Epic Boca Chica Starship Launch Trip

Starship looking ready to go. They keep the chopsticks in place to support the rocket in high winds.

Panic, FAA issued the Starship launch license ahead of schedule

Our thrilling journey began with a day and a half on the road, driving for 20 hours to reach South Padre Island. We stayed until launch and fished along the Gulf Coast all the way back home. An unexpected twist occurred when the FAA issued the Starship launch license ahead of schedule, late on a Friday, and SpaceX announced that the launch was to take place three days later, on Monday, April 17th. This sudden shift caught the entire country, including myself and my unfinished Class A RV, by surprise.

Even though I had the solar panels ready, I was lacking cable, connectors, and fasteners. In a frantic rush, I managed to install the RV’s solar panels by 3 pm on Saturday. I calculated that this was the latest time I could depart to ensure my arrival at the launch site by Sunday night.

Day Activity City Boondock
4/15 Driving 6 hours, crazy storm Mobile AL Buc-ees
4/16 Driving 14 hours, Ryan’s life story South Padre Island, TX Margraville
4/17 Scrubbed launch, Isla Blanca Park South Padre Island, TX Margraville
4/18 Pickup Darrell, Starbase camping Boca Chica, TX Next to Starship
4/19 Starbase tour, Isabel’s Cafe, Isla Blanca fishing South Padre Island, TX Margraville
4/20 Starship Launch, drop Darrell, Docs Seafood Corpus Christi, TX Mustang Beach
4/21 Clifford Distilling, Dylan’s Backyard Port Arthur, TX Cracker Barrell
4/22 Navarre Beach, Pier, Turtle Pensacola Beach, TX Walmart 5 ducks
4/23 Pompano Catch & Cook, Oysters Apalachicola, FL WaterStreet Seafood
4/24 St. George Island Fishing Orlando, FL Home
Totals Metric
Driving time 58 hours, 57 minutes
Distance 2949.6 miles
Average MPG 14.3

4/15 Driving 6 hours, crazy storm, Mobile AL, Buc-ees

Departure day for Matt was filled with frantic preparations to install solar panels on the RV, which included assembling panels on the roof, installing the solar roof rack, drilling a hole for cable pass-through, installing the on-roof utility box, setting up the Victron MPPT solar charge controller, and creating and arranging all the necessary cables. After a short 2-mile trial run for an oil change, the real test began: a 3000-mile journey, instead of the usual secondary short trial run.

Driving west on US 10, just past Tallahassee, darkness began to fall. I reassured myself, “It’s not so bad, at least it’s not raining.” But then, the rain began. “Still not too bad,” I thought, “as long as there’s no wind.” Unfortunately, the wind did pick up, causing the tall, lightweight van to sway from side to side. Slowing down seemed to mitigate the problem, and I thought to myself, “At least it’s not a severe thunderstorm.” Just then, a large pine branch blew across the road, and visibility dropped dramatically as both trucks and cars began to pull over.

Finding myself at an exit, I took it, driving a short distance to reverse onto a dirt road, where I stopped to observe the storm and check the radar. I realized I had unknowingly driven into a massive storm front. After sitting for 20 minutes and witnessing the lightning zigzag across the sky, the storm appeared to calm slightly. I decided that moving slowly through the storm would get me past it faster than waiting hours for it to pass.

There was the option of setting up a bunk and resting, either temporarily or until morning. Instead, I chose to continue on, reaching Buc-ees in Mobile, AL, around 10 pm.

4/16, Margaritaville Beach Resort, South Padre Island, TX

Long day of driving. I had read online that the Margaritaville Beach Resort was a popular accommodation for Starship watchers so half-way through Texas that is where I set my GPS destination. With a couple of short brakes along the way, I got there just after 9 PM.

