Rockport and Aransas Texas – Gulf Coast Visit

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”.

20 thoughts on “Rockport and Aransas Texas – Gulf Coast Visit

  1. Sounds like the RV lifestyle is agreeing with you and you’ve already found your pace. Thanks for sharing your military background. I went to Flight Attendant training at the TWA training facility in KC. Midway Airlines out of Chicago was an up and coming airline at the time and thus contracted with TWA for crew training. I almost didn’t recognize Goose Island SP with the lack of trees – wow. Hurricane Harvey sure left an impact on that whole area. Glad the Big Tree is still standing and the whoopers are still in the area.

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    • Assume you trained at Breech Academy then. I went through it in the early 90’s when United Telecom/Sprint was looking to move in and start a company training center. Deal never went through. Was sad to see it vacant at the time. Believe Waddell and Reed may have moved offices there but not sure.

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  2. Echoing what Ingrid said above, it sounds like you guys are adjusting well to your new found lifestyle! It’s so awesome to hear about your adventures! So happy for you both! Hoping our paths cross someday soon!

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      • Darn, we are moving out of Texas on 3/8. Going east into MississippiLouisiana and north to Tennessee area depending on flooding issues up there.

        We have to leave the rig for a week or less to travel back to Kansas City. Not sure what the best way to leave rig is while we are out of town. Assume just at a commerical RV park thats somewhat safe and let management know what is up?

        We should be in the Jackson MS area by then as we want to tour Vicksburg.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark and Karen
    I just looooved this post!!! I am so jealous of your tour of the ship. Got a kick out of Karen’s first Armadillo experience, how perfect was that! I would have been in heaven on that hike through the refuge. I literally got goose bumps reading this blog. You’ve had so many amazing experiences… and the best part is that you two just go with the flow. The selfie was the absolute icing on the cake. So stinkin happy for you 3, can’t forget Huck! Lol
    Happy Trails to you

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    • I was hoping the post was not too long. Myself, I’ll read them if they are interesting, an area we want to travel or the chance of learning something. Taking lots of pictures and going through them so family will get an idea where we are. I know Karen is keeping ya’ll updated on Facebook. Think you are going to like the post on Goliad Texas, even if a history lesson is involved.

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      • I loved all the other bro and the pictures too! You have different pictures on your blog than I see on Facebook. Can’t wait for your pictures and blog on Goliad. I actually love going to historical places. I always take my kids to things like that.
        Happy trails!!

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      • Thanks for bearing with the long blog posts. I’m trying to pay attention when I come up with headings so folks will know if the topic is of interest or not.

        “Remember Goliad” – is a phrase the Texans cried out. Being from Missouri I never new this was yelled as the same time as “Remember the Alamo”.

        Just a teaser for the next blog – Goliad, in my opinion, is a worst occurrence than what happened at the Alamo by far. It’s so cool to be camped down the street from historic buildings that are on the state park grounds.

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  4. Looks like a great time. We’re still hoping to winter down there next year. Any rust from the salt air? We got our first big roof boo boo too. Had to tape it also. You two look great in the selfie!

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    • No rust issues. As we were parked on some concrete I did take the time to crawl under the rig and use an entire spray can of automotive paint on any thing I was that might rust or had slight rust after a year of ownership.

      Wonder how many boo boos we will get out of this over time. I was hoping to get mine in already.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a pretty great stop. I, too, am often amazed by how much we say “next time,” but it’s so important to be realistic about what you can and cannot get done. People will always tell you all the “don’t miss” places, or, worse yet, they’ll tell you they can’t believe you missed this or that attraction, but you can only do so much and there are only so many hours in a day. It’s good to be realistic about it all right from the beginning.You’re not on vacation and you can always go back some other time.

    We had reservations at Goose Island in 2017, but everything got canceled after Harvey. I’m glad to see it on the rebound. Hopefully they’ll get those beach sites open again soon. It looks like a wonderful park.

    The Lexington also looks awesome. I’ll second your desire to go see the Yorktown. We spent the better part of a day there and only scratched the surface. Plus, they have tons of other ships, aircraft, and military hardware to see. It’s a great spot.

    Glad to hear you guys are having fun!

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    • We have three commitments to be places in 2020 so far. One at the factory service center for annual repairs before warranty expires, one old job thing and a family camping trip.

      The old job thing is yet another murder trial that I must attend. Been back to Kansas City twice so far and I’m pissed off about it. Really pissed off. The “legal system” could care less about my time and desire to leave those memories behind and that I earned the right to be left alone. On the positive side this encourages me to say no to planning in the future when I really don’t want to do it.

      Knowing it may appear selfish, in the future I’m not going to be making many commitments of my time causing us to be in any one place at a certain time, months down the road. That way we can extend our time in an area as we want to be in. And more importantly which direction we decide we are heading.

      Maybe after two or three years of travel I will not mind planning months ahead to be in a place at a certain time. Or maybe five years from now we will look forward to having a destination.

      I should write more about the “retirement” thing. I find myself stopping and thinking about what time decisions we make now that are no different before I retired. Frankly, we only have X numbers of good healthy years left to enjoy travel. I find myself less and less wanting to be the good guy or taking any stress on that reminds me in anyway of how I used to live my life. I’m learning an important lesson and glad to get it out of the way earlier rather than looking back five years from now and wishing it had been different.

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  6. Our first winter out we stayed at Goose Island SP at one of the bay sites. I have to get out to the Refuge one of these days. We’ll be in Port A from late December thru March, Dave would be glad to show you about surf fishing.
    We all have our battle scars from this lifestyle, makes for good campfire stories. It’s all in how we deal with them that will make or break some in this lifestyle.

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    • Good chance we will catch you in Port A around then. I added a note in my Google Calendar to remind me. Karen has been talking about returning to the area next winter but we are keeping out options open. There was a lot more we wanted to do before we left.

      Karen really liked the stay. I was shocked when she picked Aransas Bay Resort as in the past she called commercial lots parking lots. I think the fact it was well landscaped and clean was a plus for her. The monthly stay is doable in our budget.

      You write words of wisdom with “how we deal with them that will make or break some in this lifestyle.” Maybe it’s minor compared to major equipment issues, but some events that draw us back into the old lifestyle are upsetting. In some ways we are running from the past because it was a time for a change. This is leading to some new rules around our household. For example, setting plans to far out will result in us taking a guess at what month we will arrive rather than setting a specific date.

      I’m trying to finish up some murder trials from the old job. The courts and prosecutors can care less what is going on in our lives. They just continued yet another until next October back in Kansas City. I’m complaining I know but last year I had to make three trips back. That really added a level of doubt about the lifestyle at the time, having only moved into the rig three months earlier. And we had planned our movements this spring around being closer to attend another trial. The date has moved and I was not notified. Unfortunately the need to move caused us to miss some areas we wanted to see.

      I waited to calm down and left a message for the prosecutor. I’m telling them I’ll have no idea if I’ll even be in the country at the time so plan around that rather than counting on me to keep track of their follies.

      Hoping the complaining adds value to those who might be reading comments. Sets realistic expectations.

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  7. Pingback: Leaving Gulf Shores Alabama for Florida – Plenty of RV Maintenance Completed | Our Future in an RV

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