Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday, to South Padre Island

Hi, I know it's been awhile, but not much happened last week in Galveston, other than chilly, windy, rainy, grey, stormy, and cloudy days.  We did have a couple of interesting (to us, but then you have to realize, we're easily entertained, LOL) things happen, for example: being able to only find one Post Office on Galveston, Island, which was "DownTown" and a huge building that was Post Office, Customs Office, and Homeland Security all rolled into one with NO parking places to speak of (unless you managed to find one on the street and then the big butt truck barely fit).

 This pretty little fellow was kind enough to pose for his picture while I waited for Mr. C to come back to the truck after delivering a box into the post office.  I'm not sure what he is, perhaps a catbird, but his head isn't quite as dark as described.  He's about the size of a slim robin.
It was pretty funny, especially, the 3rd day we went there and as usual driving "home" a different way (whatever way Susie--yes, that's me--says to turn) and finding a fairly modern post office with parking and everything only a couple miles from the campground, LOLOL.  During our meanders to and from the Post Office we did find some interesting sights to photograph and if the weather had been agreeable we decided we would have taken a "Duck" tour to get the lay of the land so to speak, but the weather just wouldn't cooperate.

So, on the way to and from the Post Office (thanks to those lovely new customers who purchased some of my canes and wish dragons) we saw some pretty flowers by a pretty house, a fantastically colored/painted house, some interesting statues and other houses and a Church we thought were all pretty or interesting.

Here are a couple great examples of what the wind was like the entire time we were on Galveston Island:  Really cool windsocks and kites, but look at them blow and it was like this the entire time we were there.

So the last couple days we were in Galveston, since it got chilly and nasty again, we spent mostly indoors, me working on Polymer Clay Canes and Mr. C doing computer stuff.

Then, Thursday evening, we packed up the Big Sky and prepared to move on to South Padre Island, TX.  We knew it would be a long day of driving (6-7 hours) but just how long, we had no clue. . . read on. . .

To start out, we left Galveston in this: solid grey skies, wind and mist/light rain, at 5 a.m., with fairly high surf, at least the highest we had seen it while we were in Galveston.

Just so you understand, Mr. C is almost OCD about planning our trips, we have the most comprehensive trip guides ever thought of.  There are maps, marks for where possible rest stop or other places to stop (he's always been a bit of a list maker--alright, those of you who know him, he's MORE than a BIT of a list maker) but pulling the Big Sky behind us has made him almost fanatical for preparing (I'm not complaining, I don't have to worry about a thing, although I have control of all that paperwork--a 3" binder full, for this trip, LOL).   On top of all this paperwork, we have our GPS (Gypsy).  However, we have discovered through the past week or so that our GPS does not appear to like or be compatible with the State of Texas.  She keeps changing her mind and getting us lost, LOL (remember the debacle of arriving on Galveston and she couldn't decide where we were actually supposed to turn?)

