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(click on photos to enlarge)
"Blood, Water, and Wind on Padre Island"
Austin, TX >> Corpus Christi, TX
April 7 through April 19, 2004
Story by Debbie
Okay, so we're finally ready to leave Austin in search of wind. But first, a minor maintenance issue.
There's an internet forum made up of people who own this same RV. Thank (deity) for that email list because although it is full of every idiotic internet miscue imaginable, as well as some downright snarkiness, there's a wealth of information that would simply be unknowable otherwise.
An RV needs to be level when you're living in it, so there are things called hydraulic leveling jacks that come down near each tire, that you control using a touch pad inside the RV. The jacks themselves are these enormous (as you can imagine, if they can lift this thing) post things with 12-inch diameter steel feet on the bottom. Some people had reported that their feet were coming loose, and I didn't want to risk ours falling off while we're going 70 mph down crowded Interstate 35.
So I told Carey "we" really needed to check the tightness on the bolts before we left. Not having the requisite 1-1/8" socket handy (and not really worrying about the 200 pounds of pressure required), he crawled under there with the biggest Crescent wrench he could find, while I finished final preparations. Sure enough, the first two bolts were loose.
When he was working on the third one, I heard an "oomph" from his general direction. Carey isn't much of an excitable type, and I suspected trouble from this relatively horrific exclamation. And I was right: he was waving his arm from underneath the coach and saying, "Get me a towel."
I did, and he slid back out holding a blood-soaked towel against his face. The wrench had slipped as he was giving it a mighty tug, flinging the sharp edge of the wrong tool right into his temple. The result was a deep v-shaped gash, with a flap of skin sort of hanging in the middle.
I really can't take this sort of injury. It's not the blood, but the open wound that makes me go weak in the knees. I can watch operations on TV all day long, but only after they've opened the skin. But I rose to the occasion, actually looked rather closely at Carey's injury, and declared that we were going to the emergency room whether he wanted to or not.
Since you've read this far, I will share the most closely guarded secret in Austin: Heart Hospital of Austin Emergency Room. See, nobody even knows they HAVE an emergency room, so it's never crowded.
I was tipped off to this place by my friend Robin, who had a very good experience with them when she had chicken pox. (She also had head lice once, probably from a movie theater seat. I told you those high-back seats are bad.) Anyway, Robin tussled with the folks in the ER a bit because she was quite pregnant and they don't birth no babies there, but once she promised them she would not have that baby on their premises, they took really good care of her.
So on Christmas Day 2002, when I stuck a utility knife deep into my knee (by accident), I remembered Robin's recommendation and drove myself over to Heart Hospital. I was in and out, sporting holiday stitches and anti-tetanus serum coursing through my body, in about an hour. And the staff was really great.
So even though Carey and I were much closer to two other hospitals, I declared that we were going to Heart Hospital, and once again it worked out really well. They were a bit slower that day since we weren't the only ones there, but we still were there less than two hours. It's my emergency room of choice--make it yours.
On the way back, we stopped by to see Manny, Moe and Jack down the street from Carey's office and spent a whopping $3.99 to get a 1-1/8" socket. Carey got back on the horse that threw him and finished tightening the third and fourth bolts in a couple of minutes, now equipped with the proper tool. He's a brave brave man. (I've crawled under that coach a few times myself, and it's horrible--like getting an MRI, only that's 30,000 pounds looming right in front of your face.)
It was a little after noon and Carey said there was no need for us to just hang around and recuperate, especially since we already had everything packed up and ready to go. He had a point, and we did need to get to Buda to get the state inspection renewed for the RV (we weren't going to let those grease monkeys at Donco mess up our carpet again), and to New Braunfels to get some diesel and propane--busy busy busy.
But first, here's Carey checking his fitness to drive. Behind him is the "good" shirt that FOR ONCE he had remembered to change out of before doing maintenance work. Laundry hobbyists note: all that blood on the "work" shirt came out very easily when I soaked the shirt in cold water and rubbed the blood with a bar of Fels Naptha soap, the best stain remover on the planet.
This person was inclined not to have this injury professionally treated:
But what goes in must come out, when stitches are involved. The problem with leaving Austin was that my R.N. friend Lisa would not be available for stitch removal as she was for me (bartered services for nice hemostats and other cool tools the emergency room let me bring home). So a week later, as I cowered in the other room, Carey removed the four stitches himself, actually untying one with some tiny tweezers and snipping the others with some tiny snippers I had thoughtfully kept in the RV.
