We loaded up the car and headed out for Texas.
I think we spent the night in Mississippi.
We spent the night in Beaumont where my family lived in the mid-70s before we moved to Singapore. My brother was born there. We came in on I-10 and could see the hotel we wanted but couldn’t get to it. The roads around there were like a plate of spaghetti. We also noticed permanent signs that said when the lights were flashing, I-10 was closed and to use the detour. Heath asked my dad about that. Daddy (who is 67) said “They’ve been working on that road since I was 10 years old. My dad got a couple of jobs on it”. We managed to get to the hotel and to Luby’s, one of the things on my check-list to do.
After leaving Beaumont we crossed the Houston Ship Channel. I didn’t get any photos but I love looking at the all the ships and the oil tanks and refineries. You can take the kid out of the oil field but you can’t take the oilfield out of the kid. Other products come in, too.
We spent five days in Victoria visiting my parents. Katy and I went two years ago at spring break but Heath hasn’t been in about three years. He couldn’t believe the amount of traffic. The city is really growing and there are new hotels all over the place. The oil industry is really picking up and our hotel was packed with oil-field people. Heath couldn’t believe all the pick-ups in the parking lot. We went to visit my childhood friend Melissa at Hall Lighting. She said they’re six weeks out on their commercial jobs because they can’t find any electricians and it’s not better trying to find a plumber. Everyone is leaving for $40-an-hour oilfield jobs. She mentioned the high schools were not accredited. Heath looked it up and found out the district is at the lowest level you can be at before losing accreditation and the issue is the drop-out rate. I’m sure the $40-an-hour jobs are fueling that, too.
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Victoria was eat at Jim’s Big Burger. There isn’t a steak-finger basket to be found in Atlanta and I was overdue for one. Jim’s is a little burger place that opened in 1979 and I’ve been eating there ever since. It’s owned by two sisters. Their dad had been saving money for them to go to college but when they graduated from high school they both decided they didn’t really want to go to college, they’d rather go right to work and start making money. Their dad didn’t want them to spend their lives working for someone else so he used the college money to open this little restaurant on the edge of town. It’s directly behind were my granddad’s Shell service station was and across the little sidestreet where the neighborhood swimming pool is. Melissa and I would ride our bikes to the pool, swim all day and eat lunch at Jim’s. It would be the two of us and a handful of construction workers. Now it’s across the street from Super -Walmart and Sams and near a strip shopping center. The town has really grown in that direction and Jim’s has grown, too. You can’t stir ’em with a stick in there and everyone goes. Even my grandmother’s old-lady Sunday school class met there once a week for lunch. They’ve expanded their menu, too. Besides the usual fare, they make a mean steak sandwich and have enchiladas, Frito pie and homemade desserts. It’s one of those places where you order at the counter and they make it right then so the food is always hot and fresh, no heat lamps!
Katy and my parents went fishing on Wednesday. The guide said on Monday and Tuesday everyone was catching their limit in about 30 minutes. News must have gotten around and the fish left because no one caught much of anything on Wednesday. The guide caught two trout so we had those for dinner. My mother caught two hard-head catfish (inedible) and Katy caught a crab. No pictures, I think they forgot the camera. My dad did take some video, although we never saw it. Back when camcorders first came out they were these huge things that you put a VHS tape into and recorded directly on the tape. I thought it would be fun to have one but my dad said he wasn’t going to get a video camera until they invented on he could stick on his hat and then just walk around.
Since my mom never has any food in the house except soup and popcorn we went to HEB Plus. It’s just a few years old, I’d been there before but Heath never had. It’s in an old Super Kmart to give you an idea of the size. They had so much stuff and so many stations (deli, hot foods, homemade tortillas, etc.) it was hard to find anything and it was unbelievably crowded for a weekday afternoon. (This is the HEB where my parents’ car club got thrown out of the parking lot for playing their music too loud.) Heath and Katy were stunned by the Moon Pie display.
And they had good watermelons. I was grumbling that all you can get around here is those tasteless seedless things. I don’t mind fighting the seeds if the watermelon tastes good. I said I wanted to buy one off the side of the road, but the HEB had them.
And for comparison:
We also went and visited my grandmother and her husband, Warren.
Friday we planned to go to Sheridan to the little water park but the weather was overcast and just not a good day to go swimming so we went to the aquarium in Corpus Christi, instead. The most exciting thing was looking out over the bay and seeing wild dolphins jumping around. They and a flock of seagulls were following a fishing boat.
We were outside looking the reptiles when I went over to look at a model showing the difference between an alligator and crocodile (I never can remember which is which) when a lady came out right next to me with a baby crocodile. She gave a little talk and then said everyone could pet the alligator and to line up “behind the girl in the blue dress” — that was Katy. We were in exactly the right place!
Another exciting thing was watching the scuba diver feed the fish.
Then he posed for photos with the kids
The next Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. We were watching the local news and it was mentioned that NASA visited Victoria and considered it for the location of the manned astronaut center (now Johnson Space Center). How did I not know this? I’m surprised Victoria doesn’t have it on the city limits signs — NASA Visited in 1961. So Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College was going to have a special exhibit Saturday. Naturally, we had to go.
I’d never been to the little museum before. It was built to showcase the Ft. St. Louis cannons. Archaeologists knew that the first European settlement, a French fort, was somewhere around Victoria but they didn’t know exactly where. They had papers that gave clues but they never could decipher them. In 1995, right before I moved to Victoria, they discovered La Belle, the ship the French colonists came over on in 1685. They then found the eight cannons that were at the fort site. When I got married and moved to Atlanta, Victoria, Austin and Corpus Christi were still fighting over the cannons. Victoria won. They have seven of them and one is on permanent loan to a museum in Austin. They also recovered over a million artifacts from La Belle and some of them were on display, too.
But we were really there to find out about NASA. They had some facts chalked on the sidewalks going into the building.
We also ran into my friend Virginia who I worked with at The Advocate. I’m glad she recognized me because I didn’t recognize her!
The museum had displays of several periods of Texas history along the coast. One was of Native American life and you could try your hand at throwing a spear. Heath and Katy both tried. If we had to depend on either of them to bring home dinner, we’d be vegetarians! Katy pinned the ground down pretty well, Heath hit the target once.
Back at the house Katy and Heath also tried a more modern weapon. It’s an air rifle but it’s pretty powerful.
I tried, too. Until I figured out where the cross hairs were I was aiming straight at the neighbors’ roof.
Saturday we headed off to San Antonio.