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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Land Yacht Out To Sea

The dreaded time to leave Padre Island finally arrived. Staying in one place for two weeks was such a wonderful change of pace! We went for daily walks on the beach, fished almost every day, collected shells, although we rarely found anything other than tiny clam shells, but they came in every color of the rainbow so I am still happy with the collection. I don't think I could ever tire of waking up to the rolling waves on a sandy beach every morning, watching the birds diving down to catch their prey, seeing pelicans floating on the waves, gulping down huge swallows of seawater and whatever fish they manage to catch, going out at night to watch crabs lol skittering about, and wading out in the ocean where I can see schools of fish swimming on the top of the swells just before they crest and come crashing down in huge white billows.

We drove north along the island to Port Aransas, where we were going to meet some friends we'd made, Johnny and Patsy. We turned toward the beach and Abe missed a turn, so he went to the next road to make a couple of rights to get us back to our route. Imagine our surprise when, as we came up to a stop sign after the second turn, we saw Johnny and Patsy's RV with their tow car parked alongside the road! We pulled over in front of them and Abe knocked on the front window to get their attention. The little dog in the window barked at us, but they were nowhere to be found. We looked around a bit to figure out where they might be, because they were bound to be at one of the few businesses nearby, and I saw Johnny waving as he came out from the patio of a restaurant across the street. He and his wife had left the beach that morning because the weather was getting bad, and they were going back home early. They had tried to call us to let us know, but our phone numbers that I had sent wasn't in their text messages. We joined them and the couple they were with for a bite to eat before going to the beach. What are the chances that we would take a wrong turn that lead us to them? Providence was at work again, no doubt. We have their address and phone numbers, and we will stop by and see them when we can, probably some time after September.

After eating and saying goodbye, we drove to the beach to park for the night, after making sure that the sand was quite firm. This stretch of beach was well maintained, with a road of packed sand running along it. After our previous experience parking on sand, Abe positioned us as close to the road and as far from the water as possible, especially since there was a coastal flood warning for the area. We spent the evening fishing, walking on the beach, and collecting more shells. It's amazing what a difference ten miles can make! We were only about that far from our previous camp sight, but the beach was quite different. Not only more populated, but the shells! We found some beautiful clam shells that were two to three inches wide. Perfect specimens to add to my growing collection. Some were black, some were tan. And the oyster shells that had been nearly white at our previous location, were now black. While we slept, a storm came through dumping half an inch of rain on us, and our tires sank an inch into the wet sand. There was supposed to be an inch and a half of rain that day and night, so we decided not to tempt fate by staying and risking getting stuck again. Abe had a moment of panic when he tried to pull forward and the RV didn't budge, but he was able to back up a couple of feet, and then he drove away with no problem.

We had a new adventure on the drive out of Port Aransas. We got to take a ferry across the bay to get back to the mainland. We were the first in line, so we got to park at the very front of the ferry. The man directing us held up two fingers, but we didn't know if he meant to get in the second lane, or to use two of the VERY narrow lanes on the boat. Whatever he meant, Abe got most of the RV in the second lane, but there wasn't room for anyone to drive next to us in the first lane. That ferry was not designed with motor homes in mind, but we checked before hand and we were allowed. It's very disconcerting, being in an RV that is pulled up to the edge of a boat so that it looks as if you are hanging right over the edge. The trip was quick, maybe five minutes, but it was fun. We got off the ferry, and continued on our way to Galveston.

Galveston was a fairly long drive, so we stayed the night in a rest area. Before it got dark, we walked around. The area was beautifully overrun with trees that had vines trailing up their trunks and branches, and little air plants growing out of their bark, surviving off the moisture they were able to pull from the humid air and off of the trees themselves.

Two posted signs were extremely effective at keeping us from wandering through the growth to explore. One said, "Watch for poison's itching to meet you" and had a picture of poison ivy. The other said, "Watch for snakes...they're watching you" and had a picture of a rattlesnake. This was reinforced by the shed skin of a rattlesnake close by. We walked out one end of the rest area, across a road, and across some railroad tracks to look at a small, enclosed cemetery. Silk flowers on some of the headstones and some newer headstones provided evidence that it was still being used. Maybe a family owned a private cemetery? We would have loved to walk around it and read the headstones, but our entry was blocked by a locked gate and no trespassing signs, so I took a picture and we left.

The next morning we made the final leg of our excursion to Galveston. Driving through the residential outskirts was like driving through Central America. Pastel blue, green, pink, and yellow houses were raised high in the air by tall stilts, keeping them out of the reach of rogue waves during storms.

Downtown was a place that I'd like to go back to with plenty of spending money in my pocket. There were ocean museums and attractions, and an amusement park erected on a long pier. Restaurants and hotels were constructed on stilts, reaching out several yards over the water, providing swimmers and beach-goers a wonderful escape from the hot summer sun.

We finally arrived at our destination: a bird refuge with parking on the beach.

