Days 24-34: Chickens, Boats, Houston, Orleans, Florida.
Staying in Lebanon was nice, seeing family and enjoying good food. We left after a couple days, and headed south, into Arkansas. The highways have been nice, winding through the hills and trees. After crossing the border, we found a nice stream and went swimming for a couple hours in the mountain river. We continued on and arrived at Atkins, Arkansas in the evening, where I have a cousin, Mike Sober. We stayed the night at Mike’s house, talked with him and his wife, and he showed us around the farms he has. He raises chickens, and has three large barns that hold 15,000 chickens each. I’ve never seen so many chickens in my life. We went back to his home, and visited with their dog, a large Rot. This dog is HUGE, weighing 175 pounds, and looks as if he could probably take off my legs in a single bite. However, he is really nice once you get introduced to him. The next morning, Mike showed us around a couple other areas that he farms. In addition to chickens, he grows rice, corn, and soybeans. He talked about how he does his farming, and we watched as some people were planting experimental soybean seeds in one of his fields. The researchers planted 1000 different types of soybean seeds to test which breeds grow better in the Arkansas soil. We drove on down south, and entered Hot Springs, which is the childhood town of Bill Clinton. It is a fascinating town with a classy downtown area. It is on the edge of a large twisting lake, and we decided to rent a 20 foot pontoon boat and explore the lake. The boat was our largest expense of the trip, but it was worth it, and the lake was beautiful. We both took turns driving the boat, and stopped for a short swim in the middle of the lake. A couple other boaters and jet skis shared the water with us. That evening we saw a movie in town, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. We found a place outside of town, and camped for the night. We continued south in the morning along the back highways and farm roads. We were in Louisiana for a little bit before camping in Texas, a couple miles south of San Augustine. We were in lush forests again, this time near an old abandoned home. It looked like a typical run-down home, until we looked inside. It looked as if the inhabitants of the home had suddenly left the house, leaving almost all their possessions, such as cloths, photos, papers and mail, etc, just sitting there. From what the papers said, they probably left about October 1995. There were many insect nests all over, and it was apparent that the home was used as a party place for the local kids. The manner in which things were left made it appear that someone was involved in a serious crime, either being killed or fleeing the town. Whatever happen, it looked strange to us, but nothing unusual happen while we camped there. A spider came out of the jungle like forest and made a web in my car quickly and began catching bugs. I’m not a fan of spiders, so it was quickly removed from my car. The next day, we headed down into Houston, to see Jay Thomas, a friend of Guru’s. We stopped at his house, cleaned up, and talked for a while before Jay had to go to work. We wandered around town, found a motel, and I found out that I really don’t like Houston’s roads and traffic. We saw a lot of wierdos around town, several of which almost chased us and we drove away from pretty fast. We picked up Jay after he got out of work, and hung out at the motel. The next morning, we headed east, and entered Louisiana again, and camped on a beach. The ocean was wonderful, with warm waves crashing ashore. There was a swamp not far from the beach, and we were attacked by many bugs once the sun set. That morning we were driving along a small back road and happened to find an alligator laying in the road. It had just been ran over, and was the closest I have ever been to a freshly killed gator. We then headed into New Orleans. Guru hand knew a girl a couple years ago, Jaime, and she now lives in Orleans, so we were going to go see her. It ended up that her apartment was in a very bad part of Orleans, basically on the border of a ghetto. Her roommates were quite the gothic style, and we met many interesting and different people. We stayed five nights in Orleans, and during that time we explored the French Quarter, downtown Orleans, the Mississippi River, and the night life of New Orleans. It is a unique town in many ways. It has very old buildings that date back to when the town was founded. The food is great, with Cajun seafood restaurants everywhere. There are lots of bars and clubs in the French Quarter, and many are open 24 hours a day. All in all, it is a crazy place, but fast and interesting lifestyles. We then left Orleans, heading east along the coast, crossing lake Ponchatrain. We camped the first night after a short drive, near a swamp. There were surprisingly few bugs which was quite nice. A boardwalk went from our campsite deep into the swamp wetlands, where we observed birds, a snake, and other critters. Driving the next day, we crossed the bottoms of Mississippi and Alabama. We checked out several beaches along the way, and doing a bit of swimming. We ended up staying the night in Florida on the western side of Pensacola. We found a stretch of land on the beach that was clear, and setup camp there, enjoying the waters that evening and night. The next day, we headed further along the coast, and spent the day at Fort Walton Beach. It had some pretty good sized waves, which we bodysurfed and lay in the sand. There were more people there that we’ve seen at the previous beaches. We’ll continue on this evening, and find a place to camp.