Here, you can drive up to the waters edge. We opted NOT to take the 45,000 pound bus to the edge of the ocean for fear of settling a little in the sand before waking up to the tune of the tow truck driver!

We arrived at the Malaquite Campground in Padre Island National Seashore- campground in this sense means
a gravel spot overlooking the ocean with an adjacent picnic table, cold water enclosed showers, well kept restrooms and a dump/fresh water station just a few hundred feet away from our parking spot- for only $8 a night. That price is right up our alley. We’ll end up staying here 6 nights, but only deciding to stay a night or two at a time. First day we arrived we were warmly welcomed by what appeared to be a group of folks that use this as their winter getaway, or one of their getaways- and know each other pretty well. They’re having a fish fry the next day and invited us! Now, we’re not huge fish fans, but thought it would be fun to meet some folks and try out the local fish. ‘A dish to pass’ was all we had to bring- so we did.

About 40 friendly folks gathered up in the RV neighborhood for this impromptu fish fry.

Kelly made up the mother lode of macaroni and cheese (homemade) and it was popular with the adults as well as the kids. There must have been 40+ people there! Nice group of people- mostly over 55, on the last nice sunny day before the winter weather hit for Christmas. Before the weather rolled in, we did get in some serious beach combing, surfing, fishing and visiting the visitors center.

May we introduce the 4 newest Padre Island Rangers- add another shiny badge to the roster.

The park service has families figured out- if you can get the family to get one Junior Ranger badge, we’ll have no choice at subsequent national monuments/seashores/parks. That being the case, we earned 4 more Junior Ranger badges! I say ‘we’ because we team up to get it done- Junior Ranger with older sibling or parent. Kelly has remarked more than once that we learn more with the Junior Ranger program than we do as adults trying to pay attention. The program is a concise look at the site that tells who what where and why, AND you get a shiny badge! We have seen a Senior Ranger program at a couple of locations- which seems like a great idea- I wonder if they get a badge? If you’re going to be doing any traveling, get a Federal Land Pass- $80 for admission to all National Parks, Seashores, BLM, Monuments etc etc- with very few exceptions for a whole year. Don’t forget, if your family is driving in 2 separate vehicles (as we often do bus/van), mention to the gate folks that your spouse/immediate family is following you and they will (as far as we have experienced) allow you to pass through together on the same pass.

Christmas morning view- Kelly made it up for almost all of the sunrises- but she did get back in bed after a couple...

This beach campground proved to be pretty comfortable, as we made our way back to Corpus Christi a couple of times for supplies (15 miles) and ran head long into Christmas shopping traffic. Ugh. Enough to get us to stay at the remote campground with deserted beaches and our family, isolated from internet/phone unless we walked a half mile and stood at the top of a lookout tower- or drove 15 miles to the city. That remote feeling provided a sense of family for several days without distraction- other than you know, Christmas. Christmas arrived as we dragged Trevor out of bed- actually we finally gave up and went to the front of the bus without him (at his urging). He would join us after the mayhem of frantic, excited kids discovered what Santa had left behind. There are a few new games and books and fun  things that kept all of us occupied for a couple of days- instead of moving, driving, schooling… It was a nice break for everyone. I ended up reading the first 2 ‘Hunger Games’ books that I got from Lauren in 2 days- hard to put them down! We decided to move on from here since the weather wasn’t getting much warmer (50’s) and our feet were a little itchy- and a few people had gift cards or money to spend back in civilization.

On the way out of the city enroute North- Meila cow-girled it up a little with a new hat and shirt to match her boots and belt. Every one that went into Cavenders Boots in Corpus Christi commented on how good it smelled walking in. AH, leather everything! Simon asked why there were so many cowboys in one place? Ha. We headed North as far as Victoria Texas- with laundry needing to be done, and a simple full hook up campground at just $12/night. We couldn’t say no. When the bus batteries have been off the grid for a while- and subject to short charges on the generator- they really do enjoy a long charging session for a day or two- so we settled into Victoria for a night to get ‘em back into shape.

You just can't drive past a photo opportunity like this! We ended up taking home a sand castle tool set.