We had a great time with the newlyweds, Andy and Natasha, during the Ohio leg of Christmases. Before we went to the tour of the Tabasco factory in Louisiana, Gary talked to Andy and told him we would be going. Andy related that he really likes Tabasco’s Chipotle brand hot sauce. He says he uses it on everything including as a salad dressing. He asked us to look for the bigger six-ounce bottle for him as every time he went to buy it he could only find the small two-ounce bottle. Well, we hooked him up. Not only did he get the bigger bottle, he got the half gallon bottle – sixty four ounces. And with that purchase also came a six-ounce bottle of their new Buffalo Wings sauce. We hope these bottles will last him for awhile.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
So here we are ready to head from Columbus, Ohio to our next destination of Indianapolis, Indiana and what do we have -- a new fresh 2 to 3 inches of snow to deal with. It should stop shortly here so hopefully the roads, all interstates, will just be wet. At least by Sunday we will be turning south a bit.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Michigan down – Ohio and Indiana to go. We spent over a week in Michigan for a doctor’s appointment, car service, shopping, visiting family and friends, and attending two Christmas dinners. My sister made an amazing Christmas dinner for our immediate family. And I helped my Mother a bit with her gigantic Christmas dinner that included many Aunts and Uncles that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to see. My jalapeno pie went over very well. Alley cat is getting at least a little sleep in all of these motel rooms. She even got in a little nap time with her Daddy. I’ve already had enough snow and cold weather and am looking forward to returning to Texas soon.
Friday, December 21, 2012
We had a great plan for heading north to the Midwest for the holidays. On our way out of Livingston we would obtain our annual State vehicle inspection of our motor home. Then we would drive the motor home 75 miles north to a paint shop in Nacogdoches, Texas. The motor home would stay there for some paint work and we would go on in the car to Detroit, Columbus, and Indianapolis and pick up the motor home on the way back for wintering in the South of Texas.
Immediately in the morning on the way to the inspection, the motor home started sputtering. We finished the inspection, but this shop was not able to look at diesel engine systems. Gary drained some fuel from the fuel filters and it didn’t look good at all – many black specks in it. We called an RV shop and they said they could not look at us until the following week. We called a diesel repair shop and they said they could not look at it until the afternoon, but even then we would have to get the owner’s permission for them to look at it as they didn’t usually work on motor homes. So we sputtered over to their shop to wait for the owner to come in after lunch. Meanwhile Gary went to NAPA to buy some new filters. While there he asked it they knew anyone else who could work with us. A customer in the store mentioned a shop they all agreed could be an alternative. Gary drove by in the car and they said they would look at it and change the filters right away. So we sputtered over to that shop. When they drained off some fluid they indicated we likely had bacteria in our fuel.
Gary headed back to NAPA to get some kind of biocide for the fuel in the tank and a spare set of new filters while the technician installed the set of filters we already had purchased. NAPA didn’t have a biocide for this situation. Gary called a friend who recommended a product but the nearest source for it was an hour an half in the opposite direction we were going. And NAPA couldn’t have another set of extra filters for us until the next day.
The filters we had purchased were installed by the time Gary got back, but then it was decision time. We really could not stay another day and maintain our schedule for driving north and appointments we already had made. We either had to drive on with new filters, but with no treatment of the fuel and no extra filters, or take the motor home back to the campground, leave it there for the three weeks we would be gone and cancel our appointment at the paint shop.
We went on a 20-mile test drive and then went back to the shop. He drained off some more fuel out of the filter and it looked very clean. The bad fuel had not overwhelmed the filter in that amount of driving. But would it work for another 75 miles? We decided we would take the risk even though it could leave us stuck on the side of the road if the the filter loaded up. Fortunately, we made it without a hitch.
