Spring Break Padre Island
by Bill McGowan
Both myself and my cousin Kevin were going to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin and decided to drive down to Padre Island near Corpus Christi, TX for spring break. It was either 1977 or 1978. I had bought a big old car, not sure what make it was – maybe a Gran Prix – for $350 from one of my teachers after he got me a loan from the faculty credit union. It was a big hunk of American metal, comfortable and good – except for one thing – it leaked oil like a sieve. Neither of us had much money – we just assumed we could not afford to fix it. We were only going to stay overnight on Padre Island (again because we did not have much money). Our plan was to buy a case of oil and put a quart in every 50-100 miles. So we made it down to Padre Island just past Corpus Christi where we heard that you could sleep on the beach. So we both slept in the car when in the middle of the night someone was banging on the window with a large flashlight. It was a policeman who informed us that we were . Y on the wrong side of the sign that marked the difference between the Ok to Sleep On Beach and the Not Ok to Sleep On Beach. So we moved the car passed the sign and Kevin went back to sleep in the car. Since I was already awake I decided to sleep on the beach. I am pretty sure we did not have sleeping bags but we must have had a blanket so I decided to sleep behind the dunes. Sleeping behind the dunes right near the Gulf of Mexico. Years later I read in Outdoor Magazine that you should never sleep in a blanket or sleeping bag behind the dunes on Padre Island because rattlesnakes will sense warmth and crawl right next to you. Nothing happened to me that night – did not even see a snake – but I have a great fear of snakes and it was scary even to think about what could have happened.
We only stayed overnight and started back hoping we would have enough oil for the return journey. Turns out our case of oil was running low so we decided on a side trip to San Antonio hoping to find a cheap Mexican garage that maybe could fix the oil guzzling beast for a price we could afford. So we drove through a Mexican neighborhood and soon found a run down garage. They fixed the leak – some kind of nut or something like that was loose. They tightened it up and I think they charged us $5 (a lot cheaper than a case of oil). Well at least we did make it down to the beach.