(Author’s note: This post is another in my Throwback Thursday series. Taken from August 2008 on a visit to Bethlehem for the Music Festival to join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours. I also visited a number of other sites. At the time I was still working in Woodstock, Ontario)
August 1, 2008: Instead of heading back to Kentucky for the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem, PA and join Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours for their two performances at the 2008 Bethlehem MusikFest. I decided to make a weekend of it and visit more places along the way that I had yet to get to. It would be a fun weekend indeed!!
I headed out early and headed southeast towards Buffalo. My adventures for the first day would take me to the Erie Canal and the Jell-O Museum, among other places. The map of the entire trip is below.
My first “tourist stop” along the way was Lockport, New York. Lockport derived its name from the locks that were built on the Erie Canal through here. It is only about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls. Like many towns in NW New York and SW Ontario, the town was initially settled by Quakers. In the 1820s construction on the Erie Canal was well underway and part of the route would go through Lockport. The locks were the idea of Nathan Roberts. A sixty foot drop existed at Lockport and a way had to be devised to raise and lower the packet boats to complete the journey to Buffalo. Roberts’s idea was a twin flight of locks with five locks each. In 1823, work began on the lock construction. These locks were crucial to
the completion of the canal.
Today the town of Lockport welcomes many visitors who come to see the historic locks, which have since been improved upon considerably as technology has allowed. When I got to Lockport I visited the Erie Locks & Canal Museum, where there was a small video about the building of the canal and locks in the area. I then walked over to the locks.
There are tours down and through the canal from here as well as a boat tour down in the Lockport Cave. Due to time and money constraints I chose not to take them. But I would love to have the time to take a whole day here to see the sights and history. Maybe someday…..
The complex was built as two sets of five flights of locks (one east-bound, one west-bound) and was considered to be an engineering triumph. These would help traverse the Niagara escarpment which dropped 60 feet in the Lockport area. Lots of early photos can be seen here. Following are Some views of the locks in Lockport
From Lockport, I headed east along the Erie Canal and made my way into Middleport, a quaint little town with an interesting restaurant and bridge. The Original Basket Factory was begun around 1893 to make baskets for fruit farmers along the canal. It later became a nice little restaurant.
From Middleport I continued east to Medina, NY (pronounced Ma-DIE-nah as I later found out) on NY Highway 31. Another nice little town along the Erie Canal, Medina is the home to the Medina Railroad Museum (which I did not visit) and is also home to a very large sculpted apple along the Erie Canal.
I went further east of Medina on NY 31 to find the only place along the canal with a tunnel going under it. Just down the road on the left was Culvert Rd. Take a left and it takes you directly to the tunnel. Known as the Culvert Road tunnel (or something like that), it was the only one ever on the Erie Canal and has existed here since Clinton’s Ditch, another name for the Erie Canal. The original road culvert, on a slightly different alignment, was removed about 1854-1855 as part of the Erie’s enlargement. The contract for the Enlarged Erie road culvert is dated October 24, 1854 and lists Conway and Slater as the contractors. The 1854/1855 Enlarged Erie culvert was substantially rebuilt or replaced as part of the Nine Million Dollar Improvement of 1895. The contract for the new structure was given to Charles A. Gorman and is dated December 7, 1896. The current road culvert represents an attempt during the Barge Canal’s construction to preserve, if unknowingly, the historic significance of the structure. The facade of the south end was dismantled and the stones numbered. It was then reinstalled at a new location to allow for the wider Barge Canal channel.
After my drive along NY 31, I headed south on NY 98 towards Batavia and then east on NY 5 into the historical town of Le Roy, NY. My main objective in visiting Le Roy was the JELL-O Museum. This delectable bouncy treat was first developed in Le Roy in 1897 by Pearle Wait. He was working with some cough syrup and laxative tea and then added some gelatin. His wife called it Jell-O. The recipe was bought by a man named Orator F. Woodward in Sept. 1899. There is a lot of history about Jell-O, but perhaps the one thing that many people my age think of is Bill Cosby.
