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Tommy Stump fishing in the Gulf off Galveston

Q:  How do you know when you're in the hottest place you've ever been?

A:  When you go outside into 97° with an 81° dew point and feel refreshed.

But more about that in the Louisiana section ... We arrived in Texas, once again in the middle of August. My niece Kristin has the knack of luring us to to one of the hottest places in the world for big events — her college graduation four years ago, and now her wedding. Only for you, kiddo!

To say it was hot does not give the region's weather its due. Ain't no heat like Texas-Louisiana heat ... and that means you, too, Florida. This brand comes with a ton of humidity and often a shot of pollutants and just beats you down. Despite that, we were glad that no hurricane threatened; there was not even a drop of rain. We had a fantastic time with family and friends in Houston and Galveston, before going to New Orleans. There were many connecting threads from the past to the present — people and places we saw — as well as new experiences and surprises. A very satisying week.

Around Houston ...

After arriving in Houston, we went straight to Kristin & Brian’s house. They live in a new development of Texas-sized homes. John & Lori were there also, and we met Brian for the first time. (We'd heard a lot of good things about Brian and after getting to know him a bit, he's lived up to the hype.) Bella, golden lab, was very excited to see us. We took a quick look around their nice, very spacious home and were off again ...

... to visit Avis, Lori’s youngest sister, who had also just moved into a large new home. She, her husband Leo and daughter Cammie had lost their home in New Orleans to flooding from the levee breaks after Katrina. They decided to relocate to Houston, around family, and where Leo could be closer to his job with Continental Airlines.

Bella guards the front door.

Kristin staying very fit.

Another of Lori’s sisters, Cheryl, and her daughter Kayla, had just driven in from Oklahoma. So the lot of us had fantastic jumbo shrimp cocktail, crabmeat and other “appetizers” — Lori is the seafood queen — along with some of Leo's birthday cake. The plan was to have dinner afterward, but that wasn’t necessary with this feast.

Avis showed me pictures of her ruined home in New Orleans East, which had five feet of water. A terrible experience, but they are among the lucky ones who had the means to start over.

Back at Kristin's I watched her prepare gift bags & notes for the wedding party in her "wedding central" room. She'd left no detail undone, unattended. She could go into business as an event planner, as long as she had Lori as her partner.

Cuteness! Cammie's kitten Snowball.

Lynne & Richard.

And Bellaire

I'd been looking forward to seeing Lynne & Richard for months. They live in Bellaire, an oasis near the center of Houston, in Richard’s childhood home. Their house has maintained its character amidst all the McMansions going up around the area. Most people want “house” not “yard,” Richard said. So you see giant houses that almost fill the lot. It's a mystery to me why that is desirable … there’s no context/setting for the home and you’re on top of your neighbors. But I digress ...

Lynne & Richard have done some beautiful interior renovations to their home; and Derby, their cute Boston Terrier was very excited to meet us. We had some of Richard's delicious lime pie and Lynne showed me her beautiful jewelry creations. We went out for an early dinner at a Thai restaurant and had a nice time catching up. Richard is doing great and difficult work teaching at an inner city high school.

Afterward Lynne suggested that she & I hit some balls at a local outdoor racquetball court. (We used to beat up on lots of guys during our days at Florida State.) Richard & Peter thought we were crazy, but Lynne dug out some old racquets and off we went into the oppressive heat and humidity. It was fun to play with Lynne again — some of my best college memories are with her on the courts at Salley Hall. And—woot, woot—we’ve still got the instincts and the strokes, thirty-two years later. Maybe I'm deluded, but I think with some practice (and lots of ibuprofen) we might get our edge back. See Houston Photos.

In Galveston

We hadn’t been to Galveston in several years … it was nice to be back. Kristin & Brian were going to be married at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and have their reception at the Hilton, where most of us were staying. Mom & Krisanne had arrived just ahead of us, flying in from Tampa. And many members of Lori’s immediate and extended family were also in town.

Galveston BirdsWhile several of the guys played SuperHot® golf in Brian’s pre-wedding tournament, Krisanne & I went on a tour of the island. I hoped to do some bird watching on the East end … at the Big Reef Nature Park. As we drove along the marshy coast we spotted a bunch of large wading birds on a long rock outcropping. A couple were a pinkish hue, could it be? — yes, yes! Roseate spoonbills — one of my holy grail birds!

While waiting an agonizing few minutes for the binoculars and cameras to unfog (a constant problem on this trip when abruptly going from AC to extreme humidity) we moved a bit closer to the birds. Along with the spoonbills were tri-colored herons, cattle & snowy egrets, cormorants and little and great blue herons. Brown pelicans and many gulls & terns were also frolicking around. It was a bird-lover’s paradise ... See Galveston Birds.

I tried to get some decent pictures from a distance and had a hard time leaving since I didn’t know when I’d see a spoonbill again. Of course we were frying in 93° and a beating sun, so Krisanne had to bring me to my senses. ( I do have them, senses, they just need to be jump-started every so often.)

We enjoyed the beach wildflowers and the view across to the Bolivar Peninsula before heading back into town. Galveston has beautiful old homes and buildings. We parked in one of the historic districts and walked the neighborhood. Every house was an architectural treasure … and it was fun to be out photographing with my sister again. Of course, the heat didn’t help matters … we would have liked to see more on foot, but it was too much. See Galveston Architecture.


Urn at a Galveston home.

Yes! Roseate spoonbill (with snowy egret).

Photographing Galveston. (Krisanne photo)

Ah, we made it!

As we got back to the hotel, Kurt, Tina, Erin, Kelsey and Joe had just pulled into the parking lot. They had made the 1800-mile journey in their minivan, once again. Kurt likes to torture his children that way.

They were more than ready for the hotel pool, which conveniently had a bar in it. Kristin was already at the pool greeting all her guests as they arrived. That’s where the rest of the afternoon was spent until the wedding party people had to go to the church for a rehearsal. That included Erin, Kelsey & Joe. See Galveston Family.

The rehearsal dinner at a local Italian restaurant was (like the whole wedding weekend) no small affair. Kristin and Brian hosted about 80 people. It was a lot of fun … Uncle Don was there, driving in from Sebring, and many other family & friends of the bride & groom. We enjoyed a long photo montage video of Kristin & Brian and their families from babyhood to the present. Maid of honor, Kayla, made a sweet speech, and John gave one of his patented sentimental talks, which his siblings were touched by (he wished Dad, Lori's Dad and Humar could be with us) and also got a huge kick out of (when we remembered a previous speech) ...

Our gang at the rehearsal dinner.

Kristin and Helen (Mompsie). (Krisanne photo)

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