Below are the diary entries for June 30, 2007. We drove 242 miles (387 km) today; in total, we have driven 2522 miles (4035 km). Also, check out today’s photos.
Today the idea was to drive half a day to Johnson City, TX, and then to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson historical site. However, we're finding that we haven't really done something that specially interests Mark on this trip yet. Frank has had his Atlanta airport visit (brief, but it was clearly for him only). Nicoline and I have been the impetus behind most of the other visits. When we noticed an "exotic petting zoo" in Johnson City among the brochures at the Texas welcome center, we wanted to fit that in as well.
However, that leaves us with not a lot of time. We drive more or less in a straight line from our hotel near Houston to Johnson City, only making a brief photo-and-pit-stop along the road (where Nicoline notices a big spider behind a tree).
Here we take a hour-and-a-half long tour, starting at two. This is a difficult decision, as we're not sure how much time it leaves us for the exotic zoo. But after all, this LBJ ranch is the main reason we're visiting Johnson City in the first place.
The tour takes us over the Pedernales River, which is swollen because of the recent rainfall, to a replica of president Johnson's birth house.
I finally get a chance to take a picture of Mark in the T-shirt he bought in New Orleans. The tour takes us further along the Johnson ranch, where we see plenty of deer, the "Texas White House," the airstrip that can be used by small planes and cows that are bred mostly to stay the way they were in the 1960's.
After the Johnson site we hurry to the exotic petting zoo. I guess Mark will describe this in more detail, but here are some of the pictures from there.
And a panorama from the parking lot:
Finally we go to Pedernales State Park, where we have a tent site reserved for the night. I'm working on putting up the tent while Nicoline prepares a pancake dinner. The park only allows to tents per site, and Frank decides to sleep in the car, rather than share a tent with Mark (Frank is not very anxious about the whole camping thing in the first place).
When we're done with setting up camp and eating, Mark and I walk down to the Pedernales river, which is clearly very swollen. It's getting very dark by now, so the pictures aren't too good (I didn't drag my tripod down).
Then it is dark and we go to sleep. Tomorrow we want to get up really early (at the crack of dawn) to have enough time to drive to Carlsbad, NM and visit the Carlsbad Caverns.
Well, the first day in Texas. You feel very small and insignificant in a landscape as big as this. I can't help but wonder what it must have been like for earlier settlers. I mean, we travel in the comfort of an airconditioned car over paved roads with plenty of conveniences and have accurate maps and all that. Part of the mission of the Lewis and Clark expedition was to provide accurate maps of the area the U.S. had just purchased. Of course Texas wasn't part of that, but I doubt the Spanish had mapped their New World possessions very thoroughly. Even Lewis and Clark were instructed to look for the fabled Northwestern Passage! But to travel into an area on horseback or in a horse-drawn wagon, with only the most rudimentary of maps if any, without knowing what lies ahead of you, or if you're going to find food or water, making perhaps 30 or 40 miles a day when you have no idea how far the land stretches, doesn't just take undaunted courage but quiet determination as well.
Anyway, from Houston we drive to Johnson City in Texas Hill Country. We first visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National and State Park, where we take a tour of the Johnson Ranch, including the house that was called the Texas White House during his presidency. He loved this land, and it is easy to see why. It is beautiful! Just the skies are a source of amazement, it is never the same two minutes on end and it may be raining one minute and bright and sunny the next.
From the Johnson Ranch we go to and exotic zoo and petting farm, because we've yet to do anything that Mark especially enjoys. And boy, does he enjoy it. He feeds deer and camels and buffalo and ostriches and heaven only knows what other critters. Frank and I aren't so keen on animals and we especially dislike the male ostrich who thinks nothing of sticking his head into the trolley and grabbing the feed right out of the bucket. Mark also gets to spend a good half hour at the petting zoo, refreshing his goat-handling skills, before we head out to Pedernales State Park (the locals pronounce it Perdenales, by the way) where we have reserved a camping spot.
It's pretty late by the time we get there, so it's all I can do to finish the cooking and washing up before dark. It's a shame, because it's a *beautiful* park and I would have liked to explore it further. The kids also wanted to go swimming but I don't let them, because the river has just flooded and is still kind of high, according tot he park ranger. He also had a story about a narrow escape one family had just a week or two ago. They had to be rescued from the river by helicopter and only just made it to safety. Besides, it is so humid that the wet towels and swimming trunks will never get dry before we have to pack everything up again. We all go to bed early because we want to leave for New Mexico early in the morning. Frank sleeps in the car, because his allergies are acting up. Also, it saves putting up and taking down a tent.
So, the trip in and of itself has been going nicely, more so than earlier. New Orleans was actually a really cool city. The drive in was also really nice, crossing lake Ponchartrain -- that 26-mile-long causeway. I got some really nice pictures of the sky over said lake there:
I especially liked the Bourbon street... that was really fun. If you walk past a certain point after around 6ish in the PM, the people on the balconies throw Mardi Gras beads at you. I got 2 green beads :). Lots of drunk people there... There were some very interesting shirts on display there, one of which my brother bought. It says, "I got bourbon faced on shit street." Some other interesting ones include, "F**k milk, got pot?" (Without the stars, of course), and "I've got the body of a God -- Buddah." Things like that, and "Big Ass Beers", along with "Hand Grenades" (the type of glass the beer is served in...) etc. makes bourbon street - indeed, New Orleans in general worth a visit. The hotel was nice too, but the swimming pool smelled really funky.
The next morning, we got up, and went to the Café du Monde for breakfast, a 20 minute walk from the hotel. It was already plenty warm by the time we got there. We had French beignets (loaded with tons of powdered sugar, which my dad saw fit to eat with a spoon... pure sugar... the crazy) .
After that, we headed to the ferry to take it over to Algiers (?) or something to that effect. We quickly popped our heads into the World of Mardi Gras workshop type thing. We headed back, and went to the Riverwalk (mall) where Mark and I ate pizza (however, not after he had a SNAFU with the number of slices to be ordered...)
Thereafter we went to the WWII/D-Day museum and walked around there before walking for 45 minutes to the Park Ranger creole music thingy... By the way, the WWII museum there was really worth the visit, a lot of knowledgeable people (a WWII vet whose life had been saved by the famed Higgins landing craft was there, my brother and I learned a lot about the landing craft from him. For instance, did you know that the landing craft used in the movie Saving Private Ryan were really Korea and Vietnam-era landing craft, because the authentic WWII landing craft were scrapped after WWII.) Anyway, after that, we headed back to the hotel, ate more pizza, and went to sleep.
After we left New Orleans, yesterday (June 29th), we headed out to Texas, passing a quaint little Cajun Music museum in Eunice, where we stopped for lunch. We headed out, and when we reached Texas , we stopped at the welcome center. Would you believe that they are still proud of supporting the idiot-in-chief?! I never knew such people still existed.
We drove down to Gilchrist, and swam in the Gulf for a little while (my dad lost my flip-flops which I so dearly loved :) ) . We ate dinner at a pizza place, where we had our first experience with real-live red necks (!!!). Their necks *are* really red. Anyway, when we left, my mom was bitching, to which my dad said, "mom doesn't bitch", to which my mom replied, indignantly, "I do so bitch!". It was funny...
We crossed from Port Bolivar to Galveston via a ferry, which was very interesting , and we drove until around 10pm, when we pulled into a Super 8, and headed off to dream land.
Today, we've driven around 300 miles as of writing, coming up to Johnson City now. We'll see how today turns out.