Getting the hell into Dodge

After passing a thunderstorm on our way up from Roswell it caught up with us during the night and pounded our motel hard. Wind tearing in the walls, hard rain assaulted the roof.. and then it started dripping. I normally sleep like a rock, but water dripping on me from the ceiling at 3 in the morning is where I draw the line. Then again, we could have been in Dallas which just got hit by a flash flood. Dodged a bullet there, that’s for sure.

Luckily I was not around to take this picture.

Luckily, I was not around to take this picture.

Checking out from Days Inn and getting a 50% discount for our annoyance, we head into town for the Boot Hill museum; a recreation of the Dodge of the old west. After reading about the Indians and checking out the cemetery, we caught the noon gun fight on main street between locals and outlaws. Having been a fan of the Deadlands role-playing system for years, looking at weapons, clothes, pictures and tools as well as reading stories about life on the western frontier was totally cool. Made me want to dig out my old source books again.

Dodge city as it once was.

Dodge city as it once was, save the cool looking dude.

After half a day in Dodge we got back on the road and set sail for Kansas City. Supposedly the BBQ capital of the world, so we (and by we I mean I) wanted to get there in time for dinner. Well we did, and went for dinner at a place called Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue which came recommended by locals. Now I’m not a connesaur on BBQ by any means, but this was the best ribs I have had to date. Meat so tender I didn’t even need a knife to cut it as it simply let go of the bone. Having never had a taste for the sweet BBQ sauce, this definitely changed that.

Finally we went to a concert at The Riot Room, something of an alternative rock/punk scene where a local band had their album release party. Walking around the city feels alive and there are lots of people in the streets. Oddly enough, there seems to be several policemen at each corner, some places as many as five, simply standing there. As we get back to the hotell we ask the doorman about it, and as it turns out, there has been a huge problems with shooting as of late to the point where they close off roads and make pedestrian detours on Saturdays so people have to walk more thus be too tired to start trouble. Odd.. and here I thought Kansas City was such a nice, friendly little mid-sized friendly town.

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Roswell that ends well

Roswell is a small town that caught a lucky break when something fell from the sky in 1947. Not many people know what actually landed in that desolate field, and several explanations exists, but the events that followed are peculiar by anyone’s standard. Since then, the small town of 50,000 have been the source of many things alien. The reason I know all this, besides the fact that it’s a huge pop-cultural reference, is, of course, that I just visited the Roswell UFO Museum and research center.

The UFO museum, Roswell.

What the sign says.

What the museum lacks in size it more then makes up for in newspaper clippings, pictures and written statements from eye witnesses. I’m left with a sense of.. hmmm. There was definitely some strange things going on, though I doubt it had anything to do with aliens. It would have made an excellent masters degree in the field of media studies, tied into the whole flying saucer phenomenon around WWII for reference. In any case, the city now lives off it’s alien history while keeping it as real as you can when it comes to extraterrestrials. And, to my great pleasure, not a single of those stupid bong-smoking aliens you see on t-shirts in tourist areas across the southern parts of Europe.

Main street.

Main street.

As for the rest of Roswell, it’s a nice place to visit if you are ever in the area. A small town with enough tourists to sustain businesses that wouldn’t survive in other towns, it’s still niche enough to retain that small town feeling. Main street probably look the same way as it did 50 years ago, only with cooler cars. And there’s a great diner called “Not of this World” worth checking out.

Another thing this part of the US is known for. Cows, as far as the eye can see.

Another thing this part of the US is known for. Cows, as far as the eye can see.

We spent the first half of the day in Roswell, then got started on the long trip back to Boston. On the way north we came by the Palo Duro Canyon, a canyon made state park complete with roads and areas for camping. We also passed a thunderstorm, quite a sight when it’s pitch black and the lightning illuminates the horizon.  Close to midnight we arrived in Dodge City, Kansas.

