Sunday, January 3, 2010

Seven Days On The Road ...on Our Way to Texas

The past week has been one of those rarer times for us when we decide to make our way quickly.  Usually we take our leisurely time.  Our stops might be from two nights to a month, as long as it takes for us to explore the area or just relax.  But there are, of course, exceptions.  So was the journey of the last seven days.  This one had a stated purpose. To make our way to Nacogdoches, Texas, to the home of Foretravel motorhomes, where we choose to have maintenance and repair work done, if possible. Nacogdoches is a convenient location if we plan our stops when passing from one side of the country to the other.   So, just as any home, we build the to-do list until the right time comes to take care of it.

But back to my point: the journey.  The day after Christmas we left the beautiful Florida Keys, after a happy Christmas Day with friends and family at  Key West.  Just a word about that before we go. This was my first visit to Key West and I wanted to do a little touristy stuff.  So Jerry and I walked down to the southernmost point of the U.S. and asked some fellow-silly-tourists to take our photo. Just because. 

We also enjoyed a tour through Hemingway's lifetime at his home and grounds located in downtown Key West. In keeping with the tradition that he began, some 44 cats live there, some of them with six toes and all named for famous people. Such as, the fellow with the black mustache - Charley Chaplin. We heard the tales of his writing, fishing and wives as told with flare by a local.  A walk down Duval Street, a stop at Hog's Breath Saloon and the street performers at Mallory Square put the icing on the day at Key West.

The next morning we said adios at the Knights Key Resort in Marathon where we had enjoyed several days of ocean views.  We pulled onto Highway 1 with the herd of other folks leaving this paradise on the one way out. It's slow-going for those 75 miles or so. But you are presented with the chance to slowly withdraw from this unique place where the vastness of the ocean surrounds you at all times.  The Keys are like a dribble of gravy that was spilled from the mass of country above it, stringing out there.   We moved with the flow and enjoyed the ride.
Up the road a piece, west of Miami about 40 miles on Highway 41, is a convenient place for a layover at the Miccasukee Casino. Well, at least it is a peaceful, easy place when it isn't the day after Christmas.  We spent a night surrounded by folks having just a wonderful time over their holiday break.  But, really, all went well.  We moved on  in the morning, rested and ready to go.  This part of the journey, east across The Everglades on highway 41 includes the entertainment of watching for alligators and crocodiles seen lounging in the channels along the side of the road.   They appear so peaceful and cute. (Ha, Ha! LOL) 

Up the road, just off I-75, we stopped overnight to see our friends, Bob and Nancy, who are winter residents in Punta Gorda.  They received for us a gift of Christmas cookies sent by Krissy (my daughter). It was fun to see them at their home and share an afternoon of laughs. But the next morning we set out on our mission once again -- Texas here we come.  As we traveled north on I-75 we chose two WalMart overnight stops. Our source for information on these and other stops is, using the info there to select locations close to our route, with ample space for parking, and in a safe location.  On a trip when we're just getting from one place to another, we use the Wally World stop quite often.  So it went for these two stops in Live Oak, Florida and Gulfport, Louisiana.

This brings us to approximately the halfway point in this particular journey. So whoa!  Not too much of these one-niters, even with our maintenance mission in mind.  The New Year holiday was fast approaching so we made a plan to pause.   Our next day's travel took us across Louisiana from Gulfport to Kinder, taking in the local flavor of the Louisiana bayous. Since we are familiar with the rv-friendly, Coushatta Indan casino at Kinder from past trips, we guided Ferd there with a plan for a two-nights' stop. We found others with the same idea.  By the second night, New Year's Eve, a full contingent of rvers arranged themselves neatly and comfortably in the area assigned. On past visits there were maybe two or three rvs parked across the lot at a distance.  But holiday traveling changes the story everywhere.  No problem though.  There's more than enough room at this casino.  That is, once we avoided the "close-parker" who, even though he had a spacious four-acre lot,  pulled so tight next to us we could share his leftovers.  I only mention this because it's so funny how these things happen. We decided it was similar to the Seinfeld, "close-talker" episode and we had to laugh.  That's when it's good to have wheels on your home.  In a few moments we settled in with reasonable neighbors and had a nice time contemplating the new year.
As a local tidbit of interest, we also learned during this holiday trip how important fireworks are on New Year's Eve in this area of the country. The stands along the highway are as prevalent as 4th of July.  The local newscasters give the locales where it is legal to shoot them off and where it is not. They also give warnings from the police.  It appears rural is yes and urban is no.  We were a little dissappointed we didn't see any, although we were out of town.  But, I have to admit, we only made the eastern time zone celebration for 2010. 

