Updated April 27, 2001
This day was April Fool's Day, the start of Daylight Savings Time, Alice's folks wedding anniversary (it would be 79 years), and a day of rest at the Escapees Rainbow Park in Deming, New Mexico. We were well on our way towards New Orleans.
The weather held up nicely, mostly sunny so far and looking to be sunny into later in the week. The wind a neighbor predicted for the night did not materialize, and the morning temperatures felt most pleasant. I paid for the hop chili sauce I consumed the night before (it affects my hemeroids, if you must know) and spent the morning working on the RV Travels website. I decided to change its venue somewhat and bring it up to date. It will take several weeks to do it all.
In the afternoon we visited Rockhound State Park, about 11 miles from the RV Park. We prepared to walk the 1.1 mile loop trail that crosses above the campground. About that time a hard gust of wind came through, blowing my hat from my head. As I reached to catch the hat my pinkie caught my polarized glasses and tore them from my head. The blow knocked out one lens and a chip broke out of its side when it hit the rocks. When we reach more civilized places I will find out just what it costs to repair the damage.
After changing to my primary glasses, we started up the trail. The initial stretch was quite steep, much steeper than Jojoba Hills, and Alice and I took our time going up. Wolf enjoyed himself, with lots of rocks alongside the path to smell and check out.
We saw some pretty rocks and many beautiful flowers (bummer, I forgot and left my camera in the truck), but we did not see any collectible rocks. Of course, we scanned over rocks that had been picked over by tens of thousands of people before us. When we finished the hike only our memories came back with us.
After visiting with several of the other hikers and campers at Rockhound we headed back to Deming. Alice spotted the local Dairy Queen and convinced me we deserved a blizzard. I needed the good feeling as well.
After returning to the RV Park, we collected emails and prepared to travel the next day.
The sun could not shine when the alarm clock rang. The time to get going for another 220 mile day had arrived. After some procrastinating, we got out of bed.
I returned habitually to the routine of rigging the trailer for travel and made good time. We watched the Weather Channel on TV to check that no more changes were coming our way. The only worry appeared to be more predicted winds.
We made it back on the road at the crack of ten. The wind blew, sometimes hard, but it blew a constant tail wind, so the drive went very smooth. When I purchased diesel just south of Las Cruses, Alice calculated the mileage rate at 15.1 mpg!
There is not much to say about I-10 or the scenery from Deming to Van Horn, Texas. We went through El Paso around the noon hour and it seemed everyone headed for lunch about that time on the freeway . Cars and trucks filled all the exits and sat in stop and go lines. We just kept heading down the road until we finally found a roadside rest where we could pull over and eat leftovers. The nutritional level was probably better for us in any case.
We stopped at the Eagles Nest RV Park for the night. It is one of those that gives SKPs a 15% discount. We set up quickly and settled down for relaxation. After an evening of watching TV and writing we headed off to bed so we could get up for the next day's leg on down I-10. Boy, Texas surely is a wide state!
It was even darker when the alarm clock rang Tuesday morning. So dark, we slept until after 8am. Finally realizing how late it was, we hopped out of bed, intent on seeing how fast we could get on the road. It took one hour, fifteen minutes.
The drive from Van Horn to Ozona is all along I-10, much of it through mesa and hill country. There are many exposed cuts of yellowish limestone. Obviously the land has been level for a long, long time. The elevation dropped from about 4,400 ft to 2,300 ft along the 226 miles, but you wouldn't notice it in the lay of the formations.
The further east we traveled the greener the roadside and hills became. Many flowers covered the roadside along the way, and we stopped at one rest stop where I took closeup pictures of many of the varieties we saw. Further along, we saw a reddish orange variety of flower we had not seen before. I stopped at a roadside rest on the side of the freeway to take the pictures. We did not see any of the expected blue-bonnets.
The sky remained mostly clouded all day, so the temperature stayed down in the high 70s. It became more humid, so we ran the air conditioner part of the time. All in all, the drive was a smooth and pleasant.
