Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Honey, We’re “Home”

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I was having a conversation with someone – at a check stand or in line at Wal-Mart, perhaps - and I was asked, “Where are you from?”  To which I answered, “Livingston, Texas”.  The person with whom I was conversing mentioned a specific location near here, asking me how I like it – I had to answer honestly, “Well, I don’t know, I’ve never been there.”  Even though I don’t remember the circumstances of the conversation, I remember the blank look on the woman’s face when I said that!

So, now, we can say we’ve “been there”.

We left our pretty spot:

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at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana, bright and early yesterday morning (I think it was Monday about 7:30) and continued our Westward trek.

Bayous & bridges, traffic (oh yes, and construction zones), you’ll find it all on I-10.

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I took over the driving, thinking there would be a rest area in about 30 miles, but the rest area mysteriously disappeared, so I ended up driving about 100 or so miles.

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What – a bridge?  You didn’t tell me I’d have to drive over a BRIDGE!   It’s one thing to ride over one, but quite a different kettle of fish to drive over one!

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But I got over it:

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And we made it to our Home State:

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Soon we turned off of I-10 and took the “back roads”

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to reach our little home spot at Rainbow’s End near Livingston, Texas.  In nearly 4 years on the road, this is our first visit to the Escapees headquarters location.  When we pulled in to the park, I was busy making sure we turned onto the correct road and didn’t get a picture, so that will wait for another entry.  We are in the “new” section of the park.  The sites are OK, not nearly as nice as those at Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, but they are OK.  So far, the people are friendly and the place has a nice feeling to it.  While we’re here, we plan to take one of their tours of the facilities, and we’ll be able to pick up our mail right here at the mail facility.

We got our site, got backed in and set up, then took off for a quick Wal-mart run to pick up a prescription.  While we waited for the prescription to be ready, we went across the street to a local Mexican restaurant and had a great meal.  We got home and settled in for the first few minutes of the Broncos/Chargers football game.  I think after the Chargers scored the second, or maybe third, touchdown, we sort of lost interest and fell asleep.

This morning I attended the line dancing class before we took off for a run to Mike & Rhonda’s house in Spring, where we will spend Thanksgiving day.  Mike and Jim were good friends in high school, and that friendship has endured a lot of years.  We’re blessed to be able to spend this special holiday with them.  It’s about 65 miles from here, and we wanted to be sure we could find our way.  When we got there, we all went out to lunch before we headed back home.

The weather has been warm and muggy with a few rain showers thrown in for good measure.  But not to worry, we understand there’s a cold front moving our way and will be here in time for the holiday!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lovin’ Louisiana

Ellie 003How in the world do I characterize this visit?  My friends ask me how New Orleans is now, “after Katrina”?  We’re tourists here, yet we’re not.  Every place we visit is actually our home, if only for a few days, or a few weeks.  We like to experience a place with that in mind.  Yes, of course, many times we do the “touristy” things, but more often we’re visiting someone who lives there, and we end up doing things with the people who do live there. 

In this case, it’s a little mixed up for me.  Rosalie is originally from New Orleans.  I first met her when we both worked for a school district in Colorado Springs around 1988.  Since then, she’s lived in Michigan, Colorado Springs and Alameda California.  Now she’s returned to her roots, where her family still lives.

We’ve only visited New Orleans once before – when Jim attended a conference in 1995.  We spent a few days here, and we were totally tourists then.  We “did” the French Quarter, sampled traditional foods and so forth.

But, this visit is entirely something else.  I guess you could say it’s a little of everything!  We’re staying outside the city, so we get to experience “The North Shore”, which has become the place for the “nouveau riche” to settle.  We’re in a state park, so we have a bit of the “camping out” feeling to our stay.  We’ve traveled to the city and experienced some of the same things that a tourist might.  But we’ve also just done things that a native might, like going to dinner at a friend’s house or taking a walk in a park.

As to “how is New Orleans doing now, after Katrina” – that is also a question with many answers.  We see few signs of distress, but haven’t been to areas that were very hard-hit.  Some of the houses in Rosalie’s neighborhood flooded, but her house did not.  The city is busy, lots of traffic, and perhaps the mood is a little subdued, but still fun and vibrant.