So, if you are traveling on highway 190 across Louisiana (avoiding the roller coaster area of I-10 near Baton Rouge), this casino has a well-lit, quiet and friendly parking space for you. There's an rv park and a hotel as well.  The shuttles run regularly to the casino and the food is good.

To start 2010,  we continued our travels across Louisiana and into Texas.  This trip was again along the state highways -- our preferred routes.  There are so many more interesting, local sites along these roadways. You know what we mean, don't you?  I guess, sometimes the difference (or beauty) is in the eye-of-the-beholder, as they say.  Anyway, just for s**ts and grins, I decided to keep track of various kinds of sitings along our path for a day.  So as we went along highway 190 northwest from Kinder, LA, into eastern Texas, onto highway 63 and north on highway 69 to Lufkin, then highway 59 north to Nacogdoches, I developed my list:

--    A few miles northwest of Kinder is Merryville, Louisiana, just a wide spot in the road.  The town has welcome signs at each end and candy canes line the main street for the holidays.  The local ball diamond waits for players and fans alongside the sign advertising "old-fashioned hamburgers" at Stu's Grill.  At the other end of town is Al's Hardware, a tiny store with a couple of pickups outside. You have to slow down here, but why not?

--     Heading into Texas on highway 190, nature called so we looked for a pulloff place.  The roadside stop that we came upon was a triple historic site.  Stretching our legs for a few minutes, we read three tales. One monument is a dedication to a Revolutionary War hero, Sergeant John Newton, for whom the county is named. Another historic marker tells the story of the local Confederates defending Texas and maintaining supply routes on the Sabine River. And the other relates to the construction of the roadside park by the National Youth Organization in 1936 to provide a safe place for travelers to relax and eat.  Little did we know we would have a 150-year history lesson on our rest stop.

-- As we progressed further northwest on highway 190 we came to Jasper. Their welcome sign tell us that there are 8247 people who live here and that the town is the "Jewel of the Forest."

-- The highway then leads through the Angelina National Forest. Here there were stretches with nothing but pine trees lining both sides of the highway, the sun blasting through the tall, slender, bare trunks with bushy tops, making shadows on the road.

-- A long way, it seemed, without any advertising.  Just signs for the recreation areas, cemeteries, county roads and historical markers.

-- Animals: longhorn cattle, donkeys, and goats at an occasional home along the way.

-- A hunting stand positioned in a field near a forested area.

-- Small campground near the Angelina River.

-- Double Heart Horse Ranch and RV Park.

-- A local church and graveyard.

-- More small homes, some with a horse or two.

-- Hunting vehicles behind pickup trucks.

-- Christmas decorations in front yards of homes and along the main street of Zavalla, TX.

-- Hay for Sale - Round or Square

-- Drivers in Texas driving on the side of the road to let people pass them.

-- Big, ugly, pink pigs half covered in mud.

-- Livestock exchange.
-- Livestock trailers for sale.
-- Several fireworks stands, that are now closed since the New Year celebration is over. 

      We arrived yesterday afternoon in Nacogdoches, a pleasant town... Another story.  I suppose we could have taken I-10 for a good portion of our trip and been here a little sooner.  But what about those muddy pigs and Christmas decorations and the history and................? 




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