Thoughts on Texas


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At last, I thought, the heat has gone
finally Summer is cooling down
time to get back on the trails again
and walk and walk without feeling so hot
and having to drink so much water a lot
but then this week the heat returned
and yesterday was one hundred degrees
and although it is starting to cool
I’m feeling more like a bit of a fool
again and once more Mother Nature played tricks
lulling us to think the heat was gone
and this year at least it had sung its swansong
where other parts of the country are cool
and already their leaves are starting to turn
in Texas our climate here is such
that another month will go by without much
change or cooling down that we note
and even longer before a coat
the beauty of living in this hot State
with its blistering temperatures that we hate
is that winters are mild as compared with elsewhere
and we play outside for all of the year
with only the very occasional day
when the weather is too cold outside to play.

I love living in Texas hot weather and all…

 

McKinney Again…


dsc_3889-panoI just had to get out and exercise so I chose to take a short walk at McKinney Roughs. I figured that the paths would have dried up after the last time I was there as it had been several days. I chose a route that I knew would not be muddy except maybe in one place close to the river.

I arrived around 10:00 am with the weather still cool. There were only a few cars in the lot for a Saturday and I would have expected more especially now that the weather is beginning to cool down at least, comparatively speaking. Believe me, ten degrees cooler is a lot in Texas.

I went through my usual preparations, boots, walking poles, hat, water and set off taking Riverside which I knew to be a long wide open trail which as the name suggests, leads down to the river. The top portion of this trail is pretty level before it turns and takes a fairly steep downhill grade towards the river. While the upper trail is very easy walking underfoot, the downhill part is made up of loose stones that tend to roll under your feet making for tricky walking. At one point, a female runner and her dog passed me and it didn’t appear that either of them had any problems with their footing. Oh to be young again… I also met another couple each with a dog as they walked towards me on Riverside. They were heading back in and when I asked them, replied they had had a very good walk.

 

There is still a major trail washout where Riverside joins with Bluestein but it is still possible to take Cypress which also goes  close by the river. I took the walking trail which is kind of narrow and not too well used as there is now a much wider trail that leads to the River. As I was taking pictures, a whole group of horses and riders came down the wider trail and we exchanged greetings as they walked their horses into the river and then down stream for a little bit. The riders were all ladies. I took a few pictures of them before moving on. I could hear them for several minutes as they were obviously enjoying themselves. Not sure about the horses though…

I followed Cyprus with the intention of crossing over onto Pine Ridge and then to Bobcat Ridge. Somewhere, at the intersection, I took the wrong trail and ended up following the dreaded Pine Ridge Trail which would take me up and down many steps built into the trail. I purposely had tried to avoid this part but through my own stupidity, ended up taking it anyway. Oh well, at least I got much more of a workout climbing up and down those dreaded steps.

I had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Zip Lining Project that is currently ongoing in the Park. It looks to me that there will be several towers and several different lines and not all are interconnected. It will be interesting to see the finished product. Not sure if I will be brave enough to try it unless it is a quick way to get from one trail to another.

I managed to find a surprising number of flowers that are still in bloom compared to the last time I was here. Maybe that last shower had something to do with it.

I continued along Pine Ridge which is actually a nice walk as long as you are not climbing steps until I connected with Bobcat Ridge which I knew would pass close to the Parking Lot where my car was parked. All in all, it was a very enjoyable walk, much better than the last time when I had 20 pounds of mud on each boot. Below are pictures of the trails and other interesting things that I observed on this trip.

I covered almost six miles and as I usually do when I am at the Roughs, finished the day with a quick drive into Bastrop for a Grande Latte to help me while away the time as I listened to Stephen King’s  “The Talisman” on the long trip home.

The panorama at the top is made up of five different pictures. As with all of these groups, if you click  on any one of them, they will enlarge and you can move along by using the side arrows. Use the “Escape” button to return to normal.

 

Too Hot to Take a Walk but not Too Hot to Mow the Grass…


DSC_3831Every time I leave the house and drive past the area that the County owns outside of my fence, I think to myself that I really need to get after it and mow it down. I haven’t mowed at all this year mainly due to the fact that just as the grass started to grow this past Spring, Google had a crew come in to install the fiber cable directly in the area outside of my fence. At the time I thought it was great and was looking forward to a very fast internet but sad to say, they are not hooking up in my area yet but that is a whole separate story.

