Water has been much on the bodymindspirit over the past week. Started a week ago, when we dropped down - all the way down - to South Padre. A first for the Resident Youth y yo; Resident Beauty had been years ago. The draw was the contention that SP was where the "blue" "Caribbean" waters were: not the emerald greens of the Florida panhandle beaches, and not the aquamarine of North Padre: the real blue. We were game.
Coffee stop and then off down 37 towards Corpus. At Robbstown, we headed south down 77. RY and I had recently heard of a retired math professor in Bishop (just above Kingsville) who had cashed in 4 (FOUR) times for big bucks with the Texas Lottery (she's since moved on to - naturally - Las Vegas). By big bucks, if I recall, we're talking 20 million greenbacks. At any rate, with Bishop on our radar, we stopped in at the Taqueria Jalisco in Bishop for breakfast. Next to TJ was a podunk convenience mart; the site, no doubt, of the math mama's plundering. We declined the temptation: surely the cash cow (no, I do not mean the professora) had moved on down the road to the likes of, say, Italy or Paris (the Texas ones, mind).
Thirty miles or so past Kingsville and we were further southeast in Tejas than I had ever been. Palm trees began to roll in and the sky deepened to a gloriously brilliantly lit crystalline blue. Towering cumulo-nimbus, sez the RY. Towering water tower, too, in San Benito, proclaiming the gospel of native son Freddy Fender. Head east on 100 to Port Isabel, namesake of, I now recall, that imposing icon of religious bigotry. Such a lovely name, but such a travesty of intolerance.
We put in at the South Beach Inn, funky little 1950s throwback cinderblock haven, the kind you used to find up and down South Congress in Austin, as well as up and down Austin Highway here in Tres Leches. Groovy colors, and a mere block and a half walk from the beach. We plunked ourselves down for an old folks' nap, much to the gracious chagrin of our lad, but by about 4 we were out on the beach, slipping through the hedge at the Aquarius Beach access.
The water was wonderfully refreshing, but I have to say that apparently the Caribbean blue had fled the site. No matter: the aquas were still lovely and all that our souls needed . . . until some mysterious critter got the better of Youth and his Forefather: a nasty bit of stinging business that felt like an electric needle just prodding away. That ended the day's venture, as we headed back to the SBI and prepped for dinner. Food, late drive up the island, past all the folks and buildings, and, of course, plenty of Trollope.
Tuesday morning, we lazed a good while before heading up the isle to the unpeopled and unbuilt beaches and had a wonderful day: better waves, colder aquas, far fewer folks. Still some fang-ish critters, but we weathered them better. Some post-beach research by RB unearthed the nugget that, unlike many critters who are besieged by environmental trauma (can anyone say, BP?), jellyfish actually thrive in such toxicity. Granted, we were hundreds of miles away from the BP epicenter, but, as the ranger said at Malaquite on Wednesday, "it's gonna get here eventually." Perhaps the partying caravan of jelly-critters were harbingers of the bigger party to come. Whether or not we were bathing in jelly heaven, it was heaven enough for us, boogeying with the little Cnidaria notwithstanding.
Tuesday evening, a towering pink cumulo-tsunami rolled over us as we sat outside on the pier at Pier 19, a restaurant just a few blocks north of South Padre's terminus. Good food, great view.
We decided to blow the joint Wednesday morning and split up our drive home by spending the afternoon at Malaquite Beach at the Padre Island National Seashore, our usual aquatic home away from home. A most inauspicious breakfast in Port Isabel at Isabel's Cafe, where signs all over the restaurant proclaimed their fervent Christianity, though their actual behavior towards these three pilgrims was anything BUT radical hospitality.
On a whim, before heading north, we shot west through 22 miles of wetlands to Brownsville; the burgh itself underwhelmed, but the wetlands had a ragged beauty of their own. Back up 77 then, where at Sarita, we were ushered through a Border Patrol roadside party, complete with canine corps and officers feverishly shouting out "US citizens?" as each car passed through.
The skies darkened considerably as we drove into Corpus to pick up the highway to Malaquite. Quick stop at the Global Coffee Vendor, and then on to what RY and I have declared the best day at the beach EVER. Darkly overcast as we hit the beach, temps in the low 80s, water temperature perfect. As evening came on, the skies opened up to lovely mackereled striations, and we were decidedly in heaven (again). Dinner at Snoopy's and ice cream at Scoopy's, with the sun fading right in front of us in the west - the cherry on top.
Water of the emerald kind is where we headed this past Saturday, with family gathering for my mother's 77th birthday. Out to Uvalde County, site of the ancestral ranch, once named El Rancho Doce Robles by my maternal grandmother, and now named for her: her first name was Loma, and the land is now named Terra Loma. Sister Laura, her husband Dave, and her son Steph have been dropping down to TL from Austin a fair bit of late, and have been scoping out things around the canyons a few miles to the north. Eschewing the Houstonian-mobbed Neal's at Con Can, they have found a slice of heaven a few miles further up the Frio at Mager's Crossing. We drove down to the gravel beach, hauled our stuff about fifty yards downriver, and baptized ourselves immediately in its emerald beauty.
Baptized: funny little choice of words, given what unfolded an hour and a half or so into our soak under the cypress trees. When we first dropped our chairs and tubes into the river, there was a big canvas cover about twenty feet away, under which sat another group of pilgrims, complete with music playing, beer guzzling, gab, and water fun. After I commandeered one of Laura's innertubes, I grabbed hold of a cypress branch hanging over me in midstream, and just lazed away in the shade, listening to the cicadas outshrill the electronic sounds that others had brought into the canyon. But, as I say, about an hour and a half into our stay, a group of about thirty people materialized between our chairs and the canvas tribe, gathered in semi-circle around a man who, it was eventually revealed, was preaching in Spanish to his assembled throng. After about thirty minutes of preaching and prayer, he and two other men walked out into the river with a lovely woman in white, and after a few minutes more of blessings, not six feet from my cypress branch and the Blue Moon beer in my hand and me, the woman was baptized in the rio frio sagrado. Saints and sinners in the throng at the river applauded when she came back up. What a wonderful way to go.
As it turns out, when the Resident Youth was but a little fish in the Resident Beauty's belly, we took him around to several of the beautiful green rivers in the hill country and baptized his little fishy self to the life he has blessed us with.
Woke up this morning with this song playing in my head:
Labels: Águas de Março