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11/28/13 - Thanksgiving


I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.  It was strange not being with my family this year and I really missed everyone up in Chicago.  I'm glad we'll be with our Louisiana family for Christmas!

We spent the day at two state parks:  Cypremort Point State Park and Lake Fausse Pointe State Park and then went to the movies.

Leaving from Abbeville, we drove SE to Cypremort, then
NE to Lake Fausse Pointe and finished the day by driving NW
to Lafayette and back to Abbeville for a total of 162 miles  

Cypremort Point is on the Gulf of Mexico.  It was chilly but sunny and we spent about 20 minutes walking on the beach and enjoying the view.   It was incredibly peaceful, we only saw one other couple there (and no otters).   

Most houses right on the Gulf are built on stilts.
A beautiful day for a walk along the Gulf of Mexico
Since Cypremort Point didn't have any hiking trails, we decided to drive north to Lake Fausse Pointe State Park.   It was a looooong drive.    For the last 10 miles the GPS had us going on a gravel and sometimes just dirt road where we could only drive 15-20 mph.    I was sure this park was going to be deserted since it's so hard to get to but, of course, I was wrong.  There was another road (paved) which is how everyone else goes and the park had a good amount of campers and hikers.

A is for Armadillo

The park had nice, well-marked trails.  We took trail B which was a 1.5 mile loop and I saw my first up-close armadillo.  Then I saw my 2nd, 3rd and 4th!   Maddie wanted to chase them but we kept her on-leash (mostly).   She seems to really like the hikes we take her on.

Maddie loved chasing the Armadillos

After about an hour spent hiking it was time to get back in the truck and head to Lafayette for our movie.   We went to see "12 Years a Slave", a powerful and disturbing movie about a free black man living in New York state in 1843 who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.   I highly recommend it.

11/27/13 - Avery Island and the Jungle Garden

Wednesday - 11/27/13

Happy Golden Birthday Katie!

Today we drove about 20 minutes to Avery Island, home of the world-famous Tabasco Pepper Sauce  When we got to Avery Island we had to pay a "toll" of $1.00 to cross a small bridge.
HighTech way of collecting tolls
Clothespin on a stick
Hey, whatever works!

As we walked into the factory they gave each person four small bottles of Tabasco as a souvenir.  We  saw a brief movie explaining the history of Tabasco and then walked thru a viewing gallery and watched the bottling process.   Edward McIlhenny founded the company shortly after the Civil War ended.  The McIlhenny family is still very involved in all areas of production.   At one time there were 700 acres of pepper plant on the property, now it's down to 30 acres.   Seeds from these plants are cultivated and shipped to South and Central America for growing.   The recipe hasn't changed much since the company was founded.

After the tour, we went into the gift shop where I bought an ornament.  With every purchase they ask if you want a FREE gallon of tabasco sauce.   Not ones to pass up such a deal we got TWO gallons of tabasco sauce.  The sauce is fine, they were giving it away because the sell-by date was coming up and can't be sold after it expires.   The shelf life is five years so I guess I better start developing a taste for Tabasco.

Down the road, about 1/2 mile, are the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island.   The three mile drive goes through many different areas.  There are marshes, lagoons, flower gardens, a bird sanctuary and even a giant Buddha.    We were able to get out of the car and walk along some of the trails.

 These oak trees are 
200-300 years old!  
Imagine the history they've seen.

The Buddha was a gift to E.A. McIlhenny in 1936.
It was created for the Shonfa Temple during the reign of
 Emperor Hui-Tsung 900 years ago.

Primordial Forest

11/24 - 11/26/13 - Cold and Rainy

Sunday, 11/24/2013

Today was sunny but cool.  We drove south almost to the Gulf of Mexico through sugar cane fields and rice paddies.   We would have liked to stop somewhere and walk around but there really wasn't a good place to stop.   When we got back to the rig we joined everyone else for "happy hour".   One of our fellow campers owned two restaurants in Washington State and he made salmon chowder for everyone (well, almost everyone - two of us don't like fish).   There was quite a spread and it was nice getting to know some of our fellow campers.   Some of the people here will stay for 3-4 months, this is their winter home and they come back every year.

