Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Saturday, January 25, 2014

1-22-2014 Sam Houston Jones State Park, LA taking a slow day

Current Location: Belle Chasse NAS LA  Current Temperature: 32 and “ice pellets”

Sam Houston SP_035After our busy short week at the NAS near Corpus Christi, wonderful visits with friends, and trying to see as much as possible, Mo and I both were ready for a bit of down time. When planning this trip, I had the sense that might be the case and I wanted a park that could be a resting place about half way between Corpus Christi and New Orleans that wasn’t far off our route.

Sight unseen, and with no friends leaving campground reviews, Sam Houston Jones State Park turned out to be a perfect choice. The distance from Anahuac NWR wasn’t long, just a short leg on our journey east toward New Orleans.  We are getting close to the day when we will board a cruise ship heading for the Caribbean….hopefully the current cold snap won’t extend all the way south to Belize and Honduras!

Sam Houston SP_008We arrived early afternoon and with reservations arranged for a site with electric and water there was no concern about space.  Once there, however, we decided that the space on the end row, number 33 was much more to our liking than site 27 I had chosen online right in the middle.  There are sites big enough for large rigs in the central area of camping loop B that have full hookups with sewer, but we didn’t need sewer for just two nights.  There is also a dump station nearby.  There are two very large, “premium” sites that have long, level concrete pads close the the rest room building. 

Sam Houston SP_007Seems as though there is some kind of dutch oven cook-off coming up, but we didn’t know that, and the minute we arrived a very loud, very verbal, very intrusive gentleman in an electric scooter came over to tell us how to hook up, where to put the motorhome, how to put down the jacks and how to hook up the water.  He just kept talking.  Mo said to me, “I do NOT want to stay here”, so I went back to the office and arranged a move.

Within minutes, we again had our privacy and silence.  Whew!  The site was perfect for us, even though the water faucet sprayed all over the place.  Mo simply put a rag over it to contain the spray, and we unhooked it at night.  Needed to do that anyway since temperatures were dropping below freezing due to the Arctic Polar Chill Thingy coming south to Louisiana. 

Sam Houston SP_016I reserved two nights so that we could have a nice afternoon and then one entire full day doing absolutely nothing.  What a perfect place to do that.  The daytime temperatures weren’t too bad even with the cold nights.  I spent most of our day off writing and processing photos while Mo sat outside in the sunshine enjoying her book. 

Sam Houston SP_029In spite of our commitment to do nothing, we couldn’t resist going for a walk around the expansive park.  Although the sounds of Moss Bluff, the small town nearby, are evident, the park itself is beautifully quiet.  There is something quite haunting about Louisiana bayou country.  The water is everywhere, the cypress, even without their leaves, are fascinating with their little knees all around.  The thought that there are poisonous snakes in the underbrush and alligators hiding on the muddy banks of the waterways makes it a tiny bit threatening, but not too much.

The park is encircled by the meandering Calcasieu River. There is a boat launch to the river, and nearby there was a large swamp/pond that was completely dry, and with all the wetness in other parts of the park, we never quite figured that out.  No alligators here, that is for sure! Sam Houston SP_023

On our way back to our campsite, we took the leaf covered Orange Trail around the perimeter of the park for an easy  1.6 mile walk.  The trail winds through the forest  and emerges  at times for views of the huge Louisiana homes that line the banks of the river across from the park.  Late afternoon sunlight filtering through the dripping Spanish moss on the barren cypress trees was reflected in the water of the swamps.

