Winter Update

You may be asking why I am talking about winter when it’s the beginning of June.  Let me explain.

I am not sure if I posted last winter that the park we were at was undergoing major renovations.  In the past, you could reserve your spot for the next winter before you leave. So before we left in April, we should have been able to reserve a spot for the 2018-19 season.  But because of the anticipated renovations this wasn’t an option.

We have been constantly watching the park website as this is where the announcement regarding winter reservations would be found.  On June 1, it was announced that reservations would be accepted starting June 10 at 8 AM.  They were going to have 5 phone lines open so it should be easy to connect and make our plans.

As Texas is one hour ahead of us, I set my alarm for 7AM and started the phone marathon. The morning went like this, dial a number, either get a fast busy signal or an “All the circuits are busy, try your call later” message, hang up, hit the re-dial, repeat. I did this for a few minutes and then I would change to a different phone number.  Let me tell you I almost fell off my chair when the line actually rang shortly after noon.

The phone connected and I got a message manager, I picked 1 for reservations and then I got “Isla Blanca can you please hold?” I had experienced “can you hold?” last year while I was in the Park Office.  No one ever went back to the phone. Needless to say I was a little concerned but after 10 minutes another employee picked up the phone.  After a few more minutes of information exchange, my credit card was used and we have a site for next winter.  Last year we were in site S6 and this we are in S31. Here is a map showing our old and new location, Isla Blanca 2018-19

It would have been nice to  be on the other side of the street but we should be able to sit out and see what is happening in the strait.  We should also get less wind, hopefully less fog and much better sunsets.

Can you tell, we are excited to be going back.

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Moving, Part 2

It has been a while since my last post and with my memory not as good as when I was younger, you and I will need to rely on the notes I took during our drive home.

April 5

We had a shorter day today due to a bit of a snow storm. It wasn’t really bad. The temperature was hovering around -1℃ (30℉), the cross wind was strong and the snow was starting to collect on the road. After driving for six hours we found a rest stop and pulled off the road around 2:30, either to wait it out or call it quits for the day.  Well by about 5 P.M. the sky had cleared and the sun was out. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to proceed any farther, so we settled in just north of the South/North Dakota border.

April 6

We realized we were behind in our self-imposed schedule, so we started a little earlier today. The temperature was pretty steady all day long, -15 ℃ (5℉). We found last night that the propane furnace really couldn’t keep up with the cold and wind, so tonight we stayed at a Best Western Motel in Brandon Manitoba.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to take a shower and not having to worry about running out of hot water.

April 7

We had to scrape the windows this morning.  It was cold and another early morning. It was nice driving under the clear blue, sunny skies.  We backed the RV into the driveway around 2:30 in the afternoon. After grabbing a few things that needed to go into the house right away, we plopped down on the couch and gave a sigh of relief. Even though we had just spent seven hours in the truck, we were home and could relax.

While we were in Texas I was asked a few times about our fuel economy and how far was our drive.  I really could answer these questions as I had never measured them.  On our was home I kept track, so here are some statistics:

  • Saskatoon to South Padre Island is 3886 Kms (7772 Kms roundtrip, 4829 miles)
  • We used more fuel coming home. More wind and it’s uphill.
  • Total fuel used was 1775 litres (468 gallons)
  • Round trip fuel economy was 22 l/100km or 10.3 miles/gallon
  • Total time behind the wheel coming home was 49 hours

The last few days have been a little more hectic that we were used to in Texas.  We have gotten the RV, mostly, unpacked. There have been some home repairs completed. We can now sit back and wait in anticipation of spring’s arrival. It will be nice to see the plants popping green out of the dead, cold flower beds.  It will also be very enjoyable sitting on the deck, around 4 o’clock, remembering our “happy hour” friends and the fantastic sunsets we were blessed with while in Texas.

We Are On The Move

Monday April 2nd we pulled out of South Padre Island and started heading for home.  We are currently sitting at a highway rest stop just south of Sioux City, Iowa. They have a Wi-Fi connection here which allows me to connect and jot down a few things about our trip home, before I forget them.

