February 25 A short trip into Texarkana

Peggy felt compelled to drive into Texarkana (about 4 miles) to see a building. I eagerly hopped in beside her and down US-67 we went. Along the way, we passed by a car joint called Rusty Boltz Automotive and they appear to make unique cars there. We spotted one with an enormous 4-wheel drive system on the bottom and a compact sedan on top. Short fellows would be unable to reach the door handle.
In town, we soon found the Ace of Clubs House Museum which is the building Peggy originally had in her sights. It is a big impressive thing of indeterminate albeit strange design. Not two blocks away is the imposing Hotel Grim which looks it in every way. There are some very nice houses near the Grim but it looks like the ‘hood is getting a bit run down because many structures are vacant and near collapse. It is too bad. Some look like they were grand places back in the day.
We quickly chickened out and drove back to our RV park. Right after arriving we decided to check out the route out of here because we are departing tomorrow. We tried the shortcut on Google maps but right after we turned onto the one-lane road we noticed the potholes and low overhanging limbs so we will be using the Garmin’s map tomorrow. On the drive, we found a Texas State Historical Marker that, as far as we can tell, had the text composed by a person incapable of making sense. See pix.
Today’s pix are a bit strange but you can look at them anyway by clicking here

February 24 South of Texarkana

Today we took a spin to the south from our RV park in Texarkana. Not too far from our spot is the northern edge of Wright Patman Lake. We started out by driving southwest along the western lakeshore. Stupidly, we do not have a DeLorme Gazetteer for Texas. Our normally cooperative Garmin was completely worthless without supplying it with mailing addresses and nobody gets mail where we drove today.
Fortunately, Peggy was navigating by using her Google Maps app on our phone. We drove many miles on one-lane and fewer on two-lane dirt roads during our circumnavigation of the northern half of the lake. The terrain along the roads is low rolling hills with some marshy areas. The vegetation is pine and hardwood forests mixed with beautiful pastures. Most of the species are deciduous so, from a distance, the hardwoods look like spooky stuff at this time of year. The pastures, on the other hand, are erupting in new grass and they are emerald. We didn’t see as much wildlife as we encountered down in Columbus a few weeks ago but we still spotted plenty of cardinals, American pelicans, cormorants, squirrels, hawks and a smattering of livestock. We also stopped in a few spots where the only sounds were wind through the trees and bird calls. It was great.
Along the way, we drove into many small Texas state parks located in various places on the lake’s shoreline. The parks were almost empty with only fisherpersons parking near the boat ramps. The roads into many of the parks are dirt and hauling our 34′ fifth wheel into these areas would be worrisome. When I was younger, I might have been game but being stuck at my age is annoying. I am perfectly happy here in Texarkana with my paved RV spot with full hookups and wi-fi. Maybe we’ll try some other Texas state parks for overnight stays on our way back to San Diego.
We took a few pix along the way and some can be seen by clicking here

February 23 Texarkana I

We awoke this morning to a gorgeous day here in Texarkana, TX. We reconnected our trailer water system to the stinky, funny flavored city water for showers and then we stalled. By about noon, we decided to try a place called Texas Chuckwagon that was suggested by the park lady when we checked in.
The service was good and the food we ordered arrived in record time. As usual, I tried the chicken fried steak (it was great) with eggs and Peggy chose something called “chicken spaghetti.” This mystery food turned out to be short spaghetti noodle segments mixed with a bit of chicken particles and something suspected to be white cheese sauce. Peggy said it was like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, minus most of the water. It was tasty enough; she just expected something more spaghetti-like, perhaps having onions, garlic or marinara sauce. The drinks were served in quart Mason jars and the sides with our meals were good. Prices were great – we got out for $20.
After the Chuckwagon, we decided to take a drive east through both Texarkanas (one in Texas and one in Arkansas) and across the Red River on I-30. The Red River here is not red. It is more the color of milk chocolate. We zoomed along for about half an hour until we got to Hope, AR. Bill Clinton, former president and unsuccessful first husbandperson, was born in Hope and we drove by his house. It is quite unimpressive.
It looks like the folks around this part of Texas / Arkansas are living a better life than the poor bastards down in Minden, LA. There also seems to be somewhat less roadside litter here but it appears there are still many motorists in the area that use the roads as dumps. It is tragic because the nature scenery beyond the ditches is beautiful; gorgeous forests and pastures laced with some creeks and swampy areas.
You can see a picture of Bill’s house and the brown Red River if you click here

