last year we were so fortunate to be able to experience so many of our public lands, parks and monuments. I decided to start collecting patches along the way as a way to remember the places we had seen.
I bought our first official patch at the padre island national seashore. the kind volunteer behind the counter at the gift shop explained to us how we could drive onto the beach and camp there. he also told us how the beach in texas is considered a highway, and if we chose to we could drive for miles on it. we were thrilled with the possibility.
it was there that I started thinking about this quilt. from every park, monument, forest or historical site that we stopped at with a visitor center, I bought a patch and added it to this quilt. it’s like a living memory, a work in progress. hand stitching the patches over fabric that is covering holes in the antique bedcover that is older than me.
when we were at yellowstone, it just happened to be the month of the 100 year anniversary of this amazing place. we were lucky enough to be caught in the middle of a herd of bison crossing the road; they were feet from our car, and I will never forget that feeling, the feeling that we were visiting their home. we were their guests. it was humbling. and it was my favorite day.
death valley was spectacular.
our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,
to the peaks of alaska, and back around…
we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.
we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.
this is one of our favorite campsites; a wildlife preserve in western nevada.
without the bureau of land management, the national forests, the department of antiquities, the national monuments or the national forests none of this would have been possible. we have so much left to see. and we saw so much.
it is vital that they stay funded, operating and protected.
we had spent the previous night in a sleepy little texas coastal town called rockport.
waking up to the foggy ocean air, and seeing what we had missed coming in under darkness; the palm tree lined streets, the tiny carribean colored houses.
after a tiny terrible mishap involving one of us (not me) leaving the other (me) high and dry waiting outside of the walmart after she ran in to use the toilet….making her absolutely frantic and hysterically erupting into a crying fit…after THAT, we headed south to fulfill a bucket list goal of mine:
camp on a beach.
we followed the road as it led into the national park that is south padre island. were finally able to use our national parks pass (high five) and onward we went.
after speaking with a kindly gentleman at the visitors center and purchasing two patches and a postcard, we headed out to look at each camping choice and decide what would be best for us.
choosing our camping / sleeping site each night is a bit like the process the Goldilocks used to pick her bed, or maybe, as xander describes it, when I’m driving around a walmart lot, examining every nook and cranny before picking the perfect spot, like a dog choosing where to do his business. it’s very important you get it just right.
we headed first to the $8/night site which was basically an oblong loop with sites on either side of the loop; pretty much each spot taken by either a large rv or a medium rv, several old men in various stages of beer gut shirtless-ness…also multiple dogs. next.
the second site was on the opposite side of the island, which was much windier (hence, the hangout place for windsurfers), was $5/night and had a few rv’ers there, but I was immediately turned off by the wind and chill…..ok show me this free beach camping I’ve heard about.
on padre you can camp anywhere on the 60 miles (yes, sixty miles!) of beach south of the park visitor center for free. if your vehicle can get there, you’re welcome to it. the beach in texas is considered part of the state highway system, so your car is expected to obey the speed limit, etc, etc.
can you get there without 4WD, we wondered? they told us the first 5 or so miles are so well packed that any 2 wheel drive vehicle can make the drive.
determined, curious, we headed down to the literal end. of. the. road….and stopped to look it over. there was a surprising amount of what looked to me “soft sand” right near the beginning of the beach/road.
off to the our left side was a big white camper van with it’s window open. we walked over and asked the white haired woman in the passenger seat if they’d ever driven on the beach.
“yes, we have…we’ve gotten stuck a few times…but if you stay in the packed sand, you do fine…. we don’t have 4 wheel drive on this, does your car?”
“yeah we don’t either, that’s what makes me worried” I answered.
“Hal!” she yelled over her shoulder “these kids should be fine, don’t you think?” Hal, a frail white haired gentleman appeared from behind her, “they want to go on the beach.” she told him.
“oh, yes! you’ll be great…is that your car? do the seats fold down? that reminds me so much of the vehicle we had when we were in Bolivia just starting out! don’t you just love it?” Hal bubbled. obviously we had found two more kindred spirits. after an animated conversation regarding possessions, travel, and driving in the snow vs sand…we were given more direction and a huge boost of confidence, then we were off.
car in drive
steady, steady, steady
though the mushy part….don’t hesitate.
and we were there,
we were driving on the damn beach.
I waved a big thumbs up out the window to our new friends, and away we went.
we picked a spot laughingly close to the entrance to set up.
we also learned quickly how to put up a tent in the wind and sand
and then how to quickly take that fucker down.
there’s sand everywhere. but, we are sleeping on the beach, under the stars and within ear-reach of the waves. I watched the moon rise in the front windshield and then followed it as it set through the back window. and then enjoyed the magic of the first light casting pink and greys over the ocean.