So, just what have we been doing?  A quick summary – on Tuesday, we arrived and got settled in to our new place. 

Wednesday morning, I walked down to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain with the dogs.  A little later, we took the car down to the shore and looked around and took some pictures.  The picture at the opening of this entry was taken at the shore, and Jim caught this one of a flock of White Ibis flying over:

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Rosalie came to visit us on Wednesday afternoon, and we grilled chicken here and talked for hours, getting caught up on the years we’ve missed in each other’s lives. 

Thursday was our day to visit the city.  We started  by driving across Lake Pontchartrain – if you know Jim, you know he’s not real fond of bridges and tunnels.  And, the “bridge” (really, it’s just a Causeway), that crosses the lake is just 24 miles! Well, Jim handled it just fine!

Near the end:

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We could see the New Orleans skyline:

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We arrived safely at Rosalie’s recently purchased home, where Jim helped diagnose a small wiring issue with a lighting fixture before we jumped in her car for the ride over to The Camellia Grill, where we dined on – hamburgers! 

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Yes, in New Orleans!  We really went there for dessert,  which is the most awesome chocolate pecan pie you can imagine, heated on the grill, no less!  Rosalie shared with me that The Camellia Grill was the local place for high-school dates. Lunch was followed by a ride on the streetcar:

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down St. Charles Ave. to Audubon Park, where we walked “the loop”, admiring the palatial homes along the way:

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and checking out the bird population on “Bird Island”:

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And admired the park’s natural beauty":

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With a little rest break too:

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We then got back on a streetcar and rode down to the Business District, with Rosalie pointing out places that had meaning in her history – the church where she was married, the building in which she attended school, etc. 

We arrived at the World War II Museum:

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just in time to purchase tickets for the last showing of the day for the movie, “Beyond All Boundaries” which was a summarization of World War II, complete with a variety of special effects.   After the movie, we enjoyed a cocktail in the lounge, then grabbed a taxi back to Rosalie’s car.  She got us back to her house, where we picked up our car and made the journey back across the Causeway to our home base at Fontainebleau State Park.

When we arrived home, guess who stopped over to visit – Rollie and Gina!

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Rollie called us Wed. night and said there was a good possibility they would come and stay a night at Fontainebleau State Park before going home on Friday, and sure enough, they were parked a couple of rows over from us!  Rollie came to the door just as we were about ready to walk over to their place.  Gina was talking to their daughter, but came over after she got off the computer.  What a wonderful visit!  We got to see them again Friday morning as they completed their homeward journey.

Yesterday (Friday?), we hung around home most of the day until time to return to New Orleans for dinner at Rosalie’s house.

The one outing we made was over to a local eatery we first heard about when we checked in to the park -  Louis and the Redhead Lady, a seafood restaurant not far from the park.  Wow, it was excellent!  Word has it that Guy Fieri  of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on The Food Network visited here and will feature this place on his show. Jim had a sampler plate, while I had a crab cake and shrimp & artichoke soup.  That was one of the best meals we’ve had in a restaurant for a long time!  We highly recommend that place if you’re in the area.

We weren’t due at Rosalie’s until around 6:00 p.m.  Well, talk about getting out of our routine – we’re usually well settled into our little Castle by that time!  Instead, we once again navigated our way across the 24-mile bridge that Jim loves (not!) and stopped at a Whole Foods Store to do a little browsing and purchase the dessert we were to bring.

We were still early to Rosalie’s for dinner, but no problem, we just got a little longer happy hour!  She’d invited another friend of hers, Ava, whom I met several years ago. It was a fun evening with really, truly, delicious traditional New Orleans food – Jambalaya - prepared by one of the best cooks I’ve ever known.  Rosalie can out cook most of those famous TV chefs any day!

We got back to the park around 10:30 and found it full!  Lots of weekenders here with kids, bikes, dogs, firewood, music, and all that goes along with families on a camping trip. There’s also at least one Boy Scout Troop, so the place is full!

