Issue 58: Dead Bird Buggy Bash

What does a clumsy land dwelling, single-line kite flying, Yankee- decide to do for Thanksgiving of 2007?

Live on a sailboat for ten days off the coast of Galveston, Texas, while attending the dead bird buggy bash, of course.

What is the Dead Bird Buggy Bash you ask? According to the ‘official’ web site:

“The DBBB is a casual, no-schedule, no-races, kite buggy regatta held each November over the Thanksgiving holiday in Galveston Texas. Our goal is simply to enjoy kite buggying with friends new and old and promote kite traction in a friendly and safe environment. If you have not yet attended this event, you are missing something very special. Join us each November to buggy the huge beaches of south Texas and partake in our holiday feast on the beach. Registration is free and allows us to plan for services and dinners in advance.”

Captain’s Log:

15 November – Fly from Buffalo, New York to Houston Hobby Airport…oh how we kite flyers LOVE to travel! Especially if it is to someplace warm.

16 November – Sunrise Sail on AJ’s new sail boat ‘Caddo’s Dream’ from Clear Lake Shores in Kemah Texas to Galveston Texas where we dropped anchor in Offatts Bayou.

The voyage started out with the seas a bit choppy, but quickly turned into a picture perfect sail. It was an interesting challenge to try and brush my teeth and get cleaned up while being tossed from one side of the boat to the other.

Offatts Bayou became home for the next 5 or 6 days. (New York doesn’t even have bayous!) It was a lovely little inlet and we used the dingy to get back and forth to shore. It sure does keep the unexpected guests down. I was warned about pirates but only had a brief sighting, it was off season.

I must say, it sure was a lot of fun. Chris Shultz came for a sleep over and several others came for dinner and drinks. It was a surprisingly busy boat for being anchored off shore thanks to AJ’s water taxi.

The much anticipated DBBB was finally here! There were over 70 registered guests signed up at the official site :

as well as many more local drop-ins.

There is not an exceptionally large buggy community here in the USA, yet, but none the less, it is a dedicated, committed, and passionate group.

Chris Shultz wrote on the dead bird web site in Nov 2007-

“With nearly six dozen riders and guests signed up for DDDB, this year looks to be one of the largest turn outs on record. Riders from as far away as New York, Virginia, Washington State, and Nevada will participate. This pre-event weekend a vanguard of wind junkies will return to the vast beaches of San Luis Pass (SLP) on the west end of Galveston Island to start the festivities and get their fix. The weather forecast looks good! If you can’t make it out this time, please join us for Thanksgiving weekend. Ride safe!”

17 November – DBBB pre-event at San Luis Pass begins to take shape. The winds are a bit light initially, but it is warm, sunny, and kite fliers begin to gather at the beach. There is something for everyone. Some are camping on the beach, some are staying in local motels, some are staying with local residents, and some are staying on a boat. Life is good.

It was important for me to visit Caddo; much missed and beloved buggy dog extraordinaire, who was laid to rest at San Luis Pass, after his untimely death last August. It was good to see that his final resting place is a location that he dearly loved, the beach.

18 November – the early morning hours saw a potent rain storm sweep through the area, yet cleared to a near perfect day of kite flying and buggying on the beach at San Luis Pass, the day closed with a breath taking sunset.

In addition to the buggies and kites of all kinds, there is an ever increasing presence of Blokarts. The Blokarts are a tremendous amount of fun and are very user friendly for all ages, levels, and abilities.

19 November – Kite flyers and buggyer’s continued to arrive as the dead bird buggy bash moved to East Beach on the other end of Galveston. Both locations, San Luis Pass & East Beach were fantastic flying locations with spectacular deep and wide beaches that provided nice long runs.

For those that are unfamiliar with the Dead Bird Buggy Bash I dug out some history from the web site. In the beginning…

‘Lured to the Texas coast by yummy Gulf Red Snapper, Dick and Gail Bell from Dallas began vacationing in Galveston over the Thanksgiving holiday. Fast forward to 1993 when the couple had a full fledge passion for kiting. Once again vacationing in Galveston, they realized that the beaches were perfect for kite buggying.

In 1994, they put out the word to the kiting community to join them on their annual retreat. Joining the Bells was just a small gathering of good people that shared a great hobby. The event was unorganized and everyone had a great time. “The first year we all just showed up and had a blast.”

