Padre Island National Seashore

You’d think it wouldn’t be a surprise that Texas is really big, but for some reason I keep getting whacked over the head with that fact.  Our drive from Austin to Corpus Christi took five hours through endless flat terrain, with only a few small towns along the way to break up the scenery.

It wouldn’t have been a problem except that we were delayed in departure by a missing piece of mail.  I asked my assistant/office manager to forward some important mail from Tucson via FedEx to arrive Tuesday, but she took my instruction to mean any overnight service, and she chose USPS Express Mail.  The mail was “guaranteed” to arrive Tuesday by noon, but it disappeared from the radar on Tuesday and did not show up until five minutes before noon on Wednesday.

Departing at noon meant we pulled into Corpus Christi at 5 p.m.  Even this far south, that’s approximately sunset.  This changed our plan to camp on a deserted section of the Padre Island National Seashore.  I didn’t want to be driving the beach in the dark.

Padre Island is very long.  You first drive about 12 miles from the causeway bridge, heading southwest on Rt 22 into the national parkland.  That’s where Malaquite Campground and the Visitor Center can be found.  A little further down, the road ends at the beach and from there you can drive on the hard-packed sand for many miles.  In Texas, beaches are considered roads, so all the usual traffic laws apply plus a few especially for this beach.  Northbound traffic has the right of way, for example.

padre-island-high-surf.jpgThe first five miles are open to camping, and we had visions of parking the Airstream on the sand and having a spot to ourselves to watch the waves crash on the shore.  But  arriving late meant we needed to take a spot at Malaquite instead.

That turned out to be a good move.  The winds are high right now, which means lots of salt spray.  After our experience at Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts, where three days of salt spray resulted in a lot of damage, I didn’t want to subject the Airstream or the car to that again.  The sites at Malaquite are about 300-400 feet from the water’s edge, and partially protected by a low set of dunes with vegetation.

padre-island-malaquite-campground.jpg

Malaquite is not much more than a strip of parking lot with shade ramadas and bathrooms.  There are no hookups, but a dump station is nearby.  The showers are cold water, although I suppose you could technically say they are heated to about 70 degrees.  This may all sound very primitive, but keep in mind three things: (1) We are in an Airstream with all the comforts of home; (2) the campground costs just $8 per night; and (3) we’re camped right at the beach.

padre-island-oil-rigs.jpgIf we really wanted to camp directly on the beach — a rare thing these days — we could relocate today or tomorrow, but I think we will stay here.  The surf is very high and completely unswimmable, plus there are Portuguese Man O’Wars washing up.  It is only going to reach the upper 60s today, and with the fierce wind it feels kind of cold.  So we feel that we’re close enough to the water for now.  We can see the gulf oil rigs from our bedroom.

Along the road to Corpus Christi we paused in the town of Lockhart, another stop on the informal Texas Barbecue Trail, and bought a pound of brisket from Chisholm Trail BBQ.  This is for scientific purposes.  You see, we had dinner on Tuesday night at Rudy’s in Austin with our friend Gunny and tried their brisket (also their pork ribs and sausage).  Despite being a local chain, Rudy’s was really good, and so the next day when we saw from Rt 181 that we could fit into the parking lot of Chisholm Trail it seemed incumbent upon us to try their brisket for comparison.  I’ll let you know the results of that test soon.

I’ll also be reporting on solar again.  Being a no-hookup situation, we are back on solar power.  The forecast for the week is nothing but sunshine, so even being late in the year I expect we will have all the electrical power we will need.

However, the big downside to Malaquite Campground (other than the rattlesnakes that live in the dune vegetation) and beach camping on Padre Island is that cell phone service is close to non-existent.  Our phones do not work at all, and my Verizon data card is deeply troubled.  I managed to get my email last night after a few attempts, but file attachments and web browsing are out of the question.

So to post the blog, I have to drive for about 30 minutes to the public library for their free wifi, or at least to a point along the park entry road where Verizon’s signal penetrates.  This would be no good for serious work, but for Thursday and Friday this week I can make do.  We drove 250 miles to get here, and I’m not about to rush away from the beach even if it’s a little inconvenient.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine