– Day One: Denton, Texas to Gonzalez, Texas –

It seems like we take a trip to the Texas Gulf Coast at least once a year. Looking back at pictures on our photodatabase, I think we sometimes even make the trip twice. Most of the time, we visit Corpus Christi, which is our favorite coastal locale, and we usually visit during the cooler months. This year, we’ve decided to take our Gulf trip during the summer, and while it is definitely hotter, it really hasn’t turned out too badly at all.

We started out on Friday night after Mark got off work. We only intended to get down to Gonzalez, but it still made for a late-ish evening. It’s about 285 miles from Denton to Gonzalez, which is 4.5 hours without stopping. We, of course, stop all of the time, so it was after 10pm when we made it to our La Quinta in Gonzalez. Since we are Elite Members (which is a hilarious thing to say about a budget hotel), our room was upgraded, and we ended up staying in a suite. I wish we could’ve picked that hotel room up and taken it down to the coast with us. The ones further south are quite a bit older and less nice.

Ripley in her fancy new Ruffwear harness

As a side note, if you’ve never heard me talk about La Quinta before, it is worth mentioning that we stay in them as often as we do because they always take pets. La Quinta hotels are half of the reason that Ripley has seen as much of the country as she has. I know she’s grateful.

– Day Two: Gonzalez, Texas to Corpus Christi, Texas –

For another quick aside, if you know your Texas history, you’ll know that Gonzalez is famous (in Texas) for the Battle of Gonzalez, which is considered to be the first fight of the Texas Revolution. The short story is, the settlers in the city had a cannon given to them for protection, and after a small disturbance between a Mexican soldier and a man from the city, the Mexican authorities decided that it was dangerous to allow the colonists to retain possession of the cannon. When they asked for it back, the colonists refused and made up that “Come and Take It” flag that I know you’ve all seen. It was hardly more than a dust-up, but the political climate at the time made it a much bigger deal than it sounds like it is. This description leaves a lot out, so if you’re really curious, you can read about it in the Handbook of Texas here.

I mention it because I had to look up whether or not the cannon was still in the city on Saturday morning. If it was, how could we miss it? Alas, no one knows for sure what happened to it, so there was nothing for us to see. We got up reasonably early on Saturday and had our free La Quinta breakfast, then headed on out of town. Ripley and I usually run 6 days a week, with one day a weekend as our skip day, so Saturday was it. Gonzalez is not nearly as pretty as our other potential running locations later in the long weekend.

The truck setup at Padre Island National Seashore

From Gonzalez, it’s about 3 hours on into Corpus Christi and down to Padre Island National Seashore. On the way down, we stopped at a couple of Buc-ee’s gas stations  for bathroom breaks and tea. They are really prolific down in this area. Up in the DFW area, we’ve only been seeing them sprout up in the last few years. If you’ve never been, and you see one on the road, be sure to stop. If nothing else, they are an interesting novelty, and they always have fantastically clean bathrooms.

We also had lunch at a Blimpie’s sub shop in a Best Western near downtown Corpus Christi. For whatever reason, it doesn’t even show up on the maps of the area. We just happened to spot it as we were driving past, looking for somewhere we could grab food to go. It is definitely too hot to even think of leaving Ripley in the car during the day.

Ripley really wants us to move the truck back a bit.

With our tummies full of sandwich (and Ripley’s full of kibble), we continued our adventure with our first ever drive out onto the beach. We’ve never driven on the beach down here, despite visiting so many times. Why, you might ask? Well, despite looking tough and having quite a high clearance for the vehicle style, our Xterra was only a 2-wheel drive. We’ve actually had tires spinning when just one of the back wheels loses traction. Since that is an uncomfortable mess, we tried to avoid doing it too often, so we never drove on the beach. Our new Tacoma, on the other hand, is basically made for beach driving, and Mark got to put it in 4-wheel drive for the first time for our trek down the beach. I’ll admit to being a little nervous. Mark and Ripley thought it was fantastic.

Since we knew we’d be able to drive out onto the beach this trip, we planned our packing around it. We borrow a canopy from my parents and brought our beach chairs. When we finally found a nice-ish spot (which is hard, since the beach is covered in various sea detritus this time of year), we parked and practically set up camp. We tied Ripley to the truck, put up our canopy, rolled out our new giant cooler, pulled out our chairs, and got out our new magnetic speaker to listen to podcasts. Unfortunately for us, it was so windy that we could barely hear each other talking, let alone listen to our podcast, so we were forced to instead listen to music that occasionally made itself known over the rushing of the wind.

In spite of that, it was a beautiful day, and everyone took a little swim in the water and frolicked a bit on the beach. Well, Ripley did most of the frolicking. Mark and I hid under the shade from the vicious sunshine. We made Ripley come in every once in a while, too. I was a little worried about her sunburning the pink areas around her nose. I wonder if they make sunscreen for puppy noses, or if I can just apply ours. Something to google for next time, I think.

From under the awning

We eventually abandoned our beach nest around 5:30 or so, and it was not because we were ready to leave. Ripley’s beach harness snapped at the attachment point, and we didn’t have any others that we could use to tie her out. She was very disappointed when we packed it in. We drove on over to our hotel after and dropped off our bags and took showers. Ripley wasn’t pleased with being rinsed off, either. She’s kind of a princess.

To round out our day, we ran to a couple of grocery stores to pick up some stuff for our lunch the next day and bought Ripley a new beach harness at the pet store. Hopefully this one will hold up. The other one was almost as old as Ripley herself (5!), so if this one’s anything like the last one, it will be money well spent.

Since it was after 6:30 by now and we were a little tired, Mark and I just picked up black bean tacos from Taco Cabana and drove back to the hotel to spend the evening with Ripley. I’d say she was glad to be out of the cage, but she got back in it almost as soon as everything settled down. After all, it is the best place for a puppy to sleep.

