One of the major attractions of TX to us is the long stretches of virgin beaches and that the state allows you to drive right on the beach, right next to the pounding surf. We took off on Sunday morning from South Padre Island (SPI) up to the Port Mansfield Ship Channel, as far as you can go on the island.
It was a rather cold (mid 60s) morning for SPI, windy and with a fog hanging over the horizon. We were hopeful that as the day brightened, we would see the fog lift and the wind diminish for our romantic, leisurely drive up the beach. We hoped to have a nice picnic lunch, catch some sun and walk on the deserted beach.
It took us a little over an hour to drive the 27 miles up to the ship channel, passing a handful of cars the last half of the journey. A couple of miles back down the beach, Betinha said, “Can you please stop the car.”
And that is where our stories diverge.
“Stop the car. I want to walk down the beach to look for shells. You can pick me up in awhile.”
So off I went, walking fast at first but gradually slowing down, wondering where Jack was. I turned around a couple of times in order to walk back but the strong winds (20+ mph) right in the face hurt my ears, so I just kept on walking down the beach. There was no way he could drive past me as there was only one beach and only a small track of packed sand that he could drive on.
And, I kept walking….walking…walking. No Jack! Did he have car trouble? Is he lost in his book? Where is he?
Wish I’d brought my phone or a watch. I wonder how long I’ve walked?
Carrying all of these great shells and the neat message in a bottle, is getting a bit awkward. Hope that he shows up soon. Wish I’d brought some water and my phone. Where can he possibly be?
“Stop the car. I want to walk into the dunes back there.”
So I pulled over and got out a great book I was reading and didn’t look up from it for over an hour. Hmmm, I wonder why she didn’t come back from the dunes. Oh well, she must be exploring. Back to the book!
Two hours! Maybe I should go out to look for her. Checking her footsteps in the sand (isn’t there a song by that name?), I headed toward the dunes, calling our her name. Remembering her previous warnings about rattlesnakes (BIG rattlesnakes) in the dunes, I walked v-e-r-y carefully, keenly watching for anything that moved, as I climbed up onto the highest dune I could find. Damn, this is a big island! “Betinha!!!”
Nada! Only a howling wind and blowing sand!
Fortunately, the phone worked. “Hello, 911! My wife is lost in the dunes….Ok; I’ll wait here for the park ranger.”
More trips back and forth between the dunes and car with a phone that worked about half of the time because of our remoteness, wondering how we were going to mount a search for her before nightfall, what was I going to tell our boys, thinking about how cold it was out there with that wind blowing, etc. I wasn’t moving the car because I wanted for the trackers to see her footprints in the sand. Hopefully, not her last!
Finally, a park ranger pulled up and asked, “Are you Mrs. Schultz? Can you get in the pick-up truck with me? You know, we’ve lost kids before, but you are the first adult who’s gone missing!”
Finally, a voice mail that they had found her on the beach! Wonder how she found her way out of the dunes?
So I started driving down the beach to meet the park ranger and her. And drove…and drove…and drove.
Four hours after that “Stop the car,” we were reunited. We won’t go into the conversation back down the beach, leaving that to your imagination. Let’s just say that it seemed to be a lot longer drive back down the beach than up to Port Mansfield. The picnic lunch went uneaten.
Later, we tried to figure out if she had walked 12 or 15 miles in those 4 hours. The next morning, Jack had to duck when he asked, “You ready to go for our regular walk on the beach this morning?”