Random Stuff from the Road

| August 18, 2019

Some random observations from about half-way through a looooong road trip.

If you’re active, reserve, or retired military and you’re traveling through Louisiana, you may be able (if space is available) to stay overnight at a former leprosarium if you like. It’s the Gillis W. Long Center at Carville, LA. It was formerly the National Leprosarium; the property was transferred to the Louisiana National Guard after that activity ceased to exist and the Federal government no longer needed it. The former infirmary has been converted to billeting. It’s actually pretty nice and quite impressive, as well as historical. Hope to visit the National Hansen’s Disease Museum (co-located there) one day in the future (schedule didn’t allow that this trip).

Driving there is a bit interesting, though. As you look to your left, you look uphill; the elevation change is 10 or 15 feet. And then you realize that what you’re looking at is the Mississippi River levee. The road you’re on could well be below the river’s level. That’s a bit . . . disconcerting at first.

The old Stuckey’s chain used to be a roadside standby across the southern tier of the USA (as well as a tourist trap of sorts). Sadly, its largely gone the way of the dodo. However, there is at least one left in operation; it’s on I-10 east of Houston, TX. Might have to stop there on a future trip.

A 75 mile-per-hour speed limit – common in parts of the USA west of the Mississippi – is damn easy to get used to.

So is an 80 mile-per-hour speed limit. (Yes, they exist on at least two Interstate Highways in west Texas: I-10 and I-20 in all of the trans-Pecos counties except El Paso County.)

Because of said speed limits, it’s possible to make it extreme southern Texas to El Paso between sunrise and sunset during the summer – with a couple of hours to spare. Not particularly easy or fun, but possible.

Desert thunderstorms can be damned impressive. Ditto desert sunrises and sunsets.

Though you might not realize it from looking at the map, it’s actually farther north-south through Texas than east-west. Per Google Maps, the walking distance – which is usually shorter than the driving distance – from the extreme southern coastal point in Texas (the eastern terminus of TX Highway 4 in the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area just east of Brownsville, TX) to the far NW corner of Texas (an unnamed road that crosses into Texas roughly where TX, NM, and OK meet) is 915 miles. East-west, Google Maps gives what appears to be the maximum walking distance (from the Sabine River bridge on TX Highway 63 to 600 Washington Street, Anthony, TX) as a bit under 860 miles – 858 miles, to be precise.

Also in the weird geography department: it’s also farther on foot between the extreme points in Florida (from Fort Zachary Taylor on Key West to roughly the far NW corner of the state) than it is across Texas east-west. Google maps gives that walking distance as just over 860 miles – 861 miles, to be precise.

OK, enough useless trivia from the road for now. Have a great Sunday, everyone.

Category: Politics

Comments (24)

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  1. Last time I was in Texas was back in 2010 for the National Hurricane Conference in Austin. great Brisket and that thick toast. Before that was in Galveston back in 1967/68 for two weeks inactive Reserve duty on board the Sumner class USS Haynesworth DD 700. Got a kick out of the horse trough shitter in the head which had wall dividers, and if you sat down to take a dump at the end where the constant flowing water came out, you could light a ball of shit paper and send it down stream when the shitter was occupied.

  2. 3/10/MED/b says:

    Thanks for useless trivia, Hondo. I want to say “First”, but this is not the place or time. Be safe.

    b out

  3. 3/10/MED/b says:

    Well, Dammit, JeffLPH jumped the gun on me. What the hell, just honored to be part of the show.
    I will leave that open…

    b out

  4. ninja says:

    “The old Stuckey’s chain used to be a roadside standby across the southern tier of the USA (as well as a tourist trap of sorts). Sadly, its largely gone the way of the dodo. However, there is at least one left in operation; it’s on I-10 east of Houston, TX. Might have to stop there on a future trip.”

  5. Club Manager says:

    “If you’re active, reserve, or retired military and you’re traveling through Louisiana, you may be able (if space is available) to stay overnight at a former leprosarium if you like.” Heck, if you get near Shreveport and of the male gender willing to buy a few drinks you can you may be able (if space is available) to stay overnight at my former daughter-in-law’s house. I believe Louisiana has declared her a public playground. Regardless, nice article, thanks.

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      Damn CM, I didn’t know my 2nd ex wife had become your ex daughter-in-law…and moved to Lousy Anna.

      Stuckey’s…Now THAT’s a blast from the past. Would be a subject well worth a post on TAH. I did a lot of business in Eastman, Georgia, the former HQs, and with the Stuckey’s plant there for a number of years. Had met Mr. Bill and his wife, way back yonder. They were damn fine people. There are still a few of the franchise stores hither and yon, and a few other places that still stock their candy products. I have to get my Sister in NE a box of their pecan coated divinity log rolls and ship them out to her on a semi regular basis. She rations them out and don’t share with nobody.

      Good post Hondo. Be safe and take your time getting home. We’ve got the watch.

  6. Comm Center Rat says:

    Hondo, your travel log brings back old memories of this Yankee’s long road trips through the Southland in the 1980s and 90s.

    “Way down around Vicksburg around Louisiana way
    There’s a Cajun lady called the Mississippi Queen
    You know she was a dancer, she moved better on wine
    While the rest of those dudes were gettin’ their kicks
    Buddy, beg your pardon, I was gettin’ mine

    Mississippi Queen – if you know what I mean
    Mississippi Queen – she taught me everything”

    ~ Mississippi Queen by Mountain, 1970

    • Hondo says:

      A bit of trivia about the tune: per Mountain’s drummer Corky Laing, the band was playing a gig on Nantuckett Island one night when the power dropped. The band kept playing, but acoustically only.

