Janice's Travel Blog for the North American Circle Tour
San Antonio, TX to New Orleans, LA

El Paso, TX to Pecos, TX

Pecos, TX to San Antonio, TX

Photos/Videos

Friday, February 9, 2007:  Leaving El Paso was easy – in so many ways.  Not a place I plan to return to.  Also, we were on the road leading directly to the Carlsbad Caverns, out next destination.  On the way we passed through the Guadeloupe Mountains National Park.  At one place we stopped for a few photos and at another a short walk through desert vegetation ( with labels ) to the ruins of an old stage coach stop on a transcontinental run.  We arrived at the caverns shortly after noon and were down in the caverns, about 700 feet below the surface soon afterwards.  The first thing we did was a self-guided tour of the “Big Room” area.  It took us about an hour of walking at a good pace.   The caverns were simply amazing – all kinds of formations of stalactites, stalagmites and pillars, curtains, drinking straws and large accretions of materials in  crazy shapes.  There are huge galleries of open space, both up and down from the pathways.[ the space is large enough to contain 3 football fields ]  The second part was a guided tour of “Kings & Queens” chambers.  Our guide/ranger was really good and explained many of the curious formations as well as the general creation of the cavers.  At one point, all light was extinguished for a few minutes and we experienced total darkness.  Very eerie.  Then we were all as still as possible for total silence.  We could hear dripping and later located the source right in front of us.  The lowest point of the tour was 830 feet below the surface.  All told, we were underground for 3 hours.  The only thing we missed was walking down from the surface, because we were short of time. [ because of the guided tour start time ].  When we left there, we set out cross-country.  In 30 miles across desert we saw no houses, only one car, perhaps 6 cattle, one roadrunner ( meepmeep! ) and many non-operating oil well pumps.  As we got closer to Pecos we saw more working pumps, a few cars, but many abandoned houses and other buildings.  Once we got to the edge of Pecos we saw the Wal-Mart and wondered if that had anything to do with it.  Checked into a motel and will go looking for food soon. Later:  we found an interesting little cantina with no other patrons and enjoyed an unusual dining experience: Mexican for Lar and a hamburger for Jan. [ I was afraid to do Mexican in Juarez but this was good ]

Saturday, February 10, 2007:  We made a beeline for the Sonora Caverns – well, as “bee” as possible, across more of the rural Texas wasteland. [ the most prominent feature was fog which was an improvement on what it usually hid ] .   The cave is privately owned and run, so rather different from Carlsbad NP.  The cave is much more intimate with formations well within reach – it was hard to avoid them sometimes.  We walked about 1.8 miles [ underground 155 feet ] and saw amazing formations in several colours ranging from white through rust to purple.  Most of the same formations as yesterday and many funny effects.  Our guide was an enthusiastic young local woman who’s been there only a few months.  At one point she couldn’t make the lighting work so we had to navigate with only her flashlight for the 5 of us.  That was fun.  This cave was a great complement to the Carlsbad visit.  From there we continued on to San Antonio where we drove into the middle of the city and visited the Alamo [ where the Texans made a last stand against the Mexican General Santa Anna -  ie “ remember the Alamo”, a battle phrase for every Texan ] and River Walk [ where an outstanding job was done in implement a restaurant/café outdoor boardwalk setting on each side of a river running through downtown ].  Looking for the hotel we got caught in heavy traffic – it’s Rodeo Week here!  What fun – cowboys everywhere.

 

A beeline is easier at these Texas speedlimits (80 mph = 130 km/hr)  Pic

 

The Sonora Caverns

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San Antonio, The Alamo

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San Antonio, River Walk

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El Capitaine, with the mountain hidden behind, the highest in Texas   Pic

 

In the Carlsbad Caverns ( very tricky photography!! )

 

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San Antonio, TX to Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles, LA to New Orleans, LA

