Friday, January 30, 2009

Aransas Pass

South Texas Botanical Gardens
The weather said that it was going to be in the high 70's and sunny today so we decided to drive across Corpus Christi to the south side and tour the gardens. This gardens is more of what grows in this part of Texas, it's been very dry and the water levels were way down so it was mostly cactus and desert type plants, they also had a greenhouse with some orchids. After about two hours on the trails we called it a day.

Today Cathy decided that we should get up early and drive about an hour and a half over to a little town named Goliad so that's what we did and boy are we glad that we did.
We stopped at the Presidio (fort) La Bahia (on the bay, an unusual name for a place that is about 50 miles from the water), it was originally built in 1721 near Lavaca Bay, in 1726 it was moved inland and then moved again in 1749 to its present location.
The Presidio has a small museum which had so much information that we ended up spending about three and a half hours there, one of the things that the Presidio is famous for is the Goliad Massacre.

The massacre took place just a few weeks after the Battle of the Alamo, Texas troops under the command of Colonel Fannin were captured by Mexican troops after the Battle of Coleto and taken to the Presidio at Goliad. When Santa Anna heard that they were taken prisoner instead of being shot on site he issued an order that they all be executed immediately.

At sunrise on March 27, 1836,Palm Sunday,the unwounded Texans were formed into three groups and led out of the different side of the Presidio, they had been told that they were to gather fire wood. About a half mile from the Presidio the guards stopped the march and executed the prisoners, they then returned to the Presidio and executed about 40 of the wounded. After the execution of the wounded Colonel Fannin was taken to the center of the court yard and shot in the head. A total of 342 men had been killed this day, the bodies were burned and left were they fell, it wasn't until June that the bodies were gathered and buried in a common grave. The grave remained unmarked until 1858, when a Goliad merchant, placed a pile of rocks on what was believed to be the site, on June 4, 1938 a massive pink granite monument, was dedicated to the men killed that day and is located about 100 yards from the Presidio.

Between the Fannin Memorial and the Presidio is a statue of The Angel of Goliad, Senora Alavez, she was the traveling companion of Col. Telesforo Alavez and was responsible with saving the lives about 25 of the prisoners.

Just outside the Presidio is the house that General Ignacio SeguĂ­n Zaragoza was born in, it was his victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862 that inspired the people to overthrow the foreign rule of Emperor Maximilian and brought about the National holiday of Cinco De Mayo.

I told you there was a ton of history in this place.

Also located in the Presidio is Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, that has held continuous service since 1779, today mass is held every Sunday at 5 PM. It is one of the oldest churches in America, it also is one of the only buildings in existence that has its original "groin vaulted ceiling"(hard to explain) in place. The Stature of Our Lady of Loreto which is above the front door was sculpted by Lincoln Borglum, of Mount Rushmore fame.

Presidio La Bahia is owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria in Texas.

Time for lunch, lets see a small Texas town with the Courthouse located in the city square and right across the street from the courthouse is the Hanging Tree Restaurant, wonder where the name came from. After lunch we walked across the street and there was a monster oak tree and right in front of it is a plaque proclaiming it to be the Hanging Tree, it explained that back in the mid 1800's when they held court and found someone guilty and sentenced to hang, they just took them straight out to the tree and hung them.

And that was our day at the Presidio.

Texas State Aquarium
We were going to go to the aquarium yesterday but I was checking their hours on the Internet and noticed that it was dollar day, we figured that it might be a little crowded so we put it off till today. There was probably 100 to 150 people today which wasn't bad, I asked one of the guides how many they had on dollar day and it was 6400, glad we missed that mess.

