Monday, October 31, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 08

The buzzards and Fannie Mae slept in until 7:30 and after a Bright Side Breakfast, Fannie Mae stayed to guard the room while Linda and John took an exploratory trip on public transportation.

We drove abour 5 miles down Veterans Memorial Blvd and parked in a Winn Dixie grocery store parking lot. New Orleans Rapid Transit (RTA) bus 45 stops just across the street. We took bus 45 to the stop at the Cemeteries. Oddly enough the Cemeteries is a transfer point. And, there are dozens of cemeteries there. Hmmmm....transfer to where?  We caught the inbound Canal Street streetcar and made it to the French Quarter.  The streetcar stops at Harrah's Casino and you walk a block or so to catch the Riverfront streetcar. Which we did. We got off at the Ursulines stop which serves the French Market. Everything seems to be in very good shape and it was fun to walk down streets we remembered from long ago. Linda did a little shopping in the French Market and then we headed to the Progress Grocery Store on Decatur St. for a muffaletta sandwich.  Found the grocery store, but it is closed on Mondays. Further down Decatur St. was a nice restaurant (River's Edge) where we stopped for lunch. John had a seafood omelet and Linda had a cup of gumbo (this time with okra).

Rode the Riverfront streetcar back to Canal Street and jumped the Canal Street streetcar. Little did we realize that there are two different canal street streetcars. The one that goes to the cemeteries runs every 10 minutes. The other one, which only runs every 40 minutes, goes to the City Park. and Museum. Sadly, that's the one we jumped on, not knowing there were two different ones. So, we ended up at City Park. We paid our fares again (whoopee, a big $.80 for both of us) and rode it back to Canal Street where we picked up the correct Canal Street streetcar and wound up at, of course, the Cemeteries.

Just missed our connection to the 45 bus at the Cemeteries and it runs every half-hour. So, we had to wait. Hanging around all those dead folks on Halloween can get a bit spooky! On our bus and streetcar rides lots of businesses, many residential areas and a lot of tourists and local residents. Riding public transportation is a nice way to soak in the flavor of New Orleans and October is certainly a pleasant time of year to visit. The temperature today hovered around 70  degrees. And, for seniors, it's hard to beat a $.40 fare with free transfers. One could say you can drive it faster. But, then you have to worry about finding parking and paying for it!

After our return, Linda took off with our dirty laundry from the last week and a cup o' quarters. La Quinta thoughtfully provides a washer and dryer for their guests. John and Fannie played and dozed in the room.

Dinner was at New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood. John had a grilled shrimp remoulade salad and Linda had a bowl of gumbo.  She has decided that she needs to come up with a rating system for all the different gumbos she is experiencing.  Thus, Don's Seafood gets a 7, River's Edge gets a 6, New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood gets a 7 and there will be more to follow. If anyone out there has suggestions for gumbo places in New Orleans, please send them to

John did extremely well today on his calorie budget. He finished under budget by 1,071 calories. And that included eating a day-old beignet for a snack tonight.

There are some pictures of our adventure of today in the photo gallery which you can see by clicking here. There is also a 46 second video clip of the RTA streetcars which you can view by clicking here.

The funniest sign today was on a t-shirt in the French Quarter that said “Just Deaux It!”.  Two funny business names seen today were Floor De Lis and Hair Attack (a carpet store and a beauty shop).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 07

We checked out and left the Shreveport La Quinta about 8:35 a.m. after having breakfast in the Bright Side Breakfast room. John had 1/2 of a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, 1/2 glass of orange juice and a small glass of milk. Linda had orange juice, carrot juice, her raw bits twang twang and red raspberry yogurt (added to her raw bits twang twang).

Stopped in Natchitoches (pronounce Nak' i tish …. and that's a short i) around 9:30 a.m. to get gas and relieve ourselves.

We had lunch in Opelousas around 11:30 a.m. We both got Tender Grill Chicken Garden Salads with Light Italian dressing at Burger King. Not too shabby for a fast food salad. It was too warm (about 68 degrees)  to leave Fannie Mae cooped up in the car, so we sat in the car in the shade of a tree and rolled all the windows down. It was very nice.

The Atchafalaya Basin, or Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest swamp in the United States. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. We spent a lot of time driving over the swamp and took a few photos of it which are in today's photo gallery.

We also crossed Lake Ponchartrain. It is the second largest body of saltwater in the United States, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Even though it is the largest lake in Louisiana, it actually isn't a lake. It is a saltwater estuary. It covers an area of 630 square miles and averages 12-14 feet in depth.

Finally made it into Metairie at about 2:22 p.m. and got all settled in to our nice room at La Quinta. We always try to get an ADA room. They have bigger bathrooms. It is very roomy and will be a nice place to spend several days while we explore the New Orleans area. 

As soon as we got unloaded and settled in, the two old buzzards took off for a nearby Cafe du Monde for some beignets and chicory coffee (cafe au lait).  Linda ordered a beignet and John ordered a beignet, thinking we would get one delicious, yummy treat. But a beignet to the folks at Cafe du Monde means "one order of beignets". So what we got was 2 plates each with 3 hot yummy square French doughnuts covered, no smothered, with powdered sugar.  We ate what we could and asked for a bag to go for the rest.  They were just as good as we remembered from over 20 years since the last time we were in New Orleans.  And they are perfect for dunking into the chicory coffee. We're sure to make a stop at the original Cafe du Monde in the French Market down in the Quarter.

