Corpus Christi Gulf of Mexico

March 2018


Andi BrianThe sun is shining and the youth of Texas are enjoying spring break. Many of them have taken the party to the Corpus Christi area along the Gulf of Mexico, where we were recently vacationing ourselves. We have now left the beaches to the young revelers and moved to the Texas interior. Springtime weather in San Antonio can be a lesson in shifting moods, from cool, dry northwestern air currents to the hot, humid gulf flows. When they collide, look out! Rolling thunder and a bright, electric sky full of hostile hail can result. During our short stay this year we have been lucky. It has been mostly dry, mostly warm and quite suitable for Riverwalk strolling and disc golf playing. Though we only get to Texas every couple of years, Corpus Christi and San Antonio are as comfortable and familiar as a pair of old sneakers. May spring find you in a place of ease and contentment as well.  ~  Brian and Andi

Wish You Were Here

 Pirates and Poets Annual Songwriter Invitational, Padre Island, TX

Have you heard of a style of music called “trop rock?” It stands for “tropical rock” and is a genre characterized by island or beachy lyrics set to the sound of Caribbean rock or pop instruments such as guitar, steel drum, Latin percussion and slide guitar. Think of Jimmy Buffet songs and you’ll be on the right track. When we travel to places like the Gulf Coast, we listen to trop rock and had recently discovered an internet radio station called Radio TropRock. Much to our surprise when we pulled into the RV park in Corpus Christi, we saw an RV plastered with a giant windshield screen featuring the distinctive parrot and palm tree logo of Radio TropRock.

Radio Trop Rock Bus

It turned out that our campground neighbor owns the station and runs it out of his RV. He was in town for a weekend-long festival called Pirates and Poets 8th Annual Songwriter Invitational, and he encouraged us to attend, which we did.

The cute little beach resort town of Port Aransas on the barrier island just beyond Corpus Christi sustained too much hurricane damage to host the event as it usually would, so they held it at a nearby water park and resort called The Schlitterbahn. We began our experience on a Friday evening, finding our way to an upstairs private deck attached to a full indoor bar. We had heard that tickets would be limited to 120 people, which made for a nice, intimate audience. As we were strapping on blue Tyvek wristbands that would admit us to the next day’s events, it gradually became evident that many of the attendees already knew each other. Folks with icy drinks in hand mingled with the comfortable ease of a friendly cocktail party. We chose chairs right near the front for an acoustic-electric evening of guitar, steel drum and miscellaneous percussion.

Band stage guitar drums
Donny Brewer, backed by Melanie Howe and Mark Mireles

The first headliner was Donny Brewer and we were among the tiny minority who had never heard him before. On all sides of us were groupies who basically follow the trop rockers on their circuit to places like Key West and coastal Mexico. Most of the audience sported grey hair or no hair; we were about the youngest in attendance. The music was cheerful and the delivery spontaneous, with much humor and good-natured interaction among musicians and audience. Next up was Jerry Diaz, acknowledged as an early and influential trop rock artist. Some of the Saturday night musicians joined in here and there, too, and the party finally came to a close after four hours.

On Saturday, we missed some daytime music because we were giving a performance of our own. Saturday night we drove back to The Schlitterbahn, donned our favorite new Key West parrot tee shirts and headed inside for the next event of Pirates and Poets. This time we were indoors beside the same private bar as the previous night, and as before, it was bustling with festival patrons.
musicians guitars

Three singer-songwriter guitar players sat on stools before the small audience and performed in rotation. Each talked about the process of composing their songs and the influences that inspired particular pieces. We decided that this was the “poets” part of the festival balancing last night’s “pirates.” The same audience of supportive friends attended and seemed familiar with Eric Erdman, Cory Young and Kitty Steadman. There was a kind and easy kinship among musicians and crowd. The last tune of the festival was a joint composition about Pirates and Poets, with each musician contributing a personalized verse. Then it was all over but the hugging and the promises to see each other at the next event. We left slightly stunned, having fallen under the spell of these fun, kind, talented folks who were so eager to welcome us into their world.

For a sample of our experience, visit these sites:

Did You Know, Part 1

You probably knew or guessed that Texas has its own way of doing things. One thing that separates the locals from the visitors is the ability to pronounce certain place names like a native. Say the following names to yourself, then read father below to see how a true Texan says them. Ready?

  • Bexar
  • Study Butte
  • Boerne
  • Gruene
  • Refugio

Life on the Road

Lending a Post-Hurricane Hand

Most of us remember the catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Katrina but a more recent tropical cyclone is tied with Katrina for the costliest storm on record.

collapsed house

Can you name it? Neither could we until we  reached the barrier island strip outside Corpus Christi to visit a favorite little resort town on Mustang Island called Port Aransas. There we saw the lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey, the brute that slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast just over six months ago. It was heartbreaking to see shops we had actually featured in our February 2016 blog entry now missing signs or walls or roof sections.

interior of collapsed home

A giant mound of debris frowned on the edge of town, and an enormous backhoe on top was using metal jaws to transfer the crushed homes, stores and dreams to vast trucks, bound for Landfill, USA. The other thing that caught our eye was a hand-painted sandwich board that read, “volunteers register here.” With a free week at our disposal, we put our names on a list to be phoned for “light outdoor work, painting, moving and office work.” In a couple of days we found ourselves helping a young lady get her business groomed. We were among 6 or 8 volunteers working there from Michigan, Illinois and other places, mostly retirees.

gas station

While some painted decks and pulled nails from reusable wood, we transplanted a dozen little trees. The hurricane had ripped out a small forest and we were moving the survivors to a nice location inside the back yard. Clad in jeans, hats, sunscreen, bug spray and gloves, we went to work. It was a nice day for digging and planting – mid-70s and a medium breeze, though the coastal humidity always makes it feel warmer. That chore took us the entire morning, then after lunch came the really strenuous part – moving and spreading a truckload of gravel for paths and driveways. We were completely whipped by the time we got back to the RV park and stumbled to the showers to wash off the sandy grit.

pottery business

Good thing there were cold ales in the fridge leftover from St David’s Day. We had a day off and then went back over to help a lady who has a lovely pottery business. She had landscaping revitalization to do as well; by now most people have drained the water, removed heaps of flying detritus and dug out the mud piled up to indoor window sills. After another day of outdoor labor, showers and ibuprofen felt really good, but so did the feeling of accomplishment and the look of hope we brought to the faces of nice folks in their time of need.

Did You Know, Part 2

Now, the moment of truth. Here is how to say these names like a true Texan:
  • Bexar  =  “Bear”
  • Study Butte  =  “Stoody Butte”
  • Boerne  =  “Burny”
  • Gruene  =  “Green”
  • and our personal favorite:
  • Refugio  =  “Re-fury-oh”
  • Please don’t ask us to defend or explain; that’s just the way they’re said.

Coffee Chat

About a year ago we read an article about someone who had severely reduced her garbage output to some ridiculously enviable amount like one bag per year. In response we bought some thrift store cloth napkins and a set of hiking cutlery to carry into coffee shops so we could avoid using paper napkins and disposable silverware.

yellow blue cups
“For here” cups at Island Joe’s on Padre Island

Last month we decided to take it a step further and give up disposable coffee cups. We like to call our endeavor, “put your coffee where your mouth is” and once again we began at a thrift store by purchasing a pair of mugs for 99 cents each. Many coffee shops actually offer real cups, but when they don’t, we’re prepared.

Spring in San Antonio

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