Showing posts from March, 2009

NOAA Weather Alert Radio

Sunday, March 29, 2009 Summerdale, AL First, let me do an update on Dar. After flying back to Wisconsin she saw her doctor on Friday morning. He did the usual poke, prod, and listening things, then ordered some tests. By late afternoon the tests came back and it was determined that she had walking pneumonia. Treatment is easy... the right antibiotic usually knocks it out in a couple weeks. So she's on the mend, feeling much better, and taking it easy at her Mom & Dad's house for a few days. We booked a return flight back to Pensacola for her next Tuesday. Once again, thanks to all of you who expressed concern about her. Meanwhile, it's been pretty quiet around the bus-house. After finally getting Dar launched from Pensacola on Thursday it rained on and off again most of the day, as it had every day since Tuesday. By evening I was ready for a good nights sleep. But that wasn't to be. A few months back we purchased a NOAA weather alert radio. It's one of those

Dar Flys to Wisconsin

Thursday, March 26, 2009 Summerdale, AL I have a recurring dream. I think many people do. In mine, I'm usually on a business trip and I'm trying to catch an airline flight... but I just can't seem to actually get to the airport. The most unusual situations, people, and events make up a string of obstacles that keep me from ever getting there, from ever making the flight. And it all happens in slow-motion. It doesn't occur often anymore, like when I was still in the business world, but from time to time it surprises me and causes some consternation when it does. This past day or so, the process of trying to get Dar on a flight at the Pensacola Airport and off to Wisconsin for a few days reminded me a lot of my dream. It seemed we were stymied at every turn -- it seemed something would always happen to turn what should-have-been a simple process into an ordeal of waiting, watching, wondering, and waiting some more. I won't belabor this much more, but the lack of cl

Doctor Visit

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 Summerdale, AL Dar’s health isn’t improving. So yesterday, Monday, I took her to see a Doctor in Foley, AL, which is just a few miles down the road. The results of this visit aren’t real satisfying. According to a quick flu test what she has is not the flu. But something’s causing fevers, chills, aches, etc., so the next step is to try antibiotics. As of this morning, however, they don’t seem to be doing much. She’s a hurtin’ puppy right now. So we talked options, our next step. We decided that we’ll load her on a plane in Pensacola tomorrow and fly her back to Wisconsin. She’s much more comfortable with her own doctor and the support of nearby family. And her insurance plan works best if she’s in her home state seeing her home medical team. We talked about making a beeline to Wisconsin with the Bus-House, but we’d be driving right into the maw of a big spring storm that’s affecting the Midwest for the next few days. And flying is probably going to be easier

Under the Weather

Sunday, March 22, 2009 Summerdale, AL We haven’t done much the past two days. On Friday, during the drive to Summerdale, neither of us was feeling great. Dar was fighting a bug of some kind and I was having an allergy attack… something to do with the fact that everything is in full bloom around here, I’m sure. I’ve always had a mild Spring allergy to grasses and tree pollen in the Midwest, but in recent years it’s seemed to lessen and I haven’t even bothered to get any prescription medications to fight it. But this is the first extended period of time I’ve spent in the old South. I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve got it under control with over-the-counter medications. That past two days haven’t been too bad. But Dar, on the other hand, is really suffering. We think it’s the flu — aches, pains, and a fever. She feels like, well… she doesn’t feel very good at all. If the situation doesn’t improve on Monday we’ll find some local Medical assistance to troubleshoot the problem. For now

Through Mississippi, Into Alabama

Friday, March 20, 2009 Summerdale, AL Neither of us was feeling great this morning. Dar’s been fighting an unknown bug the past few days and she didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. And I’m having some significant problems with my springtime allergies — certainly due to the amount of pollen in the air down here. I mean, everything’s in full bloom down here and I’m learning that the Old South may not be the place for me in the Spring. By the time we got ourselves and the Bus-House put together for travel, and our requisite visit to the dump station wrapped up, it was almost 10am. Actually, not a bad start for us. I drove out from the park and found I-12E just a few miles north of the little town of Lacombe. After I-12 meets I-10 we continued east just a few miles to the Mississippi Visitors Center where MS607 intersects with I-10. It was there that we found one of the most impressive State Visitor Centers we’ve run across anywhere in our travels. It was decorated and appointed mor

