Friday, June 29, 2007

Bongo Dogs

I had to laugh because some people thought the Bongo Dogs were a species of critter like the mysterious Padre Island Chipmunk. "How do they taste?" asked one commenter. As shown in the photo with four of the nine Bongo Dogs, these are real nice people, not "the other white meat."

And wow they're be playing in town again on July 3rd at Wanna and 7th at Palm Street.

Cathy on the trombone on the left, now she is cool because she's got at least three toads to play. I always play a toad when the Bongo Dogs are in town. Again, not what you think! Here's a nifty small one and yes you can buy a huge toad online.

Umm, they croak like a toad and sometimes are called "frogs" because we're having too much fun to tell the difference. Some of the Bongo Dogs songs just beg for a toad, I tell ya. There are many kinds of similar percussion instruments including beans and hollow tubes with ridges on them that produce a similar sound - what you do is rub the ridges.

Anyway, come on down and enjoy the Bongo Dogs. They're all music teachers, studio musicians, or both. They always play impromtu and really can wing it. And Cathy lets me play her toad!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Chipmunks Spotted!

This little honey was found down by Isla Blanca Park after dark and boy is Alvin here in trouble! We now think it is more of an endangering species than an endangered one. Watch these little mischievious rascals.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

SPI Chipmunk Dilemma

OK, I asked around town and yes there are chipmunk-looking critters that live in the wild part of Isla Blanca Park. Being inquisitive, I checked several authoritative resources regarding the "rodents of Texas." All locals said they had a racing stripe and looked like a chipmunk but you only saw them dashing across the road or scurrying off somewhere.

I checked out the Gray-Footed Chipmunk but that mostly lives in the pine forests of west Texas and in New Mexico and such, and didn't look right.

But I did find the Texas Antelope Squirrel, which is shown in the above picture. Looks rather chipmunky, maybe? Nice racing stripe? Anyway, they like desert environments but are thought to be closer to Val Verde and other West Texas counties. Who knows?

If you do know, well stop holding back. If we need to save the Texas Antelope Squirrel I want to know I've got the right name. See you in the dunes!

Monday, June 25, 2007

More on Beach Erosion

Today I did a wee bit of research on the coastal barrier islands of Texas and came up with some rather bizarre stuff. Not being a scientific journal with anything to prove, feel free to Google the subjects yourself.

First stop was a very large development in West Galveston which is being protested because the developers plan to flatten down the dunes and a major dune ridge; three geologists testified against the project but apparently Galveston leaders are more interested in more tax base and … well more tax base. The geologists warned that flattening the island and creating marinas on the bayside would create “blow through” zones in a hurricane. Sounds vaguely familiar.

Second stop was a 1993 Shiner-Mosely document that said there’s plenty of marine sand everywhere near SPI, based on a literature search, core-samples, and all kinds of high tech stuff. Wow, aren’t we paying the same company $600,000 today to say the same damn thing? Fourteen years and they’re still sucking the hind teat!

Third stop were some geology studies done by various federal agencies who characterized our Island as being in the “destructive” phase. The jetties, currents, subsidence, and sea level rise means the beach will disappear no matter what we do; a case study on Hurricane Allen of 1980 was most informative.

I could NOT find a single peer-reviewed study of any man-made devices that would slow or stop beach erosion in the US. This includes jetties, groins, geo-tubes, offshore artificial reefs, or even continuous dune systems. My conclusion is that none of them work, and if we want a back we’ll have to pony up about a million bucks a year just to keep what we have, such as by dredge renourishment.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nice Rainy Day

I was totally ready for a nice day of thunder and rain today, and summer can be so darned boring in the Dog Days.

I counted the real estate for-sale signs and there's 4 on Oleander and six in the neighborhood, but those properties already on the market have been sitting for at least six months. Weird, they used to flip like a deranged breakfast cook on pancakes!

Bongo-Dogs tonight if the rain stays away. There's a big one down in Mexico but so far it's stayed away.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Let's Go Fishing!

