Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hello Texas!

Drawbridge swings out
Homes and boats along the river
Pot of Gumbo
Before we could say "Good-bye" to Louisiana we attended a Gumbo cook-off.  We both thought that gumbo was like a thick kind of soup and were pleasantly surprised to learn that there is quite a variety of flavours.  For five dollars, you got a wristband and could taste to your heart's content.  We did manage to try ten or eleven of them - seafood (crawfish and/or shrimp), chicken, duck, sausage, turkey, or all of the above.  It was served plain, on rice, or potato salad.  Some were thick, some weren't.  Some were delicious, and some weren't.  There was also a sampling of fresh buns, apple butter, and honey butter.  To say the least, we came home absolutely stuffed.  We went for a walk over a bridge which had a drawbridge - it swung open sideways rather than up.  And the boats in the marina and the houses along the river were pretty amazing.
Raised road for 30+ miles
The star of Texas
A Helicopter at the Visitor Centre
on a trailer

It's Monday morning and time to move to a new address.  We stopped at the Texas visitor centre - got some information and before we left we discovered an air leak.  Of course problems are never fun.  Gerry crawled underneath and discovered what the problem was.  We had an air brake system installed seven years ago and a regulator is held on to a canister by a nipple - which broke.  We had to replace the same broken part five years ago.  Off to a hardware store we went (there was one just a few miles down the road) and bought two - we will be prepared next time.  Now we only hope we first - remember that we bought a spare, and second - can find where we put it.  Fortunately we were back on the road in good time.  Once the old one was taken off, we were able to get the part and be back on the road in about an hour.  
Power box was full of geckos

The fields were full of deer

We arrived near Cleveland, later than we had planned but still in good time.  We had booked a spot at The Preserve of Texas.  It is an area of over 2,000 acres along a river.  While the majority of the area is set out as permanent spots it had three campgrounds - each with about a dozen sites, and each with a pool.  For a couple of nights, the campground we were in had only two of us - needless to say it was quiet, and certainly no traffic.

Tribute to the immigrants

Old store with brick road
We drove over to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas.  Some of the firsts are first ceiling fans (fan blades turned by a mule drawn treadmill outside), first oil well, first two story building, first wine cellar, among other things.  We did a walking tour of the town - visited some old buildings, the cemetery, and walked down the brick streets.

We didn't celebrate the American Thanksgiving but instead did some much-needed chores thathad been left to multiply I think.  We did, however, get quite a chuckle about the pardoning of Cheese, the turkey.  We watched how a turkey farmer from Ohio had been grooming a couple of turkeys, named Mac and Cheese, to be pardoned by the President.  And after some rather luxurious travel to Washington, Cheese was pardoned so he was able to escape the oven and instead live the rest of his life on a farm in Virginia.  

I had planned on going shopping on Black Friday.  But Black Friday came and I decided that I really didn't want to fight the traffic or the crowds.  Instead I went to Walmart and picked up a few things and that was my shopping trip.

While the weather has been nice, yesterday (and today) was warmer and more humid than it had been.  Well, along come the lady bugs - everything was covered.  We couldn't even sit outside.  The worst was that a whole bunch found their way inside and I never thought they were so hard to get rid of - they seem to hide in all nooks and crannies.  I think by tonight, we got them all - at least until another one shows up.

Driving through Houston
Today was moving day again  so we drove through Houston on our way to Rockport, on the Gulf Coast.  My goodness - the highway infrastructure is absolutely amazing.  Driving through on a Saturday morning was a great choice - quick and easy.  Tonight we are settled in as city owned campground in Victoria, TX.  You can't beat $12.00 a night with full hook-ups and 50 amp service.  I just hope those two trains that went through, blo-o-o-o-wing their whistles is not a sign of the the night.

Until next week, you folks back home stay warm!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Welcome to Louisiana

While still in Mississippi last weekend they had predicted some fairly severe weather - heavy rain, strong winds, and the possibility of tornadoes - fortunately, we only have two of them.  The tornadoes did not materialize where we were staying, but the strong winds were certainly evident as they knocked those big pine cones off the trees.  You sure did hear them when they hit the roof of the motorhome.

