Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 16

We woke up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Who thought of Body of Christ as a name for this place? I guess there was no Chamber of Commerce back then. But it has done OK for itself. It is the largest coastal city in Texas. And those in the know just call it Corpus (Body) for short.

After our Bright Side breakfast we were on our way to visit the USS Lexington Museum by 8:22. We found a parking lot that let's you in for free, but you have to have a $3.50 token to exit. John remembered to buy the token along with our senior admission tickets to the Lexington. As we started up the long ramp to the ship, a nice volunteer in a shuttle offered us a ride. Since it is a long way up and we do mean UP, we took him up on his offer. We figured we'd walk down when we were leaving. You know, for the exercise. The Lexington is 910 feet long but it is hard to grasp the size until you get up close and see all the vehicles (mostly aircraft) parked on the flight deck.

As you enter the ship you are entering an amazing museum of naval wartime history. The USS Lexington doesn't house the museum, it is the museum. There are continual restorations taking place and new exhibits being put together as donations (such as letters, uniforms, supplies, photographs) from former Lexington crew members or their families are received. There are virtual battles tations where you can be a pilot in a dogfight or try a dangerous landing on the flight deck. Around every corner and down every steep flight of stairs, we gained an understanding of what life aboard an aircraft carrier entailed. You will see lots of photos of our tour in today's photo gallery.

We had two WWII veterans who gave us a guided tour during part of our time below decks. They were both pharmacists mates in WWII and that meant pharmacy and nursing. There were no women in the military in WWII. These two guys were really interesting and you could tell they loved to tell their stories. It was difficult to break away from them. It was quite muggy in that part of the ship since the air conditioning wasn't operating very efficiently. So it was a relief to get to another level and go to the snack bar (called The Mess Deck) and get glasses of iced tea.

We also watched an interesting Imax movie on board about the new Boeing 787 aircraft and it's main competitor, the Airbus 880.

We were done with our Lexington deployment by 11:30. We had walked and walked and climbed stairs so much that we opted to ride the little shuttle back down the boarding ramp. Our next mission was to find a Whataburger for lunch. That was not difficult since here in the birthplace of Whataburger (in the 1950s) there is a Whataburger approximately every 4.5 miles along all major thoroughfares. Guess what John had? Linda had a grilled chicken salad with a new twist – grilled jalapenos. John had Diet Dr. Pepper and Linda had iced tea. In the photo gallery you will see a photo of Linda's definition of a perfect bite of her salad. She lifted up her little plastic fork and it contained chicken, tomato, lettuce, a cruton, shredded carrot and shredded cabbage. Yum! John found an interesting plea on the side of his drink cup. When you find it in the photo gallery, you will see it's connection to recent happenings in Pakistan.

The two old buzzards then circled low over La Quinta and picked up our Fannie for a trip to the beach at Padre Island. Actually, we were headed for the Padre Island National Seashore. On the way across the long bridge Linda got prepared to jump into the Gulf of Mexico. She slipped off the legs of her pants, converting them into shorts and took off her shoes and socks. It took a while to drive past the commercialized area and get to the National Seashore. On the way we stopped to photo the place where Wilma first took us to find Scuttlebutt's Restaurant last night so you could see it in the daylight. It was nothing but a marsh full of cattails. We drove for quite a while after that. The scenery wasn't great but we had the beach to look forward to. Finally we saw a road off to the left with a sign that said "North Beach Access". There was one car there but the parking looked iffy because of the soft sand. So we left and proceeded to the official entrance where John got out his Senior Pass to all National Parks and Monuments so that we could get in for free. What a deal! The ranger at the “WELCOMING” station took a look into Wilma and saw Fannie. We knew it was OK to bring dogs on a leash into the area because we had researched it on the internet. Then Ranger Donnie said "You have a pass, you can go to the beach. But, have you ever heard of Red Tide"? We had not. It is a harmful algae bloom found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. Dogs are very susceptible and can die from exposure to water, foam or sand. There is no specific antidote and no rapid test to detect the toxin. Exposure can occur in as little time as 20 minutes, just from a dog picking up or licking any item on the beach. He then commented that Red Tide was probably what was causing Linda to cough since there is so many of the pesky organisms in the air. She would have thought he was joking except that he had done such a good job with his warnings.

Our next question was where to make a U-turn. So you will not see too many photos from our day at the beach. We are still feeling very relieved. We could have taken a chance and parked at the North Beach Access and played there with Fannie. It would have been so easy for us to unknowingly expose Fannie Mae to the vicious Red Tide.

The two old buzzards decided that Ranger Donnie (as in Donnie Downer, Debbie's brother) has a really crummy job. Not only does he have to continually be exposed to Red Tide in the air but he gets to “WELCOME” visitors to San Padre and tell them about the vicious Red Tide and what it can do to them and their pets. Probably not what he had in mind when he signed up to be a Park Ranger.

After relaxing in our Red Tide free room at La Quinta for a while, we ate dinner at The Texas Roadhouse. We were drawn to the Texas Roadhouse by their cute sign we had seen from the freeway. It did not disappoint. How can you be disappointed by being greeted at the door by an armadillo in a hula skirt (see photo gallery). John ordered an 8 oz fillet and Linda order grilled salmon. Like last night we each got to choose 2 sides with our dinner. John chose green beans and salad. Linda chose mixed veggies (broccoli and carrots) and salad. Both old buzzards were pleased with their choices. They had really delicious dinner rolls that had a distinct taste of honey. John only ate one-half of a roll (calories, you know) but thoroughly enjoyed it. Our server was attentive and perky. There was a young family seated close to us who were in the Willie (Nelson) corner. It was the birthday of one of their 2 daughters. All at once lots of the servers assembled, bringing over a portable saddle (on rollers). While the birthday girl was being seated the servers asked the other diners to join together in a big “Yee Ha” for the birthday girl. So much quicker and better than a long off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. No room for dessert so we are happily ready to put another day to bed.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was a store called Virtual Fashion. What could that mean? Not real fashion but a fashion game? Or dissolving t-shirts? Maybe you get to see what a version of yourself would look like if you were fashionable? Sort of like interchangeable paper doll dresses? John's favorite sign today was the plea on the side of his Whataburger cup. See photo gallery and you'll catch on!

And speaking of the photo gallery. There are 83 photos in today's gallery and you can enjoy them by clicking here.

Happy Trails! Tomorrow we are off to a part of Texas that John, Linda and Jay visited 39 years ago this fall. Yes, we know Jay is only 38. Tune in tomorrow...

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