Fort Stockton TX and Deming NM

Rocking, rolling, and bouncing in the truck while pulling a trailer along freeways, highways, bi-ways, and farm to market roads for 3,000+ miles takes a toll on the equipment. On Monday, February 20, rain pelted the truck and trailer a few miles outside of Fredericksburg, and then the trailer’s running lights failed to glow under cloudy skies. Great, something to fix.

On our way, we made reservations rather than end up driving around after sundown looking for a place to stay. Four rigs pulled into the entrance of Fort Stockton RV Park ahead of us, and we figured we were in for a long wait. Good thing we had called ahead because a man in a golf cart pulled us out of line, showed us to our spot, and said to check-in later when the office was not so busy.

The rain decreased to sprinkles allowing us to set up without getting too wet. We arrived with plenty of time before dinner, so I checked out the laundry room. A sour mildew odor smacked me in the face as soon as I opened the door. I didn’t bother to enter, just shut the door and walked away. Not doing my laundry in there.

We drove into town for a good dinner at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurant, stopped at AutoZone to pick up a replacement fuse for the running lights, and with a little daylight left before sunset, we checked out Historic Fort Stockton, which had already closed for the day.

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Historic Fort Stockton

The complex includes original and reconstructed buildings that depict officer and enlisted men’s living quarters, guardhouse, kitchen, and parade grounds. Established as Camp Stockton in 1858, then abandoned in 1861 during the civil war, Colonel Edward Hatch, Commander of the 9th Cavalry, reestablished the fort in 1867 with buildings completed in 1868.

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Fort Stockton Officer Quarters
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Fort Stockton Kitchen
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Fort Stockton Barracks

Living History Day is held the third weekend in October at the Fort where life in the 1800s at Fort Stockton is reenacted with cannon drills, Native Americans and teepees, Texas Camel Corps, baseball, and a chuck wagon.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather or the temporary women’s restroom, but most likely it was the stinky laundry room. In any case, one night in Fort Stockton was enough for us. The one welcome surprise was the onsite café that served up a reasonably priced and delicious breakfast. It’s always nice to start a day of driving with a hearty meal of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and a cup or two of hot coffee. The bonus of not having to cook it or clean up the mess afterward was a treat.

A couple we met a few weeks back recommended the Little Vineyard RV Park in Deming NM. Since we missed seeing the Enchanted Rock when in Fredericksburg, I thought the City of Rocks State Park might make up for my disappointment. On to Deming.

We arrived at Little Vineyard with plenty of time to throw in a couple loads of wash. When I walked into the laundry room, I was pleased to see a woman cleaning the washers and sweeping the floor. No stinky smells here, only the freshness of cleaning products wafted in the air.

We’re not sure how Little Vineyard got its name because there was no sign of grape vines near the place. There are two wineries in or near town though, Luna Rosa Winery and St. Clair Winery. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit and partake in a tasting.

I already had seen a doctor after the little dog bit me in San Antonio. Now I needed a dentist. A portion of a filling fell out of a molar while eating risotto for dinner and more came out after breakfast. I didn’t really want to have an unknown dentist jam his fingers and tools in my mouth, but I was more afraid of my tooth breaking. Fortunately, Dr. Trevor Williams of Deming Dental Services fit me in at 2:00 pm to confirm my suspicion, and again at 4:00 pm to do the repair. Darn, no City of Rocks for me.

In between my dentist appointments, we managed to visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, housed in the old National Guard Armory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a State Historic Site. For a city with a population 14,000 to 15,000 and a county population of only 25,000, volunteers have managed to curate an impressive array of historical artifacts for their museum over the past forty years.

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Deming Luna Membres Museum Housed in the Old Deming Armory Building

Farm and military equipment are displayed outside the museum, as well as a memorial to the men who served in the 200th/515th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiments during World War II in the Philippines. The monument lists every New Mexico soldier who was a prisoner of war during the Bataan Death March. Of the 1,900 that went to the Philippines, only 900 returned home.

