Just one of those fruit cake days!


Today was not a sight seeing day. Today was a getting to day! I left San Antonio for Las Cruces and I covered a total of 597.7 miles and achieved a fuel economy of 17.7 mpg and my average speed was excellent!

Almost as soon as I had left San Antonio the landscape became one of limestone (I think) rocky hills and ultimately a high sierra. The road was reminiscent of the N1 which runs from Madrid in Spain to Malaga via Granada. This was definitely blue sky country. Having left the rush hour behind in San Antonio and with light traffic conditions I was able to make excellent progress but on the way I encountered some very interesting people.

Lunch was taken at The Plateau Restaurant west of Van Horn and apart from a rather mediocre burger it was probably one of the most surreal experiences that I have ever had! Upon entering the restaurant I was plunged into the twilight zone not only due to the ambience but heightened by my server. I took my seat at a plastic covered table next to a pair of longhorns that adorned a half wall that separated the dining area from the two pool tables. A customer at the adjacent table was avidly watching a cable news channel on the large flat screen television that had been mounted on the wall. I later realized that the news channel was the english speaking version of the Central Chinese News Agency and was earnestly reporting, in depth, the forthcoming French elections that Mr. Sarcosi was definitely going to win! My server started to approach me and I could see that this was a lady in her eighties beautifully dressed in a striped blouse and perfectly pressed long trousers. As she approached I observed that her flawless face make up had glitter highlighting her cheek bones and her hair was rigidly held in place by a copious quantity of hairspray and I was relieved that there were no naked flames in the immediate vicinity. She somehow reminded me of Lola, the dancer who once worked at the Copa Cabana. My well dressed server took my order and retired to the bar area. While this lady was taking my order I noticed that there was a young woman dressed in a more traditional server’s garb lurking within earshot and also writing the order down and at the time I thought that perhaps this young woman was a trainee. The trainee then approached the bar area where the well dressed octogenarian was now wrapping silverware in paper napkins and quietly but discretely the trainee substituted the order my server had taken for her own paperwork.

In due time the trainee delivered the burger (a euphemism for an overdone piece of ground beef) and I managed to eat some of it but quickly decided to eat the salad and leave the rest. I approached the bar to settle my account and was received by the younger sister (in her seventies) of my original server and she explained that the two sisters owned the restaurant and things had not being doing too well lately as their eldest sister (also an owner) was ill and now very weak. During this conversation my original server (the middle sister) was smiling and nodding to herself while continuously wrapping the silverware while “the trainee” was keeping a watchful eye on her! These two sisters in their younger days would have been fine looking women and I’m sure that they have stories to tell. Unfortunately, time waits for no man and I had to take my leave but I feel that I have just missed an opportunity to experience someones story.

Later in the afternoon I stopped at a road side rest area and I heard and then saw a man, his dog and his Harley Davidson arrive. The bike had Washington State plates on it and that is a long way to drive with a dog on the back of a Harley. I fell into conversation with this adventurer and his story was after divorcing his fifth wife he sold everything, bought the Harley and trailer and had a metal dog basket made and fitted to his Harley. He had just spent six months in Mexico and was now on his way to “a couple of gigs to perform his music”. He told me that life was now much simpler that he just had his dog, his music and his Harley and asked “What else would a man need?”

Finally, I stopped for my second tank of gasoline this afternoon and enjoyed a conversation with a Texas Ranger who regaled me with the tale of two young men on an all terrain vehicle that went by him on a mountain trail at such speed that they nearly blew his rear doors off. For the full effect you need to read that last bit in a deep southern drawl. I asked my new Ranger friend if he pursued these miscreants and he replied that he thought about it but decided to take his dog for a walk instead! At the word “walk” an enormous Bloodhound’s head looked over the rear cargo wall of the rangers truck and eyed his master with a quizzical look.

Today has been a weird, sad and enjoyable day. I feel that I could have been a verse in Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffet and if you’re not familiar with the song go look it up!

Until my next post, toodleoo!

Remember The Alamo!


My journey today was interesting to say the least! I left my hotel at 8 am and 47 miles later I was still traveling on the Interstate through the suburban sprawl of Houston TX. I know that one of the nicknames for this city is Space Town because of its history with NASA but why oh why are all the houses made out of ticky tacky and they all look the same?

Ten miles later on I have started to run into open countryside. The six lane highway (each side) has been reduced to three and now to two and I’m motoring along through pleasant pastureland with the occasional forested area populated with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. The latter’s grey skeletal structure can be clearly seen against the clear blue sky. The roadside and quite a lot of the pastureland is covered in wild flowers and the bright yellow, blue and magenta blooms are gently waving as I zoom past.

