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Sunset at Magnolia Beach. Video by Robert Zavala, Music by Kevin MacLeod

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The sun rises over Magnolia Beach. Photo: Julie Zavala

My husband and I needed a break, some fresh air, a change of scenery.

We threw some foldout chairs, the ice chest and--how optimistic is this-- a twin mattress into the back of the van and headed out to Magnolia Beach. Why I thought we would sleep comfortably on such a small mattress, I do not know. Our bed at home is king-sized.

We stopped to fill the van with gas and then drove straight to the beach in time to watch the sunset. Robert set up the camera on a tripod to record every glorious, time-lapsed moment of it.

We sat drinking cold beer as the sun slowly sank in a splendid wash of pink, orange and yellow. Stars, one by one, dotted the sky. The Big Dipper was easily recognizable above us as our neighboring campers shot fireworks into the night sky. Free show. Well, alright.

I felt something biting me and was irritated to see several mean-looking mosquitoes feasting on my ankles. After looking through our supplies I realized we had forgotten mosquito repellent. Robert chivalrously volunteered to go to the store and grab a can.

While I waited for him to get back from the store, I swatted mosquitoes and walked around. I figured a moving target would be harder to attack. The mosquitoes managed quite well.

In a moment of (dare I say) brilliance, I grabbed the two discarded chair covers and slipped a leg into each bag. When Robert drove up I shuffled over to him to show him my ingenious idea for mosquito protection. He told me he was impressed, although he was probably grateful for the dark of night concealing my silly, nylon-bag-covered legs.

I sprayed myself and Robert with Off and we sat talking easily about nothing. A couple of beers later we got sleepy. After we got ready for bed I started up the van for a few minutes to run the air conditioner.

My first clue to the long and uncomfortable night ahead came as I shut off the van and turned to see Robert stretching out comfortably on the suddenly tiny looking twin mattress. My eyes greedily measured the space left over; five inches. Oh, yes. This was going to be bad.

Six nearly sleepless hours and a back-ache later, I blearily stepped out of the van and made my way over to the camp stove to make coffee. Things were looking up--hey, as long as there's fresh coffee, how bad can it be?

I toasted grilled cheese sandwiches and we ate and sipped coffee. The sun rose in the East just as lovely as it had set the night before in the West. I snapped some pictures as Robert surfed the Internet on his phone.

The Gulf breeze from the evening before was gone and the day was shaping up to be warm and muggy. By mutual consent we packed up to go home. The lure of a hot shower and a nap on a real bed was just too tempting.

We declared our first campout in the van a success with the exception of the too small bed. I've already made a list of how to make the next trip more comfortable with a double bed mattress being numero uno.

We'll have to do it again, soon.