Sunday, March 31, 2013

City Park, New Orleans and moving east…

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We really enjoyed our stay in New Orleans and before we left we took one last trip into the city but this time by car and not by the ferry. We drove over the Huey P Long Bridge into the north side of town to visit New Orleans's City Park. This park is a green gem in the hustle and bustle of the Big Easy. We enjoyed this stroll through the park so much that I will only leave some photos below and let the images of the sculptures and parting New Orleans shots speak for themselves.

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We left Bayou Segnette State Park this morning and pulled into Martin Lake Resort in Biloxi , Mississippi. We are booked here for two days but may stay longer if we like it here…

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hiking Jean Lafitte National Historic Park…

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Jean Lafitte Natl Historic Park 015With Easter weekend just around the corner we decided that instead of leaving today and heading over toward Mississippi that we would just stay a few more days. Thankfully there was space available and we didn't even have to move to a new site, score one for us! We will stay here until at least Sunday and may add Monday if the weather looks iffy. That will still leave us 12 days to get to Gaffney, SC for the Freightliner Class and we can stay south a bit longer to enjoy the sunshine.
New Orleans isn’t all about the French Quarter and the city.

Jean Lafitte Natl Historic Park 001To prove this point we headed about 20 minutes south of New Orleans in our CRV with friends Holly and Randy in tow to visit the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park. There are several parts to this Historic Park but the part we wanted to see was the Barataria Preserve outside the town of Marrero which would give us a taste and feel of the Louisiana wetlands. This piece of wilderness provides 23,000 acres of bayous, swamps, marshes and forests along with the local critters that live in this area including the prolific alligators.

Jean Lafitte Natl Historic Park 003One thing becoming more and more evident is that spring has sprung in this part of the USA making us both so happy. This has been a contrasting year to our our first year of full timing in that it has been a much chillier year and worse, I have even had to buy a new pair of jeans since I finally wore out my other pair. Sharon and I much prefer wearing wear flip flops and shorts…

There are some lovely hikes in the preserve but we opted to hike two trails that connected the Palmetto Trail and the Bayou Coquille Trail. These two trials gave us a scenic hike through all the biota Jean Lafitte Natl Historic Park 004types that the preserve has to offer. Greeting us at the trailhead was a Yellow Crowned Night Heron searching for lunch. Many of the plants were greening up including the Sweet Gum, Red Maple, Hawthorns, and Black Cherry. Also many flowering plants such as the Yellowtops and the Dew Berries were starting to display their spring colors so as to attract the pollinators to their showy and colorful flowers. We were a bit too early for the swamps to be covered with large displays of the Giant Blue Iris as only a few were flowering. We did find one or two with its tall leafy stalks topped with the beautiful blue flowers.

As we entered onto the Bayou Coquille Trail there was more water present and as the trail dead ends into Kenta Canal we continued onto the Marsh Overlook Trail. Here we saw several alligators sunning including one magnificent beast that had to be well over 10 feet in length. Unfortunately this trail was an “in and out” Jean Lafitte Natl Historic Park 011trail and not a loop so once we got to the end of the Marsh Overlook we returned back to the Visitors Center the way we came in and just made it back before the parking lot closed up at 5:00 pm. We hiked a total of about 4 miles and thoroughly enjoyed this day since it contrasted sharply with our previous hustle and bustle days in the city…

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Some walks in and around New Orleans…

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Garden District Walk 003The last few days we have been simply taking the ferry over to the city of New Orleans and doing several different walking tours that we found by doing an internet search for free tours. The first walking tour was the Riverside walk. Sharon found an aplet for her android phone that provided a narrative by John Goodman about the landmarks we would encounter as we walked along the riverfront of New Orleans.

We got off the ferry to stroll past the River Front Fountain, the Aquarium and then made our way down along the river through Woldenberg Park. Here we saw the Garden District Walk 009Holocaust Memorial and wandered around it as it changed like a kaleidoscope providing different artistic images at every angle. As we walked a bit further we spotted the Steamboat Natchez plodding along the Mississippi River and as our narrative explained it was one of the few remaining truly steam powered boats  As we headed toward town we were guided past the Jax Brewery to the outdoor amphitheatre and along the way we saw many mimes and street entertainers.  The amphitheatre had attracted a big crowd where some comedian/gymnasts generated lots of laughter and applause. Next we made our way into the French Market enjoying the last of the historical narrative. We wandered inside as I was hoping to buy some Rex branded Blackened Seasoning but was unable to score any this time around.

