Trails and White Bicycles

Continuing on our coastal seafood cruise, we left the Gulf just in time to avoid the rain and flooding around Houston. We saw a video of the Elks Lodge where we stayed in Katy, Texas and water was flowing fast in the streets. Twenty inches of rain in Houston… Cameron, Louisiana was also underwater. Keep moving!

We are more or less headed toward Chattanooga to get some work done on the bus at the Choo Choo Garage. Jim’s project list is growing and we will be there several days. It will be a good break for me so I can catch up on work and get comfortably ahead on my magazine issues.

After all this eating, we needed to get in some bike riding so we went from Cameron to Mandeville on the north shore of Lake Pontchatrain. We have ridden the Tammany Trace before but it is a really good trail and Mandeville is loaded with good food. Jim especially wanted to get back to Liz Whar Y’At? for the seafood scrambler for breakfast. We cruised in on Sunday morning, ate breakfast and didn’t eat anything the whole rest of the day. Eating like snakes.

We got in 60 miles on the trail and it was just as pleasant as we remembered it. Except for the white bicycle… I hate seeing those because it means a bicyclist died where it stands.

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We saw this place on the way to Darwell’s but we were on a mission. DSC_7338
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After Mandeville, we had to check out Long Beach, Mississippi and Papa Darwell’s Cafe. He is a bus friend on Facebook and my mouth has been watering for months at all the special southern specials they serve. Time to see for ourselves. We got there right before the early dinner rush and I tried the Red Beans and Rice with grilled smoked sausage. And a side of crawfish etouffe because the girl at the counter gave us a sample and it was heavenly. Jim had blackened snapper covered with the crawfish etouffe. Needless to say, we ate as much as we could but there was still plenty left over for dinner.

From Long Beach we aimed the bus for Piedmont, Alabama and The Chief Ladiga Trail. Jim had located a campground right on the trail but there were no hookups and we briefly considered parking at a Walmart while we rode the trail. Boy, are we glad we didn’t! This was our view from the bus.
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And our site where the kitties got lots of outdoor time. Even Astrid came out!
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Terry was the congenial host. Terry “likes to talk” and we enjoyed chatting with him each evening and his sister-in-law, Debbie gave us a set of cool coasters she made. Thanks, Debbie and Terry!
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The Chief Ladiga Campground is easily one of the very best places we have ever been parked. We had the whole place to ourselves and picked a shady spot right near the river. The kitties got to go on walks and we rode another 62 miles. The Chief Ladiga Trail hooks up with Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail so we got to finish riding that trail section we had missed a couple years ago. Of course eating was on the agenda and we rode the 17 miles to Cedartown and had lunch at Cedar and Smoke. The crispy Georgia catfish was sublime and I ate it all!

The weather was perfect for riding, overcast and not too cold or hot. Some scenes along the trail…
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And unfortunately, another ghost bicycle.
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The fields are overloaded with these tiny yellow flowers and everything is in full pollen and bug mode. It is literally raining bugs and pollen. Jim wears his sunglasses but I just use a visor and my eyes were full of bugs and pollen! Spring in the south.
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The morning we left we didn’t have far to go so we decided to scope out the Solid Rock Cafe for lunch. A lady in Piedmont had stopped us on the street and highly recommended it and Yelp gives it many thumbs up. It was Sunday and when we got there we found it was just a Sunday buffet. We normally don’t like buffets; the food is cold and scarce but since we couldn’t order off the menu and were starving we decided to go for it.

What a great decision! It was like somebody’s southern grandma cooked us Sunday dinner! Beef, chicken, squash casserole, green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, salad, lots of desserts, sweet tea and ice cream. Groan… It was all so delicious. Again, no need for dinner that night. On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand. Trust the Loving Universe!

On to Chattanooga!

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Cruising the Coast

After we left Austin, we knew we wanted to wind along the Gulf Coast eating All. The. Seafood. We made it to the Elks Lodge in Katy outside Houston where the kitties got a good outing. The next day we went through Houston, which went fine until we were on the east side and got caught up in an accident slowdown.

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We had lunch in Port Arthur at Gulf Coast Seafood. If you are ever anywhere near Port Arthur, make sure you stop here. The Salt and Pepper Shrimp was lightly crispy, perfectly seasoned and totally delicious. Eyes bigger than stomach; I had plenty for dinner too. The seafood crawl has begun.

We had a route mapped out to Cameron, Louisiana but had to adjust course when that route required a ferry. We’re not ready for that and it turned out that the ferry was passenger vehicles only. We re-routed and landed at the Jetty RV Park with a spot looking right out onto the Gulf. We spent a couple of nights recharging, taking the cats out and drinking Bloody Marys. Thanks, Warren and Judy for the new bad habit!

