Southern & Eastern United States

SOUTHERN AND EASTERN USA

1. GENERAL INFORMATION (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

  1. Texas
  2. Louisiana

1. TEXAS ( ROUTE 66)

This post will discuss Route 66 in Texas. In a few months we will travel a little more south in Texas the most populous state in the southern region of the United States, after we return from the Northern part of Mexico and the Baja California.

Route 66 has many names, The Mother Road, The Main Street of America, The Will Rogers Highway. When it comes to quirky roadside attractions, a small-town Americana feel, vintage charm, and a wide variety of things to do, you will find them along this route. Luckily, there is a short-but-sweet stretch of Route 66 in Texas!

Despite being, geographically speaking Texas is the largest state along Route 66, Texas is home to only 290 kilometres of Route 66. The road cuts straight across the Texas Panhandle in the far Northwest.

Crossing into Texas at the ghost town of Glenrio was disappointing, the town is full of abandoned buildings.

One of the most famous towns along the portion of Route 66 in Texas is Adrian, Midway Point along the historic Route 66, exact 1822 kilometres from Chicago, and 1822 kilometres from Los Angeles.

The Midpoint Cafe has had many names, owners, and iterations since it first opened in 1928, but today, it remains proudly in the centre of historic Route 66, with a slogan that reads “when you’re here, you’re halfway there.”

Just before Amarillo is Cadillac Ranch a classic Route 66 roadside attraction: it is colourful, kitsch, and more than a little ridiculous. Ten Cadillacs are lined up neatly in a row with their frontends buried in the desert and every inch of visible surface covered in thousands of layers of spray paint courtesy of the tourist visiting. The stall at the entrance sells the spray paint and of you go. From what we are told this is now one of the most famous stops along Route 66 in Texas. Bruce Springsteen named the song Cadillac Ranch in his 1980 album The River.

Just past Cadillac Ranch is the 2nd Amendment cowboy; this huge cowboy (statue) in yellow shirt that reads “2nd Amendment Cowboy” is placed in front of 3 classic Cadillacs.

Halfway the night we were woken by thunder, rain, and gale force winds, this did not get better for the rest of the day and in the neighbouring state Oklahoma, a tornado watch was in place.

Amarillo is the only city along Route 66 in Texas. (the Lone Star State) Route 66’s most famous restaurant is Big Texan Steak Ranch where you can get a 2KG steak plus vegetables, and chips and if you can eat the steak in 1 hour it is free. If you take the challenge, you will need to sit on a small stage-like table at the front of the restaurant. If not, prepare to cough up US $72.

Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in the USA, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Texas, is located just 30 minutes off Route 66 and is worth a detour. Unfortunately, due to atrocious weather, rain, hail, sleet and gale force winds, we decided against a visit and drove east towards Oklahoma. According to other overlanders Palo Duro Canyon is the most spectacular and scenic landscape feature in the Texas Panhandle, with a descent of some 800 feet to the canyon floor.

Combine City. when Orville Ladehoff did not know what he was going to do with a broken-down old combine, his wife said why do you not just bury it as a joke. That was the spark that ignited the farmer’s crazy idea — not to bury, but to “plant” combine harvesters on his two-acre plot of land.

Ozymandias on the Plains, two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the middle of no-where! Named for a 19th-century Percy Shelley poem that references an Egyptian King, Ozymandias on the Plains may look like a damaged statue, but it was built to look exactly as it does. Local self-taught artist Lightning built the sculpture McDuff, who specializes in altering found objects to make new pieces of art.

The VW Slug Bug Ranch just outside Amarillo is a copy to the more-famous Cadillac Ranch but done with five VW Slug Bugs.

 

McLean. Once a thriving town on Route 66. Boosted not only by Route 66 visitors, but by ranching and the oil boom, McLean’s entire Commercial District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a must-see when driving the route through Texas.

Groom is a small town on Historic Route 66 in Texas. It is famous for its 198 foot tall giant cross, and its leaning water tower. This leaning water tower may look like it’s on the brink of falling over, but it was put there as an advertisement for a truck stop (which no longer exists)

On our way to Oklahoma, we stopped at Shamrock which is known for its classic Art Deco architecture, the famous Conoco Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café. Built in 1936 at the cost of $23,000, this gem of a building got its start in the dust when the idea was written on the ground with an old nail.

 

Texola is located on the Oklahoma/Texas border; this town has been claimed by both Texas and Oklahoma due to the changes of the state border numerous times.

TEXAS PART 2 Tucson (Arizona) to San Anthonio (Texas)

After a week of 48 degrees, sightseeing in Tucson and waiting for parts to arrive it was time

to move east. From the rugged mountain and the desert of Sierra Vista, the southeast corner of Arizona is one of the state’s most scenic regions. Southern Arizona’s boundaries are not well-defined, it is generally considered to include all areas south of the Gila River.

With the weather still hot (48 degrees plus) and heatwave warnings out every day we decided to detour to historic Tombstone, located at an altitude of 1500 meters. But even at 1500 meters it was still 38 degrees, but the nights were cooler at 26 degrees.

This region is part of the wild west and walking around town feels like you are back in the 1800s, when cowboys and outlaws where in town. The central street of downtown Tombstone, Allen Street, retains much of the historic character that made it famous all those decades ago.

Growing up in the 60’s we loved our cowboys and wild west movies. Tombstone in Arizona and Virginia City in Utah are 2 towns which made us feel like being in a wild west movie.

Back in the day, Tombstone was a place for lawlessness, gunplay, and all kinds of debauchery, with a deep connection to American lawman and gunslinger Wyatt Earp.

Allen Street is the main hub for Tombstone tourism with historic saloons all surrounded by the living history of the True West. Tombstone is also known as “the town too tough to die.”