We didn’t get to the paint shop until the end of their work day so we just stayed in their lot and checked in with them the next morning. Before Noon we were on our way in the car with Alley Cat in tow and made stops in Arkansas and Kentucky before we arrived in the Detroit area. Our motor home is where we wanted it to be for the holidays and Gary made his doctor’s appointment. We are visiting family and friends here through Christmas day and will then move on for two more gatherings. And we are also buying some biocide and extra filters so we will have them when we get back to the motor home.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
It seems all my bragging was warranted about the Escapees Trolley I helped decorate. We heard today that the Trolley was judged “Best In Show” at the Livingston Christmas Parade!
We said farewell today to all our fellow Escapees at the daily social hour. Tomorrow we start moving north and eventually to the Midwest for the Christmas Holidays. After some amazing weather with temperatures as high as 80 in December, an Alberta Clipper finally has caught up to us. Temperatures fell to the upper 20’s last night and will stay there for at least a couple more days. We will be leaving the motor home at a shop while we travel so Gary drained the water system and blew out the water lines so that we won’t risk it freezing up while we are gone. Alley Cat is ready for the cold of the northern states with her newly grown winter coat.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Last night was the Christmas parade in town. We didn’t know quite what to expect. Livingston is a town of about 6,000 people, but there are more than 40,000 in Polk County. Back in Michigan our local Christmas parade was a daytime event. We had not been to one at night. One thing you might expect in a ranching/farming region is there would be no shortage of trailers and vehicles for floats and there wasn’t. Seems every “float” had a generator and a ton of lights. It was actually a super impressive production. We enjoyed it a lot. The Escapees trolley that I helped decorate was brilliant all light up with its many lights. Unfortunately, I tired several different camera settings and even when the parade was over I still hadn’t found a good one; I was left will almost all blurry pictures.
There was also an area of arts/crafts and food vendors. Although we have eaten so many local delicacies across North America, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sample some of these. Chicken fried bacon and deep fried Oreos anyone?
Saturday, December 8, 2012
What have we been up to? Oh, not a whole lot, just enjoying our home campground and a bit of small town East Texas. We are taking it a bit easy before our huge trip north and back in the car for Christmas in the Midwest. In addition to Livingston, we have been to the towns of Conroe, Huntsville, and Cut and Shoot.
I did volunteer to help with the decoration of the Park’s Trolley as it will represent Escapees in the Livingston town Christmas Parade. Below you can see that on the back of the Trolley is a portable generator that is going to light this thing up like a Christmas Tree. A lot of the other decorations will be put on at the last minute as the Trolley first has to be driven a few miles into the town of Livingston for the parade.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Neither Gary’s nor my families are spread out very far. Most of Gary’s family is in Indiana and the Midwest where he grew up and most of my family is in Michigan and the Midwest where I grew up. But there is the occasional “stray” such as Gary’s niece who we visited in Birmingham, Alabama and who will soon be graduating with her nursing degree – and moving back with the rest of the clan in Indiana. Here in Texas, it was my turn. I have a cousin , Marla, who lives just north of Houston. We drove down there on Sunday and all went out for what else – an Italian dinner. I hadn’t seen her in a number of years so it was good to catch up.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
It seem likes a worthy undertaking for a guy to grow some facial hair during the month of November to call attention to men’s health issues and specifically to prostate and testicular cancer. But in Gary’s case, I am very suspicious that it was just an opportunity to grow a beard without me complaining too much about it. He didn’t know anything about Movember until his son said something about it this Fall. Further, the real Movember growth is supposed to be a mustache, not a full beard. And he sure hasn’t raised any charitable contributions by growing it. And my final suspicion is that it is now December and there haven’t been any signs that the Movember growth is coming off. But if he really thought I wasn’t going to complain about it, he had and still does have another think coming.
Friday, November 30, 2012
We know, we know, enough with the mailbox stuff already. This will be the last blog about it. But this time we really did go visit our mailbox. We took the official tour of the mailroom, the Escapees administrative offices, and the campground.
