Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Just a random image - but the words are all hers...

Hope everyone is having a good week.  We are busy and it is too hot, but we are enjoying our summer.  Obviously the cat(s) are enjoying the view from the comfortable air conditioned house.

Originally taken with my cell phone & can also be seen on instagram (without her thoughts); sherrycb.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shuttle Model to Nasa/Houston

I had intentions of posting this soon after it happened, but wow did we get busy this summer. 

Several weeks ago the shuttle model that had been on display in Florida was moved to Nasa (Johnson Space Center) near Houston.  Since it was summer, the kids & I jumped in the car & drove down to Kemah to watch.  Here are a few (actually a lot) images from that day.

Although is was very warm (hot to some), there was a good crowd (but not as packed as it could have been) hanging out along the Kemah boardwalk waiting with us. 

You could see the shuttle approaching on the barge accompanied by many departments providing security (coast guard, sheriff, etc).  I think we counted 5 helicopters and as the shuttle got closer to land, the helicopters hovered low/close enough that we felt the wind from their blades.

As it got closer, you could see how big the shuttle actually was.  Several people riding on the shuttle barge were video taping us. 

Lots of people gathered to take pictures & watch.  Even though it wasn't a previously flown shuttle, it was still exciting & something my kids may never see again.

Just a "little" security around the barge/shuttle, and a lot of civilians in sailboats hanging out in the bay getting their own great view.  The police boats made sure that the channel was kept clear - they didn't want any wake at all to move the barge (the shuttle was just sitting on top of it) and no telling what some crazy people would do these days.  A few boats thought they'd get a little closer & they were lucky enough to get a personal chat with the sheriff/coast guard.

The Kemah boardwalk area includes several restaurants, a hotel, shops, small amusement park, and an open area for live bands with a walk through fountain (pretty much a tourist area).  Locals come here as well - the landscaping is beautiful & you can sit by the water while you eat & watch the boats (some yachts) head out to Galveston Bay.  Seeing the shuttle pass through is definitely not one of the normal watercraft you'd expect though.

The shuttle met several challenges getting from Florida to Houston/Clear Lake - but this was an interesting one... the Kemah bridge.  I happen to be standing next to a tug boat operator who said there was only 3 inches of clearance on each side of the wings and the bridge supports... talk about close with no room for error.

Yeah!! Shuttle made it without touching anything (you can see more people gathered here as well).  The barge moved slowly throughout the trip, but during this critical point there was a tug boat in front of & behind the shuttle barge... can't be too careful (did I read that NY didn't quite get their shuttle moved as easily & without damage??? Sorry - just a little dig).

More security (with some nicely mounted automatic weapons of some type on the front - guess they mean business).  Who knew Texas Highway Patrol had boats too?  (Truly "Don't mess with Texas")

The civilian boats followed (behind the Texas Highway Patrol boats) all the way up the channel to Clear Lake.

Needless to say trying to get home was an adventure in itself.  However because we were stuck in traffic we were able to watch the shuttle move across Clear Lake.  More civilians were there to greet it - jet skis, wind surfers - many people on land as well.  (Taken from my vehicle, sitting in traffic on a bridge.)

The tug boats greeted the shuttle with a water spray (I'm sure there is an official term for this - but I don't know it) - there were actually 2 boats, but since I was kind of driving, stuck in traffic, couldn't change lenses - this is what I was able to capture.  There were a LOT of people at the temporary dock area where the shuttle would be lifted onto a flatbed & driven to Nasa later that weekend.  We didn't even try to come back for that. 

There has been a lot of discussion in our area about Nasa (& home of mission control) getting a raw deal and not getting a "real" shuttle - some very heated discussions. I've read online & in the newspaper that maybe getting this particular one isn't such a bad deal - we will be able to walk around inside of it.  Yes it was at Florida's visitor's center for 15 years, but it is here now.  It is supposed to be open to the public in the fall - we'll probably go & check it out.  One word of advise if you plan a trip to Space Center Houston/Johnson Space Center/Nasa -- bring $$$.  It is expensive. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review - Wild

I don't usually post book reviews and don't participate in book clubs (not even Oprah's), but am going to give this a try.

I downloaded the Oprah bookclub version onto my Nook.  One of the first things I noticed as I read through it was highlights done by Oprah.  Okay - so these statements/passages were interesting to her or caught her attention, but the heavy highlighting came through as nearly black on my Nook (I have the 1st generation).  Lately I sometimes need reading glasses to help me see the words, and with the "highlighting" - it was difficult - even with the glasses (just a personal pet peeve).. probably on a tablet it came through differently.

As to the book itself - overall I enjoyed it.  I knew it wasn't going to be humorous like Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods", but also didn't expect her to be a heroin user and at times sex seemed to be the only thought she had - including while she was on the trail (although I do understand she had just experienced the death of her mother - just didn't expect those thoughts while on the trail though).  The book begins at a very sad point in her life & I cried right along with her.  I did like how she named her pack Monster - that pack was a challenge of its own.  There were a couple of places that I totally skipped (Lady's death) just because I didn't want to cry again.  Throughout the hike she realizes how unprepared she was for that undertaking (which is an understatement) - she was extremely lucky several times throughout that summer to receive help from kind strangers & even avoided being possibly molested (being a woman alone on the trail was good/bad in her case); I was surprised how she thought $20 would last her from point A to point B - I don't go on those types of hikes, and knew she underestimated her needs.  I really thought at one point she would stop in one of the small towns for a while & work as a waitress to get her a few more dollars in her pocket.