I see a Denny’s restaurant up ahead and my body tells me it’s time for breakfast. As Denny’s go this is a quite a large one and the car park is quite full of a variety of cars, large motor cycles (mainly Harley Davidsons) and clumps of what looks like Hells Angels or clones of the Hairy Biker chefs as per the TV show. I fall into step behind two of the aforesaid Bikers and as we got to the restaurant (that’s how Denny’s see their food operation) my biking neighbours throw open the entrance doors and with the utmost respect invite me into the eatery. It’s now obvious to me that a Corvette owner in the order of petrol heads is at a higher level than a hairy biker! Being a Sunday morning, Denny’s was busy. Apart from the biker crowd, there were the folk who had been gospel singing at the church that morning and of course there was a plethora of gentlemen wearing their ten gallon hats while eating!

Soon, San Antonio was in sight and having checked in at my hotel I walked down Crockett Street to Riverwalk. This most attractive area is beneath street level and is protected by a series of flood gates. There are lots of people promenading alongside the river which is a type of green in colour. The best way I can liken this shade would be the green you see in old stained glass windows. I decided to have lunch in the Cafe Ole and enjoyed a Fajitas Chicken Salad.

After lunch I left Riverwalk and perambulated along Alamo Street to The Alamo. I was very surprised to see how small this original Spanish mission was. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted within The Alamo shrine which is dedicated to the 189 men who lost their lives against a huge force on March 6 1836. We, of course have been indoctrinated by the movies and television as to why this battle was fought and it is true that the Texians were determined at first to be a separate governed state from the central government of Mexico but as the campaign progressed the goals changed and the Texians wanted to become an independent country. The movies have made the names Bowie, Crockett and Travis famous and Santa Ann infamous. Having listened to an excellent audio tour and studied the exhibits I was puzzled why the action was fought in the first place by the defenders of The Alamo rather than a strategic withdrawal followed by a guerrilla campaign. I was fortunate to meet one of the museums military historians, Jeffrey Passmore, and had a fascinating conversation with him. Although there is no doubt of the courage that was displayed by the volunteer garrison force their demise was due to a mixture of politics, ill-health, misinformation, and lack of experienced military command and most importantly, lack of manpower to remove the canon but I don’t have the time or space to write about it here!

Later that day I did the tourist bit and took one of the guided tours onboard one of the boats that plies up and down the San Antonio river and canal system which was most enjoyable. Towards the end of the day I ventured up The Tower of The Americas in Hemisfair Park (built for The World Trade Fair that was held here some years ago) and viewed San Antonio bathed in golden light as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Then it was back to Riverwalk for dinner at The Republic of Texas restaurant where I enjoyed a T-bone steak slathered with cheese and salsa, served with rice, beans and guacamole. Delicious!

For the techies among you the mileage covered today was 226.5 mles at an average of 67.2 mph and achieved 21.5 mpg.

Until my next post. Toodleoo!

Houston…It’s not a problem….honest!


Up with the larks this morning, well not exactly but I was out and did a 3.26 mile run on a cinder track which I’ve never done before. While doing my thing the sun was rising in the blue, cloudless sky I observed a group of about half a dozen ladies of indeterminate age but not of indeterminate size lying prostrate on some rubber mats. Had I stumbled upon some peculiar Texian cult? Then the leader of the group started barking orders in a shrill high pitched voice cajoling her disciples to rise and exercise vigorously. As I crunched around the cinder track the air was permeated by ever increasing commands from the sergeant major like trainer. What a way to start the day! Having completed my run I was off to the hotel for a shower and a Western Omelette, not at the same time I hasten to add.

Breakfast completed I was off to the Johnson Space Centre on NASA Parkway. This is a working NASA facility and employs over 10,000 people just on this site alone. The exhibit was a worthwhile experience and very different to the NASA visitor centre at Space Kennedy Centre in Florida which in my humble opinion is better organized. However, it was still worth doing and I particularly enjoyed the Astronaut Training area and the very impressive Saturn Five Exhibit. You can see titled photographs of these exhibits and more on my Flickr site, just click on the link on the right hand side of this blog.

Lunch was a desultory affair of a very well chilled Turkey sandwich. It was so cold I swear it must have been made on the dark side of the moon by an alien life force which summed up most of the counter staff.

I decided to have a wander through downtown Houston and journeyed to The Galleria Shopping Centre. The shopping centre was an upscale affair with all the designer names one would expect, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Bergammo, Prada etc and the largest Chanel store I have ever seen! It was quite incongruous that one could shop for something exquisite while watching hordes of young people hurtling at speed on an ice rink directly below you. I decided that I had enough of the city, which is very functional but in my opinion is a soulless sprawl of a conglomerate of buildings thrown together by someone who was learning to play SIM City and I decided to drive down to the seaside at Galveston.