So, the night before our trip to South Padre Island from Galveston Island, Mr. C brings Gypsy in to program our route into her and low and behold she says, "No you're messing up, you should take Rt. 6 so you can bypass Houston" (which sounds good to me, I hate us having to drive through big cities).  Of course, Gypsy didn't actually SAY to do this, but it was the route she showed we SHOULD take.  Mr. C asks my opinion and I say I'm all for it, but did you look at it on Streets and Trips to be sure it's appropriate for big rig driving.  He checks it out, at least as far as "Alvin, TX", and says, yep, it looks good, so we decide to let Gypsy have her way for once and will follow her instructions.  So we get up, finish packing up and closing up the Big Sky, put the cat and dog (and me--yes, I'm actually on his list to not forget to put me in the truck, LOL).  It's still mostly dark (I used a special setting on my camera to manage to get these last two "leaving" photos).  We manage to get where Gypsy tells us to go and we're driving merrily along Rt 6 congratulating ourselves on skipping out around Houston when we get almost to Alvin, TX.  Gypsy says take the Alvin Bypass, "Okay, we discuss, that makes sense."  So we take the Alvin Bypass, but the road signs say Rt 35 and Rt 6 (which we were supposed to stay on until we reached our main highway again Rt 59) has headed off straight into Alvin.  Our careful planning and paperwork is useless at this point, as the maps only cover the roads we expect to be ON, not the wrong road we're on.  It's still mostly dark, we're both tired and a tiny bit grumpy and I keep turning on the light to try to figure out where this new Alvin Bypass which is really Rt 35 goes.  It appears to go straight South and we want to go South West (actually a bit North West to catch the main highway we're watching for--remember US Rt 59?  We're supposed to meet up with US Rt 59.)  Also, Rt 35 is a tiny little 2 lane highway and Rt 6 had been a nice divided 4 lane.  We keep saying, let's take the next road to the right, but they're all just "county roads" who knows where they go or how "big" they are or if they go under any low overpasses etc. and they aren't on our map at all.  It finally gets light enough we can see and I finally have Mr. C pull over and tell him I have figured out we can either take Rt 36 (which we're about to cross) up to 59, but that will take us about a half hour out of our way, OR we can stay on 35 until we hit 71 and take that up to 59.  We're already about an hour behind our planned schedule, with 35s southward direction.  That keeps us more on track, but keeps us on 35 which is a nasty road.  We decide to go to 71 as we're now about an hour behind schedule on an already long scheduled day.  Shortly there after, we hit 36 and Mr. C suddenly says, I'm taking it and gets in the right turn lane.  I say ok, whatever and we head off up 36, which about 15 miles further on rejoins 35!!!!!!!

We are really flummoxed and frustrated, but finally 35 takes off again and we do finally manage to reach US 59, which is what we wanted, in the first place.  We're not happy campers, but. . . what can you do, except to stop at that little donut shop at the corner of 35 and 36 with home made donuts and breakfast sandwiches?  Yes, we did, and yes, I enjoyed my forbidden donuts (until about an hour later when they just sat like a stone in my stomach and made me sick for the rest of the trip).
After that, basically things went well, route wise, until we started into cloudy skies again, although it did get progressively warmer.  We passed interesting scenery lots of scrub and desert.  There were also prickly pear cactus that were blooming (according to the field guide, it's a "Fragile Prickly Pear").  I've never seen blooming cactus before, so I talked Mr. C into stopping and taking a couple pictures for me.  We also saw some hawk type birds with white tummies and dark wing bottoms and tips.  There were also 2 of what we think were Ospreys in a tree.

 We finally got to Victoria, where we turned off on Rt 77, which would take us right to South Padre Island.  The weather was looking a bit threating, but held off.  Some lovely truck passed us (I'm not sure Texans believe the speed limits are posted for their use. . .) and threw a rock up that hit our windshield hard enough to chip it.  Fortunately, it is very low and on the driver's side and isn't really part of the visual field.  We'll wait to get home and have it "filled" so it doesn't crack worse.  If it starts to spread while we're in TX, we'll have it done here, but Mr. C doesn't think it will be needed.
We saw a flock of some little bright but dark blue birds suddenly take wing from a ditch, but I wasn't fast enough with the camera.  I believe they were Indigo buntings.  We began seeing water and then saw the bridge.  I don't know what on earth is wrong with me that it never dawned on me that going to both Galveston ISLAND and South Padre ISLAND (notice that magic word ISLAND) would require going across rather LONG and HIGH bridges (neither of which I am incredibly fond of, especially pulling the Big Sky on windy days).

One funny side note, was the sign as we pulled up on the bridge, about watching for Pelicans.  We saw tons of pelicans in Galveston, but no signs about them.  This bridge had a flashing lighted sign saying to be careful of them and not a pelican have we seen since we've been here.

Oh well, it really wasn't too bad and the water was so pretty and blues and greens, so unlike Galveston's waters.

