The Texas Gulf Coast is always inviting. With free boondocking on many of its beaches, you may wonder why we don't just spend the entire winter here?
Hearing about the weather at home (in Ontario) - extreme cold and winter storms - we were, as usual, thrilled with the warm sun and even welcomed the ocean spray of the Texas Gulf Coast when we first arrived.
We had arranged to meet up with good friends at one of our favorite stops, Padre Island National Seashore.
Boondocking doesn't seem to hamper Julie's ability to entertain. At home or on the road, she's an equally amazing cook!
After parting company, our friends were heading for Big Bend National Park - another favorite destination (theirs and ours). We stayed behind with stops at some other area beaches and visited a few new (and old favorite) attractions in the area.
At South Padre Island we visited "Sea Turtle Inc". An amazing story of one woman, Ila Fox Loetscher, who began rescuing injured turtles in the 1960's. She has passed away but this non-profit organization continues her good work. For a small donation, we could see turtles up close. We were even invited into the "intensive care" unit and had a long chat with the resident veterinarian who treats them. Fundraising is currently underway for an expanded larger and more modern facility to replace this one - hopefully in about three year's time.
Growing up on a farm, I had wanted to take advantage of the guided tour offered at King Ranch, near Kingsville, Texas since I first heard about it nearly 13 years ago. This was the year we made it happen. Reported to be one of the largest operating ranches in the world, King Ranch today encompasses 825,000 acres in Texas and is home to 60,000 head of cattle and 300 quarter horses.
The tour cost was reasonable ($12.00 per person) and I guess, especially since I grew up on a farm, I should have known that a "behind the scene" view of modern-day ranch operations from the windows of a shuttle bus might not be as exciting as one imagines. Yes, we saw some Santa Gertrudis cattle (a breed developed on this ranch) and a few horses. We even were lucky enough to see some ranch hands at work - they were clearing brush with bulldozers. This work and building and repairing fences appear to be the biggest jobs on a modern ranch. We certainly didn't see any real cowboys and, even if we had, realized they would more likely be driving a truck than riding a horse. Our guide did, however, do an excellent job of making the hour-and-a-half trip enjoyable and entertaining.
We chanced to meet a couple on the beach who hailed from the same part of Ontario as us. The coincidence became more interesting when they told us they were RVing in this area for the first time because they were following something called The Frugal Shunpiker's Guides. Had we heard of those?
Of course, since we're revisiting many of the areas in my guides, this was bound to happen sooner or later. But it was when we discovered that this couple also know and, in fact, are friends of my sister and brother-in-law that the world started to feel really, really small!
A few days later, another serendipitous meeting: We were parked at the Corpus Christie Visitor Center, when I saw a woman who I thought I recognized. Sure enough, it was Rae, from Travels with Miranda, a blog I follow. Rae is Canadian and we had discussed the possibility of meeting there last summer but that didn't happen. We realized that we had actually already seen each other a few days earlier on the beach but neither of us had fully recognized the other. The world got even smaller again when we ran into each other a third time, many hours and many miles away, in the Kingsville Walmart store.
For those who think our travels are all sun and fun, sometimes they are not! We had a heavy rain this week. That wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't somehow managed to not close the back door of the Roadtrek properly. By the time we discovered it, all our bedding, including pillows, and mattress were thoroughly soaked. We spent the afternoon at a laundromat, feeding the dryers. We had to take the covers off our mattress foams and set them out to dry but, in the end, had to run our furnace (on a hot day) to fully dry them out.
After more than a week on the Gulf Coast beaches, we are quite ready to head inland and leave it behind. Why? As romantic and lovely as it has been and, despite free camping right on the beach, we can only take so much sand, salt, and humidity before we are "beached out". We recognize that this happens every time we come here. It's great - but only for a while. After a trip to the laundromat, car wash, and showers, we're feeling better and happy to say goodbye to the coast. Until our next trip when I'm sure the Texas Gulf Coast will be as appealing as ever - at least for a few days.