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Unlike 2010, we actually have a destination - Savannah. Whether we get there or not, remains to be seen. Due to the forest fires, horrific tornados and major flooding this year, we've had a bit of trouble firming up plans.


Saturday, June 11th

We've moved our dates and destinations around a couple of times and I actually changed my flight.

Originally, the idea was that I would fly to Ontario to visit my family first. Doreen would drive there to pick me up and we'd continue on down the eastern seaboard. Now the plan is to do go south and then east below the storms and end up in Ontario at the end of our trip, where I'll visit and fly home from Kitchener. Hopefully, the floods and tornados will let up by the time we are in the area.

We've been joking that in 2003 we had a destination of Nova Scotia and we ended up in Memphis, Tennessee. You never know with us. This year we might end up in Nova Scotia.

However, June 12th, 2011 is upon us and we are scheduled to hit the road around noon tomorrow.


Page 2
St. Augustine to Calgary


Sunday, June 12th - Calgary to Helena, Montana

Trying to get ready to go this year has been a tad strenuous. Between working long hours to organize my office for someone to cover for me, plus getting my hubby, Steve prepared for a business trip to Houston at the same time, I wasn't able to leave till Sunday. Even then, I was no where near ready in the morning. It was 1:30 pm before we hit the road - well almost. After filling our travel mugs at Timmies, we had one trip back to my house to grab my hat, then.... on the road again.

Typically, we followed I-15 south once we crossed the border. We had a long way to go so planned to connect with I-40 asap. We ran in and out of rain for most the day, the aftermath of which were incredible rainbows every time the sun came out. We figured that was a good omen. There is probably nothing prettier than Montana in the spring. Everything is so green, especially with the moisture we have had this year. The flooded rivers were as brown and fast as at home but seemed to have receded.

After a short six hours on the road we stopped at Helena, Montana. Great motel - the Wingate. Wonderful beds, clean and spacious. Only one recommendation - more softener in the laundry. Lovely white towels that felt like drying with an emery board.


Monday, June 13th - Helena to Jackson Hole

When leaving Helena, our plans changed again, as we decided to travel uncharted territory and head southeast on different roads.

The streams and rivers were crashing down the mountain and we stopped periodically, along the way to snap a few photos.

Yellowstone National Park

We headed east on hwy 12/287 to Three Forks, picked up I-90 for 20 miles, then south on hwy 191 to the west Yellowstone gates. Yellowstone was lovely in the rain!! Although I must admit we saw quite a few more animals that were closer to the road than were in other years.

At the top there was so much snow it felt like driving in Banff in February. The Grand Tetons were totally covered and obscured by fog. And this was in the middle of June!!

It didn't look like the weather across mid-America was improving so we had to make a decision to continue south-east through all the predicted storms along I-40, or cut our losses and head straight south to Arizona and Texas where it is 100°. It was a no brainer.

We spent the night in Jackson, Wyoming. A great tourist town that hadn't seen the sun in weeks. Jackson Hole, is a valley located near the western border with Idaho. The name "hole" derives from language used by early trappers or mountain men, who primarily entered the valley from the north and east and had to descend along relatively steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole. Jackson is a town located in the Jackson Hole valley of Teton County. The town is named for the geographic feature in which it is located.


Tuesday, June 14th - Jackson to Grand Junction

Five miles south of Jackson the sun came out. Within minutes, the fog burnt off and the smiles came back to our faces. Maybe this will be a good day after all.

Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Tour

We drove down Hwy 189 to connect with Hwy 191 to Rock Springs. Just before Rock Springs we spotted a sign that said "Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Route". Thus began a 45 minute search for the Mustangs (along a rough shale road that didn't want to end). Finally, when we were just about ready to give up, we saw them off in the distance. We drove as close as the road allowed us and took pictures. The horse really didn't look or act any different that any other horses grazing in a field. They didn't even raise their heads when Doreen honked the horn!! Bummer. We at least hoped for a running herd and a leading black stallion. Guess we've seen too many movies.

The majority of wild horses in Wyoming are located in the southwestern part of the state. The management level for wild horses in Wyoming is approximately 2,490 to 3,725 horses. Approximately 1,100 to 1,600 wild horses can be found on the public lands managed by the BLM Rock Springs Field Office known as The Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop just north of Rock Springs and Green River, Wyoming. The 24 mile self-guided tour across the top of White Mountain can begin in either Green River or Rock Springs.

A Mustang is a free-roaming feral horse that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but the more correct term is feral horses. Today, free-roaming horses are protected under United States law, but have disappeared from several states where there were once established populations. A few hundred free-roaming horses survive in Alberta and British Columbia. The BLM considers roughly 26,000 individuals a manageable number, but the feral Mustang population in February 2010 was 33,700 horses. More than half of all Mustangs in North America are found in Nevada with other significant populations in Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. Another 34,000 horses are in holding facilities.

The Mustangs are protected under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 an Act of Congress, signed into law President Richard M. Nixon on December 18, 1971. The Act made it a crime for anyone to harass or kill feral horses or feral burros on federal land, required the departments of the Interior and Agriculture to protect the animals, required studies of the animals' habits and habitats, and permitted public land to be set aside for their use. In addition, the act required that Mustangs be protected as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West".

This horse adventure took us to Green River instead of Rock Springs, so instead of going on the I-80 we drove under it and picked up a lovely site-seeing trail (Hwy 530) along the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area to the Utah border where it became Hwy 44. We came up behind an "escorted wide load" that we couldn't pass so rather than follow at 20 miles/hour, we pulled into the first point of interest area we saw, which turned out to be a 20 mile Geological Trail. Although our speed was still 20 mph, it was well worth the time spent.

Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area

This spectacular drive in the Ashley National Forest is located adjacent to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and connects to the Uinta National Scenic Byway. Named after the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep that inhabit the area, this site is dominated by the Uinta Crest Fault, a section of folded and twisted rock that reveals millions of years of geological history. It offers an impressive array of geological phenomenon packed into a relatively small amount of space.

The loop passes through the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area, nearly 3,600 acres of land set aside by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1960's. More than a billion years of geologic history are showcased within the geological area, from rocks deposited in an ancient rift system that uplifted the Uinta Mountains about 30 to 40 million years ago.

All along the route today, the creeks, rivers and lakes were flooded. In a lot of instances, there were no banks. It was like the trees were in the middle of the water. The flow was extremely fast and very muddy.

We connected back up to Hwy 191 to Vernal, turned SE on State Highway 40 to Rangely and then straight south on Hwy 139 towards Grand Junction, Colorado.

The whole day was new roads, new experiences and fabulous scenery - and - no rain!


Wednesday, June 15th - Grand Junction to Bluff

We left Grand Junction about 8:30 am and travelling SE to Hwy 141, south to Naturita then Hwy 145 which winds it's way back SW to Cortez. This whole route was spectacular - up and down high cliffs and low meadows. A lot slower than interstate but refreshingly peaceful.

Driggs Mansion
Along one of the meadow lands, we came upon the ruins of "Driggs Mansion". Between vandals and weather not much remains. There is currently much effort to preserve the Driggs Mansion. The site does qualify for State and National historical site registries.

The Driggs Mansion was constructed in the early 1900's by Lawrence LaTourette Driggs. Driggs acquired the 320 acres of land through the Desert Entry Act, approved by Congress on March 3, 1877.

The exact date that the Driggs Mansion was constructed is unknown. An outside reference believes that the mansion took four years to build, 1914 to 1918.

In the final construction, the mansion has six rooms that included two bedrooms, one large commons area, kitchen and a small utility room.

We were getting into a lot of red rock areas. It was beginning to feel like we were home.

Hwy 145 Dolores River Charcoal Oven

We found a Charcoal Oven. This one didn't seem to be as old as others we've discovered in Nevada. One thing different was the rocks used. This one was made from the red rocks. Perhaps this is why it looked different or perhaps this is only a replica? I took a couple of photos and Doreen took the camera and moved back a bit to take my picture.

As she snapped my photo, she started swatting at something around her head. Suddenly her arms were flailing and she started running towards the car. She hollered at me that she was being bitten so I took off in the opposite direction back up the road we came in on. She made it into the car and continued swatting at something inside and after a few minutes, drove back to pick me up.

We were totally stunned. In those few seconds, she had been bitten over nearly a hundred times, mostly on her head and neck, even under her hat. They seemed to be what we would call gnats, but while ours back home are annoying, they don't bite. So we went on the internet and looked them up.

No see ums are the common name of a group of tiny, flying insects that can be found throughout North America. To anyone who travels into the wilds they are called biting midges, midges, punkies, sand flies, no-see-ums and many other local names.

A single no see ums bite can cause irritation far beyond what might be expected from such a tiny creature. Itching and pain can be much worse than mosquito bites and go on for four or five days, sometimes longer. A red wheal develops that may be an inch or more across. When this is multiplied by sometimes upwards of a hundred bites the results can be extreme.

It is not unheard of to have cases of upwards of fifty no see ums bites resulting in inflammation, itching and pain for weeks and requiring medical attention with antibiotics and steroid medication. Some no see ums bites result in inflammatory celulitis, again requiring medical attention.

The first night was unreal. The bites immediately were swollen, turned red and filled with pus. And the itch was driving her crazy. She tried polysporin to keep the infection down and I had anti-itch cream but it didn't help. Finally, the next day, in desperation, I took peroxide I had in my kit, used a cuetip and literally soaked each bite till it turned white. I knew we had to stop the infection. It was painful, but it killed the bacteria, started drying them up and the itching subsided enough to for her to tolerate. Had we not had the peroxide and tried it, I have no doubt that she would have spent part of her holiday under doctors' care. Especially after reading about the harm these little beasts can inflict. It did take about a week for the bites to finally fade away and stop causing her grief, but by that time we were 2000 miles away.

Hanging Flume

High on a crest along the Dolores River, we stopped at the remnants of a Hanging Flume. The Hanging Flume was an open water chute (known as a flume) built over the Dolores River Canyon in Colorado. The Montrose Placer Mining Company built the flume in the 1880s to facilitate gold mining. Some sections of the flume remain attached to the canyon wall, although much of the wood has vanished.

The Montrose Placer Mining Company was formed to mine gold from placer deposits along the Dolores River. Hydraulic mining, a popular method of exploiting placer deposits, required water to be efficiently transported, often using wooden flumes to maintain the necessary volume and pressure. Cliffside flumes were developed using trestles and brackets (called bents) at regular intervals to support the flume box.

The Hanging Flume is in poor condition. It has been vandalized in places. Some of its wood has been removed, and what remains has deteriorated, particularly where directly exposed to weather. The pine wood is vulnerable to decay and fungi.

In 1980, the Hanging Flume was listed as a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1999, Colorado Preservation Inc. placed the Flume on its annual list of the most endangered historic places in Colorado.

In 2004, through a grant from the State Historical Fund, a team of archaeologists, engineers, and local researchers conducted an assessment of the site.

In 2006, the Hanging Flume was placed on the World Monuments Fund's "100 Most Endangered Sites" list. This listing affords international recognition and support in seeking grants and technical assistance.

The area around Telluride was similar to Glacier National Park. Well maintained and easy driving. Shortly after leaving the area we pretty well had the road to ourselves. It's great to be able to pull over to take pictures or turn around whenever we want.

Our intention to continue with the south/east/south trajectory lasted until we reached Cortez. Hwy 145 had circled us back to within easy driving distance of 4 Corners, Bluff and Hwy 261. In all our travels - we had never missed a visit to this area. So close... but backtracking would add a day to our driving time. Hmmm what to do ??? A quick stop at McD's, a burger and smoothie later, the decision was made. We'll find an interstate later to make up the time and the shout "westward ho!!" could be heard above the radio as we turned the car into the sun.

Four Corners

We stopped at 4 Corners to do some shopping and were pleasantly surprised to see some significant changes to the Monument display and its' surroundings. There are three new rows of stone vendor's booths and the entire compound has been redone. It was very impressive and added to the fact, this was a special place, not just a dusty flea market.

As it was the middle of the week and later in the afternoon, there weren't a lot of tourists left and there were bargains to be haggled over. And then, once again we stepped out of Colorado into Utah - and then hopped out of Utah into New Mexicao and Arizona.

If you are reading this and don't know where it is, 4 Corners is the only place in the United States where 4 states connect. There is a circular marker where you can literally place your hands and feet and be in 4 states at the same time.

Painted Desert

Once we reached Bluff, we checked in at the Desert Rose Inn and went to Twin Rocks Cafe for supper and of course, shopping, then went to play on Hwy 261 until dark.

We stopped to catch a picture of the painted desert. As I turned back to snap the photo of the sun hitting the hills behind us, a group of bikers whizzed by. It turned out to be a great picture.

Highway 261  

We drove up and down the road for well over half an hour before any other vehicles even came along. This allowed us to take pictures of every angle of scenery and landscape possible. But this time, we hung onto mascot Willie with a death grip.

Going over the cliff is not an option for him any more. It isn't likely we would get a second hero to come along and rescue him

We played till dark and then it was finally time to go back to the Inn We had a lot of time to make up and needed an early start in the morning.

The clarity of a clear night in the desert is difficult to express in words, but this shot of the full moon can give you an idea of what it's like.

If it hadn't been for the lousy bugs, it would have ended a perfect day.


Thursday, June 16th - Bluff to Socorro
Despite our good intentions to get up early and put major miles on today - we forgot to get out of bed. After gassing up, we had to go back to Twin Rocks Cafe for breakfast. Best quesadilla we've ever had. While eating, we made the decision to go straight south down Hwy 191 to I-10 and across Texas. It was after eleven before we got on the road.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Just south of Bluff, on Hwy 191 we stopped at Canyon de Chelly for a quick tour. Never pass by what you may not get back to see again.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established on April 1, 1931 as a unit of the National Park Service. It is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. It preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also called Anasazi) and Navajo. The monument covers 131 square miles (339 km2) and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska mountains just to the east of the monument. The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 1970.

Four hours later, we pulled into the town of Eagar, AZ where we learned the forest fires (that were supposedly under control) had flared up again and the highway south had been closed about an hour before we got there. Change of plans - now were rerouted east on Hwy 60 towards Socorro, New Mexico. For a time, we considered turning south again at Quemado, NM and picking up Hwy 180 down to I-10, but reports stated there were flareups throughout the Gila National Forest so we figured we'd better not push our luck. Besides it was getting late and towns with motels didn't look plentiful along that route. We continued on to Socorro and roads not yet travelled.

Socorro, New Mexico

Just before Socorro, there were some massive, interesting dishes along the highway. Apparently they are Very Large Array (VLA) Telescopes. I believe they listen for sounds to verify life from other planets.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center of the United States National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc for the purpose of radio astronomy. NRAO designs, builds, and operates its own high sensitivity radio telescopes for use by scientists around the world.

The NRAO's facility in Socorro is the Array Operations Center (AOC). Located on the New Mexico Tech campus, the AOC serves as the headquarters for the Very Large Array (VLA), which was the setting for the movie Contact, and the control center for the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).

VLBA telescopes are located in Hawaii, the United States Virgin Islands, Charlottesville, Virginia, Green Bank, West Virginia, Socorro, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, and Santiago, Chile.

At the end of a rather long and mixed up day, the smoke from the fires helped create a spooky sunset.

Once again, the clear cloudless evening makes for unique photos.


Friday, June 17th - Socorro to Ft. Stockton

So much for our "get moving in the morning" program - I don't know why we even think we can do it. We slept in and did not get on the road until 10:30.

The cacti are getting bigger and bigger and the weather is getting hotter and hotter - from the snow in Yellowstone National Park a couple of days ago to 100° in Socorro. Nice!!

Trinity Site

We drove south on I-25 to Hwy 380. Along the highway, we saw the signs to the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated Expecting, because it's advertised, it would be open to the public, we followed the signs 9 miles into the desert. Instead of a tourist site, we found it heavily guarded and most unwelcoming.

If they don't want to have tourists like us show up on their doorstep, why don't they post it as military or private property. Fast u-turn and back out to the highway again.

Trinity was the code name of the first nuclear weapons test of an atomic bomb. This test was conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, at the White Sands Proving Ground, now the White Sands Missile Range. The date of the test is usually considered to be the beginning of the Atomic Age.

