Thursday, February 22, 2018

Galveston Island, TX: Danger at Every Turn!

Danger!  Danger!  DANGER all around!  At the southernmost point of our trip, along the Gulf of Mexico on Galveston Island, Texas, there was something to worry about at every turn! 


We thought we'd do some kayaking at Galveston Bay State Park, but no!  DANGER!!!!


OK, forget the kayaking --- let's go hiking instead!  Or .... maybe not! DANGERous snakes!


So, we decided to stay with safe(r), touristy things.  First up, a visit to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.  It was exciting to be on an actual, retired jack-up drilling rig!  



We like to watch "relevant" movies on our trips (hence, we've watched Deadwood in Deadwood, Tombstone in Tombstone, etc.)  Relevant to this trip, we watched Mark Wahlberg in Deepwater Horizon (an excellent movie) -- but if you've seen it, you know DANGER when you see it!

Lifeboat.  For when, you know, things go very very wrong on the rig.
We learned all about everything related to drilling and oil production and all the many, many things than can (and do) go wrong with these buggers.  Am I right, BP?  It was cool to be able to crawl all over the rig and be all the places that the actual workers would go.




Here's the real DANGER on an oil rig, however:  a half-hinged oil drill worker with too much time on his hands!  Beware this creeper!


Galveston is a port town, with cruise ships docking regularly and discharging swarms of happy tourists into the streets.  (DANGER: they take all the reservations at every restaurant.)  This shows the port, all in one simple shot:  cruise ship, tall sailing ship, and oil rigs in the distance!  


That tall sailing ship in the foreground is the spectacular 1877 ship, "Elissa."  Battered, abused, stripped and forgotten, Elissa was in real DANGER of being dismantled in a Greek scrapyard, until her dramatic rescue and meticulous restoration by dedicated volunteers.



Elissa was identified by Lloyd's of London, which began her long adventure of restoration, via this plate showed that she was built by Alexander Hall and Company, one of the world's best ship builders.


Walking the ship, you can really feel her rich maritime history.


The Historic Strand District is home to lots of good shopping and entertainment and was also the site of Galveston's extravagant Mardi Gras celebration, which we missed by literally a week, but for which the downtown buildings were still wearing their most festive party clothes.


DANGER to your pocketbook:  since 1906, the Galveston "Pleasure Pier" is full of restaurants, shops, and a ton of amusements rides (many of which are over the water).


Like Chicago's Navy Pier, or Coney Island's Luna Park, the Pleasure Pier is just waiting to relieve you of all those $20 bills cluttering up your wallet.


The greatest DANGER in Galveston occurred in 1900, when the hurricane-driven "Great Flood" swooped down upon the unsuspecting town and created the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, with over 8,000 people killed and the whole island basically decimated.  You can see the water level in the top marker.


It was bad.  I mean really, really bad.  Besides the people who were washed out to sea, there were still 6,000 dead people (men, women, babies, children, old people, animals) all over the island.  They started lining the bodies up and realized there were too many.  So they decided to tie weights on them and do a mass dumping at sea.  Guess what?  The angry ocean washed them back onto the island, weights still attached.  Finally they piled them onto the destroyed wooden buildings and set fire to everything.  A turn-of-the-century sh*tshow, if ever there was one!


After that, they spent six years building a seawall and drainage pipes to help with the problem.  But there are still regular threats to the island, including just this winter, when Hurricane Harvey roared through. Since the great danger of 1900, however, houses (and businesses) are now built higher, sometimes up to two stories higher!


Even the most recent DANGER from Hurricane Harvey, which destroyed nearby Houston, did relatively little damage to Galveston's little army of stilt houses.



This guy is no chump, he's immune to any imminent flooding danger!  Close the door and you've got at least 20 feet of water rise before you have to put down your Mai Tai and do something about it.


Even the birds know better than to be low to the ground!


Galveston was the "Wall Street of the South" because many wealthy businessmen made their fortunes and built grand mansions here.  The "Bishop's Palace" (circa 1886) is one of the few buildings that survived the 1900 flood disaster, perhaps because it was "divinely protected" as the future home of the Bishop of the Catholic Church next door.  The American Institute of Architects considers this home one of the 100 most important buildings in America.




DANGER (to your cholesterol level): Fresh-from-the-ocean shrimp, grilled at your RV and drenched in garlic butter!  Mmmmmmm!


More DANGER (to your visibility):  fog!  Lots of it!  Something we don't see in Arizona.



Even worse DANGER (to your ego):  straight-up 99% humidity that makes your hair look like this!


All joking aside, the only real DANGER with Galveston Island was that we might stay forever and never return!  This is our only ocean stop this entire trip, and despite reports of a gritty, dirty oil town beach, it was quite the opposite ... beautiful, tranquil, and uncrowded.  Galveston Island, we'll be back!