This is a very old story. It was eventful as all of my travels seem to be. An important aspect of the magic surrounding motorcycle riding is the stories within stories one can accumulate. I have been back to Port Aransas several times since this story was written. It is still one of my favorite get-a-aways; if for no other reason than the smell of the ocean. It is now much harder to get in front of traffic waiting for the ferry with your motorcycle than is used to be. Try to plan on not crossing during high traffic times (yes, even the island has rush-hour). They do a great job getting us back and forth. I only had one less that great crossing, that was during the high alert when a Homeland Security type on board insisted I stand by my motorcycle and not take pictures. That was only once ... I got over it. I guarantee that every trip to the island will be unique. Enjoy the story and try to make it down there one day to create your very own story.

A Texas Road

Highway 77

To the Gulf

(click anywhere in the box for pictures of our trip)

Comes over one an absolute necessity to move.
And what is more, to move in some particular direction.
A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither.
D.H. Lawrence

SG (Sungoddess; named because when everyone else is deparately trying to get out of the sun she is avoiding the shade) and I had been waiting for an excuse to go to the Gulf in the year 2002. We thought that maybe it was not going to happen, that is, until we heard about the SPI (South Padre Island) Rally in October. We immediately made plans to head down to the rally. We knew several folks that were going to go and we even thought that maybe we would ride along with them. Then we got to thinking about the great time we always have in Port Aransas and we decided to go there first and then head down to SPI for a day and a night. That is the thing about plans... they can change in a heart beat. We got to thinking about the cost to get in, $40 each, and we knew that it was going to be crowded. While in Port Aransas, we phoned a friend that was at the SPI Rally. He said that there were not that many vendors and it was crowded. As quick as that, we changed our minds and decided to stay in Port A for the entire vacation. This is why our story is about our trip down to and staying in Port Aransas instead of it being entitled and about A Texas Road, Highway 77 to S.P.I. as I originally thought it would be.

We planned on an easy two days down to the coast. I-75 cuts right through McKinney, Texas and is only about four blocks from our house. We started out on an overcast, misty day pointing our motors south on 75 and when 75 ends, on the southeast edge of Dallas, we continued south on I-45 (the road to Houston). It is a much smoother road and we did not have to play the save-your-life game getting onto I-35 through the Metroplex. It is easy to find a FM road that cuts over to I-35E from I-45. These Texas FM (Farm-to-Market) roads are scenic, twisty and a lot more relaxing than the super-slab. Once on I-35 you learn to really appreciate the less traveled highways and FM roads of North Texas. There is a lot of construction on I-35 and if that is not enough to make you nervous the helter skelter cage driving could easily put you over the edge. That is the major reason why when we reached Waco we turned left and headed for good old Highway 77. It takes a while getting through the Waco thing but it is well worth the effort.

Once you are south of Waco, Highway 77 gently winds through the countryside with many trees lining the roadway. You will notice pines and oak mixed with deciduous flora through much of your journey. The pavement is fairly smooth, by Texas standards, going from four lanes to two lanes. You will ride through towns like Rosebud, Cameron, Rockdale and Giddings. Each little town is a slowdown as you pass through these communities, which is to be expected. They are spaced out far enough that you will still get long sections of 65+ mph runs.

If you are headed to Austin you could take Highway 290, which passes right by the R.O.T. (Republic of Texas) Biker Rally site. If San Antonio is your destination I-10 runs right into it. Both of these roads connect directly with Highway 77.

Just before you get to I-10 there is a little town by the name of La Grange. This is the layover SG and I planned on before our final leg of the journey to the Gulf the next day. If you head a short distance west on 71 there are a couple of nice motels, bottle shops and restaurants to revitalize weary travelers. If you like bridges, there is a trestle bridge spanning the river on your way to the motels. Just west of the bridge, on the south side of 71, is a home-cooked style breakfast cafe that is modestly priced. SG and I had discovered how nice a stop La Grange was the previous year when Rev, Sweetpea, SG and I enjoyed the Trail of the Painted Churches on our way to the Gulf.

SG and I headed out the next day for Port A. On the way out of La Grange we were treated to a short bit of twisty, wooded road. Albeit too short, it is a choice piece of real estate and a lot of fun to ride through.

At Victoria we stopped at Denny's for breakfast. After finishing our meal we went to Target for a pair of swimming trunks for me. A word to the wise... if you are going to a warm place with a large body of water, take your swimming gear, don't leave it out of your pack like I did (duh). After making my purchase we fired up our motors and continued south on Highway 77.

