We did do a few things other than party planning.
Mother and Daddy picked us up from the airport in Houston and on the way to Victoria we stopped at Buc-ees — a convenience store on steroids. You can get a custom-made sandwich (at some locations you can order it at the gas pump), home-made fudge, your pick of beef jerky, a jar of homemade jelly, a t-shirt, Christmas gifts for everyone on your list and things you never knew you needed. And use the fanciest, cleanest restrooms to be seen outside of Buckingham Palace.
And they make sure you know when one is nearby.
The aren’t kidding about the fudge. Rather than having to decide, Katy bought a box with a sample of all 24 flavors. We still haven’t eaten it all.
And we met the beaver himself.
Instead of spending a lot of money, I decided to take a few pictures.
Gonzales has a Come and Take It Festival every year.
Forget the cookie jar, every Southern kitchen needs a biscuit canister!
And you don’t have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express to have a Texas-shaped waffle!
We had one funny thing happen at Buc-ees. I was checking out the barbecue sandwiches and I thought I heard Katy’s name and I knew I heard mine. I turned around and there was my friend DeDe and her daughter, Deja. They were on the way to Houston for a wedding and had to take a potty break at the most fabulous restrooms around. DeDe saw Katy and said “That looks like Katy so Leigh Ann must be around here somewhere”. When they got in the car to leave, Deja said to her mother “I can’t take you anywhere”. It was good we ran into each other, we firmed up our lunch plans for the next day.
We made it out of Buc-ees without cleaning the place out.
Sunday morning Katy and I went with my mom and her sister, Shirley, to church at First Baptist Victoria. It was a nice little service. The preacher stand at the door and greets everyone after church so we met him. And they had a wonderful piano player.
After church Katy and I met DeDe for lunch at a Thai restaurant. Deja had to go back to San Marcos where she goes to college so she missed lunch. I can’t believe Victoria has something as exotic as a Thai restaurant and it’s good. We really enjoyed the food and the company.
And as if that wasn’t enough to eat, Mother decided we needed to get Grandmother and go have ice cream at Dairy Queen. I didn’t get any, I figured I’d just have a bite of everyone else’s. Shirley and Chase (my cousin) met us there. Dairy Queen started in the Midwest somewhere but it’s gotten to be a Texas icon. This particular Dairy Queen is where my dad was working when they got married. I told my grandmother “I can’t believe you let your daughter marry someone who worked at Dairy Queen!” and she said “I probably didn’t know until it was too late”.
Daddy somehow inherited a Chihuahua/Pomeranian named J.J. He just turned a year old in January and is still a puppy. He took an immediate liking to Katy. They are relaxing in the recliner that belonged to my great-grandmother. No telling how old it is.
Monday we really got started on the party planning. We went to Halepaska’s Bakery to order the cakes and Katy looked at the display cases and said “we should totally get something as long as we’re here. So she came out with a cream cheese kolache and a chocolate butterhorn. I managed to get a bite of the kolache.
People are going to think all we did on this trip was eat. My favorite place in Victoria is Jim’s Big Burger so we went there for lunch in the middle of long day of planning, shopping and running around. I’ve been eating at Jim’s since they opened in 1979. They’re across from the neighborhood pool and at the time directly behind my granddad’s full-service Shell station and easy to get to by bicycle from my grandparents’ house so we ate there lots those early years.
Katy, Shirley and my steak finger basket. Jim’s doesn’t cook the food until you order it so it’s always too hot to eat when you first get it. They’ve also added home-made desserts in the past few years but I’ve never had them because I’ve already eaten 2,000 calories worth of steak finger basket. But they sure look good!
One thing Katy wanted to do while we were there was go to the sea turtle research center. She has a real thing about sea turtles and is working on a paper on the Kemp’s Ridley, which is what the center specializes in. I also thought we could go the Padre Island National Seashore but it turns out the national seashore is on the north island and the sea turtle place is on the south island and you can’t get from the south island to the north island. I’m just sure they were connected at one point. Well, South Padre is four hours from Victoria but I figured if we woke up early we could do it.
The sea turtle place opened at 10 and I wanted to leave at 6 and get there right when they opened. Well, mother didn’t set her alarm and we didn’t get out of the house until 6:30 then we had to stop for something to drink and a bathroom break. Then we had to stop again to switch drivers. Also Mother got lost just getting us out of Victoria.
