Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enough's ENOUGH!!!!!!

What was cute and beautiful is now ugly and crappy! As I was sitting here in my chair catching up on the morning news, a beautiful little bluebird sat on the arm of the external sideview mirrors of the motorhome. He seemed intrigued by his reflection and interested in meeting the little bird in the mirror. He was joined by his mate, a smaller, less colorful female and together they alternated sitting on the wiper blades and desperating trying to connect with the bird in the mirrors.

Well, I have often times seen people cover their mirrors with bags and I always assumed it was due to glare from the sun. Not so, it seems. It is to keep birds from attacking the mirrors. I must say, I have never seen this until now.

Now two hours later, the mirror is almost obliterated by bird snot and they have pooped all over the arm and the wiper blades. Looks like we will be getting out the hose and washing down those parts before we take off. They are now coming at the side door. . . where is that owl? I guess we need to carry one. We did also see two beautiful red birds here as well. From the looks of the bird houses around the pond, the owner wants to attract these small beautiful birds.

We will be leaving in about an hour. I put a load of clothes in this morning and we are waiting for it to dry. We don't have a long drive this morning, so I took the opportunity to catch up on the laundry.

Till next time. . .


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yum yum. . .

The time arrived. Chris graduated from college and the family threw him a party! And what a party it was. There was a crawfish boil! That means water is boiled in huge pots and then potatoes, corn on the cob and onions, garlic and lemon are tossed in along with whatever crawfish boil seasoning is desired. There were a couple different kinds that went into the three pots they had boiling. Once the potatoes have boiled a bit, the crawfish are immersed into the boiling water and cooked for just a few minutes. Then the "mudbugs" are removed and placed in a huge cooler to "steam" before eating. The corn and potatoes are added when they are done cooking, but it does not take long. They use small potatoes that cook quickly.

Later sausage was added and large whole mushrooms. They absorbed the flavor from the cooking broth and were delicious. I liked the corn and the mushrooms the best, but I did eat the crawfish too. It does seem like a lot of work. You have to pluck off the head and peel the tail to get to the meat which is really quite small, but very delicious. Even Terry ate the crawfish. I was proud of him for trying something different. He also ate some sausage and a hot dog Gary fixed in case anyone did not want to eat the mudbugs.

Later after everyone had had their fill, we moved inside and had cake Jo had bought for the occasion. A lot of relatives gathered around to congratulate Chris and to wish him the best. Chris started his college career after high school in 1988 I think and has recently gone back to finish his degree in psychology. Congratulations to him on a job well done!

After all that, there was still the issue of the remaining crawfish from the 200 pounds that were cooked. So, many of us gathered at the table on the patio and "plucked" the heads off. Jo packaged the tails and will probably freeze them and later remove the meat and use it in stew or efoutee.

It was a great evening and a great time!

Till next time. . .


Our Favorite Campsite!

Nothing beats camping in cousin Gary and Jo's backyard. We have a great site with water and electric, so it would be easy to wear out our welcome if we're not careful! It is quiet back here and our front window looks out over the side yard and on into a pasture where the cows roam during the day with their donkey escort Clarence. He is there to keep the coyotes at bay.

Gary and Jo bought a mid-1980's Prevost three years ago and Gary is in the process of converting it to a motorhome. He bought it from a father/son team who had begun the conversion. When the father died, the son lost interest and sold the bus. It is a nice looking bus and Gary is doing a great job on the inside. He still has a lot of work to do, but it is easy to see the progress he has made so far.

During hurricanes Gustave and Ike, the area north of Baton Rouge, where Gary and Jo live got hit hard. They had considerable damage to the roof of their house and to the barn as well as losing trees, etc. The roof has been replaced and Jo recently had some landscaping done and it really looks great. They have quite a bit of land here and no close neighbors. Very peaceful.

Preparations were underway early in the morning and afternoon for the crawfish boil to celebrate Chris' graduation from college. While everyone else was at graduation, we held down the fort and watched over the coolers of crawfish. Despite my inclination to drag them over to the pond and let them all go, all 200 pounds, common sense prevailed and I decided it would not be a good idea to upset the cajun celebration by releasing from captivity the entire main course. So instead I gave them last rites and promised them a swift demise.