Sam Houston SP_037One of the greatest things about the park, that would make us return, were the roads and paths that were perfect for biking.  Of course, on this, our do-nothing day, we didn’t even take the bikes off the rack. The campground bathrooms were pretty darn sweet as well, with plenty of room and privacy, and lots of hot water.  For some reason on this trip, I seem to be using campground showers more than in the past.  It just seems easier sometimes and letting that hot water run forever when I am tired is a huge luxury.Sam Houston SP_030

Jeremy loved this spot, and spent a lot of time exploring close to the campsite, enjoying scratching on various trees and balancing on the cement culvert barriers.  Abby could hang around off leash and was completely protected from view by the angle of the parked motorhome and car.  We had a nice solid picnic table, and wonder of wonders a campfire ring!  Even more wonder, we could actually have a fire.Sam Houston SP_044

I don’t think I mentioned that Mo found some really good firewood in the middle of nowhere when we were boondocked at Joshua Tree.  Yup, that was a month ago.  We have carried that firewood in the Tracker the entire time, dribbling dust and bark on all our stuff, but it was worth it when Mo started up our evening campfire and we ate dinner once again outside by the warm flames.

CaptureTwo nights and a day of nothing were just what we needed before continuing east.  Thursday morning dawned gray, with some predicted rain, but the hard freeze didn’t materialize and the coldest temperatures were in the low 30’s.  I think we left the Lake Charles area just in time because today there has been freezing rain and sleet and even snow right behind us.

Atchafalaya_014The trip to New Orleans was a simple one.  I had no desire to repeat the route along US 90, that goes through Avery Island and into New Orleans along a southern path.  In 2007 we followed that route, and I used the blog to remind us that it was long and bumpy and that we never wanted to repeat it.  Instead we traveled the also bumpy I-10, but at least the speeds were more acceptable.

Both Judy and daughter Deanna had mentioned the Atchafalaya Bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya Basin, and the Atchafalaya Visitor Center as something not to be missed.  They were so right!!  In fact, we were so aghast at the wonder of that bridge that we actually missed the quick turn into the visitor center and had to continue several miles before we could exit and turn around.  This gave us the chance to cross part of that engineering challenge three times!

Atchafalaya_023The Visitor Center was in a bit of turmoil, with new septic systems being installed and new kiosks.  When I walked in the big doors on the wide southern porch, my mouth dropped open in amazement.  I don’t think I ever heard the word “Atchafalaya” before, and knew absolutely nothing about the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Atchafalaya Basin is the nation's largest river swamp, containing almost one million acres of America's most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes.  This is the heart of Cajun Country, and I learned the difference between Cajun and Creole, and watched the movie in the round theater about the ecologically rich swamp that surrounded me. The place caught my heart deeply, and yes, I do want to return. 

Atchafalaya_022No matter what, if you are on I-10, crossing this amazing bridge, stop at the visitor center.  Surprisingly, the center had extensive information about the Atchafalaya Basin, but nothing on the construction of the bridge.  Searching the internet, I found that to build the bridge, they first had to build a canal that could open the swamp to transport of vehicles and materials.  The bridge is 18.2 miles long.  The view is of vast wet swamplands, breathtaking in their beauty and wildness.

Within a few more hours, we arrived easily at Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, on the Westbank side of the Mississippi River just a few miles south of New Orleans.  I had read about this campground when Erin and Mui stayed here when it was brand new and it is a perfect location to stay while we take a vacation from our vacation.  The campground is clean and simple, with once again, huge private bathroom showers, a great laundry, and quick access to base amenities.  The very best part of this campground, however, is the “away” policy.

The collage below is of some of the vignettes at the Atchafalaya Visitor Center01-22-2014 slow day in Louisiana

When we leave for our cruise on Saturday, we have only to pull in the slide and disconnect the hookups.  We can then leave the rig parked here for the entire length of the cruise for just $1.00 per day.  Yup.  You read that right.  A buck a day to store the motorhome.  The fur kids will be staying at a nice doggie and kitty condo back in New Orleans while we take an animal break.  And yes, I am looking forward to that, sorry to say.  Every parent needs a break from the kids now and then.

We spent this very cold, rainy day organizing for our cruise and readying the MoHo for a break from us. I probably will be offline until we return the first week of February. 

Later:  We just dropped Abby and Jeremy off at the Canine Connection in Uptown New Orleans.  Seems like a great facility, and they were all so good at meeting the animals and helping us to feel safe about leaving them there.  I am really delighted with or choice for a boarding facility. 

