Category Archives: road trip

2019: A New Year

2019: A New Year – A new year, an unblemished calendar but what to do? How can I make 2019 a special, productive year? 

The question definitely has to do with my readers but at the same time, I can’t deliver meaningful content unless I know what my readers and subscribers are wanting or even expecting.

I have decided to break my posts into specific columns so you will have an idea of what to expect and there will be a constant theme going through my content although varied as it might be.

I used to create the blog on Blogger and than share it with multiple network channels but I am trying to localize all the content through the website.

Here are a list of the upcoming posts and what I envision for the year.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

The Artist’s Window: It’s how the artist sees the world, how we find light and what makes the ordinary extraordinary from an artist’s view. 

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

Depression for the Layman: How to live with depression and tips and tools to live a good life despite the illness. I will be putting all the pieces into a book with other self-help books in the works.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge original photography by Artbygordon

From A Kayak: I’m trying to bring this back; it might be a view from a tree, a view from a platform-it’s just going to be different places in nature.

The Grackles 2017 Artbygordon

ArtbyGordon: New Series, new subject matter and my reactions and thoughts on art and being creative. Artbygordon and life creatively will merge into this catchall for living a creative lifestyle and breaking the boundaries of the expected.

Remnants of the Garden Artbygordon

Gardening: From the beginning to end of the garden and different aspects of life woven through a life filled with nature and gardening. On a practical note: all the winners and losers, maintaining order in a chaotic garden and other thoughts on life and creativity.

2019: A New Year
2019: A New Year
Road to Hagerman Artbygordon

Travel and Writing: This will be the travel side of my blogging. I will highlight at least one place through each month-it could be reviews on food, venues, concerts-anything travel with a little bit of nature added in for color.

The Reluctant Military Dad: This is a new piece of the puzzle-it’s about being a single dad and letting go. It’s about my son in the military and the aspects of a dad watching his son become something great. 

General parenting insights and topics about raising kids in today’s world-being a step dad to my oldest son and all I’ve learned on this journey of parenting.

The next thought, what my readers are wanting and what to add to the blog-I would love to hear what people would like to read about.

I am excited about 2019 and feel my brand and its scope is growing.  Please be a part of the Artbygordon newsletter to get up to date news on series, appearances and latest writing and photography.

Nature photography – Blackland Prairie Raptor Center birds of prey

Every visit to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, Texas is  a chance to learn more about raptors and the Blackland Prairie. What always strikes me is the fact that young children already know about terms like diurnal and nocturnal and are interested in learning more about the birds.

It makes me hopeful for the future that the youth is already interested and engaged in wildlife preservation. Families walk the prairie with naturalists and are taught the significance of the Blackland Prairie and why it needs to be preserved.

You learn about each bird and their stories and you see how each has their own personality.  Today was a particularly beautiful sunny spring day and I can’t think of a better place to spend an afternoon.

If  you get a chance, you need to visit on the first Saturday of each month and if you can volunteer, I’m sure they could use an extra set of hands.

Unfortunately a common theme is human imprinting. People mean well but most don’t know how to take care of wildlife and usually the consequences are not good for the bird.

If you find an injured bird, leave it to the experts. If you are in doubt leave the bird where it is and allow nature to take care of itself. 

Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge – A sunset on Mount Scott as I rushed to capture the last bit of light.

The Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is an amazing prairie with sweeping buttes, free range longhorns and bison and many small brilliant blue lakes.

I can’t say enough about the feeling of being away from everything. There are prairie dogs in open fields and meadowlarks in bright yellow flocks rising and falling in rich brown fields of native grasses.

I would also recommend the blue hole for a rugged hike surrounded by waterfalls and deep gorges. There is a holy city and a great network of trails that go all through the park.

For another story from a recent trip. Please see Wichita: Two Views of Mount Scott

Goals of month

My next trip will be in the Spring.

A Weekday at the Zoo: Alone with a Camera, a Different Perspective


A Cheetah watches the spectators, I loved the depth in its eyes.

A Weekday at the Zoo – I have wonderful memories of zoos growing up. My dad had a passion for travel and zoos were one our families’  favorite destinations. My brother and I have since  carried on that passion
for travel with our families.

A female lion watches intently at the guests in a coffee shop at the Dallas Zoo.

A matriarch chimp takes a moment from grooming to view its surroundings.

Caverns, aquariums and zoos are some of our favorite places for my son and I to explore and we have magnets to remember each one.

We have been to the Dallas zoo many times but it’s a different experience when you go alone. Even as my son got older, he would have specific animals he was interested in, usually he would antagonize the monkeys.

