Picking a Trip

It’s not a secret; we love to travel! In our short 2+ years of marriage, we’ve taken quite a few trips (list here) both short and long. Our ability to take extended trips is limited by both school and summer internships, so we have to plan ahead to capitalize on every break. With an entire world to see, though, sometimes it hard to decide where to go next!

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When making that choice of where to go first, here are some helpful question to ask yourself.

1) Where do you want to go?

This is an obvious question, but it still must be included. What places top your bucket list? If you can, go there first! Take into consideration your budget: Asia is cheaper than Europe, but a U.S. road trip would be less expensive than either. What time of year will you be traveling? Is it winter or monsoon season where you want to go?

If you haven’t already, make a bucket list. Lists are fun.

2) What do you want to do?

Are you getting away from the hustle and bustle for much needed relaxation? Are you in search of new scenery? New friends? New food? Do you want to see things, or do things? Would you rather travel longer, or luxuriously? Pick the right kind of trip for what you’re hoping to get out of it!

While we are typically active travelers, we decided to go on a cruise for our honeymoon to live it up a little (and eat as much as we wanted). We liked the idea of having everything planned out for us and only needing to show up. However, when we took our trip to Yellowstone, we had just finished a mentally taxing semester of school and wanted to get out in nature and stretch our legs! We roamed around almost the entire park and snapped enthusiastic pictures of wildlife. The purpose was different, and each trip was well suited to the kind of vacation we wanted.

3) Who are you traveling with?

It can be straightforward to decide what you want out of a vacation, but the situation becomes more complicated when you travel with other people who have different ideas about what the trip should look like. Even if you agree on a destination, everyone is different, and they often travel differently.

I call myself a tastebud traveler; when I go somewhere new the first thing I want to do is eat their food. Asian cuisine is my favorite, so that’s where I want to go most. Daniel prefers nature. The less crowded, the better. He loves national parks and his ideal trip is a cross-country motorcycle trip. It’s can be hard to find a middle ground! When we travel, Daniel researches activities, and I look up restaurants and interesting sights. It has been a lot of fun to do both as we add pins to our map.

Communicate and compromise to figure out what works for your group. If someone is into food or photo ops, let them take the lead on that part of the trip. Try to let everyone pick something so it’s a joint effort. Then, and this is key, enjoy their part of the trip too! It may not be your preferred method of travel, but your attitude matters and you can choose to have a good time anyway. If you’re spending the time and money to vacation, you might as well choose to enjoy it!

 

I asked Daniel what he thought about trip planning. He said he takes this approach: “I’m bored. Let’s go somewhere.” So we do.

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Why We Road Trip

There are a lot of ways to travel, and we’ve tried many of them. However, at this point in our lives, we choose to road trip.

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Capitol Reef National Park

Daniel and I spent summer 2017 in beautiful, mountainous Colorado. We took advantage of our convenient Denver location throughout the summer to visit Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, hike 14ers, and more. We filled our weekends with activity and had a blast, but for the end of the summer, we wanted more.

Enter: The End of Summer Road Trip! Not the most creative name, but probably our quickest paced trip to date. The goal was to see as much of the western national parks in 9 days as humanly possibly…while still enjoying the experience. Since Utah is home to 5 national parks, we focused there and branched out to Arizona.

When we tallied it up at the end, we realized that we had hit 14 destinations in our 9 days (and spent >24 hours on the road). It was certainly a whirlwind adventure, but the key for us was to make sure that we didn’t feel rushed. We could have easily spent a week or more at each of the national parks we visited, but since we didn’t have that kind of time, our goal was to get a taste of each in case we never get another opportunity to go back. Our daily routine was to pack in as much as possible in half a day (typically starting at 4:30AM), savor every moment, and move on.

A breakneck paced trip is not for everyone! We definitely needed to rest after our vacation. However, there are many ways to conduct a road trip (obviously), so here are some reasons why you should just get out and DO IT!

