We are now staying at our actual address. The Escapee's park in Livingston Texas. We will be here long enough to get all of our vehicle registrations and other paperwork taken care of. This park is the most peaceful place we have camped in so far. Completely quiet in the mornings and no bright security lights overnight. Very relaxing. We waited way too long to pick up our mail... It must have weighed 10 lbs. It took forever to shred all of the junk mail that was somewhat sensitive from a security standpoint, like all those stupid checks the credit card companies all send hoping you will forever sink yourself into debt. It took way longer due to the fact that we got rid of our shredder and now use scissors and patience to accomplish our security goals. Next purchase, a mini shredder... To Dee and John, thanks for keeping in touch. Your comment posted perfectly!
Monday, September 21, 2009
We finally made it to Texas! We are in the small city of Beaumont and have already noticed many differences from home. There are different speed limits on the highways during daylight hours compared to nightime hours. The gas stations sell single bottles of beer on ice, however open containers are illegal... Go figure. Football is everything here and nascar is definitely secondary. We ran into a group called the 8th Wonder Wheelers which is a group of Houston Texan fans who meet before home games and have a great time. They filled the campground on Friday and left for the game on Sunday morning. Once again, there are many people living and working out of this campground. The trucks all leave for work between 5:00 and 7:00 am, we met one couple that is staying here while working that said it was worth it to save an extra hour and a half commute every morning. Makes a lot of sense to me... The trains here are serious. They are pushed and pulled by multiple engines and can take up to five minutes to cross an intersection... We also ran into a variety of grackle called the great tailed grackle that sings like you wouldn't believe, almost like a mockingbird. We aren't in a tourist area right now, but we'll still post the photo's we have.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday morning we woke up raring to go see the sights. Even though we were warned against it for safety reasons, we decided to go alone, rather than pay for a tourguide. We started out at Saint Louis Cemetery #1, one of the "cities of the dead." In these cemeteries, all burial sites are above ground. Tombs are dated from the 1700's through 2008. Look closely at some of the photos, it is eerie...It was built in 1789 and is home to 100,000 dead, including Marie Leveau. She was a famous voodoo priestess whose tomb is covered with X's written by visitors hoping for her favor. The ground around the tomb is littered with offerings ranging from coins and flowers to condoms and i.d. tags. It is believed that if you turn in a circle three times and then mark the tomb with three X's, your wish will come true. Vicki gave it a try. The jury will remain out for a while to see if it works. We wandered in awe through the cemetery for almost an hour and never felt unsafe, cursed maybe, but never unsafe.
Next on the schedule was the Historic Voodoo Museum. Small, weird and wonderful. It was fascinating to read about the intertwining of African and Haitian religion and catholicism. A lot of catholic saints are worshipped in Voodoo, including Our Lady of Czestochowa (for those of you in Bucks County). At the back of the museum there was a working alter at which people had left notes, offerings and voodoo dolls. Pretty cool.
Next up was a very long walk through the French Quarter down to the Mississippi river. We ate lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and then saw the French Market, St. Louis Cathedral, Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square and the riverboat "Natchez," along with everything else along the way. We found the area to be alive and friendly, filled with street performers of all kinds. We stopped to give a couple of dollars to a guy tap dancing on the sidewalk on soda cans attached to his sneakers. Check out the picture of the silver guy; there are several of them around the Quarter posing as statues. After a long, hot walk back to the rv park, we took a much needed swim and planned for day 3.
This morning we drove ourselves (again against everyone's advice) down to the lower 9th ward. This is the area that was devastated during Katrina and is being rebuilt with the help of Brad Pitt and the Make it Right foundation. The new houses are truly unique and impressive, but the majority of the area is still in ruin. The cleanup seems to be coming along well, but the rebuilding is slow. We saw many houses with spray paint still on the front from the search and rescue workers. All of them were dated September 11th or later; the hurricane came through on August 29th! The pictures above really speak for themselves; it's a real mix of hope and desperation in that area, and our hearts went out to the people we saw there. Again, it should be mentioned that we never once felt threatened or unsafe. We were visciously attacked by very healthy mosquitos, which can apparently fly at speeds approaching 20mph. That is about as fast as you can go in the 9th Ward because chunks of road are missing.
