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Blastin’ bait, Texas Style Crystal Beach, TX

Bunker up landed in Shreveport, LA on May 16th. where we were met by our new Texas distributor and friend, Donald Currier.  Our arrival was perfect timing. Just as we were walking out of the airport, he was walking in. I said, “Donald?” He said, “yep.”   We exchanged smiles and hugs then made our way to his house.  We made small talk during the hour ride trip to his home. Once we his hit his driveway I instantly knew that the small talk would be the only thing small about this trip!

I’ve always wondered why they say everything is big in Texas. Well, now I know.  Sheri and I were blown away by the neatly manicured property landscaped with big rigs, an RV, 4-wheelers, barbecue pits, a boat and more! I knew we were in the right place.  We had some beers and talked for a few hours before some of his good friends came by to join us. There was Vernon and Brenda, two of the sweetest, friendliest souls, Donald’s son Jeff, a cool cat with a great attitude, along with his girlfriend Stacey who exudes sugary, sarcastic sass, and last but definitely not least, the southern bell of all southern bells, Laurie, Donald’s electrifyingly witty and exuberant girlfriend.  We all exchanged stories and laughed at each other’s accents.  As the night came to and end, we were all eagerly anticipating the next few days to come.

The following morning we awoke to the smell of fresh brewing coffee and the bright Texas sunshine.  Everyone pitched in getting the vehicles packed.  It wasn’t until I walked around the RV that I noticed the name. It reads, “American Dream.” (Donald and Laurie affectionately refer to the RV as, “Loretta”) I was floored and ran into the house like a little boy finding a new toy and shouted, “Sheri, you have to see the name on this thing!” At that point I knew this was all meant to be. Then we loaded the trucks on the trailers…. that’s right, trucks on trailers! Not little four wheelers like back home in PA.  It was an impressive sight as we headed out of the driveway.  “The American Dream on the road,” we all shouted! The ride was awesome and everything was tooling along as planned until we came over a knuckle and saw a sea of brake lights. The RV was above 70 mph and there were cars stopped dead 1/8 of a mile ahead.  We all were silent. There was no time to think or react but the big man behind the wheel was cool as a cucumber.  Donald slowly drifted the rig off the road to the right just missing the cars in line and stopping right before the flagman.  He had that, “I’m gonna bail it” look in his eyes but realized we were under control.  We all thought it was a stupid place for a road stop; especially when there was no advanced notice before the hill.  As we passed the flagman I said, “you really need to get some signs before the hill someone is going to get killed.” He gave us a hand gesture suggesting we were drinking, which infuriated us. Believe me, if I wasn’t having so much fun I would have told Donald to pull over so I could stick my foot UP HIS ASS, which was a mutual feeling by all in the American Dream. Every trip has its glitches so we were all just happy that was passed us.

The next knuckle we came upon was the one right before the ocean at Crystal beach.  As we headed down the strip towards our camp, Donald and Laurie gave us a little history on the area which was very cool.  Within a few minutes we arrived at, Beach Side RV, owned and operated by Larry Flanagan. After settling into our lavish accommodations (which were donated by Larry and Donald) we got to meet the big guy.  Larry pulled up in a big white pickup with a big white smile. When he got out of his truck I felt like a midget. He is a big commanding man with an even bigger heart! Things just seem to roll in Texas.  I don’t think most people realize what their missing.  Sheri and I couldn’t have been happier.  I mean, there we were…. two people who went to meet a bunch of people for the first time, spend five days with them and fish and after just arriving, before blasting any bait we were already having a blast! Then we went fishin’!

The next dynamic duo we encountered were Jeremy and Billy. Of course they pulled in with two BAD ASS trucks! At this point, after all we had already seen, we expected nothing less. These guys were high energy and eager to help in every way, especially Jeremy who likes to get the party rolling.  We took a nip of Goldschlager, loaded up the three monster jeeps and hit the sand. I thought, “here we go, were going fishin’. Right on!” That’s when I learned that these Jeeps weren’t just for showin’.  These guys were looking for trouble, but they don’t call this “trouble” in Texas! It’s called, “FUN!” They took the Jeeps through steep wet banks and before long we were instantly covered in wet sand. I looked back at the caster which was mounted to the little tow behind.  It was covered in sand. Sheri and I just laughed. All the while the music is pounding through the Kickers as well as the sweet southern bell sounds of the ladies!  It was crazy.

We settled into our spot, set up and got ready to blast a bait when seemingly out of nowhere I see a Harley with a sidecar coming at me. He crashed through a little water hole and stoped right in front of me. By this time I already had a little buzz, but I think he said his name was Jeffrey. As it turned out, he was the only guy shorter then me so I called him, “Sidecar Shorty,” which stuck and later turned into a bunch of laughs. He’s a fun guy to be around unless he doesn’t get a hat. “Bless his heart.” He’s the kind of guy that you don’t know why you like him; you just do! Sheri enjoyed her ride in the side car with the, “Wild Man from the Sand.”