 Here is a picture of our campground from the bridge.  We were glad to arrive (at first, anyway).  We're staying at the South Padre Island KOA.  It appears to be the usual, clean, nice, fairly well set up KOA.  We checked in and they gave us site 8 (right on the main road coming in and on part of Madre Lagoon, which bothered us a bit, as our bedroom is on that end of the trailer, but didn't even hear the vehicular traffic at all the first night).  As usual, they have someone escort you to your site.  Usually this escort is very aware of just how much room it takes to maneuver the big rigs, but this guy wanted us first to back up aways to take the road he wanted us to take.  We said, no, we'd rather drive around the whole park, if needed.  So he took us that way, but the very first turn he took us on he misjudged how much room we need to turn a very tight turn and had to have some people come out and move their car so we could make the turn.  We managed that and got to "our assigned site".  The guy hops out of his golf cart and starts motioning Mr. C where to go and where to turn and how etc.  The only problem was he didn't have a clue and was getting incredibly frustrated and so were we and he'd stand right in front of Mr. C (and our truck and rig motioning us to come forward LOTS and FAST) and he was RIGHT IN FRONT OF US, if Mr. C's foot slipped or the brakes failed or any number of other things we would have run right over this poor man.  So, we finally got in our site, I thought we were too close to a short palm tree on the back slide, but the guy told us to stop there, we were fine, so we did, and he left.  We connected everything , and as we hooked up the Electricity, Mr. C asks me, aren't we supposed to be in site 8?  The electric box we were hooking up to was for site 7, the "escort" had put us on the wrong site.  We called and told the office and since the person who was to have had site 8 wasn't here yet, they decided to put them in site 8 and leave us in site 7.  So as you can, see, the day hasn't gone the best for us.  It was very hot and humid here (there appears to be a constant haze on the island and we think it's just plain salt spray and humidity).  So, we extended the slides and Mr. C says, I'm going to go park the truck. . . The world about ended.  This well intended idiot had insisted we stop and were fine but failed to leave any room to park the truck, neither in front of nor behind the Big Sky.   We take some big deep breaths and try to recoup without cussing too much.  Mr. C asks, if we just back it up, will the slide open where the palm tree is?  I say, no, there is no way.  We're so tired, and so hot and frustrated, I'm surprised we managed to be civil to one another, but we knew it wasn't our fault.  I suggest that we pull the slides back in, disconnect everything, back way up (into the site behind us that is empty) and pull back forward trying to move it to the right a few feet so we can open the slide where the palm tree is.  It took Mr. C about 4 tries to get it maneuvered back and forward again to get it lined up just where we felt it was best located.  Once again, not a good start for our stay at South Padre Island. . .

We reconnected everything and reopened the slides and just as Mr. C comes to the door I hear a huge thwap and ask, what was that.  Mr. C comes on up to the door and says, that poor bird just flew into the trailer.  Awww, poor birdie, he was so pretty and he lay there, on his back, gasping with his head to one side.  Another strike against our trip here.  I wanted his
picture, anyway, because he was so pretty and was planning to move him into the shade of the picnic table if I could, but when I came back with my camera he had moved himself onto his tummy.  He was still gasping, but at least it was obvious  his neck was not broken.

  I took his picture, then I tried to take him some water, but he finally flew away under the trailer.  I'm so glad he wasn't killed.  I'm not sure what he was, he was much larger than the little "gold finch" under our bush I missed a picture of.  There are a lot of different kinds of warblers etc. passing through this area right now, we're told it's a birder's paradise right now.  
So, we finally got settled, went to Denny's to get something to eat, took a drive to see the sights.    It was interesting driving around, comparing Galveston to South Padre.  On Galveston, the whole beach side of the Island has area after area after area that is open to the public, easy access, easy driving and parking.  You could see nearly every foot of the Gulf front as you drove down the island.  Here in South Padre, it's huge motel, after huge hotel, after huge condominium, one right after the other and you can't even catch a glimpse of the water.  At first I was so disappointed.  