Monday, 11/25/2013

There is a state park very close to us, Palmetto Island State Park, and we decided to visit it today.   The forecast is for rain today thru Wednesday but we chanced it anyway.   It's about 10 minutes from Betty's and we got there around 12:30.  We hiked a small nature trail and walked by a pond.  There were bubbles in the water, alligators or turtles?    The park is located on the Vermillion River and they rent canoes - something for next time.  We were there about an hour before the rain started and we headed back.

Seriously?  Alligators?

Cypress Trees

Spider, what spider?

I need a caption, best one gets posted.
When we got back to Betty's, Marty went to a "jam" session in the pavilion.  Only one other person showed up but that person, Dan, offered to let us use their kayaks if we want to go back to the state park.   I'd love to try kayaking again but it's in the 40's - 50's here and probably not going to be any warmer than that before we leave on Sunday.   Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, my hesitation has nothing to do with my last kayaking experience.  

Tuesday, 11/26/13

What a lazy day!   We woke up to rain pouring down and it continued all day.  We drove into town to find a laundromat and did 5 loads of laundry.   When we came back we found that Maddie got into the garbage (bad dog!).  I guess she couldn't resist the smell of the bacon from breakfast.   Lesson learned, always put away the garbage when we leave.   This is one lesson we keep forgetting, she's done this 3-4 times.  I guess we're the old dogs who can't learn new tricks.   Once we got everything cleaned up and put away  I worked on organizing my photos on the computer and Marty went to the pavilion to play his guitar.    After dinner we both worked on our computers and it's still raining.     

11/23/13 - Martin Accordions

Saturday, 11/23/13

Accordions are a big part of the Cajun music culture and today Betty took us campers to the home of Martin Accordions      I was afraid we'd just walk around and look at a bunch of old accordions and learn a little history, boy was I wrong!  

When I think of accordions I think of polka music and big, heavy accordions (and my dad).  Those kind of accordions are called "piano accordions"   The accordions made by the Martin family are Melodeons a smaller, lighter version perfect for playing Cajun and Zydeco music.   Not only did we learn the history of how the accordion became such a big part of the Cajun culture, we were also treated to a mini-concert.

The Martin Accordion Company is a family run business.  Clarence "Junior" Martin is 73 years old.  He was always musically inclined but to support his family he was a  woodworker and cabinet maker.   He had a friend who made accordions and when Junior expressed an interest in building one for himself he was told "you can't just build one" and sure enough when he was finished he had built seven, one of which his 26 year old grandson, Joel, still plays.   He started the Martin Accordion Company about 32 years  ago with those seven accordions.  When asked how many they make each year he said it differs because each  is a special order.   In their busiest year they made 150!
Note the crawfish on the bellows,
they've copyrighted that and
it's hand painted on each
accordion at customer request

His daughter, Penny, is a school principal and plays with the family whenever she can.  She explained to us the history of the accordion and it's importance in both Cajun and Zydeco music.   Cajun music is played in either a waltz tempo or in a two step tempo.   Zydeco has influences from Cajun and Creole and is more "bluesy" and "rhythmic".    I never knew the difference but now I can hear it.
Penny, Junior, and Joel
Hmmmm, I bet I could play this.  
Penny plays guitar, triangle and bass.   Junior's favorite instrument is the steel guitar (another fascinating instrument) and Joel plays five instruments with the Melodeon being his favorite.    Joel has a CD out with some amazing music on it, of course we bought one.   His Cajun rendition of "Amazing Grace" was absolutely beautiful.  

We arrived here at 10:00 A.M. and left around noon, it was the quickest two hours I've spent in a long time.    Heading back to Abbeyville we stopped at "Cheddars" for lunch and sat with Vicky and Jay from Washington state.    Lunch wasn't very good (the service was terrible) but the company was and we did some more "brain-picking".  

