Our first real trek from the DFW area- testing our wheels away from our familiar territory for an extended period- was made to Galveston, Texas. ‘Why Galveston in the heat of summer?’ you say. We ask ourselves the same thing every day. 🙂 The answer is that we found American Greenfuels to convert our RV’s diesel engine to run on waste vegetable oil from restaurants. Of the several companies that we contacted, Bud was the most confident about converting our RV, always at the ready to answer our multitudes of questions, interested in tailoring our conversion to our specific lifestyle and needs, AND (get this) reasonably priced. Because of the varying dimensions and setups of RVs and conversion equipment, we brought our RV to Bud in Alvin, TX for a full assessment of the possibilities before placing the parts orders. Chris will post the specifics of the conversion over on his blog.
Rather than going back up to DFW for the 10-14 days it was expected to take for the parts to arrive, we set up camp at Galveston Island State Park. What a time we had! We stayed on the bay side (the ocean side always seemed to be full when we checked, anyway) and really enjoyed it. The park is quite removed and private. The bayside sites are situated in a circle around a pavilion which was the perfect setup to be able to see the kids out playing with the neighboring children, playing in the shade of the pavilion and riding their bikes around the circle.
We met some lovely people there and had some interesting adventures. Some highlights:
– The kids both learned to ride their bikes without training wheels and graduated to 20″ bicycles.
– Sadie turned 6 years old! (She voted for Rainforest Cafe and Build-A-Bear.) We had a fun time complete with a Vol-Ca-Nooooooo cake (adorned with a sparkler). Sadie stood on her chair while the waiters sung her birthday tune. She loved every moment of it! The kids both made rainforest Build-A-Bears which have been constant companions ever since.
– We met another unschooling family who recently sold their ‘stick house’ and moved into their travel trailer. They invited us to go to the beach to explore below the surface of the beach to visualize the makers of those little holes all over the place that look like tiny volcanoes. The kids and I had spent some time trying to dig down with our hands to no avail. With our new friends, we used a Ghost Shrimp Pump (aka- Slurp Gun/ details on how to make your own here) that they found at a local bait shop to take core samples from the beach around the holes. Then we dug through each sample of mud to find the ghost shrimp (quickly before they dig back down into the sand). We found several and kept them in a water bottle until the kids turned them loose and watched them burrow back down. While really cool, this definitely solidified the Parent parents’ lack of appetite for shrimp/lobster.
– We played, played, played on the beach and in the warm Gulf waters (no signs of oil here).
– We found what makes the big holes on the beach, too. Evening and early morning are the best times to see the inordinate numbers (we’re talking TONS) of crabs going in and out of these holes on the beach. Their claws can be found all over the bayside where they were a part of a gorgeous water bird’s meal.
– We watched pelicans and jumping fish and they never ceased to make us giggle.
– The kids discovered a new way to build sand castles by mixing the sand to a drippy, wet mud and dripping it into sculptures. They created a beautiful ‘candy’ castle!
– We learned tons about hurricanes. The devastation of September, 2008’s Hurricane Ike is still evident everywhere in Galveston- from the boarded up stilted homes, to the closed seaside hotels, to the downcast eyes of the remembering residents. We watched endless Youtube videos of the Ike stormchasers, news updates, and before/during/after footage. Here’s one of our favorites (the historic Balinese Room was completely destroyed by Ike. It was amazing to drive by where it once stood after seeing it standing in the wind in the video.). Galveston Island State Park remains in a state of temporary headquarters and minimal facilities due to lack of funding to rebuild. We called the former headquarters a ‘Scooby Doo ghost town’ because of how bare, broken, and overgrown it is now. We talked about the Evacuation Route signs and imagined what it looks and feels like for the inhabitants to have to leave en masse when a new storm approaches. The history of Galveson is amazing. Prior to the absolutely levelling hurricane of 1900, Galveston was to be the largest and most bustling port city in Texas. Now, it’s a seaside vacation getaway like others we have seen- a little hokey by the water with attractions and air brushed t-shirt shops. The downtown is just gorgeous, however. We were really taken by the 1800s architecture and beautiful side-by-side decorative Victorian homes. I wondered how long it would be before all of the homes were restored to their pre-storm beauty and we didn’t have to use our imagination to see the whole block standing in pride. Then I wondered if it was all even worth it. When would the next storm come? We talked about insurance claims and the many who are still fighting to claim compensation for rebuilding from the insurance companies to which they faithfully paid premiums.
We’ve gone south now to Freeport for the remaining week before our conversion and the Rethinking Everything Conference (we decided to do them both simultaneously). More tales to come…