A small detour to New Mexico

Wednesday turned into a hardcore day on the road. Leaving Austin and plotting a somewhat scenic route, we aimed our GPS for Dodge through a few way points so we could see the drier parts of Texas. However, after a while we found us not horribly far from Roswell, New Mexico, and went for it. The little UFO city is simply too tempting to pass up.

Western Texas; hills and mostly straight roads.

Western Texas; hills and mostly straight roads.

This.. is.. TEXAS!

This.. is.. TEXAS!

The nature down here is very different from what we’ve been passing so far, which further fuels a strong feeling of isolation as we go 30 minutes without seeing another car on the road. There is the odd oil pump where Indians used to be, and the large empty plains are all fenced in. Signs advertise land for sale.

No country for old men.

No country for old men.

We passed through quite a few of these dead towns.

We passed through quite a few of these dead towns.

Still, the empty roads and ghost towns are better then the never-ending line of gas-stations and intersections that surround the larger cities. Dallas and Fort Worth have grown into one big town, lined by warehouses, gas-stations, shops and parking lots. I’d take the empty prairie any day.

Sun goes down over the New Mexico praire.

Sun goes down over the New Mexico prairie.

We got to Roswell about an hour after sundown, and following our guide book we found a cheap and recently renovated motel and opted to save our touristing for tomorrow. No aliens yet though, but the night is still young.

Dinner and a movie

Leaving Fort Worth we went straight to San Antonio, which marked the south most point of our trip as well as being further south then I’ve ever been. We dropped by the Alamo, site of the famous battle of the Texas Revolution. Now it’s a museum telling the story of how the republic of Texas came to be. With a history like that, it’s no wonder Texas in general has a bad-ass attitude.

Remember to never remember the Alamo.

Remember to never remember the Alamo.

We also took a walk along the river walk, a network of walkways which runs along the San Antonio river one level down from the roads of downtown San Antonio. Absolutely stunning, it really makes the city stand out and from what I understand it’s also one of the things that draws tourists down here. There is no wondering why.

San Antonio river walk.

San Antonio river walk.

After a quick walk around San Antonio we headed for Austin. There is a mythical cinema in Austin called the Alamo Drafthouse; where they serve food and beer, where the commercials are replaced with skits and old trailers featuring among other things, the actors from the movie showing, where people will be kicked out for talking, and where directors like Tarantino and Romero are known for dropping by to introduce their new movies. We found it, and it was just as awesome as expected. Having seen most of what was running we went for Angels & Demons which really wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

Austin by night.

Austin by night.

Afterwards we found a motel just across the bridge from downtown Austin, then went back across the bridge for beers and sights. Texas is really starting to grow on me, and there is something to be said for the southern hospitality.

What does JR and JFK have in common? Dallas!

For our last day with Helen we went to Dallas, and first up was the JFK museum. For those not in the know, Dallas is where JFK was shot in 1963 and the sniper’s nest has since been turned into a museum detailing Kennedy’s life and death through pictures and video footage. Getting some more details on his politics and the circumstances around his death was definitely interesting, and there is a haunting echo of history repeating itself. Again the US finds itself with a young charismatic leader who’s rhetoric is based around hope and prosperity, who knows how to use the new media and wants to help the world. Hopefully they will take better care of this one.

No pictures at the JFK museum.

No pictures at the JFK museum.

Afterwards we went to the aquarium, the other big attraction in Dallas. More then just a line of fish tanks it’s a lush tropical indoor forest, multi layered with birds flying over our heads, monkeys climbing the trees and a myriad of sea creatures in the water under which is see through tunnel. There was even a sloth hanging lazily just out of touch of us, and we got to feed some of the tropical birds blueberries.

A taste of the tropical.

A taste of the tropical.

Good aquarium, good company.

Good aquarium, good company.

Can't help but loving a creature that got it's name from a cardinal sin.

Can't help but loving a creature that got it's name from a cardinal sin.

