As a wedding present, we were given tickets by my father-in-law’s best friend, who at the time, was the vice president of Southwest Airlines. The tickets were to a little place on the Texas coast called Port Aransas-a family friendly town on Mustang Island. This little trip began our love affair, however, it became dubbed as the vacation from hell, as it was plagued with mistakes and incidents that threatened to sabotage our good time.
First rattle out of the box was seeing David’s nervousness at being on an airplane, something he abhors. Back then, smoking was allowed, and he must have smoked a half a pack of Marlboros on the short 45 minute flight to our destination-Corpus Christi. From there, we had to try to rent a car to get to the island. This was our first trip, so we had no knowledge of the amenities, hotels, condos, or anything about the structure of the town, so we were essentially “going in blind”. His dad had given him his credit card so that we could rent a car, however, since his name was Robert Smyth, the rental place would not let him. They did not take cash, and we had no other credit cards at the time. So we were left at the mercy of a shuttle service in the form of a van they touted as a “limo” and that cost us $45 to get to the island.
This guy had no idea where to take us, dropping us at the first group of condos and hotels he thought were a good distance from town. Turned out to be 11 miles from the center of most everywhere we wanted to be. Knowing nothing ourselves, we went with it, and Dave reluctantly went to check us in to the Executive Keys…a small, but expensive condo close to the beach. Our first night on the island was spent eating sandwiches we made from the small sack of groceries obtained at the convenience store a few blocks down the road. It was all there was on that end of town, so we grinned and he promised we would find a way to get closer in the next day.
I believe it was me who came up with the brilliant idea to rent bicycles and attempt to ride them into town, not knowing the distance. Oh, did I fail to mention I was 5 months pregnant at the time? Sorry. Yeah, so you can imagine how funny that picture was, David and I, on bicycles, our “luggage” hanging from the handlebars-along with our groceries, trying to peddle down 11th street in the 90 degree weather, and me being five months pregnant. What a site to behold! Fortunately, a man in a pickup truck took pity on us and picked us up. He deposited us in front of what became our favorite restaurant, for a time anyway, before the prices shot up and the crawfish grew increasingly smaller by the year, it was called The Crazy Cajun. We decided to grab some lunch before heading off to find more suitable lodging for the remainder of the trip.
That first experience with what is known as a crawfish boil was to die for, and set the bar high as what to expect when eating crawfish from then on. Nothing has really compared since, although Floyd’s in Beaumont came the closest in my mind. Anyway, after lunch it was time to peddle our tired butts to somewhere more affordable to sleep, and memory fails what street it was on, but it was pretty far away from the beach. Still, we had to go with it, cheap motel or not. We were newlyweds and pretty broke at the time. Luckily, we were energetic and excited to be there, so we then decided to explore the island, as far as out Lamberfeeties would take us anyway.
Although I could not find one single picture from that ill-fated trip, I added a couple from our wedding ceremony which was only two months before. David has a better memory for the facts than me, and could have added a few details about the remainder of the trip that I can’t seem to wrangle from my addled brain. Besides, we have been back so many times over the 31 years of our marriage, one trip’s memories combine with others, and since no one thought to put words on the backs of the photos, I only have the year that the trip was taken to go by.
We started making annual trips as often as we could afford, we went back as soon as the kids were old enough to enjoy it and they have such fond memories, they consider it home away from home. Josh has not been back as often as Chris, due to the fact that he’s been gone for two years, however we have plenty of proof in pictures, that they shared lots of fun times together as a family in our favorite vacation spot. Pictures that show them playing in the ocean, visiting gift shops, museums and favorite places to eat, many different condos flying kites and building sand castles, or just being buried in the sand. We usually included a trip to Corpus, 30 minutes away, so the kids could experience aquariums and see the ship their granddad served on while he was in the service.
Over the 31 years of off and on visits, we’ve had many highs and lows, mostly good times and every time we approach the ferry to cross from Aransas Pass into Port Aransas, we get the same nostalgic feeling that ahhhhh, we’re home. The smell of the salt water, anticipation of what our chosen place of lodging will look like, palm trees gently swaying in the warm coastal breezes, knowing we will soon be relaxing with our toes in the sand and a drink in our hand, all serve to make this place our favorite, a fact that hasn’t changed since the very first trip- a comedy of errors that became the best memories of all.