The West Texas Experience : From Baton Rouge to Terrell County

Old US Highway 90, Kinney County, Texas

Old US Highway 90, Kinney County, Texas

     One thousand nine hundred and twenty two miles in four days, I think that is a new record. We didn’t drive for the sake of driving but it was even. We drove all over the place, trying to get as much out of Texas as we could in half a week. We probably achieved this goal, except the fact that one would normally need weeks to properly visit this state. Besides San Antonio, Austin and Houston, we stopped by many other towns such as Del Rio, Fredericksburg, Sanderson, Ozona. The main interest of our trip was however the Big Bend National Park, vast protected area located in the Chihuahuan Desert next to the Mexican border. 

Our journey began on a Friday morning. We got started pretty slowly but surely. We left Baton Rouge and made our way to Lafayette. The route to Lafayette was very pleasant. I particularly like the Atchafalaya Highway. We visited downtown Lafayette for an hour, saw the Cathedral and took a coffee in Dwyer’s, a famous coffee shop on Jefferson Street. Then, we hit the road again, heading West.

Mississippi Bridge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Mississippi Bridge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Old house on Jefferson Street, Lafayette Louisiana

Old house on Jefferson Street, Lafayette Louisiana

Saint John's Cathedral at Lafayette

Saint John’s Cathedral in Lafayette

The further we were going from Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the more I was feeling out of my zone. Once at Lake Charles, I felt like I wasn’t in Louisiana anymore, or at least not the Louisiana was used to. Another 40 minutes and we crossed the Sabine River which is the natural border between Louisiana and Texas. We drove to Beaumont where we stopped to meet with acquaintances from Texas. I would hate to live in this city, but the bar in which we ate was pretty cool. I could now say I was feeling in Texas!

Swamps in Orange County, Texas

Swamps in Orange County, Texas

At this point, we still didn’t know if we would go to Austin or San Antonio first. We had pretty much abandoned our initial idea of going to the Big Bend National Park for time restrictions, and we were thinking of visiting only the biggest cities of Texas. It happened that we decided to go to San Antonio first to see the River Walk on a Friday night. The night had already come when we passed by Houston. I was amazed by all of the huge American and Texan flags proudly hanging along the highway. In Louisiana, people are far from hanging the state flag as much as here.

We drove and drove and drove until we eventually arrived in San Antonio at around 1030 p.m. We were tired, and I doubted we would hit the road again today. At that time, our plan was to stay here, sleep in the car on the parking lot of the bus station, and go to Austin next morning. We left the car at the bus station and walked around. We found the famous River walk and spent the night along the river, amazed at the wonders of San Antonio. This city looked very dynamic. Everybody seemed happy. I was impressed by the people who looked completely different from Louisiana. They seemed to pay greater attention to the way they dressed. There were also very few Afro Americans. At least half of the people were Latinos and hearing most of them speak Spanish seemed natural. The atmosphere was nothing like in Louisiana. I felt like I was in another country.

Tower of the Americas from the I-35, San Antonio, Texas

Tower of the Americas from the I-35, San Antonio, Texas

Riverwalk in San Antonio, South Texas

Riverwalk in San Antonio, South Texas

Riverwalk in San Antonio

Riverwalk in San Antonio

Riverwalk in San Antonio

Riverwalk in San Antonio

We had a good diner and wandered around until 0230 a.m. That is when my friend had the brilliant idea to hit the road instead of sleeping. “Guys, let’s go to the national park, now”. I was up for it of course, because it sounded crazy. It wasn’t very expected now that it was almost 3 a.m.. The park was very far, but what makes turns a trip into an adventure is the unexpected. So here we were, on the road again at 3 a.m., with the new objective to reach the Big Bend National Park as soon as we could. We drove in the darkness for a couple of hours. We were on the Old US Highway 90, heading to Del Rio, a small city at the Mexican border. But before we could reach it, we got tired and decided to stop and sleep in the small and scary town of Uvalde.

We woke up at 8 and got started straight away. We had a much more important business to do than waste time sleeping! We drove and drove and drove, to finally end up in Del Rio. We were so close from the Mexican border that we thought that it would be stupid not to go and see it by our own eyes. The checkpoint was pretty fun. While a few cars were going to Mexico, so many were trying to get into the U.S. that there was a huge traffic jam. Next to the border, on the U.S.’s side, there was a Mexican flea market which made me feel like I was in Mexico. At the gas station, everybody was Latino and people talked to me in Spanish like it was the way it was supposed to be.

