Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Texas bound and flying

As you may recall in the last instalment we were out the back of beyond and not entirely sure of our exact location on the map, but now with some light on the situation, life got much easier.  Chris took to the wheel and I guided him back through the series of lefts and rights we had taken the night before. It seemed longer headed back out, but soon we reached our first major road and from there it was all plain sailing. We pointed ourselves south, following signs for New Orleans.

We dropped back onto the I-10 and put some miles behind us, before swapping out drivers at lunch time. We didn’t have to far to go after that before bailing on the day for another night in a motel in yet another satellite town called Slidell. From here we planned to research New Orleans and come up with a few activities for the next day’s entertainment. We had arrived quite early at the motel and only the head house keeper was there manning, or ‘womanning’ the front desk. She gave us the price and told us which rooms were already cleaned, but was unsure on the checking in process. So we waited around for 10 or so minutes till the Manager returned and booked us in. Unfortunately this time we had to pay for the Wi-Fi, which was the first time since Las-Vegas.

We moved our things into the room and started to look for things to do but alas the Internet was not working. So we both took time to clean ourselves up and veg out in front of the tele box for a few hours to see if the Internet would ever come online. It did, for a brief second allowing us to momentarily log in and bring up Google, immediately after it disappeared again. It was getting a bit silly now so Chris headed to the front desk and asked what they could do to help. He returned with a new code and a number for a help-line. We tried the new code but without active internet we couldn’t get to our log-in page, so it was time to try customer service. For the first time we experienced terrible customer service and were told the Wi-Fi was working perfectly, Chris attempted to get his point across but with no luck.

It was now getting dark and both famished we headed outside to see what we could find, but once more no pavement was to be found and with us being right next to a very busy intersection right off the interstate we thought better of it and returned to the Suburban. Suddenly Chris’s phone began to buzz as it connected to Wi-Fi and alerted Chris to all of his various notifications. Without even glancing at the barrage of social nonsense Chris searched for restaurants around our 20. There was a lot, from the golden arches to a small Chinese take away. As always Steak was the meal of choice so just half a mile away on the other side of the freeway was a choice of 2. Spoilt for choice and dumbfounded by the concept of having to drive such a pathetic distance, we drove, to the restaurant, the Texas steakhouse.

Once inside we saw the cheesiest looking attempt at a barn interior, but this is America and we have accustomed to their garish attempts and interior d├ęcor. We sat down in our booth and glanced at the menu before realising it was horrendously cold. Another note to all of you back home, you need to take a jumper with you to go into a shop, public building or restaurant, seriously so cold! Chris headed back to grab his jumper while I sucked it up and got on with ordering a couple of steaks. They arrived shortly after and we tucked into more delicious meat. Paid the cheque and headed back over to the Motel where the internet was not working, for a change. With nothing left to do we turned in for an early night.

We woke reasonably early and tested for the glorious and illusive interweb. No luck. So we decided to both turn over and take a lie-in. Suddenly it was 9 and still no internet so we packed up and got ready to leave which took us up to check out time. Checked out and none the wiser as to what to do in New Orleans we hopped up into our trusty bus and turned the key. At that exact moment Chris’s phone buzzed once more and we had the internet. We attempted to look for hostels in Houston and book them up as we wouldn’t stop again in an actual bed until we hit the Texan city. Unfortunately it dropped before we could make the booking or had a chance to research anything, so a quick trip back to the motel reception to grab some pamphlets and we were off.
The drive to New Orleans was fairly uneventful with very little to note other than the impressive bridge we crossed as we entered the final few miles.

 We were slightly surprised that it didn't look damaged at all, for some reason we both envisaged it still to be largely deserted or under construction. After about 10minutes of discussion we realised that we were being stupid as it was 7 years ago when hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf town and so we should expect no less than what we could see. As we turned onto the road that would lead us to our parking spot there was a distinct lack of road, all ripped up ready for fresh tarmac by the seam of it? We bumped our way rather uncomfortably to our parking lot and paid the meter before looking at our fliers. There was nothing really to note, as one of the guys we met in Vegas said, New Orleans is a great place to drink. The reason it’s a great place to drink is because there is nothing else to do there.

