Karen and I finished up our first visit to the Texas Gulf Coast and happily report we enjoyed the stay. Karen once lived in Michigan and enjoyed sailing on the big lakes. She was excited to get back to the big water on the coast. For me, living in Kansas City away from water, oceans are amazing wonders.
We ended up taking US Highway 77 south to the coast. Interstate 10 intersects with US 77 at Schulenburg Texas where an area resident suggested we visit the Painted Churches and nearby Shiner Brewery. US 35 basically runs parallel with the coast from Rockport to Corpus Cristi. Both are excellent highways.
Our stop in Schulenburg would have to be postponed. Once we left the Texas Coast, we moved a short 60 miles north to Goliad which is rich in Texas History. I’m hoping you will enjoy the upcoming post on Goliad where we decided to extend our stay. Barbara from Escapees told Karen about Goliad when we were parked in Livingston. Thank you!
Now on to what we found in the Rockport Texas area:
Map of the areas this report covers
The general area where we noticed the most RV’s, presumably winter Texans, were in the Rockport, and Aransas Pass areas. If you drive from Aransas Pass and take a short ferry ride you arrive at a large island where there is an improved and easily driven highway running down the middle which is Texas 361. We drove the entire length from Port Aransas, through Mustang/Padre Island and over a bridge to Corpus Christi. If you don’t like ferry rides then come in over the bridge in Corpus. Although I saw a semi-truck and large RV’s on the ferry. Of course, no ferry ride is needed to get into the Rockport/Aransas Pass area. And the drive down Texas 361 on the island includes passing through Padre Island where we spent no time researching available RV parks.
Port Aransas appears to be the tourist spot with many RV parks. Rockport and Aransas Pass are small towns but with plenty to do. Luckily one aspect of RV travel which Karen and I strongly agree is we don’t like big cities such as Corpus Christi. The USS Lexington and Texas State Aquarium are popular and fortunately outside the main areas of Corpus Christi.
I’ll describe this part of the Texas coast line as having a thin barrier island just off shore. To get to open ocean we generally traveled to the island. The question we had when first arriving was of course where are the beaches. During our 19 day stay we discovered and recommend Rockport Beach, Mustang Island State Park, and the public beaches next to the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi. For sure there are other beaches and maybe had we been there longer we would have found them. For example we never made it to the beaches at Port Aransas where I suggest you first research the area to see where you want to go.
I had watched YouTube video on salt water fishing, having never experienced it. I’ll just say you can pull off the road about anywhere down here and fish. Locals say everything will bite on shrimp bait. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to do any fishing. On so many occasions in this lifestyle we find ourselves saying “next time” we will get to that. Sometimes we just enjoy hanging around home as we are not on vacation and really don’t want to use all our energy running around making sure to see everything.
I’ll continue this blog in the order of occurrence so you can decide where you might want to visit first. If you are keeping a list of places to visit, I’d make the Rockport area a must stop.
Our First Camping Stop – Goose Island State Park
I’ll describe Goose Island as a rugged older park consisting of two camping areas. One, called the woods, is where we stayed. The second area is on the beach and probably the reason most come here. Unfortunately the beach campsites and long fishing pier were still shut down after the 2017 hurricane. But workers are on the job getting it ready. You will notice windy conditions (and ant colonies) are the norm down here. There is no usable beach at Goose Island but you can walk from the campground to the water and watch the fishermen come in. Texas State Parks do not require a fishing license and a local guide told me wait for the tide to come in as the waters are shallow there. You can maneuver a tall rig in the park but be careful. The entire coastline is a bird watchers dream and Goose Island is a base from which we found campers travel for bird watching opportunities.
Day Trip to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Apparently there is only one remaining flock of wild Whooping Cranes left and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is one spot on their migration path. Unbeknownst to us, we toured the area when they were at the Refuge. Karen captured some good photos with the better camera which are not readily available (I’m too lazy to get a copy). This is a huge refuge with free admission using our America the Beautiful Pass. Finally saw an alligator resting on a bank and took that photo zoomed in with my cell phone. Lots of trails to travel, one leading to a marsh where we walked out to about 100 yards from the Whooping Cranes. There were a dozen people in the area hauling large camera lenses. This is a drive-through park with stops along the way. Or you can walk several excellent trails. It’s an all day event so bring water or get some at the park store. Among the reasons we camped at Goose Island State Park was to shorten the drive to the Refuge where the main entrance is in the boondocks. The drive there is entertaining for those of us not used to Texas landscape. Coming in at least second place for most interesting was Karen finally got to see an Armadillo. I’ve tried with no success to point them out dead on the side of the road in Southern Missouri. At the Refuge one literally ran past her feet and starting digging a hole in front of her. It does not get any better than that. I’m always impressed with vegetation in new areas and the Refuge was full of wild colorful plants.