I'm glad it was a positive life experience for her & she went on to live a good life, find love & be able to reflect back on the experience to write the book.  There were a few things I wished she would have included more of/better descriptions: 
- ability to see the other hikers in my mind's eye (her descriptions of them were lacking a bit, or maybe I was reading too quickly)
- she carried her camera all those miles, what/who did she take pictures of? I would have liked to have seen some of those included in the book
- she carried a notebook/journal - some of those actual pages would have been interesting to see - her raw feelings of the day
- did her feet ever recover completely?  (Trivial I know - but at times it was the trail vs her feet)
- did her & her siblings ever grow close again?  what about Paul whom she felt was her best friend?

(Book cover image lifted from internet)

Exploring with a Camera - Linear Perspective (2)

This image includes obvious (and what seems to be my preferred) linear perspective (the bridge made it easy!).  Taken at Lake Texana State Park, this foot bridge, located on a hiking trail, has memories for our family - memories of watching the wildlife (especially the water snake grabbing & eating/swallowing a fish) in the stagnant water below it.  Just wish the dappled shade provided as much relief as it appears in the image (it was HOT).

We recently visited this state park & learned it would be closing July 15, so our "last" visit was bittersweet.  I posted about our trip here

Linking up with Kat Eye Studio's Exploring with a Camera.  To see other images with linear perspectives - check out her website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Goodbye Lake Texana State Park

We recently camped at Lake Texana State Park and discovered (sadly) that the state was terminating their lease.  The closing date is July 15, 2012 - very soon.  Why?  The state doesn't have the funds to maintain & staff the park (hurricanes, fires, drought have taken a toll on the state park funds - not to mention the already declining economy).  We have camped at this lake for the last 4 years and will surely miss the calmness of the park.  Lake Texana State Park wasn't the fanciest or even the busiest/most popular state park (no designated swimming area, no full hookups, not close to any major city), but that's part of the reason we enjoyed going there - we were able to fully unplug from our daily routine & just enjoy each other's company surrounded by nature usually with a breeze coming off the lake (and almost regular sightings of deer meandering around the edge of the woods/campsites).  Here are a few images along with a few personal memories.

The lights on one of the fishing piers seems to have either been cleaned or replaced, or maybe we were just noticing everything again since we knew it was all changing.  There was also a storm coming, but it ended up going around the park.

The lake has mostly recovered from the drought, but could use a bit more rain (still a huge improvement).  Look at my old posting which included a picture of Lake Texana during 2011 - not taken in the exact same place, but close: Texas Drought

Because the state park is away from a major city, sunset colors come through vividly at times.  The grouping of trees was interesting (to me).

I'm standing on a bridge along one of the hiking trails - this slough sometimes has water, sometimes not.  Right now it is full of duckweed & is pretty stagnant - can you just imagine what is lurking under all that green?  What is special about this particular place? - the first year we camped at the park (years ago) our family stood on this bridge and watched a water snake catch a small fish, drag it closer to shore & eat/swallow it - just like on Mational Geographic, and we were the only ones who saw it.  I tried to take pictures of it, but they came out terrible - it was at that moment I decided to invest in a DSLR & decent lenses.

This is from another trail - kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the trees/limbs form a natural arch - very scenic spot.  My son (who was maybe 7 or 8 at the time) noticed the archway before I did - he knew I was looking for interesting things to photograph and being the ever-helpful son that he is - put on his "good eyes" and saw this natural formation. 

The park itself isn't being vacated, the lease is being transferred to a private company - a company who runs/owns the Breckenridge Recreation Complex across the street - they have a "campground" - I use italics because it is almost a resort type atmosphere - paintball, golf, etc).  This is also a campground where participants can stay who are showing/competing in the main arena - like rodeos, etc.  That park is casually known as the "party park" - word has it that the state park will remain the "nature" side, but some full hookup sites will be added as well as more water/elec sites.  Most of the staff is staying with the park & leaving state employment, so you'll see familiar faces if you visit.

I cut/pasted the following from their website - didn't know how quickly the park information would disappear.
"Lake Texana State Park is 575 acres located east of Edna in central Jackson County, halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi. The park was acquired by a 50-year lease agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation/Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in 1977 and was opened in September 1981. The park is located on Lake Texana, a reservoir on the Navidad River, and covers 11,000 surface acres, with approximately 125 miles of shoreline.
Lake Texana was named for the historic town of Texana, founded in 1832 near the junction of the Navidad and Lavaca rivers downstream from the present dam site"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Focus 52 2012 (week 23) - Get Down

Almost too busy this week to take many pictures, but managed to get one for this week's prompt - Get Down.

Feet - horse feet & girl's feet in rubber boots - this is what I saw most of the time this past week at ground level.  We helped out at the barn this week during several activities, so between the dirt, the heat & the horse work (tacking up, leading, etc) - I've been a little worn out.  Once a week my daughter washes tails & grooms those horses who don't get groomed/brushed regularly.  She's probably one of the few people who actually wear out rubber boots. 

Linking up with Two Scoopz Focus 52.  Click here to see other images that were taken from a different point of view - down.