Monday, November 24, 2014

USS Texas

I have loved military equipment since I was a kid.   My dad had lots of WWII books and loved to build model airplanes from both world wars, I definitely got it from him.  I enjoy visiting military installations, museums and see military shows and if my route takes me near a museum I will go out of my way to visit.  The USS Texas was on my way north from Galveston and a visit had been in the cards for a while.
The USS Texas (BB-35) is a New York-class battleship. The ship was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914.  The ship celebrated 100 years recently.  It's an impressive battleship.  Wiki

Texas '​s main battery consisted of ten 14 inch/45 cal Mark 1 guns, which could fire 1,400 lb (640 kg) armor piercing shells to a range of 13 mi (21 km).  There are 5 turrets with two guns each.

The Texas was the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns

Her secondary battery consisted of twenty-one 5 inch/51 cal (127 mm) guns mounted inside the ship

Everywhere you turn on this ship there's a gun.  Big guns, small guns, single barrel, dual barrel.

After walking all over on the outside including climbing to the highest accessible place I descended to the cavernous inside of the ship.  In contrast to the USS Alabama, which had cabins for the men, on the Texas it seems bunks were installed wherever there was empty space with men eating or working and sleeping in the same area.

One of the bakeries

It was getting late, I had spent too much time photographing and reading and now it was time to head north towards Dallas.  I leave the USS Texas and continue my way north not yet sure where I will stop.  It's about 265 miles to Dallas, about 4.5 hours.  I will ride until it gets dark and then find a motel for the night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Waking up early in Galveston, I look out the window and see a beautiful sky, I quickly grab my camera and head to the beach across the street.  It's not often I get a chance to photograph a sunrise over the gulf.  I sat on the rocks mesmerized by the beautiful sunrise and the sound of the waves crashing all around me.

My plan was to ride out to the end of Galveston Island and then either cross over the bridge and continue to Freeport or just turn around and return to Galveston before heading north to Houston.
As you move southwest of the Galveston main tourist area you pass amazing homes along the shore.

 This one was truly amazing and if you hurry up you might still be able to buy it, it's up for sale.

With my budget I think I could only afford this one, I'm sure a can of paint would take care of the rust.  It's definitely strong enough to survive any hurricane.

I get to the end of Galveston Island and there's a bridge and a toll.  I estimate the time and distance with the help of Google Maps on my phone and decide it is faster to turn around and head north through Galveston.  My next stop would be the USS Texas and I wanted to have enough time to explore the ship.

The Galveston coast is pretty nice unfortunately there had been a few storms and the water was murky, not good for photography.  There are quite a few condo developments as you get near Galveston downtown area, very colorful and very modern designs.

From Galveston to the town of LaPorte which is where the San Jacinto Monument and the USS Texas are located is only about 45 miles.  In less than an hour I'm at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site which is located off the Houston Ship Channel and the multitude of oil and gas refineries.   I stopped by the monument but did not bother going up, it was late and I wanted to spend as much time as possible on the battleship.  I walked around for a quick visit and then headed to the USS Texas.
San Jacinto Monument

I loved riding Texas roads, never saw police, unlike New Jersey, and the average speeds are pretty high.  The only issue with riding at high speed on my 1200cc Yamaha is the fuel consumption.  At 60 or 65mph I can average 45 or higher mpg but as you pass ninety the consumption drops to low 30's.
Here I'm doing 91 which is probably more like 87mph and the bike is doing 34.9 mpg.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bolivar Peninsula

Before leaving New Orleans and continuing my trip west I had to visit a cemetery.  My wife loves the spooky history of cemeteries and only in New Orleans could a cemetery be a tourist attraction.  Founded in 1789 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Louis #1 is New Orleans’ oldest cemetery.  With some of the tombs dating back to the 1700's, they are very ornate, crumbling and spooky.   The cemetery is the final resting place of the notorious Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.  I had to pay a visit to this active city of the dead.
The St. Louis Cemetery #1 is only a few blocks from my hotel, after packing the bike, I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and walked to the cemetery.

I had been warned to be careful walking around the cemetery, thieves hide between the tombs and you can't see them as you walk in between them.  I only saw one old guy walking around a tomb and talking to himself, I kept my distance from him.  There's a police station just outside the cemetery.

