Monday, June 19, 2006

South Texas

GLS and I hoofed it to Kingsville, Texas on Friday to do some research for his WIP. Did you know that ranchers prefer red cattle and horses because they're less likely to sunburn (I didn't!)? Also, don't open the car window around lots of cattle--too many flies!

Because the local B&B never returned our call, we stayed at the Best Western, which is the best hotel in town. It wasn't bad, but the room took all night to cool down (and as we'd recently bought a whole new air conditioning system for our first floor, this seemed a relatively cruel blow).

Despite recent restoration and economic development efforts, the historic downtown had been hit hard by the outlying mall and Wal-Mart. But I did enjoy a first-class and bargain grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat with mayo and guacamole at Harrel's Soda Fountain & Pharmacy. We also had fun shopping at the King Ranch Saddle Shop (though the fetching sleeveless brown silk Day of the Dead shirt was out of my budget at $322).

We were told that the best Mexican restaurant had burned down a while ago, and the best barbecue was another fifteen-to-twenty minutes on the highway headed back north, so I'm vaguely embarrassed to admit that we ended up eating twice at Chili's, which was the highest end chain there. I'm sure if we'd had more time, we would've been able to score local cuisine better than that.

I liked Kingsville. It's a majority Mexican American (about 70%) community and one of the friendliest places I've ever visited. I did keep an eye open for rattlesnakes and gators, though. I didn't see any of those--just lots of cattle, horses, wild turkeys, and deer.

We boogied back north on Saturday afternoon to Corpus Christi (think Gulf Coast, palm trees, T-shirts that read: "It's a Shore Thing." The water was an aquamarine green, the sun shining, and the wind gusty.

Next time we'll also try to make it to the U.S.S. Lexington Aircraft Carrier Museum, but for this trip we just had time to go to the Texas State Aquarium. Highlights included a turtle tank "in memory of Selena--her music opened a window into beauty." My fave animals were the sleeping prehensile-tailed porcupine and the playful otters. I also observed that pelicans are quite large, especially when they're flying right over your head.

We stayed at the lovely Omni Hotel on the ocean, where sights included a pink-purple-dyed poodle. We had dinner that night at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill (crab fondue, New England clam chowder, and lobster with rice pilaf).

Heading back on I-35 south on Sunday morning, we stopped at the Gruene River Grill in Gruene, Texas. Maybe because of the too-boisterous Father's Day crowd, the stuffed mushrooms were tepid, though my tortilla soup was quite good.

Spooky Notes

Thanks to Vanessa Joy Ziff for cheering Austin, which no doubt misses her too.