After Le Roy I headed east on I-90 to highway 14 South. I then went south through Finger Lake country along Seneca Lake to Geneva, then on 14A to the small town of Penn Yan, which sits on the north end of Keuka Lake. This is beautiful country. Penn Yan is also home of Birkett Mills, known for its famous Buckwheat flour, but also known to have the largest griddle in the world.
I continued south to Corning, NY and then to Elmira and then eventually wended my way to Clarks Summit, PA (near Scranton), where I spent the night. Scranton is the home of then Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate (with Barrack Obama). I spent the night in the Ramada Inn, which is right next to an extremely high bridge called the Freedom Bridge. It towers 163 feet high above the town
and is 1627 feet long. At one time was known as the “Suicide Bridge” due to the more than 20 suicides that took place from the 1980s to the present.
August 2, 2008: I was off to Bethlehem this morning. No plans to stop along the way, so I headed south on I-380 and then down US 209. I got into Bethlehem around 10 AM and had a great time driving around the town while waiting for Antsy McClain and the band to arrive in town later in the afternoon.
Bethlehem is in Eastern Pennsylvania and is a city of about 72,000. It was the home of Bethlehem Steel, which began in Bethlehem in 1857 but succumbed to bankruptcy in 2003. At one time it was the second largest steel producer in the United States. The buildings look rusty and the factory is like an old sore. But, there is now construction of a new casino on the site.
As I drove around the city I was taken by the cultural diversity. There is a large Puerto Rican community, the beautiful old Lehigh University and the old steel mill.
I drove up and down the streets near the steel plant and imagined how this area must have thrived in the heyday of steel production. Homes were tightly built in rows, with little or no yards. Nowadays most of the neighborhoods I drove through appeared to be Puerto Rican.
Lehigh University is a beautiful old campus and has some wonderful old buildings too.
I also drove around the outskirts of town and there was nice farmland and even some geese….
Of course, the highlight of the visit to Bethlehem was the MusikFest and most especially, the performance of the fabulous music group known as Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours!! The Troubs were scheduled for two nights here. They were just a small part of dozens of performances on a number of stages. The first night we played at 9 PM on the Liederplatz Stage.
The show was a blast and all had fun. After the show we all crashed at the hotel.
August 3, 2008: This morning was a great time to sleep in, which I did. The hotel was comfy, had a huge TV in the room and I just lounged until late in the morning. Antsy and I then took a small ride around town and then back to the hotel to get ready for the second night’s show. We played the larger Americaplatz stage at 7:30 PM and had a crowd of nearly 500 watching the show.
The band had a blast…
And of course, Sumoflam was on hand to handle the Merch and answer questions. He Married Up!!
But more than the band, the crowds had a blast (including a number of die-hard Flamingoheads from PA and NJ!!!):
August 4, 2008: Well, as with everything else, the good things eventually go away and are done. The two days of fun with the Troubs were done and I had to be back on the road to Woodstock again. I chose my route home carefully so I could see one spectacular sight on the way. So, from Bethlehem I drove north on PA 33 then to I-80. I then drove wet to I-380 and headed north towards Scranton and eventually back to Clark’s Summit. I exited there and headed north on US 11 towards Factoryville, which took me north along the Lackawanna Trail into Nicholson, PA. As I drove into town I was awestruck by the amazing sight in front me. Towering high above the town was this humongous cement train bridge. This is the Nicholson Bridge (actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct which celebrates its 100th anniversary in Sept. 2015). It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.
Considering the immensity of this bridge, it is amazing that it was built nearly 100 years ago. A detailed history of the bridge is here.
Following are more pictures. I drove all around the town to get these photos and found that the best place to get photos of the length of the bridge was at the cemetery, which is up on a hill overlooking the town. This is by far one of the greatest places I have “discovered” on my trips thus far.
