Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 25

The old buzzards took their time getting up today since they did not have a long drive home. After a Bright Side breakfast, we left Bakersfield at 8:01. Our stays a La Quinta have been consistently good experiences. Well, there was that one incident where John got chatted-up and panhandled. We are considering giving them a chance to be a sponsor for our next road trip. We learned what La Quinta means from one of our River Taxi drivers in San Antonio. And it is not “Next to Denny's”. Would the buzzards sell out? No, never, unless the price was right.

We took Roseville Road to I-5 and then got off briefly at Buttonwillow for mocha and chai at Starbucks. That's our second most frequented Starbucks in the chain. Back onto I-5 which is not always (try NEVER) the most scenic of California byways. But the weather was great and the traffic not bad and we were headed home. We passed by cotton being harvested. There were lots of orchards and vineyards along the way. One group of trees looked like they might be loaded with pomegranates but it was hard to tell.

After changing off driving duties a couple of times we were to the turn off of I-5 onto Highway 152. When we get that close we are almost home and it feels like it. We were hoping that the hills would have turned green by our return but there is just a tinge of green in some places. The fall colors of the trees are pretty. We don't have anything as dramatic as the change of seasons in some other places but we do have lovely weather as compensation. And, as soon as we start getting more of our seasonal rains, the hills will become lovely green mounds, replacing our summer California “gold”.

We came into town on Dunne Avenue so we could drive by the newly moved Honda dealership (from Gilroy to Morgan Hill into the old Chevy place). Wilma needs a mani-pedi (oil change and tire rotation) next week after going x,xxx miles (Hah, thougbht you'd get a Mileage Madness clue right there, didn't you)? Next we stopped at the Post Office to retrieve our mail in one of those BIG USPS buckets. Then we did a survey of the Crawfish House to see if they were open yet. The paper was off the inside of the windows, there were 2 cars there and a menu taped to the front door. Linda got out to look at the menu and a lady opened the door and gave her a take out menu. When Linda asked when the opening would be she said “In a couple of weeks”. That answer seems pretty funny since that is the same thing Linda was told in May by one of the construction workers. The menu does not look that encouraging. No gumbo and most entree items have their prices stated as "Market Price". John's comment was "The menu has a rot of items served with lice." But we will give it a try if and when they ever do a couple of weeks, months, years...

The next two stops were to Safeway (for a few basics) and to Tacos Choice (for lunch to take home). We came home and partially unpacked, sorted the mail, got the heater going, blogged some and caught up on a few Survivor episodes. We did unpack the van and put things where we can redistribute them into their normal places at home.

Fannie Mae seems especially glad to be home. She has been romping with her cow and some other toys.

John's brief road trip calorie report: Consumed 53,801 calories (14,424 under budget) resulting in a loss of 4.8 pounds on the road trip. And, he was NEVER hungry and got to eat the foods he enjoys.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was just after passing the San Martin exit. Soon there was a sign that said Morgan Hill. We both noticed that it is very faded but it does say Morgan Hill. There is something that feels real good about coming home.

Here's hoping that we will have a lot of entrants into our Mileage Madness Contest. Got some really cool prizes. John will be sending out the rules and a notice of the entry deadline.

Here is a "Two Minute Medly" of songs by Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole and Willie Nelson that sort of fit our road trips, and especially this most recent one. Just click here to play it.

We are thankful to have had such a wonderful Road Trip and to be home safe and sound. Special thanks to you for riding along with us and we hope you enjoyed your armchair travels. The four of us (Linda, John, Fannie Mae and Wilma) wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration next week.

Happy trails! We hope to be at it again by next summer!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 24

“Let's just see what happens if we go down this road.” That seemed to be the mantra for today and it worked out well. It was our next-to-the-last day on our trip and we were still feeling adventuresome and still having tons of fun.

We were up and out of the Pine Country Restaurant in time to enter I-40 at 8:01 a.m. Linda had buckwheat pancakes with orange marmalade. John had three eggs, bacon, English muffin and a small bit of hash browns. If you are ever in Williams, AZ (gateway to the Grand Canyon) be sure and try the Pine Country Restaurant, right in downtown Williams near the visitor center.

Before long we pulled off the interstate to take a look at Seligman, AZ, mostly because we saw their billboard for the Route 66 Roadkill Cafe. Too bad it was early for lunch, but we got a look at the fit to kill restaurant and their menu. Here's their motto: At the Roadkill Cafe, "Eating's more fun when you know it was hit on the run!" Some menu items are Fender Tenders, Varmint Vittles, Center Line Bovine, Mystery Meat, Too-Slow Doe, No Luck Buck, Tire Tread Buff, High Speed Special (a chicken that didn't make it across the road) and on and on and on. There's a photo of the Roadkill Cafe in todays photo gallery.

There is a poem by one of their surviving customers on the back of the menu that starts out like this: "I had my dinner yesterday, in a place they call Roadkill Cafe. They serve their dishes full of tricks, scraped off Highway 66. There's Frog Leg Pasta a la mode, Squirrel Lasagna a la road. Hamster Hash, Rack of Coon, Chunk of Skunk, Leg of Loon. Fat Free Cat, Pit Bull Pie, Seagull Soup with Eagle's Eye. The Buffalo Wings are very good. They lift them gently from the hood. Turtle Toes are quite a deal, They serve them hot, right off the wheel. Ground Hound meatballs, Souffle of Snake, Deep Ditch Rooster, Flattened Drake." You just gotta love the humor!

We learned that you can stay on the actual old Route 66 all the way to Kingman, so after exploring Seligman we stayed on Route 66 just for fun. Soon we came to a series of 5 signs along the road reading "If daisies are - your favorite flower – keep pushing up – those miles per hour – BURMA SHAVE". We were ready when the next signs popped up. You can see them in today's photo gallery. Neither one of us have seen the old Burma Shave signs in decades. They were, and are, truly a national treasure.

Being on this old highway made Linda feel nostalgic since she rode on it with her family on two trips from Texas to southern California. The 1st time was a summer in the '40s when she was around five. Their car was a blue Studebaker. It had a canvas water bag hanging on the front of the hood. It would get refilled at gas stops by the attendant while he was pumping gas, cleaning windows and checking the oil. The water was used for drinking and for refilling the swamp cooler that was in her mother's window. Every once in a while she would add more water to the straw using a little hand pump and it would help cool off the family. The other trip was in December of 1957, the year Disneyland had opened (visiting our relatives and going to the Magic Kingdom was the purpose of our trip).

Back to November, 2011: Soon we came to another series of signs: You can drive – a mile a minute – but there is – no future in it – BURMA SHAVE.

And then these: Train approaching – whistle squealing – pause and get – that rundown feeling – BURMA SHAVE

Seeing these signs made both old buzzards remember how much fun they provided oh so many years ago. It was nice of someone to recreate them for old and young people to enjoy. Some had a safety message, others a life message and lots were just funny.

Here's more: Big mistake – many make – rely on horn – instead of brake – BURMA SHAVE

This last set was next to an old gas station with tons of memorabilia and a corvette out front: Blackened forest – smolders yet – because he flipped – a cigarette – BURMA SHAVE

We were back onto I-40 at Kingman, Arizona where we switched drivers at a McDonald's and Linda drove into California past the fruit checkpoint. As we approached the border we gained an hour so that it became 11:11 instead of 12:11. Lunch was in Wilma from a McDonald's in Needles. Linda had a yogurt parfait and John had a Caesar chicken salad. Both had diet Dr. Peppers.

“Let's see what happens when we go on this road” said John after we had been on I-40 in CA for a while. He had spotted a sign saying "Historic Route 66 - Exit Here". We got off at Ludlow, CA and took a few photos there since we have friends whose last name is "Ludlow". We met them when they were customers at our print shop. Low and behold we were off onto the National Historic Trail for Route 66 again. We had been warned that the road got a bit rough. Sure enough, parts of it would loosen your fillings. We did come across a railroad crossing while a train was going by. Linda grabbed her camera and shot a bit of video which you can see below. It is quite shaky because of the road being so rough. We stayed on it a while and then dropped off in Newberry Springs, Yermo and Daggett before reaching Barstow (where I-40 ends – or starts, depending on your point of view). We had to pick up Hwy 58 to go across the Mojave and through the Tehachapi's to get to Bakersfield, our home for our last night on the road.

It was a long, long day and when we exited CA 58 to get to our La Quinta, John made a wrong turn. It was going home time. We found ourselves on the Roseville Road. The traffic was HORRIBLE. John remembered that the Red Lobster restaurant we had visited on our last road trip was on this road. So, we decided to go to to dinner before checking in. John called the La Quinta and told them we were in town and what we were up to.

So we pulled in to Red Lobster for dinner. John had shrimp, lobster, muscles and scallops on a bed of pasta. It was one of their specials called the Bay Harbor Lobster Bake. He also had a salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Linda had lobster pizza. Both had a cheese biscuit and enjoyed their seafood a lot.

They went back to the room and worked on the day's travelogue just a bit, then turned in for the night.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was on a church in Newberry Springs. It said “Get Rich Quick – Count Your Blessings!” And the BURMA SHAVE signs on old Route 66.

John's favorite sign of the day (maybe for all time) was found in the Pine Country Restaurant. It said, "Unattended children will be use for soup base". You can see this sign and the other 101 images in today's photo gallery by clicking here. Most are images taken along Route 66.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 23

The two old buzzards got up at 5:20 a.m. in Silver City in time to be at Off the Hook by 6 for breakfast. Even though the sign said 7 the owner had told us that he would be there by quarter to 6 and open at 6. He was a little late (had to go to the 24-hour Wal Mart in town and get sausages) but we waited around and had a nice breakfast. Still made it out of town by 6:46. Wilma's navigation system showed 6 hours and 8 minutes to Williams, AZ and she didn't even know yet that we were driving 18 extra miles to go in and out of Mogollon (off our Highway 180 route).

Leaving Silver City it was 20 degrees but it warmed up to 25 by the time we went over the Gila River. There was some beautiful smokey-looking condensation coming up off the river so we paused to take a few shots. By 8:06 we reached Glenwood whose motto is “A town you'll never forget!” Apparently CASH BINGO on Saturday nights at the community center is a big deal. We saw 4 or 5 A-frame signs advertising it plus a banner. The building where the bingo is being played says "Senior Center." The Friends of the Morgan Hill Senior Center are going to get BINGO going early in 2012 so we took a few photos. Anybody wanna sign up to be a Bingo Buddy in Morgan Hill on one Tuesday night a month? If so, just click here.

