23 - 28 August
Well our trip to “Cow Town” or The Stockyards, was different. I had managed to pick the wrong hotel from the Lonely Planet Guide and we were a couple of miles away – no way we could have “stumbled home” as described in the book. However, the Residence Inn, where we were staying had a shuttle and the friendly driver David dropped us off outside of the “White Elephant” where we had a couple of drinks listening to be live music before having a wander around this haven of everything Western. Twice a day they even run steers through the streets! There was only one steer there that night and it was being used as a photo spot for tourists! JC convinced it must be doped up for it to allow people to sit on its back! Further along there was an Indian with pony, warpaint and all, posing for photographs but charging. Denise got caught trying to take a sneaky shot and he soon came after us saying “I don’t stand here all day for nothing mam!” Well at least he was polite. All seemed a bit corny really. At H3 the bar stools were saddles and one of the beers “Buffalo Butt” had great advertising. The bar staff were friendly and a farmer from Colorado insisted on buying us a drink after hearing about our trip. So despite our earlier reservations we enjoyed our night in The Stockyards where we were treated with the friendliness that we have found all the way through America. By the way, our farmer friend was looking at a John Deere brochure but JC told him he’d be better off with a New Holland – still loyal to his old customers. One call to David and the hotel shuttle was back to escort us to the hotel.
We left Fort Worth and headed for Dallas, looking forward to seeing Mike Jackson my oldest friend’s twin brother. We had warned Mike the last time he was in UK, that we would be calling on him. I’m not sure that at that time any of us really believed it, but there we were on a Saturday morning parked up outside of his home calling him to tell him that we had made it! Fantastic to see him and he has made us so welcome. After a catch up on the family in UK and George in Baltimore, Mike played the tour guide and did a great job. We went to see a fantastic bronze sculpture of steers and cowboys at round up – amazing detail you could almost hear the thunder of their hooves as they splashed through the water. Then we went to the spot where J F Kennedy was shot and visited the memorial there. It was good to see younger people visiting the “grassy knoll” obviously still very much in the forefront of American history, but the memorial was rather cold and strange – looks like some big lumps of lego – see what you think?
X marks the spot where JFK was shot? On the grassy knoll........... The Kennedy Memorial..........
Very warm and needing some sustenance we headed for Lucky’s Diner and had a great lunch – fresh cooked veggies for me – wonderful. After lunch we drove around Highland Park – a wonderful residential area where, judging by the size of the properties, the rich and famous of Dallas live then onto the the mall to cool down in the air conditioning. All the big names are here – fabulous designer shops. No shopping for Denise though – don’t think there will be much call for an Oscar de la Renta gown on the rest of my trip! We took a break from sight seeing and shared some of our trip photos and videos with Mike until we were all a bit square eyed and headed off to Bellini’s restaurant for dinner. There, our pre-dinner drinks were served to us by the owner, an Elvis look alike whose main claim to fame was that he was a friend of Mark Thatcher and had met the Iron Lady herself! More great food with fresh veggies – Mike may have trouble getting rid of me! Finally we ended the night with a nightcap at the Melrose Hotel where we met Mike’s friend Barry who sends a message to you Christine – “When are you coming back again – it’s about time you paid us a visit….” A very good day was had by all.
Spent some time the next morning sussing out a garage to have the magic altitude compensator fitted and sorting out the boxes, switching clothes around yet again – we need to adopt a low profile when we start travelling South into Central and South America. The vehicle cause a stir amongst Mike’s neighbours, some of whom stopped by for a visit and chat about our journey – more visitors to the website we hope! Good to speak to George – maybe on our next trip we might make it to Baltimore! Then it was off for some more sights of this fantastic city. Everything you could ever need is here and the weather is fantastic – there’s even a pool outside here Christine so you could laze away to your heart’s content! It was the steers yesterday and today we saw the equally amazing Mustang sculpture in Los Colinos. JC had fun here!
More great veggies for lunch – I know I keep mentioning this but I really am amazed at how easy it has been for me to get food in what has to be one of the cattle capitals of the world! After a trip on a ‘NEAT’ street car around downtown Dallas Mike managed to get us into the Grange Tower and up to the Sky Lobby – what views an absolutely breathtaking sight across the city. Sadly we were not allowed to take photos due to the security issues but suffice to say and aeroplane went past the window and it was definitely closer than the streets below!! What a fabulous place to have an office – must really impress clients. JC and Mike started feeling a bit strange at these dizzy heights so we went back down to street level, crossed the road and then went up in a round glass lift overlooking an indoor ice rink - so they were still feeling a bid dodgy. Another wonderful day finished off with a great Chinese meal as we watched the handover of the Olympics from Beijing to London. As we laughed at Boris, the bartender asked John for his ID – to prove that he was old enough to drink – he must have been after a BIG tip.
