The last time we did this was the summer of 2019. We are adding new states to our travel map and these are the first states not in the west. All last year we visited new areas in states we had already explored. Every state prior to this was in the west. We expected to push further east last year but delayed both because we were busy and COVID uncertainties. This year we are now further east than ever before. We even crossed the Mississippi river. Louisiana is now a new state on our travel map we crossed it last week spending one night at the welcome center. (more about this later) We are at our first stop of many in Mississippi. Two new states in two days.
Rules for new states
There are no rules, or rather we make our own rules. Everyone makes their own rules. Our rule is that we spend at least one night camping in a new state. Other people think that driving through the state without stopping is a good enough reason to add a new state. We have heard that some people add a new state after spending the night going to some kind of attraction in the state. Any rule you want, it is after all your rule.
So after considering our rule we have added Louisiana and Mississippi to our map. These are the only non-cowboy states we have on the map. Not that Louisiana doesn’t have cowboys but rather every other state on our map is known for cowboys. We have even missed a couple of cowboy states, namely Kansas and Oklahoma.
Interrupted by a vortex (a polar vortex)
It was not our original plan to only spend one night in Louisiana, but things with wheels can go places. For us, we have been using our wheels since our last post — Storming Arizona details how we left Tucson between storms, and then stormed all the way across New Mexico and most of Texas. Here is a link: Storming Arizona
I said that we didn’t look behind us to find out about the weather in Tucson. But we are looking behind us now, at the new cold front that is racing across the United States. Each day we have moved we registered new cold temperatures and each day we look back to find the places we just left between 10 and 60 degrees colder than when we left. We are heading east to keep ahead of the cold. It isn’t working so we stopped running. We are now in a good place to hole up for the next week, hoping for it to get warmer.
(Side note: Tucson got another cold wave and now is warming while everything east of Tucson is worried about ice storms, including our current place. As for Texas, tomorrow it will break a 70-year-old, low-temperature record).
Just Passing Through
We have not explored Louisana nearly enough. Like Texas, we are just passing through. We have driven through the state, end to end. In Texas that meant nearly a thousand miles. Really in terms of Texas big, we haven’t seen anything. Same for Louisana, we have driven the state end to end, seeing mostly trees, we haven’t seen nearly enough.
Still on Interstate 10
Interstate 10 in Louisana dips south to New Orleans, and we were not stopping in New Orleans so we switched to Interstate 12 to bypass it; plus it is a more direct route. Interstate 12 also has the reputation of being a much nicer road. Since we only took the Interstate 12 bypass, we are only reporting rumors. Someday we will go back and spend some time in the big cities we missed, including Houston, New Orleans, and San Antonio along Interstate 10.
Lockhart State Park
We only left Lockhart State Park because it was going to be full on the weekend. Perhaps the only thing wrong with Lockhart State Park is that everyone between San Antonio and Austin knows that Lockhart Park is such a sweet spot. Here it is, in the first week of February, and we had to leave for the weekend. While at Lockhart we met a local who frequents Lockhart State Park. He said that in Texas if you don’t camp in the winter, you don’t camp. Summer is just too hot.
So we went south to Independence Park in Gonzales. We needed better planning, but didn’t do that because we didn’t know when we would leave Tucson or how long we would drive every day. Thirty-five miles southeast of San Antonio lies the town of Gonzales and Independence Park.
Yes, for people who asked, we skipped San Antonio and the Alamo but we did stop in Gonzales Texas. As I am sure that all of you know, the Texas Revolution from Mexico didn’t start at the Alamo, but rather, it started in Gonzales.
We couldn’t stay at our next destination, Steven Austin State Park until Sunday. So we found a city park that has RV spots and a golf course on the Guadalupe River (with full hookups). I am really glad we went to Independence Park and Gonzales.
Come and take it
Gonzales is well known in Texas history as the location of the first battle between Mexico and Texas. Independence Park derives the name from the Texas Revolution. The history is that Mexico lent a very small cannon to the people of Gonzales so that they could defend themselves from raids by the Commanches. Only four years after this, the Texans had enough of the Mexican government, and to make the story short; Mexico wanted the cannon back. The residents of Gonzales, instead of giving up the cannon, replied that if Mexico wanted the cannon they should “come and take it”. Mexico tried and failed. This victory for Texas, in Gonzales, was the first battle between Texas and Mexico.
The victory however didn’t last long and the very next year Mexico overran the Alamo in San Antonio. The rallying cry in the Texas Revolution changed from “come and take it” to “remember the Alamo” leading to Texas independence.
