2021 11/21-11/23 San Antonio
After Stu had Winnie all hooked up, we had a short drive to capture a setting sun image of the Tower of the Americas. The structure, 750 feet high, reaches far above the San Antonio Convention Center and the Alamodome, and is 87′ taller than Seattle’s Space Needle.
The Convention Center is a fairly ordinary big space designed without apparent imagination to hold large gatherings. The Alamodome is an interesting building with a cable suspension system similar to the Golden Gate Bridge designed to hold up the roof without any supporting internal columns. This gives every seat an unobstructed view of the sports and concert activities conducted in the building and provides an interesting image to us tourists interested in photography. If it had been twenty years ago, this would have used two rolls of film.
We took a short drive from the Space Needle to the San Antonio Riverwalk, an engineering achievement constructed below grade level in the downtown area. Our search for the ideal Tex-Mex (“The “Original Mexican Restaurant”) was cut short and we retreated from our foot search to a Yelp search that led us to the Cuishe Mexican Restaurant and the very, very best Chicken Enchiladas Mole Stu has ever tasted. The soft tender chicken was rolled gently in fresh enchilada shells and smothered in a sauce made of rich chocolate with none of the fatty sugar taste that spoils the usual Mole sauce. The dinner was served steaming hot in a cast pan and smelled as good as it looked.
Joan had a tasty crisp Cesar Ensalada covered with chicken shredded with Parmesan cheese, with just the right amount of dressing. It was a nice meal, especially so after they moved us from a rapidly cooling outside patio into a warm and invited dining area.
The next day we began at the local laundromat, using 5 machines for our clothes and bedding. Then we drove downtown, back to the Tower of the Americas, for lunch at the Chart House restaurant, a slowly-revolving restaurant near the top of the tower.
We had a fine lunch as the building revolved. We viewed the city from an eagle eye height while Stu enjoyed an appetizer of shrimp beignets balanced by a simple salad for his main dish. Joan had a fabulous cedar planked salmon with every imaginable vegetable including avocado in the ample hash-like sauce for the salmon. It was so good, we finished it all with none to take home for a later meal.
After lunch we visited the Observation Deck at the top of the Tower, for a good birds-eye view of the city.
Next we took an unremarkable Hop On tour of the city, with its only exciting feature being the driving, as Kathy, the driver/narrator, navigated the narrow streets and low hanging branches that threatened to remove the heads of the second floor passengers.
We hopped off the hop-on and returned to the River Walk, walking the paths on either side of the river, and managing to get a rare ticket to the River Walk boat cruise for an enjoyable tour of the beautiful old buildings and amazing engineering.
2021 11/23 – 11/25 Houston
Houston is a large, sprawling city with different flavors in different areas. Stu lived in Houston for several years in the 1990’s and nearly never went to the downtown area we visited during this leg of our trip back to Florida.
We arrived late afternoon and set up Winnie at the South Main RV Park, just on the edge of downtown. The skyline was impressive when we could see it over the rows of similar RVs and barbed-wire fences.
Immediately after setting up, we departed for Hermann Park, the largest Houston Park, located just down the road. Hermann Park is impressive. We walked a portion of the park and passed the Japanese Gardens, a prime site for our next visit. We walked the length of the Houston version of the DC reflecting pool toward the Zoo area. By then, darkness was approaching and we had to choose between the Zoo light show later in the evening or the Hermann Choo Choo that was just boarding. We chose the train and reserved the zoo for our second day.
The train ride in the dark and cold was interesting but lacked narration and lights so we saw only part of the sights. The trip was followed by a walk in the dark and cold back to the car and nearly empty parking lot. We had dinner near the zoo at the Cosmo restaurant – with the high point (for Stu) being the hot tea with honey.
The next day was much better. In the morning we rode the Hop On Hop Off bus, which was a double-decker with only a second floor. What we saw were many tall buildings, not too exciting, and we were surprised to see very few people walking around.
We kept asking why there were no people walking around downtown Houston. Finally, a local explained that there were underground tunnels connecting many of the buildings so no one had to go outside. We found our way to the tunnels to investigate. Seems like an interesting solution to perhaps the problem of summer heat?
Where most cities with tunnels have attractive storefronts that attract tunnel walkers to shop, Houston has — tunnels — with nothing attractive on either side.
We spent the afternoon at the Houston Zoo. Stu’s favorite was the monkeys. Watching them play on the ropes and trees in their enclosure reminded him of living near woods as a kid and building tree houses. The monkey antics were so captivating that Stu’s camera stayed in his pocket, reminding him again of a significant difference between a tourist and a photographer.
Stu also enjoyed the giraffes, being impressed that their long necks are basically the same construction as our shorter necks and use many of the same parts. Is this parallel evolution or did the giraffe committee just go to the same parts bin and take the neck parts and stretch them to fit the overall giraffe design?
2021 11/25 – 11/26 Lafayette, La
Thanksgiving was in the rain. We drove to a nice KOA in Lafayette, LA and had a shaded spot on the lake to enjoy Thanksgiving in the trailer and the end of a full day of heavy rain. We enjoyed our neighbors, a family with 4 young daughters (and another young girl from another trailer). We also enjoyed the numerous ducks that swam in and hung around the lake, and a scenic walk around the lake.
Joan seasoned the largest chicken that would fit on our grill and Stu prepared a perfect large chicken with fresh grilled corn to enjoy with our salad for dinner. It seems we were too busy eating our feast to take of photo of it.