At the next small town - Alma “A town you will soon forget” we got off Highway 180 and on to Hwy 159 to go to Mogollon, an old mining community that's now a Historical District and mostly a Ghost Town. One of our first sights was some black cows and their cute calves strolling down the road. Not the side of the road.... the road. We drove slowly until they got out of Wilma's way. Linda took a real short video clip of the cows. What you need to know is that John's remarks were caused by the "herd" all moving to the left side of the road except for one, who got left on the right side of the road. And, at the end, you can hear Fannie Mae's take of the whole situation. You can play it below.

It was truly a long and windy 9-mile road, starting off 2-lane and changing to a scary and sometimes icy one-lane road for the last 5 or so miles. The good news was that there were no other vehicles on the road on the way in. It was a real treat to see all the interesting old buildings and the remote place where some people still live. We only saw one person in the whole place. There was a fellow working who could be seen through a window in a wood shop. Everything (including the woodworking shop) was marked closed. Apparently their season for the museum and coffee, etc. shops is May through October. Actually we were glad because we got to see a lot without having to deal with any traffic on the way in. On our way out there were several vehicles that we had to make way for by scooting over on the one-lane road as we met them. It was the most scarey when we were on the outside of the cliff where we could have careened off into a gulch and just ended up as a rusty piece of “old California mining equipment”.

By 9:51 we were back on Highway 180. There was soon evidence on both sides of the road of the bad forest forest fires that have occurred in Northern Arizona and New Mexico during 2011. By 11:04 we were in Arizona and were still seeing leftovers of forest fires. In some places the trees were completely black. In other places the trunks were black but there were still green branches of needles on the trees.

We stopped in Springerville at a McDonald's for mochas and a rest stop at 11:43. At Holbook we got onto I-40 and saw lots of things that looked familiar from a previous road trip we took to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. We held off stopping for lunch until 1:30 at Joseph City where we got gas and Subways.

Soon we were out onto I-40 again and John was consulting his cartographer (Linda) for the name of the mountain with snow that was becoming very visible in the distance. She was able to find Mt. Humphreys, 12,633 feet – the highest point in Arizona – on her atlas. The top of it was covered with show so it was especially beautiful today.

We arrived in Willams, AZ at 3:49 and made it to our assigned room 107 at Motel 6 by 4:07. Linda noticed right away that the funny Motel 6 bedspreads were back. Eagle eye John noticed that there were clothes and other items obviously belonging to someone who was still occupying the room. Fortunately for all concerned, they weren't at home. We backed up pretty fast and shut the door. John went to the lobby and was reassigned to room 111. Whew! The same funny bedspread but nice and empty. We have never had that happen before. Ever!

When Linda took Fannie for a walk they found a small park with a statue of William Sherley Williams, the early Arizona territory explorer and trapper for whom Williams was named. He was born in 1787 and died in 1849. Doesn't it seem that his parents had a lack of imagination to name him William? But it worked out OK. He ended up with a city, a lake and a mountain named for him. And there's also that nice green statue.

The Pine Country Restaurant is our favorite place for any meal in Williams, so it was great to get to go there for dinner. The old buzzards were both hungry for omelets. Linda got veggies and John got the meat lover's.

There are 77 photos in today's photo gallery. You can view them by clicking here.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was a small one – on a tea bag. It said “You're never too old to become younger” by Mae West 1892 – 1980.

We must be almost home. We are already talking about our next road trip.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 22

Last night John was wondering what our Motel 6 breakfast would consist of. Betty Ann's guess was that it would consist of one table heaped with packaged muffins, donuts, etc. Actually, when the old buzzards checked it out they found that it was low fat, low sugar and high fiber (if you count the table top). In other words the table was bare and there was a sign on the wall that we missed last night. It said Free Coffee available from 6am to 10am.

When Fannie and Linda went out for their morning walk they had discovered Off the Hook Cafe and brought back a breakfast menu. It looked like a place the locals liked (4 pick up trucks and more pulling up as Fannie and Linda walked back to Motel 6). It turned out to be a cute place. Linda had Raw Bits Twang Twang, orange juice and dekaf senior coffee. John had eggs, bacon, hash browns (just a taste), toast and senior coffee.

After breakfast we picked up Fannie at Motel 6 and toured historic downtown Silver City. It sprang to life during the summer of 1870 with the discovery of silver. Miners and merchants were soon present in abundance. Because of devastating floods between 1890 and 1910, what used to be Main Street is now known as the Big Ditch and lies some 55 feet below grade. There has been lots of downtown revitalization since 1985 and downtown is bustling with over 200 entities, including businesses, art studios, government services, nonprofits, churches and schools.

John and Linda spent some time at the Javalina Coffee House. It was brimming with personality and a few dogs (even though there was a sign on the door forbidding dogs). They had lots of unusual seating arrangements. Some were couches and tables up in areas that were formerly display windows. The coffee and tea were excellent and the people watching was spectacular. You'll get a good flavor of this business in today's photo gallery.

Linda visited a few antique stores and found some treasures at practically every one. John, Fannie Mae and Wilma waited patiently outside each location until it was lunchtime. John headed up an investigation of a Whataburger wanabee called Blake's Lotaburger. We had been seeing them around since we drove through New Mexico 2 weeks ago. And since John had run out of Whataburger establishments, he felt duty bound to see what a Lotaburger was. They started in Albuquerque 2 years after Whataburger started in Corpus Christi. They copied the orange and white stripes (using red and white stripes) and most of the name. There are 79 Lotaburgers, all in New Mexico. John reported that his Lotaburger was OK but not quite as good as a genuine Whataburger. Linda got chili pie (chile and Fritos) with jalapenos and green peppers. It was OK. The buzzards both had diet Dr. Pepper. (He's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?)

After lunch we drove north to explore Pinos Altos (before the thought even crosses Jim's mind, it means "Tall Pines"). We went up about 1000 feet in elevation and all at once found that we were at the Continental Divide. For those of you not paying attention in geography class that day, here is a link which explains what the Divide.

There were pine trees, some very cute cabins and a lot of really old things, as in museum-old. We saw an ancient sign telling us about the Pinos Altos Museum and found it right down the road. The proprietor was a fellow named Francis Schafer who is a 4th generation Pinos Altosite. His family has owned the building the museum is in for over 130 years. After we bought a couple of things in the gift shop he offered to let us go through the museum for free (it's only a dollar admission). It turned out to have LOTs more in it than we were expecting. We hope you will enjoy seeing some of the fascinating historical things in today's photo gallery.

We returned to our lodging to blog for a while and work on the photos. Because there was such a beautiful sunset yesterday with all the clouds we decided to try to get some "drama" shots during the golden hour (1/2 hour before until 1/2 hour after sunset). So, at 4:15 we drove back on the road towards Pinos Altos to take our photos. Our subjects would be the sun, clouds, hills, brush and trees. Turned out it also included a strand of barbed wire. We have put the sunset pictures in a separate photo gallery. We'll provide the link below.

For dinner we returned to Off the Hook for an all-you-can-eat catfish, shrimp, chicken, hush puppies, fries, coleslaw and iced tea. The owner, cook, bottle washer, cashier told us that he has had the place for 6 months and his wife told him he was the only person she knows who pays to have a job. The restaurant business is hard and his place is sort of out of the way. We hope he succeeds since he seems very nice and has great food.

And so ends another day for the two old buzzards as they prepare to roost and get up early tomorrow to journey to another state of mind, namely Arizona.

So, we hope you enjoy the 107 photos in today's photo gallery which you can view by clicking here. The sunset images are in chronological order, earliest to latest part of the day. If you'd like to view these 18 images, just click here.

Linda's favorite sign was seen at breakfast under some old boots. It said “Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be like a pair of old boots … the worse we look the better we feel!”.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 21

Linda ran out of her Raw Bits Twang Twang and had Bright Side raisin bran cereal and a sliced banana as a lame substitute, along with coffee and OJ. John had coffee, OJ, a banana and a Texas malty waffle with Jif peanut butter.

The old buzzards and Fannie Mae were gassed and on the road by 8:03. Gas in Fort Stockton seemed to be $3.399 across the board. John went to an enroute McDonald's and ordered a medium Mocha. He's learned how to order the non-fat with "light chocolate" and no-whip. We had a nice surprise when entering onto I-10. The speed limit was 80 miles an hour (65 at night). It was a day for no gravel in our travel since there were no back roads that would not take us way out of our trajectory and we had over 5 hours of driving, even using the freeway.

We did gain an hour even before we got to New Mexico. Wilma had been indicating that it was after 10 am and all at once it was 9 something. Apparently Texas is so big it has at least 2 time zones. We soon came to a sign informing us that we were in a new time zone. This occurs just west of Van Horn, TX as you enter Hudspeth County. Neither Linda nor John were aware that Texas was in two zones.

The scenery was a vast desert that has been in a severe drought, so it was even drier than usual for the road to El Paso. There were lots of prickly pears, other cactus, lots of scrubby things, yuccas and vast areas of bare earth. We came to a Border Patrol checkpoint. The dog dutifully sniffed around our car. John commented that after seeing the miles and miles of desert, he felt these Border Patrol officers had a really difficult task. The officer's reply was "Every day".

There were some mountainous areas before and after El Paso. John remembers going to El Paso and into Juarez with his parents to a nice Mexican restaurant back in the 50s or 60s. That is not done so casually these days. This was Linda's first look at El Paso, other than from an airplane and the windows at the El Paso airport. John sweetly offered to drop her off in Juarez to shop for trinkets but she declined. That rascal knew she did not have a passport and would not be able to get back into the good ole USA. From the freeway part of the wall separating Juarez from El Paso could be seen along with an 8 to 10 block stretch of crowded housing in Mexico.

We were welcomed into New Mexico at 10:51. After leaving El Paso and driving in even more desert we came upon another Border Patrol checkpoint. At this site, they are constructing and even larger facility. John wanted to tell the officer that we were all citizens except the little chihuahua in the back. Reason prevailed.

