Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Martin Accordions and Betty's RV Park…

Image may contain: 8 people, including DanandMerlene Goan and Lynne Gantt, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoorWe woke up to some chilly temperatures at Fountainebleau State Park while packing up to make our way over to Abbeville, Louisiana for a month long stay at Betty’s RV Park. For those that don’t know Sharon calls this park “the happiest place in Louisiana” and I must say I agree.

The ride over was not too bad despite the guaranteed congestion through Baton Rouge. We pulled into Betty’s, hurriedly set up and made our rounds to greet all of our old friends only to discover most had gone to the Fin, Feather and Fur Festival so we hopped back into the car and headed their way.

We arrived too late for all the tastings (sigh) but we had fun seeing so many familiar faces while an auction was going on to help support the local Volunteer Fire Department. At the end of the auction Sharon and I made the rounds to the cookoff contestants and were able to sample of few of the fares we missed including the “Peoples Choice” winner’s Corn and Crab Bisque… YUM!

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day so of course we had a party at Betty’s during happy hour(s). Corned beef, cabbage and all the proper fixings were served up and enjoyed by all. It was so great reconnecting with friends such as Dan and Merlene, Jim and Nanc and Sue Jean and Dan, Susan and Dan… and of course. making new friends such as Karen and Brian from Australia!

We also made a trip over to Martin Accordions in Scott, Louisiana. where custom accordions are handmade. This multi-generation family business has built “squeezeboxes” for Cajun and Zydeco musicians all over the world for over 30 years. Betty assured all in our group this would be a unique behind the scenes tour.

As the tour began, Junior Martin told us he is the one in charge, unless his wife shows up. His daughter, Pennye a retired principal also works at the shop performing administrative duties and is the spokeswoman for the tours. Next we were introduced to Junior’s grandson Joel who once worked at the store and still does occasionally but is now a full time musician though he does play at Martin’s shop for the tours. Junior Martin was quite the musician himself as he had toured with Marc Savoy.

       Image may contain: 2 people, including John Dean      Image may contain: John Hinton, standing

We learned that Junior Martin opened up shop in the mid-1970s. Today the starting price for a Junior Martin accordion is $2,700 and the price goes up depending upon any custom modifications. They use about 40 different woods and depending on which wood is selected the price can vary quite a bit. Around the shop there were cubbyholes each holding an accordion in the process of being built. The best way to spot an accordion made by Junior Martin's is their crawfish design on the bellow.

     Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, shoes and indoor      Image may contain: 1 person

The tour of the shop was not the highlight however, because Pennye, Junior and Joel also perform for the tour groups on a small stage set up in the shop. Here Pennye educates visitors about the history of Martin Accordions but better yet, she discussing the history of Cajun Music. As she talks about some of the history the family follows it up with a performance playing some select songs reflecting that historic time in the music scene.

They played songs from the late 1800’s all the way to current times where Cajun music and Zydeco now rule. Pennye says she does this because many of the visitors have never heard Cajun music or Creole or Zydeco and therefore don’t know the differences.

What a great tour and and even better musical performance…

NOTE: This blog was published using blogger since my 400 errors came back, sorry for the formatting but until I solve how to best use this for publishing it will have to do. We are now at Betty’s RV park for a month before continuing on toward Texas…

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Fontaineblue State Park in Louisiana…

Image may contain: Sharon Hinton, smiling, sitting and outdoor

It rained most of the night at Mcleod Park Campground in Kiln, MS but stopped early in the morning. Since we were right on the river I made my coffee and took it outside to enjoy while I fished right behind our RV. I had been craving some blackened catfish so I was bottom fishing hoping to catch some fresh filets. Well after several hours with no bites at all,  I put everything up and got the RV ready for departure.

It would be a longer drive in very cool temperatures and some drizzle on the roadways but we made our way westward into Louisiana and eventually pulled into Fontainebleau State Park. We are expecting more rain and much cooler temperatures in this area during our two night stay.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoorImage may contain: tree, plant, sky, bridge, outdoor, nature and water

We hiked on several of the park trails before the skies cut loose with the promised rains. There were some nice trails in the state park and a really nice little boardwalk trail that took us out into the swamp. It was closed due to hurricane damage the last time we were here so we took full advantage of the new construction.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, tree, plant, outdoor and natureImage may contain: cloud, sky, plant, bridge, grass, tree, outdoor, nature and water

We really enjoyed these peaceful hikes and we found a couple of small alligators to photograph while on the boardwalk trail.  There was also a lot of evidence of feral hogs in the park as there were a lot of heavily disturbed areas due to their constant rutting in the soil for food.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and waterNo photo description available.