2021 11/26 Baton Rouge
On our way to New Orleans (NOLA) we drove along the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, and spotted a beautiful building up the hill. We had to take a closer look. It turned out to be the Old State Capitol Building of Louisiana, and it didn’t disappoint. Visitors are welcome.
After viewing the building inside and out, we walked down to the levy along the Mississippi River and enjoyed the sights.
Then it was time to continue our drive to NOLA.
2021 11/26 – 11/28 Faubourg Brewing in New Orleans
The multiple highways that approach Faubourg are somewhat of a nightmare for those not accustomed to the roads.
Faubourg Brewing is one of my favorite spots on the route from florida to Texas. Located just off I 10, Faubourg requires forgoing the somewhat faster I 610 New Orleans bypass, but it is worth the trip.
As a Harvest Host site, Faubourg has free RV sites ($20 for the second night). These sites are within a secure, fenced area patrolled by a roving guard. The sites are flat, paved, and while they have no water or electricity provided, they permit generators and are far enough apart that the noise of a neighbor’s generator is seldom heard.
Harvest Hosts “encourages” campers to spend $20 at their host’s location. Easy to do here, they have a variety of good “bar” food including excellent Shrimp-n-grits and a large flavorful grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread with a generous portion of veal inside. That was easy to do. Fair priced excellent food served in an open indoor/outdoor setting with lots of tables, chairs and live entertainment on weekends.
The grounds are family oriented. There are games for kids, places to park your stroller if you have one, and people who are family understanding.
The Brewing Company provides entertainment for young and old in the large grassy area in front of the main building.
The next morning, with just one full day to spend in NOLA, we headed downtown early, just a 20-minute ride away. As Stu always does in New Orleans, we drove right to Cafe Beignet for his favorite non-nutritional breakfast, a plate of beignets. Joan, as usual, had a nutritious breakfast of a vegetable-cheese omelet with grits on the side.
As we left Cafe Beignet, we heard music, and then we saw a parade heading toward us, evidently celebrating Thanksgiving weekend.
After the parade passed, we headed for Jackson Square and then the Mississippi River to walk along the levy.
Along the river Joan always looks forward to visiting the Holocaust Memorial designed by Yaacov Agam, an Israeli kinetic artist who creates unforgettable art. As a viewer walks around the Memorial, what is seen keeps changing in a remarkable way.
On one stone is written: LET THIS MEMORIAL BE DEDICATED TO THOSE BRAVE SOULS, VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST, THAT THEIR LIVES WERE NOT TAKEN IN VAIN.
And on a second stone, the Memorial is described as “an artistic visual pray” in memory of those who died in the Holocaust.
We continued walking down the river, seeing all the old familiar sights, until it was time to head back to the city streets and find a good place to eat a late lunch. We chose to dine in the Cornet Restaurant for “New Orleans cuisine.” We got a table upstairs on the patio, overlooking all the action on the street. We also got a very pretty waitress.
2021 11/29 Avalon Landing
While driving from NOLA back to Florida, we realized it was lunchtime and we needed a place to stop. Looking at the map we remembered fondly a lunch at The Shed from a previous trip along the same route, a run-down establishment with wonderful barbecued everything. We enjoyed both our barbecued lunches and the equally run-down cars in the yard outside.
Having fed our bodies and our souls, we continued to Avalon Landing RV Park, another place that we had enjoyed on a previous trip.
We arrived just before sunset and had time for a lovely walk around the Park.
2021 11/30 Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Back on the road, we drove to the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, one of the best state parks in Florida.
Nowhere else in Florida can visitors experience wild-roaming bison and horses. Nearly 300 species of birds also frequent the park along with alligators, deer and many other animals. We searched for bison, following every sighting that people told us about, and never got to see one. Next time.
The park’s eight trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, allow one to explore the park’s interior and observe wildlife, while a 50-foot high observation tower provides for panoramic views.
2021 12/01 Micanopy and Daytona Beach
We got an early start because we wanted to visit Micanopy and McIntosh before going to Daytona. Micanopy, a town of 1.03 square miles with a population of 600, is a quiet and pretty town to walk through.
And then, of course, it was lunch time, and there are not many eating establishments in this little town. We were directed by several locals to a restaurant in back of a gas station and told not to be misled by the gas station. The food was great. The sign in front of the gas station said “PEARL COUNTRY STORE & BARBECUE. Gas brings them in and barbeque makes them stay.”
We also drove through the town of McIntosh, 6 miles south of Micanopy, with population 500 and a place on the National Register of Historic Places, but found little there to keep our attention.
It was time to head for Daytona Beach, where we had tickets for a drive-through holiday light show. After getting all set up at Daytona’s International Speedway RV Park, we headed for the light show just after sunset.
“Magic of Lights is a dazzling, drive-through holiday lights experience featuring favorite holiday scenes and characters of the season using the latest LED technology and digital animations.” It was as dazzling as they claimed.
After the Magic, we dined at the highly-rated Caribbean Jack’s and were delighted with the food, the music, and the ambiance overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
2021 12/02 Lunch with Glenns and Sebastian Inlet
We anjoyed a wonderful lunch at Frigate’s in Melbourne Beach with our dear friends Jean and Gary Glenn. We always try to connect with them when we drive up or down the east coast of Florida, and this was no exception. Always so good to see them.
Just down the road south a bit from Melbourne is the Sebastian Inlet, which has a fishing dock at the entrance to its campground.
And the next morning we drove home, after a wonderful trip full of great memories.