Photos/Videos

Sunday, February 11, 2007:  We enjoyed a long, lazy start today, including breakfast in our room, followed by a car wash -  the second one since we went through all the road sludge in Washington & Oregon.  This time all the remaining outside muck came off.  We drove to Houston, stopping at a handy Target store to stock up on a few things.  In Houston we walked through part of the historic district and had lunch.  It was very quiet, but it seems to be a nice city.  A young baseball team was also eating there and we were amused by the boys’ antics.  At the Louisiana Welcome Centre we picked up information on places and events.  Then we proceeded to Lake Charles and checked into a hotel.  Louisiana looks like it does in movies and magazines.  Much more interesting than Texas, which is big and flat and mostly boring. [ we entered Texas at mile 0 on Interstate 10 and left at it’s border at mile 885 -  too many Texas miles, but it was more interesting coming down the last 100 miles to Houston  -  it looks a lot like Ontario -  the rest looks like the moon with a little sage brush and tumble weed ]

Monday, February 12, 2007:  Today we arrived in New Orleans.  And Wow!  We love it.  When we left Lake Charles, we decided to try to drive along as close to the shore as possible.  The first choice came at Lafayette, where we turned south and enjoyed some bayou views.  Eventually we reached the outskirts of New Orleans.  Along the way we certainly saw some signs of hurricane damage, but no real devastation.  The closer we came into the city, though, the more empty and badly-damaged buildings we saw.  But when we got to the French Quarter, there was no indication there’d ever been a problem.  We parked at the first place we found and then set out on foot to find a hotel.  Larry and picked up info on hotel bargains and we soon found Place d’Armes Hotel on St. Ann and checked in.  It’s an old and very interesting place.  To reach our room we go through the small lobby along a passage way across a courtyard,  past the pool, through a door and up a stairway.  We have a balcony from which we can see Jackson Square and hear the church bells and music.  The room is huge and high-ceilinged with tall windows.  Very comfortable.  We had a picnic in our room, then decided to rest a bit before setting off in search of dinner.  When we went out we did a big loop around the French Quarter and back to Bourbon Street.  After walking the full length of the pedestrian area, drinking beer ( beer’s OK on the street, but only in plastic containers! ), we selected an Italian restaurant with a jazz pianist.  Great choice, good food and good entertainment.  We lingered there awhile, then wandered back to the hotel.  We’re very glad we booked in here for 2 nights.

 

 

New Orleans:

 

Hotel Room   Pic

 

View from balcony   Pic1   Pic2

 

Night scene on Bourbon Street   Pic

 

Beers are big   Pic

 

 

 

Houston:

Hard to take pictures of buildings, but I thought these “space-age” streetcars were appropriate for the city of astronauts ( or of, as Jan said, “astronauties” )      Pic1   Pic2

 

 

 

At New Orleans, LA

Photos/Videos

 

Tuesday, Feb 13: 2007 : Happy Birthday, Lorrie!

During the night there was a thunderstorm and actual tornadoes in the area, but by morning it was bright, clear and warm again.  After breakfast at the hotel we had to hustle to the 1850 House to join a walking tour of the French Quarter.  It was an interesting review of the history, geography and architecture of the Vieux Carré and environs.  The guide, whose house was destroyed in Katrina, has spent his entire life here and now lives in the Quarter.  He told us a lot about the destruction and recovery efforts.  It’s clear that it’ll be a long time before New Orleans is normal again, and it sounds like the population is unlikely to get back to 2005 levels.  Even in the areas that were less affected about half the people have left.  [ Even though there is no evidence of the hurricane in the French Quarter ] it’s clear that business is struggling with finding staff, finding supplies and finding customers.  But we still hear jazz everywhere and see artists and fortune tellers at work.  After lunch in our room and time for our feet to cool, we set out to look more closely at the cathedral ( whose bells we hear ), Decateur St for souvenirs and a stop for café au lait and beignets, and Royal St for classier shopping.  We came home twice to drop off purchases.  Man!!  I hope it all fits in the van! [ which we haven’t seen for a couple of days ] .   We also checked out several restaurants for dinner and decided on the one in the same building as our hotel.  It was a terrific meal and afterwards we strolled Bourbon Street again.  [ lots of wildness ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans:

 

Catholic Church dominating Jackson Sq   Pic   Inside  Pic

 

Joan of Arc

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Outside Pic

 

Interesting house  Pic

 

Janice with busker  Pic 

 

Janice on hotel balcony  Pic

 

Janice ready for

Mardi Gras

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