Already 85 days?! That’s amazing. Time is flying by and we’ve still got so much to see!!! Just heaven.
Kids and I are at a little local library outside Houston, Texas. We goofed off a lot this week, so we’re doing school Saturday so we can goof off again most of next week… it works out. They are both almost done with math for the year, then will finish their other subjects and we’ll buy workbooks that they can work on while we drive. Hunting for wi-fi is a pain!
When Dan and I traveled in 1998, we didn’t have cell phones, internet access or a mobile hotspot. If we wanted to call someone we had to find a pay phone, have the right change, or have a calling card with enough time. When we made reservations, we couldn’t see the place we’d be staying and all reservations were made over the phone. Now we have access by our phones, free wi-fi all over, and sometimes the RV park wi-fi works. I don’t know which is better. It’s a joy to be able to look up facts and driving directions on our phones, but the games that hook the kids in make us crazy. It’s great to do background work for each city and park, but the information online isn’t always correct when we arrive. It’s nice to see more information about the parks where we are staying, but so far, they all stretch the truth. And when you make the reservation online with your VISA (required) and get there and it’s junk, you’re stuck.
Like our last park in Hudson Bend, outside Austin, Texas. We were so excited. Looked incredible online. Huge sites, grassy, pool/hot tub, game room, dog run, playground, you name it, they had it. People were nice when Dan called. Great location in a new area, surrounded by water. Ha. Let me just be polite and say they could have charged us half what we paid and it would still be too much. I try to leave thank you notes with each place because people are so nice, but this time I went in a few times and talked to the front desk. I knew they weren’t aware of what was going on, but eesh, what a pain!
Austin itself made up for the park, however, and we were grateful. What a cool little college town. I can see why my friends who went there for college wanted to stay forever. Vibrant downtown with tons of building going on. Beautiful parks and the first green grass we’ve seen since Northern California. Little shops that made me want to buy things I didn’t need or want.
We visited Lance Armstrong’s bike shop and we could have hung out all day. Has a little cafe inside and people were talking about rides to do or rides they had done. Everyone was happy to be there. The bikes, parts and clothes for sale were all way nicer than Bend, and so were the prices.
They were setting up for SXSW while we were walking around and it looked like it was going to be fun. Bands on top of buildings. Comedy at the convention center. Films screened in different locations. None of which would involve 2 teenagers and their tired, older parents. Definitely a younger vibe.
So we left Austin Thursday and drove to Houston. Dan got us from the west side of Austin to the east side, then I took over down Hwy 71, to 10. Beautiful drive until about 12 miles outside Houston where it got knarly. Crazy traffic in all lanes, with construction and on ramps in odd places. I could barely keep my eyes on everything and definitely drove under the speed limit. We pulled in to the RV park and went to check in, happy to be there right before rush hour. One of the employees was an older gentlemen and he had the gall to tell me how proud he was of me for driving our RV. I just smiled and thought how lucky he was to be on the other side of a huge counter!
One of Dan’s childhood friends came over to visit and we had a relaxing time talking by the lake. Joe Kresse is possibly one of the nicest human beings we know, and it was wonderful to get to spend time with him. He’s so funny! Made the kids laugh, too, and they needed that because they haven’t been teased by anyone else in awhile.
We spent yesterday with him, too. While touring the state capitol, we learned that after the Alamo, the battle at San Jacinto is where they finally got Santa Anna to surrender, so we wanted to see it. Near LaPorte, Texas, it was a long drive from our side of town, but Joe accomplished it in record time. The speed limit was 75 in some places and he did that and more.
The monument itself was awe-inspiring. We saw it from a mile away between the refinery’s stacks and smoke. It stands 570 tall, taller than the Washington Monument in DC. They said it is an Art Deco style, but that’s not what you would think when you see it. We paid the fee to ride the elevator to the observation tower, even though the place was packed with a school group and spring break families.
The view out the little windows was great. Not big and wide open like the Tower of America’s windows, but still good. To the east was the ground where the Mexican Army was camped out, and to the west were the Texans. A little hill in between, and maybe a mile. On April 20, 1936, the two armies had a minor squirmish and then retreated. Santa Anna then made his men stay up all night to fortify their position. The next day after lunch, while some were taking a siesta and others were still eating, Sherman and his men attacked from the front and the rear. He is credited with the cry, “Remember the Alamo!” as they were charging. The battle only lasted 18 minutes and is said to have ended the war. Santa Anna surrendered to Sam Houston the next day under a tree famous in every painting and which we couldn’t find. Pretty cool history.
Also cool was the area we were in. I had no idea that 25% of the US’ petroleum refining capacity was located around the Port of Houston. I thought it would smell, but maybe we weren’t close enough. There were miles of oil tanks and buildings and ships going in and out of the harbor. But gas is more expensive here than anywhere else on our trip, at $3.35/gallon! I know, supply and demand and greed; that we’ve learned on this trip.
After a quick picnic lunch with red ants, we went over to view the USS Texas. The only ship to have participated in the wars as part of the Atlantic and Pacific fleet, it has seen better days. They were setting up all over the grounds for a huge benefit to be held today. The friends of the ship non-profit group is trying to raise enough money to move the engines so they can repair the floor, before the engines fall through. Everything above water looked great and a man I spoke with said he’s been working on it as a volunteer for over 5 years. We didn’t take the tour because there were too many people, it was $12/each, and we’d had enough learning for one day…
So we headed down the highway to Galveston! We figured because we were so close, we might as well. So glad we went with Joe! He knew where to go and gave us a great tour. The Old Town Area looked very similar to Sacramento’s Old Town, just not as big. The stretch of “beach” by the water was not what we expected. Due to all the storms, they’ve placed huge boulders on the beach, so there is little actual beach. The sea wall was about 12′ high and Nate wasn’t able to run completely up it. There were a few piers still standing, and you could see where the old ones were before Ike hit.
The commercial aspect of it was more like the Jersey coast than the Oregon coast, but it was still very exciting to see. We made it from Oregon all the way to the Gulf of Mexico! (Or the Gulf of Texas as I accidentally called it and will never live down.) I made everyone get in and we took a funny picture as a wave hit. We’ve driven over 4,000 miles, no accidents, and everyone is still talking to each other. That’s amazing.