- Where We Started: Galveston, Tex.
- Where We Ended: Austin, Tex.
- Miles Driven: 316 (5,044 total)
- New States: None
- Total States: 13 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
It's easy for Joan and me to complain about being in the car for hours at a time, as we have been for the past few days. Nothing like boring stretches of highway, a filthy car and late arrivals at hotels to make you regret ever leaving home. But imagine being Fred or Hank. They don't allow dogs in presidential libraries. Or restaurants. Or museums. So Tuesday and Wednesday had been really boring for the beagles, so when they finally got a chance to let loose on Thursday, they took advantage.
Our first stop of the day was the Galveston Island State Park, which still under limited-access restrictions after Hurricane Ike hammered Galveston last September. In fact, from where we were on the beach, you could see the amount of work being done to repair the damage.
But Fred and Hank didn't seem to care about anything but being in a wide-open area without anyone else around. They just wanted to run. And run they did. Dragging their leashes along, they experienced the kind of unbridled joy that only dogs seem to be able to achieve.
Fred rolls in something recently departed. He doesn't look too sad.
This run -- and another one a few hours later at Stewart Beach Park in Galveston -- pretty much wiped the dogs out for the remainder of the day, and reminded us how important it is to make sure they get some time to enjoy the trip as well.
After our first beach excursion of the day, we headed over to check out the Galveston 1900 Hurricane Memorial, a cool sculpture that sits right on the city's seawall. Despite a rumor that this monument had been damaged by Hurricane Ike, it survived the storm and still stands tall.
Not everything along the seawall was as lucky, however, as this damaged historical marker shows.
Driving through the city, you could see the significant damage to many of the structures along the seawall. Lots of businesses remain closed, and the Flagship Hotel still has visible gaping holes in the hotel walls. But, overall, the city seemed pretty alive and rebuilding work was occurring at every turn. Here, you can see some of the work.
Before heading to Austin, we made a stop in Texas City, Tex. And why wouldn't we? I mean, look at this skyline.
Seriously, though, though this is an extremely ugly port town, I wanted to make a quick swing through here to see the memorials for the 1947 Texas City explosion, which killed more than 500 people. I read about this tragedy back in high school, and for some reason, it stuck with me. The explosion -- ignited by a fire on board a ship carrying large quantities of ammonium nitrate -- was so huge, it was captured at a seismology facility in Denver, and threw a 2-ton anchor from the ship more than a mile.
That said, Texas City is sort of a forgotten tragedy, but one that -- beyond the human cost -- forced major changes in safety regulations for the shipping hazardous materials and led to the first class-action lawsuit ever filed against the United States government. The Memorial Park was very nice, with a number of interesting facts about the tragedy, and it's also where the 62 unknown victims are buried.
We then got in the car to Austin, and after threatening all day long, the skies finally opened up in a big way, and combined with Houston rush-hour traffic, made the first two hours -- and 50 miles -- of the drive quite unpleasant. But the skies closed, the roads opened, and we made it to Austin for dinner.
- Fred is spending more and more time in the front seat, chilling on Joan's lap. We thought originally he was waiting for the right moment to launch another attack on the windshield wipers again. But turns out he really likes sniffing the air coming out of the air conditioning vents. He'll sit there for 15 minutes, continually sniffing the vent. Fred has clearly decided this vent is the auto equivalent of a dog's butt.
- Joan, looking for any excuse to do laundry, was thrilled when we got hammered by a big wave at Stewart Beach Park in Galveston. Suddenly, we had soaked jeans, socks, shoes and dog leashes. And after we dried the soaking dogs, we had soaked towels. So, alas, a hotel with laundry facilities was required. Now you know we ♥ Baymont, but the one in Austin has no guest laundry. So we tried our new hotel crush: La Quinta Inns. This led to another wonderful hotel rate negotiation. After working the price down via AAA rate, Joan kept pushing:
- Joan: "Do you have a managers' special?"
- Hotel rep: "Not that I'm aware of."
- Joan: "Do you have any other special rates I should be asking about but don't know to ask about?"
- Hotel rep: "Not that I'm aware of."
- Joan (now annoyed): "Does your not being aware of them mean they don't exist? Or that I have to know the secret password to get to a person who IS aware?"
- Hotel rep: "Not that I'm aware of."
- Joan, surrendering: "Do you have guest laundry?"
- Hotel rep, finally able to give a definitive answer: "No."
- Joan: Terminates call immediately.
prevented Joan from getting a $109 room down to $84.60.
- We've had our first physical injury of the trip, and it was suffered by the car. A screw seems to have fallen out of one of side panels on the passenger side, so it's now sticking out about six inches. We've already decided that we need to get the car serviced soon, so this will hopefully be resolved then. But, like all Acuras, the car has held up like a champ. The inside is a bit rank, but as long as the car is running, we can handle that challenge.
FHMA PROGRAMMING NOTE
FIrst off, a big thanks to those of you who have been reading this daily stream-of-consciousness travel rant. We're having a great time, and hope we're giving you a little sense of the country.
We will be arriving in Phoenix on April 1. At that point, we will be what we think is about the halfway point of the trip. While in Phoenix, we will get the car serviced, get Fred an acupuncture appointment and Joan will undoubtedly catch us up on laundry. So we're going to take a break, and there will be no posts on April 4, 5 or 6. But we'll be back to start the second half of the journey on April 7.
Now, I'd be lying if I said it was a break for me. I am actually flying back to Virginia during this All-Star break of sorts for a very important reason. No, I have not taken a new job. Yes, our house is fine. No, I have no family commitment. In fact, I am heading home for the weekend because I have a bunch of fantasy baseball drafts. Yes, I am a dweeb. Go ahead, say it.
Anyway, just giving you an early heads up.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: We forgot. Again. Sorry.
- In keeping with our Texas theme, we listened to a lot of ZZ Top on Thursday. This made it more ironic when we later drove through LaGrange, Tex.. A country brothel on the outskirts of that town became the subject of one of ZZ Top's hits, "LaGrange."
- Lunch: Gaido's, Galveston, Tex.: Thanks to Rebecca Chanin, we knew this was the place to hit in Galveston, and she was right. Great oysters -- maybe even better than the ones we had at Benny's in Houston -- and some tasty iced shrimp made for a meal that was not only excellent, but healthy. Joan enjoyed her shrimp salad, though they did slather on the dressing a bit. Jim Nutrition Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, Austin, Tex.: Joan and I had dinner with Melissa Illig, an old friend from AOL, and she thankfully recommended this place. I had a flatiron steak that was tremendous, and Joan had butternut squash. The shrimp corn dog appetizer was outstanding as well. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). The steak was fine, since I hadn't had red meat in a few days, but of course, got fries. I did skip dessert, though I did steal a few bites of Joan and Melissa's desserts. Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Weigh-in is Saturday morning.
- La Quinta Inn Austin North, Austin, Tex.: Another solid La Quinta. I admit; I'm surprised. For some reason, I had low expectations for La Quinta Inns, but they have been very good to us. Hotel rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: A quick drive through Austin and San Antonio, and then west.
- Tomorrow: Big Bend National Park.
- The Day After Tomorrow: El Paso, Tex., and southern New Mexico.
A father and son work on a sandcastle at Stewart Beach State Park in Galveston. To Joan's disappointment, there didn't appear to be any fishing gear in sight.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO