Note to self…Triple-Check your docs Weeks Before you Leave the Country!

 

Photo courtesy of: www.lakewood.org
Photo courtesy of: http://www.lakewood.org

Wow! Life has been busy for me here! I have not posted in awhile due to getting our family ready to go to the Philippines. My husband is from there, and we were planning to take a long trip there with the kids to visit family and see the sights. This was going to be the first time there for my children and myself.

Well, all of these earnest plans came to a screeching halt when I went to the airport to try to adjust our seat arrangement for the long flight. We had reserved seats 6A, 6B, 6C, 6D with Travelocity. My hubby checked with American Airlines and our seat said “unreserved” on their site. So the day before we were to depart, I went to the airport to try to see if I could get that taken care of.

I went to the ticket counter and had spoken to the representative. He was working on trying to at least get our seats with one parent and one child sitting together minimum. Then he asked if I had my passports.

I replied, “Oh, I left them at home. I did not realize that I needed them for a seat change.” However, I did remember that I took pictures of my passports and ID’s with my phone, and had them just for extra measure.

I whipped out my pics from my I-Phone. The representative replied, “Wow, you are really prepared.”

I explained, “I really try because I am traveling with my two young children. I have to try to remember everything…medicines, bug spray, plenty of sunblock…”

As he was punching buttons on his computer, I was recalling all of the things on my To Do list. I packed as lightly as possible for us and the kids; I had to make copies of our passports and ID’s; I had dig out of savings and pre-pay our bills for a month; I had to get arrangements for the dogs and cat to get fed and exercised; I had to call the car insurance and get our cars put on “storage rate.” I had to make arrangements for my elderly mother….on and on…

Next, he looked over his glasses at me and stated, “Ma’am this passport is expired.”

Expired?

Expired??

Expired???

My mind was racing; my heart was pounding. “How could that be? I had checked everything!

Or so I thought.

My son’s passport was still good for 3 more months, and my daughter’s expired. How could that be? We got them done on the same day.

Panicked, I begged the poor man behind the counter and implored, “What can I do?” He directed me to the main post office in town.

Hurriedly, I drove to that post office.  While there, they informed me that I had to go to Houston (which is 4 hours away) with my husband, child, and plenty of checks  to try to get an expedited passport. However, since it was 3:00 pm on a Friday, I would have to wait in line behind those with appointments on Monday. If I was lucky, I might get the passport on Monday, but maybe not.

Then I called Travelocity…

They could not do anything without charging $300 per ticket penalty plus the difference in price from when I bought the tickets to what they are worth now. They referred me to call American Airlines (our main carrier). After a long time, and finally getting to a supervisor, the bottom line was that sure they could adjust the dates, but it would cost almost as much to do the date adjustment as the initial price of the tickets. So in the end, I would pay almost double.

Yikes!

Then I had to see how much it cost to cancel and refund the whole trip. Yep, I was out about $1000 for that move. (Note: I can only travel during the summertime for longer periods of time since I have 2 kids in school, and I am a teacher.)

So, tearfully, I will try again for next year.

Running the Beach to Bay

beach to bay about us
Photo courtesy of http://www.beachtobayrelay.com

Lace up those Asics, it is time to run first and later play at the Beach to Bay Relay!

According to http://www.beachtobayrelay.com, “Since 1976, runners and fun-seekers have flocked to Corpus Christi, Texas to run the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. To many runners, the annual event has become a tradition throughout the State of Texas.

Beach to Bay has grown to be the largest relay marathon in the United States. Attracting runners from all over the U.S. as well as Kenya, England and Mexico. Approximately 2,600 teams totaling over 16,000 runners compete each year.

The Beach to Bay Relay Marathon is a six-person relay running event that totals 26.2 miles of beach, pavement, a little sweat, an occasional tear and a bunch of smiles. Beginning on the sands of North Padre Island, winding through Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and ending at McCaughan Park along Corpus Christi’s scenic Shoreline Drive, the course is divided into six-legs of roughly 4.4 miles each.

Always held on the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day, B2B proudly honors the men and women serving in our United States Military. It’s a tradition founded by Captain John Butterfield back in 1976.”

After the runners complete their legs, most teams gather at McCaughan Park to cheer on their last leg runners and later celebrate a good run with a little beer and pizza. The B2B website proclaims, “Pain now; beer later.”

So, if you want a little fun while you run, the Beach to Bay Relay is the way.

Crazy Coastal Creativity

When it comes to finding crazy coastal creativity, the Coastal Bend has its share…

Yep, that is a picnic boat...
Yep, that is a picnic boat…
The ultimate beach truck has everything...( but no bathroom!?)
The ultimate beach truck has everything…( but no bathroom!?)
Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Page by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

Attractions in Port Aransas, Texas

One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.
One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.