This gave me a much welcomed excuse to not even get close to the grass and totally ignore it even after they had finished, I kept ignoring the fact that the remaining grass that they had not run over with their heavy equipment was now two feet high especially with all of the recent rain we have had. I know just what I was thinking preferring to hike rather than mow the grass and maybe I was just being a little bit lazy. OK, I just hate to mow…

The mower in the garage

The mower in the garage, stupid thing…

In my defense, I have a mower and it sits in my garage most of the time. The reason for this is that when I had it out in one of the sheds with a cover over it, the rats built a nest in the motor and chewed all of the electrical lines which I was able to replace myself.

The only place I get to use the mower is, you guessed it, the side of the house alongside the road. I bought it several years ago when most of the backyard was a sort of lawn. I jokingly referred to it as a lawn but in truth, the grass didn’t grow very well under the trees, which incidentally, is why I built five ponds. I used the mower as a tractor pulling a cart when I built the ponds. I hauled rocks and gravel and even used it to tow several rail ties that I used at the bottom of the fence. I used the mower  a couple of times to cut the grass last year and that was after spending a couple of hundred dollars on it to get it to run properly. It sat in my garage all winter and I started it up a couple of times and it seemed to be OK. So, when I thought I would bite the bullet and mow the grass, I backed my car out so that I could get the mower out. I couldn’t even get the mower to turn over so I jerked the battery out and took it to the Parts store to get it tested which it did just fine. They put it on a quick charge and I took it home, put it back in and tried it again. Success, it fired up and ran like a charm for all of one minute and then it died. That is how it has been acting every time I have tried it since. There is obviously a blockage in the carburetor  as I have checked the lines and gas flows where it should. I can’t for the life of me figure how to get into the carburetor to clean it out and so now, the mower is just sitting there. I think the manufacturers have built it so that DIY fellows like myself can’t do our own repairs.

The old self driving mower

The old self driving mower

Not to be outdone by one stupid mower, I have two more. One is as old as the hills and is a self driving hand mower. I must have had it 30 years and yet it starts every time and usually on the first pull. I hit a rock with it years ago and bent the crankshaft  causing the mower to vibrate pretty badly but it still runs. I got it out of the shed, gassed it up and sure enough, it fired right up. I took it out to the street and started to mow and it died after about ten minutes. It would not start again so I took it back to the shed and got out my final mower which is actually a string mower on wheels. It too usually starts on the second or third pull and it fired up and continued to run. I changed out the plastic cutting strings which I cut to length off a big roll of the stuff and took it outside and started cutting the grass.

String Mower

String Mower

It worked just fine and I spent a busy two hours chopping down the grass. To say that I was mowing brings visions of the mower putt-putting along in neat straight lines cutting the grass to a couple of inches high and leaving a nice lawn effect. I have to tell you, that is not the case with a string mower. It does a great job of cutting down whatever is in the way including any flowers and small trees that might be foolish enough to wave their pretty heads and leaving everything in one disorganized chaos of cut grass laying in every which direction. I would need a hay baler if I had any thoughts of picking it up or clearing it away. Regular mowers can usually give a much better mulching effect because they will cut the grass several times as they pass over it. Definitely not the case with a string mower.  Cut it down once and push on.

The strings on the drum

The strings on the drum

Not only that, the mower is not self driven. All the motor does is to turn the head that the string is attached to and me and my poor body and arms and legs provided the traction. By now of course, this being Texas, the temperature had now reached the ninety degree mark and the sweat just poured off me. I have to explain that even on the riding mower and wearing shorts, the poison ivy of which there is quite a bit growing in this area tended to float around a bit after it was cut and did a number on me. This time, I dressed for it and had on blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt. No wonder I was hot and sweaty.  The going was not very even and I was fighting the terrain and getting jerked around all over the bloody place. This is why I hate mowing.