February 22 Minden to Texarkana

The weather was still crummy but the rain that has entertained us for the last 4 days seemed to be over when we hooked the Barbarian Invader to Charlotte and pulled out of Cinnamon Creek RV Park in Minden, LA. We probably won’t be going to Cinnamon Creek again, for several reasons: There is little to do in NW Louisiana, we found no above-average restaurants nearby and the almost biblical noise from the two adjacent highways is relentless. Their wi-fi worked well, though.
We stayed on back roads as we wandered northwest, crossing back into Texas just west of Vivian and continued north toward Texarkana. The sun came out as we crossed the border from Louisiana back into Texas. We crossed the Red River for the first time today but since we are going to follow the Red all the way to Amarillo, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Near Atlanta, TX, we entered a cloud of remarkable stench and wondered if we were close to a sewer treatment plant or a paper mill but saw neither. Much rotten egg smell pervaded the atmosphere. We then crossed the Sulphur River and began to suspect the water which has been recently stirred up by multiple thunderstorms passing through. After we got away from the river, the stink factor dropped substantially.
Twenty miles further north we pulled into Shady Pines RV Park in Texarkana. It is a small but attractive park with trees, concrete RV spots, wi-fi, an adjacent small pond and a good distance between our RV spot and the road which should make it about 60db quieter than Cinnamon Creek. I did hear a train whistle earlier but it was a long way off. However, the rotten egg small we first enjoyed down the road in Atlanta was evident here. When Peggy drew some of the local water for a drink, she quickly noticed that it was sorely lacking on the odorless and tasteless criteria so important for imbibing without grimacing. I guess we will stop by a grocery and pick up some bottled water because the stuff from the tap is nasty.
See if you can figure out which of the pictures was snapped in Louisiana. Click here

February 21 South of Minden

Today was our last full day in Louisiana so we elected to do some back road exploring. Before really getting going, we drove into Minden to eat at a place called Moody’s Restaurant or Cafe or Place, depending on which sign you read. They have been serving food since either 1950 or 1951, again depending on where you get your info. It is located in sort of a spooky neighborhood and the exterior of the restaurant looks like it is collateral damage but the inside looks okay so we went in. My chicken fried steak wasn’t that great but the beans and the apple turnovers are tasty. Peggy had fried chicken and it was very yummy. It was very inexpensive and we got out for less than $30, including dessert.
After Moody’s, Peggy got behind the wheel and we took off driving south on US-371. It is a two-lane blacktop road running through a mostly swampy area. The state of Louisiana apparently does not have highway cleanup programs or the state’s citizens are particularly cavalier litterers because bottles, cans, styrofoam cups, cardboard boxes, wrappers and large metal objects were strewn liberally along the roads we traveled today.
About 20 miles south of I-20, we visited a Louisiana State Park called Lake Bistineau where we coughed up $2 to get in. Lake Bistineau, or at least the part we saw, is pretty shallow because there are countless cypress trees poking up through the lake. There is some kind of green duckweed on some of the lake which, unfortunately, contrasts with the litter, 55 gallon drums and unidentifiable objects distributed throughout. There really is a roadside crap problem in this part of the state.
We looped back north and made it back to the Cinnamon Creek RV Park, stopping for fuel along the way because we are departing tomorrow. We can’t say we really enjoy this part of the country. The swampy stuff and the gorgeous though flat country is interesting, there is nothing here that really gets us excited. This is a rural, low income part of the U.S. and lots of folks live a tough life here. We will move along tomorrow looking for something else.
We took a few pix. To see them, click here

February 20 Minden, LA

We had an opportunity to get up very early this morning, both awakening at 0600. Fortunately, we don’t have pesky scheduling constraints anymore so we went back to bed until 9:00 AM. I really like this retirement stuff.
After our morning ablutions and some special coffee, we sat down for some research about whether Minden, LA, (where we are currently staying) actually does have a historic district or not. Our efforts to locate one yesterday was a failure although we can try to blame it on crummy information from Google maps. Peggy got on the internet and, contrary to Google, she established that Minden does have a nice brick-paved main drag and a flurry of really impressive old residential structures. We took off to see whether Google or Peggy was correct and it turns out Peggy wins!
There are indeed many extraordinary residential structures here and a large percentage of them are in good repair. Extensive gorgeous wood millwork and plain old gingerbread make for some unique, elegant and quite massive homes. Most of them are located along Broadway although a few can be spotted along the adjacent streets. They have signs in front of some of them indicating construction in the early 1900s. As residential architecture buffs, we were delighted with what we found. We don’t see many houses like these in California.
While dining last night, our waitress mentioned a city nearby and she pronounced it Nack-a-tesh. After charming her with puzzled looks, she told us she was referring to a city here in Louisiana which is spelled Natchitoches. Just over in Texas, they have a city called Nacogdoches which they pronounce nack-a-Doches. I am at a loss to explain the diverse accents of people living within 100 miles of each other. This country is terrific.
We got a few house pix and a photo of the downtown street which can be seen by clicking here

