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The Smith American road trip rattles on through New Orleans, Texas and eventually California. Antony Merkel, a Smith travel specialist and expert highway navigator, offers his observations from the road…

As soon as we pulled up to the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs, Louisiana we knew we were in for one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. With taxidermy alligators, old license plates hanging from the walls and a shrine to hot sauce, this unique roadside attraction bills itself as ‘a folk art environment with thousands of found objects and homemade inventions.’

Road trip dispatch #3: Abita Mystery House

With only 18 hours to spend in New Orleans, we trimmed the bucket list down to the essentials, which (surprise surprise) consisted mostly of food. After scarfing down some po’ boys, we headed to Bourbon Street to visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, which, despite its massive draw among tourists, remains a sacred shrine for her devoted followers.

The next morning, with Café Du Monde beignets and coffee in hand, we traversed Louisiana’s swampland into Texas. There, we spent a night bar-hopping on Rainey Street in Austin before heading to Fort Davis, where we stopped by an old-fashioned soda fountain for a bite to eat. A sleepy Sunday in Marfa meant we had the run of the town and the expansive Chinati Foundation – a contemporary art museum that features Donald Judd’s oversized concrete sculptures, among other works. While wandering the museum’s outdoor desert path, we couldn’t resist channeling our inner Ansel Adams for some seriously artsy selfies.

Road trip dispatch #3: Chinati Foundation

The following couple days of the trip can be summed up by cacti, Billy the Kid, more cacti and the hilariously-random Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch, which is halfway between Tuscon and Scottsdale, Arizona. There, we took a break to stretch our legs and feed the ostriches, donkeys, deer, goats, ducks and lorikeets. Afterward, it was off to Scottsdale for some much-needed R&R and a sunset tour of the Desert Botanical Garden.

The following night, some 3,700 miles from where it all began and with 2Pac’s ‘California Love’ blasting from the speakers, the downtown Los Angeles skyline approached. Before we knew it we had our toes in the Santa Monica sand, we were filled with a new-found love and appreciation for this crazy and beautiful country, and we were ready to begin the next adventure.

Road trip dispatch #3: Santa Monica Pier

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