With a suggestion from Elijah, Kenny’s assistant here at the park, I found and downloaded a Mardi Gras Parade app to the iPhone and it seems there is a parade today on the Westbank…right on our way to the hotel where we will overnight before boarding our ship tomorrow.  So, again, see you later.


Friday, January 24, 2014

1-21-2014 Judy finds the spoonbills

Current Location: Belle Chase LA, NAS: Temperature: 33 degrees F spitting wet stuff

Anahuac NWR_102I do believe that anyone who has an RV blog probably knows about Judy, the Bird Lady of Blogland.  She has hundreds of followers, uncounted readers, and if you are lucky enough to be anywhere in the vicinity, she is likely to have offered to share her refuges with you.  I think nearly every blogger that I follow has at one time or another declined to identify a bird in favor of Judy’s final say-so on the matter, me included.

When we realized that we were traveling within a few miles of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Judy’s current volunteer location, I contacted her privately and asked where we might camp if we wanted to see the refuge.  With her usual generous spirit, she piped up, “Right here on my concrete pad if you don’t mind roughing it with 30 amp.  I have the day off and would love to show you the refuge if you have time”.Judy and Emma

Well, then!  Lucky us!

Judy offered us a place to stay and a tour of the refugeWe arrived on a sunny but windy afternoon and within a few moments were getting set up at the maintenance area of the refuge where Judy is currently parked.  I let my guard down for a moment…bad bad bad…and Jeremy immediately jumped out of the rig to investigate.  Usually not a problem, but I’ll let Judy tell the story here. She tells the story better than I would and you get another chance to see her sense of humor shine.

With an attempt to thank Judy for her hospitality, I offered to cook grilled chicken with rice and salad.  We visited on the patio, but the chilly winds drove us inside our rig for dinner.  We enjoyed having someone to share a meal at our new dinette.

Anahuac NWR_009I kinda knew that Judy had a dry sense of humor, but as our evening wore on and we shared our supper, all that good stuff started showing up.  We had a nice time getting to know each other and talking about travels, birds, volunteering, refuges, and yes…a bit of talk about other bloggers.  I guess it is only natural and of course it was all good stuff.

Judy knew I wanted to see spoonbills, but as we began our morning explorations, I let her know that seeing the snow geese do their thing was also high on my list.  With a few hours to spend at the refuge, we saw so much more than we could have on our own.  There is nothing quite like having a pro around to really show you the ropes.

snow geese at AnahuacJudy took us to several locations where we saw huge flocks of snow geese, and during the entire time she was sharing bits and pieces of her extensive knowledge of the history of the refuge, the devastation of hurricane Ike, and attempts to restore the wetlands to good condition.  Shoveler’s Pond, for instance, a fresh water environment, was completely inundated by the storm surge and the salt water killed all the natural vegetation.  Restoration included removing the salt contaminated soil completely and starting over.Anahuac NWR_034

Even with the high winds, we saw more than I ever expected.  Judy thought that the winds might have actually been in our favor because the birds were hunkering down.  Watching snow geese fly and hearing their sound is thrilling, something I seek out in the Klamath Basin where they move through in March. 

blue winged tealJudy took us right to several huge flocks, that obligingly put on a great show.  I took many photos, and also did a video recording of the sounds.  There is just nothing like it, except for maybe the sound of a huge flock of tundra swans.

Anahuac NWR_089As we drove around Shoveler’s Pond, Judy kept saying she couldn’t guarantee a sighting of the ‘big pink birds”, the roseate spoonbills.  I actually saw them first, and hollered, “Look, there they are!”  Sure enough we found them on one of the distant dikes across the pond, but Judy knew where the grasses would part enough for a closer view.  I finally saw the spoonbills, and even managed a photo or two.Anahuac NWR_157

After a bit of time watching the birds on the dike, they decided that I needed to see them fly, and took off just for us, knowing that of course we needed a fabulous photo op.

