FROM HAIKU, MAUI
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, Apr 29 - On my first day in Corpus Christi, trying to get over the jet lag from a 4,500-mile trip, I took a long walk in Elizabeth Mom's neighborhood.
Check out that palm in the left shot, completely surrounded by a neatly trimmed thick hedge. The tree must be between 30 and 40 feet tall. How do you suppose do they trim the palm and the hedge that high?
Once I reached the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, the first thing that struck me was the color of the ocean. It was yellowish green, like a river, nothing like the deep blue and turquoise of Hawaiian shores. But there was something that was the same. A lone windsurfer was enjoying himself in strong southeasterly breezes (25-30 mph).
Corpus is also the home of the Whataburger, I learned from Elizabeth one night after the funeral as we were driving around town. "You have to try a Whataburger," Elizabeth told me. So we stopped at one. The business was founded in 1950. Take a look at the prices back then (middle). When we walked in, Elizabeth ordered one burger for us to share. "I'd like that 35-cent one," she said, pointing to the mock billboard outside. "You wish," the clerk replied, as we all laughed. It was $1.99. "Not bad after 61 years of inflation," I noted.
After the funeral, the dinner reception was held at the "Las Palmas" Mexican restaurant. Take a look above at the colorful walls and beautiful sombreros.
San Antonio and Chicken Fried Steak
When we were sailing in Kauai-Niihau last weekend, we met some newlyweds from San Antonio (actually only the bride was from there, the groom was from England). Elizabeth and the bride immediately connected and started to reminisce about some common sights and landmarks. One of them was a restaurant in Gruene, Texas, about a third of the way from San Antonio to Austin. "They make the best chicken fried steak in the world," Elizabeth exclaimed.
So on Monday, May 2, after discharging all our funeral-related obligations, she suggested we go for a drive from Corpus to Gruene. "Sounds like fun," I said. And off we went about 8:30AM.
Now, for those of you not familiar with southwest Texas geography, Corpus Christi-San Antonio is about a 2.5 hr drive (left map). Add another hour or so to go from there to Gruene (right map).
"This had better be an 'out of this world' chicken fried steak," I said to Elizabeth on the drive over, and later to her two sons who joined us in San Antonio. "I have never driven to and from any meal for six-hours."
Actually, it turned out even longer than that. Elizabeth's sons were staying with a relative near Boerne, northwest of San Antonio, Which is about as far northwest and Gruene is northeast of San Antonio. After lunch, we dropped them off there, before returning to San Antonio, and later Corpus. So this chicken fried steak lunch ended up being an all-day driving affair.
The best part of the luncheon was the charming town of Gruene. It was like stepping back into the 19th century. Elizabeth also told me that the town became famous because John Travolta danced in its dance hall (two right shots) in the movie "Michael." So we did it, too. :-) Later, we found out at a local antique store that is supposedly the oldest dance hall in Texas. Judging by its creaky wooden floors, I am inclined to believe it. :-)
Right next to the dance hall is the entrance to Gristmill, the name of that restaurant famous for chicken fried steaks. As I said, it is a charming place located next to a river that once provided the power to a cotton gin mill.
The meal was good. But what made it worth the six-hour drive was the atmosphere. And the company at our lunch table.
After we dropped off Elizabeth's two sons, we returned to San Antonio and went to its Hispanic Marketplace.
The market was unusually quiet after a weeklong San Antonio spring fiesta. Which actually made it easier to browse and shop. As you can see from the middle shot, Elizabeth got himself a navy blue Texan hat. And then we went to Mi Tierra, a famous San Antonio Texas restaurant where we bought some sweet breads and chocolate candy (two right shots). After that, we headed back to Corpus Christi where we arrived about 12 hours after we left it earlier this morning.
Heavenly Welcome Home
HAIKU, Maui, May 3 - I got back home in late afternoon today after spending about nine hours in the air, and two hours in airport terminals. Considering the distance - 4,500 miles from Corpus to Maui via Dallas - the trip was longer than most trips from the East Coast to Europe. Yet it did not seem as tiring. The flights were comfortable and on time. Little did I know that a heavenly welcome home awaited me at the Rainbow Shower.
After walking around the property including the gulch, the ground was parched and the grass turning brown. Everything looked extremely dry, like the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Even up around the house, the hydrangea had dried up and died. And the mums flowers are looking rather sad, too.
So when I was at the Apucheta, I asked the Creator and Pachamama for some rain. Believe it or not, even before I completed my Royal Palm Trail loop, I felt a few drops of rain on my head.
"Thank you for your blessings," I said. "Every drop counts. But we would really appreciate some sustained rain."
About 10 minutes later, a dark cloud appeared from the northeast. And then it started to rain. It was a real rain shower, not just a few drops like before. So I thanked the Creator and Pachamama and asked them to keep it coming. Every little bit helps, even this "welcome home"-rain shower that lasted only about 15 minutes but did soak the ground.
The rain showers continued on and off during the evening. The rain has just stopped now (11PM), as I am writing these lines. And the resumed...
It was a heavenly welcome home. And most welcome... by the plants and animals around here. Well, the people, too. Except maybe the surfers. :-)