1) Budget

Unsurprisingly, money is a huge reason why people don’t travel. Transportation, lodging, activities, and food add up fast! If funds are a problem, planning a road trip is a great solution. Taking your car means a) you don’t have to pay for flights, which stacks up quickly if you’re not traveling alone and b) you don’t have to worry about how to get around at your destination; you brought that with you!

If you don’t hate driving, the road can also be a destination in and of itself. Saving time and free activities! Look up routes beforehand. There are a lot of state or scenic roads that are much more relaxed and fun to drive, but they’re not typically the fastest so your GPS would probably bypass them if you don’t do your research. The Natchez Trace is one of my personal favorites!

2) Time

As mentioned above, driving to your destination is part of the fun, so you don’t waste time with “travel days” stuck in airports. If your road isn’t particularly scenic, look up road trip games (alphabet game, license plate game, travel bingo, etc.) to start the fun early. Also, bring snacks. Snacks are critical.

One aspect of a typical road trip that is your destination is nearby. This saves overall transit time, but also allows you to take a trip with less vacation time available. While we were blessed to be able to spend nine days on our end of summer road trip, one of our favorite trips was to the Florida Keys on a three-day weekend. If you can’t get three days, take two! Go somewhere new overnight. You don’t have to go to Europe or Seattle to take a vacation. Get away and do something you enjoy!

3) Choices, choices, choices

Doesn’t that sounds so appealing? You get to make the schedule, and you also get to decide whether or not to stick to it! Example: Daniel and I decided thirty minutes before leaving for our end of summer road trip that we were going to flip the direction of our route. Good thing we didn’t book anything ahead of time!

A road trip is the perfect kind of travel for making up your mind as you go, taking time to appreciate God’s creation, moving on only when you’re ready, booking AirBnb‘s last minute (or dispersed camping if you can!), and adding items to your itinerary as you hear about them from fellow travelers.

I highly recommend being spontaneous during a road trip. Be flexible and open to new activities. Figure out what you like to do while traveling! A road trip is probably the easiest (and cheapest) way to experiment with traveling.

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Snorkeling at Sombrero Reef on our road trip to the Florida Keys

So where are you going on your next trip?

Parks Road Trip: Arches and Canyonlands

Day #2 of our end of summer road trip: we woke up bright and early  (a theme during this trip, unfortunately) to drive to Arches National Park, UT. Since we were driving at dawn, we spotted a doe with two fawns on the side of the road! It was such a treat and reminded us, again, to slow down and enjoy the journey.

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We rolled into Arches NP just before 7AM with our annual pass hangtag prominently displayed. Our first stop: the ever crowded Delicate Arch trail. This 3.2 mile roundtrip hike is moderate in difficulty level, and I would highly recommend sacrificing sleep to get there early in the day. Not only are there fewer people in the morning, but the heat is still bearable and you don’t yet miss the lack of shade.

We got a late enough start that we just followed the people in front of us, but for sunrise hikers, there are plenty of cairns (little rock piles) marking the trail over the rock.

It’s a pretty hike (see some footage in my video of the trip) with Utah’s famous red rocks, and the shapes are just awe-inspiring. Did nature carve them or were they created that way? Don’t be in a huge hurry to get to the top; we saw so many people who weren’t even paying attention to their surroundings. Delicate Arch may be the reason they’re there, but they miss so much on the way.

The arch itself is set on the edge of a giant bowl that acts as an amphitheater. Visitors can sit on the rim of the bowl to rest, drink water, and admire the view. What was crazy to me was how solitary Delicate Arch looked. Unlike the other arches we saw in the park, it’s not next to or part of other formations; it’s by itself jutting up huge and incredible! It may be crowded, but I think it is absolutely worth it to go see.

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Important note: NEVER climb on an arch! Not only is it unsafe, but these structures are slowly eroding and will one day collapse. Out of consideration for others, don’t make that happen any sooner.