Our Second Camping Spot – Aransas Bay RV Resort
I really don’t like the phrase camping spot. I prefer calling it the next place we lived.
As we like to keep our options open, we don’t book many RV spots ahead of our trips. I had a list of possible locations kept from other’s blogs, none of which had any spots open. Karen checked and found Aransas Bay RV Resort. A little pricy for weekly stays but we were under budget for the month having stayed at Corp. of Engineer and State Parks. Notable for me was Karen picked a spot I thought she would have called one of those parking lots she does not enjoy. Turned out she found the spot to be relaxing after days in the bush. Long concrete drives and real grass. No dust and very nice landscaping. I personally can live about anywhere but find the variety a plus. According to management, only about seven couples have been returning year after year for the winter. Each day about half the park would empty out as people left working jobs in the area. Prefect place to catch up on maintenance under the trailer.
A story for another blog will be upon arrival I had management trim tree branches so I could back into our spot. Did a great job of backing but nearly two weeks later I had forgotten there was one remaining limb. Yup – hit that with the roof when we left and I’ll do a relatively minor repair with the Eternabond tape I keep for such emergencies. Someday I’ll post about what we can take as serious incidents that make this lifestyle not so great. I’m developing an attitude that I’ll let nothing stop us. Another story for the fulltime camper battle scars.
We may come back to this park as it’s conveniently located and the monthly rates are reasonable. The one photo I took of our camping spot sucked. Others would be the interesting places we ate to include seafood – twice. Noticed our first off shore drilling rigs parked near the ferry boat crossing at Port Aransas. And finally a decent beach at Rockport Public Beach were it cost $5 to enter if anyone is at the pay booth. As the Resort had little walking space for dogs compared to what Huck is used to, we drove to the local Memorial Park for some off-leash time and interesting hike.
The Texas Department of Transportation manages the free ferry service from the mainland onto the island at Port Aransas. First time for me on a ferry and although it was a short trip the motion of the water while sitting in our truck was no big deal. Just watch the people directing traffic and you will be fine. Glad we took the ferry because it was yet another confidence builder. When every day creates new experiences it can be overwhelming and even cause anxiety. Thankfully for us every trip is building upon others making this lifestyle more enjoyable. It takes time and we are now only six months into it. We already get the question from locals as to what it’s like to travel full time in an RV. I’m starting to shorten up the answer to “it’s a whole lot of hassle that’s overshadowed by the wonderful places you would otherwise never have been able to see.”
Okay, maybe you need a break from this long blog post. I like to be thorough. The flag above is out our back window at the Resort. I zoomed in for a photo. Every morning when I woke to make coffee I could see the wind blowing the large flag. Small stuff creates good experiences even if it’s not the Grand Canyon.
Day trip to the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier
Waited five years to see her. Although this is not the first, or some say the original, USS Lexington that was sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea off the shores of Australia when the United States was yet again saving another country’s ass from the Japanese in WW 2. I watched a video where in 2018 they found the wreck. I learned larger ships were converted to aircraft carriers. This version of the USS Lexington, parked now as a museum in Corpus Christi, was built as a carrier. Many navel aviators would earn their wings through the years as the ship was stationed in Pensacola Florida at one time for training. They say no other carrier has had more landings on its flight deck.
In high school I joined Navy JROTC. Our commander was an active duty navel aviator and our Senior Chief wanted me to join the Pacific Fleet where he felt I would someday make captain on a destroyer. Our neighbor at home was a navel aviator with a patch on his jacket to show he crashed in Vietnam. My stepmother was a TWA stewardess which was headquartered in Kansas City. She was able to get me behind the scenes at the local airshow. I developed a desire to be in the military and felt navel aviators are the best in the business. Went to Great Lakes Navel Training Center one summer, then San Diego the next. My senior trip was to the navel aviator training center in Pensacola. To make the story shorter – my vision went bad so I went in the Army as a Military Policeman as a second option. As I look back I don’t think I would have had the tolerance for air combat anyway.