I don't get to fish as much as I like but these puppies here are a true passion. Today was fix & mend day for rods and reels, including some new guides and some reel work. So I was doing some final epoxy glue work outside and was impressed enough to take a picture. All are spinning rigs:
  • On the left, the medium-heavy pole for offshore and heavy surf lures, braided line 60#
  • My new 7'6" hi-tech rod with in a medium-light configuration and a new Shimano
  • The light action set-up meant for the bay and some surf - a redfish rig
  • An ultra-light rig meant for no more than 6 pound test line - a speckled trout rig
Lot's of folks spend thousands on their fishing habit but I'm right proud of my four sticks here. I have a garage full of old fishing junk but these are my babies.

Oh, and behind the rods is my wife's new boy-toy, a brand new VW with a ragtop.

See ya on the water.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Update on Hurricane Season

Dr Jeff Masters, inventor of Weather Underground, writes in his latest blog that the second half of June will be very quiet. This is good news to the extent that SPI sees more tropical storms in the early season than later, such a August and September. In those latter months, hurricanes develop in disturbances off the African coast.

Early season is dominated by cold fronts that become stationary in the Gulf of Mexico. That is not happening, and wind sheer is quite high - meaning that any cyclones would easily get ripped apart. So far this year, the season was characterized by about four extra-tropical cyclones that developed over Cuba, the Bahamas, and South Carolina.

So far we've been lucky because this is our prime time for hurricanes in lower Texas. Two years ago Emily came in on July 8, so when we get past mid-July we're pretty much out of the window of opportunity. However, no telling about wave damage to our beaches, which was severe even with a whimpy sub-tropical named Barry on June 1. That storm was over 1,000 away and developed waves that went clean up to the dunes on June 3.

Knock on wood, bruddas and sistas!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

South Padre Island: A Primer

Mermaid courtesy of Sandy Feet

After reviewing where my traffic is coming from I found out that a whole bunch comes from places where I don’t have friends, such as Europe and Canada. If you read this blog you might think we’re headed for some kind of disaster! No way, South Padre Island makes for an incredible vacation experience and for the few like me, you might fall in love and want to stay here forever.

Sure, many people are now booking trips in cooler destinations such as Maine, Minnesota, and coastal West Coast for a summer trip. It can get 100 degrees F in Texas in the summer but South Padre is usually a dozen degrees cooler thanks to a sea breeze blowing over 80-degree water. If cooler is better, October and November is the slow season here but we also have the fall bird migration and possibly the best weather of the year then – plus all the rental rates are lower. In December the “Winter Texans” show up with a large contingency from Canada and the upper Mid-West.

But what’s there to do here? The fishing and birding is nothing short of spectacular, and there are loads of opportunities such as to actually feed giant sea turtles in captivity. The surfing is great spring and fall, punctuated by an occasional tropical storm in the summer. Yours truly here wrote that the body surfing and body boarding is probably the best anywhere, since the sandbars extend so far into the Gulf of Mexico.

What I do is surf when the waves are big and fish the surf when the waves are small. This is quite cheap and very fun, everything from small whiting to tarpon and large shark right here (no worries, no nasty shark incidents lately). On the bayside you might want the services of a guide to locate sea trout, redfish, or the mysterious snook; most half-day charters are $300 USD for 2-3 people for a half a day.

But wait there are quite economical excursions to view the bay dolphins, which are a different species from the ocean dolphins. Many have names and one named “Mikey” is a legendary fish stealer around the charter boats. Others excursions such as “Fins to Feathers” do much more personal trips for dolphin and professional birding; former President Jimmy Carter took this service and enjoyed it immensely.

Mexico: our area is the eastern gateway to Mexico. Passport and visa regulations seem to be in a state of flux, but my wife just loved her “girl trip” into interior Mexico on one of those huge touring buses. Sanborne Travel is highly recommended. They take very good care of you and it is completely safe – but as a word to the wise, do not eat the fresh goat cheese unless you know you can handle it. Otherwise, a walk across to Garcia’s over the bridge into Matamoros can be quite memorable.

