Saturday, December 26, 2009

From Evergreens to Palm Trees

Winter Break came like a steam roller to Omaha this year. Finals were madness for everyone. "The wind it was howling and the snow it was blowing," Bob Dylan sang in his song Isis. And it certainly was. As I write this a good friend of mine is snowed in at his parent's house near Crescent Iowa. The snow was up to their door knob and it took a whole day to plow a path down the driveway.

Meanwhile, I am in the Rio Grande Valley enjoying 60-70 degree weather, my family and trips to South Padre Island. To get there from Harlingen, Texas, where I am you have to drive east on Express Way 83 to the South Padre exit that takes you down another road through small speed trap towns and the coastal plains to Port Isabel. From there you cross the Isabella Bridge, over the Bay to South Padre Island. This is the only way in and out by car.

The Island runs north and south. South Padre is only part of a chain that runs up the Gulf Coast of Texas. When you enter the Island you have two choices: left or right and south or north. If you go south a small fee has to be paid. This is worth it. The south opens on to the lower tip of the Island and traveling a short distance to the end takes you to jetties on the bay. This is a great area to fish and see dolphins. But if you do see dolphins do not plan on catching anything.

Turning left and heading north takes you through the town of South Padre. This is the area that becomes utter madness during Spring Break. There are plenty of restaurants,hotels, shops and other things to browse. At the end of the town's strip is the Turtle Sanctuary. This place takes in injured sea turtles and nurses them back to health and then releases them. I love this place. They have a great variety of sea turtles. They even have a loggerhead.

When you continue north from here the road is buffered by huge sand dunes. To the west is the bay. To the east is the Gulf of Mexico. When you head north you pass several beach access points. But the real fun is driving to the end of the road. And the road does end. It stops a few miles out and sand dunes are on the east, west and north sides.

From here the Island is as it always was. The dunes and sand stretch for miles up the coast. It is here that I like going. It is here that civilization stops.

I know that this is miles from and a world away from Omaha. But it is a place that I love deeply. Everyone should come visit but I suggest not doing it over Spring Break. The idiots come in droves and the Island is thick with drunken morons. But don't let that discourage you, it's good for the Island's sleepy economy I just suggest another time of year to come enjoy all that Port Isabel, the Island and the ocean have to offer.

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