You take state highway 77 the whole way and it goes between the sections of the King Ranch (825,000 acres). There’s hardly any traffic so we thought that would be a good place for Katy to try out highway driving. The speed limit is 75 but she mostly went about 65-70 except for the time she looked down and realized she was going 80. She also passed three semis. With two lanes each direction passing was easy.
Map of the King Ranch. The red line on the right is Hwy 77. There’s a sign that says “no gas for 60 miles”. She drove about 45 minutes on that stretch.
Be a cowboy, fly a helicopter! We saw this helicopter pass by twice. They use them to heard the cattle, keep an eye on stragglers and for security.
On a side note, you can also buy a King Ranch Ford 150 pick-up truck. We saw a few of those, they’re all over South Texas.
Katy on the highway.
The scenery was really nice. I didn’t see any cows going this direction but I saw a few on the way back. We saw plenty of cows between Houston and Victoria but I wanted to see a King Ranch cow! The car club took a tour of the ranch and I asked my mom if she bought any beef. She said no, but there was plenty of it walking around.
We drove through San Benito, the hometown of Freddy Fender. Since no one has heard of San Benito, he tells people he is from Corpus Christi as that’s the closest big city and people may have heard of it. We met him in Singapore and I told him I was born in Corpus Christi and he said “Oh, so you’ve probably heard of San Benito”. I don’t know if I told him we left Corpus when I was three months old. I was probably only about 10 when we went to his concert.
Next we were over the bridge and into South Padre.
So, remember how I said I wanted to get to the turtle place at 10? Well, we didn’t get there until 11:15 and it worked out perfectly. As we were getting out of the car a school bus pulled up and about 50 little kids filed out of the turtle center and on to the school bus. We waited on them to leave then went in and about five minutes later the only turtle talk of the day started. So we inadvertently timed it perfectly.
This is the first thing I noticed.
Is there any other kind of alligator other than wild?
Here we are. The main attraction.
We went inside and looked around the turtles a bit and then got seats for the presentation by the executive director. We learned all kinds of things about the Kemp’s Ridley but nothing I can remember offhand. He did say that BP is having to pay for a lot of turtle stuff that the government normally pays for after the big oil spill in the Gulf. Did you know it’s illegal to buy or sell antique tortoise-shell items? So if you have your great-grandmother’s old tortoise-shell glasses, don’t expect to make any money off of them. Also my mother started feeling guilty about the turtle soup she and my dad and the other grown-ups made and ate one night when we lived in Balikpapan. We kids weren’t invited.
After the presentation I told the guy Katy was doing a paper on the evolution of the Kemp’s Ridley and he went over and talked to her for about five minutes. She has lots of good information and a first-person source in her paper will be very impressive! And Katy just ate it up.
Then we looked at the turtles and learned about the work the center does.
They use zip-ties to repair cracked shells.
This turtle is Allison. She only had one flipper when she was found so she could only swim in circles and couldn’t come up for air. They put a rudder on her and she gets around just fine but she has to have someone watching her all the time in case the rudder falls off.
Someone was passing out lettuce to feed Allison so Katy got a piece and tossed it in. Katy’s at that age where she wants to act all cool and grown-up but she was so excited about feeding the turtle. She found my mom at another tank and brought her back and asked the lady “can my Grandma have some lettuce so she can feed the turtle, too?”.
This shows the releasable and non-releasable turtles they have (click to enlarge). They have one turtle that can’t be released because he’s been “over-socialized”. He was the center’s educational turtle and made the rounds from the local schools to Johnny Carson and got used to being hand-fed. I think he’s pretty close to a pet! His tank was too dark for a photo (and they look pretty much alike, anyway) but I got this.
So after Katy got her fill of turtles and did some shopping in the gift shop we were all ready for lunch. We checked off another must-eat-at place on our list and went to What-A-Burger.
I wanted to try to find how to get the national seashore but after driving up and down and Katy looking at it on her phone we figured out we couldn’t so we settled on the bird and nature center that was next door to the turtle center.
There was a little museum about the eco-system on South Padre, a half-mile boardwalk for viewing birds and you could go to the top of the building (about four stories) and go out and see for a distance.
I was really interested in this exhibit on how marine life takes advantage of the drilling rigs.
Katy and I climbed the steps to the top level, Grandma took the elevator. It was windy up there!
Katy was the only one that walked the entire boardwalk. She always wants to see everything.
I got a few bird photos
This macaw lived in the building and could talk. He was kind of a show-off, I think!