February 19 A loop through Arkansas

Exploration was the word of the day today so we hopped into Charlotte, bought some fuel and headed northeast on US-79. We passed through Minden where we briefly searched for the Minden Historical District but, strangely, it did not seem to exist, at least at our map coordinates.
Failing at that, we continued up 79 to the Germantown Museum which was closed because this is Louisiana and hardly anything is open on Sunday. Peg shot a few pix over the fence of some old, small wooden buildings behind the Museum itself. Back to US-79 again, we continued mostly north through Homer and Haynesville before crossing the border into Arkansas. In Arkansas, we continued north through Emerson and into Magnolia where we turned west. We were then back in Louisiana on US-371 headed southwest and then southeast back to Minden. While there were a few nice houses in the rural parts of the loop north and back to Minden, most of the homes looked like these folks live a tough, brutal sort of life with few luxuries. We noted there were a large number of oil industry installations in the area.
The houses are built on ground which is covered by many small hillocks and there are few drainages. Much of the terrain was covered by small ponds or bayous with forests of cypress; swamps. Numerous turtles were seen enjoying the sunshine while perched on logs and limbs jutting from the swamp bottom. We spotted some cardinals and bluebirds but not anywhere near the numbers we witnessed in Texas.
Peggy drove today so we mutually decided she needed a reward and we went to a restaurant called The Crawfish Hole #2 not far from our spartan RV park. Neither one of us are big crawdad fans but we were lucky because they also serve other stuff. Peg went for grilled chicken (C+) and I had the shrimp (B+) along with cole slaw and fries plus 3 hush puppies each. The hush puppies were actually good and the fries would have been terrific if they would have been hot. We did not get as rewarded as we thought we were going to be.
We took a few pix. To see ’em, click here

February 18 Nacogdoches to Minden LA

Today was a travel day. We split from Camp Tonkawa Springs RV Park in Nacogdoches, TX, and drove northeast toward Louisiana. It is nice country with forests and pasture lands spread over rolling hills. It did not look like a lot of rich folks live in this corner of Texas. We spotted many residences with multiple late model cars parked in front but not a single house with a foundation.
We ultimately arrived at I-20 and turned east to Louisiana. We passed through Shreveport on possibly the worst section of highway in the entire Federal Interstate system. The road itself, bridge approaches and bridge decks have paving surfaces that most closely resemble rubble and we were surprised more of our possessions in the trailer were not where we left them. We exited the freeway in the town of Minden and pulled into the Cinnamon Creek RV Park. It is basically a gravel parking lot with power pedestals and water spigots sticking out of the ground. It is adjacent to a pretty busy street but we will have to spend the night before we will know if it is too noisy. Our phone works well here, too. Surprisingly, there is also invisible good wi-fi.
Maybe this will work out. Camping in town has a few benefits and I noticed there is a liquor store across the street.
Got a shot of the local deer. To see them, click here

February 17 Doin’ nuffin in E. Texas

The nights here at Tonkawa Springs RV Park are very quiet. They do have a herd of peahens that can get us up early but there are no road sounds or railroad whistles here. It is very pleasant. It is so nice that we did some minor household chores and watched free HBO weekend movies while malingering around our trailer. The weather was kinda crummy.
There are some deer around here and they look like they get an ample supply of food. Some of them look like they are imported from places I have never been before because I have never seen antlers like those on some of the big bucks hanging around our Barbarian Invader. We have a small supply of deer corn to keep them interested.
See pix by clicking here

February 16 Nacogdoches

We awoke to the gentle screeches and panicked squawks of the resident flock of peahens this morning. We might have become angry at the early hour but watching the goofy girls is hysterically funny. They all browse in a big group but as soon as one of them detects anything moving or making a sound, they all bolt in all directions for a moment before realizing they are now separated. Then the real high speed action begins as they attempt to regroup. They run faster than they fly.
After watching the birds and the deer for a while, we hopped in the truck and took a drive into Nacogdoches. We initially wanted to follow a driving loop through town where an abundance of azaleas were to be seen but we are a bit early for the bloom. We saw a few early bloomers but mostly we saw sticks. We also found that our map of the flowery streets was totally inaccurate and my navigation suffered. I directed Peggy into many dead ends.
We then took a more informal, random course and checked out some of the gorgeous Nacogdoches houses and there are a bunch of them. Steven F. Austin college is also here in town and they have a very nice campus with some historical buildings and adjacent gardens.
After a bit, we got bored and decided to see if we could find our way to a very smoky fire burning in the forest northwest of town. Although we did have to resort to dirt roads, we found the fire. Some enormous ranch’s staff was burning the undergrowth out from beneath their trees. It wasn’t too exciting.
We continued our rural drive by closing a loop back to town where we pulled out at a restaurant called the Cotton Patch. Peggy was delighted with her grilled pork chops, fried okra and cinnamon apples and I thought their chicken fried steak was almost as good as Dean’s or Jake’s in Oregon. A strange thing happened halfway through the meal. My big, ornate gold crown came off the expensive remnants of tooth #19 and that started a series of events nobody cares to hear about. Wonderfully, we found a nearby dentist who had me back with a full set of chompers before dark.
The sunrises and sunsets here are spectacular.
There are a few Nacogdoches pix to see by clicking here