Till next time. . .


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leaving Texas. . .

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the sunrise when we left the camp in Edna, Texas. It was spectacular. We plan to use this campground again. . . nice, quiet, lake, deer. . . it seems to have it all!

We left around 9 a.m. and made our drive toward Houston. We choose the times to go through Houston carefully and we have never been disappointed in planning carefully. We did get in the wrong lane once and ended up getting off 59 and onto I-45, but that road also curved around and connected with I-10 which was our goal all along. It turned out to be a good way to go anyway, so no time was lost. Those of you who have traveled I-10 know that it can be a bad road, but we didn't have too much trouble with it. The bridges were the worst as those all seem to need resurfacing, but most of the roadway was fine. We continued over to 165 in Louisiana and headed up toward Kinder, Louisiana. We made camp at Coushatta Red Shoes casino on the Indian reservation. This is a favorite stop of ours going to/from Cousin Gary's because the campground is so nice and well appointed and the casino is normally friendly. The fee for camping here for FHU's 50 Amp is $17/night. Although it is not an adult only park, I have only seen adults there so it is very quiet and the people are always friendly.

We did trek to the casino a couple days and did poorly one day and good the next, so we actually came out a little ahead. And we were sufficiently entertained so we left happy.

Yesterday we left and drove 120 miles to Cousin Gary and Jo's in Zachary, Louisiana, for a couple days. On our drive over here, we saw many boats in the crawfish ponds harvesting the crawfish. It would be interesting to get a closer look at exactly what they were doing, but it is hard to see from the road. The boats are very low slung in the marsh and they are "sternwheelers" having a large wheel on the back that pushes the boat through the shallow muddy waters. Also while we were observing that, we saw crop dusters, but they weren't crop dusting. They appeared to be feeding the crawfish! The ponds are numerous and close together. I guess it is easier to drop the food onto the water from the air, so that is what they were doing. Crawfish ponds are used every year, but they alternate between raising crawfish one year and growing rice the next.

While traveling back and forth across the southern part of the U.S., Gary's is a great stopping off point for us. If we are headed to/from Indiana, it is right at the point where we would make a big turn, so we never pass up the opportunity to see them. We haven't been here in over a year, however, as we have modified our normal routine the last couple winters. It happens that Gary's son Chris is graduating from college today. He started college in 1988, I think, so this is a big event! They are having a crawfish boil after the ceremony which is in Baton Rouge. We are looking to kick back today and enjoy the weather (high 77* and sunny) till the party starts this evening.

Neal is a little nervous. We are sitting out back by Gary's barn. They have had so much rain here this winter that his huge yard is soft and wouldn't support Phaeton Place. Fortunately, there is an old road bed here on the farm that runs from the front drive through the side yard to the back pasture. It actually is covered in grass and you cannot see it, but Gary knows where it is and we drove the motorhome back on it and parked close to the barn. . . not in our regular spot. It is a perfect spot and not soft at all. Always before we could hear coyotes at night, but Gary says they don't seem to be as numerous or as noisy as usual. But the cows pass within a few feet of us on the way to the back pasture. They "moo" a lot and Neal seems confused by that. He's not sure what that sound is and seems a little uncomfortable with it being so close!

Till next time. . .


Monday, March 22, 2010

And we're walking. . .

Took a little stroll around the campground tonight. Lots of sites here and we're thinking this would be a great spot for a rally. Warm weather right now, full hookup sites and areas where many rigs would fit and be somewhat private from other groups.

We saw some "visitors" who viewed us with curiosity. In the wooded area we also found this church. It is the oldest church in the county and was originally located in the town of Texana, Texas, which met its demise when the railroad bypassed it in the 1800's. The town is now a ghost town. This church has been moved twice, the first time was using logs as rollers and it was pulled by oxen. It is quite a large structure. . . I wonder how many oxen it took to move it. Of course, in some ways it would have been easier. . . not much in the way of obstructions.