After lunch we made a quick stop at a meat market, Hebert's, where we picked up a local specialty, boudin.  Boudin is a combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers and seasonings which is blending together and then stuffed into a sausage casing.  We bought that kind but there are lots of different ones; alligator, crawfish, shrimp - anything they have down here they can make it with.  

11/22/13 - Mandeville!

Friday, November 22, 2013

We decided to take a drive to Mandeville, LA today - it's only 150 miles one way!  Why did we do this?  Because what else is there to do on a rainy day in Louisiana - just kidding, there is actually a lot of things that we want to do and I hope we have time for them all.  We will be in Mandeville on Sunday, December 1st and we wanted to check out both of their state parks to see which would work better for us.

We left Abbeville around 10:00 and  drove mostly on Interstate 10 which went through the Atchayala WFR, which is pretty amazing -  it was a misty, foggy morning exactly the way a swamp should look.   Then it started to pour and we ran into a lot of traffic and it wasn't such a fun ride anymore.

We arrived at Fairview State Park and talked to a very nice park employee (he was the park manager) who gave us some suggestions on how to circumvent the two week stay rule.   Thanks to this very nice young man we are going to stay at Fairview for 4 full weeks, 2 weeks working on a Habitat for Humanity Build and 2 weeks to explore the area and spending some time with one of our favorite families, the Winchells.

Site 26, Our home for December

Becky, Mary, Marty and Maddie
And since we were so close to their house, we decided why wait until December, let's see if anyone is home now and lucky for us Becky and one of her daughters, Mary Margaret were!  The younger kids were still in school but we will see them next time.   We had a very quick visit of their lovely new home and then it was time to hit the road and head back the 150 miles to Betty's RV Park.  

We got back around 7:00 and thought we missed Happy Hour but these people are really happy and were still hanging out in the lounge area.   We picked up the directions for our tour tomorrow and headed in for the the night.

11/21/3 - Travel Day - Texas to Louisiana


Thursday, 11/21/13

Another Day, Another State
We wanted to be on the road this morning by 10:00 and we were on the road at 10:08 - we are definitely getting better at this.   We drove 200 miles from Livingston, Texas to Abbeville, Louisiana and arrived at Betty's RV Park around 3:30.  Oh yeah, we stopped at a truck stop Hardee's for lunch and there was a small (very small) casino connected to it.  I put $5.00 in a machine and came out with $6.75 - I think I'm going to like Louisiana.

Our home for the next 10 days

Once we got settled, we joined the rest of the "campground" at Happy Hour.   There are a total of 16 sites in a gravel parking lot - definitely a different kind of camping experience.   We met our fellow campers and sat with Marvin who is Cajun and gave us lots of things to do in the area (mostly food things).    Tomorrow we go exploring!

11/20/13 - This and That

Wednesday, 11/20/13

Happy Trails!

We said our goodbyes to Art and Ricky this morning. They are headed west towards San Antonio and we are headed for Cajun country in Louisiana on Thursday. Maybe when we head west this winter  our paths will cross again - I hope so.  

We have had a problem with our microwave since right before we left Chicago. It turns on for no reason at any time of the day and night. We finally called a repair service to come out and look at it. Unfortunately we need a new circuit board, switches and touch pad. Everything is on back order here and since we are leaving tomorrow we will take care of this problem once we get to Louisiana   It's not a big deal as long as we remember to unplug it in when it's not being used  

The park we are staying at (Rainbow's End) is at the Escapees club headquarters In Livingston Texas.  Escapees is a RV Club that was started in 1978, this park opened in 1984 and was the first of about 20 parks scattered through the south and southwest United States. If you join the Escapees Club you can stay at any of their parks for a reasonable rate. We've paid 19.00 a night here which keeps us under the 20.00 a night we've budgeted.

