Monday, June 27, 2011

Padre Island or Bust!

Last week was the Piggy's 5th birthday!  I can hardly believe it!  A couple of weeks ago I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she told me she wanted to build a sand castle!  And so began the planning!  At first we were thinking of South Padre, but it is SUCH a long drive and the hotel we wanted was booked.  So we settled on a place on Padre Island up by Corpus Christi.  A win/win really as Corpus had several nice activities to add to our itinerary.

The drive out was nice, it actually RAINED the night before we left, so everything was overcast and a bit cooler and you can't beat that for traveling weather!  When we arrived, everything was still pretty cloudy.  We were too early for check-in, so we drove around the island a bit, trying to get a feel for things.  We stopped by a pier, since the kiddos have never seen a pier, much less been on one.  We were shocked to find out that this particular pier wasn't FREE!  You had to pay $2 a head to get out on it!  We paid it, just so the kids could experience it, but what a crock!  The kids were impressed by all the fishermen and the seagulls, not to mention the churning ocean water.  Since a storm had recently passed through, everything was wild out there.  It definitely gives you a healthy respect for the ocean when you see it like that.  After getting our fill of the pier, we cruised around on the beach, letting the kids get their toes in the sand.  They LOVED it!  The Piggy was all about the soft sand and the Monkey Man was all about the cool water!  It started to rain again, so we packed everyone up, headed to the hotel and got settled.  We were all hungry, so we perused the Island guides to see how the restaurants rated and decided to go to Doc's.  It was a nice looking restaurant on the bay with a great view and it was supposed to be affordable.  Well let's just say, this restaurant was the worst mistake of our trip!  The margaritas were mediocre at best, the crab cake appetizer was cold inside and our main dishes were LAME!  And if that wasn't bad enough, we were out something like $85 for this crappy meal and we only ordered 3 entrees!  The one thing that was good was the sourdough bread, but unless you want to have a great view and only eat a basket of sourdough bread, I would steer clear of this place!  Serious two thumbs down!  We would have been much better served spending $15 at Sonic and calling it a night.  On the bright side, by the time we got back to the hotel, the sunset was gorgeous!

The next morning we got up early to head to the beach.  Sadly, the Piggy had a rough morning and stayed back at the hotel with Big Daddy while the Monkey and I went to explore the Padre Island National Seashore.  

The Visitor's Center was REALLY nice here.  The rangers were very informative and more than happy to talk birds with the boy for a half an hour!  There was a little store, nice restroom facilities complete with showers and changing rooms, and the beach itself was so much nicer than the other beaches we saw on the island.  Since this is a National Park, you have to pay a fee to get in ($10 for a 7 day pass), but it was well worth it for the facilities and the cleanliness of the beach.  It was still early and still overcast when we made it down to the water, and it was pristine and there was hardly a soul in sight, other than the seagulls.

The boy decided to test out the water.
We found tons of little clams under the surface of the sand.  They were so pretty and we both just loved watching them burrow back under the sand when a wave would uncover them!
After about an hour of exploring, I couldn't stand it anymore, I had to head back into town and get the rest of my family!  It just didn't feel right without them!  By the time we returned, the sun was starting to peek through the clouds.
We munched our picnic and then it was time to explore and have fun!  By then the sun was out in full force and life was good!

Here are some of the things we found...  This is a crab hole.

 I felt the need to tell everyone to shut their crab holes quite a lot that day!

This is a Portuguese Man O' War that was washed up on the beach.

Luckily no one touched it's tentacles and therefore no one had to get peed on!  And just as an FYI, supposedly vinegar and/or meat tenderizer helps with jellyfish stings as well, which may be less messy than trying to pee on your foot!

There were sandpipers galore.

And a beautiful Great Blue Heron that seemed to just be hanging out watching what everyone was doing.  And can I just say those are some BIG damn birds!

We found ourselves a sweet, little piece of real estate, not too close to other folks and not too far from the Visitor's Center with all the facilities.

The umbrella was one of the best purchases I made before the trip ($19.99 @ Costco), along with the boogie boards.  Now if you remember from earlier, the Piggy wanted to build sand castles for her birthday.  Well as it turns out, the Piggy likes the "idea" of sand castles, but not so much the actual work!  Here she is contemplating her game plan as she goes over the blueprints in her head!

You've got to have the appropriate tools!

But reality set in fast and she lost interest in her sand castles and decided to go explore the water!  So Mama decided to build a sand turtle instead!
And just as a side note, the Visitor's Center at Malachite Beach has Kemp's Sea Turtle hatchling releases throughout the summer.  If you are lucky enough to be in town during a release date, you can call a hotline the night before to find out if the release is happening and then show up the next morning at 6:30am to witness the release!  We had hoped to see one of these, but none of the clutches were ready for release during our stay.  But for anyone interested in sea turtles, what a great opportunity!

