RV Life – Year One – Summertime, Part 1

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
An amazing coastal sunset. Photo by Pixabay

The vast expanse of the American Gulf Coast beckons summertime adventurers.

Sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and vibrant communities offer an abundance of activities and attractions.

See RV Life – Year One – Summertime, Part 2.

From Key West, Florida to South Padre, Texas, the U.S. Gulf Coast spans 5 states and nearly 2,000 miles. A complex network of estuaries, barrier islands, wetlands, and swamps comprise some of the world’s most diverse maritime landscapes along this vast stretch of coastline. We spent our first RV Life summertime exploring about half of it.

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As Spring drew to a close, we moved the RV along the Texas coast towards Galveston. See RV Life – Year One – Spring.

Mother Nature offered a harsh introduction to the Texas heat as I set-up camp at the Jamaica Beach RV Park. Spending the summer in one of the hottest climates in the USA wouldn’t be my first choice for starting the RV Life, but we were there to see some important family members.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
Galveston’s famous Seawall Boulevard and Pleasure Pier, by Chris Ainsworth.

My brother was just about 10 miles away, so he hopped on his motorcycle and came out to see us right away. Soon after, we found ourselves in his living room holding the newest member of the family in our arms.

See related story, Full Circle – The Daughter That Never Was.

Over the next few weeks, we shared many pleasant visits catching up and exploring Galveston together. He showed us his school, his workplace, his favorite hangouts, and some great places to eat.

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During our stay in Galveston my daughter and her boyfriend (Ashli & Matthew) joined us from San Antonio. They stayed with us for a few days in the RV. It was a tight arrangement, but we made it work. We enjoyed the RV park amenities together, in particular, the swimming pool and lazy river. We played mini-golf, relaxed in the hot tub, went to the beach, and went fishing in the Offatts Bayou at the Lee and Joe Jamail Bay Park.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
The historic Colonel paddlewheel in Offatts Bay, Galveston, Texas.

We didn’t catch anything but it was a pleasant spot to relax and watch the boats come and go as sunset colors filled the sky.

A beautiful paddle-wheel boat named “The Colonel” drifted slowly by carrying passengers out to the bay for a memorable sunset dinner cruise.

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One particular evening, Matthew asked if we could step outside for a private conversation. I had a pretty good idea what was about to be discussed. My daughter had been steady with the guy for a couple years, so I knew the relationship was serious. I was quite pleased that he wanted my blessing to propose.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
Photo courtesy of Eight Arms Photography.

We had a good talk about my fatherly expectations. With a firm handshake we agreed and a few days later he popped the question on the beach near the Galveston Island Pleasure Pier. She said yes!

They were married in June 2019 with a nice beach wedding in Rockport, Texas. See RV Life – Mountain Summer, Pt.1

See related article on TOM’s Blog.

See related story mentioning Ashli, My Partners – Craftsy.

Astronomy and space exploration have been an integral part of my imagination since childhood, so it was natural for me to turn my attention to Houston after the kids went home. A short, 1-hour drive north from Galveston is the Johnson Space Center.

Cheri and I spent a full day wandering the entire facility viewing the many amazing exhibits. Artifacts from all eras were there; Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, The Shuttle, International Space Station, and many forward-looking displays, previewing the new moon missions, Mars, and beyond. The big-eyed space cadet in me was captivated as I lost myself in the nostalgia of astronaut dreams.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
The iconic Space Shuttle. NASA’s workhorse launch system from 1981 – 2011.

We were especially moved by the memorials. Many brave space pioneers have made the ultimate sacrifice for the advancement of space exploration.

From the early days of the Air Force when test pilots met their demise in a hurtling piece of machinery, to modern day disasters like the Space Shuttle Columbia, we must never forget the brave souls who’ve laid it all on the line.

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The one that struck us most was the space shuttle Challenger. On January 28, 1986, Cheri and I were both seniors in high school watching the historic launch on school room TV screens. The historic moment was framed by the Teacher in Space Project, a NASA program designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime

National pride and inspiration turned to shock and horror for millions as the shuttle violently exploded before our eyes.

We spent about 45 minutes lingering in the hall of memories, choking back tears remembering that terrible day.

