We actually did it. We left Florida on the day we published our last report. Shortly after Pensacola we arrive in Alabama. On the barrier islands we drive further and further west and we must say, we kind of like Alabama. Alabama is Sandie’s birth state, BUT she has no real connection to the state … and we think the political situation and legislation is rather backward and shameful. In the „Heart of Dixie“ we drive to Fort Morgan. There we take the ferry across the Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island, very exclusively, as Ewald is the only vehicle on the ferry. We spend our night next to the coast. Now outside of Florida, the boondocking is much more relaxed again.
The next day we reach Mississippi and so we actually spend only 24 hours in Sweet home Alabama. The next few days we stay right behind the „border“ to Mississippi in the Shepard State Park. Not spectacular but relaxed and great for running. We learn that the Creole soul is characterized by indulgence and dedication … very interesting.
The next destination is: New Orleans – and so we actually travel about 100 miles to our 12th state Louisiana. We are in the deepest south and it is characterized by poverty – this is particularly noticeable due to the infinite number of trailer homes, it feels like 80% of the population lives in these often very shabby „houses“ and often you see private junkyards right next to these homes. It is not uncommon to see at least 5-8 vehicles in various stages of destruction. Here on the coast we also drive past a large number of “stilt houses”, some stilts seem to be two stories high. Unfortunately, the sides of the roads are full of litter, something we have not seen yet in North America. Too bad.
In New Orleans we stay at a private campsite (our first time). The place is well located and not bad. Another first time – we take an Uber taxi to the city center. Uber is GREAT, great app, great service, super simple and cheap. AND THEN New Orleans. A city that is usually crazy and exuberant – but today, on the day of the College Football Final the city is completely out of control. The Football Final is a really big thing here, even Mr. President (Phew) appears. We are not very enthusiastic about the Bourbonstreet, and the omnipresent poverty also touches us…. However, before the blues catches us, we listen to the ever-present fantastic live music, drink delicious cocktails, eat great Creole food and just let the vibes lift us away.
Leaving New Orleans takes its time. We are actually in our first North American traffic jam. Oh, we forgot to mention something else: the Mississippi River. We actually hardly saw it because it was mostly in fog and somehow there was no Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn romance. The south of Louisiana itself is characterized by many swamps and by agriculture with very, very large fields. Otherwise it is rather boring, at least what we see. However, the weather is fine. The sun shines almost every day and it’s t-shirt warm. So just right for us and Ewald.
We arrive in Morgan City and find a place in this formerly rich and now somehow doomed oil town directly at an old, decommissioned oil platform, called Mr. Charlie. This “RIG” museum is really worth a visit, the tour was led by an oil platform veteran. In addition to many facts, he also told us great and interesting stories “beyond”. Really recommendable
The next day we drive to the Tabasco factory on Avery Island. Interesting and crazy tasty. The company was founded in 1868 and is still family-owned. The only, really the only, production facility is located right here on Avery Island and they supply over 180 countries from here. The chillies are pickled in oak barrels for up to 3 years before they are processed to Tabasco sauce. On the tour you get a very good overview of all production steps and also into the history of the company, which is also a very social company. The great end of the tour is the shop with a sample area. Karsten tried ALL types of Tabaso (after that his lips were probably a little numb) and I enjoyed the delicious Tabasco ice cream.
After a short “pit stop” in the Palmetto State Park for a loooooong shower and doing some serious laundry work, we continue to the so-called “Outback of Louisiana”. We drive almost 100 miles, only occasionally we see a lonely trailer home and then we arrive at the really beautiful „Rutherford Beach“ located on the gulf. Here we can finally walk barefoot on the beach again, only the water is not really inviting for a swim. There are a lot of oil platforms on the horizon and that doesn’t bring up the “bathing water” feeling. However, we enjoy standing directly on the beach with Ewald.
After a few beach-days, we move further west on the barrier islands. In Cameron we have to take a ferry. The fee is 1!$ . Funny. And then we are in TEXAS – our 13th state. And how does Texas greet us? With sun and a desert? NO. It is rainy and stormy and the first things we see is the oil industry. We drive a bit further, in a heavy thunderstorm (it is a bit frightening), and we are lucky enough to find a great spot right on the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula. The next day the sun is shining again and we will definitely spend the next few days on this beautiful island … knowing that after this we won’t see the ocean for a long time anymore.
We take the (free!) Ferry to Galveston for a day. The city is a bit touristy and after a few hours we are happy to be back on „our“ island Bolivar. We also spend Karsten’s birthday here. As birthday guests, Michaela and Peter arrive with a homemade cake just in time. We enjoy coffee and cake in the sun and in the evening we celebrate a little with delicious food, red wine and good music. A beautiful day.
We decide to drive quite a distance over the next few days. One or the other may laugh … but we usually only drive 60 to 100 miles per day … so our mileage today, about 150, is quite a way we made. We stop for the night in Hallittsville (in the middle of nowhere) and the next day we drive another 110 miles to San Antonio. On our way it is raining the whole time. Incredible, in Texas! However, we are very happy because all the salt is being washed off from Ewald. And then of course many of our clichés are served, we see drive-through gun shops and drive-through liquor stores. Getting out of the car seems to be not in fashion. And as one of our beloved writers Andreas Altmann likes to say: A pedestrian is a person, who walks to his car. HA! How true, walking here is really difficult with nonexistent sidewalks. We sometimes really get funny looks when we walk. Again very different.
In San Antonio we find a place at the Texas Air Museum, which we found thanks to the app Harvest Hosts. We are allowed to stand here for the next 2 nights for free. Of course, we first visit the museum. Is a pretty wild ragbag but here again we are fascinated by the stories behind it. The neighboring Stinson Airfield airport was founded in the early 19th century by the Stinson family (mother, 2 daughters and 1 son) and the daughters were very well known and remarkable at the time as flight instructors and aerobatic pilots.