Locals began hosting what became an annual event. The DBBB belongs to no one and yet belongs to everyone. It is still Dick and Gail’s Thanksgiving retreat and seems to grow a little bigger and get a little better every year.”

20 November – Each day was better then the day before, there was something for everyone at DBBB; beautiful sunsets and beautiful sunrises, plenty of room for single line kite flying, a thicket of beautiful banners, Blokarts, and of course plenty of buggy’s.

The first thing I thought when I arrived in Galveston was “why hasn’t the AKA convention ever been held here in Galveston?” it really seemed like an excellent fit.

21 November – Beautiful kiting day today, but first things first, the forecast for the next few days was stormy, so we took a quick morning sail to the Harbor House where we could get Caddo’s Dream into the safety of a slip for a few nights. Glenn Pedro set sail with us as first mate and was a natural.

The new neighborhood was exciting! It was amazing to stick my head out from below deck to see a massive cruise ship float by, or to look across the way and see men working 24/7 on an oil rig that was brought in from the Gulf for repairs…in case I forgot where I was.

Following the wonderful morning sail and an exceptional kite flying day at East Beach, we all met that evening at the house of longtime Texas kite scene fixture, Kathy Nixie.

Kathy’s home cooked spaghetti dinner, complete with Hawaiian theme, was a lovely treat. It was interesting to see some of her unique prized kite pieces that adorn her walls and shelves.

22 November – Thanksgiving Day and the accompanied beach feast is one of the hallmarks of the Dead Bird Buggy Bash.

I had heard many great things about the Thanksgiving feast on the beach in Galveston, and they were all true. I know I was very thankful for being at the beach flying kites with good friends. It is the traditional Thanksgiving premise; everyone brings a dish or something to share. And for those of us who wanted to contribute but came by plane and did not have access to a kitchen, we had the opportunity to ‘buy’ a turkey through the DBBB store on-line, the turkeys were then deep fired on the beach.

It was a memorable holiday and reminded me yet again how fortunate we all are to have this remarkable kiting family.

Yes, DBBB is a welcoming, casual, relaxed, unscheduled and unstructured event, but it just appears that way on the surface. What DBBB really does is epitomize southern hospitality at its finest! There are many people who work behind the scenes, and throughout the year to make sure things go well. Each day there was a spread of food, chairs, beverages, and my favorite…the portable porta potty…I know that may sound a bit redundant, but it was the finest accessory that has come out of the camping/hunting sector in a very long time.

What was so very refreshing was how all the ‘regulars’ contributed, yet no one took credit, there was no apparent hierarchy… it was truly an event of the people, by the people, for the people…and from everything I could see, there was not a self serving bone in the bunch! I wish more kite events could be like the Dead Bird Buggy Bash.

One of my favorite aspects to DBBB was how very dog friendly the event was. There was always several nice dogs present to visit with, and one was better behaved then the next. An absolute highlight of my time at DBBB was when I arrived at the beach to Beau walking up to me with his head titled to one side with a wonderful little welcoming sideways smile. To the uninformed it looks like Beau was baring his teeth at me, but to those of us that speak dog, it is obviously a huge smile!  And Beau doesn’t smile at everybody! Beau owns Susan Orgeron from Louisiana and is a very cool Australian herding buggy dog.

23 November – oh how we all hoped that the various weather forecasts were going to be wrong! They weren’t. We all gathered at East beach Friday, but the tides had turned, our perfect weather turned ugly…high winds, cold temperatures, and rain. Not only did it turn nasty, but it was going to be that way for a few days.

Some packed up and went home early, especially the campers, others checked out local museums and restaurants, some took in movies. Of course there was some hard core who went to the beach each day and tried to buggy. The power kite forum hosts a DBBB forum that keeps interested parties current and in touch

24 November – was an inside day.

25 November– we needed to move Caddo’s Dream and it looked like we had a window of opportunity Sunday morning. What should have been a quick little sail turned into a harrowing experience of several hours; we had very high winds, 5 foot swells, cold temperatures, and engine trouble while dragging two anchors in the middle of a busy ship channel. This was right out of the Discovery Channel!

All’s well that ends well though, AJ did an extraordinary job of captaining his vessel, I really never doubted his ability to handle the situation and get us safely to shore…however it did provide us with yet another opportunity to be thankful over this Thanksgiving Holiday.

When you hear from me next, it will be from Malaysia…

Meg Robinson-Albers