Mardi Gras seems like a lifetime ago. Large crowds and carefree public revelry have taken on an ominous cast in hindsight. We were so innocent then.
After our two Mardi Gras parade viewings we continued west to College Station, where our son Tyler lives and works and studies at Texas A&M. One of our “anchor dates” on our otherwise loose schedule was Tyler’s birthday. We got into town in time for a dinner celebration with him and a few of his friends in the quaint historic downtown of neighboring Bryan, TX.
We hung out around College Station for a few more days, taking long walks, riding the bike paths in the local parks, visiting the local natural history museum, and relaxing. This time of year there are bluebonnets everywhere! They must seed them on the roadsides. In some places we’d drive mile after mile, bluebonnets on both sides in thick blankets.
The 3 of us then drove southwest to the north Austin suburb of Pflugerville, to meet up with extended family for their daughter’s soccer game. It brought back memories of our own children’s early soccer games, complete with struggles to keep the ball in bounds, swarming, shouted encouragements, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
McKinney Falls State Park
We all then headed to McKinney Falls State Park, just south of Austin, for play (walking and climbing on the rocks, skipping stones, and general enjoyment of the falls) and a picnic of burgers and dogs, beer and soda, birthday cake and ice cream, chips and salsa – all in copious amounts.
Happily, Tyler was able to stay and camp with us though the weekend before returning to work/school.
If you ever camp in Texas, consider getting a Texas State Parks Pass. They suggested it at McKinney when we checked in, and were even happy to apply it to our prepaid reservation, exactly offsetting the $70 annual cost of the pass. Since then it has saved us a ton. We typically pay no more than $20/night vs $40-$50 a night minimum at most private campgrounds (or, yoiks, as much as $100/night at the fancy RV parks)
Mark had long wanted to complete our semi-circle route, from one US southernmost point on the Gulf of Mexico (Key West, FL) to the other (South Padre Island, TX). So we headed for the coast, starting with Corpus Christi, and Mustang Island. The State Park at Mustang Island (now closed for COVID) wasn’t great, being more-or-less a parking lot with RV hookups. But we enjoyed long walks on the sandy beach anyway, and more long walks in the nearby Port Aransas bird sanctuary and nature preserve.
A highlight for us in the Corpus Christi area was their excellent aquarium. Check out Lori’s first foray into iMovie editing!
No doubt Corpus Christi has a lot more to offer, but we’d allocated only a 2 day stopover on the way to South Padre.
South Padre Island
South Padre Island has somewhat of a “spring break party town” reputation. We saw occasional glimpses of that, mostly in the form of cars full of kids riding down the main strip making some noise and merriment, but it was really pretty low-key overall.
We stayed at Isla Blanca Park (also now closed for COVID) where the first evening brought us a spectacular sunset. Then next day was spent primarily at South Padre’s Turtle Rescue Center, and then at a wildlife sanctuary. Both were very much worthwhile.
Despite the availability of a shuttle that runs from mid-island all the way to Isla Blanca park at the far south end, we decided we needed more exercise than the several miles of walking at the wildlife sanctuary. So we began the 4 mile trek, knowing we could jump on the shuttle at any time. It passed us at 20 minute intervals, but were too stubborn to sit and wait at a stop. By accident we stumbled on to the sand sculptures you saw above, so that was nice. We also treated ourselves to our Dairy Queen favorites: A Buster Bar for Mark, and a dip cone for Lori. That made the final mile much more tolerable. :)
A final note
This will be our last pre-COVID blog post. We’ll talk subsequently about how changing events have altered our journey (the path, the timing, and day to day living) perhaps in a special post, but we hope not to dwell on that theme too much going forward. For those of you getting a little vicarious pleasure from our story, we hope we can keep offering that, by continuing to focus on the original themes of the trip – natural beauty, discovery, serendipity, adventure.