Coast to Coast-almost part 3

Dude – Florida is freakin’ far from Arizona!!

I admit I was a touch weepy when I left my baby boy in Florida. But I am always that way when I leave my kids behind. I have the BEST kids, evah.

Destination Catalina, Arizona.

Thursday morning I headed my truck toward I-75 in the direction of Tallahassee and points west via I-10. Stopped for a big coffee and a cup of donut holes from Dunkin Donuts, filled the truck, and took advantage of very light interstate traffic.  Found a music station and set my cruise control to 70 and let my mind wander. The southeast is so beautiful, filled with huge trees with big leaves and grass that grows right to the edge of the road-very unlike southern Arizona. I decided on a side trip that represented my weather geekness. I would swing down to Pass Christian, Mississippi and visit the site of the Richelieu Apartments. This building along with dozens of others were decimated by Hurricane Camille’s 23 foot storm surge in 1969. The area also took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina’s eye wall winds and 28 foot storm surge. I had to see for myself how close to the gulf this sleepy little town really is. See for yourself.20161027_155121






These two photos show the lot where the apartments stood. As you can see from the one on the left showing the view toward the ocean it is only five or six feet above sea level. The pic on the right shows there is construction going on at the site. Perhaps, as is evidenced by other structures in the area, the ground floors are unused or used for parking. As I came down the road toward the ocean I realized I hit a point where the trees thinned out significantly and I saw dozens of cement slabs, evidence of the storm surges swiping the earth clear. It was humbling to see nature’s unstoppable strength. 20161027_155235 20161027_155247

Standing on the ground, looking directly across the road at the ocean, imagine seeing a wall of surging, debris filled sea water, over 20 feet high coming toward you. This is what the gulf normally looks like. It is stunning to picture in your mind the wrath of Neptune.

I must say Mississippi has some incredible rest areas just near the borders of Louisiana and Florida. I stopped to move around, rest and reflect at this gorgeous spot just inside the border before Louisiana. 20161027_164951 20161027_164945 20161027_164939

One inside Louisiana I discovered the freeways are a nasty, bumpy, narrow mess. I’m pretty sure I’ve not experienced freeways so badly cared for. I can’t imagine how the truckers deal with it. Probably just blast on through to get it over with. Florida and Texas highways are way better. Another thing I noticed as I moved further from Florida, with the friendliest population I have ever met, the people weren’t as nice. I was so spoiled after nearly a week in Florida.

Florida people are wonderfully friendly.

I spent the night at a Super 8 in Lafayette, Louisiana and all I can say is the WiFi was crappy, and I was at the end of the hall next to the ice machine and an exit. Scary for a woman alone. At 5am the next morning someone decided to fill their ice chest at the obnoxiously loud machine. Check that one off the list. I found a place to fill the truck, it was a nice, wide open clean place. However the diesel pump did not have a latch on the handle! It is a nightmare to hold the pump while you fill the truck with 35 gallons of gas. Switching hands several times I finally stopped when I knew I had enough to get me to Texas. Both hands were sore and shaking. Never do that again.

I cruised on through Beaumont, Houston and San Antonio on I-10 heading toward my stopping destination of Ft. Stockton. I stopped in a little wide spot called Seely, Texas for a Whataburger and gas fillup. Never again! It took me 40 minutes to get my food, and only then after I brought up my receipt to get a refund and leave. They compensated me with an apple pie, no thanks. I was bummed because I love Whataburger. Then it took me two tries, crossing back and forth across an over the top busy road with no traffic lights to get gas. I really think this place is a truck stop turned into a town and they didn’t do it well.

I arrived in Ft. Stockton around 8pm and found a room at the Hampton Inn, super nice, very friendly and helpful, ready to get a good night’s rest. I spent a comfortable night in the spacious room after dinner at the restaurant next door (got a 20% discount showing my room key.) I got up the next morning, packed and headed down to the lobby for a complimentary breakfast only to discover the lobby was filled with a football team. UMHB-University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and I loved it. They were so sweet, lots of yes ma’ams and deferential treatment for me while I sat in the middle a bunch of cute boys. I did discover they were undefeated and heading to play a local college team (which I found out later they had beat.)

I filled up and directed the truck toward El Paso via Van Horn. My grandmother used to say there was no reason to cremate anyone because there is enough land between Pecos and Van Horn to bury everyone in the world! Hilarious woman. During this time I found myself in the middle of “the fight of the 18 wheelers” much to my dismay. These drivers didn’t seem to care I was there, they were in this game of who can speed up and pass the other the closest, then cut off the other guy behind him, who then speeds up and passes that guy. I was nearly side swiped by a red car trying to get away from them. I will say it made the trip go quickly as I tried to stay alive!

I didn’t need to stop for gas, amazing mileage in the diesel truck, so I blew through El Paso, Las Cruces, Deming, Lordsburg, Willcox, Benson, and into Tucson. I arrived in Catalina SAturday afternoon around 4pm very glad to be done with the trip.20161029_154807

Took this pic after I pulled up to the house, glad to be home. Got lots of welcome home love from Chuck and Millie. Unloading, unpacking and laundry was on the agenda.

But my heart was happy that we helped make it possible for Aaron and Chelsea to live as they start their grand adventure.



What is it about California?

Ok. I’ve lived in a lot of places and visited even more. I’ve been a long time Arizona resident and other than the center of the universe “Phoenix” most of the state is rather rural in feel. Even Tucson tries to put out a small town vibe, rather unsuccessfully, considering a population of a million people in the greater Tucson area.

It usually takes a couple of days to get the feel for a place. A visit to neighborhood grocery store, home grown eatery or the post office and you will absorb a bit of the local color and style. Find a place with locals, make friends and you will be given the low-down on who they are, what they are about and where they go for fun. I enjoy delving into each place and trying to feel a part of it. It is what I love best about travel.

But California, I don’t quite get it. I have been to southern California often. I have been to San Francisco and through Sacramento as well as the Yosemite area and Lassen Peak region. California is different.

I have been trying to put my finger on the feel I get when I am here and it is elusive.

It feels fast and easy, but intense and relaxed. The people feel friendly but also reserved. Sometimes I can blend in but then I will observe one of those humans who look perfectly put together, beautiful or handsome with a well made face and body. They usually get into a Range Rover, BMW or Mercedes. It is the stereotypical California resident based on TMZ and the Kardashians.

People drive everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The freeways are not for going places fast. Don’t even try it. The freeways are primarily for moving a massive amount of vehicles in one direction toward a destination. No one expects to get anywhere very quickly. Locals use surface streets much more.

I am sometimes blown away at the parking. It literally looks as though someone said “there are no trees here so lets make a parking lot.” Another item that strikes me is the way two or three blocks of homes look straight out of Home and Garden and the next block looks abandoned or has a many years old commercial property with nail salons, liquor stores and a Starbucks.

Maybe it’s being near the beautiful coast or the proximity to the narcissism of Hollywood which plays with the feel of this place. Whatever it is it a tangible thing but not too well defined.

It is welcoming, but laughs at your unsophisticated ignorance.