Dear sandy feet,

We are counting down the days until we are able to return to the beautiful beaches of South Padre Island. Could you give us a quick summary of what changes we can expect from last winter?


As always I am happy to oblige. (Brief disclaimer: The following observations are solely my own and no one is paying me to write nice things about them, okay?)

Changed: Rovan's

The bakery/restaurant known as Rovan's has long been a favorite of Winter Texans and we don't expect that to change. However, the restaurant itself has changed owners and the critical observer will notice a few other changes: First of all, Rovan's is now open for dinner and you can now enjoy a beer, glass of wine, or cocktail with your meal. What hasn't changed: the train still runs, the BBQ is still as succulent as ever, and Dorty B. is still there to greet you at the door with a big smile.

Changed: The weather forecast

Those of you who were here last year will recall that winter never really made it to deep South Texas last season. El nino did a great job of keeping the cold and rain at bay, making last winter seem like one long stretch of Indian Summer. Well, el nino is gone and we have been told that his sister "la nina" is likely to remind us that we do in fact live in a place that can get cold.

Of course, "they" also told us there was a good chance we would get hit by a major hurricane this year, and as of this writing that hurricane has failed to materialize (though of course the season is not yet over.)

Bottomline: Pack plenty of everything.

Changed: Sea Ranch

Another favorite hangout of our Winter Texan population is the Sea Ranch. Don't worry - the view is still extraordinary and the cuisine just as tasty, however; visitors to the 'Ranch will now find some samples of really cool sand sculpture in the restaurant's lobby. Steve "DuneHead" Mutter - a waiter there who is also an SOB Sandcastle Wizard - is maintaining a sand box there with incredible sand sculpture exhibits that change with the season -- so you really need to go there several times while you are here to see what he comes up with.

Changed: Gulf Blvd.

While it may seem that those potholes have recently gotten a whole lot bigger, the mess on Gulf Blvd. is in fact a sign of progress. The town is putting a lot of effort into improving this road and with any luck the work will be complete by the time most of you arrive.

The Same - but different: "Big Band Phil and Friends" (formerly the Coral Reef Big Band)

Got an E-mail recently from "Big Band Phil" with the news that the Big Band will open at the Pelican in Port Isabel on Fri, Dec 4. They'll be playing 7-10 on Fri. & Sat, 5 to 8 on Sun. (Hours subject to revision.) "The entire band is back +1. Nucleus of 6 now, with our welcome mat out for all instrumental and vocalist guests."

These guys really put on a good show and are much loved by our Winter Texans as well as the locals and we are happy to hear of their imminent return.

The Same: Sea Turtle Inc.

Though Ila "The Turtle Lady" Loetcher has retired from her responsibilities at STI, the organization lives on, thanks to the efforts of Mary Laddis, Jeff George and a gaggle of other volunteers. If stopping by and saying hi to the turtles is not already part of your coming-back-to-the-island routine, we urge you to make it so. And if you find some spare time between all your other activities, I know they can always use a little help around there on show days.

The Same: Club Padre

The parking lot at Club Padre is already showing more signs of life then it has in some time. This is your club and there is almost always something interesting happening there so stop by and check it out.

The Same: Port Isabel Animal Shelter

It's been a bit of a rocky road for the shelter this year, but the Laguna Madre Humane Society is still doing a wonderful job of connecting abandoned animals with good homes. We hear that they currently have an overload in the feline department, so if you are a cat-lover and have the room and time for a new companion, why not stop by and make some cat (or dog) very happy? Volunteers are always welcome there as well.

The Same: The Beach

Okay, the beach is always changing, always fascinating and of course still the number one reason people come here. We urge you to make use of it while you are here - take lots of walks, pick up a few shells and keep unlittering!

As always, there are a bunch of new restaurants, bars, shops, etc. eager to welcome you back to the Island -- and of course this applies to all your old favorites as well. We are glad you are here and truly hope you enjoy your stay.

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: ( Visit my web-site ( for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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