Those who are weary of reading about Whataburgers can now rejoice even while John is going through his 5 Ws of grief. The Whataburger he had for lunch in Las Cruces was perhaps the last one he will have until next June when he is in Texas for his 50 year reunion. Or maybe the last one....ever! We did have one follower who asked “Just what is so special about Whataburgers?” John explains it this way: "First, the Whataburger buns are about 6" in diameter. You can get the burger on a smaller bun and even on a whole wheat bun if you desire. The buns are always really fresh. The burger comes with meat, lettuce, tomato, mustard, onions and pickles. For $.39 to $.49 (depending on restaurant) you can have them add sliced or grilled jalapenos. The coup de gras is that you can ask them to toast the buns on both sides and even request them to get them extra toasty. It is really a yummy sandwich. Don't need cheese. Don't need bacon. Just the Whataburger. Hence the slogan, 'Oh, Whataburger should be!'"

Our route out of Las Cruces was still on I-10 until we got to Deming where we turned northwest onto Highway 180 which took us to our destination for the next two days: Silver City, New Mexico. There were cattle and goats, windmills and some interesting clouds along 180. The puffy and swirly clouds we had seen earlier in the day turned dark and we went through some pretty heavy rain between Deming and Silver City. Eagle eye (or is that buzzard eye) John spotted a windmill that Linda was able to get a nice shot of out of her window. And since we were not on the freeway, we were able to stop briefly.

Linda has a classmate who told her that he had never heard of anyone going to Silver City on purpose. He said “I have relatives there so that's why I have been to Silver City”. We arrived into the city limits at approximately 2:13 and it was still raining. The Glad Tidings Church welcomed us with this pithy thought: “A tamed mind brings happiness”. Hmmmmmmmm! The old buzzards and Fannie Mae will have to remember to tame down our minds the next time we feel a spell of unhappiness coming on. But, as of today, Day 21 on our New Orleans Road Trip, we are all Fine AND Dandy, thank you very much.

Linda is esPECially looking forward to exploring Downtown Silver City tomorrow because of a video that the downtown merchants made. It was filmed in Historic Downtown Silver City, New Mexico from January 29-February 6, 2011, as part of a winning application for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2011 Great American Main Street Award. Merchants and downtown denizens gathered in their places of business and/or favorite hangouts to sing a line of the 1963 hit song "Downtown," written by Tony Hatch. You can view the 3:30 video on YouTube by clicking here.

We checked into our very nice clean room at Motel 6. We even have a microwave and a fridge (not always the case at no frills Motel 6). Linda washed up our delicates at the very clean and handy guest laundry facility about 15 steps from our room. So we are all set with enough tidy whities to make it home.

We had located lots of interesting-sounding Silver City restaurants on the internet but, now that we are here, it seems that many of them are closed on Sunday and today just happens to be SUNDAY. So our choice was pizza or Subway. We chose Subway. We got the address for Subway, asked Wilma to find it. When she said "Destination", it wasn't there. Then we tried Papa John's Pizza. It was located in a Shell gasoline station. No sale. The we stumbled across the Wrangler Bar and Grill. Good news, the parking lot was crowded! Almost always a good sign. We decided to dine there and were not disappointed. Linda had broiled trout with a salad and sweet potato fries. John got a chef salad with some bleu cheese dressing. They brought out a small loaf of jalapeno-cheddar bread that we really yummy. All-in-all, were glad we couldn't locate Subway!

Only 12 photos in todays gallery, but there are some nice ones of the sky and clouds. You can view them by clicking here.

Our funniest sign today was the 80 mph speed limit sign in Texas. 75 is the highest speed limit we had ever seen before. With all these long straight roads it is really hard to go 55 mph.

Plans for tomorrow were to go to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (free admission with John's senior pass). Plans were scrubbed when we went online and found they are closed until early December because of work being done on the highway. We'll find something interesting for you, though.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 20

After a delicious Bright Side Breakfast (and shapely too – the Texas shaped waffles are back) the two old buzzards were on the road by approximately 8:21. For the second day in a row, John has enjoyed a Texas shaped waffle with some of his Jif Extra Chunky peanut butter on it. No syrup. As we drove away, John said “I will be so blooming (euphemism) to be out of this mixmaster (he meant the layers of freeways). We were soon on US 90, a very user-friendly highway. John had to fake Wilma out and tell her we were going to Del Rio instead of Fort Stockton so we could get our route to go on Hwy 90 and to be off of the Interstate.

D'ja ever notice that there are 2 kinds of people? Those who like to stop at historical markers and those who do NOT like to stop. Linda has decided that there is a 3rd kind – those who like to stop sometimes. More later.

Ever heard of the Texas Two Step? It used to be a dance but now, according to a billboard on US 90, it is a type of lottery ticket.

Here is an exact quote from John at 8:31 am: “It feels good to be back on the highway in a sick sort of way”.

We soon started seeing signs for Castroville. TX (a long ways from our Castroville in CA). The population is 3039, few enough to live aboard the USS Lexington which holds 3,200. That is now how John evaluates the size of a town's population. They either fit, or they don't. And, we do not think they grow artichokes like the Castroville that is near Morgan Hill. A celebrity note: Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in Castroville sometime in the 1940s (before she became a famous movie star).

Our next big town on our back road venue was Hondo, TX where if you want to celebrate Christmas early with God in God's Country, you must show up on November 19th. It is a cute town. We took a few photos there. See today's photo gallery.

At Sabine we saw a place where mesquite furniture is made and a cute waiting station for the train. At Blanco Creek there was an old rusty railroad bridge, one of many that we saw today. We photographed several of them.

Finally we found coffee at around 10:30 at a McDonald's in Uvalde, after passing lots of shaved ice stands. Uvalde is the home of Sul Ross College and the burial place of John Nance Gardner. Is there anybody besides Jeisel out there old enough to remember who Gardner was? John has learned a trick at McDonald's when ordering a Mocha. You order a small, non-fat Mocha with one pump of chocolate and no whipped cream. Total damage is 180 calories, rather than 240.

John has occasionally begun stopping at historical markers along the road, and to his amazement, some of them are pretty interesting. However, all at once he is becoming frustrated with them. Here is a direct quote from today: “How come all the historical markers are on the left?” Laughter from Linda and then a revelation from John: “Obama must have had them relocated!” (They are all on the left, get it?). Oh, well, Linda thought it was pretty funny. You do get pretty desperate for humor when you don't have the radio or CD player on. John's deeper thoughts on this subject went like this: How can Obama issue an executive order to move all of the Historical Markers to the left side of the road in Texas, a staunchly Republican state where they should all be on the right? Later, he had another thought which he did not share with Linda at the time. Duh, if we were going the other direction, they would be on the right. Enough of that subject.

At Bracketville we approached an interesting tower and drove closer to it to get a photo. It did not get easier to tell what it was for when we got nearer. John thinks it's a water tower. Maybe someone can recognize its purpose when they see the mystery tower in todays photo gallery. Anyway, the tower was on ranchland which had been in the York family since 1901.

We went by Laughlin Air Force Base as we got close to Del Rio, Texas. There was a recruiting billboard for the Texas Rangers that said “When you are finished serving your country, come join us”. John was delighted to find a Whataburger in Del Rio! Linda dressed up her chicken salad with grilled jalapenos and a sliced boiled egg. Since this was our last full day in Texas, John realizes that he will soon be running out of Whataburger stands. He is handling it pretty well. This time he got a double meat Whataburger with the bun toasted on both sides and toasted pretty dark. He liked that!

Speaking of Del Rio, Texas, John feels compelled to once again bring up Wolfman Jack, that larger-than-life rock & roll radio personality from outlaw station XERF with it's transmitter in Ciudad Acuna, just across the border from Del Rio. John found an audio clip where Wolfman Jack introduced a song by the famous Buster Brown titled "Fannie Mae". How about his naming that song after our dog! John found it on Amazon and downloaded it. If you'd like to hear some old time Rock & Roll, click here. It should open your MP3 player.

As we were leaving Del Rio, John spotted a sign for the Buzzard Roost RV Park. And right next door was the Buzzard Roost Saloon. They both appeared to be popular places. The buzzard looked familiar.

Soon after passing through Comstock, TX we went over the Pecos River Bridge. Soon we saw a sign directing us to the Judge Roy Bean Museum and Visitor Center. We turned off Hwy 90 and a sign said, "Langtry 1 Mile". Langry was tiny and a bit of a dump. We had no idea if this place would be open or not. Boy, was it ever! What a beautiful facility. Lots to see and learn about Judge Roy Bean (the law west of the Pecos) and Lilly Langtry. It was far nicer than the Alamo and not so commercialized. You could even take photographs in the buildings (not at the Alamo) and the saloon even had an audio presentation you could hear just be pressing a button (at the Alamo you had to rent the audio tour). The ladies in the Visitor Center were charming, knowledgable and very helpful. We learned that Judge Roy is actually buried in Del Rio, but he died right there in Langtry in the billiard room.

Leaving Langtry, we turned off onto Hwy 285 at Sanderson, TX and had about 60 miles to go to Fort Stockton. It was all desert with no towns and not that much variation in the scenery. There were lots of prickly pears and scrubby brush. We passed five semi trucks, but no cars. We only saw half a dozen vehicles coming in the opposite direction. Just outside Fort Stockton, John noticed the sun peeking through a hole in some dark clouds. Just ahead there was a windmill (on the left, of course). John pulled over the the left side of the road (that's a no-no) and lined up the windmill with the hole in the clouds for a photo. There are two pictures in the photo gallery. There is a single head of cattle to the left of the windmill in one of them. You can almost see the sun's rays shining down from the clouds. John says it's a bit ethereal. The other is just the windmill and the sun visible through the clouds. They're in the photo gallery.

We checked in at La Quinta in Fort Stockton and about an hour later went to dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant called Bienvenidos (Welcome!). Linda had fish tacos (five, count 'em, five). John had the Bienvenidos Dinner. Two enchiladas, a chili rellano, a taco and salad in lieu of rice and beans.

Our funny sign of the day has to be explained in context. It was a highway sign showing a curve in the road with a speed limit under it of 70 mph. Just so happens that the highway we were on already had a speed limit of 70 mph. John summed it up with "Duh!".

Today's photo gallery has 81 photos in it and you can see every one of them by clicking here.

