Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Texas to Alabama

We finally headed east on Texas 105 towards Beaumont. From there we took US 90 east for a planned lay over in Lake Charles. Previously we had always stayed at the Coushatta Casino RV Park in Kinder but it's a bit out of the way, so we decided to try the Isle of Capri RV Park and Casino. US 90 joins I-10 just west of the casino which sits on the shores of Lake Charles. Unfortunately, this park only has parking for 10 RVs with a max length of about 30'. They do have 50 amp service which is confusing as RVs that short only need 30amp service. They said we could park diagonally across two sites and they would only charge us for one, but at $20/night for only electric, we decided to simply use their back parking lot which put us right on the shores of Lake Charles. We had a beautiful view of the lake from our coach but lots of traffic noise as we were immediately under the I-10 bridge that crosses the Lake. Once we left Lake Charles, we stayed on I-10 into Mississippi and Alabama.

When one thinks of Texas, one also thinks of the Armadillo. These interesting animals are abundant in Texas, but have been found as far north as Illinois and east as far as Florida. 

The Armadillo feed mostly on insects, grubs, ants and termites. 

Contrary to popular belief, only the 3 banded armadillo, found mainly in South America, roll themselves into a ball when threatened. In the States, we find the 9 banded armadillo as the most prominent species. This species will flee, usually into thick underbrush and spiney thickets to escape. Their armor shell protects them from predators. They will also jump as high as four feet when startled. Unfortunately for them, that's about the same height as a cars bumper.

We spotted this big guy cruising the campground looking for bugs. If you get a chance to feel the armor of these guys, it's more of a soft armor rather than hard.

Here's our site at the Thousand Trails campground in Columbus, Texas.

We had spent four weeks in and around New Orleans last year, so this year we stayed on the North shore of Lake Ponchartrain, at the Fontainebleu State Park.

This area was originally a sugar plantation from 1829 until 1852. The park houses ruins of one of the sugar mills. The plantation was owned by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville for which the nearby town is named
Mandeville named his plantation Fontainebleu after the beautiful  forest near Paris, France, an area frequented by French Royalty.

The park consists of the entire 2800 acres of his plantation on the north shore of the lake. While most of the sites are fairly small, we discovered this one was just big enough for our 45' coach. We really enjoyed this area as there are many hiking trails and a nice sandy beach nearby.

Leaving Fontainebleu, we headed east again on US 190, a nice two lane highway with little traffic.

Being from California, it's hard to imagine traveling through three States in one day. We had started in Louisana and entered Mississippi by late morning.

By early afternoon, we passed through Biloxi, Mississippi. There are several casinos in Biloxi, (pronounced Buluxi) but we decided they could wait until another day.

Mississippi and Louisiana seem to have more swampland than Arizona has desert. Like the desert, it appears barren, but is teeming with wildlife.

By mid afternoon, we entered our third State, Alabama.

Looking northeast toward downtown Mobile, Alabama.

Interstate 10 passes just south of Mobile and enters a tunnel that passes under the Tensaw River just before Mobile Bay and the home of the USS Alabama, a World War II battleship, now in drydock and a tourist attraction.

We finally arrived at our 'home' for the next three months, Bella Terra RV Resort !

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Houston Texas

Well, I'm finally trying to get caught up on my blog. On our way to the Gulf Coast, we stopped off in Houston for some minor repairs to the coach. The check engine light had come on and I traced it to a bad turbo gasket. Since most of the top end of the engine has to be removed to even get to the bolts, I decided it was a job best left to a professional. We pulled into Cummins in Houston and they said they would have us out in one day. They also had a full hookup area so that made the work day even better. While they worked on the coach, we spent the day cruising Houston.

Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros MLB team. Originally Houston's Union Station, it's filled with mementos from those long ago years. However, there is still a steam engine and coal car filled with oranges that transverse the left field wall whenever an Astro hits a home run or the Astros win. The engine cruises the entire length of the left field fence and returns.

We thought we'd cruise over to the Igloo factory and see where these neat little coolers are made. Upon arrival, we found this interesting guard shack. They had a store on site with lots of cool stuff at huge discounts. We bought a couple extra coolers for when friends stop by.

In the middle of a shopping center, next to a tire store, sits the Hillendale Family Cemetery. Arnold Hillendale had farmed this area for many years. His first wife died in 1854 and this area was set aside as a burial plot. It is the resting place of 19 members of the Hillendale family. Even though subdivisions and commercial development has taken place, this small family cemetery is tended to weekly by members of the Hillendale family.

This was the home of one John Milkovisch, an upholsterer for the Southern Pacific railroad. In 1968 he tired of mowing his lawn and painting his home so he decided to recycle cans from his favorite beverage, beer. Over the next 20 plus years, Mr. Milkovisch adorned his home, his yard and anything else with empty beer cans. Each of the cans was flattened or carved to suit his fancy. It is estimated there are over 50,000 beer cans placed on the home and adjacent fencing.

The house and landscape are adorned with many different types of beer that John, himself, drank (though his neighbors and his wife, Mary, were always glad to lend a hand!) Now there was a guy who enjoyed having a brew or two, or three.

The home is now owned by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. It has been featured on Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Adjacent to the Interstate, we spotted what Houston calls it's Mount Rush Hour. Dedicated to American Statesmen, the huge heads seen here are changed on a rotating basis. Intrigued by that bit of information led to our discovery of a nearby storage facility packed with huge busts of all the presidents, as well as other famous people.

These huge busts were lined up alongside one of the industrial buildings. They are the brainstorm of a local artist, David Adickes. We weren't able to find any information about the use planned for these sculptures other than the one posted above.

One thing we did find interesting was this tribute to the Beatles. These statures were in excess of 30' tall! You'll also notice several more president's busts below the Beatles' statues.
Houston's Downtown Area

No trip to Texas would be complete without seeing an armadillo. This one had sprouted horns as well and was located in front of a country western bar b que. At night, his eyes glow red and he snorts smoke from it's nostrils.
Beautiful Buddhist Gardens near Downtown Houston