Our Cross-Country Trip

Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!

 

Mon-Wed, January 20-22: Baton Rouge, LA

We only had 60 miles to go to get to Baton Rouge from New Orleans.  But despite leaving at 9:30 a.m., we didn’t pull into the Cajun Country Campground until almost 1:30.   We made the mistake of getting on a major interstate (I-10) instead of our usual state roads (what we call the “red roads”), and we ran into a major accident where an 18-wheeler jack-knifed right into an overhead interstate road sign (those huge ones that go across 4 lanes!).  We were stuck between two exits with no way off it so we sat for the longest time listing to truckers gripe and joke about it on their CB’s.  When we finally passed it about 5 miles ahead, we saw the truck was on its side and the sign was lying on the side of the road next to it.

We did manage to get to the Baton Rouge Zoo with a couple of hours to spare before it closed, so we got to pet an elephant, an elk, and see lots more cool animals!

 

 

 Tuesday morning we drove down River Road, known as “Plantation Alley,” along the Mississippi River.  In the early 1800’s, this road was once home to more millionaires than any other place in America.   So it was strange to see such an interesting mix of homes now, from trailers & shacks with properties resembling junkyards to majestic Greek-revival style mansions that were once plantations of very rich families who raised sugar cane, 90% of which was produced in Louisiana.  There were sugar cane fields being burned for harvest along the road to our right.  To the left, you could only see the levee that was built to protect the area from Mississippi River floods.  

We stopped at the West Baton Rouge Museum to see a model of a sugar mill demonstrating how raw  sugar is made  from sugar cane.  We went into the original French Creole-style Aillet home built by Acadian decedent Jean Landry in c. 1830 that contained many original furnishings of the home. There was also a c. 1850 Allendale Plantation cabin that housed the slaves of sugar planter Henry Allen, last Confederate Governor of Louisiana and the man for whom Port Allen was named.  Two slave families lived in this cabin with a separate front door and two rooms and a fireplace inside each side.

     

Further down the road in White Castle, we stopped for a tour of Nottoway Plantation, supposedly the largest plantation home in the south.  The 53,000 sq ft 64-room home was built for John Randolph and his wife and eleven children.  Randolph, who ran a 7,000-acre sugar plantation, had 7 daughters and 4 sons. One of his daughters, Cornelia, called the home the “White Castle,” which is where the town got its name.  The mansion was built in the Italianate and Greek Revival style, had 22 cypress Corinthian columns supporting it, ornate plaster friezework, hand-carved marble mantels, hand-painted porcelain doorknobs and was amazing to see.  We decided to dine in elegance in their 19th century dining room, where we had Crawfish Ettoufee, a Cajun specialty of crawfish smothered in a brown spicy roux. 

After dinner, we continued down River Road and came across another tiny church claiming to be the “Smallest Church in the World” built in 1903 by Anthony Gullo for prayers answered.  We didn’t measure, but it did seem smaller around but taller than the one in Midway, GA.

To return to our campsite, we took the Sunshine Ferry across the Mississippi River to the west side. After watching a movie, we went to bed exhausted from our fun but very long day.

 

 

Passing by the swamps of Louisiana, our first stop was the Acadian Cultural Center and Acadian Village in Lafayette, LA, to learn the story about Acadians who settled the prairies, bayous and marshes of the Mississippi Delta.  The Acadians (or “Cajuns” as the Creole’s called them) were French people who first settled in Nova Scotia, Canada, but were exiled by the British in 1755 to the Caribbean and colonies on the East Coast.  Many died on the boats because the colonists turned them away, but 3-4 thousand made their way to south Louisiana, just west of New Orleans where they were accepted and settled from 1763-1785.

   

We visited an Acadian Village created using homes built in the 1800’s.  There was a General Store, several period houses, an 1850 chapel, a schoolhouse building, a doctor’s office and a blacksmith shop.  Most of the family homes were made of cypress wood, had two or three rooms at the most, one fireplace and an attic used for storage and their boys’ sleeping quarters which was accessible only by way of outside stairs. 

Feeling rather “cajuny” after our tour, we stopped at a local butcher shop  and got some Cracklin (deep fried bacon), Boudin (pork & rice sausage), Andouille (spiced sausage), Pork Cheese and smoked pork for dinner later.  About 4 p.m. we crossed the Lone Star State line and 15 miles later, we pulled into the Wal*Mart in Port Arthur and settled in for the evening.

Thurs, January 23: Galveston, TX

 Leaving Port Arthur, we headed south for Galveston along the Gulf Coast.  A ferry took us from Port Bolivar to Galveston.  After unhitching at Wal*Mart, we drove around the island which was very pleasant.  Although it had some of the major hotels and restaurants you would expect in a resort town, there was more of an old fish-town feel to it with its many unique shops, places to eat and historic homes.  Both Royal and Carnival Cruise Lines now use Galveston as one of their ports, so we watched as one left from the bay side for a voyage to the Caribbean.

First on the agenda was the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids at Moody Gardens.  The Aquarium had exhibits covering everything from seals from the North Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef in the South  Pacific to the King Penguins of the Antarctic and all the beautiful fish and sharks of the Caribbean.  The huge round aquariums were laid out so that as you walked around them from one floor to the next you could view the marine life from above and underwater.

Next to the Aquarium was Moody Gardens’ Tropical Rainforest filled with plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, birds, frogs and fish from Central and South American, Africa and Asia.

