Outside our window, rag-doll palm trees submit to whipping coastal wind and rain. Inside, as my soul-mate sleeps, I’m grabbing some time to work on a book and post a blog entry. Since we arrived, on Mother’s Day Sunday, Port A has remained its idyllic self.
Marrying during my semester-from-Hell, Jeff and I have had little time to rewind and recharge. Even Spring Break was eaten up with preparations for my online Comp I class. When Spring 2014 classes socked me between the eyes, there were many days when I yearned for island time. At last, after giving the last final exam, posting grades, and turning in my room key, I hollered at BeeGee.
“Hey, cuz. We’re coming down. Is the Wahoo available?”
After Beeg gave us the thumbs-up, Jeff and I packed a few clothes and some snacks, plied our neighbor with wine and chocolate in exchange for three or four days of dog-sitting, and hopped in the Toyota a day earlier, stopping at New Braunfels to visit Jeff’s family and celebrate a birthday. After a restful night at the Rodeway Inn in Three Rivers and a late brunch at McDonald’s, we set out for the last leg of our journey. .
Already, my mind could smell the salty air, even though we were miles away from the first palm tree. Once we crossed the Nueces County line into Corpus Christi,we noted places we wanted to visit on the way home: the aquarium, the USS Lexington, and maybe a seafood restaurant or two on the water.
Yesterday morning, our first full day in blissful Port A, Jeff and I walked on the beach before stopping at Avery’s Kitchen, a friendly restaurant I discovered, last year, for their savory, homemade corned-beef hash and eggs and Belgian waffles. To my surprise, both our server and even Avery,himself, remembered me.
When we returned to the Wahoo, yesterday afternoon, Jeff and I worked on our laptops until around 6:00 p.m. when we attended a wine-and-hors d’oeuvres farewell party for one of Beeg’s friends at the Dome in the Dunes, another one of her roomy rentals.
Counting today, we have maybe one or two more days left. The blowing rain outside makes me thankful for our cozy cottage and inspires me to write, as I came down here to do.
So where do you go to get away from it all? I look forward to hearing from you. Stay tuned for my next entry, “Living on Island Time, Part 5: Home from the Wahoo.”
As I stepped out on the patio of the Wahoo, one of the cozy beach homes offered by BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters, the sun was staining the sky a soft gold on her way up. Salty breeze caressed my face as I sipped espresso from my French roast pot and munched a Cheerios bar. Below the table, Cousin Beeg’s short-haired, orange-and-white cat, Rusty, wove around my legs and meowed. As I twirled his tail, I leaned back and drank in the serenity of the moment. I came down here to research Port A, but I would have to wait until the sleeping town woke up.
Chill out, Kim. You’re island time, now.
After washing out my coffee pot in the full-sized kitchen, I dressed in white crops, Skechers, and a black tee-shirt from the 2013 DFW Writers Conference, and grabbed my tote bag. Within minutes, mugginess shrink-wrapped my body. The black tee, I decided, would have to go.
Around nine a.m., I parked at the Islander, a souvenir and beach shop on South Alister Street, for a lighter-weight tee in a cooler color. Seeing their sale on four tees for $20, I went inside and chose a powder-blue tee-shirt with the logo, “Port Aransas: Feel All Right.”
“I’m also here to research my next mystery, which I intend to set in Port Aransas,” I told the sales person as I offered her my card.
“Oooh, really? Well, come with me,” she said, leading me to a bookshelf and handing meImages of America: Port Aransasby J. Guthrie Ford and Mark Creighton.
According to information appearing on the back cover of the book, aficionados of Port Aransas and Mustang Island have Dr. Ford to thank for establishing the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association, and writing the four-volume Port Aransas Historic Series. And hats off to Mark Creighton, a Cornell University graduate, for over 8,000 archived digital images of Port Aransas and Mustang Island.
Recognizing a super source when I see one, I added it to the bill.
After dropping the purchases in my bag and changing into my new shirt in a neighboring restroom, I followed Avenue G to the beach where I shed my Skechers to sink my toes in the sand. It had been too long — January 2009 — since my last beach-fix. Wet sand and cool water felt heavenly on tired, sweaty feet! One thing I have always loved about Texas beaches is that I do not get winded walking on them. By the time I walked all the way down to Horace Caldwell Pier and back to my car, I had logged about two miles and sweated off about ten pounds.
Around 10:45, that morning, I returned with face flushed and tummy growling. Time to poll the locals.
“So, where’s your favorite place to eat?”
“Avery’s Kitchen,” chimed the Islander staff, almost in unison. They pointed to a blue frame building with white trim, located on the other side of Spanky’s Liquor. In celebration of the annual SandFest, someone had built a sand castle beside the balcony. The sign outside Avery’s Kitchen read “Keepin’ It Simple.”
“Actually, we’re still serving breakfast, but you’re welcome to wait,” said Meredith, who fixed me up with a tall glass of ice water, a menu, and a copy of the South Jetty, Port A’s newspaper.
“Great! What is the best thing you serve?”
” Breakfast or lunch?”
“Well, our egg platters are really popular, particularly the corned-beef hash-and-egg one. For lunch, our hand-breaded fish and chicken-fried steak are good, too.”
My mouth watered. “Is the owner here where I could speak to him?”
“Sure! Just be careful back there. It’s slick.”
When I pushed through the swinging door, owner Avery Hernandez was covering a vat of cole slaw. After i shook his hand and introduced myself, I got him talking about his food.
“We hand-bread all of our own fish. And I make my own corned-beef hash. Basically, we serve comfort food.”.
“Yum! Here’s my card. While I’m here, I might grab some breakfast.”
“Sure,” he said. “In fact, I’d like to buy your dinner.”
