12/17/05:  Another rainy and cool day today, but Butch and I said to heck with the weather and went downtown to the Port/Tourist Commission Office and helped erect a new Butterfly Dome to replace the one that was destroyed in the storm.  About a dozen volunteers showed up in the rain to assist.  While we did not get it completed (it really started raining hard), it should only take a couple of hours to finish the framework.  The dome comes from Pacific Domes in Ashland, Oregon.  The manufacturer even sent a young man to guide in the assembly of the dome (see Brian at right).  They catch a wide variety of butterflies and release them inside the dome for everyone to get an up close and personal look at them.  Several native plants are also maintained in the dome for them.



Brian from Pacific Domes

For those of you who have visited Grand Isle I have included the latest (and I think the first since the storms) issue of the Grand Isle Beacon.  This issue focuses on some of the GOOD things that has occurred here since the storms hit.  Amazing where all the help comes from.  Click here for four different sections BEACON #1, BEACON #2, BEACON #3 and BEACON #4.



The Dome Going Up


12/16/05:  Work has slowed down a bit this week.  We did finish the fence that now essentially blocks the view of the house (or what is left of it) next door.  The owners have not touched the place since the storms went through and it is littered with debris that is a real eye sore.  The fence might not have been installed if the owners would have made even a small effort to clean it up. 

We also poured a new cement cover for their septic system and hauled several loads of concrete debris to use as shoring along the water bulkhead at the edge of the yard.  Back breaking work but having these large pieces of concrete really prevents destruction in a storm. 

Butch & I even managed to get in a little fishing this week.  Butch caught a nice 26" redfish but all I got was a small 14" one that had to be thrown back.  Better luck next time. 

Weather has cooled down again with a sharp wind coming off of the gulf so it is too cold to work or fish.  Time for reading a book, updating the website or watching TV.



Sylvia (Left Rear) & Betty (Left Front)
With Mennonte Cleanup Crew in front of old Fire Station

12/11/05:  The vertical boards are on about 2/3rds of the fence (we ran out of boards today).  Will have to make another run to Lowes in Houma before we can finish. 

Had a wonderful evening at the Mayor's Christmas party last night.  Eats, live band and truly wonderful people.  Stayed until nearly one in the morning and then adjourned to Artie's Place with Butch, Betty, Mayor, Chief of Police and his wife Connie (who works at the Post Office). 

It is great to see these people beginning to "heal" from their losses.  This annual party certainly seemed to cheer everyone up.  Ended up getting back to the trailer about two in the morning - pretty late night for us!

We had an encounter with a cleanup dynamo yesterday.  While Butch & I were erecting the fence a group of about ten Mennonites pulled up across the street and began cleaning up the area around a small church.  Betty went across the street and asked if they could help clean up the area across the highway.  They returned in the afternoon and in less than two hours had scoured the area of nearly two dump truck loads of debris (with a little help from Betty & Sylvia).  These Mennonites have traveled from several states and as far away as Alberta, Canada.  It is amazing what these young (16-20) folks can do!  Two young ladies pulled an old washing machine from a ditch and rolled it to the street like a toy.


Grand Isle Mayor's Christmas Party (Mayor David Camardelle Center with red shirt) 



Mennonite Choir




Santa & his Elves
12/8/05:  We have been busy here this week.  Butch & Len have installed close to 200 feet of fence posts between the neighbors and Butch & Betty's house.  They are all concreted in place and now we have to wait a few days before installing the vertical boards.

Went to the Grand Isle School Christmas festival tonight.  They fed us chicken gumbo, salad and desert before everyone adjourned to the gym for gifts for ALL the children from Santa.  Every year they have this little festival but this year was a little extra special with (1) a group of Mennonites from up north singing carols and (2) a group of people from North Carolina who brought 300 small (and real) Christmas trees complete with candy canes for decorations AND $25 gift certificates for EVERY child on the island.  Both of these groups are here to help in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts but the trees and gift certificates really touched my heart!

We have an invite to the Mayors Christmas party Saturday night - that should be interesting. 

12/5/05:  We arrived at Grand Isle a week ago (28th) and have been quite busy since arriving.  Our friends here have made tremendous progress in getting their house livable.  They had 2-3 inches of mud and sand throughout the house despite the fact the house is built 9 feet above ground and 11 above the mean tide level.  They are living in the house again and had completed nearly all internal repairs by the time we arrived.  We have been helping replace the exterior siding and missing roof panels.  Still lots of work to do.

Grand Isle was hit hard by both Katrina and Rita.  Between 10-12 feet of surge tide and 200 mile and hour winds it is amazing there is anything left.  In some areas (primarily the west end) 50-75% of the houses are just plain gone with just the pilings they were built on remaining.  There is debris piled all along the roadways waiting for the FEMA crews to haul it off to a local transfer station.  There are already more than two football fields of debris piled there - incredible for a town so small.  Guess you could say half the town is now piled in the transfer station.  I have posted some photos of the destruction at
Storm Damage12-5.htm.