Well we are taking advantage of Mike’s hospitality for another night, whilst the Toyota has the seals replaced in the front diff. Sorry Paul – but no one so far knows what to do with the altitude compensator, particularly as here we are only just over 500 ft above sea level, so it would be difficult to test. Have to look up the translation on google so that we can try again when we get into Toyota Land across the border, where people do use diesel.
Our tour guide has gone off to work today so we are just taking the opportunity to relax and do nothing before we start on the long journey down to Mexico. We’ll have to “make on”, as JC would say, because his visa waiver will expire soon.
The following day Mike dropped us at Toyota at 0930am on his way to work. We’ve had a really great time in Dallas – having a local guide really helps I am sure we would have missed some of the great sights if we had not had Mike to show us around – BIG THANKS again. Finally left the workshops at 1230. JC is very happy now that the seals have all been replaced and we are ready for the road again. The guys at Toyota Dallas did an excellent job – thank you so much. On the interstate again – one of the lorries passing us nearly ran us off the road but JC was on the lookout as usual and the guy spotted us eventually. Later, as we pulled into a rest place the lorry driver came up to apologize!!! Not very often that happens. We reached Austin at 4.30pm – the state capitol of Texas and hit the rush hour traffic which looked like it would seriously extend our 2 hour assessment to get to San Antonio from there. To add to our delay we ran into a heavy storm, thunder, lightning torrential rain – the first serious rain we have had since leaving Costa Rica – sorry to all our readers in England – know you have had a dismal Summer! Didn’t hold us up as much as we thought and we made it to the outskirts of San Antonio by 6pm.
Checking our web messages that night, we had a message from David. We met him a few weeks ago in Dayton when we camped along the river. Great to hear from you – glad you had a good fishing trip. Don’t worry if we ever make it to your part of the world we will definitely look you up!
In San Antonio, the following day we visited the site of the Alamo and learned a little more about American history. In fact, amongst the list of those who died were some British heroes too. JC rang Faye as she had lived in San Antonio for a year. On her and Mike’s recommendations we wandered along the River Walk – great place with cafes, bars, restaurants lining the banks of the river and a walk way as well as boat trips. Bet it’s a great place to be in the evenings when its filled with people having fun. Like most places in the USA it was very clean, they even had a boat with fold – away nets to clean up the river!
From here we headed South to Corpus Christi, where we had our first sight of the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve come a long way from the Arctic Ocean to get here! Took time out to visit USS Lexington – a world war 2 aircraft carrier which is now a museum. It’s hard to imagine people living and working and running amongst the narrow passageways up and down steps to get to the flight decks, the bridge or the ward room. Well preserved and still an impressive sight sat out there in the Gulf. The weather is now very humid as well as warm – a sign of things to come for the next month or two, I suppose. We are due to head down to Brownsville tomorrow but as we sit at a beach bar, having a quiet beer and watching the pelicans fishing we may decide to stay another day or so – it doesn’t get much better than this. Wait till morning though JC will want to be jabbing on to Mexico!
Well, as you would guess, we didn’t hang on and are now on our final stretch to the border and our last bit of interstate for a while – should make for more interesting photos in the future! JC had a call from Allan Petch bailing at Woodmansey’s farm – his usual patch – not that he is missing it but it was good to hear from Allan and to hear that they are finally able to get on with harvest in UK after such bad weather.
As we get nearer to the border, lots of hooting of horns, people taking photographs of our website and when we stopped to fill up in Robstown on the 77, the girls there and Dominic, one of the other customers chatted for a while about what we were doing. Dominic took the website and promised to leave us a message – hope to hear from him soon.
We have now spent almost three months in the USA and Canada and have had a fantastic time, met up with some old friends, made some new friends and have always been welcomed wherever we have been. Many times we have been asked “What is your favourite place?” Difficult to answer – each place we have been has had something special to offer from the splendours of Alaska, the Canyons, the Rockies to the hot deserts of Arizona and the craziness that is Las Vegas. There’s still a lot to see and I am sure we will come back again someday but for now we are excited about heading back through Central America and then on into the South and a completely new adventure for us. Must get pracitising my Spanish again! Not sure how regularly we will be able to update “down South” but will do our best to keep you updated at least once a week.
Keep reading and don’t forget the messages – it is really great to hear from people!