Alice had planned to wash clothes in Ozona like she had done three years ago. But when we arrived we realized we had selected a different RV park from the one we had stayed in before. They had no laundromat nor did they know where to find one. Not only that, the yellow pages listed no self-serve laundromats in town. So, we decided to do the wash manana. Later, upon review of our past trips, we concluded we had stayed seven miles east of town three years ago. Well, we were close but it wasn't worth the drive over there just to wash clothes.
Though this RV park is listed in the Escapees book, I do not recommend it unless you are really trying to save money. There is no ambiance, just a flat spot with post with power, water, and sewer.
We left Ozona about 9:30am. I plotted a course to Mike Strang's farm just north of Georgetown that took us along some more scenic routes than I-10. Even so, we still drove 88 miles to the east to the town of Junction before we turned off the Interstate onto US-377. Just before we reached that point we dropped down out of the limestone hills that are characteristic of the western half of Texas.
I filled the fuel tank at Junction, thinking I had a good price at $1.499. Forty miles later in Mason the price dropped to $1.309. But of course, the cost of running out of fuel could be much higher than whatever I might save by waiting for something better.
The drive to the northeast grew more and more pleasant as the road wound back and forth around the limestone mesas. We were no longer climbing the hills, but we still drove by them. The landscape turned greener and greener. Grass grew profusely amongst the budding scrub in the fields beside the road. The roadsides became more and more colorful as spring flowers grew more prevalent. Buttercups were is charge at first, then daisies started to appear. Swatches of blue-bonnets pushed out the yellow mustard and then mixed with the orange of the fireweed. Occasionally we saw minority flowers that were there and then appeared no more.
By the time we reached Mason where we turned east onto highway 29, the blue-bonnets and fireweed overpowered our senses. We stopped at the local Dairy Queen for lunch and a rest. I stared at the bare dirt of the parking lot to clear my head. When as we drove out of town I stopped alongside the road to take photos of some of the color.
Back on the road we continued towards Llano and Burnett. The intensity of the blooms died down from time to time, then it burst forth again as we rounded the next curve in the road. All in all, the roadside from Mason to Llano ranks as the most spectular I have ever seen.
As we drove into the more populous areas from Buchanan Dam into Georgetown, our progress slowed down. More traffic filled the roads, and more stoplights interrupted the flow. We finally turned north on I-35 and drove the five miles to the exit to Highway 195. The truckstop at the exit had diesel at $1.229!
Two miles north on TX-195 we came to the entrance to Mike's farm. He recently put in a new gate, cutting down on the width of the opening. Quickly making the sharp right turn off the highway (hurried along by the string of cars impatiently waiting behind the trailer) I forgot my theme song for pulling a trailer: "Swing Wide the Sweet Chariot." I cut the corner too thinly and made it halfway through the gate before I realized I desparately needed help. We tore the sign off the post on one side and Alice pulled on the gate on the other. By driving out onto the soft dirt I made it through the opening with only a small scratch on the truck. Next time I will remember to sing my song.
Mike has a nice small farm. He raises a few head of cattle and has a peaceful office next to the house where he does his work. He designs electronics for our old company back in California and serves as their VP of Technology. His wife Diane works for Applied Materials. It was nice to see our long-time friends again.
We parked the trailer near the house and I attached a line to their power pole.
We went into Round Rock for supper. The next day Alice and I went shopping. We upgraded our phone service. Alice bought some clothes at Walmarts.
We went to supper at Pappadoux's and ate too much.
The clock read 10:30 before we made it out of the gate from Mike's farm onto TX-195. I pulled into the truckstop, but this time the fuel price had gone up to $1.329. Oh well, you can't get everything you want.
We journeyed down I-35 and exited on TX-29 to head east so we could catch TX-79.
As we followed 190 east, a new flower started to appear on the side of the road. It was a dark red. Finally, I found a place to pull off and grabbed my camera to check out the color.
The flowers were red clover, with a tightly bunched head. The wind waved the blooms around like the surface of a pond. Mixed into the bunch were yellow daisies and a few fireweeds. Again I took a bundle of photos.
After driving by Lake Livingston we entered the town of Livingston. On the east side of town we turned south on TX-146. Shortly the turnoff the Escapees Park showed and I did the tight right-hand turn required. Following the signs into the park we reached the Manager's Office. Inside was Brandy Rooney who we knew from our time at the Escapees Fun Days in Kamloops, BC. Her daughter, Arizona, had been one of our helpers with the Jr. Escapees.