One Last Hike

Thursday, March 19, 2009 Mandeville, LA After two days of exploring, we decided that today, Thursday, would be a “down” day… we could use the time to get ready for our Friday move from Fontainebleau State Park, relax, do some chores, and not be pressured by any clock or event. After a morning of intense lollygagging, Dar thought it’d be great to take a break and head over to the Northlake Nature Trail for one last hike through the dangerous, snake-infested swamps around here. You know, she said, … “one last hike for “old times” sake”. I wasn’t sure I liked how she said that. As we set off, Dar insisted I lead the way. Since we’re both “intrepid explorers”, we take turns at leading as we hike. Dar likes leading when we’re in parks, zoos, museums, shopping malls, and other more civilized venues. But she insists that I lead when in rugged mountain terrain, snake and ‘gator infested swamps, on paths over nests of great-scorpions and giant fire ants, and where huge venomous spiders hav

Baton Rouge

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Mandeville, LA A theme… having a theme makes this fulltiming life so much more predictable… more plan-able… less random. Last Spring, our theme was to follow the Lewis & Clark Gang back from the west coast to their starting point near St. Louis, MO. We had journals and maps and interpretive centers and exhibits and stories to guide us on our way, to bring the trail alive, to transport us to that time so we could share the experience… at least in some small ways. The L&C theme worked well for us because it was linear and sequential, it was with us almost every day, and it followed a general path which we wanted to take anyway. Since that time we’ve been grappling with the whole subject of themes. In fact, we now have more than one theme and they’re being worked with less intensity due to their spread-out locations around the country. One of these is to visit all the Presidential Libraries and Museums. We’ve done a few so far — Hoover, Truman, Ford

Biking to a Brew Pub

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Mandeville, LA The rain stopped. Overnight lower dew points and comfortable temps flowed in behind the front that was stalled over the area for the past few days producing all that rain. We slept comfortably and deeply. When my right eye popped open to a blue sky and bright sun blasting in through that small window right next to my pillow, I knew it was a “new day” and there were new explorations awaiting us today. After coffee and a simple breakfast I readied the bikes for our day on the Tammany Trace recreation trail. We keep the bikes under covers during rainy days and I’ve recently started keeping the bike seats in the car and plugging the hole in the frame with a rubber plug. So, covers off… seats replaced… done. Tire pressure usually needs to be topped off after a couple weeks of non-use too… done. And then there’s the bike bag that mounts on Dar’s luggage rack… done. And for good measure and because these bikes are so abused by being in the elements

Moving Campsites at Fontainebleau

Monday, March 16, 2009 Mandeville, LA It’s been raining since Saturday here at Fontainebleau State Park on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. The ground in the park doesn’t drain real well so there are small lakes throughout lending a realistic touch to the thought of camping in a swamp. We did have a break in the weather Sunday afternoon when we took a long walk around the park to stretch our legs a bit and to check out the facilities. This is a very busy state park. We were lucky to have gotten a space at all on Friday, and could only have it until this morning as someone has it reserved for the week. So the first task after coffee today was to find out what’s available and pick a new site. Our thought to stay for another week — until next Monday — was nixed by the park office. “Sorry, we’re booked solid next weekend… there’s nothing available… spring break, you know.” We could, and did, find a site we could have until Friday though. At least we weren’t kicked out altogether. In

A Rainy Saturday

Saturday, March 14, 2009 Mandeville, LA We never left our campsite today. Rain poured out of the sky almost all day and we needed a day like this for inside stuff. That included getting ready for filing our income taxes in order to keep Dar out of prison, getting the online photo albums updated, and a lot of other desk-work that’s been waiting for such a day. Tomorrow, Sunday, is supposed to be another rainy day. I wonder what we’ll do if it is. T