At the Dallas Zoo, a giraffe is alert for food, they have a place where you can feed them specific leaves they sell.

The experience was usually fast-paced but today I went alone. Even though I missed his company, it was a unique feeling being alone.

I spent the first thirty minutes watching the gorillas. I talked to the zookeeper and learned about each gorilla by name and she told me about the chimps.

I close-up of a Komodo Dragon, he was as curious about me as I was of him.

When you’re alone you get to stop, you have no agenda, only getting photographs of specific animals. I was able to enjoy each animal in a relax unhurried pace.

This isn’t something you see everyday. A bushmaster has a guest for dinner.

I spent much time in the reptile house and because it was during
the week, it was uncrowded. I got to listen to the zoo keepers information about the elephants and I I learned not just more about each animal but about the zoo and what they were doing to protect certain species.

A Green Mamba looks for the zookeeper to feed them.

There are so many more zoos I need to visit, across the country
and across the sea, so many more animals to enjoy. It is the child in me that loves to see animals and though I would prefer to see them in their natural habitat, I am glad zoos are a beacon for society to see that these amazing animals are worth saving.

A great African Elephant, I liked the texture of the trunk.

These are portraits from the animals at the Dallas Zoo. I hope you enjoy and will seek out a zoo near you.

A gorilla, I sat and watched him for a while, he was thoughtful and relaxed. I loved the feeling in its’ eyes.

The Prairie in Blue Ridge

Parkhill Prairie – I got lost in the long flowing stalks of bluestem grasses, the great blue sky looming above where hawks dance in slow spirals. I sat on the cold, moist ground and listened to what it might have been like when bison and Indians roamed the backland  prairie.

The clouds drifted with a calm indifference, the wind breathed and than exhaled followed by a ritual silence. Meadowlarks flew in patterns from fences and crows called out breaking the stillness, it is like going back in time.

I guess the fact that the winter chill that settled in my spine and slapped my exposed skin with pins and needles would be a good incentive not to go to the prairie. I assume that’s why both times I’ve gone there has been no one there but I consider it my oasis of silence.

I am comfortable sitting on the cold ground. My breath is still, my senses charged with the sounds as I try not to miss anything. I can hear cattle in the background and even a truck in the far distance but for the most part all is consumed with the rush of the wind through the grasses.

All that moves is the grasses, swaying back and forth as if haunted and the clouds marching passively across the plane, I am in awe of the silence and calm.

I have been dwarfed by mountains, the ocean but never by a huge open field. I have images of our history and it’s inhabitants that made a life out here and imagine the distant cows that cry out now were probably the sounds of wagon trains and troops of coyotes, maybe even the bison.

The coyotes are still here, I see their tracks and scat but the bison are long gone. There hawks of all kinds, the red tail, the kestrels and the prairie falcon, their mood is pensive with a mission. They rise and fall in the golden field as it should be.

I learned about this place from a trail guide at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and I have been back twice. Yet another great place I learned about from the Blackland Prairie Raptor center, great people and wonderful birds with lots of knowledge, if you haven’t gotten a chance to go on the first Saturday of the month, I would highly suggest going.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys (so many things to do, so little time)

One place that I have been wanting to go for as long as I can remember is the Florida Keys. It’s an extremely long drive but so worth it in so many ways, it really is a sportsman’s paradise. This trip would be everything and more and set the bar for future road trips. Fourteen days in a paradise for fishing, photography, snorkeling-everything my family enjoys.

The first day we drove to Pensacola Florida-very uneventful and yet all of us were excited about getting to the keys-especially my twelve year old son. We had been planning our fishing trips, snorkeling places and getting excited about the amazing seafood. We stayed the night in Pensacola and moved on to Sunrise Florida the next day. We could see alligators as we got into the area near Sunrise, there are canals around the area and alligators can be seen on the banks and in the water. We visited Naples Florida which was an upscale area on a canal where yacht clubs were abundant and we could watch jacks and tarpon as they patrolled the many docks that surrounded the area. We had an amazing dinner and had drinks in a small restaurant that sat on a harbor. The smell of the sea air and the incredibly fresh seafood was everything we had looked forward to.

We drove many miles along alligator alley which is an area that is the beginning of the everglades and there are many alligators as it is named for. We also found out later from a fishing guide that there are juvenile tarpon running through the channels as well-just have to talk the alligators into sharing their banks with you I guess-we never actually got to fish there but will definitely get back in the future.

