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”.