Saturday, February 27, 2016

Back in Cajun Music Country…


Feb 2016 015One of the big draws for us in coming back to Bettys RV Park is that it is located in the heart of Acadiana with its unique culture and music. No sooner had we arrived when we just had to head over to the Cajun Jam session held every other Saturday at the Museum Café in Erath Louisiana.

The main characters of the band were at one time only strangers to us playing music in a smoky little bar in a small town in Louisiana. That simply isn’t true anymore as several of these folks playing every other Saturday in Erath are now people we know as our friends. It was wonderful to see these folks again and to speak with them between sets. Hard to believe that although we only only come here once or so a year we have such good (and very talented) friends here in Acadiana.


The Museum Café is a quaint little Mom and Pop bar alongside a museum and it is the scene of the biweekly Cajun Jam. We love coming to this event where we are able to get our fill of the squeezebox, steel guitar and the rest of the cast of musicians strumming and belting out some great classic Cajun tunes. Not to mention at the end of the session the patrons and musicians alike are often sent home from the café with a delicious Cajun meal.  Ours that day was smoked sausage with gravy over rice with a side of green beans as well as peaches for dessert!  It is sure not hard to feel welcome in Cajun Country!

I included a video here and will let the music do the talking (Click on the picture to go to Youtube to play the video)…

Sadly a few days after this session the fellow seen playing the Steel Guitar passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. Rest in Peace Eddie and may your music lighten many souls in Heaven…

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Crackling Festival near Abbeville, Louisiana…

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We left Fontainebleau State Park north of New Orleans and hit the road for our 165 mile drive westward. I am certainly happy to be heading west again and looking forward to our adventures this coming year. We drove about halfway over to Abbeville Louisiana and stopped at a truck stop just west of Baton Rouge. We stopped there so we could stock up on the makings for a month of happy hour snacks and beverages. As you know we will be at Betty’s RV Park where there is happy hour every day at 4:30 pm so we needed to stock up.

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Our quick run to Costco and Trader Joes yielded plenty of goodies for us to share at happy hour with the rest of Betty’s RV Park. The remaining drive went off without a hitch but the road south on 90 out of Lafayette Louisiana may be the roughest road we have been on to date and that includes a lot a bad roads throughout the USA!!!

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We have been at Betty’s since Friday afternoon and have settled into our our site. February is usually the coldest month in this part of Louisiana but it has been unseasonably mild here according to Betty. We are glad especially since we will be here a month this year. It may be mild but it sure was stormy yesterday with tornadoes hitting much of the area west of us. We were fortunate to have had nothing more than one severe thunderstorm warning about 20 miles north of us. We really feel for those who lost their lives and RV’s in eastern Louisiana to a tornado yesterday.

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Our first few days of weather were perfect here. One day we headed down to Palmetto Island State Park to attend the Crackling Festival there. For those that don’t know what a crackling or cracklin’ is let me tell you.

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Cracklins are made from pork skin including not only the skin but also some of the attached fat and meat. The pork skin is cut up into cube sized pieces and dropped into a large kettle of hot hog lard. There it will cooked for several hours as the frying renders most of the fat out that is attached. So although they may start with a large chunk of pork skin by the time it is done rendering it reduces considerably in size. It changes from a soft piece of meat, fat and skin to a most delicious treat. A crackly, crunchy chunk of pure deliciousness with a wonderful “bacony” flavor. Since this was a contest we visited with many of the competitors and enjoyed watching how they were preparing their cracklings.

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There were all kinds of cracklings to try and since this is Cajun country where they want to make sure everybody is full and happy, they also put out trays of homemade beignets (powdery deep fried Cajun pastries), sausages, boudin ( a rice/meat sausage), as well as fried apples and bananas. This event was entirely free as long as you paid the $2.00 per head to enter the state park. Now that is a heck of deal and ton’s of fun too!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hiking and biking at Fontainebleau State Park, LA…

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We have enjoyed our stay in Mandeville, LA these last few days. It has been chilly in the mornings but nice during the day. We are in a nice site at Fontainebleau State Park, LA and other than the park being a bit soggy due to recent heavy rains we have really enjoyed this park. We are on a 50 amp site with water and no sewer but are near the bath house which made it all good.

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This is a large state park on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. There are some decent trails to walk on and some lake shoreline with a pier to enjoy. We hiked the small trail near some old sugar mill ruins but the boardwalk trail which went out into the swamp is still un-repaired since Hurricane Isaac hit this area a while back.


The long pier on the lake is a great spot to watch the sunsets over Lake Pontchartrain. The long shadows from the wrought iron railing around the pier casts some beautiful shadows during the twilight hours. We spent several hours over the course of our three day stay visiting this pier.


We are back in the part of the USA where the Acadian culture exists. Known for its great Cajun food and music and we are happy to be back in this part of Louisiana. Nearby are two honky-tonks that we checked out even though there were no musical events occurring during our stay. The oldest one (May 5, 1885) is called the Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall and although it wasn’t even open we simply had to check out this historical music hall. Another well known music venue is Ruby’s Roadhouse. It is more of a dive bar but we still stopped in for a cold one to enjoy the feel of the place.


