Saturday was sunny and calm as we drove down. I-37, the highway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, wasn't very busy and the new vistas that we saw and the cruise control in the Hyundai made the drive astonishingly pleasant. Deciding very firmly that we weren't going to try to match any sort of time table and instead just play everything fast and loose made driving back and forth all over the part of the fun.
First we saw dolls. There's an Asian Cultures Museum in Corpus that's full of hakata dolls -- ceramic figurines of scenes from traditional Japanese life like Hubble figurines without the schmaltz. My grandparents have some that my grandfather brought back from serving in Korea and I've always thought they were neat. There were a lot of fascinating exhibits in the museum, but my favorite piece was a hakata doll of a tattoo artist working on a half-naked geisha. I'll have to post the pictures of it sometime.
After the museum, we went to Mustang Island and visited the national park there. The ocean was beautiful; I love the smell of the sea. We climbed out on one of the pink granite jettys and snapped photos and took film like we were ten years younger. I'm a pretty timid guy most of the time, but put me out in nature and suddenly I'm climbing rocks and trying to grab crabs like I'm Jeff Corwin or Steve Irwin. There was also a pod of dolphins playing in the surf less than 100 yards away and we walked alongside them for a while. Magic birthday dolphins, just for us.
More dolphins followed when we went on a dolphin watching boat tour in Port Aransas, a place that seems much more commercial than how I remembered it. (It's nothing but condos, restaurants, and gift shops.) Several times the dolphins actually swam under the boat and I managed to take a picture of one of them looking up at me.
Afterwards (and this was about 6PM) we went back to Corpus via the ferry and finally checked into our hotel. The hotel turned out to be kinda crappy and our intended starlit walk on the beach (it was the new moon) didn't happen because the beach was filled with mosquitos. We ate dinner and got back to the hotel in time to watch "Ultimate Avengers 2" on Cartoon Network (which I ridiculed mercilessly the whole time) and went to bed early... which was fine because we wanted Sunday to come as quick as possible.
A cold front and accompanying storms rolled over Texas that night, so the next morning was chilly and the waves were lashing the shore... which was actually really neat. We walked out onto a pier and took photos of crashing surf and ate at the only two-story Whataburger in the world while we decided what to do next.
We decided to be utterly silly and drive out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which is about another hour and a half from Corpus. It was raining, it was cold, but that seemed like the most fun. So we drove along country roads winding through farmland (where the speed limit was 70) until we got there.
It rained heavily for about another two hours while we took pictures of the occasional deer, but then it cleared up and the animals started coming out. We saw a fox sitting right on the road staring at us -- my favorite moment of the vacation -- and took pictures of more deer, quite a few waterbirds, and a feral hog (we hoped it was a javelina, but the park ranger told us how to tell the difference). We also climbed out onto a picturesque jagged spit of land called Dagger Point, which is the pirate-iest place I've ever been (besides the "Pirates of the Carribean" ride at Disneyland). The Aransas NWR is now my favorite place in Texas.
The drive home was pleasant and easy and the bad drivers didn't start until we got back to San Antonio.
And that's enough for now. I promise to get back to stories next week.