a guy with a pontoon boat - he hit our sailboat every time he came in. We had to hang a fenderboard on that side of our sailboat to keep from getting scarred up. We don't see a lot of pontoon boats down here, at least not on the Laguna Madre. When we do see them, well... they don't seem to be moving with any specific direction. May be the driver, not the boat?
They don't have one to demo. We did narrow it down to one style and size we like, and climbed all around it... sat on each of the settees... looked at the construction and wiring... checked out how they sit on the trailer... tried the boarding ladder... the helm... the bimini set-up... the storage under the seats...
I just have to convince myself to pull the trigger. Not an inexpensive "day tripping" boat; we considered smaller, but it didn't have the layout that makes as much sense as this one. I walked around the boat doing what you do... when you get to the dock (putting out fenders, tying off)... where you stand to fuel the boat (this one has a rear platform that give you decent access to the motor and the fuel tank).
We talked about other options. Decisions.
You may have heard photographers talk about "the golden hour" - that time around sunset or sunrise when the light takes on a special quality. It is a matter of the color temperature (no, not the outside temperature) when the light has a warmer, softer cast to it. It is generally a flattering light for portraits. It doesn't really last "an hour," and depends on atmospheric conditions, as well.
Photographers should understand how to control the light to get similar results at other times of the day. No, this isn't a critique about current popular photography. But, it is all about the light.
Yesterday at sunset...
This morning, just after sunrise, looking both ways in our canal...
Looking pretty in any light...
Doesn't hurt that it was taken during that "golden hour."
Monday, October 24, 2016
Note that is "pea" with an "a."
Joan has been wanting to change the ceiling in our smaller bathroom (AKA: my bathroom) since we had repairs done on it after some damage around a vent during Hurricane Dolly in 2008. We had the damage professionally repaired at the time... that is in italics because the guys who did the repair made a gawd-awful mess, and it just didn't look right. Joan has been wanting to do this for a long time, and it finally made it on "the list."
This is her project, I just carry ladders and provide support when requested. Mostly, I try to stay out from under foot. She has scraped the ceiling, cleaned up that mess, and replaced toilet "innards" in both bathrooms. All good. The prep work is next: filling imperfections, sanding, priming...
The only casualty so far: Joan was taking a ball-bungee off one of the ladders, it "popped" and hit her right in the mouth. Fat lip and blood. She is tough - she continued with her project. I would need to take a couple days off. We do have dentist appointments for tomorrow, and she called the dentist to reschedule... I heard her telling the person in the dentist's office, "I got hit in the mouth and it probably wouldn't be a good idea to get any work done with an open cut..." No mention of the bungee culprit. If it comes up in conversation, I will be sure to tell them "She belongs to Fight Club. And the first rule of Fight Club is: you don't talk about Fight Club." ;-)
What about the "Princess and the Pea"? Thanks for asking. This morning, little Izzy was sitting on the mountain of pillows on our bed...
These are not our "sleeping-on" pillows - these are the decorative pillows. There are 7 of them currently. On top of the pretty bedspread and our "sleeping-on" pillows. Iz certainly looked like a little princess perched on top of all that.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Today was my class for the Texas LTC: License To Carry a handgun, either concealed or open carry. The class is required for the license. Along with a background check (I have to go through that for the Captain's License TWIC credentials), getting fingerprinted (again, ditto for the Captain's License), and, of course, paying the fee.
We have a small, but excellent, gun shop on South Padre Island, run by a nice couple. He teaches the class, she helps with the paperwork. About 5 hours of class time, including a frank discussion of legal and the emotional ramifications, followed by taking a written test... then, out to the gun range to qualify.
I don't mean to be immodest, but I test well. I listen; I take good notes on the significant topics; and I'm not generally confused by the questions. The test was 25 questions, covering some state laws, scenarios, safety, and some common sense stuff. I scored 100%.
I had some concerns about the target shooting qualifications: it has been years since I've fired a gun. Without going into a lot of details, I have a large revolver... everyone else in the class had Glocks and other similar (smaller) automatic handguns.
The qualifying: 50 rounds, at varying distances. Shots in the center three rings are 5 points. Next two rings are 4 points. Anywhere else in the shaded area is 3 points. 250 possible points, you have to score 175 or higher to pass. The instructor said it would be pass/fail. He was aware that I haven't fired a handgun in years. He asked, "Would you like to take a few practice rounds?"
Some things you can't learn from a book (or the internet), but I used to shoot pretty good. I'm not a whippersnapper, but I still have good hand/eye coordination, reflexes, and eyesight. And, steady hands. I refreshed shooting techniques last night... I said, "I think I'm good to go."
