Monday, February 15, 2010

Ghosts of Ike

We are at the Wal-Mart in Lake Jackson, Texas (map), after an emotional drive along the gulf coast.

We got a very late start from Beaumont yesterday. We tried to have an early lunch, with our friends picking us up around 11ish. We decided to go to Pappadeaux's, which may have been our undoing. The place was packed, even at that hour, possibly because they were handing out beads and had the place decorated for Mardi Gras. We ordered a rather uncomplicated lunch, but still ended up being there nearly two hours. At least we had great company.

After lunch our friends took us on a little tour of downtown Beaumont. The city has been undergoing something of an urban renewal, and, while certainly unwelcome, Ike's effect was to accelerate that somewhat. Things are looking good, but I don't see the downtown really becoming vibrant unless and until someone puts some residential development there. As it stood, the place was deserted on a Sunday afternoon.

By the time we got back to the bus and everything stowed for travel, it was three o'clock. That gave us a mere three hours of daylight for driving. As of that time, we had gotten no further marching orders for Austin from the Red Cross, so we chose the southern route, and headed towards the Bolivar peninsula on 124, via I-10 (route 87 is still closed between High Island and Sabine Pass, and I don't think it will ever reopen).

Most of the communities on the peninsula were essentially wiped out completely by Ike, but we were encouraged to see that the majority of properties have either already been rebuilt, or are in the process. Mostly, it appears folks have chosen to build on even higher pilings than before, and it's always a little weird to drive along at ground level and see all the houses fifteen feet in the air. Several businesses have reopened, and those dedicated to the construction trades are booming. We drove the peninsula very slowly, trying to assimilate all that had transpired there.

When we arrived at the ferry terminal we had about a twenty minute wait, after a cursory security inspection. (Odyssey just got a once-over; we saw at least a couple of vehicles singled out for more detailed inspection, including opening hoods, etc.) We managed to load without drama, even though we often hold our breath as we drive onto ferries, and had a pleasant fifteen minute crossing.

Once on Galveston Island, we made our way to Seawall Boulevard and slow-rolled through town. Mostly, the debris has been removed, and many businesses are repaired and open. There was a small smattering of empty lots, and even fewer unrepaired structures on the inland side of the street. We did pass the spot where the Balinese Room once stood, glad we had the chance to see it at least once before Ike did what neither Carla nor Alicia could, and took it forever. A little further along, the ghostly hulk of the Flagship Hotel still looms over the seawall, too far gone to repair, but too expensive to remove.

This being Mardi Gras weekend, the town was packed to the gills. The street was littered with evidence of parades, and on this relatively pleasant day, every bar and restaurant along Seawall sported a full patio. Once again, we got plenty of stares and waves, as if we were one of the Mardi Gras floats just a bit late to the parade. I'm sure that if we'd stayed in town, we might have caught some "Galveston Mardi Gras flashers," which long time readers may remember was a search term that unwittingly landed a number of people on this blog a few years back. Clearly, Galveston tourism is back in full swing, and bodes well for a full recovery here.

A little further along we passed one of our favorite spots, Galveston Island State Park. We were surprised to see the concrete park office building completely gone; I would have expected it to have survived. A modular building stood watch in its place. At least one of the three campground loops is operational, as it was full of rigs. Beyond the park we rolled through Jamaica Beach, and were heartened to see the commercial RV park there, where we attended the scooter rally, fully operational and full to capacity for the big weekend. As we continued southwest along the length of the island, we saw mostly fully repaired structures on the beach side, with the occasional work in progress. Perhaps a couple percent of structures still showed untended damage; fewer still were missing completely.

Between the late start and the hour or so at the ferry, plus the slow roll along the island, the sun was beginning to set by the time we crossed the San Luis Pass toll bridge. We reached Surfside just after sunset, and used the last of the twilight to cross the Intracoastal Waterway and make it the last ten miles here to Wal-Mart, really the first available stop on the mainland. The inky black skies of an approaching thunderstorm clinched the decision to stop here, and the skies opened up as soon as we parked. Not as far as I'd hoped to be, but far enough to keep us on a good schedule for Tucson.

In a few minutes, we will continue along 332 to Brazoria, then make our way on 36, 35, and 111 to US-59 and into Victoria. We are leaving the gulf behind, and I suppose also our hurricane recovery reporting.

Balinese Room before and after Hurricane Ike photo by Texasbubba, used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. Hi again,
    It has been quite a while, been hiding in the shadows, but wanted to say thanks for your dedication to our "Earth". Congratulations, you have an award at my blog!


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!