Gawking in Galveston

An hour’s drive or so south of our Houston Hangout is Galveston. All I’ve really ever known of Galveston was that Glen Campbell sang of it… and I can’t remember any of the words except “Galveston.” So we had to check it out. Also beaches.

USS Texas

We started our Gawking at the USS Texas, the the only remaining World War I–era  dreadnought battleship. She is also the only remaining capital ship to have served in both World Wars. She is in pretty sad shape, and currently closed while they attempt to strengthen her hull. They are afraid the bottom is so weak the million pound engines will break through the weakened hull. So the white cylinders on the sides are to support the engines till the hull is strengthened.

The hull really does look terrible, especially near the waterline.

The reverse curve of the bow seems to have been common with this vintage ship.

Port of Galveston

It was fun watching the boat traffic up and down the river. Galveston is a huge port city – called the nations busiest port, with over 8,000 ships and 200,000 barges transiting per year. Oil and fuel are obviously huge shipping cargo here – there are thousands of huge tanks around and pipes everywhere. Galveston is also the country’s largest breakbulk port… forcing me to read up on what that means. To save you looking it up, (I’m sure you would) there are several types of cargo. Bulk solid (Rice, Wheat etc.), bulk liquid (Oil, Milk etc.), containers (Everything in Walmart or BestBuy), Roro, (Roll on and Roll off, like cars) and Breakbulk. Solids or liquids can be basically just poured into the hold of the ship, containers are stacked in or on a ship, but breakbulk cargo is stuff that doesn’t fit in containers well (huge machinery, heavy things that would weigh too much for or not pack efficiently in a container), and must be put in individually. I’m sure that’s not a great description, but if you don’t like it, look it up yourself!

San Jacinto Monument

Across Independence Park from the USS Texas, stands this interesting monument. Very tall, with the “Lone Star” on its apex. They claim the battle fought here was pivotal with shaping the U.S. as it is today.

Texas was originally part of Mexico, ruled by Spain. They encouraged Americans (Yes, I know they all were Americans, but I’m using this shorthand for “Citizens of the United States of America.”) … anyway, Americans were encouraged to settle in Texas and civilize it. All was good under the Spanish rule, but then Mexico revolted, and sent the Spanish packing. Shortly after that, Mexico changed policies with the Texas Territories, and Texas wanted out. Mexican general Santa Anna marched to Texas to wipe out the “American Rebels,” and won a fierce battle at the Alamo. The next major battle was at San Jacinto, where the Americans defeated and captured Santa Anna. This resulted in freedom for Texas, and later inclusion of Texas in the growing U.S. Still later, Mexico sold territory stretching west of Texas to the Pacific Ocean, creating New Mexico, Arizona, California and such. So this one battleground resulted in everything from the border of Louisiana to California being in our country.

At least that’s what I got out of the museum.

The monument was built in 1936. It used a then-unusual system of scaffolding, where the scaffold was placed on the structure, and just jacked up to add more material below it, and jacked up again till they made the top. The design for the crowning star was complicated – they debated a statue of a soldier, with or without a raven and an eagle, but finally decided on the star. The star is 34 feet tall and weighs 220 tons. A one inch scale model was created, then a full sized model (pictured below) for measurements. The type of scaffolding used required them to fabricate the star in many pieces, and assemble them standing on planks above the scaffolding.

The view from the top is as great as you’d expect. Ocean, marshlands, canals, oil refineries and boats.

Galveston Beaches

We spent more time walking on the beach than taking pictures of it. A few people playing in the surf, a few birds playing at the water’s edge… just a very nice walk.

Galveston Architecture

There are a couple impressive mansions in downtown Galveston. We didn’t get to enter either of them. Sigh.

The Moody mansion was built in 1894, and claims to be the first steel framed building in Texas.

The Bishop’s castle was built in the late 1880’s to early 1890’s, for the Gresham family, including their 9 children. It was strong enough to survive the huge hurricane in 1900, and the Gresham’s invited hundreds of people to weather the storm inside.

The Catholic Diocese purchased the house in 1923, and it was used for the Bishop’s residence, until it was turned into a museum in 1963.

Motorhome Maintenance

Again, we don’t spend all our time touring interesting places. The time we are in Houston is earmarked for a bit of maintenance and improvements to our motorhome.


The tire pressure monitoring system we have had was a hand held gadget – too weak and inaccurate to be of any use. So I got a new system. It has a far nicer display, can handle all the tires of our rig and the Suburban simultaneously. So I had to find ignition switched power, and drill a hole in the dash, but it mounted up beautifully.

The next part was installing a “Booster” – in the closet in back of the motorhome, so all the sensors on the Suburban’s tires can be read by the system. So I pulled the closet light out, thinking to get power there and mount the booster alongside it. But the booster is just an ugly black box… why should I have it visible? Why not mount it up above the ceiling out of sight? Except there is a red light that tells you the booster is working properly, and you might need to push the light as a reset button. So I customized the light fixture to fit the booster inside, with the red light shining through the lens. If we need to reset it, just pop the lens off and push the button. I am pretty happy with the result. And notice that I tried to drape the clothes with a beach towel while I was drilling holes in the ceiling. I usually only think of protection like that after I mess stuff up.

Generator Oil and Filter Change

Another project was changing the oil in the generator. Our generator is a small diesel powered gadget that gives us plenty of electrical power if we are not plugged in somewhere. How hard can a simple oil change be? Well, first, the generator pulls out from the front of the motorhome on a track. Unless it gets stuck. So first you fix the stuck track, then can pull the generator out and access the service panel. Then I wanted to loosen the oil filter a bit, so it would be easy when the oil was hot later. Except it was SO tight I couldn’t loosen it. It took two filter wrenches, and it got all bent up just loosening it. After running the generator a bit to warm up the oil (It flows out better warm), you remove the drain plug. Unless you can’t get it loose either. The same guy who overtightened the filter must have super tightened the drain plug. I got out my torque wrench, for more leverage. No dice. Borrowed a pipe from a neighbor, and put it on my 1/2 inch breaker bar, and FINALLY got it loose. Drained the oil, replaced the plug, then took the filter off. You can’t see the area the filter seats, but it was easy to put the new filter in, and I didn’t tighten it near so tight. Added the new oil, and fired it up. And sprayed oil at least 6 feet out!! After frantically shutting down the generator and stopping the oil waterfall, I tightened the filter far tighter than I would have thought necessary. Started it up – another oil geyser!! So I cranked down SUPER HARD on the stupid filter. Same result. So I backed the filter off, and realized the old gasket had stayed on the block, and I didn’t notice it. Using two gaskets doesn’t work and I proved it! After solving that problem, all worked well. Except I now had oil all over EVERYTHING and really enjoyed cleaning it all up. For some reason, I have no pictures of this procedure. Maybe it never happened.

Engine Air Filter Change

Our engine’s air cleaner was asking to be replaced. (There is a little vacuum gauge telling us that.) How much trouble could changing the air filter be? Except that it weighs 30 pounds, and is held in place with a very sturdy mount. Two clamps holding it to intake and outflow hoses, and two to hold it to the mount. When the hose clamps were loosened, getting those hoses off was murder. The filter itself was very hard to move because of that strong mount… so like most everything else on this rig, it was harder than you’d think. But it’s done!

So here’s the pretty engine sporting a new air filter.

One comment

  1. It appears you learned many things in Galveston…ships, cargo, architecture, mansions and repairs (including how to clean up oil spills). Wow! too much fun. It did sound pretty interesting,however. Have fun!

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