We explored the transit system and are going to take a trial run tomorrow.  We will be able to drive about four miles down the street our lodging is on, park in a Winn Dixie (grocery store) parking lot and take public transit to the French Quarter. For seniors, it's $0.40 each and transfers are free. We'll be taking the Canal Street streetcar and transfering to the Riverfront streetcar.

Fannie and Linda went on a nice walk and then we all relaxed for a while.

Dinner was at Don's Seafood Hut, which is just down the street from La Quinta.  John had crawfish etouffee and shrimp remoulade. Linda had seafood gumbo and steamed broccoli. Everything was quite delicious.  Linda asked the waitperson why the gumbo did not have okra in it and she said “Everbody makes it difrunt. My momma useta put okra in it”.  Linda loves okra but the gumbo was still very good, even without okra.  It has a rich brown sauce and was full of shrimp and crab and rice.

Meanwhile, back at the La Quinta Ranch, Fannie Mae was glad to have the two old buzzards return and seems to be adjusting faster and faster to our constantly changing abodes. 

For dessert, Linda had a square of homemade granola goodies that her breaux (that's cajun for “bro”) Wes made and John had one of the leftover beignets.

The funniest sign today was from an ad in a New Orleans publication. The company is Blue Frog Chocolates on Magazine Street in the French Quarter.  Their ad says “Chocolate – Nature's way of making up for okra”.  So, OK, some people are not okra fans, but Linda is on a quest for some seafood gumbo with okra in it. The runner up was an ad we saw in Natchitoches at the gas station.  It said “Geaux Demons!”.  It must have been put up there by Budreaux.

There are only 19 photos in today's photo gallery. You can view them by clicking here.

Happy dreams of pecan pralines!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 06

Left the La Quinta in Lubbock at 6:50 in the morning after having been rousted by the alarm at 5:45 a.m. Had our standard La Quinta Bright Side breakfast. Except, this time the waffles are in the shape of the state of Texas. See photo gallery.

Filled up with gas as we were leaving Lubbock at $3.11.9 per gallon. This day is scheduled to be our longest day of driving, mileage wise, so it was nice to get an early start.  The sun was not even out yet. That was a nice was to start since we knew that as soon as it appeared we would be driving east into a bright glare. It waited well over an hour to show up. We took Hwy 87 toward Abilene. Dropped down off the Caprock (Llano Estacado) at about 7:45 a.m., which was just about one hour after we left Lubbock. The Caprock ends about 40 miles southeast of Lubbock. The change in elevation is around 600 feet. Maybe that's why they call it the "high plains". A lot of the area we drove through is oil country and there is a strong smell of crude oil in this part of the state.

We have also discovered the newest cash crop in Texas..... wind generation! Thousands of the huge, huge 3-bladed wind generators dot the landscape. There is a photo of one "clump" of them in the photo gallery. It's a perfect marriage, agriculture and wind turbines. They take up virtually no room from the agricultural endeavors and generate revenues for the farmers as well as generate electricity for the power grid.

We stopped at a McDonald's in Sweetwater just after getting on Interstate 20. Time for a senior coffee and a senior break as well as a break for Fanny.

Eastland, TX gave us the opportunity for for another McDonald's stop. John made a tactical blunder by ordering a McD Mocha. Turns out it is 330 calories off his allotment for the day... and we're hoping for Pancho's tonight.

We stopped in Lancaster, Texas just off of Interstate 20 near Dallas, at 12:43 p.m. for lunch. John got a Whataburger (surprise!) and no fries. He's trying to help make up for that Mocha. Linda got a grilled chicken salad with light vinaigrette dressing. Both were really yummy! The deal with the free senior drink is that you get one if you order a sandwich or other entree. They are the small size drink, but you can refill all you want. We both got Diet Dr. Pepper. That is so unusual to find in a dispenser but Texas is big on Dr. Pepper. That's where it was concocted. Rumor has it that prunes are involved.

Speaking of Whataburger, we got off the freeway at the Liberty City exit to take a potty break at a Whataburger. In this store and they were celebrating the Blues Brothers, the Beatles, and a quote of Ralph Kramden. You need to see today's photo gallery to take advantage of all of this wisdom.

Two things John especially likes about the freeways in Texas. When there are more than two lanes, trucks are not allowed in the left (fast) lane. And, on all the freeways there are signs posted saying "Keep Right Except to Pass". And, the amazing thing is that most drivers do that. Which leads us to believe that it is enforced. An unusual feature, to the buzzards, is that on many Texas speed limit signs there are different limits for day and night driving (usually they're about 5 miles slower for nighttime). Some guy on the internet pondered this question: "When does night legally take effect?". Oh, well.

We checked into our La Quinta (racking up the rewards points) about 4:20 p.m. All their rooms are inside access. However, this time we got a first floor room very close to an entrance. And, they have great luggage carts. So, one trip to the van with the luggage cart and we're unloaded. Best part is that Fannie Mae didn't have to face an elevator twice in the same day!

John called ahead while we were on I-20 (Linda was driving) to make sure that Pancho's in Bossier City (next to Shreveport... just across the Red River) was, in fact, open and operating. They cheerfully answered the phone and assured him they were still there. Dinner plans are done!

