Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from. Unknown Author
Friday, February 8, 2019: On the road from the South Texas town of San Marcos at 1055 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 37 degrees. What the heck’s with these cold temperatures…it’s a balmy 39 degrees in our Maine hometown. Gotta head further south, it’s way too chilly in this neck of the woods.
I noticed during my pre-underway safety checks that one of the camper’s tires was a bit suspect, so calling the local Discount Tire store, I was able to get an appointment this morning to get it changed out. After the repair, we decided to head over to the Canyon Lake, a recreation facility in the Texas Hill Country managed by Lackland AFB. As we gained altitude, it began to sleet, and the temperature continued to drop…yea, we’re nuts!
After checking in, we set up on a nice campsite leaving the truck and trailer connected as we do not plan on traveling anywhere beyond walking distance.
As much fun as it was co-camping with Rey and Darlene, we got a bit behind on our domestic chores, truck and trailer maintenance, and journal writing…so the next couple of days should prove to be a nice quiet stay to catch up.
Saturday, February 9 and Sunday February 10, 2019-Canyon Lakes, Texas: This military recreation facility is located on its namesake lake an hour north of Lackland AFB and Fort Sam Houston.
In addition to camping, it features cabins, a marina, picnic areas…
…and hiking trails…
…where, if one is quiet as they walk along, they are likely to happen upon some unsuspecting wildlife.
The weather remained cool and overcast, a perfect opportunity for Kit to enjoy cooking some of her signature breakfast fare.
Yep, it was as good as it looks…and, as a bonus, there were leftovers for the next morning!
Well, other than chores and some walking about the park, we didn’t accomplish much to write home about during our two day stay…but it was relaxing!
Like to close out our stay at Canyon Lake with a sunset photo but did not see the sun at all…so here is a substitute taken last summer from the porch of our family ‘campupta’ Maine.
Monday, February 11, 2019: Up and gone by 1025 under cloudy and misting skies, with a temperature of 56 degrees.
Wound our way back east using a variety of local roads until intersecting Interstate 35 where we headed south, and hopefully warmer weather.
After about four hours, including one rest stop, Kit and I were on the Texas Gulf Coast and pulled into Corpus Christi Naval Air Station to set up for a few days in their oceanfront RV park.
It was twenty degrees warmer, but a whole lot more humid! Hard to tell in the photo above but the sun was shining, however the air was so saturated it looked overcast.
Tuesday, February 12 through Saturday, February 16, 2019-Corpus Christi, Texas: Spent a very relaxing and enjoyable time in this park sitting on the Gulf of Mexico along the Coastal Bend area of Texas. A prime salt water fishing habitat, the Gulf was a mere 50 yards from our campsite.
And with the consistent coastal breezes, coupled with wide open spaces, it made for a prime kite flying venue as well.
I spent many an enjoyable hour flying a variety of kites in the hazy skies, including my newest acquisition, a dual-line Prism Parafoil with a 75-foot tube tail…yea, another kite…it’s a sickness!?!?
During our stay, Kit and I enjoyed a day in the city of Corpus Christi located just across the bay from the Naval Air Station.
Boasting a population of over 320,000 folks, Corpus Christi is the eighth largest city in Texas, and the Port of Corpus Christi is the fifth largest seaport in the United States…it is also the homeport of the USS Lexington.
Built in 1941, The Lady Lex served in the Pacific during WWII before becoming a training ship in 1969. As the fleet training aircraft carrier, many newly minted naval aviators developed their skills in the art of landing high-performance aircraft on a constantly moving airstrip. Decommissioned from active service in November of 1991, she served our country for an astonishing 51 years! Today she serves as a museum ship with the distinction of being the world’s oldest Attack Carrier still afloat. Touring the Lexington is well worth the time, which I had accomplished on a previous Excellent Adventure trip so passed on the opportunity today.
Corpus Christi is a modern city with a bustling commercial port with bulk cargo and containerized ships utilizing its deep harbor. Oil and Gas production and distribution is also a main industry with many oil drilling platforms based here.
And, nestled up to downtown Corpus Christi one finds a thriving waterfront park where private yachts are berthed.
The cities residents are friendly, but I believe this fellow was overly comfortable with tourists as I was able to get quite close to the majestic bird.
Also located downtown is a unique museum for a Gulf Coast city.
The Texas Surf Museum was established in 2005 to promote and document the Texas Surf culture. In addition to photographs and displays, the museum hosts a nice representative sample of surfboards shaped by Texans for the particular demands of surfing the storm produced shore breaks of the gulf.
And others that were specially shaped for the unusual sport of Tanker Surfing!
Deep draft vessels that transit through a shipping channel throw of a small bow wave, when that wave encounters relatively shallow water near the shore it grows into a larger more rideable wave. Very patient Gulf Coast surfers wait until conditions and shipping schedules are right then paddle out to catch these waves which they can ride for miles.
A display in the Texas Surf Museum that particularly appealed to me were the tools and materials to create a surfboard.
A foam blank is shaped with this equipment into a suitable form, then wood strips and stringers are sandwiched in the foam to provide decoration, and rigidity. The final step is to add the skeg (fin) and layers of fiberglass to protect the foam. So, why does this process appeal to me? Well, back in the early 1960’s many a cash strapped San Diego kid built their own boards from cast off foam blocks the commercial surfboard shops couldn’t use…and I was no exception.
A skinny 14-year-old Bill in the photo above is holding board number two of four total that he kluged together. My very first board was a piece of junk, and although pretty, rode terrible…this one was rather plain but rode quite well. I decided my fortune was not going to be made in the surfboard shaping arena so turned my attention to more productive challenges, like trying to win Kit’s affection.
