New Years Eve in Galveston, Texas
During the end of 2002, beginning of 2003, I found myself behind the wheel of my Freightliner FL-80 transport truck, screaming down the Interstate Highways of America heading towards one of my favourite places of the United States: Texas.
About 70km south of Houston there is a small island known as Galveston – my destination for the next couple of days. I pulled my big truck into the parking lot of Galveston Island State Park. With a loud “put-issssh” sound, the air brakes clamped on and a small cloud of dust raced away from the underside of the truck. The park was fairly flat and mostly sand. There were a few RV’s and caravans in the area. My large, white straight truck really stuck out amongst them.
The only sound that could be heard was the roar of the ocean, the Gulf of Mexico. I let my dog Lupis out and took a stroll along the beautiful, pristine beach. The weather was cold for the time of year at +18C. One of the coldest years the area had seen in a decade.
Wind pushed the foamy sea water onto the beach, as seagulls ran to and from the water as it moved along the beach. They seemed to be in an endless dance chasing and running from the beautiful, foamy waves.
Registering my campsite for the next few days, I started the truck and headed out to explore the town. The first place I wanted to visit was the Lone Star Flight Museum. This museum was created in 1985, and is still going strong as a self-supporting museum.
The museum is host to some beautiful, mint condition aircraft like the Beechcraft AT-11, the Gruman Hellcat and even a B-59 jet bomber.
One of my favourite part of the museums was the nose-art collection. Nose art was created during world war II as a form of graffiti on larger aircraft (like the DC-3) and was used to identify friendly aircraft. Today few collections of original nose-art remain.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip to the Lone Star Flight Museum was the World War II dog-tag machine on display. The machine was still in operation and resembled a large, black typewriter. The clerk put dog-tag “blanks” in the machine, and made me a set of custom American style dog tags. These tags are very unique memento from the museum – made on a piece of World War II History.
Fairly close to the museum is another amazing attraction just north of Galveston is known as SeaWolf Park, located on Pelican Island. This park is host to the USS Cavalla SSK-244 submarine and Destroyer Escort USS Stewart (DE-238).
The Cavalla was commissioned in 1943 and remained in operation with the United States Navy until 1971 where she was decommissioned and turned into a museum at SeaWolf park. The majestic submarine lay silent on the beach. I climbed up the submarine and into her interior. The first thing I noticed is how small it was. The submarine, which normally would hold 60 men felt so cramped. I couldn’t imagine being trapped 300 feet underwater for months on end with 59 other people in such a small vessel.
USS Stewart was a beautiful ship. This time of year, USS Stewart was locked up and there was no way to get into her interior. Standing on her decks, it was easy to look out into the sea, and imagine that a little more than 50 years ago, young men were looking from this very spot, at the Japanese in the South Pacific Oceans, wondering of their fate.
Leaving the beauty of the two museums, and visions of World War II filling my head, I returned to my campsite at the Galveston Island State Park. I settled in for the evening to watch the wind blow the waves, and watch the television as the ball dropped at midnight.
At midnight I stepped out into the cold Gulf Coast air, and breathed in the cool, salty air. I looked up to see millions of stars shining brightly as a new year has begun. What a wonderful place to bring in the new year.