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(….a short reminder: With our defective jeep – the clutch couldn’t be operated any more – we landed at Presley’s Outing, very south of Mississippi.)
Lynn Presley from the outing of the same name gave us a pre-Christmas present with the “Switzerland-Day”. We had a whole 6 days free house, or better said a caravan at our disposal, he organized the car repair, the towing service and did much more for us, as if we were old friends who would give each other the last one. On the first evening we were allowed to enjoy a very good dinner in his restaurant – free to choose! When we spoke to Lynn Presley about his hospitality, he said it was short and dry; it was the same in the southern states – simply down-to-earth and a big open heart.
After a long time back and forth and additional material orders from the repair shop it was finally time to pick up our Jeep-li.
We could have stayed a long time and Lynn Presley regretted that we wanted to continue immediately. But our urge westwards and towards New Orleans was big.
The sky was covered with thick clouds and so we decided to drive directly along the coast towards Louisiana.
With a long detour to Baton Rouge – there was the big Christmas present for the little boy – and via Francisville at the Mississippi we reached New Orleans.
In Francisville and in the hinterland along the border Louisiana-Mississippi we could still marvel at many former mansions of the big landowners and the ownership conditions are probably still the same as before hundred or two hundred years.
During the eastern approach from New Orleans we were catapulted into another world.
In addition to the Vietnamese settlements, many residential quarters of the simple population followed, where the priorities are not the same as with the seen houses in the countryside or still outside the agglomeration of New Orleans.
Our Christmas this year was rather modest at the campsite in the middle of town and was accompanied by lots of fireworks well into the night. For us it was also very special; although we are here voluntarily, we missed our kids and the family Christmas in far away Switzerland very much.
As a Christmas menu we enjoyed a ready-made fondue – made in Switzerland (Emmi) – which we had discovered here in the southern states in a large special shop. Anyway, we enjoyed this unusual feast and were quite disappointed that the pan was empty relatively quickly.
New Orleans is special at Christmas time and we enjoyed the city walks very much. We were especially enthusiastic about the French Quarter; one could still spend days there until one really experienced everything. The people radiate a lot of joie de vivre and one really hears music in all corners; simply very traveling.
We left New Orleans in a southwesterly direction, where the sugar cane was harvested on large fields. What many workers used to do by hand is now done by a few people with big machines that dig through the damp ground and transport the sweet poles to the roadside.
Shortly before Morgan City the picture changed abruptly; big shipyards produce everything the offshore business needs. But when we passed through we didn’t really know whether they were shipyards or scrap dealers: a huge chaos of rusty engine and ship parts. Since there seems to be enough space available, everything is somehow left as it was once set up. Maybe you can use it again!
Hardly further on, some raw material is removed with huge excavators and transported away with countless trains around the clock.
Before crossing the border to Texas, wide areas follow where nature is left to its own devices and countless protected areas replace each other. During the times of bird migration there is probably a lot going on here and must be pure paradise for bird connoisseurs.
Few holiday settlements soon make it clear that over in Texas the big money is not earned in agriculture, but with oil. The buildings and holiday residences also look like this, and there is a lot of building work going on.
We saw the smoking chimneys of the refineries of Port-Arthur as well as the drilling and production facilities outside in the Gulf of Mexico from far away. The priorities here are probably different: no bathing tourism on the white beaches, but a lot of industrial land where all kinds of products are made from the black juice.
That all these products have to be removed somehow, we felt directly on the road, or heard the many trains through half the night, how they operated their signal horn several times before each road crossing (for Thomas of course a homely feeling….)
Instead of crossing Houston, we made a stop in the Sam Houston National Forest to the north and once again enjoyed the peace and quiet far away from the human hectic. The mild Christmas weather gave way to some disturbance; it became fresher and more uncomfortable every day. The warming fire in the evening made camping a bit more bearable, but we had expected somewhat milder temperatures here in the south.
So it went quickly over the country Austin towards. Wide farm areas with huge cattle herds accompanied us towards the capital. On some farm areas there are countless oil pumps where black gold is pumped out of the ground for additional income in the shrinking farm business. At the same time we were always surprised that the wealth and the poor conditions are right next to each other; here a splendid country estate, next door a poor dwelling, where the people live quasi in a wooden shack.
