Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coastal Texas

We're here on Mustang Island, near Corpus Christi, camping in the State Park. This is an amazing part of the state, and so definitely not what people think of when you say "Texas". In general, the area is wide, wide, wide and flat - flat - flat, and full of marshes and ocean waves! It's easy to see how hurricanes pick up so much speed and power as they  move into this area. There are salt marshes as far as you can see and if you look out over the ocean you'll see the occasional oil well.This is a far cry from the cactus-and-cattle most people envision, and yet the famous King Ranch is only a few miles away.

Kendra and Scott joined us for the weekend, along with the grandpuppies.
We spent the first afternoon exploring the beach here in the park and letting the dogs get their fill of wallowing in the seaweed and running in the waves - all except for Molly. She hates getting her feet wet, so she daintily sidestepped each wave as it rolled up on shore. The next day Scott's family took us fishing on the back bay - should say, fish feeding. They really enjoyed the bait shrimp we fed them! No fish to bring home, but we did have fun, and saw several interesting birds wading around in the shallows.

Sunday afternoon we took a short drive to Port Aransas, just to the north of the park. Former home to Karankawa Indians and pirates this little town is now a wonderland of colonial tropical architecture in the style of the Bahamas. At first all the houses look like they are three stories high, but it's the standard coastal architecture with garages on the bottom and two story living space on top - beautiful pastel colors with light or white trim. The colors are very refreshing, and a real contrast to the weathered gray and white we saw so much of on the Oregon coast. With palm trees everywhere, you could easily be on a tropical island. Most of the windows have hurricane shutters of one type or another, a constant reminder that we are in an area that has real "weather"! 
We drove around town and then stopped to slake our thirst at the Port Aransas brew pub, then headed back to camp after a brief stop for fuel (which included yours truly accidentally locking the keys in the truck - Onstar to the rescue!)

Monday we took a drive to the south, to the Padre Island National Seashore. This was a scouting trip to scope out future camping areas. We stopped in at the visitors' center just in time for a ranger-led walk on the beach. Ranger 'Buzz' did an excellent job of engaging all the children in the crowd, and teaching us all quite a bit about the wildlife in the area. The hour went by so quickly I could have sworn it had only been a few minutes!

Check out the album for photos of the area.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More home construction

I guess we both forgot our mothers' admonition to "Shut that door!". . . .  We'd both been in and out of the RV working on things, nice weather and no bugs, so the screen door got left open.  A few days later I went in to start loading for a trip and noticed a pile of twigs and leaves on the floor, in a chair, and as my view went up toward the ceiling, all over a shelf. Most of the collection was stuffed into a corner next to the radio charger..... a nice warm place to raise bird babies! Whether this is the same type of bird that built its nest in the bucket or not we'll never know, but we didn't give it a chance to finish and start laying eggs. You just never know how these critters are going to sneak up on you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Texas Music Theater - San Marcos

Live music is easy to come by around here, but not all the venues are really worth noting. Last night we attending the opening of the new Texas Music Theater in San Marcos, and it is definitely worth noting as a venue, in addition to the great performances.

The newly remodeled theater is located on the square in downtown San Marcos, Texas, between Austin and San Antonio. In 1941 the building opened as the Plaza Theater. It was remodeled in 1958 as a movie theater with two screens and renamed Holiday Theater. Most recently, it was a venue called Gordo’s that featured live music. Not having experienced any of its previous incarnations we can't compare, but we can say they've done a nice job with the remodel and there's plenty of dance floor, 3 bars, and a great view from the upper level where we were lucky enough to get a corner table overlooking the stage. Looking down on the dance floor we could survey the crowd - mixed ages, but largely the college set. Guys in crisp plaid shirts and cowboy hats skillfully twirled young ladies across the floor, and they had plenty of partners to choose from. The show on the floor was as good as the one on the stage!

The opener for the show was Eagle Eye Williamson. This guy gives new meaning to the concept of "one man band", playing the guitar, drums and maraca at the same time, while also singing, and then later switching up to a lap electric slide. Truth be told, he was our favorite performer of the evening, maybe because his sound reminded us of the early '70s stuff we listened to while in college. Watching him perform is by turns distracting, and then mesmerizing. His so adept at switching up instruments all the while singing, it's an amazing experience to watch him perform. Williamson is from the Austin area so we may get a chance to see him again.

The Dirty River Boys were next on the bill. The bio page of their website states "The Dirty River Boys make music with the type of sound and texture that is soaked in the realities of the hard-scrabble city they call home in the far west Texas desert." (That's El Paso, in plain English.) They're classified as "Americana", but I rather like the term they used, "Outlaw folk".

Whatever you call them, they were pretty good, but as is usual in this type of venue the instrumentals drowned out the vocals, which is a shame as creative lyrics are what they are particularly noted for. Headliner Cory Morrow popped on stage to do a number with the Boys, followed by three more numbers before they finished the set.

Cory is based here in the Austin area too, with an extensive discography to his credit.
Part of the Texas Red Dirt scene, Cory denies the typical image of "country" performer, and puts on a lively show bouncing around the stage sans cowboy hat, and barefoot! Kevin Fowler was in the audience, and joined Cory on stage for a number. Again, the instrumentals drowned out the vocals - we know they have a great sound system in the theater, and we love the band, but we also want to hear the vocals!

All things considered, great music all the way around, and a grand start for the theater.

We had arrived before the doors opened, so took the opportunity to walk around the town square. A classic bronze statue of John Coffee Hays, for whom the county is named, occupies one corner.  It's classic Texas - an elaborate county courthouse (topped by Lady Justice) surrounded by other classic buildings and, as this is a college town, lots of pubs!

Lot's more pics of the evening here in the album.