Sunrise @ GWRVR … Moving Into the ‘Smart Age’ … and More

Thursday, 23 October 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 79F (26C) / LO 71F (22C)

The days here at GWRVR are whizzing by.  The truth of the matter is that our days always seem to go by at the speed of light, so I’ll try not to repeat that statement again — LOL!

Honestly, there are lots of times when we’re just sitting, enjoying our patio, watching critters that come to visit, reading, or what have you.  In other words, times when we are chilling and not doing much, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the speed with which the days get away from us.

I just took photos of the results of the 408 facelift, but haven’t processed them yet — promise … I’ll have them ready soon.  In the meantime, I’ll share some of the other photos I’ve taken over the past few days as I bring you up to speed on the goings on in the world of Two to Travel.

I’ll start with sunrise today.  The image above is from the big pond here at GWRVR … the one that is closer to the beach; the one we enjoyed when we were renting here this winter.  The one below is from the beach … not far from the GWRVR boardwalk.  Amazing how the colors changed in the span of mere minutes.

Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico.

I have to admit I’m particularly pleased with the sunrise images in this post.  Why?  Because I took them with Mui’s Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone.  Aaah, yes — we’ve finally left the dark ages behind to join the ‘smart age’.  We were forced into this move when it was announced that Verizon “acquired” Millenicom’s accounts.  I put the word acquired in quotes because it is not exactly clear what happened.  And it really doesn’t matter.  Regardless of the circumstances, the end result was the same — after five good years with Millenicom, the company was no longer an option for our internet services.

An immature Great Blue Heron joins us for sunrise over the Gulf this morning.

At this stage, no one knows what Verizon is going to do for those who were with Millenicom.  We could have waited to find out, but decided to take advantage of Verizon’s double-data promotion before it ends on 31 October.  We did consider AT&T, by the way, as they have a similar promotion.  In the end, though, we felt that leaving Verizon in a huff would have been akin to cutting off our noses to spite our faces, so we stuck with the carrier that has been our ‘real’ provider all along.

Long story short, we now have 40GB of shared data for the price of 20GB.  With Mui’s military discount, we got the deal for less than what we would have paid had we opted to double up our data with Millenicom — if they were still around.  Our no-contract arrangement includes two smartphones — my iPhone is on back order; and a Verizon sim card for our mi-fi device.  The tablets also share in the data.

Amid all these changes, we decided to give up the landline service we’ve had for ages with Vonage for family to call us from overseas.  We initiate most of those calls, anyway, and our Tracfones will work nicely to make those calls when we don’t use the TruPhone app on our computers.  The savings from the Vonage service covers most of the Verizon access fees, making our new internet package that much more palatable.

Beach camping — they’ve been here for a while now and obviously fared well
during the rainstorm that dumped 7 inches (178 mm) on us two days ago.

OK — enough about our internet woes and how we resolved them.  One impact the potential loss of internet had was on our plans to leave GWRVR on 1 November to spend three weeks in San Antonio before our upcoming overseas vacation.  Unsure how long it was going to take us to resolve matters, we canceled those plans.  We’ll be staying at our home pad until it is time to take off on our trip.  We’re sorry to miss out on exploring San Antonio, but the upside to our decision is that we get to enjoy the changes we made to the site for a bit longer — along with the dragonflies and damselflies … their numbers have diminished greatly since that one day of mating frenzy, but there are still a few of them around.


Speaking of our home pad, we had occasion last week to entertain some friends — old and new.

A couple of weeks ago, Marjie and Bill reached out to us to say they were coming down to Port A.  We were thrilled and once their date was set, invited them to join us for some bison burgers on the grill.  We met Marjie and Bill on our Antarctic expedition in 2007.  We’ve stayed in touch since — mostly Christmas greetings and the occasional Facebook contact.  Just like it is with RV’ers, we picked up with these travel buddies right where we had left off … as though it hadn’t been seven years since we’d last been together.  Conversation was non-stop, often studded with laughter.  When they left late that evening, it was with promises not to let seven years go by between visits.  Unfortunately, the cancellation of our San Antonio plans means a repeat of the great time we enjoyed here will have to wait for a bit.

No photos from our get together with Marjie and Bill, I’m afraid.

Then, on Sunday, we hosted new friends at Site 408.  We received an email from fellow-Phaetonites Marianne and Steve earlier this month.  My blog had popped up when they were researching the work Brannon Hutchison does on Tiffin motorhomes.  Living in the Corpus area, and planning to start fulltiming next year, they asked if they could come and chat with us and see our home.  The get together was delayed due to scheduling conflicts, but better late than never.  Shared interests meant there was no lull in the conversation and a good time was had by all.  We’re going to hold them to the promise of bringing steaks to share for dinner here at our home pad when we return from our vacation in the spring.

Alas no photos of Marianne and Steve either.  Part of the reason why neither get together was documented is that we were having so much fun conversing that I simply forgot to take pictures.  The other part — probably the real underlying reason — is that I am essentially a shy person.  Yes, I know; hard to believe.  But this shyness is big factor when it comes to taking ‘people pics’.

Dubbed 747 by Mui for the way our resident Great Blue Heron flies in — squawking and
flapping — to visit our pond, we’re delighted to see him back after a multi-day absence.
You see, the last time we saw him, he was standing atop a pergola, a half-swallowed
plastic bag dangling from his mouth.  We were very concerned for his well-being;
glad to see he survived and is back to fishing in our neighborhood.

OK – wrapping up with a story from this morning.  The characters are …

The immature Great Blue Heron that was watching the sunrise with us …

… and the critter that Mui is returning to the sea.

