Monday, April 28, 2008

10. Texas Gulf Coast

Texas’ largest city stood in our path as we headed east from San Antonio. We considered going out of our way to get around Houston, but decided to just put the pedal to the metal, close our eyes and follow I-10 right through the middle. It was a nail-biting white-knuckle experience. Major freeway development was going on everywhere, highways were torn up and detours zig-zagged around miles of orange cones and rows of Jersey barriers. Obstructions narrowed the traffic lanes and we were constantly pushed and squeezed by 18-wheelers and lots of traffic trying to go faster than it should. We made it through with a sigh of relief and continued on down the highway. The posted speed limit on Interstate-10 across most of Texas is 80 mph. I'm sure we irritate many motorists as we amble along at our more fuel-efficient 55-60. No tickets yet for impeding the flow of traffic.

We stumbled upon a very nice little campground on Turtle Bayou, about 40 miles west of Beaumont. It was at the edge of a lush swamp full of birds and animal sounds. The bayou water was a nice milk chocolate brown and the bullfrogs were loud enough to keep us awake at night.

The gulf was only 40 miles away, so we drove down to the beach at High Island and did some wading, bird watching and shell collecting. Parking was allowed on the beach so, of course, Ron managed to get the Honda stuck in some dry sand. We dug a couple trenches with our ice scraper (we knew it would come in handy) and were able get ourselves out. It was a bit of a concern having the car stuck in the sand 20 feet from the surf and not knowing if the tide was going in or out.
The Anahuac Nat’l. Wildlife Refuge was nearby, so we did a walking and driving tour of a small part of the area. It’s a birder’s paradise. But, even more exciting for us, were the alligators that also reside in the refuge. We saw eight or ten gators in their natural habitat, which was one of Bonnie’s primary objectives. Pretty exciting.

We drove to the end of the Bolivar Peninsula, ate a couple excellent burgers at Crystal Beach, visited old Fort Travis and looked at Galveston across the water. A free ferry could have taken us across but we had no reason to go there and it was getting late.

The Bolivar Peninsula is a long low sand bar that’s fairly well populated but prone to periodic destruction. It has been hit by hurricanes and tidal surges over the years so now all new houses are being built on stilts, some of them so high that we wondered if they are protecting against flooding or trying to get a view over other stilt houses closer to the beach. It’s comical. The peninsula was interesting, but not a place we’d want to live.