Friday, May 28, 2010

Hey, No Fair!

She lurks in the shadows, watching as I take the bike out the door...or bring in groceries...anything that gives her enough time to appear out of her hiding spot and make a mad dash for the door.  We usually run after her.  She waits until we get almost to her at the bottom of the stairs, then darts around us to run back up and down the back staircase.  Sometimes she takes off down the path to the park.  If she makes it to the woods, we'll never find her.  She hisses and spits at everyone.  No one will take her in if she gets lost.        

Until I had an armful of groceries and couldn't chase her right away.  I slammed the door shut so the other cat wouldn't get out as well and went to the kitchen to put the groceries on the counter.  I heard a scratch and a pitiful, "Mew."  I opened the door to find her sitting there with a confused look on her face.  "That's not how we play this game..." her expression said.  I haven't chased her since.    

Thursday, May 27, 2010

iPhone Geocaching App

For those who have been reading my posts on geocaching and thinking it is something they might like to try, I just wanted to make sure you knew that there is a geocaching app available for the iPhone.  If yours is GPS enabled, check here for more info.  You can download from iTunes for $9.99 if your phone is compatible.

I use the Magellan eXplorist GC.  I love it because it downloads not only the coordinates, but the description, hints, and last ten logs from the website.  There is no need to print hard copies of anything.  It holds 10,000 caches so there is no danger of my running out of space.  I found mine at Target for about 80 dollars less than the Amazon listed price but I'm not sure if that's still the price.  It's worth checking.

You can use any GPSr that allows you to add waypoints, but below are links to two that are specifically designed for geocaching.

If you try it, let me know.  If you don't, feel free to continue to travel vicariously with me on my geocaching adventures.  It may be awhile before I get tired of this.  It's almost as addictive as blogging.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


He's got to be the most adorable geocache I've found so far.  My route took me along part of the waterway again.  Other than the kitty, the highlight of the evening was the birds.  The egret was there and this time he brought a friend.


They let me get within 10 feet before flying away, and even then only moved about 20.  They just wanted a little more elbow room is all.  They seem to be used to people.

I've been enjoying reading some of the logs of the caches I've already found to see what other people write.  The cardinal is still standing guard, scolding.  One geocacher wrote that he half expected her to dive at him screaming "mine, mine" like the seagulls in Finding Nemo.  I also don't feel so bad about the caches that I didn't find when I read the next person couldn't find it, either.           

Monday, May 24, 2010

Galveston's Lost Oaks

Click to enlarge the images to see the details of the sculptures.  They are amazing.

Galveston's streets used to be lined with majestic oak trees until Ike's storm surge killed them.  Salt water topped the seawall and flooded the neighborhoods.

Local artists have begun carving the stumps into magnificent sculptures.  Bayou City Outdoors did a bike tour of them this weekend. 


I had a tough time deciding on favorites.  They were all beautiful.  There was also a mermaid, an angel, and by the fire station there were a huge fire hydrant and dalmation.     

The sculptures were all on private property, but none of the homeowners complained.  Several came outside to find out who we were and where we were from.  The man in the picture above was genuinely excited to see us.  He told us the Greek column design was his wife's idea.  It symbolizes work left unfinished, or something like that.  I wish I'd videotaped him.  He said, "This is awesome!  I'm so happy to see you guys!"  As we were leaving, someone told me he was the new mayor of Galveston.  That explains why he was so giddy about seeing almost 40 cyclists touring the island.  His city relies upon tourism, which has not been what it once was.  There is still a lot of rebuilding to be done.     


Those are some of our bikes on the ferry.  Cyclists don't have to wait in line with the cars.  Even with this many, we rode up to the front and walked on.  The ferry is free and a lot of people ride just to site-see.  There is a lot provided for anyone to park and walk on if they wish.  We saw a few dolphins and pelicans, but the uncooperative beasts refused to pose for photos.    

So you'll have to settle for one of me.  

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Demolition Derby

Roz Kelly, On The Road

Image from Flickr.

It took me an hour and a half to drive to Galveston this morning, and three hours to drive back this evening.  I counted 4 wrecks, one of them major.  Did I forget about a holiday?  I remembered my daughter had to drive the same road to get home and started worrying.  I had to call to make sure she got home ok.   

I'm exhausted.  I'm going to have to wait to visit your blogs until tomorrow.  Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Par for the Course

I didn't find the above geocache.  I just thought it was really cool.