After the magnificence of the viaduct, I then had to head north. I went through a town called Hop Bottom and then on the way up to New Milford. Hop Bottom got its name from the hops that are grown in the area. New Milford had an interesting library…
I also made my way through the Finger Lakes of New York. Along the road north of Ithaca I saw a sign about Taughannock Falls. I knew nothing about this waterfall, but the viewpoint was just off the road, so I took a little jaunt to catch a peek. The Falls have a drop of about 215 feet and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S. It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately the light was not at the best angle for a good photo.
Beautiful scenery, but no time to stop along the way…
(Note: This is part 3 of my Texas road trip reports from June 2014, covering the trip from Austin to Ft. Worth and then on to Denton, Paris, Oklahoma, Arkansas and home to Kentucky.)
After spending a nice day in Austin, it was time to head north to Ft. Worth and then on to Kentucky. Along the way I went from weird to spooky to strange to Friendship. Here is the map of this portion of the trip.
On this route I visited friends but also visited some other fun and quirky places. My first stop was in Georgetown, TX. Georgetown is home to some lovely Victorian architecture and also has one of the more quirky street statues I have seen.
This building was the home of the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Texas. They built it and met here for over 82 years. For much of that time, locals referred to the building simply as the “Temple.” The building was completed in 1900.
Of course, quirkiness seems to be a part of central Texas. Downtown Georgetown was home to Robert McAlpin “Three Legged Willie” Williamson. At the age of fifteen, he contracted tubercular arthritis that caused his right leg to permanently stiffen at a 90 degree angle. In order to walk, a wooden leg had to be fastened to his knee. Because of this, he later acquired the nickname “Three-Legged-Willie”. He passed the bar at the approximate age of nineteen before practicing one year of law in Georgia. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 2013 a life-size commemorative statue of him was installed in front of the Williamson Museum in Georgetown. The statue was created by local artist and photographer Lucas Adams.
After lunch with my friend in Georgetown, it was on to Azle, Texas for my first in-person visit with fellow travel blogger and author Tui Snider. I originally became acquainted with Tui online by coming across some of her wonderful blog posts about quirky places to visit in the Dallas/Ft. Worth/N. Texas area. I contacted her through Facebook and we soon were corresponding, sharing places and experiences. I had to drop by for a visit since I would be so close.
Tui has written two books on travel in the area. Her first, Unexpected Texas, is a great read. Indeed, it is a handbook to the quirky and unique. She gives directions to places such as the Gravesite of an Alleged Space Alien, a Courthouse Displaying a Dead Lizard , the Statue of Jesus Wearing Cowboy Boots (visited on this trip…see below), the Rope used to Lynch “Santa Claus,” a Building Made Entirely of Salt, a Wax Replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, a 65 foot tall Eiffel Tower Replica (visited on this trip too), a Petrified Wood Motel & Cafe, the World’s Smallest Skyscraper, and the only Michelangelo Painting in America.
Her other book, Paranormal Texas, is a guide to quite a few haunted places in the the DFW Metroplex area. As with her Unexpected, it is a fun read and well worth the small purchase price.
Tui Snider’s home is exactly what one would expect of an eclectic writer. It was more like a small museum with lots of untold artifacts. I had to sneak a couple of shots…
And I have to point out the fresco painted on their domed front porch….
It was a great visit with Tui. And, while there, she introduced me to another author and ghost lover Shelly Tucker of Denton, TX. You’ll see my visit with her below. She is the owner of Ghosts of Denton, that provides haunted history tours of the area. She also authored a book by the same name (get it on Amazon).
After visiting with Tui, I stopped in Dallas for dinner with another friend. We visited the BBQ joint called Bone Daddy’s. It is a small chain of eight restaurants with succulent BBQ and an atmosphere to match. They have a dish called “The Flying Pig”, which I ordered. Just the day before in Austin I had a “Flying Pig” Donut at Gourdough’s (see that post and a photo). Both Flying Pigs had ham and maple components.
After dinner it was off to spend the night with my sister in Keller and then, the next morning I was on the road, with my first stop being an early morning meetup in Denton with Shelly Tucker who introduced me to some of the great places that town has to offer.