Galveston is quaint. It reminded me very much of Victorian Blackpool in Lancashire with a similar range of shops, an unprepossessing beach but populated by a Spanish speaking people with exactly the same type of manners as their Lancastrian cousins. Hell bent on not giving you any service.

Now don’t get me wrong I have had an enjoyable day and have been fascinated by the people that I have interacted with. However, should, for any strange reason, the Houston city fathers read this I would like to offer them some advice. Import some nice people from Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana or Florida. Alternatively, you could blow the whole damn place up, appoint a sensible architect and re-populate the area!

Tomorrow I am visiting a city who’s reputation is a little more cultured!

For the techie people out there I have covered today 138.4 miles at an average speed of 38.4 mph with an average consumption of 21.8 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Houston, We have a problem!


Well not exactly but more of that later. I awoke this morning bright and early and had a short run (nearly two miles) around Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama. A lovely way to start the day, the sun was up and after showering I enjoyed a some Eggs Benedict and off in the car with my destination being Houston.

Just twenty-nine miles later I crossed over the state line from Alabama to Mississippi. Almost immediately the scenery changed from the majestic oaks of Alabama to that of a wetlands area similar to the Everglades in Florida but not as flat!

I decided to take a break at about 100 miles of driving and at 104 miles I found myself at The NASA facility in Hancock County. So, I thought that I would take a look. I was exceptionally disappointed, not because of the quality of the exhibit but because I was denied entry to the tour because I did not have my UK passport with me! I have never been asked for it at Space Kennedy Centre in Florida and I telephoned and checked with the NASA facility in Houston and they do not require me to show my passport. Bizarre! Oh, well!

Just down the road I stopped at a road side rest area and it was one of the finest buildings I have seen. It was just like an antebellum house, beautifully presented. Have a look at the photograph at the end of this post.

Fourteen miles later and I’ve crossed the state line into Louisiana. The countryside has changed again to a vast collection of swamp like waterways. If you have ever watched Swamp People on the History Channel you will get the idea. Having gone through Baton Rouge I went over an incredibly long piece of suspended roadway above the Atchafalaya river basin (the largest river basin in the USA covering nearly a million acres) and stopped at its visitor centre. This looks like a fascinating area and one that I would like to spend some time in at some point in the near future to view the enormous array of wildlife.

After traveling a total of 280 miles the swampland completely disappears and becomes cultivated farmland which extends a considerable distance. Eighty miles further on and I have started to run into some ominous looking very dark clouds. Seven miles further on and I cross the state line into Texas. Traveling on the Interstate through Beaumont you can smell the petrochemical plants as well as see them. It’s an alien, industrial, ugly landscape.Having left the city limits it started to lightly rain. By 4.15 pm the sky is nearly black and I have seen forked lightning on the horizon.

I decided to answer the call of nature and stopped at a road side rest area near Orange. Just as I was about to leave a family arrived in their open truck and started carrying in their golf apparel into the rest area building. They had heard a severe weather warning on the wireless, 60 mph winds, hail, thunder etc and it was about to arrive. I felt it prudent to wait with them and indeed the storm blew in with boiling clouds, strong winds, thunder, lightning and heavy rain but no hail stones. The good thing was that the storm washed all the bugs off the front of my Corvette! Soon, the rain had eased and I was able to continue my journey.

The last 45 minutes of my journey on T146 South, which is a regular four lane highway, was fairly difficult due to the levels of surface water and the quantity of traffic so, I was really pleased to arrive at my hotel. A quick wash & brush up and I walked across to a local restaurant and dined on stuffed Jalapeños and a platter of grilled mixed fish.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the forecast promises to be good. For the techies out there I have covered today 475.10 miles at an average speed of 63.4 mph and achieved an average of 22.3 mpg.

To my next post, toodleloo!

Road Trip Day Two.


Day 2 of the road trip starts having stayed in North Tallahassee, Florida last night at La Quinta In  which was clean and comfortable but does need refurbishing but it was as cheap as chips! Got going at 07.20 this morning in an overcast , drizzly morning. Thirty three minutes later I had a unique experience. I crossed from one time zone to another by car, so now I was traveling at about 40 minutes earlier than when I left! Very weird!

By now I was hungry and having gone past several breakfast places, thinking I’ll just go one more and then of course nothing for miles. So, I was grateful to get a large coffee and a sausage and egg McMuffin for the princely sum of $4.61 at the golden arches on the Marianna ramp on the I 10.

