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The Odyssey - a continuation


America Revisited

Part Two

Monday 7th May 2007 - Day 13

Another great day! We got started a little later than I had planned because we had to go in and get the tyre fixed but we were soon on our way. (I can imagine Michelle's feelings seeing a 71 year-old man driving off with her mom on what was to become a 6,500 mile journey across the States!!).
Once we joined the I-10 we met with some heavy traffic going south which thinned, then got heavy again approaching and through Tucson, finally clearing as we proceeded. I was anxious to get to Tombstone as soon as possible because there was only one re-enactment a day at this time of the year and to miss it again would be unthinkable, to say nothing of other locations missed there in 2004 (see the appropriate day here or here).
But we were O.K. - we got there about 13:10 with virtually an hour to go before they began seating. We bought our tickets and went back to the car to sit in the cool and have a snack lunch of Edam and cottage cheese, bread and celery. We had time to look around close by and get better acquainted with the immediate surroundings and then it was time to go in.

All became clear - the somewhat confused picture I had in my mind of the precise topography of the O.K. Corral and the positions of the various involved protagonists, the way they had approached the site and so on, became transparently clear starting with the precise, fenced-off 18 foot stretch of ground, site of the actual shoot-out. Dummy figures had been placed showing the positions taken by all the eight central characters, just inside the gates leading from Fremont Street.......
From the left with their backs to the camera are:- Billy Clanton, Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury and his brother Tom. Facing us from the left are: Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday (with the shotgun), Virgil Earp and lastly, close to the wall, Wyatt.

The stand-off

Another two views:-

The stand-off  The stand-off
....You can just see Doc's shotgun on the left of the right-hand picture, just under the rail.

....and the full significance of the description "......did not actually take place inside the corral itself but on an empty lot between the buildings," now became understandable in all its ramifications. One could now actually visualize Wyatt together with his brothers and Doc entering the area from the north after walking north west along along Fremont street (they entered the open area from the street - then ungated - from the right), while the Clantons and Mclaurys came from Allen Street through the corral itself (about 20 yards or so behind the camera in my first picture). All this had been hidden from my eyes in 2004 because all gates and access points were closed. There were also ground plans and maps - one actually drawn by Wyatt himself many years later, shortly before he died.....
Wyatt's own map Surveyor's map
Actual old photo, circa 1885

A brief commentary came over the P.A system describing, not only the gun-fight itself, but the political and social events which were the background to the confrontation. I just managed to get all of it on the Panasonic before having to change tapes - only three minutes had been remaining! Then it was time to go inside and sit on the bleachers in front of a cordoned-off mock-up of the street with the bar and Fly's Photo studio.

Before the re-enactment itself was presented the "stars" warmed up the audience with various items including a demonstration that even blanks could be dangerous by showing the destruction of a Pepsi-Cola can from a range of about one yard! There was also a short re-enactment of the previous night's encounter on the street between Virgil and Ike Clanton. The actual shoot-out, of course, was over in about 30 seconds - as indeed was the reality - accompanied by the reported, brief dialogue between the parties and was followed by a sort of epilogue depicting the serious wounding of Virgil some months later. The later murder of Morgan in the billiard-room was not shown - neither was the involvement of a horse which Doc was supposed to have frightened out of the way so as to get a clear shot at Frank (or Tom{?} - it is officially uncertain) McLaury. This local production from the actual gun-fight is the same one as I, myself, filmed but the camera technique of this visitor is much better than mine so I have used it instead.......

This other rather life-like reconstructed movie is quite good in my opinion but the actual shooting takes over two minutes from beginning to end - much more than twice as long as the reported 30 seconds, or so, and more shots are heard than is "officially" recorded - ...

......but it does feature the "missing" horse.

Afterwards the audience had access to the performers and could be photographed with them - an opportunity I did not miss.................
The Earp faction and their back-up  The bad guys being warned off!
We then spent some time walking round the various exhibits on the lot, and around town, seeing things at leisure that we had been unable to do in 2004 - at least, not to the same extent. We had booked a room at "our" Old Trailrider's Inn from 2004 and we now returned there to rest a bit.

In the evening, we went to what had been Big-Nose Kate's saloon and spent a really nice hour having a coffee and listening to a local entertainer singing folk and country - I really enjoyed it. The walls were covered with memorabilia of the period - mostly genuine but some touristy. It was here that I saw a letter written by Big-Nose Kate to a niece describing the gun-fight as she had witnessed it from the window of her room actually backing right on the site of the gun-fight. Some historians dispute her claim of being present at the time.
Elisabeth seemed also to enjoy the whole day's events from beginning to end, for which I am pleased and grateful..........Back to the Trailrider's Inn, sleep and the end of a great day!

