Sunday, 24 August 2014

Back from a short trip to the beach....

A more or less current picture of the beach,
surf, and development of South Padre Island 
     We are just back from a "Day at the Beach" with daughter, son-in-law, and our two granddaughters.  They have an arrangement for/with a condo on the beach...or at least only 100 yards from the water's edge, at a preferred location on South Padre Island, Texas.

     It was amazing to see the width and breadth of the economic activity, the full restaurants, and the full saloons, and the full attractions and services.   Our granddaughters took a four-horse convoy for a beach ride, totalling an hour and a half, for considerable distance along that scene to the left, essentially, albeit with a few more people.   One granddaughter's horse was named "Chum Bucket", which was a bit of an unfortunate thing, when of course her grandfather had to inform her that her horse would have to be ground up into small pieces of meat to throw into the water in order to attract sharks for the shark fishermen;   chum is a form of bait, and Chum Bucket was a horse, know....things have to go on.  Granddaughter number one was not so impressed with that explanation, as one might imagine.    We did confess shortly after telling her such things that Chum Bucket was not going to be ground into fish food.
     Besides the generally excellent food and beverage service, and the subdued but lively Island activity pace, the think that shocked this observer was that common first-class hotels, whether chains or independents were charging  240 to 360 dollars per night for accommodation for two people in a fairly dull room with minimal appointments and almost no frill.   And rooms were scarce. 

     For what passes as de luxe level availabilities, the rate was around 390 to 600 dollars per night.  We are not saying that, "Well, back in 1963 you could have any hotel on the beach side for 9 dollars per night!"   To begin with, there were scant rooms of any kind or level on the Island at that time.    And we recognise that in 1963, our currency still had nominal backing by gold and silver.  We also know that the Island has been essentially semi-occupied by the very wealthy of San Pedro de Garza Garcia, Monterrey, and San Nicolas de los Garza people from the Monterrey Metroplex in Mexico
.  These are contiguous cities are replete with  old-money millionaires and some billionaires, and with huge extreme upper-middle class professionals and proprietor cohorts descended during the last century from what little existed of the old Mexican middle-class of ancient days.  This cohort of the population of the three named cities, Monterrey  being the largest with 2,000,000, San Pedro being the richest with about 600,000 and San Nicolas being almost totally middle and upper-middle class and numbering now nearly 1,000,000 people, back in the late 1960s,  began to stake out South Padre Island of Texas as their Summer, Easter Break, and long-weekend official playground.  Investment followed.   Condos, hotels, and bar & grill, and  other investments were made by these folks.
     While these folks are very reticent and private, you will see them during any of your visits, in good numbers on the Island and they will interact, surprisingly, with a charming form of civility and even  warmth and enthusiasm.   They are relatively at home among us and we among them.  They carry their own weight and then some, leaving the woodpile higher than they found it in many ways.
     I do not believe they are the cause of the high prices.  It is simply that the demand is there to charge the prices being charged at the hotels.    There is also considerable sport-fishing and maritime sight-seeing tourism that cranks the people in and out of the venue.  And then, being situtated at the very tip end of the Republic of Texas, it tends to have Winters that much milder than one might find in....say ....Alberta or Up-state New York or say, North Dakota or Minnesota.   A once booming Spring Bring business has gradually receded to minor league debauchery and declining numbers during the past three or four years, thankfully. 
The Queen Isabella Causeway
connecting South Padre Island to Port Isabel
and the rest of the Republic of Texas - 3 miles
across the fabled Laguna Madre Bay complex

The Boss and I made reservations some time back and wound up staying in a place on the "mainland",  a town named Port Isabel.   It was and is, depending upon the year, home to the largest shrimping fleet in the United States.  The seemingly unlikely place where we stayed in mid-town Port Isabel is named the Southwind Hotel.   Across from the street from the  small hotel is the city's oldest cemetery.  The unapologetic peculiar layout, taking advantage of an irregular lot, is on two stories, with a pool, a nice dog in the office, a huge cat at the front door, demanding attention upon the arrival of new arrivals....roughish, semi-finished to well finished exterior, built for hurricanes....lead one to his/her room that is excellent for all purposes.  Very clean, small appointments like fluffy towels, excellent mattresses and pillows, ceiling fans, powerful air-conditioners, convenient location to about 20 restaurants of note and the longest fishing pier on the Texas Coast, giving ac
The historic and intermittently employed
Port Isabel Lighthouse, about three blocks
from our little hotel on the Bay in, you
guessed it, Port Isabel.
cess to the interminably rich bounty of the Laguna Madre Bay complex's myriad of edible game fish.   Moreover, a lazy or industrious angler can walk 200 feet with his bait and tackle in hand from the hotel to very rich bank and wade fishing in that Bay and have a good shot at redfish, trout, and flounder whenever the moon stage and tidal rhythms permit, which can be frequently.   All of this and the price was one-third to one-fourth the price of a not quite as good room on the Island.   Our on-line booking was easy and instantly recognised upon arrival.  The owner and his lady were extremely and genuinely pleased with our presence and even the chambermaid crew was accommodative and their work somewhere between excellent and perfect.

     In any regard, it was a wonderful time, full of adventures, fireworks displays, sun, surf, waves, and great meals.   We were having a great time, and we wish you could have been there.  More comments follow to-night and to-morrow.  There will be a bit of history about the beginning of the War between the United States and Mexico.  There will also be a bit of a story about a new unit in the Mexican panoply of crime-fighting that gives us even more certainty of ultimate victory in the restoration of reasonable expectation of security in business and social matters.

El Gringo Viejo