Valley of Fires Recreation Area

Just before Carrizozo we pulled into the Valley of Fires Recreation Area which is really just a rather desolate campground on a lava bed.

The lava making up the flow came from Little Black Peak, about 10 miles north-northwest of Carrizozo, and went about 40 miles south-southwest down the bottom of Tularosa Basin in a series of recent (the last 1,000-1,500 years ago) active flows. At their southern end, the lava flows are about 12 miles north of the dune fields of White Sands National Monument.

Carrizozo & White Oaks Ghost Town

We stopped at Carrizozo and bought some fruit. Saw the signs for the ghost town of White Oaks about 10 miles north up Hwy 349, so we took the drive. We took a few photos and drove around for a bit but did not stop for very long.

Since we ate the fruit already, we stopped back at the Carrizozo fruit stand again to restock and we also purchased some healing balm which the owners wife makes. Thought it might help heal the bites Doreen was suffering from.

The owners were surprised to see us again - I guess most travellers don't stop by twice in an hour.

White Oaks is a ghost town in Lincoln County, New Mexico, United States. Located on the outskirts of the Lincoln National Forest, it became a boomtown in 1879 following the discovery of gold and coal in the nearby Jicarilla Mountains.

It was frequented by notable Old West personalities, including Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and Shotgun John Collins. Jonathan H. Wise established the town's first newspaper in 1880, called the White Oaks Golden Era.

In November, 1880, a posse originating in White Oaks pursued Billy the Kid a distance of over forty miles, culminating in a standoff, during which the posse accidentally shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Jim Carlysle, as the latter was attempting to negotiate with the outlaw.

The town, at its peak, had a population of 2,000 people, reached by 1890. In 1882, with a population of 500, construction was completed on Starr's Opera House, and the town sported several saloons, several general stores, a school, and a town hall. In 1884 Lyman Hood held the first church services in an actual church building. During this period, there were brothels with many prostitutes, and the town was frequently a haven for cattle rustlers and other outlaws.

In 1970, White Oaks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. By that time, very little remained of the original community. Although the district covered over 1,800 acres, only 6 buildings had enough historical integrity to qualify as contributing properties.

Lincoln State Monument

A short drive later, we came upon the small town of Lincoln where we pulled into the parking lot of the museum and town jail to investigate the local history.

This little town lies just east of the Capitan Mountains and most of it is encompassed as the Lincoln State Monument. Originally called Las Placitas del Rio Bonito by the Spanish families who settled it in the 1850s, the name of the community was changed to Lincoln when Lincoln County was created in January, 16, 1869.

Lincoln was at the center of the Lincoln County War, 1876-1879, and is the historical home of Billy the Kid. The village holds an annual festival in August featuring an open-air enactment of The Last Escape of Billy the Kid. The Lincoln Historic District was made a National Landmark in 1960 and over 50 buildings in the Town have been preserved and maintained as such.

Roswell UFO Incident

Doreen had never heard of the events at Roswell, NM, since she's not much of a science fiction buff, so it was only logical I would navigate her to the alien's favorite tourist trap. We spent a couple hours wandering the town and Roswell UFO Museum, indulging our fantasies about what might be out there. I purchased a few souvenirs, mostly for my kids and grandkids - totally novelty items - but did catch Doreen buying a couple of books on the town and UFO incident. Once going through the Museum, even she, being the ultimate skeptic found it difficult not to believe something else is out there.

The Roswell UFO Incident was the recovery of an object that crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of conspiracy theories as to the true nature of the object that crashed.

The United States military maintains that what was actually recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to a classified program named "Mogul". However, many UFO proponents maintain that in fact an alien craft and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, making the name Roswell synonymous with UFOs. It ranks as the most publicized and controversial of alleged UFO incidents.

In April 2011, the FBI posted a document from 1950 on their website written by agent Guy Hottel which discussed a report forwarded by an investigator from the Air Force of three alien craft and their occupants having been recovered in New Mexico. The memo stated that "three so-called flying saucers" were recovered, each circular in shape with raised centers, each about 50 feet in diameter. Three occupants of "human shape," each about three feet tall, were found in each craft, and all were dressed "in metallic cloth of a very fine texture." The memo said that reports were "high-powered radar" had affected the alien crafts' control systems, causing them to crash. No date was mentioned, though the memo was date-stamped March 22, 1950, and no location more specific than "New Mexico" was mentioned. The memo stated that "no further evaluation was attempted" by the person who supplied the information.

Numerous sources connected the memo to the Roswell UFO incident of 1947.

Other sources said the memo had been in the public domain for years and was revealed as a hoax as far back as 1952 in an article in True magazine. They said the hoax was perpetrated by several men who were peddling a device purported to be able to locate gold, oil, gas or anything their victims sought, based on supposed alien technology. The two men, Silas Newton and Leo A. Gebauer, were convicted of fraud in 1953.

Pecos, Texas

After leaving Roswell, we headed straight south on Hwy 285 and stopped again at Pecos, Texas and toured around the town. Somewhere in our memories, we knew there was historical history to this town but couldn't remember what it was. We found a couple of sites and markers, took pictures and then looked it up on the internet that night. History proved to be memories of old movies about trail rides and cattle drives and Pecos Bill from the Disney movie.

Pecos is the largest city in and the county seat of Reeves County, Texas, United States. It is situated in the river valley on the west bank of the Pecos River at the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas and near the southern border of New Mexico. Pecos claims to be the site of the world's first rodeo on July 4, 1883.