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M42 40 mm Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Duster

Inside, rooms and display cases group the artifacts into themes or categories. These include a doll room; military room; art gallery; transportation annex; collections of nutcrackers, bells, and beer steins; Native American crafts; a Mimbres Indians pottery room; and more. The main street display was my favorite because it was like walking downtown and passing stores or service establishments. Such businesses included a barber and beauty shop; grocery, hardware and clothing stores; a café; and a funeral parlor. After seeing the implements of torture in the mocked up dental office, I was glad dental technology had improved considerably during the past century or so.

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J.A. Mahoney Hardware Store Depiction

The old jail caught my eye. It was in use at the Luna County jailhouse from 1918 to 1975.

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Old Luna County Jail
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Old Luna County Jail Lock and Keys

The Diamond A chuck wagon, built in Deming around 1900, had its own fenced-off section.

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Diamond A Chuck Wagon

I also liked looking at all the old transportation vehicles.

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American Lafrance Fire Truck
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Old Cars and Trucks Displayed in Transportation Hall
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Penny-Farthing, or High Wheeler
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Soap Box Cars

The replica of the silver spike used to join the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad was used during the March 7, 1981, Deming centennial celebration. Founded in 1881 by railroad employees, Deming received its name from Charles Crocker, President of Southern Pacific. Crocker’s wife’s maiden name was Deming.

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Silver Spike Replica

The Harvey House, designed in the architectural style of Midwestern towns rather than Indian or Mexican styles, operated from the 1880s to 1930s.

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Harvey House Depiction

We made the Luna County Courthouse our final stop for the day. Constructed in the architectural style of the Midwest, it is located 10 blocks south of the downtown business district. Originally built in 1910 and 1911, an extension was added in 1963, and major renovations occurred in 2007.

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Luna County Courthouse in Deming NM

That’s it for Fort Stockton and Deming, except someday I’ll return to see the City of Rocks. Next stop Tucson AZ.

Safe Travels

Fredericksburg TX

Sunny and warm weather, with only a hint of a breeze, welcomed us to Quiet Creek RV in Fredericksburg on February 16, 2017. National Museum of the Pacific War, here we come.

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The museum, composed of 55,000 square feet with 33,000 square foot occupied by the George H. W. Bush Gallery, chronicles the Pacific War from the “seeds of conflict to the signing of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.” Artifacts include one of the five Japanese midget subs used at Pearl Harbor, a B-25 bomber, Japanese Float Plane, Admiral’s Barge, and Atomic bomb casing. The sub display transported us to Pearl Harbor. As old war footage flashed on a wall, the darkness, sirens, and a streak of light across the floor simulating a torpedo made it all come alive.

The Smithsonian-like museum allows visitors to immerse themselves in each battle fought during the war with detailed descriptions of the ships involved, and personal stories of both men and women of various nationalities.

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Displays in the Museum Explain the Ships and Battles
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Bataan & Corregidor Room
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WWII B 25 Bomber
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Admiral’s Barge

Outside, the conning tower of the USS Pintado submarine nestles within the landscape giving the impression of a submarine navigating the ocean waves. Other artifacts include a torpedo tube and anti-aircraft guns.

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USS Pintado Submarine Conning Tower
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Mark 15 Torpedo Tube Rear
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Mark 15 Torpedo Tube Front and Side
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Anti-Aircraft Gun

Wall plaques and bricks memorialize those who fought during the war in the Veterans’ Walk of Honor and Memorial Wall next to the building.

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Essex-Class Aircraft Carrier Screw in the Veteran’s Walk of Honor and Memorial Wall

The Japanese Garden of Peace—gifted to the museum by the Japanese government in May 1976 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the founding of Fredericksburg—provides a tranquil respite to shake off any emotions that may overcome visitors to the museum, the Walk of Honor, and Memorial Wall.