A funny business combo seen today was the Fun Time Radiator and Shaved Ice Stand.

Bye for now, ya'll.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 19

The two old buzzards awoke refreshed in San Antonio, Texas on 11-11-11, Veterans' Day, ready for another day on the river. Wilma did not have to wait for us in a $16.50 parking garage downtown. Thanks to one of our Rio Taxi drivers yesterday, we found out where they park and it's for free. It's in a dirt lot, right next to the locks on the river. Only had to walk about 100 yards to grab a Rio Taxi.

The weather started out a little nippy, but turned out even nicer than yesterday since there was no wind and it warmed up as the day went along. The difference in the amount of people at the River Walk was amazing, as some of the photos in today's gallery will show. Being a Friday and a holiday must have been huge contributors to the mass of humanity.

Apparently today was chosen by lots of couples as their wedding day. There is certainly no excuse for hubby (or wife) to forget 11-11-11. We saw two different weddings in progress at Marriage Island during trips up and down the river. The taxi driver said that area is called Marriage Island. It is a natural island formed by the roots of cypress trees and is in the shape of a heart. Around the bend they both showed us Divorce Island. When Linda asked one what shape it was, he quickly answered “An alimony check”.

Besides weddings, we saw quite a few things we had missed on our first day. Today we had one of the same Rio Taxi drivers as yesterday (the one who was being retrained and he had graduated to being on his own today). We also had 2 drivers who were women. Once we were transferred from one barge to another one mid-stream (or mid-river rather). They just pulled up beside each other and lined up so we could step over from one to the other. There was no "Oops!" (splash).

The buzzards decided to have lunch at the Menger Hotel Restaurant again since it was such a fantastic experience yesterday. And they hadn't gotten lured in by any of the touristy eateries down along the river. As good as it was yesterday, it was even better today! At first we were disappointed that the buffet had gone up $5 from yesterday (because it was seafood). We both decided on the buffet and it was really good. John especially enjoyed the boiled shrimp (he had about 30 of them and those are "calorie cheap"). John had some smoked salmon, coconut fried shrimp, fried oysters, crab & shrimp salad and some fruit. He also had a sliver of cheesecake for dessert. Linda had smoked salmon, crab, shrimp , coconut crusted fried oysters, panko crusted trout, raspberries, blackberries, melon, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli, spinach, carrots and risotto. For dessert she had bread pudding and butter pecan ice cream (both with a little rum sauce on top). Later when the hostess came by for a chat we were telling her that our meals there were the best we had had on our entire road trip. She asked if we had tried their mango ice cream which they are famous for and have been making for over 100 years. She insisted on bringing out a sample for us to try. What a place!

Now needing to walk off that delicious lunch, we visited the Alamo which nowadays is sort of hidden behind the Hyatt Hotel. When we were kids it seemed to have open area around it but now it is surrounded on all sides (just like when it was under attack in 1836). Outside there were 3 guys hawking rental audio tours. There was no admission charge which seemed fair since the exhibits weren't especially enthralling and several areas were blocked off by scaffolds, etc. It is an important part of Texas history but you might get more enjoyment from the John Wayne movie or some documentary unless you are a history buff and already know a lot about the Alamo. We did learn from a Rio Taxi driver that "alamo" means cottonwood, as in a cottonwood tree. Neither old buzzard remembers learning that from Texas History in 8th grade.

As we were in the area between the Alamo and the gift shop Linda met up with someone from her home town of Plainview, Texas. They both had on Plainview Bulldog paraphernalia. Guillermo had on a football coach jacket and Linda had on a Geritol Bulldog t-shirt. He coaches a Junior Bulldog team.

Linda found something in the gift shop to add to our prize stash for the Mileage Madness winner. John will send out the contest info again soon.

After our ho-hum visit to the Alamo, we got onto a river taxi and back to Wilma and home to our lodging and Fannie Mae.

We had a light dinner at IHOP. Linda had a fresh fruit crepe and a glass of ruby red grapefruit juice. John had two eggs over medium, two slices of bacon, rye toast and dekaf coffee.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was at one of our stops along the river. It said PLEASE FEED THE DUCKS, PIGEONS OR OTHER WILDLIFE. It seems like signs are usually telling you NOT to feed the animals. It looks as though some thoughtful tourist has removed the word "NOT"

To view the 46 photos in today's photo gallery, just click here.

We have enjoyed our time in San Antonio but it will be nice to be away from all the freeway traffic for a while starting tomorrow on our way to Fort Stockton, Texas. Surprise, surprise, we are planning to take some back roads. Please stay tuned!

Does anyone at all out there (besides John) remember radio station XERF, broadcasting from Del Rio, Texas. Their transmitter was in Mexico, hence the XERF call sign. It was the original home of Wolfman Jack. They also had Brother and Sister Ivy and you could send in your prayer card, along with cash, and they would pray for you on the air.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 18

D'ja ever wake up and wonder what day it is? It seems easier for the old buzzards to lose track of what day it is out on the road than at home. At home they have a day clock which works great. But on this Road Trip, they have been using their pill dispensers. Lucky Linda takes her pills before her Bright Side breakfast so she knows what day it is all day. John doesn't know until he takes his pills in the evening and by the next morning he can't remember what day it was before he slept. But usually during the daylight Linda is handily nearby as a resource for what day of the week it happens to be. As you can see in today's photo gallery, it was Thursday on Linda's pill of the day calendar.

We are still having fun seeing new old things each day on our trip. Today we drove to downtown San Antonio. After accurately bringing us there, Wilma waited for us in a parking garage on level 4. The first two levels are reserved for valet parking. The third level is reserved for some various companies and John Q. Public gets 4th level and up. Good they have an elevator. We explored the River Walk for the first time in our lives (despite having been here before). It is an amazing place and it would be easy to spend several days exploring its many nooks and crannies. The weather was perfect. Once we figured out where on the River walk we were (so we could find our way back to Wilma later) we hitched a ride on a Rio Taxi. Our captain explained the meaning of the different colors of hat bands the guides have. His was red because he has 9 years of service. Blue means from 1 to 4 years and white means less than 1 year. The second taxi had two guys with blue bands. One of them was being retrained since he had just gotten out of jail (he then explained that he had really been teaching high school). Our other guide had a very faded red band and was proud to tell us that he had the most years of service (22 years) and is the only one born and raised in San Antonio. All of our guides were friendly, helpful, funny and full of information.

We bought Rio Taxi "Yellow" tickets that were good for just over 24 hours. Our first ride was to River Center where we got off to have a Starbucks mocha for John and a chai tea for Linda. We tried to find someplace besides Starbucks but failed. There is something to be said for knowing what you are going to get. After we again figured out that we were at the River Center Convention Center, we hopped on another Rio Taxi and rode it as far as our day passes (we had the "Yellow" tickets) allowed. Our passes were good for the "downtown reach". Our limit was the dam and the locks upstream. We got off at Lexington and watched our taxi go through the lock at the dam. We caught another taxi coming down river and rode it to Convent Street where we got off to visit San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the United States. It was founded in 1731 while Texas Territory was still being governed by Spain. As you go in there is a sarcophagus on the left that contains the remains of the Texans who died defending the Alamo. The cathedral is very beautiful inside and out. Behind the alter there is gold gilding covering a large area. The stained glass windows are exquisite and the statues amazing. In today's photo gallery you will see a shot of the ceiling with some wooden beams. That is a style of art called Tromps L'Oeil where an illusion is created to fool your eyes. In other words, the wooden beams going across the ceiling are made of paint. This technique has been traced back as far as Pompeii. The gift shop next door to San Fernando contains the cross that was on the top of the Cathedral at the time that Santa Ana defeated the Texans at the Alamo. It is said that Santa Ana hung a red flag indicating he would show "no quarter" to those defending the Alamo. The defenders all knew they were going to die. Their remains were originally buried under the sanctuary of the old San Fernando Cathedral and were found there in 1936. They were exhumed and placed on display for a year. They were then re-entombed in the sarcophagus on May 11, 1938. You can learn more about the cathedral (translation: seat, as in seat of the Bishop) by clicking here.

When we got back onto a Rio Vista river taxi, with the two blue hat band guys we were with before, John asked where he might find a good chef salad. After some discussion, one of them got us interested in going to the Hotel Menger for lunch. It was built in 1858 and has a rich history involving Teddy Roosevelt, O Henry, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and many ghosts. One lowly enlisted man stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in the 1950s deserves mentioning. His name was Shearn Moody Jr. and he found that soldiers who owned property in San Antonio could live "off-post." He told his company commander that he wanted to live at the Menger Hotel and the Captain patiently explained to him that he'd have to own the hotel if he wanted to live there. Specialist 4th Class Moody patiently explained to the Captain that that was the case. Read all the way to the bottom of the Hotel Menger plaque in the photo gallery.

Carrie Nation is not mentioned in the hotel's wikipedia piece but if you know where to look (and our Rio Taxi driver told us) you can see the repaired spot on the bar where she took out a chunk of the bar with her hatchet. It is near the 2nd seat closest to the door. Just ask the bartender. There are also 3 bullet holes close by (around a mirror) that were put there by Teddy Roosevelt. It was at the bar in 1898 where Teddy recruited his Rough Riders.

Our lunch was spectacular. Linda chose a smoked chicken quesadilla. John, not finding a chef salad on the menu, asked if they could make him one. Our waitress said “Poof! You're a chef salad”, and he was magically transformed. Not really, but he was very impressed with the salad that was served to him (see today's photo gallery). He said that it is the best chef salad he has ever had. Part of the reason for that was the extraordinary, thick and lumpy bleu cheese dressing. There a great picture of that in the gallery as well. While we were waiting for our lunch, John asked Linda if she knew that she had on 2 different kinds of earrings. “Duh, yes, I was conducting an experiment to see how long it would take you to notice. This is the second day I have worn them”. You can see them in today's photo gallery. Linda told John that her inspiration was a former customer at Hot Spot Printing who always wore two different kinds of earrings so Linda decided to try it while on this Road Trip. What she also told John was that she was unable to find the other two matching parts. They weren't "lost" she just didn't know where they were.

After lunch we returned to La Quinta to rest, visit with Fannie Mae and blog for a while.