Port A has always been a lazy fishing village since I moved here back in 1991. Now, it is a bustling small town with its own fun, laid-back vibe for anyone at any age.

Of course they have the usual things such as deep sea fishing going to the beach. I enjoy going to the park next to the fairy landing. There is plenty of people watching, fishing, birding, bike riding, kite flying, or any other outdoor activity to do there, especially with the kids.

The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.
The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.

Another thing I like to do on a slow traffic day is to take the short fairy ride to Harbor Island and watch the dolphins playing in the waves. We usually try to see how many we can spot. Once you get the idea on how to see them, they get easier to find. One hint: they are usually playing in the wake of an oncoming barge. Port Aransas is a great little fun spot in our Coastal Bend.

The following is an article from USA Today that discusses a few fun things about Port A:

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/attractions-port-aransas-texas

Lauren Miller, Demand Media

 

 

 

 

 

“Port Aransas is popular vacation destination in southwest Texas. The city is on Mustang Island on Aransas Bay with ferry service from the mainland. College students in Texas swarm to Port Aransas during spring break, and vacationers visit the town year-round because of its subtropical climate. There are a wide variety of attractions in the Port Aransas area.

Lydia Ann Lighthouse

Construction on the Lydia Ann Lighthouse began in 1851 to light up the Aransas Pass between Mustang Island and nearby San Jose Island. During the United States Civil War, Union and Confederate troops fought for control of the lighthouse. The lighthouse operated for decades, but began to decline in use after the mid-20th century. Private owners took control and restored the deteriorating landmark. The lighthouse is accessible only via a tour from Kohootz Boat Excursions.

Kohootz
440 East Cotter Avenue
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-779-3188
kohootz.com

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is rated as one of the top ten boardwalks by Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. The center includes a large area of fresh and saltwater marshes, which are havens for over 100 species of birds. Its well-known boardwalk is 500 feet long and extends into a brackish marsh, giving visitors prime viewing of birds and the center’s resident alligators. There is also a 25-foot observation tower on the property. Admission is free.

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Ross Avenue
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
361-749-4158
cityofportaransas.org/Leonabelle_Turnbull_Birding_Center

The Tarpon Inn

The Tarpon Inn is a historic hotel in Port Aransas known as the birthplace of Texas sport fishing. The restored building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. There are many local legends associated with the inn, many of them linked with the hard-to-catch trophy fish tarpon or “Silver Kings,” which were abundant in the area when the original inn was built in 1886. The walls of the inn have scales of tarpons caught by guests, including famous guests like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Hedy Lamarr, circus owner Clyde Beatty, and cake mix maker Duncan Hines, who spent his honeymoon at the hotel. Guests who stay at the inn are encouraged to relax, therefore, the antique-filled rooms do not have televisions or phones.

The Tarpon Inn
200 East Cotter Avenue
Alvarado, TX 76009
361-749-5555
thetarponinn.com

The Beach

The beaches in the Port Aransas area draw visitors year-round. The 18 miles of unspoiled beach are a part of the world’s longest barrier island. Popular vacation activities included surfing, Jet Skiing, parasailing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, and taking scenic cruises. The city is the home to over a dozen fishing tournaments during the year.”

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau
403 West Cotter
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-749-5919
800-45-COAST
portaransas.org

 

Fish Lips Sink Ships: Adding to the Nearshore Reef Project

Fishing and diving playground planned 10 miles from Packery Channel and Port Aransas.

"This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort." Photo courtesy of Caller.com
“This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort.” Photo courtesy of Caller.com

Sometimes treasure can be found around sunken ships, only this treasure is of the marine-life paradise kind. As part of the Ships-to Reefs Project, these submerged ships and structures provide a foundational surface for marine life to attach. After a while, the surface builds up with coral and other marine life and the submerged ship or other structure provides shelter and a strong ecosystem for overfished reef fish species such as snapper and grouper. This project will help replenish some habitat that was destroyed when several offshore oil and gas platforms were removed in recent years. If the City of Corpus Christi agrees to foot $100,000 of the bill, the ship could be in place by the end of summer 2014.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program
Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program

The reefs and marine life attract other forms of treasure, fishermen and divers. This ongoing, Near Shore Reefing project has had plenty of bang for both the local and the Texas economy since off shore and recreational fishing generates 2 billion per year for Texas.  The Coast Bend, namely, Port Aransas has been known as the “fishing capital of Texas.”  The Caller Times reported that according to Mike Hurst, who chairs the offshore committee, Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association (SEA),”This will be one of the best dive and fishing sites long the mid-Texas Coast. We have secured the ship and are in the final stages of permitting.”

This project is set to enhance the local ecosystem for both marine treasure and human treasure, So, fish lips really do sink ships. Who knew?

