Timing was off this morning, and I did not have a chance for sunrise photography on the beach like I was hoping. After a quick bite at Denny’s (before sunrise), I had to move along to Raymondville. My destination? The San Miguelito Ranch by 8:00am. I had made prior arrangements with Leticia, who ultimately put me in touch with her daughter, Lisa. I met her at the gate, where I joined her in the truck for the short drive (~4 miles) to the house. We went into the back yard and there they were: FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWLS (life bird #619). Five,in fact. They just sat there. At 6 ½” tall they are the second smallest in the North America and, as you might imagine, one of the most difficult to find due to their size and such limited range. It cost me only $30.00. Money well spent. I snapped a few photos and took off. I did not want to disturb them. Ultimately, however, they did not seem to care much. The Ranch, I’m happy to say, has begun to recognize that people like me will travel and pay to see birds and other wildlife. They are looking to expand their ecotourism opportunities.
After a quick break at a rest stop (where the marker says Zachary Taylor did the same thing under the same tree in 1846 as a General leading troops to Mexico), I headed off to Corpus Christi. Lunch was at Blackbeards where I had Blue Paddle, another fine beer from the New Belgium Brewing Company. While the beer was very heady and good,I probably need to re-evaluate it at a later date. What sort of dump gives you a plastic glass for a beer?
After lunch, I spent a few hours doing the self guided tour of the USS Lexington. For you WWII nuts, I’m sure you know the Lex, CV-2, is at the bottom of Coral Sea and has been there since 1942. This is CV-16, commissioned in 1943. Either way, it is very impressive. The ship has a self guided tour where you can go literally from top to bottom and stem to stern. The engine room, the medical quarters, the bridge, the flight deck, the ops room. A highlight was meeting Joe. He was volunteering on the bridge and actually served on the ship during WWII. It was an honor to meet him. While the airplanes on deck were mostly from the jet age, walking the tight corridors and climbing those ridiculous stairs was really something else.
Even though the tour route was clearly marked, it was very easy to get turned around. I soon found myself giving up on the thought of trying to figure out where I was (port side vs. starboard, for example). Its incredible to think that sailors were expected to not only know where they were, but find their way around in the dark, if needed. Or, in a worse case scenario, in the dark with the ship upside down. 42,000 tons of welded plates and miles of cable. Awesome.
My whole afternoon is now ahead of me. It was this point that my trip took a totally unplanned turn. I suddenly found myself with the urge to find Fulvous Whistling-Duck. I thought they were possible in the Valley, but apparently not this late in the season. I recalled from a book that I was thumbing through at Laguna Atascosa that they can be found in the fields outside of Katy, a suburb of Houston. With that tiny bit of info, and the urge to make it work, I shot off to the greater Houston area. I got a room for the night in Katy. Dinner, by the way, was at Landry’s. Angel hair pasta with shrimp, crab, and crayfish. A nice meal. A fine place.
Next to my hotel was a Kinko’s. I logged onto the internet there (I don’t have a laptop) to see what I could drum up. I had some places to hit in the morning.