Pulling in to Margaritaville, I realized that the resort was still under construction. I parked in the mostly empty lot, said “hey” to the concierge (these guys would later give me great fishing advice), and headed straight for the bar, where I thought I spotted two geeks like me, sitting with a laptop at a high table. Seeking advice, I asked if they thought the launch was still on for the morning. It turns out, they were Brad the hotel manager, and his boss Ryan the regional manager. Brad had his pre-teen daughter in tow and headed to bed early but I would get to know Ryan over the next couple of hours, about his home in Denver, his family, DIY RV, travel, etc. He suggested I could boondock in the parking lot if I wanted.

When I enter the lobby the next morning, Ryan is leading a discussion with the hotel staff when he calls over to me, “Hey Matt, Good Morning”. Over the duration of my visit, all the staff would say “Hey Matt, how is it going?”.

Margaritaville Beach Resort
Brad is the bar manager
Ryan is the operations manager

4/17, Scrubbed launch, Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island, TX, Margraville

In the morning, loaded with camera gear, I trudged down the beach about 1 mile to the South Padre Island Jetties, the best viewing location for a Starship launch, about 5 miles from the pad. The jetties are part of Isla Blanca Park, a massive county park.

Crowd waiting for the launch. These are fun people, from around the world.

A drone entertained the crowd, but I don’t think it was legal.

It was a beautiful day and with the 3000mm Nikon P1000 I had a clear view of the launch tower venting gas. You can see a frost ring starting to form on the booster.

The Megabay , build site and Rocket Garden were in full view. For some fisherman it was just another beautiful day on the water.

Over time we could see the frost ring on the booster get larger and larger.

It was not to be, the launch was scrubbed due to a problem with a valve or sensor. I was able to learn a great deal from the other visitors and a plan was starting to come together.

  1. By day, leverage Isla Blanca Park, Cameron County Park, the premiere Starship viewing location, a 30-day pass is $30.
  2. By night, leverage the Margaritaville Beach Resort on South Padre Island.

The idea is to be at the gates of the park when it opens, acquire a prime location, and if it is still crazy early, get more sleep. Then at a relaxed pace, you can make coffee, get exercise, eat breakfast, etc. All the facilities of the RV will be at your disposal. The park opens daily at 6:00 AM with exceptions for launch dates when it opens as early as 4:00 AM.

Isla Blanca Park The Best Starship viewing location.
Reservations: camerancountyparks.com
33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597, Map
Day use pass is $12. The best deal is a 30 day pass for $30.

4/18, Pickup Darrell, Starbase camping, Boca Chica, TX, Next to Starship

The day ran according to plan, shop for local seafood, have lunch at Isla Blanca, and be ready to pick up Darrell when he gets into Brownsville. I pick up Darrell and we headed straight for Boca Chica. We went past Starbase Texas and headed directly to the Launch site.

This was one busy place. The launch was something like 36 hours away and they had to receive about 90 tanker trucks of methane, oxygen, and other gasses. We found a place to wiggle in between two vehicles and took it all in.

Tanker trucks were lined up to unload. It appeared that about half a dozen could unload at the same time.

As the sun started to go down, people left opening up prime locations for us to set up for the evening. We learned that you could stay overnight on the opposite side of the road from SpaceX.

We were able to set up camp about 450 feet from the 500-foot launch tower. The wide-angle lens makes it look farther away than it really is.

Fresh seafood, fresh vegetables, and cold beverages made for a nice evening.

4/19, Starbase tour, Isabel’s Cafe, Isla Blanca fishing, South Padre Island, TX, Margraville

In the morning we stretched out legs a bit.

Who are we?

Where are we going?

The launch was not less than 24 hours and we would be kicked out soon, so we headed out for lunch, supplies, and sightseeing, on our way back to South Padre Island.

But first, a few more pictures.