Pro tip: on the other side of the ridge from Delicate Arch is the valley pictured below. In our opinion, it is equally breathtaking and architecturally intriguing. As a bonus, you can climb on top of high rocks to get there. We only saw a few other people take the opportunity to admire this view, which is sad. It’s neglected because it’s not famous, but it’s still beautiful. If you ever make the trip, please stop and enjoy it for us!

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By the time we got back to our car, the parking lot was overflowing and we were happy to get out of there. We don’t like crowds!

While there are many other hikes that we would have liked to do, our time (and my stamina) was limited. One stop we didn’t want to miss: Double Arch, not to be confused with Double O Arch. Yes, it’s confusing. It is conveniently located in a loop off the main road along with  The Windows. If you want to see a lot without hiking too far, this is the stop for you.

These arches are a mere 0.5 mile walk round trip on an almost entirely flat path. You have the option to clamber up the structure when you get there, which we did, of course. Daniel free climbed to the highest points I was comfortable with.

While Delicate Arch was impressive because of it’s shape, location, and isolation, Double Arch was equally impressive due to its immense size. If you climb, you feel like you’re in a cavern except there is plenty of light. The layers of rocks are very clear, and very beautiful. Even though it is crawling with people, it’s a big enough area that you can still find a place to sit alone and admire God’s handiwork in relative peace.

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That was the end of our Arches stop. Like all of the other national parks we visited, we could have easily spent a week here and not felt like we had seen enough. Since our goal was to hit the highlights, we decided to end on the high of Double Arch and move on to Canyonlands.

Before leaving the city of Moab, however, we stopped for some fast food and wifi. A lesson we learned about Utah is that there is very little LTE coverage in the state! So if you need to look something up (like your next campsite), stop in town.

About 30 minutes from the Arches visitor center is the main visitor center of Canyonlands. This park is unusual in that it has three distinct sub-parks: Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. Each section is more remote and less accessible than the last. For our day trip, we chose Island in the Sky.

To be honest, Canyonlands is like a bigger, less developed Arches. The views are definitely better, but there are fewer unique rock formations you can get to. We chose to go to Mesa Arch because of its proximity to the entrance.

After hiking 0.25 miles one way, we were underwhelmed by the arch that greeted us. Mesa Arch is long and flat, and not very big. But when we walked closer, we did what EVERY SINGLE other tourist we saw did: gasp in awe. While not an impressive arch, Mesa Arch is like a window to a canyon plain that is so big it’s hard for your brain to make sense of it. The colors and shapes are so fantastic and stretch so far that it looks more like a painting than real life.

Really, it’s hard to describe that view. While it may be tempting to pass Canyonlands by, I would highly recommend stopping just to see what’s beyond Mesa Arch!

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Getting close to the edge at Mesa Arch!

Unfortunately, Mesa Arch is all we ended up seeing in Canyonlands. A storm that was building up all morning finally broke in a torrential downpour complemented by frenzied lightning. The rangers at the visitor center strongly advised that we not do any more hiking, so that was the end of our brief visit.

Summary

If you’re short on time, pick the few, best destinations, and then be content with moving on. I am a huge proponent of not regretting decisions you made for a good reason. See what you can, and be happy with that. It’s better to take your time and enjoy three stops than rushing to get to four.

Between Arches and Canyonlands, I recommend Delicate Arch, Double Arch, The Windows, and Mesa Arch. Basically I liked everything we saw. It’s hard not to when there is so much beauty everywhere you look.

Thanks for reading! I hope you make it to some Utah parks someday!

Parks Road Trip: Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Telluride

Day #1 of our end of summer road trip started early. We packed everything in our car, checked out of the apartment, out-processed for our summer internships by 9:30AM, and hit the road immediately. We didn’t want to waste any time!

Fun fact: On our way to work that morning, Daniel said that he didn’t want to get sandy at our very first stop (Great Sand Dunes at that point) so an hour before setting out, we reversed the direction of our trip! We grabbed some snacks at Walmart and headed west instead of south.

