This time, all tent – no Roxie

It takes a long time to get out of Florida; especially as you get older. Most AARP members never do get out. Our escape attempt began at 7 am in a packed-to-the-bedrails F250 and ended 700 miles later in Hammond, Louisiana. All set to car camp out of the truck, we instead found ourselves at a Cracker Barrel, walking distance from our budget accommodations at the Econolodge as rain fell in torrential sheets. The weather was a big improvement from the 20 some tornados that had come through the area the day before, so no one was complaining. If you were the kind of person who looked for signs of success or failure at the beginning of an adventure, day one was more suspicious than auspicious.

A light meal at America’s favorite country kitchen – Cracker Barrel

The Econolodge got a bad wrap on TripAdvisor just because of the over powering smell of cleaning products, barebone finishes, paper thin walls, and lack of a breakfast bar. After 11 hours in the truck, we didn’t care. After one hour in the budget room listening to the TV next door and high on bleach, we cared a lot but were out of options. Fortunately, the 2000 calorie dinner at CB made it impossible to stay awake. Day one set a low bar for improvement.

Scenic I-10 in Houston

One thing you can say about Hammond, LA is that it is an easy place to leave. There were no teary eyed goodbyes. Just a tank of unleaded at the Walmart (2.98!) and we were west bound, back on America’s least exciting interstate, I-10. The highlight of the day was catching up with our pandemic Barksdale buddies over lunch as we passed through their town. The low point of the day was catching up with 100,000 commuters in Houston over dinner. Determined to ignore the siren call of the budget motels west of Houston, we ducked into Stephen Austin State Park. We are pretty sure the park was named after the Bionic Man of 70s TV fame.

Steve Austin – Prior to joining NASA
Steve Austin – The Bionic Man and founder of Texas State Parks

Setting up camp in the state park, we ignored the ominous clouds building overhead. We were happy to have the double size foam pad we purchased at the Barksdale AFB Exchange when were were quarantined during Covid. Sheri broke her fibula going for a stretch shot on a slimy tennis court and the two of us sleeping on the queen bed in Roxie was too close for her extreme discomfort. In order for us to both get a shred of sleep, we traded turns sleeping on this foam pad down on the living room floor. It came in handy several times after when Sheri broke a rib falling off her bike at Glacier National Park in Montana and Eric broke one falling off the truck at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The only thing either of us could horizontally tolerate was foam on the floor. In Texas, we were back on the foam.

How we roll

Putting all of our chips on No-Rain Red, we should have known that the house always wins. With six hundred miles ahead of us, there was no time to contemplate drying out the soggy camp in the morning. Back into the truck it all went hoping to find some sun and dry out at a later day. We could hear Roxie laughing at us in the back of our minds.

Back at being an embedded reporter of the American experience