Somehow the brochure left out our favorite beach activities: walking,
running, and photography!
Although beaches aren't our favorite travel destination, Jim and I enjoyed
our visit to Galveston Island so much
last February that we wanted to go back
this trip. Unfortunately (especially for the residents), Hurricane Ike destroyed so much of the city and island
late last summer that we had to come up with an alternative this year. (Much of
downtown Galveston wasn't destroyed, but the state park where we camped hasn't reopened
As we were planning our current trip last fall I pulled out our maps of Gulf Coast
states and started looking for another beach we might visit. I started with
Texas since we planned to be there for a while in January and February. Most of
the eastern Texas coast was devastated by Ike so I looked farther west and
zeroed in on Padre Island National Park and smaller Mustang Island, which has a
state park and lies just to the
Research indicated that the camping would be more suitable for us at the
state park than the national park. In addition, our Texas state parks pass is
good through the end of February, so
camping fees would be reduced. I called the park to see if it had been
damaged during Hurricane Ike. No, not directly. A lot of flotsam and jetsam washed up on the
beaches from farther north and east, but the park was open and predicted to be all
cleaned up well before our arrival.
We made reservations in September for the last week of January. In a little bit you'll
see how fortuitous our timing was.
ON THE ROAD FROM NEW MEXICO
Let's back up to the Ghost Town race in Hillsboro, NM on Sunday two weeks ago.
After enjoying breakfast with the Reynolds and several remaining runners on
Monday morning, Jim and I headed back east through the foothills of the Black
Range. As we neared I-25 we had nice views overlooking Caballo Lake (below), where we'd
stayed one night prior to the race.
Our destination was Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Since it's nearly a
700-mile drive, we broke the trip into two days. Our route included driving on
1-25 south through Las Cruces to I-10 east, which we followed all the way to
The weather was great both Monday and Tuesday, warm and sunny. Traffic was light most of
the way through western Texas. I think we saw as many campers as semi trucks --
probably more retirees like us seeking sun and warmth!
The very long stretch of interstate between El Paso and the northern 'burbs
of San Antonio is fairly hilly and scenic. It's also pretty desolate, probably
one of the areas of this country with more cattle and horses than people per square mile. It
wouldn't be a good place to have a vehicle break down. Fortunately, ours didn't
Equestrians on a trail at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio
We had extended Verizon cell service along I-10; we could make and receive
phone calls but we couldn't get on-line with our broadband
connection. It's also tough to find decent radio stations for about 400 miles.
That's when Jim would hook up his MP3 to the truck radio and we'd listen to
Neal Boortz segments he'd recorded previously (it's also a good time to listen
to CDs). TV reception isn't too hot, either. When we stopped overnight near Ft. Stockton at a Wal-Mart with a spacious
parking area off to the side we had trouble getting any stations either with or
without our digital converter box.
Diesel prices ran the gamut from $2.14 to $2.49/gallon along
I-10, getting cheaper as we approached San Antonio. Once at Ft. Sam we found
diesel cheaper at a nearby Wal-Mart ($2.02 with shopping card) than on
post. I think that's the lowest we've paid on this trip so far. We're hoping to
find it under $2 soon. What a switch
from the exorbitant prices last summer (maybe the only thing that's good
about the current global economic crisis).
CHILLIN' AT FORT SAM
We made reservations for our week at the family campground at Fort Sam
Houston back in the early fall because it stays very busy during the winter
months. The weekly rate for full hookups and decent-sized sites is a very
reasonable $96 (one night free); monthly rates are even more cost
effective. This was our third time to camp at Fort Sam. I wrote quite a bit about
the campground and post during our week's stay
January. We also stayed one night in
to see the holiday lights at RiverWalk before we went out to Phoenix.
Last year we hit all the main historical and scenic attractions that
interested us in San Antonio -- the
cattle drive, the old
neighborhoods, the IMAX theatre,
an historic Mexican market square.
This time was much more low-key and relaxing, despite beautiful, sunny days in
the 60s and 70s. Instead of playing tourist, we mostly stayed on post to relax,
run, and run errands: the PX, commissary, Post Office, fitness
center, Sam Houston Club, etc.
Getting around on the streets was a bit of a challenge this time. Fort Sam
is building and rebuilding to the tune of $2 billion, so a lot of the huge
military installation is torn up and several streets are rerouted. I feel sorry for the folks who
live and work there (like Abi Meadows and Bob Culp, who we met at Ghost Town).
Road work also continues on several nearby surface streets and freeways, just
as it was a year ago when we were there. I can't see any progress there.
Jim and I avoided paved roads as much as possible on our training runs,
walks, and bike rides on post. We found several new trails to add interesting
loops or out-and-backs to our basic forays from the campground. We've never been
there long enough to have to seek trails elsewhere. (It's our understanding
that we'd need to drive a good way to find them.) Neither of us is doing
mega-miles right now anyway. Jim's recovering from Ghost Town and I've been in
a holding pattern since ATY with just 20-30 miles a week until this past week
at Mustang Island (37 miles).