New Year’s Eve we experienced in Austin on the camping site, and we celebrated twice the turn of the year: Already at 5 o’clock in the afternoon the first cork cone flew through the air and was commented in the neighbourhood immediately accordingly. Later we followed the invitation of the common family meeting and miniature train across the square. It was very special and as we have seen before, the Americans love it very kitschy. So we also made some works of art from glowing sticks and used many glowing things – of course everything from China – and so we went on a moving tour.
At midnight of course the cork from the second bottle banged and the many fireworks around us started the new year. Well then, Prosit New Year, the Americans love that too; a lot of noise and great fireworks.
The weather forecasts for the first days of the new year didn’t promise too good: A lot of cold air is supposed to flow from the Rockys to the Gulf of Mexico, and massive precipitation is announced. So we immediately adapted our itinerary to the new conditions; in the very south of Texas it should be a little warmer.
The stay in Austin was accordingly short. In a capital city all important things are closed on national holidays and so there was only one drive through the city centre; of course on all possible side roads and dead ends.
Quickly we lost the skyscrapers in the rear view mirror, already we stood far outside in the “Ranchland”, where thousands of kilometers of barbed wire fence in the respective possessions and large prohibition signs immediately forbid driving on a side way.
Besides many cows the oil pumps are more and more numerous and the further south we were towards the sea, the more lucrative must be the business with the black gold. Everywhere the old pumps with the flywheel and the long lever arm are replaced by new and more efficient systems.
The clouds were already low in the hilly hinterland, and it was more than just fresh. When a gas station attendant in Yorktown somehow made it clear to us that it could snow here as well, we immediately dashed towards the Gulf of Mexico. The following night at the coast was still quite windy and colder than expected. So we shivered towards the next day and hoped that it could get a little warmer here, far in the south.
Our wish came true soon: Already before Corpus Christi the clouds became less and the sun laughed more and more. Soon we had T-shirt weather, too, and so we curled along Corpus Christi-Bay through the village of the same name.
We liked the beach promenade very much and the rounding of the bay always gave a wonderful view of the center, but the center as well as the long suburbs made us rather a sleepy impression. Probably everyone was already outside on the offshore islands, enjoyed the nice weather on the beach and engaged in some kind of water sports.
Soon we were also a part of these pleasure people and settled somewhere on the beach for the next nights. In the national park located southeast we had almost fool’s freedom, since all national parks were closed down by the failed budget decision in Washington and the coworkers were sent in unpaid vacation. The access to the park was nevertheless open and could be entered at one’s own risk. Tourist facilities and other Park facilities, however, were closed and secured with heavy chains. (…even outside in the park itself one could feel the absence of the rangers immediately. The visitors did not keep to the simplest basic rules and behaved as if it was the last day!)
So we enjoyed three wonderful days at the sea, where we could park our jeep as we felt it was right. Sunsets as well as sunrises, starry skies to see and animals in all directions. The evening fires were the dot on the “i”, and the past cold days were already forgotten.
In a big arc through the hinterland we passed again through endless ranch land, where again and again big signs point out that one should eat more meat, followed by even bigger fields, where mainly cotton and sugar cane are cultivated, until we finally got lost on a military base. The green jeep with the red sand plates and bicycles on the rear carrier did not fit into the picture and we were immediately ordered back on the right track.
And then, very south in Texas and just before the border to Mexico, the shock hit us several times:
First we crossed the bridge to South Padre Island, where we expected a bit more natural coastline again, and then skyscrapers and other holiday resorts blocked the view to the sea!
At the club campground – where we are members – we were not even taken in and were expelled! Probably our jeep with camping equipment did not fit them completely, or it was simply too small to get a proper place on the place between the mega-sized campers.
At the next campground I had to sign every single rule after the payment and a free cancellation was no longer possible!
On the assigned place we recovered slowly from the shortly before experienced and the funky company from all corners of the USA put us up again soon.
Well, this corner really is multi-faceted.
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