In anticipation of his Whataburger Nirvana coming to an end within 48 hours or so, John located a GIANT Orange and White W high in the sky under which to have dinner. He had a Whataburger with bacon and cheese (90 fewer calories than a double meat Whataburger) and a senior Diet Dr. Pepper. Linda finished off her smoked chicken quesadilla from lunch after the enhancement of an order of grilled sliced jalapenos (from Whataburger). She had iced tea and Dr. Pepper to drink.

There are 64 photos in today's gallery which you can view by clicking here.

Linda's favorite “sign” today was a quote from Davy Crockett; “You may all go to Hell and I will go to Texas”. Poor ole Davy. From being born on a mountain top in Tennessee, to having a Hellish time defending the Alamo, he will always be remembered and appreciated by Texans. And his remains are resting forever in a Holy Place. Via con Dios Davy!

John's favorite sign, on a shirt this time, goes back to 1985. Many people in the U.S. know the saying, but most don't know the significance. "Don't Mess with Texas" was a program started by the Texas Highway Department to educate people to not litter up the state. It was extremely successful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 17

Addendum: We left off a significant historical factoid about the USS Lexington in yesterday's post. The USS Lexington was the first US Naval vessel to embark women. In 1980, six females joined the ranks of the USS Lexington's crew. Two of them were pilots and the remaining four were crew members. Also, if you'd like to learn more about the USS Lexington, you can do so at their website by clicking here.

Bright Side Breakfast of Raw Bits Twang Twang with 2/3 of a banana for Linda. Half a bagel with cream cheese, cup of milk and a banana for John. Then we pulled out of Corpus Christi around 8:32 a.m. onto Interstate 37. There were clearly marked hurricane symbols in the far left lane every mile or so to show that it is a hurricane evacuation lane. It was closed for any other use except breakdowns. Since we had a fairly short drive to San Antonio we got off I-37 onto Highway 77 near Odem so we could soak up some color along the way. The first flavor was the smell of an unfortunate skunk. John was soon excited about learning that we can get the elevation and GPS coordinated from Wilma's navigation system by just tapping on the circle on the screen that shows our location on the road. He has been using his smart phone for elevation info - the Wilma Way will be much easier and safer. At Sinton, TX, we got onto Hwy 181 headed north.

We have noticed that there are fewer coffee shops on this trip than we are used to. However, McDonald's makes perfectly passable coffee. John finds their Mocha tolerable, but not as good as Starbucks. He has also figure out you can get it with one or two pumps of chocolate and non-fat milk. Just like Starbucks. Saves on calories and 4 pumps of chocolate makes it more like cocoa than coffee.

Skidmore, TX consisted of a Dairy Queen, Skidmart (a lumberyard), a gas station and a closed gas station that is for sale (If you happen to be in the market).

Highway 181 then took us through Beeville, the county seat of Bee County. We saw an interesting old Coca Cola Bottling plant. On top of the cute county courthouse was a red beehive topped by clock (accurate!) and a golden statue of a person reaching upward. Linda spent a few minutes exploring the Full Circle Antiques shop where she found a cute Texas birdhouse and a Texas star for her garden. John parked next door at a Tanning Salon which is now offering Teeth Whitening. John gave her 25 minutes to go wild in that atore.

Near Normanna, TX we found an old building from 1909 that you can see in today's photo gallery and also a Historical Museum and Community Association. Next came Tuleta where Rev. Peter Unzicker started one of the first Mennonite Churches in Texas. A nearby billboard asked What's Missing in CH _ _ CH? And underneath was the answer: UR. More old buildings caught our eye in Falls City: an old hotel and the First National Bank.

Our pathway soon took us to Poth where Linda went into Mega-Mall Antiques and came out with a book written by a cowboy cook/poet/preacher back in the 80s.

John was soon in Nirvana, that is, Floresville where we at lunch in a place which was first started in 1950. To learn more about its history, go to their website. John had a new trick up his sleeve. At breakfast he overheard a Whataburger veteran mention that he always requests that they burn his buns, which apparently means that BOTH sides of your buns get toasted. Somehow, that sounds just a bit kinky.

We arrived in San Antonio around 2:22 p.m., in time to go to our room and watch our new doorlock be installed. We had grown quite fond of the old style of La Quinta doorkeys. They have a pattern of holes in them. You push them in and open the door. Once you release the door handle, you can pull the key out of the slot. That simple. With the upgrade comes the credit card size key where you insert the card and wait for the green flash of light to magically appear. It took longer than the 10 minute installation we were promised but we didn't complain since they were letting us check in a little early.

Dinner was at a Pancho's Mexican Buffet here in San Antonio, the home of Pancho's. It was a favorite of ours when we moved from Texas in 1979. We lived in Garland and there was a Pancho's Jr. within 5 or 10 miles. The San Antonio Pancho's was quite large and had a wide selection of Tex-Mex dishes. Linda especially enjoyed the zuchinni and yellow squash dish. John was able to come in 19 calories under his allotment for the day so he was pleased. Imagine – Whataburger and Pancho's in the same day – with 15 calories to spare! John's calorie report for the week ending last Sunday....drum roll please....4,903 calories under his allowance. Not too bad for being on a road trip and eating out all the time.

There are 37 photos in today's gallery, which you can view by clicking here.

Funny business signs seen today were No Regrets Tattoos and Rub Me the Right Way (a massage parlor). The tattoo business name reminds me of when I asked our (then) next-door teenage neighbor what was on his arm (it looked like a salamander or an iguana) and he said “A mistake”. I wonder if he still has it. I'll have to remember to ask. We are FaceBook friends, after all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 16

We woke up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Who thought of Body of Christ as a name for this place? I guess there was no Chamber of Commerce back then. But it has done OK for itself. It is the largest coastal city in Texas. And those in the know just call it Corpus (Body) for short.

After our Bright Side breakfast we were on our way to visit the USS Lexington Museum by 8:22. We found a parking lot that let's you in for free, but you have to have a $3.50 token to exit. John remembered to buy the token along with our senior admission tickets to the Lexington. As we started up the long ramp to the ship, a nice volunteer in a shuttle offered us a ride. Since it is a long way up and we do mean UP, we took him up on his offer. We figured we'd walk down when we were leaving. You know, for the exercise. The Lexington is 910 feet long but it is hard to grasp the size until you get up close and see all the vehicles (mostly aircraft) parked on the flight deck.

As you enter the ship you are entering an amazing museum of naval wartime history. The USS Lexington doesn't house the museum, it is the museum. There are continual restorations taking place and new exhibits being put together as donations (such as letters, uniforms, supplies, photographs) from former Lexington crew members or their families are received. There are virtual battles tations where you can be a pilot in a dogfight or try a dangerous landing on the flight deck. Around every corner and down every steep flight of stairs, we gained an understanding of what life aboard an aircraft carrier entailed. You will see lots of photos of our tour in today's photo gallery.

We had two WWII veterans who gave us a guided tour during part of our time below decks. They were both pharmacists mates in WWII and that meant pharmacy and nursing. There were no women in the military in WWII. These two guys were really interesting and you could tell they loved to tell their stories. It was difficult to break away from them. It was quite muggy in that part of the ship since the air conditioning wasn't operating very efficiently. So it was a relief to get to another level and go to the snack bar (called The Mess Deck) and get glasses of iced tea.

We also watched an interesting Imax movie on board about the new Boeing 787 aircraft and it's main competitor, the Airbus 880.

We were done with our Lexington deployment by 11:30. We had walked and walked and climbed stairs so much that we opted to ride the little shuttle back down the boarding ramp. Our next mission was to find a Whataburger for lunch. That was not difficult since here in the birthplace of Whataburger (in the 1950s) there is a Whataburger approximately every 4.5 miles along all major thoroughfares. Guess what John had? Linda had a grilled chicken salad with a new twist – grilled jalapenos. John had Diet Dr. Pepper and Linda had iced tea. In the photo gallery you will see a photo of Linda's definition of a perfect bite of her salad. She lifted up her little plastic fork and it contained chicken, tomato, lettuce, a cruton, shredded carrot and shredded cabbage. Yum! John found an interesting plea on the side of his drink cup. When you find it in the photo gallery, you will see it's connection to recent happenings in Pakistan.

The two old buzzards then circled low over La Quinta and picked up our Fannie for a trip to the beach at Padre Island. Actually, we were headed for the Padre Island National Seashore. On the way across the long bridge Linda got prepared to jump into the Gulf of Mexico. She slipped off the legs of her pants, converting them into shorts and took off her shoes and socks. It took a while to drive past the commercialized area and get to the National Seashore. On the way we stopped to photo the place where Wilma first took us to find Scuttlebutt's Restaurant last night so you could see it in the daylight. It was nothing but a marsh full of cattails. We drove for quite a while after that. The scenery wasn't great but we had the beach to look forward to. Finally we saw a road off to the left with a sign that said "North Beach Access". There was one car there but the parking looked iffy because of the soft sand. So we left and proceeded to the official entrance where John got out his Senior Pass to all National Parks and Monuments so that we could get in for free. What a deal! The ranger at the “WELCOMING” station took a look into Wilma and saw Fannie. We knew it was OK to bring dogs on a leash into the area because we had researched it on the internet. Then Ranger Donnie said "You have a pass, you can go to the beach. But, have you ever heard of Red Tide"? We had not. It is a harmful algae bloom found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. Dogs are very susceptible and can die from exposure to water, foam or sand. There is no specific antidote and no rapid test to detect the toxin. Exposure can occur in as little time as 20 minutes, just from a dog picking up or licking any item on the beach. He then commented that Red Tide was probably what was causing Linda to cough since there is so many of the pesky organisms in the air. She would have thought he was joking except that he had done such a good job with his warnings.

Our next question was where to make a U-turn. So you will not see too many photos from our day at the beach. We are still feeling very relieved. We could have taken a chance and parked at the North Beach Access and played there with Fannie. It would have been so easy for us to unknowingly expose Fannie Mae to the vicious Red Tide.

The two old buzzards decided that Ranger Donnie (as in Donnie Downer, Debbie's brother) has a really crummy job. Not only does he have to continually be exposed to Red Tide in the air but he gets to “WELCOME” visitors to San Padre and tell them about the vicious Red Tide and what it can do to them and their pets. Probably not what he had in mind when he signed up to be a Park Ranger.