On another day we drove a short distance over to the Tammany Trace. This is an extensive hike and bike trail on the north shore. We decided to ride about 5.7 miles north on the trail to the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, LA. to take a tour at 2:00 pm and we hoped that the tour would be the same as the last time we stopped here.

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The last time we took this tour it was free and we were shown a brief movie about the brewery and the brewing process.  Next everyone on the tour lined up to go behind the bar to pour their own samples in a pint glass. You were allowed unlimited samples until they closed the bar about a half hour after the end of the tour. What fun this was! Well that was then.... now the charge is $5 per person and tokens are given for four 4 ounce samples. While not nearly as fun as before, at least the tour was actually a tour of the brewery and not just a movie.

Alas, all good things must end as has our stay at Fontainebleau since it is time again to hit the road. We will be heading over to Abbeville where we will be at Betty’s RV Park for a month stay before moving on toward Texas…

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fulltiming–It’s not all Fun and Games!

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We have been on the road nearly five years and for the most part have not had any real bad mishaps. Sure we have had a ding or a scratch or a scrape or two but no real damage has ever happened to our rig. Well on Valentines Day 2016 that all changed…

The travel day morning started as many others as we performed our usual breaking camp routines! We had a longish day ahead of us in terms of time not distance as we were planning to drive along the beach roads from Mexico Beach over to Foley, Alabama. Everything was going good, even the slides all came in, as we got ready to roll. We were low on diesel so I looked in vain along our route for a diesel stop with a truck island making it easy for us to diesel up.

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I usually have no problem finding a good one and plot it in our GPS but I couldn’t find any along our route. So I told Sharon that we would simply have to check out all the gas stations and pick the one that looked like we could get into and out of easily. Boy was that a mistake!

Not too far down the road just outside of Panama City, Florida we spotted a Racetrack gas station on the other side of the road that had an outside pump with easy access. There was an RV in the spot so we decided to pass it up and u-turn back to it. We located a parking lot with an entrance as well as an exit and decided to pull into it to bide time until the RV at the pump had time to leave.

As I turned off the main road and tried to make the turn into the parking lot a lady driver didn’t yield to me and forced me to turn wider into the lot than I wanted. I was watching her in my side mirror to make sure I wouldn’t clip her when we heard a sound no RV’er wants to hear… CRUNCH!!!

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Apparently, unseen by either of us, a low hanging branch on a live oak tree hit the top of the rig and crushed our dome satellite cover. I stopped immediately (and I may have cursed at that time) and got out to assess the damage by climbing the ladder to view the top of the RV. The branch scraped along the front (top) of the RV damaging a small outside light,  breaking an antenna and crushing the King Dome Satellite cover. A scrape mark was left on the top damaging the paint but thankfully I didn’t see any damage to the front cap.

The only thing to do was backup and get out from under this branch. We unhooked the CRV and backed off of it. Then I navigated out of my predicament over to the exit where I began to pull forward when I heard CRUNCH!!! [$%#@^%$$]$# not again!!! This time I apparently caught a rock that was used as an edging as I was pulling out of the driveway. The drop from the driveway to the road was more than I anticipated and my tail end dropped lower thereby catching the rock which scraped out the back corner two driver side bay doors and put a nice dent in one of them along with a little fiberglass crack. Talk about insult to injury ....sigh.

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Well after all this we were able to diesel up, hook the CRV back to the RV and get back on the road. Although most of the damage is not major we were both a bit shook up and were stunned as to how this happened. We are always so cautious and careful yet ended up in this bad situation nonetheless. At least we got to Foley Alabama with no further issues and once we got settled in we were able to unwind.


So what did we learn? ONE – I will never willy nilly look for a gas station again. In the future gas stops will always be planned out. TWO – We will avoid small store parking lots for any type of turn around THREE – the next time a driver doesn’t yield to me I will simply stop and tie up traffic till they are out of harms way. I think it was the distraction of that driver that kept me from seeing the low branch. The tree hugged the building so Sharon could not see the branches above from her vantage point either. We both heard it rather than seeing it....

Once we were able to realize that the damage was mostly minor (although it will be costly to fix and very inconvenient) we reminded ourselves how lucky we still are to be able to enjoy the freedom of our life on the open road. We enjoyed our visit along the sugar sand coasts of Alabama and look forward to our next stop in Louisiana. Sharon said all she could think of was the Shirelle's song lyric:

"Mama said there'll be days like this.
"There'll be days like this," my mama said".