Move to Fontainebleau State Park

Friday, March 13, 2009 Mandeville, LA We only planned three nights at the French Quarter RV Resort — it was all our budget could stand. But, with more yet to see and do, we still wanted to stay in the area. After checking out a couple State Parks near New Orleans yesterday, we decided to move to Fontainebleau State Park just across Lake Pontchartrain, to the north, from the Big Easy. By “just across the lake” I mean about 25 miles the way the crow flies. Lake Pontchartrain is the second largest salt lake in the USA, behind the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Yesterday I mentioned the bridge that cuts right across the middle of the lake from north to south, a bridge that’s notable as the longest over-water bridge in the USA. I wasn’t real excited to drive the Bus-House across the long bridge as it’s only two lanes wide in each direction with no shoulders or escape lane. If someone breaks down, you’re stuck in the lane of traffic, with thousands of not-real-happy Louisianans trying to

New Orleans, Yesterday and Today

Thursday, March 12, 2009 New Orleans, LA For three days and nights we’ve been here in New Orleans. Only a few blocks from the French Quarter. I’d been here 6 or 8 years ago, on business, and spent a couple nights at the Royal Sonesta Hotel right on Bourbon Street. It was a business trip so there wasn’t much time for wandering around, but I did listen to live music in a bunch of places, ate at a couple great restaurants, and soaked up the stories of the colorful history of the place. It wasn’t much of a basis on which to base a comparison… but it’s all I have. There’s a wonderful side to this city… the history, the unique architecture, the Creole and Cajun food, the international flavor and feel of the place, the seaport, the wealth, the stately Live Oaks under which glorious mansions from another time still struggle for a place in the modern world. And there’s another side… a seamier side… the forgotten brutalities of the past, the crumbling buildings, the sinking land and risin

The Mississippi -- Atchafalaya System

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 New Orleans, LA The Mississippi River basin, the land the river drains, is more than 12 million square miles, more than 40% of the land area of the USA, all or parts of 31 states. It’s the third largest river basin in the world, behind only the Amazon and the Congo. It’s average discharge volume is almost a half million cubic feet of water per second — every minute, hour, day, week, month… all year long. It’s an amazing and awesome thing. All that water races toward sea-level here in Lower Louisiana. Throughout geologic history the river has built a massive delta area where the silts and sediments carried south are deposited at the point the river meets the sea. All the land area of Southern Louisiana was built up in this manner. But rivers naturally change. In delta areas like this when the main flow of the river has deposit sediments in one place for a period of time, building up and raising the river bottom, other nearby potential channels are now rela

New Orleans -- Urban Campground

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 New Orleans, LA We arrived here in New Orleans a little after 2pm and found the French Quarter RV Park. By far, it’s the most urban camping we’ve ever done. As I write this I’m looking at skyscrapers and high-rises just a few blocks from where our camp is. And we’re just three blocks from the French Quarter. To be fair, this isn’t camping. This is RV parking. The entire park has maybe 50 sq. feet of grass (and I’m not totally sure from where I sit if it’s real grass or astro-turf?) There are 52 RV sites here and most are occupied. The rates aren’t cheap by any means… a tad over $60 with every discount I could scrounge up. For comparison the most we paid anywhere during 2008 was $32. We agreed we’d do this for three nights because the French Quarter is what we want to see… and the French Quarter is all about night-life and walking and eating and drinking a bit… and I didn’t want to be faced with driving after a few hours on Bourbon Street. The drive today was e