Onboard the Lex I found my most favorite plane on the flight deck. Well before Tom Cruise and Top Gun I appreciated the F14 Tomcat. In this case they are restoring one. I found it amusing to learn the modern Navy has tracked 30 million dollar aircraft locations using what is referred to as a Weegy board. Literally a board with tiny planes they move around to show which ones, for example, are next to take off. At the RV Resort the office manager does the same with their camping spots where some want her to enter the modern computer age. I passed that trivia on to her as well.
This is a four to six hour tour. Lots of walking and climbing what civilians call stairs. The head locations (toilet) are scattered and small. We asked the volunteer on the bridge if he wanted a drink of water or coffee and he said no, the nearest usable head was seven decks below. I found it notable portions of the ship are flooded for ballast according to a sign. Boy did I want to wonder off from the marked tour path but I’m not a rule breaker.
There is a restaurant onboard where we took in a snack. At the other end of the ship is a very large movie theater where 3-D glasses are issued for the story of the ships history. This is a well done walking self-tour with signs although we got confused in the engine room and backtracked. Took a neat photo out a portal (window) of downtown Corpus Christi and others of the beach next door and tiny people walking at the water line as viewed from the flight deck. There is lots of interesting stuff to report on. Karen played on the unarmed but otherwise working anti-aircraft guns as if shooting down a Kamikaze. There is a Japanese flag painted on the ships superstructure (tower) where one got away and actually hit the ship during a battle in WW 2. This second Lexington did see battle in the war and patrolled the waters well after that.
I took a photo of one room where a vast display highlights rope knot tying, intending to send that back to the guys at the Sheriff’s Office. We could have used the display. They will get the joke.
I still want to see the Yorktown, now on display in South Carolina. I’d also like to find a WW2 era battleship, having missed the Missouri in Honolulu.
Next to the USS Lexington is the Texas State Aquarium. I would not have had the energy to see both the same day. Although the Lexington has it’s own parking lot I was concerned when I looked at Google Earth if a dually truck would fit well. The Resort manager said just drive there. Lots of dually trucks in Texas she laughed. Fortunately the shoreline at the beach is lined with roadside parking. I picked a spot at the end of a row where no one would be parked in front of me so I could hang over the line a bit. Bring a quarter (.25 cents) for every hour you want to be parked. We planned to be there four hours. I set my cell phone timer to go off thirty minutes early so we would have time to get off the ship. The particular shoreline here looks to be a tourist area with colorful buildings.
Final Destination – Mustang Island State Park
We did not camp here. No spots were open but all is well as it’s a short drive from Aransas. The camping area is not much to brag about but the walk between the sand dunes are revealing as they open to a wave soaked beach. Karen packed a lunch and we ate under a wood canopy over the picnic table. You can drive on this beach but we decided to avoid the saltwater spray. Our dog Huck has never been near the ocean. I took his leash having found a wet area where the larger waves came ashore at times. It might be wrong on my part but I got a good laugh when a wave came in and soaked his paws about two inches up. I knew what he was thinking in surprise as he ran for shore. I also noticed someone could walk yards off the beach into the water and a fishing area off a point. As we have a Texas State Park Pass we avoided the $4 each daily fee. Five miles of beach on the actual Gulf is wonderful.
Noticed a young couple taking a selfie photo with the ocean as the backdrop. I suck at taking those but decided that must be what folks in love do or maybe they use it to tease family back home that you are on the beach in 75 degree weather. Took a selfie…. The best part for me was watching Karen stroll on the beach. I knew well she longed for it.
And thank you Jeff and Ester Harper for the KC Chiefs Super Bowl field shirts. Saved mine for the special occasion during the walk on the beach. A box full with a hat arrived for us in the mail when forwarded to Aransas Bay from our mail service out of Livingston Texas. For some reason the folks down here from Houston still thought they could have won in the playoffs. I told them we (KC Chiefs) practiced 50 years to make it.
If you have read this far in the blog I might as well conclude with I dedicate this post to my cousin Kathy who commented months ago – “where are the photos”.