Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Galveston: Recovering and Ready for Visitors

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.

Our vacation in Galveston seems like a pleasant dream now that we're back home in drought besieged Austin again. The beach certainly was lovely this summer. We were relieved to see the island recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ike. My son enjoyed the beach this year; this time without any surgery worries. What a difference a year makes!

Since the beach house we stayed in last year survived the hurricane we went ahead and rented it again this summer. We wanted to show our support for the area while having a nice vacation. It worked out well.

The owners of the home made many repairs on the house post-Ike, so it looked nice inside.

Of course, there was still a lot of evidence that the hurricane had hit. The sand dunes on the West end of the island were completely washed away, so we did not see any beach bunnies this year. Though incredibly, many of the bunnies survived and are living in the cow pastures behind the houses. As you look southwest from the top deck you can see how flat and rather bare the beach looks now compared to last year.

We were happy to see that some of the home-owners to the northeast are rebuilding the dunes and boardwalks once again. This will be very important for wildlife in the area as well as future storm-surge protection.

The outside of the house was different from last year. Gone are the BBQ area, swing and hammock. The huge waves of the storm managed to pick up the big concrete slab under the house and sweep it away. It's hard for me to even imagine that sort of power to be honest. In the photo below, the entire space you see under the house was covered with a concrete floor the year before. It's amazing that the pilings stood firm.

Speaking of standing firm; KHOU has created a memorial page entitled, Hurricane Ike: One Year Later, which offers moving visual perspectives on the power of the storm and how the people of Galveston are recovering.

I imagine the owners of our rental were relieved to have a repairable structure. The house just up the road leans so precariously on its pilings no one is allowed inside.

It's apparent everyone in the area has been hard at work. The huge piles of debris which once lined the roads are mostly gone from San Luis Pass. But we saw many houses being repaired and several homes wrapped in blue tarps. While rebuilding in an hurricane-prone area might seem an exercise in futility to some, the Wall Street Journal's Susan Warren explains why she is determined to maintain her family's water-front vacation home in the area...

Mother Nature has a way of healing as well. These wildflowers were volunteers growing on what used to be the dune between the house and the beach.

The seagulls are still plentiful. This little guy sat on the piling we used as our 1-mile marker during beach walks.

He may have been watching out for this dude with his powered paraglider a few hours earlier. After watching them whiz by from the relative safety of the deck for 3 years now, I admit I'm still not tempted to try it.
The brown pelicans glide a lot more quietly...though we couldn't resist saying, "Zoooom!" as they rode the wind currents above the decks. We could set our clocks by them. They traveled Northeast every morning and Southwest every afternoon.

My step-father flew his kites once again. The kite he's working with below was a bit trickier this year since the railing he'd tied it to last year was swept away by Ike.

My son's favorite outdoor activity was building sand castles under the shade of his own umbrella. Please notice his straight spine! ;-)

Since the Island is still recovering signs of damage were still apparent as we drove around. Here is the Flagship Hotel with its gaping hole on the end. It seems they plan to tear down the hotel at some point in the near future.

As we drove through the area to look at the beautiful historic homes we saw unhappy proof of the many oak trees that are dying from salt water damage. In the photo below you can see the palms are fine, but the big old oaks look dead.

Despite a great deal of loss the residents are trying to rebuild and move forward. This group of Segway riders brought a smile to our faces one Sunday morning. Amid the ancient and melancholy oaks, they were determined to have a good time.

We found that about 75% of our favorite stores, galleries and restaurants in Galveston had repaired and reopened this summer. The rest are either still renovating or may be closed indefinitely. This recent CNN report explains how well Galveston businesses are recovering...

Fisherman's Wharf is opened for business. The Tall Ship Elissa next door sustained some damage to its fore lower topsail which was repaired by sailmaker Jim Brink. As we ate at the Wharf we enjoyed watching the ships roll by in the Port of Galveston.

I love the Wharf's mosaic floors...

We discovered some new favorites in town including The Mosquito Cafe. The charming owner, like almost everyone we spoke with, shared the story about the damage his business and home had sustained. He said Ike's flood waters reached well over the front door inside the restaurant and stood there for days. He restored everything to its former glory. It looks fantastic and the food tastes delicious!

He even replanted the little garden in courtyard out back.