And I bought Heath a t-shirt.
At that point we were ready to head home. On the way in that morning I noticed a sign pointing off to the right to the Palo Alto National Battlefield. We stopped at a gas station at that intersection and I said I wanted to go the battlefield and see what that was about. Mother and Katy said they never did see the sign but I convinced her to turn and we found the place. It was the site of a battle during the Mexican-American War and is a national park now. It was less than an hour until closing but we had time to see the visitors center and walk around the grounds a little bit.
The section of land in the dark red is what they were fighting over. If Mexico had won, Texas would have made for a much smaller waffle!
Katy tried on the uniform coats for each army. I didn’t have to make her, either, she wanted to do it.
They didn’t have the fancy hat to try on!
We went out to the grounds. It was all prairie with beautiful blooming cacti and the signs assured us lots of wildlife, although we didn’t see any.
We went back into the visitors’ center to cut through to the parking lot just as they were closing up. A ranger came in with the flag from the flagpole out front and asked Katy if she wanted to help fold it. She said she asks kids that when she can because most of them have never had the chance to learn. But Katy knows how to fold a flag from camp so they talked about camp and Girl Scouts while they folded.
We finally hit the road about 4 p.m.
We were a good bit from the border but still had to stop at a border control check-point. My dad and brother go to the dentist in Mexico and my mom goes with them and she knew we would have to go through it. The guy just popped his head in the car, asked if we were citizens and waved us on. The car with the Florida plates in front of us got pulled over, I guess for further questioning.
We got to Corpus around dinner time and Katy and I are in the habit of eating three times a day and we wanted to stop for dinner. We passed a sign for Denny’s and Katy has been wanting to go to one. She and her friends are just obsessed with Denny’s. They all follow the Denny’s Tumblr blog which is apparently very entertaining and we just don’t have one real convenient to us. So she had to text her friends a picture of herself at Denny’s.
We got back home at 9:30 and we were tired!
Wednesday and Thursday we were back at the party planning.
Friday morning Katy and Granddad took a break from the party work to do a little woodworking project.
Friday Heath flew into Houston, rented a car and got to Victoria in the late afternoon. I had said I wanted to go out for Mexican food while he was here. So the three of us and Mother and Daddy met a couple from the car club, Art and Pat Roe, at The Pinto Bean. Mother says Art is her best friend in the car club because she can sit next to him and have someone to talk to. Actually, he’s a good person to sit next to if you don’t want to talk because he does enough talking for the two of you. We had dinner with them last spring break at IHOP and I’d met them other times, too. They are both very nice. Heath tried to get a photo of all of us.
The food is wonderful and the portions are huge. Katy’s combination plate came on two plates. Needless to say, she got a second meal out of that.
Saturday after the party and most of the clean-up (I left the heavy stuff for my mom!) we went out to my dad’s shop as Heath has never seen it. Then we did some sight-seeing around Victoria as Katy loves looking at historical markers.
Daddy says he’s gong to have to live to be 120 to get all his projects finished.
After thoroughly checking out the cars and the area around the shop we headed downtown to look at the historical markers and old buildings. Victoria is nearly 200 years old and was the site of the very first French settlement in Texas and there’s quite a bit of history.
This is the old courthouse. It was going to be torn down but some ladies (it’s always the women) got together and convinced the county to save it. They built a modern courthouse next door and connected it to the old building with an enclosed bridges.
I don’t remember off-hand what church this is but it sure is pretty.
We drove to Riverside Park to look at the rose garden. I can’t remember the last time I was out there and roses were actually in bloom. It’s usually the wrong time or year or there was not enough rain or too much rain or something. My grandmother was on the Parks and Recreation Commission that built the rose garden and there was a plaque with everyone’s name in the gazebo but it’s been taken down. A lot of the ID plaques for the roses are broken or missing, too. They could really stand to do some upkeep.
When my allergies got out of hand we went back home and had dinner. Katy opened Grandma and Grandad’s presents from earlier and they got some nice things.
Sunday morning Heath and I had breakfast at the hotel and then went over to the house. We visited for awhile and I got Daddy to tell a few of his stories about his family and I recorded those. I’m trying to get as many as I can while he still remembers. This is the main one I wanted about him and Uncle Frank getting the neighbor to clear the bushes they were supposed to do.
After a couple of hours we loaded up the car and drove to Houston with another stop at Buc-ees.