Goecaching has replaced my normal walks for now.  The caches so far have been hidden close enough that I can walk to them and get my exercise.  It's so much more fun than going to the gym.  Temps here are already hot enough that I have to either go very early in the morning or late in the evening.  The sun set around two hours ago and it's still 77 degrees F with 86% humidity.  

My route this evening took me past the Houston Shell Open golf course.  You may have seen it on TV.  No, it's not called the Houston Shell Open, but that's where it's been played.  Click to enlarge the 9th hole photo to read about Mike Sullivan's history here.  


I searched for more than a half an hour for the first cache and didn't find it.  A previous visitor logged that we should bring a stick to retrieve this one because it's hidden in a scary spot for East Texas.  I beat around the underbrush in areas that looked like a good hiding spot where I wouldn't want to put my hands with no luck, and finally maked it DNF (did not find).  My GPS holds the 10 previous logs, but there are many more available online along with photos sometimes.  After reading them I think I have a better idea of where to search and what the cache looks like.  I'll go back and try again soon.


The next cache was another easy light pole find.  Again, it was hidden under the metal box covering the bolts.  That rubber spider jumped out at me as soon as I opened the pill bottle.  I've noticed in the logs that a lot of families are geocaching with their children  and decided I'm going to leave something in every one that I find, even if I don't take anything.  The only thing I had that was small enough was a couple of bandages.  When I was a kid, I loved Band-Aids.  I put them in.


Finally, I ended up beside this pond.  What a lovely picnic spot it would make.  My route often takes me past great spots like this.  I may have to start earlier and pack a lunch.  

It was getting too dark to search in a wooded area, so I had to mark this one DNF as well and head home.   

Friday, May 21, 2010


My Classroom, I, originally uploaded by Robert Pollack.
Image from Flickr

The Texas Board of Education has decided that students should no longer be taught that the United States is a democratic republic. They should be taught that it is a constitutional republic. Huh?????

Until this semester, I had never heard of B.C.E. and C.E. I thought it must be because I graduated so many years ago. Nope. "In final edits leading up to the vote, conservatives rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D." My daughter will be scratching her head when she first hears it, too.

The full article is here:

This is our tax dollars at work...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Three More Geocaches

I went caching again this evening.  The first one I found was in a prescription pill bottle under the metal guard of a lightpost again.  It was easy to now that I know to check there.  Team s.w.e.e.t.a.u.g.u.s.t left a hand- decorated calling card.  Cute!  I took their's and left one of my own.  


I found the next cach in a wooded area hanging from a tree.  Sweet August left another cute card of a different design, but I already have one so I didn't take it.  I must have been near a bird's nest because what I thought was a cardinal was chirping loudly at me.  Upon looking at the photo, I'm wondering if it's even a cardinal.  I have to find my field guide.

Finally, I wandered back to the waterway to find another one of the nano caches at another taxi stop.  I found the cache, but it was too far up in it's hiding spot for me to reach with my fingers.  I marked it as found, but will go back with a magnet or a wire to see if I can get it out and initial the log.  Another feathered friend took a stroll with me along the water's edge.  


I uploaded my first video to YouTube!  Yay me!  All photos and VIDEOS on this post are mine.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Image from Flickr.

My daughter still has another year of school before she gets her cosmotologist's license, but she got her shampoo license in the mail yesterday.  She's excited that she'll get to start looking for her first job soon. 

Did you remember to tip your shampoo girl?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stranger Danger

Image from Flickr.

A young man (who I'd never before met or even seen) approached me in the parking lot this afternoon wanting to know if I could do him a favor. "What kind of favor?" I asked.

"I live on B___ Rd. Can you give me a ride?"

"I can't give you a ride. I don't know you."

"I'm a nice guy."

"And if you were an axe murderer planning to chop me to bits I'm sure you'd tell me."

When I got inside my daughter asked what he wanted. "That's weird," she said. "If he can walk over here, he can walk back."

That is weird. I'm glad my daughter recognizes that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Woodlands Waterway

The Woodlands Waterway connects the hotel/convention center to restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.  Take a free trolley...

...spend a few dollars on the water taxi...

...or take a stroll.  This a popular spot for joggers, walkers, and ducks.

Have lunch at one of the restaurants, shop at the mall or on Market Street, and then catch a show at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Lawn seats are reasonably priced and even free for some events.

I found two more geocaches today.  I walked the half mile from my home to the waterway and found these.  When they said small, they meant it. 

The tiny canister opens to reveal the miniature log.  


