USA 57, 20th November 2006

There was a cypress swamp on the way to the boat launch at Natchitoches. The cypress trees can grow in water so deep that it will kill all other types of tree.

I drove up and down the waterfront in Natchitoches a few times, it is the oldest settled town in the Louisiana purchase, and it's a rather nice waterfront, with lots of old buildings. There is a replica of the original fort with replicas of the original inhabitants......

I looked at some preserved cotton plantations, this was a rather nice plantation house.

I then headed off towards Shreveport, stopping to look at an Indian museum on the way. Or rather, I didn't look at it. While waiting for someone to arrive I glanced through the door. There was a stage with chairs in front, and behind some trestle tables. We charge $8.50 said the lady when she arrived, not mentioning that there was a senior discount shown on the admissions board. Is that the museum I asked, with the tables? Yes she says. Ah no thanks I said, that's too much for too little, and left.

At Shreveport I pulled into the Walmart and phoned Glen Moyer. No reply. In the morning I checked out his address, which was quite near, and called around. No one there. I was about to leave when Glen returned so we had a very pleasant chat until left for Longview. I tried again to phone Micki without success and after collecting paperwork needed for the sale of the van called at her address and knocked on the door.

She seemed much better than I expected. Well, in the ways I had been concerned about she was much better, she seemed much more herself although she is and has been ill with severe pains around the stomach. Doctors are investigating and think there is a problem with the pancreas. She has only just got home after spending 8 days in hospital and had lost a lot of weight. Even for the couple of days I was there she improved noticeably.

So we've arranged that Micki will advertise and try to sell my van after I've left - we arranged a commission (!) - and I've booked my return flight for 24th November, a week today. Luckily, for me, her husband Tony is off work that day, and will run me to the airport at Dallas. I planned to arrive in Paris on Saturday so that Eleanor can meet me at the airport in Paris.

I brought the return date forward because I realised that I have finished my touring. With the sale of the van arranged, that's the end of the trip and my tours around the USA. I didn't really feel like mooching around Texas for 3 weeks, I thought I might as well head off home soon, to meet with Eleanor and to check on my cat. I know the house is still there because Simon called by a month or so ago and took a photo.

I decided to fill in my remaining time in the US by visiting some friends around Austin. Before I left I took a tour of the museum in Longview. I've been to better.

In Austin I arranged to meet with Tim Baggett, we met in a very nice pub along with a few members of the balloon club. I stayed in the car park for the night so didn't have to worry about driving home although the sounds of the happy late night drinkers did not make for the quietest of nights. It didn't stop me sleeping though.

I had arranged to meet up with John Crapero next day but I couldn't raise him on the phone, and when I called by his house there was no one home. So I headed further south to meet with Max Holland in New Braunfels. We headed off to his friend Fletch's to watch NASCAR racing on TV and to meet Max's girlfriend, and after a steak dinner - at Fletch's - talked a good part of the night away.

I took the pretty roads back to Austin, this is New Braunfels would you believe.

Then through the Texas hill country, to meet with John. He had been delayed yesterday because the corporate jet that he was returning in had a fault which needed repair. One of the sinks in the galley had been faulty and needed replacement.............

We went to a superb Italian restaurant. Right at the beginning of the meal John said I was his guest. I tried to object but quickly gave up. I knew I wouldn't win. John is one of the nicest people you could ever meet but he hasn't risen to be a senior vice president at Hewlett Packard by being a namby pamby. For those who don't know him, John apart from being a balloon and aircraft pilot and owner is the current owner of the balloon list which now has approaching 1000 subscribers. List owner is a somewhat inappropriate name, since John gets to give up a lot of his time running the list for absolutely no return and in fact at some cost to himself.

Thank you for the meal John, thank you for running the list, and it was a real pleasure to meet you.

Tomorrow I head off back to Micki's to try to get the van as presentable as possible, and to pack. I'm leaving a lot of things that I have collected along the way such as sheets, sleeping bag, computer printer, about a zillion maps, etc. etc. I have to sort it all out.

Best regards

David Barker
In Texas
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