2016 Cruise to Mexico - Getting There

After the ho-hum introduction to our 2016 Cruise to Mexico trip report and all its blah-blah-blah about what we were doing and why, let’s get on with the actual report. Still no cruise in this part, but there are some fun adventures in getting to the port!

Friday, July 15, 2016 - Getting There

The day finally came for us to leave. And “finally” is relative, because we had only been looking forward to the trip for about three weeks. But either way, we were excited about getting to go.

After our usual morning of loading up the car and making sure everything at home was as it should be, we left and dropped Jaylin off at my parents’ house for his grandparent vacation week. I know he was looking forward to going fishing and eating lots of bacon for breakfast, among other things. While we were there, we borrowed their beach umbrella, because we had forgotten to grab ours at home, and we thought there was a chance that we might go to a beach before or after our cruise. Most likely after, but we didn’t know. Fortunately, they weren’t planning on using theirs any time soon.

We had decided to drive down through Mississippi to Louisiana, turning west just before we got to New Orleans and heading on to Texas. The day before, we had talked to some church friends who have family in Houston, and they always go through Arkansas and then down through Texas. But going through Louisiana was Interstate almost all of the way, and also there were rumors of some possible civil unrest in some cities that day, including in Little Rock. So we decided to steer clear of all of that and head straight south for a while. New Orleans was also on the list of cities, but we would be turning west well before we got there, so I figured we should be okay if anything were to actually happen there.

We didn’t have any idea of how far we would make it on our drive, but I was pretty sure we wouldn’t get all the way to Galveston. Especially since we didn’t leave my parents’ house until 10:15. Thanks to those handy high-tech smartphones, we saw that there were some backups on the interstate in Memphis on the loop around town that we would normally take, so we took the opposite direction loop instead, where we encountered very light traffic and soon found ourselves in Mississippi.

Along the way, we stopped for lunch at McDonald’s in Hernando, Mississippi. Yes, that isn’t all that far from home, but we had gotten a late start in leaving and were already hungry, so why not stop a little early and beat the lunch rush? Is there even a lunch rush in Hernando? I don’t know. But if there is, then we beat it. Take that, lunch rushers!

McDonald’s isn’t always Laura’s most favorite place to eat, so she said, “Why don’t we go ahead and eat there and get it over with.” Not that she hates it or anything, but it just isn’t usually where she would pick. On the other hand, I would eat there at least once a day, especially on trips like that. Yes, I’m strange and I know it.

The sign on the door at McDonald’s said, “Table Service Available,” and I thought it was nice of them to take food to the table for those who aren’t able to carry it for themselves. But as it turns out, I was wrong. Everyone who orders to dine in gets their food delivered to their table. I have never seen that at a McDonald’s before! But it certainly beats standing at the counter and waiting for your food. Maybe more McDonald’s locations should consider offering that. The guy who brought our food to our table wasn’t exactly the friendliest employee ever, barely giving us a grunt as he plopped our tray on our table, but as we watched further we figured out he probably wasn’t the usual guy for that job.

And then we saw that the guys who ordered after us got a hug from the cashier girl with their order. Table service and a hug! Except that we didn’t get a hug. Maybe we should have complained. Or maybe the girl just knew those guys, which seemed to be the case from the conversation snippets that we could hear.

After that, we were back on the road, driving through the state capital of Jackson as we made our way south. We also stopped at a small gas station, and when we walked inside, everyone greeted us. There were several people sitting at tables and talking, the hum of their conversation slightly louder than the hum of the insects outside. It was as if that gas station was the hangout place of the small town, which it could very well have been, since there wasn’t much of anything else around there. But most all of them stopped and said, “Hello! How are you folks doing?” Not all at once, of course, but individually. From a friendly McDonald’s with table service and hugs (for some people) to a gas station where everyone stops what they are doing to say hello to those who are just looking for the restroom - Mississippi was seeming to be a pretty friendly place that day.

We eventually crossed over into Louisiana, turning onto I-12 and then onto I-10 to make our way west. We stopped for supper at Moe’s in Denham Springs, making our supper the Louisiana Purchase. Too bad of a joke? Sorry. Anyway, we got our usual “Welcome to Moe’s!” greeting, supper was good, and we were soon on the road again.

We next passed through Baton Rouge, so that we went through two state capitals in one day. Pretty cool. But we didn’t stop in either capital, instead just driving through and saying, “Hey, we are in a state capital!” We thought about bragging about it to our friends through text messages or social media, but then we realized that they wouldn’t care about our Two State Capital No Stops Tour, so we just kept on going.

Once we reached Texas, we stopped at the Texas Welcome Center, because Louisiana apparently has a thing against rest areas in their state. Or they like to keep them camouflaged from us outsiders or something. As it turns out, Texas wasn’t much better, because the restrooms at their Welcome Center were closed. Fortunately, they did have some temporary restrooms set up for everyone, which is a step up from just having port-a-potties out there. A small step, but still a step. They also had a cool “Watch for Snakes” sign, which we took to heart. Not that we don’t see snakes around our own house from time to time. Maybe we need one of those signs at home. We took pictures of the big Lone Star out in front, and then we continued on our way.

The second part of our 2016 Cruise to Mexico trip report looks at our adventures of getting to the port in Galveston. Read all about it at Burnsland! Welcome to Texas, where even the stars are bigger! Even if there is only one star.

Laura is in Texas. Get it? Laura is in Texas. Get it?