Anahuac NWR_191Judy says that if we return in March and are nearby, we can see the spoonbill rookeries on High Island, where birders come from all over the world to see the birds congregating after their exhausting travels over the Gulf of Mexico on their return north. 

What a treat it was to spend time with Judy and to see Anahuac  (did you know it is pronounced ana whack??) NWR as we would have never seen it without her. 

At noon, we packed up, hooked up, and ambled off toward Louisiana

Up Next:  Sam Houston Jones State Park, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Thursday, January 23, 2014

1-17 and 1-19 2014 Padre Island National Seashore and kayaks in the water

Padre Island_005We only gave ourselves a single day to explore Padre Island National Seashore.  I am sure folks who love this place dearly are appalled that we didn’t take the time to settle in to the rhythm of the waves, and to really enjoy the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.

Padre Island is truly a national treasure, one I had heard very little of until recently when I found bloggers talking about their time volunteering on the island.  North Padre Island is a bit different.  Technically it is a neighborhood of Corpus Christi, with many upscale seasonal homes on the intracoastal waterway, surf shops, and all that go with that beach resort kind of atmosphere. 

Padre Island_137Unlike what I read about South Padre Island, North Padre Island seems to be a bit more laid back, not quite so crowded, maybe not quite as popular with the spring break crowd.  Very few high rises were to be seen. Just a few miles south, however, is the entrance to the national seashore.  The entrance is still a few miles from the visitor center at Malaquite Beach, and the broad expanse of the barrier island seems a bit featureless until time is taken to look at it a bit more closely. Camping is allowed both in two main campgrounds that are accessible by road, and along the entire 65 mile length of the shore with a park permit.  There is an additional campground at Yarborough Pass at milepost 15 ( through the dunes) that is on Laguna Madre, inland from the beach, and is accessible by 4 wheel drive or by boat.

Crested Caracara Caracara cheriwayWe decided to drive to Bird Island and discovered one of the campgrounds, with several rigs settled in along the silty beach bordering Laguna Madre.  It was here that I first saw this very weird bird that I later discovered was the national bird of Mexico, a crested caracara.  There were white pelicans settling in on an exposed bar in the lagoon, and the wind was blowing hard.  Perfect for windsailing, which seems to be a popular pastime at this site.

Continuing down the road toward the visitor center, we found a short interpretive trail with a nice path that led through the grasslands.  The ecology of a barrier island is complex: simplified it consists of the beach, the dunes, the grasslands, the wetlands, and the lagoon separating the island from the mainland.  The grasslands are full of all sorts of plants and wildlife, and we saw the lovely vermillion butterfly.The weather was cool and windy for our walk, and the sun was brilliant.

Padre Island_026Dog friendly beaches and trails were another great surprise about the seashore.  We were happy to have Abby with us all day on the trails and on the beach, although even with pavement, there were many stickers on the trail that Mo had to pull from Abby’s paws. Again, the national seashore is almost 70 miles of coastal frontage with no roads providing access.  The only access is in your vehicle, right on the beach. 

Padre Island_114The first 5 miles don’t require a 4 wheel drive, but it is recommended after that distance, due to drifting dunes that build up along the route. The warning sign at the 5 mile marker regarding illegal activity and smugglers was a bit sobering.

We drove about 10 miles, most of the time we were the only ones on the beach, and it was very windy and cool enough that we were grateful for the protection of the car.  This landscape is a place where immersion would take commitment.  It would be wonderful to take the MoHo as far as we could manage and just sit there and watch the water and the view change with the shifting light.  Instead, it was an exploratory trip and we decided that we will definitely return to explore it in depth.Padre Island_130

