The last save date for this post was 18th September 2018. It is an historical recollection at the time it was written. For more about looking backwards, read the introduction.
Enjoy what was...
Dear Adventurous Reader,
One thing I notice as we drive around is that places in the United States don’t feel like the same country. There are similarities, for sure, but as you move around the states it feels like changing countries. The place feels different.
We drove through New York State, with the rolling hills. Into West Virginia with the small towns feeling like they are growing old. Into Greensboro, with life and youthful energy. A relaxing drive into the South and through the other side - into the Deep South. Where the cajun flavours run free, and the tamales are in small shacks on the roadside.
Here, in the deep south, the crawdads are everywhere. The bodies of Armadillos line the interstate. Roads turn into long bridges, driving over the bayous. Everyone keeps their eyes open, because at 60 miles an hour, there is a small chance we could see a Gator. The temperature is hot, sticky and it feels very close.
Island Night Life
We stayed out on Dauphin Island, Alabama. We crossed over a long, ribbon of road, stretched with a high arch in the middle - as if the road was built with too many pieces of road; concrete slabs jammed from the end until the road climbed in a steep curve.
We camped beside the Gulf of Mexico. An evening walk in the hot sun, to the hotter sand, to look upon the oil rigs lining the horizon. Driving down backroads to search out the interstate once again. From Alabama, through Mississippi, to Louisiana.
We didn't see any gators.
In the distance, New Orleans sits uneasy on the horizon. I was waiting for skyscrapers to pierce the skyline - a common "welcome" for every major city we have driven into. Not so with Louisiana; down here it is the tall-reaching industrial cranes of the port, that cast ominous figures along the horizon.
We drive around the north of the city, skirting the east roads and to a small state park, close to the banks of the Mississippi. Green grass, surrounded by beautiful trees; it felt hot and sticky, like the dampness of a swamp. We learned that the camp ground where we are staying was 6 feet underwater when Hurricane Katrina came through.
One day we head Downtown and spend the day along the banks of the Mississippi: Watching an old steamboat depart from the pier; Sitting on the grass by the St. Louis Cathedral; Walking the colourful streets of entertainers and horse-drawn cart rides. We ate gumbo, and a Gator Po'boy. Walked Bourbon Street - during daylight hours it was only-slightly manic.
Meeting People is Easy
One thing that has become expected when journeying along our un-ending road. People are easy to meet. With no daily commute, and after a long morning coffee, wandering the camp-ground will surely help with meeting interesting people. Our children find meeting new people easy, they are relaxed, and enjoy meeting anyone up for a chat - so conversations are easy to begin.
In the short space of an afternoon, our young girl starting chatting to a couple, who has two dogs. We invite them to join us for dinner, and by dusk were watching Finding Nemo outside their caravan.
They are from Minnesota and Canada, and they are heading back to Alabama for a summer of working, and planning, until they decide where to head next. Life on the road, with dogs, was something they loved.
Camping at another campsite was a family from "not-too-far-away", enjoying the State Forest for the long weekend. When we mentioned our southerly travel plans, they offered to re-gas our air-conditioner.
The road stretches over more bayous as we begun our westward, and southerly journey. We talk, between naps, about what could be. Discussing Mexico - an idea I am not altogether sure about - and how we will make things work. What work will we have to make money? Where would we live within our meager budget?
We hear time and time again from travelling families that making decisions is hard; that figuring out travel plans is difficult. With our next plans, I am having a hard time balancing my unease of such a new place, alongside the normal cautiousness I feel with our plans.
Over time I have learned to trust my gut-instinct. With a set of parameters, I can find a peace in the pluses and minuses of making a decision. With the decision to go to Mexico, I do not have that peace. I want to find safety.
Jacquelyn points of that every family says this is normal before a "jump". That the nerves, the unease, that is the wonderful thing about "learning to fly" (read: travelling with a family). We have a solid plan, and enough money to make things work in Mexico. Plus, the food down below the border is amazing.
Signs of being close to the border start appearing, and it isn't the arid-desert that is the major clue. We stop at border patrol sheds to be inspected by armed guards. Watch as large signs pass by the car, warning about crossing borders illegally. An increased law-enforcement presence is everywhere.
Then we roll in Laredo. Again, there are no sky-scrapers; only busy streets, and buildings that overlook the Rio Grande. Dust blows on the busy streets, and we find a McDonalds for the air-conditions, cold drinks, wifi, and a place to make decisions about what we do next.