This is a great RV Park well worth the drive through the Louisiana countryside to get there. And we had the whole place to ourselves!
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Our view from the bus: I actually took this through the windshield.
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The skies were ever-changing and I fooled around with some panoramic views.
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Carmella had several long walks here, chasing the marsh rabbits and trying to figure out why the seagulls were squawking at her. Ships came and went on a regular basis; from shrimp boats to huge carriers. We also had a torrential rainstorm the first night which was kind of nice after so many months with zero rain.
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Enroute we had lunch in Abbeville at Shucks! Oyster House. Yum! Once again we ordered too much and had leftovers again. There were no oysters left over from this sampler however.
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After lunch we headed for Walmart in Morgan City to spend the night and get some supplies.
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This was our spot at the Walmart where Carmella also had a walkabout in her own little park beside the bus.

The good news is that Walmart sells liquor in Louisiana so we stocked up. I loaded and locked what we call the liquor bay but I must not have secured the first door well because when we were approaching Lake Pontchatrain to drive the 24 miles across the lake, a driver next to us signaled that something was amiss. The bay door was open! We lost a leveler pad (again!) and a big bottle of detergent but nothing else from the bay and no damage done. We have always locked the bays since we lost the first leveler pad a few years ago but Jim showed me how to check the latch on the opposing door to make sure everything stays closed. Good thing we were not on the bridge when that happened; no place to stop there.

And the box of liquor was intact. Whew! As Jim said, “This is not a big problem.”

We made it to Mandeville where we are riding the 40+ miles of the Tammany Trace. We have been on this trail before but we figured we better get some bike riding in during our seafood cruise. And there are many delicious places to eat and drink here too.

It is really nice to be back on the bikes. We did 25 miles today and tomorrow we have at least that many planned with a couple of food stops. Of course.

 

 

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Ahhh…Austin

We left Edinburg on Tuesday headed for Austin. We spent our honeymoon in Austin 25 years ago (is that even possible?) and have always had a huge affection for the town. Lance Armstrong notwithstanding…

We knew from years ago that the traffic was terrible so we timed our entry accordingly and had a great trip up on the Texas Hill Country Trail. The bluebonnets and wildflowers were in full display as we headed north.

Jim’s cousin Warren and his wife Judy had spent the winter there and we had been meaning to hook up with them for almost a year but never were in the right place at the right time. This was the right time. We planned to spend three nights at the park where they were wintering over but we had such a good time with them that we extended our stay to five nights. Judy used her persuasive powers to not only get us additional nights but we ended up parked right next to each other. YAY!  We were having too much fun! Makes the Bloody Mary delivery so much easier!
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Our longtime friends David and Andrea live there too and we were able to connect with them for a lovely boat ride and dinner. The traffic is so bad that it was much faster for them to pick us up by boat than by car. We motored over to the Sundancer Grill for a great dinner and evening catching up.
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Love the look on David’s face here. Andrea has been through a lot health-wise in her life; she is a true warrior. She is at the tail end of a case of shingles now and had “the slows” as she put it. We are planning to get the shingles shot ASAP, a few years late. You should too.
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Sunset on Lake Travis.

Once we were back at the park, we enjoyed several great meals with Judy and Warren including cocktails and wine and lots of music, everything from Bruce Springsteen to Allison Krause.

Of course Jim has known Warren forever but I first met Judy at a family reunion in Indiana in the late 1990s sometime. She had come to the reunion on her own since she and Warren had just been in a motorcycle accident and he was pretty laid up. We always knew we liked them but never got to visit two-on-two since it was always some big family gathering when we saw them. Jim’s mom was always about the large group but you never really get to know anybody that way. This was the first time we had spent just with them and it was the best family-as-friends visit ever! They love to laugh and have fun and we just had a grand old time. More plans to get together soon as they are heading back to Dallas to clean out and sell their house and stuff. We look forward to seeing them often and meeting up on the road.

As we headed out of the park we had to stop and take a picture of this rig.

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We chatted briefly with Jema, who has been traveling with her husband and four kids for five years. We will keep in touch and will definitely recognize each other if we meet on the road.

What a great visit! Judy and Warren are the most fun family ever! Love these guys!
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New Refrigerator Installed; Check!

Once they had shipped the new refrigerator, it got lost. For a couple of days we thought we were going to have to have another one shipped but they finally found it in San Antonio. Once it arrived at Bert Ogden RV in Mission, Jim had them plug it in and test it to make sure it got cold and worked correctly before we got it into the bus. It turned out they had a cancellation the next day at 8:00 AM so we got up early and headed out.