Pecos is one of the numerous towns in West Texas organized around a train depot during the construction of the Texas and Pacific Railway. These towns were subsequently linked by the construction of U.S. Highway 80 and Interstate 20. Prior to the arrival of the railroad, a permanent camp existed nearby where cattle drives crossed the Pecos River.

Judge Roy Bean

Phantly Roy Bean, Jr. (c. 1825 – March 16, 1903) was an eccentric U.S. saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in Val Verde County, Texas, who called himself "The Law West of the Pecos".

According to legend, Judge Roy Bean held court in his saloon along the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas.

After his death, Western films and books cast him as a hanging judge, though he is known to have sentenced only two men to hang, one of whom escaped.

We had dilly-daddled the day away, stopping at every historical site and marker from Socorro to Pecos and now it looked like we'd be driving in the dark before we would make our stop for the night.

With little time to spare we hi-tailed it for Fort Stockton with one positive thought in mind - it has a really nice IHOP.

One thing we have noticed and commented on, especially in the desert areas...... when driving after sunset, there seems to be little or no traffic from either direction. Stopping for a photo of the setting sun can be done easily from the roadside.


Saturday, June 18th - Ft. Stockton to Giddings

Today we managed to get out of bed, grab breakfast AND be on the road by 9 am. We really made good time heading east on I-10 at 80 mph. We even stopped for a picnic.

When first planning this trip to northern Florida, we were hoping the timing would allow us to see the lift-off of the space shuttle "Atlantis", but the launch date was postponed. While we were driving along I-10 interstate, we pulled alongside what looked like a "NASA" space shuttle escape pod. Have no idea where it was headed, but if it was part of the Atlantis or any other launch, this was as close as we could ask for and we have the picture to prove it.

Fredericksburg and Luckenbach

Three hours and one picnic later, we were at the Fredericksburg turn off on to Hwy 290 by noon. We barely got into town when Tea Rose Quilts sign jumped into the middle of the road and stopped Doreen in her tracks. She really has to stop doing that, I am tired of picking my maps and snacks off the car floor. Nevertheless, two quilts, four shams, some measuring spoon sets and a dozen Christmas decorations later, we bustled out of Fredericksburg, heading east and then south down local Road 1376 into Luckenbach.

Unfortunately, there was an antique car show or something going on and the place was packed. No where to park and with so few buildings to tour, there was no point in being swept along with the crowd so we didn't bother staying. I know Doreen was disappointed but hopefully one day we can come back and have the opportunity to wander at leisure like the first time.

Don't Mess With Texas

We kept seeing this "Don't Mess With Texas" sign. Texas seems to be quite serious about littering and it does show. We were commenting about how clean the state was. Some parts were not so good but in general there is very little littering.

The phrase Don’t Mess with Texas is a trademark of the Texas Department of Transportation, which began as part of a statewide advertising campaign started in 1986. The intention behind the Don't Mess with Texas campaign was to reduce littering on Texas roadways and has garnered national attention.

The phrase "Don't Mess with Texas" was prominently shown on road signs on major highways, television, radio and in print advertisements. The campaign is credited with reducing litter on Texas highways roughly 72% between 1986 and 1990. The campaign's target market was 18-35 year old males, which was statistically shown to be the most likely to litter. While the slogan was originally not intended to become a cultural icon, it did.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Back on Hwy 290 travelling east, a few miles later we came upon the LBJ Ranch. It has been donated as a State Park and free to the public for touring. We followed the self-guided route using the CD that the park provides for directions and commentary. As it was getting later in the day, we didn't have time to tour inside but since it was a surprise to find the ranch in the first place, it gives us another reason to come back to this area.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site is in Gillespie County, between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, and contains 717.9 acres. The Visitor Center is the focal point of Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park and contains memorabilia from President Johnson's presidency and interactive displays about the Land and People that shaped a president.

Visitors who use park can enjoy historical study, picnicking, nature study, fishing, swimming and view Texas longhorn cattle. The abundant wildlife of the Hill Country is highlighted by enclosures containing buffalo, longhorn, and white-tailed deer.

The road tour takes you over a good portion of the property and the drive is quite peaceful and relaxing. The tour passes by the one-room Junction School first attended by the four-year-old LBJ in 1912 and his reconstructed birthplace and the nearby Johnson family cemetery where the former President is buried.

It was nearly 5 PM before we were back on the road and continued east on Hwy 290 then south on Hwy 46 and across Hwy 21 to New Braunfels and north on Hwy 35 to San Marcos. A guest from work had told me about these two quaint towns with arts and crafts shopping so we included them in our route. Unfortunately, the only thing we found that was of any interest to us was an outlet mall and an IHOP!! The IHOP won out. With at least our stomachs satisfied, we gave up on shopping for arts and crafts and promptly headed north on Hwy 21 back to Hwy 290 and stopped for the night at Giddings.

Our hotel in Giddings was a brand new Best Western - much nicer than the last few nights. The beds were heavenly. Although this really isn't of any interest, we need to post this bit of info to the site so we can remember where to stay if we get back here again. When memory fades, there's always the internet.

Sunday morning we will be heading for The Woodlands, a beautiful subdivision north of Houston where we plan to visit Doreen's sister Lois, her husband Bruce and the "kids" - three dogs and a cat they've rescued and who now rule the house. Sadly, Lois and Bruce had lost two of their precious pets (due to old age) since our last visit and recently have adopted a couple of new dogs and a cat for us to meet.