The Escapees mail service is truly impressive. We were told it is the largest mail forwarding operation in the country. It has about 10,000 customers (most all of whom are full time RVers) and processes about 25,000 pieces of mail a day. The mail is trucked to and from the mailroom and the Houston Post Office twice a day. The mail bypasses the Livingston Post Office not only to speed up delivery, but also the Escapees mailroom processes more mail per day than does the Livingston Post Office. We did get in this one photo before they told us we couldn’t take any pictures. But right there over in those file folders is our mailbox. In the back room was a high speed mail sorting machine employing optical character reading capability.
For the campground tour, we rode the park’s trolley. This vehicle will represent Escapees in the upcoming Livingston Christmas parade. We will join other volunteers to decorate it. In spite of all our near daily walks through the park, they showed us a section that we didn’t know existed. The park has a number of different kinds of sites from dry camping (no water, electric or sewer hookups), to full hookup sites, to long term rentals, to deeded lots with houses/RV garages on them.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
In our stay here at the home of our mailbox, we have been to a number of dinners. We take one of our super duper bottle openers with us each time and they never cease to amaze. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“A bottle opener”
“But it is a stick with a screw in it”
“Here let us show you how it works”
“Wow, that is amazing”
So goes the saga of our amazing bottle openers. So, where did we come up with the design for this amazing invention? We stole it of course. For a three-year period we lived and worked in the country of Brazil. One time when we were traveling, we passed through a craft market. We saw these sticks with screws in them. So we asked, “what is that?”……………… So we bought one and said someday we will make some of those ourselves and we did. We even gave them as Christmas presents one year.
Oh, and how does it work? Just look at the picture. You slide the bottom side of the head of the screw in under the edge of the cap, and push down on the other end of the handle and voila. “Wow, that is amazing.”
Friday, November 23, 2012
No, we didn’t host the prison runaways. We shared Thanksgiving with our RV Club, Escapees. We wanted to be somewhere with people for Thanksgiving and targeted our “home base” of Escapees’ Rainbow’s End RV Park. When we were at Betty’s we met a couple, Dan and Jenny, who were leaving Betty’s and headed to Rainbow’s End the day before us. They were to hook up with Dennis and Carol, the former owners of an RV Driving School that we were somewhat familiar with. Gary contacted Dennis and got us signed up for Thanksgiving dinner and to help with its preparations. On Wednesday, we joined a group of people who carved 12 turkeys for the meal. For a couple who are not turkey carvers, we didn’t do too bad of a job if we say so ourselves. After the carving we got together with our new found friends for a dinner of gumbo. Dan and Jenny are below left and Dennis and Carol below right.
Thursday was a great day. We had tables of 12. Each table was provided a platter of the turkey along with gravy, but from there the people at the table provided the food for that table. I made the pumpkin pies for our table (my sister’s secret recipe). It kept us from standing in long lines or worse being the last table called to get food. Nearly everyone there was either a current or former full-time RVer so there was a natural affinity and plenty of stories to share. Thanksgiving on the road worked out mighty well.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
One of our taglines is “home is where we park it”, as we are always on the road and sooner or later moving on to our next destination. But we do have a domicile in Texas which includes a mailbox that is also the address on our Texas drivers licenses, voter registrations (we voted by absentee ballots), vehicle titles and registrations, etc.
On Monday we rolled into our Texas home. We are camped in the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park which is where our mailbox is located. Said differently, we are visiting our mailbox. No mail forwarding for the next three weeks. We can just walk up to the mail window and ask for our mail each day if we want, not that we get much “snail mail” anyway. Our lost mail package finally arrived in ALABMAM. But at least it has been forwarded and hopefully will catch up with us sometime – 21 days and counting.
The weather is just fantastic here this week with daily high temperatures approaching 80 degrees which are near record highs. We updated our local channels feed on Directv to Houston which should work for us through the Winter and into the Spring.
Texas requires annual vehicle inspections and ours had expired in August. That is OK as long as you get a new inspection whenever you get back into the State. Gary took the car for its inspection today. It’s not that much of an inspection but they make you show current proof of insurance before they will even start. They do check the brakes, all the lights, the tread depth of the tires, the operation of the wipers and some other stuff. It probably does cause some repairs to be made and keeps a few hoopties off the road. We will have the motor home inspected when we move on from our current location.
