South Padre Sunshine

This past weekend we all went to South Padre Island for the 2005 Sand Castle Days. There had been red tide warnings for the week previous, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but when we arrived Friday afternoon, conditions were outstanding — temperatures in the lower 80s, warm water, nice waves for bodysurfing, no jellyfish to be seen, and the clearest water I’ve ever seen at a Texas beach, clear enough that you could see your feet when in chest-deep. We splashed around for several hours and then retired to the room for cartoons and cereal.[Mom McMains->] and [Christina->] joined us later on that evening to round out our eight-people-in-a-suite vacation savings plan.

On Saturday, Kathy helped out one of the San Marcos teams a bit and signed up all the kids except Maggie for the sand castle competition. Liam and Abby were initially a team together, but quickly dissolved in the midst of squabbles over what they would do and how they would do it. Emily diligently worked on her entry, a memorial to victims of hurricane Katrina, for several hours. It was a very nicely done series of images of people surrounded by a giant series of concentric swirls representing the hurricane, and won her second place in her division and $75, which she says she’s saving for an iPod.

Because of the beautiful weather, I quickly lost interest in sand sculpting and appointed myself full-time lifeguard, taking out any of the kids who were interested into the deeper water and teaching them the finer points of body surfing. (“Now you have to shout ‘Woooooo!’ as loud as you can and then run back into the water until you fall down. Why? Trust me, it’s just how body surfing works.”) We pulled up innumerably oyster shells, watched many school of fish swim by and bump against our ankles or jump between us, and explored every possible way to deal with a wave — jumping over, swimming under, smashing through. As the afternoon wore on, the waves got bigger, eventually deciding that instead of providing a nice ride into the shallow water, they’d smash me into the ocean floor instead, which was quite exciting in its own way.

The Grant Mazak Band played that night for a shrimp boil and party hosted by some of the other folks from San Marcos. In addition to our usual roster, we had an extra guitar player, another harmonica player, and our old friend Scott Wade playing a cool little hand drum. There was lots of dancing, lots of energy, and lots of food — altogether an excellent way to while away an evening.

The next morning we visited Sea Turtle Inc., a turtle rescue and rehabilitation center just a few miles down from where we were staying. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much, but the place was fascinating — huge open tanks allowed you to see (and even feed) some of the turtles that the center was taking care of, and knowledgeable guides filled us in on all the details of the different species of sea turtles (of which there are seven or eight, depending on who you ask). We then went and had one last romp on the beach and headed back for home.

I was thrilled that the trip went as well as it did. The Texas coast is one of my favorite places in the world, and this trip had plenty of all of the things that make me so fond of it. It was super fun to get to play in the water with the kids so much, and we were thrilled at Emily’s great showing in the sculpting competition. The only thing that would have made it better, I think, is for South Padre to be closer!