We found the best antique store on the island: Big House Antiques and made friends with their parrot, Hadley.

Last, but not least, we stopped by our favorite local book store, Galveston Bookshop. We shopped and my parents donated several boxes of books that they'd brought down from Missouri for the owner. If you go to the site you can see photos of the shop after Ike and the incredible cleanup they accomplished. The store looks great and I'm happy to report that Gus the bookstore shop cat is doing very well.

We love Galveston and hope to visit again soon.

"Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?" Rose Kennedy

Copyright © 2007-2009. Suburban Wildlife Garden. All Rights Reserved.


Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Lovely photos indeed Dawn.... such a serene beach, good for a quiet vacation. The brown pelicans are very showy.., and they glided in neat row.... how nice! ~bangchik

Lone Star Queen said...

We spent a long weekend in Galveston the end of July. I was surprised it looked as good as it did. I hope some of the old oaks make it. It was sad to see them like that. I spent many summers there as a kid. I have added you to my blog role. It's nice to have a fellow texan on the roll!

Annie in Austin said...

We stopped at Galveston for less than 24 hours one fall - actual destination was the Space Center. Our intention was to come back, but it never happened. Seeing the news stories last year was shocking, and of course one feels sorry for all the people involved.

Thanks for sharing your memories and links and photos and observations - your feeling of being connected to Galveston and the admiration for how those who live there are trying to rebuild from Ike are shining through the pages.

Sand Castles are fun - Sand Castles with a straight back are great!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Frances said...

Such an upbeat post, Dawn, thanks! Glad you son has recovered and yes, that is a very straight spine. All good. We often went to Galveston when we lived in The Woodlands and were sad at the great amount of damage done, but the strong willed Texans showed what they were made of with all the hard work they have done. That house is a wonder, the views out to the ocean must be fabulous. :-)

Meredith/Great Stems said...

Thank you for all the recovery photos of Galveston -- we usually go there every year but haven't been able to get back since Ike. I'm glad to see that much is on its way to recovery, but sad to see what is gone. That Flagship Hotel has always been in my memory as part of the seawall view -- is it really going away? And the poor oak trees -- oh, that makes me sad.

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

These are some great photos. I'm always amazed at the resillience of people who have suffered this kind of disaster. It is so heart warming to see them pick back and up and rebuild. Thank you so much for coming by my blog and especially for sending a greeting to Amy. laurie

Dawn said...

Welcome Bangchik and Kakdah,
Thank you for visiting my blog. The Westside of Galveston has a very peaceful beach compared to the more populated Eastside. Though the brown pelicans seem to enjoy both sides equally as far as I can tell. ;-)

Hello Lone Star Queen,
It's a pleasure to meet another Texas blogger. Thank you for the add. I've returned the favor. :-) Yes, those dying oaks are heartbreaking. So glad you were able to visit Galveston as well.

Dear Annie,
You might enjoy staying on the island for longer than 24 hours. We enjoy walking on the beach and seeing the historic sites on The Strand. Our best luck has been renting beach houses through SandnSea.com so far.

And you are so right: Sand Castles with a straight back are priceless. :-)

Hi Frances,
I didn't recall that you'd lived in The Woodlands. How lovely! As you say, the "strong will" of the Texans in Galveston is inspiring. The way they've rebuilt has been nothing short of amazing, really, when one looks at the 'before' photos.

Regarding the beach house where we stayed: the views were terrific. As a matter of fact, the photo of the paraglider was taken straight out from the balcony. As we sat on the deck we could see dolphins ever morning and at dusk as well. It was simply magical.

Welcome Meredith/Great Stems,
If you're anything like me, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how good Galveston looks when you finally visit. As for the Flagship Hotel: Of course, I was only quoting the stories that I'd read online. Perhaps the powers-that-be will change their minds. You are right that the oaks are said, but maybe some will still rally. Hope springs eternal.

Dear laurie @ bargain hunting,
It is my pleasure to send the card. I hope it arrives quickly and brings Amy a little smile. My heart goes out to the dear lady. Deep Peace to Both of You.

Best Regards,

Andrea said...

I have never been to Galveston though I lived in the US for many years. When I heard of the hurricane and saw it on television over here in Germany it was quite scary. Amazing how people are able to pick up and start over. I am also happy to see your son has recovered well from his surgery and is enjoying life to the fullest. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Andrea