We had only two weeks to anticipate and prepare for our winter cruise to the Caribbean. My husband and I decided to spend the night in Galveston, rather than arrive the day of our sailing and take a chance that car trouble or other untoward event might cause us to miss the boat.
For fourteen days we planned—wear this to the snorkeling excursion in Honduras; need this for walking in Belize; take this for the road trip but leave it in Galveston. One bag would stay in the trunk of the car while we lost ourselves in the tropical islands.
We don’t know any songs for traveling to the warm climes but we sang anyway as we bubbled with anticipation. “Galveston, oh Galveston! I still hear your sea waves crashing. I was twenty-one, when I left Galveston.” Or something like that.
As we drove south through Texas the landscape changed dramatically. Just north of Houston, we began to see pine trees galore, red bud trees starting to bloom and spikes of yellow mullein on the green easements. The south side of Houston is landscaped with palm trees. Bougainvillea and oleander seem to bloom year-round there.
There is a port in Sam Houston’s city, from which freight goes in and out to the Gulf of Mexico. Next year, a couple of the cruise lines will embark there.
The real port, the one that looks at the ocean, is another half hour down the highway. That’s Galveston.
Before long, we began to see billboards for rum, Mexican food, gumbo and live music. Galveston is party town, especially in February. We also saw a multitude of huge white storage tanks and cranes reaching into the sky, signs of the oil trade that keeps the community alive when the winter tourists go away.
As we drove over the bridge to the island, I saw muddy ocean unique to this place, boat dealers instead of car lots and spindly houses on twiggy stilts waiting for the next hurricane.
Flat water on each side of the highway was decorated with islands of stiff grass, white egrets, pelicans and the ubiquitous, noisy gulls. There were more palm trees and fewer deciduous varieties. More flowers bloomed in the green spaces downtown: cannas, hibiscus, bougainvillea and oleander, roses and marigolds. We had entered another climate, another world.
That’s Galveston—sea winds blowin’, sea waves crashin’, sea birds flyin’ in the sun, oh, Galveston. It is no wonder Glen Campbell’s 1969 song caught on and stayed the course for a generation.