After relaxing in our Red Tide free room at La Quinta for a while, we ate dinner at The Texas Roadhouse. We were drawn to the Texas Roadhouse by their cute sign we had seen from the freeway. It did not disappoint. How can you be disappointed by being greeted at the door by an armadillo in a hula skirt (see photo gallery). John ordered an 8 oz fillet and Linda order grilled salmon. Like last night we each got to choose 2 sides with our dinner. John chose green beans and salad. Linda chose mixed veggies (broccoli and carrots) and salad. Both old buzzards were pleased with their choices. They had really delicious dinner rolls that had a distinct taste of honey. John only ate one-half of a roll (calories, you know) but thoroughly enjoyed it. Our server was attentive and perky. There was a young family seated close to us who were in the Willie (Nelson) corner. It was the birthday of one of their 2 daughters. All at once lots of the servers assembled, bringing over a portable saddle (on rollers). While the birthday girl was being seated the servers asked the other diners to join together in a big “Yee Ha” for the birthday girl. So much quicker and better than a long off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. No room for dessert so we are happily ready to put another day to bed.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was a store called Virtual Fashion. What could that mean? Not real fashion but a fashion game? Or dissolving t-shirts? Maybe you get to see what a version of yourself would look like if you were fashionable? Sort of like interchangeable paper doll dresses? John's favorite sign today was the plea on the side of his Whataburger cup. See photo gallery and you'll catch on!

And speaking of the photo gallery. There are 83 photos in today's gallery and you can enjoy them by clicking here.

Happy Trails! Tomorrow we are off to a part of Texas that John, Linda and Jay visited 39 years ago this fall. Yes, we know Jay is only 38. Tune in tomorrow...

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 15

We were on the road out of La Porte by 7:58 this morning. We found good gas prices but had to go to 3 stations before we found one that was open. It was at Krogers where gas was $3.139. A sign over the supermarket promised even more savings if you bought something starting with each letter of the alphabet. Well, no, we don't actually know what was involved in their extra di$count but it did promi$e up to $1 off per gallon. The song playing at the pumps was the immortal country and western song “A Man Can Always Stand a Little More Horsepower”.

We took the Independence Trail to the San Jacinto Monument. There was no traffic and when we got several hundred feet away from the monument the road was blocked off. It was 8:40 a.m. and they would not be opening until 9:00 a.m. We took some photos from where we were parked and could tell that the mosquitoeshadt received the message that fresh meat was available. So we decided to forego getting any closer to the Monument and the battleship on this trip. There would be other warships to see.

Next we got on the Sam Houston Tollway for $1.50 which seemed to be a good deal. The road was smooth and clean and the traffic was flowing smoothly. After 9 or 10 miles we came to another toll booth where they also collected $1.50 from us. A few more miles down the road there was yet another toll booth. After the third toll booth we were not so impressed with the nice smooth road. It does seem like that part of Texas has figured a way to bring in some money that doesn't involve oil. From the toll road, we took Texas Hwy 59 south.

At Wharton we dropped off Highway 59 to go on Highway 60 to Bay City. At Bay City we took Highway 35 and headed to Port Lavaca for lunch. It was a Whataburger, onion rings and diet Dr. Pepper at lunch for John. Linda had a grilled chicken salad and a diet Dr. Pepper. There was beginning to be more and more water everywhere. First we passed over a Bayou named Howzit. It seemed like only minutes later that we came upon another bayou named Kinisit. By 11:00 we were going over the Colorado River. After Palacios we stayed on Highway 35 until getting onto I-37 in Corpus Christi.

Soon we were in Corpus Christi, home of the original Whataburger stand, and we found our La Quinta lodging, right on I-37 by about 2:30. John got settled and started processing photos. Linda took Fannie Mae for a walk and then did a couple of loads of laundry at the La Quinta guest laundry facilities.

For dinner we went in search of Scuttlebutts, a seafood place that John found on the internet and it had good reviews and a nice menu. It was out on South Padre Island, a 22 mile drive from our lodging. When John put the address into Wilma's navigation system, she came up with two listings. John picked the first one. Wilma diligently directed us to South Padre Island. We should have become suspicious when we went past a sign that warned that no gas was available past that point. The cars and signs of civilization got scarcer and scarcer. Then Wilma said “Destination ahead in ¼ mile (pause) on the right”. Then shortly she said “Destination!” and there was nothing in sight except a field and a dark road. Oops! So we headed back towards the bright lights and eventually found Scuttlebutts. Had John picked the second choice that Wilma had presented, all this would have been avoided. Scuttlebutts was a lively place with live music and good food. John had iced tea, blackened shrimp with fried okra and jalapeno hushpuppies. Linda had water, blackened ahi tuna with wasabi, grilled asparagus and spinach.

Funny business signs seen today were LaCarPorte.Com (a used car lot in La Porte), Curl Up 'N Dye (beauty shop, not a rest home) and a combo Bikini & Snow Cone stand.

The back roads we took to stay off the interstate highway were not as scenic as the ones we went on yesterday but we still enjoyed being closer to the crops and seeing homes and businesses along the way.

There are just a few photos in today's photo gallery, but you can enjoy those by clicking here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 14

We had some confusion with the time change this morning. When Linda woke up and saw that the clock said 6:30 she thought the alarm had not gone off at 6:00. Actually it was 5:30 so we ended up being dressed, packed, Bright Side breakfasted and out of La Quinta by 6:48. There was a welcoming committee waiting in Wilma for the 3 of us – a mosquito from our adventures in the Jungle Gardens on Avery Island yesterday. Linda quickly dispatched her and we took the back roads Louisiana Hwy 14 towards Texas. The scenery wasn't quite as picturesque as yesterday, but we still enjoyed going through the little towns and seeing the crops along the way. We saw lots of fields where rice plants were soaking in several inches of still water. Soon we stopped to photo an old building that said “If you lived Wright you would be home right now". As we slowed down in the field just off the highways the mosquitoes swarmed the van and nearly lifted Wilma off the ground! John was afraid to even open the window so there's a little glare on the photo he took of that sign. And they were really BIG mosquitoes!

After that we started looking for a place to stop for coffee and Wilma mentioned a place for coffee in Gueydan called Fat George's Bakery and Cafe. We found it but it there was a giant crowd there for Sunday breakfast so we waited to get to a Starbucks in Lake Charles, a ways down the road. Before arriving in St. Charles Linda called her sister Gloria (who lived in Lake Charles long ago) to see if she wanted us to drive by her old place and take a photo. She did not remember the address so NO SALE. However, she was glad Linda called and woke her up because the time change had set all her clocks (except the Grandfather and the microwave) back one hour automatically and she lives in Arizona where they do not observe Daylight Savings Time. She thought it was 7:15 and she was already late for her 8:15 meeting.

As we went into the Lake Charles Starbucks Linda noticed that “Yore Cheatin' Heart Will Tell on You” was playing which seemed untypical for Starbucks music. The other thing they had never seen in a Starbucks was large silver coffee sacks of used coffee grounds labeled for gardeners to take home to their compost piles. For FREE! How nice!

We had to get on the interstate (I-10) to get to Sulpher, LA where we were meeting with a classmate of John's, Janice Picard, from Richardson High School (RHS Class of 1962). She met her husband in Houston and they eventually moved to Louisiana near where he was reared. Her home in Sulpher has exposed cypress wood on the outside and is quite striking. We left Fannie Mae there in her cragte on the back porch. She took us out to see her camp home on 12-stilts by a creek and a river. It was really a treat to see. It is in a area that floods quite often but they can get to it by boat when that happens. Being very high off the ground it has beautiful views from the many windows. Janice prefers living in her camp.

After our tour we took Janice to lunch at Novrozsky's. She got one of The Big Spud choices – a chicken fried steak stuffed into a baked potato and covered with gravy and cheddar cheese. John got a reuben sandwich. Linda had a tuna steak salad which was grilled yellow fin tuna with a garden salad. Everyone was very pleased with their choice.

Janice has been back to the Dallas area many times since we moved from there so was able to tell John about the changes to his former stomping grounds. They have their 50-year-reunion next June and are both planning to attend. I wonder what it would feel like to be that old? (Actually Linda's 50th is next year in October).

We dropped Janice off at her in town home and picked up Fannie Mae. She then got to meet Janice's dog, Lucy, who must be mostly schnauzer because they really looked a lot alike. They played for a while and then it was time for us to head for our night's lodging in La Porte, Texas.

We made it to the state line of Texas at 2:02. About 10 miles in John was pleased to see that we were again in the land of Whataburgers. But not pleased that there seem to be drivers in Texas who are just as bad as some we just experienced in Louisiana. Please, keep right EXCEPT to pass.

We arrived in La Porte at around 4:30 and had time to settle in and relax before dinner. We walked to Baytown Seafood which was right next door to our La Quinta.

There was a catch-your-own-seafood aquarium but they were pretty small so we chose off the menu. John got a dozen raw oysters and salad with grilled scallops and shrimp. Linda got crawfish gumbo and is in nirvina, happy to report a PERFECT TEN GUMBO SCORE. Yum! See what happens to your score when you put okra in it! There was a delicious broth, celery, crawfish, smoked sausage and OKRA in the gumbo. She also ordered grilled squash and green beans which were excellent!!! The funny part of the meal was that she ordered a Samuel Adams beer and the server reported that she would need to choose another beer because all the Sam Adams was warm. Since she refused to order Miller or Coors or Bud she ordered red wine. It came out in a wine glass and guess what, it was ice cold! So unusual for a red wine! But, hey, we are in Texas so she decided to go with the flow, and enjoy the cold red wine!

And so, day 14 of the old buzzards New Orleans Road Trip comes to a happy end with full tummies and lots of happy memories. You can share some of those with us be viewing today's photo gallery of 42 images by clicking here.

Funny business signs today were (soon after getting into Texas) the A Little Bit Gaudy Boutique. Back in Louisiana while sitting at Starbucks, Linda saw a flashing sign for the Chicageaux Bar.

John drove the whole way today. His favorite signs were a combo posted within 20 feet of each other while we were still in Louisiana. The first one said "Left Lane Ends" and the next one said "Road Work Ahead Right Lane Closed". As we got closer, it was actually a three-lane road, but we still thought it was funny.