Lastly, we found a real treasure from the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives book today! Rivershack Tavern is in Lafayette- about 7 miles from where we're staying. It's a funky little place known for its "tacky ashtrays." If you bring in a tacky ashtray, you get a free drink, and the walls are covered with amazing examples of just how tacky ashtrays can be. Mike Baskind is the chef and he is known for his creative specials. He is also a very warm and generous man. He was more than happy to sign our book, and he is so excited about his craft that he sent out complimentary samples of two of his specials for us to try. The cheddar, beer and broccoli soup was simple and fresh and amazing. We had seen another guy at the bar order the entree special, and we knew that we didn't have enough of an appetite to tackle it. But when Mike sent out a sample of it, we realized that we had made a mistake. It was succulent braised pork with jalapeno in the background, wrapped in a tortilla and topped with a fresh pineapple salsa. Wow! I don't know how he came up with something like that, but it was out of this world. The buffalo shrimp appetizer was light and crispy, not like the greasy fried popcorn shrimp stuff you get everywhere else, and Porter's BLT was perfect. Thank you to Shelly and Mike for showing us such a good time. Tomorrow we're heading for Texas!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Getting closed up and ready to leave Alabama was interesting. We had to work between huge downpours and the hookups were under several inches of water and muck. Once we were road ready, the trip to New Orleans was uneventful and easy. Upon arrival, the first thing I normally do is hook up the electricity to get the air conditioners running (after opening a beer of course). I put my ice cold beer on the ground next to the RV to plug in, turned around and there was a tree frog enjoying the condensation on my beer bottle. He was a brave little bugger and allowed me to pick up the bottle and drink while he climbed onto my finger. The campground here is like no other we have seen. It is in the city on the edge of the French Quarter backed into a very depressed area. There are two amazing historic cemeteries here, one is directly behind the RV park and the other is about a block away. More on those later, with photos. The city skyline is very nice from here and very different from what we've been used to recently. I-10 is elevated and just behind the park but doesn't create any noise except for the occasional screaming sportbike or exhaust brake during the day and almost silent at night. We've gotten used to RV parks being close to railroad tracks and airports, zoning laws I think, so this is actually very quiet. The view of the city from the bedroom window is very nice at night. We have a billboard close enough to fall on the RV which is also a new experience for us. The pool and hot tub are beautiful as are the rest of the facilities here. There is a wall all the way around the park with nasty DNA collecting razor sharp blades on top and a locked gate that has security watching at all times. We feel good that the police station is only about a block away and police presence is high everywhere. We can walk to anywhere in the French Quarter from here and will update as soon as we can! Hello to everybody!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Yesterday we hunted down the "dog friendly" beach we were told about. There is a sign with all the beach rules listed and one rule is No Pets... We had been informed that nobody really minds and the odd rare patrol vehicle may tell you to remove your dog or make sure you clean up after him. We pretended not to see the sign and walked onto the beach. Not more than 100 yards down the beach was a couple surf fishing with a loose dachsund running around digging holes. We felt better and went for a walk and swim. The dunes are fantastic and the beach is deserted. Dogs must be kept under control as this is a nature preserve. Rodeo had a great time in the water and we took a long walk on Gator Lake Trail where the lizards facinated the dog. The salt and sand covered dog needed a good rinse when we got home and immediately sat down to relax in the outdoor recliner.
Anybody who knows me (Vicki) knows that I am obsessed with the Food Network. A few weeks ago, I bought the "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" book by Guy Fieri. In it, he lists all the places he visited on the show and prints some of their recipes and photos. Whenever we get to a new city, I check the book to see if any of the restaurants are nearby. I got lucky here; Panini Pete's is in Fairhope, Alabama- about thirty minutes from our RV park. So today I took my book (like a complete foodie dork) to Pete's and ordered the "official bird of Flavortown" panini. (It's a turkey sandwich- Guy Fieri is always joking about Flavortown) The waitress asked Pete to come to our table, where he graciously signed my book and chatted with us about Fieri and good, local food. He even admitted that he takes his book with him whenever he travels and gets autographs too! A fellow foodie dork! My goal is to visit all the restaurants in the book before this adventure is over. Thanks to Panini Pete for giving me such a positive start!