Day 6. Friday April 20 – Corpus Christi to Aransas Pass, Texas

Saturday 21 April 2018

Though we saw the sun rise from our balcony, it was not shinning when we pushed away at 7:30 this morning; but the wind did show up.  Our first seven mile stretch was past beautiful homes overlooking the Corpus Christi Bay; some looking like second homes with hurricane shutters still on.  We got a break from the wind when the homes lined both sides of the street and the constant scenery helped to distract from the wind.

Our direction today went from southeast to northeast, so the 20 mph east wind always found us.  The causeway that connects Corpus Christi to the barrier island was particularly challenging, thankfully we had a frontage road for half of it and on one bridge a bike path.  But the one mile long high-rise bridge going over the intracoastal was hairy, directly into the wind with a one foot shoulder and very heavy traffic.

We were happy to have arrived safely on Padre Islandyet feeling as beaten up as this flag.  This island is the longest (70 miles) undeveloped barrier island in the world, except for one block of tourist stuff.  As we turned north the homes and business dropped from view.  Our road was away from the water, the dunes just high enough to block our view of the Gulf, but the rest of the land very low.  We reached the outskirts of Port Aransas at 27 miles, it would take us almost ten more before we actually got to town.  Small clusters of condos and homes both large and smallwere scattered among the sand dunes; some showing damage from last fall’s Hurricane Harvey.  Once in the cute little town, hurricane damage was even more evident.  We took the three minute ferry ride over the narrow pass heavily trafficked by tankers and massive oil rigs.  Once across, we turned with the wind and sailed our last six miles over yet another causeway and bridge.  As we checked into the hotel, we met Annita (check out her web site on the area) who invited us to join her and her husband for dinner.  They took us to a wonderful waterfront restaurant serving delicious fresh seafood, cajun shrimp and scallops with pasta.  Chuck gave us a tour of the protected harbor and the spot where his office as harbormaster stood before Harvey.  Soon this peninsula will blossom with homes, condos, boat slips and a park with beautiful views of the intercostal.  They were delightful company, full of great insights on the area and how devastating Harvey’s 150 mph had affected this small town.  We enjoyed the evening, but needed to rest.  It was a tough 47 miles in the wind, today and if the weatherman is correct, tomorrow will be a long ride.  As a note, the distance we covered today was 22 miles, as the crow.

Day 7. Saturday April 21 – Aransas Pass to Port Lavaca, Texas

Saturday 21 April 2018

Overcast skies and a warm 71°, as we were hit by our first day of Texas humidity.   Not a free standing retail sign remained intact, but the town was mostly cleaned up from the hurricane.Some business were closed forever, while others welcomed customers with warmly glowing Open signs.  Outside of town, a rough road awaited us, but a 15 mph tailwind made it much more tolerable.  This area took a lot of damage, the towns of Rockport and Fulton getting hit with 180 mph winds.  Last night, Chuck told us of this boatel that had just completed the removal of the mangled boats from the buildings (after 8 months).  But there were some beautiful areas and all the towns seemed to be making the best of what Mother Nature had dealt.

Twenty miles in and after climbing a two mile bridge, we managed a flat tire about the same time the heavy sky started spitting on us.  Less than thirty minutes later we were back on a long (25 mile) flat road of a hole lotta nutting’; beautiful wild flowers about all there was….…except for this guy….thankfully very dead.

By the time we reached Tivoli (locally pronounced Tie vole E) our bodies were scrambled from four hours of bumpy riding.  We had two choices for lunch, DQ and a Mexican restaurant, both mainstays in every Texas town; we went local.

Shortly after leaving our lunch stop, we crossed a county line and gained a wonderfully smooth road.  Unfortunately, the slight turn in the road put the now 20 mph wind directly at our side, punishing our tired legs.  With 19 miles to our destination, we knew we could push on.  But both Google and the mile markers lied, we had 25 miles more.  Had we known this when we planned today’s ride, we would have reconsidered.  However, once we arrived at our hotel after 69 miles, we were happy to have gotten this far; justly rewarded after six hours in the saddle.

Day 8. Sunday April 22 – Port Lavaca to Palacios, Texas

Sunday 22 April 2018

In the old days, we would have cranked out the 55 miles into the north wind to get to Bay City,  but with this new attitude to take it slower, we opted to do the mileage in two days.  Maybe we are getting wiser!

