Tuesday, November 25, 2014

South Padre Island --- Closet in November

Roger here...  Please disregard the apparent misspelling in the title.  "Closet" will be explained later.  

My brother, Dick, and sister-in-law, Pam, flew down from Ohio for a week to see our new casita and enjoy some sunny time on South Padre Island.  Lucky for them that they were missing cold and snowy days in Ohio.  Hopefully, they could find some warm weather in the Rio Grande Valley where the average high temperatures in November are in the 80s.  

We spent the first couple of days at our casita at Retama Village.  We intended to go to a Lumberman's meeting (guys drinking beer and solving the world's problems) at the palapa on the Rio Grande River --- too cold and windy to go.  We intended to host a happy hour so Dick and Pam could meet our friends.  Chilly weather and threats of rain forced us to cancel that event.  

We (Dick and I) were able to join the ping pong guys at the clubhouse where (alas) he managed (despite a recent hip replacement) to dominate the games I was in.  I should have known he would show off when he insisted that I take him to Academy Sports to buy an appropriate paddle.  Sigh.

We also had fun near the Mexican border at El Disco, a huge warehouse store full of Mexican merchandise.  Lots of cool and relatively inexpensive stuff that they would have bought were it not for the cost of shipping it to Ohio.

After a couple of days it was time to drive 60 miles to South Padre Island.  Dick was able to secure a unit at Sun Chase IV.  

The unique two-story units in this complex provided views in two directions.  

The bay bridge and Port Isabel on the mainland are visible from the first floor bedrooms (when it is not too foggy).

The Gulf of Mexico dominates the view from the second floor living area.  (A view we became very accustomed to during brief and frigid visits to the balcony).

Nice living area with a full kitchen, washer-dryer, etc.

We made good use of the dining area with views of the Gulf.  We decided to eat out for lunch and have light meals for breakfast and dinner --- spent a lot of time here.  

The views of the pools and hot tub from the 7th floor balcony were also nice.  The gray clouds are invisible when you look straight down onto the pool area.

The weather forecasts were not great for the rest of the week and it was fairly nice (60s --- not 80s) during our first full day so we headed to the beach for a walk and a little photography.

As we looked to the sky, we hoped that the blue hole would expand.  Not to be.

The pounding surf made the walk intriguing.  Fun to watch.

After the morning walk we hopped in the car for a quick tour of the island.  We drove through the drifting sands to the point at which the paved road ended before turning around and finding a farmers' market.  Dianne bought some VERY expensive pecans before we made our way to Clayton's (the largest beach bar in Texas) for lunch.  

The sky actually turned blue while we were there and the sun did indeed come out for a little while.  Ahh, sunny beach time --- the last we would see.

During the remaining days Dick and I enjoyed the ping pong tables and the sauna during the times that the weather was bad.  We also spent time drinking bloody marys, watching Big Bang Theory reruns, figuring out the best places to eat lunch.... 

... and finding the "sunny" spot on South Padre Island.  

As it turns out, the sunny spot was actually in the half bathroom on the second floor of our condo.

This bright, sunny, orange and pink place was a great spot for Dianne and Pam to figure out our lunch plans.

It was also a fun place for Dick and I to chill.

The only concern in the bright, uplifting bathroom was the strange open pipe in the ceiling over the sink.  A little scary.  What is that?

We had lunches at Pier 19 and  Blackbeard's --- both good places.  On one particularly ugly day (weather-wise) we drove to Brownsville.  We walked the Sunrise Mall (Dianne and Pam made purchases) and had lunch at Rudy's, a Texas BBQ place --- a first for Dick and Pam.

On another crummy day we had nothing else to do but go on a billboard tour.  South Padre is the place to go if you want to see a neckless shark.

You can also buy a sweatshrit for 5.99

Oh, and Big Boy's Bar and Grill is evidently closet in October.  

In fact, most of South Padre seemed to be closet in November, as well. Not many people there.