In my opinion, the scenery takes a nose dive after Victoria. Our first chance to depart from 77 was Highway 239. We had been on a section of 77 that follows the contour of the Texas Gulf Coast but far away from a coastal view. We turned left onto Highway 239 which took us to Tivoli where we turned right and rode the coastal route, Highway 35. If you like coastal natural-wildlife-reserve type scenery then this is the road for you. It is pretty much devoid of trees but the grasslands are uniquely beautiful and inspire, in me, a certain hunger for adventure and an increased anticipation for what lie ahead.

Passing through Rockport, SG saw a sign for an Animal Shelter. Sg had worked several years for the S.P.C.A and enjoyed that job more than any other. I could see her wheels turning in her head with the thought of finding work this close to our idea of Shangri La. I could not help but wonder if there was any mainframe computer type opportunities in the area for me. Ah, the dreams that can be conjured on a long road trip.

Soon after leaving Rockport behind, we entered Aransas Pass and our excitement took an upward leap. It was at this point that the ocean aromas filled our nostrils, intensifying our longing to see the beach and feel the sand between our toes.

Finally there, before us, was the sign pointing to the road that leads to the Ferries. I have always enjoyed this road as it bridges over the inlets of the Gulf. You can see fisherfolk wading, with the clear, glistening water up to their stomachs, expertly waving their fishing poles as they cast out lines in an effort to catch a fresh meal.

Spirit of place!
It is for this we travel, to surprise its subtlety;
and where it is a strong and dominant angel,
that place, seen once, abides entire in the memory
with all its own accidents, its habits, its breath, its name.
Alice Meynell

I know that it will not be long now until we must slow down to queue up for the Ferry.

There was a time when motorcycles could go to the front of the line. The ferrymen would fit you on as they could. I suspect that due to Homeland Security, there have been many changes to the normal operating procedures. (This paragraph was added at a later date. When we were there in 2002 we could go up to the front of the line. There was a local couple that taught us how. I do not know their names. They were very nice and helpful.)

This is a very short Ferry ride but it just adds fuel to the burning excitement building in the pit of your stomach. I have been back and forth on the Ferry many times and I still love it.

Here we go... we are directed off the Ferry and voila... Port A!

With the sun beating down on our faces, we road onto the Island with grins as big as Texas. The weather was perfect. We had shed our jackets many miles back. We went in search of a good place to spend the night. As we rode down Avenue G, towards the water, I spied a Best Western. I figured that it would be a good place to stay until we could scout out the area for something a little more native. We had not made the decision to spend our entire vacation on Mustang Island, at this point in time, as we had originally planned on going to SPI.

There is not much to say about the best Western other than you know what to expect. The motel was fairly new and our room was clean. We got unpacked and headed to the beach, a four block walk. It cost six dollars a year to get a permit to park on the beach. Since we were so close and motors do not do well in the sand, we were content to walk, saving us the dough.

The beach along Port A is kept very clean. We enjoyed watching the birds and people on the beach and for hours at a time we are both content to do little else. The water was warm enough for comfort yet cool enough to be refreshing. SG and I splashed around in the waves for a while and then laid in the sun to dry off before heading back to the motel. Now our biggest ordeal, in this halcyon setting, was finding a place to eat.

SG hopped on the back of my motor and we headed out to where our favorite Port A restaurants are located. We are always looking for a new eating experience and we'd been clued-into The Pelican Club that afternoon. When we spied the Pelican Club, at the end of a row of restaurants, we decided to try it. It did not look like much from the outside but inside it was very charming in a seaside rustic sort of way. The beautiful warm wood interior accented by a well polished bar made us feel instantly right about it. We were greeted by a smiling Japanese gentleman who, we later found out, was the Sushi Chef. I requested a table outside and he happily agreed that would be the best place to be as he led us through the door leading to the deck stretching out over the water. We pretty much had our choice of tables as it was the off-season, a Thursday night and much less crowded than during the high season.

When we went into the Pelican Club I did not realize the sushi was their specialty, I had been distracted by the 26 ounce Porterhouse they offered on the outside menu. While sipping my Negro Modelo, I ordered a stuffed portabella as an appetizer. As we settled in and got comfortable, SG and I shared the mushroom, it was marvelous. While sipping our drinks, perusing the menu and watching a couple get served at the next table, an idea finally dawned on me, I asked for a sushi order slip. We tried a variety of sushi and let me tell you... they were all good. I had not realized, until that moment, what a sushi fan I was. With the view of various birds roosting on the pilings about us, the boats sailing in and out of the harbor, the warm Gulf breeze lapping at our faces, the sun setting behind the sailing masts and the terrific food fresh off the boat, we felt all was well with the world. This restaurant was definitely a keeper. The Pelican Club on Port Aransas Island, give it a go.