Here in Livingston they have the Care Center which was opened in 1992.  
One of the Care volunteers lives in this tiny trailer!
The Care Center's mission is "to provide a safe haven with professional assistance at affordable prices for Escapee members whose travels are permanently ended because of age or temporarily interrupted because of health problems". For the low cost of $1275.00 per month for a couple, they receive 3 meals a day, snacks, 3 loads of laundry per week, transportation to stores and doctor appointments and many activities. They are able to provide this through donations and volunteers. There are 35 campsites for residents and 7 separate campsites reserved for volunteers. Volunteers work in the kitchen and drive residents to appointments. As a volunteer you receive your site for free (you just pay for electric). You also get 3 meals a day and the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people. This is something we may do in the future. We were pretty impressed with the atmosphere and care they give their clients. The care center director, Russ, gave us our tour. He visited the center for the first time in the spring of 2012 with the intention of continuing on to Alaska but he ended up staying in texas and working for the care center.

11/18/13 - Lake Livingston


On Saturday, our Canadian friends, Art and Ricky (from the Habitat build) checked in to the site next to us for a few days.    They've introduced us to a wonderful new game called Quiddlers (think scrabble and phase 10) - so much fun!   This is a quiet park (lots of "old" people) so it's nice to have friends right next door.  As experienced full-timers, they are a wealth of information and we are getting lots of great ideas for places to go and things to see.  

On Sunday we did laundry and just tried to stay cool.  The temps were in the 80's and it was very humid, we had to turn on the A/C - sorry Chicago family and friends.    

On Monday we woke up to temperatures in the 70's and clear blue skies so we decided to visit Lake Livingston State Park. Lake Livingston is the 2nd largest lake located within the borders of Texas.   It is 39 miles long and at it's widest point it is 7 miles.

We found an unmarked trail and hiked that for a while and then we hiked a one mile boardwalk trail to visit a frog pond and butterfly garden.

Maddie loves being off leash (shhh, don't tell the Texas Rangers).

Fun Guy

Lake Livingston Wildlife

11/14/13 - 11!16/13 - Waiting for Deliveries.


Happy 1st Birthday to Jacob

Happy Sweet 16 to Lizzie!

11-14-13 - 11/16/13

These past few days have been quiet.   We ordered a few things from Amazon so we've been hanging around the rig waiting for deliveries.   Sometimes they come to our site and sometimes they get sent back as undeliverable.  We'll get this delivery stuff figured out and then it will be time to move to our next campground and start over.    We've ordered a bike rack for the back of the rig (that was returned undeliverable), we ordered a bike rack cover (received that), ordered 7 ink cartridges (received 5, the other 2 were returned as undeliverable), ordered a refrigerator fan and a sewer hose support (received that)    Everything was ordered with the same address, so this makes no sense to us.   The people at the Post Office are extremely nice but there is nothing they can do when Amazon uses UPS and then UPS delivers to the local post office.   We are addressing things directly to our site but if it goes to the post office it needs to be sent to our names c/o general delivery.   And we never seem to know which way Amazon is going to ship it.

There is a definite learning curve in becoming full-timers and we're still at the bottom but moving up quickly (we hope).  

11/13/13 - Weighty Matters

Thursday, 11/13/13

Leaving our site
Today was the day that we needed to move to a new site.  Since we were moving anyway, it was a good opportunity to get our truck and rig weighed.   After listening to the speaker at the Tire Safety seminar last Sunday, we really needed to know if we were ok or needed to move things around or even - gasp! - get rid of stuff.

I am very happy to report that our weight is fine, we're just slightly unbalanced (I think my family would agree).   We can move a few things around and everything will be fine and Maddie gets to stay.

I'm actually looking forward to being weighed.

Each wheel is weighed individually

2910 lbs?!
 I knew I should have worn my lighter treads.

Actual height is 12'11" but we will use 13'6"
Why take any chances on being stuck or losing an
air conditioner.    

Our new site feels more "camp" like.  We are in a wooded area with lots of pine trees, smells like Wisconsin and speaking of Wisconsin, we drove around the area today and stopped for lunch in the town of Onalaska which is named after a town near LaCrosse, Wisconsin.   How many people can say they've been to both Onalaska's?   We can!