Wildflowers decorate the roadways in Texas
Bluebonnets growing in a big field between Marble Falls and Burnet, TX.
A single red Indian paintbrush in a field of bright blue bonnets.
Driving west from Lake Charles, LA., we entered Texas on Interstate 10, drove northwest to avoid Austin traffic and camped in the College Station/Bryan, TX area, home of Texas A & M University. Since we are not on a travel schedule, driving around the big cities is a luxury that we employ frequently to avoid traffic. Like most RV owners, we made the mistake of driving through Houston once before. That won’t happen again.
For the newcomers to this blog, we are traveling from Florida to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Surprisingly, the speed limit on many Texas two lane roads was 70 miles per hour while most states adhere to 55 or 60 mph. However, we have been on Texas four lane roads where the speed limit was a whopping 80 miles per hour.
Texas, among other things, is known for its abundant springtime wildflower bloom and several varieties including daisies, Indian paintbrush and some bluebonnets were sporadically visible along the route. With luck, we hope to find an abundance of bluebonnets in a couple days in the Texas Hill County which northwest of Austin.
We are old enough to remember first lady Lady Bird Johnson’s successful campaign to beautify America, which included urging the planting of wildflowers along the nation’s highways. Nowhere that we have visited in this country, which includes all but a handful of states and with the exception of Alaska, equals the roadside wildflowers in Texas. Her efforts to beautify the highways through legislation was successful although the final bill was watered down considerably before it was passed by Congress.
Back on the highway the following morning, we are still dealing with nervous Heidi, our golden retriever traveling companion’s problem with road anxiety. Knowing we would be spending the night near Bryan, we phoned a nearby vet and made an appointment. The visit yielded some of those everything is beautiful pills and made traveling the next day a lot more comfortable for everyone. I swear she had a smile on her face.
The campground we selected for overnighting near Bryan was in a nice secluded and quiet location, but treeless and not much grass. Since last summer’s trip to Alaska, we learned to appreciate campgrounds with water, electricity, sewer and green grass. Heidi jumps up and down when we overnight in a campground with a fenced-in grassed dog walk. Our 12,000 plus mile trip through northern Canada and Alaska yielded many overnight stops in dusty, gravel campgrounds, homegrown (generator) electricity, and no grass. The scenery, however, more than made up for the camping inconveniences.
On this trip we have been on the road from Florida eight days and will leave tomorrow for Leander, TX., which is about 20 miles northwest of Austin. After surviving the rain storm in Lake Charles, LA., it was a pleasure today to drive on smooth highways for about 300 miles under beautiful clear skies and mild, comfortable temperatures.
Having dependable wi-fi has also been a surprise in most of our campgrounds, so far. We know wi-fi and telephone signals will be negligible at Big Bend National Park.
We are traveling in a Class C 2015 Winnebago Aspect and pulling a tow car. To date we have logged more than 90,000 miles during the past eight years.
NEXT: Following the bluebonnet trail in Texas
Day tripping in southern Louisiana near Lake Charles.
White pelicans cruise the marsh near Calcasleu Lake.
After celebrating a successful red bass and trout fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico out of Venice, LA., we drove the Winnebago Aspect RV about 80 miles north into the New Orleans area, turned onto U. S. Highway 90 and headed west. This route was chosen to avoid driving through busy downtown New Orleans to Interstate 10. One of our primary destinations on this trip is Big Bend National Park, in southwest Texas.
Choosing Highway 90 was a bad mistake. Traffic was heavy until exiting the New Orleans area but the road was rough with potholes and an abundance of bumps that rattled dishes and anything else that wasn’t nailed down in the RV. Heidi, our golden retriever, normally pays little attention to such racket but every bump brought new loud sounds from deep within the RV that scared the “beegeebees” out of her, bringing on a case of the shakes and constant annoying panting.
We gave her Benadryl in an unsuccessful effort to calm her nerves. Her problems persisted all the way to Lafayette, LA., where we merged onto a much smoother Interstate 10 and into Lake Charles where we spent the night. The eight-year-old dog has traveled thousands of miles in the RV without a problem.
Some shells Martha collected along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico near Lake Charles, LA.
With the RV nestled comfortably in a campsite, Heidi calmed but not for long. A thunderstorm with lots of lightning and heavy rain moved into the area, prompting flood warnings and sending Heidi to the rear of the RV, seeking refuge. Within a few hours, the area received seven inches of rain. The campground flooded from the deluge but drained away before daylight.
Martha has “do not take U. S. 90 ever again” written in bold letters in her trip journal.
Her problems persisted all the way to Lafayette, LA., where we merged onto a much smoother Interstate 10 and into Lake Charles where we spent the night. The eight-year-old dog has traveled thousands of miles in the RV without a problem.
A Texas longhorn takes a mid-day breather among wildflowers on a Texas hill country. highway.