The lower Rio Grand Valley also boasts tens of thousands of acres of nature preserves, many accessible and within and hour or two of South Padre Island. For those who rented a sports utility truck with big tires or four-wheel drive, you can drive over 20 miles of beach all the way to the Mansfield Cut, a pass that separates north from south Padre Island. The naked beach, if you are so inclined, is about 10 miles north of the last beach access headed north.

What do we locals do? We always have some madness happening like a fundraiser or a Saturday night at the only beachside club called Wanna-Wanna, with the jazzy horn band called the Bongo Dogs or a Jimmy Buffet band called the Beach Bums. Every once in a while we find some construction wood and driftwood and head out to the north end of the beach (outside Town limits) for a bonfire on the beach, which can be quite satisfying especially with a moon. Otherwise we locals are frantically trying to make money because you don’t make any in the off-season.

Oh, I forgot to mention building sand castles – we have several world champion sand sculptors right here on our island. The “will you marry me?” design is very popular.

Suggestion: book trips like Tuesday to Tuesday, mid-week. The reason is the weekends are be hectic during the peak summer season and we all stock up for the weekend and cook at home then to avoid the maddening crowds. Days during the middle of the week can be fantastic, with lots of “elbow room.”

No, it’s not the Bahamas or Hawaii, but it is a unique experience if your expectations are middling, and if the travel costs are reasonable. We’ve been to both hallowed destinations and we still live here, right here on South Padre Island. Come on down, as we say in Texas.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Global Warming Religion

I’ve been following the topic of global warming for about a decade now and it amazes me how it almost seems to have evolved into a religion. I respect all value systems and religions and stuff but honestly, some aspects of commercialized global warming are downright alarming. Some websites like will even trade you some credits for driving that SUV or any vehicle you have. Some plant trees to offset your emissions, home, car, or business. It’s a huge industry not unlike those mega-churches.

The idea that one could measure emissions in one location, like here in Texas, and then offset it by growing a seedling in some far-fetched country such as Surinam is almost surreal and makes absolutely zero mathematical sense. I wish I could remember the story but one writer compared that kind of thing to the practice of paying money to get absolved of some sin – it makes everyone feel so much better, but it didn’t do a damn thing. It was a Medieval thing, I suspect.

Even the rock band ColdPlay is making the same pilgrimage. I can’t make any sense of this: if one was going to reduce global warming, shouldn’t one stop using so much fuel and plant a tree?

It is becoming obvious to me that all these offset credits are a scam, worse than a chain letter as to the accounting. Huge consulting and trading firms now make tremendous profits, not to mention that many of the PHD types make well over a hundred thousand a year just to sell their product. Huge blogs such as the Grist are even in on the game.

I’m not going to call them on the carpet or say bad things about them, but honestly folks, all that commercialization and cheerleading is a little over the top.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wonderful Weekend, Barry

Wow, here's most of the conspirators including Nancy's mother, all having a great time on the beach. Thanks to Nancy and Sandy Feet for all the fun. The detail on the sandcastle isn't great here but we maybe had 12-15 towers or stacked mud-pies or whatever ya call them.

Notice one key detail. There's water on the beach - all over the beach. It's ponded and we have a moat around our sandcastle so it was safe (thanks again, Sandy).

I'll tell you the truth we were backed up almost to the dunes. The high tide was near eleven o'clock but here about three in the afternoon, there is still water up to the dunes. The beach was getting tore up pretty bad especially in drainage areas that looked suspiciously like rip-tides offshore.

That's rather shocking because the moon tide wasn't that big. Nope, it was some swell waves from Tropical Storm Barry darned near to Tampa, Florida, not even a puny hurricane. That's a little scary.

But another day, small waves, and a lower high tide and everything is back to normal. Now I got my glasses, my renewed driver's licence, and a day I can go fishing in the surf before it blows 25 again ... well it couldn't be better. They say there's some big fish eyes in the surf now!