But then Mr. C "reminded me" (is it a reminder if I don't remember him ever even mentioning it? LOL) of the beaches down by our campground (but our campground is on the "bay" side I pouted), LOL.  I should have had more faith, Mr. C almost NEVER lets me down:  So we got a pass to use Isla Blanca Park, which is at the South West end of South Padre Island (and just a very short drive or a slightly long walk) from the KOA.  It's a very nice park with the best parking for us (remember, the big butt, oversized pick-up we have).  Isla Blanca Park has 3 beaches plus a picnic area and a fishing area.
So we got our month long pass (the best buy rather than daily) with a discount because Mr. C is a veteran.  We drove in and checked it out.  I wish we had had more faith in "chance", as Isla Blanca has a fantastic HUGE campground with full hook-ups right there, by the beaches.  However (and this is a BIG thing for Mr. C) the camping is first come first served.  He just isn't willing to take a chance on there not being a place for us, he likes reservations.  It turns out there are TONS of spaces available.  This probably isn't the case during the winter when the snow birds are here,
or maybe in the summer when families are out of school and able to be here, but right now, I wish we were staying there.  I suspect we'd be seeing lots more birds etc.  We checked out the picnic area and finally pulled into the first beach parking lot and the first thing I saw was these wonderful parachute type kites flying over the water.  As we got closer, I realized those kites were attached to people and the people were holding a handle and their feet were on short surf boards and these people are doing flips and turns and jumps and slides on and over and around the small waves.

They may not have big enough waves for surfing, but if I were lots younger and lots more althletic and more fit, I'd be trying this, it looked like so much fun.  But when I happened to mention this to Mr. C, he kindly asked me if even when I was young, more fit, thin and a teeny tiny bit athletic, could I  balance a bicycle very well? NO, skate? NO, do gymnastics? NO. . . but it sure looked like fun.  So, while watching the "Kite Boarders" I believe they call them we also started walking down the beach;  like Galveston, very hard packed sand (although it was soft silky sand near the parking lot).
The first thing I noticed was. . . yep, hooray, lots and lots of shells.  
 Then we started walking down the beach and I saw THIS:
This is a Portuguese Man O War (a jelly fish like creature whose tentacles can sting the daylights out of you).  They can be deadly, but for most people, they aren't, they're just a bad thing like Brown Recluse spiders.  They aren't always deadly, only to people who are allergic or sensitive to them or get too badly stung.  This wasn't really very big, I was surprised. The "inflated" part was only about as big as my palm and the tentacles (which can sting even if no longer attached to the "body") were a handful all curled up.  No, I didn't put them in my hand to look, that's just about the size they looked.  So, as a final note, a day that was basically a nasty, wash out and a very negative start to our time in South Padre ended up fun and interesting, between the sand, sun, beach, kite boarders, shells, and Man o War sighting.  It is only in the mid 70s to low 80s here, and is so humid, there is a constant haze in the air and the truck and trailer windows are always "wet".  I'd imagine it is horrid in the deep summer.  But maybe the ocean breeze makes up for it a little bit.  Oh, I've saved my best find for last, for today's blog post.  I already have another lined up for tomorrow, and then Sunday we have a really special activity planned.  I hope you'll come join me for some more adventures, but hope you enjoy the photo of these two unbroken sand dollar shells we found this first afternoon on the beach at South Padre Island.  Smiles, Sue C


  1. Glad you finally got there and got settled. You had some really interesting finds, in spite of the not so much fun parts. I hope you find the rest of the week to be fun. ILY, Gail

  2. Interesting day!! What a travel experience. You have some good pictures though and like the canes.

    I think South Padre is a touristy place; a much smaller island.

    Hope it turns out fun and enjoyable for you. Love you.