We checked it out and it was getting nice and cold while plugged in at the shop. All systems GO!

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First to get the old one out… Because it wouldn’t go down the steps, they had to remove the side window. Since the bus was painted while the windows were installed, Jim scored all around the frame to make sure the paint didn’t peel off. When he told the guys he did that, they carefully scored around the window too. Window coming out.
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Success!

Then out with the old.
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And in with the new. They had some cardboard taped to the front of the new frig but to be loaded through the window it seemed like it needed much thicker padding. They proposed laying it on its back and loading it through that way. Now we know that the cooling unit is a very fragile piece of important stuff since we had the old one replaced a couple of times. Both Jim and I nixed the loading on the back so they took the doors off and laid it on the front side. Jim would have preferred that they not remove the doors but all went well.
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Fitting it in place. This went amazingly well; the last time we had the frig out, Jim swore he would just take a saw to the opening if we had that much trouble!

Window going back in…
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And wiring it up. Since we didn’t have an ice maker in the old one, they couldn’t connect the new one. We stopped at Home Depot on the way back and got the stuff for that and a trim piece to mount on the small gap on top.

We had lunch and were back at the park in plenty of time for Happy Hour.

Wow! This all went like clockwork! No broken windows or frig. No damage to the paint. We did notice while it was still in the shop that the freezer doors both had the very slightest wimple in them so they shipped us two new doors. Since the old cooling unit was under warranty, we got them to ship us one for the new refrigerator in the hopes that we will never have to use it.

Hats off to Bert Ogden RV and Juan who coordinated the install. We are very glad we went this route instead of trying to do ourselves in the park. It was cheap too, only $285. Definitely a bargain. They install better than they spell.
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It has been in a week now and we  really like having our own ice. We hope this closes the book on the refrigerator saga.

 

Home Improvements

We are getting ready to pull up our Winter Texan stakes. Jim has been getting a whole list of projects done on the bus, fixing the bay doors, replacing a slide in the pantry and installing motion sensor lights in the kitchen cabinets. Lots of ship tightening going on before our projected departure around April 1.I have been cleaning, washing windows, shampooing rugs, polishing silver and getting things ready to roll on the inside.

One thing that was on the list was to defrost and clean out the refrigerator but now we don’t have to do that because it quit! One morning this week Jim woke up and smelled ammonia around the refrigerator doors. A quick internet search said that meant the cooling unit was failing. WHAT? It seemed like we just did that! It seemed to be holding temperature and we thought maybe the smell was just vinegar from cleaning the shower the day before. After another day though, the temperature was going up in the frig and the freezer was warming up too. Phooey!

It is a good thing we are still parked in south Texas and were not on the road when this happened since people here have extra refrigerators and offered us space for our food, which we seem to have quite a lot of.

The cooling unit was still under warranty but the old refrigerator had some other recurring problems; doors not sealing right, frosting up quickly after defrosting and just not being cold enough! We talked about replacing it with a domestic unit, which many RVers do, but we like to dry camp for extended periods and really need a refrigerator that will run on propane. So we ordered another RV refrigerator that will fit in the space where the old one is. It was a real bear getting that thing in and out just to replace the cooling unit and it didn’t even have to come out of the bus.

We knew the old one would not go down the steps and a new one would not come up that way either. One of the side windows will have to be removed and the new unit fork-lifted in. At first we couldn’t find anybody even interested in the job and it looked like Jim would have to recruit some guys here in the park and wangle it in that way. Even though I trust him more than any dealer to do the placement, wiring and installation, it still will take a forklift to get the old one out and the new one in. We wanted to have a dealer on board in case something happened; it could get dropped or not work and we would be out several thousand dollars with no recourse.

Jim found a RV dealer right near here in Mission, Texas that will do the job and we are having the new refrigerator shipped there. When it arrives, we will take the bus there and hopefully have an uneventful installation. Then we will come back, pick up our food, swim a few laps, attend a few Happy Hours and hit the road.

One good bit of news is that once Jim ordered the new refrigerator, he talked the company replacing the warrantied cooling unit into sending one for the new refrigerator. Maybe if we have one, we will never need to use it! The best news is that the new refrigerator will have an icemaker. YAY!

Stay tuned.

 

 

Peach Milkshake

Carmella, the orange cat, always wants to be around us or the other cats. Astrid is not too interested in cuddling with her, but Tikita has been a good mom-type cuddler and groomer since the kittens came home with us. We find them inter-tangled all the time; that’s why we call them Peach Milkshake. Sometimes Astrid joins in.

