I booked a stay in Galveston because it was located along our route between New Orleans and San Antonio. The 10 day visit was way longer than we wanted, but we had time to kill, and Galveston seemed like a reasonable place to stop. But as our visit got closer, we began second guessing ourselves. When we told folks we were headed to Galveston, no one seemed particularly enthusiastic, and several encouraged us to visit other locations instead. We thought about it, but it just didn’t make sense mileage-wise for us to change our plans. We decided to stick with our itinerary and make the most of what we expected might be a pretty disappointing stop.
But that’s where we segue into one of the little “life lessons” we’ve come to appreciate as we’ve traveled around: You can’t judge how you’re gonna feel about a place based on other people’s opinions. Expectations are different. Experiences are different. Priorities are different. Hell, we’ve found the weather can have a huge impact on how people feel about a place.The bottom line is we have to decide for ourselves what we like and don’t like. And the only way we can fairly analyze a place is by visiting for long enough to get a real sense of it.
And so it was for us with Galveston. We ended up really enjoying our time there. Was it the best place we’ve been? No. But it had lots of things we really liked and enough points of interest to keep us busy and happy. In fact, we liked it well enough to extend our stay from 10 to 14 days, and have even discussed the possibility of coming back some day when we have more time.
Unique Art in the Historic District
When one of the bloggers I follow (Ingrid at Live, Laugh, RV) saw that we were going to spend several weeks in Texas, she was kind enough to reach out and point us to several interesting places. Based on her suggestions for Galveston, one afternoon I headed over to the East End Historic District which is a neighborhood that’s been designated a National Historic Landmark. It is full of beautifully restored Victorian homes, historic designations, and pretty landscaping.
Sadly, when Hurricane Ike hit Galveston in 2008, the neighborhood sustained heavy damage, including the loss of numerous old trees. Fortunately, several forward-thinking residents made the decision to employ artists to turn the downed trees into unique works of art. The resulting sculptures are spread throughout the neighborhood and can be toured with the help of a map from the Visitor’s Center.
My favorite was this statue of a Geisha.
Other sculptures included various birds, a squirrel, the Tin Man and Toto, and a frog (decked out for Mardi Gras, of course).
It was a brilliant way to turn destruction into unique and memorable art that will, hopefully, continue to bring appreciative visitors into the neighborhood.
The Strand is the main historic district on the island. If you tell anyone who’s been to Galveston that you’re going to Galveston, they’ll tell you to go to the Strand. Yet somehow, even though we were in town for two whole weeks, we never went down there to hang out. It’s amazing how the time gets away from us sometimes… I did head over for a few minutes just to check it out and take some photos, but it was more out of a sense of obligation than anything. In any case, it looks like a pretty cool little neighborhood filled with old restored buildings and interesting shops and restaurants.
I loved this building.
I also thought this demarcation of the water line during Hurricane Ike (If you look carefully, “Ike Water Line” is painted on the building) was pretty shocking. I remembered the storm, but had to go look up some news articles to appreciate just how devastating it was to Southeastern Texas.
The Ocean Star Museum
Located right down the dock from the cruise ships stands the Ocean Star Oil Rig Museum. It is an actual offshore drilling rig that was re-purposed into a museum that seeks to educate visitors about the industry.
The museum is owned and maintained by several of the big oil companies, so we weren’t sure if it was gonna be a “Yay Ra-Ra” marketing tool or a true educational experience. We figured there was only one way to know for sure, so we decided to check it out. Overall we were really impressed. The process of drilling for oil in the ocean is unquestionably complex and the museum did a good job of both explaining how it’s done and showing all the various equipment and processes the oil companies use to do it.
The museum spent a fair amount of real estate talking about environmental concerns and what steps the companies have taken in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to make sure such a tragedy never occurs again. It also had several exhibits about the various government agencies that work to limit the environmental impact of the oil industry. Overall, the museum was pretty even handed in addressing both the positive aspects of oil drilling and the environmental concerns a lot of people have about the process. If you have any interest in learning about it, the museum is worth a visit.
Making More Connections
Once again, we made new friends through Instagram. We met up with Curtis and Tami (Just Breezin Along) for beers at Galveston Island Brewing, and they brought: 1) a King Cake; and 2) Ron and Lauri, their neighbors at the RV park they were staying at. After Curtis and Tami headed west, we hung out with Ron and Lauri several more times, including having dinner over at their rig one night. While we were there, another one of their neighbors stopped by with his 8 week old Husky puppy who I promptly kidnapped for a serious snuggle session. All of which was fine until I got home and was subjected to a Spanish Inquisition style investigatory session by Dixie. She was NOT happy that I smelled like another dog.
Ron and Lauri are from Canada, so we had several interesting conversations with them about politics, government, and current events, and they gave us some great information about our future visit to their lovely country. By the end of the week, we had a standing invitation to stay on Lauri’s mom’s property up in Canada and enjoy a home cooked meal (Moose Steak!!) if we visit.
And speaking of socializing, while in the Houston Area, we also visited with Kevin’s Penn State buddies, Bob and Chris, and their wives Thyra and Katrina. It had been 16+ years since they had all seen each other, so we had a fun night eating crawfish and catching up. That’s another nice benefit of doing what we’re doing: catching up with old friends we haven’t seen in years.
While in Galveston, we also went up to the Johnson Space Center, but that’s a whole other post….
In the meantime, we are at a nice park in the middle of nowhere, Texas. We’re enjoying the down time before what we expect will be a busy couple weeks in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.
Where we stayed: Galveston Island State Park