Sources: The Island Moon Newspaper; KIIITV.com; Corpus Christi Caller Times; Texas Parks and wildlife

 

 

Want a Beach Where You Can Avoid Spring Breakers?

Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Caller Times by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

If you are like me, you have young kids who want to go to the beach as soon as warmer weather kicks in. However, throngs of crazed, hormone-filled Breakers descend to our beaches mid-March. So, I have a couple of suggestions…

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.

1. Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas
Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas  one of my favorite beaches for people with young kiddos. Why? The beach is one of the safest in my opinion. The surf is non-existent which makes it a relatively safe place for young ones. The water is super-shallow for a long way. You can wade out for a long time and not get past knee deep. Behind the beach there is a road with parking for the length of it, so there are no cars actually driving on the beach. Also, the beach there is extremely clean since they rake it daily. It also helps that visitors there seem to respect that, and tend to leave it the way they found it. So that you know, there are no pets allowed. That rule is there to keep the beach clean from little messes.

Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!
Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!

Another cool thing is that there are many palapas where you can shield the young ones and your ice chest from the sun. However, you need to arrive early to get one, otherwise, just bring your own umbrella or canopy.

If the kids actually want to get out of the water (really?), there are multiple playgrounds dotting the length of the beach. The play equipment is maintained well, so it tends to be safe. Plus, the playgrounds are there on the beach, so you can park your beach stuff at a nearby palapa, and watch them play right next to you or you can go play with them! Oh, a word to the wise, be sure to bring shoes or sandals since to the play areas since there are sticker-burrs there where the grass grows. Those pesky things can be painful to toes. If people actually take a moment to throw them into the trash, instead of throwing them on the ground, then they won’t take root.

Finally, when nature calls as it usually does, there is a pavilion with restrooms. The centrally-located pavilion has showers and changing rooms too, so you can clean up and not have to get into the car and drive home all sandy. This is a plus if you have kids who tend to fall asleep in the car after a vigorous day at the beach!!

PINS 2

2. North Padre Island National Seashore: Malaquite Beach

This is another favorite beach of mine for a good beach for families. Here you can grab a covered picnic table if you arrive early and enjoy a picnic lunch. Cars are not allowed on the beach, so it is very safe and clean for kids. Also, at Malaquite, there is a Visitor’s Center with a gift shop, educational center, covered deck, observation decks, and a small snack shop, restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. (yippe!)

A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.
A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are events year round such as guided beach walks, educational talks, and classes are held at the Malaquite Beach Pavilion Visitor’s Center. Beginning late Spring into Summer, the famous Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling releases happen at various times during the early morning hours.  Evening talks are held to learn more about the stars and constellations as well as other activities held by park rangers who discuss the natural flora and fauna and the coastal ecosystems.

You can spend a full day here or several and have quite an educational and fun-filled experience with the family. This place is on the way to literally nowhere, so it is very quiet and a great natural place to have fun with the family.

These two beaches are my favorite places to have  a great time with the kids with no Spring Breakers!

Get your Springtime on!

Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!
Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!

It is Spring Break here in the Coastal Bend, and the beaches are packed with Spring Breakers. So since I was home with the kiddos this week, we did a few family friendly things away from the crazed throngs at the beaches.

Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com
Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com

The weather was gorgeous, and we wanted to be outdoors, but we did not want to go to Padre Island. My friend told me that she and her daughter and friends went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens. Good idea!

What better way to enjoy Spring's bounty, but to be among it.
What better way to enjoy Spring’s bounty, but to be in it.

I took the kids and they enjoyed the day and fresh air with the gorgeous flora and fauna. We spent several hours out there and had a fabulous time, and the kids had fun with a little learning mixed in! Best of all, it was family friendly fun!

The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
The colors of Spring were abundant.
The colors of Spring were vibrant and abundant.

Mardi Gras Celebrated Island Style?

Mardi Gras—

Most people think of beads, bare chests, and booze.

On Padre Island, they do Mardi Gras— barefoot.

All photos by Miles Merwin. The Island Moon Newspaper.
All photos by Miles Merwin. The Island Moon Newspaper.

According to http://barefootmardigras.com/,”Barefoot Mardi Gras offers a Texas style carnival atmosphere right on the beautiful beaches of Corpus Christi. Catch some beads and rays while advocating for youth!”

The 5th annual Barefoot Mardi Gras Parade and Party was this past weekend on North Padre Island. The event benefits Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. The parade started at noon on beach down from Bob Hall Pier at Padre Balli Park.

So if you are around the Coastal Bend this time of year, you might want to check out this islander twist on Mardi Gras. If you want beads, beautiful beaches, and bare feet,  this could be the Mardi Gras for you.

All photos by Miles Merwin. Island Moon Newpaper
All photos by Miles Merwin. The Island Moon Newpaper