April 2

We left our camp spot around 9:30 AM after saying goodbye to all our neighbours.  There weren’t that many left.  Most of our friends on the block had already left for home or other adventures.  It was nice to see the blooming Prickly Pear cactus with all their reds, pinks, yellows and orange.  The ditches were also filled with blooming wild flowers.  There were miles of yellows, pinks, reds and blues.

We scooted around San Antonio and hit Austin around 4 P.M. Bumper to bumper traffic.  Do I have to tell you it was slooooow. The temperature was +30℃ (86℉)

We pulled into a highway rest stop south of Belton around 6:30

April 3

We started off the day at 23℃ (73℉).  The temperature steadily rose to 27℃ (80℉) and when we turned the truck off at 6:30, at a rest stop near Wellington, Kansas (on the toll road), it had dropped to 9℃ (48℉).

The wildflowers had almost disappeared by the time we got to Fort Worth, replaced with dry dead grass. The trees had also changed.  From full leaf to just bare sticks waiting for the sap to start running.

We travelled in three states today, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The major cities we travelled through were Waco, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.  We encountered no major construction so we just zipped along but battled a strong head wind.

April 4

I knew it was going to be a cold day when I could see my breath as I walked over to the Travel Centre where we were parked, -2℃ (28℉) registered on the truck as we pulled away.  The temperature did rise to +5℃ (41℉) and stayed there till we stopped for the night.

We passed through three states as well today, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, before stopping for the night south of Sioux City, Iowa at 4:30.  The strong tail wind helped us out.

That’s it for our travels home, so far.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.

To be continued…..

The Rest of the Story

Yesterday I posted this picture on Facebook and asked everyone to guess where we were going, that we weren’t going on a Dolphin Watch, but we did see dolphins. And that they should standby for more information.

Well here is, to use a famous Paul Harvey saying,  “The Rest of the Story

 

A week or so ago I found out that Sea Turtle Inc. were going to release more turtles.  We had seen turtles being released from the beach before, but this time they were going to be released from a boat.  We had to go.  I quickly called and was put on a wait list, we were in spots 3 and 4.  The person I talked to said they would be calling everyone before the event to ensure they were still coming and if there were any cancellations, they would let us know.  We were a little disappointed, but hey, a lot of things can happen in a week.

The boat was scheduled to leave at 5:30 PM yesterday, Saturday March 24th. We did not get any call to say we were now on the confirmed list. So on the off-chance there was room, we headed out to the dock for 5 o’clock.  The young lady I spoke to at the dock sort of smiled when I told here our situation and she told us we could wait and see. They were still waiting for a few more passengers to check in. We settled in at a table in the shade.  In a short period of time this same young lady smiled and motioned to me to come over.  It seems there now was room on the boat.  I paid for our boarding passes and by 5:20 we were standing in line to get on one of the two boats doing the release.  The picture above is the boat we were on.

The Captain told us that there were 5 sea turtles in each boat.  Five would be released from the back of the boat we were on and the people at the back could see that. The other boat would do the same, except the boat we were on would then be pointed at their stern.  The people at the front of our boat, that was us, would get to see those turtles being released. Being one of the last people to board and at the front of the boat, we might have gotten the best seats.

We headed out to between the jetties at South Padre Island and Boca Chica. Along the way the Captain gave us a short talk on the original causeway and the dolphins in the bay. Here are a few of my dolphin pictures.

While scooting around in the bay we passed the Black Dragon Pirate Ship.  It is normally docked at Pirates Landing where we have eaten a few times.

From between the jetties at South Padre Island and Boca Chica, we headed back toward Port Isabel.  We passed by the original causeway. As a side note, this bridge was decommissioned after only a few years because the sea water they used to make the concrete was eating away at the rebar used in the construction. We then passed under the new causeway which is named the Queen Isabella Causeway.