After the cemetery visit, I return to the hotel, get on the bike and head to the east side of New Orleans to see the area that had been flooded by Katrina.  I only saw a few boarded up homes but no other damage.  Maybe I didn't go to the right area but I had to head out to Texas and with 240 miles to the Texas border there was no time to waste.  Leaving New Orleans I jump on I-10 and head west.  I had to make a stop for gas before Texas, took an exit that said gas and when I arrive at the gas station it was closed and abandoned, got back on the road and almost ran out of fuel before finding another gas station.  I actually slowed down to 60 mph to save gas.   My next stop was the visitor center in Texas, the big star announcing I was now in Texas, the 4th state on my list of states to cover.  

My original plan was to spend the night near Port Arthur and the next day head towards Houston and then down to Galveston.  After finding out at the visitor center I could ride along the coast all the way to Port Bolivar and get on a ferry to Galveston I changed my plans.  The best part was the ferry ran all night and it's "free".  I had to ask the lady again, free? as in no payment to go across and the lady shook her head in the affirmative.  I couldn't believe, there's no free anything in New Jersey.
I continued along I-10 until Winnie, then took route 124 south towards the Bolivar Peninsula.

As I approach the coast I was surprised to see oil extraction pumps still working and even more surprised when I reach the coast and see them within 100 feet from the water.  There was a ramp straight onto the beach and since there was no one around I drove straight onto the beach.

This was the first time I was able to ride on the beach, it's not allowed in New Jersey.  The weather was good, blue sky providing a beautiful background for the photos.  I'm reviewing my new helmet for Motorcycle House and the beach offered the perfect place to get a nice photo.
You can get more info on the Vega Stealth F-117 helmet or go here to see the complete list of helmets.

After my photo shoot I continue west along the beach, the road following along less than 100 feet from the water.  A little way down the road I start seeing houses on stilts, very high off the ground.  There are quite a few houses along the coast and a few are truly amazing.

A little further down the road I come up on a gas station and pull in for a drink and snack.  I go inside and while chatting with the Indian attendant I find out he lived in New Jersey and has recently moved to Texas to run the gas station.  He tells me the reason all these houses are on stilts is because the last hurricane had wiped out every single house on the peninsula.  After the hurricane new regulations were passed and now all homes have to be build on stilts.  After telling him that I had just been on the beach with the bike he tells me that I can ride the bike along the beach almost to the ferry.  I ask him if it's okay with the police and he says anyone can drive or ride on the beach along the entire peninsula.  Perfect I say and off I go straight to the beach.

I must have ridden about 10 miles along the beach and at times at a very high speed.  The last time I had ridden my bike on dirt at a very high speed was in the Yukon and Alaska.  I stopped to record video, I put the camera on the beach and then run up and down past the camera.  I will post the video later.  As I approach the end of the peninsula the sun had already gone down and the beach was getting very dark.   I slowed down paying extra attention to the sand right in front of me, the last thing I needed was a dug up hole on the beach causing me to fall.  The beach was deserted.

I arrive at the port, literally the end of the road and get in line, there are a few cars in front of me already.  I walk to the front and see a BMW GS with the owner leaned over looking at a map.  I say hi, he looks at me, says hi and returns to his map, not one more word.  I continue to the front to chat with the attendants.  I find out one of the guys is from Brooklyn, not too far from where I live.
Rant: why are most BMW adventure guys such dicks?  In my encounters with other adventure riders most are nice and want to chat except for the ones riding BMW's, they must think they are superior because they ride BMW's.   During the entire time I was chatting with the attendants about my Yamaha Super Tenere and the rides I had done, he was right next to us but didn't say a word.  Whoever you are, if you ever read my blog, you are an asshole.

The ferry arrives, no ticket necessary, cars come out and we get in.   Soon a sheriff's SUV pulls up next to me, he was the last car coming aboard.  Soon we are underway for the short trip to Galveston, about half an hour to cross the bay.  I chatted with the sheriff, he was surprised to know I had ridden all the way from New Jersey.  He tells me he has a Harley Davidson but had never done any long distance riding, he seemed to be a nice guy.

I get off on the Galveston side, ride down along the coast for a few miles passing lots of motels, it was late, there was no time to look for a camp site.  I stop, pull out my phone and use the Hotels app to find and book a motel for a good price.  After booking it online I press the button to take me there and find out the hotel was less than 200 yards from my location.  I walk into the lobby, give the guy my reservation number and soon head to my room, thank goodness for cell phone apps.

Tomorrow I will ride along the coast and then head to Houston to visit the USS Texas Battleship.