The Monkey Man was all about learning how to boogie board, so he and his father decided to head out and try their luck in the waves.

At first he needed a little help, but before long he was goin' solo and that is pretty much where he stayed ALL DAY, which is amazing because I tried it and after about 20 minutes of getting the crap beat out of me by the waves, I was EXHAUSTED!

I made a new friend, well, maybe not a friend exactly, he laughed too much and I'm pretty sure it was at my expense!

I was in love with the pelicans, so cool and so graceful, at least in flight.

And yes, I admit it, I caught crabs at the beach!  I didn't mean to, but I just couldn't help myself!
Isn't it pretty with its bright blue legs?  It was a very nice crab, and it didn't even try to pinch me once!  I caught a sand flea too, but for some reason didn't take a picture of it, go figure?

Late afternoon we called it quits, we were all a bit burnt and crispy and completely worn out!  So we showered and packed up to head into town.  The girl at the Visitor's Center had told us that if we wanted to see dolphins we should head over to Port Aransas where the ferry is.  So we took that little drive up Mustang Island, found a little pier off the beaten path and sure enough... dolphins!

I was so happy because it wasn't just adult dolphins, there were BABIES!  They were no more than 2 or 3 ft. long and they were flipping around and splashing and just being kids!  Sadly, none of the photos turned out that well, they were just TOO fast and TOO crazy!  We did, however, get to see a pelican up close and personal!

Have I mentioned how much I adore pelicans?

We ended up having dinner at The Parrot, The Peg and The Patch in Port Aransas.  It was a cute little burger joint with outdoor seating and good service.  The teriyaki burger with pineapple was by far the best!  Poor Monkey Man had to endure me stealing bites throughout the meal!  A much better deal than stinky, ol' Doc's!

The next day was all about Corpus Christi.  We got up early and headed to the Texas State Aquarium.  The kids LOVED the dolphin exhibit!

And Merlin the otter!

But the highlight of the day was the escaped Harris Hawk!  This bird was NOT about to come down and cooperate and the staff were running around like crazy trying to nab her.  Because of her antics, the Bird of Prey show had to be canceled, but in all actuality, we got a bit of a show anyway watching her interact with Grace the Bald Eagle who was NOT happy about this hawk who kept landing on her enclosure!

And for those that haven't been to the aquarium in awhile, they have a very nice little splash pad that the kids enjoyed immensely!  On our way out of the aquarium, I stopped for a quick pic of the Lexington.

I wish we could have gone on board to see it, but alas, the fiasco at Doc's didn't leave us with the budget to see it.  Maybe next time.

We headed back to Padre Island for some souvenir shopping.  I mean really, who can resist shopping in a place with a ginormous plaster shark for a doorway?

Later that night we headed to a Corpus Christi Hooks baseball game at Whataburger Field where we managed to get front row seats right next to the home team dugout and it was Friday Night Fireworks!  Did you know that Corpus Christi was the birthplace of Whataburger?  I didn't, but I do now!

The next morning we planned to get up and head to the beach for one last hoorah, but Mother Nature had other plans.  It was pouring!  So we packed up early to head for home.  I was bummed we didn't get to make one last sand castle and I didn't get to shoot one particular photo, but hey, Corpus has been in this drought too, so badly in fact,  that many of the local birds have left due to the lack of fresh water.  So we were happy that they were getting some much needed rain.  Now if we could have managed to get it to follow us home!

We had a great time and we really did it up for my baby's birthday.  I hope she will remember all the fun we had.  I learned that my girl is a total beach bunny (she takes after her Mama!) and my son has more stamina and energy than should be humanly possible!  I also have a new found love of the Texas Coast.  Years ago, we visited Port Aransas and I was stunned to see a bunch of rednecks with their trucks backed up on the beach swilling beer and tossing trash everywhere and being that I was fresh from Oregon where the beaches are amazing and people actually pack out their trash, I was SO turned off.  I mean obviously, it has been 7 years since I set foot on a Texas beach!  But Padre Island was great, the National Seashore was beautiful and clean and I will be looking forward to going back soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Now THAT'S a bean!

I am so glad someone clued me in on these little beauties!  The vines seem to be doing well, even in the 100* heat.  The flowers are open when it's cool in the morning and I started noticing actual bean pods about a week ago.  They are now about a foot long!  I still have to wait though, 18" is optimal!  I expect to harvest this weekend!  It's about damn time!