This morning we braved the “Saturday before Thanksgiving” crowd at Wal-mart and did our grocery shopping.  Whew, got through that one with a minimum of aggravation!

Back home this afternoon, Sandy and I went out for some Geocaching at the park –we found 4 of 4.  We had fun and got a little bit of exercise at the same time.  While we were gone, I think John finished his chores and I know Jim got in some college football watching.

Scenery along the way while we searched for the caches:




Sandy found this little moss covered cache which completed our day:


Tomorrow we’re hosting a picnic.  We are expecting Sandy and John, Rosalie and her sister & brother in law, and hopefully, Gina and Rollie will be able to make the 65 mile drive back over as well. 

What a week it’s been!  Monday is travel day to Texas, more Justravelin adventures on the way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Next Stop

Those last few days of our time in Summerdale at Rainbow Plantation sure seemed to fly by. All of a sudden we realized we still had a lot on our list and not much time to get it all done. So, we’ve spent the past few days catching up on some jobs, like washing the Castle, grooming the dogs, finishing up some organizing, and of course, visiting with friends!

Bright and early this morning, we pulled out of our site at the plantation and rolled along to Robertsdale, where we made a stop at Camping World to have a window replaced. There is a small window near the bottom of our entry door, and the seal between the double panes had failed. Tiffin sent the replacement (under warranty) to Camping World and they installed it before we got under way this morning. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Tiffin not only paid for the window, they also picked up the shipping and installation charges. And Camping World had us in right at 8:00 and we were on the road just after 9:30.

A last look at the Mobile skyline:

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Before getting Jim’s least favorite part of the trip out of the way – the tunnel that goes under the Mobile Bay:

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We had to make an unscheduled stop to secure a loose windshield wiper. While we were stopped along the side of the road, we picked up an unofficial leader. Sandy and John passed us, so we got to follow them for most of the trip:

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We saw a lot of water along the way:

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To our destination, Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, Louisiana:

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Where we’ll be for the next week. Sandy and John took a slightly different route to the park, so we actually ended up getting here a few minutes before they did, but we all got set up just across the road from each other. Since we both had a travel day, we decided we should just eat out tonight, so we all went to a Mexican Restaurant not far from the park for a delicious dinner.

This is our new home for the week:

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This state park is located along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, on the site of an old plantation. I have a feeling this week is going to go by fast! We want to do some exploring here, as well as some visiting in New Orleans. A friend I used to work with has recently moved back to her home town of New Orleans, and we’re excited to be able to spend some time catching up with her.

Yes, life is good!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yes, We Have No Alligators Today

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Instead, we enjoyed a blue sky decorated with wispy clouds, with sugar-white sand beaches and the Gulf waters gently lapping the shore.

I got up early and made it to line dancing, where the class continues to grow.  When I got home, Jim informed me he had prepared a picnic lunch and had the car loaded and ready to go.  Wow – what a guy!  He earned himself about a million “hubby-points” for that! 

We took off towards the coast and ended up turning East – towards Florida.

We stopped at a public beach along the way:

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Where we enjoyed the warm, sunny day and the beach treasures:

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We continued and found the Gulf Islands National Seashore:

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We enjoyed our picnic lunch at the National Seashore:

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After lunch, we continued on and ended up at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, located on Pensacola Naval Air Station.  We enjoyed wandering through the massive exhibit hall where there are many planes displayed.  What I found most interesting was this exhibit – Quilts!

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This is a quilt challenge and traveling exhibit celebrating 100 years of Naval Aviation.  The stories attached to each quilt described the relationship of the quilter to the Navy – and they were wonderful and touching to read.

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Just across street from the museum, we found the Pensacola lighthouse, lit in 1859 and still active today.

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The closest to an alligator for today was this guy Jim found loitering around on the lighthouse porch:

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What a day!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More This ‘n That

The rain left us with some cold air, and that’s finally moved on and left us with sunny skies and warm temperatures, at least during the day.  Nightfall, which is coming along entirely too early now, brings a chill along with it.