We dumped our tanks on the way to our assigned spot at B91. As I began to back in, Alice was acosted by Peggy Hamel, neighbors from Jojoba Hills. They were parked just across the street. We quickly set things up and then spent time chatting with the Hamels about the state of the world.
Alice fixed supper -- finally we had a night at home. The wind has picked up but the temperature is moderate.
Washed the trailer and truck. Shopped at WalMart. Dinner at Florida's. Social Hour. Mail. Trailer ride. Collected email. Wrote last email for Starband. Worked on Chapter 2.
We were up fairly early and started rigging for travel. I went to the office to collect email and pay the bill for our four night stay. We finally pulled out of the site about 10 am, then we had to stop and dump the holding tanks. After that it was drive into town for the Texas Safety Inspection. We did that at the Jiffy Lub on Church Street. Finally, about 10:45am we headed out for our drive to Lafayette.
Alice put in our start and finish and let Streets figure out the quickest route. The instructions were to head south on TX-146 then turn left on a series of farm roads that would take us over to US-69 then down into Beaumont. My experience with Texas roads had been good, so I trusted the computer and followed the instructions.
When we turned off TX-146 the road was good, but it was somewhat narrow, and there were essentially no shoulders. There had been some rains recently, and we could see the swamps coming to the very edge of the road. I worried about meeting another vehicle and having to share the road. As it turned out we drove almost fifty miles to the east and only met two vehicles. The road remained the same almost the entire way, and I did find out there was enough space for two opposing vehicles to pass and still stay on the pavement. I'm happy we didn't meet many more!
After reaching Beaumont we had a few stop lights and then finally came to I-10 where we turned east. In general, I-10 was better than I expected. It was bumpy, but most of the chuck-holes had been filled. I kept the truck at a steady 55 and moved on down the road without much tension.
There were several sections of road work. These were always tight, and a couple of times the traffic was stop and go. But it does look like they are improving the road.
Southeast Texas and Louisiana are flat. The highest places are the freeway overpasses. There is also a lot of vegatation, and it is often impossible to see anything beyond the swath through which the road runs. As we moved to the east the number of waterways increased. Some were rivers, some were creeks, many seemed to be just swamp-land.
We chose to stay at the Lafayette KOA in Scott, just to the east of Lafayette. It is a very nice KOA with typical KOA prices. The gal at the front desk recommended a local cajun place that was within walking distance, so Alice and I left the dog in the trailer and headed over to Frezzo's. The food was excellent, and our waitress, Lani who was working her first day, did a fine job taking care of us. We had the combination platter of boiled crawdads, shrimp, and crab legs. Get the crawdads for taste, the shrimp for substance.
We gave Wolf a haircut to help him cope with the heat and humidity. He looks pretty sharp now.
I did some more work on Memphis 7.7 and finished the update on Chapter 3. Then I did some updating of the webpages for this site. Tomorrow I will check email and we drive on towards New Orleans.
The drive to Westwego was 90% smooth, 10% bumpy. Unfortunately, when I-10 has a bump in Louisiana, it can be a major dip at 55 mph. We found out when we camped in Westwego we had broken the hanger support in the shirt closet.
Then when we got to the New Orleans area, the route chosen by Streets took us over the Hughie Long Bridge, pulling our fifth wheel. It was one-way, but the route took us down some funny streets, all in the name of staying on a route that had a number. The bridge itself had a sign saying that trucks were not allowed to pass other trucks. It was tight.
But we continued to follow the directions and eventually ended up on a wide four-lane and found the right turn into the Bayou Segnette State Park.
They could not find our reservation for arriving, only for when we came off the barge in a week and a half. But they found a spot for us so we moved in. We were right behind Bob and Ellie Blake, the Adventure Caravan Wagon-Masters.
It was a nice park, totally surrounded by trees. That late afternoon we walked down to the office (1.7 miles) and found out the laundries were in the comfort stations in the camping area.