The landscape at this point became much more agricultural with undulating fields of haystacks with occasional herds of beef cattle. A little later on my attention was drawn to what appeared to be a fighter jet stuck onto a very large drain pipe. I pulled into the rest area at Santa Rosa County on mile marker 30 on the I 10 to investigate. Have a look at the picture below and on my Flickr photo stream (just hit the link in the right hand panel). Turned out to be a McDonnel Douglas A4 Skyhawk fighter jet that used to be in service in the seventies and used by The Blue Angel acrobatic team. Those that flew the aircraft referred to it as “Henemans Hot Rod” or “The Scooter” I thought it was a pretty impressive piece of sculpture to put in a car park miles from anywhere!

Two hundred miles later on the weather had dramatically improved for the better. Blue skies with white fleecy clouds. Gorgeous! Three miles on and I crossed the state line into Alabama (see photo below). There is an interesting stone laid beneath the flagstaff on the state line which is inscribed with “Alabama We Dare Defend Our Rights”.

Four miles later and I’m on the approach to Mobile, Alabama and crossing over a large expanse of water I get the first glimpse of the city’s skyline. I found Mobile to be a very interesting city with a delightful mix of modern architecture and a very pretty historic quarter which is composed of antebellum fine houses. You can see more pictures of this on my Flickr pages just click on the link at the right.

Having checked in at the Battleship Inn (excellent and good value) it was time to view the battleship USS Alabama which was absolutely fantastic. This ship is huge. Under battle conditions she weighed in at an impressive 45,000 tons, carried 2,500 men and had a maximum speed of 28 knots which is a little over 32 miles per hour. I have taken quite a lot of pictures of the interior and exterior of the ship and some other exhibits and you will find them on my Flickr photo stream (click the link in the right hand panel) and I have titled most of them so you will know what you’re looking at. Honestly, it is worth you taking five minutes to have a look at the sheer size and complexity of such a vast war machine.

Tonight having had Oysters Rockefeller (one of my favourites) followed by grilled flounder stuffed with shrimps and crab meat at The Captains Table (next door to my hotel) I took my trusty tripod and camera for one last picture of this illustrious retired battleship. Next time I do this I will wear trousers and socks. Those damned mosquitos got me!

Don’t forget to look at my photographs and feel free to comment on this blog or on the photographs on Flickr (by now you should know where the link is).

For the technically minded the mileage covered today was 253.6 at an average speed of 62.7 mph and achieved 20.4 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Day One!


Today started off with a big surprise. As I opened the garage door I was met with a resounding cheer from the Hyacinth Place Send Off Committee. With grateful thanks to Anna who’s idea this was and for making the food and to Sara for providing the mega balloons and to Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) for opening the champagne! It’s amazing what that lot will do for a glass of champagne at 8.30 in the morning! Cy Bricker put his arm around me and said “I love you man and you’ve got your shirt on inside out!” Well I was up early! It was all a bit of a rush and I hardly had anytime to say a proper goodbye to “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. Finally I was on my way.

I had a very pleasant drive north on the I 75 with not too much traffic which became even easier when I started to go west on the I 10. The weather was perfect and I was enjoying the change of scenery as it became greener and undulating with a mixture of well forested areas and beef cattle fields. However, it was not to last as, the skies changed and I ran into very heavy rain. The Corvette took all this in its stride and the car felt planted and stable even going through quite deep surface water.

I had decided to spend the afternoon visiting the Tallahassee Natural Science Museum which is an open site of about 50 acres but unfortunately the rain had settled in for the afternoon. So, I took the opportunity of spending a happy couple of hours at The Tallahassee Automobile Museum which was well presented and has some fantastic vehicles including two ex movie Batmobiles!

Later on the weather had cleared and I had a drive around the city of Tallahassee which is the state capital of Florida. This is an eclectic mix of fine buildings and others!

This evening I dined upon Seafood Gumbo followed by Steak and Shrimp Sizzler with Louisiana sauce at Barnacle Bill’s. It was very good indeed but I’m glad that I treated the sauce with respect as it had a mighty “kick” to it! The only way I can liken the main course would be to a Spanish mixed paella with a kick!

For the technically minded of you out there, I have covered 369.3 miles at an average speed of 54.8 mph and achieved 20.7mpg.

I have posted a few photographs below but you can see all the photographs taken today by clicking on the “My Photo Stream” link in the right hand side panel of this blog.

Tomorrow the weather forecast promises to be good so I should have an excellent drive to my next destination where I will be visiting something quite unique!

Until my next post, toodle loo!