Solar ain’t rocket science, someone said

Isabel’s Cafe
(956) 943-5082

4/20, Starship Launch, drop Darrell, Docs Seafood, Mustang Beach, TX

Considering the logistics, we realized we needed to leave quickly after the launch. The traffic exiting Isla Blanca Park was predicted to be congested, potentially causing delays on our way to Brownsville Airport. Consequently, we chose to view the launch from the rooftop of the four-story parking garage at the Margaritaville resort.

Recording this video presented significant challenges. We were monitoring multiple live streams, each with varying time delays, which made predicting the exact moment of liftoff difficult. Furthermore, I was using a new geared camera mount to operate the Nikon P1000. I had practiced tracing the trajectory of the Starship as it soared in an arc over the Gulf of Mexico, but I hadn’t anticipated the loop-the-loop maneuver. As the rocket drifted further away, I had the P1000 at its maximum 3000mm zoom, and eventually, I lost track of the rocket. Nonetheless, I successfully captured a complete 360-degree loop-the-loop. You can find more photography details on my personal blog.

That was it, we said goodbye to South Padre Island (until next time) and I dropped Darrell off at the Brownsville Airport. Starship launch watch mission complete, it was time to start back east with the goal to fish and eat fish along the Gulf of Mexico all the way home.

Corpus Cristi, Mustang Beach, and Port Aransas

I started East and based on a recommendation headed for
Doc’s Seafood Restaurant. It was a pleasant 3-hour drive.

Doc’s Seafood Restaurant

Anyplace that has shrimp boats and fishing boats tied up out back can’t be too bad. This whole area is so beautiful. Next trip I plan to spend a few days in the area but I was off to find a place for the night and this is when I learned about the Texas Beach Parking Permit.

Mustang Beach

The Texas Beach Parking Permit allows near unlimited overnight camping on designated beaches and costs just $12 for the entire year. I met some fun people, we tracked the time and height of high tide and except for the heavy wind, I would say it was near perfect.

Mustang Beach Camping

Mustang Beach Panorama (need a good panorama player)

I had a nice stay and would say there is a good deal of unfinished fishing and tourist business in the area. Time to move on to points East.

4/21, Clifford Distilling, Dylan’s Backyard, Port Arthur, TX, Cracker Barrel

This next stretch was a bit of a haul, 6 hours in duration, around Houston to Clifford Distilling, in Port Arthur TX. I looked at visiting the Galveston area but it is a down-and-back route and did not feel like I had the time. On the map the area looks fun, I mean who would not want to go to Texas City for a steak and a beer! But, instead, I headed East to Port Arthur.

Clifford Distilling is a newish distillery and Harvest Host site in Port Arthur. They converted an old gymnasium into a community gathering point and distillery. Port Arthur, at least the parts I saw, is an industrial town with a bit of history to it. I inquired about going for a walk and the proprietors winced a bit and said, “Just don’t walk that way” pointing to the next block West. That was enough of a sign to me that I probably did not want to spend the night there so I inquired about dining options, and kept moving East.

About 10 miles away, and not too far from the Cracker Barrell where I would boondock that night, I went to Dylan’s Backyard. I pulled up to an empty seat at the bar next to a retired Air Force Colonel with his wife, and what seemed like all of his best friends. He took me under his wing and for a couple of hours we talked about travel, about cooking, about daughters, about more cooking, more friends, shots, oh my gosh, this guy was hooked up! I don’t post that much food but I have to show you the plate he recommended, The Cowboy.

The Cowboy, shaved prime rib, caramelized onions with a bourbon glaze, spicy mayo, bacon, pepper jack cheese & topped with a fried egg.

Dylan’s is a loud, family-friendly, indoor-outdoor place with good food and good service. If you are within 100 miles and are hungry, it is worth a stop.

4/22, Navarre Beach, Pier, Turtle, Pensacola Beach, TX, Walmart 5 ducks

Saturday night, Navarre, Walmart :duck: :duck: :duck: :duck: :duck:

Windjammers on the Pier, bartenders Buddy and Kyle
8579 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566
The pier is the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico

Windjammers is at the base of Florida’s longest pier, 1550 feet long. It cost $1 to walk and $7 to fish the pier.

