Houston - Galveston - Bolivar Peninsula   + Texas

March 28 - 2009

168 miles

2008 Suzuki V-Strom DL-1000 [Bucefalo]

  • March 28-2009 Map

I had had this ride in mind for a good while.  I have forgotten when the last time was that I had been to Galveston and to the Bolivar peninsula.  All I know is that it was before hurricane Ike struck the Texas gulf coast.  It was before those images of waves crashing against the Galveston seawall were broadcast on TV, rising like mythical water giants reaching for the sky.  It was before the day I rode in my car to work and listened to a woman on the radio, as she called in from Bolivar peninsula, saying that she could no longer leave her home because Rollover pass was under water, but that she trusted God to keep her safe on the second floor of the home.  It was after so many hours were spent in front of the television, watching the aftermath of Ike unfold before our eyes and wondering, what it was that we were not seeing.

And so, six months after the hurricane, I somehow felt the need to visit these two places, which have so many memories associated with them.  It was not a need driven by morbidity, but rather a need to get in touch with a reality I had avoided, and, perhaps, the need to honor friends and their losses.

And so, I set out on Saturday morning.  I looked out the window and it looked sunny and bright.  Who needs to login to the weather channel?  The day promises to be splendid.  I wore my leather and mesh jacket, and a long sleeve t-shirt underneath, thinking that by noon the shirt my just be too much.  But then, I would also have a regular t-shirt with me.  I rode out and set off to get on 45 South.  Within a few blocks my body was telling me I had made the wrong choice.  It was windy, and the cold air was chilling my bones.  Still I persisted, as if having ridden only a few blocks meant that I had I had made it past the point of no return.

As I rode down 45, the sun came out, but its warming effects were mild at best.  I kept thinking, 'This is really cold! But then again, is adventure motorcycling supposed to be like a ride on a nice, temperature regulated, Lazy Boy?'.  

  • Luke
  • New City Cemetery
  • Angel
  • Tumbstone

As I approached Galveston I started to witness some of the sad remains of the devastation brought in by Ike.  Shattered boats were strewn over empty lots.  Houses that had long been familiar landmarks in my travels were not there any more.

I have often wanted to visit the Galveston cemetery, and felt that this was probably a fitting time to do it.  So, I took a turn off Broadway St. and onto 43rd.  From there, Avenue K dissects the cemetery and I dismounted there to take some time for reflection.  I saw around me plots covered with Texas wild flowers, God's handy and intricate work covering these resting places with more glory than the work of artists and artisans could hope to do.  Marble carved to extract from its entrails angels, a woman holding a man in her arms, full of piety, a headless man and child, standing over a tomb.

  • Silent Witnesses
  • Lazarus?
  • Owens
  • Headless

From there I rode into the city, going through the Strand and the University of Texas Medical Branch.  Both quiet and almost reminiscent of a ghost town.  In sharp contrast with the bustle and noise the usually characterizes this area, the streets were empty except for a couple drinking coffee outside a cafe, and people picking up debris from homes that were fenced in and boarded up in the aftermath of Ike.  From there I rode to the seawall.  I rode down to a beach-front restaurant where I sat for a while on an outdoor deck, overlooking a group of cruisers.  

  • Bucefalo Leads the Pack
  • Screaming Eagle

After warming up a bit and having lunch, I was ready for the road again. From the parking lot I pulled a U-turn and started riding next to the beach.  Where once you could see all sorts of tourist attractions built on piers over the lapping waves, all that remained were pylons and twisted metal.  Tractors, bulldozers, and people worked feverishly bringing in sand to rebuild beaches, graffiti and plastic debris providing a silent background on the concrete remains of the seawall.

  • All that is left
  • BPR
  • Trwisted by Ike
  • Rebuilding the beach
  • Graffitti
  • The Stairs to the beach

I headed towards the ferry, my first motorcycle crossing of the Bolivar pass in years.  The line was short and soon I was on board, surrounded by people and children who braved the cold this weekend.  It never ceases to surprise me how often people will approach a bike rider, a total stranger, and engage him in conversation, asking things like 'how far have you traveled?', 'what kind of bike is that?", and sharing experiences they have had on two wheels.  This day was not the exception and in the short crossing I struck conversation with a couple, and later with a ferry operator who confessed that he had spent twice as much on his two wheels as he had spent on his four.

  • Ferry Lane
  • Robert H. Dedman
  • Wondering

As the ferry landed, I rode off on 87.  I have a hard time describing what I started to see.  On one hands, certain familiar landmarks were all there, as if nothing had happened here.  I was relieved to see the old lighthouse still standing guard.  But then there were also acres of brush that seemed to have served as a giant filter or sieve as the storm waters had furiously washed over the coast, holding thousands of plastic bags in their branches.  These bags would have come from homes or dumpsters, and once held groceries and goods for those whose homes now seemed but a sad memory.  As I continued East, towards Gilchrist the landscape became more barren.  Piles and mounds of things orderly lined up in an eerie pattern on the roadside.  Gas stations, a source of power and energy reduced to twisted metal and fuel hoses buried in sand.  

  • Self
  • Supreme
  • The Flag Is Still There

Once I made it to Rollover pass, things became too much.  The desolation reached as far as I could see, and yet, in the middle of all this, a sign of faith and trust in the One we know will always love us.  Sprayed on the side of the road, using red paint, a sign left behind as a reminder that Jesus loves us.  This sign of hope across the street from a house that was completely washed away.  As I stepped into the property, a reminder of the brutal and unpredictable force of nature stands in front of me.  Wrapped around one of the stilts that once held the house were now all sorts of electrical wires, building a nest of appliances such as an iron and a hair dryer.  Next to them, a rusty and water soaked power meter that was last read half a year ago.  Buried in the sand, just a few weeks ago, a treasure of beads and a plastic fish that had set a smile on someone's face not too long ago.

  • Jesus Cares
  • Tangle
  • Last read?
  • Lost Iron
  • Leaning
  • Yellow Posts
  • Buried
  • Buried treasures

From here I could not go any more.  I prayed for our friends who lost their house in this area and headed back.  I stopped by the light house to seek some comfort in this image of endurance, and boarded the ferry to get back to Houston.  

  • Leaning
  • Closed Road
  • Hope Still Standing
  • Ferry Ride Home
  • Texas Pride

This was a day I was glad to have lived.  Not because of all the destruction I came across, but for that one reminder left by the beach, that showed that even when confronted with a terrible menace, man can always turn to God to find comfort in the only enduring thing we all have:  His Love.