Sunday, June 19th - Giddings to LaFayette
Well - another slow start to the day we don't have far to go this time. A quick stop at McD's for breakfast and we were on our way.

We haven't seen too many flowers this year, since spring everywhere had a late start, but the trees in this area are in full bloom with an array of magnificent colours.

I snapped this picture coming out of McDonalds. I think this is called the "Myrtle Tree", like the ones we saw in Louisiana in 2007.

The Woodlands

We stayed on Hwy 290 to just outside of Hempstead. There, we turned onto the "Farm to Market" Road 1488 over to I-45 and then turned south into the Woodlands area. At that point we needed directions because we were coming in from a totally different direction than before and hadn't a clue how to find their house. One phone call and Bruce ably directed us straight into the driveway. After a brief reunion with one old dog and an introduction to two new dogs, (Thomas, the cat was noticeably absent) we were shown their newly tiled home and then whisked off for a Mexican lunch and a tour of Lois' office.

I don't know what it is about us, but each time we've been to the Woodlands, it clouds over and thunderstorms roll in. The air and humidity get so thick you feel you can cut it with a knife. After a lovely lunch, we said our goodbyes with Doreen promising to come back and spend more time so they can take her out to their lake property.

We found our way back to I-45 north to Hwy 105 east through Beaumont then dropped down to the I-10. Just before the Louisiana border, traffic came to a sudden dead stop. Rather that sit still, we cut off and drove through the town of Orange and came up on the far east side of town to sneak back on the I-10 where there was no traffic jam and clear sailing. Whatever was going on was left behind us.

A few miles into Louisiana at Lake Charles we got off the interstate and enjoyed another little side venture along Hwy 14 southeast through a rural farming area and along bayous, finally connecting back to the I-10 at Jennings.

It's obvious that crawfish (crayfish/crawdads) are an important commodity and food source in this part of the country. This would be a difficult place for me to reside, as seafood and crustaceans are not high on my food preferences.

Once again a great sunset. This was taken along Hwy 14 just before Hayes.

We spent the night just outside of LaFayette at a motel in Rayne, Louisiana.


Monday, June 20th - River Road Plantations - LaFayette to Hammond
We passed thru LaFayette shortly after 10 AM and drove I-10 to just outside Baton Rouge. We are now into the land (or lack thereof), where roads are constantly over water. Not one of my favourite places to be, as I have a phobia about roads or bridges with water on either side.

I have now placed my faith in the driver not to have me swimming with the alligators. Doreen laughs at me until I remind her about her fear of heights. At least she isn't required to hold my hand when we drive over a bridge. LOL

Just before Baton Rouge, we turned onto Hwy 1 and then onto S. River Road (Hwy 405) to look for the plantations I'd been researching during our cold and incredibly long winter and spring.

Plaquemine, Louisiana

We passed through the historic section of a small town called Placquemine. After touring the town and photographing it's old architecture, we set out for the old plantation highway.

Plaquemine is a city in and the parish seat of Iberville Parish, Louisiana with a population of about 7000. Plaquemine was noted to be settled as early as 1775. Due to its location at the juncture of Bayou Plaquemine with the Mississippi River, the village soon began to prosper and grow. By 1838, the town was incorporated, electing Zenon LaBauve, for whom the Garden District's main street is named, as its first mayor.

Plaquemine continued to grow in the antebellum era. Massive plantations were constructed in nearby regions, including Nottoway and Belle Grove. The town has been the seat of Iberville Parish government since its incorporation. The former Parish Courthouse (c.1906)on Railroad Avenue has been serving as City Hall since 1985

Academy of Saint Basil

Built in 1847 by Dr. Edward Scratchley. Occupied as a school by Marianite Sisters from 1859-1862 & 1865-1975. Occupied as military command by Union Army 1862-1865. Renovated by Lt. Governor and Mrs. Robert L. Feeman - 1990.

The lumber industry boomed in the mid-18th century and did not close until available supplies of massive virgin bald cypress trees were exhausted around 1930. Plaquemine produced over 1.5 million board feet (3500 m³) per year in her sawmills. The Plaquemine Lock, constructed from 1895–1909, was a vitally important link between the Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Canal, of which Bayou Plaquemine served as its northern terminus. It's design served as the proto-type for the upcoming Panama Canal locks. The locks were shut in 1961. Today, it is operated as a state park.

Old City Hall

Iberville Parish Courthouse, 1848-1906. Plaquemine City Hall, 1906-1985.

Built by George and Thomas Weldon of Mississippi. One of Louisiana's oldest public buildings. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nottoway Plantation

The first plantation we visited was Nottoway. It is almost unnoticeable at first because it is set back off the highway. The magnificent splendor is only surpassed by the realization that it was built over 150 years ago. We registered and while waiting for the next interior tour to start, we visited the gift shop. Now that was an expensive visit. Too many people to buy souvenirs for.

The tour was informative, extremely interesting and our guide was super. She knew her history and could answer questions without "losing her place" in the script. We were allowed to take pictures and wander around the grounds at our leisure. Nottoway, which had 7000 acres is the largest of the plantations and certainly the most impressive. The ability to sit in the gardens, alone, and contemplate how life may once have been was, in a word, unprecedented. Although there were a multitude of guests, there was never the feeling of being crowded or herded along. Highly recommended as a unique site to visit.

What we weren't aware of at first was that Nottoway was also an "affordable" Hotel and Resort Plantation. Had I done further research into this side of it, our travels would probably have been reversed to end the day here instead of starting it. Needless to say, it sits high on our list of a locations to revisit.

