Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bald Eagles Nesting GPS Coordinates in Baytown.

Bald Eagles Nesting GPS Coordinates in Baytown.

Come to Baytown Texas and go out Tri-City Beach road until you are almost to Evergreen Road.

N 29.42.836 W 094.57.209    Stand with your back to the golf course fence and the eagles are high in a tree nest (or aerie) about a hundred yards due east. Please do not disturb them or cross into the woods for a closer look. Bring your binoculars.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Geocaching in Brazos Bend State Park

I had a good day today and so did “Big John” and “Texas Slim” Graham.  They’re father and son and since it’s a tradition of mine to award trail names to folks I hike with, these are the names they are stuck with from here on in.

John is a Safety Specialist at the Plant where we work and since his ten year old son, John Michael has never did geocaching, hiking, or trail finding, I figured it was time and high-time, he got a moniker fitting a real Texas boy.  Texas Slim and just Tex for short will do him nicely.

We did a shake-down hike and geocaching adventure this morning, to brush the cobwebs off my GPS skills, since I hadn’t looked for caches in about 8 years and teach them how to read a GPS device. 

You see, I bought a GPS (global positioning satellite) device about 10 years ago with the intention of participating in this hide and seek high-tech game of treasure hunting, but my bride was not interested in walking ankle-deep through water or knee-deep through briars out in the woods to accompany me, so I gave it up.

Now, years later, I decided to take it back up and use it as a tool to get my young friends off the couch and onto the trails.  This year we are going camping, hiking, kayaking and geocaching together and I see it as a win-win for all of us.

Today, I met my two trail buddies at the park entrance at 8am and we parked at the first parking lot.  Before I left my house, I visited geocaching.com and copied the coordinates to 6 caches and printed out a back-up copy of hints and instructions for each cache.  It’s a good thing I did too, as I had accidentally typed one number incorrectly into my device, throwing that location off by 8 miles.

Off we went, packs on our backs and reasonably dressed for the cool and mildly windy weather. The sun was coming on strong and was most welcome to boot.  I think this was Texas Slim’s first venture into the wild and since we were off the trail, more than on it, he began muttering little ouches and grunts to alert (mainly his Dad) that he was getting poked, stuck and whatever.

Being the son of a man who showed little sympathy for discomfort amongst youngsters, I began explaining to him that everyone who hikes, camps or spends time out of doors will get irritations, injuries, campfire burns, etc. and it is just something we all learn to live with – yes, including the fact that our feet hurt after walking for 5 hours.  This had a calming effect on him, as he didn’t utter another complaint – a real fast learner.

As we headed from geocache to geocache, I explained to my 2 tenderfoot companions the things I learned from my Dad, hiking buddies, brothers, my brief exposure to Boy Scouting and books on how to keep safe in the woods.  I pointed out poison ivy, the very real possibility of venomous snakes near the caches and most important of all – watch for the American alligator, which inhabit this park and almost any body of inland water here on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Of the 6 caches we attempted to locate, we found 2, not bad when you consider that 3 of those 4 might be missing or damaged since they were placed.  I should have checked the online comments from other geocachers, but like I said, I am rusty.  One cache, called the “Just a Swinging” cache was apparently located yesterday and the folks who found it said it was hidden very well; we just gave up thinking it was missing and we were the loser on this one, to my shame.

All in all it was a wonderful experience and did indeed shake the dust off our equipment and ourselves.  We have a big camping trip planned for the end of February at Pedernales Falls State Park and there are about a hundred caches hidden there.   We plan to find most of them and in the process get exercise, sharpen our orienteering skills and most of all have fun in the great outdoors.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Two For The Sea – Wilcox and Joseph

I had the great honor of sitting down with two sailors this week and both were full of enthusiasm for the sea and ships they tended - Petty Officers 2nd Class Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox of the USS Indianapolis and Claudius Joseph of the USS Iowa. 

Both ships and both sailors have memories of their time aboard that would be better off forgotten, but they relive their experiences too often and remember close friends who did not “make it back”.  Many memories are good though and they delighted in retelling them.

I, as an Air Force Veteran found much of their tales standard G.I. talk, but I must confess that much of their Navy verbiage, albeit maritime lingo is thousands of years old, found me scratching my head. Bells for hours and the confusing rank system still stymie my meager knowledge of naval nomenclature. Nomenclature is an example of the kind of words that are tossed around in the military.

