Fri. Dec 15th The next morning Joe woke up at 4:30 and so we packed up, wanting to get back to Galveston to pick up our dogs before 5 pm. Joe carried our bags out and started the car. I came out about 10 minutes later to find a heavy wet snow falling and accumulating. Thank God for warm cars. We drove north on Hwy 385 into the dark, snow flying at our windshield like stars whizzing by the Enterprise. After we exited the park we came encountered a Border Patrol officer, directing us to stop. We pulled up and Joe opened his window. A drug dog sniffed around our vehicle and a flashlight was shone into the car. We were interrogated like we were trying to leave East Germany in 1960. Blinded by the light, Joe answered, “I’m a US citizen.” “We’re coming from Big Bend.” “We’re heading to Galveston”. I had been asleep and was trying to stay inconspicuous, but it didn’t work. The officer then directed the beam into my eyes and asked, “Where are you from?” I replied “The US.” Satisfied, we were directed to go. This episode got us thinking how feasible would it be for a Mexican to trek over the Rio Grand into Big Bend National Park. No vehicle, so he/she would have to go on foot through the mountains and down into the desert, for almost 100 miles. Once out of the park, the terrain is not much better. And if the lone traveler tried to hitch a ride on any road north, he’d most likely be discovered at one of the border patrol stops. So I can see why a wall is not needed at this wild and remote area of the border.
While we were on this road we saw numerous signs that read “Watch for Flood” and along the road were sticks marked with numbers to gauge the water level when the floods do come. We wondered aloud what we were supposed to do if we saw a wall of water bearing down on our Toyota. We stopped for an Egg McMuffin and coffee at Mc Donald’s, before merging onto I-10 driving into the rising sun. We talked about coming back someday, to experience all the things we missed this trip. If we’d had another day we may have spent the night in Marfa, a small town 60 miles west of Marathon, to see the mysterious “ghost lights”, as they are sometimes called. These aberrant lights are well documented and hard for scientist to explain. They may appear as stationary balls of light over the desert foliage or dart across the sky, pulse or merge and display colors of red, yellow and even green. But with the overcast night skies, I’m not sure we would have seen anything if we had stayed.
As we sped down the highway we passed jacks pumping crude oil out of the ground and steers grazing on the dried prairie grass. For a long stretch of road we were accosted by the smell of natural gas. Opening the windows only made it worse. Joe said, “I feel like I got my head in an oven. We’re going to get asphyxiated.” But we didn’t. I suppose Hogan and Boomer would have been our canaries, and died first. We listened to Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM, all the great Country artists of the past accompanying us on our ride through Texas; Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, George Jones, Jeanie Sealy, Patsy Cline and more. As we sped away from El Paso on I-10 we sang along with Marty Robins about how he died in the “west Texas town of El Paso.” We made good time since much of I-10’s speed limit was 75 and 80 mph until we got to Houston. We arrived in Galveston around 3:30, picked up the dogs and were back at the Calypso before sundown.
Sat. Dec 16 – Wed. Dec. 20: Saturday was peaceful. Nice weather. We walked the beach with dogs and just chilled. Joe encouraged me to write this travel journal, while we watched the sunset over the ocean, so now I’m in the middle of it.
Sunday we attended Mass at Sacred Heart in Galveston. Same priest as St. Patrick’s. Masses are staggered so he can scuttle between worship services to do his priestly magic for each congregation. Another beautiful church, good service, and music. Pews full, same demographics as we saw at St. Patrick’s.
Monday overcast in the 60s. Joe has begun calling the Calypso the “Teddy Roosevelt” as in the cottage is a rough riding son of a bitch. The nickname started when he tried to put into words the experience we had each night with the hard mattress and flat pillows provided. He said, “It’s like trying to ride a horse; a rough ride all night.” And so we began a list of all the little annoyances that kept us from getting too comfortable: the bathroom sink takes half a day to drain; the door to the guest bedroom stops with a thud a quarter way open – you have to force it over the uneven ceramic tile to get into the room; I cannot plug my blow dryer in the bathroom since the only outlet is embedded in the antique light fixture above the mirror and will not accommodate the bulky plug; there is no mirror the bedroom where I did finally get to style my hair like a blind woman, but only after I blew a fuse with my first try; the porch light is possessed and goes on and off by itself, making it unreliable when I take the dogs down the steps to potty in the dark each night. These are just the most obvious short falls, but we love the view and are learning what not to expect.
Tuesday Deloris was off work, so she came over to spend the day with us. She’ll be going to work from here in the morning, she doesn’t start until 11 am so she won’t have to rush off. It was so foggy this morning that we could not see the ocean, just hear the waves. Deloris said on her drive from Baytown she could barely see the cars in front of her. I left Joe and Dee for a few hours, to get my hair done at a local place in Jamaica Beach. I paid twice as much for highlights, cut and style than I do in Kentucky; $130 versus $70. I suppose they charge more here because they pay higher rent for the beach view location. In the evening the three of us went to Blue Water Grill just a few minutes away right next door to the Seven Seas grocery where we have made many stops. We had a nice relaxed dinner of seafood with a view of the Gulf. Later we took an evening walk on the beach then watched a movie and drank wine.
Wednesday, sunny and warm, high in 70s. Dee left around nine. Joe and I had a relaxing day alone, walking the beach with the dogs, sitting on the deck listening to the waves roll in. We had dinner of pizza and wine at Mario’s. When we got back we decided to open our Christmas presents to one another. So Joe started a Christmas playlist on his I-phone and along with the Christmas lights we had strung across the tops of the windows we were ready to celebrate our holiday. Joe was surprised and very pleased with the Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter vinyl set and I got real excited by the purple Fit Bit and the book Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews that he gave me.
Before bed Joe checked his weather App and became alarmed when he read the forecast for Galveston for the upcoming Holiday weekend. “Temperatures dropping to the 30s. Nothing higher than the 40s. Cold and rain and possible snow.” So he decided to text our children, the ones coming in from Ohio and New York, to let them know that they would need to pack some winter wear. He read me the alarming text and I responded with “That don’t sound right.” So I brought up the same weather app on my phone and saw a completely different forecast for the next five days; 60s, sunny and warm, some rain, high in the 70s one day, then dropping to the 50s and overcast on Christmas day. So Joe doubled checked and saw that he had Galveston, Indiana’s weather, not the island of Galveston, Texas. False alarm, text deleted.
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