Sunday, March 10, 2019

Texas - Crystal Beach - part two

Crystal Beach

It seems that we were not supposed to leave Crystal Beach. Our original plans were to leave on February 20, 2019. We planned to head north to Texarkana to get a picture of a Peter "Wolf" Toth Indian that we missed, and then head east through Little Rock, AK back to Asheville. Upon checking the weather for our route we discovered that the temperatures would be dropping down into the 20's. If you have followed us for any length of time you know that we avoid those temperatures whenever possible.
So, we decided to stay for another week, well that turned into two weeks. We were all set to leave on March 6th but Les woke up that morning with a terrible case of vertigo so we once again extended our stay two more days. While we were sad to leave on March 8th, and we will miss this place we are excited to start our journey home to Asheville.

Part one of this stop was posted a couple of weeks ago, you can find it here.
Our extended stay allowed us some more time on the beach. The sand, the waves, the birds and the sea salt smell are like heaven.
We had so much fun combing the beach for sea glass and shells. One outing was on a very chilly morning, but fun was had by all. While we gathered glass, Mielikki made a new friend. If you notice the golf cart in the background, that is the owners of the other dog. They were "walking" the dog. LOL. Apparently they are smarter than us.

We found these interesting jelly blobs, there were well over 30 of them along the stretch we walked. Still not exactly sure what they are, but it seems they are some type of Sea Salps.

Unfortunately we continued to find more trash. These two items made us chuckle.

A cassette tape, does anyone really listen to these anymore? The CD title is The Essential Clash, which is exactly what is seems humans and the beach are engaged in!
Mielikki was just happy to be running on the beach. By the way, she is a great trash collector. She finds all the empty water bottles, of course she thinks they are toys.

Staying longer also meant we were here for the Bolivar Peninsula Mardi Gras Parade. They close Hwy 87, the only main road on the peninsula and the route came right past our campground.

It was great fun, most of the stores in the area had a float and there were a number of decorated golf carts and jeeps.

We came away with close to 150 strands of beads. No, we did not have to flash anyone to get them.
Most of the people on the floats were so happy to see Santa, aka Les, that they threw a ton of beads at him. They all kept yelling out Hey Santa!!

Two little girls in Michigan will be thrilled when they receive all of these beads.

We also spotted Elvis! He's looking pretty good.

Nancy found a painted rock outside one of the stores. She left one of her own in its place. She plans to hide this one along the way back to Asheville.

Being in desperate need of bath towels we made a trip north to Beaumont, TX to a Bed, Bath and Beyond. We also found a Goofy Muffler Man.

Of course we headed back to Galveston, again it was a chilly and foggy day. We found some wonderful Murals and Roadside Oddities.

These are all on one wall and the murals extended out onto the sidewalk.

We loved the interactive ones. Nancy turned into a Butterfly.

You even get to become a Super Hero.

The Balloon and Umbrella were equally fun!

We found a few others while driving through the rest of the Historic Strand District. 

Giant Sea Turtles are waiting for you, along with a Dalmatian. That Fire Hydrant looks big enough for him to do his business! The Giant Trumpet might be a little hard to play, but think of the sound that would come out of it. The Archway looks like a Mardi Gras display but it has been welcoming people for many years.

Port Arthur, TX is about an hour away and is the hometown of Janis Joplin and a number of interesting Roadside Oddities.

This Conch Shell Wall is claimed to be the only one outside of the Caribbean. It is at the entrance to what is now abandoned apartments. Even as it deteriorates you can see that it was beautiful in its day. It was built in 1929, the shells were imported from the Caymen Islands.

The replica of the Statue of Liberty was a Boy Scout project and she stands on the campus of Lamar State College.

The largest oddity we found was at the Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church. They have a beautiful garden full of sculptures.
The 20-foot tall Mary is standing on a globe in the center of the garden. There are statues of St. Peter, St Joseph and Vietnamese Martyrs. 