Thanksgiving Day
Dinner at the
Vattman Church
11/26/05:  We are on the move again.  Departed Seawind RV Resort this morning and chased a storm almost all the way to Louisiana.  We traveled northeast from the Kingsville area through Houston and stopped in the small town of Winnie for the night.  We had a torrential downpour last night and it moved on east early this morning but we managed to catch up to it this afternoon.  Interstate 10 was so wet visibility was down to near zero at times so we pulled of here in Winnie about 25 miles west of Beaumont, Texas.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day dinner with about fourteen other Escapees from Hondo at the local Catholic Church in Vattman.  It is a small church out in the countryside about 15 miles southeast of Kingsville.  They cooked 80 turkeys and expected to feed over 2000 people.  They seated over 300 at a time and from the look of the line when we left, they probably hit the 2000 mark easily.  They also had a craft sale, raffle and turkey shoot (I came in 2nd on my round - and I haven't fired a shotgun in 30 years).  The photo on the left shows the crowd we ate with.

11/23/05:  A beautiful day on Baffin Bay today.  Walt and Len spent all day boating around the bay looking for some fish that were willing to nibble on a hook.  While we didn't catch anything to brag about we did manage to catch a couple of small redfish, some croakers and a few whiting.  Thoroughly enjoyed the day out on the water but sure wish we would have caught a few more fish. 

Several of the Escapees from Hondo are here in the park and we had a small "happy hour" with them this afternoon followed by dinner with Chris and Walt.  Great meeting and getting to know new people.

Yesterday we visited the King Ranch just outside Kingsville.  We took the ranch tour which consist of an hour and a half bus ride through selected portions of the ranch with viewing of their cattle and quarter horse operations.  You also get to drive by the family home of 32,000 square feet.  Looks like a big hotel!  Can you imagine living in a house THAT big?  Below are a few pictures around the ranch.


Longhorn


Quarter Horse


Family House


A Small Part of the Beef Herd


11/21/05: Finally got the boat in the water yesterday.  Didn't catch any fish to write home about but Walt and I had a great ride.  Went out again this morning and Walt caught a small redfish and a small whiting while I got skunked! 

Had problems with the boat motor this morning - got about 1000 yards from the boat ramp and the motor quit - Walt rowed back in while I tried to get the motor running again.  Got back to the boat ramp before I got it running - headed out again and got about 1000 yards out - again Walt rowed back while I fiddled with the motor.  Changed the fuel line fittings after arriving at the boat ramp and we had a great day on the bay!  Not sure Walt wants to go out with me again or not!

A few of the other Escapee club members from Hondo have started to arrive today.  Expect there will be about 6-8 couples before the week is out.  The local Catholic Church puts on a lavish Thanksgiving Day feast for $10 a head so the whole crowd is planning to go there.

I hooked a nice redfish Saturday but when I set the hook it bent the swivel and stole my lure.  Had to make a run to Walmart to get another one (lure that is).  No, I haven't had a hit on the new one yet!

11/18/05:  We have been here on Baffin Bay for nearly a week now.  Weather was wonderful the first couple of days (in the upper 80s) but it turned cold quick and daytime temperature has been in the 60s the last three days.  I (Len) have spent several hours on the pier catching a few small fish (whiting and croakers) but nothing to brag about.

Sylvia is still busy with her needlepoint (or should I say cross stitch).  The bride she is working on (that I thought would take three years to finish) is coming along very well and probably over half done.  I bought her a cross-stitch design program (for the computer) that converts a photo to a cross-stitch pattern and I think she is anxious to try it out with the photo of the elk she took in Rocky Mountain NP (see pattern right).


Elk Pattern


11/13/05: We departed Hondo this morning after five weeks at the SKP park. We traveled south to the Baffin Bay area near Riviera, TX. Found a really nice county campground right on the bay. Has a fishing pier, boat ramp, and 159 spaces most with full hookups. That and very reasonably priced at $95 a week or $200 a month. Fishermen on the pier today said they have been catching black drum and redfish - will get some bait tomorrow and give it a try!

Got the internet dish setup and running in about 30 minutes this time. Big improvement over the first time.


Baffin Bay

11/11/05: Had a great Veterans Day ceremony here at the park today. One of the residents here (retired Air Force) put together a three hour ceremony complete with a flyover, marching band and a VERY touching POW-MIA dedication. The band from the local D'Hanis High School performed along with their cheerleading squad twirling batons and flags. Even had a National Guard crew there to assist in the flag raising. You can view a portion of the flyover here (the Fly Over).    It is a 1.6MByte file so beware. Here are a few pictures taken at the ceremony.


The SKP Crowd


D'Hanis Flag Team


Lone Star Corral Singers


POW-MIA Table

11/04/05: Still parked in the SKP park just west of Hondo, TX. Had a wonderful outing to Utopia today for a craft fair. Loads of things to buy and eat. And speaking of eats, the local high school put on a feed of beef and chicken tacos along with a wide variety of desserts to fatten you up. Almost brought home another kitten that needed a home but (fortunately) someone else got it before Sylvia fell in love too much. A few of the highlights:


Nice Rack




Kitten That Almost Had a New Home


Lunch




For Side Saddle Riding??



Craft Fair at Utopia City Park




Axis Deer Along Road