Thousands of people were calling Tombstone home by the mid-1880s. The exact numbers are murky because only white men over 21 were counted in that kind of data at that time.

Tombstone serves your typical American food: burgers, steaks, chips, hotdogs etc. Many pubs and restaurants have a lot of history attached.

Bird Cage Theatre operated through the 1880s as a saloon, bar, theatre, and brothel. The ladies who worked the brothel hung from the ceiling in large bird cages.

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon also worth a visit; the pub is named after Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, or “Big Nose Kate.” She was a prostitute and common-law wife of Doc Holliday.

 

Time to move on, next stop New Mexico. New Mexico lives up to its slogan the “Land of Enchantment” with its vibrant scenery, towns, culture, and attractions. New Mexico’s history tells the stories of the Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American cultures that shaped it. It is a unique destination, with more open, empty spaces than people and boundless natural attractions.

Las Cruces

Las Cruces is the most populous city in southern New Mexico. The city’s major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility  and Missile Range. The Organ Mountains, 16 km to the east, are dominant in the city’s landscape, and just 60km north of the Mexican Border.

Spaceport America and the Missile Range are 90 km North of Las Cruces  to the north towards White Sands National Park and has completed several successful crewed, sub-orbital flights. Las Cruces is also the headquarters for Virgin Galatic, the world’s first company to offer sub orbital spaceflights.

 

White Sands National Monument is one of the most stunning landscapes in the state, located an hour’s drive Northeast of Las Cruces. gleaming white gypsum sand has built up into an extraordinary landscape of dunes up to 60 feet high, which are constantly displaced by the wind. you may be fooled into thinking that sand dunes look like giant snowdrifts. To be honest the park was a little disappointing but as they say YOU NEVER NEVER KNOW IF YOU NEVER NEVER GO

Next stop the border town of El Paso in Texas. We should have known better but believed Ioverlander and decided to stay overnight at the Texas Welcome Centre just past the state border inside Texas. The noise of the trucks and the freeway were enormous and I have no idea why people would recommend this place unless you are one of the US road trippers who park your RV, turn on the aircon and turn on the TV, or arrive at midnight and leave again at 6AM the following morning. PFFF

El Paso is located at the western edge of Texas on the left bank of the Rio Grande, which here forms the frontier with Mexico. Its unique desert landscapes are home to diverse flora and fauna, and the city is rich in cultural attractions. It is also home to Fort Bliss one of the largest air defence centres in the world, Franklin Mountains State Park and for magnificent views of the city. The El Paso Scenic Drive is a must-experience, with the best views of the city and its border landscape covering New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico along the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains. Unfortunately for us it was very hazy hence no views (42 degrees Celsius)

Around 150 kilometres north of El Paso is Guadalupe Mountains National Park home to the four highest peaks in Texas. It is also known for an abundance of wildlife, including golden eagles. The landscape itself is stunning, especially around the towering El Capitan, as well as the Guadalupe Peak, the highest elevation in Texas. It is a hiker’s paradise with more than 120 kilometres of trails through spectacular woodland canyons and lush springs. But we follow the off-road trails on 4 wheels as we are not really hikers.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Musty-smelling stone and fluttering Mexican free-tailed bats add to the creepiness as you descend 250 meters underground into the strange underground world of one of the planet’s greatest cave systems. Riding an elevator that drops the height of the Empire State Building into a bat-filled cavern is amazing, going from 40 degrees down to 22 degrees in a matter of seconds.  Carlsbad Caverns is comprised of 120 known limestone caves created by an ancient sea thousands of years ago. Its most famous attraction is the Big Room which is a giant space. The room is 600 meters long with an 85-meter-high ceiling, it is filled with stalagmites and other alien-looking landscape features.

The caves are home to a colony of about 400,000 bats that roost here between mid-April and October. At sunset each evening during this period the bats emerge from the mouth of the caves to hunt down buggy dinners. It is a beautiful spectacle to watch thousands of bats flying from the mouths of the caves, cutting black lines through the crimson sky.

Our plan was to visit Big Bend National Park on the border with Mexico but the extreme heat (48 degrees) and the comments from other overlanders that if you have seen Big Bend in Utah this one will be disappointing, hence we continued towards San Antonio following the Texas oil fields.

San Antonio, famous for the Alamo and the River Walk, is a must-see city if you are going to Texas. Stretching for several miles along the San Antonio River in the heart of the city, the River Walk is lined with restaurants and lovely outdoor patios, where you can sit and dine alongside the river. Built below street level, this pedestrian walkway hugs the river as it winds and waves through the city and is as popular among locals as it is for tourists, day, and night. Although strolling along the river is the most popular thing to do here, another wonderful way to enjoy the ambience of the area is on a leisurely cruise on a river boat.

Our 3-day planned stay became 7 days due to Hurricane Beryl reforming in the Gulf of Mexico and heading direct for Padre Island.  But there are worse places to be stuck than vibrant San Antonio with year-round festivities, entertainment, outdoor cafes and bars and a great nightlife.

  • Tropical Storm Beryl is intensifying again and is expected to make landfall as a hurricane Cat 3 along the Texas Coast. On Monday, Beryl made landfall in Grenada’s Carriacou Island as a Category 5 hurricane, ravaging the southern Caribbean Islands, flattening hundreds of buildings, and killing at least six people.
  • Jamaica and multiple locations across the Caribbean, including Barbados and the Cayman Islands, suffered widespread damage after Hurricane Beryl made landfall earlier this week, with 11 deaths reported in addition to power outages, destruction of homes and buildings, coastal inundation, and emergency evacuations.

After hurricane Beryl hit the coast, it was time to leave San Antonio for the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas coastline has 370 miles of fantastic beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.