Monday, January 18, 2010

The Trip Home—Part II

I took the photo at Saguaro National Park. After we left Tucson, we headed east on I-10. I was surprised that El Paso was in the mountains. I loved the views from the road both south toward Mexico and north toward New Mexico. It was a wonderfully clear and sunny day. Izzie and I stopped for another check by the border patrol (the first was near Yuma). I guess Maine plates, a very anglo face and no trace of a foreign accent (if you don't count the fact that I sound like a Candadian) was enough. All I was asked if I was a U. S. citizen, and that's much like the old days crossing the border from either Canada or Mexico, except the check points were on the interstate. Izzie found the stops interesting and she made sweet faces at the border patrol guys.

We stopped for the night at Van Horn, Texas.  The motel staff were complaining about the cold.  When they saw I was from Maine, they assumed (correctly) that I didn't think it was too bad.  I didn't need to put on gloves (my criteria for how cold it is).  I wondered what there might be to do if you stayed in Van Horn.  Turns out trips to Carlsbad Caverns (go north back into New Mexico) and the McDonald Observatory are easy day trips.  When we left the next morning, Izzie started barking and I pulled off at the McDonald Observatory exit and let her walk a bit.  Just off the road was an old abandoned stone schoolhouse with only the walls left.  It's quite a drive to the observatory from the interstate, so I decided not to do it.  Hope I get back to that area again.  I love the guy on Star Date on PBS who tells us what to see in the night sky.

We then drove and drove to the east side of San Antonio where we spent another night.  The desk clerk asked if I was going into town that evening, but all I wanted to do was see the bed.  One of mother's cousins, Pauline, married someone from Texas and they lived in San Antonio.  They came to New Hampshire once when I must have been about 12 or 13.  I think they were selling Pauline's family home and business.  We spent one day visiting the old family homestead.  They had an apple orchard and juice and cider processing mill.  There was a stream near the house with a dam that made a great swimming hole.  Those were the days when swimming in near freezing water was a normal occurrence for me.  If the air was warm and sunny, I didn't care how cold the water was.  That evening, Pauline's husband tried to teach me how to do some western dance steps.  So memories from a place I had never seen, and again, a place to visit in the future.

The drive the next day took us through Houston, a place I had visited once for a professional meeting where I went to the one and only rodeo I've ever seen.  A roommate from college days, Lynne, I assume still lives there. She married Gordon Mutchler who taught physics at Rice and who died a few years ago.  Gordon and I were engaged to be married once, but it didn't work out.  I really think Lynne was the right choice for him.  I wish I knew how to get in touch with her, she doesn't seem to be on Facebook.

So through Houston and on to Louisiana.  I had heard of bayous, but really never had seen any.  That part of the country has water everywhere: lakes, bays, canals and bayous. Fascinating drive. Izzie and I arrived in Thibodaux and Grandmère's around supper time.  It's a lovely place where they raised their children. I was given a glass of wine, a plate of shrimp creole and rice while Izzie explored the house.  Grandmère, Izzie and I have all blogged about our visit there, so I won't repeat things.  I really enjoyed our conversations which ranged all kinds of subjects including theology and the state of the church.  I can't remember much of the first night's conversation since I was quite tired after driving a bit over 500 miles and two glasses of wine did me in. Conversation continued the next day and evening interspersed with church, lunch (yummy oyster spaghetti) in Houma, and a nap.  Grandpère is a great guy and a really good cook.  Izzie especially appreciated getting bacon fat on her kibble.

We left pretty early the next morning.  The drive took us past, but not through New Orleans.  The only time I've been there was when I was seven.  My mother, sister (nine), two brothers (one of them 6-months old and the other 18 months) and I took a train from Boston to New Orleans to board a ship for Panama. My uncle drove us to Boston.  We had a meal at the Union Oyster House and I had a fruit cocktail as a appetizer.  I thought it great that I got desert first. I also remember Grand Central Station, where we changed trains and was greatly impressed by the size.  We had gotten all kinds of immunizations in New Hampshire, except for Yellow Fever shots, so my memory of New Orleans is great huge concrete buildings near the wharfs.  In one of them we got our shots, then boarded the ship.  Poor mother suffered from motion sickness and the train ride was a nightmare for her as was the sea voyage.  In addition my youngest brother was suffering from the aftermath of the shots, probably the typhoid one. He probably also had a cold, since I remember he had a runny nose. I know those shots always made me cranky too, every time I got one. The train porter from New York took pity on her and since it was a military transport ship, other people helped out with us kids.  I don't remember much about the trip myself.  I think we spent a lot of time in the cabin.  Mother had numerous operations on her ear as a young woman, but nothing helped.  I think I need to get to New Orleans to really see the city.  Driving by on the interstate just doesn't do it for me.

I thought we might stop in the Florida Panhandle, but I ended up driving the whole way to Dunedin.  What I did accomplish that day was to go through Mississippi and Alabama.  They are the only two states (in the lower 48) I had never been in before.  Ken refused a transfer to Pascagoula, Mississippi in the early 70s, deciding to go back to work for Aerospace Corp (he spent a year or so with Litton Ship Systems in California).  I did enjoy the views of the Gulf from the road.  Again it was a sunny, but chilly day.

To be continued.

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