25 February, San Antonio, TX.A couple of long days ‘in the saddle’ as we near the end of our trip. We stopped off in Houston, specifically to visit the city’s art gallery. We were stung a fairly substantial entry fee ($28) but it included a special Impressionist Exhibition, so we were not too upset. As readers would realise by now, we do enjoy a good art gallery and particularly one with a good Impressionist collection. The Gallery also had, as a bonus, its own large collection of Impressionist pieces.
Houston has about 2.5 million people and most of them seem to own at least two cars and a semi! The freeway system is amazing with flyovers atop flyovers and junctions that set the head spinning as drivers jockey for lanes. We are getting quite proficient at mastering complex Interstate systems. The GPS helps of course, but it does take a fairly high degree of concentration on the signage as well. Everything happens across up to eight lanes at somewhere near 70 miles/hr, that’s about 117 kms per hour, so we have to be on our toes. There are moments of terror, mainly caused by other drivers, but, all in all, it is good fun.
We had done the Gulf Coast of Texas on a previous trip, so we decided to head west to Laredo. With images of a dusty Western town with a strong Mexican influence in mind, we headed off for a good hard day’s travel. By chance, along the way we stopped off in the small town of Goliad. We had never heard of it. What a find! The area was first settled by the Spanish in 1722. In those times missionaries worked hand in hand with soldiers in establishing a fort or Presidio, with a Mission included within the walls. On the outskirts of Goliad is the Presidio La Bahia, which played an important part in the struggle for Texan independence. Many more Texan Rebels died in the battle for La Bahia than at the better known Alamo and San Jacinto battles. A little closer to town, the beautifully restored Mission Espiritu Santo also traces its history back to the early 18th century.
Lucky we found Goliad, or our very long drive would have been totally wasted. Laredo was a major disappointment! No dusty cow-town, just the usual chain motels, fast food outlets and gas stations. The old town square was a hangout for groups of flighty, shifty-looking Mexican men who looked balefully at us as though we were about to arrest them and frog-march them back over the border, just across the Rio Grande.
A few kilometres out of town, we came face to face with the Homeland Security’s attempts to restrict illegal immigration from Mexico. We, along with all other traffic on the Interstate, were put through a check, much the same as one would face at an international border. As non-citizens, we had to produce passports. Others had to produce ID. Cars and trucks were searched. We were lucky to score a nice chatty young officer who was more interested in our travels than searching our car.
26 February, Austin, TX.On previous trips to the US we have had consistently great weather. Our luck just couldn’t hold. Yesterday it was mid 20s C in San Antonio. This morning it was windy and rainy, with the temperature hovering around 0C. Luckily we had been to San Antonio before, so we were not too disappointed at having to do a quick dash through town, past the Alamo and a brisk walk along the fabulous Riverwalk. As a consolation, we took ourselves off to the little town of Lockhart, the BBQ Capital of the World! For $10 a plate, we stuffed ourselves with prime lean brisket, re-fried beans, mash, sausage and coleslaw.
For the last leg of the day we hit the Texas toll road for the run into Austin. Our tolls were pre-paid so we intend to get value for our money while in Texas. The roads are beautifully engineered, with speed limits of 85 mph (132 kph). Sadly, the rain forced us to limit ourselves to 75 mph!28 February, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
Today we stood at the window (actually one window along!) from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John Fitzgerald Kennedy and looked down what would have been fairly close to Oswald’s line of sight on that fateful day in 1962. The Texas School Book Depository is a museum today and an audio tour takes visitors through events from Kennedy’s inauguration to the legacy of his Presidency.
Events like Kennedy’s assassination are intrinsic to America’s culture. The spot on Elm Street, near the corner of Houston Street, is a sacred site to Americans and the attention and reverence the crowds demonstrated in the museum and out in Dealey Plaza today is testament to this.
We were in primary school when Kennedy was killed and our memories of the events of that day are still vivid. It is true. You do remember where you were and what you were doing when events of this magnitude occur.
Our morning activities were far less serious. Fort Worth was once a major rail head and cattle sales centre. The old Stockyards and surrounding downtown area have been re-developed as a cowboy complex extraordinaire. While comprehensively catering to the tourist trade, it is good fun and, for anybody interested in Rodeo, it is a must. The big hit for us was the ‘cattle drive’ of Texas Longhorn Steers through the main street. Yesterday we balanced things a little and visited the Cowgirl’s Hall of Fame.
Can we get a “Yee Ha!”?
7 March, Brisbane.Amidst the hurly burly of ending a trip, flying home and getting the house in order, completing these blogs sometimes falls between the cracks.
In six weeks behind the wheel in the US we have racked up over 12,000 kms on our little Nissan Versa and, except for a few days of bad weather, we have enjoyed every kilometre, waffle, pancake, plate of grits and biscuit of it. As a result we are now busy shedding the several kilos that are the legacy of such a lifestyle.
We ended our roadie as we started it, back in LA, for a few days with family and the Outlet Malls! As a bonus, we scored the use of a car hired by our niece Grace and her boyfriend Jake. A jet black Dodge Charger is just the thing for cruising the LA freeways.
We normally finish these blogs with a deep and meaningful review of our trip and our views on the country, its culture and our trip highlights. As this is our fifth visit to the US, we have just about said all there is to say, except that we will be back! There is a small clutch of half a dozen states in the north central plains and along the north east coast, plus Hawaii, that we have yet to visit to tick all 50 boxes. This year, however, China, Mongolia and the Trans-Siberian Railway have sent out their siren call. It can be brutal out there, but it just has to be done!