Texas or Bust!

Remember a few posts back, I mentioned Mike trying to convince me to go along with this crazy scheme and dangling the carrot: “Wouldn’t you like to spend Christmas with your brother in Texas?Elf.jpg

Damned if he wasn’t true to his word. On December 16, we packed up and headed out for 2400 miles of fun and adventure as we drove from Miramichi, NB to San Leon, TX. It’s been almost 20 years since my brother and I have spent the holidays together. I tried so hard not to get over-excited, but who was I kidding. I’d been planning and shopping and mapping and packing for weeks prior to departing. And loving every single minute of it.

And before anyone asks, Mike’s mom was OK with the idea that we’d be gone for a while, even though I’m not sure exactly how much of this she understood at any given moment. She seemed to remember we were going away for Christmas, but I don’t think she grasped the concept of how far.

She asked me not long before we left, “Where are you going again?” “Texas,” I told her. “So, you’ll be gone for the better part of a week then,” she says, more of a statement than a question. I just smile and agree.

I’ve come to realize over the past few months that there’s no real benefit in re-explaining or arguing, because once she’s made up her mind about something, there’s no putting her off of it. At first I’d try to make sure she was understanding what was going on around her, but it would just result in having the exact same conversation only 20 minutes later, and again in another hour, and so on, and on. Now I just reassure her that all is well, and she seems content with that. Luckily, she has no real concept of the amount of time passing.

So I got busy on Google Maps, adjusting routes, times, overnight stops and more. Driving straight through, Google assured me it’s approximately 37 hours from my door to his. Definitely one of our more ambitious road trips.google-map-1

Lonestar did not accompany us on this trip, feeling it would be more prudent to leave him home, what with winter weather and holiday traffic. Instead, we went old school, opting to sleep in the car. Wasn’t the first time, probably won’t be the last either. While it can be uncomfortable, it can also be a lot of fun, and I like to compare it to camping. Except with a heater, lol.

Granted, car-camping would have been much easier if we could have taken Mongo. There is ample room in the back, and Mike had finished the raised platform that supports a mattress, and it has lots of storage space underneath. However, Mongo has been sidelined, as there is an issue that has developed with the transmission.

On to Plan B in the form of my Tucson. It wasn’t nearly as comfortable, but the seats reclined and there’s (some) cargo space in the back. As well, the Tucson gets almost double the mileage that Mongo does, so there’s pros and cons to both sides. By the time we left, I didn’t care if we went by rickshaw, as long as we got to go.rickshaw_in_central_park_winter

We pulled out of Miramichi at noon on December 16th, the temperature at a balmy -35°C with wind chill. After a quick stop in Fredericton to see our daughter, we made it across the border about 5 p.m. We had planned to stop in Bangor for the night, but due to the extreme cold, we decided to push on for another 3 hours and stay an extra night with my cousins in Boston. Good call. Saturday morning we woke up to messy weather and semi-plowed roads. We spent the day with family, went out for a nice dinner, and left the next morning for the rest of our journey.

It was raining when we left, but substantially warmer. Once we left Boston, I was now in unfamiliar territory, having never been farther south than that.

Soon we found ourselves in Connecticut, which was grey and raining, but still very picturesque, and much warmer than the temperatures we’d been used to. As we traveled down the interstate, we were marveling at the overpasses we went under, as each one had a different distinctive architectural style to them. One was done up in an art deco theme, another was almost gothic, complete with gargoyle-like figurines.

As we didn’t want to drive through New York City, we skirted around and crossed the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Wow. And the new bridge they’re building next to it makes it look tiny.

On through New Jersey, and into Pennsylvania, where the sun finally poked through. We stopped for the night in Greencastle, and had a relatively comfortable sleep in the car, even if we had to start the heater a few times.

Up early, a quick breakfast and back at it. We entered Maryland just minutes after getting on the road. Ten minutes later, it was West Virginia, and fifteen minutes after that, Virginia. All were stunningly beautiful, and we were fortunate enough to have a clear bright sunny day to enjoy it all.

As evening fell, we entered Tennessee, finally stopping just past Knoxville in Niota for another night in the car. This time, the weather was a bit warmer, so we only had to start the heater a couple of times. The next morning, we were up and at ‘em by 4:30am, getting to the Alabama state line just after daybreak. The temperature was still hovering just above the freezing mark, but the scenery was very nice.

img_1081Due to a 2-hour stop to manually pull the metal studs from our snow tires
(illegal in AL, MI, and TX), we were back underway, only to be frustrated as we lost even more time due to the extensive roadwork throughout the state. Eventually we made it to Mississippi and continued at a more reasonable speed. As sunset fell, we crossed the Louisiana State line, and turned more of a westward direction.

I was fascinated at the amount of casinos in Louisiana. It seems you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. If not for the all the slowdowns throughout day, we probably could have made our destination that night, but as it was, we were getting quite tired and decided to stop in Breaux Bridge and grab a few hours of sleep.

015Wednesday’s dawn found us crossing the Texas state line and pulling over into the welcome centre to make a much needed coffee and tea. While Mike was doing that, I was feeding crackers to a very friendly flock of birds that I later came to find out were mockingbirds. Their lack of fear and huge appetites reminded me of the moosebirds back home. I also saw my first pelican fly over us just then. Being a bit of a bird nerd, I was quite excited.

On through Beaumont, missed our exit just before Houston, and got totally lost in San Jacinto. The GPS kept trying to put us back on the Sam Houston toll highway, but since they don’t accept cash, debit or credit for payment (electronic passes ONLY), we had no way of legally crossing. Way to make tourists feel welcome Houston!8585102824_e386744f3d

Giving up on the GPS and consulting Google Maps, Mike finally untangled us and we backtracked to the correct exit, arriving at my brother’s house somewhere around 10 a.m., and a welcoming 24°C temperature.  Gorgeous!  A hot shower and a good meal later, and we were feeling almost human again.

To be continued…

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