Friday, January 28, 2011

Life’s a Beach–if you are on Padre Island!


IF this is Friday, I must be well overdue for a blog post!  I think that following Wandering Willy around has just kept me too busy to hit the keyboard.

And, I just discovered that this blog post will be relatively easy, as Willy has covered the whole Lexington tour and other areas – and also has a better camera than I do, so I don’t have to post anything about it!

The ‘Lexington Tour’ is of a WWII era aircraft carrier moored permanently in Corpus Christi, Tx. 

But here is one area he did not cover.  We found these ‘walk the planks’ out on the very front of the ship, and you can even walk out on the fenced one – way, way up over the water!  We asked what they were for, once we figured out that this was the bow of the boat and not the stern as we had originally figured Winking smile.


The ship had two catapults used to launch the planes off the deck.  The catapult runs in a rail mounted flush with the surface of the flight deck, and a hook pulls the front wheel of the plane during launch.  These ramps held the end of the catapult track so the hook assembly dropped out of the way of the exiting aircraft, before moving back to launch the next plane.  So now we know.


On a day tour we headed north up island, onto Mustang island, to Port Aransas, then on a free ferry over to Aransas Pass on the mainland.

CIMG3652As ferries go, it was a fairly standard one that held perhaps 20 cars plum full for the 500 yd crossing.  But what was unique to me was that there were about 4 ferry docks on each side of the crossing, and as many boats; so there was always one or two loading or unloading at the same time.  I saw one dolphin surface briefly while loading.  From there we headed further north through Rockport, Fulton, then across another causeway to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell.


We wanted to see if any of our ‘Canadian’ whooping cranes were visible, but only saw a variety of other species.  Another first for me, though was I believe my first sighting of a wild alligator!  Photo courtesy of Wandering Willy.


Most of the birds at the refuge were too far away for my camera, but there were these wild turkeys around the headquarters area.


This beach we are camped on runs for an uninterrupted 60 miles of wilderness.  I drove down to the 5 mile marker where the signs warn of deteriorating travel conditions, and the usual smuggler/alien signs common in these border areas.  The coast guard patrols the coast regularly with their helicopter, and they also cruise the beach with the Lear jet at about 200’ elevation.  After almost a week camped on the beach, I have finally seen my first watercraft out here.  It appeared to be servicing or fueling an offshore oil platform.  But we have seen no recreational anglers in boats (lots on shore), no canoes, nor kayaks or PWC’s, or trawlers or shrimp boats, even though the sea has been relatively calm.



I was having coffee on the beach this morning, and was pleased to see a couple of dolphins swimming by.  I think that means that there are no sharks in the area?  I was also pleased that I was able to actually able to capture one on (digital) film.


Other than that, Hailey and I have just been hanging out on the beach, enjoying the sea breeze, the relative solitude, and the many birds that frequent the area.  On a hike back into the dunes, I also saw about 5 white-tailed deer, and three sandhill cranes flew by low and slow.


Use your magnifying glass, and you can see the ship to the right of this offshore platform.CIMG3671CIMG3601

Now, go to the blog of Wandering Willy and check out our tour of the Lexington!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Texas. On second thought …

The bad weather seems to be following me wherever I go!

I’ve been praying to the weather gods for an improvement.  It’s just a local call here because Texas really is God’s country.  I know this, because he even has his own billboards down here!

I saw one that said,


“I know – everything”



Another one said,

If you must curse, use your own name.



So there you have it – God’s country.

In my first Texas blog post, it seemed like every acre of Texas was private land, and fenced.  I was somewhat shocked upon departure from South Padre to see a couple of fields that I suddenly realized – were not fenced!  In a stroke of irony, between the two fields was located a – a fencing business Smile.   But as we headed northward toward Corpus Christi, there was more farmland and little ranching, so there were actually lots of fields that were not fenced.

It must be totally off-season in South Padre as I saw several Motel 6 type motels with rooms advertised for $25.  Cheaper than camping in Canada’s National parks for sure.

I suspect this will change as spring break approaches.

I saw a funeral home with a huge billboard out front advertising their discount funeral rates!  Better check that out, Duane!

Once again, no multi-trailer semi trucks on the highways here.  I wonder why?

All the school zones here have signs indicating no cell phone use …

Many large new schools here are well out in the country.  I guess they must bus all the students out from the urban areas?  One school even had two guard houses, manned by security guards.