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Sometimes Jim joins in…
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She likes to reach out.
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Sometimes Tikita needs to rest up from all the snuggling.
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Then Carmella conscripts Astrid. We still call them the kittens although they will be ten years old this year. How did that happen?
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Astrid needs a break from Carmella sometimes too.
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We’ve never seen two of them on the same wave but it may have happened.
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And the rare moments when all three are in close proximity. Naturally Carmella is in the middle to obtain maximum contact.
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We do love our kitties and appreciate them even more after hearing that our bus friends Pam and Tony lost their dog, Jack, tragically and instantly last weekend. Our hearts go out to them. Jack was one in a million.

RIP Jack.
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The Faustian Bargain

We all know we are going to die. We just forget sometimes that by being alive, we have already entered into what I have been calling The Faustian Bargain. It will all be over someday.

We got the word last night that one of our very dear friends has died. Randy Dalton was a giant among men, along with his partner Michael. They were the love of each others’ lives for 34 years, through a tumultuous time when their arrangement was not popular or widely accepted.

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Michael and Randy in the bus in 2014

We met Michael and Randy in 2002 in Xcalak, Mexico. We were guests at a very small resort there and became lifelong friends with them and several others by the time our visit was over. We continued to see them in Mexico and after we started going around in the bus, we were fortunate enough to have visited them twice at their art-filled house and garden, some of the very best bus parking we have had, not to mention the good conversation, meals and comfort and love of like-minded friends.

I remember talking to Randy on the phone when I was in the grocery store one time and he said, “We’re all going to die! Come and see us!” And we did. You can see our 2013 visit here. And our last visit where we ended up parked there for three weeks, flying back to Kansas City for Jim’s mom’s funeral while they took care of the cats and took us back and forth to the airport. Their house and garden is filled with art and interesting things at every turn.

Randy was one of a kind. A member of Philadelphia’s underground art scene, he was one of The Dumpster Divers, making art from found objects. He was the driving force behind Do Blue and the amazing Blue Grotto. If you are in West Philly, it is a must-see at the CEC. He just opened a show at a local gallery and was constantly brimming with plans for new projects, most involving blue lights and found objects.

Randy personified passion, kindness, humor and curiosity. He and Michael walked the walk, balancing human spirit, art, beauty in home and garden, intelligent conversation and pure appreciation of life. Just being around them made you feel more alive and infused with the wonder of the world.

Our hearts are heavy. We are really going to miss him. Hug harder, live life to the very brink of fullness, like Michael and Randy did. That is our part of The Faustian Bargain.

A bright blue light has gone out.

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Astoria, Oregon

A Year of Headers: 2015

We went to a lot of great places last year! Now we just need to figure out where we will go this year! Ideas?

Updating the blog header is a little graphic design puzzle that is fun to solve. Here are all the headers from 2015 in order. A little progressive snapshot of the year. Ha!

Many more pictures from the year:

2015 in Pictures: The End! Finally!

2015 in Pictures: Part Six

2015 in Pictures: Part Five

2015 in Pictures: Part Four

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

Lake Mineral Wells, Texas

2015 in Pictures: The End! Finally!

2015 is finally over! Here is Part Seven, wrapping up 2015 in photos.

After leaving Astoria, we headed toward Idaho and Colorado. We had some friends to see, some trails to ride and cool weather to stay ahead of.

The Weiser River Trail in Idaho was a scenic treat, if not the greatest trail out there. Then we headed south toward Grand Junction and Denver, getting some snow along the way. Back through Lake Mineral Wells, Texas to ride our last trail before heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. And yes, lots of sky pictures but what can I say? It continued to be spectacular!

What a great year we had! We are so very grateful for each other, our good fortune, good health and kitties. Full focus on 2016…Onward!

 

Row River Trail Oregon

2015 in Pictures: Part Six

Part Six: Yes, I plan on having this done before 2016 is over…

How can you do California without Los Angeles?

We had a great visit there with friends before moving on up the coast.

After we left Eureka, it was on to Oregon.

We got the bus serviced in Roseburg, then rode a couple of bike trails near Springfield and worked our way over to Florence on the Oregon coast.

On the way to Lincoln we had a bit of a mishap but all ended well.

We headed to Astoria since we hadn’t eaten nearly enough seafood yet and wanted to see the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean convergence there. Our first impressions of the city were great. We planned to stay a couple of days then head for Spokane and Idaho to ride some longer trails.  It’s good to have a plan.

And then this happened. Much more Astoria coming soon.

2015 in Pictures: Part Five

2015 in Pictures: Part Four

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One