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Despite our tribulations we had a great stay at Foley and enjoyed Flora-Bama as the perfect spot to put this incident behind us. Ahhhh but such is life on the road, not all fun and games, and a little unpleasantness can find you along the way…

We are now in Mandeville, LA for a few days before heading over for a month at Betty’s RV Park… We are looking for to the decompression time!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Last Stop in Florida–Mexico Beach…

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While preparing to leave Brooksville Florida we crossed our fingers when I got ready to pull the slides in. What luck… no problems at all as all four slides came in. It is still a mystery as to why they shut down and did not work at all previously but until something breaks permanantly I suppose we may never figure it out. Anyhow we hit the road north for a longish drive for us.

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We left at 9:30 (early for us) and about 197 miles later we arrived at our next stop at Mexico Beach. The drive up along the coastline was delightful as we had frequent peeks at the gulf coast and the calm blue waters offshore. We are staying at another Passport America park in Mexico Beach called Rustic Sands. We have stayed here before and although the park not amenty rich it makes up for it in its location. I like that it is only a 3 block ride on my bike  right to the beach!

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The day we arrived we also just barely entered the Central Time Zone giving us an extra hour in the day. We took advantage of it since the weather suggested this would be the warmest day we would have here. I spoke with one of the maintenance fellows in our park who suggested we should explore Crooked Beach. We were unaware of it so off we went…

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It was just a few miles outside of Mexico Beach and what a great little find it was. We spent the rest of the day fishing a bit (no luck at all) and then walking a few miles along the white sand beaches. There were lots of shells along this beach and we even found a few new ones we hadn’t encountered before. Also we found several nice sand dollars and even some interesting star fish. We are trying our luck at preserving the sand dollars and a couple of starfish after reading directions off the web.

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The next day we also enjoyed a longer beach walk from a small park near the visitor’s center. We walked all the way from this park to Crooked Beach. Since it was high tide and not low tide like we had the day before shelling was not near as well. We began to stroll closer to the dunes on the way back and I started finding sand dollars that I can only assume had blown in from the beach during some storms.

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Both nights after enjoying the beach we went to one of our favorite little dive bars in Mexico Beach called the Lookout Lounge. With two for one beers during happy hour this became a great place to visit along with some of the wintering residents there to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

We left Mexico Beach on Valentines Day and moved on to our next destination… Foley, Alabama…

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Manatee Sighting at Fanning Springs State Park, FL…

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We planned to leave Brooksville, Florida around 11:00 am since we were asked to arrive in Old Town Florida around 2 as the owner of our next park had a meeting out of town until then. Everything was going as planned when after bringing in the back two slides the slides stopped working again and the front two were still out. I had been reading a lot on the web as to what might cause this problem only to find out very little.

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So when it happened again I called Tiffin Motorhomes and after a lengthy wait spoke with a troubleshooter. He had me test all kinds of things for voltage and nothing seemed to be bad. He also had me pull fuses and put them back in. Sharon tried the slides each time I asked her to and suddenly they worked again.  We are  still perplexed but Tiffin seems to think the slide electronics are losing the signal from the transmission that we are in park. I sure was glad I had two tools I think every RV’er should have for testing electronics are a good volt/ohm digital multimeter and a simple 12 volt test light.   We still don’t know what in the world causes the mysterious “slide don’t work at all” problem but if it happens again it is nice to know Tiffin is just a phone call away for help.

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We drove the nearly 100 miles up to Old Town and pulled into our spot at the Old Town Campground 'N Retreat. Another Passport America Park with full hookups at $18/night for 50 amp service. This park is owned by a fellow who explains all the neat things to see and do in the area. He also pointed out several of his favorite eateries on a map he gave us.. I really like these mom-n-pop RV parks and love supporting them. Although it was not the fanciest park in the USA the people were friendly and we even found a tree in the park that someone had carved an incredible face where an old branch once came off the tree.

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The next day we woke up to a temperature of 31 degrees Fahrenheit which is one degree below freezing!!! To us this meant Epic Fail!!! We have been on the road almost five years and have never before seen temperatures below freezing. It has been one of our main goals when traveling around the USA in our RV. We like to follow spring north and fall south in the hope of avoiding freezing temperatures. Epic fail…

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We did, however, find a positive to these cold temperatures. That being the manatees in the area usually will be huddling up in the warm springs found throughout this part of Florida. The next day we headed over to bike part of the Natures Coast Trail but it was still quite windy so we turned around and biked over to Fanning Springs State Park.


Even though it was later in the day there were still several manatees lounging in the perpetual 72 degree spring water. We watched for a long time as they would bob up and down to stick their nose out for a breath of the chilly air. We stayed long enough that they all eventually swam past us under the pier and headed back out into the Suwannee River. We really loved watching the manatees enjoy the 72 degree springs that fed into the Suwanee River!

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Next we hiked a small trail and also took the boardwalk to where the springs appear to originate. We even spotted a Red Shouldered Hawk all fluffed out trying to stay warm. The hawk let us get real close and never flew away. We assume he stayed put to preserve both heat and energy.  The boardwalk took us through a beautiful stand of very large bald cypress trees. A great way to spend the day…

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Next up for us is a longer drive north and west to Mexico Beach where we will spend a few nights before moving further west and finally on out of Florida…