During our walk this morning, we came across a baby sea turtle on the beach.  It looked dead at first, but when we approached it, we realized it was alive.  We think it was washed ashore with the seaweed that is once again littering the beach near the dune-line.  We know that picking up a hatchling to help it along to the water is a no-no, but this one was not a newborn, so we didn’t think there would be harm in helping it reach the water a little faster.  I hope we were right to do so.

The turtle seemed happy to be back in its watery domain, paddling swiftly into deeper water despite the waves with which it was doing battle.  So, where does the GBH come into the story?  After the release, we continued our walk a short distance further, cutting it short when we found a nice piece of driftwood for our patio landscaping.  On the way back, we saw that the GBH had gotten ahold of the baby turtle by its carapace and was trying to figure out how to make a meal of it.  It kept dunking it in the water — perhaps in hopes of softening it up a bit.  After about five minutes, it gave up and let the turtle go.  The last we saw of the little guy, it was furiously paddling into deeper water.

And that brings y’all up to speed … for now.

408 Gets a Face Lift … Mui’s Handiwork

Monday, 20 October 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 80F (27C) / LO 74F (23C) — Raining cATS & DOGS

The contractors wrapped up their part of the facelift in late September.  Then it was time for Mui to get his hands dirty and put the finishing touches on the project.  The daytime temperatures were still quite hot, and most days were humid, but with the heavy lifting out of the way, he managed to get his to-do list completed by the second week in October.

Sealing the storage space under the kitchen counter to keep it critter-free and dry.
plenty of room for a few plastic shelves and the propane tank for the grill.

The pipe is for the grey-water discharge from the sink; connects to the sewer line.

an ordinary cutting board gets customized as a sink cover.

Adding esperanzas to the landscaping near the ‘TV room’ — for color and privacy.
The area around the tree and the esperanzas is going to be one big planting bed.

Some succulents for variety.
The driftwood — we’re collecting from the beach ;-)

MBZ gets in on the landscaping action, pruning the esperanzas
to help the roots get established more quickly.

The first of the solar lights gets installed.

Time to get the mortar up on the backsplash of the patio kitchen.
The yellow-stuff in the holes is self-expanding foam — used to plug
the holes and prevent the mortar from oozing out the back of the wall.

With the design for the accent tiles drawn on the mortar, the individual pieces go up
and are taped in place with duct tape — the only thing that worked on the mortar.
Thanks MBZ for finding the perfect talavera tile that served as our inspiration.

With the construction glue adhering the tiles to the backsplash dry, the duct tape is removed,
the tiles are covered with masking tape, and the second layer of mortar is applied.

Cleaning up the mortar and painting the backsplash is the last step.

A fresh coat of paint brightens the shed.

The reveal of Site 408 comes next.

408 Gets a Facelift … Contractor Work

Saturday, 18 October 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 82F (28C) / LO 74F (23C)

I mentioned in earlier posts that we were doing some work on our home pad here at GWRVR.

As you can see from the image to the right, site 408 already had the basics.  The facelift we gave it was to add our touch and make the site “our own.”  Primarily, our goal was to plant a few more trees for shade and privacy, and create a few ‘rooms’ — as MBZ described the new living spaces — in order to take advantage of the shade on the patio at various hours of the day.

The bulk of the work was finished before the end of September.  We’ve entertained friends; enjoyed a couple of meals on our own.  With the hot and humid summer days giving way to nice fall weather, we’re taking every opportunity to sit on the patio … making the most of it before we take off for a few months at the end of October.

I’m going to do the unveiling in three parts.  This post will focus on the work done by a contractor — Johnson Greenhouses, a family-owned business that has been in operation for about 25 years.  Forrest and his crew are well-known around GWRVR for the quality of the work they do.  From the plans drawn up for the previous owner of #408, it was obvious to us that Johnson had done at least part of the original work, so when the company was recommended to us by several satisfied GW owners, our decision was made easy.

[Click any image for a larger photo.]

Digging out the ’library’.

Digging out the ‘TV room’.

Tamping down the base for the pavers.

Ditch for the electricity and water lines … from our utilities to the cooking area to
convert it into a patio kitchen.  A gray-water line was also put in, but I didn’t get a photo.

some of the Bricks and the tile counter from the cooking area (left)
are removed in the conversion to make it a patio kitchen.

Once the retaining wall is built, small wedges are cut to fill in the gaps in the cap.

After filler bricks are placed over the door to fill the gap created by the
removal of the tile counter, the base for the concrete counter is secured in place.

Left: the yellow foam will give the concrete counter top a rounded, dimpled edge.
Right: The cutout for the sink is covered and framed to keep the concrete out when it is poured.

Just for fun!

Here comes the first batch of concrete for the counter top.

If you can’t scoop out the concrete with a bucket, just upend the wheelbarrow.

Putting the finishing touches and …

… calling it a day; Mui now gets to wet down the concrete for a few days so it cures properly.

Here come the two fan palms we’re adding for privacy.

Admiring the fan palms before getting to work digging holes to plant them.
Note in the photo on the right the symmetrical placement planned for the trees.

As the fan palm goes in on one side, Mui waters the Texas Sabal Palm we added behind the kitchen.

Those fans are going to look gorgeous after they are untied and continue to mature.

Tim smoothes out the floor of the ‘TV room’ for the pavers to be laid.

Basic layout done in the ‘TV Room’ and the ‘Library’ … now to fill in the gaps with pavers cut-to-size.

Polishing the concrete counter is the last step before the sink goes in.

Could Mui have done the work Forrest and his crew did.  Yes; we all know he is handy when it comes to such projects and he could have easily done at least some of it.  But we decided that tackling the digging, paving, and concrete work at the height of summer was best left to people used to working under such hot and humid conditions.  The guys did yeoman’s work … and for that we thank them.

Next up: Mui gets his hands dirty with the detail work for the project.