There's only room for initials and no place to leave a calling card.  For the location of these and over a million more geocaches hidden worldwide, visit

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sticks and Stones

My sister-in-law sent a friend request on Facebook. She said she would like to get to know me. When I had dinner with my other brother we were discussing her, her husband, and the kids. They are raising them the same way we were raised. They yell at the kids for the most minor of transgressions...telling them they are stupid, worthless...

I'm not going to approve her request.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Got It

I went back to find one of the caches I missed yesterday.  The clue was "walk toward the light."  So I looked all around the lightpost.  I looked all around the base, in cracks in the curb, in the bushes behind the light...where the heck was it?

Oh, there it is! 

I signed the log and put one of my new cache calling cards in it (click to enlarge for a closer look) .  From reading geocaching blogs, I've discovered a lot of people have these and some collect them.  If I see that Illinois card in another cache, I'm taking it.         

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Hunting

I took my first hike dedicated to geocaching today and found 2 of the 4 I had time to search for.  The first one was supposed to be easy to find and everyone who looked before me found it.  It was near a daycare and I was worried people would start wondering about the crazy woman lurking in the woods, so I decided to move on.  It's only 950 feet from my door so I can go back and try again another time.

Next, I searched for one that the clue was to go to the sculpture where the owner goes to watch fireworks.  I followed the GPS signal, and soon found this:

There are sculptures scattered throughout The Woodlands.  This does seem like a great place to view the fireworks.  I may go back there on the 4th of July.  I found this one!  My first official cache - the others were an accidental find.        

I'm not the only one who left a calling card in this one.  Someone from Illinois was geocaching in the Houston area.  He laminated his.  I put in one of my blog cards.  I think I need to create a version just for geocaching.  I doubt I'll laminate mine, though.  Click to enlarge the photo if you'd like a closer look.

The next cache was supposed to be hidden near the bowling alley.  I had to cross the freeway to get to it.  Don't worry, I didn't run across traffic lanes like an idiot.  I walked in the emergency stopping lane of an overpass like an idiot.  It was hidden in some razor sharp blades of grass.  I managed to keep from getting cut, but didn't find this one.  The last few people didn't find it, either, so I don't feel so bad.  I'll probably wait until someone else reports finding it before I try again.

Finally, I searched for one near a local playground.  I found it!


I walked past it twice before spotting it.  The log and the contents were a little damp, but I still signed the log and added one of my cards.  The trinkets inside didn't interest me, but the fun is in finding them and seeing who else found them before you.  My unknown friend from Illinois left his card in this one, too.  There are also trackable items you can leave in the caches and watch how far they travel.  I may get one or two of those.     


Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Toy

I bought a new toy and completely lost track of time playing with it.  I now have a geocaching GPS and discovered there are at least 20 hidden within a mile of my apartment.  I went to to get hints, descriptions, etc.  I downloaded the info and hopefully I'll feel well enough to get outside and start hunting tomorrow.  Fun!  (It was cheaper at Target.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Couple of Kayak Pics

I'm on the right in a dark helmet and blue shirt under my PFD and spray skirt.

 That's me, too...

I received an email that said, "Michelle Kvanli, who is our instructor Ben's wife, is the number 3 kayaker in the country right now and our lessons [the BCO group] are going towards helping her get to the Olympics."  Sounds like a good cause to me.

The kayak school also offers a membership that includes kayak and equipment rental for $35 a month and private lessons for an additional $10 an hour. Considering kayak rentals here are $40 a day, that sounds reasonable. I may sign up and see how much I use my membership benefits. San Marcos is only a couple of hours away.  I just need a little time to work up the nerve again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inspection Complete

Range Kleens Under the Sink Organizer

Image from Flickr.  I need one of those under sink organizers

I felt well enough this morning to empty the cabinets below the sinks.  I threw out half of the stuff I found under there.  Why do I still have plant food when I haven't had a garden in three years?  And why is it under the sink?  I started scrubbing counters, tubs, toilets, even floors and threw out three bags worth of clutter.  Then my face started hurting again and I crashed on the couch.

Maintenance was here for less than five minutes doing their inspection.  They pushed the button on the smoke detector, changed the AC filter, made a couple of notes, and left.  What was the point of that? 

When my daughter came home she looked at the bags on the porch and said, "Where did those come from?"

"The trash fairy must have come."

She looked at me with that you're so not funny glare that teens have.

"Where do you think it came from?"

"Were you bored or something?"

Have you ever had those days when you completely understand why some parents beat their children?  Or why they used to marry them off so young?       

Monday, May 10, 2010


The Pollenator..., originally uploaded by PamiKnows.
Image from Flickr.