Tuesday 8th May 2007 - Day 14

We managed to get off to an early start this morning, rearranging our baggage more efficiently so that our daily needs were in one place and we didn't have to constantly rummage to look for items and - hopefully - would need to unload only one bag at night......The hot coffee urn was ready before the advertised time as well, so that didn't hold us up, either. I took the one or two photos that I needed to complete our visit and we were off towards Boot Hill for the last ones of the Clanton and McLaurys' graves. Here I paid the price of being efficiently early! The advertised opening time of 07:00 had been amended to 09:00 and we didn't want to wait that long; I had my previous pictures from 2004 and although they were not digital, they would have to do for this journal as well.....
Boot-Hill, Tombstone
Off we went on what promised to be a very long day, indeed - trying to get to San Antonio in one day. In 2004 we had travelled the I-20 and had managed to get to Colorado City on this leg, a somewhat similar distance - around 580 miles or so. But we were under much greater pressure on that occasion. We stopped a few times on the way for essential breaks, to take our photograph of the New Mexico State line........
New Mexico New Mexico

Shortly after passing the State Line, we entered Lordsburg and I recalled from my first survey of our route in 2004 that somewhere to the south and not too far away was an older "Lordsburg", designated as a Ghost Town. I debated with myself whether it was worth the time and trouble to make the diversion and pay a visit but in the end decided not and we continued on until we saw Las Cruces in the distance. As we crossed the Rio Grande, I stopped the car on the verge - perhaps "a little illegally" - and took a short clip, which I had been too impatient to do in 2004, while Elisabeth worked the still camera.........
The Rio Grande  The Rio Grande
The Rio Grande
.....and then we were on the road again to the Lone Star State marker not too far down the road where we took the "mandatory" picture!..........
Welcome to Texas!  Welcome to Texas!

.......and had a snack or two but by about 19:00, with dusk approaching, we had only managed to reach Fort Stockton with San Antonio still a few hours ahead of us and by now I was getting a bit tired. So I gave up and we looked for a motel, trying a few, like La Quinta - one of our old favorites - before settling on our old stand-by Best Western. We got a fabulous double room suite, for some reason - apparently what had been two separate rooms converted into one apartment - the second room prepared as a full lounge with its own bathroom and facilities - and for the regular price, too! We rested, showered and changed and went looking for the best restaurant in town as I had promised Elisabeth for enduring such a long tedious day..............but all we found open (it was now well after nine in the evening), was a Dairy Queen so we made do with chicken fingers and French fries - not exactly what I had had in mind! We were the last customers as well, and the staff were legitimately clearing up and closing everything down while we were still eating.

Wednesday 9th May 2007 - Day 15

In spite of the fact that someone had called from Israel, thinking I was still there, we had a restful night at Fort Stockton. In the morning the skies were very grey and overcast and it had clearly been raining already. I got dressed and made myself a coffee then walked across the yard to the reception lobby to check my mail, etc., on the computer.
When I got back Elisabeth was still sleeping but because our suite was so big and my baggage was in the second room, I was able to move around quietly and arrange my things and load them on the truck without waking her. By the time she did wake up and get herself ready, it had started to rain again very lightly - hardly more than a drizzle. We walked across the yard - only about 50 yards, to the Alpine Lodge breakfast room - part of the courtyard and immediately facing our room, for a good breakfast. Then we loaded the rest of our bags onto the back of the Dodge and got into the car just as it began to rain more seriously. In fact it began to come down in buckets and I found it very difficult to see very far ahead through the windscreen which misted up very quickly. I began to have memories of 2004 and my previous experience of a Texas rainstorm but although it continued coming down very strongly indeed it didn't reach the proportions of three years ago and I was able to keep going.
In fact it rained like that for about an hour or so until we gradually moved eastwards out of the rainbelt and the skies gradually cleared. We could even begin to enjoy a little of the scenery - low rolling hills covered in small trees and shrubs with grass growing in between. This scenery covered a vast area - I wouldn't like to guess its extent in terms of acres but it went on for mile after mile, hour after hour, relentless, unending - or so it seemed.......
We stopped a couple of times at rest areas for a snack and also at Ozona, where there is a Davy Crockett museum and statue. We didn't have time for the museum but I certainly took a photo of the statue.....

