2014: The Highlights and Top 10 Sites Visited

The year 2014 brought me some wonderful opportunities to travel and even fulfill some travel dreams. In the past year I traveled nearly 10,000 miles on road trips and traversed through 19 states (including my home state of Kentucky).  With all of this travel I was able to hit a few “bucket list” stops and also drive a good part of some “bucket list” highways as well. Overall, the year was splendid.

The Big Highlights

  • 9,700 Miles Driven
  • Traveled through 19 states
  • Drove about 1,200 miles of US Route 2, one of my Bucket List Highways.  Drove from Ironwood, MI to Browning, MT
  • Drove the Blues Highway in Mississippi
  • Drove the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming (which Charles Kuralt noted as “the most beautiful drive in America” and I concur

My Top 10 List of Places Visited (in order)

1. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN

Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota - Dreams can come true!
Sumoflam at Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota – Dreams can come true!

I had dreamed of visiting here since first seeing pictures of it in a Life Magazine Book in the 1960s.  A dream came true in May. (see full post here)

2. Drive the Beartooth Highway (US 212) in Wyoming and Montana

At the Beartooth Highway in May
At the Beartooth Highway in May
Panoramic Scene of Beartooth's at 11,000 feet
Panoramic Scene of Beartooth’s at 11,000 feet

For years I had hoped for a chance to take one of the most beautiful drives in America.  I was lucky on this one as the highway was opened for travel on Memorial Day weekend, just a couple of days before I got there.  (see full post here)

3. Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE

I have had this on a Bucket List for a number of years.  Along with Cadillac Ranch (in Amarillo, TX) and “Spindle” – the Cars on a Spike in Cermak Plaza (Berwyn, IL – and no longer there), these were my BIG THREE car art sites on my Bucket List.  This was the last one to check off, though I have found smaller scale ones along the way as well (such as Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL) (see full post here)

4. The famous Austin sign in Austin, Texas

Sumoflam visits Austin, Texas
Sumoflam visits Austin, Texas

This is probably one of the most famous “Welcome to” signs in the country and one I wanted to say I had been to.  Well, here it was, in June. (Full post coming in January 2015)

5. Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, Mississippi

Sumoflam at Mammy's Cupboard in Natchez, MS
Sumoflam at Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, MS

This unique eatery deep in the heart of Mississippi made the list because of its quirky style.  I had not heard of this place until doing my research on the Blues Highway.  But it was a definite “Must See” place on the way.  Glad I made it here. (see full post here)

6. The Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota

Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
Sumoflam and Big Fish in Bena, MN
I love this angle - Big Fish Eats House!!  In Bena, MN
I love this angle – Big Fish Eats House!! In Bena, MN

Another iconic roadside attraction (one of many) in Minnesota, this big guy on US Highway 2 was well worth the visit.  Wish I could have stopped for dinner…(not his…MINE!) (see full post here)

7.  Rock City in Valier, Montana

Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City, Montana
Rock City, Montana

While visiting family in Montana, I was told about this place called Rock City, a unique geologic site.  Had to make a visit, so we went as a family.  Well worth the trip! (see full post here)

8.  Giant Pyramid Structure in Nekoma, North Dakota

Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
Sumoflam and Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelson facility

I came across this unusual site while perusing Roadside America and looking for something to see in northern North Dakota near US Route 2.  Well, I found a doozy!! (see full post here)

9. Visit to the home of “Swamp People” in Pierre Part, Louisiana

Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam in Pierre Part, LA
Sumoflam and Swamp People's Troy Landry...one of the friendliest and most personable guys you'll ever meet (Troy that is...)
Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)

When the TV show “Swamp People” premiered a few years ago, I told my wife that I would someday make it to Louisiana and meet Troy Landry, one of the stars of the show and fun guy to watch catchin’ alligators.  Well, in June I did it! (see full post here)

10. Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming

This is another one of those places I just came across while driving through Wyoming.  An amazing geologic site.  My only disappointment was that it was surrounded by fencing.  But, I did get to meet a fellow traveler and amazing photographer named Derek Ace (see his Facebook page).  We have since become friends on Facebook and I really love the photos of his travels and unique perspectives on our broad expanse.

A Couple of Other Notable Items

I got to meet Facebook friend, fellow travel blogger and author Tui Snider (visit her site) while on the road in 2014.