And then there is the string itself. The “string” is made of plastic and is probably .155 inch thick. You have to cut it off to length and follow the directions to thread it through the holders a special way. When it breaks, which it invariably does, you have to take out whatever is left and place a new piece in. I bet I replaced at least ten strings today because the grass was so long and  did I mention the rocks that the construction crew had not bothered to clean up? I either ran into them and had to jerk the mower around them or the “string” whacked one of the rocks causing it to break.

I finally got it all done and about the only thing that you can see is that the grass has been cut. It doesn’t look pretty but the weather forecast has some rain in it and knowing Mother Nature, it won’t be long before we have to do it again,  maybe next year I will have the mower repaired…In the meantime, a long soak in the hot tub to relieve my aching muscles.

Now should I bite the bullet and get the damn mower fixed? I swear it is a vicious circle, get it fixed, it stands all winter in the garage, spring comes, try to start it up and back to the repair shop….
Maybe I will wait until next Spring for the mower.

 

It’s Raining at McKinney 9-2-2016


DSC_3780I drove to McKinney Roughs, a distance of about 40 miles from my house under cloudy skies. it didn’t really look like rain but when I arrived at McKinney main entrance, the skies opened up and it rained for a good twenty minutes.  I had my newspaper with me having to forego my usual breakfast routines in order to get to the park earlier as I wanted to hike while it was still somewhat cool, for Texas. In my case this morning, it was breakfast to go as I ate it in the car on my way to the Park and read the paper while I waited for  it to stop raining.

The couple parked in the car next to me, acted brave as they got out of their car when it first started to rain and started walking. Less than three minutes later when the skies opened up, they came running back, hopped into the car and then drove off. So much for their walk this morning.

As soon as it stopped, I got out and strolled over to the Office to pay my $2.00 and chatted to the lady behind the window. As they still haven’t fixed the flood damaged trails down by the river, I had to come up with a different plan. Did I mention that I have bought a new pair of hiking boots? The old ones, which I had already glued together several times,  are just about worn out and are getting uncomfortable on the right foot so I thought it time for a change. I bought a pair of Keen’s Dark Earth that happened to be on sale at $110.00  from Whole Earth Provision Company. I swear my feet are growing as I get older and everything else is shrinking, except my weight that is and it’s a struggle to keep that where I want it. I am already an inch shorter and my muscles, the ones that are still visible that is, are much smaller than when I was younger. In those days playing soccer, I wore a 9 1/2 as I wanted them snug so I could feel the ball. Probably they should have been a size 10. The boots I just bought are size 11 1/2 and have removable inserts. Go figure…In my defense, I do have a wide foot, a whopping 6E almost the widest that is made. Today was going to be the first day that I got to use them on the trail although I have been wearing them out and about just to help break them in.

I set out to walk along Coyote Road and first, I had to get onto Bobcat Ridge. I knew I was in trouble the minute I stepped onto the trails as the rain had turned everything into thick gooey clay which just built up on my new boots in the first ten steps. So much for newness! My feet felt like they had 20 pound weights on each one and as soon as I kicked off the mud, it was right back on there again. I kinda walked in slow motion not making any time at all and felt like I was back in soccer training again, trying to build up my leg muscles with weights attached to my ankles.DSC_3765

A mile or so onto Coyote Road, I contemplated turning back but figured that I might as well press on as going back would be just as miserable. I reached the area where the trails are blocked off and  Coyote Road meets with Riverside and had no choice but to continue along Riverside. Normally, I like hiking close to the river as it gives a nice change of view with the off chance of seeing more wildlife like Blue Herons, Egrets and maybe even ducks. The water was up a bit and flowing fast and was a dirty brown color. I didn’t get to see anything in the way of wildlife and the trails were extremely muddy. I did manage to find several flowers throughout the Park that were not there a little  over a week ago, the last time I was at this Park which included moss in one tree that I had never seen before.

