T002 Alabama to Texas

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Click to see the 19 photos  and route map for this trip segment.

VHF radio traffic with the Coffeeville Lock jolted us to alertness. We looked out and watched boats we’d seen leaving Demopolis early in the morning pass our waterfront location on their way to the lock. For the first time in years we remained rock steady as boat wakes rolled in. Fifty feet of land separated the Trek from the water. The Army Corps of Engineers campsite provided a beautiful setting overlooking the water and helped ease our transition from water to land travel. We loved the wilderness setting and stayed a second day leaving the handheld VHF to serve as a sentry to alert us to the boat traffic we could no longer feel.

Drippy rain, bone chilling dampness, and smothering, foggy gloom with us since we started winterizing Odyssey hung on. We passed the time enjoying the Trek’s warm interior while we played: Where did we put…? Of course we relocated some found items to more logical locations, which on occasion prompted a new round of: Where did we put…?

The private RV park write up sounded nice, and we were concerned regarding space availability so we called for a reservation. Space was no problem, and we were told we’d be the first occupants of their new expansion. There we sat, the only RV in a five-acre field whose smoothness was broken only by utility poles sticking up for electrical, water and sewer connections. A thin layer of gravel didn’t quite cover the freshly worked red clay and sandy soil. We settled in. sorted out the cable hook up and got the TV running for the first time as we again played: Where did we put…?

Dauphin Island; barely a mile wide, starts at the western edge of Mobile Bay and stretches seven miles along the Alabama coast. It was an ideal place for two water cruisers working at adapting to land cruising to become more comfortable ashore. An RV park at the far eastern end of the island became home as we explored and teased out the island’s uniqueness. Provisions were just a couple of easy bike riding miles away at the grocery/hardware store near the bridge. From our shady site we could hear ocean swells rolling ashore on the beach just through the trees.

The outer edges of Hurricane Ivan had reconfigured the shoreline bringing the beach a few hundred feet inland. Many beachfront homeowners now have their patio doors opening to an inconvenient three-foot drop directly into the ocean. They faired a bit better than the far western end of the island where homes became flotsam littering beaches and a large portion of the sandy treeless end of the island. There we discovered a hurricane cleanup activity we knew nothing about—sand sifting. Huge pay loaders and lines of trucks transported sand to a massive sifting machine. Clean sand headed back to the beach while trash piled up along side the sifter waiting for disposal. The island’s mix of parks, beaches, quiet places to walk and bike ride provided five days of exploring as we enjoyed just staying in one place for a bit.

Following the Gulf coast we crossed over to Mississippi. Intrigued with RV parks being listed in the city stopped at Biloxi. What once might have been a charming town with an interesting historic downtown felt like it could now serve as the model for a case study in bad urban planning. The final blow seemed to be the line of waterfront casinos sitting like large lumps surrounded by parking lots in what once might have been charming waterfront neighborhoods.

The RV park in New Orleans offered zero charm. It turned into a lake when it rained, was in a run down industrial area, and was surrounded by a high fence with a serious security gate. It did have two great items. First it had a Wi-Fi connection for Internet access. Most importantly it was only a 2-minute walk to the city bus and then a 10-minute ride to the French Quarter. The French Quarter served as a base point for exploring the city further.

A ferryboat ride gave us our water fix and took us to Tangiers and the Mardi Gras float warehouse and work shop. It was remarkable seeing the huge floats being refurbished for the next Mardi Gras. As stunning was seeing some of the shotgun homes now becoming popular with the upwardly mobile and now commanding astounding prices.

Streetcars let us explore the outer reaches of the city. We rode to the end of the line and then walked the city park with its fascinating sculpture garden, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We hiked on north finding Lake Pontchartrain and its odd lake view with a bridge running off over the horizon. On another day we spotted krewe beads hanging from trees as we rode the streetcar along a Mardi Gras parade route toward the Garden District. There we spent a morning enjoying a guided tour of the area seeing the charming homes, hearing the gossip of wealthy residents’ disagreements, and being fascinated by the haunting above-ground cemetery.

We haven’t traveled all the country’s roads, but so far Louisiana’s are at the bottom for both design and condition. Shoulders seem non-existent and their overall condition is poor. We bumped along stopping at an enchanting state park, spending time in Cajun country, and then a few miles later riding into a huge spread of ugly refineries converting oil from offshore into the gas for our RV tank.

What an interesting dilemma. Goose Island State Park in Texas offers a choice of either a site overlooking the Gulf or a site surrounded by woods and dense brush. We chose the latter enjoying the privacy. We thought we’d have to drive each day to see whooping cranes reported to be at the bird sanctuary nearby. Instead we found a pair had come visiting and we spent time watching them wade the shore. As we explored the Texas shore, Ruth’s life list exploded with new birds.

After many years of invitations we arrived at Jim and Celina’s charming home overlooking the Gulf. We tucked the Trek into their side yard and enjoyed our friends’ hospitality while having our own Trek guesthouse. It was fun getting our own private tour of Corpus Christi and hearing about the city from our very knowledgeable friends. It was a treat meeting Celina’s mother. Our hosts have a gracious hospitality that makes one instantly comfortable.

At their urging we borrowed their car and drove north to Goliad to see first hand a bit of Texas history. Goliad is probably more important to Texas history and Texas becoming a state than the Alamo. It is just as bloody, but since it lacked famous people getting killed there it is hardly mentioned. Santa Anna had surrendered troupes massacured which caused protesters to unite. Within a few weeks he was forced to surrender at San Jacinto.

Our Goliad side trip was along arrow straight roads. In places board flat soybean fields stretched from road to horizon with only water sprinkler towers breaking the flatness. We learned an interesting Texas custom. Overtaking a slower vehicle we were surprised when it pulled over to the shoulder and slowed slightly allowing us to pass without having to cross the centerline. After about the third occurrence we figured this was normal and were soon watching our rearview mirror more closely and returning the courtesy.

The change in scenery made us eager to see more. It was time to start moving inland to begin to experience desert and mountains. We declined our friends’ kind invitation to extend our stay. One evening we said our good bys and early the next morning headed inland and west watching farmland give way to sparse grazing land.

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