Old Causeway

Queen Isabella Causeway

Queen Isabella Causeway

Once we got through the causeway the two boats came together and the turtles were released.

Flippers are a Flappin’ let me go, let me go.

Getting ready for a Big Plunge.

There you go.

Are you ready?

Hang on, you’re almost there.

Are you ready?

After we got back to the RV, I did a little looking’ around and found that Sea Turtle Inc had video recorded the release.  You can get a look at it here.  You may even see or hear someone you know. With everyone in their new home we headed back to port.  Along the way we saw a lone Osprey sitting at the base of a power pole, waiting for lunch to pass by.

As well, I was able to get two panorama shots of South Padre Island. You should be able to click on the picture and then expand it so you can get a larger view.

After our excursion, we stopped in at Dirty Al’s Seafood Restaurant.  There was quite a line up so we stood by the bar and ordered our’s to-go. Their Blackened Shrimp Tacos are really good.

We had a really nice day yesterday, unfortunately we were unable to say Good-Bye to our friends, Steve, Cindy and Ruby who slipped away this morning for new adventures at Big Bend National Park.  We wish them safe and happy travels as they make their way home to Colorado.

 

Winding Down

Well Spring Break is all finished and things have started to slow down again. There are still some young folk to be seen, if you travel into town, but for the most part we are back on “Island Time”.  When we looked at the calendar the other day we were reminded to get into the park office and pay our rent.  So in we went, and sadly paid for our last 2 weeks on the Island.  We will be heading home on April 2.

With only a limited time left we are trying to get the last of our “to do’s” done.  We have a list, and I suspect things will ratchet up next week. In the mean time, I thought I had better get some of my pictures off of the camera.  They have been adding up. So in this post you will see an odd collection of pictures and my associated ramblings.

The Brazos Santiago Passwhich is at the south end of the park and leads into the Brownsville ship channel and the Laguna Madre, is quite busy with ship traffic.  There are many tour and shrimp boats, that can be seen pretty much at any time.  There are also huge ships using this pass.  We can see them out our living room window. Unfortunately, by the time you realize the ship is entering instead of leaving the channel, you hardly have time to walk down to have a look.  Here are a few of the Alpine Marina. If you Google the ship you will find she is a chemical tanker. When I took these pictures, she was heading to Brownsville, today she is heading to someplace in Mexico.

The entrance to the pass is defined by two long jetties, one which is attached to the park.  I am always amazed at the number of people who fish from the jetty and it always fun to see the sea crashing into this barrier.

Another thing that is phenomenal here on the island, are the sunsets. I don’t have a very good location here at the RV, to capture them with the camera and it is pointless to search out a better spot as the weather changes in a matter of minutes. So you may think the sunset will be a non-event only to wait and get a spectacular display. Or you may head out because the sky looks just right for a magnificent show and by the time you get set up the clouds have cleared and there is nothing to capture.

Sometimes we also get interesting shots of the moon.

And the stars.  These are a little harder to capture because of the humidity. At night it is not uncommon for the air to condense resulting in water running down our window screens.  And when I open the RV door at night to see what the sky is doing, the outside grab bar is often dripping wet.  It took a couple of nights for me to capture these.

70 minute exposure from the RV, looking South-West back into the RV park.

52 minute exposure looking North-East over the dunes and the Gulf of Mexico.

On my way over the dunes the other day I noticed this little fellow scurrying around.  If he hadn’t moved, no one would have seen him.

Here is another picture of the beach, looking north.  You can also see the flock of pelicans. It is interesting that we are now also seeing flocks of white birds. They aren’t close enough to shore for a positive identification, but they look like they could be Snow Geese.

Two shore birds just hanging’ out

The jetty’s resident Snowy Egret

The jetty’s resident Snowy Egret, other side

These next two shots are panoramas taken from the jetty. You could probably tell from the last two pictures, that I walked out on the jetty to get a different view of the gulf as well as the RV park.

A view looking back from the middle of the jetty.