After we finished our meal, had a smoke and a bit of conversation, we headed back to the Best Western, where we finally decided to stay in Port A for the rest of our vacation.

Earlier, I had talked to the proprietress of the Seashell Village which was located next door to the Best Western. The motel was OK and the price was not bad, especially with my AARP discount, but it was a Best Western and it drew a Best Western clientele (more to come about that).

All animals, except man, know that
the principal business of life is to enjoy it.
Samuel Butler

Sg decided to do a load of wash out by the pool. When she opened the washer to put her load in she found that someone had left their clothes in the washer. I don't have a book on washer etiqutte but from my experience you stay with your clothes and you do not leave them for others to deal with. I told SG to pull them out and get our load started. She pulled them out and went to get change for the washer. As she came back the lady, whose wash had been laid on the dryer, came back. Well you would have thought we had committed the ultimate sin. She asked what would have happened if someone had stolen her laundry? SG calmly pointed at me, sitting by the pool, while telling her that I had been watching them for her. This was not good enough. Nope, we were about to see a Best Western snit. Of course I thought it was all very funny. The next time she came down she brought her husband with her to protect her precious clothes. He looked rather embarrassed but since the lady was so insistent I suppose he thought he'd better hang out. Well they went back and forth to their room several times. Her clothes were never quite dry enough even after feeding the machine with quarters three time. When she finally felt they were dry enough she took them out and folded them on the dryer. Now you have to understand... we were having cocktails by the pool while watching this whole show. I had made calls to Grinder, to touch base, and then to Chef, to see how the SPI event was coming along. We were going to be there anyway, enjoying the Island evening, so it was not an inconvenience but it was great theatre. When she finally collected her clothes and her husband to go back to their room I said, in a loud voice, how it was better than Mad TV or Saturday Night Live. I started to applaud her performance but he looked so embarrassed, I let it go.

The next morning we moved next door to the Seashell Village.

The owner of the Seashell Village was born and raised on the Island. She and her husband had lived in Houston while furthering their careers. Since most of her family still lived on the Island and it was such a great place to bring up children, they made the decision to move back to Port A and run the Seashell Village. There were two young sons and an infant. Her oldest son was nine. I had offered to give him a ride on my motor the night before. The next day, when I realized how young he was, I did not make good on my offer. I found out later that he had said something to his mother and she also thought he was a little too young. He was oh so good not to bring it up. I could not help but think that, indeed, the Island was a good place to bring up children. Maybe when I am back there again in a few years I will, with his mother's permission, give him that ride. All I remember was seeing him looking at me on my motor, with his eyes wide and shiny, which reminded me of myself, oh, so many years ago, looking the same way at a motor rider.

We went to the IGA market to stock up on groceries to take back to our cottage, essentially making a little temporary home for ourselves. The night before, at the Pelican Club, we met some folks that were dining at the next table. As we got to talking about shrimp and our previous experience with the shrimp boat Polly Anna from our last trip to the Island with the Munson's, our new friends told us of a different shrimp. It was explained to us that there were two varieties of shrimp available on the Island. There were gulf shrimp and bay shrimp. We learned that the bay shrimp were white and had less iodine than their gulf neighbors. They went on to explain that behind Woody's, by the gas pump, was where we would find the shrimp boat that sold them at about noon every day.

After getting settled in at the Seashell Village, SG and I headed over to Woody's to find this bay shrimp we had heard so much about the previous night. We ambled around through several parking lots before we finally found Woody's and the Texaco sign. After parking the motor, we headed to the docks behind Woody's. Sure enough, right behind the old Texaco gas pump, there was a boat with a pennant flying high above it that read... SHRIMP. We walked by a few salty characters and a few hungry pelicans and boarded the boat. We walked up to a young man sifting some shrimp and asked for a couple of pounds of his biggest shrimp. Smiling he reached behind him and grabbed some of the biggest and whitest shrimp I'd ever seen, then placed them on a scale. He bagged up what he called two pounds and said $10. SG handed him a Hamilton and we bid the fisherman adieu. SG handed me the bag and I was impressed with how heavy two pounds was. About this time I started kicking myself for not bring my camera, there were so many great shots around the dock. An old fisherman, lounging under the shade of his boat canopy, struck up a conversation with us. While he was talking about this and that, another fisherman began to hang his catch on the other side of the ramp. I am not good at guessing the weight of fish so I am not about to BS you. He did, however, hang a fish that must have been three and one-half feet long with scales that shined with gold and ridged with green. A local thirty-something woman made the comment, Is that not a pretty fish?. I commented that I doubted I could eat the whole thing by myself. We all decided that we'd need a party of people and plenty of beer to finish off that baby. I bet if I had stayed around a little longer that is exactly what we would have done.

