Galveston was our first stop in Texas.
The openness of the terrain and the size of the state to get from one place to another was a real culture shock. Nowhere in New England do you drive for five hours to get from one major city to the next and NEVER leave the state. I-10 across the Gulf is lots of rolling countryside, wildlife and acres and acres of farm country and bayous. The adage "they grow 'em big in Texas" is not an exaggeration. However, when you get to Texas the highway bridges are high and the interchanges are big enough to confuse even the most skilled navigator!
I-45 Interchange Bridge I-45 Interchange Ramps
Galveston is the site of the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas so we decided since we missed New Orleans and Biloxi, we'd check this one out. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate and it was cold and overcast for much of the week we were on the Island. The festivities span two weekends in February with four or five parades and lots of dinners and parties. This year's theme was Rock and Roll. Ron always said that Elvis lives and I got a picture of him to prove it. The cold weather didn't stop folks from wanting coveted beads but I can assure you they didn't "earn them" like the folks on Bourbon Street. The zaniness of Mardi Gras was apparent everywhere. The party atmosphere was certainly there and the openness of Seawall Boulevard encouraged lots of tailgate parties. Notice the chairs, coolers and grills; but, more important -- the portable john!
Mardi Gras 01 Mardi Gras 02 Elvis Lives! Tailgate Party
Galveston as a beach town has all the amenities that you could ask for. . .food, lodging, beaches, souvenirs, more souvenirs, and more souvenirs. . . The Seawall was constructed in the early 1900 to protect the city as a result of the last devastating hurricane. The history is part of the documentary movie shown at the Pier 21 Theatre.
Galveston Pier & Beach Murdoch's Bathhouse Galveston Seawall
Our site at the Galveston Island State Park made up for the bad weather. The coach was parked along the dunes not more than 20 yards from the ocean. Our view from the kitchen table was amazing. The winter sunrise along the Gulf is just as spectacular as the sunset.
View from the Coach Sunrise
We took advantage of a couple sunny afternoons and toured some of the sites in Galveston. This is one of the largest fishing ports that we have ever seen. Everywhere you look along the harbor there are fisherman, trawlers, shrimp boats and barges. The birds in the harbor were some of the best we had seen so far on the trip and it was an opportunity to get fairly close. We had lunch at Joe's Crab Shack (highly overrated) and sat along the windows not more than 10 feet from a shrimp boat that had just returned for the day. Several harbor birds appeared out of no where to "raid" their share of the booty that was left in the hold.
Pelican Pelican in Flight Shrimp Boat Pier Raiding the Hold
The history of Galveston
Island ranges from being the home of Jean Laffite to being the largest seaport
in Texas. Pier 21 Theatre offers two documentary movies about the history
of Galveston Island. Both are great -- especially on one the overcast
Pier 21 Theatre The Great Storm is a half-hour documentary about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Over 6000 people lost their lives as a result of the storm that has been identified as “the most awesome natural disaster in our history. . . .” At the time, Galveston was the most important seaport in Texas with a population of 40,000. The hurricane was so severe that the entire island was under water. All of the homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed. As a result of this disaster, the elevation of the island was raised and a seawall built to protect property and lives.
The Pirate Island
of Jean Laffite is a film based on the life of a notorious buccaneer. Pirate or patriot? Smuggler or businessman?
Merciless murderer and thief, or hero in time of war? The mere mention of his name leads you to
think about pirates and smugglers. This
movie raised some interesting questions and depicted Laffite as a businessman
who simply was an opportunist.
The Texas Seaport Museum is home to Elissa, a square-rigged, 400-ton barkentine built in Scotland in 1877. Elissa was returned to Galveston in 1975 and after eight years of restoration was opened to the public. One of the displays in the onboard museum included placards about Sailing Rhymes and their origins. Check them out. . .several are pretty interesting and certainly worth a read!
Elissa RedBeard the Pirate Gally Sailing Rhymes 1 Sailing Rhymes 2 Sailing Rhymes 3
afternoon, we drove
south to the tip of Galveston Island. It was raining and we spotted this
billboard for one of the local housing developments. Look closely. . .the
steer is real; just using the billboard as protection from the rain!
After several days of overcast skies, we decided that it was time to head south in search of SUNSHINE!
NEXT STOP: KING RANCH, KINGSVILLE