Galveston Sings

Rain, rain, and more rain on the Texas coast

After a couple of sunny days at the beach we headed a little ways south, out to Mustang Island. We had an uneventful drive down and we were looking forward to some more time in the sun. Unfortunately, when we woke up the next morning clouds had rolled in, a steady drizzle was falling, and the temperature dropped twenty degrees. We were forced to put on socks — always a sign things have gone astray.

signs at mustang island photographed by luxagraf
The beach here might seem nicer if it didn’t have signs that call to mind some of the world’s best beaches.

Luckily another family pulled into the site next to us so whenever there was a break in the rain, all the kids would run outside and play together. That helped break up the monotony of rainy days a little. but about three days of rain in, with 8 more days forecasted, we realized our plan to spend Thanksgiving a few miles south on Padre Island wasn’t going to work.

Padre Island National Seashore, where we’ve stayed before, is right on the beach, but there’s no electric hookups. We have a 300 amp hour battery, and 550 watts of solar, which is enough power (our needs are small) that we never really think about energy. We can go 4 or 5 days without recharging, but eight days of no sun? Even for us that wasn’t going to happen.

Dead dolphin, mustang island, tx photographed by luxagraf
Every time we’re on this stretch of the Texas coast we seem to find dead marine mammals. Note the bite marks near the tail fin.

So we decided to head north and check out Galveston. While the weather probably wasn’t going to be any better (it wasn’t) the state park campground looked better than Mustang Island (it was) and there was more indoor stuff to do — museums, old ships, and more.

We had another uneventful drive up the coast. Well, actually, before the drive, the fuel line cracked and was spraying gas everywhere, but I had that fixed in under half an hour, and these days, anything I can fix in under half an hour is uneventful. With some fuel hose patching the line, we were underway again, though a late start did mean we didn’t get to Galveston until the sun was setting, which I think is the latest we’ve ever arrived somewhere.

While we had power, the weather didn’t improve much. There’s an episode of the show Portlandia where everyone is chasing a single beam of sunlight around the city of Portland. That’s a bit what we felt like in Galveston. Every now and then the sun would poke through and everyone would rush out to enjoy it.

We went to a couple of museums to break up the rainy days in the bus. The Bryant Museum has a ton of exhibits on Texas history, but the big draw for the kids was a diorama depicting the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle in the Texas revolution. There are more than 1,200 hand-painted soldiers in this scene.

We also went to the Texas Seaport Museum, which is home to the 3-masted bark Elissa, which first set sail in 1877. Unlike most tall ships you can visit, the Elissa still actively sails, though not in winter apparently. We got to walk around it though and see (somewhat) what ships of that era were like.

There’s a building just adjacent to the ship that serves a museum about the experience of the some 133,000 immigrants who entered the United States through Galveston. I had high hopes for the museum since one side of my family arrived around that time (1910, though through Ellis Island, not Galveston). Unfortunately this was the modern sort of museum, heavily reliant on digital displays, which seem chiefly concerned with collecting your email address.

It was too bad, because the potential was there to have something really cool, and the kids did learn a few things, but it could have been much better. Even central premise of the experience — that you would follow a real immigrant across the ocean and learn about their experience — fell flat because no matter who you followed the outcome at the end was arbitrary.

Finally, one day, a few days before we were set to leave, the sun decided to get serious again and there was much happiness.


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