We left New Braunfels with an expected three hour drive that would take an additional hour due to construction related congestion as we passed through San Antonio. But we arrived safely at Stephanie and Lee’s place, where I’d spent two nights last fall while Joanna settled her mother, so it was nice that she could join me with these good friends we met in Charlotte.
Back then Stephanie worked in the Leadership Office and with no upward path available, did as many others do in Student Affairs and moved for greater opportunities, first to Houston (we visited them there in 2015 https://3jmann.com/2015/04/01/holiday-2014-the-long-drive-east-part-one/) and then to Lee’s hometown of Corpus Christi where she is now the Director, Student Activities Strategic Engagement & Initiatives. Lee, who got his graduate degree while they lived in Charlotte is now an Adjunct Faculty member in Life Sciences.
We also visited in 2016 (https://3jmann.com/2016/04/03/south-east-spring-swing-part-three/) and with good friends like this, it is as if no time has passed at all. This time around that first night, Lee cooked for us, a delightful salmon ceviche and shrimp Alfredo, the perfect ending to what had been a long day of cycling, driving and of course, upon our arrival, a bit of drinking.
The next day we set out for our big activity of the day, a visit to the Texas State Aquarium located around the bay and north of Stephanie and Lee’s house. A nonprofit, it aims to promote environmental conservation and rehabilitation of the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico. After more than 20 years of fundraising, planning, and building, it opened its first exhibit to the public in 1990.
In 1993 it became a federally permitted animal rehabilitation facility, and in 1995, it was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In 2017, expansion doubled its size and added new exhibits, including a 400,000-gallon shark exhibit, a jungle aviary, and a 4D theater. It is the largest aquarium in Texas, and one of the largest aquaria in the United States.
There was a line at the ticket counter when we arrived, but then again it was a Saturday morning and so to be expected. It was a foreshadowing of the waiting we would do once inside in order to enjoy the displays in what would be a crowded venue. We started with one of the larger exhibit areas, Caribbean Jungle which features flamingos, free-flying birds, a two-toed sloth, and other species in a naturally lit jungle habitat and the connected H-E-B Caribbean Sea, a 400,000-gallon aquatic exhibit containing sandbar sharks, stingrays, and other species.
And so it would go for the better part of three hours as we took in the Coral Reef, Dolphin Bay (400,000 gallon saltwater exhibit housing four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins), Eagle Pass (All of the raptors featured in this exhibit were rehabilitated at the Texas State Aquarium), Tentacles (jellyfish and sea nettles), Islands of Steel (This area recreates the habitat formed around an oil platform), Stingray Lagoon (Visitors can touch Atlantic and cownose stingrays), and Tortuga Cay (rehabilitated and un-releasable sea turtles).
After touring all of the exhibits and dealing with the crowded conditions, we were all ready for some liquid refreshment and so a stop at nearby Nueces Brewing was called for. Stephanie, Lee, and I killed the better part of an afternoon here last fall (https://3jmann.com/2022/02/27/east-coast-fall-2021-corpus-christi-texas/) , and it was nice to return to the place, particularly so I could get their Belgian influenced Trippy Tripel. As we were all a little hungry, we split an order of the Brisket Nachos which disappeared in record time.
We returned to the house and hung out for a few hours before heading out again for a highlight of the day, a stop at Aerodrome Distilling. Located adjacent the back side of the Naval Air Station, it is the brainchild of a 26-year US Navy veteran and offers a wide range of distilled spirits. I would consume an Old Fashioned (OK, I drank two) made with a unique twist, substituting house brewed maple syrup for the usual muddled sugar or sugar cube. Joanna would enjoy a Deuce, made with the house Gin, Genepi (a traditional herbal liqueur or aperitif popularized in the Alpine regions of Europe), maple syrup, and lemon Juice.
As the evening progressed, we realized that food was in order and so we made our way to Grub Kitchen + Bar, the hamburger joint I’d enjoyed during my last visit here (https://3jmann.com/2022/02/27/east-coast-fall-2021-corpus-christi-texas/). As with the last time, we sat at the bar enabling us to chat with the bartender as we perused the menu. One category there that I hadn’t noticed the last time but stood out for one of our party was that of Spiked Shakes, that is creamy concoctions loaded with booze.
It will come as no surprise to our faithful readers that the party member in question was Joanna, who would order a Bourbon and Caramel shake to go along with her Voodoo Mushroom burger (with Absinthe sautéed green onions and mushrooms, Swiss and Tabasco Mayo). I would opt for yet another Old Fashioned and the Front Porch burger with sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayo, catsup, and secret sauce. This visit was as satisfying as the first, quality beef cooked perfectly and mounted to a bun that holds up throughout the meal, not falling apart as so many are want to.
The next day, our last, would be much slower placed as we would be heading out to Lee’s parents place outside the small town of Sandia. Both worked at the university and Dad Roy is an emeritus adjunct faculty member having earned a PhD from Texas A and M University, College Station in Botany specializing in the field of Phycology. As Director of the Laguna Madre Field Station outlet of the university, his research interests are Bio-Fuel from Algae and distribution and ecology of seaweed and seagrass communities along the Texas coast and Mexico, Coral Reefs of the Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.
The house sits on 15 acres and is surrounded by local plants; one feels shut off from the rest of the world, a welcome change for us after a whirlwind couple of weeks. We sat around all afternoon exchanging stories and making a number of visits to the keg of Shiner Bock housed in a storeroom next to the house. It was a very fine way to spend an Easter Sunday.
Monday morning we left for San Antonio, first stopping for breakfast with Stephanie and Lee at El Gallo de Jalisco (the rooster of Jalisco), a place we had lunch at a few visits back. Joanna ordered the Chilaquiles and I had a version of Machaca, both good sized portions and nicely prepared.
It would be all the fuel we would need to get us up the road to Jessie and Dave’s place and best of all, at a very reasonable cost of about $10 apiece.
Texas State Aquarium: https://www.texasstateaquarium.org/
Nueces Brewing: https://www.nuecesbrewing.com/
Aerodrome Distilling: https://www.aerodistilling.com/
Grub Kitchen + Bar: https://grubkitchenandbar.com/?utm_source=GMB&utm_medium=Yext
El Gallo de Jalisco: https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-gallo-de-jalisco-corpus-christi