Another young lady hiker caught up with me on this  part of the trail and we chatted a bit before she moved on. I stopped and motioned for her to pass me and mentioned that I was a very slow walker and EVERYONE passes me. She was very diplomatic and said that she had a hard time to catch up with me. She let me take her picture, for which I am grateful as we both continued on our way. Riverside, at this point is a steep uphill climb but the footing had improved and was no longer anywhere near as muddy. In fact, a lot of it is loose pebbles which although sometimes tricky to walk on are a lot better then the goo I had covered earlier. I met another older couple walking down the hill and we stopped and chatted for a bit. I told them they should avoid the Lower Riverside and Coyote Road due to the muddy conditions and to stick with the tight cluster of trails in the center of the Park. We both continued on our separate ways with me going up and them going down. The uphill climb lasts almost a mile and is steep in a couple of places. Eventually, it levels out and is decent walking on the trail back to the Parking Lot.

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On the way back along Riverside, I walked in every puddle I could find and even tried walking in the wet grass in an effort to clean some of the mud off my boots. It helped a bit but they were due for a good cleaning when I got home. I am in the habit of changing into my hiking boots when I arrive at the Park so at least I did not have to drive and put mud all over the car. I met another older couple who were just leaving the office and stopped to chat with them and told them which trails to stay away from.

Altogether I covered about four and a half very long and difficult miles and have to say, that is the most miserable I have ever felt while out hiking due to the muddy conditions. My usually slow pace was reduced to a crawl. This was worse than being lost and in the dark at Pedernales Falls.

Being close to Bastrop, I drove in for my usual Latte and at the same time, stopped by the Tractor Supply Store and picked up their last two bags of Koi food. Nothing like taking advantage of the location.

Below are pictures of the trails and the river. It is easy to tell the upper section of Riverside as it is so much dryer and a different color.

As with all of these picture displays, if you click on anyone of them it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

A Few Thoughts…


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The temperature has dropped. We are probably through with the 100 degree plus days for this year. Now it is only 90 degrees but the humidity is high making it feel much warmer and very uncomfortable. I only have to walk around and I start to sweat. Heaven forbid that I do any actual work out in the garden other than the necessities to keep the ponds operating smoothly.

I planned on getting up early to go for a hike but instead, stayed in bed trying to sleep while the dogs were play wrestling all around and all over me. In the end, I gave up and got up. Maybe, I’ll hike tomorrow as it is forecast to be a bit cooler. Maybe…

I had a fish die and following my usual practice, tossed it over the fence into the woods behind my property for any of the carrion type predators to feed on. Natural re-cycling I call it. Needless to say, the buzzards moved in as they usually do, several of them at a time, perching in the trees awaiting their turn. This drove my little dogs nuts with those big black things perched up there and totally ignoring their frustrated barking from on the ground. The buzzards sense of smell and keen eyesight must be really phenomenal for them to locate a dead fish that is in a wood and hidden from their view a hundred feet below them. Plus, it’s not like they hover to locate anything. No, they are swooping around on the spirals and probably flying at a good rate of speed and yet they zoom in with unerring accuracy.

I spent some time reviewing the posts and bloggers that I follow on my own blog site,  http://pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/. There are nearly 500 of them and the list was becoming unmanageable as I could not read them all every day. So, I began to click the “reject” button on a few of them which included those that posted more than a couple of blogs a day or had subject matter that I was just not interested in. I had one blogger that posted 31 times today and have several that post anywhere from 4-6 times a day. Go figure…I felt a bit hypocritical “Liking” a post just in the hope they would “Like” mine especially when the subject matter was not something I was interested in, Religion for example.

Like all bloggers, I desperately need everyone to “Like” my site to increase the number of followers. We judge how good our writing is or how well our pictures have turned out by that magic number of “Likes”. We might even conclude that a particular post was successful because of the “Likes”. The problem is that it is sort of a self fulfilling prophesy as regardless of what the content of the others persons blog and whether we have a real interest in the subject, we automatically click the “Like” button in the hope that the blogger will reciprocate in kind. Most of our “Likes” are from other bloggers.

The same can be said about “Comments”which is another way of letting the Author know that you like (or dislike) the subject matter and that you have taken the time to comment. So, ideally, bloggers want lots of likes and lots of comments to make them feel good.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few sites that I am interested in and really follow them but for the rest, it is a two hour daily exercise in futility clicking their”Like” buttons, in the hopes they will reciprocate just to push up my own magic number.