Thought for the day (seen at Janice's Camp House): Sweet tea is the house wine of Louisiana

Thanks for a wonderful time in Sulpher, Janice!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 13

We survived all the fierce wild animals that we were warned about today (except for one) but that was late in the day and the two old buzzards have gone miles and miles since then, some of it even on foot.

Another special thing about this La Quinta that we had not previously experienced is that they serve eggs, bacon (meat candy, though sliced deli-thin) and sausage on Saturday and Sunday mornings. John mostly limits his “manly” egg and meat candy breakfasts to the weekends so he was all set for our Bright Side Breakfast. We decided that the name for the eggs should be pre-fab scrambles since they come in a perfectly round format. Linda tried one anyway, lured by the container of home-looking salsa. She loves salsa on eggs, ever since she got used to having that once a month at the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce breakfasts (before retirement). And the La Quinta salsa was very good. With its help the pre-fab eggs tasted fine.  John had 2 pre-fab eggs, bacon and some milk along with a half-bagel and cream cheese. He reported that the bacon must have come from a  midget pot-bellied pig.

By 8:30 a.m. the two old buzzards were on their way to tour Shadows-on-the-Teche, located in downtown New Iberia.  It is a beautifully restored plantation home constructed between 1831 and 1834 for a sugar planter. The very unique thing about it is that it was lived in by the same family until it was donated to become a National Trust Historic Site in 1958. The family saved many trunks of paperwork so its history is well documented. Over 17,000 documents from the family are in the archives at LSU. The furnishings are all either originals or restorations. No photos are allowed inside the house, but you can take all you want outside. The home has so many  unique features . The stairs of the 3-story home were all built on the outside and there are no hallways, so that it would be easier to open up the windows to allow cooling breezes to flow through.

After Louisiana seceded from the Union during the Civil War the Shadows on the Teche was eventually occupied by Union soldiers. The mistress of the house insisted on staying so she was placed under house-arrest and allowed to live on the third floor. She died during the occupation and the general in charge had so much respect for her that he did not burn the Shadows plantation when he and his troops departed.

Our guide, Miss Audrey, was excellent and we hope you get her if you ever get to visit. There was only one other person in our group so we were able to see and hear everything and ask questions anytime.

An added bonus to our time there was the Civil War reenactment that was taking place all weekend.  The solders we got to see and talk to and photograph were all Confederate soldiers. We were told that at noon there would be a takeover by the Union soldiers. Lots of the solders we saw were walking around the grounds with guns and they had many different kinds of interesting uniforms. One soldier saw that I was attempting to take a photo of a hand-painted artillery unit flag and he offered to hold it out so it would be displayed better. So I got to shoot him and the flag. Afterwards I asked why he didn't have a gun. “That's my gun” he said, pointing to a nearby cannon. Next we went to a talk about weapons where the different types of uniforms were also explained.

By late morning we left the Shadows-on-the-Teche and returned to our lodging to spend a little time with Fannie Mae before leaving for lunch and our afternoon adventure. If you'd like to learn more and see more about Shadows-on-the-Teche, you can visit this website.

Lunch was a special treat at a 50s style diner called Duffy's. It was a hopping place with a ginormous menu. But they had Linda with a hand-written sign outside proclaiming “GUMBO TIME!”. John got fried shrimp, onion rings, salad and diet Dr. Pepper. Linda's rating for this particular batch of gumbo is a resounding 9 and ½. It had a wonderful flavor and three kinds of seafood: shrimp, crawfish and crab. And, the seafood was identifiable! The only think that kept it from receiving a 10 was that there was no okra in it.

After lunch we waddled out of Duffy's and followed the Tabasco sign pointing to Avery Island. It is about a 12 mile drive to where you can get an inside look at where all the Tabasco sauce in the world is produced, something like 700,000 bottles per day. Some of the peppers are grown in central and south America but all the production of the different products is done on Avery Island at McIlhenny Company facilities.

While we were on the island we also took a tour of the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island. We got up close looks at beautiful oak trees. bamboo, Spanish moss, lagoons, bayous, dense vegetation, a Buddah temple and some wildlife. The birds have mostly already migrated but we got a couple of shots of egrets. There were warnings about alligators but we didn't get to see any. The only wild animals that attacked the two old buzzards were some flocks of mosquitoes. But they probably are much worse in the summer.

As we were meandering along in Wilma through the scenic oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, we came upon a bride standing in the middle of the road with her train all spread out onto the road. There was no groom or wedding party in sight. There was, however, a photographer who motioned us to please drive around them which was easy to do since it was a one way road. We complied and Linda got out and strolled back to ask if it was OK for her to also take a photograph of the bride and they said “Sure”. The story is this: the wedding  is not scheduled until March 2012 but the bride wanted to take the photograph now while the weather is nice so she wouldn't be shivering. Talk about being organized! And it is a lovely location for a bridal photo.

The place we planned to go to dinner (Bon Creole Restaurant) no longer existed except on the internet. Wilma dutifully took us there but once she said “Destination ahead on the left” and then “Destination!” we could find no sign of a restaurant. So we decided to return to Duffy's where we had eaten lunch. Linda had a delicious shrimp salad and diet Dr. Pepper. John had crawfish e'toufee and potato salad. He liked the e'toufee. Potato salad was "ho-hum" and bad for his calorie budget anyway.

And so ends another lovely day in languorous Louisiana. Today's photo gallery has 151 photos in it. Thus, the delay in getting it out to you. You can view them by clicking here.

Linda's favorite sign was a restaurant called  Asian Cajun Food. Both old buzzards agree that Asian and Cajun seem like an unlikely food fusion.

May all your problems dissolve as fast as a spoonful of raw sugar in a cup of steaming chicory coffee au lait.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 12

We bid a fond adieu to the Big Easy, the Crescent City, NOLA, that is, New Orleans, Louisiana this morning at approximately 7:48. I had heard it called Big Easy and Crescent City but it took me until about the 2nd day we were here to figure out what all the NOLA signs I was seeing on businesses and t-shirts meant. We were on a cable car and I was looking at 3 inch letters on a guy's arm that spelled NOLA. I thought he must really like his girlfriend, NOLA. It didn't seem like HIS name would be NOLA. Then it dawned on me what it meant. A blonde moment sprinkled liberally with grey.

We've been true to our pledge of no television on in the room and no radio on in the car. It's been 12 days and we really haven't missed it. After all, we have to spend time on our travelogue to record our adventure for posterity.

One other bit of unfinished business. John failed to provide his calorie report yesterday evening. Despite a dinner of 1,641 calories, he finished under for the day by 483 calories.

There was lots of construction as we left via the Huey P. Long Bridge (or the Huey Plong as John likes to call it). But the traffic moved along just fine despite all the blocked off lanes and construction cranes so we were soon across the Mississippi River. Linda noticed an American flag on a line high in the sky from one large crane and tried to capture it in one of her photos.

John set the other trip meter to zero in case we needed to count miles for navigation purposes on today's adventure. Our goal was to stay off the interstate and major freeways (Hwy 90) on our trip to New Iberia. So, instead of getting back onto I-10, the way we came from Lafayette or our way, we stayed on Louisiana 182, an old 2-lane highway (the Old Spanish Trail) and on Hwy 90 Business Route. This enabled us to really soak up the flavor of the small towns along the way and of the countryside. All those down-home businesses and attractions that used to dot the old highways (like Bob's Alligator Farm, etc.) are just about all gone now. It's a real shame. Those folks probably have to work at a Wal Mart to earn a living.

We got up close and personal to a sugar mill in Raceland. The puffy white smoke could be seen from several miles away and we had already driven past miles and miles of sugar cane growing on both sides of the road. And there were lots of trucks full of sugar cane on the roads. From the Louisiana Farm and Ranch Magazine we learned that all of the states 11 raw sugar mills are now up and running at full capacity. The grinding season is expected to run through the first week or so of January. All in all, it is turning out to be a great year for the state's 450 cane farmers and for the sugar economy. The 2011 crop will provide an economic impact of more than $2.5 billion to the state. Weak crops from Brazil, India, Thailand and China have boosted prices to a new pricing floor of around 25 cents.

As we passed through Amelia, LA we saw a huge riverboat that seemed to be docked for repairs. We left Hwy 182 and took some side streets to get a closer look and, lo and behold, it was a casino. The treasure we did find in Ameila was a bright blue house with bright blue stepping stones and decorations in the yard. These bright blue thing were adorned with white polka dots. You can see this unusual place in today's photo gallery.

By 10:45 we were in Morgan City where we stopped for a McCoffee and McRestroom break. When John ordered 2 senior coffees we were told that they no longer had them and we could pay the regular price of $1.06 each. That's the first McDonald's we have experienced that. In case any of you who are mature enough don't know, if you order senior coffee at 99.44% of McDonalds you will only be charged 50 cents. This is never shown on their menues. You just have to know to say those magic words – senior coffee.

Our lunch was a trip back in time for John. The Yellow Bowl Restaurant in Jeanerette is where he first tasted crawfish e'touffee about 58 or so years ago, while accompanying his father on a business trip through Louisiana. He loved it so much that he had crawfish e'touffee for lunch and dinner the rest of the trip. Another spot he remembers was in Breaux Bridge, LA called Mim's. Unfortunately, it's no longer in business. So guess what John ordered. Linda ordered a cup of seafood gumbo and a garden salad. The gumbo didn't have a lot of seafood or flavor so she had to add lots of Tabasco to it. She rated it as a 4. John gave her a taste of his delicious e'toufee which she will order the next time the buzzards are in Jeanerette (in 58 or so years). The Yellow Bowl Restaurant was founded in 1927. It has an interesting history which you can read about by clicking here.

We shot some additional sugar mill photos at the sugar mill in Jeanerette and have included them.

In between the small towns and the sugar cane fields we got to see lots of beautiful old mansions (plantations) and oak trees. Many were built in the mid-1800s and have been very well preserved and maintained.

We arrived in New Iberia around 3:00 and enjoyed driving through the cute downtown area before finding our La Quinta home for the next 2 nights. We don't usually bore you with photos of our room but this one is so large and nice that we just had to take a photo. There is a desk that is perfect for computer work, a sofa, 2 easy chairs, 2 night stands and a TV in the bathroom. We are not used to such luxury since we try to economize on our lodgings. Many La Quintas do not have room microwaves or fridges but this one has both. And, on Saturday and Sunday mornings (the two mornings we'll be here), these folks have a full breakfast (eggs, bacon, etc) and not just the waffle, bagel, cereal fare.