I’ve mentioned before that we are very blessed with generally good health, so we don’t have to deal much with medical stuff.  The main exception is my blood test that I need a couple of times a year.  For some reason that always presents a challenge.  I think I’m finally getting to the “nitty gritty” of the problem, it has to do with an insurance code that my doc’s office doesn’t put on my order.  If I can get them to add that little, but evidently important number, I shouldn’t have to make 2 trips to each facility every time I need to get my tests done.  This time I found a local hospital about 10 minutes from the Plantation that could do the lab work, and took my order in last Friday so they could look at it and call my doc’s office if needed.  Which they did.  Only problem was, the doc’s office didn’t return their call, so when I went back in at 6:00 (yes, that’s a.m.) yesterday morning, they didn’t have the code.  They took an educated guess and got my blood anyway.  I have to fast for 12 hours prior to the test, and if you know me at all, you know I don’t function well until I’ve had my coffee with milk and sweetener, therefore, if I can’t just go get the blood drawn and get on with the coffee,  I get just a bit cranky about the whole thing.  Sometimes I use a commercial lab, but I found the people at this hospital to be far more pleasant than I typically find in a lab.  I think the worst experience I had was in California last fall, where I needed to have a local doctor duplicate my Colorado doctor’s orders before I could get the tests done.  That was expensive for us, since we have a very high deductible on our insurance. 

Other than getting that pesky blood test handled, we’ve been having a little fun.  On Sunday morning, we got word from Sandy that Kathy and Chuck were arriving that day, and would we like to join them for a travel-day dinner.  Sandy provided the food (we did contribute a pan of Clayton’s Beans) and we gathered at their place, along with Judy and Darrell, for a wonderful meal.

Here are Chuck, John, Darrell, and Sandy

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watching Kathy and Judy fill their plates with some of the brats, burgers and salads that Sandy provided:

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As always, there was a lot of laughter as we all swapped stories and enjoyed a meal together.  Kathy and Chuck are parked in the space next to Sandy and John, right behind us.

Yesterday morning, as soon as I got done with the blood test, I went to line dancing.  Every time I go, there are more people in the class, the park is definitely filling up.  We learn at least one or more new dances each time, so it stays challenging for me.

We recently found out there has been an additional recall on Norcold RV refrigerators.  When we checked ours with Norcold, we found out that yes, ours is on the list.  Jim called around and found a mobile RV service that will install the necessary part.  We’re also having some problems with our furnace, so he called the same mobile service to have them take a look at the furnace as well.  The tech arrived yesterday afternoon and got part of our furnace problem solved.  We need a part ordered, so later in the week, he will be back with both the part for the furnace and the refrigerator.  Thank goodness for mobile RV services!  We’ve found them to be very handy!

Today we decided to get out and combine a little sightseeing with some necessary shopping.  We went over to Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama. First we enjoyed this flyover (Terry, we thought of you when we saw these pelicans):


Here’s another view – they flew right over us:


We noticed this sign posted in a couple of different places:

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As we walked around the boardwalk at the park,

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we spotted this guy taking in some sun:


And we managed to avoid feeding or harassing him!

After our park adventure, we went to Spanish Fort to visit Best Buy for a camera filter, then to Petsmart and Sam’s Club for some pet and people food. 

We got back home and got our goodies put away before picking up Judy and Darrell for a dinner out at Big Daddy’s, a local seafood grill.  We had a great time getting in a visit with them, and the food was excellent!

Life is good – we are savoring every day and hope you are too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random Notes and Thoughts

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Today’s picture is another one we took of the sunset at Gulf Shores a couple of days ago – we haven’t been taking many pictures since it’s been raining!  The last 2 days have been mostly “at home” days, catching up on a couple of projects.

A lot of you already know that Jim is a spice nut.  I have to watch him pretty carefully, or our whole kitchen area could be overrun with spices.  Yesterday was our day to re-organize them.  We now have 6 shoe-box size plastic containers with our spices nicely arranged and catalogued for easy access!  Oh, yes, he’s already been shopping in the Penzey’s latest catalog!  They have a store in Houston, I see a visit when we get to that area.

