After leaving the Fort Worth area we headed south in search of warmer weather. With thoughts of beach camping on our minds we made our way to Padre Island National Seashore, where free camping awaited.
Before you feel the jealously monster creep in, read on for tales of our first time beach camping. Yes it was idyllic at times but it was also wrought with challenges as well. This is the tale of the double edged sword of camping on the beach.
Padre Island National Seashore
Upon arrival we will admit to some trepidation to taking Ralphie out on the sand. What if we get stuck, he weighs 14,000 pounds! While driving down the beach to scout it out, we assisted a couple with their van stuck in the sand. They became stuck while trying to level out. Eddie the Jeep pulled them out with no problem.
After walking the section of beach we selected we felt pretty confident Ralphie would be fine. Shane’s strategy of lowering the tire pressures worked wonders as we had no problem parking and leveling Ralphie.
This was officially our first time camping right on the beach, with the Gulf of Mexico gently lapping at the shore right outside Ralphie. It was beautiful and the sound of the waves are still with me. Truly my happy place.
After checking the tide schedule we felt good with our spot. Close enough to the dunes to allow for high tide but not so close to risk getting stuck in the deeper sand of the dunes.
The first week the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny with a light breeze. However, I picked up the old fashioned flu bug along the way and was sick for most of that first week. Hey if you have to be sick, not a bad place to rest and recover. Shane drew this on our chalkboard. It made me smile.
Then one morning we woke up to our awning making an awful sound. Normally when the wind picks up we stow the awning. For some reason we did not this time. We ended up having to cut the awning material from the rig and the legs were broken as we did not stake them down. Two mistakes and it cost us our awning. Strike one dealt by Texas beach camping. This is the last photo I have of the awning still intact. (I did not get a photo of the mangled awning – some things are best forgotten.)
The second week the wind picked up and it was not nearly as warm, forcing us to spend time indoors. But on the upside, road friends of ours Tom + Jacki, hooked up with us on the beach. We shared meals, drinks, and had fun catching up. Josie had a doggie friend (Tom + Jacki’s dog )but she was quickly over him as he is a young pup, about a year old. Hank was full of energy and loved having Josie as a companion.
When the weather was nice we spent a day exploring 20 of the 66 miles of the southern shore on Padre Island National Seashore. This is not to be confused with South Padre Island, which is not accessible via this strip of seashore. Fun fact this national seashore protects the world’s longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island.
On our last day, things got real interesting. The tide levels were the same but the wind was bringing the Gulf uncomfortably close. After watching it carefully for a few hours we decided it was time to move the rig. We were not willing to risk Ralphie going out to sea. As it neared dark, we quickly packed it all up. At Ralphie full speed ahead, we plowed through the sand that had piled up due to wind and managed to make it out with no trouble. After parking Ralphie near the entrance, safely away from the incoming water, we felt a sigh of relief. Turns out beach camping is not all “rainbows and ponies”. Beach camp at your own risk, best advice I can give.
It’s easy to remember the bad that happens but there were wonderful times as well. All make for memories that we will never forget as well as great stories to share with you all.
For anyone keeping score that’s 1 awning lost and 1 bug out (for those who watched M.A.S.H). Get your beach camping bingo cards out, there will be more chances to add to your card.
After two weeks (the maximum allowed) spent at Padre it was time to move on. This time we chose an inland spot on a bay just outside Port Lavaca, Texas. Contending with ever changing tides and camping so close to the Gulf had run its course. An inland bay was right up our alley.
It would be our spot for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Plus we spent the two weeks alongside our friends Tom + Jacki.
The weather here was hit or miss. Some days sunny and warm, others overcast and cooler. However, one particular day was quite the swing with temperature and weather. It was a few days before Christmas. Many of you probably recall a winter storm moving through. For those north it was cold and snowy. For those of us in south Texas the day started out sunny and beautiful. The water on the bay was calm. The day was so nice we were able to have lunch outside.
A perfect day on the beach. And then all hell broke loose. Upon arriving back to our camping spot, things had shifted dramatically. The wind picked up quite considerably. The temperature was dropping by the minute. The bay went from calm and peaceful to angry and raging. Waves crashed wildly on shore. Within minutes of arriving back, the water made its way up the beach. Where everyone’s rigs were parked. By everyone, I mean us, Tom + Jacki and a couple others. Everyone else had vacated.
We all sprang into action. Time to move the rig on to the grassy area. We had no idea if we were allowed to park on the grass but at this point we said screw the rules, we have to get away from the bay. However, in all of the commotion (keep in mind the winds were nearing 40+ mph), I ran over our solar panels while moving the Jeep!
Shane had propped them up against the front of the Jeep. I did not know this. While he was busy getting the rig ready to move, he tossed me the keys without thinking about the solar panels. I proceeded to crush them beneath the Jeep tires. Feeling awful once I realized what happened. No time to cry over spilled milk (crushed solar panels), we quickly set up our rigs and hunkered down inside.
At this point the temperature was dropping drastically. It went from 70’s and sunny to an overnight low in the 20’s with the wind chill. I can tell you this is the coldest temps we have been in with Ralphie. The wind howled all night making things very cold and unsettling. As we were now parked sideways in the wind, I thought we might blow over in the night. But we stayed upright with our heat blazing the evening away. With plenty of booze, delicious food, and good friends to hang with we made the best of it.
When the bay returned to normal we were able to move back to our spot. Look at the difference from the afternoon of the storm to the next day when we were able to move back.
Soon it was time for our planned combined Christmas Eve meal. Prime rib and plenty of awesome fixings made for a fun holiday dinner with great friends. It was still cold but with the oven slow cooking the prime rib for a few hours we had no problem staying warm. Pictured below, our cozy rig before and during the Christmas feast.
Both dogs stayed warm and cozy in our home on the road. While the humans hung out with delicious cocktails and music. It was truly a memorable Christmas Eve.
Hank loved visiting our space. Josie tolerated him but I think she secretly liked him (just don’t tell him ok).
After that cold spell we were finally treated to nice weather and for that we were all happy. We weathered the storm and were rewarded with a nice end to 2022.
New Year’s Eve we enjoyed several nice firework shows all around along with a toast to 2023. What a whirlwind of crazy awesomeness!
Oh and I forgot to mention somewhere after that major cold spell we noticed a small leak in our bathroom. Something else to fix. *Update – it is now fixed, all it needed was a new toilet seal. Not a fun job but no major damage.
For those playing beach camping bingo, that’s 1 awning lost, 1 set of solar panels crushed, 2 bugouts, and a leak in the bathroom. All in 1 month. What a way to wrap up 2022. Happy 2023!
Stay tuned for the continuing saga of more beach camping!
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