We're halfway there! What has at times seemed like an endless trip is actually more than half over. I have been thinking that maybe four weeks is too long to be away, but the remaining two weeks don't seem that long either. Most of the big "must sees" are now past us, and we have a slightly more flexible schedule from day to day.
Day 8 Tucson – Las Cruces – Alamogordo
The desert museum was nice, but I was disappointed with the facilities for the animals, as usual. The aviaries were fairly ok, but the otters, bighorns, most of the cats and canines had way too small areas to move on. The roadrunner was clearly uncomfortable with his space. One should think that a museum at the edge of the desert had some space to take from. Apparently though, most of the animals in the park are rescues, and maybe not used to or able to deal with larger areas. I don't know.
On Sunday morning we had a nice breakfast at a coffee house, before heading towards Las Cruces. The area was greener than most of the places we have been through so far, but apart from that it was quite similar, and we drove through miles and miles of wide open spaces. Arriving in New Mexico, we needed to turn the clock an hour forward.
In Las Cruces we visited the New Mexico Ranch and Farm Heritage Museum. Unfortunately we came in a bit late, so the animal barns were closed, but the animals had pens that were half in the barn and half in the outside, so we got to see most of them. There were different kinds of sheep and goats, a couple of donkeys, horses, ponies, and loads of different types of cattle. I was surprised, I thought the Angus beef cattle looked quite different.
There was also a blacksmith, and a dairy barn with demonstrations of milking and old time milking equipment, and a greenhouse. Inside, there was one exhibition about cowboys and one about New Mexico history and daily life. There was also an exhibition of some horse photographs that were very nice.
Leaving at closing time, we crossed yet another mountain range and drove past the White Sands National Park on our way to Alamogordo, were we had booked for the night.
Day 9 Alamogordo – Abilene
Texas – wide open spaces, and then, even more wide open spaces!
Our first stop for today was Hubbard’s Museum of the American West, in Ruidoso Downs. Originally a museum about horses, it had 8 large horse statues of 7 different breeds outside the museum, with description of the breeds and their origin. Inside, they had several different types of wagons also with descriptions, an exhibition of native art, western saddles, and an exhibition about, and with a lot of items from the museum's founder, Anne Straddling. Definitely the best museum so far!
Next on our plan was to get as far towards Houston as possible. We crossed plains, plains, and then even more plains. After crossing the state line to Texas, there was a lot of metal gates with ranch names along the road, marking the way to the different ranches. And of course a lot of small towns along the way. We crossed the White Sands, and stopped to take photos of the sunset over the dunes before finding our lodging for the night.
Day 10 – 12, Abilene – Houston
On Tuesday we drove down to Houston to visit Tollef's aunt who lives there. The landscape became significantly greener, and when I though to myself, “I could really like this part of the country”, I realised it looks a lot like some parts of England. After arriving in Houston we had dinner, and a nice walk around the neighbourhood before dark.
On Wednesday I slept in, and had a really late and lazy morning. Then we headed out for the Natural Science Museum to see the Butterfly centre, which was really nice. The informative part of the centre included a lot of facts about different insects and creepy stuff you might not want to know, but the butterfly garden was very beautiful.
Afterwards we dropped by two game stores in the area, and had lunch, before we found the National Buffalo Soldier Museum. We seemed to be the only visitors there at the time, so we got a private tour with a quite strange guide. He knew a lot of funny stuff, but apparently hadn't read all the exhibit information and couldn't really answer any of our questions. The tour was very interesting at least.
On Thursday we had another easy day. The main mission for the day was to get postcard stamps, which we have failed to do so far. The post office didn't actually have postcard stamps, but we got normal stamps with the combined correct value, at least. On our way home we dropped by the Cavender's boot store, a western shop that has a huge selection of boots, in addition to hats, shirts, and I suppose, most things western. Nice, but a bit expensive. It was very well that we didn't plan a lot of outings today, as it rained heavily large parts of the day.
In the afternoon we were picked up by a friend of Tollef's aunt and went to the ballet. It was my first time at a real ballet, apart from London musicals and ballet school performances. It was very classic, and a nice experience.
Day 13 Houston – New Orleans
During our last night in Houston we had a quite heavy thunderstorm. Both Tollef and I woke up in the middle of the night because of the lightning and thunder nearby. It probably didn't last for very long, although it felt like hours when we were trying to sleep again. In the morning it still rained heavily, and continued to do so for much of the trip to New Orleans.
In New Orleans we were pleasantly surprised with our lodgings, including breakfast (not stated when I booked the hotel) and very good service from the staff. We caught a bus down to the French Quarter and went to a brew pub with nice jazz music, and I had alligator sandwich for dinner! After dinner we dropped by the next door sweetshop for dessert, and a souvenir shop where I found a couple of things I had been looking for. Then we went on to Bourbon street, and walked along the whole way. It was fascinating, noisy, colourful, entertaining and sad. It looked a lot like a combination of party places in the southern Europe and a jazz festival. There's a lot of alcohol and deals on drinks and huge beers, a lot of street artists, live music, cheap food, drunk people, poor people, sex clubs, souvenir shops. Should be experienced, once is enough.
Day 14 New Orleans
New Orleans appeared to be everything I hoped for – and more. It is like a never ending jazz festival, music everywhere, parades, street artists and colourful people. We started out walking to the French Quarter and the Market street. Along the road there was a lot of small, New Orleans style houses in all colours. Some very run down, but pretty anyway. Some of the houses must be very old, and not much changed, at least on the outside. The French Market was full of stalls, mostly the normal stuff you get at stalls everywhere, t-shirts, toys, jewels, cheap clothing and various things not necessarily of good quality. The Farmer's market was more interesting, with local food (I so regret not having a corn cob) and cooking classes.
We walked on towards the Jackson Square, and decided not to take part in the seemingly endless queue to the famous Café du Monde. Instead we sat down for a few minutes, watching the horse-drawn (or rather, mule-drawn) carriages across the street, before crossing the square and visiting the cathedral. The cathedral was nice, although not very special compared to many we have seen before. Afterwards we spent some time looking for lunch, and ended up in a nice café where we had local food.
After lunch we visited the New Orleans Historical Collection, which had a special exhibit about politician and governor Hugh Long, and a permanent display about the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. We visited a couple of souvenir shops and sat for a while in the park, before returning to the hotel for some rest before dinner. I also got around to buy a few things for family at home. No rain today, and weather looks even better for tomorrow, although the temperatures are down to about 25 degrees Celsius now. As long as it don't go much lower I will be happy.
Another week gone. Another 23 hours and 2350 km on the road. Some more places added to the map in the first post.