After getting back to our cottage and stowing the shrimp, we took a ride over to Padre Island. Padre is on the same piece of land that Port A is on. Actually, Mustang Island and Padre Island are the official names assigned to what seems to be one strip of land but are in fact separated by the Packery Channel. Port A is on Mustang Island. On the road running South along Padre Island beach is where the Seashore Reserve is located. At the gatehouse, a very attractive female Ranger told us it would cost $5 per person to go all the way out to the end of the road. We made a U-turn and headed back along the strip, enjoying the free ride.

When we returned to Port A we spent the rest of the day on the beach. When we had enough sun and surf SG and I headed back to prepare our shrimp feast. We had found some garlic butter sauce at the store which was perfect for sauteing our dinner. We had a salad and some crackers to round out the meal. Let me just say... it was goooooooooooood!

The rest of the evening was spent sitting on the porch while chatting and sipping our beverages. I lit a cigar, put my feet up and never felt more relaxed in my life.

So, what do you do with leftover shrimp? That is easy... you make a shrimp omelete. The next morning I sauteed some onions and added eggs that I had whipped up with a bit of milk. I laid the cut up shrimp on the bubbling mass, folded over half of the egg, flipped it and added cheese to the top. It made a perfect breakfast following a perfect dinner.

This day, Saturday, we decided to take a trip to Corpus Christi. I love to ride my motor over bridges. There are plenty of bridges on the journey we took to and through Corpus. You can stop at the Texas State Aquarium or The USS Lexington Museum on the Bay. The Lex is a World War II Aircraft Carrier that is docked in the harbor. Basically, we rode in a big circle and ended up back at the ferry that takes you to Port A. It was waiting in line for the Ferry that we met the two on a Harley who filled us in on the do-not-wait-in-line-for-the-Ferry information.

Back on the Island you'll never guess what we decided to do after our ride to Corpus?? Give up??? That is right, we headed to the beach. I will not bore you with the details of hanging on the beach or going back to the Pelican Club for dinner. We did travel out to Sharkey's after dinner to see if we could run into Janet from another Planet who had given us so much help on the trip in 2001. She was not there but the bartender, that was tending that night, is a good friend of hers. We had a couple of refreshing beverages, I poured SG onto the back of my motor and we went back to the cottage.

The next day we felt a bit sad,you see we had to pack up and go home. Neither one of us was in any hurry to get going. We did a little shopping over the last couple of days so things did not fit as well in our packs and saddle bags as they had when we started our trip. Managing to get everything squeezed in, we headed out towards home the same way we came in.

You go Uruguay and I'll go mine.
Groucho Marx

We knew that a cold front was scheduled to hit most of Texas that day. On our departure morning you would have never know there was a cold front in Port A. I had overheard someone the night before say that the front would make it as far as Rockport and stall out. They must have known what they were talking about because the weather was perfect, until we hit Rockport. There the weather took a much colder and windier turn. The closer we got to 77 the colder and damper it became. It never rained hard but rained steadily for many miles.

We made it to Rockdale. We both agreed that we were cold enough and wet enough to stop for the night. The little Best Western of Rockdale motel we stayed in was run by devout Christians who had the Bible open on a table for us. It was open to Psalms. I am not sure which one they intended for us but we knew we were blessed on this trip and were thankful. The restaurant that was on the same lot, Cross Roads Cafe, might have been run by the same folks, I don't know for sure. They did have some old fashioned, mouth watering pies. We got a slice each to go and microwaved them for breakfast the next morning.

It was raining the next morning when we started out and continued to do so until we got North of Waco. The weather held after that and got downright nice by the time we reached home.

I hope you enjoyed our little tale of Highway 77 and our trip to the Gulf. It was a pleasure taking the trip and maybe next year y'all will make it down to Port A.

Link to Dubina the oldest Czech settlement in Texas and the piano bridge
Stories Page One