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Our first stop of the trip, besides for palisade peaches, was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. However, before we got to the canyon, we got to enjoy the drive. There are a lot of beautiful rocks and bodies of water on the way there along 285, including the dam seen above. We pulled over multiple times for random rock climbing and mini hikes to go look at something interesting.

Since this was our first day on the road, we still had those post-work jitters and we were eager to see everything and then move along! When we finally got to the Black Canyon, our annual parks pass got us in for free. We only gave ourselves an hour, but we were still able to stop at every overlook without being rushed.

The visitor center itself has an overlook with railings that is nice, but was more crowded than the other overlooks. The back doors of the center open to the view, so be careful not to walk out with merchandise like I did! I had to run back and sheepishly pay for my postcards.

Once you pass the visitor center, there is a series of overlooks, all on the passenger side. Stop on the way, because it’s harder to park going the other direction! While much of the view is the same, they’re still all beautiful, and some give better views of the river or the spiderweb patterns on the cliff face. The last overlook is a little loop that lets you double back towards the visitor center and the entrance.

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Next stop: Telluride! We hear the skiing is great in the winter, but we just went to ride the free gondola! The full route takes you from a parking garage to Mountain Village resort and finally to the town of Telluride itself. We hopped on just as the sun was starting to set and got a gorgeous view. As luck would have it, the mayor of Telluride caught the same gondola! We asked lots of questions about the city, the transit system, and got recommendations for dinner.

What we did not expect but appreciated immensely was the lack of pollution and the abundance of fresh mountain air. I’ve never described air as invigorating before, but it really was in Telluride. We loved it! After visiting, we have to go back someday.

We wandered around the city of Telluride in the semi-dark and ate the best calzones I’ve ever had at Brown Dog Pizza. Even though it’s a tourist destination, you could also tell that people actually live there. It was a nice mix.

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It’s free to ride the Telluride gondola! Definitely worth the stop.

By this time, it was dark and late. Thankfully, the gondola was open till midnight so we caught a ride back to our car. Gas was expensive in Telluride, but one tip we got from friends and I would heartily repeat is to fill up on gas when you see a station! They are just infrequent enough to leave you uncomfortable a lot of the time.

We left town and found a forrest road to camp on. Because we hadn’t researched ahead of time, we ended up picking a four wheel drive road and couldn’t escape the car sounds all night. Luckily, we were too tired to care!

Summary

Even though it was technically a driving day, we made sure to enjoy the journey by making pre-researched stops along the way and by using Foursquare and the recommendations of locals to find good food.

Check out the travel video I made about the whole trip!

 

 

SPI Mini Trip

This past weekend we went deep sea fishing!

Oh yes we did. And while I’m quite glad we did, there are several distinct reasons why I will never be going again. A few hours of reasons actually that all go by the same name: seasickness.

The first hour or so actually wasn’t bad at all. On the ride out to an artificial reef, I had a blast in the front of the boat snuggled up in Daniel’s arms and enjoying the crashing waves. It was quite a thrill to be honest and felt like a romantic cruise.

About fifteen minutes after we dropped anchor, I started feeling a little queasy… In total I only got to fish for 20 minutes. The rest of my time was spent with eyes glued to the horizon trying not to vomit. Not so fun anymore.

Daniel had a blast and caught two fish despite the overfishing problem at the reef we drifted around.

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I was a proud wife for sure!

Unfortunately, just as we started back I also became a violently ill wife. I made the mistake of getting off the benches and walking forward and barely made it through the railing to lose my lunch and feed the fish. Lovely, I know.

A kind fellow passenger gave me a bottle of ice water for which I was extremely grateful. I sipped cool liquid the whole way back, eventually finishing it. Here’s me after my incident! It was sunset and I was feeling better again so I was able to partially enjoy the trip.

