Didn't Glen Campbell sing, "Galveston, oh Galveston"?

That's where we are - Galveston, Texas, which turns out to be a lot nicer than we expected. Toured "Bishop's Palace" today - an 1885 mansion, and listed as one of the 100 most architecturally significant buildings in the US. There is an interesting historical and tourist district, good restaurants, lots of preserved old homes, and later today, we plan to see an offshore oil rig which is set up for tourists (it's in the harbor, not at sea).

The weather continues to dominate us. We have been fortunate to keep missing the snow and ice storms still plaguing the southeast. Right now, it's about 15 degrees below normal, below 40, and is expected to hit freezing again. The wind is really blowing, so the wind chill drops it to 15 or 20. Most campgrounds have cable TV connections, and I've become addicted to the Weather Channel, trying to figure out how to work our way west. To give you an idea about the changing weather, yesterday afternoon in Lake Charles, LA, about 140 miles northeast of here, I was able to bicycle in shorts and t-shirt.

We spent Xmas weekend just east of New Orleans, in Slidell. Slidell was really interesting - once you escape the ever present strip malls and Walmarts, Slidell is on the water, on the bayous. The houses range from absolute shacks, to grand mansions. It is like something you saw in the movies with the swamps and the creeks. I can't even describe, but it is so different from any place else y'all have ever seen.

If you've never been to the Big Easy - well, New Orleans is overhyped. The French Quarter is about 8 blocks by about 20 blocks, and it has lots of restaurants, bars and shops. In fact, it has an incredible number of bars, most blasting live music into the street. There are these little closet sized shops, about the size of a hotdog stand and they sell plastic cups full of beer and liquor to go - you can drink on the street in the French Quarter. We saw a great blues band playing on a closed off street on Sunday, complete with a piano on wheels and people throwing money at them from a restaurant balcony.

However, once you're out of the French Quarter, New Orleans is, frankly, a dangerous dump. We drove around and saw a couple of OK neighborhoods, but basically, New Orleans is highly overrated.

Before New Orleans, we spent a night in some little town in Alabama - and met some serious Confederate folks including Dwight: we had a potentially serious problem with our furnace - in fact, at first I thought we had an electrical fire (it wasn't). The RV park told us to call Dwight - who showed up at 8 AM Saturday in a black cowboy hat, black snakeskin boots, a black leather jacket and completely hungover, with the largest pickup truck we have ever seen, full of miscellaneous junk. Dwight spent an hour with me fixing the furnace and telling us stories about his dogs, horses, and exploring the bayous when he was 9 years old. The problem was solved, and Dwight charged us $50. I liked it the best when we were draining diesel fuel from the system, and Dwight was reaching inside the furnace holding a lit cigarette, telling me that he ain't never set one on fire yet.

And, we had three or four terrific days in the Pensacola area - including a night on Pensacola Beach Island, which is a barrier island about 18 miles long and about 1/4 mile wide. Terrific beaches, wonderful scenery, a fort from the 1830's to explore.

Also saw the Air Force Museum, with 30 or 40 planes, including a massive B-52, various carrier planes, a WWII vintage B-17, an SR-71 (the used-to-be supersecret spy plane plown by Gary Powers at 2,500 MPH and 90,000 ft.).

So, we feel like we're in the home stretch now. Covered nearly 8,000 miles, but still have almost 2,000 to go. Texas is looming large (it's 890 tedious miles across I-10, but we're going to divert a bit onto side roads). The trip is starting to feel a little more like work/grind - lots of miles, and probably because the weather is really cramping our style. Even the dogs are starting to get a little cabin fever.

We're looking forward to several days in Dave Hamel's driveway in Phoenix, probably in about a week.

- Cordula & Steve