My apartment management company is doing their annual inspection tomorrow and I'm supposed to take everything out from under the kitchen and bathroom sinks so they can check for leaks. I don't want to. My allergies have made me miserable all day. I think it's allergies. My face hurts. I don't see any pine pollen...maybe I have a summer cold.

Do they really need to come in? Can't I just tell them I checked and there is no leak? I know how to change my own AC filter and smoke detector batteries. If I feel like this tomorrow I'm not going to be in the mood for company. Maybe I'll hang a quarantine sign and refuse to answer the door...

Sunday, May 9, 2010


30 Rockefeller Center - Atlas, originally uploaded by jhandelman.
There is one less load on my shoulders this week. We went back to court to show the judge that my daughter has fulfilled all the requirements for deferred adjudication. She did all of the community service, gave a letter of apology to the department store, and we both took a Decisions class ordered by the court.

In this class, a woman from the juvenile division of TDC told the kids what life in the juvenile jail was like. She showed them the uniforms, including the underwear the kids had to wear. You should have seen their faces when she informed them that someone else will have probably been wearing them the day before. They were laundered daily, but still...EEEUUUUU. She also explained how they would have no privacy - not even in the shower. I think it was an effective speech. They should have her talk to all the students in the public schools.

We also had to do a group exercise in which we were told there had been a disaster and we had to decide on 6 people to save out of 10 choices. There were:

1. A nuclear scientist who caused the accident.
2. The wife of the nuclear scientist who is four months pregnant.
3. A Marxist revolutionary, 3rd year university student.
4. A famous sixty year-old psychologist author.
5. A noted TV celebrity host.
6. Statistician
7. A fifty year- old alcoholic priest
8. A professional football player, very low IQ.
9. A very bright secondary high school student
10. A former presidential assistant who is clever but shifty.

I said to axe the scientist, the Marxist revolutionary, the shifty presidential assistant, and the alcoholic priest. The scientist who caused the problem is not invited, the Marxist revolutionary is out because I would not want him to be pushing for a communist society, we don't need any clever but shifty people in any variety, and the priest is out because he's an alcoholic. There were people who disagreed but I argued until I got my way. After we presented our choices, the instructor asked everyone who did they want on the list that wasn't there and did we make an argument to save them. I was the only one who could say "No one, I argued until I got my way." I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

Who would you have saved?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bottoms Up

Rio Vista San Marcos
Rio Vista San Marcos
Images from Flickr. These were taken at the same spot I was kayaking today.  There are some photos of me but I don't have them yet.

I made my first attempt at white water kayaking today. BCO arranged a Kayaking 101 class with Olympian Ben Kvanli at Power Olympic Outdoor Center in San Marcos. He's an amazingly patient teacher.

We had to practice what to do if our kayaks tipped before we could head down the river. You're supposed to tuck close to the kayak and knock on the boat to signal someone to come and flip you back up. The first time I kayaked on a lake and had to flip my kayak I had an asthma attack, I think probably because of the sudden change of temperature, so I was extremely nervous. I hoped one of the assistant instructors would help me because I didn't want to look stupid in front of Ben. No such luck.

I think he has asthma! He said he avoids cold places for that reason and suggested I relax and swallow when I first come up instead of immediately taking a breath. It helped! He also only turned my kayak halfway for a short moment the first time so when we did it for real it wouldn't be such a shock. It worked. I flipped my kayak, knocked on the hull, then he flipped me back up and reminded me about the swallowing trick. No asthma attack. So far so good.

Next, we had to practice a wet exit. We were wearing spray skirts which attach to a lip around the opening to the cockpit to seal water out. The first time I tried a wet exit, I couldn't get the skirt off the kayak. I had to knock on the hull to get him to flip me back up. He said, "You realize you are stuck with me this entire trip now? You and I are joined at the hip." That made me feel a little embarrassed but much safer. He showed me how to grasp the grab loop with both hands and pull up while pushing back with your legs and use your entire body to get free, then waited patiently while I practiced a few times upright and psyched myself up to try again.

We headed down the river and practiced a few paddling strokes.  I've paddled kayaks on the lake before, so I think I did pretty well.  Then we got to the rapids.  San Marcos has a waterpark with a series of three man-made waterfalls perfect for kayaking.  The first one looked to me like a scary drop almost straight down.  The two people who went just before me stalled on the rocks and flipped.  I wanted to make sure I didn't stall so I paddled hard to get up some speed when it was my turn.  I went down with no problem.  Ben was at the bottom videotaping and yelling, "That was awesome, Jennifer!  Way to charge that drop!"  Yay!  That was fun.  At this point I wasn't feeling embarrassed any more.