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Upon our return, the crew gutted our fish for us. I hadn’t expected them to shrink so much! The filets we ended up with were quite small. Pier 19 has a special to cook freshly caught fish and, upon the recommendation of the pros, we ordered our fish blackened. Oh so good!

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Each plate came with several side, but the fish was the clear star. Easily the best I’ve ever had! By that time my stomach had settled and I was able to fully appreciate the meal. Great end to our trip.

It was a good thing that Daniel had so much fun; it was enough for both of us. After talking to Daniel and the crew, I’ve actually been persuaded to try again! I’m crazy, I know. However, the next try will be a bay fishing expedition where I’ve been promised it’s nearly impossible to get seasick and the fishing is actually easier. I really hope they’re right!

Made it to Mexico

Originally we had planned to stay clear of the border towns for safety reasons, but a trip to Mexico was too tantalizing to resist when it was only half an hour away. Daniel asked around and did some research on the safest place to cross over and then we planned our visit to Nuevo Progresso. We decided to spend the Friday of Daniel’s next three day weekend out of country.

While we were both looking forward to the excursion, I was the one who acted like a little kid about it. I usually am. My kind and long-suffering husband let me take the lead and look at everything while he went into protector mode, looking with me but also scanning our surroundings. He treats me like a queen and has appointed himself my bodyguard! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am so lucky…

On the bridge into Mexico!
On the bridge into Mexico!

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Mexico, but it wasn’t what we found. The main street immediately across the bridge was vibrant and busy. Street vendors beckoned us while we hid our curious glances behind sunglasses. That part we were ready for. What we had not anticipated was the reason for a lot of the vocal advertisements. “You need dental work?” we were asked again and again by men and women pushing brochures and business cards into our hands. “Manicure, pedicure, wax!” was another extremely common refrain.

As we learned, Nuevo Progresso, like a lot of the things near the border, caters to “Winter Texans.” The Winter Texans come over for the experience, but also for the cheap dental work and, apparently, the nail salons. We felt a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of eager individuals trying to sell us on services.

Our first stop in Mexico was a big tourist shop selling pretty much everything, but I was there for the bowls. For the past few years, I have been collecting a bowl from every place I visit as a unique and functional souvenir. Daniel snapped a great picture of me drooling over the pottery.

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After I had found “the one” we strolled down the main road soaking everything in. Jewelry, NFL paraphernalia, colorful hammocks, carved wooden animals, glazed nuts, cups of fruit, clothing, car accessories, and more were on display. Whenever we would stop, the stall owner was loathe to let us leave so on several occasions, we found ourselves making purchases we hadn’t planned on just because we were in good moods and having so much fun!

An hour or so in, we started to look for food. I wanted to get tacos from a street vendor. However, when walking past a row of them to see what they had, each owner came out and followed us to try to get us to eat there! I love street food, but I did not want to be mobbed. We retreated from that area and found a quite hole in the wall.

When we first saw it, we thought it was a fast food stall, but once we had ordered at the grill outside, we were welcomed into an air conditioned area inside. Even better! We got two burritos and a drink for Daniel. Though the meal was simple, the ingredients were clearly fresh and on the whole, delicious. I was quite tempted to get another.

My man indulged my childlike eagerness
My man indulged my childlike eagerness
Look at all that goodness!
Look at all that goodness!

After lunch, I decided to venture down a side street and see what else Nuevo Progresso had to offer. But before I even got there, we turned back. It did not look safe or welcoming off the main street. We decided to stick to the tourist areas.

Back in the busy area, I stopped at one of the carts for some Mexican sweets. I had seen it about ten times already and couldn’t say no to my curious sweet tooth any longer. After all, who doesn’t want to try pumpkin or sweet potato candy? I asked the lady how much and when she answered “two for one dollar,” I decided to get one of each. She gestured to the two piles and said “pumpkin, sweet potato.” “Yes, can I get one of each?” I replied. She paused then gestured again. We repeated variations of this exchange for nearly a minute before Daniel broke in. “Uno, uno,” he said and pointed to each pile. The lady nodded in clear relief and picked one of each. Ah. Since she had spoken English, it hadn’t occurred to me that “one of each” would be something she wouldn’t understand.