It was a very crisp 63° degree, with the wind chill in the 50’s, when we left late this morning.  The sun was glistening off the water and there was not a cloud in the sky, absolutely gorgeous.  Just yards from our door, we crossed the three mile bridge to Point Comfort with no way to hide from the 16 mph wind, tough warm-up.  Thankfully, our northeast direction avoided a full frontal assault.  The tall structures in the distance are a manufacturing plant and oil refinery, both went on for miles, but provided good wind protection.  With the smooth road, little traffic and occasional line of trees offering protection, the ride was enjoyable and scenic.  Farms and ranches lined the road as far as we could see.  A slight turn and our route skirted several bays with vacation homes and long docks stretching into the shallow waters.

We pedaled the outskirts of our destination town in search of the grocery store for needed supplies.  One turn from the store and we were on a quaint tree lined street; lawn mowers and the occasional  barking dog was the only thing to break the quiet.  Reaching the waterfront, we were even more surprised at the lack of development and flashiness; this was the largest home on the water.  It was so peaceful.

Not knowing what to expect, we were surprised at how large our waterfront historical Luther Hotel was.  It was a lot of fun taking a step back in time and looking at their wall of fame (includes Rita Hayworth and Harry James).  On the way to dinner, we strolled through the small town and quiet waterfront, only a few families enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The only restaurant within walking distance was Mexican, but this was a Fabulous find.  Bacon wrapped shrimp, fajitas and the absolutely freshest and best guacamole and pico de gallo we have ever had at a restaurant.  Not sure our 30 mile day deserved all this deliciousness, but…….we are on vacation!

Day 9. Monday April 23 – Palacios to Bay City, Texas

Monday 23 April 2018

Left at 8:00 this morning, much earlier than normal for a short ride, but we’d already toured the small town and coastal homes and breakfast was toast and coffee, so not much to linger for except one last photo.  Another gorgeous morning; sunny, crisp, 58° with a very light breeze out of the north.  It was a pleasant ride with the exception of the rough road.  We relished the small stretches of smooth pavement, only to be disappointed when it did not last.  But with ample shoulder and extremely courteous drivers, we really could not complain (too much).  Pretty farm houses and wild flowers again our entertainment.  This building was compelling from a distance, like a huge house with massive columns; it is a organic seed preparation plant.

We reached town by 11:00, wildflowers and a pretty park welcoming us in.  Tried to slow down, but there was just not a lot to see; an early lunch was in order.  While waiting at a stop light, we asked someone their suggestion for something other than a Mexican lunch.  Two block later we stopped for a most amazing lunch, The Fat Grass.  Had it not been for the recommendation, we would not have even realized it was a place to eat.  The menu was deliciously extensive, but we both opted for the lunch special.  So mouthwatering, we have to share the details.  An hour later, we pushed away from the table, pedaled the remaining miles and were fortunate to be able to check in early.  We spent a few hours planning our next several days and all of a sudden, it was time to eat again.  Only 34 miles and this is what we eat?  Definitely not a tour we will loose weight on.


Day 10. Tuesday April 24 – Bay City to Lake Jackson/Clute, Texas

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Our little highway was bustling with noise when we pushed away at 8:30.  Once we settled into the rhythm of our pedal strokes, the traffic thinned out and we almost had the road to ourselves.  The morning was warmer (68°) than we have had, but the humidity was low, the light breeze cool and comfortable.  Small homes and business were dispersed among farms with wonderful old growth trees.  All this countryside was suddenly replaced with a massive chemical company that stretched for miles.  Fortunately for us, there was not large truck traffic to go with it.

Once past the plant, we turned off the highway to our first country road since beginning this tour; the contrast was dramatic.  We glided along ten miles of small farms, country homes and treelined streets….…and a Willis.  Once back on the highway that would lead us into town, there was still very little traffic and the shoulder wide and smooth.  In fact, today’s course was the best roads we have experienced so far.  A quick stop at a bike shop for supplies and course/road advice and then on to our hotel.

Lake Jackson is a big area with a lot of hotel choices, but we picked tonight’s lodging based solely on the proximity of an Italian restaurant.  The choice was a very good call; a basket full of amazing fresh bread and a combo plate of five different delicious pasta dishes topped with mozzarella and baked together…..Oh My!

We are enjoying our new attitude of shorter distances, today’s 42 miles was perfect.