Hanging with Tui Snider in Azle, Texas
Hanging with Tui Snider in Azle, Texas

Her books “Unexpected Texas” and “Paranormal Texas” are both great travel guides for the Dallas and northern Texas area. It was fun to meet her. We continue to exchange travel ideas and photos as we go.

The enormous "I Am MO" mural in the Lexington Distillery District
The enormous “I Am MO” mural in the Lexington Distillery District

One of Tui’s favorite comments is “Even Home is a Destination” and I have certainly made Lexington a destination in 2014. The proliferation of massive wall art murals, among other things, have kept me busy.  I was even published in Ace Weekly Magazine for a post about these.

Indeed, 2014 was a great year for travel!

Sumoflam in Rugby, ND
Sumoflam in Rugby, ND

(594)

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Galveston-Houston

After a great three days in Galveston, it was time to get back on the road.  I would head north to Houston, then on to Austin and eventually into Fort Worth.

Texas is a BIG state and there is lots of ground to cover.  My first day would cover some backroads from Galveston and meander my way into Houston where I would stay overnight with my uncle.

Heart of Texas Route Day 1 - Galveston to Houston the long way
Heart of Texas Route Day 1 – Galveston to Houston the long way

There were things I had planned to see along the way and found a few things along the way as well.  I figured that I may not get this way again (south of Houston) for a while, so I took advantage of a full day of driving to see some parts of Texas that many may not really get to.

My plans were to drive to Alvin, but along the way I came across an interesting house in Santa Fe, Texas. I had to stop and get a few shots. I discovered an unusual huge estate right on TX Hwy 6.  It is called the Pignataro Estate, though many call it a castle.

Pignataro Castle, Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle, Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas

According to an article I found from the Galveston Daily News, September 20, 1981, the home was originally built in the 1930s by a widow of a well-to-do Danish immigrant.  It has since passed hands a number of times and has been owned by the Pignataro family since the 1970s. This larges estate apparently has 26 rooms and a number of other amenities. Following are a few more shots of some of the many white cement statues in the yard.

White cement statuary of Pignataro Estate in Santa, Texas
White cement statuary of Pignataro Estate in Santa, Texas
White Stallions guard the front gate of the Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
White Stallions guard the front gate of the Pignataro Castle in Santa Fe, Texas
Closeup shot of one of the cement stallions at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Closeup shot of one of the cement stallions at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Royal Statues of riders inside the fences of Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Royal Statues of riders inside the fences of Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Lion Fencepost at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas
Lion Fencepost at Pignataro Estate in Santa Fe, Texas

It is places like the Pignataro Estate that make it so worthwhile to take back roads and see the sites. After my brief photo shoot there, I continued north to Alvin, Texas, the birthplace of famed pitcher Nolan Ryan.

Welcome to Alvin, Texas, hometown of Nolan Ryan
Welcome to Alvin, Texas, hometown of Nolan Ryan

Alvin is about 25 miles southeast of Houston, and like Santa Fe, it is a town originally built around the railroad.  Currently, there are just under 25,000 residents in this town known for its connection to Nolan Ryan.

Alvin Historic Depot Center, Alvin, TX
Alvin Historic Depot Center, Alvin, TX

Nolan Ryan spent a good part of his youth living in Alvin and playing Little League Baseball there and even became a famed high school pitcher at Alvin High School, where some players refused to go up to bat against him because of his amazing fastball. A Hall of Famer now, he serves as an adviser to the Houston Astros organization.

Nolan Ryan Center, Alvin, Texas
Nolan Ryan Center, Alvin, Texas
Nolan Ryan Statue, Alvin, TX
Nolan Ryan Statue, Alvin, TX
Sumoflam with Nolan Ryan in Alvin, TX
Sumoflam with Nolan Ryan in Alvin, TX

After the brief visit in Alvin and headed south to Angleton to visit the first of the Big Three statues in southern Texas. Angleton is home to the Stephen F. Austin statue, which stands 76 feet tall from the base.

Welcome to Angleton, Texas
Welcome to Angleton, Texas

Since I wrote extensively about the Stephen Austin statue in an earlier post, I am just including a couple of photos here.

Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from the Highway
Stephen F. Austin Statue as seen from the Highway

While at the Stephen F. Austin Statue park,  I came across a couple of what I have learned are Cattle Egrets.  Smaller than a Great Egret, I saw them foraging in the grasses.  I saw some of these birds in a horse field in Louisiana as well. Unique looking, beautiful birds. Cattle egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals.

Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
Another shot of a Cattle Egret
Another shot of a Cattle Egret

From Angleton I headed to the small town of Lake Jackson, TX, to find my way…literally! The “main drag” of Lake Jackson is called This Way and they also have a That Way.  Here are a few fun shots of these unique road names and the story behind them. (And, by the way, Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul spent most of his childhood in Lake Jackson…and he found his way to Kentucky and the US Senate!)

You can see that This Way is actually thatta way
You can see that This Way is actually thatta way
This Way is not until the next signal
This Way is not until the next signal
Ahh...there it is...This Way
Ahh…there it is…This Way

All streets radiating from downtown Lake Jackson end in the word “Way.” Among the streets are Center Way, Winding Way, Circle Way, and Parking Way. There is an intersection of two streets named This Way and That Way. In the same spirit, a local church near Bess Brannen Elementary placed a small sign in their driveway named His Way. There is also an Any Way.

At the Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
At the Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way
Plaque at the corner of This Way and That Way
So, which Way do I take?
So, which Way do I take?
To confuse, at one point there is a Three Way that leads to Center Way
To confuse, at one point there is a Three Way that leads to Center Way

And then there is the old British Phone Box on This Way

Shades of Dr. Who, not quite a TARDIS, but certainly out of place in southern Texas
Shades of Dr. Who, not quite a TARDIS, but certainly out of place in southern Texas

Speaking of out of place, as I headed out of town on my way to West Columbia, TX, lo and behold, what do I see driving in front of me?

UK Car in Texas.  The driver was all decked out in UK Gear too.
UK Car in Texas. The driver was all decked out in UK Gear too. Check out the License Plate!

The next stop in my roundabout tour of SE Texas was in West Columbia, which was known as the First Capitol of Texas. The first Congress of the Republic of Texas was convened in West Columbia on October 3, 1836, when the town was still just named Columbia.

Entering West Columbia, TX with the note that there are historical markers in town
Entering West Columbia, TX with the note that there are historical markers in town
Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Historical Marker about West Columbia, TX
Sumoflam at the location of the First Capitol of Texas
Sumoflam at the location of the First Capitol of Texas

I always have a penchant for old theaters and the Capitol Theater in West Columbia is a classic.

Old Capitol Theater in West Columbia, TX.  A Classic Old Building
Old Capitol Theater in West Columbia, TX. A Classic Old Building

This old theater was first open in 1937 and by 1941 it had its name changed to the Capitol.

Mural on a wall in Damon, TX
Mural on a wall in Damon, TX

From West Columbia I made my way to Damon, TX up Texas Highway 36.  I have a friend in Lexington named Damon so I had to stop and send him a shot or two for fun!

Damon, TX highway sign.  Unusual to see the name of the town on a street sign
Damon, TX highway sign. Unusual to see the name of the town on a street sign
This used to be Eddie's Garage...in Damon, TX
This used to be Eddie’s Garage…in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon.  The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX

Damon was actually a unique little place.  Even the old road signs were still in use and had character, but weren’t too legible.

Corner of Live Oak and ??? in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Woodward in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
Corner of Live Oak and Stockwell in Damon, TX
West of the Brazos Bar and Grill sign in Damon, TX
West of the Brazos Bar and Grill sign in Damon, TX
Highway 36 in Damon, TX
Highway 36 in Damon, TX
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon...
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon…this “water tower” was about 14 feet tall

From Damon I returned east on Texas Highway 1462 towards Rosharon, TX with a quick turn off on TX 762 to visit the Brazos Bend State Park, known for ts alligator sightings.  I had visited places in Louisiana and Mississippi earlier on this trip in hopes of seeing alligators, but never got to see any.  Maybe this would be the charm!

Turn off to Hwy 762 and Brazos Bend State Park
Turn off to Hwy 762 and Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Maybe I’ll find that elusive gator yet!

Caution - Alligators
Caution – Alligators

And, voila….

I found a gator!!
I found a gator!!

And walking around the swamp area I got another gator view.

