Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From Sea to Dirt Brown Sea?

Texas is not known for it's pristine beaches. Growing up in a rural part of the state far from the coast, I was used to country lakes, murky and often cloudy with a brown hue. As an adult, it totally repulses me to think of some of the lakes I swam in as a kid, but back then a trip to the lake was always a blast.

My husband grew up in the suburbs of Houston, not very far from where we live now. When we started dating and I'd come to visit him, I'd mention occasionally the idea of going to Galveston to the beach. It was always received with laughter. Then, my husband explained that while he might walk along the beach, and he went to a few parties there in high school, he wouldn't swim in that water for the life of him.

I didn't really understand. My father's family lived near Pensacola and Destin in Florida, the area that is known for its gorgeous white sand beaches. The few family vacations we took when I was a child were spent in this area, usually on a private military beach where there was no pollution and some of the most beautiful ocean and sands you can find in our country.

I have great memories of playing on those beaches. It was magical and I spent many summers begging my parents to go back for another visit. My grandmother lived on the water and when I'd wake I'd run down and wade around her small strip of beach by her boat dock. I even almost stepped on a stingray once, its body blending in with the sand as it resting near the edge of the water.

We moved to the Houston area more than five years ago. We have been to the Galveston area maybe three times total. We have never been to the beach. This is something that has bothered me. My kids aren't really keen on the ocean, but I feel like we should be taking advantage of leaving so close to the Texas coast. I love water. I would live on or by the ocean if I could, I think.

So, my beach crop this past weekend, which was at a place called Surfside Beach on the way to Galveston, was something I really looked forward to mainly because I'd get to dip my toe into the ocean. My traveling partner and friend was anxious as well, having grown up in California just miles from the beach.

We were in for a surprise. When we finally made our way to the beach, we did not find the deep blue sea. No, our ocean was more of a dirt brown color. Missing were the pristine white sands I'd buried my toes in as a child. Instead, the beach was lined with tangled brown seaweed that had been dried by the sun. You had to step on this to get to the beach even.

Once we walked over the disgusting seaweed, we found the beach. It was pretty polluted until you got close to the water. We're talking, old shoes, bottle caps and what not. But, right by the water it was fine. Still, nothing I'd be swimming in, I don't think. I was really amazed at the thick brown waves that rolled into the surf. Yes, I said brown. You see, here in Texas we're proud of our oil and our refineries, but the deep brown sea is not something we brag about much!

Dirty beaches aside, my weekend crop went great. I'll share more on that next time. But, for now, if you plan to dip your toes in the Texas gulf, just know that you may walk away with a new copper skintone that doesn't come from the sun's rays at all. Hey, maybe I should have taken a dip--I need a tan!

(If you love Galveston and the Texas beaches, please do not take offense. This was just my experience and I'm sure there are nicer parts of the Gulf too.)


Blogger Alison said...

Awww, I love Galveston, Steph! I grew up swimming there, most years of my life, and my husband, kids, and I have gone there as a family tradition for the past 5 years. This was the first year we couldn't go, since we no longer live in Texas. We always go to the beach at least once, sometimes twice, and yes, we swim there. (Yeah, it's brown, but it's better than when I went to Port Aransas once & found myself covered with tar! And I don't recall seeing pollution like old shoes where we were.) We also love to go to the fake beach at Moody Gardens there...(do check that out!).

So now I live 10 miles away from a white sand beach in Florida that has been rated as having the finest sand of any beach in America, where the water is generally blue and the beach very clean, and we have 15 or 20 other beaches in easy driving distance. And you know what? I still miss Galveston! LOL. I guess for me, the beach isn't about sea & surf, it's about memories & traditions, and all of mine are in Galveston. Plus, I love the way that when you're in Galveston, you can just see the wide open ocean as you drive across town. It's right there. Here, you have to go searching for water, even though we're right on the coast, and you can't see any beach without parking the car and walking to it. Not that I don't like the beaches here, but there's still something I love about the seawall and the old stores on the piers and all the history of Galveston that will always be with me!

2:25 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

See, I knew I should clarify on this that I was not actually IN Galveston proper. I was at "Surfside Beach" which seemed to be a more run-down area. I hope I haven't offended, Alison.

I love water too and I think you were lucky to have those wonderful memories with your family. Thanks for sharing!

2:38 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Vicki said...

It is a shame how the beaches here are not as clean as they were. When I was a kid and teenager, they were wonderful.

Not sure what is up with all the seaweed. The last few times I have been it was just like you described.

3:32 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Babs said...

I heard that the Galveston area took a real beating during the most recent hurricane season? Maybe that could account for some of the yuckiness. :) But I heard that they did just open a new Schlitterbahn there! That would be fun for the kiddos!

3:38 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger m2williams said...

Um, yeah... I have to agree with you Steph. My husband and I decided to check Galveston out over Memorial Day weekend and made reservations for three nights. Well, we barely made it through one and then came home. There was no way I was going near that water! I wasn't expecting Destin or anything but just some waves that weren't brown would have been nice. And it seriously felt twenty degress hotter over there!

3:44 PM, June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I've never been to the Texas coast before, but you couldn't be more right about the Destin/Pensacola areas. I'm not much of a beach buff, but our vacation there was one of my all time favorite.

4:00 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Good point, Babs. And, yeah, when my toddler is "of age" we'll be all over that Schlitterbahn, you can bet!

I too noticed the temperature. The other odd thing is that the ocean is usually cool to the touch. But, this water was warm, almost hot. Very strange...

6:05 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

The one and only time I went to Galveston was when a group of friends and I skipped school our Junior year and drove to Galveston and back before our parents got home from work that night, just to prove that we could. We got out of the car, stuck our toe in the water, posed for the picture, and slammed on the gas to get back home.

The one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that there was a booth where an official looking person in uniform was handing out sacks and paying people to bring them back with trash from the beach. My friend was really bummed that we didn't allow him to make a little money before we left.

10:44 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

That is hilarious! We went to Rockport about a year ago before we moved and it was the coast trip from HELL. The motel was a dive, the wind was raging, my husband caught not one fish, our van broke down on the way home and I get a breast infection while nursing on top of all that. I've got to say though that South Padre Island is another story. I have good memories about that...

11:11 PM, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

I've done most of my beaching in New England--we definitely have seaweed issues (and once I saw a dead stingray--which I couldn't help but believe had gotten WAY off course), but the water's usually clean enough--now the temperature is a whole other thing. Only those not afraid of numbing cold can go in above their ankles. (That would be me. I'm such a freak!)

7:28 AM, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Waya said...

That's too bad about the beaches. I do have lots of relatives in Houston, and they never went to the beach and now I know why.

11:05 PM, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Dipu said...

You're not exaggerating. Before we moved to Houston and took a few dips in Galveston Bay and the Gulf, I was Caucasian.

9:23 PM, June 30, 2006  

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