Present-day Gonzoles is full of hundred-year-old Victorian Houses. Perhaps more than even Eureka California. Who knew?
San Felipe de Austin
After departing Gonzales, we went further east and further back in Texas history to Steven Austin State Park. San Felipe de Austin was the first “Texas city” and was founded right after the Mexican Revolution from Spain. The land was part of the Spanish land grant to Moses Austin and honored by Mexico after the revolution from Spain. Steven Austin inherited the grant from his father and immediately started selling it, part by part.
Between 1824 and 1830, Mexico allowed Steven Austin to populate his land grant by selling at low prices, portions to almost any resident of the United States. They had to move onto the land and become Mexican Citizens. By 1830, nearly 30,000 “Anglos” moved to the Texas region, outnumbering the Spanish/Mexican residents about four to one.
Of course, many cities existed in Texas before San Felipe de Austin, most notably San Antonio which was the governing city for both Spain and following the Mexican Revolution, Mexico. Steven Austin established the San Felipe in 1824 at the edge of the Brazos River. The town center is just outside our campground at Steven Austin State Park… and it is almost all gone.
San Felipe de Austin was burned to the ground by its residents in 1836 so that the Mexican Army couldn’t use it as they pushed into the area to squash the Texas Revolution. This immediately reminded me of the attack by Germany on the Soviet Union a hundred years later. The Soviet Union did the same thing, burning everything in their retreat. After the Texas Revolution, San Felipe de Austin never really recovered, and now is a collection of small farms.
As a side note, the Texas Revolution was a revolution between the newly formed Texas Republic (not a US state or territory) and the newly established Mexican government. It was not a fight between the United States and Mexico, that would come later.
Steven Austin State Park
Steven Austin State Park is about forty miles west of the heart of Houston, they have a moisture problem. Most of the time it has been 100% humidity. It only dropped to sixty degrees last night. I am so very glad it is not hot during the daytime. On the last day of our stay, the polar vortex was pushing south and it was both cold and wet. It will be so for the next week as we move further east. Remember my article called Chasing 70 degrees? That is a memory, right now we are just trying to stay warm.
We are having such a good time in Steven Austin State Park that we decided to stay an extra two days. This put our departure on Thursday morning. Then we go to Port Arthur, Texas.
Petroleum refining in Texas
Our last stop in Texas was going to be Beaumont, but we instead went to Port Arthur. It is the northeast point on the Texas Coastline and across the pass is Lousiana (pass is a name for a waterway that leads to a freshwater lake). Port Arthur is so close to Lousiana that we could see it from our campsite, just across the water.
From our campsite, out of our front window, we were able to watch huge ocean-going tankers going to refineries that surround the entire area. While Texas is known for oil, this in my mind, referred to mostly drilling. Refining oil is a huge operation and multiple refineries dot the area surrounding our campsite.
We are at the edge of Louisana culture, meaning that French, not English was the dominant language. It means that, for me, spelling words based on French is going to be difficult. I made a phone call to Louisana yesterday and couldn’t understand a word they said. They started the recording in Creole which is a mixture of French and who knows what. Thankfully they had pity on me and in said “for English press one” until then I was lost.
If you ask me we got away with it. Our move was very uneventful. We got bashed by rain in Texas on our way to Port Arthur. Instead of rain, our drive across Lousiana was just very cold. Now we are in Mississippi, just across the state line. and will be using our new Mississippi home — to visit Louisiana for the next week. Our coldest day should be tomorrow.
I mentioned earlier that our one night stay in Louisiana was at the welcome center, in the parking lot. We are in the middle of the biggest swamp in the entire country. Down here they call it a bayou (bayou is a very slow-moving river). Our welcome area is at the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. They have real campgrounds, not just the welcome center, and the refuge is full of diverse wildlife, with hunting, fishing, and a huge forest.
This would be a great place to explore if it wasn’t so cold. It would also be a great place to be alone in the summer. At this rest stop, you would be alone in the summer, because it will be unbearably hot and humid.
Tomorrow I am going to love our campground. Today, I am not so pleased. For starters, the reservation site, Reserve America totally misrepresented the campground and campsites. This isn’t unusual but still not acceptable. Then after our arrival, we got lost in the campground because of the lack of signs. Then we discovered that our reserved campsite was already taken (the same thing also happened to the next guy who arrived).
We are now at the Fat Tuesday on Saturday party. It seems that rules pertaining to noise doesn’t apply on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday in a campground near New Orleans. I will love it more when all the party folks have gone back to work and leave the campground just for us. As a side note, we still haven’t seen any gators.