If anyone wants a billboard job, you may send your resume' to the chamber of commerce.  Don't worry about misspellings on the resume.

The weather was a little better during our last full day on the island.  It was not raining and the temperatures were in the 60s.  We decided to walk 3 and 1/2 half miles on the beach to revisit Clayton's.  The surf was great.  Unfortunately, Clayton's was closet.

We were able to stop at "Wanna Wanna" on the beach for a couple of beers.  It turned out to be a nice stop.

I have not mentioned our nightly evening entertainment --- Mexican Train with Blue Bell ice cream.  Pam was the overall winner --- so Dick finally loses at something :-).  

The pools were closet during much of the week, eliminating visits to the hot tub (except for one day).  On the last morning of our visit, Dick went down, removed the cover and enjoyed a soak --- who cares if it was closet.

Despite the disappointing weather, we had a wonderful time.  We do not get to see our families all that often, so this was a truly memorable trip, even though the weather was crappy.

I will close with a shot from our bedroom balcony of the sun setting over the bay.  Kinda nice.

The pet picture of the day....  Our friends, Jim and Sue, took care of our dogs while we were at South Padre.  Here is a picture of Bandido and Tequila with their two whippets, Gabe and Klick.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Canyon Lake --- Fun with Chuck and Cindy (part five) - finale!

Roger here....  It was our last full day at Canyon Lake.  The four of us have enjoyed kayaking together on many occasions so we sought out a location to rent them in a state park.  But first, Gastronomic Tour --- episode eight...  We returned to Granny D's for the second time.  The food was every bit as delicious as it was on the first visit.  Check out my omelet.

After filling our stomachs we drove fifteen or so miles to Blanco River State Park.  Internet sites advertised inner tube, kayak and canoe rentals.  We were interested in the kayaks.  They no longer rented kayaks, but they did have canoes.  Not what we wanted, but oh well.

The river setting was nice (another natural swimming area), but it was not large enough for a lot of exploring.  It  took less than an hour to paddle the entire stretch and back.  It was somewhat of a disappointment, especially compared to the wonderful, day-long trips we have enjoyed on Sugar Creek in Indiana.

After rolling the canoes back to the rental center we decided to wander around this small park for a bit.  The campground looked nice.  It would not be a bad central location for exploring all the interesting attractions outside the state park boundaries.

A llama and a few goats occupied a pen in the campground area. The llama walked over to check us out.  This guy could use some dental work --- quite the underbite.

We strolled down to the swimming area that was created by a small dam.  Might be fun on a hot day especially for kids.  A walk across the dam took us back to the car.

We had plenty of time on our hands after we arrived back at the condo.  Another round of Mexican Train was in order.  We played Mexican Train nearly every day of the trip.  

Gastronomic Tour --- episode nine.

When we were not exploring or playing Mexican Train, we were eating.  We decided to return to the Baja Grill for our last meal of the week.  The food was great, as before.  The sunset was better than before.

The next morning we crammed all our stuff (including the purchases from Wimberley) into the car and took Chuck and Cindy to the San Antonio airport for their flight back to Indy.  After the goodbyes, Dianne and I drove south for five hours back to our life at Retama Village.  

We always seem to find ways to see Chuck and Cindy despite the many miles between us.  We cannot wait to see what the next adventures will be.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Canyon Lake --- Fun with Chuck and Cindy (part four)

Roger here...  On Thursday we drove north for an hour to catch a 10:30 a.m. all-day double decker bus tour in Austin.  We parked the car near the Austin Visitors' Center, picked up our tickets, and claimed seats on the upper level of the bus.

There were four (two-hour long) hop-off stops on the tour with commentary and music along the way.  We would not be able to get off on all the stops during the day, so we needed to pick the places we really wanted to see.  We drove by the state capitol on the way to the University of Texas.

Once on the campus, Darryl Royal Stadium, home of the Longhorns, dominated many of the views.  I love college football, so this was a highlight for me.