Davy Crockett (Ozona)
By the time we reached San Antonio, the skies had completely cleared and it had turned into a lovely warm day. We found the Alamo with the minimum of trouble - I had been lucky enough (and it was pure luck), to exit the highway at exactly the right spot and the first pedestrians I asked for directions were able to direct us onwards quite easily. We drove round the block until we found a parking place, stuffed lots of small change into the meter and walked back to the site. As usual I was thrilled and somewhat emotionally moved to be in historic sites and The Alamo was certainly no exception! We enjoyed about an hour or so wandering around looking at the exhibits and reading deeper information concerning the topography of the locality than I had heretofore known or read about concerning this heroic place and we walked around taking photos of the large marble monument on the plaza facing the Mission............
The Alamo  The Alamo
The Alamo  The Alamo
Davy & Travis  The Alamo
The Alamo
.......and video clips outside (inside one is forbidden to do either). We purchased one or two small items for mementos - mainly for the children, signed the guest book and made our way back to the car, not forgetting to take some last minute shots of William Travis' letter from the plaque outside on the lawn........
William B. Travis
A local minibus driver tried to give us direction on how to get back on the I-10 efficiently, realised it was too complicated and simply told us to follow him for a few left-right-left turns until we were at the approach ramp. He waved us on and we shouted our thanks - Texas hospitality! We continued our journey on towards Houston - a "mere" 200 miles!
Caryll had sent us clear directions by e-mail weeks ago and I had supplemented them with a Google Earth print-out but it was very easy in any case and we went directly to her address without hesitation. We had anticipated that we would arrive before she got home from work - she had told us where to look for the key and I had thought to call her on the phone as we stopped and leave a humorous message...."Houston - the Eagle has landed" but in the event our phones were in some kind of blank area and there was no service available. The key was NOT where we expected it to be so we knocked at the door. At first it seemed that there was no reply and we walked round to the front door to try from there but before we could do so, Caryll herself appeared from the kitchen door and we greeted each other warmly after not having seen each other for something getting on for 50 years..........
Caryll and Elisabeth Caryll and Selwyn
We sat around chatting and sharing memories and updating each other on what had been happening in our lives, shared a glass of wine or two, some sandwiches and we were ready to shower and sleep. I was sure that I would wake at my usual early hour - around 05:00 or so, and quite confident I would see Caryll in the morning before she departed for work at 06:00 to say our farewells, I fell asleep.

Thursday 10th May 2007 - Day 16

Again my phone rang during the night - twice this time - by people in Israel either dialling incorrectly or not knowing I am abroad. There was also a text message from Barry that beeped in at 01:30 replying to an earlier clue I had sent him concerning where we had last been....Murphy's Law was hiding in the wings and popped out unexpectedly as usual and when I opened my eyes this morning it was after six! I hurried downstairs but of course, Caryll had already left. I was quite upset and tried to reach her by mobile and land-line to her office but with no luck; the best I could do was leave a message and hope she picked it up........
When we checked our mail and banks via the internet Elisabeth discovered that the Best Western at Fort Stockton had debited her account with an extra U$25 for which we could find no possible reason and at the first opportunity we stopped at the Best Western at Orange, not far beyond Beaumont and just on the Louisiana State line.......

.....and got the Fort Stockton Best Western telephone number and phoned them to enquire what was happening. The receptionist confirmed that they had only debited the correct sum and had no knowledge of the extra U$25 which was not showing anywhere on their records. We contacted Elisabeth's bank in Muncie, discussed it with them and they blocked the U$25 part of the debit pending further clarification.
We needed to stock-up a little on convenience foods and the receptionist at the Orange Best Western advised us to carry on to Lake Charles - which we did.
Lake Charles proved to be a really beautiful place situated indeed on a lake fed by the Calcasieu river and draining out through Lake Hackberry to the Gulf of Mexico.
We turned off the I-10 just across the bridge and drove down Lakeshore Drive admiring the sheer beauty of the homes and their incredible setting......just a few samples - and perhaps not even the "best" of the bunch!!

Lake Charles  Lake Charles  Lake Charles
Lake Charles  Lake Charles  Lake Charles
A charming young lady directed us to a mall further downtown where we parked and went into the store to buy some groceries suitable for snack eating without preparation. We found the ideal thing: Sealed plastic plates with a selection of cut, cleaned prepared raw vegetables - cauliflowers, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and so on - set into small compartments in the plates with optional dips to go with them. We bought one - which was quite large enough for at least two snacks - especially since we had the cooler - and we were on our way again northwards back along the shore to pick up the I-10 eastbound.
We continued on towards La Fayette, Baton Rouge (where we had our first glimpse of some oil refining operations, with flames belching off the top of an immensely tall, thin stack).....
Black Gold
.......and continued on towards New Orleans. The whole of the gulf shore of Louisiana seems to be under water - a series of bayous - and most of the highway was a causeway running on stilts above and through forested swamplands. The construction of these highways must have been an enormous undertaking in time, manpower, materials, engineering and technology...................
Wetlands  Wetlands  Wetlands  Wetlands
As soon as we entered New Orleans we spotted the Super Dome in the distance - the building so memorable from the newsreels of Katrina.............
The Super Dome  The Super Dome  The Super Dome

