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Past Adventures

Gem Trails of Texas : South Texas 2005 - Part I

The sights include :  More County Courthouse Pictures, What's Left of Palacios, TX, Port Lavaca, Historic Indianola, the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park, The Fulton Mansion, Corpus Christi Beach, the Lexington Aircraft Carrier. the Selena Memorial Statue, Little Graceland, Giant Sea Shells, Fish, Sharks and the World's Biggest Rod and Reel, the Port Isabel Lighthouse, South Padre Island, the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary, the Remains of Historic Fort Brown, the Sacred Tree with the Image of the Virgin Mary, and the Palo Alto Battlefield Site, 

Forward : (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for photos surprises.)

     I hope you enjoyed a day in Galveston - 2005 with me, mom and dad.  Mom already wants to go back  and see her feathered friends again.

     Well, I wasn't real happy with my Gem Trails of New Mexico haul during my Spring Break vacation.  So, I started researching my Gem Trails of Texas book by Brad Cross and my Rockhounding Texas book by Melinda Crow.  

Since I had just returned recently from the west part of Texas and have done my share of time in the Panhandle and the Texas Hill Country, I decided to try my luck in the south Texas areas as described in the books. 

     Of coarse getting there will be like driving to either of the fore mentioned areas, so I decided to make a road trip out of it to see all the sights down there and in between.  The furthest south I had ever been in Texas was the Aransas area for a boy scout campout and of coarse Padre Island on one of those drunken college Spring breaks the first time around in college.  Obviously, I was too drunk back then as a young college student to remember anything, so this time I'll take the time to smell the roses and see as many sights down there while hunting for those Texas Gems.

     About the same time I was planning all this, I ran into the Chadster again.  Chad is still trying to wind up in the IT support side .  I say good luck, everything is going to those Indians overseas.    I told him that school doesn't start back up until another 3 weeks and if he would be interested in a road trip down south.  "Sure, that sounds cool", was his response.  However, he didn't know he was going on my of my mother of all road trips and what I had been planning.

     Also on this trip, the weather was overcast about 96% of the time.  So, I wasn't real happy with many of the pictures that were taken.  However, the overcast was welcomed when the Rio Grande Valley temperatures were in the mid to high 90's!  Note to self, do not ever go back in the Summer.  

Star Date 05/08/2005 - Sunday

     As usual, it was a very early morning departure.  I took the driver's seat first and I decided head south by hugging the coastline.  So we left Lake Jackson via CR 2004 and headed west and then took Hwy 36 north to Brazoria.  We pasted by the Clemens State prison farm and noticed the inmates working those fields.  We stop to see if anyone wanted to break out, but, the guard on the horse told us to get lost! From Brazoria, we then headed south on FM 521 to Cedar Lake.  From Cedar Lake, we then took FM 475 to Bay City.  Bay City just happens to be the county seat of Matagorda county.  Then I continued to drive south on Hwy 35.  For the bird people, just south of Bay City, after crossing the Colorado River, was the Birding Nature Center maintained by the LCRA. 

     We finally took Hwy 71 north and headed west on Hwy 111 till we reached Edna, TX.  "What's so special about Edna?" inquired Chad.  Well, its the county seat of Jackson county and I need a pic. of the courthouse to add to my collection.  From Edna, we backtracked on Hwy 111/Hwy 71 and then took Hwy 35 back south.

     After another 15 minutes of driving, we arrived in Palacios, TX.   Ronnie, one of the security guards from my previous employment at VarTec, was from the area, so I decided to stop and have a look around.  The area was also hard hit by hurricane Claudette back in July of 2003 and I wanted to see what was left of the town.     Actually, it looked like the town had recovered fairly well.  Like Freeport, Palacios is known for its shrimp boat fleet and industry.  It looks like you are more than welcome to come on down to the docks to fish.  If you catch anything, then the Outrigger restaurant will be more than happy to cook it up and serve it to you.   Yep, it looks like Palacios' marina area survived hurricane Claudette just fine and I'll have to make it back here again someday.

     We finally headed back out again and continued south on Hwy 35 until we reached Port Lavaca.  Not only was Port Lavaca the county seat of Calhoun County, but it also had a quite a little downtown area complete with the usual antique stores, restaurants and movie theater.   Port Lavaca is also known for its shrimping industry among other recreational water sports

     I noticed on the map that historic Indianola was just outside of further out on the peninsula.  Hwy 316 took me to the historic spot where my German heritage ancestors first invaded the beach of Texas.  There really is not much left of the place after two hurricanes except for this historic marker and the statue of La Salle who originally landed here in 1634.  The Germans who settled in the New Braunfels region had placed this plaque which memorialized their landing and their trek to the Texas Hill Country.  For more information on this historical spot, please see the link below :

Indianola : From the Handbook of Texas - On-Line

     We backtracked back into town and took Hwy 87 north into Victoria.  I think Chad is finally catching on my plans to take as many photos of county court houses as I can on this trip due to Victoria being the county seat of Victoria county.  "Chad, I know we're zig- zagging a lot, but we'll get there, I promise"!  "Just don't speed!", he yelled back.