Trivia: What's the difference between a coon ass (cajun) and a jackass? Answer: The Red River (separates Texas from Louisiana).

We left for dinner right around 6:00 p.m. John plugged the address into Wilma's nav system and off we went. It was about 10 miles. When we got there, lots of cars in the parking lot and the place was huge. John only had about 1,400 calories left in today's allotment (Whataburger and Pancho's don't mix well in the same day!). But, he ate what he wanted. There is a buffet line where you choose whatever you want. Some of the many items are red, green and sour cream enchiladas, tacos, chili reallanos, cheese sauce, as well as salsa, salad, jalapenos, guacamole and sopapillas. John asked the waitress if they maybe had a slip of paper with the calories for each of their items listed on it. Her reply was, "Are you kidding? This place?!". Well, that answered that. So, he's going searching online because some groups do post calorie info about restaurant foods. News Flash: John found info on the internet. He's happy to report that it appears he finished his day with 12 calories (out of 2,891) to spare. There were no snacks today, so that was fortunate.

Winner for today's funny signs was a billboard seen as we left Lubbock. It was advertising the Wash Happenin' Laundry.  Runner up was a bumper sticker John saw on a Dodge Ram pickup truck.  It said “Sometimes I Dodge, Sometimes I Ram”.

Today's photo gallery only has 10 images. You can view them by clicking here.

Hoppy trails to one and all. Remember, everybody loves some bunny sometimes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 05

We awoke in Amarillo at 6 a.m. There was still snow on the ground but none coming down.

John took a shower while Linda took Fannie Mae out for her morning constitutional.

We found an IHOP in the neighborhood and were packed up and there by 7:10 a.m. John had coffee, 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, a side of fruit, one-half a piece of whole wheat toast and shared an OJ with Linda. Linda had a spinach and tomato omlette, a fruit bowl and dekaf coffee.

After breakfast John plugged Palo Duro State Park into Wilma's navigation system and we were off by 8:07 to visit the park.  We arrived there at 8:40.  As one gets closer and closer there are no clues that a canyon is nearby.  The first explorers to the area must have been really surprised to suddenly come upon such a spectacular canyon in the middle of miles and miles of flat plains. John took some pictures of the plains. As they say locally, "miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. John also took a short video clip of a turning windmill and some lovely bird sounds. No snow had gone down into the canyon so, other than being a little nippy, it was a great day for touring the bottom of Palo Duro (which means hard wood in Spanish).  It is 120 miles long, 800 feet deep and is America's 2nd largest canyon. It was formed approximately one million years ago when the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River first carved its way through the Southern High Plains. In the summer a musical called Texas is performed in an outdoor ampitheater in the park.  The canyon and the musical are both well worth seeing. You can learn more about this interesting place by clicking here.

We took lots of photos which can sort of speak for themselves. We saw several deer but only captured one in just one photo.  Sadly, the Sad Monkey Railroad of Palo Duro Canyon is no longer operating.  It ran from 1950 to 1996 and was a really interesting way to tour the canyon.  In 1992, Linda and our son, Jay, came to west Texas to help celebrate the 80th birthday of Linda's dad. While they were here, they went to Palo Duro Canyon and Jay got to ride the Sad Monkey Railroad. After it closed a resident outside the park bought a part of it and has it on display. Linda took a photo of the train and it is in today's gallery.

Our next stop was Happy, Texas.  John's mom was a McDonald and she had 11 brothers and sisters. Many of them lived in west Texas and several of them in Happy. John was related to lots of McDonalds who lived there and spent one summer working in Happy when he was in junior high. He stayed with his Uncle Gus who had a blacksmith shop. It was dilapidated then. Sadly, it's been torn down and a grain elevator is in it's place. Gus lived in an "immobile" mobile home and Johs stayed there. Gus ownd a house, but had given it to his older son Reed, the town constable, to have for his family. Gus's house is in the video clip. John worked some for his cousin Keene McDonald repairing water wells and also plowed wheat stubble witn a big Minneapolis Moline tractor. The population of Happy is now 678. And, for film aficionados, the movie, "Happy, Texas" was NOT filmed in Happy, Texas and the actors weren't from Happy, Texas. It was filmed in, of course, California.

Next we stopped in Plainview (where Linda lived from age 3 until she left for Texas Tech College). We had a delicious lunch at the Old Mexico Cafe.  John had the gentleman's plate which had 2 enchiladas and 2 tacos.  Linda and John shared an order of guacamole.  Linda had a bean taco and half an order of nachos.  The Old Mexico Cafe was a favorite place for Linda's family and friends in the 50s and 60s.  She took a photo that shows the original Old Mexico Cafe that was located closer to downtown. The same family still runs it as in the 50s. The photo of the original location is included in today's photo gallery.

Linda has raved about Spudnuts and John saw them on the Food Channel. So she and John planned to split one so he could see what all the fuss was about. Sadly, it was after 11:30 a.m. and they were closed. Such is life! John is still Spudnut free!

The buzzards had a nice visit with Linda's stepmother, Helen Ayers, at her apartment.  The old Plainview Hospital (where Linda's brother, Wes, was born) has been converted into units for seniors. Helen has really fixed her place up cute and is enjoying living close to many friends, old and new. She does not miss keeping up a yard. Her place smelled like brownies because she was baking for a Halloween party to be held downstairs at 5:30. As we were leaving a friend was arriving to fetch Helen for senior aerobics.

