USA 2004 Honeymoon

60 days across North America

New Orleans - Phoenix

Dates : 09/17/2004 to 09/25/2004


Then we drove to San Antonio, cultural and historical capital of Texas. That’s where Texans won their independence by defeating the Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1836. We must admit that he got what he deserved as a month earlier he massacred all 189 Texan patriots at Fort Alamo including famous David Crockett. The fort is well preserved and its visit, in the middle of downtown, is really worth it.

We also took advantage of our stay to walk along the San Antonio River that has been cleverly highlighted by the “River Walk”, a 3 mile long stone and paved boardwalk set below street level and filled with small bars and restaurants; very suiting to distress and stroll around. We did not stay more that one night as we still had numerous miles to drive across Texas.

At Fort Alamo

San Antonio, TX

Leaving Baton Rouge we found ourselves driving on a highway on pillars over numerous miles as it is the only way to cross over the huge swamps that lie north of the Gulf of Mexico. The advantage is that the road was very straight… we could almost have closed our eyes the whole length of the trip!


After 250 miles we entered into the large State of Texas and arrived in Houston, biggest city of the State and 4th city of the United-States. Even though Houston is not on the sea, it is the largest exportation port of the USA due to a 60 mile long canal that links it to the Gulf of Mexico. Houston is known for its explosive growth as early as 1901 when the first drops of petrol were found in Texas. Within five years, thirty petrol companies and seven banks had opened in the city… That reminded us of the TV series “Dallas” (shot in the ‘80s when the petrol industry started to be in a crisis). The goal of our visit was not gas but to visit the Johnson Space Center. The one in Houston is mostly specialized in training astronauts and mission controls (amongst others the International Space Station control), which is very complementary to what we had already seen in Huntsville, AL. We toured the buildings by bus and made a few interesting stops, amongst others at the former control room that followed all the Apollo missions, and we were able to touch a moon rock (only REAL tourists can do that…). Christophe also managed to loose his credit card, but fortunately he had already paid a much needed visit to the hair dresser just before!

We headed to Del Rio, one of the “official” boarder points between the United States and Mexico, and arrived in Langtry for a short stop at the well known Judge Roy Bean’s saloon. He used to preside trials with his 6 shot revolver in one hand and his only juridical code in the other (he supposedly did glance at it a couple of times). He would choose the jury amongst the clients of his saloon and since there was no prison the person found guilty would have to pay to be released of his charges. The money was then used by the judge to prosper his own business. A legendary figure of the 19th century far west! Needless to say that we found this extremely arid region of the country to be the most isolated and wild part of our entire trip, even more so when we entered Big Bend National Park situated in the middle of the desert in the south-western part of Texas. A lenient earth infested with tarantulas and other rattlesnakes (we saw a bit of everything…). We camped on the Rio Grande River that marks the natural boarder with Mexico. Apart for a wild turkey that hovered around us during at least one hour while we were eating, we were really the only ones in this campground (there were at least 50 other sites). The night was very quiet and the sky filled with stars. We left the next morning and continued our road along the canyons of the Rio Grande which offer a very difficult illegal passage over the boarder (California seems more “adapted” for that)…

Mexico on the left, USA on the right

Presidio, TX

« Driving Under the Influence » at Roy Bean’s

Langtry, TX

We then drove several hours north through a few very heavy rain and thunderstorms and finally left Texas, entered into New Mexico and stopped at Carlsbad. Just outside this city are the huge underground caverns managed by the National Parks Services and populated by hundred of thousands of bats. At dusk we watched these mammals depart from the caves to fetch insects: all the bats exit the cavern through the only opening and fly in circles to gain height before taking off for their hunt along the nearby rivers. This spectacle that is incredible and lasts for over an hour allowed cowboy Jim White to discover the entrance to these caves in the early 1900. The next day we descended into the cavern, its main cave (called “Big Room”) is 1,800 feet long and 1,100 feet wide with an arch ceiling of 255 feet high. We walked over two and a half hours through this impressive underground scenery of both thin and grand rock formations (some of the stalagmites have a diameter of 6 feet) which are a real delight to the eyes and offer yet another demonstration of the unsurpassed beauty of Mother Nature.

We then continued our road to Arizona and arrived in Tucson. This city is located in the center of the Sonaran desert famous for its huge cactuses: the Saguaros. These majestic cactuses grow extremely slowly: after 3 years they are less than one inch high and it is only after 75 years that they start having “arms”. They are really everywhere and even grow in very steep areas. We also visited the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base that contains the most parked military aircrafts in the world (over 5,000 aircrafts of every kind ranging from fighter planes to cargo planes). It is a center of aircraft maintenance, regeneration and spare parts that is the unique point of contact when anyone in the world is in need of a part for an older aircraft (the Swiss will need to call them in a few years to repair their F18). An interesting fact is that the earth in Arizona is so hard that planes can be towed and parked without having to asphalt the ground over numerous square miles.

A very old Saguaro

Sonora desert, AZ

At the aircraft cemetary

Tucson, AZ

Finally, after two hours of driving, we arrived in Phoenix where we stayed with the Johnson’s for 3 nights and were spoiled rotten: great home cooking, hospitality and relaxation (Laetitia enjoyed visiting with her aunt Do and Christophe was finally able to put on his golfing shoes for an 18 hole with Ron). We took advantage of our stay to visit Sodona which is situated 120 miles north. This city is located in the heart of magnificent red-orange mountainous landscape that allows even the worst photographers to take descent shots. Arizona like Florida is a wonderful State where numerous young retirees are starting to move because of the dry and sunny climate, there isn’t really any winter months and the cost of living remains reasonable. And with the help of air conditioning the place is nice to live in…

« a small step for man,... »

Houston, TX

One of NASA’s eXperimental projects

Houston, TX

Fort Alamo

San Antonio, TX

The « River Walk »

San Antonio, TX

“Big Room”

Carlsbad, NM

The bats’ door to their home

Carlsbad Caverns, NM

« vacation, vacation »

Sedona, AZ