The miles keep ticking off as we drive "down island" along the Gulf. What other state would have so much undisturbed beachfront? Only this one. And what other state would let you explore every single mile of it in a big, bad, four-wheel vehicle? If someone told me that owning at least one large truck was a Texas state law, I wouldn't question it for a minute.
They do other things big in Texas, too, like gamefish. The speckled trout down here grow large and mean-gator trout. We keep cruising down the beach looking for a spot to pull over and wrangle with some.
At Mile 23, I see what appears to be a school of mullet busting along the beach and decide this is a good place to launch. We run the Hummer right up to the wet part of the beach, open the tailgate, and drag the Zodiac onto the sand. I get the pump going and within 10 minutes, we have a boat. Dave mounts the little Tohatsu kicker, and together we pull the inflatable into the surf. Before you know it, I'm fishing soft plastics just beyond the surf line. I cast along a fast-moving school of mullet and quickly understand why they're in such a hurry. My line comes taut and my rod doubles over. I've made an intimate connection with a genuine Texas gator trout. Tonight, there'll be dinner for two.
The sun begins to set and the wind kicks up, blowing sand into places you'd rather it wouldn't. I deflate the Zodiac, Dave takes care of the engine, and we haul both back into the Hummer, ready to find a protected place to pitch camp. We find a small recess in the dunes that keeps us sheltered from the worst of the wind and, more important, out of the tracks of passing four-wheel vehicles. There's plenty of driftwood to build a fire. All we need now are some wind-proof matches. Uh-oh.
The necessities that we did remember to bring are a tent, a 94-quart cooler with food, and several gallons of freshwater-for drinking and getting the salt/sand coating off our bodies. We also packed a 12VDC air compressor. In deep sand it's best to reduce tire pressure to improve grip, which means you need a way to reinflate the tires once back on pavement. The pump also helps with the boat.
Something we wish we had, other than the matches, is a 12-volt portable vacuum to suck up the sand. It's in everything, embedded in my ears and hair, clinging to the Zodiac, piling in the floor of the Hummer. There's no escaping it.
But hunger overcomes discomfort, and with a flash of ingenuity, I say to Dave, "I have a way to get that fire started," while glancing at the Tohatsu. He spots my line of vision and smiles, knowing we have the ultimate primer-a quick shot of unleaded. Soon dinner, with a subtle tang of 87 octane, is served.
You asked us if there was a way to go boating without a trailer and here's your answer: "Ride 'em cowboy."
With the right four-wheel-drive vehicle and an inflatable, you can put in just about anywhere. Besides Texas, parts of Florida, notably Daytona Beach, are just begging to be explored. If you're in the Northwest, try the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, which has 28 miles of drivable shoreline. Northern California has some open areas. Back East there's the Cape Lookout National Seashore in Harkers Island, North Carolina, and long stretches of the south shore of Long Island, New York. And almost all lakes have dirt roads leading down to them. There are plenty of places around the country if you're willing to look.
So forget about surge brakes and figuring out tongue weight and where to place your hands on the wheel. If you have recurring nightmares about getting stuck on a launch ramp doing endless 50-point turns while other boaters throw things at you, eliminate the problem. No trailer? No problem.