– Day Three: Corpus Christi, Texas –

We rolled out of bed early Sunday morning for a run at our favorite local spot- the trail around Texas A&M Corpus Christi. We’ve run there so many times that we can spot when little things have changed along the path. We always run into what I assume must be feral cats, as well, though it is possible they all have owners, Regardless, the little island is home to quite a few of them, and Ripley always tries to kill me on our runs there by dragging me violently off the trail in hot pursuit of a crafty feline.

Usually when we visit Corpus, we go to My Favorite Muffin for breakfast, but the one closest to us was closed on Sundays, and the one a little farther away wasn’t open until later in the morning, so we went back to our hotel and had showers before we ate. I think Mark dies a little inside when we have to wait for breakfast. I know Ripley does, though she didn’t have to wait.

Ripley on the breakwater at Mustang Island State Park

Before we left, we packed up everything for the beach. We stopped by My Favorite Muffin, where Mark had a bagel sandwich and I, of course, had a muffin. I’m not sure how Mark can justify eating a bagel when the muffins are in the shop’s name, but I digress. It was a very nice muffin. It doesn’t take too long to get to Mustang Island State Park, our next destination, from there. Mark and Ripley were once again thrilled as we drove down the beach there, this one marked specifically “4×4 only.” It’s cute the things that make Mark happy. So far, so good on the 4-wheel drive. I’m a little anxious to get stuck, but Mark keeps telling me it will be good for us to learn how to get ourselves out. I just keep imagining the hassle.

We’d never been this far down the beach at the state park, and we were surprised to discover that there’s a breakwater on the 4×4 side. We ended up setting up our little camp beside it, right in front if a picnic table and upwind from a little outhouse. Unfortunately, they were working on the porta-potty that day, so we did get a less-than-delightful whiff of sewer every great once in a while when the wind changed.

Beach day setup

With our camp set up, we wandered over to the breakwater to look around and take pictures. It wasn’t anything particularly spectacular, but it was nice, and I like to think some of the pictures turned out really well. It was a very popular time to be out fishing, since it was still so early in the morning. Regardless, the beach wasn’t too crowded and we were happy to be there so early.

That done, we went back to our canopy and set up our chairs and cooler and speakers. The wind was much better in the state park, and we were able to listen to our podcasts. We probably sat on the beach for four hours or so. It was definitely long enough for Mark to take a nap, and for the beach to start to fill. Ripley chased tiny sand crabs behind the truck the entire morning. I tried to teach Mark to spot them too without much success. Ripley and I are pretty good at picking them out, despite the beachy camouflage, but Mark’s never been great at that. I’m the official animal spotter when we go to aquariums and zoos. It’s my superpower.

Mark napping on the beach.

Around 12:30, we had a light lunch from our cooler and sat around for another hour or so before getting a little hotter than we wanted and packing up our camp. We’d never intended to spend the entire day, since Mark definitely wanted a trip on the ferry. From Mustang Island, it takes a little under an hour to get over to Port Aransas. That’s the little tourist town where the ferry runs. It’s a cute town, and on cooler winter days we’ve wandered through the souvenir stores and candy shops looking at silly things for sale, but it was much too hot for that today. Instead, we went and got into the massive line for the ferry.

We were pretty surprised when, despite the line, it only took us about 15 or 20 minutes to make it to the front. They had all of the ferry boats running at full capacity. It was an impressive sight. They’re very efficient at shuttling cars from one side to the other as rapidly as possible, I have to say. Mark took pictures during our ferry crossing while Ripley and I lounged in the Tacoma. We’ve taken this particular ferry so many times that it has become old hat. Mark still likes to take cool pictures of boats, so he’s always out there snapping away. Watching the ferries weave in and around each other and the other massive ships out in the harbor is pretty cool, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

On the ferry from Port Aransas to Aransas Pass

That all done, we went back to our hotel for a shower and a change of clothes. Ripley didn’t even need a rinse this time, since we didn’t get wet. Since we still had some time left in the day (though it was after 4), we packed Ripley up and took her to the dog park over in Portland, Texas, back across the big bridge. There’s a lot of stuff between downtown Corpus Christi and Portland that just hangs out on the tiny islands in between. We’ve driven around down in there several times before, though we skipped it this time.

Ripley had a great time at the dog park. She even played fetch, which isn’t always her favorite game. Someone had left behind one of those tennis ball chuckers that’s made to make the ball go crazy distances, and while we have one at home, we can never go all out and throw it really far. Here, we definitely had the room to get some distance, and Ripley was totally game. I can’t believe she still had the energy after her morning run and her day at the beach. She’s just made of hyperactivity.

Fetching the ball at Kaiah Dog Park in Portland

Ripley got to meet a Great Dane on her way out of the park, which she thought was terrifying. She’s a little guarded around other dogs at the best of times, and this one was way too big to even be real, in her opinion. Mark and I found him to be very sweet, but Ripley was having none of it. We took her back to our hotel to rest while we went out for dinner.

In the end, we didn’t go very far. There’s an express Chinese food place right next to the hotel, and while it wasn’t fancy, it worked out reasonably well, especially since we were too tired to put forth more effort and find better food. It definitely isn’t something I can recommend, but it wasn’t terrible, and would be edible again if we found ourselves in a similar state of exhaustion.

Chinese food in our hotel room

On Monday, we planned to leave Corpus Christi after our morning run and meander up the Texas coast to Galveston to stay one more night down here before heading on home. We haven’t been to Galveston in quite a while, since they were having issues with bacteria in the water the last time we tried. We were definitely hoping for a better experience this time.

– Trip Total : 580 miles

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