Texas ain't so hot

My plan was to take the Indian Natch Scenic Freeway south out of Tulsa and into Texas, however, Cousin Anthony and his younger eyes were able to read the small print on the map better than me and my old eyes and informed me that it was actually the Indian National Scenic Freeway that we wanted. Before Oklahoma was admitted as the 46th state in 1907 it was called Indian Territory and the freeway honors the proud Creek Indian heritage of casino gambling, poverty, and bad teeth. I think the white man offered these to the Creek in exchange for their land, livelihood, and dignity in one of the treaties that we broke. Hugo Lake State Park, just outside Hugo, Oklahoma, which is on the border with Texas, was our destination for the evening. By coincidence, we picked up a newspaper, The Tulsa Word, at the bagel place that Cousin Anthony took us for lunch and it had an article about the section of the Hugo Cemetery dedicated to circus performers which had over the big top monuments and gravestones and the ranch where former circus elephants go to retire. Apparently Hugo was once base camp for a number of moderately successful circuses and even the town manager was a former circus performer. We put both of these places of our short list of sites to visit in Hugo, along with the local ice cream parlor.

Hugo needs to do a better job of advertising these sites, however, as there was not a single sign directing us which way to go. And the two people we asked in Hugo didn't even seem to know where the hell they were themselves. The ice cream lady managed to say something that sounded like yes when we asked her for directions, and the guy at the gas station responded to my question by asking if we were ready for the rain that was coming.

Coconut took this shot of the cotton fields along Route 79 on our way into Austin

We had no luck at the campsite either, which was like a ghost town - not another soul around, the distant clanging of metal on metal, and cabin doors swinging free in the wind. Heavy rains had washed out the facilities and hopefully short circuited the electricity because when I peed off the dock, J informed me I was standing directly in front of the security camera.

It was only a short drive to Pat Mayse Dam and State Park in Texas, so we saddled up Wesley and crossed the border. Everyone we had talked to about Texas went on and on about how hot it was going to be and we came here expecting to be baked like potatoes. But our first night was nice - Texas wasn't so hot. Swimming in the lake was good. People from the West and South might know this, but it seems that most rivers in this part of the country are dammed, creating lakes upriver that allow the Army Corps of Engineers to control the flow of water downriver to avoid flooding. This was the case at Bull Shoals as well - one of the videos we watched about the making of the dam quoted a local as saying, they created a permanent flood upriver to avoid an occasional flood downriver. Though, that jab seemed mostly tongue in cheek as the dam has created great fishing conditions as well as other river activity thereby bringing tourists, jobsand prosperity to the region. Pat Mayse Dam and lake may not have been as successful in that regard, but we had fun.

For sleeping we kept the slider door and hatch open to catch the very substantial lakeside breeze. Coconut had pitched her tent by the lake and, concerned parent that I am, I was afraid the tent would blow away with her in it during the night. But the most I could muster was lifting my head to make sure the tent was still there, we had done a good job staking it, so I was confident she was alright.

R couldn't get enough of the Texas shaped waffles in Palestine

Texas does come with a giant reputation, however, and at some point during the night while I was laying safe and snug in Wesley and listening to a bullfrog croak it made a sound like it was strangling. Then there was just silence. It scared the shit out of me and I thought that Coconut was the bravest of us all out there in her tent with the wind whipping and the Texas Bull Frog Strangler on the prowl.

We woke to very overcast skies and quickly packed camp and took off without even eating breakfast. It didn't take long for the sun to come back with a vengeance though, which was a good thing because after we breakfasted at a roadside picnic spot protected from the deluge by a pavilion (something our campground lacked), our wipers stopped working. By mid-afternoon though, with the sun blazing a hazy trail across the sky, we surrendered and stopped in Palestine, TX, to watch a movie where we all got cold because the AC was set for the ice ages. And because Palestine lacks good camping options and Austin is still three hours away, we ended up in a hotel room where the Wifi sucked, we had all seen the Modern Family rerun, and none of us had our allotment of fun.

Everything is bigger in Texas, even the swans on the Colorado River in Austin