We will participate in a Thanksgiving potluck with our fellow Escapees and we will take in some of the activities in the park. All in all, It’s great to be back at the mailbox again!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I was thinking after the Gulf Coast we would be on our way to Texas. But then Gary said something like, “I am thinking we should stop at Betty’s for a few days”. Huh, who is Betty and what is he talking about? Then another day he said, “if we stop at Betty’s, we could go the the Tabasco factory”. Well, he at least had my attention with that one, but I still didn’t know who Betty was. So after we left Mississippi, we drove to Lafayette, Louisiana and took a road south to the town of Abbeville and pulled into Betty’s.
What did I see? This park is nothing more than about 15 campsites on the outside of a horseshoe-shaped driveway around Betty’s house. But I quickly discovered what Gary had somehow already found out. Betty’s RV Park was selected as the most friendly RV Park in the country. It is a favorite of full-time RVers. The only group that the park gives a discount to is Escapees, the full-timer organization we belong to. The park really is run by Betty who started it up after she had retired. Betty checked us in, guided us back in to our spot and invited us to the daily happy hour on her porch. Everyone brought appetizers and it was almost more like a potluck than a happy hour. Everyone was very friendly. And it seems once people start coming to Betty’s they keep coming back and back.
When we were in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, we studied the history of that region a bit. Those areas were first conquested by the French. In the French and Indian wars of 1754 to 1763 (also know as the Seven Years War and by various other names), Great Britain and France warred over these lands with the British finally winning. The Brits expelled most of the French out of those lands. Many emigrated to southern Louisiana, then a French-claimed territory. The Acadians of the Maritimes became know as Cadians, and eventually as Cajuns. Many of the people in southern western Louisiana are of Acadian descent. Betty said that she is a Cajun and a descendant of Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia. The Cajuns maintain many Acadian traditions including speaking a dialect of the French language – Cajun.
Cajuns have had a major influence on Louisiana and food is is one of them. At Betty’s recommendation, we went to a restaurant where we had a crawfish po-boy for lunch. After lunch we met up with Betty and everyone from the campground at the Museum Café for an afternoon of Cajun music featuring of course the squeezebox and the electric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar and a drummer. The Museum Café is attached to the Acadian Museum which commemorates and honors the Acadian heritage and Cajun people of Louisiana. Betty is one of the Living Legends designated by the Acadian Museum. After many Cajun music classics we went to dinner in Abbeville for some Crawfish etouffe and shrimp and oyster gumbo.
When we got back to the motor home Sunday night, there was an email from Betty inviting all of us to a pot luck at her house on Sunday night. But first we made our way down to Avery Island, home of Tabasco. We saw some exhibits, a film, and the bottling lines of the factory. The Capsicum red peppers are grown right there on the island and are ground and fermented in whiskey barrels for three years with a helping of salt from the salt mine also on the island. The fermented pepper mash is then mixed with fine vinegar and the bath is stirred for 28 straight days before the pepper sauce is then bottled and shipped and sold in over 150 countries
We also went to the gift shop where there are all things Tabasco, including some ice cream with Tabasco and Tabasco Coca Cola. At their on-site lunch coach, we had some red beans and rice with sausage. By the time we got back to Betty’s it was just about time for our potluck. It was a wonderful evening and the food was bountiful and tasty. (That is Betty with the food in the picture at the right.)
Driving around Cajun country, we saw more crops that we never saw in the north – sugar cane and rice. We also saw crawfish holes all over including right behind our motor home. And as the water table is so high in these lands, all graves are above ground. Many of the houses are built on stilts as hurricanes would roll straight through these low lying flat areas.