Denton, Texas is a fun place to visit, almost like a miniature Austin in some respects. The pinnacle of Denton is the old County Court House, which now serves as a museum. Opened in 1979, the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum is located in the historic 1896 Courthouse in downtown Denton. The museum features rotating exhibits depicting Denton County history. Visitors may walk the halls to discover the history of the settlement of Denton County, learn about their ancestors in the museum’s Research Room, and step into the historical courtroom on the second floor.
The Romanesque courthouse was designed by W. C. Dodson (1829-1914) from Waco. He also designed a few other courthouses in Texas during his working years. Many consider this to be one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas.
Downtown Denton is also a great place for some old neon signs. Here are a few that I captured while downtown.
The Campus Theatre was a grand movie house built in 1949 in downtown Denton. The manager for Interstate Theatres in Denton at the time impressed the importance of this project upon his company: Denton was in need of a movie theatre that would cater to the “kids on the campus” (University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University). As a result, the Campus Theatre Movie-House was built. At the time of its construction the Campus Theatre was one of several state-of-the-art movie houses in the southwest. The Campus Theatre remained open and operational as a movie house until 1985 when it closed and was left vacant. It has since been restored and provides the first permanent home for all performing arts organizations in Denton.
Atomic Candy is one of those quirky and off-beat candy shops with a menagerie of old knick-knacks and retro signs and things. Unfortunately, I was there too early but could at least look in to see their bulk candies, soda fountain and novelty items.
The Fine Arts Theater was built as the Graham Opera House in 1877
by George & Henry Fastorff. In 1935 the Interstate Theater Circuit remodeled the building, and put the Texas Theater into operation.
In 1954, the Texas was purchased by Trans Texas Theaters, and in
1957, it received yet another new name … Fine Arts. It is currently in the midst of a restoration project.
The Wright Opera House was built in 1899 for $25,000, it was the elite showcase of Denton. Built from the bricks from the condemned 1870s Courthouse, the Wright Opera House operated until 1913, due to the advent of cinema. It now houses the book store and eight luxury apartments.
Perhaps the best part of visiting with Shelly was her connections. The LSA Burger Company has to have been one of my favorite places to visit on my entire trip to Texas in June. I got to meet one of the managers and got a personal tour of the place before it opened for the day.
LSA Burger Company is a live music venue and is all about historic Texas musicians (it was even started by a Texas Musician!) The MUST SEE item in this place is the famed “Great Texas Supper” mural housed inside the eatery.
The painting was actually the idea of LSA Burger Co. owners Jon Christopher Davis and John “Sparky” Pearson. Eyecon Murals in Dallas did the artwork. The painting depicts a scene similar to “The Last Supper,” and includes (from left): George Jones, Selena, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Scott Joplin, Janis Joplin, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and T-Bone Walker.
Another great piece of art is in LSA. It is titled “Texas Instruments,” a play on the famed microchip company. The sculpture is a wire mesh piece that has been fashioned in the shape of Texas. It is filled with a collage of instruments including guitars, violins, horns, and amplifiers. A strategically placed guitar painted with a lone white star pays subtle tribute to Denton’s place on the map.
But these are not all. LSA Burger Co. also has a shrine to Willie Nelson. Yes, that’s right!!
They also have a laminate counter with dozens of album covers
And finally, the beer bottle chandelier…quite a work of art.
Shelly also walked me around the courthouse, told me a few ghost stories and invited me back. Next trip to Texas will most certainly include a prolonged visit to Denton!
The Cotton Gin Cafe is a nice little place in an old brick building on Broadway in Prosper. All of their menu items are home made and tasty. The atmosphere is fun as well with many old posters and signs for eye candy.
The establishment of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad in March of 1902 created the change that forced the communities of Rock Hill and Richland to merge forming the Town of Prosper. For years, Prosper was the central stop for the railroad between Dallas and Sherman. When community officials applied for a Post Office with the name “Richland”, they were informed that city name was already taken. Postmaster B.J. Naugle asked for an alternative name and J.C. Slaughter suggested the name Prosper, because crops that year had been very prosperous.