Mexican border in Del Rio

Mexican border in Del Rio

Mexican border checkpoint in Del Rio

Mexican border checkpoint in Del Rio

Main Street, Del Rio, Texas

Main Street of Del Rio, Texas

Our next destination was the Big Bend National Park. We thought we would get there early in the afternoon but we didn’t expect what would happen on the way. We passed by the Amistad Reservoir which is an extremely beautiful lake with white sand shores. We didn’t have the time to stop by and I regret that, but we’ve seen other amazing stuffs. But now let’s talk about the crazy things because it is now that they begin. We were happily driving on the US 90 when we saw a sign that was saying “Slow down, inspection ahead”. We were like “What the heck is going on here!?”. I imagined that there would be some US patrols in the desert to look for illegal immigrants, but I hadn’t imagined that they would put checkpoints in the middle of the road and check every single car with dogs and guns. Well, that’s what they did. At that point I felt like I was beyond enemy lines in some sort. Unluckily, I was the only one to have my passport. My friends didn’t have their papers. The soldiers asked us to get out of the car and asked for the papers. My friends provided all they had: driving licence and Polish national identity card. It took them quite a while to check my friends’ identities but they finally freed us. It was a pretty crazy thing to be stopped by a patrol in the middle of the Texan desert.

Amistad Reservoir in Val Verde County, Texas

Amistad Reservoir in Val Verde County, Texas

Old US Highway 90, Kinney County, Texas

Old US Highway 90, Kinney County, Texas

US Border Patrol checkpoint in Val Verde County, Texas

US Border Patrol checkpoint in Val Verde County, Texas

US Border Patrol checkpoint in Val Verde County, Texas

US Border Patrol checkpoint in Val Verde County, Texas

Old US Highway 90 in Val Verde County

Old US Highway 90 in Val Verde County

Pecos River in Val Verde County

Pecos River in Val Verde County

Justice of the Peace Law West of the Pecos

Justice of the Peace Law West of the Pecos in Langtry, Texas

As we were driving West, I could see the landscape change hour after hour. It was getting drier and more yellowish/orangy as we were adventuring ourselves in the desert. The vegetation became rare. The plain was now a desertic plateau crisscrossed by many dried streams. When we arrived in the small town of Sanderson, the plateau wasn’t visible anymore although the surrounding hills were the manifestation of its intense erosion. Sanderson was a crazy town. It was like an oasis in the desert, where travelers stop to rest and refuel at the gas station. There were many overloaded wheelers that seemed to use this road. The town looked very sad. The houses were of the same color than the mountain. Everything looked dusty, rusty and old. The inhabitants looked very poor but it wasn’t surprising given the geographical location of the town.

Sanderson, Texas

Sanderson, Texas

Sanderson, Texas

Sanderson, Texas

The small town of Sanderson, Texas

The small town of Sanderson, Texas

Stunning landscape in Terrell County

Stunning landscape in Terrell County

Read the next part of the trip here : “The West Texas Experience: From the Big Bend National Park to Houston”.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Country, United States, Urban and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The West Texas Experience : From Baton Rouge to Terrell County

  1. Reggie says:

    What a fascinating tale, really enjoyed this!

  2. Just the idea of most Texan small towns scare me.

  3. Jo Woolf says:

    That sounds like a true adventure! I love the photos of the places you’ve visited – the old wooden building in Langtry looks wonderful! I can almost feel the heat in some of the pics. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    • Hi Jo. Yes this small house was a court of justice.. ahah. But the judge was organizing gambling and fights in the area. Show how knowledge is more powerful than physical strength.

  4. Alex Autin says:

    Wow Orel, you’ve done it again! You’ve managed to combine things I HAVE experienced right along with things I WANT to experience. You’re So right that one knows instantly when one’s crossed the border between Louisiana and Texas. The differences are wonderful and unmistakable, even in the difference in truck sizes one passes along the highway! I’m glad you and your friends enjoyed San Antonio, it’s a place that’s managed to keep me trapped for 2 years now! I’ve been as far west as Del Rio, and I’ve experienced the border patrol stops as well. And Amistad Reservoir is quite beautiful. I would love to go back there one day. I can’t wait to read the next part of this adventure.

    Brilliantly written, and I love your photographs!

    • Hi Alex! Oh yea I forgot to mention the sizes of the trucks! The’re even more ridiculously big, and people seem to have the tendency to put these black metal fences on the front of their cars.
      I thought about you in San Antonio because I know you live there. I regret that we didn’t have the time to visit the Fort Alamo but I think the desert was worth missing the fort.
      I think next part is better, I will post it soon :P Thanks for the good comment from someone who knows both LA and TX. Ahah that’s crazy I feel like I’m following your path.

      • Alex Autin says:

        These are the best road trips, no real planning…just go wherever the road leads! Who knew when we first met through wordpress a year ago that our paths would intersect so closely?!! Wow, and how cool is that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s