That’s one thing I learned about most of the street vendors. They were well versed in broadcasting their wares and naming prices, but their practiced vocabulary was also extremely limited. If you said something they didn’t know, you’d get a pause and then they would repeat the words they did know. That experience was eye-opening for me. I am still very much a tourist.

Speaking of being tourists, on our way back I saw a pineapple vendor and immediately declared I had to have one of whatever she was making. The table was abandoned at the time. Daniel patiently walked up and down a section of the street with me three times waiting for her to get back. It was absolutely worth it.

By far my most touristy picture ever.
By far my most touristy picture ever.

Just look at that happy face! It is called an pina loca and was easily the best pineapple I’ve ever tasted. It was so fresh and sweet the acid didn’t even make my tongue hurt. I had no way of asking what was in the red powder and red syrup (though I suspect tamarind and fruit punch), but I didn’t care. It was beautiful, exotic, and yummy! Daniel laughed at my over-eager enthusiasm the entire walk back to the bridge since that’s how long it took me to eat it.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Mexico.

He looked intimidating the whole time, but here's a smile!
He looked intimidating the whole time, but here’s a smile!

While it had taken us two minutes to get in, we spent nearly an hour getting out. We chatted with the others in line, traded high’s and low’s, and basked in our happy tourist glows. Okay, that last one was just me.

Before driving home, I walked to the currency exchange building on the U.S. side of the border to buy pesos. Yes, I spent $3 buying foreign money for my scrapbook.

Then we went home. We didn’t spend long in Mexico. We were there for just under three hours. That was enough time for us. It’s one more memory, and one more pin for our world map.

Scouting South Padre Island

South Padre Island is one of Texas’s top beach destinations. With a lagoon full of sandbars for fishing on one side and an entire coastline of perfect beaches on the other, its small wonder that South Padre is a tourist paradise. Luckily for us, it’s just a one hour drive from our apartment! So far we’ve visited twice, but plan to come back on a regular basis. Daniel loves the sun and white noise from the surf and I love the cool ocean breeze and the playing in the waves.

The first trip to SPI (South Padre Island) was on our second day here. We ventured over to the island for a few morning hours to do a little splashing and soaking up some Vitamin D. Daniel complained that it was overcast while I reveled in the cloud-induced cool.

Skipping a weekend to check out Corpus Christi and Padre Island, we spent all of yesterday savoring every drop of beachy-ness we could squeeze out of SPI! This time the weather was satisfactorily sunny.

We started our beach day early since we’ve finally adjusted to Daniel’s early work schedule and were on the island by approximately 9:30AM. Picking the third beach access point so the sand would be less crowded, we assembled our typical beach setup: a card table propped up on two legs with a sheet draped over top and a picnic table at the base to sit on. In case that is difficult to picture, I snapped a picture of Daniel engaging in our first beach activity. IMG_1846 We read for about an hour, simultaneously tanning and absorbing our good books. The sound of the surf in the background was vitalizing and lulling at the same time. However, no one can sit on the sand forever. Soon, we snapped our books shut, hurriedly reapplied sunscreen, and rushed the water.

Being far more enthusiastic about ocean swimming, I quickly reverted to my childhood love of and capricious playfulness around the crashing waves. I spent the weekends of two summers on California beaches as a child. My family would camp and do nothing but play in the sun and surf for 48 hours. That free love of the beach has stuck with me and infuses every seashore encounter with joy.

It took a little bit of convincing, but I finally persuaded Daniel to try body surfing with me. We spent 30 glorious minutes riding the waves and being tumbled through them. I am determined that next time we’ll bring boogie boards.