I also kept seeing signs here and there in Texas for IH-10. At first I didn’t know what it meant, but I finally figured out it was what the rest of us just call I-10. I guess “IH” is for Interstate Highway or something, but I-10 sure seems easier to say than IH-10. Texas has to make everything bigger, don’t they?

We had planned to drive through Houston before making our way back slightly southeast to Galveston, and I even thought we would probably spend the night in Houston, getting up the next morning to drive to the ship. But the Waze app on my phone suggested we turn off of the interstate onto a smaller highway, proceed down to the coast, and then drive along the coast to Galveston. Even though it would be dark by the time we reached the coast, that seemed rather inviting, especially because Waze said the time and distance were a good bit less than going through Houston. So we exited the IH and headed south.

While I was driving, Laura was checking it all out on her phone. First off, we had to exit onto FM1663. What? First an IH, and now an FM. We soon learned that this FM stands for Farm to Market, and the road was Farm to Market 1663. I guess that makes sense in an agricultural society such as that, as the road would lead from your farm to the market, but we had never heard that before. Texas continued to be a big mystery.

It was pretty dark for our drive once we got away from the interstate. I couldn’t see any farms or any markets. Or much of anything else, except for the long, straight road in front of us. It was pretty obvious that there were fields on either side of the road, but we couldn’t tell much about them in the darkness of the night.

As Laura was checking where Waze was leading us, she said that we would turn onto Ferry Road and proceed to Ferry Landing. “Um, is there a ferry that we have to ride?” I asked. She checked, and sure enough there was. I got concerned, because it would be almost 10:00 PM by the time we got to the ferry, and after passing a whole lot of nothing on the FM, I was thinking it might be closed for the night, and we might be stuck somewhere between the farm and the market. But she quickly found the website for the ferry, which stated that it operates 24 hours a day, although they have reduced service in the nighttime hours, so there might be a wait. But best of all, it was free, since I had also been wondering about the price. I was still wondering if we should turn around and go back to Houston, but Laura said she wanted to go on, so we did.

I soon learned that Laura was excited about riding a ferry, since she hadn’t been on a car ferry before. And come to think of it, if I had, I didn’t remember it. But I was still a little cautious while she got more and more excited the closer we got.

As we drove along, we could tell when we turned to drive along the shore. We could sort of make out some white caps in the water as they were illuminated by the moonlight. We could also see some houses built up on stilts, which I’m sure is a necessity in a hurricane area. Some of them looked really nice. And we even saw a school built up on stilts. How cool would that be, where most everyone could park underneath the school? We also saw a few people camping on the beach, their tents illuminated by the light of their campfires. Which of course were outside of the tents and not inside them. Fires in tents are intense.

We eventually reached the ferry landing, and there was just a short line of cars waiting for the next boat to arrive. I did have to get out of the car and open the hood and the trunk for inspection, and the guard also had to look in our glove box. Fortunately, they didn’t find anything besides our engine in the front and all our luggage in the back, so we were clear. Right after that, the ferry arrived, and after a short wait for the cars on the ferry to exit, we were allowed to drive on.

There were just a few rules to follow. Stay in your car until the ferry leaves the dock. Turn off your engine. Don’t feed the seagulls, except from the back of the boat. The first one was the main thing I was wondering about, so as soon as the boat started to pull away, we were out of the car. I was happy to be there, and Laura was just about jumping up and down with excitement. We took pictures of ourselves on the boat, of our car on the boat, of the other cars on the boat. We got splashed by water up at the front of the boat, and even toward the back there was a constant mist blowing around, but we didn’t mind. We couldn’t see much around the boat because of the darkness, except for some lights in the distance, but we didn’t mind. And don’t even think about trying to wear a hat, because it will just blow off from the strong winds, as Laura almost found out. But we didn’t mind that either. Natural air conditioning is always nice.

!We are on a boat! We are on a boat!

Not exactly the boat we were expecting to be on, but this one was only temporary. Not exactly the boat we were expecting to be on, but this one was only temporary.

You have to hold on to your hat out here! You have to hold on to your hat out here!

The ride was actually shorter than I thought it would be. Or maybe it just went by quickly because we were excited to be there. There wasn’t any announcement to go back to your car, but everyone just seemed to know to do it when the boat slowed down. And soon, we were back on the road on land and on our way again.

Sailing along, with a lovely night view. Sailing along, with a lovely night view.

Laura checks out the view from the top level of the ferry. Laura checks out the view from the top level of the ferry.

The view from the back of the ferry. Check out those stars overhead! The view from the back of the ferry. Check out those stars overhead!

Shortly after that, we found ourselves in the town of Galveston. Not that we really lost ourselves or set out on a journey to find ourselves or anything, but that’s where we were. And that is where a lot of other people were, too. We were surprised at how many people were out walking up and down the street along the beach, or were out at the beach, or were out in their cars, given that it was 10:30 PM by that time. Music was coming from most of the places that we passed by, and I soon realized that Galveston is more of a party town than I might have expected. In case any of you are looking for a nice party town by the beach.

We drove around just a bit before finding a Super 8 hotel for the night, which was pretty pricey by Super 8 standards. But the room was nice, it was close to the beach, and it was a Friday night, which always seems to make the rates go up at places like that. Either way, after a somewhat long but often exciting day of driving, we were happy to have a place to sleep, remembering the excitement we had so far and looking forward to the excitement that lay ahead of us on our cruise.

Check back soon for more from our 2016 Cruise to Mexico!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.