15 Jun 2010, 11:42pm
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Going to Corpus Christi, then and now

The main road to Corpus Christi, circa 1910

The main road to Corpus Christi, circa 1910

A wee trip to the coast, a fine way to spend a hot and hazy Sunday.  While I’m still stuck in bachelor mode – decide to go, jump in the car and away – my wife needs, shall, we say, a little more, um, preparation.  Providing my ipod is loaded and charged, I am sorted.  She, on the other hand, loaded our vehicle like the old days when we were carrying a baby.  Blankets, pillows, books, a lap top for heaven’s sake, towels, changes of clothes, the works.

 I chose our route.  Down Highway 181 on the way there and IH 37 on the way back.  The distance is just about the same but I prefer to meander on the way there and haul boogie on the way back.  You get to see more of the small towns and countryside on 181.  It follows the long gone tracks of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, from Elmendorf through Floresville, Poth, Falls City, Karnes City, Kenedy, Beeville, Skidmore, Sinton, Gregory and Portland before crossing the causeway to Corpus Christi.  Each of these communities was created by the railroad back in the 1880s.

 IH 37 follows, more or less, the route of the old San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf.  Finished in 1914, the last railroad built in our area, this railroad, too, helped found a few towns and move a few county seats, but they lack the charm of the earlier era.  No more squares and handsome civic buildings, unless you count George West.  Just utilitarian structures strung along the old main drag, now rendered obsolete by the interstate.  From experience, many of these places look better at 3 AM than they do at 3 PM.  Here you set cruise control and barrel through nondescript landscape.  These are miles to be endured, not savored.

 Some years ago a friend and I did the same route far more thoroughly, doing our best to find every remaining trace of the old SA & AP.  Like most local railroad enthusiasts, to him the SAU&G, often refereed to as the “Sausage,” is just chopped liver, a Johnny Come Latelyupstart.  The fact that the “SAP” was a failure in every measurable way somehow adds, apparently, to its romantic allure.  I was obliged to go solo through Three Rivers, Campbelton and Pleasanton on another day.  And it isn’t chasing ghosts either.  The “Sausage” is alive and well and was part of the reason the Toyota factory is where it is.

 Click this link for the web pages referring to these ventures


 Going to the coast a hundred years ago would have be a fine trip indeed, requiring an overnight stay if you wanted to get the most benefit out of it.  Arriving at the station early in the morning to ride in cars without air-conditioning for seven hours would make a person appreciate the shore all the more.  Of course Corpus Christi was a different place then.  No deep water port and vulgarly intrusive freeway slashing its way through the heart of the old town, of which most traces have gone, perhaps as a result of storms, who knows.  Now you can leave the parking lot at the Lexington and be home in less than two and a half hours without breaking any laws, carrying enough baggage to fill the old aircraft carrier, in comfortable A/C, and listening to your own personal play list.  It’s a good trade.


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