The outer wall is lined with carvings depicting various stages of Jesus's life and the crucifixion.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast is a really interesting place. Filled with local and regional history dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. We were greeted like old friends and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The first thing you notice when you start your tour of the museum is the giant mural that depicts the region from dinosaurs to oil rigs.

There are plenty of hands on activities for kids of all ages. Les tried his hand at archaeology and Nancy had fun playing with the seashells. The display of wildlife was beautiful, those are alligator eggs in the grass mound. Their nests can measure 7 to 10-feet in diameter and 2 to 3-feet high. The females generally lay 35 to 50 eggs, although some have laid as many as 90. The eggs are covered in vegetation and hatch after a 65-day incubation period.

Their Music Hall of Fame is what brought us here. The room is filled with information about Texas artists. There is a jukebox so you can listen to their music while reading all about them.
You can't miss the large sculpture of Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970) when you enter the room, or the replica of her funky painted Porsche. (The original one is at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame)

Showcases are filled with memorabilia from her childhood through her short but successful career.

A birthday note to her mom inviting her to dinner and a college of pictures throughout her life were just two of the items.

We never knew that she was also a talented visual artist. The Scarecrow and Jack-O-Lantern drawings were done when she was just 10 years old, the portrait is of a friend when he received his draft notice in in the late 1960's.

 She grew up in this house. There is a historical sign on the front lawn telling the story of her life. The current owners have planted shrubs and trees for a little privacy. 
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway comes through Port Arthur.
It is a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway that stretches approximately 1,050-miles from Carrabelle, Fl to Brownsville, TX. It was busy the day we were here with barges and tugboats.

We'll leave you with a few of the sunsets we enjoyed while here.

Next up is our travels back to Asheville, NC.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way. 
~ Storage space or the lack there of.
As you know we have very little storage space so anything that helps give us a little more space and to be a little more organized always gets our attention.
We came across these bags one day while shopping and figured we would give them a try. We have a small cubbyhole in our bedroom. Actually there was a TV in it originally, but we got rid of that when we realized how much storage the space gave us. We store our extra sheets and blankets along with off season clothing. Which for us is generally cold weather clothes. We were using one of our mesh laundry baskets which worked but took up space.

These bags are easy to use and come in a variety of sizes. You simply fill the bag, seal the end and then vacuum the air out. This one started out at 15" high and ended up 4" high. In a tight space that is a lot of extra room.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Texas - Crystal Beach, part one and the two stops to get there

Berwick, LA

January 18, 2019 is the day we started our trek to Crystal Beach, TX. We did a one night stop at the Cypress Lake RV Resort in Berwick, LA. After having a hard time figuring out how to get into the campground - GPS tried to take us through a gas station, our troubles weren't over. Once in the park we followed the signs for the office only to get ourselves stuck on a dead end road. The owner came out just a little too late to tell us we needed to pull along side the building. We cannot back up the RV when our tow-dolly is attached so Les tried to make a U-turn and almost got stuck in the wet grass. So we had to take the car off and drop the tow-dolly in order to get the RV out.
Once in our site we tried to put the tow-dolly back on the hitch, but because of the bike rack we couldn't. (Tip on last post tells about the bike rack) So Les had to take the bikes off and the bike rack, put the tow-dolly on and then the rack and bikes back on!! Yes, we were not happy campers. So what should have been an easy pull through site for one night tuned out to be an almost 2 hour set up.
With all of that the campground is pretty nice, the view of the lake from our site was very relaxing. The site was plenty long enough and level. There are a few permanent residents that are not kept up very well. The owners just recently purchased the campground and are trying to make improvements. We paid $40.00 with our Good Sam Discount. You can easily walk to a convenience store and a number of casinos.

Sulphur, LA

Our stop in Sulphur, LA on January 19, 2019 was at the A+ Motel and RV Park. This is a large park, all cement sites and pretty narrow. There is a patch of grass, a picnic table and a grill. This was a much easier stop, pulled into the site hooked up the electric and we were done!
Nancy was sick with a cold so she never left the RV, Les did all the dog walking. We paid $40.00 with our Good Sam discount.