The Aquarium is located right on the bay, it isn't to big but they have shows throughout the day that are very good. The first one we went to was the Dolphin show, three trainers each with their own dolphin, they show you how they train them to do the tricks. The first show they had them jumping, doing flips, racing around the pool

and posing for pictures, it's about a 20 minute show and well worth going to. I know it's an aquarium but the next show was the Birds of Flight Show, they had a Mexican Eagle, a few owls, turkey vulture and even a type of bob cat from South America that could from a standing start leap about 6 feet straight up and catch a bird in flight. Other shows included the otters, sea turtles and gators we decided to go see the dolphin again and it turned out to be a different show. There were only a few inside exhibits of fish and the rest were snakes, frogs and such, the big fish tank had a diver inside feeding the fish and stingrays which was kind of neat to watch. They have to feed them restaurant quality fish to make sure they don't get an type of bacteria introduced into the aquarium.

Since this is suppose to be one of the best birding areas in the country and the only birds that we have seen so far are the pelicans down at the marina's fish cleaning station we figured we would drive up to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This is where the Whooping Cranes come down from Canada to spend the winter, this bird is on the endanger list and a lot of people come down here to see then. The refuge has a 35 miles loop that runs along the bay and then through the woods and prairie. About three hours of driving and hiking around the refuge and we did not see one single bird, not one, we saw a heard of wild pigs from about a hundred yards and that was it. The biggest excitement of the day was on the way home an old couple in a pickup were driving about a half mile ahead of us when all of a sudden they went left of center and nailed a girl in her SUV coming the other way. Fortunately he hit her in the drives side front wheel and not head on, so as we're slowing down she's in our lane and spun three full 360's before coming to a stop on the shoulder of the road about a hundred yards in front of us. We stopped and she was out of the car and shaking like a leaf, but basically uninjured. She didn't really know where she was because she was only in town for her grandmothers funeral yesterday. It took about 30 minutes for the cops to figure out where we were and when they showed up it was a detective in an unmarked car, the cop told us that the reason they sent him was that all the uniform cops were helping the fire department put out a monster fire, he pointed of in the distance and the ski was blacked out by smoke about 20 miles away, we thought that it was a controlled burn at one of the ranches that got out of control, but he told us nope, it was a residential neighborhood. We stuck around for another 30 minutes or so until her folks showed up then hit the road again, avoiding old winter Texans.

OK, one last try to see some birds, have you ever heard of the Welder Wildlife Foundation, of course, this is a research and educational foundation that works in wildlife conservation and management. It's located on the Welder Ranch which covers close to 8000 acres, they take about 12 students a year who are working on their PHD in this field, they house them on site, give them a small pay and medical while they are studying here. They give tours of the ranch and one of the students loads you into the van and drives you around the ranch for about two hours showing you the various wildlife and telling you about the different studies that they are doing. It's free but there is one catch to taking the tour, the front gate is only open to the public on Thursdays and only between the hours of 2:55PM and 3:00PM, yep 5 minutes a week, we got there about 45 minutes early and were the third car in line, only one more car showed up. We had nine people and the guide was very excited to have such a large group, she said normally they only have 2 to 4 people per tour. During the two hour tour we saw 600 trillion dear and one red tailed hawk sitting on a fence post like a statue. So much for the birding capitol of the south.

Cathy stayed home today and I went to the visit the Lexington Aircraft Carrier which is now a museum and anchored at Corpus Christi. I put 4 hours worth of quarters in the parking meter and made it back with 5 minutes to spare.
There are five different tours and I took them all and still only covered about 20 percent of the ship.

Got to go from the conning tower to the engine room, plus walk the deck, the wind was gusting up to about 25 MPH so a lot of guest were chasing their hats as soon as they stepped out on the flight deck.

The rising sun marks the spot where a Kamikaze's plane hit the ship during a battle in the Pacific, there are two open decks there that were filled with sailors, 50 were killed and 150 were injured.
There were two Lexington's during WWII, the first was sunk, when the workers in the ship yard that were almost done with another carrier heard about it they petitioned the the Secretary of the Navy to rename the ship they were finishing the Lexington.

This is where the sailors got to sleep, those bunks are stacked three high and very little head room.

This is the Captain's Sleeping quarters.

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