We headed down to the coast for a fun beach camping vacation. The intent was to soak up the sun, play in the surf with the horses, and hang out with good college buddies. Most of those things even happened! Of course, not every thing goes according to plan which is why a healthy sense of humor and a masochistic delight in irony is always important.
The trip started innocently enough. Alyssa and I loaded up her mare, Hobby, and Brego, grabbed the dogs and groceries, and headed to the coast. Our original destination was Magnolia Beach in Port Lavaca after reading about it in a cool article online. Wisely, we called the day before to discover they did not allow horses on the beach so we quickly adjusted the plan to head to Corpus Christi and Padre Balli Park instead. We called ahead and they said horses were welcome.
After four hours on the road we arrive at the park where we were promptly told that horses were not allowed. Alyssa informed them that we had called ahead and the story changed, horses were allowed, but we needed to be extra careful and clean up after ourselves. We had already planned to pack everything out so we were in good shape. We then spent the next hour and half driving up and down the beach trying to find a camping spot where
- The truck would not get stuck in the sand
- The trailer would not get swept out to see with the tide
- The horses could be highlined on flat ground, not on the side of a dune
- We were at least 20' from the main thoroughfare so our horses did not get hit by drunken teenagers in their Hummers cruising the beach on a Friday night.
Unable to find a suitable spot, we gave up and parked in the primitive campsite off the beach. It turned out to be ideal, because it was protected from the ocean by dunes, so when the storms hit, we had some semblance of a wind break. Oh wait, I skipped ahead.
Thus parked, Alyssa and I tacked up and hit the beach. The horses were shocked, to say the least. The ocean is big and loud with large crashing waves. Both horses first attempted to drink the ocean water. They really didn't get it. There was quite a steep learning curve to convince them that the ocean was fun! By the end of the first ride, we were just happy to get their feet wet and call it a night.
We woke up Friday morning to a flat trailer tire. During the trip, the simulator on the wheels of the trailer had fatigued the tire stem until a hairline crack developed. The tire deflated during the night and I was very thankful not to have a blowout on the interstate. So Friday morning was spent changing the tire and calling around for a new stem for the deflated tire. Just the first of many hiccups of the trip.
Around lunchtime, Nicole and her husband, Brian, arrived. They are old college buddies and they brought their two horses to join the party. Since their horses had traveled all day, we spent Friday evening playing with the dogs in the surf and hand walking the horses down to the beach to get another view of the waves. Brego was so excited about the water that he rolled twice and played chicken with the incoming waves. Nicole's horses did well, but Hobby was not going anywhere near the water. We went back to camp and had a big juicy steak and plenty of beer, very smug about the fact that everything was going according to plan.
It was rainy and gross Saturday morning, but Nicole and I decided to brave the weather and get at least two of the horses more comfortable with the beach. So she went out on Engima, her Andalusian mare, and I took Brego. Both horses did very well and I ended up cantering and galloping Brego through the surf. We were pretty happy with the outlook of the weekend, since we had two of the four horses already pretty steady with the beach environment, which included not only the waves and the relentless wind, but also the unwashed (literally) masses of people who do all sorts of scary things on a beach, like set up horse-eating billowing tents, or cast giant whips, er, fishing poles, into the ocean.
Around lunchtime on Saturday, the first storm hit and dropped over an inch of rain on our campsite. We got flooded out, with low lying areas around our trailers under 3 inches or more of water. We decided to wait it out in my trailer, watching movies and enjoying the AC. Around 4 pm, it looked pretty grim. My NOAA weather radio predicted more storms and 60% chance of rain on Sunday. It was beginning to look like our wet ride Saturday morning would be it for the entire trip. We grudgingly packed up our campsites, ready to head for home instead of suffering through more rain if there was no chance of riding.
Literally as we were pulling our trailers out of the park, the weather broke and we made the decision to turn around and chance another night. With our busy lives, we don't get an opportunity to get together and ride like this often, so we have to seize it when it comes. We turned our rigs around and chose a campsite which was on higher ground. We quickly unloaded the horses and tacked up and hit the beach. Hobby and Alyssa were stills stressed about the water. Brian was pretty unsure, trying to operate the camera to film Nicole while controlling a very hyped up horse. Brego seemed to take it all in stride. We got a fun ride in and then headed back to the trailer.
We did not bother unhooking the trailers in the event we had to evacuate before the next set of storms, so we made a quick dinner and drank adult beverages in my trailer until it was time for bed. NOAA was still predicting more storms after midnight and rain all Sunday. NOAA was partly right, it did rain again Saturday night, but Sunday turned out to be gorgeous. We were glad we stuck it through because the Sunday morning ride turned out to be the best. Everyone was relaxed and finally at peace with the crazy beach scene. Alyssa had one of her most beautiful canters on Hobby to date. Brego was listening and not pulling me around. Nicole and Brian were playing in the surf.
We got back to camp very happy and finally ready to come home. It was then that we realized that I had left the driver's side truck window open and it had rained about an inch of water into my truck, saturating the dash and the delicate leather seat. Uhg, what a mess. Most of the electrical stuff on the truck still worked, although the AC unit kept going nuts. The trailer brakes were working though so we decided to push for home with the windows open and hope the rest of the dash dried en route. For the second time this weekend, the truck came through for us and carried us all safely home, tired, sunburned, but happy.
Like all adventures, the trip was a test of sheer will. With all the little glitches and the terrible weather, both humans and horses had to brave it out to still call the weekend a success. If nothing else, this trip provided plenty of stories to share around the campfire on the next time we can all get together for another try.