After the first ten rounds, he had us all keep our weapons unloaded while he checked the targets... "Damn, Jim! Keep that up and you'll be able to just throw that gun through the hole in the middle!"
Not bad for the oldest guy in the class.
40 more rounds later, I had every shot in the inner two rings. Head of the class!
Last hurdle: paperwork. Fill it all out exactly right, or it will be rejected... and no refunds on the application fee.
And what was Joan doing during my all-day gun fest? Playing Josephine the plumber... she scraped the "popcorn" texture off the ceiling in the smaller bathroom (eventually changing to a trowelled texture). I know - fun, right? But, wait - there's more! She also changed out all the innards in the toilet in the other bathroom. She was happy with what she accomplished today... without having someone under foot, whose name I won't mention, but he's quite a marksman. ;-)
Friday, October 21, 2016
For almost 8 years, when we have been away from the house (and that is more often than not), Izzy likes to walk. On her leash. For some reason, she is not keen on that when we are home. Most of the time, she is happy to sit out on the deck, watch the birds, and occasionally sneak down the stairs when she thinks we aren't looking.
This afternoon, Joan thought Izzy was looking "lethargic"... not sickly, just not particularly perky.
Well, she is 8 years old. Izzy, not Joan. Hard to imagine, because to me she is still "the baby kitty." Again, Izzy, not Joan. Joan is the babe, not the baby. But, I digress. And I hardly ever do that.
I decided to coax Izzy into a walk. And by "coax" I mean: I put the leash on her and said, "Come on, let's go for a walk." Joan helped by walking with us.
There is generally a lot of activity around this place: people coming and going, car and golf cart traffic... which doesn't bother Iz... people talking and laughing is scary to her. This is a particularly quiet time here... so we walked. Across the driveway, which isn't that far. Down to the end of the block, which isn't that far. Across the small bridge that goes over our canal, which isn't that far. And to the gazebo area, which... well, you know. But, when you add that all together, it was a nice walk for the furry girl; the furthest she has walked here at home. Plenty of sniffing. No, I don't have a cold, Iz has to check out everything... especially anything the local dogs have peed on... which is pretty much everything. Yep, digressing.
It was a good walk. I would say my little furry girl is growing up, but at 8, she is pretty much cat-middle-age. And not lethargic at all. She just needed some exercise and fresh air. Me, too. ;-)
I didn't take the camera or my phone on the walk. I think you might find a photo or two of Isabella if you look back through this blog.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
I just sealed the envelope. Yes, I voted.
I make it a point to not get political on this blog. I have voted in every Presidential election since I have been old enough to vote. I have never felt an internal struggle when it came time to pull the lever or fill out the ballot... I have always been able to cast my vote, believing that if my choice didn't win, the country would still be with capable leadership... maybe not going the direction I think we should go (my choice hasn't always been the winner of the race), but still capable and deserving of my respect.
Until this election.
I had to vote with my country in mind, not my personal feelings. A lot of people have said they have to pick the lessor of two evils. Seems to me that our choice this time around is for the lessor of two egomaniacs and liars. I can't believe this is the best we can elevate to the highest office in the land.
My preference would have been to push the reset button and start over, but I couldn't stomach another lengthy political season. And... it wasn't an option on the ballot.
It is done. We shall not speak of this again. I feel like I need to take a shower.
Perhaps it is a sign... looking outside after sealing that envelope...
Nasty looking sky.
It has been hot and humid since we got home. A cold front will roll through the area this evening - this is the precursor. It should be cooler and less humid behind the front. Maybe a sign that there is good ahead? Not talking about the weather.
We have been busy since getting back home. Joan is getting anxious to take on more quilting projects. To make using her sewing machine more convenient, she wanted a folding/rolling cart for it. She found one she liked on-line... it arrived yesterday. Yeah, some assembly required.
Spreading out the pieces and hardware, I was surprised to see tubes of wood glue. Looking at the assembly instructions, I was dubious that there wasn't enough glue to complete the project. By the time I got to the second part of the assembly, it was real clear there wasn't enough glue. Joan ran to the hardware store while I continued on the project.
Upside down in the process...
All told, it was about a 4 hour project - Joan is happy with the results...
Another thing that has occupied our time: considering another boat. We are in agreement that we want something small, simple, and easy to keep up. We are not looking to cruise again (at this point), but interested in something for day-tripping around the local area.
