There are several perks to living near Galveston, Texas. High on the list is that it’s a beach town – what’s not to love about that? What you may not know is that Galveston is a working port city. Once the largest port (and largest city) in Texas, there’s always something happening in the harbor. Another thing that’s kind of cool is that we are just down the road from NASA – you know, the one of “Houston, we have a problem”. That’s right – the Johnson Space Center is barely in Houston – it’s near Clear Lake, which is about 25 miles from here. That means that we have had the chance to meet some former astronauts, which is a big rush! Finally, we have a resident billionaire, Tilman Fertitta, who is the owner and CEO of the Landry’s restaurant group and star of TV’s Billion Dollar Buyer. Technically, he lives in Houston, but he’s from Galveston and owns much of it! Put these things together, and you have the background behind a big event that happened here last weekend.
The big event was the commissioning of the USS Gabrielle Giffords, which is the Navy’s newest littoral combat ship. At 421 feet long, it is massive, and it’s fast – it’s designed to take on coastal threats like submarines and mines. It is the 16th Navy ship to be named after a woman, and the first to be named after a living woman since 1857. The Navy had chosen to name the ship Gabrielle Giffords because Rep. Giffords’ name had become “synonymous with courage” and the congresswoman had “inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency.” The naming is a tribute to Navy families, as Giffords made efforts to support the Navy during her time in Congress. The ship’s motto is “Je Suis Prest,” or “I Am Ready,” a phrase emblazoned on Giffords’ family coat of arms.
You may have heard of former US Representative Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords, who miraculously survived an assassination attempt after she was shot in the head by a man who opened fire on a crowd at a constituents meeting in Tuscon, Arizona, in 2011. Congresswoman Giffords is married to US Navy Capt. Mark Kelly (ret.), who happens to be a former astronaut and who lives in Houston. Giffords spent several months in the hospital in Houston as she recovered from her injury, and it was then that the Navy informed her they would be naming a ship in her honor.
Giffords and Capt. Kelly (and his twin brother, astronaut Scott Kelly) are personal friends of the Fertittas, and they find their way down to Galveston for special occasions, often on Fertitta’s impressive yacht, the Boardwalk. This weekend was no exception, since the commissioning of the ship was to take place right at Pier 21 in Galveston! The warship pulled in to the harbor and docked at the pier earlier in the week. Rex drives right past the harbor on his way to and from work, so he had seen the huge ship and suggested we go have dinner at Olympia Grill, one of our favorite restaurants, which happens to be right next to where the ship was docked. Off we went on Friday evening, only to find one parking lot completely cordoned off with tents in place for Saturday’s festivities and the other one open only to VIPs. And it looked like most Galveston county law enforcement officials were hanging out in the area! Undaunted, we parked a few blocks away and walked back.
What a treat! We ate outside at Olympia, where our normal view of the harbor was eclipsed by the gigantic warship. In the slip next to the restaurant (and behind Willie G’s, a Landry’s restaurant) was the Boardwalk, along with its very own helicopter! Lots of Navy men were around, including several snipers atop the big ship. The bunting and decorative flags were out, and the atmosphere all around the harbor was festive. The cruise ship terminal was having an open house, and it was a gorgeous summer weekend, so there were plenty of tourists in the streets and restaurants. While we didn’t get to tour the ship, and we didn’t fight the crowds to attend the commissioning, we did get a pretty up close and personal view of it and of the private party happening on the Boardwalk. Oh, and the belly dancer at the Olympia….yes, that’s a sword on her head!
Every now and then, you’re lucky enough to know that you’re witnessing a bit of history, and when that happens, I believe you should document it. Here are my pages about our night at the harbor – and the gorgeous sunset we saw on the way home:
Blog header credits: Orange Cream & Cabanas Bundle by JumpStart Designs; Naturals 4-pak AlphaSets by Cottage Arts
Featured Image/page credits: #p2PLeopardSightingBP; Where I Long To Be Ocean View Mega Bundle by Little Feet Digital Designs; At the Speedway Alpha by Lucky Girl Creative; Font: KG Colour me purple