Then we drove by Linda's old house where she grew up. 113 S.W. 9th Street. She took a couple of photos and John made a short video clip. After a quick stop by Sandy Cantrel Lindeman's house on Date Street the old buzzards and their Fannie headed toward Lubbock on a farm-to-market road and met up with the I-27 freeway again at Hale Center. 

The buzzards arrived in Lubbock at 4:00 p.m. and checked in to the La Quinta Inn on the Marsha Sharp Freeway. Marsha got the freeway named for her after she took the Texas Tech women's basketball team to a national championship. This La Quinta is an old Atrium hotel. All three floors of rooms face inside. The pet rooms are on the second floor. Fortunately, they have luggage carts you can use, so we only had to make one trip to wag our bags. But, we learned one thing for certain....Fannie Mae does not like elevators!

Shortly after checking in, we got the good news that Linda's brother, Wes, would be able to join us for dinner that evening. Originally Wes thought he would be at work and we were planning to meet really early for breakfast on Saturday. So, this was really great. We had planned to go to Acuff Steak House for dinner. Acuff Steak House has been in the same location in Acuff, TX for sixty years. The current owner (you'll me here in the photo gallery) has owned the restaurant for thirty years. Yes, it's a dumpy looking place, but folks travel for lots of miles to come eat the food there. It was a favorite place for Linda and John to go occasionally when they were students at Texas Tech College (before it was a University!). Acuff is about 18 miles east of Lubbock on Farm-to-Market 40. While they still have steaks, nowadays they have a fried catfish and chicken fried steak buffet on Fridays, both lunch and dinner. The entrees come with soup, a salad bar, a great assortment of vegetables and desserts. We all enjoyed fried catfish. The food was just as good as in our memories.  Wes lives in Lubbock but had never been there. Now he is probably going there for their special Thanksgiving meal.

As we had a long drive, longest of our road trip, tomorrow, we got to bed pretty early and did not get through with everything to post our travelogue for the day. Oh, well, you'll just have to wait!

So, today's photo gallery of 85 images can be viewed by clicking here. And, the short video of clips from today can be viewed by clicking here.

Tomorrow's travelogue will probably be pretty brief as we'll mostly be on the road headed to Shreveport. Probably be just a few pictures in the gallery. Hopefully, we'll get it out on time.

The funniest sign today was on the door of the Acuff Steak House. There's a photo of it in the gallery. It says something like “Wipe your feet real good” and is signed by Denise, one of the waitresses.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 04

Left our motel at 7:20 a.m. after having our Bright Side Breakfast. John had just what he had yesterday. Linda had her raw bits (twang twang), juice, red raspberry yogurt and coffee (she was so sleepy she forgot to add chocolate).

There were just some light sprinkles of rain on the windshield about 20 miles east of Albuquerque and there was snow on the ground. It was not actually snowing at the moment but the outside temperature was 33 degrees and dropping.

At about 7,000 feet elevation and still just about 22 or so miles east of Albuquerque the outside temperature was 32 degrees so we were watching for ice on the road and bridges.

 At 41 miles east of Albuquerque and the outside temperature was 30 degrees and the snow began.

At about 54 miles east of Albuquerque also at an elevation of 7000 feet there were snow flurries and lots of snow on the ground. It was 28 degrees outside (but, thank goodness, not inside). The good news is that the snow plows had already been through and sanded the road as well as plowed away the snow. So, we kept chugging on.

There are a lot of snow pictures in the photo gallery. Some of them have been converted to black & white images because they look much more "dramatic" (actually they looked 99.44% black & white already. Just like Ivory bath soap!).

In Santa Rosa there was a roadside sign that said that "When Flashing Interstate 40 Closed". Thank goodness it wasn't flashing. Also, we saw a Love's gas station with unleaded at $3.66 per gallon. Looks like we did pretty good on our gas price in Albuquerque ($3.06.9).

At just about 10 o'clock we stopped at a Stuckey's along Interstate 40 to get some coffee and go to the potty. If you were ever in Texas years ago, there were Stuckey's stores all along the highways. Their most popular item was their Pecan Log Roll. Sure enough, this Stuckey's (co-located with a gas station and a Dairy Queen) had Pecan Log Rolls. You'll see them in photo gallery along with a pretty quirky sign in the men's room. John wishes he had a pen with him when he went in there. Just adding an "ey" to the end of one word would have made it a MUCH better sign. See if you can figure it out. As we were leaving, a big block of snow fell off the service station overhang.

Cecil B. de Tarvin decided the fluffy snow was worthy of being captured in motion so he proceeded to hold his video camera on top of the steering wheel and film and drive at the same time.  He exclaimed on the clip, "I'd better stop this before I go off the road!" And, he turned off the camera. He looked in the rear view mirror and saw a Highway Patrol unit right behind us with lights flashing. He really thought he'd been busted for reckless driving. Whew! Lucky for Cecil, he wasn't after us. It turned out that he was on his way to help some poor soul who had broken down on the side of the road with a U-Haul trailer. You can see this clip if you check out the little video on YouTube. Fortunately, it doesn't have the Highway Patrol in it! The link appears a little later in today's travelogue.

