Oregon Trail Days 4,5, and 6

It has been an incredibly busy three days.  Tonight we arrived in Clovis, New Mexico, which is the one stop on our east-west leg of the trip that doesn’t really have anything interesting to recommend it as a town, which means this is the ideal place to do a quick recap (and sort our bags, and maybe do laundry?).

One of our family mascots, Bacon, decked out in his finest for July 4th.

The holiday was a lot of fun with tons of quality time spent with my family.  I got to cook dinner on the grill for everyone while it was raining, so I naturally got soaking wet (this is sort of a pattern that I’m noticing with regard to Moving Week).  It was a lot of fun, and after doing that, I cooked s’mores with my dad (Rachael and I gave him a set of s’more ingredients and a fishing rod marshmallow skewer for Father’s Day).  To cap off the evening, Rachael and I set off fireworks for everyone to watch.  It was especially nice since some kids from the neighborhood stopped by to watch as well, so we had a decent little audience.  After all that excitement, I got some pictures with my parents.  We had a really good day together, but I know that it was hard for them with the move happening.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to arrange to come back home for the holidays in a few months, but that requires a little bit more planning and discussion.  Altogether the day was good, but very exhausting; I slept very well in preparation for the first day of our big trip.

Rachael, Dad, Mom, and me.

In the morning, Rachael and I unveiled our specially selected Oregon Trail t-shirts.  Rachael is known for her love of dinosaurs, so of course she went with the design that has a T-Rex (this is another theme of Moving Week).

I really my shirt is accurate. I’m pretty sure it is. Rachael’s shirt reads, “You have died of temporal anomaly.”

Over that bridge is Mobile. Yes, there’s a bridge in this picture, I promise.

The first day of the trip involved crossing four states to arrive in New Orleans for an evening of fun.  Before we could go party though, we had to get there.  Our plan for this road trip is to parse out the driving in roughly two hour chunks; the first day involved about eight hours on the road, so that meant two shifts for both of us.  This worked out fine for the first round of driving, but very shortly after Rachael started her second shift, we approached Mobile, Alabama where a tropical storm was raging.  It was really cool riding into the storm, but not so much fun actually being in it.  Rachael declared that half an hour of driving in stormy weather with extremely poor visibility constituted a full shift, so we switched off early.  It worked out great except that just before we got to New Orleans she had another turn and so she got to drive into another major city with bad traffic, though thankfully without the terrible weather.

These were good, but after walking thirty minutes in the heat and humidity, we appreciated the water on the table a lot more.

In New Orleans, we stayed in an amazing bed & breakfast that had a lot of character and was located only about a half hour’s walk away from the French Quarter.  It was incredibly humid, so we sort of regretted walking all the way, but the city was enough fun to make up for this bit of unpleasantness (and we later decided to just call a cab to take us back to our hotel).  We checked out the beignets at Cafe Du Monde on the recommendation of folks in my family, and we ate at a pretty touristy restaurant that had excellent appetizers but underwhelming entrees.  Somewhere in there we walked the length of Bourbon Street and determined that it’s a really disappointing experience.  There’s not much that distinguishes it as an interesting vice district, and by the time we had walked the street’s length we weren’t really sure what the appeal was supposed to be.  It reminded me a lot of Panama City Beach: a place that’s designed to draw in college kids on spring break, but otherwise lacking in local character.

Day five started with us leaving New Orleans early (the sun had barely risen, and the heat was already oppressive when we hit the road) to trek across Louisiana into Texas.  Our plans for this day were built around visiting with friends who live in Texas, so we spent a lot more time driving overall.  We did stop at the border rest stop where I found a bronze of an alligator snapping turtle.  You can see from the selfie that I was overjoyed.

I also couldn’t see my phone screen, so I had no idea if this picture would turn out okay.

Not pictured: the terrible traffic surrounding Houston.

Our first stop was in Houston, which had a really impressive skyline on the way in.  Rachael once again got saddled with driving the obnoxious city traffic, and we agreed on the spot that I would do the drive up to Austin because her bad luck with driving shifts was getting kind of ridiculous.  Go figure the only obnoxious thing about the Austin leg was that there were a bunch of toll roads that we had to learn how to navigate all while panicking over the possibility that we might not use the right toll road and get some sort of big fine that we couldn’t pay because, y’know, moving.

On the way out of Austin (that was this morning on day six), I sort of fell in love with the wind farms located across Texas.  I’ve never seen these giant wind turbines before, and they are hella impressive.  I want them everywhere now.

Can I keep them, please?

This was a pretty good reason to drive ninety minutes out of the way.

Because we hadn’t planned anything major for today’s leg, Rachael and I decided this morning to add a detour to our route and plan on visiting the Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner.  The main reason we wanted to go to there was because of the giant statue of a dinosaur in cowboy boots, and otherwise we were just going to drive for eight hours without any major landmarks along the way.  It ended up being a really good decision, because this place was amazing.

The Big Texan’s signature attraction is the seventy-two ounce steak that it serves in the restaurant; anyone who can eat the entire steak and its sides within an hour gets the meal for free.  We didn’t care about attempting that, but we did get to see a guy try for it while we were having our own dinner (they have those brave enough to try sit on a stage in the middle of the dining room so everyone can watch them chow down).  Our waitress explained that if he wasn’t done by around the thirty-five minute mark he probably wasn’t going to do it; by that point in a meal your brain has had time to signal that you need to stop eating, and it stops being pleasant to put that much meat down your gullet.

Besides the steak, the attraction also just had a lot of really kitschy photo opportunities.  It’s an old Route 66 icon, and it glories in its goofiness.

I don’t know why the hot dog is wearing a waistcoat, but I’m prepared to find out.

After dinner we did a final stint on the road towards Clovis, where we’re bedding down for tonight.  The sunset was spectacular along the way, especially with all the wind farms visible across the plains (this last bit for the day was driven across the Texas panhandle, which feels very much part of the Great Plains).  You know that moment at the end of the third level in Flower?  So much of this drive was reminiscent of that.

I want to go to there.

We finished up in New Mexico, which immediately feels very different from Texas (we think they actually pave their roads wider in Texas just to make you feel like everything’s bigger).  The plan is to hit Albuquerque tomorrow morning, so it’s time for me to get to bed.  We have another early day, and I’m pretty wiped.

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