Still we wondered down through the French quarter expecting some nice buildings with a little bit of character, or just anything a bit different. Unfortunately it looks like most of it was lost to Katrina and many were clearly modern renderings of the buildings that once stood there. New building attempting to look old somehow don’t quite look right, they’re straight for one. Timber warps and bows as it ages, but each and every building was perfectly straight and it just seemed ugly. Never the less we carried on wandering through the mismatch of buildings and bars till we had seen enough of the “new” French quarter.

 We eventually headed south to the river for a bit of peace and quiet from the construction noise and the hustle and bustle of our fellow tourists. We sat for a while trying to picture how it would have looked as Katrina struck and the aftermath left in her wake, we even looked around for tell-tale signs, again realising it was 7 years ago and everything would have been fixed or recovered. 

We carried on along the river before finally walking back along the edge of the gigantic sky scrapers that filled the business district. We took a brief detour in search of some more license plates but there were none and so we headed back to the car park and headed out.

We took a short detour through some of the rougher neighbourhoods as we expected these to be the areas still bearing the scars of 7 years ago, but again it had been repaired, so we put the hammer down and attempted to head west.

 Unfortunately my planned route took us to a dead end as I was trying to picture the map I had viewed the night before. In the end we had to use my least favourite companion the dreaded Sat-nav. For once she got us pointed the right way and before we knew it we were sailing up the freeway. We pulled in just before sunset to a rest area, just north of Baton Rouge, hoping to cook and bed down for the night. Alas our luck really was out today and it was largely under construction and I felt it was best to push on to the next one about 60miles further north where we didn’t have to worry about being disturbed by noisy builders. The sunset was beautiful once more as we drove into it and before we knew it we were barrelling onwards into the dark.

 Progress had slowed slightly as we passed through the Baton Rouge traffic but we were still on target to make the rest area by 8. But as I was always told by my old friend Mike, bad luck comes in 3’s, and our third hit us right in the plums. Dog tired and drained we were excited as our exit number got nearer and nearer only for us to be heartbroken at the final hurdle as a big ‘Closed’ sign hung over the exit sign. Seriously it just wasn’t our day. I pulled the map from under the seat once more and frantically searched for anywhere that we could rest up in. a further 20 miles north was our best hope, another state park would have to do we just had to get there before the gates closed. Chris put the hammer down and we made our exit and blasted down the twisty back roads in search of Chicot state park. The road seemed to go on forever and the state park just never appeared. We had all but given up hope when finally we saw the sign, but our celebrations were short lived as it was still a 5 mile drive to the entrance into the park and a further 1.5 to the campground. But sure enough we had made it, just. Chris set to cooking our meal while I prepped the sleeping quarters once more. It had been a long tiring day and soon we were both flat out right through until morning.

We were now Texas bound and flying. Well once Chris wrote up his CV and we’d cleaned ourselves and the gear back up. We rolled out just before lunch and accidentally found ourselves out of the park. The road was only one way too so we had no choice but to carry on. I felt bad that we hadn’t paid this time after we had met so many lovely hosts previously it somehow felt like we were cheating them. It was too late to worry now we were almost back on the I-49. Despite the seemingly short distance remaining on the map it took us the rest of the day to hit the border. By now the sunny skies were all but gone and we found ourselves trucking through a few inches of standing water and with the light fading. We were hoping to get well inside Texas before we stopped for the night but with the weather getting even worse we bailed on the driving and shot into the welcome centre quite literally on the border. We were a little weary that there was security constantly patrolling but we had had enough and took a chance. We made some sandwiches ate copious quantities of chocolate chip cookies and bedded down. When we awoke the skies had cleared and the infromation centre was now open, so we headed inside and grabbed as many leaflets as we could carry. Just in case we end up with no Internet again. We got ourselves together and we are now on our way for some big adventures in the big state. 

sorry about the delay, plenty more to come :)