Glenrio sits on the border of Texas and New Mexico. It was once a thriving stop along Route 66. Now it's just a ghost town. One of Glenrio's claims to fame in the past was the First/Last Motel in Texas which sits just across the state line. You can learn more about Glenrio by clicking here.

Just after Glenrio, we crossed from New Mexico into Texas at about 11:00 a.m. Of course, in Texas that would be 12 noon. John gets to change the time zone on his watch again. Mother Nature did not recognize the state line so She just continued to send down the white stuff.

It only took Wilma about 2 minutes after crossing into Texas for her GPS system to realize she had crossed a time zone. She dutifully moved the clock ahead by one hour. Pretty smart for a car!

About 54 miles west of Amarillo and it resumed snowing. Heavier this time. Temperature outside is 30 degrees. Really fun driving weather all in all (we're kidding, of course). But it is beautiful too. There are some junky things that look quite scenic when partly covered with fluffy snow. We did feel sorry for the many cows we saw along the way that were milling around in search of food.  It seemed surprising to us that they weren't huddled together for warmth.

One of the good things about the bad weather is that the road workers are not out doing road work on the highway. Constructions zones are meaningless in this weather.

Driving in to Amarillo, we passed the Helium Monument. Amarillo was once the self-proclaimed helium capital of the world. You know, like Gilroy and garlic. Just after the Helium Monument is the Cadillac Ranch. Here there are ten cadillacs buried nose down in a field at the same angle as the Cheops Pyramid. Want to learn more. Click here.

We arrived at the America's Best Value Inn in east Amarillo (it's right on Interstate 40 and our room faces the freeway!) just after 1:00 p.m. It was snowing like crazy. In fact, the last segment of John's video posted on YouTube, which was taken from our doorway, shows the heavy snow coming down. Linda was amazed at how fast the snow could make it through the holes in her Crocs and invade her toes. You can view the entire YouTube video by clicking here.

Left for lunch just before two o'clock Amarillo time. John has successfully changed the time zone on his watch (Yea!). Besides Pancho's, John has been raving about getting back to a Whataburger. He remembers them from over 40 years ago in Texas. There is one right down the road from us, so sweet Linda suggested we go there for lunch. John got his Whataburger (with grilled jalapenos), small fries and diet Dr. Pepper. Linda got a "build your own" grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun (with mustard, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, jalapenos) and a diet Dr. Pepper (her favorite). A photo of our check in the photo gallery shows that if you are over 55 years old, you are in CLUBDR55 and get your drinks for free! Hmmm. Our server didn't ask for ID.  Apparently one or both of the old buzzards must look over 55. Whataburger was started in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Now you know some more trivia! If you want to learn how it all started for Whataburger, you  can click here.

Tonight we're going to dinner at the Hoffbrau Steaks here in Amarillo. It has great reviews for steaks AND they have a grilled chicken with a Dr. Pepper sauce that Linda might try. I think we mentioned that she loves Dr. Pepper.

Before leaving for dinner, Linda called Palo Duro Canyon State Park and found that they are open at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow and they have snow only on the peaks, not in the canyon. So, we're good to go any time after breakfast. We left for dinner just before 6:00 p.m. Hoffbrau Steaks was only about six miles back west on I-40. No problems finding it (thank you, Wilma). The restaurant was really cute with signs, old license plates and taxidermied critters abounding. Lots of photos of Hoffbrau Steaks in the photo gallery today. Caitlyn was our wait person and did a great job. John had an 8 oz. bacon-wrapped filet mignon (he didn't eat the bacon), a salad with some blue cheese dressing and spicy black-eyed peas. Water to drink. Linda had a grilled tilapia and requested it be fixed with the Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce and fixin's just like their chicken dish. She also had the black-eyed peas and some fried green tomatoes. Both meals were delicious and were served with a big sourdough roll. You can see their menu by clicking here.

On the way back to the motel, John dropped Linda off at WalMart so she could get some shoes more appropriate for our weather. When she got back to the car, we filled up at Murphy's, which is adjacent to WalMart. Gas was $3.27.9 there. Still better than at home.

There are 50 images in today's photo gallery. Hope you enjoy them. Don't forget to watch the short video which is linked above, or click here. John's calorie report: 421 under budget for the day and that includes the Snicker's Bite Size and Resse's Peanut Butter Cup Snack he hasn't eaten yet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 03

We slept in until 7:00 a.m. this morning. Remember that the three of us just lost an hour when we came into New Mexico. So, our bodies thought it was 6:00 a.m. We were delighted to see an overnight email from one of our loyal fellow travelers. It's apparent that at least one person traveling with us has a remarkable interest in our writings and reads them soon after they are published. She pointed out that since Pancho's Mexican Buffet was a Mexican restaurant, the sign on the door would have been more appropriate if it had read "Cerrado" rather than "Closed". Incidentally, John has emailed Pancho's Mexican Buffet HQ inquiring about the health and well-being of their other restaurants along our route of travel. We have plans, you know!

After John showered, he spent time, lots of time, figuring out how to set his watch for the correct time zone. He has one of those solar, atomic watches that sets itself every morning at 3:00 a.m. while we sleep. He never has to fool with it. Until now! He downloaded the manual from the internet, found the correct watch module and finally figured out how to change the time zone. Note: he will have to do that again when we get into Texas. Hope his memory is good so it won't take so long.