The next morning Alice washed clothes and we plotted a course to go shopping. We found the Home Depot and I purchased a couple of hinges to repair the damage I had done. I also got some PVC pipe to try to fix the toilet seat. One section of it I used to prop up the broken closet hanger.
There was a get-together on Thursday evening. We met many of those who would be on the trip with us.
On Friday we did our grocery shopping. I bought some beer for Bob and Ellie. We had our 3pm orientation meeting then our 5pm pizza.
Alice and I made one last quick run to the grocery store to pick up some carrots for the potluck. Everyone rigged for traveling and Bayou Segnette State Park and after dumping we headed out for staging at Mudbugs. From there we drove onto the barge from Engineers Road. The barge was moored on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The loading operation was very interesting. Our truck went along for the ride since there was some extra room on the barge.
Once we were on board the barge we fixed our own lunch.
For supper we had catfish, coleslaw, and hushpuppies brought in by Adam.
The barge stayed moored to the bank for the night.
Bright and early we were up to watch the deckhands cast off. The towboat moved over to connect to our barge and then backed up to connect to the front barge. Then we moved out into the Intracoastal Waterway and headed south and west. It was Easter Sunday.
Elllie and Bob served a quich for breakfast. The barge went by Jean Lafitte. We stayed in the Waterway alongside Lake Salvador.
We had a potluck for lunch. We went through the town of Larose then turned east.
We stopped at Houma to pick up sandwiches. Everyone was too full to eat.
Later that night we shared the beef sandwich. We moored just beyond Houma near the swamp.
I fished and caught the first fish on a piece of turkey lunchmeat. For that I get a tea-shirt. The mosquitos feasted on me.
We spent the night moored in the Hanson Canal. Then the swamp boat came to take us on a tour. Got some great pictures of alligators and trees.
From there we left about 10:30 and continued to Morgan City. We had to wait until 5pm to go through the Beef Boeuf Locks then entered the Atchafalaya River for a couple of miles before entering the Allen Causeway and heading north towards Baton Rouge.
for dinner we had a cajun gumbo fixed by Sally and Ellie. Then we distributed the paper bags. Alice got some tongs and I got a cup. The barge kept moving as we went to bed.
We spent the night just below Bayou Sorrel Locks.
The barge was moving before we got up to go to breakfast. We had omelettes in a bag. Don got out the tea-shirts and I picked up mine (for the first fish).
With the long straight waterways, I set up the TV and we watched the weather channel and news. The weather turned decidedly cooler and the wind blew strongly.
We made it to the Port Allen locks and then had to wait. Finally we were allowed into the locks and entered the Mississippi River.
In the afternoon about 2:30 we moored at Baton Rouge to tour museums and spend the night. Alice and I chose to go to the old capital which was within a couple of blocks. The USS Kidd, a destroyer, was the center-piece for another tour we did not take.
We returned to our rig to rest and unload the photos I had taken then went to dinner at Mutales, a noted Cajun restaurant in Baton Rouge.The bus picked us up and delivered us to the front of the restaurant. The food was good and the music was over an hour of Cajun, with accordian, fiddle, and guitar. It was pretty good but repetitious. Then it was back to the barge. The wind was blowing hard and the temperature was dropping. Predicted low for the night was 44 degrees, a marked change from the past week.
By the time we awoke the next morning the barge was underway, heading up-river.
The Mississippi is a wide river. We were going against the current with not far to go. There was lots of traffic so the barge took its time moving along. Several times we stopped alongside the bank to let some downstream traffic have the right of way.
I did a stupid thing and backed into the fifth-wheel hitch. It gave me quite a blow on my back. It surely got the attention of everyone on the boat.
We tied up next to the bank on the Mississippi, tied to the trees.For dinner we had pork loin and baked potatoes. I had a chance to talk with Kaylor, the captain, about barges and towboats.
Cleats, buttons, timber-heads were some of the terms Don told us about for tying down the ropes.
We had left the bank by the time we got up, headed for St. Francisville.
We docked and departed to get on the bus. The barge would meet us back in Baton Rouge.
We went to the Greenwood Plantation and I took lots of pictures. From there we were to the Myrtle Plantation, near St. Francisville and had lunch. Then there was a tour of the main building. After that we reboarded the bus and went by the grocery store. I had hoped to purchase some peanuts, but the wanted 4.57 for 2 lbs so I said no. I slept most of the way back to Baton Rouge.