Early the next morning, drowsy from a fitful night’s sleep, we drove to nearby Sulphur, LA., and picked up literature at a visitors center for a 123-mile road trip around and through four large wildlife refuges south of Lake Charles. The Creole Nature Trail, an All American Road, winds through a rugged area known as Louisiana’s Outback. Unfortunately, most of the spring migration of migratory birds had already moved north several weeks ago, leaving pelicans, dove, crows and a few wading birds.
One of the refuges is near the gulf where a walk on the beach yielded a couple handfuls of shells including conch, whelks and sharks’ eye.
A drive through Pin Tail Wildlife Refuge warned motorists to stay in their vehicle because of alligators, which were lounging alongside the road in abundance with some up to eight feet long. Getting out of the car to take pictures was not an option.
A boat-tailed female grackle rests on top of a tree near a visitors center in the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge south of Lake Charles, LA.
Lake Charles is a significant player in the oil and gas business. Some of the industry’s largest oil and gas industrial companies have huge installations in the area and several billion dollar refineries and Liquid Natural Gas Plants are currently under construction. Campgrounds here are filled with workers.
For followers of this blog, we are currently on a trip to the southwest United States to Texas and New Mexico. Among the stops will be Big Bend National Park.
NEXT: Bluebonnets galore in Texas hill country.
Catching gulf redfish and trout en route to Big Bend, Texas
Two boats caught this “boatload” of red fish and trout.
After two days camping at Salt Springs Recreation Area south of Palatka and celebrating the end of spring break with three young grand-kids, we pointed the RV west and headed to Texas.
The original intent of this trip was to visit Big Bend National Park, one of the largest, most remote and least visited national parks in the country. Big Bend is still on the agenda, but other unexpected stops along the way will delay our original time table. It’s just part of the way we travel this country, taking our time and stopping for a few days when finding new adventures.
Not a bad day’s work as Martha shows off another big red fish.
Like most of these extended cross-country trips, the destination is sometimes cloudy as milk, frequently subject to change and likely to be twice as long in duration than originally planned. But who cares. That’s because we never travel on a set schedule and will stop on a whim and spend a day here and there just being tourists from Florida. The sunshine state is beautiful and unique and a great place to live but there’s so much more spread out across this country that we are determined to experience before our days on the road end.
It happened a day or so after leaving Salt Springs, which is part of the Ocala National Forest, that a telephone conversation with a friend in Florida relayed a recent near unbelievable fishing trip for red bass and sea trout off the shores of southern Louisiana in the waters Gulf of Mexico.
Not a couple to stay to a schedule, we added three days to the itinerary, stopped one night in New Orleans to visit one of the city’s famous cajun restaurants and thanks to our friend back home for the heads-up, added a day of fishing out of Venice, La., with Allen Moreau, Sr. at Native Adventures fishing guide service. Moreau has been fishing these waters for over 40- years and is one of the most successful and best-known guides in the business. The guides here drive 26-foot flat styled boats with 300 horsepower motors, two power anchor poles on the rear and a remote controlled, GPS equipped high powered trolling motor on the front. They are outfitted to catch fish.
Moreau was already scheduled (he’s booked up through December) but turned us over to one of his half dozen or so fishing buddies who guided us through moisture laden early morning Mississippi River fog, dodged a couple barely visible fog horn blowing ocean going freighters and drove about a half hour before stopping the boat in shallow waters surrounded by head high grasses. Throwing light spinning tackle with popping floats trailing live shrimp, we immediately started catching red bass, landing a couple big fish in the 30 to 35 pound category and trout, mostly 13 to 20 inches long. The catching did not slow much for almost five hours except for one brief period during a tidal change which gave us a chance to catch our breath and eat a sandwich. At one point, ten casts to the edge of the high grass netted 10 red bass, several of which were in the 12 to 15 pound category.
I’ve fished most of my life and this was among maybe a handful of mind-blowing, highly successful “catching” trips. It was a special day.
Capt. Moreau and his crew cleaned and vacuum-packed 15 red fish and 25 trout which filled our RV refrigerator. More reds were caught and released during the trip because we had already filled our five fish per person limit. The trout limit here is 25 per person but it’s difficult to leave biting fish to hunt for more fish. One of the 12-pound reds was grilled on the half-shell that evening outside and over an open fire for dinner at our campsite at Yellow Cotton Cabins and RV Park.
The scenery on land and offshore in this part of Louisiana is dominated by the oil, gas and fishing industry. The peninsula of land that stretches south of New Orleans, is protected on both sides by huge levies, cut in half by the Highway 23 to the end of the road past Venice. The levies are built to protect the small land mass from the Mississippi River on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
Most new construction including homes and several new schools, are built up high on stilts, hoping to dodge the next major storm. Many homes and businesses that were built flat on the ground were destroyed a decade or so ago by Hurricane Katrina, leaving many building shells and standing vacant.
We were surprised to see many small orange groves along the roadway. Locals said the area boasted many citrus groves before Katrina and the few who chose to rebuild, have trees about 10 to 12 feet high.
Scars of this nation’s worst natural disaster are still visible here today. And even the nation’s largest offshore oil spill, does not seem to have slowed the fishing. At least not on this day.
NEXT: Dodging storms in Lake Charles and Austin, TX.