We actually thought about staying on through Thanksgiving, but we already had our plans to get to Texas so we didn’t get caught in “Betty’s web” as it is known. But staying on for a Turducken Thanksgiving Dinner with such a friendly bunch sure was a temptation. We don’t know when we will be back through southern Louisiana, but the next time I will be the one saying,, “let’s stop a few days at Betty’s”.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
We used our base on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a day trip into New Orleans. We didn’t know where to park but then we remembered that there is a casino in downtown New Orleans so we figured we would just park there for free. A great plan until we got there. They had a height limit of 6 feet 6 inches. We once loosely measured our car height to the top of our cargo carrier and Gary seemed to remember that it was 77 inches which even if he remembered correctly would only have allowed for 1 inch of clearance. So no free parking for us and the lot that seemed to be advertising $8 a day was really $18 a day.
We hadn’t eaten breakfast at the motor home, so we headed off for a local delicacy, beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde. Some describe beignets as rectangular donuts without holes (and tons of powdered sugar), but to us they had a bit more the taste of funnel cakes, They were tasty in any event and a New Orleans institution.
A bit later it was lunch time and we took in another delicacy of New Orleans, the muffuletta sandwich. The bread is round and somewhat like a focaccia. It is split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, capicola, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, ham, swiss cheese and provolone. Olives aren’t cajun or creole, so where does this one come from? Apparently New Orleans had a significant wave of Italian immigration way back when and they brought the olives and olive oils with them and right there in New Orleans was created the muffuletta sandwich.
If you are thinking all we did in New Orleans was eat….. well, that was not quite the case. We did a lot of walking along the riverfront and all through the French Quarter areas.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
We moved from Alabama over to Mississippi. Although we were in the vicinity of the Gulf while in Alabama (about 20 miles) we really are at the Gulf here in Mississippi. We are staying at a campground associated with a casino. We are just across the road from a sandy Gulf beach.
Our first full day here we toured the Gulf Coast from Bay St Louis where we are camped through Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, and Biloxi. If those names sound familiar, they are areas that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. You often think of New Orleans when you think of Katrina, but New Orleans was affected heavily by the breaching of the levees and the related flooding. The Mississippi Gulf coast took the brunt of the winds. Katrina hit over seven years ago, but you still see signs of its devastation. One thing we particularly enjoyed though was the “Katrina Sculptures”. In the devastation and destruction including of trees that had stood for generations, Martin Miller a professional wood sculptor spent three years carving a trail of sculptures that stretches for 40 miles.
One of the main forms of commerce on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the casino industry. There are 12 casinos in this stretch of shoreline. Most all of them also were heavily damaged by Katrina. Before Katrina, all casinos there were required to be “riverboats”. These giant multi-story barges were washed ashore during Katina and in some cases created yet more damage smashing homes and buildings as they were tossed around on the mainland. After Katrina the law was changed so that the casinos could be land-based. That spawned a building/rebuilding boom that has turned the greater Biloxi area into a gaming destination. Yes, we made a bit of a donation to the recovery of the post-Katrina casinos.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
As we have noted previously, we use a mail forwarding service to handle all of our “snail mail”. Everything goes to a mailbox in Texas and is forwarded to us when we tell them to, wherever we are staying put for awhile. And sometimes when we have an extended stay, we take the opportunity to have order up some items and have them shipped to us if the campground allows that.
While in southern Alabama, we had some parts for the motor home shipped to us out of Oregon general delivery at the local post office. The pack was supposed to arrive within 7 days, a few days ahead of our departure. But 10 days later it still hadn’t arrived and we were scheduled to leave the the next day. We could have stayed, but the next day was Sunday, and Monday was a Veteran’s Day Postal holiday and we didn’t have any information from the tracking data that indicated when it was ever going to get there anyway.
We went to the Post Office to see what they could do for us, fearful that we might just be out of the $50 cost of the parts. They indicated that they normally don’t forward such packages, but agreed that under these circumstances they owed us a forward and would do so. We hope when we get to Texas and the home of our our mail forwarding box that the package/parts will be there.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
We were in the Mobile Bay area for the entire time we stayed in southern Alabama but didn’t get to the city of Mobile until our last weekend. We had been to the city of Fairhope on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay a few times as our campground was close to Fairhope. One thing that we always noticed about Fairhope was that they had beautiful flower planter boxes throughout the town. It gave an already pretty town nice splashes of color.
