Ah the ocean is back! How beautiful. We arrived around noon on the 10th. After lunch we drove to Padre Island. The whole area is protected as the Padre Island National Seashore. We learned a lot at the Visitors' Centre. Padre Island is the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world. From the Visitors' Centre it is 70 miles of dunes, grasslands and tidal flats. The landscape of the island is changing all the time, with tides and wind. There are several campsites right at the tide line. We didn't stay there because there would be too much salt. There are four varieties of endangered sea turtles that are being encouraged to make a comeback here. The lady at the Visitors' Centre had spent several months volunteering on the Olympic Peninsula this summer and before that several years in Alaska.
On the way back we stopped and picked up some shrimp. Big, fresh Gulf shrimp just caught that morning. They were $10 per pound. They were so good.
On Saturday at Maureen's urging, we went to the South Texas Botanical Gardens. It was somewhat of a disappointment because it seemed to be between seasons. There were a lot of butterflies in the Butterfly Garden. We were able to salvage some pretty good pictures!
Since our timing was good, we drove about 30 miles to King Ranch in Kingsville which is the largest ranch in the world. The sections in South Texas add up to 825,000 acres. There are also citrus producing properties in Florida. We bought package tickets (museum and ranch tour). We went back into town and visited the museum, came back to ranch, ate our picnic lunch (amongst the bird-poop encrusted table and the little bugs), and then went on the ranch tour. It was about 1 1/2 hours and was very interesting. They developed the only new recognized breed of cattle - Santa Gertrudis (a cross with Brahman and short horn). It turns out the cattle would grow to be too big so a new strain was developed - Santa Cruz (smaller but a better meat producer). There are about 50,000 head on the ranch. They also have about 150 Texas longhorns, hundreds of quarter horses (produced the first registered American Quarter Horse and raised to work on the ranch), thoroughbred horses (raised the only Texan horse to win the Triple Crown named "Assault") as well as wildlife which is hunted (including about 2000 aligators which are culled every year for meat and leather).
The ranch was begun by Richard King, a steamboat captain, in 1853. He was once told by Robert E. Lee to buy land and never sell it. After his death in 1885, the ranch was carried on by his widow, Henrietta, and son-in-law, Robert Kleberg. Almost everything in the area is named either King or Kleberg! The ranch was there before the town so it was totally self-sufficient at the start - it even had its own dairy. The ranch is now a National Historic Site but is still a working ranch.
After the ranch tour, we drove back through town and stopped at the King Ranch Saddle Shop. Amongst the leather goods and pottery, they still make finely tooled new saddles right on site.
On the way back to the campground we stopped at the Barton Street Pub (2 beers $2.50) for happy hour. It's always fun to talk to the locals.
Sunday the 12th (Kelly's birthday) we just hung around and relaxed. The wind was constant but the sun was out!
Monday we went to the USS Lexington. We started the tour with an Imax film about a present-day fighter pilot. We continued on the rest of the tour but we couldn't do quite a bit of it. There were too many really steep sets of stairs. Fortunately, the cashier only charged us for one admission because she anticipated that Larry might not be able to do it all. It was very interesting anyway. The Lex was an early aircraft carrier of the US Navy in the Second World War, the fourth of five to carry the same name. When we finished with the Lex, we drove through Corpus Christi. It was very quiet. Somewhat like White Rock Beach when it gets cooler. We drove all around the waterfront, covering the whole of Ocean Drive. It is much like the Uplands in Victoria, large waterfront homes. They didn't seem to be too worried about the danger of hurricanes.
Wednesday we went back to the beach at Padre Island and brought out the lawn (sand) chairs and sat in the sun for awhile. The waves from the ocean when they came in ended up about 5 feet from our chairs. It was so windy the car was covered with salt by the time we were done. We drove all the way down the beach as far as we could go before the bridge back - about 10 miles. We stopped and got another 2 lbs prawns. We beheaded them, froze the tails and then froze the heads so Maureen can make more chowder. These ones were even bigger than the last ones.
Thursday Maureen walked to the small shopping area near the park and Larry went for a bike ride.
Friday we're off to Houston. See y'all there!