Another nice feature we enjoy in the  park is the long pier that juts out into Lake Pontchartrain. On the way to the pier we walked through several majestic Live Oaks each of which was draped in Spanish Moss. The Spanish Moss was dancing all along the oak’s branches in the blowing wind. Upon arriving waterside, we walked out to the end of the pier to take in the panoramic sights of the lake. It was nice to share some quiet time together before we move on to Betty’s RV park where there will be plenty of socializing, day tours and trips to music venues.  Let the fun begin!

Image may contain: tree, plant, grass, sky, outdoor and natureImage may contain: Sharon Hinton, smiling, standing, sky, cloud, mountain, bridge, outdoor, water and nature

NOTE: We are now at Betty’s RV park for a month before continuing on toward Texas…

Monday, March 18, 2019

Quickly Traveling West, Avoiding Storms…

Image may contain: food

Image may contain: bird, ocean, outdoor and waterWe packed up and left Eastbank Corps of Engineers Park just after 10:00 am and two minutes later we were back in Florida continuing our trek east across the panhandle. Three hours later we were in Alabama and pulled into a park we have stayed before called Wilderness RV Park. It is a no frills spot just fine for a one night stop over.

It was overcast but warm so we drove over to check out the town of Fairhope. We had heard good things about the town so we decided to check it out. It was a quaint little coastal town and we found a city park with a nice pier that we walked to the end of. While exploring the town and while driving through a neighborhood we stumbled upon a Hollywood film crew. A google search revealed it will be a movie called The Best Friend and will star Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson! It will be fun to look for the movie release knowing we were in town while they were filming it. Anyway, we ended our town tour at Fairhope Brewing Company and enjoyed a couple of nice brews.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, ocean, sky, outdoor, water and natureImage may contain: drink and indoor

We drove back to the park and when morning came a cold front was about to come through so we pushed on westward. After several hours we pulled into a park called Mcleod Park Campground in Kiln, MS leaving us on 44 miles from our next stop. We stopped here so we could check out this interesting little county park and since rain was in the forecast, we wanted to be close to our next stop in case the skies were unfriendly to us…

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and natureImage may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, ocean and outdoor

We checked with the attendant who told to pick any empty site then come back and pay. We found a fabulous one right on the water! We backed into the site and paid after setting up. It was overcast and threatening to rain. With the weather being very dicey we decided to spend the day checking out the new casino nearby.

As with most casinos the Scarlet Pearl Casino offered us $10. free play as new members. Not only that but we were also told we could have a free lunch buffet if we wanted but we had to hurry before it closed. Hurry, we did! The normally $19.95 per person buffet was really good and included items such as stuffed flounder, boiled shrimp, boiled clams, fried shrimp, roasted turkey and much much more…

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, tree, plant, sky, child, shoes, outdoor, nature and waterImage may contain: tree, sky and outdoor

Needless to say we overate and then we remembered dessert!!! We rarely eat dessert but had to check out what they had. Wow, big mistake as we got a huge plate of tantalizing desserts and ate even more before we left. We rarely eat at buffets for the simple reason that we typical eat way too much but we would highly recommend this buffet if you like this sort of thing.

We gambled with our free play on their video poker machines and left with a little over $20. It was a great day at the casino for us… Our next stop will be at Fontaineblue State Park in Louisiana.

NOTE: We are now at Betty’s RV park for a month before continuing on toward Texas…

Saturday, March 16, 2019

We Walked Across Two States…

Image may contain: tree, plant, bridge, outdoor and nature

We sure enjoyed our three night stay near The Villages but it was time hit the road. We will be moving a bit faster than normal since we have reservations at Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville, Louisiana on March 16th. Therefore we drove over to Lamont Florida for just a one night stay.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, tree, plant, outdoor and natureImage may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

We found a nice little hike in the nearby town of Monticello Florida. The Monticello Ecological Park was a gem especially since spring is nearing as there were lots of plants in bloom. The short loop trail had a boardwalk which took us to the height of the tree canopy offering glimpses of what mostly just the birds see. It was a nice hike to end the day’s travel.

Image may contain: sky, tree, cloud, plant and outdoorImage may contain: plant, nature and outdoorImage may contain: plant, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

The next day we drove to Eastbank Corps of Engineers Park just across the Georgia state line. This was a fabulous campground and we scored a beautiful site. We set up camp and took a stroll to the spillway a little over a mile away. Interestingly when we walked across the dam we crossed back into Florida meaning we walked from Georgia to Florida! Hah!