For our trip around the bay, we drove south to the Gulf at Gulf Shores. We followed the shore line west only to find out that we hadn’t paid enough attention to the map that that the shore drive didn’t go through, so we had to circle back to Gulf Shores and just a bit north to get a road that would go through. But the houses along the Gulf were very colorful and we enjoyed our detour.
We took the ferry that traverses the mouth of Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan in the east to Dauphin Island on the west. One bay thing about a ferry is that if you arrived just a couple minutes after the ferry has left the dock, you have quite a wait until the next sailing (somehow we know this). There are oil drilling platforms in the Bay right along the ferry route. It was also through these waters that produced one of the most famous naval commands of all time: “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” issued by
Admiral Farragut in attacking the bay during the Civil War’s battle of Mobile. After a quick look around Dauphin Island we headed north across a bridge with a very steep ramp section to move up to Mobile. It was dark by the time we actually arrived in Mobile so we just had dinner without much exploring. But we did drive drive through Mobile in the daylight as we headed west to Mississippi. You first take a long bridge across the northern end of Mobile Bay. Upon reaching an island just east of Mobile you pass down through the George C. Wallace tunnel under the water and under a major shipping channel of the Port of Mobile. You can’t help but think, what if one of this ships happened to hit the tunnel, but thank goodness it didn’t happen to us.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
We are thankful for all of the condolences we received about the death of Gary’s mother. When living on the road and in an electronic age, condolences are conveyed in many different manners – via a blog, on Facebook, in emails, through phone calls, and in person at the funeral home. But no matter what the medium, they were appreciated in a sad and tough time.
We received the call from Gary’s brother one day and were on the road the next. Our trip from our campground in southern Alabama to Indiana and back totaled 1800 miles and we spent 5 nights in three different motels. We had to take Alley cat with us.
Many people came by the funeral home and attended the funeral and funeral dinner. Gary and his brother and sister each shared at the funeral one of their many memories of their mother.
You don’t sleep well in a period like this and with all the travel, we were extremely tired. But we have recovered and have explored the local area a bit more before we start moving across Mississippi and Louisiana to Texas.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Gary’s mother passed away on Monday. She was 90 years old. She had some sort of seizure – a heart attack or a stroke – and expired before the nursing home where she lived could even arrange an ambulance to take her to a hospital. We now are on our way back in the car from southern Alabama to Indiana for the funeral.
As we reported in an earlier blog post, about a month ago we spent a week in Indiana visiting her each day at the nursing home. We had all of the pictures from her home scanned and shared some pictures most days with her on the iPad. She enjoyed looking at them and the memories they stirred in her. She had said on an earlier visit that she would love to have a kitty sit on her lap that she could pet and we took Alley cat with us one day to her room. We shared a peach pie we had made along with some ice cream. We shared the stories of our travels with her and it stuck with her that we were going to visit the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. Gary called her on Sunday, the day before she passed. She asked if we had bought a baseball bat in Louisville.
She grew up on a farm south of Peru, Indiana. She married her high school sweetheart, George. They were married for 57 years at the time of his death in 1999. For 87 years, she always lived within five miles of where she first lived as a child. She was a family farm wife. She raised three children. She worked in the fields as well as taking care of the house and vegetable and flower gardens (she was one of the premier gardeners of the County.). She was a faithful member of the First Christian Church and was active in church, community and school-related activities. She was famous for her chicken and noodles, as finely hand cut as any noodles could be. She was also famous for her pound cake. She managed alone the farm and home for 10 years after George’s death. Failing health and a robbery in her home at club point forced her into retirement communities, first in assisted living and then a nursing home in the final three years of her life. She was the last of an era. All of her brothers, sisters and in laws and most of the neighborhood farmers and their wives preceded her in death. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.