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Travel

Angling and adventure greet our intrepid traveller on Padre Island

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By Gerry Feehan, award-winning travel writer and photographer. Here is his latest story, Padre Island, Texas.

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“…I peaked through a stack of chili-flavoured pork rinds, past a battered flag of the Lone-Star State hanging in the dirty window, and into the parking lot. Smiley was staring storeward… waiting….”

 

Padre Island Texas is a long spit of sand dunes guarding mainland Texas from the destructive tornadoes and winter storms that pound in from the Gulf of Mexico. Between this narrow barrier island and the mainland lies Laguna Madre, a shallow hyper-saline sea renowned for sensitive sea grass and world-class fishing.

Padre Island Texas

The end of the road on South Padre Island.

On some Padre Island, Texas beaches, camping is free. South of Corpus Christi, at Padre Island National Seashore, free boon-docking extends for over 100 kilometres. But the sandy entrance is also the only exit. So, after you bite off as much of the hard-packed seashore road as you can chew and you’ve had your fill of remote surf and turf, a tight U-turn and a long return drive up the beach is required to get back to civilization.

It was shoulder season, so we and our RV had the whole shoreline to ourselves.

Padre Island Texas

Now that’s remote camping!

The other campers were all outfitted for fishing. “When in Rome,” thought I and asked the park ranger if he knew of any local fishing guides.

The weather was atrocious: 3°C with a 70-kilometer north wind. Only a Canuckle-head would beach in such conditions; five meters from the raging ocean and sideways to a Gulf gale. The van was a rockin’ all night.

In the morning the weather cleared, the sun shone and the wind ebbed, portending a fine day on the Laguna Madre. We drove back across the causeway to the mainland, toward Arroyo City and a lovely campground along a canal fronting the ocean. We chose a site protected by live oak trees in case (heaven forbid) the weatherman’s prognostication was inaccurate and the wind began to howl anew. As per our typical MO, we arrived at dusk, sans reservation.

The other campers were all outfitted for fishing. “When in Rome,” thought I and asked the park ranger if he knew of any local fishing guides.

“No, I sure don’t,” he said. “Y’all could check with the live-bait store back in town. Look for the big sign – a redfish – out front. They may have a’ idea.” I asked Florence if she’d mind hanging solo for a day while I went angling. “No, go ahead. I’ll spend the day relaxing, reading and knitting.” I wandered down the road.  When I saw red, I stepped in. The shop smelt. After baiting the proprietor with fishing small-talk, I asked, “Do you think you could find a guide to take me out tomorrow?”

“Well, I know of a fella lives right by,” he said, chewing uncertainly on a pork rind, “but it’s kind of late and I doubt he’d be available on short notice. I could call if you like.” He picked up the phone.

Padre Island Texas

Captain Smiley

Five minutes later ‘Captain Smiley’ was walking in the door. He shook my hand and arrangements were made to tackle an early morning. The sun had not yet risen when the Captain putt-putted up to our riverfront campsite and welcomed me aboard. Minutes later, dawn greeted us as we cast our first lines into the shallow, glassy waters of Laguna Madre. A fat red drum hit on my second cast; a fighting day was upon us.

I had a great time with Smiley. Affirming his moniker, he laughed and joked all day long in his charismatic Tex-Mex accent.

The night before I had warned the Captain that I was short on greenbacks and would need to pay by cheque. He hesitantly agreed. When we arrived back at dock he expertly prepped my red-fish “on the half-shell” for grilling. Driving me back to our campsite he diverted his battered pick-up truck toward the bait shop. Pulling up he informed me that there was an ATM inside. Evidently he preferred cash to a cheque written on the reputable but foreign Royal Bank of Canada. I smiled, opened the door and headed into the store.

I had no bank card, just a US Visa. Uncertain if I could withdraw cash or whether my PIN# would work, I shoved the card in, chose English over Spanish as my language of preference and, after agreeing to an unreasonable fee for using the bank machine (“in addition to whatever other charges your financial institution may impose”). I prayed silently as I entered my personal security particulars. The machine sat quietly for a time, made some distant interior rumblings and eventually announced: “Request Declined.”

Padre Island Texas

Roseate spoonbill

I peaked through a stack of chili-flavoured pork rinds, past a battered flag of the Lone-Star State hanging in the dirty window, and into the parking lot. Smiley was staring storeward… waiting.

I checked to see if there was a back exit. The wary owner eyed me suspiciously. The rear door led through a heap of fish offal into an alligator-infested swamp. Preferring embarrassment to an awful death, I thought I’d again ask the Captain if he would accept my cheque. I took a last baleful glance at the ATM and noticed a message: “maximum withdrawal $120.” I had requested too much dinero. I started the process anew, punched in my PIN, agreed to pay the usurious fees and crossed my fingers. The machine slowly spat six tattered twenties at me. A full day of guided fishing is not cheap. I repeated the process a few times. Eventually the tired machine coughed up enough cash to retire my piscatorial indebtedness.

I handed the dough to Smiley. He smiled and asked, “Do you want to fish tomorrow?” I couldn’t envisage enduring another ATM debacle and, in any event, it was time for us to move on from this arroyo.

“No thanks,” I said, “we need to hit the road tomorrow.”

“Aw, that’s too bad,” said Smiley. “Tomorrow’s my day off and what I do on my day off is… go fishing. I’ll take you out on my dime.”

Padre Island Texas

A great blue heron eyes the fishing.

I saw my calendar clearing.

I called Florence to ask leave. She concurred, delighted. (Apparently, one day away from her beloved was insufficient to create any overwhelming desire to be reunited in the confines of our small RV.)