Thoughts on Cajun Country

Monday, March 09, 2009 Abbeville, LA Abbeville and Cajun Country: Today was our last full day at Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville. Our 7 day stop here has been a good one… no, an excellent one. We experienced much and have a much better understanding of the Cajun culture and way of life. If there’s one thing I’ll remember about Cajun country it’s the people… all very friendly and hospitable. Cajun’s have a saying that goes like this: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” It’s Cajun French and is translated as “Let the good times role!” And that pretty much sums up the cultural attitude of people we’ve run into here. I’m sure we’ll be back. Betty’s RV Park: If you’re looking for concrete pads, little grass patios, and lots of space between rigs, don’t stop at Betty’s. If you’re one who likes to stick to yourself, are not very social, and don’t thoroughly enjoy the company of other RV’ers, don’t bother to stop at Betty’s. But if you’re into good times, genuine-ness, learning about this pa

A Great Day for a Swamp Tour

Sunday, March 08, 2009 Abbeville, LA One of the things on Dar’s “to-do” list while we’re in Louisiana Cajun Country is to do a swamp tour. She’s been saying this for the last month or two — ever since we made the decision to come this way. So today Dar is a happy girl — she got the swamp tour she’s been looking forward to. While we didn’t have to get up quite as early this morning as yesterday, it was still necessary for us to be on the road before 9am in order to be at the landing by 10am. Our tour guide this morning was Bryan Champagne, a French speaking Cajun who grew up on the banks of Bayou Tesch right here in Breaux Bridge. He’s been an outdoorsman and Bayou stalker since he was old enough to walk. The boat is a 24 foot Crawfish all-aluminum skiff with a 5 foot wide flat bottom which makes it very stable and safe for the dozen or so passengers he can carry. He both designed and built the boat to run in very shallow water and through dense mats of floating vegetation. The

Zydeco Breakfast

Saturday, March 07, 2009 Abbeville, LA Morning came early. By 3am I was awake and reading… probably not sleeping too soundly because we had alarms set, a real unusual occurrence around here. We had to be ready to leave the Bus-House by 6:30am and drive about 45 minutes to Cafe’ des Amis in Breaux Bridge. Everybody we talked to around here said we’ve got to go there for Saturday morning breakfast. So, off we went. It was a pleasant morning for a drive — not much traffic, sunny skies. We arrived about 15 minutes early as they don’t even open the doors until 7:30am. So we took a walk around town. The attraction at the Cafe’ is what they call Zydeco Breakfast. Zydeco is a musical style with it’s roots in Creole French but blended with Black influences that produce a sound that must be heard to be appreciated. The Cafe’, on Saturday mornings, serves breakfast while a Zydeco band plays and people dance. The bar is open too. And people flock from far and wide for the experience. Afte

A Day of Rest

Friday, March 6, 2009 Abbeville, LA We planned nothing for today. After sleeping in for longer than usual we both spent time and effort on the website. Dar worked on photos… getting our online Photo Gallery up to date, and I worked on writing the blog entry from yesterday and updating the Front Page. Shortly before noon we took off for town where we had some banking business (Yaahooo… we found a Chase Bank right here in town!), a visit to the Post Office, and then an unplanned lunch at the RiverFront Grill. We found a seat on their deck overlooking the Vermilion River and killed a couple of hours talking, eating lunch, watching the river flow by, and sipping the daily special… $2 margaritas. Very enjoyable in a number of ways! After lunch and before Betty’s happy hour later this afternoon, we needed to give the Bus-House a “nose-job” — a scrubbing to remove bugs from the front end. That quickly accomplished we found some shade and planned some of our next moves. Tomorrow, we’re gett

Avery Island & New Iberia

Thursday, March 5, 2009 Abbeville, LA Dar had me running hard today. The first exploration on the agenda was the McIlhenny Company on Avery Island, about 25 miles from Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville. They’re the makers of world famous Tabasco Sauce… that famous hot pepper sauce. “Holy McIlhenny”! (Some comedian years ago used to say that and it wasn’t until I was much older that I made the connection. Avery Island is an interesting place. I always pictured it as a piece of land surrounded by water, oh, maybe out in the Gulf of Mexico a ways. Wouldn’t you?? But, as I found out today, it’s possible to drive to Avery Island… without a ferry. There is a small bridge involved along the way, but the island is actually the top of a salt dome out in the middle of a swamp. From a distance it looks like a hill amidst the flat bayou countryside. The salt dome is about three miles by three miles and 15 miles deep. That’s a lot of salt!. Salt is still being mined here at the rate of over 2 m

