Along the scenic route of TX-35 from Corpus Christi, we drove past a variety of oil refineries, wetlands, delta, farmland, ranchland, and churches in little thriving towns as we made our way to Galveston on Wednesday, February 8, 2017. Outside of Tivoli we stopped for a rest and captured pictures of the Guadalupe Delta.
I liked Bay City, the county seat for Matagorda, the best of all the towns we drove through, primarily because of the brick buildings in the historic downtown area and the beautiful homes that lined the road. With their multi-acre sites, large green lawns, and tall trees I could picture myself sitting on the porch of one of those homes, drinking tea, and looking out at the expanse of green. We’ll have to stop by here in the future to spend a few days and soak up the charm.
It was a bit of a shock to see the massive oil refineries towering in the distance after the beauty of Bay City. I guess the beauty of the oil refineries are the jobs they provide and the fuel they produce to keep our country’s economy booming.
Galveston Island RV Resort, about a half hour west of Galveston TX, was a great place to stay a few days. There are RV parks closer to Galveston, but the spaces are so close you could shake your neighbor’s hand through open windows. Washday is not my favorite day, but I liked paying with a credit card at this RV park rather than having to carry around rolls of quarters or worry about having enough jingle to wash and dry all the clothes.
We managed to keep busy exploring the town and attractions over the five days we stayed in Galveston. Here is a recap:
Moody Mansion, a thirty-one room Romanesque mansion completed in 1895, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Moody family lived in the home until 1986, so the family furnishings and personal effects inside the home give visitors an opportunity to experience the house as it was in the early 1900s.
Ocean Star Oil Rig & Museum gave me a new perspective on offshore drilling rigs. We learned about the offshore energy industry through a film presentation, video kiosks, interactive displays, actual equipment, and scale models of different kinds of rigs used to explore and produce gas and oil. The Ocean Star is a retired jackup rig. Jackup rigs are like floating barges or platforms with three to eight legs, depending on size (see a photo of the leg structures under Galveston Harbor Tour below). The legs extend above the hull when it floats on the water’s surface and navigates through the water. When at the drill site, the legs extend to the sea floor and raise the platform above the waves. Being from California and seeing drilling rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, I always thought, yuck, who wants to look at that ugly thing, and what about the potential for spills? Although they are ugly and I worry about environmental disasters, I now see the value of them so long as the energy companies address safety and environmental concerns.
One fancy old home wasn’t enough, we also visited Bishop’s Palace (a.k.a. Gresham’s Castle). The 19,082 square foot Victorian house, built between 1887 and 1893 for lawyer and politician Walter Gresham, his wife Josephine, and their nine children. Due to its stone construction, it survived the great hurricane of 1900. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston purchased the home in 1923 and was the residence for Bishop Christopher E. Byrne. The diocese opened the mansion to the public in 1963 after the diocesan offices moved to Houston. The home, now owned by the Galveston Historical Foundation, is undergoing maintenance and restoration, but the tour was still spectacular.
The Galveston Harbor Tour on the Seagull II gave us a close look at the drilling rigs in the harbor for maintenance and repair, and of the S.S. Selma, a damaged concrete oil tanker scrapped in the Galveston Bay near Pelican Island, Texas in 1922. A few shy dolphins teased us with their flicking tails and dives under the boat.
The 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA at Texas Seaport Museum was the highlight of my time in Galveston. Since my first time sailing in a dingy off Shelter Island in San Diego, I have been in love with sailing and the tall ships are my favorite. The ELISSA is a 140-year-old ship that spent 90 years as a commercial vessel. Saved from the scrap heap by the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the Galveston Historical Foundation purchased her for $40,000 in 1975. After undergoing restoration as a sailing ship, she traveled to Corpus Christi in 1985. Hop aboard for a self-guided audio tour or join the Seamanship Training program and learn the ancient skills and techniques on maintaining and sailing a square-rigged sailing ship.
Near the Elissa is the Boardwalk, a luxury yacht owned by Tilman Fertitta who also owns a group of restaurants including Landry’s and Willie G’s, where we stopped in for a drink. Unfortunately, Mr. Fertitta does not offer tours of his boat.
Victorian era buildings housing restaurants, antique stores, galleries, and curio shops fill the Strand Historic District, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark District. The Strand is a popular place
On Sunday, February 12, we had no idea where we should go next. Continue on to New Orleans, head back toward the west, or . . .? We had clothes to wash leaving us all day to peruse the maps, check the weather, and make a decision in between stuffing washers and dryers and folding garments.
Stay tuned and Safe Travels.