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Japanese Garden of Peace

Visitors follow Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s life and career at the Admiral Nimitz Museum, housed in the Nimitz Hotel, established in 1860 by his great-grandfather, and later owned by his grandfather. The San Francisco Bay Area also honored Admiral Nimitz by naming Interstate 880 after the man who retired there and lived on Yerba Buena Island. I have to say, that the museum is a far better tribute to the man.

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Admiral Nimitz Museum

Within in walking distance, re-enactments, also known as living history exhibits, are staged throughout the year at The Pacific Combat Zone, a re-creation of a Pacific island battlefield. We watched behind a fence for a few minutes as reenactors trained for their upcoming presentation for spectators who watch from the safety of the stands under the curved metal roof.

 

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Combat Zone Complex
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Combat Zone Complex

 

So why is the Pacific War Museum located in Fredericksburg? Local residents established the Admiral Nimitz Foundation to honor Fredericksburg’s native son, commander-in-chief of Allied Forces in the Pacific Ocean area. When approached, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz insisted that the organization honor all the men and women who served, not just him. The foundation heeded his request and developed an excellent museum and research center to honor all those affected by the war.

It is a good thing that tickets provide admission for two days because there is so much to see. One day is not enough to soak up all the history at the museum.

Saturday, our last full day, seemed like a good time to enjoy nature and a hike at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. We got up early, packed a lunch, and set out intent on beating the rush and snag a parking spot. The warning light near town flashed that the park had already closed. Oh, well, maybe we’ll get lucky. As we approached the entrance to the park, several cars waited to enter on the opposite side of the road. Maybe the line isn’t too long. We drove on passing cars, vans, SUVs, and trucks for a quarter mile, half a mile, a mile, on and on for at least two miles or more. Vehicles crowded close to the shoulder to avoid blocking the road when they could, and others crossed the double yellow line and headed toward us in our lane when the road narrowed. We made a U-turn and headed back to town, settling on a little urban hiking instead. We’ll schedule our visit to Enchanted Rock during a weekday if we travel through here again. I managed to capture this photo as we drove by.

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We would have rather eaten our lunch at the Enchanted Rock, but a shaded picnic table at the visitors’ center turned out to be a great place to people watch as they jockeyed for parking spots. At the visitors’ center, we watched a movie about the history of Fredericksburg. Then we walked up and down the historic district of W. Main Street, stopped in at The Christmas Store to buy an ornament to remember our trip, and toured the Pioneer Museum.

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InSight Gallery Located in a Restored 12,000 sq. ft. 1907 Building
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More Historic Buildings
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Pioneer Memorial Library
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Gillespie County Court House

 

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Eagle Tree Carving

Blooms and buds gave signs that spring would soon arrive.

 

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Flowering Shrub

 

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Budding Tree

 

Pioneer Museum and Historical Site

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Sunday Houses Plaque

 

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Weber Sunday House

 

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Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Memorial

 

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Little Squirt

 

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White Oak School House
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Fassel – Roeder House and Windmill Water Pumps
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Kammlaha House
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Windmill Water Pumps

There is much more to explore in Fredericksburg, and I’m sure we’ll be back this way again to stay longer. For now, we had to move on.

Safe Travels

Austin TX

Traveling in an RV with no reservations gives us the freedom to leave a place early if we aren’t enamored with our surroundings, or extend our stay if we have more to see. In some locations, no reservations can mean no place to stay. Such was the case around Austin TX. After several phone calls, we lucked out procuring a concrete slab spot at Longhorn RV Resort in Niederwald TX, a tiny town south of Austin, for a few nights starting Sunday, February 12, 2017.

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Sunset Across the Pond at Longhorn RV Resort

The advertised Wi-Fi access at most campgrounds rarely provides enough juice to download our email. Longhorn’s good-for-email-only Wi-Fi could not even deliver that. Tengointernet to the rescue. My photos backed up quicker than I could process them on the laptop with high-speed access to the internet that matched our home service. I’ll gladly pay an extra fee for service that is that fast.