We opted to not have Coffee and Beignets with the throngs at Café Du Monde but decided instead try the Café Beignet. The beignets were served hot and we enjoyed the less crowded venue where we could leisurely enjoy our treats. We then took a lengthy walk around the Jackson Square and the French Quarter allGarden District Walk 017 the while pausing for photos of the architecture and other interesting sights. Later in the afternoon we stopped at The Embers which has an overhanging patio giving a great view up and down Bourbon Street.  For happy hour we were able to buy a fairly decent priced bottle of Chianti ($22.00 per bottle) and the bottle was an easy choice after comparing prices for a single beer or a glass of wine. It  also gave us a chance to  relax and reenergize after our long walk as we chatted with our friends Holly and Randy while people watching from the patio… Certainly a great spot to watch a wide variety of people from all walks of life here in New Orleans.

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Another day we took a self guided walk in the Garden District that Sharon found online. To get there we went over once again on the ferry and bought a $3.00 all day pass for the trolley. We got on the trolley at Canal Street and took a very

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crowded transfer at Bourbon Street to the Garden District. I had printed out the walking tour for Sharon and as we passed by each landmark we were able to read about the history and characteristics of each home.Each of these 1800's mansions have quite an interesting history and many of these historical houses are now owned by the likes of Anne Rice, Sandra Bullock, Archie Manning and John Goodman. Another highlight was reading about the house where the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, had died in in 1889. He lived quite a long life for people back then.

Garden District Walk 024We stopped for a little happy hour at Superior Seafood in the Garden District and then took the trolley back into the French Quarter. One more stroll around the downtown area and then as we made our way over to toward the Ferry we decided to stop in for a bite at Cafe Masperos, a pretty decent eating spot but with only so so service. One other evening we stopped at a small corner restaurant near the river front. We didn’t review this restaurant before walking in but this is New Orleans so it had to be good. Right? Well Sharon and I ordered a sampler platter of red beans and rice, shrimp creole, gumbo and jambalaya. Every one of the items would not have rated above average and the creole well below average so we learned our lesson not to chance a stop anywhere without first reviewing the place online.

A few more days left here then we head over toward Mississippi as we slowly make our way towards Gaffney, SC  for the Freightliner Class…

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Orleans, LA…

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French Quarter 004We left Betty’s RV Park at around 10 am after we sadly said our goodbyes to Betty and the other residents. Funny how you can make friends at some RV Parks so quickly and at others you can’t buy a friend. We had a fairly short drive of less than 150 miles over to the heart and soul of Louisiana, New Orleans. We will be staying at the Bayou Segnette State Park for six nights. An added treat is that a couple we met while wintering in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas will also be staying at a site near us so we expect some fun times ahead with them.

Since we got into town on a Saturday it seemed that Saturday night would be a great time to experience the nightlife and vibe that only Bourbon Street in the French Quarter could offer. It has been many years since either Sharon or I had been in New Orleans so we were really looking forward to this evening.

French Quarter 011We met our friends, for a glass of wine before electing to drive the car over to the Algiers Ferry. Lots has been written about this ferry offering up some of the best views of the city of New Orleans and we certainly agree.While chugging across the mighty Mississippi River the view of the New Orleans skyline is ever present. This ferry has been in operation since 1827 and is free for pedestrians and only $1 for cars. There is a private lot at the Algiers Ferry Terminal that will charge $5.00 weekdays and $10 weekends to park.

French Quarter 006The ferry lands on the other side of the river at Canal Street right next to the Aquarium of the Americas. With the ferry running daily from 6 am - 12:15 am, and departing every half hour it is a great way to get to downtown New Orleans form the state park.