Next we took the pooch out for a morning leak, then we went to our complimentary breakfast. John feels really bad about not calling it the right name. At La Quinta, it isn't the "Sunshine" breakfast, it's the "Bright Side" breakfast. You know....look on the bright side (gag). They had two of the universal waffle makers. John made a waffle and topped half of it with sugar-free syrup. He also had a raspberry low-fat yogurt, a tiny glass of orange juice and a cup of milk. Linda had coffee with a bit of Swiss Miss, orange juice, part of a peach yogurt and her raw bits (twang twang).

Something was going on with the AC power during breakfast. The circuit breaker blew a couple of times. Took out the microwave, waffle makers, toasters and television every time it went.

We left shortly before 10:00 a.m. to drive down to Old Town Albuquerque. Thank goodness for Wilma's navigation system. Found a public parking lot ($1 for each 1/2 hour). Fannie Mae (the brat) was with us. Unfortunately, we neglected to put her training shock collar on her. She pretty much barked and growled at everything that moved. She was doing her absolute best to protect us from anyone and anything. She just doesn't understand. But, after all, she's just a dog. And, remember, dog spelled backwards is...... We won't forget her "appliance" next time we're taking her where she'll be out among the natives and fauna. Either that or we need to be have Danielle (the dog whisperer) with us.

Linda did some shopping in Old Town. She got arrowheads and jumping beans. We walked around the square and wound up in the plaza next to a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. John gave some money to Linda and sent her to get one piece of chocolate for each of them. She returned with dark chocolate pecan bears for both. John consumed half of it on the spot and conserved the other half for a snack tonight if there are enough left over calories for today. Linda is still saving hers.

We got back to the motel room about 11:30 a.m. and John processed the images from the visit to Old Town. He then tried calling to make our motel reservation for tomorrow night in Canyon, TX, home of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Our plan is to visit the park on Friday morning before heading for Plainview and Lubbock. He called the number for the Knights Inn in Canyon where we had planned to stay. The lady answering the phone spoke only broken English and clearly did NOT understand John's name (even the John part). After a few minutes of getting nowhere fast, John did the one thing that would rescue us for sure....he hung up.

Back to the internet! Amarillo, TX is right before we get to Canyon, TX and has a wider selection of accomodations. So, John spent time searching and found an America's Best Value Inn (ABVI) on Interstate 40 just east of Amarillo. He made reservations for us there. We stayed at an ABVI in Needles on our first night out and it was just fine. From Amarillo, it's just a hop, skip and a jump down US Hwy 87 to Canyon and the state park. Should get some nice photos there.

Having that task accomplished, we headed out for lunch. John had seen an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the food network where they visited the Standard Diner in Albuquerque. He had already researched their address, so we plugged it in to Wilma's nav system and took off. This restaurant was originally a Standard Oil gasoline station. It was later converted into a diner and has some pretty neat art deco styling. It's a really cute place and there are a couple of images of it in the photo gallery for today. They have a very interesting menu. One item that was featured on the Food Network show was a bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Their little promo sign on the table for this item has a picture of the plate and a headline of, "Bacon, Meet Loaf". Linda got a cup of bisque made from three different kinds of squash and some fish tacos(actually scallop tacos). The tacos were pretty spicy and came with a side of couscous. John got a Western Cobb Salad. It had grilled peppers, corn, grilled chipotle chicken, corn, pepper jack cheese and of course, tomatoes, eggs, avocado and lettuce. A little bleu cheese dressing (with loads of garlic in it) made it even yummier. From piecing together the items, he came up with a calorie count of 694 for the salaed. You can visit the Standard Diner website and peruse their interesting menu.

After lunch we went back to La Quinta. It is really threatening rain and the forecast is for likely thunderstorms this afternoon and evening. So we're going to hunker down, hang out here and work on the travelogue. Linda and Fannie Mae had time for a nice, long walk and Fannie met up with a terrier (named Dakota) about her size as they got back to La Quinta. Fannie and Dakota got to have a 10 minute wrestling session that they and their "rents" thoroughly enjoyed. In spite of her obnoxious behaviour around others, she really is a good pooch and is a great traveling companion. We'll keep working on that growling and her distrust and fear of other people and things (especially wheeled things like bicycles, roller skates, skateboards, wheelchairs, walkers etc.)

We see them advertised on TV all the time, but don't have one in our neck of the woods at home. We're speaking of the Golden Corral Buffet. There is one of those just down the road from us and we're going to try it out this evening. Probably wait until pretty late to go. We're both full from the nice lunch.

Left for dinner at about 6:40 p.m. and headed for the Golden Corral. It was sprinkling and we were lucky to find a parking place near the door. The first thing John noticed was that they will grill your seafood to order. They had a really nice selection of food. At the grill stand, they also had beef (not your typical roast of beef, more like a large steak) from which they would cut you a slice. John got carrots and broccoli for veggies. The broccoli was still firm and the carrots were cooked just right. Much better than Furr's cafeteria. We like Hometown Buffet just fine (go there for Thanksgiving dinner), but have to say that the Golden Corral is better. Linda had a nice salad, steamed cabbage & broccoli and broiled talapia. For desert she had some tastes of volcano cake, bread pudding and a sugarless chocolate cookie. Everything was very fresh and yummy. And our server brought us complimentary coffee.

