Tuesday, October 25, 2011

COMING HOME TO AMERICA

After much hassle from American Airlines about flying my two mini-wienies together in one box as checked baggage, we arrived safely in Miami on Wednesday morning.  There was another four-hour delay to get the rental car, we made it to our friends' house in Coral Springs to spend the night.  (Note:  rental car agencies don't accept cash, which I thought was legal tender in the US of A.)


Then on Thursday, October 20, we were on the road for the two-day drive to San Antonio, up Florida's Turnpike to I-10, and then straight across I-10 to our destination.


Here are some impressions from the drive:


  • Florida's highways are amazing.  No potholes, totally clean, perfect condition.  This was my first culture shock, after learning to drive carefully and changing the steering every day to avoid the continually forming potholes in Panama.
  • Other infrastructure is so impressive to be overwhelming (see pictures of highway interchange in Houston below).
  • Billboards on I-10 are now two-sided, so drivers can see them on both sides of the road coming and going.  I tried to get a picture of one stretch on I-10 in Florida where there were constant billboards on both sides of the road, along with one 18-wheeler after another, all as far as the eye could see.  I can accept the 18-wheelers (which by the way don't seem to speed anymore), but the billboards are sheer ugliness and a visual blight on the landscape.
  • I-10 was thoughtfully designed in the rural areas with buffers of trees along both sides and, where possible, in the median.  These trees not only help to purify the air from the vehicular emissions, but also hide whatever ugliness might be behind.  The trees also block the sunlight at low angles and oncoming headlights at night.  Kudos to whoever thought of leaving those strips of trees.  Now if we could just get rid of those billboards...
  • It takes a long time to get out of Florida when you're coming all the way up from Miami and then all the way across the panhandle.  After driving 12 hours we made it as far as West Mobile, Alabama to the Motel 6.  I had printed out maps and phone numbers of all the Motel 6's along the route and had called ahead to the one in Mobile to hold a room on the ground floor once I knew we would make it that far.
  • Motel 6 is not just your family-friendly place anymore.  Maybe it never was.  This particular one seemed to be filled with construction workers staying there long-term and one poor woman who was so high on drugs she could hardly function.  She seemed to know the desk clerk well.  I guessed she was a regular guest there, working as a Woman of the Night to support her drug habit.  Sad.
  • I saw billboards advertising programs to clean people up from methamphetamine addiction.  Evidently the meth problem is not going away in the South.  Sad.
  • There is a beautiful old wooden bridge partly fallen into the water in the Pearl River basin at mile mark 133 on I-10 in Louisiana, just north of the highway.  Didn't get to stop to take a picture of it, but will someday.
About midway in the second day we crossed the state line into Texas.  Here are the dogs and I by the new iron Texas state markers at the visitor's information center.  We are all happy to be here!




The state has done away with the old limestone markers.  Too bad.  I think they had way more class than the new iron ones.




Here are two more welcome signs seen along the highway:


As the day wore on we arrived in Houston.  I had lived in Houston for several years, so could thread my way through the downtown expressways to get through town heading west:
Houston skyline - pretty much unchanged.
(Note:  Taking picures while driving in freeway traffic is probably not a good idea.)
Again the extent and the newness of the infrastructure were impressive.  Here is a relatively new highway interchange on the west side:


Lots of concrete

Some of the new architecture is underwhelming:

What were they thinking when they built this monstrosity?

The countryside was greener than I had expected from a recent rain in the all-time record drought.  We passed through familiar scenes, including my all-time favorite, Woman Hollering Creek.  This most interesting name apparently comes from the famous legend of La Llorona in Mexico and the US Southwest.  It seems that the ghost of a single mother who drowned her baby in the creek haunts the area with her mournful cries.


After what seemed like an eternity we finally saw the skyline of San Antonio:
First view of San Antonio - welcome home

The route took us through downtown past the Alamodome, home of the San Antonio Spurs:
The Alamodome - not the "Cesar Chavez Alamodome" as the roadsigns imply
We reached our destination - my friend Sarah's house - about dark.  Sarah and I went out for Tex-Mex food.  


All is well with the world.
-bjd

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