I had another great “caught my limit” day of fishing. As I fried up a delicious speckled sea trout that night, Florence asked, “Are you going fishing again tomorrow?”

“Naw,” I said. “Smiley’s got a customer lined up for the morning.”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” she said, “this fish is incredible.” She was eyeing her knitting.

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Close up shot of writer Gerry Feehan

Gerry Feehan

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Padre Island Texas.  Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer.  He and his wife Florence live in Red Deer, AB and Kimberley, BC. You can read more of his stories here.

 

 

 

“India? Are you nuts?” Join Gerry for Part 1 of his series on India.

 

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Business

Here’s What Happened When A German Man Got Stuck In Calgary Amid COVID-19

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A German traveller stuck in Canada as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic is the latest addition to the Business on Camera team in Calgary, Alberta. Josef Bodenbenner, from Marburg, Germany speaks English, Spanish and German and is BOC’s new Director of International Language and Culture.

Business on Camera is an award-winning documentary film company and visual public relations firm established in 2010 specializing in corporate communications and video marketing.  BOC works best with entrepreneurs pursuing radical social change and energy companies seeking communications support in the areas of video, PR, and social media marketing.

“If I would have found a Calgarian with the same skill set I would have hired them,” begins Matt Keay, Business on Camera CEO, “Josef can read, write and speak German, Spanish and English. On top of that, he brings eight years of experience in finance and international banking, plus he is a Supple Leopard.”

Although his original plans were derailed by COVID-19, Josef has seized this new opportunity with excitement and is thrilled to be a part of the BOC team. “It’s amazing to be here and see what is happening with Business on Camera,” he says, “there is the social aspect with their documentary film production, and they are supporting Alberta companies like Eavor Technologies Inc. in exporting their technology around the globe.” 

Drawing on his years of financial experience overseas and multilingual capabilities, Josef has quickly become a key player in elevating BOC during the COVID-19 crisis. “We are sourcing new production partnerships in film and TV,” he says, “exploring tax and currency advantages, researching compliance protocols and working to attract investment to the province.”

Bringing on team members from outside of Canada, particularly during a pandemic, can be a tricky process. To ensure best practices, Business on Camera referred to the Government of Canada and Government of Alberta websites for the latest information regarding updated employer practices during COVID-19. Working with Josef to ensure work visa compliance, BOC was able to successfully bring him on board as the official Director of International Language and Culture.
Sensitive to the COVID-19 situation, BOC remains humble as their team works quietly away at Work Nicer Coworking in Calgary’s Beltline, grateful for the opportunity for continued expansion. Work Nicer Coworking is Alberta’s fastest-growing Coworking Community with over 600 members throughout their Calgary and Edmonton Locations. 

Josef can be reached by phone at 403-478-3836 or [email protected]


For more stories, visit
Todayville Calgary

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Calgary Hotels Open for Now

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What does a “state of emergency” mean for tourism in our city

Over the last number of days we have seen closures of many different services and businesses. We are all curious about what will still be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime it seems as though hotels and hostels in Calgary will continue to keep their doors open for now.

Calgary has one of the highest concentrations of head offices in Canada. Many of the large organisations are owned by foreign bodies, relationships with foreign diplomats or have senior chartered professionals travel through our airport. We host various events and summits over the year that draw large crowds of people from across the globe. The most undeniable example is the Calgary Stampede, which recently announced a loss of 80% of their workforce due to rising concerns in the spread of Covid-19. Their organisers are working closely with Calgary Emergency Management Agency and the Alberta Health Services. Check out their full update here.

We are used to a high intake of tourists over the summer months of the year. According to VisitCalgary.com Q4 report from 2019 we welcomed just under 18 million people through our Calgary International Airport. 

How Covid-19 is affecting our hotel industry

We have 74 hotels in Calgary with more in towns like Cochrane and Airdrie. In the same report from VisitCalgary.com, their data shows that hotels in Calgary sold over 3.3 million rooms in 2019. If we look at the effects of what a travel restriction can do to our economy, we will see a dramatic reduction in tourists spending money in our city. 

Following orders from the City of Calgary, Grey Eagle Casino has temporarily closed their doors, in light of this direction a message from the General Manager Martin Brickstock stated: 

“This closure notice becomes effective immediately. We anticipate this closure will be until further notice, but we promise to provide consistent updates as information becomes available.

We look forward to inviting everyone back when we reopen. Please take care and be safe.

Please note that Grey Eagle Hotel will remain open”

Other well known institutions who have multiple locations throughout Calgary have offered updates on their services. They are also making arrangements for last minute cancellations from people who have had their travel itineraries disrupted. It is difficult to know how this will play out in the coming weeks however they are taking every available step to ensure the highest standard of hygiene. 

Marriott Hotels – Covid-19 Update

Hyatt Hotels – Covid-19 Update

Hilton Hotels – Hilton’s Commitment to you

Wyndham Hotels – Covid-19 Update

Sandman Hotel Group – Our respond to coronavirus (Covid-19)

In other countries there have been major closures of major hotel chains. Suspending of recreational facilities seems to be the norm for now. An article from the New York Post states that some major names are shutting their doors. Could be evidence that we could be following suit in the coming weeks.

Major hotel chains shutting down due to coronavirus pandemic

        (NY Post – Lisa Fickensher – March 17th 2020)

Keep yourself in the loop aware of updates on the situation here in Calgary with Alberta Health Services or their self screen application. It is difficult to know what kind of pressure has been placed upon major businesses in our city on how they react. Every step is being taken to continue business. Calgary Economic Development is striving to keep our businesses aware of any updates in policy or guidelines. You can keep yourself in the loop by visiting their website – Calgary Economic Development Covid-19 Updates and Resources

For more stories, visit – Todayville Calgary

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