My Cross Country Trip, Part 2
The Southern Route Back To Atlanta
After driving west on I-40 through Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque, I decided to take the southern route on I-10 and I-20. This would take me through Las Cruces, El Paso, Dallas, Shreveport, and Birmingham. This route allowed me to visit new cities and break up the monotony of retracing my route. There was little excitement on this route, the only notable exception being a trip through an ICE checkpoint an hour east of El Paso. The drug sniffing dog alerted on the pick up truck in front of me, and the truck was directed to an inspection area for a search. My cross country trip was otherwise uneventful.
As with my journey west, I tried to stop at every major city along the way for a few pictures. I scouted locations ahead of time on Google maps, but some locations were closed and I had to improvise (El Paso). My pictures are opportunistic – I couldn’t stop for hours and wait for the ideal time to take pics based on lighting, I had to shoot at the time I passed through. All pictures were taken with my Canon 5D Mk 4 and Sigma Art Series 20mm ultra wide angle prime lens.
I started my cross country trip to the east at 11 am on Sunday morning. Since I had been to Tucson numerous times, I decided not to stop this time. My first break was at the rest stop near Dragoon Road along I-10. The stop overlooked Mount Glenn and is surrounded by very interesting rock formations.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces was a ghost town. There were hardly any people out and about. It seems like a nice little town though. The old historic downtown was picturesque. The city sits near the base of the Organ Mountains, which you can see in the distance.
El Paso, Texas
I stopped for the night in El Paso after about 5 hours on the road. I decided to stay at one of my favorite hotel brands in the heart of downtown – Hotel Indego. After checking in, I headed up to Scenic Drive Overlook Park. The road up the mountain was open, but the park itself was closed. Being a rebel, I parked illegally, grabbed my camera, and snapped off a few pictures near the entrance to the park.
On my way down the mountain, I found several other spots to take some nice, scenic pictures. Tom Lea Upper Park was also closed, but I was able to get some great shots just outside the park.
Next I headed downtown to the parking garage next to the Chase building. I had a nice view of downtown El Paso, overlooking San Jacinto Plaza. Like every other park, it was closed.
The thing that stood out to me about El Paso was its proximity to Mexico and Ciudad Juarez. The border is about a mile from downtown El Paso, and other than the border fence, you can’t tell where Mexico starts and El Paso ends. From a distance, it looks like one big city.
This trip confirmed that I still hate Dallas. I spent a week there in the late 90’s for a training class, and found the city to be a concrete jungle with confusing highways, terrible traffic, and no real redeeming qualities. This trip reaffirmed that. I did, however, visit Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll this time, and got to stand close to where the true assassins fired the head-shot that killed JFK. I couldn’t get to the exact spot because there are large trees now where the shooters would have stood along the back fence. It was drizzling, so I didn’t have the resolve to explore the area more extensively. I did get a good shot of the School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald got off a few shots before the grassy knoll shooters finished the job.
Buc-ee's, Terrell, Texas
What can I say about Buc-ee’s, other than it’s amazing! It must have had 100 gas pumps, righteous barbecue , great snacks, the cleanest gas station bathrooms I’ve ever seen, plus t-shirts and home decor items. Seriously, the place is massive. It was one of the highlights of my cross country trip.
After leaving Buc-ee’s, I traveled another hour and a half to Marshall, TX. I spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express after having driven 800 miles over about 13 hours with stops. The following morning, I got up at 6 am and headed to downtown Shreveport for some pictures along the Red River.
Shreveport was by far the prettiest city along my cross country trip. I was impressed with how clean the city was, and the Boardwalk area across the river from downtown was impressive. It was an entertainment district, with nice restaurants, shops, and a few casinos. I left Shreveport, and drove straight through to Atlanta with one stop for lunch and gas. I arrived home around 4 pm.
Observations From My Cross Country Trip
- The drive from Tucson to Las Cruces is mostly boring desert. There are many interesting mountains along the way, but otherwise vast, sparsely populated expanses.
- Las Cruces almost seems like a suburb of El Paso. It’s about a 45 minute drive from Las Cruces to El Paso, following the base of the Franklin Mountains.
- West Texas has some beautiful mountains, and then gives way to flat desert.
- Odessa and most west Texas towns are extremely dirty and industrial. They’re nothing but oil refinery towns, with a chemical stench to match.
- Central Texas and east Texas are quite beautiful, with lots of lush vegetation and rolling hills. Abilene, TX, was very beautiful, and seemed to be the border town between industrial, dusty Texas and lush, beautiful Texas.
- Shreveport was the nicest, most picturesque city along my route.