The next day the sun shines again and it is nice and warm. A perfect day for the four of us to cycle about 14 miles along the San Antonio River, on perfect bike paths, to the city center. We right away fall in love with San Antonio. We go around on the riverwalk (great!), of course we also visit the Alamo Mission and the large Mexican market. Liberal, cosmopolitan, artistic and a lot of history – wonderful city. And not to forget the delicious Mexican food and margaritas. A perfect day in an apparently perfect city.
Now we can not wait any longer to see the Big Bend National Park. We finally want to see mountains again and Ewald wants to get off the paved roads. In big steps, Texas is so huge, we drive through enormous pastures and Texas feels more and more like Texas. It is really warm and dry. The landscape can now best be described with the word „desert“ and we see many men with Stetsons and many Mexicans. We go shopping in Uvalde and stock up our food supplies for the next 2 weeks – at least. We pass Del Rio, due to the proximity to Mexico, we have to pass through a passport control and arrive at the Seminole Canyon State Park after 2 days.
Here we finally go hiking again. We walk the Canyon Rim Trail and actually get to see the Panther (rock paintings from the Stone Age) and the Rio Grande, the border river to Mexico. From here we drive 5 miles to the Pecos River and here we spend a beautiful evening and a very quiet night with a fantastic view.
Then we arrive in Marathon. The landscape seems almost a little Moroccan to us – if there weren’t so many fences. Here all of the land seems to be in private hands and there is no possibility to hike through the countryside. Fortunately, there are National Parks that more than compensates this for us. By the way, Marathon looks like a “lost place”, abandoned and falling apart. But we really kind of like it and at least we can fill up diesel here and take great pictures.
The next day, FINALLY, we make it to BIG BEND National Park. The first impressions are great. Mountains, desert, cacti and just wild nature. We really missed that. First we go to the Visitor Center at Panther Junction. Here we get some information and plan the next few days. We also have to plan the nights in the so-called back country and book the individual “camps” for the following 8 nights. We put together a nice route and the four of us look forward to off-road fun and loneliness.
The first place we go to is on Grapewinehill … wonderful … we believe the most beautiful place to stay so far in the United States. We hike to the balanced rock, sit outside in the evening and are almost overwhelmed by the starry sky and the calmness. They say here in Big Bend, we are in the place with the lowest light pollution in the entire United States, so the view is simply fantastic. The next hike we make is just into the „Canyonlands“, there is no trail and it is quite exciting – especially because we do not always know how to cross the canyons. But we did it … and enjoyed the adventure very much.
Our next place is at Pine Canyon (altitude 4,265 feet). Super nice again. We repeat ourselves and we do not have enough superlatives to describe this crazy beautiful landscape. Therefore, we will simply let the pictures speak for themselves again. By the way – we also hike here again – like almost every day in Big Bend.
Ewald is also delighted and he is being properly challenged. The „roads“ demand a lot from his torsion skills and luckily he remains stable on all four wheels, even in the most difficult parts. We are often warned by the Rangers that a Unimog fell over here last year. That was probably quite spectacular and the salvage took over a month. In short words, the pists are “rough and tough”. Unfortunately, the vegetation next to the pists is extremely thorny, especially the agaves are a bit nasty, and Ewald gets some new scratches along the entire length. But he wears his scratches with dignity – that’s how we should wear our wrinkles. 😉
The River Road (what a harmless name) along the Rio Grande River directly on the Mexican border was particularly rough and tough. We divided this 50 miles long passage into three parts and spent several nights in two different locations. At first we were at Solis … wonderful, then on the Black Dike … not quite as spectacular. The proximity to Mexico seems surreal to us. The Rio Grande is rather small and slowly flowing. It is not a real obstacle, so it is no wonder that we encounter the Border Patrol several times. We visit an abandoned mercury mine that was decommissioned in the 1940s and are amazed how well everything is still preserved. The dry desert air conserves – but unfortunately it does not conserve our skin 😜.
On our way through the huge National Park we finally drive on a paved road to the Santa Elena Canyon. Here we hike the beautiful canyon and we are able to take some pictures of a cute roadrunner. By the way, we haven’t seen much wildlife yet. The mountain lions seem to be too shy. At night we regularly hear coyotes, but we only see rabbits, some jovelinas from time to time (they look like small wild boars) and „only“ a few golden eagles.
The last three nights we spend on the campground in the Chisos Basin (altitude 5,250 feet). On the first hike to the so-called Window, we see a black bear for the first time on this trip. FINALLY. Unfortunately, the good guy hid pretty well and he is not really recognizable in the picture. However, it was a breathtaking experience.
The majority of day 2 we spend indoors because it is very uncomfortably cold and it actually snowed a little. We only dare to go to the Visitor Center for a short time to check the mails. The next day the sun shines again and we can climb the highest mountain, Emory Peak (7,825 feet), here in the park. It’s still pretty crisp, especially the wind. However, we are experiencing a wonderful day of hiking with fantastic views. Great!
The weather here in Texas is mostly warm and almost always bright sunny, although the wind should never be underestimated. Sometimes you have uncomfortable weather … but that never seems to last long. As a Texan guy told us this morning: If the weather is bad in Texas, just wait 5 minutes and it will be good again.
Now we are on our way north through the Chihuahua Desert towards the Guadelupe Mountains. We stay in small towns like Alpine and Van Horn and the locals have so far been incredibly friendly, courteous and helpful without exception. We always feel very welcome. We hope it stays that way on our way west … we will let you know.