Other then that there really isn’t much to see in Dallas, and having driven through downtown we dropped by a shopping mall while Helen went to a yearbook meeting at the school where she teach. There seems to be a lot of hand-holding in American schools, which feeds the stereotypical high maintenance American. After the meeting we went for some Indian food, and, wanting to get moving somewhat early, watched “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” which is one of the most accurately named movies I’ve seen.

Helen and Schubert's place.

Helen and Schubert's place.

After a good nights sleep we are now back on the road, with Kristine behind the wheel and me blogging from the back seat. Time to find a new motel from which to leech interwebz access. And since I know she’ll be reading this; thanks for letting us stay Helen, was fun getting to know the two of you.

Kristine and Helen, morning goodbye.

Kristine and Helen, morning goodbye.

Texas: Home of the Beast

So, Texas. Cowboys, guns, horses, dust and oil. Home of tex-mex and the Bush clan, among other things. With Helen as our guide we headed back to the Stockyard for a closer look at things, getting some pictures and checking out some cowboy stuff. The Stockyard hails back to when the livestock industry was a big part of the Texas economy, and it’s been preserved as an historic attraction. A pretty cool place if you’re into this kind of thing, which I just happens to be. I also got to ride a mechanical bull, but it didn’t have a timer so I couldn’t earn any bragging rights.

mmm.. western.

mmm.. western.

Main street.

Main street.

I so do not have the right muscles for this.

I so do not have the right muscles for this.

Next up, gun show! This strange American tradition where gun retailers show off their wares and people can get a gun without having to wait for a background check is both loved and hated, depending on who you ask. Chances are I could have walked out of there with a gun if I wanted to. Helen picked up a stun gun, Kristine got a pepper spray as stun guns are illegal in Norway as far as I know.

A small part of a rather large area. They even sold Nazi artifacts there.

A small part of a rather large area. They even sold Nazi artifacts at some of the booths.

Quite a spectacle.

Quite a spectacle.

After that we went downtown into the center of Fort Worth, where there really isn’t much to see. Walked around for a bit, then went to a tex-mex restaurant where we hooked up with Schubert. Sundays tend to be quiet just about everywhere, and after a long day of experiences we went to see Up, which was cool even though I find the whole 3D thing to be gimmicky and rather annoying.

New Orleans -> Forth Worth

Back on the road again, this time for a rather long haul; 9 hours from New Orleans and down to Fort Worth in Texas where we are meeting up with Kristine’s old friend Helen. On the way out of Louisiana we stopped by an old sugar plantation, had crawfish cajun and stole Internet access from a motel to post yesterdays post. I’m keeping this short as we are off to a the Fort Worth Stockyards before then checking out a gun show.

Entrance way.

Entrance way.

The Oak Tree Plantation.

The Oak Tree Plantation.

We hooked up with Helen and her husband Schubert, a dentist with an inventive streak. Helen, which through the virtue of being a teacher is on her summer vacation,  took us out to see the night life in the stockyards. It was just what I was expecting from Texas; cowboy boots and hats prevailed throughout, and the whole area had a a feeling of southern hospitality. Sure they might have some odd beliefs, and most here value the second amendment over the first, but they also came off as having a sense of community and a “we look out for each other” kind of attitude. I guess carrying guns everywhere and looking for a chance to shoot someone who deserves it can do that to you.

New Orleans we hardly knew ye

Swamps are a big part of Louisiana, and touring options are plentiful. Being somewhat fond of wildlife we opted for a slower boat ride over the faster air boats, for a chance to see some of the locals up close and personal. Birds, turtles and gators was the view of the day, the more furry inhabitants only come out in the “winter”. Many people have cabins in the swamp, which I definitely would have had if I lived in these parts.

Off looking for gators.

Off looking for gators.

Who knew gators liked marshmallows.

Who knew gators liked marshmallows.

The Honey Island swamp.

The Honey Island swamp.