A view looking back from the middle of the jetty.

A view from the end of the jetty.

While on the jetty I was able to see a small turtle, with his head popping up out of the water.  I also got a chance to see a few dolphins, dorsal fin only.  But didn’t capture any pictures.  I also got to see a huge disturbance on the water surface. When I looked close it appeared to be a school or schools of small fish swimming around frantically in the water.  I talked with one of the fisherman and he thought they were Spanish Mackerel.

As we are almost on the ocean, there is always a breeze.  Sometimes it is gentle and other times not so much.  With the wind comes the kite boarders.  They can be seen right on the beach or up-island on Laguna Madre.

Getting ready to escape the beach

We are off

Great times riding the wind.

Well, that’s all the pictures there are.  As I mentioned thing will be getting a little crazy for the next week so you may not se another post until we get home.

Thanks for riding along with us and we hope you had as much fun as we did.

Spring Break Update

There is no doubt about it, Spring Break is here, in all it’s glory.  This past weekend we had some very hot weather and the beach and parking lots were packed. Beach chairs and umbrellas were available for rent from the shacks on the beach that had previously been unoccupied. There is also a food truck parked near one of the beach access points and today, just down from us, a huge trailer with a smoker has moved in. We are still seeing the planes flying overhead dragging signs advertising the events going on at the local watering holes. The message changes daily.

Earlier in the week we had an RV move in, two stalls down from us, but there were no occupants, Hmm.  Then Saturday, another RV pulled in next to us with about 10 young adults. It turns out these 10 ended up staying in the two RVs next to us.  Of course we were thinking the worst, but things weren’t too bad with our new neighbours.  But they did need to be reminded at 12:30 AM that quiet time starts at 10:00  The Sheriff was very quick to respond and things quieted down right smartly after his visit.

With all the extra people on the island having a good time, it is inevitable that things will go sideways.  Sure enough, there was a report on the news of damage to a sand castle that sits outside the Tourist Welcome Centre. We had previously biked into town to see the new castle and were fortunate enough to speak with the artists.  This is a huge and very intricate sand sculpture.  After hearing the report we took our bikes out to see the damage. It is a tragedy that this type of vandalism has occurred after hours and hours of work.  Here is a second report from the local TV station.

The Visitor Centre was about as far into town as we could take our bikes. The sidewalks were overcrowded with groups of young adults.  As we approached a group they either didn’t hear our bike bell or didn’t care and we had to weave around them. Taking our bikes to the road was not a safe option either.

Today the weather didn’t get past 70℉ so the beach activity was very quiet. We decided to venture into town this afternoon for a coffee at McDonald’s. What a surprise. This is a very small restaurant with only 2 tills, only one normally open.  In the past, there is rarely another car in the parking lot and there are normally only 3 or 4 workers behind the counter. Today the parking lot was near full and, upon entering, we were greeted by a Cameron County Sheriff. The place had many patrons, most of which looked like they had too much sun and/or had just woken up from a very late night. There still was only one till open but there was a serpentine lane to keep everyone in-line as they approached the counter. As we waited for our coffee to be delivered, yes, they brought our order to our table, I counted 14 staff working behind the counter.

There were many young adults as well as families eating inside. It was nice to see the young patrons, no matter how scantily they were dressed, or hung over they looked, as they acted very politely toward the staff.  We chatted with the Sheriff before we left. He told us things get a lot crazier around 5:00 or 6:00 as the line goes out the door.  I guess that is when people start to rise and get ready for the evenings activities.

While in town, we continued to see many people walking on the sidewalks.  There were also many vans and busses on the street advertising free rides. These free rides were being used as we could see people flagging them down to get around town.  We also learned at happy hour the other day that a religious group that is staying in the park is offering free breakfast to those on bring break.

It is nice to see the community getting together during this time when the population explodes to provide a safe and accommodating atmosphere for all.