From Galveston we moved the rig along the coastline, passing through Louisiana. Our destination was Gulfport, Mississippi. When we arrived at the Gulf Haven RV Resort, Mother Nature offered another rude welcome as a major tropical storm moved across the bay towards us.

Intense waves of rain came down in buckets for hours with fierce lightning bolts and ear-piercing claps of thunder, as high winds rocked the trailer. Each time the rain slowed down I attempted to step outside and finish setting up camp, just in time for another wave to open up and drench me. I was soaked to the bone and definitely not a happy camper!

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Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
Something like this was rolling towards us. Photo by Michelle Raponi.

When the rain finally stopped the sound of tornado sirens echoed through town.

Fearing the worst, we exited the RV and went to the campground office to seek shelter. Fortunately for us the dangerous weather missed us.

What a way to start the summer!

Our campsite offered a splendid ocean view and a short walk to Gulfport Beach. We could see Cat Island and Ship Island on the horizon, as well as the Port of Gulfport. The water is very shallow here for a long way offshore, which prevents any sort of waves. The sound of the breakers is one of the sensory rewards we seek from a beach visit, so we were a bit disappointed with what amounted to little more than an oversized wading pool.

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We enjoyed a pleasant Independence Day sunset as the city hosted a fireworks display over the harbor. We had a perfect view of the light show, sipping our favorite beverage with our toes in the sand. The festivities continued long after the show was over, because dozens of beachgoers launched their own fireworks into the night sky.

It was quite a sight the next morning as the beach was completely littered with thousands of spent fireworks. The city was well-prepared for this as clean-up crews were already scouring the sands collecting the debris.

  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
  • Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
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In addition to exploring the unique town of Gulfport, we enjoyed several area attractions during our stay …

  • Stennis Space Center – A NASA rocket testing facility on the banks of the Pearl River at the Mississippi–Louisiana border that includes a visitor center full of fantastic exhibits for space enthusiasts, like me!
  • Pass Christian – A quaint coastal town right on the shoreline boasting many historical Victorian era homes. The War Memorial Park commemorates the area’s war veterans, as well as the many who have perished in tragic storms such as hurricanes Katrina and Camille. The town gained national attention during hurricane Katrina as ABC News correspondent Robin Roberts broadcast many reports from Pass Christian, her hometown.
  • The Beauvoir – A state historic site preserving thousands of artifacts from the defeated US Confederacy, including the home of its former president, Jefferson Davis. Despite the controversial subject matter, I found it intriguing and gained some interesting insight into this significant part of our nation’s history.
  • New Orleans – A distinctive town known for its music, Creole cuisine, unique dialects, and its most notable annual celebration, Mardi Gras. The historic heart of the city is the French Quarter, offering a vibrant nightlife along the famous Bourbon Street.
  • Biloxi – A beachfront city positioned on a peninsula of land extending into the waters of the Mississippi Sound. Dating from 1699, it grew from a quiet village into a thriving seafood center by the 1890s. Today, Biloxi draws tourists from around the world to its beaches, historical points of interest, and unique cultural attractions.
  • Pascagoula– Another coastal town situated at the confluence of river waters and the Gulf of Mexico. Its smaller population offers a slower pace for visitors seeking a more relaxed atmosphere.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Year One - Summertime
When it gets hot, crank the throttle to turn on that Louisiana air conditioning!

Our visit to the Mississippi River wetlands wouldn’t be complete without a ride on an iconic airboat. There are hundreds of operators around the region offering all kinds of options. We booked a 4-hour tour through the marshlands of Louisiana, viewing amazing wildlife, unique vegetation, and of course, gators!

Our guide delivered an up close and personal experience deep in the heart of alligator country. It was delightful gliding across the many miles of swampy wilderness.

Genesis 1:10

With plenty of summer left, it was time to head back to Tennessee because my employer wanted me to make an extended site visit to one of our customer locations in Pennsylvania. We parked the rig on my dad’s property in Morrison, Tennessee, but quickly learned he was too far away from a cell tower to get strong enough signal for work. I spent the week driving back-and-forth to a local library in Manchester.

I made arrangements to pull the trailer to Pennsylvania and was prepared for the second half of our inaugural RV Life summer.

Job 12:7-10

See RV Life – Year One – Summertime, Part 2.

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Steve Coryell