Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Heading Home

Heading back home through El Paso, TX, we got another glimpse of the wall on the Rio Grande River between the U.S. and Mexico.  In this area the wall was more complete but it still didn't look like much of a deterrent.  El Paso is a huge, bustling city and trying to keep track of who is illegal and who is not must be a constant challenge. 
From the interstate, the wall is about midpoint in this picture and the other side of it is Ciudad Juarez, a very scary place.  The combined population between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez is over 2.1 million people.  In 2009,  the Mexican city was called, "the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones ".

We headed on to Fredericksburg, TX, which is a quaint town that has several good German restaurants.  We stayed several miles outside of town at the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park and Golf Course.  It's a 330 acre recreation site with hiking trails,  Live Oak Creek meandering through it, and lots of plants and flowers everywhere.  A very nice place to park our RV for a few days.   

In Fredericksburg, this was once the Nimitz Hotel and was a major stopover for weary travelers.  It was built by Charles Nimitz in 1855 and was the home to the Nimitz family including Chester W Nimitz, Fleet Commander in WW II.  Today, it serves as a museum to Admiral Nimitz and those who served with him in the war. 

A marker in the formal garden at the Nimitz Museum.
Fredericksburg is a cool town with a lot of shops to browse through.  We arrived on St Patrick's Day, which was a Sunday, so we figured the annual celebration had probably happened the night before.  Wrong!  As we turned the corner onto the main historic district everywhere we looked we saw throngs of people walking around drinking green beer.  So, of course, we joined in.  We spent several days in Fredericksburg and while we were there we dined at one of the German restaurants and enjoyed a very good meal.  We also drove out to the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which is a lovely drive a few miles outside of town.  The 'rock' is really amazing.  For all of you who love your granite counter tops.......this is the place where granite exists. 
The Enchanted Rock is a small part of a huge underground rock called a batholith.  More than 50 million years ago erosion uncovered part of the rock and weathering and erosion of the bedrock make the hills that you see today.

This part of the rock is a small speck compared to what is still underground.  The total rock spans over 100 square miles and is four times as big as Manhattan.  You can see people hiking up the rock if you look real close.

Heading up the trail.

Known as an exfoliation dome, the Enchanted Rock continually sheds its outer layers of rock as it expands and contracts.  The result is large curved sheets of rock that break up and can eventually slide down the rock.  This is one of many seams in the rock where the sheets will start to break away.
Within the cracks are small plants and trees that have taken root.

A good example of the slabs of granite as they break.

Exfoliation slabs range in thickness from less than an inch to several feet.  Regardless of their size, the granite fragments can be pulled down the rock by gravity or held in place by friction. 
Getting closer to the top.

Views of the area from the top of the granite rock.

Looks like walking on the moon's surface.

The Captain standing next to one of the slabs while we walked the rock.  Gives you an idea of how large the area is.

One of the sections of the rock where slabs have slid down the side.
There were lots of people and dogs on the rock. 
Several miles of trails surrounded the Enchanted Rock so we took the pups for an additional hike.  Here they are enjoying the cool water in a nearby lake.

More pictures of the rock as we walked the trails.  It looks different from the bottom when you are looking up. 

The weather was warming up and we enjoyed some signs of spring.

Continuing east,we drove up over the bridge at Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Mississippi River below.  Looks like its water level has gone up since the drought.

Our next stop was Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, which is the world capital of the crawfish industry.  

You have to cross the bridge to get to the historic downtown area. 

The bridge takes you across a river called Bayou Teche.  It is a 125 mile long waterway that at one time was the main course for the Mississippi River.  Through a natural process known as deltaic switching, the river's deposits caused the Mississippi to change its course away from this area.

Older houses along the waterway gave the town an antebellum feel.

There were sidewalks with the name of the original owner and when the home was built.

The historic downtown area was bustling with shoppers.

Lots of old buildings with big second story verandas.

The remains of an antique shoeshine business. 

An old ringer washer outside a local shop.

A large Catholic Church in the historic area was built in 1933 using bricks from the local brick factory.

We heard about a restaurant in town called the Cafe Des Amis.  The building where it is housed is circa 1890 and originally served as a general merchandise store.  Several years later, a fire caused it to be rebuilt so they added a second floor.  Caskets were manufactured in the upstairs space and moved from floor to floor by a hand operated Otis elevator.  Over time the building was used for other businesses until it was finally purchased by Dickie Breaux and in 1992 Cafe Des Amis was born. 

The restaurant is long and narrow and still looks like an old clothing store.

The walls are brick and decorated with many different types of crosses.

The old Otis elevator serves as the hostess station when you walk in.

Local artists show their works inside the restaurant.

The black walnut and marble 1920's bar came from the Evangeline Hotel in Lafayette.

We decided to stay for dinner and had an appetizer called an alligator, crawfish cheesecake.

The Captain had their famous crawfish etouffee nestled between two sheets of flaky, puff pastry and served with potato salad and vegetables.  

Mine was a black drum fish stuffed with crabmeat filling and topped with a lime beurre blanc served with sauteed vegetables and confit tomatoes..  Both meals were delicious!

And for dessert, we had to have the traditional Cajun sweet called 'Gateau Sirop' which is a spicy, moist cake with roasted pecans and vanilla ice cream.

The next day we waddled out of town and headed towards Niceville, Florida, to help celebrate the 5th birthday of our grandson, Dane Matthew.

We got an early start and were able to see the sun come up over the Louisiana bayous.

Crossing the Pearl River between Louisiana and Mississippi.

In Mobile Bay we caught a glimpse of the Carnival cruise ship that had to be towed in from the Gulf because of engine problems.  Several days later a storm hit, the ship broke from its moorings, and started drifting upriver.  Tug boats were able to stop it and bring it back to its moorings. 

The USS Alabama, now a museum in Mobile.

Finally made it to Niceville and we were able to spend some time with our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids. 

Dane had his 5th birthday and Madeleine turned three last November.

Enjoying an Easter egg hunt the day before Easter.

Wow!  Biking is sooo much fun!!!

Our last stop was a Tiffin RV rally in Brunswick, Georgia.  We had time to take the dogs along the beach at Saint Simon Island and also spend a day at Jekyll Island.  The rally was interesting but the best part is meeting new friends.
Marianne and Ronnie DiGiglia spend part of their year in Punta Gorda, FL, and RV much of the other time.  We had fun meeting them and look forward to seeing them this coming winter when we drive down to Key West again.


And that ends our winter trip throughout the Southwest.  It wasn't nearly as warm as we had hoped but we still were able to visit many new places, see some spectacular sights, join RVing friends in different states and meet new friends along the way.  You can't ask for more than that.  Peace!!! 

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