Next we toured the Moody Mansion on Broad Street, home of one of the richest most powerful men in Texas.  It was a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion built in 1895.  After the Great Storm of 1900 that destroyed most of Galveston and killed 6,000 persons, William Moody, Jr. purchased the home (which was one of the few still standing) and its furniture for his family for $20,000.  It still contains almost all of the original furnishings and personal affects of the family.

Afterwards, we ate Dungeness and Snow Crabs at Joe’s Crab Shack overlooking the bay filled with working shrimp boats and watched the sunset from our table, then returned to our home away from home.

 

Fri-Sat, January 24-25: San Antonio, TX

We headed slightly northwest on Highway 6 to Sugarland, just south of  Houston, early the next morning.  We stopped at the Imperial Sugar plant, but they were no longer giving tours (we were later told they went bankrupt and are going out of business) so we continued west to San Antonio.  These signs were posted along 90 as we passed by the Texas Correctional Institute at Jester.

In the little town of Rosenberg, we stopped at Fairchild Farms Antiques & Collectibles, then a little further in Eagle Lake, at Daylight Donuts, where we got some ham, egg & cheese on Croissants, donuts and coffee.  Interestingly, a Cambodian immigrant who recently moved from D.C. to Texas owned the place.

We pulled into the San Antonio KOA around 4 p.m., a nice campground with paved roads and big tree-lined level gravel pull-thru sites.  Each site even had a brick pad picnic table area with a grill next to it.  We decided to stay in and plan the sights to see the next day.  Later, we finally ate those gator bites we bought at the gator farm a while back and watched a movie.

Saturday morning, it was raining and still only 38 degrees (ouch!!), so we eased into the day by doing laundry, email, and catching up this trip journal.  Afterwards, we drove around downtown San Antonio then uptown to Olmos Park where some very wealthy people had some of the most incredible estate homes we’ve ever seen.  Bigger than most plantation homes with gated entrances, brick circular drives, guest homes and huge properties overlooking a valley that was only 5 miles from downtown San Antonio. 

From there, we went to the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum.  When you first enter, you can’t help but go “Wow” when you see all the taxidermy of deer, bulls, bears and other animals everywhere!  The floors, walls, even the ceiling was covered with them.  Albert Friedrich first opened Buckhorn Saloon in 1881 and offered a shot of whiskey or a beer to every patron who brought in a deer antler.  His father then made handmade horn chairs, tables and other furniture for the Saloon. Patrons began bringing in horns and antlers from other animals too and the collection grew and grew. 

 
     

His wife later added rattlesnake rattlers to the deal, which she made into signs and artwork (left).  The collection includes “Old Tex,” the World record 78 pt. Longhorn steer and even a full-size Gorilla, known as “The Guard” that used to stand in the Saloon’s front window and is now part of their African exhibit.  During the 1920’s Prohibition, the Saloon became just a museum then reopened as a saloon when prohibition ended in 1932.  The Lone Star brewing company bought the entire collection in 1956 and called it the Lone Star Buckhorn Hall of Horns.  In 1964, they added the “Hall of Fins” and in 1973, the “Hall of Feathers.”   The Texas wax museum also became part of the collection.  In 1998, Albert’s granddaughter reacquired the entire collection from Stroh’s Beer when they bought out the Lone Star Brewery so that it could remain in San Antonio.  Today it has more than 1200 trophy mounts and 520 different animal species  covering 33,000 square feet.  It was truly one of the highlights of our trip, with a lot of historical information, displays and even has a Game room where Jim took a shot testing his shooting skills!  

Even though it was still drizzling out, we ventured onward to San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk.  It was down below street level, with footbridges for getting from one side to the other at various points around the river.  We walked back up to the street level where there was a little historic village called La  Villita, the homes of which were now unique little shops.  You could look down at the Riverwalk from La Villita.  We didn’t stay there long as it was getting colder, but Bonnie did manage to find a cool sterling ring for interchangeable beads in one of them.

Across the street from the Riverwalk was the Alamo, originally the Mision San Antonio de Valero.  It was built in 1724 as a missionary and home for Indian converts.  In the early 1800’s, the Spanish military called it Alamo (meaning “Cottonwood”) in honor of their hometown, Alamo de Parras, Coahuila.  It was home to revolutionaries and royalists during Mexico’s 10-year struggle for Independence.  Spanish, Rebel, and Mexican military occupied the Alamo until the Texas Revolution.  In 1836, Mexican dictator, General Santa Ana, attacked the Alamo.  The Texans (those born in Texas and homesteaders who came from many States) and Tejanos (Mexicans loyal to Texas), believing that the Alamo was the key to defending Texas, refused to surrender.  Despite pleas for help to communities in Texas, they had less than 200 defenders.  These men heroically struggled against overwhelming odds until March 6, when the battle ended in defeat, most of the defenders sacrificing their lives for freedom.  To this day, the Alamo remains a Shrine of Texas Liberty. 

We also drove down to Market Square where the merchants sold mostly imported and Mexican goods, then ate dinner at the famous Mi Tierra Café, probably the brightest, most decorated restaurant we’ve ever eaten in.   While eating goat, steak and other Mexican fare, we were serenaded by several mariachis.

 

Sun-Mon, January 26-27: Corpus Christi, TX

Continuing down the “red road” of 181, we went through many small Texas towns.  Jim said if you were to judge a State by it’s road-kill, east Texas would be Skunk Country. J  One town we passed through was Beeville, “A Honey of a Town” according to their sign.   We pulled into the Colonia del Rey RV Park at 1 p.m., our home for the next two days.  Unfortunately, their only site left with cable TV hookups was totally flooded, so we had to go into one without it.   We went in search of a Sports bar, but couldn’t find a place with a combination of good TVs, good food and a place to sit.