Till next time. . .



We are keeping a close eye on Neal when he is out. The sign says it all! We are camped at the Brackenridge Plantation Park and Campground, 7 miles southeast of Edna, Texas. We left the valley at 8:30 this morning and drove up here. It is just past Victoria, Texas. We had plans to go to the state park and we did drive through. This area had 2 1/2 inches of rain over the weekend and a lot of the sites had standing water on them. The park is obviously much older and the sites were very short. You could not park on the grass, so most places could not accommodate a big rig. We left there and came across the highway.

Brackenridge Recreation Complex is a huge indoor rodeo that was just completed in the last couple years. It is surrounded by fields and on down the lane sitting on Lake Texana is the park where we are camped. It is a beautiful park in a beautiful setting on the shores of the lake. The state park is actually on the lake as well, but on around the bend from where we are.

We had a nice driving day. There was a lot of sun, virtually no wind and no rain. The drive was easy and uneventful. . . just like we like them. We did leave a day earlier than we planned to because tomorrow wind is in the forecast for the valley all the way up to where we now sit. We are leaving early in the morning to get through Houston then on up to Kinder and the Red Shoes Casino.

Till next time. . .


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ready. . . Set. . . Go!

Our original plan was to pull out Wednesday, because I wanted to play bingo on Tuesday night. We are headed to Baton Rouge to spend a day or two with cousin Gary and wife Jo. They are having a big event over the weekend and we thought our arriving in the middle of it would not be ideal, so we changed our plans and decided to leave Tuesday. I haven't been winning much at bingo anyway, so no problem there.

So as we prepare for our departure, I was checking the weather report for next week and discovered Tuesday was going to be windy. The valley is breezy all the time, but the wind can get downright fierce. Since that is the only day wind is forecast, we decided to change our leave date. By leaving Monday, we will be past the wind area when we stop for the night and have another clear day on Tuesday to make it to Louisiana. Wednesday and Thursday rain is forecast from the valley up through Kinder, where we will be visiting the casino for the rainy days. Then on to the cousin's. Sounds like a great plan to me. We leave a little earlier, but have great driving weather every day.

It is always bittersweet to leave the valley. Mom and Dad will be staying for another month, but we have to be in central Indiana for doctor's appointments in early April. We also have an apartment to rent, so have to get that ready. After two weeks in Indiana, however, we head to Virginia for Ronan's THIRD birthday! It doesn't seem possible that our little grandson is already three. We are anxious to see him. There is a chance that our son and his girlfriend will be there as well.

Till next time. . .


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Batteries, Schmatteries!

Well, it had to happen. We have been nursing a couple of "so-so" chassis batteries all winter. When we move, we have to charge them up the day before. We really thought they should last a wee bit longer, but that was not to be. Actually, we probably got a year more out of them than we should have.

Since we plan on leaving here next week, Terry decided to get them charged up. He put the charger on them and it showed a full charge, but when we tried to start the coach . . . no go. So he did another test and found one battery was still below where it should be, while the other appeared to be fully charged. Well, you cannot have that situation, so with the help of the neighbor, he was able to pull them out. They sit behind four coach "house" batteries, so help was necessary. We put them in the back of the truck and took off for the Freightliner dealer. I hope no one down here has to deal with that Freightliner dealer, because they certainly don't seem to want motorhome business. Terry had talked with them earlier in the day and when we arrived with our batteries, he said he didn't have anything like them and couldn't order them. Okay. . . well they are Freightliner batteries, but he suggested we try Kenworth or Peterbilt up the road. So we drove up to the Kenworth dealer. They were really nice, but also did not have the same battery but suggested we try Interstate Batteries up the road. We had tried to find the Interstate dealer, but they had moved. We ended up calling them for directions as they operated out of warehouse 17 in a huge warehouse complex. These people were very nice. They came out to the truck and load tested the batteries. The one was totally dead and the other operating at 1/3 capacity. The situation with the new ones is that the strength posted on their batteries is the minimum the battery puts out. The label on our Freightliner battery considerably higher leading one to believe they don't match. The tech said Freightliner does that so that you are fooled into believing that nothing but that specific EXPENSIVE Freightliner battery will work. He load tested the new battery and proved that the output is actually considerably more than the minimum the label indicates. No question that the new batteries were what we needed.