On Monday we travelled (a whole 160 kms) to Abita Springs in Louisiana.  Here we called home the entire week.  And it certainly was a week of activity.

Bridge over Lake Ponchartrain
Marie Levau's tomb
A row of tombs
The Cathedral
On Wednesday we went to New Orleans (or as the locals would say - Naw-lins).  To get there we took the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway (technically a viaduct) which is the longest continuous bridge in the world at 38 kms (24 miles)First stop was the St. Louis cemetery.  Because of the altitude (or lack of it as the city is 6 - 20 feet below sea level), everyone is buried in above ground vaults. Since most of these tombs date back to the seventeen hundreds, there are many in various stages of disrepair.  We did see the tomb of Marie Levau - queen of voodoo.  Many people draw three X's on the tomb and many leave offerings - small stones, candy, ornaments, flowers, etc.

One of the stained Glass Windows
French Quarter
The Pepper Palace
From there it was to the French Quarter where we visited Basilica of St. Louis built in 1721 - what a magnificent Building.  From there it was a tour of Bourbon Street and Royal Street and then off to the French Market.  As we walked around there were various entertainers from musicians to mimes.
Many of these rides around

As we toured we did a little shopping as there were a couple of things we just needed to buy.  We even had a chance to visit Cafe du Monde which was established in 1862 and make the original beignet, which we sampled.  I bought a mix they sell so when we get back home I'm going to try my hand at it.  I bet you are wondering what is a beignet - well it is a type of doughnut although square rather than round and served warm with heaps of icing sugar on top.   We also sampled pralines - mmmm good - we didn't buy any because I said "I'm going to try making those" - we will see!


Didn't try these!!
Next it was a day of some maintenance.  The panelling around our skylight was peeling making it a real eyesore.  So Gerry (I held the chair so he wouldn't fall) scraped it all off, and we varnished it - looks much, much better.

Along the interstate
Then it was time for another tour.  I wanted to tour a plantation so off we went.  On our way, we took an interstate for about 50 miles which was amazing.  It was built through a bayou and pretty well the entire distance, it was built as a bridge. The views were great and it was an amazing drive.

Before we arrived at the plantation (which was a working sugar cane plantation) we came across a field where they were harvesting sugar cane.  One of the workers was waiting for someone so Gerry took the opportunity to chat with him to find out the process.  The harvester separates the leaves and chops up the cane into 12 inch lengths.  It is then hauled away to be processed. 

Front of the house
Back of the house
kitchen - separate from the house

Road to the house

Row of slave houses
Yup - 47 yrs a slave
Now off to the plantation.  While the main homes look huge, the original homes were not.  The main floor was originally open (because of floods) and were only closed in after the dikes were built along the Mississippi river.  The plantation we visited had 22 houses for the slaves where up to 10 lived in each. Something rather interesting was that in order to own slaves, you had to be Catholic and you had to make sure they were baptised as Catholics.

Cypress trees
A cabin in the bayou
We were done rather early so maybe we could get to do the swamp tour we had planned to go on.  Well we get there and guess what - they are all booked up.  But, they say, stick around and we will see what we can do.  They did get us on the tour which was excellent.  The boat operator chatted the entire time - described how they hunt alligators, how people have lived in the swamps, and so on.  And we got to see the alligators.
View from the boat

An Osprey


This week has been absolutely amazing.  We got to eat beignets, tried po-boys (similar to a sub but with french bread and much different fillings) We both had a shrimp po-boy and Gerry had an alligator.  That is an interesting taste - very similar to chicken in looks and taste although the texture is different.  I had a real tough time getting past the idea of what I was eating.  We also had etoufee which is a  thick sauce made from shrimp and crawfish and it was served with rice.  It was a bit warm and tasted very similar to clam chowder (I thought) but oh, so tasty.

Gator Po-boy

Today we bought some fresh Louisiana shrimp - tomorrow (maybe) we get to try some.  See if it is as tasty as what we have sampled this past week.

