So, finally I’ve gotten around to the rest of the story of our Christmas trip to Texas. When we last left our intrepid explorers, we had finally found our way to San Leon TX after a five-day drive. We spent most of the first day (Wednesday) sitting on the back porch, catching up and enjoying the weather. The sun was shining and the temperature hovered around 22°C (75°F). Four days before Christmas. Awesome! In the meantime, I’m marveling at the palm trees and giant aloe vera growing in people’s front yards, and studying the snowy egrets in the backyards. And the hot shower felt kind of good too, lol.
Thursday and Friday were low-key, as we were still catching up from the long drive. But the weather was incredibly warm and I found I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t a summer vacation, but that Christmas was just a few days away. It felt so weird.
For the last 10 years, I’ve been learning to play guitar. I’m not good at all, but I enjoy it so much, because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. My brother, who has been playing since he was a teen, is my mentor, and many phone calls between us end up being a long-distance lesson. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to play for a couple of years because of the severity of the carpal tunnel condition in my hands. By the time I would even get my guitar tuned, my hands were numb and aching.
A week before we left home, I finally had one of my wrists operated on. It healed well, and I haven’t had a bit of numbness in my right hand since. But because of the fact that I haven’t played in so long, and the lack of space in the Tucson, I didn’t bring my guitar with me. On Friday night, my brother took matters into his own hands and generously re-strung one of his guitars for me (I’m left-handed, he’s not.) It sounded rusty and clunky, but I was playing again. I was so happy, it was difficult to keep a reign on my emotions, until I looked up and saw him with tears in his eyes, and I lost it. Of course, it could have been just my bad playing too.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day passed in a blur as they usually do, but it’s been almost twenty years since my brother and I have spent the holidays together. It was so wonderful and felt like old times. I was so grateful, both to him and my sister-in-law for having us, and to my awesome husband for knowing how important this was to me. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful men in my life.
Boxing Day, we piled into the car and took a drive to Galveston Island. We saw the surf from the Gulf of Mexico pounding onto the snow white sand, and the beautiful historic buildings and hotels in Galveston.
Later we went to Sea Wolf Park and toured a Submarine and a Destroyer Escort, both of which are currently being restored. Well, the rest of our group went into the submarine. I just admired it from the outside. Not terribly fond of small, dark spaces.
On Thursday, Mike was feeling a bit restless, so we went off for a drive by ourselves. Eventually, we found our way to Kemah, which isn’t too far up the road from San Leon. We grabbed the cameras and decided to play tourist for the afternoon. Kemah has capitalized on a pretty location, and has all kinds of shops and attractions, including a boardwalk amusement park. We wandered around the park for a while, snapping photos and simply enjoying ourselves. We came up to the carousel, which fascinated me. I’d never seen a two-story carousel before, it was awesome! As well, instead of just horses, it featured a menagerie of exotic animals to ride, including a gorgeous dragon. (You’ll have to excuse the excitement. I’m a huge GOT nerd, and have a bit of a thing for dragons.)
Then came the highlight of the day. We wandered around rest of the park for a while, and found ourselves in front of a small aquarium. It seemed nice, nothing too out of the ordinary, when Mike suddenly grinned and said “Let’s go in.” Ok. Being a bit of a water-baby, I don’t mind fish. Let’s go.
What I had missed was the sign that read “Feed our Manta Rays.” Omigod, I thought I would lose my mind, I was so excited. These beautiful creatures swimming (flying?) around in this huge, waist-high pool, coming up and taking sardines right out of your hand, and allowing you to lightly stroke their backs as they swam by. Most were a couple of feet across, but there were a couple of really big ones that had nestled their way into the sand at the bottom of the pool that were probably close to 5 or 6 feet in diameter. Mike kept laughing at me, and telling me I looked like a 5 year-old. I didn’t care, I was loving every minute of it. You can watch some of our videos here.
The following day, we may have inadvertently made a huge mistake. We stopped at a couple of RV lots to look at toy haulers, just to browse a bit. Unfortunately, I think we may have infected my sister in law, Murphy, with the travel bug. She now points out every RV she sees for sale, and is talking about downsizing and hitting the road. My brother takes every opportunity to thank (blame) me for this. My pleasure.
After we got poor Murphy hooked on the Nomad idea, we went out for lunch, and afterward ended up in Texas City, where they have a large, man-made dike you can drive out on. The dike is nearly five miles long, and has parking, beaches and picnic areas all along it. When you get to the end, you’re practically out into the main shipping channel for the Houston Oil Tankers and other large cargo ships.
At the end of the dike, they have a sea wall of large boulders to prevent erosion. My brother climbs up on the wall, and invites me to join him. Ok. He points to the water and says “Watch.” Sure. Watch what?
Within minutes, I see the first dorsal fin. Then another, and another. Wild Bottlenose Dolphins. Schools of them follow the ships in and out of the channel, feeding on the smaller fish the propellers churn up. Now anyone who knows me, knows my fondness for whales and dolphins. The five year-old has just made another appearance. I honestly don’t know who had the better time, me squealing and pointing, or my husband and brother laughing at me.
Watching the weather and trying to judge our best chances, we decided we would leave for home on Monday, Jan 2. So on Sunday, our last full day in Texas, we returned to Galveston, where we took the free ferry across to the Bolivar Peninsula. Again, we were joined by the dolphins, as well as pelicans, and some very friendly seagulls, who know that the tourists will feed them bread.
Mike was fascinated by the houses on the Peninsula, they’re all built on stilts because of the frequent flooding. Even the local school is up in the air! I liked the idea that they weren’t afraid of bright colors for the houses. Purples, oranges, lime greens, you name it, they painted it. It kind of reminded me of the little houses in Newfoundland.
On Monday morning, we reluctantly started off for home. There was a major snowstorm moving in that seemed like it would cross our path, so we decided it was the best time to go if we were to avoid it. It proved to be a wise decision. Except for a huge thunderstorm (we’re talking biblical here) just as we got north of Houston, we had nothing but fair weather all the way home.
We decided to take a different route than the one that brought us down, opting instead to travel to northern Texas to Texarkana, then on through Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and so on. Partly it helped us avoid the bad weather, but in reality, we just wanted to see something we hadn’t before. In all, from the time we left home until we returned, we visited 19 states (16 of which we had never been in before) and traveled over 8400 km.
It was a most awesome trip. And if he shook the car keys at me and said “Wanna go back?” well…just don’t stand between me and the door.