The next day we went close to Miami for a chance at fishing for Peacock bass, a fish you usually go for in South America. These bass are ferocious and an amazing fight and they are beautifully marked, closer to a tropical cichlid than a bass actually. The peacock bass has been introduced in freshwater Florida waterways to feed on the non-native Midas cichlids, Oscar and Tilapia. The speckled variety did not flourish but the butterfly variety did well, they are a tropical fish and can not tolerate colder temperatures of water. The reputation of them being great fighters was not an exaggeration as they attack the bait ferociously and even the smaller ones put up a great fight. My son, as always out fished me but I did pretty respectful on getting several decent size peacocks and a Midas cichlid as well. It was a great day-much of the fishing was sight fishing and the scenery was very beautiful. The canals go through residential areas, city parks and the landscaping was amazing with many species of crimson hibiscus and a tree that was huge with large red flowers in abundance.

That evening we had clams and crab from a local restaurant and the next day we would be heading to the Keys which was another day of traveling south, we were also excited about seeing the everglades which we would be driving through the next day. One thing that really struck me about Florida during that time of the year-June is the rainy season which means everyday in the middle of the afternoon a great dramatic storm would come through for just a short period of time but during the storm the dramatic lightning and the clouds converging on the horizon was both dramatic and thrilling with a backdrop of the palmetto trees and the edge of the glades. We all kept our eyes alert for Florida panthers and the many gators we could see-no luck on the panthers though.

Just as soon as we got to the keys, I was happy to be there, my son got sick of songs like Key Largo and margueritaville in a goofy way we are famous for, okay famous in our own circle-the album comes out next year, but I digress. On the way through the first key and out of the everglades we were watching for American crocodiles and again-no luck. It’s like driving through a zoo but we tend to get skunked each time-much like my fishing recently but I am still hopeful.

We stayed at a house that overlooked a bay area-the view from the balcony was breathtaking and I had the impression of what the pirates must have felt like moving through the areas back in the day, it was so remote and pristine. We fished for Barracuda and searched for bone fish, no luck on the bone fish but we did get some barracuda and a mangrove snapper. We walked out into the area that surrounded the mangrove thicket-there we hit into some barracuda as well. I am happy to say we all kept our fingers-barracuda have lots of sharp teeth.

The pace in the keys is slow and peaceful, just the kind of place I was looking for and it lived up to my expectations. The seafood restaurants, the Jamaican rum and the scenery that surrounded every place you went made it a very memorable trip. We were determined to find a guide that would fish the flats-the real flats that supposed to surround the area but we never actually found the Permit or bone fish we were expecting-wrong time of the year-always too late or early. There was a recent die off of Snook and the Permit were not plentiful at the time so we decided to go for Tarpon.

At the restaurants that are close to the water you can see the tarpon coming in, they feed them off the balconies and I’ve seen people actually reach in and feed them by hand. It is amazing to see such a huge fish so close, especially when it is sort of the holy grail among fishermen.

We visited Annes Beach, a place where you can snorkel, we didn’t see many fish but the walk out to the area where you snorkel was beautiful and the water was clear and very comfortable. We chased the fish close to shore and continued to explore for a while and the kids got to swim. We spent the day at the beach and enjoyed some great seafood along the way.

The next day we went to the Dolphin Research Center where my niece got to pet the dolphins. We got to photograph the iguanas and meet the many dolphins they have while learning about the area and how they came about, the trainers and attendants were very friendly and knowledgeable. We spent the early afternoon with the dolphins, ate at a wonderful pub nearby and looked for places to snorkel.

We found a place called Bahia Honda, after swimming around the grass beds and finding sparse amounts of fish we decided to go to the edge of the park where it opens to deep water and a rocky wall falls into a steep drop off into deep water. There we found barracuda, multiple kinds of jacks and various bait fish and a very large snook that came through. It was a great snorkeling area and every time we swam through the area there were new species to explore. A barracuda eyed us as we swam closer to the deeper water.

Looking out across the edge of the sandy bottom, there was an amazing coral blue that got deeper as you looked farther where the bright blue turned into a deep turquoise-it reminded me of the beauty and intensity of scuba diving at night-if you look up you could see the moon shining through the water and the color of the water was an intense deep Prussian blue but the darkness was transparent and silhouettes of fish passing through the intense color. To bring me back to reality-I realized I had forgotten to prepare for snorkeling and was still carrying something you shouldn’t swim with….

