Jingoism reaches new heights in Texas. Most of the people of the USA openly express their love of country and this is one of their most positive traits. In Texas, this is often taken to extremes.
The State Museum of Texas in Austin is one of the best historical museums we have seen. Skillfully used audio-visual presentations and well presented static displays do an excellent job of conveying the history of the Lone Star State. Topping all this was the theatre presentation – The Spirit of Texas – Technically, this was an absolute marvel. Culturally, it was simply ‘over the top’. We wondered what any street-toughened New Yorker would have thought about the highly emotive claims about the supremacy of the ‘Heroes of Texas’. Great fun as long as you don’t take any of it too seriously!
Previously we had visited the Texas State Capitol, a great building with a real sense of history. Of note though was the fact that our young guide made a point of the fact that the dome of the building was in fact higher than the Capitol in Washington DC.
On to San Antonio for more Texan legends, the Alamo! On the way we covered some of the Texas countryside and visited a couple of interesting small towns that looked as though they were sets for western movies. Storms chased us most of the way but we avoided most of the worst of the weather and enjoyed sun, hail and rain all within a few miles. Temperature wise it has been very mild, 20C – 25C most of the day.
Event though it is quite a large city (1.3M people) San Antonio is easy to get around. The ‘downtown’ area is very pleasant and, like other Texas cities we have visited, it is well laid out and ‘car-friendly’.
The Alamo was obviously sacred ground for Texans. There is very little left of the original mission, but the parklands that surround the famous front gate of the mission and the remnants of the walls of the makeshift fortress give visitors a good idea of what it all might have looked like in 1836 when the Alamo fell.
The drive from San Antonio to the Gulf Coast city of Corpus Christi was again very reminiscent of western parts of Queensland. Very flat, open and dry. We even saw ‘cowboys’ on horseback working cattle on the plains.
It has been another spectacular day. As we drove into Corpus Christi, the sun was still high in the clear blue sky at 3.00pm and the temperature was in the low 20’s Celsius. With the palms lining the streets, one could easily ignore the mile after mile of oil refineries and chemical plants that lined the Interstate into town.
Tonight’s motel is the Travelodge. We’ve scored a real breakfast (not just awful coffee, powdered “creamer” and a donut, but biscuits, gravy, grits, bagels with cream cheese – the whole shebang!), complimentary “Happy Hour drinks”, guest laundry, frig in room, Internet access, indoor pool – can the world cope with us in our undies??? Everything we happy campers could want, once we’ve been to Walmart or HEB and completed our daily forage for food. New Year’s Eve and we are in travellers’ heaven!! What more could we ask? Just a phone system that worked!!! We can’t even ring Anne-Marie in New York because the Bell company (which operates the public phones in this area) doesn’t accommodate long-distance calls without going through an operator!
Today, we saw people lining up to collect their pays in CASH from a Brinks security van…..and this country is the leader of the Free World? Go figure…
New Year’s escaped too much attention this year. We managed to see the Times Square celebrations through on TV. – Most exciting!
Galveston was in all its glory on New Year’s Day. The holiday crowds were down from nearby Houston to enjoy the almost perfect winter’s day. The seawall, that runs the whole length of the island with its piers, bars and sea views, was the main attraction. It was constructed in 1902 to protect the island following the devastation of the 1900 hurricane that killed more than 6000 people. This remains today the greatest death toll for a natural disaster in US history. Modern Galveston is a clean, attractive beach resort and port, but it is only a shadow of its former glory. In its hay day, during the troubled times of the birth of the Texan Republic, it was the largest city in Texas and a contender for capital city.
The Gulf Coast is flat. Many houses are on stilts a la Queensland houses, and especially North Queensland houses. Some have one room built-in underneath, but most are just sitting on their stilts, with not even lattice to enclose the under-house areas. They’re ready for any high tide that chooses to rush in over the land.
Other parts of the USA enjoy gently putting Texas down. In some perverse way it’s a bit like attitudes to New Jersey. Both are often laughingly referred to as foreign countries. With all their bluster and pride, you could never accuse a Texan of being inhospitable or unwelcoming. Back in Louisiana tonight, the difference was immediate. The usual laid-back friendly, ‘nothing is too much trouble’ attitude of most people we met was instantly replaced with the rehearsed, courteous indifference that seems to characterise ‘service’ in many parts of the east cost of the US.
Las Vegas beckons tomorrow and we needed to be back in New Orleans to catch an early morning flight. So we hit the Interstate and drove most of the day, largely back over territory that we had explored on our way west into Texas a week ago.