Dark coloured SUV’s seem to be the vehicle of choice for local law enforcement.  With a bit of mud on them, they blend right in, sitting in the highway medians.  No, they did not catch me – I don’t speed!

Although I saw a couple of Manitoba plates on south padre, I saw my first Alberta plate in weeks as I was headed for Corpus Christi.


I’m thinking perhaps Mr. Obama has a coastal retreat in Padre Island National Seashore?  Why else would there be 13 cameras at the gate?  I’m pretty sure I got an X-ray, cat scan, microwave, and a free tan going past!


I looked at Bird Island Basin which was very nice and CIMG3557CIMG3558

where camping was $5. a night, and Malaquite campground at $8., where it looked pretty crowded to me.  Of course, when I came to 60 miles of random beach camping for free, there were no other decisions to make!

South beach it was.  The sand was much harder than south Padre, so driving on it was not much of an issue, and I did not need my carefully collected ‘beach boards’!


Soon we had a great spot with a super, ocean front view.CIMG3568CIMG3569CIMG3575CIMG3576CIMG3577There is a great variety of birds here, including this busy little group on the beach.  Unfortunately, my camera does not really have the zoom to take recognizable photos of most of them.CIMG3578CIMG3579CIMG3580

It was an idyllic spot.  Until another RV’er from BC showed up and camped right beside me!  Luckily, it was the famous traveler, Wandering Willy!  Click on his blog to see his version of the story.  Looks like I roused him out of his rather sedate lifestyle there in Mission, Texas when I passed through last week!CIMG3592CIMG3582That’s it for now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

South Padre Island

Southbound was our direction of travel upon leaving Falcon county park at the Falcon dam.  One of the trailer tires had been losing a bit of air on occasion, requiring frequent pressure checks and adjustments made easy with my two air compressors.  While parked at Falcon, I could hear a small leak, so when I spotted a tire repair place near Rio Grande City it was time for a quick pit stop to take care of the problem.  I was pleased to pay only $10 to have it fixed.

We maintained radio silence and entered stealth mode approaching Mission, Tx, and were able to successfully sneak up on Wandering Willy, even though he was aware of our impending arrival.  After exchanging intelligence information on all topics RV, I continued on south, eventually reaching the very end of the road on South Padre Island.

Approaching the causeway to the island was a sign warning of pelicans crossing when the light was flashing.  It was flashing, and we did see pelicans!




The sign warning of sand drifts was not kidding.

Drifts totally blocked one lane in several spots on the road leading up island.


It was dusk, and hitting the beach at high tide was out of the question, so a road shoulder close to the end of the road was selected as a stopping spot for the night.

Unlike most of coastal California and many other areas, there was not a ‘no camping’ sign to be seen anywhere!CIMG3494CIMG3496

The heater did not come on at all at night, and it was a balmy 17C in the morning.  I explored the beach for camping and found a few rigs out there enjoying the view. Driving was fine on the hard sand exposed by the low tide.


Hailey checked out the bird life from the driver’s seat, and was glad to get paws in the sand.  She declined to continue her training with swimming lessons, however!CIMG3510CIMG3511CIMG3515CIMG3518CIMG3520CIMG3513CIMG3514

But the sand was soft once above the surf zone, and the Rv’ers there said you needed to maintain some speed crossing the loose sand, then park on planks and plywood to be sure sinking was not an option.  With this knowledge, I managed to locate a good supply of cast-off lumber in the area, but by the time I had enough, the tide was well on it’s way back in, and I was not about to attempt this maneuver when failure was not an option.  It was just as well, because later that afternoon, the gale warning was realized and the sand started to drift like a good old prairie blizzard.  I was glad to be parked on pavement.  The cold front had arrived and the temps plunged 20C, which is a lot more than 20F.  But still, the sand got in my ears and eyes, shoes, pockets, and everywhere else.  By morning, a new sand drift had formed all across the roadway in lee of the rig.


The island is but a narrow spit of land between the ocean and the inland waterway, only a few hundred yards wide in most places.  On the sheltered side I saw this old bus, long abandoned on the tidal flats.  Strangely, the next morning, it had no roof.  Did it somehow blow off in the gale force wind?CIMG3505CIMG3526

Since the weather was not really conducive to relaxing in the warm sun, we set our new sights on the north Padre Island and the National Seashore.