Saturday, January 21, 2012

South Padre Island, Texas!

Thursday morning we left Mission and headed for South Padre Island. It is about 90 miles to the east and we started our leisurely drive around 9 a.m. We stopped in Harlingen at the new Bass Pro Shop. We had just learned a few days earlier that the new store was open and we hadn't even known they were building one there! So we stopped and browsed. I picked up a couple things and we were back on our way.

We arrived at the island and took a drive to the south of the bridge to see where our cruise location was. We had tickets for a dophin cruise at 4 p.m. and a dinner afterwards, so we figured out where we needed to be. Then we drove on north and found our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and found it was almost across from the convention center. The last time we were out here, the convention center seemed to be at the end of the populated area and across from it is a county park that has RV camping. That is all still there in the same location, but there is more development out north of the convention center, so we drove out past that. After a few miles, there was a road closed barrier and it was obvious that blowing and drifting sand was the culprit, although the island does end a bit further north. We took the opportunity to stop and walk out to the beach and see the ocean. It was breezy and overcast, but nice anyway. There were a few trucks out on the beach, but I don't think they came out through the beach access we used. It was a little deep in sand and it looked like others had had trouble driving through it and I think they probably had driven up from a different access point.

We headed back south and stopped at the Sea Turtle rescue building. Here they rescue sea turtles and rehabilitate them. Those that can be re-released to the ocean are, but others will spend the rest of their lives in captivity. We met "Allison" who is one such turtle. She only has one flipper. . . the others eaten by a shark which had also taken a chunk off her shell. She would have drowned had she not been rescued. She would not have been able to swim to the surface of the water with only one flipper. She was brought back to health and is kept in a shallow tank. There is a ramp of sorts which she can float onto and lay up partially out of the water. She was actually not in the tank when we arrived, but was brought back in on a cart. She had been out for a blood draw and the one worker then lifted her gently into the water. She weighs 65 pounds and after placing her in her tank, he fed her some lettuce which she greedily gulped down. The center there has created a prosthesis which allows her more mobility in deep water and a few hours a day, they fit her with it and put her in a deep tank. This allows her to swim like she normally would out in the ocean. She is monitored constantly. You can learn more about Allison here:
Allison, the Green Sea Turtle. There are other turtles here and this is a picture of Gerry, who is about 30 years old and weighs 150 pounds.

After checking into our hotel, we drove down to the cruise pier and waited for our 4 p.m. cruise. As it was, there were only two other couples who were on the cruise, so the six of us got to have the entire 45' boat to ourselves! How bad is that! We went out into the bay and the pilot stopped often and talked with us about the bridges and told a little history of the area. The 2 1/2 mile bridge we drive across is the second such bridge. The other is still partially standing. It was used for a time for a fishing pier, but is now closed because of the unstable condition.

While the captain was narrating, the deck hand was fishing with a net for some sea creatures. He picked out several different sea dwellers and placed them in a tank on the boat which he had filled with water. Then he would talk to us about the various species and something about them. There were fish, starfish, crabs, and my favorite. . . the puffer fish. These amazing little dudes are kind of funny looking to begin with, but when agitated, they start puffing up. Once they are back in the water and relaxing, they return to a normal state.

We motored on out into the bay and we were soon rewarded with dolphins! They were playing and swimming and actually came quite close to the boat. They were not afraid of the boat apparently and we saw several pods of these amazing animals. We spent the rest of our time looking at the various groups of dolphins and watching their antics while the captain talked about the shorelines we were seeing and the ship channel that runs down to the Port of Brownsville. It was quite interesting and exciting. Our cruise was a "sunset" cruise, but with the overcast skies, we didn't really see a sunset, but we did get to see some fog roll in. It was a great cruise anyway!

Part of the package we purchased included a dinner at the Shrimp Haus on the island. It is right across the street from the cruise site and we were treated to a great dinner. We were also treated to live entertainment which was very good as well. A great day on the island!

Till next time. . .


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