We've been talking about this for a while - nothing is off the table. Well, the idea of another sailboat is more work than either of us are interested in. We got spoiled by Wild Blue - turn the key, untie the dock lines, and go. We came across an ad for a 16' C-Dory while still out in the motorhome (it wasn't too far out of the way)... but it turned out that the boat was already sold. My feelings wouldn't be hurt if there wasn't a lot of fiberglass that needs regular waxing and polishing to stay nice looking in the Tropical Tip (the motorhome gives me enough of that).
I tossed out the idea of a pontoon boat. Something we haven't considered in the past. While some of these are definite "party barges," there are small models available. Simple. And, no fiberglass to keep up. I started doing some research. Yesterday, we went out to see some in person...
Built-in seating that seems plenty comfortable. Storage under the seats. Different motor sizes available. Definitely easy to keep up: hose it down and put a cover on it. Wild Blue also spoiled me with that cabin and inside helm - nice protection from the sun. These come with a bimini for shade. Windy or rainy? Good time to find stuff to do off the water. ;-) No climbing up or down: open the gate and step onboard; flat floor.
We are not looking to overnight. No need for a suite of electronics (chartplotter, radar, fixed VHF, autopilot, etc); a hand-held VHF and a marine navigation app on the phone will provide speed info. Doesn't get much more simple than that. Wild Blue was equipped for adventure cruising - we are looking for sight-seeing and dolphin watching with whatever we get next.
They come set up for different uses: fishing, party-barge, pulling "water toys" (skiing, wake-boarding, pulling a float). Some are absolutely luxurious (no, I don't think we'll be needed a built-in wet bar); some have up to 900 horsepower and will top 60 mph... I'm thinking 10 to 15 mph and sipping fuel instead of gulping it. We don't fish, so not much use for a trolling motor, rod holders and a couple live wells... but the extra floor space in a fishing model would allow room to haul a kayak or a stand up paddleboard.
Things to consider. We might even learn to fish. I wonder if Izzy would be interested in eating something fishy that doesn't come from a can? ;-) No, me neither.
Monday, October 17, 2016
After a late lunch (watched some dolphins playing nearby while we ate), we swung by the beach for a look-see.
A different access point from where we usually go; over the dunes...
No crowd. A few surfers, a handful of sun-worshipers...
Back to the Honda - the only car in this lot...
We don't get a lot of phone calls. More often than not these days, when we do get a call, it is from a telemarketer wanting to eliminate my credit card debt or extend the warranty... I assume it is in regards to the warranty for a vehicle, but they never get to that part... it is just important that I do something about it RIGHT NOW, because this is my final warning.
Of course, it is never the final warning, because these slimeballs will continue to call if you pick up your phone even once. We eliminated land-lines about 10 years ago, and the nuisance calls pretty much stopped. Seems they didn't go after cell phone numbers at the time. Now, with automatic dialers, no one is immune.
We block those phone numbers immediately, but I think the numbers that come up on Caller ID are probably "phantom" as well. Pretty sure the list of blocked callers on my phone is longer than my list of contacts. ;-)
I have been getting a few political calls. Since the options for political candidates is so gawd-awful this election, I have decided to make my decision based on those phone calls: whoever the caller is promoting, I will vote for the other candidate. If they both call, I will write in for "None of the Above." Couldn't be any worse than trying to determine "the lesser of two evils." And that's all I'm going to say, 'cause this blog is not political.
What this blog IS... well, we all pretty much know: Izzy.
We may not be RVing right now, but little Lizzy loves her tent (Joan calls it: her house)...
Stephanie gave the pop-up tent to Izzy. Joan made a cushy pad for it. Izzy loves it...
The ringing phone woke her up. It was a nuisance call on Joan's phone. Yep, blocked.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I shaved off the mustache...
Joan said, "You look 10 years younger..." I'm guessing that was positive reinforcement. I was kind of enjoying the mustache; haven't had one since the 80s. Frequently a beard or a goatee. But, Joan prefers no mustache. Steph agrees with her. Iz doesn't really care. I'm with Izzy on this.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
We talked about going out for breakfast this morning: Pier 19 has a singer/guitarist on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Mostly as background music, but he is very talented. Plus, the restaurant is on a pier - nice water views from every table...
After breakfast, we drove up the island to The Shores (a very nice development) to check out their Farmers Market. It has been years since we've been to it. Turns out, it hasn't changed much since we were there last - it is a beautiful setting, but only about a dozen booths, and about half of them were selling some variation of granola...
They also had live music, a male/female duo. We listened while we walked around. Back to the car and across the causeway...
A bit more breeze today, but the water is looking gorgeous. Another nice day in the Tropical Tip.
Oh, the occasion? One of us shaved off his mustache as a B-Day gift for the other. I won't be the only one getting to see some of the Social Security money moving the right direction.