Gator Land
Gator Land
Another Gator
Another Gator

The State Park had a couple of miles of rads and a few swampy areas.

Moss Covered Tree in Brazos Bend State Park
Moss Covered Tree in Brazos Bend State Park
Flowering Lily Pads in the swamp
Flowering Lily Pads in the swamp
More Flowers
More Flowers

With my Gator Sighting checked off my bucket list and totally hot and sweaty after my hike around the pond, it was back in the car and on to Rosharon, TX.  Didn’t plan a stop in Rosahron, but I couldn’t resist a couple of shots of the Cherokee Rose Trading Post.

Cherokee Rose Trading Post in Rosharon, TX
Cherokee Rose Trading Post in Rosharon, TX
Pink Pigs and Pink Flamingos for sale at Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Pink Pigs and Pink Flamingos for sale at Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Side view of Cherokee Rose Trading Post
Side view of Cherokee Rose Trading Post

After my quick drive by, I back tracked and headed up Hwy 36 towards Needville, TX on my way to Wharton.  Along the way I saw a good old vintage neon sign for a roadside cafe called “The Jay”, in Needville.

The Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas.  Vintage neon sign
The Jay Cafe in Needville, Texas. Vintage neon sign
A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe...doesn't look like a jay to me.
A big metal rooster sits in front of the Jay Cafe…doesn’t look like a jay to me.

From Needville, I headed west towards Boling and Iago.

Welcome to Boling, TX
Welcome to Boling, TX
Iago, Texas
Iago, Texas

Nothing in those two towns but the signs were interesting!!  Then it was on to Wharton.  Lots of fun things to see in little Wharton.

Sumoflam at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Sumoflam at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX

My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. This was an era of grand roadtrips, family adventure, and American innocence. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.

Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX

The Tee Pee Motel is reminiscent of the Wigwam Villages (they are still around in San Bernardino, CA; Holbrook, AZ and Cave City, KY).  I visited the one on Kentucky a couple of years back (see photo).

Wodrich mural in Wharton, TX
One of three murals in Wharton painted by Dayton Wodrich. This one is 100′ wide and offers one historical peak at Wharton, TX

Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  Following are a couple more…

Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wodrich
Historical churches of Wharton, TX mural by Dayton Wodrich
Historical churches of Wharton, TX mural by Dayton Wodrich

Wharton has a great old courthouse and theater in town as well.

Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Old courthouse in Wharton, TX
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX
Old Plaza Theater in Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX

After my visit to Wharton I then headed northeast on US 59 and eventually made my way to the outskirts of Houston into the Sugar Land area where I visited the second of the three Texas Giant statues, this one, the giant Quan Te Am Bo Tat statue at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center.  The statue was designed an build by New Orleans artist Mai Chi. She escaped from Vietnam in 1989 and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia.

Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX
Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX
Giant 72' tall Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX
Giant 72′ tall Quan Am statue in Sugar Land, TX
Sleeping Buddha Statue at the Vietnam Buddhist Center
Sleeping Buddha Statue at the Vietnam Buddhist Center
Marble Lion Statue
Marble Lion Statue
Pagoda at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Pagoda at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
View of the Gardens and Quan Am statue at Vietnamese Buddhist Center
View of the Gardens and Quan Am statue at Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Sumoflam at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center
Sumoflam at the Vietnamese Buddhist Center

From the Vietnamese Center I headed to my uncle’s for an overnight in Houston.

Next post will cover Houston to Austin via the heart of Texas.

(1906)

Three Days in Galveston – Pelican Fascination

IMG_7131After a long two days of driving from Lexington thru Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, I got to spend three days with family relaxing on the beaches of Galveston Island and visiting many of the interesting sites on the island. And, for me, I got to spend some time watching the amazing brown pelicans as they flew in formation, glided over the Gulf of Mexico and took amazing dives for fish. It was a wonderously amazing visit.

Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston

Galveston is not only a city in southern Texas but is also an island. The city actually sits on Galveston Island and Pelican Island.

GalvestonMap
Map of Galveston Island

The town was named for Gálvez-town or Gálveztown in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez by Spanish explorer José de Evia  during his charting of the Gulf Coast in 1785.  Since that time many beautiful buildings were built, including some expansive hotels and old church buildings.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Church with a Fleur de lys

The main reason for coming to Galveston was a Kravetz family reunion.  It was great to spend time with my cousins, uncles, aunts and sister and dad.  It was nice to see the family…but no pics of them here.

Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time
Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time

Unfortunately, it was a bad year for sargassum seaweed buildup.  The beaches had piles of smelly seaweed everywhere.  In fact, there were tractors having to try to scoop up the stinky stuff.  This was a result of cold fronts that kept the seaweed in the southern Gulf longer than usual, where it continued to thrive in warm waters. The seaweed then floated north, deluging many of the beaches along the gulf.

People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston
People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston

Despite the seaweeds, the beaches were still enjoyable.  I usually am going going going, but, since family was all together, I was able to just take it easy.  In fact, I sat in a beach chair and just watched the pelicans and seagulls and those strange two-legged mammals (humans) frolic in the waves.

Sumoflam chillin' on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
Sumoflam chillin’ on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf

Though family is always important, my fondest memories of Galveston will always center around the graceful brown pelicans.  Their effortless floating over the city was fascinating.  In fact, I loved how they flew in unison as many of the photos below show.

Brown Pelicans in formation overhead.  So graceful in flight
Brown Pelicans in formation overhead. So graceful in flight
A single pelican in flight
A single pelican in flight
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf

Then, while sitting on the beach I saw something else that just blew me away.  I witnessed these graceful pelicans take high-speed nose dives into the gulf. While diving, the pelicans appeared to rotate their bodies ever so slightly to the left.  My research verified this and indicated that the rotation helps the birds avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of their neck. They have also apparently learned that a steep dive angle, between 60 and 90 degrees, reduces aiming errors caused by water surface refraction. This is pretty amazing.  I tried to capture a few shots of this unique practice.

A pelican starts it dive
A pelican starts it dive
Another angle of a dive
Another angle of a dive
Straight in dive
Straight in dive
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this)
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this) – and a jet skier made it more interesting!
A dive as seen from a distance
A dive as seen from a distance

I also enjoyed watching the seagulls.  I have always been used to seeing white ones, but the ones in Galveston are darker and have black heads.  These are apparently called Laughing Gulls.

Unique black headed seagulls on the beach in Galveston
Unique black headed Laughing Gulls  on the beach in Galveston
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A seagull taking off
A seagull taking off
Seagull in flight
Seagull in flight
 A pair of seagulls glide by
A pair of seagulls glide by

Galveston island is about 27 miles long and about 3 miles wide at its widest point. During my visit I circumnavigated most of the island.  My cousins rented a beach house in Jamaica Beach, which is on the southwestern end of Galveston Island and the only other town on the island.  We went there a couple of times during the visit and it was a nice drive.

Drive along the Seawall Highway on Galveston Island
Drive along Seawall Blvd. on Galveston Island
Heading into Jamaica Beach, TX
Seawall Blvd. turns into Termini-San Luis Pass Rd. heading into Jamaica Beach, TX

Before getting into Jamaica Beach, I passed the Pirate’s Beach neighborhood, which sits between the highway and the Gulf of Mexico. Some really amazing beach houses here, many of them built after the devastation of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Beach Houses on Pirate's Beach
Beach Houses on Pirate’s Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach

In the main town area there are a number of other rental properties that sit on some land that juts out between Jumbile Cove to the south and Carancahua Cove to the north. Many of the homes sit next to small waterways where boats can be docked and then taken out to sea.

Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Many of the roads were named after pirates.  The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.
Many of the roads were named after pirates. The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.

One of the recurring themes of my trip down to Galveston (and home as well) was alligators.  I visited the home of “Swamp People” in Louisiana the day before and on the way through Mississippi stopped in Alligator, MS.  So, it was only logical that I would run into something alligator related while in Galveston….

Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store in Jamaica Beach
Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store off of Buccaneer Blvd. in Jamaica Beach

I got a kick out of the product.  “Smoked Alligator with Pork Jerky.”  Made me wonder if the alligators were “pork fed” before being made into jerky…..

Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston
Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston

Back into Galveston….Seawall Blvd. is the “main drag” along the coast.  This stretch of road runs between the resort shops, restaurants and fast food places and the main beach.  Typical beach wear shops can be seen, as well as unique multi-person bicycles called surrey bikes.  I had never seen these before, but it occurs to me that these are the perfect mode of transport along the beaches.  There were rental places all along Seawall Blvd.

Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
A group on a Surrey
A group on a Surrey
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Enjoying the ride on a surrey
Enjoying the ride on a surrey

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to try one of these out.  I should have!! But I enjoyed the beach scenes anyway.

Jet Ski Rentals
Jet Ski Rentals
Umbrella Lined Beach...rent a seat
Umbrella Lined Beach…rent a seat
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
More surreys...some were as reckless as ever
More surreys…some were as reckless as ever
Waves on the beach
Waves on the beach
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston

Of course, there are all of the unique hotels, restaurants and shops to be seen.  I tried a couple of the restaurants while there.  Also drove by and captured shots of some of the hotels, condos, etc.

Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries
Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries – including a giant crawfish
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry's is there for you
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s is there for you
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
One of many eateries along the way
One of many eateries along the way
What's a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
What’s a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island

While I was in Galveston, my wife was with her sisters and brother on the beach in San Diego.  I had hoped we could adjust our schedules and take photos at the same time on the beach…but it didn’t work out.  But, I did capture something that was pretty fun.  They were staying at a condo time share in San Diego called “Capri by the Sea.”  I ran into one in Galveston and called her.  So, we were both at Capri by the Sea at the same time…in different places.

Capri by the Sea Condos in Galveston
At Capri by the Sea condos in Galveston while Julianne was at the same in San Diego
Capri by the Sea
Capri by the Sea

There is a completely different part of the town of Galveston, called the Strand Historic District.  While all of the family was on a boat ride, I drove around that area.  There were large cruise ships, old shops, museums, seaside diners and more.

Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Historic Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit overlayed by Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District

Back on Seaside Blvd. is Pleasure Pier, Galveston’s answer to “Coney Island.” The Current Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier was built 1,130 feet out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and had its “soft” opening on May 25, 2012.  The new pier compile is located where the original Pleasure Pier stood from 1943 until 1961, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla. The original Pleasure Pier featured rides, an arcade, an aquarium, concessions, a large ball room, named the Marine Ballroom, and fishing at the end of the pier. It was also the site of the USS Flagship Hotel, an over-the-water hotel built in 1965 that was demolished after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Pleasure Pier in Galveston
Pleasure Pier in Galveston

The Pier has a midway with games and amusements and then there are a number of rides, some of them that glide right over the gulf of Mexico.  I didn’t visit….but we stayed close, so I did get a couple of photos.

Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance

Galveston does not have many sculptures, but there is one on the seawall that is well-known.  Commissioned by the Galveston Commission for the Arts and installed in 2000, Galveston sculptor David W. Moore’s bronze sculpture is a monument to the victims and survivors of the 1900 Storm, which killed in excess of 6,000 Galvestonians, making it the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Disaster Memorial in Galveston, sculpted by David W. Moore

The only other major sculpture of any consequence in Galveston is the “Texas Heroes Monument” located at the intersection of Broadway and Rosenberg Avenue.  It was commissioned by Henry Rosenberg to commemorate the brave people who fought during the Texas Revolution. The monument was built out of granite and bronze. The sculptor of the monument was Italian artist Louis Amateis and was unveiled on April 22, 1900.

Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas
Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas

The monument is 74 feet high including the statue of Victory. The base of the monument is thirty-four feet in diameter. The bulk of the monument consists of four columns made from a single block of granite. These are fifty feet high.

Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX
Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX

At the top of the columns are words which represent the qualities of the men who fought for Texas: Patriotism, Honor, Devotion, Courage. The statue of Victory is twenty-two feet high. She holds a sheathed sword entwined with roses and her right extended hand holds a crown of laurels.

DSC_8413Finally, I should note the “quirky”… a couple of restaurants have some giant “crustaceans” resting on the roof.  Got a nice chuckle from these…

Giant Crab in Galveston
Giant Crab at Gaidos in Galveston\
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston

Then there is the giant crawfish

Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston
Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston at Nick’s Restaurant
Giant Crawfish at Nick's in Galveston
Giant Crawfish at Nick’s in Galveston

Overall, I had a great time with family and a great time visiting Galveston….even in the middle of the summer!!

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