Unfortunately I found my cellphone was not waterproof-who would have thought?-The excitement of snorkeling kind of got the better of me and before I realized it, I had been swimming with my phone for the entire time. No drying on a heater would save any part of the phone-with the saltwater it became a decorative paper weight. After snorkeling for a while we fished at several areas around the park and got to see a large sea turtle across the water that looked like a large crocodile from our vantage point. Still no luck in finding the illusive American Crocodile, but we were still hopeful.

The next day was really a highlight of the trip-we went to John Pennekamp State Park and went on a snorkeling trip. They drive you out into the ocean, maybe five miles or so and you jump out of the boat and you are in a reserve. There was a shark sighted, unfortunately we didn’t see it but we saw large jacks, angelfish, spiny lobster and so many other fish I lost count. The reef is a large area of corals and sea fans surrounded by areas of sandy bottom which we were instructed that we could not touch as it was a protected preserve. The fish were large and the coral and outcrops of sea fans were amazing. I could have stayed all day, we ended up there for an hour or so, just in time for the afternoon storm to roll in. The rain was cold and the wind picked up and it was one of the more memorable and dramatic moments of the trip as my son still remembers the storm we drove back to the dock through.

That evening we got to finally fish for the holy grail of fishing-the tarpon, my son got on to a nurse shark and than he got the first tarpon. I think he was amazed with the strength of this fish, I have never seen such an intense battle and was so proud that he was able to handle him and successfully landed his. Soon after, another shark for him and I was on to mine, it was over one hundred pounds, a bit larger than his and by the time it was over, I was content-I’ve never fought such raw power on the other end of the line and was extremely happy that they don’t even take them out of the water, they let them go with as little stress as possible. I have a new respect for tarpon and everything else will seem to pale in comparison, I was glad we both were able to land one. That night we ate at Bass Pro and talked about the days’ fishing.

The next day I went back to John Penekamp for a forgotten souvenir and on the way back to the house I stopped by the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. It was a great experience to do alone, surrounded by egrets and herons as I walked along the dock. I was about due for some time alone and it fit the bill perfectly. You walk through this area of birds in various cages, all rescued in some way or another and you are surrounded by egrets and pelicans all curious about your presence. I have never gotten so close to the wild bird species.

After returning home, we decided to go kayaking, we rented kayaks down the street and took them out, again I was skunked but my son and nephew caught several barracuda and mangrove snapper. I got caught out in open water as a storm came in-I could see the rain coming and there was no escape-wish I would have had a video of me turning around and trying to escape from the pouring rain that was quickly inundating me and the kayak. Again, it’s things like this you remember-the rain was cold, sudden, loud and did I mention cold? It was a great end to a fishing trip but I really missed my own kayak which we had just started to learn to use at the time.

That evening we went to Key West and ate at the Conch Republic Seafood Company. One of the most incredible places we ate, you are on a harbor area looking out over the water. All of the food was good but one thing stood out-a melt in your mouth fillet Mignon that was as flavorful as it was tender. You are surrounded by shops and local color, you could watch the tarpon along the docks and just take in a bit of the Florida Keys at its best. Across the street was a key lime pie baker where you can get all kinds of novelties and ice cream, we had dessert while sitting around a small pond where cichlids and gold fish were beautiful to watch. I could have walked through that town for the rest of the evening, the energy was wonderful. After eating, we visited Mark Twains’ house and explored tourist attractions around the area including the farthest point south which we all took a photograph by.

On the way home, it was sad to leave the Keys but we were excited about exploring the Everglades a bit more-we went to several places looking for American Crocodiles and on one exploration we all walked along a small pond until we were attacked by a swarm-I mean a serious swarm of hungry mosquitoes. They chased us into the car and we found ourselves smashing one after another-We decided to explore the glades from our car with a closed window-still not crocs-they say they are illusive and we’d have to agree. There is also a visitor center that we checked out quickly and we were back on the road to Navarre Beach.

We ended up staying the night in Pensacola and  got to walk the streets at night. We ate pizza at New York Pizza Depot– for lunch which was great as usual with a bit of local dark beer it was a nice end to our vacation-enjoying pizza and beer in a familiar place where we had vacationed many times. Later in the evening we ate a Flounders, another great place we had visited-try the diesel fuel-it really did the trick. We all got to walk the beach and enjoy the peaceful pace of Pensacola before we had to get back to our hectic lives. We also were able to fish the Navarre Beach Pier, we got to fight some reds and I had a king mackerel to hit my bait. It was a wonderful end of the trip for all of us.

The next trip my son and I would plan in California-along the same lines-caves, zoos, seafood, and anything else we could discover. Stay tuned and get out and explore-the road is waiting….. or the ocean, or the mountains, well you get the idea.