At the suggestion of the hotel desk clerk, we went to the Seafood Connection for dinner. It's a small, fast food place about 2 miles away. To John's distress, they only have booths. To John's delight, he was able to fit in one comfortably, though still without room to spare. Linda ordered a grilled shrimp salad with French dressing. John ordered the "regular" fried shrimp dinner which comes with a small salad (ranch dressing this time), a dozen large fried shrimp and a medium batch of french fries. Since Linda ate one of John's shrimp, he only had to count 11 against his remaining calorie allowance. Eleven large fried shrimp is only 200 calories. While a medium size order of french fried potatoes is a huge 427 calories. Note to self: onion rings are about half as much as french fried potatoes. Nonetheless, it was all really good and John finished under calorie budget for the day by 774 calories. And that accounts for the snack size Reese's peanut butter cup and fun size Snickers that he is about to eat right now.

Today's photo gallery has 87 photos in it. You can view them by clicking here. Feedback on the video slideshow was mixed. However, two folks reported that they want to be able to view at their own pace, which you really can't do with a video. So, we're back to the photo gallery. Please download and play some Cajun Zydeco music while viewing the photo gallery.

Linda's favorite sign of the day was near a plant where they build offshore oil rigs in Morgan City. It said: "Your wallet. The only place Obama wants to drill!" An image of the sign is in today's photo gallery.

Funny business names seen today were Nacho Mama's Mexican Food (that's actually the punch line to an old joke about Taco Bell and AT&T merging) and Mudbug Plumbing – both near Metairie. Some others: Grumpy's Family Restaurant in Boutte and Dis 'N Dat Construction in Houma.

John's favorite business name / sign was in New Iberia. "Sinsations: Adult Halloween Costumes". A picture of the business sign is included in the photo gallery.

Thought for today: If you have the time, take the non-interstate highways every once in a while, and enjoy the flavor of where you are. One of Linda's favorite books is Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. He traveled for 3 months (13,000 miles) on backroads that were then shown on maps in blue. Has anybody else out there read it? A CNN photographer recreated come of the scenes from the book not long ago. You can see those images by clicking here. You can also find more info about Blue Highways on Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 11

Today was pretty much a rest, relax and plan day. This morning we did some shopping for our Mileage Madness Prize. If no one enters, I guess we will win it. And it is just our size! Well, Linda's size.

It started raining this morning which was a good reminder that Wilma needed some new windshield wipers. John took her to the Honda dealership which is conveniently located almost next to our La Quinta. He had to buy two windsheild wiper replacement inserts for the paltry sum of $14.16. He was especially happy since they were kind enough to install them for him at no additional cost.

Since, beginning tomorrow, we will be miles and miles away from the Cafe du Monde and their chicory coffee and beignets, we decided to go there for lunch. Bet you can't guess what we had. And they made some fresh ones, just for the old buzzards. They were almost too hot to pick up but we managed it. Linda took some photos of the pastry chef as he performed his world's best doughnut dance. It was through a glass window so there's a bit of a reflection. John picked out a Cafe du Monde cup and Linda got a can of dekaf chicory coffee to take back to Morgan Hill.

After “lunch” John did research on our next few days' adventures, finding a back-road route to New Iberia, some sugar mills along the way and even an old plantation in New Iberia that we can go visit. This week they are having a civil war reinactment on the grounds. Linda took Fannie for a walk after the rain cleared up.

We decided on a return visit to Deanie's Seafood for our dinner since we both thought their menu was worthy of further exploration.  And it was. John had iced tea and a dish called the Crawfish Quartet which was mud puppies four delicious ways – etouffee, au gratin, fried tails and crawfish dressing balls...(don't go there!)  There were also fries on the plate but he only ate about 3 of them. Linda had an Abita Pecan beer, a garden salad and, you guessed it, a cup of seafood and okra gumbo. Tonight's gumbo rating was 8 and ½. And the pecan beer had a nice nutty flavor. Also noteworthy was the artichoke dressing Linda chose for her salad. We were seated by two tables of very boisterous Mississippi folks. They were having lots of fun but one lady's voice and laugh were pretty piercing. John was thinking of asking her to use her “inside voice” like our grandson's parents ask him to do sometimes. But maybe she doesn't have one. They left  fairly soon after our dinner was served so we enjoyed the welcome change in ambient volume to a much lower level. This time Linda did order the rich custard-like bread pudding with a light touch of coconut, topped with cream anglaise and toasted almonds. John offered to help her with it and the old buzzards finished off every morsel. The Livestrong website says there are 306 calories in a cup of bread pudding. Good thing we split it! Linda reports that it is the best bread pudding she has ever had anywhere and she does love her bread pudding.

It has been fun being able to be here in the New Orleans area for several days. We leave here tomorrow for more adventures in Louisiana. We'll still be on the Gulf Coast for several more days and will have access to more wonderful seafood treats!

If all this talk about coffee with chicory, beignets, gumbo, crawfish and other foods Cajun is working up a hunger for some of it, we can highly recommend you explore the Cajun Grocer's website. We have ordered from them many times. They ship perishables in dry ice and live seafood (like live crawfish) they ship FedEx overnight. They have literally anything you could possibly think of... even a Turduckin (turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken).

Today's photo gallery is not a photo gallery, it is a video slideshow with some Cajun music. You view it on YouTube. This is an experiment and we would appreciate your feedback. You can view the short slideshow (about one minute, since we didn't have many pictures today) by clicking here.

John also built a video slideshow from the images that were in Day 09's photo gallery. If you want a further video slideshow experience to try, you can view Day 09's video slideshow by clicking here.

Note: if either of these have fits of stopping and starting, just put it on pause and let more video build in the buffer, then start it again.

Here's the sign Linda liked today:
                    “You know what's funny?
                    Paintings of Adam and Eve
              where they both have belly buttons.
                         Think about it . . . . .
                Take as much time as you need.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Orleans Road Trip - Day 10

Alarm at 7:00 followed by another Bright Side breakfast at La Quinta in Metairie. Afterward, we rode buses and streetcars to get to the French Quarter. Got off the Canal St. streetcar at Carondolet and switched to the St. Charles streetcar line.  We rode that streetcar to the end of its line (and back) just to see a part of New Orlean's Garden District which we had not been to before.  We went past many beautiful homes, 2 colleges (Loyola and Tulane) and the Audubon Park and Zoo. People watching was an interesting part of the rides. Some accents are so thick that you can only get a phrase or a word every so often. Linda  overheard someone use the phrase “my baby daddy” in a conversation at a bus stop.

We got back to the French Quarter around 11:30 and took off to look for a public restroom. Linda saw a symbol that indicated restroom and when she walked in she was surprised to see urinals.  It was a unisex bathroom which was what the sign was indicating. Oh, well, it was no time to be picky so she quickly conducted her business and went outside to meet John, well another John besides the john she had just seen.

The next stop was the Central Grocery Store for a muffuletta sandwich for lunch. John waited in line to order while Linda found the drink machine in the back and got them each a Diet Dr. Pepper. Muffulettas are huge. A whole muffuletta is cut into fourths. We got a half of a muffuletta and it is cut into two pieces. Bothe pieces are the size of a regular sandwich. The two old buzzards had lunch outside in a public area where there were some nice picnic tables.

After lunch Linda went in search of some souvenir socks and had no luck in the 6 stores she had time to go into. It seems that socks are not in season in New Orleans at this time of year. As she made her way to where John was waiting she glanced over at the Central Grocery Store and the line to buy muffulettas was out the door and down the sidewalk. Made the buzzards' timing seem pretty good.

On the way back we caught all the correct streetcars and buses. The outbound Canal Street streetcar we ride goes to the cemetaries, as mentioned in a previous posting. John though it humorous that as the streetcar operator pulls up to the cemetaries, he calls out "end of the line". Rather poetic, isn't it?

After we got back into our room just after 3:00 p.m. and begged Fannie Mae's forgiveness for leaving her for six hours (she said, "It's OK. I napped"), we loaded her into the car and took her with us to the local Cafe du Monde here in Metairie on the way to the Bark Park (that's the name on the rules at the gate). We (not Fannie) had some chicory coffee and beignets. The beignets were just out of the fryer and were piping hot, smothered in confectioner's sugar and absolutely marvelous. At 176 calories each, John devoured two and Linda had the third. Remember, they come in three's.

At the dog park, Fannie remembered the agility trick she learned yesterday (jumping over a short bar) so todya we raised the bar and she jumped over it lots of times with just a little encouragement (Linda rattled some crumpled up plastic on the far side of the bars). John was trying to get a shot of her jumping over and it took several tries before he got her in the air. Fannie's fanny going over the bar is in today's photo gallery. She met several new doggie friends and got reacquainted with 2 dogs who were there yesterday. There was a miniature Australian shepherd (Millie) who was just her size and they had fun tumbling and running.

Dinner tonight was at the Acme Oyster House.  John had iced tea, a seafood salad and a half-dozen raw oysters. The seafood salad had grilled shrimp and crab claws and lump crabmeat. He really enjoyed it. Linda had a cup of gumbo, sweet potato fries and a Purple Haze beer. Linda gave the gumbo a rating of 8.  John and  Linda shared a pecan cobbler. It was really more like warm pecan pie filling served over vanilla ice cream. Very tasty. Everything was quite good and our server took excellent care of us.

The funniest sign Linda saw today was neon.  It was the shape of Louisiana and said “Did Dat” which means the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl in 2010.  There is obviously a lot of team spirit all over the state for the Saints.  The funniest business name was Out of Bounds Sports Bar. Both these were seen from our seats on public transportation.

John saw a sign today on Igor's, a cafe on St. Charles Avenue. On the edge of the awning it read, "Igor's - Gourmet Hamburgers - Game Room - Pizza - Laundromat". At Igor's you can do your laundry while you eat a gourmet burger. How much better can life actually get?

John's funny sign from yesterday was the "Demo Diva" dump truck. We went be this evening and took a photo of the truck, the excavator and the construction bin. These are included in today's photo gallery which you can view by clicking here.

Calorie report today...even after all the great food (especially those two beignets) we had is 604 under budget.

May your team win their next game.