Thursday, 13 May 2010


The American Adventures are interesting and eye opening, although not always cheering. Today was a case in point: I was expecting some stunning views of the Gulf. Instead, I got refineries and grim industrial plants

Set off from Corpus Christi on a very windy morning. Thought I would try and hug the coast. To see the route I took, and also the rest of my journey thus far click here

Not easy to do as there are acres of salt marshes and refinery after

refinery in the way. This is not a pretty route. However, I did see some interesting wildlife. The sort you normally associate with zoos.

Pelicans for instance. Plenty of those. The constant wind means that the birds just seem to hover.

However, not all of them seem to be that good at it. I drove along the coast out of town along a causeway which passed the aircraft carrier USS Lexington.

The roadway was covered in the remains of gulls that had been too slow to get out of the way, or suddenly the wind had stopped and they had crashed down onto the asphalt to be splattered by an 18 wheel semi.

An hour out of Corpus and I was steaming along quite happily when suddenly I was alerted to the fact I was very hungry, not having eaten since last night. Everywhere you drive in the populated areas there seems to be restaurants, a bewildering mix of chains you have heard of and ones that you haven’t.

This time there were none. When you grow used to having your sense assaulted by billboards and massive signs, the reason the signs are so large and so tall is so that they can be seen from the Interstate and from a long way off, giving people time to start salivating before the off ramp.

It is quite an industry. One billboard for a billboard manufacturer read “No sign for your business? A sign of no business.”.

Food came there none. At last in the middle of nowhere a branch of Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen is legendary in the Mid-West and the southern states in particular, and is synonymous with small-town America. No idea why they have not tried to open in the UK.

They may have been losing market share lately; it looks like they are rebranding as “DQ” as all of their advertising that I have seen suggest this is the case. However, this branch was still an original.

It was manned/womaned by a couple of “seniors” and was deserted.

“What y’all havin’?

“Um, the Hunger Buster Combo please”

“Comin’ right up’”

I sat and read the paper having fixed myself a gallon of calorie free lemonade from the drinks dispenser.

Maybe my stomach has expanded but the “Hunger Buster” was frankly a little disappointing.

This is a chain steeped in legend and part of the American psyche.

As I munched half-heartedly on the “buster” I started to read the disposable paper tray covering. It would appear that Dairy Queen is aware of their place in American History so they invite customers to contribute their Dairy Queen stories. The one I read was from memory pretty much as follows:

“When my Uncle was diagnosed with cancer I would take the children to visit with him. The last time we went before the good Lord called him home. We took him to the Dairy Queen in Missoula even though he wasn’t feeling too good at the time..”

It didn’t put me off my food but it didn’t make for uplifting reading in my eyes.

As I reflected on this tale, and the fact that I should have carried on until I found another food outlet, the door opened and a whole bunch of workers came in sat down and ordered similar meals. They had been doing some road repairs. This would spur them on to have it finished in no time so they could go somewhere with a slightly more enticing menu.

Back on the road again and I passed the Clemens Correctional facility and saw prisoners in uniforms (they don’t have arrows on, them they are white) doing manual work mowing grass and such. Despite evidence of it having “trusty” inmates who are allowed out (presumably under supervision) there are still plenty of signs on the road that read “Prison area! do not pick up hitchhikers”.

The grim blockhouse was surrounded by miles of razor wire. The only way anyone was going to escape from there was by rocket.

The flora and the fauna are changing as I move further along the coast. Although I had not seen the sea for a while I was travelling through the “Double Bayou” area not far from Galveston. Road kill still had a high number of racoons, however, fewer armadillo. In a grisly first I saw my first turtle corpse and a smallish alligator. I will have to watch it if I suddenly get caught short and need to hop into a bush by the roadside.

As evening arrived I stopped at Port Arthur.

It is a fairly grim place and is notable as being the birthplace of Janis Joplin. I can see why she fled to San Francisco.

A mildly depressing day all in all but one that I would not have missed for the world.

DON'T FORGET! You can add me on Twitter for more updates of my adventures as and when they happen, click here and by using the same login, you can also hear my updates on Audioboo by clicking here


  1. Enjoying the blogs so far Dark Lord. You could sell this stuff, although being a high profile national radio presenter, you probably don't need the money. How about Children in Need?

  2. You sure you're in US and not taking snaps from the pier in Blackpool?

  3. Well, no it's not the most attractive part of Tx. Houston and environs is a good place to come from (NOT to visit). This from a good friend who was raised in Houston, and, like Janis, couldn't wait to get away. Keep on truckin', love the observations! ~ CW

  4. If you're doing song lyrics again and that's from what I think, hope it is, then I'm really happy. I've been a huge fan of Bruce Hornsby's for about 22 years now.

    I've lost track of how long I've been listening to the "shoe", think it has to be at least five years if not more, probably more, and I'm a huge fan of yours as well. One of the things that I've loved the most is how balanced you are when it comes to men and women in your threads, something sorely lacking on American radio. It means a great deal to me. As does all the wonderful music, you find the coolest things that I never would have heard otherwise.

    So glad you're having a good time over on my side of the world. I'm up in Maryland, don't know if you made it this far north on your previous adventures. Be safe and have fun. Miss you on Radio 2 through, I listen during the day and it makes work so much more interesting.

  5. Oh Alex,

    Following you on AA3 is a real delight!

    I absolutely love visiting the USA myself (my goal is to visit all 50!) though I could never do the kind of trip you're doing!

    That you're sharing so much is so special and your blog offers a very different perspective on travelling in the USA. It's great!

    Take care on your travels!

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