Shoreline trash is a big enough subject that it is directly addressed in the park brochure.  Seems as though most of the trash is blown in from the Gulf and there are both public and private programs to try to clean it up.  It would be a never ending project. An entire day could be devoted to picking up all sorts of flotsam and jetsam that must be dumped from ships or who knows where.  It was a shocking, actually.  More trash than I have ever seen on a beach anywhere.  In an nearly pristine wilderness. Trash bags are provided at the access roads to help with the garbage pickup. Made me really sad, and yet overwhelmed enough that I didn’t fill a garbage bag and try to take it back.  Sorry Erin. I did manage to pick up a lot of trash at the NAS beach.Padre Island_132

Unlike the complex, ever changing coastline of the Pacific, this gulf shore feels infinite…going on and on what seems like forever, with very little change.  The subtle differences would have to be experienced at a slower pace.  As nesting grounds for the endangered Kemp’s-ridley turtles, there would be nests to watch for as early as April, but with the chill winds, we saw no sign of turtles.Padre Island_126

The story of the Kemp’s-ridley turtle is fascinating.  Nearly extinct, they were losing their nesting sites to development, so biologists put Padre Island sand in their incubators to help them imprint, released them after tagging them from the shore, and recently tagged turtles have been returning and nesting in what was not an original nesting site for them.  Although five different species of sea turtles nest on the island, we saw no nests and no turtles.  Still too early in the season, I am sure.

foggy morning for our first Texas launchIn spite of the chill wind, seeing that expansive shoreline was fascinating, especially for me as a westerner with a Pacific ocean mindset.  I loved it.  Loved that I could just walk and walk and walk if I had the opportunity.  I would imagine we will return to this place again and continue our explorations.

We waited for several days for the winds to lessen enough to launch our kayaks, and on our last day in Corpus Christi were rewarded with a calm not so chilly morning.  There was a bit of fog to accompany us as we drove once again across the bay toward Mustang Island and turned north toward Aransas Pass.

We read about the Mustang Island Paddling Trail, where there are several launch sites, and official markers for the trail.  Being inexperienced in this area, it seemed like a good idea to try a marked route. 

Mustang cove day_032The trails are on the bay side of Mustang Island, in brackish water that has a very silty, muddy bottom, dotted with islands and inlets.  If you have ever tried to navigate in a completely flat landscape filled with water, you can imagine how challenging it was to figure out where we were.  I didn’t have the official GPS with me, just a good printed map of the trails, and the google earth imagery.

Mustang cove day_014Sure am glad I also had the phone GPS.  In spite of my reasonably good navigation skills, I had no clue where we were on the map without turning on the phone and trying to figure out where that blue dot was!  It was fun, not too windy, and there were enough birds around to keep things interesting.  I was quite delighted to finally find the route marker number 11, and then number 10.  We had completely missed the rest of them. 

It isn’t a difficult place to keep track of where you need to go, it just is a bit tricky avoiding lagoons that might dead end into mud without an outlet.  We probably paddled a short five miles or so, in water that wasn’t the least bit exciting and very very shallow in many places.  Still, it was good to get out in the kayaks for a morning at least and experience a bit of Texas water.

As mentioned in the previous post, we topped off our morning kayak with our fabulous afternoon with Erin and Mui.  It was a great way to spend our last day in this area that was brand new to us until now. I especially enjoyed trying to photograph all the birds.  As they say, the best equipment in the world still needs the photographer.  In spite of Deanna’s great lens, I have a long way to go before I get those shots of their eyes in perfect focus.  I’ll keep trying.01-17-2014 Padre Island Seashore

Next:  Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and a visit with Judy


1-14 to 1-19-2014 Coastal Corpus Christi

the beach on north Padre IslandWe discovered almost as soon as we parked in the NAS at Corpus Christi, that our short time here would only be enough to barely get a taste of all this area has to offer.  Especially in winter, the south Texas coast draws many snowbirds from all over the country ready to experience the delights of a warm seacoast location for an extended stay. 

