Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vacation re-cap Part 2

On the Beach (scroll down for photos)

I've lost track of how many times I've been to South Padre Island (the very south tip of the Texas coast - about as far south as you can go and not be in Mexico). I first visited South Padre in late October 1992 during a fraternity road trip... I was amazed by how warm the weather and water were at that time of year... well, they ARE about 500 miles south of Dallas-Ft. Worth... anyway, I fell in love with the south Texas coast and have returned to South Padre several times with K, twice with L, and once with M -- always during September or October.

We thought we'd try something a little different and closer this time around. Since neither of us had been to Port Aransas, we thought it'd be worth visiting. Port Aransas is located near Corpus Christi, which is about 150 miles southeast of San Antonio. So it's only about a 6 to 7 hour drive from Ft. Worth, vs. the 9 or so hours it takes to get to South Padre.

I had originally looked into staying in Corpus Christi proper, but balked when I started doing a little research... the Corpus Christi beaches are not located on the Gulf of Mexico, but rather, Corpus Christi Bay. So we started looking at Port Aransas and Mustang Island, which are essentially the Corpus Christi area's equivalent to South Padre. Located on Mustang Island, Port Aransas is right on the gulf. We found accommodations at the Port Royal, a resort-type condominium complex which offered short-stay lodging. We booked our condo for just 3 nights, at what we felt was a reasonable rate. From Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning, we lived like ROYALty in a fully furnished, two-bedroom condo complete with kitchen, laundry facilities, and a 4th floor balcony with a view of the beach.

the boardwalk to the beach

the view from our 4th floor balcony

Within an hour of our arrival on Sunday, we were on the beach, checking out the surf and building a sand castle. A few immediate impressions on the beach...

1) I didn't know you could DRIVE on it! (We were used to this at South Padre and Boca Chica State Park, but didn't know you could do it on Mustang Island). There are several "access points" along Mustang Island that allow vehicular access. I don't know all the ins and outs since we didn't do it, but I believe you are required to obtain a parking permit (reportedly widely available throughout Port Aransas) in order to PARK on the beach. I'm not sure if you need one just to drive on it. The hotel had a long boardwalk (150 yards or so) that we had to cross in order to get over all the sand dunes to the beach. Due to our visit taking place during the "off season", vehicle traffic was never too heavy; just a handful of cars drove past our location each hour.

2) There was lots of seaweed and scattered dead fish on the beach... the seaweed wasn't as bad as what we saw in Galveston back in May, but was still annoying. The dead fish were the result of a "red tide" situation we learned about during our visit. There weren't that many, just scattered ones here and there -- and a few of them were HUGE. Seashell collectors are advised to look elsewhere... we found very few shells anywhere along our section of the beach. The only ones we saw were very small and belonged to still-living sea clams which burrowed down into the sand as soon as they landed on the beach.

3) The beach was very peaceful and fairly empty... there were a few condo complexes on either side of the Port Royal, but beyond those, you could walk a long way in either direction without seeing any other buildings near the beach, and very few other people were out. The largest groups of people we saw were usually on the section of beach right in front of the Port Royal.

So, it wasn't the nicest beach I've ever been to, or the most scenic, but I'm not that picky... if there's warm air, warm sand, cool water, and waves breaking, I'm pretty content. Remove the crowds of people I've seen at certain other beaches I've been to (Hawaii, California), and I'm damn near ecstatic.

building a sand castle

covered in sand

So what did we do out there? Laid on the sand, played in the water (we bought L a boogie board that she had fun riding the waves on), built sand castles (I've found that to be incredibly relaxing and strangely therapeutic).. that's pretty much it. L and I rode our bikes on the beach on Monday morning... I originally hadn't planned on bringing my mountain bike, but L wanted to bring her bike so I'm glad I brought mine. We found very easy riding on the hard-packed sand near the waves, and it ended up being one of my favorite bike rides that I've ever taken. On Sunday night after a trip to town for dinner and groceries, we went walking in the darkness along the beach and watched a full moon rise over the gulf. We were practically the only people out there.

an enjoyable bike ride

Sunday afternoon. Note cars on the beach in background.

This stingray washed ashore near the Port Royal

ready to catch a wave

We had favorable weather for most of our visit, but our beach time on Tuesday was cut short by an approaching storm.

Stay tuned for Part 3...


np: ESPN - SportsCenter


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