We walked down the beach to get closer to the line of giant barges that were anchored while they waited to pick up shipping containers ready to travel to their next destination. Along the way, we gathered more shells and we came across the skeleton of some unknown animal. It had a large boney plate that had protected it's back, and the jaws...I've never seen jaws like that. each side held rows of teeth. Small, jagged teeth on the inside and outside, with a line of inch long, pointed teeth down the middle. I later passed people who had stopped near the skeleton, and they said it was an alligator gar. I can see why it got that name. YIKES!

We spent the evening looking out the front window, watching ships coming in and passing behind the anchored ones. As the sun set and it started getting dark, some fishing boats anchored close to shore for the night. In the morning, a giant cruise shipped passed by, taking its crew and passengers through the channel.

We did a little bit of fishing. We were still catching catfish, but not very many, so at least other fish had a chance to bite if they wanted to. On one cast, I felt something bite just a little, so I reeled in, but lost it. Then I got a snag. I finally figured out that, with my drag set tight, if I pulled straight back I could pull it in. I pulled back slowly, dragging my catch to the shore. I may have caught a log, or a giant mass of seaweed, but at least it wasn't a catfish! My heart sank when I saw the foot wide stingray on the end of my line! A quick internet search showed Abe how to safely get the hook out of the fish's mouth, and after having to torture the poor thing trying to get the barbed hook dislodged, he used a stick to push it into the water until it was deep enough for the creature to swim away. I guess it's something that I caught something that few people get to see up close, but it really made me sad to hurt it. And I know it was hurt worse because of our fear of getting too close and being stung. They are such beautiful, graceful animals.

We were going to stay a few nights at that spot, but the weather coming in told us it was time to leave. Days of rainstorms and lightening were in the forecast. We didn't want to risk rain making us sink, and if lightening was going to keep us inside, we might as well be driving. Once again, our Land Yacht was able to be on the water! This ferry was larger than the first, with three lanes on either side instead of two, and the wider lanes hinted that it had been designed with RVs in mind, although it was still a tight fit. We were in the center lane, with room for the cars beside us in each of the other two. This ride was much longer than the first. For twenty minutes, the ocean swells lifted us up and down, rocking us gently from side to side. Every rock and sway was amplified by our vehicle's suspension, unnerving us with a feeling of unease as we floated along in our motor home on the water where it doesn't belong. Nothing about it felt natural. I watched out the window and saw a small black spot in the ocean, but then it disappeared. I told Abe about it, and he suggested it was a dolphin. Sure enough, as we looked a team of dolphins started breaching the surface! I was mesmerized by the dark creatures gliding up and down through the undulating water.

That day we drove north up the east side of Texas, leaving the beach behind us. We eventually hit some forested rolling hills, the first rolling hills we'd seen in a few weeks. Abe found a pond with campsites next to it, and drove us down a narrow road in the middle of nowhere until we arrived. The first thing we noticed after parking and exiting, was the sound of bleating sheep nearby. Funny, we hadn't seen any sheep for a long time, and this didn't look like an area where they would be kept. As I listened, I noticed that it wasn't quite the same. A sheep's bleat drops in pitch at the end, but this sound didn't. It was perfectly even for the entire sound, almost mechanical. After some searching, we located the source of one of the sounds in a tadpole filled bog nearby and, although we weren't able to find the little critter, we figured out that it must be a frog. Abe was able to barely get one bar of service on his phone, thanks to our We Boost, but it was enough for him to find out that we were hearing sheep frogs. I couldn't have thought of a better name for them.

Standing by the pond, we watched the little minnows darting around by the shore, and I looked out to see a little dark head poking out from the water. As I watched, the dark body under it moved. I was suddenly freaked out, not knowing what kind of snake it was, but very aware that Texas has some bad ones. Just after I got a better look and saw what it really was, Abe called me over to see the turtles swimming around. We pulled out our freshwater poles and cast them out. We were completely unsuccessful at getting so much as a nibble, but we were able to watch a curious little turtle swim over to check out the red and white bobber floating in his home.

We went to bed that night listening to a loud cacaphony of sounds. It sounded like a rainforest mixed with a sheep farm. There were bleets of sheep frogs, croaks of normal frogs, buzzing of cicadas, and chirping of crickets. There were clicks that would start slowly, building up to a quick stucado, and slowing back down until they stopped, and other loud noises, including an occassional bird. The area was beautiful, but we hadn't seen a single bird flying, and had barely heard any singing, cawing, or chirping. A forest with no birds is so wrong it's downright creepy. We went for a walk down the dirt road that led further back into the forest the next morning, and I caught site of a handful of birds, but they were gone again as soon as I got a glimpse.

Today, we drove up the east side of Texas, crossing the corner of Louisiana for a short spell, where I kept my eyes peeled for alligators that never appeared in every body of water we passed, and we are now in Arkansas. I miss the beach already, but that's okay. I didn't have any picture in my head of what Arkansas might look like, but I wasn't expecting the lush natural beauty that we are surrounded by. Grass and trees everywhere we look.

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