It’s interesting what people like to read. Stuff I write that I think is pretty good is often ignored by my readers and yet, other posts which to me are rather ordinary or run of the mill get good reviews (Likes). I think it’s a visual thing as the posts with lots of pictures gets good and are well liked while the poems and other writing about various and different subjects are only treated as so-so.

As I mentioned many times in the past, I like to listen to Audiobooks. I find it very relaxing to hear a good story especially if the storyteller is talented with many voices to change the characters. My main interest is in the writing of the story itself and how the different authors are able to take something and turn it into a story with plots and sub plots, life and death and drama beyond belief with his or her well thought out words. My mind is just not devious enough to put together anything more than a straightforward story or a reporting of something that I attended and/or filmed or took pictures of.

That doesn’t mean I should stop trying. Who knows, one of these days I might get it right and end up with hundreds of “Likes”.

Walking Pedernales Falls 8-25-2016


DSC_3703-PanoI got up early with the intentions of going to Pedernales Falls State Park which is about an hour away from my house. I packed breakfast and coffee to consume on the way which got me out at least twenty minutes sooner. After checking the ponds and feeding the animals, I was on my way.

I listened to NPR on the way and then switched over to the latest Audiobook that I have been listening to. It gets very  addictive listening to these stories although I generally restrict them to use in the car. My current story is Dead Level by Damien Boyd which is very British and the narrators have the accents down to a tee. Almost makes me homesick until they talk about the rain and the wet weather in the book. Brings back too many memories of cold and wet days.

I came over the top of the hill and immediately had to come to almost a screeching stop as there was this little brown and white Terrier struggling up the hill and walking on the center line in the middle of the road. He must have a sore paw as he was definitely limping badly. I pulled up alongside of him and got out of the car. You never know with dogs how they will react and whether he would just run away or come to me. Luckily for both of us, he chose to trot over with his tail wagging looking up at me as though to say, “What took you so long”? He jumped in the car just as another car stopped and asked if everything was OK. I explained about the dog and he drove on his way probably figuring that I had the dog so he didn’t need to do anything.

The dog had on a collar that had two phone number printed several times around it. I have never seen a collar like that before and I was impressed.  I tried to call but could not get any cell service from where I was and chose to drive on to the top of the next hill. On the way, I drove down a couple of driveways to other peoples houses but in both cases, no one was home. I could hear dogs barking from within the houses which pretty much told me that the one in my car was not lost from either of these places.

When I reached the top of the hill, I pulled over and tried the phone numbers again. This time, I was able to make contact with a woman who said that “Yes, this was one of her dogs and that he was fifteen and a bit senile and was prone to wandering off”. She told me she lived on a ranch named “The Fiddlers Rest” and the name was on the gate and “Could I just leave the dog, whose name was Bo, at the gate and he would find his own way down to the Ranch House”. She was very thankful and appreciative that I was so concerned. I rang off, turned around and headed back over the low water crossing the way I had come. I remembered passing the ranch entrance as with a name like that, who wouldn’t.

All this time, Bo had been sitting on the consul between the seats very interested in my actions. He was a very nice little dog with a pleasant personality. He was obviously old at least in his demeanor as he just sat there quietly watching out the window as we drove.

I arrived back at The Fiddlers Rest and helped Bo get out of the car and carried him over to the gate. He slipped between the bars, triumphantly marked his property although a bit unsteady as he balanced on three legs, turned around and gave me a final look and trotted down the road to the Ranch House which I couldn’t see. He certainly knew where he was going. I called the lady back and told her that I had just dropped him off and that he was trotting down the driveway. She thanked me again and rang off. After he was gone, it occurred to me that I should have taken a picture of him. Oh well, too late now.

This whole incident had taken thirty minutes or more but I decided to continue with my plans and go walking. It took me about thirty more minutes to reach the Park and I was the only car in the lot although a couple of cyclists who I had passed earlier, pulled in at the lot while I was there. I spent time chatting to the young lady behind the desk as I asked questions about a trail named, “The East Boundary Trail”. It was one of those trails that dead ends and the only way back was to walk Pedernales Falls Road or backtrack. I dislike backtracking and will only do that if there is no other option so I chose not to walk it. Instead, I chose to walk the Madrone Trail going East from the Parking Lot on Pedernales Falls Road. I came to a spot where a couple of trees had come down blocking the trail although it was possible to walk around that spot and made a mental note to report it when I got back.