Speaking of Kit, she quickly tired at looking at old dinged up surfboards and made her way to the many shops in the area, one of which had a beautiful painting on the treads and risers of a staircase going to the shops second floor…
…which she fell in love with…
…and ever since has been trying to figure out which one of us has the talent to replicate such a beautiful work of folk art at our Maine home.
Well, this brings to a close our visit to downtown Corpus Christi, one of Texas’s iconic coastal cities!
On another nice sunny day, we took a ride out to the coastal barrier landmass of Padre Island. At 113 miles, it is the world’s longest barrier island…and the second largest island by area in the United States, just behind New York’s Long Island. During WWII, the government looked at Padre Island as a candidate for testing the first nuclear bomb, but wisely choose less populated White Sands, New Mexico instead.
The barrier island is separated by a narrow artificial channel known as the Mansfield Cut which provides more convenient access for Port Mansfield based watercraft to access the Gulf of Mexico. This navigable channel divides the island into North Padre and the far more commercial South Padre Island…the mecca for college spring breakers. The crown jewel of the northern segment of the island is Padre Island National Seashore.
This National Park unit, at 70 miles in length, is the longest undeveloped seashore in the world and the protected habitat of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle…
… the rarest sea turtle on earth.
The park road that winds south from the entrance station is picturesque, without the urban sprawl that has built up on many coastal areas of the United States…
…thank you, National Park Service!
This part of Coastal Texas, as well as some beaches in North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, and Cape Cod, are open to vehicular traffic for beach driving.
The generally hard packed sand provides a relatively smooth surface for driving; however, care must be exercised as if you get to close to the surf line and bog down, it’s a very expensive proposition to have your automobile extracted from the watery trap as the tide relentlessly encroaches on your once treasured conveyance!
Automobile beach access is allowed in order to allow fisherfolks access to the more remote portions of the shoreline and to allow campers, with proper permits, to park above the hightide mark for overnight oceanfront stays.
Leaving Padre Island National Park, we stopped for an early dinner at a local fish shack…
…and enjoyed an excellent seafood dinner. Fried Gulf Shrimp, Hawaiian Butterfly Shrimp and Hush Puppies for me…
…and fried Fish and Chips for Kit. Both meals were excellent and plentiful, in fact we took half our meal to cover dinner the following day.
Returning to the camper, Kit and I enjoyed the sunset while also enjoying a cocktail…
While in the area, we took a ride north to the small resort town of Port Aransas, located on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Named for the fort that guarded the entrance to Corpus Christi Bay, Port Aransas began as a haven for pirates including Jean Lafitte…
…the dapper buccaneer who became a beloved cult figure along the Texas and Louisiana coast in the early 1800’s.
In addition to being a commercial port, “Port A” as it is called, is a mecca for Houston and San Antonio city dwellers to recreate on the ocean when the year round population of 3,480 locals can swell to 60,000 folks or more…especially during spring break season.
Protected by opposing sand bars, Port Aransas is a prime natural anchorage, and to ensure safe passage, the Aransas Pass lighthouse guides vessels through the narrow channel into port.
Prior to its construction in 1855, many a merchant, and a few pirates, found themselves hard aground on the sandy barrier island that protected Port Aransas. Ironically, the steamship that was carrying bricks and other materials for the new lighthouse itself floundered on the sandbar while trying to navigate into the inner harbor, with the resultant loss of the ship and most of its cargo. To add insult to injury, a year later, when another ship finally delivered the lighthouse materials, winter storms had shifted the sandbar over a mile to the north, so back to step one of the process to find a geologically suitable location for the lighthouse.
Today, the village of Port Aransas is a vacation spot and tourist mecca primarily devoted to boating, saltwater fishing, and other ocean activities. As at Padre island National Seashore, driving one’s vehicle on the beach is legal and a favorite pastime here as well.
A hardpacked sand road parallels TX-361 a few blocks to the west and allows access to prime swimming, beachcombing, and oceanside camping.
Port Aransas is replete with the typical tourist related establishments including T-shirt and gift shops. One massive store that caught Kit’s eye was The Destination Gift Shop featuring its unique entrance.
And, not lost on the more observant customer, the more unique exit from the large shark into the store…considering the chotskies that are sold inside, the sharks rear exit seemed appropriate.
As in most oceanside towns here about there is no shortage of seafood restaurants…one that was highly recommended was the Trout Inn and Marina.
Where Kit and I enjoyed a very nice meal overlooking the marina, which by the way, was reduced to wreckage during Hurricane Harvey a few years back.
Returning to the camper, we received the following photo from our daughter Kim…
…which shows Maine Street of our home town after the most recent storm. Kind of reinforces our decision to escape the worst of the winter weather in our adventure-mobile.
Well, its time to close this chapter of our trip, as tomorrow we head east, but not before enjoying one final dazzling Texas Sunset.
Goodnight, stay safe, and stay tuned for episode six of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure!
Kit’s Bit’s: So, what’s not to like in this area of the USA? Having grown up in San Diego, we frequented the beaches, Bill spent many hours on his surf board, and we ate Jack-in-the Box fast food. Not seafood, mind you, but hamburgers. Fortunately, we have acquired a taste for seafood over the years so, we’ve moved up a step or two. This is one of our favorite areas and, it’s closer to home and, a lot more reasonable on our piggy bank. Plus, it reminds us of our long-lost youth.