We managed to stay busy enough without any tourist activities.
Besides the usual camper and truck repairs and maintenance (it's always
something!), Jim's had an interesting project to work on the last couple
of weeks: developing a
survey for feedback from ATY runners. Not very many ultras do formal surveys
after the race. When Rodger and Paul
expressed an interest in a survey for ATY, Jim jumped at the opportunity and I
had fun collaborating, too.
First Jim found a suitable survey format online -- for free! He could
tailor the questions, format, and result tabulation as needed. Then he got
permission to modify some of the questions from the Hardrock Hundred survey to fit Across the Years.
He ended up with very few of the same questions as HRH, but it helped him
get started. The other ATY committee members had input, of course, and after several days Jim got the go-ahead
to send the new survey out to all the participants. It was fun to take the survey and
the response rate is very high (about 90%). By any kind of survey standards,
that's an unusually high response rate. We hope the answers are helpful to the race committee,
although we think ATY is just about perfect the way it is!
I kept busy trying to get caught up on this journal (not very
successfully), correspondence with friends and family, and other "business" while we were at Fort Sam. I also did
more running, walking, and cycling than Jim did.
Nice running along the creek in Salado Park at Fort Sam
The weather was great (sunny, 70s-80s) from Tuesday to Friday. Most of
southern Texas is in a drought and could really use some rain. As visitors,
were happy with all the sunshine. A cold
front came in and lowered the temperatures to the low 60s over the weekend.
It was cloudy but didn't rain. That was still better than most everywhere else
in the country so we didn't complain.
But it would soon get worse. That's where our fortuitous timing regarding
our reservation at Mustang Island came in.
On Monday (January 26), the last full day of our reservation at Fort Sam, we
woke up to fog and temperatures that didn't even reach 60°F.
A little bit of rain fell, but not nearly as much as the area needs. Jim looked
at the weather forecast for Mustang Island and was dismayed to see highs in the
low 60s and a slight chance of rain. What fun will that be? he thought.
I really wanted to go to the island so I asked him to look at the forecast for
the next few days in San Antonio (not that we could have extended our
reservation there). Hmm . . . even cooler and with a higher chance of
rain. He agreed we may as well leave as planned on Tuesday morning, but he
Then the evening news showed us that most of
the rest of the country was under a winter weather advisory. Rain, sleet,
and/or snow was predicted as far south as San Antonio on Tuesday afternoon.
Only far, far south Texas (like Corpus Christi and Mustang Island) appeared to
be below the line of nasty weather.
Suddenly Jim was more than happy to leave for
Mustang Island the next morning! Perspective.
We made those reservations months ago. Dumb luck!
TIME TO STOP GLOATING
The next morning we awoke to a very humid, overcast 65°F
in San Antonio. Freezing rain was predicted by late afternoon.
We left Fort Sam at 11 AM for the three-hour
drive to Corpus Christi and Mustang Island. It was sunny and in the mid-70s when we arrived.
Ha, ha! We escaped the cold and wet!!
Not exactly. We got to gloat for only a few
It was very humid and breezy along the beach
and at our campsite about a hundred feet behind the sand dunes. When we
came back from an hour of walking and running on the beach, our skin, clothes, and
glasses were covered in salt from the moist air. Cody's shiny black coat looked
We were asleep when our good-weather luck ran
out. About midnight the cold front from the north
hit the warm, humid air from the Gulf. What resulted
was hard rain, a temperature plummet to 39°F., and so much wind I couldn't sleep.
Earplugs pretty much drowned out the roar of the wind and rain, but
nothing could stop the rocking motion of the camper. It felt like sleeping on a
boat that was rocking in the ocean.
I got both nervous and nauseous enough to get
up and read for an hour before I was able to return to bed and sleep. Sleep was
fitful; I awoke several more times. All I could think of was Hurricane Ike,
the terrible storm that devastated Galveston Island less than five months earlier.
(It's easy to "awful-ize" during the night.)
When we got up the next morning the sun was out, the rain was gone, and our
camper was sitting in a pool of water. So were several others in our
campground. They all drained by mid-morning. It was still breezy all day but nothing
like the gale-force winds during the night. We never did hear how strong they
We both stayed in the camper most of the morning and worked on our computers
(we're so glad we brought two this trip), waiting like weenies until the
temperature warmed to the mid-50s to venture out on the beach that afternoon.
Despite the rough night on Tuesday, we still lucked out on the weather all
week. Freezing temperatures, sleet, and/or snow reached deep into the southern
states from coast to coast. The rest of our six days on the island were sunny,
warmer (60s), and just about perfect for any beach activities visitors wanted
to enjoy. I think the rest of the country warmed back to normal temperatures,
too. (Normal for late January, that is.)
Next entry: more photos and stories from Mustang Island
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil