Third Annual Galveston Vacation

The Four Of Us
A helpful passerby made this photo of all four of us at Fort San Jacinto Historic Point on Galveston’s northeastern end. From this spot, one can watch massive ships going to and from the ports of both Galveston and Houston, or fish, or just enjoy the gentle breezes off the Gulf of Mexico. You can also see both sunrises and sunsets from this point.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Last week, we made our third annual pilgrimage to Galveston, Texas, this time for only two nights — following my advice from last year, when I said: “When we come to visit the beach, we should stay only for a couple of days…” It’s simply too hot and too humid to fully enjoy most non-beach activities. Other stuff can be visited in winter, when it’s a more comfortable 60°F.

• The Southbound Trip (2017.06.11)

Big Sister
Benjamin made this image of his sister during the trip to Galveston, using a Motorola Droid 4.
(Copyright © 2017 by Benjamin W. Fry.)

Exactly like last year, our Galveston trip was preceded by a couple of very busy days. Rebecca’s dress rehearsal was Friday (9th), and on Saturday (10th), we had both Benjamin’s birthday party and Rebecca’s dance recital. This time, the birthday party was easier because we didn’t invite anyone, and the dance activities were easier because we’d done them before and knew what to expect.

Finding last year’s route easier than 2015’s, we took it again, driving I-14 (the new interstate designation for part of US190) to I-35, and then US190 eastward from Temple to Bryan, where it becomes TX6. TX6 brought us south to Hempstead, and then US290 got us to Houston, From there, short jaunts on I-610 and I-10 got us to I-45, which goes straight into Galveston.

We left home at 09:51, lunched at Wendy’s in Bryan at 11:46, and arrived at the Comfort Inn & Suites at 15:35 — 267 miles in five hours and 44 minutes, longer than either of our previous southbound trips.

ALL of the extra time was due to one huge error on Houston’s part. They had closed part of I-45 in south Houston, and had warning signs up to that effect, but no alternate route was provided — so we had to find our own. The one we chose — on the spur of the moment, was TX225 east to the Sam Houston Tollway. As it turned out, that part was quick and easy, but when the toll road returned us to I-45, it was still closed at that point (the signs saying I-45 was closed did not mention the length of the closure, so we had guessed, incorrectly). So we took a bathroom break, checked maps on our phones, and then used Beamer Road to parallel I-45 a few miles to FM2351, which got us back to I-45 at a spot where we could drive on it. Quite a few other people had also chosen the tiny two-lane road as an alternate route, so it was slow going, but we did find our way.

RnB were great in the car, as usual.

32 Selfies
Benjamin made these photos of himself during the drive to Galveston. The EXIF shows that all of them were made in less than one minute’s time, somewhere between Temple and College Station.
(Copyright © 2017 by Benjamin W. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

With RnB
The first afternoon, we went straight to the beach. Here, I pose with my children, whom I affectionately call “RnB”.
(Copyright © 2017 by Marline Fry.)

• Sunday Afternoon/Evening

After checking into the hotel and bringing up some bags, we immediately headed to the beach, right across the street. There was a moderately sized crowd, leaving plenty of room to relax and play. The only downsides were: (1) A startling number of people with very large dogs — and these people always assume that everyone is completely cool with it, so it took a little maneuvering to keep Rebecca away from them (she’s gotten better, but still has a very real and understandable fear of dogs). (2) A gaggle of tourists stopped right next to our stuff and began tossing food up to a crowd of seagulls. They stayed there for a good 20 minutes. Fortunately, I only had to wipe a few spots of bird poop off our things.

Both children enjoyed the water immensely, even more so than in previous years. We stayed for about two hours.

In The Water
My wife and children enjoy the shallow water near the shore.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

After showering and changing in the hotel, we supped at Little Caesar’s on 61st Street, which is now part of our Galveston tradition.

Then we drove eastward on Seawall Boulevard, further than we’d gone before, finally ending up at the East End — once the site of Fort San Jacinto. We’d been walking there a few minutes when Benjamin realized he needed a bathroom. Back in the car, zipping westward into civilization, we spotted a Walgreens and pulled in. Nope — both bathrooms out of order. Back into the car, zipping westward. Found a Chevron full of the odor of burnt marijuana and people with facial tattoos. Benjamin had no trouble pooping there.

Back to the hotel by 20:30. MRB stayed up a while watching TV (last year, they watched the Tonys, but this time we skipped the awards show and just watched kids shows), while I ran a couple of errands (a few supplies from Walmart and then gas from Randalls).

On The Balcony
RnB enjoy the balcony not long after we arrived at our hotel. Though the background is lost in brightness, you can still see that we’re very close to the beach in this hotel. And the metal chairs are useful for drying towels and swimsuits — as long as you remember to bring some spring-clamps (or buy them at the nearby Walmart, as I did).
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Shaded Parking
The main reason we’ll probably choose the Comfort Inn next time we come, aside from its beach proximity, is the covered parking underneath the hotel. If you live in a hot state, or drive in them often, you don’t need me to explain how much difference this makes.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• The Hotel

After disappointment in last year’s Baymont Inn stay, we returned to the Comfort Inn we’d used in 2015, and found it much as I had described it then. The only difference: this time we had the third floor room at the very front of the hotel, so there was an extra window from which to view the beach. Also, I think the air conditioner was better this time — at least our bath towels dried overnight. And the hotel wasn’t as crowded as it was this same week in 2015.

• The Beach

The beach had changed again. Last year, I noted that the city had hauled in hundreds of tons of sand — dredged up from shipping channels — to extend the beach out from the seawall. This year, about half of that was gone — the waves were only 70 feet or so from the seawall. I imagine that they’ll have to repeat the process every few years, or abandon the beach altogether as sea levels continue to rise.

At The Sea Wall
MRB pose with thumbs up at the sea wall, with Seawall Boulevard above and behind them.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Monday (Beach & Seawolf Park, 2017.06.12)

We had a nice and leisurely breakfast in the hotel, then dressed for the beach and headed out. It wasn’t hot yet, but warm (and the water here isn’t cold), so we enjoyed ourselves on a nearly empty beach for a couple of hours. By lunch time, it was filling up a little, but still we had huge areas mostly to ourselves.

Again, all four of us had a great time. It was vastly better than last year — when Benjamin was sick and sat under an umbrella throughout our beach fun.

Going Under
My wife made this photo of me with a telephoto lens (300mm). I have barely survived one wave only to be in danger from another. Even for an experienced swimmer, the undertow here was powerful and dangerous, and even though these waves are small compared to those in real oceans, they are still overwhelming when they smash into you.
(Copyright © 2017 by Marline Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Benjamin and I climbed this rope-connected shape (I’m not sure what else to call it) at the new playground at Seawolf Park.
(Copyright © 2017 by Marline Fry.)

Showers and change, then lunch at KFC on 61st Street — not the same one as last year, but still a little sketchy. At least this one had working bathrooms and (some of) the employees spoke the same language as us. The parking spots were disturbingly narrow; I had no choice but to share a second spot — the Kia Sedona is not a small vehicle.

Then over the Pelican Island Causeway at the north end of 51st Street to Pelican Island and Seawolf Park — our third consecutive year visiting this interesting attraction. Again, we toured the USS Cavalla (submarine) and the USS Stewart (destroyer escort). The Cavalla had new and better air conditioning this time, and a few new rooms were open to public view (it’s undergoing a very long renovation). This time, we were able to climb a ladder to the bridge and look through periscopes, and RnB each got to activate a loud warning horn — as directed by an employee there. Outside, there was a new playscape at the playground — fully shaded and much more fun than before. Also, it was cooler than the past couple of years, so we actually stayed at the playground for an hour or so.

Again, we supped at Little Caesar’s (everyone but me voted to eat there every night), briefly shopped at Randalls (supermarket), and then headed back to the hotel.

The Shade, It Is Tiny
With almost exclusively palm trees, it’s not always easy to find shade in Galveston. These trees are on Pelican Island.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Inside The Cavalla
Rebecca uses her Kurio 7S tablet to photograph Mommy and Benjamin inside the USS Cavalla, a decommissioned submarine at Seawolf Park.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

B To The R To The…
Benjamin told me a long story about how the “B” became an “R”, and he said the red line on his drawing should explain everything to me. This was at the Galveston Children’s Museum.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Children’s Museum (2017.06.13)

We had toyed with the idea of going straight home Tuesday morning, but had nothing pressing in Killeen, so after checking out of the hotel we took RnB over to the Galveston Children’s Museum (third year in a row), where they played for two hours. Unlike everything else we’d seen, this was more crowded than usual, but the children didn’t notice.