     We then headed south out of town on Hwy 77 until we reached Refugio.  Refugio is of course the county seat of Refugio county and it also has several memorials in the town square as a tribute to the Irish settlers who settle into this area like some of my ancestors on my dad's side of the family.   I guess from Refugio, my ancestors finally settled in Goliad, see the Spanish Missions of Texas and Santa Anna's Trail story. 

     We then drove back east on Hwy 774 back to Hwy 35 and continued south to Lamar.   The next big stop was Goose Island State Park.  This park is is famous for the "Big Tree" which was at one time the oldest tree in Texas.  Experts say over a 1,000 years old.  Some say it is over 2,000 years old.  I don't know who to believe, but I do believe this tree deserves it's own poem.  The trunk on that think is just huge! By the way, Goose Island is not really an island, just another peninsula.  For more information on this tree and the park, please see their web page below :

Goose Island State Park : From the Texas parks & Wildlife Dept.

     We left the park and continued south on Hwy 35 until we reached the Fulton/Rockport area.  I saw the signs directing us to the Fulton Mansion.  Of coarse I stopped for another photo op of this well kept, but haunted looking Mansion resembling the Adams family or the Munster's house from the TV shows.   Apparently, Ole' Mr. Fulton was a rich cattle Baron who had an imaginative mind for architecture.  For more information, please see link below :

Fulton Mansion : From Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

     We found our way back to Hwy 35 and continued south until we reach Hwy 361/181 and then continued north to Sinton, TX.  "Let me guess", said Chad, "Another court house picture"?  Yea, Sinton is the county seat of San Patricio county.  We then took Hwy 77 south for just a little ways and then Hwy 37 south into Corpus Christi

     Finally a break on the Corpus Christi Beach and we got to explore the USS Lexington air craft carrier.  We explored the carefully preserved museum on the water and here's a few pic.'s of what we saw :

Anti-Aircraft Guns

The Lexington's Bridge

The Flight Deck

Gift Shop for Souvenir Refrigerator Magnet

The Lexington's Hanger

More Planes and....

More Planes

My Next Door Neighbor's Plane

     For more information on this historic floating museum, please see their web site at the link below :

The USS Lexington Home Page

     After we left the USS Lexington,  there were several souvenir shops around and of coarse I had to go in to add to my refrigerator magnet collection.  While there, I inquired the whereabouts of the Selena statue.  The clerks gave us directions to the downtown area and told us that the statue is inside a gazebo like memorial structure by the beach.  So we had a quick early dinner and then left and headed across the bridge to the downtown area.  There, we took the Bayside exit and headed to the beach area.  There by the beach was the Selena Memorial and her bronze statue.

     Some of you may know that Selena and her family lived in Lake Jackson for some time before moving to Corpus Christi.  They even lived on Caladium street, a street we once lived on and my younger sister Deborah was once in Selena's class. Let's hope Yolanda rot's in prison for the rest of her life for shooting Selena to death and scamming the money form the Selena fan club.

     Well, It was getting late, so we found our lodging for the night and unloaded.  Thank God I had chosen to use the iMall of Texas to make our bookings for the night's lodging.  There was still enough light, so I left Chad behind and attempted to locate the county court house of Nueces county, but I got lost.  Frustrated from my failure, I returned to the motel room empty handed.  I then started to plan tomorrow's travel in more detail.  Heck, not one rock was found yet.  But we did see a lot of sea shells in Port Lavaca!  Time for a beer.

Star Date 05/09/2005 - Monday

     The next morning, we headed back south on Hwy 77 and then west to Alice, TX.  Alice is the county seat of Jim Wells county.  From Alice, we took Hwy 665 east back to Hwy 77 and continued south to Kingsville.  Yes, Kingsville is the county seat of Kleberg County.  Also, Kingsville is home to Texas A&M University at Kingsville.  They will begin a Pharmacy school here in 2006 and therefore, I just may wind back up here someday.   We then continued south on Hwy 77 and stopped in Sarita, TX which is the county seat for Kennedy County. We then continued further south on Hwy 77 and discovered that Raymondville is the county seat for Willacy County.  It seems the folks here are mighty happy!  I told Chad that I thought the courthouse picture count was up to (9) now.  My biggest complaint on taking these pictures is that the trees around some of the courthouses have grown quite big and high throughout the years that the structures were built and now one cannot really see their beautiful architecture of the outside walls.

     We continued south on Hwy 77 and then due east on Hwy 100 until we reached Los Fresnos.  All of the sudden Chad saw a woman in distress.  Chad made me change out her tire while he impressed her with his other skills.  In Los Fresnos, we stopped by the home of Mr. Simon Vega, who decorated his house like Elvis's and calls it the Little Graceland.  Apparently, Mr. Vega had served with Elvis while in the Army and was quite an admirer of Elvis and his music.  Although we arrived during visiting hours, Mr. Vega was not in.  So, we quickly snapped a photo of his home and moved on.

     We continued east on Hwy 100 on our way to Port Isabel when we then spied the mother of all sea shell shops and tropical island souvenirs to the north side of the road.  There, we saw the word's biggest sea shells.  Ok, the dolphins were at least the correct size.  This Wall-Mart of all souvenirs stores also had built and ocean that one could walk around in completed with fish, sharks and other underwater life.  One could literally buy any kind of seashell from around the world and was much nicer than the shop in Port Lavaca.  I did buy a post card to mail home.

     We pressed on and made it to Port Isabel.  There, in addition to some nice restaurants to eat at, we also found the world's biggest fly rod and reel.  At least it has a big fish to go with it.  It seems, this one really works!  Hum, I'll have to read up on it.  While Chad took that rod and reel and went fishing, while I had to use the facilities.  Also present, was the famous Port Isabel Lighthouse.  For a few bucks, you could go on up it.  This was also the site of the old Fort Polk which supplied General Taylor's army for the war with Mexico.  More on that later....  For more information on this historic site, please see the link below :

The Isabel Lighthouse : From the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

     We finally filled up on some beef and washed it down with the world's biggest ice cream cone.  We hit a few souvenir shops before getting back into the car and remember the old saying, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there?"  Well, were there

     After crossing the bridge we were on South Padre Island.  I finally found the Big Shark that I do remember from my last visit there so many years ago.  The beach however, is no better than any other Texas beach, just nasty, not like California beaches!  I think you have to have a lot of money to really vacation here!  Unfortunately, I forgot my brand new surfboard.

     We then headed off the island and took Hwy 48 west to Brownsville.  After about 10 - 15 minutes of heading towards Brownsville, I felt like I was back in Monahan Sandhills State Park or White Sands Monument in New Mexico.  It was like being in the Sahara desert again.  The first stop just outside of the city was the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary.  Ok, its just another place for tropical bird watching.  I saw their park on some story on one of the travel or brain channels and couldn't wait to check it out some day. Like I have stated before, I'm not a bird watcher, however, this is the only area left in the US/Mexico area in which there is a palm forest and I have never been in a palm forest before. 

     Apparently, this whole area used to be a palm forest until the Spaniards arrived and cut down the forest for building shipping docks and other construction projects.  Later, the palm forest was further decimated by clearing the lands for agriculture.  We checked into their visitor center and took one of the trails through the only palm forest in Texas.  When out on the trail, please be careful of the dangerous critters. Here's a few sights along the trail :

Palm Forest Trail 1

Palm Forest Trail 2

Palm Forest Trail 3

Palm Forest Trail 4

     We were then shown another trail that leads to the Rio Grande river.  After arriving at the river, we noticed the river looked pretty healthyNot like it was in Las Cruces, NM last March!  We could hear some Mexicans talking from the other side  we figured they would come through this trail between the trees on the other side and try to make it across after dark.  We quickly hiked back to the park's HQ and told them of what we saw and heard.  The park guides in turn quickly made a phone call to the Border Patrol in El Paso and reported our observations. 

     I told the park guide that we were going to head into town and asked directions to the tree with the image of the Holy Virgin Mary, the old Fort Brown and to the Palo Alto Battlefield.  They gave us a map and marked on there the needed directions.  Then, just before we left, the phone rang and you guessed it, it was the Border Patrol HQ in El Paso.  They were going to fly in some top notch Border Patrol agents to help in any capture of aliens coming over through the park for the night.  Well, we said good-bye and good luck and headed on out.  For more information on this wildlife refuge and isolated palm forest, visit their website :

Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary

     We made it into town and just to the south east of the downtown area, we found a memorial to the old  Fort Brown , but no fort remains at all.  After reading the memorial plaque, we learned that the fort was an earthen walled fort and had eroded away throughout the years.  This was the fort that was under siege by the Mexican army that caused the US to go to war with Mexico.  Today, it is now a golf course.  Towards the back, one can see some of the earthen wall.

     We then entered the downtown area and snapped a shot of the Cameron County courthouse and then on the corner of St. Francis and 10th street, we found the house that had the tree in which the image of the Virgin Mary could be seen.  I guess with a little imagination, I could see her.  Can you?  If your good at seeing those 3-D images, then you could probably see her.    Why cross the border to Matamoras to buy Mexico junk and souvenirs?   You can find it all here in downtown Brownsville!

     We then took Hwy 1847 north,  just outside of town and just north of Hwy/Loop 511.  There, we found the entrance to the National Park's Palo Alto Battlefield site.  This of coarse was the site where General Taylor battled the Mexican army as he tried to reach Fort Brown to end the Mexican siege there.   We made it to the visitor center and checked out some of the exhibits before being forced to watch their movie.  After the movie, we were finally allowed to visit the battlefield and one of their nature trails in the park. 

     For more information on this historic battlefield site, please check out the National Parks Service at the link below :

The Palo Alto Battlefield : From the National Parks Service

     At this point, it was getting late and still, we have found no rocks yet!  So, we found our lodgings for the night.  Unfortunately, they had lost our reservations.  I could see why, they haven't upgraded their systems in years!  However, they did find a room for us.

     Time to take a break.  Why don't you take a bathroom break or grab something out of the refrigerator.  Then come back and read Part II of the Gem Trails of South Texas Adventure.

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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 Copyright 1999 by [The Texas Road Runners - Francis Kiefel]. All rights reserved.