I was hanging out at the end of the pier, chatting with a gal from the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, when I looked over and saw this impressive turtle. This does not happen every day!

4/23, Pompano Catch & Cook, Oysters, Apalachicola, FL, WaterStreet Seafood

Leaving the Walmart overnight, I went to the East side of the Navarre causeway and parked where the seawall joins the sandy beach. There were schools of tiny baitfish and Google showed deep water near the shoreline. There was also deeper water under the causeway bridge.

My thinking was to use the cast net to catch game fish and then fish from the shore or seawall. The location guarantees calm water on at least one side of the causeway and there was a sandy beach on each side, ideal for tossing the cast net.

For exploring the area I baited with pink Fish Bites on a sliding hook rig. Almost under the bridge, I caught a couple of small bait fish which I then used for bait. Next, I caught an interesting little brown fish with white spots, a huge jaw, and bulging eyes, no idea what it is. Then I caught the Pompano.

The pompano was caught on Fish Bites and a small bait fish. You can keep 12" or larger and this one was 16". Thanks to my new ultra-sharp Nikari knife and recent training from Takue and Outdoor Chief Life youtoober, the filets turned out near perfect. I first cooked onions and mushrooms with cilantro and fresh garlic then cooked the filets to about 165 degrees turning one time with a squirt of fresh lemon. It was probably about 1 hour from the catch to when the filets hit the pan and the filets were so large I could only eat one.

I’m cooking and this smiling black fella named Jerome walks up and says, you know how to do it right and I need to shake your hand. I was amused by his two small children and wife, thinking about but not entering the 70 degree water. Later they decided to go back to the warmer hotel pool and while packing up, I told Jerome what I have is nice, but what you have is perfect!

Highway 98 Along The Gulf Coast

This is one of the nicest drives one could make. Instead of the 3 hours and 25 minutes, and 139 miles from Point A to Point B, you could spend a couple of weeks/months and not get bored.

It is just seaside town after seaside town, with lots of evergreen trees, some rolling hills and beautiful blue-green Gulf of Mexico water.

Half Shell Dockside + Boondocking

Fun place, on the water, and perhaps the best oysters on the planet

View from the Half Shell Dockside to the South East. You can see a few boats but in the other direction, there is a fleet of fishing boats.

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters, let us detail the way

The Way The Detail
Steamed Oysters Half dozen $12
Raw Oysters Half dozen $12
Triple Trae Bacon, Jalapeño, and Cheddar cheese. Half dozen. $14
Rockefeller Garlic butter, fresh Parmesan cheese and spinach. Half dozen $14
Dockside Garlic butter & fresh Parmesan cheese. Half dozen $12

My new friend Billy is from St. Joe and when not cruising on his bike he pays the bills with Kitchen and Bath skills.

And then there was boondocking, not too bad, it still worked out
It seemed like a good idea at the time. They closed at 10 PM and I asked the manager if any RV’ers parked in the area. He pointed a block NW at Water Street Seafood. They are seafood processors and distributors. There were a bunch of white trucks parked in the crushed oyster shell parking lot. I found an empty spot, backed in, and all was fine until about 5 AM when the place came alive. If I didn’t drive off then they would have filled my RV with seafood to deliver.



4/24, St. George Island Fishing, Orlando, FL, Home

After a fun night in Apalachicola, it was time to make the final 5.5-hour run home. But not before a little more fishing, this time on St. George Island.


This place looks amazing on the map. The water was a bit rough but I gave it a shot fishing from the bank of the causeway near the boat ramp. Oh, the luxury of rigging your fishing poles in the warmth and protection of an RV with a 7-foot countertop.


That was it, that was the trip, 59 hours driving, 3000 miles. What could I have done differently? What destinations along the route should consider next time? Please comment. And OBTW, there will likely be a next-time in August 2023.