02.05.15 – Texas – Day 1, Houston to Nacogdoches

As predicted, I woke up really early unable to adjust to the time difference immediately.  I woke up on the hour, every hour from 2pm, until I gave up trying to sleep at 4am.  The time difference is only 6 hours (we are behind UK here in Houston) but it is enough to see me awake and ready for the day.  At home I rarely sleep past 7:30am so despite the adventures of yesterday I was up and ready for the day.  I suppose ‘up and ready’ might be pushing it a bit!  Hubby was awake around the same time so we chatted, surfed and repacked cases.  The idea with the cases is that we will have one case that we need to take into the hotel with us early night and have a bag that we leave in the car with things that we don’t need access to every day.

My tummy was still on UK time and needed feeding early. 4am was far too early though and if I’d eaten then I’d still be on UK eating times.  I find when I get back to the UK after being on these trips my tummy is still on USA time and I wake up in the middle of the night feeling incredibly hungry.

At 6am we 20150502_062522gave up and went down to the coffee shop in the lobby for breakfast. It was deserted and20150502_062359 we had the place to ourselves! I don’t think breakfast is included at the Marriott.  If it was we didn’t make the most of it!  I had a cinnamon bagel (toasted of course) with peanut butter on one half and cream cheese on the other.  I adore peanut butter and love the US’s obsession with it  Hubby’s breakfast was some kind of blueberry scone that wasn’t a scone but rather had a cake like consistency.  Whatever it was, it was nice!

We manage20150502_104621d to arrange for the valet at the hotel to take us to the car hire place back at the hotel which was great because it meant we didn’t have to haul all our luggage back on the train and through the airport.  The car we hired was a monster!  It had to be to take 4 of us plus our luggage for 3 1/2 weeks  I love it!

Those of you who regularly read my blog will know that I am a big country music fan and I’m delighted to report that since I’ve been here I’ve seen some excellent examples of ‘jacked up trucks’ that are mentioned in these songs.  I love classic American cars but these trucks are fascinating and cool at the same time. They are HUGE!  It’s the small differences that I notice and love.  I love being here and experiencing these things.  Travel is good for the soul!!

The plan today was to travel to Nacodoches.  I’ve planned some things to do and marked out some activities that might be fun to do using the Texas Moon Guide.  This isn’t a definitive list and I sincerely doubt that we will manage to do everything that I’ve planned out but it gives us a starting point and avoids just driving aimlessly from place to place without seeing anything on the way.  I enjoy the driving too and seeing the scenery, even if it is everyday things.  It is one step up from people watching for me!

Hubby navigates on these holidays and decided to take us on the scenic route which was far more interesting than sticking to the interstate all the way.

On the way to Nacodoches we passed through some really small towns, some only populated by a couple of hundred occupants.  It was fabulous!  I’ve read about towns like this, seen them on TV and heard them sung about in country songs.  We stick to the main roads but we drove past some of those red clay backroads that country singers are so fond of telling us about!  I loved seeing the different kinds of houses and vehicles.  The highlight for me was seeing some of the smaller, local restaurants which were housed in tiny buildings.  I loved the look of some of the BBQ places but at 10:30am it was too early to stop for lunch, although my tummy was telling me otherwise!  I can’t find the words to tell you about those towns and how very, very cool they were.  It is such an experience.  I’d love to spend some time there rather than passing straight though but there simply isn’t enough time to do everything.

I also like the fact that country music is mainstream here and there are stations dedicated to it.  In the UK I either have to listen to it though my Google Music subscription or internet radio.  I often lament about the lack of interest in country music in the UK and it is underlined by the fact it is so prevanent here in Texas.  I think I’m slowly starting to fall in love wth it here, not just because of the music but I love the laid back culture.  More about that in later entries though!!

20150502_104534We stopped at Lake Livingstone on the way to take some pictures.  The lake is enormous and as it was a weekend you could see people relaxing on the banks and out on the water fishing.  It was a lovely warm day.  I could have stayed there for hours, chilling and reading!

20150502_124048By the time lunch time (very slowly) came around we were near to Lufkin so we decided to eat at Ralph & Kacoos as we’d seen signs for it and we all liked seafood20150502_120550.  I opted for Buffalo wings to start with and the seafood sampler for main.  I’m such a sucker for Buffalo wings.  You simply don’t get them in the UK like you do here in the USA.  It was like greeting an old friend!  The seafood sampler was described as ‘Fried gulf shrimp, thin cut catfish and crawfish tails served over french fries’.  It was nice enough, nothing special compared to some of the meals that we’ve had out here on previous occasions, enjoyable enough though.