An Intro to Cajun Music

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 Abbeville, LA Something I failed to mention in yesterday’s entry is the fuel price report. On Tuesday, just outside Beaumont, we filled the diesel tank with less than $2.00 /gallon fuel — the lowest price since we started more than a year and a half ago. I don’t know why fuel is this cheap but I think I’ll take advantage of it while I can. Besides, what choice do I have? For comparison, last March we were paying close to $4.00/gallon. Despite the positive effect on my bank account I’m not happy with this state of affairs — but this isn’t the time to discuss it. Our first night of drycamping went well last night. It got cold and the battery-eating heater came on a half dozen times during the early morning hours, but we got through OK and by 8:30 or so there were some solar-induced amps going back into the battery. The skies were partly cloudy and I was skeptical we’d be able to rely on just the sun to get us back to full charge by late afternoon, so I ran

Into Cajun Country

Tuesday, March 03, 2009 Abbeville, LA We departed from Gulf Shores RV Park a bit after 10am and hopped on I-10 less than a mile from the park. The route today had us on I-10 east to Jennings, then LA26 south at Jennings to Lake Arthur where we picked up LA14 east which runs us right into Abbeville. It’s about a 150 drive. We both love those less than 200 mile days. I’ve heard horror stories about the condition of I-10 so we weren’t expecting a smooth ride today. We battened down every hatch and secured things we don’t normally worry about. Between Beaumont and the border the State of Texas is completely rebuilding the roadway and they were far enough along with the project so we ran on mostly new pavement. There was one small section of old road we had to use and it was evidence that those old rumors I’d heard were probably true. Even after crossing the state line we found better than expected road conditions and quite a few miles of new asphalt roadway — a real treat for any driv

First Day Back on the Road

written Monday, March 2, 2009 Beaumont, TX Our intention was to get on the road by 9am… oh, OK, maybe 10am at the latest. But after many “good-byes”, some hugs, tears, and “see you next years” we actually had the big wheels turnin’ a little before 11am. I’ve written before about our roots that naturally grow when we sit for a period of time. The roots that grew these past three months seemed particularly hard to pull up. We headed northeast out of Rockport on State Hwy 35 toward the Houston area. Then southeast on State Hwy 6 into Galveston where we pick up State Hwy 87. Part of the charm of this road as it carries us northeast again is that it includes a ferry ride across the mouth of Galveston Bay. It’s called the Galveston - Port Bolivar Ferry and one really special feature of this deal is that there’s no charge to make the crossing. That’s right — its FREE. Operated by the State of Texas its all those good cowboy & cowgirl Texans that pay for it in their taxes. Thanks Pard

Last Night in Rockport

Written Sunday, March 1, 2009 Rockport, TX Today, Sunday, we spent most of the day saying goodbye to good friends and getting ready to leave ourselves tomorrow. The day went by amazingly quickly. If it had been a normal day we would have enjoyed the bright sun, the mild breezes, the cool-ish temps, the low humidity. We would have found a comfortable chair and read a few chapters in a good book, or just watched the waves, birds, and boats on the bay. But today I had Dar working most of the day… helping me quick-wash the bus-house, stowing gear here and there, washing windows… and all that. We were both busy (with preparations that could have been done a few days ago… ahh, procrastination!!) most of the day. Even after a short and small happy-hour our preparations continued well into the evening. It’s amazing how “spread-out” and un-organized we can get after just a month or two. Our plan… which is never very detailed or precise… is to drive north and east toward Galveston tomorrow.