Apparently, breakfast tacos and burritos are a big deal in Texas. I often make tacos for lunch out of our dinner leftovers, but I had never thought to stuff a tortilla with eggs and such. On Monday, a good review from the resort staff, lead us to H & Aleyn’s for their two breakfast tacos for $2 special. While we waited for our order, I grew skeptical when the waitress brought out our decaf coffee. The scant contents of the Folgers jar she set on the table next to the two mugs of steaming water had clumped together at the bottom. Jon had to do the shake, shake, shake it dance to break up the crystals of freeze-dried coffee. After my first sip of the instant brew, my skepticism disappeared. It wasn’t as good as our freshly ground beans coffee, but it wasn’t bad. And the breakfast tacos? The house made tortillas wrapped around a mixture of fluffy eggs, potatoes, chorizo, onions, and bell pepper were the perfect start for a long day of sightseeing.

Our destination for the day was the LBJ National and State Parks to see LBJ’s birth home, where he grew up with his family, and the ranch where he and Lady Bird made their life together. The parks are located in two different areas. The Lyndon Johnson boyhood home is located in Johnson City TX, about 14 miles east of the ranch, also known as the Texas White House, near Stonewall TX.

We started out with a tour of the boyhood home in Johnson City, a town founded by his uncle, James Polk Johnson. Lyndon moved here with his family at age five. The left side of the house includes a porch where Lyndon’s mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, taught her five children the finer points of debate, oratory, and public service.

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Front Entrance to Johnson Boyhood Home

One might say this was a house divided. Rebekah not only taught her children on the porch on the left side of the house, she also entertained her friends there and in the parlor. The bedroom for the three girls also occupied that side of the house. The men took over the right side of the house where Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., Lyndon’s father, a state representative for 12 years, met with his constituents and fellow businessmen. The house is quite small for a family of seven by today’s standards.

Lyndon Johnson’s birth home located on the ranch property.

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Lyndon Johnson’s Birth Home

The tour of the ranch was the highlight. The house appeared small as we walked up to the gate where the tour began. Lyndon’s office, added to the original structure in 1958, is the single story portion on the left side of the photo. The contents displayed in the office are items that Johnson used throughout his lifetime and includes his desk and chair, three televisions, phones, typewriter, teletype, and other artifacts. Lyndon Johnson’s attitude is summed up on an embroidered pillow with the saying, “This is my ranch and I do as I damn please.” The pillow sits on a leather chair with the presidential seal on the headrest.

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LBJ Ranch House. Office at the Left.

The park service does not allow photography inside the house. The furnishings are of the 1960s and nothing fancy, but homey and comfortable. What we found of interest were the three television sets in LBJ’s office, living room, dining room, and bedroom and also numerous phones throughout the house. The bedroom also included bright lighting to allow him to read late at night.

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Expansive View of House
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Ranch Road
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Sweeping Lawn and Pedernales River View from House
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Firetruck
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Airforce 1/2
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Greetings, My Fellow Americans
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Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson Headstones
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Johnson’s Aquacar Used to Scare Guests
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Lyndon Crossed the Pedernales River with Guests in His Aquacar

By the time we finished the tour, our breakfast tacos had worn off and our stomachs needed filling. We decided the 15-mile drive into Fredericksburg wasn’t too far to travel for an early dinner. Otto’s German Bistro, a quaint restaurant with a menu that changes each week, turned out to be a perfect pick for a meal. We gazed out from our window seats at the National Museum of the Pacific War and wondered why in the world there was a museum about the Pacific War in Fredericksburg TX. Too bad it had closed by the time we finished our dinner. As we drove through town to get a flavor of the place, I wished we could stay awhile and explore this historic town in the hill country. Maybe some day.

