Friday, April 1, 2011

Au Revoir Rockport

All too soon it was time for us to say goodbye to Fulton/Rockport and return home to Austin. We had a great time at the coast, though, and wanted to share some of the highlights with you.

We've told you about the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, with its abundant bird life as well as alligators and other "critters." Besides the Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons and White Ibis featured earlier, we saw a number of other species in Aransas or nearby. This Caracara was fond of perching on fenceposts along the bay to compete with the ever-present seagulls for dead fish and other delicacies.
And, we saw many Snowy Egrets like the one below. Easily recognized by their bright yellow feet, yellow eyes and lores (the yellow patch below the eye at the top of its beak), they are lightening-fast fishermen. This one appears to be getting its soft, lacy breeding plumage, which was much prized by plume hunters in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Nearby is Goose Island State Park, the home of The Big Tree of Lamar. This giant Live Oak measures more than 35 feet in circumference, 44 feet in height, and has a crown spread of 89 feet. It is believed to be over 1,000 years old, and has been one of the subjects of Ripley's "Believe It or Not."

We also enjoyed the funky, laid-back atmosphere, of Rockport, Fulton, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass. Here is one of the shops that catches the eye.

In addition, there was Caroline's Cafe, where we enjoyed fantastic cheeseburgers and world-class onion rings. (John is an onion ring expert, and said these were among the best he has ever had!  He also liked the eye candy!)

For those of you who want to try them yourselves, be aware that Caroline's has moved about 1/4 mile to the west, and is now known as "Miss-Steaks." The burgers are just as good, and the steaks cover the plate, so be sure to stop.

Another of our adventures was a Saturday afternoon visit to The Pickled Pelican. I know, it looks like a bar, but a couple of times a month it hosts (if you can believe it!) belt-sander races. As you can see, there is even a South Texas Belt Sander Racing Association. These souped-up sanders race down the track at up to 20 mph. As you can see, they have their own personalities, and the crowd really gets into cheering for their favorites.

The area's funky atmosphere is balanced by a number of galleries, historic buildings and educational and cultural facilities. The Maritime Museum is one of these, and has many exhibits related to the seafaring past of the Texas Coast.

Close by is the Rockport Aquarium, with its displays of fish and other marine life found in the area. Here John and I admire the resident spotted moray eel. He has an amazing array of teeth, and was only too happy to "smile" for the camera.

A stone's throw from the Aquarium is the Bay Education Center. The Center is the result of a cooperative effort among the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, the City of Rockport and the Aransas County Navigation District. There is a wealth of information in the Center, as well as interactive and "touchable" exhibits that will interest adults and kids alike. One of the highlights of our visit was "Science on a Sphere," which uses computers and video projectors to display global data on a giant sphere. Here are several images taked during the presentation. The first is the view of the "Big Blue Marble, Earth" taken from space. The second shows commercial air traffic as it moves from continent to continent, and the third is Uranus, the seventh planet from our sun.

The Center, like the Aquarium, is free to the public. Don't miss it if you're in the area.

There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The area along the water near the aquarium and museum has not only a lovely beachfront park and fishing pier, but also an open field that was very popular with the kite-flying crowd.

We had planned to return to Austin at the end of February, but friends persuaded us to stay a few more days to celebrate Fulton Oysterfest. A fund-raiser for the Fulton Volunteer Fire Department, Oysterfest was a huge success.

One of the big tents was filled with food concessions (both raw and fried oysters, naturally,

along with the more traditional funnel cakes, foot-long hotdogs and plenty of beer. The other held an amazing array of arts and crafts for sale. Here's a day's catch being unloaded from one of the oyster boats. They're destined for the festivities, I'm sure.

Our favorite, though, was the contest to see who could eat the most raw oysters in the shortest time. Here are some images from the women's contest. I'm not sure the winner actually "enjoyed" her oysters, but she did eat 194 in 5 minutes! And the audience had a great time as well!

And, of course, the carnival was a big hit with young and old alike.

As we mentioned, we loved our RV site at Bay View RV Resort. Here the Bagley Pack poses for a portrait in the "yard" behind our site.
We look forward to being back next year!

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