In the meantime, we had made it to Corpus Christi as planned, went on to Padre Island, and somehow found the campground at Padre Balli Park despite a total lack of anything but vague intimations about it anywhere (i.e. the internet). It's basically a paved area with RV hookups and picnic tables, run by Nueces County. It is just a short walk from the beach on the Gulf side, across a dune.
The denizens were a lively sort, including our neighbor who used his picnic table as a weight bench for pumping iron (visible in the first photo below if you zoom in). This is the gentleman whose souvenir shirt from Las Vegas recommended in large letters, "DRINK 'TIL SHE'S CUTE. STOP BEFORE THE WEDDING." He smoked a lot of cigarettes.
Another highlight was the Saturday night before Easter, when the park was pretty much full even though a hellacious storm was on its way and everybody knew it. Somebody left their dog tied up outside their RV and left the premises. Sure enough, that demon hound got loose and was running around crazily, menacing people and other dogs. It reminded me of the scene from To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus went to kill the rabid dog, only with more people and no heroes.
I went to the office to report the trouble, and got to listen to the park guy talking on the phone to an animal control person. The park guy kept saying, "It bit someone on the face, but it didn't break the skin." I knew we were in good hands.
Let me tell you--you do not want to be camped just a few feet from sand dunes when a high-wind storm blows through. It was blowing about 40 mph (according to the internet), which rocked the RV all over the place and deposited sand everywhere. But it only rained .000001 inch, which made the sand stick like glue (like it needs help, with the humidity down here). It was pretty exciting, and I bet even more so for the tent-campers in the other section of the park.
By the next morning, the storm emptied the park of all but us stalwarts, and we continued our peaceful existence. We could see the Gulf of Mexico from our front bay window (a/k/a windshield) and soon were living on island time.
One quick note about Carey's driving--the guy is simply amazing. He had to drive the coach over to the dump station to empty the tanks, and then return to our campsite. He parked it so close to the same configuration we'd been before that the TV satellite dish didn't even need to be re-aimed, and both times he did it so that when the slideout was later extended, it missed the picnic table cover by a couple of inches. What a stud.
The campground is across the dune from Bob Hall Pier, a popular fishing place that also draws a lot of surfers, and apparently a few snakes.
We'd brought some borrowed boogie boards with us, and flush with confidence from our surfing in Ventura, we hit the waves. Only we didn't really know how to do it, despite some email instructions received from the boards' owner. We would thrash around a bit and then confer on our findings, then thrash some more. We both eventually caught a couple of decent rides and started figuring out some tricks to make them go. But the waves were hard to read, and didn't break with power for very long anyway, so it was mainly thrashing with an occasional long, semi-thrilling ride mixed in. But hey, most of the teenage kids out there with boogie boards didn't even accomplish that much, and in a remarkable turnabout, a few even asked us how to do it. Yeah, we're cool.
Of course, the real reason we came down here was to do some windsurfing. We were living about 10 miles from Bird Island Basin, which attracts windsurfers from around the world with its combination of steady winds and smooth, shallow water for miles in all directions. Here are some great overhead images of Bird Island, and a 360-degree panorama (click mouse and move left and right to go around).
We both sailed several days. Sometimes I went by myself when Carey had to work, and once Carey went by himself when the wind was blowing more than I liked. In fact, one of the real luxuries of being in Corpus and staying that close was it let us be quite picky about what conditions we'd go out in, since it was nearly always blowing at least some amount. There are always fish jumping and tons of seagulls (ugh), but one time a roseate spoonbill accompanied me on one of my reaches!
We were also lured out there for the 2004 Bird Island Bash, which was on a day originally predicted to be rainy and windless. Instead, it didn't rain except a few drops in the early morning and the wind blew plenty. The Corpus windsurfing club hosted a cookout afterward, which was much appreciated. (We also met some people from Austin the night before at Padre Pizzeria--wave to Carroll, Marlene, Shelly, Jon, Ron and Jordan.)
Here's the car loaded up (sails go inside, and I have to sort of squinch to fit in the seat). We kept the boards on top the entire time we were in Corpus because it was just easier. People seemed to remember us more than usual, for some reason.
And here's the very festive atmosphere at the Bird Island Bash. Actually, there were tons of people sailing that day--they're just not pictured here because the batteries in the camera Carey had borrowed died after that one picture.
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