So we left with two new batteries and a lighter wallet. We stopped by our favorite restaurant, Rudy's, and picked up some barbeque to go since it had gotten late since we started this afternoon trek. Once we got back and ate, Terry got the new batteries installed. Phaeton Place fired right up and we are ready to go!

We plan on leaving here on Tuesday next week and staying south as we make our way toward Louisiana.

Till next time. . .


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Marking Time

Seems like that is what we are doing now until we get ready to head north. We have been busy with various projects, but nothing too strenuous.

Terry has been working getting his shed in order. He's been hanging up tools on the pegboard and sweeping off the shelves and floor. It is very neat and will be a great place to store things. Since it appears we will be spending Christmas here many times, I am going to leave what few Christmas decorations I have here. All things considered, the weather here is much better in the winter than anywhere else we have ever been, so we figure we will be here for several months each winter while the rest of the nation fights cold weather. It has not been a good winter here, however. It has been cold, wet, windy, etc., but it still has been better than most places up north. Even Florida where Brandon lives has had bad weather this winter.

One thing we never are short of in the valley is entertainment. Our park has a "jam" every Thursday evening and I have started going to those. Terry sometimes tags along. I must say that 98% of the people who come to sing should stay home. They can't carry a tune, have no sense of rhythm and are hard to listen to, but the audience is generous with applause and they come back week after week. What is awesome is the band. . . which is different every week, depending on who is available and who wants to help out. There is on any given week a steel guitar player, a bass guitarist, lead guitar, alto and baritone saxophone and harmonica player. They are just thrown together that night and play accompaniment for the various performers and do a wonderful job. They play a few tunes by themselves and then each gets a solo at the end. They are really great.

One woman who lives here with her husband actually teaches at a junior high down the road and she sings country western and puts on her own show. We went to watch her and she is pretty good. Her husband is her sound man and they do a great job. Last week we also had a family band come and perform. They are the Lindley Creek Bluegrass. The Greer family travels full time in their RV and performs at hundreds of parks. They also gather with other family bands in combined performances. Many of these family groups have adopted the Rio Grande Valley as their winter home because of the weather and so we have a large selection of their venues to choose from during the winter. The prices are so reasonable as well, usually $4 for a 1 1/2 hour performance.

One evening we had some local students who came to perform "Folkloric" dances for us. The teacher of these students is trying hard to preserve folk dances from Central American countries. Some of the dances are very old and risk dying out. There were all ages of children from 5 to 17 performing. Each dance required a change of costume and the teacher would explain about the dance and the costume. She also makes all the dresses for the girls and most of the dresses required 50 yards of fabric! There are multiple pleats in the skirts so when they swirl, the dresses fly over the girl's head. All the money from the admission goes to the children to provide costumes for new dances.

Mom and Dad were honored along with other couples in the park on Sunday for being married 50 or more years. In fact, Mom and Dad got the prize for being married the longest. . . 64 years this year. They allowed guests, so I went along to join in the celebration. What a great idea. We also had entertainment. . . a couple here in the park who perform and they sang a few love songs.

Outside the park, there are many things to do. . . parks to visit, birding and wildlife preserves, entertainment and museums. A couple weeks ago, we went to the 2010 gathering for Winter Texans. What a great bunch! We have been gathering for 3 years now and we have moderators that attend as well and it's always great to touch base with them. I don't know how many we had, but we filled the Cactus Club at Victoria Palms with only a few seats empty. It was a cold, wet rainy day, so it was great to have something to do!

We have a launch date now. As expected, Terry is getting a bit antsy and wanting to get moving. We are leaving March 24, I think. We have two apartments that have come open as of April 1, and we plan to get there and put the sign out and start the screening process for new tenants. So we will head back to Indiana, work in the doctor appointments, then head to Virginia for Ronan's third birthday!

Till next time. . .