The second rapid required us to leave the calm water of an eddy into fast moving water flowing in the opposite direction, then line ourselves up to go down the center of the small waterfall.  I started out great.  I lined myself up to enter the white water, raised the right side of my kayak with my right knee like we practiced, then my kayak spun backwards.  When I was turning it back around, I didn't lift the correct side of the boat and over I went.  I knocked on the hull and waited for someone to flip me back up.  No one came.  I knocked again.  Still nothing.  I'm sure they'll be here any minute.  I knock and wait some more.  Where is my joined-at-the-hip instructor?  I finally decided enough was enough and performed my wet exit which I am very grateful to have spent so much time practicing.  The darn spray skirt wouldn't come off easily the first time I tried.  I grabbed it a second time and kicked with both feet while yanking with both arms and I was free. 

When I popped back up there were instructors all around me asking if I was okay, chasing my boat and paddle, pointing me towards shore, and telling me how well I handled myself.  I knew I was upside down for a while but I had no idea I had traveled the entire length of the rapids and down the waterfall upside down.  My hero was on the bank shooting video.  I did see on the tape that at least four instructors were right next to me trying to get in position to flip me up.  They said it was rare for someone to be upside down that long and not panic. 

After lunch I decided to call it a day and didn't run the second half of the course.  I'd had enough excitement for one day.  I'll try again another time.  Ben promises to be there immediately if I flip again.  I teased him for not putting down the damn camera and saving me, but it does make a great story.  If I get a copy of the video as promised, I'll try to post it here.                            

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ain't About How Fast I Get There

I know I'm too old for Hannah Montana, but I really like "The Climb".  The lyrics express exactly how I feel sometimes..."lost with no direction"...The message is don't stop, don't give up, get back up and keep trying.  I have to remember to keep doing exactly that even though it can be difficult.

Next semester is going to be better than this one was.  I'm going to take my roadtrip, I'm going to write my novel even if no one reads it, and I'm going to be a travel writer even if I never get paid.  I gave out my first blog card this week, I posted my first Texas Forest Trail travel post, and I'm writing something every day.  It may be slow progress, but I'm headed in the right direction.   

Jones State Forest

Thursday, May 6

This place is for the, seriously, it is...

This 1700-acre state forest is Red-cockaded woodpecker habitat, the only woodpecker to nest in live trees.  The birds peck the bark around the entrance to make the sap flow, which keeps predators like snakes away.  I went to the Texas Forest Service's Conroe District Office to sign in and obtain the lock combination to the nature trail as instructed on the website and was informed that due to the construction project widening FM 1488 there was no access to the parking lot.  I could, however hike about a mile along the other trails to reach it.  


Unauthorized vehicles are not allowed, but hikers are welcome along the dirt-road-like trails throughout the forest.  Most are multi-use for horseback riding, hiking, and biking.  Road bikes are not recommended - bring the hybrid or mountain bike.  


The trails are clearly marked at intersections with street signs.    Look for the yellow signs (top picture) and green paint on the nesting trees to find the RCWclusters.


This is the head of the nature trail (hikers only).  Cross the bridge and follow the yellow blazes on the trees.

This trail is not as wide as the others, but not difficult to follow.  There are bridges and boardwalks across ravines so I would rate this as an easy hike for a healthy, reasonably fit person.  It is not wheelchair accessible and a person requiring the assistance of a cane will find it difficult if not impossible.  

When you come to this blaze:


Go right across the bridge to return to the beginning of the trail or stay left to hike the full one-mile length.   

This bridge: where you'll cross the creek if you're hiking the full trail.  It's also where you should start looking for this:   

It's a geocache.  These are like Easter eggs.  I need to get a GPS so I can find more of them.  This one was created by a Boy Scout troop.  You sign the little notebook and can take an item if you leave one in return.  I signed my name, my hometown, and left my blog address.  I wonder if anyone will come visit?  

Along the trails I saw squirrels, quite a few birds, butterflies, lizards, and even spotted a deer running across the nature trail.  I took the following photos in the butterfly garden behind the office.  



The squirrel clung motionless to the birdfeeder for at least five minutes...hiding...

I said I wanted to be a travel writer...I'm giving myself my first assignment - the Texas Forest Trail.  I can't start visiting and blogging about the national parks until July so I'll start closer to home.  I need to figure out how to add a separate tab just for my travel posts.