We walked around a bit before we talked our friends into stopping a a little bar Sharon and I like called the Chart Room where the locals still gather for a cold beverage. From there we strolled over to Bourbon Street and wandered around a bit picking up a “Big Ass Beer” to make the stroll a bit more enjoyable. As hunger set in I recommended we go to one of my New Orleans favorites called Deanies. There was a line of people out front but I guess that is to be expected on a Saturday night. Little did we know it became a two hour wait but since we had just gotten a Big Ass Beer we tolerated the wait.

French Quarter 002Once seated we opted to order the Giant Seafood Platter – half fried and half grilled. It included catfish, shrimp, oysters, soft shelled crab and crawfish balls… man what a fabulous feast this was. Made the wait almost worthwhile… After dinner we went back over to Bourbon Street to do some people watching. Spring break was in full swing here and the amateur drinkers were out in force. We could only handle so much of this so we too, the ferry back to the West Bank and called it a night.

French Quarter 046We actually were somewhat disappointed with our French Quarter experience in that we had hoped to hear Jazz and Blues spilling out onto the street as we had fondly remembered from past visits.  We also had hoped to see few street performers playing the same music. However, all we heard was more current hip hop music geared to the much younger group.  We will wait and see if maybe this was just because of all the spring breakers in the area and not a current norm for the French Quarter.…

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Caught in Betty’s Web…

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Betty's Web 027What can I say but three days at Betty’s is simply not enough time to really get to know and enjoy this part of Louisiana. As I mentioned before that first day we drove into the RV park we thought there is no way we would enjoy this spot. After three days we have come to fully understand what “getting caught in Betty’s web” really means. I am sure there will be another stay at Betty’s in our near future.

We had an absolute blast while we stayed here and I will mention a few of the things we did that made our stay here so very enjoyable. One of the greatest times we had in the past two years happened this past Thursday night when we had the opportunity to go to the Magdalen Square in Abbeville, Louisiana where Geno Delafosse was scheduled to play some live music as a fund raiser for the local community.

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Gino’s band plays a genre of music known down in this part of the world as zydeco. Zydeco is described by Wikipedia as a genre of American folk music that evolved from the Cajun style of creole music. A mixture of blues, jazz and African music this wonderfully upbeat sound just makes you get up and move even if you don’t consider yourself a dancer.

The sound of the fast tempo music coming from the accordion played by Geno combined with the other sounds from his band had the crowd dancing  every song.  Even the seated guests were tapping their feet or swaying to the beat. Pretty much everyone staying at Betty;s RV park showed up at this event and danced nonstop to the music until Geno finally stopped playing after about three hours with no real breaks.

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Betty's Web 048The next day we all went to Delcambre, La. to buy some shrimp from a local shrimper named Rene, who was recently named the Shrimp Festival King and his title was stamped on his white waterproof boat boots.  Captain Rene was quite the character as he explained to us about where and how he caught the shrimp.  He even showed the ladies his tattoo when challenged by one of them to do so. It was a perfect tattoo of a “coon ass” right over his belly button… priceless! Betty's Web 049As directed by Betty we lined up with our coolers and placed our orders for the $3.00 per pound of large freshly caught shrimp. Betty ordered 15 pounds as she is fixing a big pot of shrimp gumbo for her guests back at the park tomorrow evening.  Sadly we will miss this event but this three day stay has been nonstop fun in one of Betty's Web 070the friendliest towns we have ever visited.

The biggest attractions to the park are Betty herself and the people she welcomes in her park.It appears as if she preselects only the right people to come here. Everyone we talked to was interesting and fun and the 4:30 daily happy hours may sometimes resemble Senior Citizens on Spring Break. Betty is such a fascinating and high energy person that you can see very easily why so many people actually get caught up in Betty;s Web… we obviously have…

We leave today for New Orleans and a short stay at Bayou Segnette State Park and after that we are not yet sure…

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Abbeville, Louisiana…

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Abbeville LA 011We had a large thunderstorm pass through the night before we left but when we awoke we had overcast skies and a bit of drizzle. We got an early start and were on the road before 9:00 am. The first half of the drive was mostly under similar weather conditions but about midway to our destination we had clear blue skies. Everything was going smoothly so nothing could go wrong… right? Wrong!