We reboarded the barge and cast off to head down river.
We had hamburgers and hotdogs for supper. I had a long talk with Mac Mclein about a number of things. He is working on a book about the second coming of Christ as a clone -- sounds like he has a ways to go.
We will be traveling during the night so I do not know just where we will be. So I put in the current coordinates around Donaldsonville, LA.
The barge was already underway the next morning. Alice and I had been aware that we were stopped for a time, but we did not know where.
As we moved down the river we saw more and more of the heavy industry that lines the waterway.
Finally, we approached the wharf in New Orleans. The French Quarter Festival was underway and the sounds of jazz reached us long before we docked.
After a time we were able to get off the barge and walk around the area. We went by the aquarium and IMAX but found that shows were already booked. I took lots of pictures of the people who were attending the festival.
We made it back onto the barge for the scheduled dinner at 5pm. We had our own jazz trio and the music was very pleasant. The food was excellent and we took some of it home as left-overs.
The music continued from on shore. We worried about being able to sleep, but finally about 10pm the last venues ended and silence remained. We drifted off to sleep.
We pulled away from the New Orleans wharf as we got up Saturday morning. It took a while for the captain to put the entire boat back together. The two barges had been side by side, and the catfish was disconnected. But after a time it was all back together and we prepared to head on down the river. In the process the barges were turned around so that we would be facing the proper direction to disembark.
The barge went through the Algiers locks into the Algiers canal. Then it was another 45 minutes down to our moorage. Again it took a while to get everything in order and line the two barges up beside each other. Then the rigs started heading off the barge. There was some worry about JW being able to leave because of he couldn't get his motor started, but the Catepillar tech showed up and got it running.
Finally it was our turn. We were among the last to hook up and it was easy to swing around and head onto the ramp. We waved goodbye to everyone and shortly reached solid land. Then it was simply a matter of retracing out path back to the Bayou Segnette State Park. We were in a different site, but we planned to stay there for the next four nights.
We found a Kinkos where we could collect email. We received 140 emails.
It rained Tuesday morning. After the rain we drove into New Orleans.
We drove into New Orleans, down St. Charles Avenue and along Bourbon Street.
We took our time getting out Wednesday morning, cleaning the trailer for the trip north. Al and Jo Comen made it out before us and we said our goodbyes as they drove by on the road. Finally packed, we went by to dump and were on the road at 9:45.
I decided to avoid the Huey P. Long bridge and continued northwest on US-90 to Interstate-310. We crossed the river on the bridge we had photographed only five days before and soon turned west on I-10. The truck pulled the rig along smoothly, except for the occasional heave in the road.
At Baton Rouge we left I-10 to take I-110 to the north. Baton Rouge just did not look like what we remembered from the barge. At the north end of town we exited to US-61 and headed north.
Finally we reached Vicksburg and took the entrance ramp onto I-20, heading west. I knew the exit was soon, but was surprised when we merged on the left and had to cross three lanes to the Washington Street exit on the right in about 200 yards. Luckily, there were not too many cars so we made it, but it was not comforting.
We pulled into the Isle of Capri RV Park. Luckily we had reservations, for they were already booked full. We were assigned a fine pull-through site and set up. They wanted to be sure we visited the Isle of Capri Casino and enrolled as a Gold Card Member. We went down and enrolled and then spent the rest of the afternoon gambling. Then we stayed for the buffet. The office was closed when we got back to the rig, so Alice had to check with them the next morning.
Each site has a phone line, and when I tried to set it up in the dark, I was not successful. The next morning I was more successful and downloaded another 50 emails. We went back to the casino for breakfast.
After lunch we drove around town and shopped. We went by the Army Corps of Engineers office on Clay Street and collected some literature and video tapes about their work. We then visited the old ACE offices, now home of the Mississippi River Commission, in downtown Vicksburg. I talked with the security guard and the publicity lady. She gave me a good Internet site to check for river news.
We went to WalMart to shop for stuff and groceries. We bought a 20" fan. It feels good to have the air moving around.