Galveston, Jamaica Beach, Gavleston Island State Park, Bolivar Peninsula
Sorry for the delay on this one, folks! Our life has been much of a quantum flux since the New Year, with very little consistency and next to no travel in our Winnebago Sundancer, home base for our cherished #VANLIFE as nomadic adventurers. That will be changing now, as we start a whole new chapter heading to the East and into Appalachian territory.
But more on that later. (Soon, I promise!)
One of the few consistencies during this frustrating start to 2021 has been the support and love of our incredible families, and we are so thankful to have them in our lives. Listening, assisting, and cheering us on as we explore and fully realize the potential of our dreams, it has been a blessing to have that one certainty among the landslide of uncertainties.
Wanted to close the loop on our last adventure before this current hiatus: Galveston Island, TX! Bringing it back to the last few weeks of December and first week of January! We would definitely go back and spend more time there. Being winter on the Gulf Coast, we got our fair share of rainy days, but also had many beautiful warm days for our Christmas and New Year’s week!
Up early on the morning of December 24th, we randomly decided to stop in a nearby cafe to do a Christmas Eve breakfast. Little did we know this place was doing its soft opening that day and we were LITERALLY the first customers in the place. Initially weirded out as to why all the people in the restaurant were smiling and staring at us more intently than normal…!!….it turned out to be fantastic, top-notch breakfast cuisine across the board. I mean…just look at these mouthwatering photos:
And the best part? When we were stuffed and asked for the check, our waitress let us know that Santa was picking up all of the customer tabs that morning. Free delicious Christmas Eve breakfast, CHECK. Love it. It was a fun surprise and adrenaline boost to our morning.
We spent a relaxing Christmas Holiday at Jamaica Beach RV Park on the Southwest end of the island. It had your classic island/rasta decorations, a pirate & shark themed mini golf course, a pool, an indoor hot tub and more. Didn’t realize until the 2nd day that what we thought were tortoise statues in the middle of the mini golf course were actually LIVE Sulcata Tortoises, or African spurred tortoises. Not native to the area – the owners purchased them and they are residents of the RV park. Such a cool addition to the mini golf course! We went out and said hi to them every day.
Spent a day or two at Galveston Island State Park and saw loads more amazing coastal birds. Between South America and Texas, the two of us are newly minted birders and I don’t see that going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll be those old people in the kayaks with binoculars looking up at the tops of trees. Here are some favorites from the state park.
We stayed at the RV site of this state park on New Year’s Eve and it POURED cats and dogs the entire time. We basically parked our Sundancer in a giant puddle. Here’s what it looked like outside the door:
The two parts of the city we explored were The Strand and Seawall Blvd. The Strand is the historic district, home to the original 19th century seaport and where fishermen would gather back in the day. It has a number of lovely main streets to walk with street art, historic old buildings, and tons of shopping and restaurants. Seawall Blvd hugs the beach on the Gulf Coast side, and has a more modern, beach-town feel to it. Its namesake is the Galveston Seawall, an incredible feat of engineering of the early 1900s where the people of the town literally raised the island up and built their Seawall to withstand and protect Galveston from future storm surges.
Different areas, different vibes, and both had a lot to offer.
Some photos from The Strand below. Murals and 3D street art, shops with kitties, an offshore drilling rig museum, old preserved ships, a giant trumpet, street turtles, and more.
Rather than really being a neighborhood to explore, Seawall Blvd is a long strip that became a catchall area we’d find ourselves back at when looking for a bite, brews, new finds, or just beach hang time. We never did make it to the Pleasure Pier, the famous Galveston amusement park right smack in the middle of the Seawall. You can see it in the background of some of the photos.
And we had to do at least one nice dinner out for some local seafood. Went to Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant which, as we came to find out, is a Galveston classic, has been around forever, and has a reputation as “the freshest fish house on the Gulf coast.” It did not disappoint! Everything was delicious, but what we both especially remember was the baked oysters on a half shell – December is oyster season in Texas! Each of the 6 different kinds of baked oysters we got was exceptional and left you wanting another.
Our favorite overnight spot was East Beach, which is a hidden gem we discovered quite by chance. It’s on the Northern tip of the island, away from the downtown area, where the road just ends and you’re on the beach. We went there just to explore in the daytime and discovered we could just park there overnight for free for as many nights as we wanted….score! Woke up and stepped outside the Sundancer on to the sand every morning. We came back here a handful of nights intermittently while on Galveston island, whenever we wanted a break from the traffic or people. Many sublime sunrise walks and chill afternoons just “beaching. ”
One of our last days in Texas, we took the Sundancer on his first FERRY RIDE to the Bolivar Peninsula, a stretch of beach to the North of the island. Interesting side note: It was totally unnerving to both of us to be in our home and moving while not driving! For some reason all the more so than when you’re just in a car on a ferry…it felt really weird. I mean, can you imagine sitting in your living room and the scenery moving by outside?? Still really cool, though, and quite easy loading on and off the ferry.
The peninsula was filled with more serene beaches and bird watching. We don’t think these beaches are as frequented as the Galvestonian ones. Gabrielle enjoyed taking some time driving the RV all over the beach – she likes driving it when there aren’t any other vehicles around.
The last thing we did in Galveston was particularly poignant – a guided self-tour of the islands tree sculptures. In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike covered most of the island in a tidal surge, and ultimately led to the demise of thousands of the city’s oldest and majestic trees. I think this quote out of the self-guided tour brochure says it best:
“Ike forced Galveston to say a sad goodbye to so many of its beautiful tree canopies, but where many saw dead trees and waste after the storm, a group of homeowners saw a chance to morph symbols of destruction into signs of rejuvenation.”
Today, you can find them all over the island as the trend and symbol have grown in popularity. The majority of the originals are in the East End Historic District, which is what we walked. Most of the artists/sculptors are local, and it was intriguing how creative they were with the trunks and branches – often the trees had been growing into and around a fence or building, so they came up with an artistic vision to go with that! For example, in this one that was carved into a Great Dane, the tree had actually grown around the fence where the dog’s paws perch upon it. How cool is that?!
And the old homes are simply gorgeous. The French Romanesque architecture of the area was an added bonus on our walk – we were feeling definite NOLA vibes. A lot of the houses looked like something straight out of a storybook or movie set.
It was so uplifting and innovative to see what the people of Galveston did with the hurricane-damaged trees. Lemonade out of lemons.
That’s a wrap for our time in Texas. LOVED the Lone Star State. So many amazing places, such history, hilarious and meaningful adventures, and great memories. We are so thankful to have had the time we did there, and look forward to the day the trail leads back to that Southern state where everything (really, they aren’t kidding) is bigger.
Next adventure is currently LIVE as we have just “moved” to central Pennsylvania! Got here about 2 weeks ago. Gabrielle got a new job with the Davey Resource Group and will be on a project doing field tech work – she is very excited. Best part is that the project moves as they complete an area, so we’ll be able to move right along with it. Flexibility of picking up and living wherever we want, working outdoors in new places every day, exploring the forests and Appalachian countryside and towns of Pennsylvania, maybe a craft brewery here and there…THIS is our life. Our hoppy purpose and our happy purpose.
Next month, next Fall, next year……I mean, who knows?