Traveling Circus

We just got back from being on "vacation" for about 3 weeks. My eternal gratitude and a cash reward goes out to Christi and Ben, who dutifully came over daily to feed the menagerie (which I suspect was poorly-behaved in our absence).

The "vacation" started out as a routine trip to El Paso to visit his parents for the 4th of July, like we've done every year for as long as we've been dating (I think). We drove the bimmer down there with plans to fix a few minor things on it while we had access to Max v.2 (mechanic extrordinaire) and his extremely well-equipped personal shop. Things got off to a slow start because, unbeknownst to us, this year was also a mini family reunion, and relatives and friends decended upon the Winter household en masse. It was fine, though, and I got to meet a lot of soon-to-be relatives, and we all had a very enjoyable time, as always. Once the holiday was over and the company had left, full attention was focused on the bimmer, and it was discovered that the little transmission problem we thought we'd solved last month... well, it was actually a much larger issue than we had realized. After considerable fretting, followed by grim resignation and a steely determination to solve the problem once and for all... I witnessed a modern miracle. The Maxes completely disassembled and totally rebuilt my BMW's automatic transmission. AND THEN, they managed to put everything back so that it actually works!

Until I witnessed it (and even helped a little!), I had no idea how much of a project automatic transmission rebuilding was. Really, if you've never seen it, you just can't know. This thing was the most complicated piece of machinery I've ever laid eyes on. To put it in perspective, we couldn't find any shops in El Paso who were willing to work on it. I have pictures of the beast - I'll post them later.

But, because of the suprise transmission-rebuild project, we weren't able to leave El Paso until the 11th (we'd originally planned to leave on the 7th). So we were home for one day before we left for Galveston on the 13th to vacation with my family at the beach house. We got back yesterday (the 18th).

Gaslveston was...Galveston. Max spent the whole time body-surfing, which he thoroughly enjoys. Despite liberal sunscreen application, I got sunburned on the first day, and was forced to spend most of the rest of the vacation inside. Actually, the sunburn itself wasn't that bad, but I also got a sun-rash on the backs of my legs which was quite excruciating. I read a novel, Catch-22, which I found in the beach house. It was pretty strange. I also spent some time walking along the beach, which I enjoy, but I was deterred a few times because fishing boats nearby were causing lots of dead catfish to wash up on the shore. Seriously, on one 20-minute walk, I counted 23 dead fish on the beach, and that was just in my immediate path. Fortunately, I couldn't smell the dead fish over the pungent stench of rotting seaweed which is a Galveston staple.

That's the thing about Galveston. Yes, it's a beach, and it has beachy elements, like the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves against the shore. The problem is that the ocean breeze carries with it a repugnant stench, and the SIGHT of the waves, like chocolate milk, lapping against the muddy sand is less than inspiring. The mounds of stinking seaweed which accumulate on the shore and are bulldozed almost daily into large piles attract huge swarms of gnats which make sitting on the beach unpleasant. The air is thick with mosquitoes. I don't swim in the water there because I find I can't wash the smell of it out of my hair for days afterward. I suspect that all of the Gulf of Mexico is similar. It's just not a nice place, really. Sure, Galveston can be fun, and you can go there and have a great time, but don't believe anyone who tells you it was beautiful. It just isn't. The crab, however, is excellent.