Loop drives always seem like a good idea to me because we get to see more. Our GPS pointed out a route that seemed more straightforward than having to retrace the one that brought us to Fredericksburg. What an adventure we had as we raced the sunset to return home on farm-to-market roads through the hills. As dusk turned to dark, our confidence in the route guided by the GPS waned as it directed us to turn right here. Turn left there, and continue along this road as if in a circle. Obviously, we made it even though thoughts of driving all night on farm roads whirled in my head.

We rounded out our stay near Austin TX with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum and a quick tour of the Texas State Capitol. We had never visited a presidential library before. After visiting this one, we are adding them to our list of places to see on future trips.

I was still attending grade school when Johnson took office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and never understood the impact he had on America through his vision of a Great Society. We have Johnson to thank—or curse depending on your political bent—for Medicare, PBS, college financial aid, the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, and even seat belts in our cars.

The archives are a historian’s treasure trove of documents, photographs, recordings, and moving image records.

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Great Hall with View of Glass Encased Walls Containing Archived Items
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Oval Office Display
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Oval Office Display
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Oval Office Display
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A Phone Available At All Times
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Lady Bird Johnson Portrait
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Lady Bird Johnson Office
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Lady Bird Johnson Desk Items
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On the Left, the Washington Monument is Reflected in the Vietnam Wall

We caught one of the last docent-led tours of the day at The Texas State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark. The docent provided information on the history of the building and pointed out tidbits about the paintings, symbols, and renovations. Originally built in 1888, the Italian Renaissance Revival style building underwent a major restoration and expansion beginning in 1990.

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Texas State Capitol
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Original Hinges Used in Renovation
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House Chambers
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Desk in Senate Chambers
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Texas One and Indivisible
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Texas State Capitol Dome From Open Air Rotunda

Austin has to go back on our future travel list. After 5 days, we barely dipped our toes in all that Austin has to offer visitors. Time to move on to our new location. The National Museum of the Pacific War called out for us to solve the mystery regarding its placement in Texas. Fredericksburg, here we come.

Safe Travels

 

Galveston TX

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.

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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.

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Moody Mansion Exterior
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Moody Mansion Porch
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Moody Mansion Conservatory
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Moody Mansion Parlor
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Moody Mansion Bedroom
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Moody Family Personal Effects on Dresser
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Welcome Ever Smiles Stained Glass Window

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.

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Ocean Star Visitor Center and Museum
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Walkway to Ocean Star Oil Rig & Museum
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Escape Pod on Ocean Star
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Ocean Star Derrick

 

 

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White Pelicans

 

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.

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Bishop’s Palace or Gresham’s Castle
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Detail of Stone and Wrought Iron
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Ornamental Icon on Front Walkway
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Bishop’s Bedroom
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Chapel under Renovation
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Whimsical Detail
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My Ear! Where’s My Ear?
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Calling Card Basket Used by Grisham’s
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Ceiling Painting and Wood Detail
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Detail of Fireplace Plaque
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Staircase and Stain Glass Window

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.

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Dolphins Gave us a Show
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Abandoned Seawolf Park Sighs, “Make Me Pretty Again.”
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Scrapped S.S. Selma Concrete Tanker
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Scrapped S.S. Selma Concrete Tanker
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Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry
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Legs Raised on Jackup Rig in Port for Repairs and Maintenance
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“Feed Me, Pet Me, Are You My Mother?”
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“Hey, Where’s Ours?”

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.

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Figurehead of ELISSA
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ELISSA Ropes
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ELISSA Block and Tackle
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ELISSA Mid Hold
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ELISSA Stairs to Lower Deck
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ELISSA Compass
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ELLISSA Helm
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Hmmm, More Head Room or Port Hole? Which Shall I Choose?
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ELISSA Galley
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ELISSA Rigging

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.

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Willie G’s Seafood & Steaks Serves Tasty Mai Tais

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

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The Old and The New
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Galveston Ice House
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One of the Unique Shops Along The Strand
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Victorian Buildings Along The Strand
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Perfect Perch For Watching Mardi Gras Parade and Festivities

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.