Due to extremely a high UV index of 10, we got out and ventured over to the lagoon. We expected the perfectly calm water to be cool and refreshing, but while it was exciting to wade through shin deep water 200 yards from the shore, the lagoon was tepid, covered in sea grass, and teeming with algae. Not too pleasant! We went back to reading.

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Later in the day we continued to explore SPI looking for places we want to revisit on our next trip. My sister might fly out for a weekend so we were also scouting activities she would enjoy. Top items on our list include boogie boarding, renting mopeds, eating fresh seafood at a local oyster house, and spending the morning at our new favorite beach on the north side of the island. We’re planning the perfect weekend!

Speaking of that new beach… We took a 15 minute drive till the road ended and then trekked across the sand dunes to find much larger waves. Body boarding there was an absolute blast! The beach was littered with shells and seemed to be the go-to location for return visitors. The beach may have been harder to reach, but we agreed it would be well worth it on our next beach trip.

We refueled at a local Whataburger in true Texas style and then headed back to the beach one last time for more body boarding and absorbing rays. By this time it was just past 6PM and we headed out hoping to avoid the heaviest of the outgoing traffic.

Goodbye, South Padre! Until next time.
Goodbye, South Padre! Until next time.

Before leaving for the day, we made our customary stop by Dairy Queen for a pair of blizzards. The perfect cold and sweet way to end a fun day!

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Camping Corpus Christi

One of the larger cities in the great state of Texas, Corpus Christi is known for the fifth largest port in the states, the USS Lexington, and accessible long seashores. It supports a large naval base and is home to the original Whataburger.

This past weekend, Daniel surprised me with a trip to Corpus complete with an overnight beach camping trip on Padre Island!

After a leisurely morning drive, we started at the Lexington so that Daniel could share his love of military history. It is, indeed, shared. I have a deep seated love of knowledge so I spent a great deal of time reading all the signs, perhaps too long since he was always waiting for me to catch up!

Being an aircraft carrier, the ship was immense. We spent approximately 3 hours exploring what was open to the public.

My favorite exhibit that detailed the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was an interactive video presentation that showed both models of the attack and pictures of the destruction. A striking panel nearby compared before and after pictures of each of the 19 ships that were damaged. Both these and the staggering losses associated with the attack were sobering.

We finished the tour by walking past an impressive lineup of naval aircraft and getting a good view of the ocean from the top of the command center.

Next stop: the beach.

Padre is a barrier island, 113 miles in length, and creates an intriguingly calm lagoon on the landward side and offers miles of explorable beaches on the other. Signs at the visitors center were highly informative and I learned that nearly half of the species of bird in the United States migrate through the area. It is also an excellent area for sea turtles, though we didn’t get to see any.

Fun fact: starting at Malaquite beach, an approximately 65 mile stretch of sand is considered a state highway complete with a strictly enforced speed limit of 15 mph!

After a quick stop, we continued past the visitors center and onto the open sand. Every few hundred yards, there was a sandy clearing on the island side of the “highway” for campers. We snagged one a mile or so down and set up camp.

Although we had prepared to park and then hike to our camping spot, we decided to take the easy and less sandy way by sleeping in the back of the car, like so:

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Although we passed on the chance to rough it for the night, we took a walk up the sand dunes for a better view of the water. Here’s our “campsite” with a beach background.

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We spent the next day and a half frolicking on the sandbar, snapping photos, relishing the calm nature, and digging up (sometimes literally) beach wildlife. We watched the sunset together while splashing through the waves, then spent a few hours stargazing. I’ve never seen so many stars!

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We then dragged ourselves our of our makeshift campsite bright and early to admire the sunset. It was breathtaking.

We enjoyed a lazy and snack-y morning, then went swimming once more before taking off. It was still just as much fun to drive along a sand highway at a safe speed limit of 15MPH until we reached the main road.

We stopped by JB’s German Bakery for some yummy streusel while still on Padre Island before heading home from our exciting weekend.

Loved Corpus and hoped to return before the end of the summer!