 

Spring Break, OMG

It is getting exciting around here.  Some of our friends have left, either to warmer places or back to their homes in the north.  We will see more of our friends leaving to go back home as the month wears on. We are also seeing more activity in the park and in South Padre Island, on the beach and on the streets.

Last weekend we had some pretty nice weather and there were lots of people out and about. The parking lots were fuller than I have ever seen and I don’t think I have seen so many people on the beach, kids, families and young adults. Many of the young adult beach goers were in various stages of undress that were supposed to be swim suits. A couple of our neighbours were out walking their dogs on the beach and reported back at happy hour how crazy it was. I suppose people think that if they “have it”, they should show it off.  Unfortunately there are many that think they “have it”, but really don’t.

During the week, the people on the beach and the cars in the parking lots decreased.  Partly because we have had a day of rain and, well, the weekend was over.  We have seen more RVs entering the park though, but not a corresponding increase in people.  It appears that people are bringing in their RVs and then leaving.  We all suspect they will return this coming weekend, when Texas spring break starts.

Last Saturday we went out for supper at Blackbeards’ Restaurant. Wow, what a great experience.  We originally wanted to go on Friday when their dinner special is Blackened Fish Tacos. We asked our server if they were available on Saturday as well, they were.  But we could also have Blackened Shrimp Tacos. Perfect, we ordered the Shrimp Tacos, to share. They were delicious. Bev also had a soft drink and I had a desert, to share, and the bill was under $20. We couldn’t have asked for better service or food. We both walked away, filled to the gills.

Excitement was the name of the game when we were on our way home. You have to know that there are many companies in South Padre Island that will rent you a golf cart that you can drive on the street. These are not like the carts you would see on the greens.  Oh No, these are pimped out with loud music, roofs with crazy lights and some have the ability to carry 8 or more people. They don’t look that safe and thank goodness they don’t drive very fast. At times they were a little hard to see and with the increase in pedestrians, driving back into the park after sunset was interesting.

We went out to do some errands during the day on Saturday and were amazed at the number of young adults walking the streets. They were mostly in groups of 4 or more.  Some were flagging downs taxis, other were carrying cases of beverages (could be beer or water, you pick). Many of them appeared to have had too much sun, think red lobster. At one intersection Bev noticed a young lady that had on very short, denim shorts. It wasn’t the shortness of the shorts that caught Bev’s eye, it was the fact the top button was undone as was the zipper. I missed the spectacle and Bev assured me she didn’t “have it”.

With the increase of people to the island for spring break, there is going to be an increase in Police patrols, which we have already seen here in the park, as well as the addition of temporary street cameras at the popular watering holes and entertainment venues.  We have also seen airplanes buzzing around the island, dragging huge banners behind them.  One of the signs advertises a company that will write your term paper for you.  Another advertises the bands that are playing at Louie’s Backyard.

Now more locally, at Happy Hour, we have lost a furry four-legged friend.  Max has moved back home with his owners.  His playmate Ruby is missing him dearly.  But we have a new furry friend, Oscar.  Oscar is a little Old English Sheepdog that love to play.

Oscar and Charlie

Oscar

We haven’t been to the beach for some time now, so today I had a wander over to the water.  We have seen on the local news of reports of Portuguese Man O’ War being present in the water and what to do if you have been stung. Sure enough when I got to the beach I could see the addition of the blue surf conditions flag.

Yes, there were many Portuguese Man O’ War washed up on the beach.  I had seen them before, but at that time I didn’t know what they were, and they certainly weren’t in this number.  There were some big ones, a little bit smaller than your hand but there were an abundance of little ones (smaller than your little fingernail). It was interesting watching the gulls eating the small ones that were still floating in the water. I guess they aren’t affected by the venom.

Portuguese Man O’ War

Portuguese Man O’ War

Portuguese Man O’ War

Not Sure What These Are.

So it will be interesting next weekend, the start of spring break here in Texas. I hope the crazy activity remains in town, away from the park.  But with temperatures forecast to be in the 90s, I suspect some of the frivolity will spill over to the beach here in the park.