Mr. Wilcox is a survivor of the worst wartime disaster in US Naval history – the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945.  He floated in the Philippine Sea for five long days before being rescued, while the majority of his shipmates were lost to injury, dehydration, exposure and ultimately – sharks.  The tale was brought to the attention of our nation by the movie “Jaws”.

Read more about Mr. Wilcox and his life here.

Mr. Joseph was aboard the USS Iowa and was scheduled for number two turret duty that infamous day in April, 1989 when the turret exploded, killing 47 sailors.  He was excused for duty, after working an extra shift the evening before.  All of the sailors who died were friends of his and he thanks God for his mercy in sparing him to retell the story.

Read about the USS Iowa explosion here.

Recognizing the importance of honoring our Veterans, Mr. Joseph brought 2 of his sons to meet the great WWII hero and they sat in quiet observation as the two war veterans chatted.

Mr. Wilcox has been ill for the last month and is in the San Jacinto Methodist hospital, Alexander Campus, but tells me he is on the comeback trail after gaining ten pounds.  He hopes to live two more years, as he has a lot of work to do, but Mr. Joseph assured him, he would live many more, as he is a hero and a... survivor.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A letter of thanks from WG Fitts

 Editors note: It seems these days all we ever hear about concerning Veterans is sad or bad,  Ren is a one of the many thousands of success stories who has given back to his city - Baytown and his voice needs to be heard.  BB

In 2009 I completed another Mission and received my diploma with the help of a truly dedicated instructor, friend and Veteran supporter my RV mentor Amado Reyna from Kemah Texas who owns and operates Professional RV Services, who volunteered to take on a the mission to help a Disabled American Veteran learn a new field of work RV repair.

My college instructor Gary Bunzer the "RV DOCTOR" developed a program at North Hampton Community College in PA. where students could take on line courses as long as they could get a mentor in the RV business that he approved as a RV mentor. Many know that with my back ground in many fields in the mechanical field to include US ARMY Infantry, Air Assault, Aviation mechanics, refrigeration, HVAC, electrical technology and Process operations that I could never stop learning.

Lucky for me I have had many supporters like my family, friends, ExxonMobil management and employees, Veteran organizations and many supporters like Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder. Some things started to pop up in my health and with the help of doctors I am still going strong, like many I will not give in or give up when work needs to be completed. I entered the RV repair world many years ago by helping others but did not know the how or whys of how systems worked so Gary Bunzer and Amado Reyna helped me to learn that and it has helped me in many other items in life to help other RVers to stay safer and keep their rigs more reliable.

RV digest did a article about me going from helicopters to RV repair and that was nice of them to take notice of a old vet. Amado Reyna has supported me not just in the shop but also in many fund raisers held by VFW Post 912 Baytown TX and VVA Chapter 922 Baytown TX where all money donations went to help other Vets and families and community charities. Amado didn't give me a hand out, but a hand up to succeed in another trade since my career was shortened due to some service connected disabilities that started to affect my older life in a job I really enjoyed doing in refining.

I hope all remember there are Great people out there like Amado who helps when he is called on. He supported the VVA Chapter 922 Golf tournament, VFW turkey shoot and many other events he knows about. If you get a chance, tell Amado hello and thank you for what he does and stands for by his work to help Veterans. If you have RV problems he is truly a Top Gun on RV's...

For God and Country Always..
Proud to be a Veteran and Proud to be a retiree of ExxonMobil
I got another certification, not bad for a old soldier...
Thank you all for supporting me

Warren (Ren) Fitts
Service Officer for VFW Post 912/VVA Chapter 922
Life member of Disabled American Veterans
Member of AMVETSand the American Legion
Member and supporter of Patriot Guard and Rolling Thunder
Honor Guard for VVA/VFW
I had the Honor to be recognized in 1974 by Star and Stripes newspaper for my previous duties in US ARMY

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There is no Year Like This Year

I have very mixed emotions starting this year off. Like many others, 2009 was not my best year. Personal losses, family members whose great jobs disappeared and the general sluggish Obama-led economy all took their toll on me. In a nutshell, I do not want a repeat of 2009 in 2010.

For months now, I’ve felt a lethargic weight on the back part of my brain and what I need is a panacea or elixir to pull me back upright. I’m not a believer in astrology or fortune-telling and I have enough years in my poke sack to realize that if this year is going to be better for me, it is within my power to make it happen. I’ve stated this many times over the last 30 years and danged if I didn’t succumb to the wiles of misfortune anyway.

