Aug 10-17, 2011 – posted by Jordan
We’ve noticed a couple of things as we’ve headed further south, it’s gone from very hot to inferno hot and the accents have gotten much stonger. When we stopped for gas on the way out of Mississippi we could barely understand the guy who came to talk to us, despite the fact we were sure he was speaking english. His accent was so strong we had to ask him to repeat himself 4 or 5 times. We were surprised when we realized he was recommending we stay in the burnt out hotel across the street and was blatantly asking for $5 as a referral. We were sorry to disappoint him but on our budget could not afford 50 cents, let alone $5. Better luck next time.
Lousianna provided a different picture of the the United States, and frankly it was a little disappointing. I guess we were hoping the entire state would be dripping with French Quarter charm and Cajun flavour. So far our experiences in the U.S. have been amazing. We’ve stayed on the beautuful sceneic parkways for much of the trip and have met nothing but really friendly and interesting people. Maybe we were spoilt, but following the so-called ‘scenic’ route on the on the tourist map through the north-eastern part of the state, proved to be anything but. Although, we did see a wide selection of discarded furniture and applicance by the side of the road, if you are in the market.
We tried to find a couple of campsites without much success, when we did finally find one it looked like a cross between the movies Deliverence and Dawn of the Dead. Since neither of us was looking forward to death by hillbilly zombies, we moved on finally settling on a sad looking motel in a near by town, probably the worst of the trip.
While Sandra completed the paper work, I watched the bikes in the parking lot, and mistakenly made eye contact with a guy drinking a Coors Light behind the wheel of his pickup truck. Unfortunately, he took this as an invitation to enlighten me on some of his extreme political views, including how he thought the U.S. should invade Saudi Arabia and “drill the shit out of it” before giving it back to the local residents, how there was a left wing conspiracy to control the media and that only Fox News told the truth (I actually laughed at that, but had to controll myself as he was getting a little agitated). He said we should not worry about polluting the environment as humans would evolve and adapt to life on a burnt-out husk of of a planet (note: I was surprised that he believed in evolution) He expressed a particular distain for ‘liberals’ and thought “something” should be done about them, although it was not clear what he had in mind.
I did not need to ask him his thoughts on President Obama, as they were clearly outlined in his collection of bumper stickers on the back of his truck. All this in a 10 minute “conversation”, let’s just say I was releved to see Sandra standing near the motel room door waving the key. On the plus side, he did recommend and excellent Mexican restaurant, so it was not a total loss of my time.
We headed for the Texas border the next day, meeting some very nice Louisianians along the way. They all wished us well on our trip and shared some very interesting (and deeply personal) storiers over breakfast. Crossing the Texas state line was like entering another country from whence we came. The road sides were clean, roads were wider and well maintained, and the speed limit rose from 90kph (55mph) to 120kph (75mph), though the traffic traveled at higher speeds than this. The little motel we found in Bryon, TX was newly renovated, super clean & $15 less than the one the night before in LA. We scrimped on dinner, having only cheese and sausage bought at the super fun Buc-ees Gas & Marketplace to make up for the added hotel expenses. We like Texas!
We continued on to Austin, but were having trouble finding a place to stay within our budget and ended up staying in a motel that now (2 days later) takes the record for worst motel of the trip. In the future, when checking in, if another customer asks the reception if the hotel is still “infested with prostitutes” and the clerk answers with “it’s much better” instead of “no”, we will know it is time to move on. When we complained about being in a smoking room despite requesting a non-smoking room we were told the ashtray was not an ashtray, it was, in fact, a vessel for loose change. (marketers, take note). Funny, it looked just like an ashtray to us.
Later that night we had a look at our Aeroplan Rewards points, we were saving these in case of emergency, and this qualified! We were really looking forward to visiting Austin and wanted to make the best of it, so we booked a FREE, 2 night night stay at the W Hotel in downtown Austin complete with secure, underground parking. Again, what a difference a day makes! We went from dodgy hell hole to super luxury in less than 24 hours (even though we both felt the W was more than a little contrived).
We really enjoyed Austin and thoroughly explored the 6th street area, downtown and South Congress areas by foot. We ate in great restaurants (we recommend The Snack Bar on South Congress or Curra’s Grill for Mexican), had an evening out on the town (shock!), caught some live music, slept in a luxury bed, and enjoyed some excellent late night BBQ from one of the famous Austin food trucks. We really liked Austin and would definitely go back. Did we say it yet? We like Texas!
We practically had to be pried out of our W Hotel room, but we needed to hit the road towards Laredo and the MX/US border. Martin (a former collegue of mine) and Sue had kindly offered us a place to at their beautiful home in Laredo and we wanted to make it there before sunset. We gave it a go, but we left far too late in the day and the heat got the best of us so we called it a day just 20kms south of San Antonio. However, on the way through San Antonio, Sandra lost her tool tube (I made tool boxes out of PVC pipe and had attached to the bash plates of our bikes). It fell off in the middle of rush hour traffic at a major, 5 lane interchange. Luckily it did not hit any other vehicles, it just flew off to the side of the road, there was no way we could stop for it. So, once we checked in our next roadside motel, I went back for it (no tools left behind!).
I risked my life by parking on the side of a busy urban freeway and running up and down the highway like a madman in full motorcycle gear searching for what looked like a pipe bomb in 40C heat. Despite that image, the three State Troopers that passed me, did not think anything of it. Alas, I could not find it. Hopefully we don’t get a flat tire in the next 20,000 km though Central and South America because our extra innertubes and tire irons were in the tool tube, but what are the chances of that happening, anyway?
We made it to Laredo the next day and had a long list of errands to run. We bought what must have been the last 2 motorcycle tire irons in the entire city of Laredo, as we visited every single motorcycle shop in town looking for them. I wanted to get 3, but we were happy finding 2 – we will continue to search for a third. It was ridiculously hot, and we took as long as we could to complete our Mexican insurance policies in the airconditioned Sanborn’s office. They were very nice and we asked A LOT of questions so we could stay there just a little bit longer..
We were warmly greeted by Martin, Sue and their adorable children. We really enjoyed the two days we spent with them and really appreciated their hospitality, however Mexico was calling. Thankfully Martin and Sue could not let us leave without enjoying some more Texas BBQ. The beer was cold, the brisket was delicous and the company was great – thanks again Martin and Sue.
We truly enjoyed our stay in the United States. We did some great riding, saw some incredibly beautiful and diverse scenery and met a lot of generous people with their own interesting stories (excluding crazy-angry guy from Louisianna). We reconnected with some old friends – Peter, TJ & MJ, and Martin & Sue – thank you for everything! We learned a lot about the U.S. and as a result, we learned a lot about Canada (confirmed: universal health care & strict gun regulations are the way to go). It was a great expeience, we’ve travelled 15,000 km since starting our trip and have enjoyed every minute of it!