As I dug into the corned-beef-and-eggs platter, my mouth told me this was not the run-of-the-mill canned stuff. No siree-Bob! As Avery himself said, he had cooked the corned beef, chopped it, and mixed in potatoes. It went down smoothly with two eggs over-medium,a homemade biscuit with strawberry jam, and coffee.
Not only was the breakfast blog-worthy, so was lunch. Avery’s fish-and-chips, advertised on a blackboard outside, was $7.95. Having eaten fish and chips at Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, I asked Meredith about how Avery fixed it.
” It’s grouper, freshly-caught and hand-breaded.”
The grouper was so tender that it self-destructed in my hand. No “fake” fish, here. The fries were so well-seasoned that I needed no additional salt. Chunky cole slaw in a light, not overly-sweet dressing complemented the meal..
I was wiping my mouth and shoving my plate aside when Meredith approached me, again. After pouring more ice water, she pointed to a table where a cake and bowls were set out.
“When you’re ready for dessert, you’re welcome to a complimentary piece of our lemon cake.”
When I finished the square of cake — satisfyingly tart and sweet and just the right portion — I paid for my meal and waved my thanks.
. “I will be back!”
Still on my agenda, the marina and the Chamber of Commerce. I had a lot of ground to cover in three days. This was only Day One.
One thing you must know about me is that I’m a biiiiiig weenie about driving long distances. But when I saw, on Facebook, that my cousin’s daughter-in-law got to spend some time with her, I told Brandy I was downright jealous.
“Well, come on down!” she said.
Sigh. If only it were that easy.
In a few days, the summer-school onslaught would begin. But, two days later, I got a call from school. It was Amber, my Department Chair’s assistant.
“First off, I’m only the messenger, so don’t shoot me,” she began. “We had to give your class to a full-timer. Your Summer II classes are still good, though.”
All right, then. I thought. During the past year, I had become really worn-down with not only teaching four face-to-face classes each semester, but, also, building an online course. I was ready for a break. This was my God-given opportunity to head down to Port Aransas.
Since I’m planning to set my new mystery, Suffer The Little Children, in “Port A”, I saw this as an excellent time to research motels, restaurants, and fishing areas where Earl Savage and Burrneece Barefoot of Barefoot Savage Investigation — would most likely hang out on their vacation before he reels in a body off Horace Caldwell Pier (or maybe the South Jetty.). It was also a good opportunity to interview the local police.
With that in mind, I started figuring out a way to make it happen. One night, I priced motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters into the wee hours. Since this is the peak season, there was little chance of finding anywhere that cost less than $125 per night. That is, before I told Beeg I planned to come visit.
My original plan was that I would head on down on June 3 and return June 5. But, as my sweetheart reminded me, doing it that way would give me only one day in “island paradise”. Hardly any time at all to turn around before I’d have to head on back.
“Why don’t you go down there on Sunday and return on Thursday?” said Von.
He was right. Three whole days. Yeah, that would work.
The next concern, getting there. Round-trip airfare, particularly within Texas, was out of the question. At its cheapest, I’d be looking at $400. The other option, according to the Port Aransas web site was landing my plane on the island. Not a pilot, I had to laugh.
“But, of course!” I said, smacking my forehead. ” Why didn’t I think of that, first?”
At that time, I whipped out my iPad and punched in Port Aransas on my Google maps. All three routes had me staying on I-35 most of the way. I was ecstatic.
” Kim, old girl, this is doable,” I told self. “Even on a shoestring!”
On Saturday night, I turned in early and woke up at 5:30 a.m. After dressing, feeding Russet, and packing the car, I headed up the street for the nearest Waffle House for a jalapeno bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit and a travel mug full of coffee, I hit the road.
From Arlington, I took I-20 West to 35W. At Hillsboro, Interstate 35W turned into just plain old I-35. When a major accident halted traffic on I-35 in Schertz, outside San Antonio, I gassed up the car and headed around the corner to Wendy’s. After a leisurely lunch, the pile-up had cleared in time to switch to Interstate 410 South. From there, it was a short jog onto I-37. Texas 358 took the longest, lasting 130 miles. Good thing I had packed plenty of CD‘s to keep me rocking.
Seeing the first palm tree, just outside Corpus Christi, I smiled. Soon, I would smell that salty air and hear waves crashing. Still, State Highway Park Road 22E and Texas 361, the road into Port Aransas.
As I entered the Port A city limits, I started slowing down to look for street signs.
“Turn right for Royal Palm Drive,” said “GPS lady”.
Passing it up, I had to look for the next turn-in and double back. The same happened with BeeGee’s street.
Nearly smacking into an oncoming car while looking for a street sign, I turned around in someone’s driveway and, in the process, met a new friend (who happened to know BeeGee). When she pointed me in the right direction, I gave Beeg a call.
” I was waiting to hear from you,” she said. ” My street sign’s down. Look for a Port-a-Potty on your right.”
After waving me down in the street, she directed me to drive around back to the Wahoo, a cozy one-bedroom island cottage complete with a full kitchen, living and dining room, a bathroom opening both to the hall and the bedroom. Television sets in both the living room and bedroom and a washer and dryer completed the comforts of home. Outside, a barbecue grill and patio set. All this and Beeg for a neighbor. How cool is this going to be?
When I settled in, Beeg and I met at her house where we kicked back with snacks and a movie. Most important, we were long overdue for some serious “cousin time.”
Planning to devote Monday through Wednesday to researching my new book, Suffer The Little Children, a murder mystery set in Port Aransas, I knew I had my work cut out for me. However, evenings like my first one were for relaxing. As I drifted off on whisper-soft sheets and pillows, I thanked God for guiding me safely here.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Living on Island Time. Now, it’s your turn. What is your favorite vacation getaway?