We pulled into Betty's RV Park and if you have never been here before the first though might be “Uh Oh! What have we done!” Betty;’s RV Park is nothing more than Betty’s house surrounded by a large gravel lot with 17 full hookup RV sites squeezed into the lot. I mean the RV’s are right on top of each other reminiscent of many of the west coast waterfront parks. To compound our concerns we walked into the office where Betty informed us that we were a day early and she had no available space for us. In two years of traveling this was a first for us… Yikes!!!

Abbeville LA 012After discussing all of our alternatives Betty finally asked if we would be okay with a 30 amp site because she thought she had a site we could squeeze into. We agreed to taking the site and then we had to reposition the RV until we finally got landed in the site adjacent to a fifth wheel and sticking a wee bit out into Betty's driveway. The squeezing and repositioning does stress Sharon out a little but Betty reminded us that there was a 4:30 pm happy hour gathering on her front porch that we should not miss. As we usually like to do we hustled off to explore our immediate area and hopped in the car to see downtown Abbeville, Louisiana.

Abbeville LA 021What can I say Abbeville is a delightful small town that has a really nice feel about it and as we strolled the streets we had the feeling of stepping back in time. People in this little town are so friendly they will stop you to chat or tell you about what is going in town, its history and what to see. We noticed lots of people milling about so we asked a young lady what was going on and she informed us that a parade route was blocked off and the town had gathered to honor the local girls basketball team who had just won the State Championship. We stayed to watch the small Abbeville LA 016town parade complete with fire trucks and police escorts. When the winning basketball team’s float passed they tossed Sharon some Mardis Gras beads and candy! As the parade passed by we headed back to the car where out in front of a quaint town home we met two elderly (we assumed sisters) sipping on their coffee who stopped and chatted with us about how they thought the whole town was burning down when they heard all the sirens… but then remembered the parade. Too funny…

Abbeville LA 019Back to Betty’s for happy hour and all I can say is that after visiting the small town of Abbeville and meeting all the other folks staying here at Betty’s while enjoying the happy hour we overcame any initial concerns we may have had about staying here. The group embraced us and made plans to include us in the next few days planned activities. What a welcoming place this is and we can't wait to see the surprises that await us.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just hanging out our last few days….

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Hoops TAMU 001We have one more day here in the Brazos Valley before we begin our trek out east. Tomorrow is a fairly long travel day as we will hit the road early to ge the 190+ mile day done before it gets dark. We have never set up camp in the dark and never plan to… Of course we know all about “best laid plans.”

So our last few days here have been cram packed finishing up some last minute Friends in BCS 025details. We have checked out our rent house, went to some Aggie games, met with our former doctor to drop off our Mayo Clinic medical records, and completed a few other odds and ends needed before leaving. We were doing all this in an effort to free up ample time in the evenings to make sure we would be able to meet up with some of our friends that we hadn’t seen yet on this visit and sadly we still didn’t get to see all of our friends… We also were able to take walks in many of our favorite spots such as the George Bush Library where many of today’s photos are from.

Friends in BCS 003The biggest thing we did over the last few days was our annual “Spring Cleaning!” This is where we focus on the interior of the motorhome.  We rented a Rug Doctor once again to clean all the carpet, upholstery and drapes. We love the Rug Doctor as it seems to do the best job of any rental carpet cleaner that we have come across. We don’t buy any of the chemicals that Rug Doctor sells but instead we use a diluted mixture of vinegar and water. We have found over the years that this mixture does a much better job of cleaning than the chemicalsFriends in BCS 026 and leaves no residue behind for more dirt to get trapped in. We also rent the tool attachment to do the upholstery and drapes in the motorhome. I only do one pass on the drapes but will do several on the upholstery. The carpet gets done as many times as I think it takes to get it looking like new (at least 8-10 times).

Friends in BCS 027It is always surprising how much dirt we accumulate even though we vacuum regularly and take our shoes off before entering the motorhome.  Anyway this annual cleaning makes Sharon very happy so even though it takes all day, it is worth it. Once dried everything has the clean, crisp look it likely once had when it was new. Thankfully I also had time to at least wash and rinse the outside of the  motorhome although I didn’t hand wipe it all down like I usually do since we will be in some predicted rainy weather over the next few days..

Whew! Now we are ready to hit the road and start our third year of full-timing off in a nice, clean motorhome… See you next trip… Texas!!!