Also, included in the tour was a sampling of jambalaya and rice and red beans. Tasty but not recommended for road travellers with delicate constitutions. The after affects made for an early stop.

Nottoway, the South's largest remaining antebellum mansion, is a stunning historic plantation that lies between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana. A dramatic, multi-million-dollar renovation has restored this historic plantation to her days of glory as well as adding luxury resort amenities and corporate and social event venues. After all the tests of war, economic adversity, ownership changes, and natural forces, Nottoway stands regal and strong ... still a great castle greeting the Mighty Mississippi River.

Nottoway was completed in 1859 for John Hampden Randolph and his wife, Emily Jane Liddell Randolph, and it was home to their eleven children. The mansion boasts 53,000 square feet, and originally sat on 400 acres of highland and 620 acres of swamp. It was designed by renowned architect Henry Howard of New Orleans in Greek Revival and Italianate style.

That Nottoway survived through the Civil War, a variety of owners, and disrepair to become one of the most visited plantations in the South is a testament to its original owner, John Hampden Randolph. John Hampden Randolph was born to a wealthy Virginia family in Nottoway County, Virginia on March 24, 1813. The son of Judge Peter Randolph, he lived in Virginia until his father was appointed a federal court judge in Woodville, Mississippi by President Andrew Jackson. The elder Randolph moved the family to Mississippi, and there the family continued to live a life of social and political stature at the Elmwood Plantation.

It was there that John Hampden Randolph met his future wife, Emily Jane Liddell. She lived in a plantation not far from the Randolph home. The couple married on December 14, 1837. Being from a family of wealth also, Emily entered into the marriage with a substantial dowry of $20,000 and 20 slaves.

They had eleven children, including Cornelia who would later become famous for writing her diary “The White Castle of Louisiana”. Women were not allowed to publish books during this time so Cornelia used M.R. Ailenroc (which is her first name spelled backwards and her maiden and married initials) as her publishing name. Nottoway Website

Oak Alley Plantation

The second plantation we visited was Oak Alley. It was breathtaking as well. We also took the guided tour, however, here the comparison ends. Pictures were not allowed and the tour itself was not as enjoyable. We were not allowed to enter most of the rooms - only look in. The tour was informative but listening to the guide was like listening to a bland recording. She was very pleasant, but clearly needed to stick to the memorized script. Questions weren't allowed till the end of her speech because honestly I don't think she was bright enough to pick up where she left off. Very disappointing after the warm and hospitable treatment at Nottoway. The plantation is still worth the visit but should anyone from Oak Alley happen to read this - seeing as you are in the tourist business - perhaps sending your staff AND management for training at Nottoway would give a better insight on how to cater to your "paying" guests.

Many films and TV shows have been filmed at Oak Alley. The most recognizable titles are "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte" and more recently, "Interview with a Vampire". I originally had thought that scenes from the trailer for the movie "Skeleton Key" were also filmed at the main entry gate. I had been researching Oak Alley Plantation on the computer when I'd looked up to see the trailer on TV - looking exactly like the picture I had up on the computer screen. Total coincidence, but enough to draw us 3500 miles to find out. It seems this movie was filmed at the Felicity Plantation, located on Highway 18, Vacherie, Louisiana, in St. James Parish.

Oak Alley Plantation is a historic plantation located on the Mississippi River in the community of Vacherie, Louisiana. It is protected as a National Historic Landmark. It is named after its distinguishing feature, an alley or canopied path created by a double row of live oaks about 800 feet long, which was planted in the early 18th century, long before the present house was built. The alley leads towards the Mississippi River.

Oak Alley Plantation, which was originally named Bon Séjour, was sold at auction in 1866. After passing through the hands of a succession of owners, it had fallen into disrepair in the 1920s. In 1925, the property was acquired by Andrew and Josephine Stewart, who commissioned the architect Richard Koch to conduct extensive restoration work.

Oak Alley's adaptive restoration in 1925 was the first example of ante-bellum restoration along the River Road. Through the years, Oak Alley was the scene of many events affecting those who had given her a second chance at survival in the struggle against time and the elements. Josephine Stewart outlived her husband by 26 years and, shortly before her death on October 3, 1972, created a non-profit foundation, which would be known as the Oak Alley Foundation, in order that the home and 25 acres of ground would remain open for all to share. Oak Alley Website

Sugar Cane

Nottoway Plantation was the first plantation to bring sugar cane crops to the area. We found out that the climate here works better with sugar cane than cotton. It is too wet and the cotton rots.

The sunset was taken from I-55 south of Hammond, where we spent the night.

This highway is just NW of New Orleans and runs north-south between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain and the good news is, it is 99.9% over land.

So far, we have been quite fortunate and the weather has been good, other than a few threatening clouds along the way. We seem to be right behind most of the storms that have already gone thru.

Tuesday, June 21st - Hammond to Tallahassee

Not much happened today. Just driving between the Interstate and Gulf Coast roads to get to the Atlantic Ocean.

We drove hwy 12 and connected back to I-10. Just prior to the Mississippi border, we were hit with a torrential downpour. Visibility was so bad we had to slow down to about 25 mph. The thunder and lightning were right above us and shook the car. Fortunately it was short lived.

We turned south to connect with the Scenic Hwy 90. On route we kept seeing new houses all built on stilts.

Stilt houses or pile dwellings or palafitte are houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water. Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding, but also serve to keep out vermin. The shady space under the house can be used for work or storage.

Gulf of Mexico

Although the weather had cleared, another storm was brewing. Now that we were on hwy 90, we were able to dip our toes in the Gulf of Mexico.

