|Checking another thing off the "Bucket List, getting to spend a couple of weeks in the beautiful and relaxing South Padre Island area has been a real treat and the weather has been great for the most part...I could get used to this place in a hurry! Walking on the beach and collecting shells is one of my favorites and today we went for the last time this trip. Mike even took the car out on the beach and CoCo walked with us for the first time(she is scared of the waves). We head out tomorrow for Big Bend National Park and points beyond. While here, we have gone to several flea markets, none as good as the one in Mesa, AZ but fun just the same, had some amazing grapefruit (the best ever)and caught up on some projects that needed done and just spent time relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous weather. Thanksgiving Day was spent with others in the park, filling our faces and tummies, at a turkey and ham dinner with all the trimmings and meeting new friends, all who either spend the winter here or loved it so much they moved here. The park is fairly empty yet and we are told people will start rolling in any time now and filling up right after Christmas. We have seen some gorgeous sunrises but only one beautiful sunset. One day while driving to the beach we stopped and spent a couple of hours at the Sea Turtle Rehab Center where they rescue and rehabilitate endangered sea turtles to hopefully return them to the wilds. Sea Turtles have roamed the earth's oceans for millions of years but humans have been harvesting them for meat, leather, eggs, shell and oil products. Only eight species remain and all are considered "threatened" or "endangered." While the South Texas Coast has predominately "Kemp Ridley" turtles, occasionally they will have a "Leatherback," "Hawksbill," "Loggerhead" or "Green Sea Turtle" come through and there are at least some of each in the Center that cannot be returned to the wilds. One of the many things the Center and volunteers have done is to administer nesting beach patrols and have created "safe nesting areas" that are protected from the ocean waves and humans. When they hatch they are taken by hand to the ocean's edge and the public is invited to watch. It is so sad to find out that most of their injuries are human caused and could be prevented just by picking up their own trash and debris. Today the Center rehabilitates 40-100 turtles each year which are returned to the Gulf. However at any one time they have over 50 they are rehabing or that can not be returned due to the severity of their injuries. The Center does some amazing things and in 2009 they fitted a turtle who was missing three flippers with a prosthetic device and they are fitting another one now. They treat injuries including predator attacks, pneumonia, line and net entanglements, cold stunning, infections, bowl obstructions caused by swallowing balloons and plastic, parasites and boat strikes. In February 2011 the Center coordinated the recovery, rehabilitation and release of over 700 Green sea turtles suffering from hypothermic shock due to a freeze. The turtles can't be returned to the wild without at least a good portion of 3 of their flippers. One Loggerhead turtle they rehabilitated was returned to the ocean but washed ashore twice more. They discovered he (she) had a "listing" issue due to the damage done to it's flippers. A Zoo offered to take it but it was promptly returned because it ate all the fish in their aquarium! It was a very educational and interesting stop and if we were ever to winter here, I would certainly volunteer at the center. I have included in the photos of two funny signs we saw on the Island that we had never seen before. Port Isabel which is just before you cross the Causeway to South Padre Island still has a lighthouse which was built in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago Pass to Port Isabel. However its real claim to fame is that during the Civil War soldiers from both sides used it as a look-out point! One of the days while walking on the beach we saw a bunch of funny looking blue balloon like things and in researching them we found out that they are "Man-of-War" and are very poisonous. Thank goodness I didn't touch one which would be something I would do! While doing my research I also discovered that there is even a Blue Warning Flag" for them on the beaches. Pelicans are everywhere and so fun to watch and we have seen some Egrets and Blue Herons as this area is part of the Winter Birding Flight Zone. Finding a few new shells I hadn't seen before and weren't in my growing collection, I promised to only bring home a few and the two neatest finds are what looks like a small piece of coral and a couple of "nickernuts" which are really members of the pea family and come from a shrub that grows on tropical beaches around the world. This common species grow in the Caribbean region and have washed ashore here. Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the U.S. and the southern portion which is called South Padre is about 40 miles long although only about 20 miles of it is accessible by car. The rest of the island is sand dunes so deep there is no road but you can drive along the beach for many more miles if you are brave enough! The town of South Padre boasts a year around population of about 2800 but has become a popular spring break destination when it soars to "unbearable" by many reports and we have heard that college kids are already making their reservations for Spring Break 2013. While we love it here and hate to leave, the madness of that time of year is NOT for us.