From Prosper I headed north on Texas Hwy 289 towards Sherman and then proceeded on US 82 to Honey Grove, Texas. My last visit to Honey Grove was late one evening in February 2010. I was on my way to find Bugtussle, TX after having driven all day from Bugtussle, KY (see my original trip journal HERE). Even in the dark the town looked old and rundown.
Actually, in daylight there were some bright spots in this quiet little Texas town. But, there are entire sections that are rundown…a sad look at brighter days gone by.
After driving through Honey Grove, I proceeded east on US 82 towards Paris, TX. Just west of Paris is the small town of Toco. Off to the north of the highway I saw an old plane parked in the field next to a barn. What an unusual site as there was not an airport.
I tried to figure out what is what all about and found a piece on TexasEscapes.com about it. According to his page, “the plane is a Martin 404 and there wouldn’t be too much more to say about it if photographer Stephen Michaels hadn’t stayed up late to research the ship. An aircraft electrician in a previous life, Michaels researched the FAA number to find that the plane had been part of the Southern Airways fleet. ” Apparently, the research also led Stephen to the Southern Airways website – which revealed the story of a chance meeting between the plane and its former pilot and a very interesting interview with the planes current owner. See that article here.
According to the above noted article, the “owner was Isaac Newton (Ike / Junior**) Burchinal, a well-known movie pilot. Some of his credits include; “Flight of the Phoenix,” “Twelve O’clock High,” “Catch 22,” “The Great Waldo Pepper,” and “McArthur.” He also was the pilot for Robert Conrad in the TV series, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”
I drove a little closer to get another shot and saw cockpits from a few other planes in a “Cadillac Ranch” formation. Turns out that this used to be the Flying Tiger Airport and Air Museum.
It is for reasons like this small air museum that I love taking back road trips. You just NEVER know what you will see along the way. And the joy of it all is reliving the trip as I write so I can do some research an learn a bit.
My next stop on the way was in Paris, Texas. I was headed to see the Cowboy Hat topped Eiffel Tower replica. I actually had hit Paris, Tennessee on my way down to Texas a week earlier and have a fun post about the “Two Towers”. Check it out HERE if you have not seen it. Most of the details about this tower are in that post.
Though the tower is the most famous icon of the town, there is also another more obscure item. In keeping with the theme of this post (paranormal, ghosts, haunted places, spooky, graveyards), I visited the Evergreen Cemetery in Paris to see the “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” gravestone.
A closer look from the back reveals that this particular Jesus was interesting….as he is apparently wearing Cowboy Boots under his robes.
Thanks to the guys at WeirdUS.com, a bit more detail about the story can be found. Of course, I too can’t really tell whether it is Jesus or an angel. But, there are certainly Cowboy Boots and I am sure that Willet Babcock (a furniture magnate and Opera House owner in Paris in the late 1800s), the man buried under this monument, had a sense of humor and certainly made a legacy such that many come to visit him who have never known a thing about him…including me! By the way, this sculpture is apparently attributed to a German immigrant stone mason named Gustave Klein (see this interesting article), who was responsible for many of the monuments in Evergreen Cemetery and is also buried in the cemetery.
Like many Texas towns, there are remnants of days past. Old Ghost Signs still linger on as decor on old buildings. such as the one above and the one below, both in Paris.
And one last fun view from Paris before heading north to Oklahoma:
From Paris I headed north on US 271 for my first venture into the southeastern Oklahoma town of Hugo.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s this town was apparently a hotbed of activity … the wild west town. It was a railroad hub and so it had an assortment of dance hall girls, hustlers and gunfighters, and perhaps a dozen circuses wintering nearby taking advantage of the moderate climate and easy rail access. The town was founded in 1901 and was named for the French novelist, Victor Hugo.
Nowadays the town is best known for its one-of-a-kind cemetery, a few murals and as the birthplace of 70s singer-songwriter B.J. Thomas (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head).
The town is perhaps best known as a resting place for Circus Performers and, has become the eternal resting place for many of these performers. In fact, the town even has acquired a nickname as “Circus City USA.”