Our first (two-hour) stop was the LBJ Presidential Library.  The numerous displays depicted the culture and politics of the LBJ era.  Lots of memories in those rooms.  Below is a reconstruction of the Oval Office as it was during Johnson's presidency.

The unique display below shows the many pens that Johnson used to sign the bills associated with his signature program "The Great Society".  I had forgotten all the good things that happened due to his vision while in the shadow of the Viet Nam war.  

Among many other things, Dianne enjoyed some of Lady Bird's exhibits.  I think my favorite experience was listening to recorded phone conversations that LBJ had with world leaders and politicians.  He had quite a sense of humor and was without a doubt a force to be reckoned with.  During one of those conversations LBJ called a politician who he had appointed to a commission.  The politician told LBJ that he would need to decline.  LBJ responded by saying.  It's already been announced.  It's too late.  I already appointed you.  You are on the commission.  There were also many photos that demonstrated his in your face style.  He towered over most people and leaned over when making a point.  He was one of those close talkers.

Two hours was enough time to get a good taste of the library; however, we could have spent much more time there.  When it was time to meet our bus, we were famished.  The views of the university were nice, but there were no views of those famous Austin food carts.  

We rode by the famous campus tower where the worst school shooting in history (at the time) occurred when a gunman fired at people from the top.

Our second stop was at the Texas State History Museum and the State Capitol.  Every thing in Texas is big, including the star in front of the museum.  Look at those tiny people.

We really wanted to see the museum, but we were also really hungry (due to our stretched stomachs).  We headed a couple of streets over on our walk to the Capitol and found a deli.  The food was pretty good, but we really did not have time to enjoy it.  We were fortunate to join an interesting guided tour of the Capitol as soon as we entered the rotunda area.

The granite building was impressive.  Here is a look at the inside of the dome.  Note the Texas Star in the center.  I can assure you that it was not the only one.

Here is a view of the floor at the base of the rotunda.  More stars and a depiction of the five modern countries that have ruled over Texas:  Spain, France, Mexico, the Texas Republic, and the United States.

The Senate chamber was closed for renovation, however, the house of representatives was open.  Stars on every leather chair.

Lighted stars on the ceiling light fixtures (as well as the spelling out of T E X A S on the star points.

The original flag that was flown during the Battle of San Jacinto (Texas victory over Santa Ana's Mexico) hangs over the speaker's seat.  Impressive.

I have to admit that the many hundred brass hinges that adorn every door in the building was truly over the top.  Texans truly are proud of their state.

There was a lot of talk about the Texas Capitol having the biggest this, the tallest that, etc.  I expected to hear this.  However, I did not know that the four stories that were constructed underneath the Capitol for congressional offices made it the largest Capitol (square footage) in the country.  The view of the dome from a skylight in one of the basement areas was impressive.

We hurried back to the museum (which we will have to see another time) to catch our bus.  On the way to the next stop we passed a row of victorian houses that were all owned by one extended family (oil money?).  Notice the second floor windows that open out to the balconies.  Windows were used instead of doors because tax rates at the time were based upon the number of exterior doors.  

We bypassed the "South of Congress" stop where millions of Mexican Free-tail bats fly from underneath the bridge every evening at dusk because it was the wrong time of day.  There were also a lot of restaurants and food carts in that area (wish we had been there at lunch time).

We intended to get off at Lady Bird Lake and walk along the nature trail, but honestly the day was winding down and a two hour hike was just not that appealing.

The tour ended at the visitor center where we began.  We took a quick walk to 6th avenue that is known for its live music and bars, but decided that it was (in Cindy's terminology) a little too edgy for a longer stay.  

Gastronomic Tour --- episode seven:  We did stop at the Moonshine Bar and Grill (near the parking garage) for a margarita and some yummy appetizers (corn battered shrimp on a stick) before finding the car and driving back to Canyon Lake.

Stay tuned for Fun with Chuck and Cindy --- part five.