OUR ALL-DAY JUNKET INTO CORPUS CHRISTI, Part I: Exploring the Texas State Aquarium

Wednesday, June 28

Ever since we first blew into Corpus Christi on our way home from Port Aransas, we promised each other we would stop to visit the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Museum, but probably not in the same day.  But, today, we plan to make this outing a double-whammy.  But when I think of writing about both sights in one post, I realize there is too much about each place to cover them, at once. Therefore, I have decided to cover the aquarium,  first.

Earlier, as we were driving into Corpus Christi,  Jeff asked me where I wanted to go, first. My answer was a slam-dunk;”Why, the aquarium, of course.”

When I was little, Daddy would take us to Hotel Breakers on Corpus Christi’s North Beach. Since then, I have always been in love with the ocean, especially the Texas gulf coast and its fish and other marine life. I am rarin’ to roam the museum to my heart’s content, in spite of its pricey admission: $32.50 per senior, or $65.90, plus taxes, for the two of us. As we stagger through the front door after a near-heart attack at the ticket booth, we remind each other that, although the admission price is steep, it does cover all activities in the building and, if we don’t catch all of it, we can return with our ticket later in the day and pay no additional charge.

Our first “handshake” with the aquarium is a girl handing us a map. After thanking her, we veer left, starting with the first section, the “Gulf of Mexico”. Pixaresque 3D displays with fish drifting  as if they are swimming in their sleep have me snapping photos non-stop on my iPhone.  At one point, a red snapper glares at me for eating his kinfolk at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, two days earlier.  Besides for 3D displays spectacular enough to make Walt Disney gasp from his grave, this aquarium offers interactive displays with docents to educate and monitor us. At one, I touch a starfish, expecting it to be hard, as it would be if I found it washed up on the shore. Instead, the living version of it feels spongy.. The highlight of these  hands-on exhibits is a tank with live, white jellyfish bobbing in the water.  People young and old are daring to touch them, as directed by a guide assuring  them that the white “bell” at the top, cannot hurt us.

At first, I back away.

“The top cannot sting you,” the guide emphasizes. ” Just touch it gently, like this, back and forth on the top,” he says, demonstrating as he talks.

“Go ahead, babe,” says Jeff, whipping his phone from his holster. “I’ll  take a picture of you doing it.”

” One of these rascals stung me when I was a kid. I’m not touching it. No sirree-bob!”

Just then, a  little girl who doesn’t appear to be more than five years old, plunges her tiny  hand into the water and — plink! just like that — touches its pulsating bell-shaped top.

Well, now, that does it, I’m thinking, as I watch her. Even though one of these critters  stung me when I was her age, that’s where it stops. I will not be outdone by a kid. So I point to Jeff’s phone.

“Okay, boy, we’re on. Pull up that camera.” I tell him, as I pretend to roll up my sleeves. So he pans in on what is sure to be a fight to the finish between Mr. Jellyfish and me as I plunge my hand into the water and swipe my finger across the top of the jiggly creature in hit-and-run fashion.

Ploop!  Done. I’m good. Now show me to the gift shop. I’ve gotta have a tee-shirt that boasts my bravery for the world to see.

In the same area as the jellyfish, we see other tentacled creatures: squid and octopi. As I look at them, I remember my last calamari.

In yet another area, “Caribbean Journey”, we meet the Lionfish, who resembles a fishy version of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz with its whiskers going every which way. It happens to be the same kind of fish that recently bit one of our granddaughters.

I am the King. The Boss,” it snarls as it patrols the water. “Nobody. Messes. With. Me.”

“You so-and-so,” I growl,  staring it down. “Bite our Sydney, again, and you’re ‘dinner‘.”

Soon, we have seen everything there is to see inside and are pretty doggone hungry, so we stop in at the Shoreline Grill, a cafeteria-style cafe that offers burgers, hot dogs, pizza slices, and wraps. We plop a spinach-and-chicken wrap and an orange Gatorade onto our tray, pay the outrageous sum of $9.12 for it, and grab a table where we watch the most fascinating species:  people.