We fished for a while and suddenly had a strike.  I picked up the rod only to find the handle on the right side.  I could feel it was a big fish; probably a 50lber, until the line went slack as did my adrenalin.  Oh well, you win some you lose some. I turned to my left and saw a Jeep coming at me with huge pink eyelashes on the headlights! Now any other time I would find that strange… but this time I’m in Texas where the extreme is the norm.  Out pops this experienced, fair haired gal, with (of course) a mega watt smile.  “How y’all doin’?” Jamie is her name and fishin at the beach is her game, with a huge love for all things ocean….our kinda gal! It wasn’t long after that I had another strike.  I was able to drag him in… and I say, “drag” because to all of our surprise it was a sea turtle!  That’s right, a 25 to 30lb. turtle.  My first fish in Texas would be a turtle. We were able to release him safely within a few minutes. We fished out the rest of the night, dancing and eating some of the finest BOUDIN I never had.  This stuff was awesome. I don’t care much what’s in it just know you gotta get some. Hey, that should be their slogan!  I think I’ll send it to them.

From what I gathered, Donald does the cooking, but this time around Jeremy took over and did a hell of a job.  He fed the whole crew all week, with the exception of one night when Big D made his killer burgers.  We’ll get to that later.  I cannot forget to mention the awesome shadow dancing.  Laurie and Donald started it off with the Queen of the Shadow Dance, Stacey, joining in. Sheri and I were rolling with laughs.  These people really know how to let loose.

We managed to land a few small sharks and called it a day. We headed back to the park for a well deserved rest anticipating a full day of fishing ahead. We woke the next morning to the warm sunshine and another new face, “Dan Van Dam.”  The man in black.  This guy looked like the Texas Johnny Cash.  He’s very friendly and a good storyteller.  All of his stories ended with him sticking his boot up someone’s ass.  He is an all around great guy who was eager to lend a hand….who I also owe a box of cigars.  We hit the beach and set up. Just before blasting our first bait, the sheriffs stopped by. They watched us launch and loved it.  All they could say was, “Awesome!” and wanted some cards.  They are the friendliest of sorts and loaded with support.   A special shout out to them….Thanks!  Not long after the sheriffs left, Wayman crew showed up. Wayman, owner of P&W Sales in Kilgore, is Donald’s right hand man.  His Jeeps were… just, off the charts!  I like using the word, “sick” when I see something awesome, and these vehicles were, “super sick!” Once again, and par for the course, they couldn’t be friendlier. It was like a huge party in the sand. A few hours had passed and, “Wham!” there went the rod.  It was in between Donald and myself.  He looked at me with that southern smile and said, “Get’em Dan.”  I grabbed the rod and started to reel. Once again, the handle was on the right side but this time I wasn’t going to use that for an excuse.  “It’s a red,” Donald said.  I said I don’t think so I think it’s a big shark.  So we bet a beer on it. Low and behold the Texas King of the Pit was right, a Big Red!  Donald and Jeff hit the water to make sure we got him in.  I couldn’t have been happier, my first Texas Red.  I had to kiss him, so I did and released him back to the sea.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved. We always have fun no matter what but if you’re a true fisherman you understand that gotta get one thing. I gave Donald a high five and a big hug for setting up the trip that already put me onto a Big Red. We fished out the rest of the day laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  That’s what I love about what we do, no matter what, it’s always a “blast.”  As we headed back to camp I mentioned to Donald that we needed more bait.  He said he had just the place, “Barefoot Joe is his name and housing bait is his game.”  This guy was right up my alley.  I don’t know what it is about bait that excites me, but when I meet a guy like him I know I’m not alone. Joe’s a great dude.  I’m sure I’ll see him again.  Thanks Joe.

We went back to camp, got showered up and slammed some of Donald’ bitchin’ burgers as the rest of the weekend crew, Vernon, Brenda, Tim and Claudia pulled in.  Shortly after that Jeremy and Billy’s wives, Jennifer and Jessica arrived.  The gang was all there and ready to party.  They do everything big in Texas so the party was nothing but just that… big burgers and lots of spirits.  Vernon came to my side and suggested that he and I get out and sling a little bait in the morning while everyone was still sleeping. I agreed.