As we left the Golden Corral, we pulled across the street into a Circle K and topped off the gas tank for tomorrow's journey. Very nice price at $3.04.9 per gallon.

The funniest sign Linda noticed today was in one of the souvenir shops in Old Town.  It said "CAUTION: Attack Armadillo on Duty". If you have ever seen a live armadillo motate, you know that it is hard to imagine them protecting anything other than their own belly.

John is under his calorie allowance again today, but this time only by 383 calories. Going to both the Standard Diner AND the Golden Corral in the same day is difficult when you're watching those calories. However, the really good news for John is that the 383 calories allows for him to finish the other half of his dark chocolate pecan bear for a bedtime snack.

Some nice photos of Old Town, the Standard Diner and the Golden Corral in today's photo gallery which you can view by clicking here.

Happy trails to you until we meet again...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 02

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. this morning. We were both already awake. Did a great job of getting our belongings packed and loaded into the van. Then we had our complimentary breakfast at the motel. Linda had a half piece of whole wheat toast, some tea that she had fixed in the room and coffee. John had the other half piece of toast with a tablespoon of Jif Extra Chunky peanut butter (his favorite) and a bowl of Cheerios. We just don't understand why they keep peanut butter in the refrigerator. Makes it so much more difficult to spread! Linda ate her raw bits (twang twang) while we were on the road. We pulled out of the motel and headed for Albuquerque at 7:00 a.m.

Just after crossing into Arizona at about 7:20 a.m. we stopped at a Pilot gas station, mostly to clean the windshield, but we also filled the tank. Gas there was $3.39 per gallon.

John didn't think much of the motel coffee this morning, so we stopped at a Starbuck's in Kingman Arizona. As we were pulling into the parking lot we realized we've been to this very Starbuck's on two previous road trips. Reckon you just can't go many places without going through Kingman, AZ. Linda got her favorite Chai Tea made with a teabag and non-fat milk (not the Starbucks premade sticky sweet stuff). John got a Grande Mocha with an extra shot. Remember, he hadn't had any caffiene yet this morning.

We came through some showers all the way into Winslow where we found a Subway to get a sandwich for lunch. This Subway happened to be located inside of a big Walmart store in Winslow. We got sandwiches to eat in the car and pulled under the overhang at an abandoned travel center. Winslow seems to be a dying metropolis. Our lunch stop was at about 11:45 a.m.

Lots of rain and wind in eastern Arizona. We crossed into New Mexico just before 2:00 p.m. Made a pit stop at the New Mexico Welcome Center and a rest area just inside New Mexico. It was spitting rain in western New Mexico as well and we were still about two hours from Albuquerque.

Arrived at our La Quinta Inn just after 5:00 p.m. Note that we are now in Mountain Time and they do recognize daylight savings time in New Mexico (unlike Arizona). So, kiddees, be sure to set your watches forward one hour. The last two hours of driving were miserable. Heavy rain, gusty winds, lots of road work, and manners-challenged drivers (that's not what John called them). The saving grace is that the speed limit in both Arizona and New Mexico is 75 mph on the interstate. That means you can safely set your cruise control at just around 80 mph and they won't bother you. But, those 45 mph road work zones are a killer of time.

We left the motel at 6:00 p.m. for dinner and set Wilma's nav system to take us to Pancho's Mexican Buffet. Been waiting over two years to get back to a Pancho's. It was only six miles from our motel and John made it in record time. Then things went very wrong. There were no cars in the parking lot and no lights on in the restaurant. Optimistically, John said, "Maybe they are closed on Tuesdays"! Bad call. How about they are just plain closed? Does this mean that all of the other Pancho's Mexican Buffet restaurants on our itinerary are also going to be shuttered and dark? Only time (and the internet) will tell.

There is  Furr's Cafeteria near our motel so we drove there for dinner. The food was "cafeteria food". Overcooked vegetables. Decaying spinach in the salad. And, in keeping with the modern trend, you aren't charged for what you actually get to eat. You are charged a fixed price ($11.00) for an "all you can eat" experience. Reminded John of HomeTown Buffet, but the food wasn't very good, except for the baked Alaskan whitefish, which was fine.  It seemed sad to both of us since, when we were growing up, Furr's Cafeterias were excellent. Linda's favorite was blueberry and banana pie.

Ten hours on the road today. Tomorrow will be a welcome rest from constant driving. In the morning we get to experience the La Quinta "Sunshine Breakfast". You'll hear about that in tomorrow's travelogue. We're not sure what adventures we'll go on tomorrow, but we're hanging around Albuquerque and will leave for Canyon, TX on Thursday morning. We found a gas station just down the street from the motel. Before we leave for Canyon, we'll fill up for $3.04 per gallon! It's hard to tell what day it is on these trips. John really misses our day clock.

John's calorie report today is that he will finish the day 1,013 calories under his budget (after he polishes off his Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Snacker). There might be room for a What-A-Burger later this week!

Sign o' the Day was at a Wendy's by a gas station off I-40.  It said "Try our new and improved breakfast". John said he didn't see how something could be new AND improved at the same time.  Good point!  Runners-up were Shinarump Road (see photo gallery) and the Fairly High Maintenance Spa and Salon.

