Sept. 26, 2004 - Driving alone down the southern end of I-35, the landscape surrounding the highway begins to turn sandy. I notice a large, black digital sign announcing a 30-minute wait at the ferry landing I know will transport me (and my car) from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas. I follow the signs directing me toward the ferry landing and breathe a sigh of relief when I am waived in to drive on the ferry. There is a HUGE pelican sitting atop of one of the wooden piers, which is just feet from where I am parked and waiting for the ferry to fill up. I've never seen a pelican this large - though I've been here enough times to know that pelicans thrive here. As the ferry begins to move, I breathe another sigh of relief. The ferry leaving the dock is symbolic; allowing me to leave all the stresses of home behind.
After exiting what seems to be the fastest ferry I've ever taken (only a 2-minute ride to the other side), I soon see an old familiar restaurant and make a mental note to take my mom there during this stay. I know that I need to pull into IGA grocers in Port A and pick up a few supplies for the condo that mom and I are staying in. After spending one hour and about $78 for 4-nights worth of supplies and groceries, I pull back out onto Highway 361 and head in the direction of our resort. As I drive through the small town of Port Aransas, I eyeball a few extra gift shops that have popped up recently. Darn, the ice cream parlor that had the frozen yogurt I liked closed down.
It takes about 20 minutes for me to get from downtown Port Aransas to the Sandpiper resort. I know to slow down when I see the Port Royale resort because the Sandpiper is not far from it. The speed limit on Highway 361 is 55 to 70 mph; many people drive 75 to 80. It's a two-lane freeway, so, out of courtesy, if I'm going less than 80 and someone wants to pass me, I'll pull off on the shoulder a bit to let them by (This is what we do out of common courtesy in rural Texas - it's like an unspoken Texas driving rule). As I make the left hand turn into the driveway leading to this beach-front resort, I observe that the entire road leading to this resort is lined with palm trees; the landscaping has been maintained just as nicely as it always has been. Funny that I never see anyone out here working on the landscape, yet it is always well maintained. Feeling anxious about whether or not I'm actually going to get the exact room I had requested, I pull up to the semi circle in front of the Sandpiper to check in, quickly exiting my car and walking (at a quickened pace) toward the front desk clerk. After exchanging speedy pleasantries, I ask the front desk clerk, "Is the room I requested available?" She replied "Yes, it is...number 708, right?" Ahhh, I'm getting my favorite room...I can't imagine it getting any better than that!
After the routine check in, I made my way toward the lobby elevators to collect a luggage cart in order to haul the contents of my car trunk up to the lovely room that awaited me. I remembered that this is far from a full-service resort - no bellmen, no room service - just peace, tranquility, all the amenities of home, and, of course, the beach! As I entered the room, I meticulously took a look around to see what, if anything, had changed about this unit since I was last here. The most noticeable change was the large-screen Sony TV and DVD in the living area and new Sony TV in the bedroom. I think the dining table with four chairs is also new. Looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows that extend all the way from the spacious living area to the large dining area (overlooking the beach, dunes, and Gulf of Mexico), I can see that I checked in just in time to see the sunset. I can sit on the comfy sofa, flip on the new, large screen Sony TV; checking the weather channel as I watch the sunset at the same time.
It does look as though when this unit was new, an interior decorator was hired to decorate in sea foam green. A glance out the window before sunset reveals sand dunes draped in natural flora and fauna. Expect to see prickly pear cactus interspersed amongst natural grasses, sunflowers, and the occasional cat tails (like what you see on many golf courses). A second quick check of the room reveals a guest book; higher quality, double-sided fridge, which dispenses ice and water from the front; large, built-in microwave; dishwasher; stove; coffee maker other small appliances; Chicago Cutlery steak knives; and all the kitchen gadgets, silverware, plates and cups you'll need for your stay. There's a full-sized, newish sofa that folds out into either a full or queen bed, matching love seat, two rocking chairs with matching pads on them, comfortable king bed in the master and probably a queen in the guest bedroom (we rented it as a one bedroom, hence the second bedroom was locked and we were unable to use it. This generally has not happened to us at the resort in the past. Even if we booked a one bedroom in the past, they had always left the second bedroom open; not this time. However, there are also two bathrooms, and we did have full use of both bathrooms while there. Having two bathrooms was nice because my mom and I could each have our own.
The day after check in, mom noticed the hookup for DSL in the room (it's available now in all rooms). Maids brought us six fresh towels, washcloths, and hand towels daily. They also made up the bed and took out the trash for us on a daily basis. They do a more thorough cleaning once weekly.
We spent some of our time on the beach, at the pool (very few people at this time of year), or shopping in nearby downtown Port Aransas. We encountered only about three other people anywhere even semi-close to the Sandpiper pool/beach areas. For the first two days, the lounge chairs were sitting at the end of the boardwalk (beachside), as they always have been in the past. The lounge chairs for beach lounging disappeared on the third day. Unfortunately, it appears that Sandpiper has changed its lounge chair policy, and they suggest you bring your own lounge chair if your scheduled arrival is post labor day. Ok, this new policy just screams laziness and greed to me. I spent about an hour Tuesday evening in the hot tub (adjacent to pool area). There is a sign on the fence surrounding the hot tub that states, "No one under the age of 18 allowed." You can easily see that the sign USED to say, "No one under 16 allowed." You can see that they don't exactly cater to children here. While we have always seen a meager few children here, there have never been more than that. You must be at least 25 with a credit card to book a stay here. This lowers the possibility of having partying spring breakers around.
We paid $155 per night at the Sandpiper, plus taxes. The total for four nights was over $700. In truth, because of their check-in/check-out times, we only got three days, but paid for four. When you're paying in excess of $150 per night, you don't expect a 4pm check-in with an 11am check-out. What that basically does is shorten your stay - all while the resort is still making money. I felt that check-out should be a more reasonable 12 noon and check-in should be 3pm or earlier. That is the standard rule at most hotels. Check-in is so late that, by the time you unload your car and groceries for the condo, it’s too late in the evening to get full use of what the resort has to offer. Surely, the resort realizes this. Never mind the fact that I was so pooped after the long drive, unloading the car, putting away groceries, and organizing everything inside the condo. No way did I have energy to take a shower, change into my bathing suit, and hawk my way down to the hot tub at 7:30pm. I was doing well to catch glimpses of the sunset as I multi-tasked, putting things away and organizing.
Temperatures ranged between 73˚F and around 90˚F.