Rather like in San Antonio, we had the good fortune to decide on leaving the highway at more or less the correct exit in order to reach the old French Quarter. A little bit of navigation and some map-reading from the Rand McNally soon put us close enough to ask for directions and we got there quite quickly. In fact, I found a parking place in one of the actual streets of the Quarter without actually realizing that we were so very close, because we strolled along about 20-30 yards and discovered we were on the corner of Bourbon Street!
The French Quarter  The French Quarter  The French_Quarter
The French Quarter  The French Quarter  The French_Quarter
In spite of my love of Dixieland jazz etc., I wasn't too sure that I would enjoy the noise and glitzy tourist-oriented appearance of Bourbon Street as it first presented itself to my eyes and ears, but as we wandered around I gradually tuned in to what it was all about and began to enjoy myself immensely. We made our first "circuit" so to speak then began to concern ourselves about an overnight stopping place. We had almost decide on one of the hotels situated right on Bourbon Street but when we walked back round the corner to get the car, we discovered we had parked right outside the narrow courtyard entrance to the Prince Conti Hotel. We made enquiries there and found a slightly better deal so booked a room there. It was quite old-fashioned and there was a very faint aroma of "age" about the room but it defintely had "atmosphere".
We showered and changed had a snack from our "vegetable tray" and went out to explore further. We wandered up and down the streets really enjoying the many sights and sounds, the touts in the door openings trying to coax customers inside............
The French_Quarter  The French Quarter
The French Quarter  The French Quarter
Most of the music I heard was too modern for my taste. Then, as we were walking back down Bourbon Street for the second or third time, Elisabeth noticed that a tall black trombone player in the middle of the street had spotted a young couple coming towards him pushing a stroller with a toddler inside; he had broken spontaneously into a chorus of Baby-Face à la Al Jolson! This was too much for me to miss and I approached him and picked up the chorus perfectly, finishing off with one of the verses and another chorus in perfect duet with was great.........!

Me and my dixieland band!

We spent a couple of hours wandering around and enjoying much of what we saw and heard - notwithstanding the glitz. It was quite dark when we found our way to the famous Café du Monde for a coffee and some of their famous "beignets" pastry - rather like a doughnut to my crude palate.......

The French Quarter

Then, at last, as we were finally making our way back to the hotel, I heard the "real" music coming from one of the cafés lining the street. I peeked through the window and there was a typical straw-hatted cornet player in shirtleeves, with his back to me really letting it go with everything that one could hope for! I stood transfixed with my camera in my hand, not moving. By the time I "woke up" he had finished his solo and his place was taken by a trombonist - just as good but I was sorry not to have heard more from the cornet player.

In complete innocence, I eventually switched the camera on and tried to film him through the darkened window. I really didn't know that this wasn't acceptable and was brought rudely back to reality by the drummer banging on the window-sash with his stick to tell me to stop. At the same time the door-keeper had come up to me with a similar request. Of course I was most apologetic and stopped immediately, pleading genuine innocence.
It was getting a little late for us - certainly with our somewhat hectic schedule - so we made our way back to the hotel and turned in for the night..........It had been wonderful!

Friday 11th May 2007 - Day 17

We awoke in good time this morning, washed and dressed and noshed on the little food we had left, packed and prepared to move on. I took all the luggage downstairs on the baggage cart and loaded it on to the Dodge. We paid our bill and were on our way. Our one and only stop in New Orleans this morning was just a block or two away - Basin Street.........

............where Louis Armstrong had grown up and where there was now a park in his name; this is a still from the brief clip........
Louis Armstrong Park, Basin Street, New Orleans
....and we were on our way driving down the now-dilapidated Basin Street. Nevertheless, one could see the historicity of the frame houses dating back at the very least a century. It is also necessary to mention that we saw virtually no signs in the French Quarter of the devastation caused by Katrina - apparently the Quarter was spared the damage caused to other parts of the city.
We found our way back to the I-10 with just a little hesitation and we were off on our way, crossing the causeway of Lake Pontchartrain. Stopping only for our - by now - traditional photographs at the State sign as we passed into Alabama.........
Alabama State Line
....and on to Mobile, across the estuaries of the Alabama, Spanish, Chickasaw rivers and Polecat Bay and on to the Florida State Line.....
Florida State Line
Then came Pensacola and the drive across the causeway following easily the I-95 all along the peninsula until we reached Biscayne Blvd. We turned in and looked for Pine Ranch Drive. It was hidden from us simply because the intervening street that led to it, had not been shown on Google earth and this threw me off the scent. We had to call Danielle to guide us through the final 200 yards.......(imagine !!) and we were there........
Danielle's House
It was a pleasure to meet them at last, especially after having to cancel our stopover there in 2004 at virtually the last minute. A grilled salmon dinner, a struggle to stay awake for an hour or two in the evening and we were off to bed.
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