The town cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, has a special area called Showmen’s Rest which features unique headstones and grave sites for circus performers and owners. there is also a section called Bull Rider’s Reprieve set aside as a resting place for rodeo riders that have passed on. I thoroughly enjoyed the brief visit to this hallowed ground to remember circus performers. Here are a few photos from this fascinating corner of a cemetery.
Honestly, I was touched at the love I could feel in this place. Many times my visits to cemeteries are peaceful and tranquil, but they exude some sense of sadness. In this case, I was filled with joy. those these performers had passed on, they still brought the joy out in an old guy who has not been to a circus since the 1970s.
After my wonderful visit to Mt. Olivet, I was back on the road heading east on US 70 toward my next unique named town…Valliant, OK.
Valliant was founded June 2, 1902, and named for Frank W. Valliant, a chief divisional engineer for the Arkansas & Choctaw Railroad being constructed in the area at that time. Valliant is famous for its annual Watermelon Festival at the City Park. Unfortunately, I was not there for the festivities, so I just passed on through valiantly….
Lest any of you think that Oklahoma is just a big state with lots of flat land for cattle, think again. There are some beautiful wooded areas and plenty of rolling hills in the southeast corner of the state. Driving along OK Hwy 98 to OK Hwy 3 is a wonderfully beautiful drive.
Broken Bow has one of those classic old motels with a classic neon sign. The End of Trail Motel is one of those motels like I visited in the 1960s. Would love to have stayed there for the night.
I also was scared a bit by the big dragon mural along he side of a building…
From Broken Bow I drove north on US 259 along beautiful Broken Bow Lake and then veered east on OK Hwy 4 onto Arkansas Hwy 4.
Following Arkansas Hwy 4, a beautiful drive through the woods, I made my way north on US 71/US 59 out of Cove, AR.
I soon made my way into the quaint town of Mena, Arkansas, the gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway (which will have to be on a later trip for me unfortunately) and also home to an old railroad depot, a few old signs and a nice atmosphere. Mena was founded in 1896 as a railroad town at the eastern foot of Arkansas’s second highest peak, Rich Mountain (elev. 2,681).
Mena had this cool retro Studebaker place and it still had the old Studebaker cars. It was built in 1948 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (see more here)
A nice old mural welcomes you to Mena.
After Mena I took a beautiful drive down Arkansas Hwy 8 towards Arkadelphia, the last stop on this leg of the trip.
Highway 8 is a beautiful drive through the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. The first major town is Glenwood, which is nestled in the foothills of the Ouchitas along the Caddo River.
Glenwood is a cute town with some old antique shops and a guitar store.
OK, so I have been to a Taxidermy and Cheese shop in Canada. How about a Barber Shop and Auction House?
Another interesting place in Glenwood is the Cattlemens Livestock Market, which has some awesome murals! I just happened upon it and had to stop.
My brief stop in Glenwood was refreshing but I wanted to press on to my overnight stop in Arkadelphia, so soon I was back on the lovely drive down Arkansas 8.
AS I drove through the hills a rainy mist ensued and every so often a rainbow would pop out in front of me. It was really nice.
I then came upon a church, which I later found out was the Trinity Temple Assembly of God between Alpine and Arkadelphia. As I approached the rainbow had moved and looked like it was coming from the church…a pretty unique shot.
The rainbow continued on into Arkadelphia and floated over a Shell Station as a double rainbow. It was so cool!
I finally made way into Arkadelphia. A great name and a lovely town.
The day ended in a spectacular sunset, which I tried to capture.
After 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.
Galveston is not only a city in southern Texas but is also an island. The city actually sits on Galveston Island and Pelican 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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…..
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.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try one of these out. I should have!! But I enjoyed the beach scenes anyway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, I should note the “quirky”… a couple of restaurants have some giant “crustaceans” resting on the roof. Got a nice chuckle from these…
Then there is the giant crawfish
Overall, I had a great time with family and a great time visiting Galveston….even in the middle of the summer!!