For years, Mo had read about the draw to the South Texas Coast for retirees and wanted to see the area.  Port Isabel, South Padre Island, and Brownsville destinations were originally on the list of places for us to go on this trip.  Initially we actually planned to drive south for a long day trip to explore from our NAS location, but discovered that the trip to South Padre Island required a 400 mile round trip inland and back out to the southern end of the island which is no longer connected in any way to the northern end.

Visiting the National Seashore was much higher on our list than checking out giant high rise condos on South Padre Island, and it didn’t take many internet searches for us to make that decision.  Instead, we stayed fairly close to our campground, taking each day to explore a different part of greater Corpus Christi.

The NAS is at point A on the google map, and other sites often required a bit of backtracking.  We actually got pretty good at figuring out how to get in and out of the base and onto the network of one way roads that parallel the main freeway that crosses from Corpus Christi Bay to Padre Island.

On our first full day here, we decided to just try to get our bearings, do some driving, and attempt to understand a part of the world that was completely new to us.  Driving….west? east??  (this place is still a directional challenge for me) oh yes…It was east and then north….we crossed the Laguna Madre, a large brackish water lagoon that extends the full length of Padre Island, the longest natural barrier island in the world, and lies between the island Captureand the mainland.

driving on the beach on north Padre IslandThese barrier islands are incredibly important on coastlines that are susceptible to hurricanes, stopping the major surge of water before it inundates the mainland with its full force.  Mustang Island is north of Padre Island, an additional island in the chain of many such barrier islands.  Mustang Island is home to a state park, some official paddling trails on the bay side, and a long, level open beach for strolling.  The beach is also for driving, a new concept to me except for a moment in Daytona Beach.

Here the beach drive makes sense.  The Gulf water is the mother of all, and tire tracks along the beach are obliterated with each movement of the water.  There are access roads from the main island highway that enter the beach between the dunes at several intervals.  4 wheel drive isn’t required, but there are warnings about getting stuck in the sand, and we did see a few stuck cars.

Padre Island and_074What was surprising, though, was how open and empty the beach seemed, even with the option of driving.  Cars and people were few and far between, punctuated rarely by a motorhome, and pickups with huge fishing poles mounted on their bumpers.  I think fishing is the big draw in this part of this area.  I had no idea what a sheepshead was but daughter Deborah caught one on this very beach. That is one scary looking ugly fish!  those teeth!!

Padre Island and_067We drove the beach slowly, enjoying the gentle surf and birds, and then continued into Port Aransas to find the free ferry that crosses the bay in just a few minutes to Aransas Pass.  It is amazing how efficiently the workers manage the load, and when we left town on Monday morning, they managed our motorhome and toad with as much ease as they had managed our previous trips with just the baby car.

I had heard from Erin that there were “whoopers” just outside Goose Island State Park, and armed with well written directions, we drove north through Fulton Beach, across the bridge and out beyond the state park to try to find the birds.  At the time, I kept getting comments saying, “don’t miss the whoopers!”, so I figured I had better make the effort.  After we found the pair, resting in a small draw on a large field of private land, I did some searching and discovered that I had a very fuzzy image of 2 of only 457 birds that are known to exist.  Well.  Alright then!.  Being on private land, we were not able to walk close, and my lens just couldn’t quite get there.  But with the rarity of these birds, I feel pretty lucky to have any photo at all.Padre Island and_150

We were just a short distance from the famous “Big Tree”, a live oak that is more than 1,000 years old.  Folks have spent a huge amount of time and energy taking care of this tree.  I can imagine Sherry trying to hug it, but she couldn’t get close enough with the protective fences.  The stories of the hurricanes and development that this beautiful old tree has survived are uncountable.Padre Island and_127

Ambling back through Fulton Beach, we found a moderately recommended restaurant on the water for lunch.  Alice Faye’s had not a sign of “fish and chips” on the menu, the main reason Mo and I were searching for a restaurant.  Padre Island and_122Coastal locations set the mouth to watering for some real fish and chips.  Instead, once again, we found lots of shrimp and oysters, and the catch of the day, fried or naked, was pollack, and was a bit pricey for a spontaneous lunch. Instead, I had some shrimp which was OK and Mo had a French dip which was actually pretty fantastic.