I crossed the road and continued on the Madrone Trail until it turned into the Juniper Ridge Trail. I don’t know why this trail was named that as the entire park is nothing but Juniper with a few Oak Trees thrown in here and there. The hiking on this part of the trail was not easy as most of the time, it was either very rocky with big slabs of limestone or just plain difficult with lots of loose limestone. In fact, it was tiring walking this path.

I eventually came out on Windmill Road which I knew from a week or so ago was  just a plain long uphill walk back to the Equestrian Camping Area. I stopped here to eat one of my apples and sat in the shade of a big old live oak whose branches swept down to the ground to make a perfect hideaway. The two water bottles that I had brought with me worked out just fine even accounting for the water I had shared with Bo. Luckily, it was not as hot with the temperatures hovering around 91-92 degrees.

I got back to the car and went through my usual routine for this time of the year by stripping off, toweling down and changing into dry clothes. I called the office to let them know of the fallen trees and the same young lady answered the phone. She recognized my voice and wisecracked about not getting lost this time. Seems I have a reputation at this park. Altogether, I covered 8.5 miles and had to admit that the rocky trail had really taken it out of me. I made the long drive back relishing in the feeling of tired and sore muscles.

There was not a lot to take pictures off. I missed my chance with Bo and there were no wildflowers on this trail. I have had to make do with views of the different trails. There are three pictures showing that someone had taken to time to protect plants close or on the trail by surrounding them with rocks. The pictures below are panorama’s made up of two or more pictures joined together.

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As with all of the pictures, if you click on one of them, it will enlarge and then you can use the side arrows to move along. Hit the “Escape” key to get back to normal

Back to the Service Center


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I had my car serviced just last Friday which I wrote about in “New Cars”. I noticed over the weekend that it was extremely noisy with the tires sounding much louder than normal and strange noises coming when I backed up or drove slow.

I knew that it was not like that when I took it in and it worried me enough that I decided to bring it back in this morning, today being Monday. I waited until the rush hour traffic had calmed down, at least as much as it does on Mopac and drove up to Covert Ford on Highway 183.

I was able to locate the Service Rep who had helped me last Friday and told him my problems. He wrote it all down and directed me to the Lounge. Me and the Lounge are getting to be old buddies, twice in 4 days.

While I was waiting, I like to put my time to good use and wrote one poem called “Thoughts” which will be posted in September and started to write this blog about my time spent here. Depending on what they found wrong would dictate the tone of this blog.

I had to wait a couple of hours and then my  Service Rep stopped by to tell me that they had located the problem and had it fixed. Apparently, when they had the car on Friday and had checked the wear on the brakes, the mechanic had forgotten to torque up the nuts which accounted for the drumming and squeaky brakes. There was no charge and of course they were very apologetic. I’m not saying that this is good but stuff happens and maybe the mechanic was having a bad hair day or had something on his mind. I thanked the Service Rep and went on my way.

As I have written many times, I like to listen to Audiobooks as I drive and I bring them in using my IPhone and Bluetooth to the car. It’s a great system and normally, pretty foolproof. Not today though, I stopped at Starbucks for a Latte and tried to get the stupid phone/radio/Bluetooth working and it would not connect no matter what I tried. Not being very far away from the Ford Dealer, I did a smart about face and hightailed it back up there and grabbed my Sales Rep and explained the latest problem.

As is usually the case just like every-time you go to a Doctor, the symptoms had mysteriously vanished. My Rep, sat in the car, took my phone, turned on the Bluetooth and it worked perfectly. I felt like an idiot and the Rep said he hadn’t done anything so neither of us knew why it started working again. I thanked him again very profusely and made the drive home taking my life in my hands with the increasing traffic and the notable idiots that make up 50 percent of the drivers in Austin.

Oh the joys of modern transportation…