We hit the hay and met up in the morning. Vernon being a fishing nut like me, gave me a little run down on the rigs he uses and I listened like a school boy ready for the recess bell. It’s always good to open your ears when fishing in someone else’s neighborhood as it always increases your odds of landing a fish. He handed me a rod and we proceeded to sling our baits.  I was amazed at the amount of bait fish in the water with lots to choose from for the big fish.  I noticed a Chinese man walking his trash over to the dumpster and thought, “wow, right on,” because looking at the trash all around my feet, not many do that.  He attempted to throw it into the can when a little breeze came and blew it back on the ground.  He made a mock move like he was going to retrieve it, then decided; screw it.  This was the wrong thing to do in front of me.  I said, “yo, asshole. Pick that shit up!” He said something back in Chinese, bent over and picked it back up.  This time, making sure it went in.  I said, “what do you think this is, your toilet?!”  He’s lucky I didn’t have my boots on. I would have stuck it “UP HIS ASS”. It wasn’t long after that Vernon spotted a huge Red feeding next to the shore. We tried to get him but he obviously had something better to eat. We both needed to use the restroom so we decided it was time to head back. We had to get ready for the show which was being held right where we had just left at the, Stingray Bar and Grill. Back at camp, everyone helped load the gear for the show and we headed back to the, Stingray Bar, which was also holding a fishing tournament.  Donald and Larry were kind enough to accommodate us once again with a spot for our stand.  The whole crew was there and all helped with the set up.  A special thanks to everyone involved. You all made the process easy and fun….gotta love Texas!  We set up the Robb Ortel caster that was to be raffled for our Bunker UP cause.  It didn’t take long before we started selling tickets like crazy.  We were only there a few hours and had a ton of interest. At the end of the show we were able to do a demonstration. We set up behind the bar facing the inlet. As the crowd gathered, we started to hear the “impossible” comments that accompany the, “I can’t believe it till I see it attitudes.” I gave the crowd my usual 3/2/1 countdown and blasted it.  Silence is always the norm for the first second.  Then you hear the shouts and cheers followed by the positive profanity…. i.e., “Holy “F$#K.  I have never seen anything like that! This shit’s for real!”  It’s always rewarding to excite people and turn them into believers.  I’d like to thank Tom from the Crystal Beach Local News who came out to do a write up about the Bunker Up Dream.

Check it out:

We thanked the crowd, packed up and hit the beach!

We blasted and cooked the rest of the day with small shark hook ups until Donald saw a rod getting some small hits.  He grabbed the rod knowing there was something getting ready to happen and handed it to Victoria, Brenda and Vernon’s beautiful daughter.  She had never landed a fish on the beach before and though a bit apprehensive was still looking forward to it.  Let me tell you, she did a great job with the cheers and support from all around her; especially her proud as a peacock mother and father.  I think a tear came from Vernon’s eye.  “That’s my girl,” he said as they posed with the huge, beautiful Black Drum she just reeled in. Everyone’s face had that, “Right on” smile on it. It was priceless….that’s all I have to say.  We finished the night catching small shark after small shark but it didn’t matter. This trip was filled with so much BIG, the small was the icing on the cake.

We headed back to camp exhausted from a mountain of fun in the sun. Some of the crew stayed up and some went to bed.  We all met up in the morning to say our polite Texas style goodbyes.  Sheri and I made friends for life on this trip and that only happens when your willing to put yourself out there. There are simply too many people to thank and would not want to leave anyone out. So I will just say thanks to all involved in making our trip about as special as special can be.

One final laugh was to be had as we left the RV park. We hadn’t made it a mile when I saw this thing coming towards us in the distance. It was ½ mile away but I could see it clearly… was, “Sidecar Shorty!”  As if to say, “so long friends.”  His head was down and his eyes peeled as we all screamed, “see ya Shorty!”… awesome. We headed down the road with that sad, but rewarding smile that you have when leaving behind a great memory.

We thought all the drama was behind us when half way home we had another glitch with Loretta, ”The American Dream“ RV.  Donald pulled over to use the bathroom and when he returned he noticed the brake wouldn’t release. The air brake pressure had dropped below 30. “Houston we got a problem.” A pressure leak on the brakes is bad news so we got out to investigate. After several attempts to locate the problem, Donald said, “I know it’s back here somewhere.” I felt around inside and noticed the air was blowing off my hand.  “Yep, you’re right Donald,” I said. “Here it is.” In a situation like this you have two choices; Bunker UP or give up.  Donald, in his typical calm voice said, “you’re about to see some McGyver Shit up in here.”  He and Jeff pulled out the air compressor from the beach and jacked it into the auxiliary airline.  We plugged it in only to find it didn’t build pressure.  So it hit me; if we block off the leak by crimping the hose running from the main compressor it might stabilize the system.  We had minimal tools but we did have a pair of Vise Grips.  I laughed when I grabbed them. They were old but made in America…fitting given we were driving the American Dream. I asked Laurie if we could sacrifice a knife. She gave me one and I bent it in half to act as a super crimp.  We crimped it on the hose and I heard Donald say that we were building pressure back.  We knew if the compressor would hold out we may have a chance of getting Loretta back to the ranch.  Donald took the helm once again and made sure he eased the massive RV down the road being careful not to over apply the brakes.  After about twenty miles the compressor kicked off. We figured we’d either blown it or saved our asses.  As soon as he hit the brakes the compressor kicked back on….a “Mygyver” moment for sure.  We high fived again. Because we knew we were home free. The girls said, “it’s nice to have guys that can do shit up in here!” This was a fitting end to the mission; people coming together is what were all about.

Bunker UP!