Afterwards we went for a stroll around the non-tourist part of New Orleans where tourists are warned not to go after dark. And I can understand why that is. First, there’s really nothing to see there, and second, the locals are pretty shabby looking. And it made me realize that I don’t much like how “tourist areas” are seen as a bad thing. Having been around a lot of non-tourist areas I have to say that if there is something to see, people will come to see it. And if there’s nothing to see, why go there at all? That said, New Orleans needs a face-lift when it comes to tourism. It seems to settle for mediocrity in many areas, and fall somewhere between authentic and tourist friendly while failing at both. Shopping is also non-existent unless you want cheap crap, which on the other hand is plentiful.

French Quarter.

French Quarter.

That said, the French Quarter, which is the reason why people travel to New Orleans in the first place, is just as awesome as promised if you stay off Bourbon street. While the city struggles with high crime rates, there is a lot of police in the streets which I see as a good thing. While I am not a food tourist the chow was excellent, and I went through the gumbo, jambalaya, cajon and crawfish signature dishes.

The infamous Bourbon street.

The infamous Bourbon street.

For our last evening we went for drinks in the French Quarter, dropping by two bars before calling it a night. Early day today, seeing as we are going all the way to Texas and dropping by a plantation on the way. Not having time to blog last night or before we left, Kristine got the wheels while I’m blogging from the back seat. I’ll see if we can leech some access off one of these motels so I can post this.

One night in New Orleans

There is one area in which Kristine and me really differ. She likes to plan, I like to wing it. This means that we makes awesome travel partners. We strolled the French Quarter, took two guided walking tours and ended up with some locals talking politics and Nicola Tesla’s technology in a random bar. All in all, success!

Jackson Park.

Jackson Park.

Hanging with my loa homies.

Hanging with my loa homies.

Burbon street, the most famous of all the streets in New Orleans, strikes me as a blend between the red light district in Amsterdam and the back alleys of Copenhagen. In the evening, it smells like a club and half naked girls are trying to lure you into places like “Temptation” and “Barely Legal”. Every other building is either a strip club or a bar, with the odd souvenir shop and gallery thrown into the mix. We toured the old cemetery for some pretty interesting insights on the burial traditions over here, and learned the actual story behind voodoo. Also dropped by the voodoo museum, which was run by some old kook. New Orleans is a city of stories and storytellers, and the first survival skill you learn is to escape the locals once they start a never-ending conversation.

The fact that I failed to capture the lightning in the background only means one thing. I need a better camera.

The fact that I failed to capture the lightning in the background only means one thing. I need a better camera.

The night ended at Pirates for beers and absinthe, as well as conversations with random people about the governments weather control program, artificial intelligence and of course, the city of New Orleans. I’ve never heard Indian English with my own ears before, and one guy spoke like the old English colonialns from movies. Now we’re off to a trip of the swamps, before checking out an old plantation.

Suburbia now and then

Glenn had some interesting insights on Americans. He shared the common European view that Americans as a population are pretty stupid, and built on it by saying how these people serve in jury’s, attend protests and appear on TV which doesn’t do the country any favors. The average American can’t tell you who the last three presidents where, what the largest state is or which countries borders the US. Using their countrymen’s stupidity to their advantage, anyone with an agenda can voe large groups of people with the simple rhetoric of putting bad things under a banner and get people to wave that banner as high as possible. Case in point is the “evils of socialism”, an accepted truth most Americans will agree with even though they have no other concept of the term socialism other then the firm belief that they don’t like it. And so we talked the night away over white wine.

Suburbia.

Then.

After an egg and toast breakfast we aimed our GPS for New Orleans then chose not to follow it and opted for a scenic route instead. While it’s been years since the Hurricane Katrina hit the coast line, the damages can still be seen today. Dead patches of forest, shells of empty buildings and dead areas are scattered alongside a once beautiful beach. The fact that it started raining didn’t help on our impression of the area at all. We ended up in New Orleans as planned, where we will be staying for three nights. Lets just hope our car survives the shady parking lot.

Hurricane Katrina four years later.

Now.

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