All through this area, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and undoubtedly further across the south, we see RV Parks and large tracts of BLM land where "snowbirds" spend the winter months doing,,,,,,well, we're not really sure what they do. We have seen many interesting places that have interesting things to do, but we can't imagine spending an entire winter in one of these places. Many people do, though. We hear many say they have been coming to some particular RV Park for the last 6, 8 ,or 11 years. They seem to spend a great deal of time sitting in their RV's, some of which are indeed large and comfortable. They have Pot Luck dinners, play cards in the Rec Rooms and walk around the park in the morning.
We don't seem to be a part of this group. After a few days in one place, we're itching to move on, ready to see what's down the road.
We are driving slowly up the Gulf Coast. We have found some interesting things about driving in Texas. First, the gas is inexpensive, relatively speaking. We have seen regular for $1.14 per Gallon. This contrasts nicely with $2.30 we;ve seen in Northern California. The roads are quite nice, even the farm roads. On many of the secondary roads there are shoulders nearly a lane wide. It seems to be the custom here to pull off onto this shoulder to allow an overtaking car to pass. They almost always wave or blink their taillight three times in thanks. It's the only place where we've seen where it is the obligation of the passee to move for the passer.
Many homes build along the barrier islands of the gulf coast are build up on piling. These are not little short piling, but a good one story high, on which the main house is built. Some of these houses are quite large and even of two stories. The understory is usually used for a carport, sometimes enclosed for a garage. We call these "high water houses". It certainly makes sense with the high possibility for storms along this coast. Still looks kind off funny, though.
Galveston is an interesting place. We arrived with no knowledge other than that it was a seaport. It is built on a barrier island. Barrier islands are not much more than a large sand bar. They may be 20 or more miles long, but, only a few feet above sea level. Galveston was the first port in the Texas area, dating all the way back to the early Spaniards. It became very rich as everything into and out of Texas went through the port. The town has many great, impressive old homes built in the late 1800's
Now you might wonder about living on a low island in an area noted for hurricanes. Apparently this didn't occur to anyone until 1900. A large hurricane struck the island with devastating results. The storm covered most of the island, destroying many of the building and killing over 6,000 people. You can read all about this in a current book; "Isaac's Storm". You can't walk around the old part of town without being reminding of the storm. What is so amazing is that when the storm was over, the people decided to rebuild! Asking what they needed to do to prevent another disaster, they determined that they must build a sea wall and raise the level of the island. Raise the level of the island! They built the sea wall and then pumped in dredging from the gulf to raise the level. For 6 year they pumped in sand, jacking up homes and churches, filling under and then lowering them back, now up to 12 feet higher. Amazing task.
Well, we have walked the streets of Laredo, seen the Yellow Rose, remembered the Alamo, and have found that the stars at night are, well......big and bright! It was time we left Texas and enter Louisiana.
Louisiana is a little different. You might see Rue, rather than Street or Avenue, you can hear the news in French, and they bury people above ground! Most of the state seems to be under water, the highways built up over all the bayous and lakes. The roads are concrete with the sections just slightly misaligned resulting in ride that is a constant bumb-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump. They should have talked to the people in Texas about building roads.
We drove to Lafayette, in the heart of the Cajun country, where we celebrated the first New Year of the new millennium with a Cajun seafood meal, listening to a Cajun band. To further celebrate, we stayed in a motel, our first since leaving home. There was a slight sprinkling of snow on the ground the next morning.
New Orleans, like the rest of the state,is a bit different. It's right on the Mississippi River, but, because the city is below sea level you never really see the river unless you get up on one of the levees that protects the city. New Orleans, (pronounced, Nawlins) is an old city, dating back to before the whole territory was owned by the French. As Americans started to settle in the area, the city was divided. It's the only city in the United States with an American sector. It is definitely a party town. Everyone has heard of the Madri Gras and Bourbon Street. While we weren't there during Madri Gras, it was still pretty wild. We did all the tourist things in the city; sternwheeler boat rides on the River, city tours and visits to some of the many mansions in the area.
We continued driving East into Mississippi. I (Jerry) had lived there some time ago, and I wanted to see how much it had changed. Well, it was about 54 years ago so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see some change....even in Mississippi.
Actually, I didn't remember anything. Between Gulfport and Biloxi it is all built up with casinos and other touristy sites. We visited a museum where we saw pictures of the devastating hurricane that hit the area in 1962. Hurricane "Camile" had winds of 155 MPH. The hurricane I remember was in September 1947. It doesn't seem to have had a name, but it did have winds of 150 MPH. I remember well looking out between the boards over the windows,and seeing huge waves from the Gulf completely destroying houses.
We had now traveled quite away and still had not found the warmth and sun that we had hoped for. Florida tempted us, but the weather there was no better than where we were and so we turned and headed home.
But on the way, we stopped to visit some ex-Oregonian and fellow vanagan friends in Texas and again stopped to see our son and his family before returning home.
Would we make this trip again? We don't think so. It was interesting to see all that we did see, but not so much that we would make the effort to see it again. We did enjoy the birding that we did, having sighted over 80 new birds.
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"The earth belongs to anyone who stops for a moment, gazes and goes on his way."
Colette, French writer 1873-1954
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