Our week is winding down.  Tonight they are predicting a round of rather severe storms again - hopefully they will not be as predicted.   This week's blog is rather lengthy but it has been a fun, full week.  That will make up for the weeks when it is quiet and I almost have to make something up.  I hope you enjoy sharing our fun and may you all (or is it yu'all) have a great week.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Polar Vortex!

Yup, it's here too!  We have spent this past week along the gulf coast - but the weather hasn't been conducive to spending a lot of time splashing in the ocean.  But we have certainly enjoyed driving along the scenic byways and highways!

Zombie at the air show
We started the week by going to the Pensacola Naval Air Station for the Blue Angels homecoming.  The day was perfect - clear blue skies, a little breeze, and a great show.  We were able to take a few photos, although it sometimes quite challenging.  As we went through the many pictures, we came across a number of them - perfect blue skies - but nothing more.  Hmmm - wonder what was meant to be in that one!

Dolphins by the ferry
Rigs in Gulf of Mexico
Lunch time in the park - Dauphin Island
Looking for renters??
Hitching a ride - on the ferry!
Longleaf Pine needles - used for basket making
Monday - another wonderful day - warm temps, blue skies, but today there is no wind.  We took a drive south of Mobile, AL to Dauphin Island which is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is accessible by bridge or ferry - we came on one and left on the other.  Apparently, on the west side of the island, every house was destroyed by Katrina.  New building codes say that they must all be on stilts (as are most buildings in the area) because of the flood plain. Off the shore you can see numerous rigs out in the Gulf.  Apparently these are rigs either being built, or already in service, extracting natural gas.  On the ferry ride over, nearer the shore on either side, we saw several dolphins.  While they didn't jump in the air as in the shows, they did come out of the water as they swam around - what a sight!

jellyfish washed up on shore
Since we had been going, going, going - it was time for the everyready bunny to take a rest.  It was another great day so we just hung around camp and did some visiting.   Here, there were a lot of long pine needles (as you can see in the photo) and a lady made some lovely baskets from them (one which I bought), She offered to teach me but I decided that I likely didn't really need to find another craft.

Friendship tree - oak 500 yrs old
Then it was time to move - we now call home a campground near Pass Christian, MS.  Again we are near the beaches.  The difference here is that all the beaches are very accessible - lots of parking and beach access.  In Alabama, it seemed many large hotels, condo projects, and/or homes were built right on the beach, so access was very limited.  Any homes, hotels (but mostly homes) are across the road from the beach.  Pretty well all the homes nere are either built on stilts or have been converted to stilts.  These stilts may be wooden poles, concrete blocks, or concrete poles, and they are of varying heights.
A heron - not afraid of people

While in this area, we took a drive in both directions along the beach.  We went east to Biloxi, where we stopped at the Hard Rock Casino (all we won were a couple of XL t-shirts for signing up).  Then we went west across to Bay St. Louis and stopped at the Silver Saddle Casino (this time we paid for parking - the car - no t-shirts this time).

carved dolphins

carved herons

carved pelican
Fishing pier after Hurricane Katrina
 This area took the direct blow from Hurricane Katrina being at the eye of the storm.  While there is little evidence of it now other than there are many places where you can see where a building had been because of concrete pads or a parking lot, or sometimes only the stilts.

Entrance to campground

As we drive along the beach, there are a number of sculptures that have been carved from what looks like broken off trees.  They are either on the beach side of the road, or in the median - very attractive.  There is a great wood sculpture near the entrance to our campground - the talent of the carver is quite evident. 

While here, we have gone for lunch a couple of times - as we sample some seafood fare.  We will be going out a few more times yet before we totally leave the area.

Pine cones from above
Our site the past few days
I have been asked about the pictures, and how they are sometimes difficult to see.  If you double-click on them, you should be able to see a larger picture with some detail.  And I would love to hear your comments - constructive criticism is always welcome (although maybe not always appreciated) but it would great to hear from you.