• Getting Home

We left the Children’s Museum at 11:35, intending to eat lunch before leaving town, but couldn’t turn left at the necessary spot, so we just went on. We picked up to-go meals in La Marque (8-minute wait in drive-thru) and kept going. This time, I-45 went through Houston without a hitch, and we were soon back on US290, heading northwest and making great time.

After a brief bathroom stop at a Texaco in Bryan (at the intersection of US190 and US190 — seriously), we careened on homeward. Just as we were convinced we’d be home by 16:00, all traffic came to a standstill — just after the highway makes a 90-degree right turn at Milano. A minute later, I was able to see the issue: a gigantic piece of unidentifiable machinery in a truck. This was no ordinary “oversized load”; this was a monstrosity that required both lanes, and both shoulders. It also required a cherry-picker truck in front of it to raise the utility lines in order for it to pass under. We followed this thing at 5-10 miles per hour (sometimes stopping completely) for 30 minutes, with few other choices at that point. We were just lucky that neither child suddenly had to use the restroom.

Finally, the several law enforcement vehicles (seriously) that had been escorting the giant machine noticed several hundred vehicles waiting behind it, and found a rare spot where it could pull over. We had barely gotten up to speed when we arrived in the small town of Cameron. Then Benjamin suddenly had to use the restroom, so we stopped at Dairy Queen and I watched 300 vehicles pass by — the ones that had been waiting behind me in the line.

As it was, we got home by 16:32, making the 255-mile trip in four hours and 57 minutes — 13 minutes faster than last year’s inbound trip and nearly an hour faster than 2015’s trip home.

The entire vacation put 593 miles on the Sedona, and lasted only 54 hours and 41 minutes.

Champion Of The Highway Blockers
This monstrosity (ignore the lower left foreground, from another vehicle) doesn’t look incredibly large until you notice the size of the normal tractor-trailer rig that was pulling it (lower right). Until it found this spot to pull off the road, it had been blocking both US190 lanes as well as both shoulders, and requiring multiple escort vehicles including law enforcement. The crew allowed several hundred other vehicles (including other 18-wheelers) to pile up behind it for half an hour before finally getting out of the way.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Fuel Economy

First tank: 21.13 miles per gallon (about the same as last year, significantly better than 2015)

Second tank: 14.28 mpg (but this was only three gallons, and all within Galveston)

Third tank: 20.66 mpg (includes several days of post-vacation driving)

• Overall

Aside from frustrations on the highways (which other people’s actions could have easily prevented), this was a really good vacation. It was inexpensive (we locked in a low rate on the room by reserving — and paying — early), planned with the experience of the previous two years, no one got sick or hurt (both happened last year), and the weather was perfect — upper 80s, instead of the near-100s that we’d previously experienced.

Photography-wise, I was much more relaxed, using a combination of my phone (Droid Turbo), a Nikon Coolpix L110, and my Canon 60D, with no real compunction to photograph the sites I’ve already recorded the previous two years. So instead of 288 or 258 photos (my numbers from the past two years), I ended up keeping only 127. Click here to see the entire set, which is in approximate chronological order from beginning to end and includes a few photos by my children.

Two more photos for the road:

So. Much. Fun.
Rebecca and Benjamin were overjoyed to be given a little space in the ocean. (I never let them get a dangerous distance away, but they still felt their freedom.)
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Down The Hatch
Upon arriving at the USS Cavalla, Benjamin appeared to suddenly remember it from last year, and sprinted ahead. When I caught up to him, he was halfway down the steps into the submarine.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)


2016 Galveston Vacation
2015 Galveston Vacation
2014 Corpus Christi Vacation

  1. Sherry says:

    Enjoyed reading.

  2. Dana says:

    I love that you include bathroom breaks in your recounting of the vacation. I think having a healthy tolerance for sketchy bathrooms is an excellent skill to carry throughout one’s life. Most people just think I’m insane.

    • Wil C. Fry says:


      It’s one of those not-so-subtle (but often overlooked) differences between adults and adults-with-children. Bathroom breaks weren’t really part of the story when it was just my wife and I traveling, but with young children suddenly bathroom breaks become more important. They change the narrative in important ways, helping determine which kinds of sites/stores we can visit and changing our plans at the slightest provocation.

      I suppose we will gradually morph back into not having to worry about it, but it is a slow climb. :-)

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