From there we drove to Walmart in Nachodoches.  Walmart is always one of the first pit stops so we can stock up on diet coke, snacks and anything else that we may need for a 3 1/2 week road trip.  I find the size of the Walmarts fascinating and it amazes me what you can buy in them.  The first time I was in the US I was gobsmaked to find that you could buy a gun there.  Can you imagine doing your weekly shop and putting a gun into the basket!!  I’m sure there are strict laws governing the sale of guns but even so, it is mind boggling to a Brit to imagine supermarkets selling guns.  This time I was delighted to see some kind of dune buggy for sale!!  I was tempted by a rather large paddling pool for $40 (very, very good price) but firstly there would be the problem of getting it home, secondly I think my father-in-law would blow a gasket if I emerged with a swimming pool!  Every year I am the one with the over stuffed suitcase who does stacks of shopping and has to sit on the case to get it closed.  The problem then is fitting it in the car but it shouldn’t be such a problem this year as we have a bigger car, but even so, he’d still blow a gasket!

One thing I did find with Walart is that they don’t do anything small.  I wanted individual bags of crisps, about 25g per packet and lower calorie options.  When I’m shopping at home I get pom bears, walkers baked or pop chips.  I like to graze and as they aren’t massively high in calories, those options work for me.  I couldn’t find any small bags of crisps, all were family sized bags.  I’d have liked to see smaller bags and more low calorie options but I accept that I’m in a different country and I won’t always have those options.

Next was to run the gauntlet of the biscuit aisle.  Hubby is much more familiar with America than I am.  He has been coming here for 30+ years but I’m still a novice.  He roared with laughter as I asked where the Bourbons were and in the absence of those I decided that I’d make do with hob nobs.  Not so it seems!  ‘Could you be any more British?’ he asked me.  I don’t like soft batch biscuits.  I hate the texture.  To me they taste like somebody has left the packet open too long and the biscuits have gone soft in the air! Hubby helped me to pick some crunchy biscuits. I even managed to find a Texas flag bag patch and a scrapbook which delighted me!

I keep a scrapbook of all interesting things that we do, especially these holidays and I’ve decided to do it as we go along this time to avoid having lots to do when I get home.

We went to the hotel from Walmart.  We stayed at La Quinta for the first time.  Usually we stick to Best Westerns but that can sometimes limit us if there is a town that we want to stay in that doesn’t have a Best Western.  The room was fine, a bit dated but okay.  There had been a bit of a mess up with the room booking so hubby and I ended up huddled in a queen size bed all night.  It was okay, very cozy but we managed to sleep.

The pool area needed a bit of a tidy up.  There was an empty can that somebody had left and it just needed a bit of a sweep and a tidy.  Again, it was okay.  It was an outdoor pool and quite cold!  It was okay when I’d been in for a while but it took me some time to get to that point!  Hubby jumped straight in but I crept in a bit at a time!  I’m not a strong swimmer so it is nice to be able to practice while I’m out here.

Several people had recommended Clear Spring Cafe to us so we decided to try that for dinner.  We got there and the queue was about 50 people long!  We decided to give that a miss as none of us were starving.  We found a Burger King on way back to the hotel.  Burger King isn’t my favourite chain but it was okay.

While we were there we started to look at the route for the next day.  We’d hoped to go on the steam train journey out of Rusk but it was only running a special service so we weren’t able to.  Instead we decided to head to Caddo Burial Mounds and Jefferson, which the guide book cites an example of an old Southern town.  After that we’d continue on towards Dallas and stay somewhere on the way.  Look out South Forks!  I’m coming for you!!

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream.  I’d never been in one before so I had to ask how it all worked!  It was simple enough, choose what you want and they get it for you.  There was plenty of choice so I asked the lady serving us what she recommended. She was delighted to find we were not local and asked where we were from.  When we told her, she exclaimed ‘What y’all doin’ all the way out here!’ and once she’d finished serving us I could hear her telling the people in the kitchen that we had English accents!  I used to feel really shy and embarrassed when people noticed accents and made a big fuss of us but  I’m getting used to it and it doesn’t always happen.

I ended up with some deliciously, calorific hot fudge sundae concoction!  It was lurvely!

I got an early night (probably about 9:30pm) because I still felt jet lagged.  Hopefully I will be over the jet lag soon!

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