Today was laundry and cleaning day.  While Jim was at the laundromat, I got both dogs bathed, their crates cleaned, and the floors vacuumed.  I needed a haircut, too.  I actually thought about going to a salon to get it cut, even made a phone call to see if I could get in today.  Every once in awhile I see a cut on someone else that I like, so I ask where she gets it done.  In this case, I called the person she uses, but couldn’t get in today, so I cut my own again.  It took me two hours, but I like the way it turned out.   I just take my time and cut a little bit at a time until I get it right.  That 2 hours probably saved me at least $20 – well worth it to me.

We’ve been getting some questions lately about different aspects of this lifestyle – how do we pack up for moving so often, what clubs & associations do we belong to, how do we handle things like mail and medical needs on the road, do we miss our family, home and friends – so I thought I’d answer a few today.

First, the packing.  Let me just say, tile floors, rough roads (including construction zones) and anything breakable definitely do not mix!  I’ve learned to cushion things that can rattle or break.  I also use those expandable bars on several cupboards as well as the shelves in the fridge.  I try to keep knick-knack type things at a minimum so I have less packing to do when we move.  I roll up our big rug and lay it on the couch for travel.  The glass coffee pot goes in the sink, along with the sugar bowl, salt & pepper shakers and other little things that sit on the counter.  We use the rubber non-skid mats that come in rolls, and Handitack – a sticky substance (available at places like Hobby Lobby, Michaels and sometimes Walmart) that is something like bubble-gum to hold things in place.   We learned most of this by trial and error, every rig and the stuff in it is highly individual, so we all sort of learn what  we need to do based on how our  own “stuff” behaves.  (Insert a plug for motorhomes here – we are right here with all our stuff as we travel, so we know right away if there’s a major problem).

As to clubs and associations, we belong to Escapees, Good Sam, KOA and Passport America. I don’t have a financial analysis in front of me, but as far as whether we think they are all worth it, if we were to drop any of them, it would probably be Good Sam, although we do like their emergency roadside assistance program.  We keep KOA because it does save us a little money when we go to Colorado Springs.  Most of the time, though we don’t stay in KOA campgrounds because we can almost always find better places to stay for much less.  Passport America always pays for itself, in our experience.  Escapees definitely pays for itself, and we use their mail forwarding service as well.

We have purchased a National Parks Pass, although I will be 62 soon, so will get what I call the “old people’s pass” on my birthday in January. 

Mail – we’ve switched the vast majority of our financial transactions to be handled online, so we don’t get paper bills very often.  We use the Escapees mail forwarding service, and I order mail every couple of weeks or so, using their online form.  We always have our mail sent via priority delivery, so we have a tracking number in case something happens.  Most campgrounds accept mail for their guests, but if we’re at an Escapees park or out boondocking, we use general delivery.

Medical – we’ve been very blessed with good health, so our medical needs are minimal.  We each have a prescription or two, and use Walmart’s pharmacy. We usually don’t have a problem transferring refills to new locations. We kept our doctors in Colorado Springs, so we take care of routine physicals when we’re visiting each year.  The few times we’ve needed to visit a doctor on the road, we’ve had no trouble getting seen at a local facility.  A few months ago, I stopped in a “walk-in” clinic in a grocery store to get a prescription for a muscle relaxant for a pulled back muscle.  Talk about easy – I was in and out before Jim got through the produce section!

Do we miss home, family and friends back home – yes, we miss our family!  We keep in touch, of course, but it’s not the same as being there.  So, we make it a priority to spend as much time with family when we make our annual visits to Colorado Springs. We have our home with us all the time, and we do not miss the “sticks & bricks” one we used to own.  We miss the friends who are still in Colorado Springs, and we have made a lot of new friends on the road, which makes for kind of a balanced situation.

So that’s how it is for us with some of the aspects of our life on the road.  We appreciate questions, so ask away!  Just remember that living life on the road is totally different and unique for everyone.

The rain stopped today, but it was windy and chilly.  We’re expecting colder temperatures tonight, and another chilly day tomorrow.  What happened to my summer!  Oh, well, life is still good!