Spring was also emerging here as many early bloomers were on full display. It offered a sight of beauty in an otherwise woodland in total disarray after the hurricane blasted through last year. All around us there were many trees snapped in half  making the forest look as if it had been bombed from up above. The only reason we are camped this far north in the Florida panhandle was because our favorite campground in Mexico Beach was decimated by the hurricane as well.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, tree, cloud, outdoor and natureImage may contain: Sharon Hinton, smiling, cloud, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

It was cloudy and threatening rain on our second day. We did however sneak another walk over to the spillway where angler’s were working hard to catch an elusive striper. The Ospreys and cormorants at the base of the dam were having much better luck catching shad and other fish than the anglers.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor, nature and waterImage may contain: tree, sky, plant, cloud, outdoor and nature

Earlier in the morning the fog was thick and offered up some fun for the photographer in me as I snapped some photos of another angler trying his luck in the wee hours. I love how the grey of the fog melds with the greys in the lake to make things appear to float. Surreal….

Image may contain: outdoorImage may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

NOTE: We are leaving Fontainebleau State Park today and will head west to Betty’s RV park for a month before continuing on towards Texas…

Monday, March 11, 2019

Exploring The Villages in Florida…

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Moving northward we were heading toward the Villages, a well known retirement community in north central Florida. We will be there for three nights and we plan to visit two RV’ing couples we met on the road who now have homes in the Villages. One lives there fulltime while the other couple are snowbirds from Illinois.

We pulled into Three Flags RV Resort in Wildwood Florida near The Villages and set up camp. We walked over  to visit our friend Jill (who had penned a blog called Two Tools and a Dream when she was RV’ing) and her new partner Roy. They had just purchased a Class B which they were trying out for the first time at Three Flags in a site near us. They invited us over to their home the next day to spend the night to give us the “insiders” view of The Villages. Awesome!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Jill Kohler, people smiling, closeupImage may contain: sky, house and outdoor

For those that don’t know The Villages is a master-planned age-restricted community which currently spans nearly 25 miles with over 115,000 people living there. The Villages is one of the most well-known and fastest-growing retirement communities. The Villages offers numerous forms of recreation with the majority of the costs paid  via the monthly amenities fee of around $175.00.


The Villages operates 50 golf courses with the majority (38) of them being 9-hole courses only. They also have numerous recreation centers offering pools along with bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts, billiards,  meeting rooms  tennis and pickleball courts as well as theatrical and musical productions. The Villages operates 11 parks, dog parks, and fitness trails. It also offers over 2700 social clubs for residents of the area. They even have a softball complex and a Polo field.

Image may contain: sky and outdoorImage may contain: 3 people, tree, crowd, sky and outdoor

The Villages brings in big name entertainment such as Willie Nelson and the Beach Boys. They even have nightly bands playing in each of their three town squares seven nights a week, 365 days a year. This place actually has its own TV station, newspaper, radio station and Town Centers.


Jill and Roy showed us all around taking us on a golf cart tour as well. Amazingly there are  tunnels for the golf carts to go under busy roadways. That evening Jill and Roy treated us to dinner and then we checked out the rock and roll band playing in the town square where there was a big crowd enjoying dancing and libations. How great it was to experience the Villages with Jill and Roy as our guides.

Image may contain: plantImage may contain: plant, outdoor, nature and water

Our last day we used the passes Jill got for us to take our own self guided tour. First we took a stroll at the Sharon Rose Wiechens Preserve in The Villages.  This is a nice short boardwalk hike which offers a nice relaxing stroll with lots of bird activity in and along the water. Afterward we stopped in for a short visit to say hi to our friends the Parhams who just moved into The Villages this winter. Sadly Steve was out of town but we still had a great chat with Diane who gave us a tour of her new 3 bedroom villa with a glassed-in lanai.  She said she and Steve were loving it there.

MVIMG_20190308_142259Image may contain: Diane Conolty Parham, smiling, car and shoes

Our last evening we checked out another square for the nightly entertainment and happy hour. Sharon could easily see herself living in this place and while I admit it is  pretty incredible it still isn’t for me. Lacking mountains and/or a beach nearby are pretty much deal breakers to me, but who knows what our future will be on the road of retirement…

NOTE: We are at Eastbank Corp of Engineer park on the Georgia/Florida border and moving west to Robertsdale Alabama for one or two nights depending upon the weather…