Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Lone Star state

Houston, TX – It’s rather unnerving to be barreling along the interstate in completely strange territory, depending on directions from the GPS, only to hear it declare that you have arrived at your destination several miles sooner than expected, and halfway over a bridge where no RV park could possibly exist!

That’s what happened today, and we had to turn quickly to our backup information for the exit number and brief directions. Fortunately, we could actually see the RV park on the east-bound service road as we headed west to the exit point.  So we knew what to look for and approximately where it was.

Getting there was another story, with more chapters than are fit to be described here.  Suffice it to say, we got here in the end.  We are settled in Baytown, Texas, a suburb of Houston which we will use as a hub for our explorations here.

When we went to start the car at the end of our trip today, the battery was dead!  Our towing system requires us to put the car’s transmission in neutral to unlock the steering wheel, but this drains the battery.  We did quite a bit of driving around in Vicksburg, but somehow the charge was depleted anyway.  However, ever-resourceful Val brought a charger with us, so even as we speak, the problem is being resolved. He brought a tester too, but it died on us. With a properly functioning tester, we’ll be able to monitor this more closely.  It’s on our shopping list for tomorrow.

It was a chilly morning when we set out from Baton Rouge today, but the skies were clear and our route was pretty straightforward, once we got through the city.  As we crossed the high bridge over the Mississippi River on the east side of the city, I could look back and see a lot of heavy industrial activity, with smokestacks, huge storage tanks, and great tangles of transformer lines and towers.

Once we were in the countryside again, we rose up on an elevated section of highway through long tracts of swamp that continued for miles.  The vegetation was unlike anything you’d see in Canada, with stands of tupelo growing up out of the water with trunks looking like the grey legs of an elephant and spindly tops festooned with Spanish moss.

The Gulf of Mexico was only about 30 miles south of us, but we couldn’t really see any evidence of it, except for the wetlands.  By lunchtime, we’d made it past the state line between Louisiana and Texas, defined by the Sabine River.  Shortly afterward, we stopped at the Texas welcome center, marked by a huge lone star beside the highway, to find out about the places we’ll be passing through.

A raised boardwalk out the back door of the welcome center gave us a glimpse of swamp life up close.  We could look right down into the muddy ooze below and wonder how the alligators and snapping turtles could find a pathway through the tangle of rushes and reeds.  It was nice to be outdoors without jackets, thanks to the warm sun at last! We’re enjoying it while we’ve got it.

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