Crystal Beach, TX

January 20, 2019 we landed at the Bolivar Peninsula RV Park in Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston. We were here for a month and a half stay. The park is very well maintained.

We were in Site 29, a grass and gravel pull in with full hook ups and a view of the lake on site. There is a cement patio with a picnic table and a grill. We paid $16.67 with a monthly discount and Passport America.

We were entertained by the birds every day and enjoyed some beautiful sunsets at night. There were Spoonbills, Great-tailed Grackles and Muscovy Ducks. Along with Pelicans that proved to be very camera shy.

Walking the whole park is about a mile, which made Nancy very happy. There were also lots of picture opportunities of flowers, weeds and raindrops.

The beach was just a short walk away and we went there whenever the weather permitted.
You can also drive along the entire beach so of course we took advantage of that as well.

Both Nancy and Mielikki found lots of shells and seaweed. Most were left behind but a few came home with us.

Most days the walk was around 2-miles but one morning we were feeling extra adventurous and managed over 3. Luckily, there are porta-potties along the way, those who know Nancy well, know that she was very glad. The porta-potties are hidden in these cute little shacks. Unfortunately there was a need to clean up lots and lots of trash left behind by others. This bag is one sample of many that we filled. 😞
The beach is lined with Crosses, most just plain white wood but some were more elaborate. The majority of them are for people who died in Hurricane Ike back in September 2008. We also came across these metal poles, they are what is left of a pier that used to be here.

Our first night here we were able to watch the Lunar Eclipse. We didn't get great pictures but it sure was cool to watch.

During out excursions on the peninsula we came across a few quirky things. A Flip-Flop Pole in one of the neighborhoods. The first coffee shop we have seen with a Raised Drive-Thru. There are a large number of RV's that have Patios built above them - keeping this thought tucked away for future use. The Bolivar Point Lighthouse was built in 1872 and served the area for 61 years before being retired in 1933.

Fort Travis is a United States Army Coastal Artillery Facility. It is at the western end of the peninsula where the Intracoastal Waterway meets the Gulf.
Two of the batteries were built in 1898, with additional construction taking place over the following years up through 1941.
It is now a large park, with four of the batteries remaining and the foundations of a number of other buildings. Along with a playground and bird watching stands.
Battery Davis
Battery Davis was the first battery built. It was built from reinforced concrete. It contained two eight-inch, breech loading guns that could be elevated for a longer shooting range.

Gun Station

The building is in great disrepair, all of the buildings suffered damage from Hurricane Ike. We were actually surprised that people are still allowed inside the building as the walls and stairways are crumbling. There are weeds growing in just about every crack and crevice. 

Nancy of course was fascinated with the old iron pieces and crumbling cement. 

At one end of the battery is a very steep staircase. Les and Mielikki ventured up while Nancy was taking pictures below. She decided to join them and once she got to the top of the stairs she realized that it was not a good idea. In fact during her slight panic attack she had somehow enable Siri on her phone and when she yelled out to Les that "this was a terrible idea", Siri picked up on that!
They are very steep steps - and yes it was a terrible idea to climb them.

Once at the top Nancy realized she couldn't go any farther, the narrow and slopping passage way was more than she could handle! The problem was she still had to get down. So very slowly she went down backwards one step at a time. She was able to snap a few pictures while at the top.

Battery Ernst 

Battery Ernst was the second one built. It contained three small caliber "rapid fire" pedestal guns with searchlights. It is at the farthest end of the fort and it's purpose was to defend the harbor entrance. Top pictures are of the gun pedestal, or what's left of it and the location of it. There is a great view of the Gulf from here.

Battery 236 was built in 1941, by this time the Coast artillery no longer named its smaller installations. It contained two long range six-inch guns connected by an earth and concrete casement which contained a power plant, magazines, fire control facilities and crew quarters.