When we’ve devoured the last of our wraps, we amble outside to the  HEB “Splash Park” where kiddos of almost all ages slide and splash around on a watery surface. We pass “Dolphin Bay” where playful dolphins try to outdo each other, and stop to snap pictures of the stingrays at “Feed the Rays”, all of which we breezed past on the way to  “You ‘Otter’ Know This” where we listen to another presentation about otters from both fresh and salt water. When she finishes, it’s time for  “Wild Flight Theater” where staff introduce us to whiskered owls, parrots, turkey buzzards, and even African cats.

As much as we have seen, today, there is so much more that we did not get to see, namely the 4D “Shark” movie, sponsored by What-a-burger. Jeff and I promise each other that we will come back, the next time we’re on the coast. For now, we’re already worn out with one more sight to see: USS Lexington.

So, esteemed readers, what are some noteworthy sights that you recommend seeing, and where are they? I’d love to hear from you! Please type your comments in the box appearing below this post.

Jeff and I have only a few days left on the Coast and are looking for our next place to land. Coming soon at a Smartphone, tablet, or laptop near you: our jaunt to the USS Lexington, next to the aquarium. After that, who knows where we crazy “VintageNewlyweds” will turn up, next.






LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 3: Last Day in Paradise

image2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 5:  Last day in paradise. It is also my last day to visit places to include in my new work-in-progress, Suffer The Little Children, plunked down in Port Aransas.

As I chart the territory for Burrneece Barefoot and Earl Savage (of Barefoot Savage Investigation),  I cross off  places I’ve already visited:  the Chamber of Commerce for brochures.The marina for pictures of boats. And  Port Aransas Police Department where Lieutenant. James Stokes graciously  explains who gets involved and what they do when someone finds a body on the beach.

After Beegee and I have lunch at Avery’s Kitchen (where Earl would take  Burrneece because he  “knows” owner, Avery Hernandez), I take on  the last sight on my agenda:  University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Keep in mind that, by now, I’ve walked two miles under sweltering Port A sun. I’m red-faced, sweaty, sandy, and crippled after walking in flip-flops and sand lodged underneath the  toe ring I purchased at Gratitude where Burrneece would spend Earl’s money on seashell-studded sandals and upside-down wineglass sunglasses.

By now, I have shown myself that If I wander around long enough, I smack into the water. With the help of my GPS, I  arrive at the Institute and trudge up the steps to an air-conditioned office. A  receptionist who apparently has not been tramping through heat and sand greets me with a sympathetic smile.

“Is there any charge for the exhibits?” I ask.  Please, please tell me there isn’t.

“No, but this is not the Visitors Center. You’ll need to go back outside, down the steps, and underneath the building. Look for a statue of a giant fish.”

Sounds simple enough until I see nothing but parking lot. Oh, wait!  Here comes a  young man who seems to know where he’s going. I’ll just ask him.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for the Visitors Center,”

His eyes cloud. His brow furrows.

“Visitor Center? Ooooh… not open to public.”

“Is so,” I want to blurt. Instead, I thank him and  hobble onward. To a  parking area, picnic tables, and — what’s that ahead? A giant fish?
According to the South Jetty,  the  Visitors Center is only one part of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), offers “free self-guided tours of exhibits…aquaria with Texas coastal species and habitats, photos, and research projects past and present.”  (82)

The Wetlands Education Center is the other. According to the Port Aransas newspaper, the Wetlands comprise  “3.5 acres between the UTMSI and the South Jetty. A stroll along the boardwalk allows… a marsh/seagrass pond with a wildscape of various seagrasses and coastal vegetation”  as well as “migratory waterfowl and resident marshbirds”. The interior boardwalks, according to the South Jetty, are “limited to guided tour groups”. (82)

Having covered the last place, I retrace the path back to my car, to Avenue G, Eleventh Street, and LaJuana Court where the Wahoo, my rented oasis, awaits.   After a shower and a re-charge, I’m ready for The Fish House and The Back Porch with Cousin BeeGee and our friend, Maryanne.

The last three sun-splashed  days, although exhausting, have given me the break I’ve needed. Early tomorrow, I leave at first (or fiftieth) light and head home.

Up ahead,  Part Four, ” Returning to Reality”.