I learned the hard way in 2009 that a person cannot prepare for every eventuality successfully. However, each time something tragic happens, I am still optimistic that I will survive and in the long run, come out stronger. That too is up to me.

As a fundamentalist Christian with a partial and practiced Zen Buddhist mind, I still became entangled in a state of depression that kept me mentally chained most of this last year. No one can say with certainty how they will react or recover from something truly tragic until they have emerged on the far side, regardless of what they say beforehand.

Racking up over five hundred hours of overtime at the Plant kept my body busy enough, but mentally I ghosted most of the year away. I wasn’t as strong as I should have been for my bride and family and I’ve determined that 2010 would be different, albeit ten days into January, I am just now getting my plan into motion.

I’ve booked four days at Pedernales Falls State Park, out Johnson City way for late February and plan to camp with my brothers and friends more this year than any previous year, excluding my teen years. I camped for almost 3 months in Georgia with my brothers and life’s responsibilities prevent me that luxury now.

I’m going to call on my old friend and nemesis – exertion, to once again rejuvenate my mind. Exertion has never failed me and as I age I realize that exertion is the one constant in my life that has provided me with true physical mental health. As I told a friend recently, “I am not happy unless I am pushing myself physically to the point of exhaustion”. I guess I could ask my niece Tiffany, what kind of mental problem this is, since she has a Masters degree in psychology, but I probably won’t, as it won’t change anything.

Back in the Stone Age when I was young and strong and thought I could take on all comers, I ran and ran and ran and lifted weights, did karate, push-ups and pull-ups like a fanatic and it kept my demons at bay. In 2010 I will make fifty-eight years of age and these days my testosterone level is obviously not what is was, so I will simply tighten up the strings on my hiking or work boots put on my leather gloves and bang my feet on the trails and climb the ladders at work to get my mental buzz on.

I listened on the radio as the exercise sage and godfather of fitness, Jack LaLanne explained that even at 95 years of age, exercise is number one and nutrition is number two. According to his bio, at the age of 70 handcuffed and shackled, he fought strong winds and currents as he swam 1.5 miles while towing 70 boats with 70 people from the Queensway Bay Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, so I think it is safe to say he knows what exercise can do for a person, both mentally and physically. He is full of vim and vigor which is defined as a healthy capacity for vigorous activity and forceful exertion.

Forceful exertion breeds a healthy capacity for vigorous activity and that is my simple plan for 2010 to get my mental health back and in the process my body will benefit also. Want to join me?.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Avatar - Brilliant or Anti-America?

Note: My sister Connie Byrd sent me this evaluation of the movie Avatar. I want to share it with my readers.

The movie, Avatar, is fascinating to watch. The special effects are really great…..especially because it is 3-D.

The story makes me madder every day. The story portrays Americans as greedy and uncaring of our own planet or that of other life-forms or the inhabitants. It shows that we have destroyed everything green on our planet, and our only interest in this beautiful, unspoiled planet populated by peaceful people, is to destroy the source of life and also, the god that nurtures it, in order to mine a mineral that is of great value on the Earth. It is humanistic, offensive and vile. Take note, that it is Americans and the United States Marines who are the bad guys. The only good people are scientists and a marine who lost his legs in combat and falls in love with a native girl.

I am really angry with obscenely wealthy Americans (James Cameron & Hollywood) telling us (you and me, who have made them rich) that we are greedy and telling the rest of the world that same lie. Americans are historically and continue to be the most generous people on the Earth. I have not heard of James Cameron distributing his great wealth to the needy. Have you?

You will not leave this movie with the emotional fulfillment that you had with Titanic or even the Terminator series. Initially, I would have given this movie 4 Stars. Because of the content and the very bad way it portrays Americans and our Military, I have to change that to 2 Stars, and no recommendation to see it, ever.

If you want to see a fun, exciting, suspenseful and worth-your-time movie, rent Star Trek. I give it 5 stars. Let me also say, I was an original Star Trek TV show fan in the 60’s, but have not followed any of the later series or seen any of the movies except one. This one, though, goes back to the basics and puts a whole new spin on things. I loved it.

Elvis has left the room

I want to set something on the table and anyone who bothers to read anything I write, please take a good hard look. We are living in a...