This battery was designed to defend the approaches to Galveston harbor from minelayers and submarines. Ironically, by the time the battery was finished almost all mine laying was done by aircraft, making it obsolete as soon as it was built. The structure is no longer safe to go inside.
Battery Kimble was started in 1917 and was completed in 1922. It had twelve inch guns that could be elevated to gain a range of 17-miles. Shortly after WWII the battery was made vulnerable by the advent of accurate aerial bombing. The circular gun platforms provided the perfect aiming point. The battery was then abandoned and its guns sold for scrap. This is the only surviving example of this type of battery, more than a dozen similar ones were built in the U.S. and the Philippines.

There is still one freestanding gun hole left in tact, good thing for Les no one was practicing their shooting.

There is not much on Bolivar Peninsula so any shopping was done in Galveston and Port Arthur, which will be covered in Part Two.

In order to get to Galveston we had to ride the ferry. The Galveston/Bolivar Ferry runs 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. It is considered to be part of the highway system and is free to ride. We had a variety of weather on our many trips back and forth. Clear skies, fog and rain. They have a screening lane where someone from Homeland Security checks your car. They really don't do much, look under the hood, in the trunk and the glove box but through the drivers window!
The sign says "Please do not verbally abuse screeners or staff. Verbal abuse of screener may be cause for denial of boarding." Pretty sad when a sign like this is needed.

Along with shopping we of course did some sightseeing. We found a few Roadside Oddities.

Galveston has its share of Seafood Restaurants and of course they have Giant Seafood on their roofs! The house in the bottom picture was built from an old water tower! Would love to see inside.

This area has had its share of devastating Hurricanes, the last one, Hurricane Ike in 2008 destroyed much of the surrounding area. One of the deadliest hurricanes was in 1900. The death toll was 8,000, most of these occurred in the vicinity of Galveston. The water surge inundated the entire island with 8-12-feet of water. After the storm the shoreline of the island was raised by 17-feet and a 10 mile seawall was erected.

The sculpture is a memorial to those who lost their lives. The seawall has a sharp curve to help keep the water from coming over it. The stairs are a small portion of what is left of the original seawall. The bottom left pictures is the tide coming in. Watch your step!

One of the touristy things along the seawall is the Galveston Pleasure Pier. Yep, that really is the name! We didn't actually go into the amusement park but the lights did give us pleasure!

In Kemah, TX they have painted their Water Tower to look like a Lighthouse.
In a park in Texas City there are two planes on display as it is claimed to be the "Birthplace of the U.S. Air Force." In 1913 the 2nd Division of the U.S. Army was deployed here to guard the Gulf Coast during the Mexican Revolution. Nearly half of the nations land military personnel were here. This also included the 1st Aero Division that had recently been created and later became the U.S. Air Force. The Wright Brothers trained dozens of soldiers as military pilots, hence their claim to fame. In August 1915 a hurricane completely demolished the base and the camp was moved to San Antonio.

L: Anchor 2-miles away ~~ C: Propeller 1-mile away ~~ R: Anchor 1- mile away

Top: Miss you ~~ Grief
Bottom: the grave numbers of 63 unidentified bodies
from the blast ~~ Helping hands 
On April 16, 1947 the town suffered another disaster. A French ship, the Grandcamp, containing ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded while docked. It is regarded as the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. The fertilizer from Nebraska and Iowa overheated. The blast devastated buildings, blew away warehouses and showered shrapnel in all directions for miles. A second ship, the S.S. High Flyer was released from its moorings by the blast and ignited, it rammed into a third ship the S.S. Wilson B. Keene. Both of those ships also contained the fertilizer and exploded. 581 people were killed, over 5,000 people were injured. The entire Texas City and Port Terminal Fire Departments were wiped out.
There is a Memorial Park in Texas City to remember those lost in the blast and those who have died in battle.

War Memorial - each walkway is lined with quotes 

Part two will be posted when we leave here. You will hear about Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin, more on Galveston and a Mardi Gras parade!

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way. 
~ Tip will be on part two.