East into America's Wetland
You never really know your car until you pack a bag, put on some music and point it towards another state. The one and only Dita Von Teese performing in New Orleans gave Rae and I perfect excuse to do just that. Without knowing what to expect along the way, except that Houston freeways are terrible and should be avoided at all costs, we headed off to give Em the Mustang her first chance to really stretch her legs.
The drive out to NOLA was really great. Taking US-290 out of Austin into the sunrise, we avoided I-10 until after Houston stopping only for terrible McDonald's coffee. We tried to find a local coffee shop that wasn't Starbucks, we really did. Unfortunately the place the GPS led us to simply didn't exist - even though a sign outside the strip mall did its best to convince us otherwise, and we gave up on the hunt.
There's not much to see on I-10 east of Houston either, but once you hit Louisiana it gets much better. We didn't expect to come across miles and miles of elevated freeway. It's a seriously impressive feat of civil engineering that is replicated across a lot of the freeways around Lousiana. They even have multi-story fly overs built over the swamp, with the swamp doing it's best to reclaim the concrete with vines.
Louisiana proudly calls itself "America's Wetland" - a name which was re-enforced at the first tourist stop with brutal combination of heat and humidity. Signs warned us against swimming due to alligators, however the only one we saw had unsuccessfully tried to cross the freeway.
As for New Orleans itself? It's a strange city, hot and bad-smelling but interpersed with good music, great food and hidden secrets. The garden above, for example, is in the middle of the French Quarter hiding behind brick walls and steel bars.
On the way home we took the coast road (LA-82) and followed the Louisiana coast line along the Gulf of Mexico until we hit Texas. There's very, very little out there and is a boring drive. A low speed limit (55 mph, or 90 km/h) combined with flat, straight roads makes for an uninteresting trip. Even though it follows the coast, it's not on the beach for the most part so there's not even anything to look at besides marshland.
We eventually hit the beach, and even though it's not even in the same league as the Gold Coast beaches it was good to get out of the car. I didn't realise the how much that part of the US is focused on oil and gas production. At one point I counted over a dozen oil rigs visible from the coast!
Once hitting the Texas border we were sick of exploring and made a bee-line for home, including a relieving stretch of 80 mph bliss on I-10. The Mustang really feels at home on the freeway, cruising at 80 mph (130 kmh/h) without even working for it. Even after over 12 hours in the car, and even for a tall 6'7" guy such as myself, it was comfortable and a pleasure to drive.
Heading west back on US-290 towards Austin the sun ducked behind a cloud and provided us with a stunning sunburst. It was an apt symmetry to the trip, and a beatiful way to be welcomed back to our new home.
As usual I have a set of photos on Flickr, so head on over and have a look.
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