We were home early enough in the afternoon on that day that I could take full advantage of the free washers and dryers at the campground to once again freshen up all the rugs and blankets and anything else that might have a trace of kitty hair on it.  Loved that most of all about that campground, I can tell you!Corpus Christi_014

On another day we opted to go downtown to check out the city of Corpus Christi.  There are some quirkie things about this city that are a bit hard to figure out.  Some areas are truly gorgeous, and the seawall and beautiful kiosks provide wonderful photo ops with all the reflections.  Corpus Christi_012

The Art Museum and Science Museum are at the end of the Ocean Drive, and the area seems a bit deserted, especially on a Saturday. Corpus Christi_025

It is worth seeking out the beautiful Watergarden falls on the grounds of the museum. The approach to the waterfall is a rippling stream with stone square blocks that create a small rapid.  The sound is gentle and lovely.  There is nothing quite like the roar of the falls down the steps within the circle of the cascading water.  It is as wild and loud as many waterfalls I have experienced. The artist understood sound as a work of art as well as vision.

In that same area were large expanses that appeared to be devastated by a hurricane and nothing had been rebuilt.  Felt a bit strange. The large bridge in the photo above is the Harbor Bridge that crosses Corpus Christi Bay northeast to Portland, Texas.01-18-2014 Corpus Christi

Looking up the history, the only really big hurricane was in 1919 and the areas we were seeing were all warehouse districts at that time.  In the same vicinity is Heritage Park, a delightful project of 9 beautiful huge homes, relocated from various parts of the city to this little neighborhood.  The craziest thing we saw was the old Nueces County Courthouse, built in 1914, with some pretty amazing historical moments in its past.  Abandoned in 1977, the huge and beautiful building sits empty and rotting behind a chain link fence right near the downtown part of the city.

the Nueces coutrhouse was abandoned in 1977 built in 1914Best part of the day for us was a visit to the Railroad Seafood Station and Brewery downtown on Chaparral. The atmosphere was typical brewery, once an old warehouse, with lots of open industrial stuff on the ceiling, dark colors and wooden tables and booths.  I tried one of their current brews, a blond something that was pretty hoppy, but just as our wonderful waiter told me, after three sips it was perfect.  The menu was fabulous, but of course, no fish and chips.  Mo opted instead for some kind of specialty onion rings, with a bit of sweetness and homemade tartar sauce with very finely chopped veggies.

something extra tasty about these onion rings and spicy tartar sauceI opted for the the specialty coconut shrimp and the two sides of veggies and potatoes I chose with a homemade sweet chili sauce were what Sean, our waiter, called the Holy Trinity of food in that restaurant.  He wasn’t exaggerating.  Those little red potatoes were buttery smooth, with edges crisped and roasted with perfectly caramelized onions.  The fresh veggies were tender crisp and only lightly seasoned with herbs and lemon.  The home made chili sauce was the perfect hotness for the best coconut shrimp ever to pass my lips. Remember, I ate coconut shrimp a few years ago in Key West!.  I ended the meal with Sean’s own homemade key lime pie.  Sean and I exchanged email addresses and he wants me to write to him when I get to Key West to let him know if their pie is any better than his.

tender roasted potatoes with caramelized onions, sweet chili sauce for the coconut shrimp and delicate tender crisp veggies in a lemony light sauceYes, it was perfect.  Soft yellow as key lime should be, with a crust thin enough that it didn’t overpower the pie, and without that fake cheesecake taste and texture you now get in some key lime pie recipes from various locations.  Yes, it was a meal to remember, and it was a good thing I didn’t completely wear out my swooning abilities because our meal with Erin and Mui was the very next day!

If you click on my google photos link on the left side of the blog, there are a ton of photos there if you are interested.

Next up: Padre Island National Seashore and a morning kayak at Shamrock Cove