      There was a drop-dead gorgeous southern girl dancing near the band – wearing a flowered, see-thru dress. To keep her dancing, Laing launched into an impromptu drum solo lasting about an hour that included whacking a cowbell from time to time – and singing the only thing that came to mind: “Mississippi queen, do you know what I mean!” He sang himself hoarse in the process.

      The rest, as the saying goes, is history. (smile)

      https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-story-behind-the-song-mississippi-queen-by-mountain

      • David says:

        Believe that would be Leslie West on the MQ vocals.

        If you can find a copy of West’s “Ble Me”, he does the best covers of “Summertime” and “Hit the Road, Jack” I have heard. And that includes Janis’ !

        • Hondo says:

          It is Leslie West on the recorded song. However, the anecdote above was about the song’s origin. Laing was the one who was singing during his improptu solo during the power outage, and in fact came up with the song’s signature line.

  7. Poetrooper says:

    Hondo, I made the drive up the River Road to that Carville federal facility many times, first back in the mid-70’s when it was a leprosarium using some of my company’s products, to the last visit in 2006, as a consultant, calling on Louisiana National Guard medical department offices there.

    It’s an interesting place.

  8. USAFRetired says:

    The drive from my folks house in South Carolina to my grandparents home in Pennsylvania was around 800 miles through both Carolinas, Virginia. West Virginia and Maryland.

    I got an idea things were different in the Western US when I was heading for my first duty station in Enid Oklahoma.

    Being January, I decided to drive the southern route and was going west across I-10 then go north on I-35. I hit the Texas border and it was something like milepost 816.

    That changed my perspective on things.

    • Hondo says:

      Pretty sure the first milepost on I-10 eastbound in Texas is 878. At least, that’s the easternmost exit on I-10 (drove past it a few days ago), and TX numbers Interstate exits roughly corresponding to the nearest milepost. The exit is < 1/2 mi from the Sabine River, which is the border between TX and LA.

      • USAFRetired says:

        After 39-1/2 years my memory may be off.
        But things out west were long. And that was in the days of the nationwide double nickel.

        We still have some Stuckey’s here in Georgia. The one south of me has on I-75 has a DQ as part of it.

  9. Fjardeson says:

    Another Texas funny: El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than it is to Houston.

    • Graybeard says:

      Which explains “Beto” to some extent.

    • Hondo says:

      Um, not according to Google maps if you’re walking (generally the shortest viable ground distance).

      Walking distance, El Paso to Houston: 736 miles.

      Walking distance, El Paso to Los Angeles: 790 miles

      Perhaps you were thinking about San Diego vice LA. San Diego is indeed closer to El Paso than Houston (per the walking distance via Google maps) – by 6 miles.

      • 3/10/MED/b says:

        Robert Francis likely has tacos at the ready, doesn’t matter where, over;

        • NHSparky says:

          Mmmmmm…tacos.

          And not those crappy BK or Taco Bell ones.

          I’m talking (if chain) Tacos Mexico, almost anyplace with “berto” anything in the name in LA/SD.

          Sadly, the further north and east you go, the harder it gets to find anything that doesn’t taste like Anglicized dog crap.

          Anyone who doesn’t live in New England, you wouldn’t understand. Weep for me.

  10. Perry Gaskill says:

    Stuckey’s is an interesting business story. Apparently the company was started by a pecan farmer in Georgia. In an effort to sell more pecans, he set up a roadside stand with pecan products, and then cut a deal with Texaco to also sell gas. It was also one of the first companies to use a franchise model as a method of expansion.

    There were some 350 Stuckey’s at one point, but that has been reduced to 115 now. The company also reduced the footprint of the stores to where they are now limited to an arc swinging from Texas to Florida to Pennsylvania.

    Stuckey’s was also unique at the time it was started in the mid-1930s because it was a departure from existing gas station or restaurant operations. The stores were also something of a precursor to the gas station/convenience store model that’s common today. Back in the 1930’s, cars tended to be a lot less reliable, and a gas station was where you went not just for gas, but also to get your car repaired or a flat tire fixed.

    Current web references to Stuckey’s tend to call it a restaurant. I’m not sure that’s exactly accurate. What I remember was closer to a snack bar where you could get soft drinks, pre-made sandwiches, and maybe a hot dog. This was in addition to the pecan products, novelty tourist items, and the kind of inexpensive toys that might keep a pair of kids in the backseat from making traveler parents insane by asking “Are we there yet?”

    One of the more odd Stuckey’s I remember was one on a lonely stretch of I-5 north of Sacramento near Willows. It was as if a detachment of Stuckeyite Foreign Legionaires had established a remote outpost among the heathen Californios del Norte.

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      I remember the one in Willows – parents use to stop at that one when we were on vacation and traveling in NoCal to get gas and snacks.

    • NHSparky says:

      I still remember the one from when I briefly lived in Nebraska. On I-80 at the exit we took to get to the farmhouse we rented, somewhere between Paxton and Ogallala.

  11. Stacy0311 says:

    You drove through Texas and didn’t go to Buc-ee’s? For shame.

    • Hondo says:

      I don’t stop at places that advertise the fact that they sell something called “beaver nuggets”. (smile)

      Seriously, I might stop at a Buck-ee’s on a future trip. Just haven’t run across one when I needed either gas or a bio-break.

      Oh, and they’re not only in TX anymore. There’s now one in Alabama on I-10, east of Mobile Bay.

      https://www.southernliving.com/news/buc-ees-alabama-location