The beach went on forever and the sand was drifting over the road. We ran into a crew "plowing" the sand, not unlike we would plow snow. A grader with piling it, a bobcat was scooping it up and the dump truck was hauling it back to the beach.

At Pascagoula (of Mississippi Squirrel Revival fame) we connected again with I-10 and followed for the short stint through Alabama and into Florida.

At Pensacola we headed south on hwy 281 to connect with hwy 98 to follow another stretch of coast road. The also began the series to bridges over the oceans and bays and rivers which really impressed me!! My heart manages the multi lane bridges a bit better than the single lane ones.

We stopped at the Olive Garden in Destin for supper. By then the skies had cleared and the hot sunshine was back.

This sunset was taken from hwy 331 along the Chattahoochee Bay as we turned north to again take the I-10 and make time.

We drove the last 100 miles to Tallahassee in the dark to make some time as we want to get Jacksonville tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 22nd - Tallahassee to St. Augustine

Our intention to reach Jacksonville tonight flew out the window along with $160.00 for tours of St. Augustine and a night at the Historic Best Western to accommodate the time needed. Our quick trip south a few miles turned into 2 days. Oops!! We now have a new destination "St. Augustine".

The decision to stay at St. Augustine was influenced too by the weather. From the weather reports it was probable that it would be raining in both Savannah and Charleston by the time we got there.

We made arrangements for the Trolley Tour and booked ourselves into the Best Western. The tour was very relaxing. It took us all through the town explaining the buildings and history behind everything.

Castillo de San Marcos

The Castillo de San Marcos site is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Construction was begun in 1672 by the Spanish when Florida was a Spanish territory.

During the twenty year period of British possession from 1763 until 1784, the fort was renamed Fort St. Mark , and after Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821 the fort was again renamed Fort Marion, in honor of revolutionary war hero Francis Marion. In 1942 the original name, Castillo de San Marcos, was restored by Congress. The fort was also subject to a paranormal investigation by the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures in 2009.

Old Drugstore

Apparently special tonics were made up of things like opium, laudanum and alcohol. They may not have cured you but you didn't care. Since the pharmacist was one who prescribed the drugs, he was one of the most popular merchants in St. Augustine.

Alcazar Hotel

Hotel Alcazar, commissioned by Henry M. Flagler to appeal to wealthy tourists who traveled there on his railroad, was built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style.

The Alcazar Hotel is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old Country Store

A new feature on the historic tour is the Old Country Store. They have taken antiques to create a full product store. Some of the antiques included the treadmill wringer washer, bicycle, coffee grinder, butter churn.

St. Johns County Jail

Our tour package included the Jail. The St. Johns County Jail was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on August 27, 1987.

Built by Henry Flagler in 1891 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 27, 1987, the Old Jail served as the St Johns County Jail until 1953.

We thought it was neat that all aspects of the jail were fully on display up to and including death row cells and the Sheriff's residence. One interest bit of information was the "leasing" of prisoners.

Doreen barely passed go and got out of jail before I arrested her again!! It seems that she can never get through a road trip without being thrown in jail.

Originally built to house up to 72 prisoners, the two story northern wing of the Jail consists of a general population and maximum security area, a women's section and a lower level kitchen. Maximum Security housed the most dangerous prisoners held at the Jail and includes a Death Row cell, for those condemned to die.

A total of 8 men were hung from the Gallows on the Jail compound during its history.

Overall conditions at the Jail for those serving varying sentences were quite poor by modern standards and prisoners were typically used as free farm labourers during the day. Baths were infrequent, toilet facilities consisted of one bucket per cell and diet was poor and was typically supplemented by any animals that the prisoners might catch while working on the fields. Segregation by race was steadfastly adhered to at the Jail and disease, violence and death were commonplace. The two story southern wing of the Jail consists of an Office for the Sheriff and living quarters for his family.

Ghosts and Graveyards Tour

After a couple of hours break we set out for a haunted tour which also included the Old Jail. The darkness certainly changed the overall feeling but none of our pictures captured any ghosts.

Horse and Buggy Tour

We decided to drive downtown to a restaurant along the route "Harrys" but before going to eat we took a horse and buggy tour with Wayne and his horse, Freida. The tour was a very relaxing way to end a busy day.


Thursday, June 23rd - St. Augustine to Savannah

We had to be at the the Trolley stop by 10:00 in the morning to get ourselves to the stop for the shuttle to the Alligator Farm.

Riding a Cannon

8 Inch Columbiad a part of the Armament of Historic Port Marion (Castillo De San Marcos) before, during and after the Civil War. Presented to the City of St. Augustine by the U.S. War Department June 12, 1900.

Potter’s Wax Museum

This display of Seinfeld Gang is one of the newest additions to the museum.

The Alligator Farm

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is one of Florida's oldest continuously running attractions, having opened on May 20, 1893. Not only does it have over 20 species of crocodilians, but also a variety of other reptiles, mammals, and birds, as well as exhibits, animal performances and educational demonstrations.

I haven't seen the Alligator Farm since I was 12 years old. I went to Ross Allen Reptile Farm in Florida and was thoroughly impressed. I was still impressed with them - especially when the Alligator that I thought was a statue - MOVED!! I didn't know I could jump that high off the ground.

We watched the Alligator feeding, bought a few souvenirs, and took the Trolley back.

From St. Augustine we took the coast highway because I wanted to finally put my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. There were several public beaches along the way so "mission accomplished".

Next - 2012 - England & France