Sixteen images in today's photo gallery. You can view them by clicking here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 01

Here we are sitting in the driveway and it's about time to leave. It is 6:43 a.m. on Monday morning, October 24th and the trip mileage meter is been reset to zero. To record it for posterity, our actual odometer reading this morning is 56,982 miles. Will be headed to the Daily Bagel Cafe where we're going to have some breakfast and coffee. Then we're on the road to Needles.

After our coffee and bagels at the Daily Bagel, we hit the highway for Needles at 7:28 a.m. John had a burnt "Everything" bagel with light cream cheese and a medium mocha with a triple shot. Linda had the house coffee (which you pump for yourself out of pump pots). She pumped in half dekaf & then added 5 of the other 6 flavors available for a real taste explosion (organic road warrior, Columbian, hazelnut, vanilla and pumpkin spice).

As we headed south on 101 we felt especially happy not to be one of the hundreds and hundreds of commuters on the clogged 101 headed north (later we heard from number one son Jay that there was a tractor-trailer overturned on 101 in Morgan Hill that caused the commute to be eXtra slow this morning).

There was a lot of fog in Gilroy and we were sure hoping that it would not last over the hills and into the valley where we got on Interstate 5.

Luckily, it cleared off very nicely. We stopped at the intersection of  CA Highway 33 to change drivers. It was Linda's turn. That was at about 9:15 a.m. We made pretty good time and in another 58 miles we were off of Interstate 5. Hooray!

We turned off onto Highway 46 from Interstate 5 and stopped at McDonald's for a potty break and to get some coffee. This gave Fannie Mae a chance to get out of her crate and go potty as well. Then she got to ride with Linda in the front seat. We made it in just over three hours from the time we left the Daily Bagel Café.

We stopped for lunch right before noon in Tehachapi. Found a Burger King where Linda got a salad with grilled chicken and John got Whopper with cheese. No fries, no mayo. We ate in the van since it was too hot to leave Fannie Mae cooped up in it. John finished first and took off on the highway again while Linda polished off her salad.

Just west of Barstow on I-40 John noticed we only had about 45 miles worth of gas left. The next town is a little place called Daggett which is 4 miles east of Barstow. Daggett doesn't appear to have a gas station but it actually does. You have to drive through Daggett and you soon find yourself approaching Interstate 15. At the intersection of I-15 and Daggett Road are several gas stations. At $3.659 per gallon the price was pretty good. At Newberry Springs, about 15 miles east of Daggett on I-40, they have one gas station. It was charging $0.50 per gallon MORE than in Daggett. Reckon when you're the only game in town, you can do what you want. Linda suggested that John use Daggett as his new "blue" word when he feels frustrated at any less than stellar drivers on the road.  It sort of has a ring to it and reminds her of her dad's favorite "curse" word: "DadGummit!!!".

We stopped at one more rest area for a bathroom break. Finally arrived at our motel, America's Best Value Inn, just after 4:00 p.m. About nine hours with potty and meal stops.  Our room is not fancy, but certainly adequate. The only potential issue is that the folks staying next door have four (count 'em.... 4 dogs). They were a bit noisy earlier, but seemed to have quietened down at almost 8:00 p.m. The only casualty on our trip today is that Linda tore off her pinky fingernail into the quick (yes, blood) while trying to find the pocket where she had stowed her cellphone which was ringing.  No, the call was not worth it (not your call, Jay).

We had dinner at the Wagon Wheel restaurant in Needles. John found this place earlier this month on the internet. It's been around since 1978. Sort of "down home" food. Linda got Navy Bean soup and dry rye toast. John got a ground beef steak with grilled onions, green beans and a salad with some bleu cheese dressing.

On earlier road trips we've commented on all of the "closed" rest areas in California. We passed about seven rest areas between Morgan Hill and Needles and every one of them was open. And Maggie found doggie friends at the 2 where we stopped (one named Jaque and the other named Raider).

John went to a Kaiser Permanente Weight Management Clinic in mid-August. The instructor mentioned a website called John explored it and found they also had an application for his Droid phone. He sort of dove in. He set a goal to lose 30 pounds at a rate of 1 pound per week. His goal achievement date was predicted to be February 12, 2012. Since August 16th, he has lost just over 29 pounds. It is now predicted that he will hit his goal by November 26th. He says it will probably be sooner but won't know until we return home. He has done so well because he has been under his daily calorie allowance every day since August 16th. He never goes hungry and is compatible with his lifestyle. His current calorie budget is 2,869 per day. Today he was under by 816 calories. He's planning on reporting his daily over/under in the travelogue, but won't be weighing again until the morning after we return home. Gotta watch those beignets and rich Cajun food.

On past road trips, Linda has done "Thought for the Day" and "Tea Bag Philosophy".  On this trip she has decided to do favorite sign of the day.  She took a lot of photos of signs at a restaurant in Needles but, all in all, her favorite sign of the day was a road sign as we approached Needles.  It said "Flower Road" and there was not a sprig of greenery, much less a flower, in sight.  So, in her humble opinion, it was named by a member of Optomist International, who thought that surely someone would eventually plant a flower on that Godforsaken road.  And maybe they will . . . someday . . .

While there are only seven photos in today's gallery, you can view them by clicking here. As always, when you are through looking at the photos, just close that browser page and you  will come right back here.