Day 11. Wednesday April 25 – Lake Jackson/Clute to Galveston , Texas

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Industry and highway is how we started the morning and both remained for a good stretch.  But the shoulder was smooth, wide and not as trashed as we had been warned, so the ride was comfortable considering the surroundings.  At seven miles we lost most of the traffic, which was good timing since the shoulder was under construction.  Two miles later we approached the Intracoastal bridge that would take us to the barrier islands.  The climb was steep, but with no wind to fight, it was not bad and the view from the top, rather impressive.The half mile difference from end to end of the bridge was deafeningly quiet.  Surfside Beach looked deserted, so we had the Blue Water Highway all to ourselves.  Vacation homes of all sizeswere scattered along the shore. There was no protective sand dune on the island,so surprised that vehicles were allowed to drive and camp on the beach

By ten this morning, we reached the two mile long bridge to Galveston Island.  It is a two dollar toll, but we were waved through.

Thirty miles into our ride with very little seat break, Jerry spotted a picnic bench in the shade.  We poached an RV’s vacant spot and enjoyed the rest.  Another hour later, as we approached another stretch of fields, we stopped for lunch.  This was only the third food stop in thirty miles, since arriving on the islands, so we grabbed it.  This is a beautiful area with long stretches of homes in every size, shape, and color (a lot more below) and then miles of farms. After 46 miles of biking, we finally came into the retail/commercial/tourist end of Galveston and the seawall.  Galveston has suffered and survived through many a storm.  The seawall was created after the 1900 hurricane and tidal wave, when 6,000 lives were lost; a beautiful sculpture now stands to commemorate the loss of lives from that storm.  The beach, non-exixtanst at the beginning of the seawall grows nicelyas you move further up the island.  There is so much to see, so the rest of the story is below (in photos).  Today was an enjoyable ride, sun was hot (90° in the sun), but only 76° in the shade with a cool breeze off the water.  A perfect finish after 52 miles.

Day 12. Thursday April 26 – Galveston to Winnie, Texas

Friday 27 April 2018

Last night’s colors from “The Pleasure Pier”!

What a difference a day makes!Yesterday’s warm sunshine and light cool breeze off the water was replaced with a blistering cold wind out of the north and no sun to warm the morning.  Pedaling hard into the wind could not warm us up in the four mile distance to get to the ferry that would take us to the Bolivar Peninsula.

Our wait for the ferry was just long enough to snap a few pictures, before heading across the channel that links the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston Bay.  Inside the warmth of the ferryboat, we met Rick; filled with great info about the area and the affect of both Harvey last year and Hurricane Ike ten years ago.  He pointed out the “innovative” concrete ship that did not make it far from it’s berth and how the color of the water here was not as blue, as further south (Padre Island) due to the proximity of the Mississippi River.

Almost an hour after arriving at the ferry dock, we disembarked on The Bolivar Peninsula; wide at this western end and the only homes perched near the water in the distance.  Between the ferry and the wind, we had only traveled ten miles in two hours; it was going to be a long day.  As the island narrowed, we got a true taste of the character of the east part of Galveston County; not as polished as Galveston.  This is the area that really took the hit from Hurricane Ike ten years ago with a lot of empty property for sale.   Vacant slabs still show the destruction (this is where the most dramatic photos of the hurricane came from).

After a ten mile stretch of homes and interesting, splashy and creative (a drive-up coffee shop) businesses, we had a long straight stretch of flat land, only occasionally sprinkled with homes. Right next to an oil field was this very extravagant new development, selling million dollar homes.  This little gem rents for about $750. a night!

We were amazed with how low lying the entire area is; a two foot rise of the sea would flood everything.  New construction was obvious by the elevation, this is the high school.

Homes disappeared as the peninsula narrowed, giving full view of the shrimp trollers we hoped were catching our dinner.

Shortly after noon our road took a turn directly into the wind.  Can’t say we had enjoyed the wind just on our shoulder, but we definitely did not enjoy it directly in our face.  This was a good time to take a lunch break.  A half hour later we were back on the road to face the wind and another tall two mile bridge over a shipping channel.  We much prefer traversing these channels via a ferry, but you cannot beat the view.  We were fortunate to be on top when a barge pushing quite the load, passed below us.  After the bridge was a long straight unprotected from the wind stretch of low land seagrass, brush and bayous.  We battled the wind as the wind battered our legs.  It was three in the afternoon, when we finally saw our first stand of trees, hoping it was a sign that our town was in sight.  Winnie is small, but our approach was……colorful.  A quick stop for a cold beer to go and we were checked in by 3:45.

We had felt so good yesterday after our 52 mile ride, but today’s blow made our 55 miles a struggle; six hours of saddle time was an hour longer than yesterday.

We were richly rewarded with a full on Country Cajun dinner, Chicken Fried Chicken with gravy, fried Okra and a pile of Shrimp of every flavor (maybe not as many as Gump named)……all Good!