Tuesday, July 04, 2006


For today's activity we drove 2 hours down Highway 288 and spent the afternoon on Quintana Island. This is a bit of land separated by a ship channel from the city of Freeport, and is something of a poor man's Galveston. In fact, on the map Quintana is almost a continuation of Galveston, but it's culture and infrastructure are much more run down and primitive. The oil industry surrounds you right up to the beach. Toward the end of our visit we watched the mighty CV Stealth oil tanker lumber by us and proceed out to sea. On the horizon were two or three oil platforms.

The beach and county park are rather nice, though. Padre Island is still my favorite, but Quintana was quiet, undeveloped, and fairly empty. There's a fishing pier down the beach to your right and one of the jetties that make up the ship channel far down on your left. Far, but I walked to both while we were there.

The water was roiled and opaque, probably due to the storms that paraded through today. But it wasn't stinky and sticky like Galveston's. Instead it smelled of fish and salt, the way it's supposed to. The main difference with Padre Island was the way this beach was choked with seaweed. Tons and tons of it. If anything makes Padre smell a bit sweeter by comparison, it was the smell emanating from this seaweed.

The son and daughter were inseparable, digging in the sand, walking to the pier, and wading out into the surf, which promptly smacked them both down and drenched them solidly. They really had a wonderful time. My wife and I walked around the beach for a while, then retreated to one of those thatched roof picnic tables they have on gulf beaches. She retrieved the cooler, but by now had only Kool-Aid in it; the sandwiches she'd made for us were long gone.

The park office had red and blue flags up: Blue for nasty animals like jellyfish, and red for dangerous sea conditions including rip-tides. The Son and Daughter are smart, creative, independent, spirited, but when it comes to good judgment...

They were walking on the beach when I came back from the jetty and were already soaked and sandy. By the time I made it back to the tropical picnic table, Son and Daughter were back in the surf. I'd told them all about the red flag already, so I sat there watching them. Wading deeper. "Surely," I said to myself, "surely they won't just keep going."

Finally, when they were up to their shoulders in the boiling surf I figured I'd better go and remind them what the red flag meant again. It would have been awkward explaining to the police why I let my kids go play in plainly marked rip-tides with no supervision. The Daughter saw me wading out in my tennis shoes and blue jeans and headed for shore. My intense Son took a bit longer but finally noticed me too. They stayed much closer to the shore after that, and eventually returned to land so they could walk to the pier.

By the time 6:00 rolled around, we were starving. It would be 2 hours back to Conglomeration and who knew how long after that to fix dinner, something we were all too tired to do once we got home anyway. So the Wife walked to the pier to retrieve our wandering children while I put our paraphernalia away in the van.

Before we left, Son and I took a trip to a gun emplacement from World War II. It was a genuine Howitzer from 1945 on a carriage from '42 according to labels on them. Just one. I don't know if that's all we had to protect this particular part of the Texas coast, but when you stand there looking out over the beach it seems exceedingly small.

That's what a I love about going to the ocean, particularly empty, non-built up beaches: It makes you realize you're small. It's gargantuan and could easily swollow me up. The city doesn't do that for me, and while prairie and farmland are comfortable, they don't either. Mountains and deserts come closest, but standing all alone next to the ocean tells me something about what I really am.

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