terryandcarol

Travels through Canada and the US

Category: Uncategorized

Round 2: Snowbirding is us: October 20, 2014

Our departure from Calgary was under sunny skies. After a brief stop in Lethbridge we crossed into the US with no problems or delays. By the time we reached our destination of Great Falls, the thermometer was reading 29C. We had filled a propane tank in Calgary before leaving and we think due to the hot weather it vented, so the trailer alarm was buzzing when we stopped at the KOA. We opened windows and had the fans on high and by the time we got back from the Nature Walk 45 minutes later the smell was gone and we prepared supper.

 

Looking SW of Great Falls

Looking SW of Great Falls

Bale Garden

Bale Garden

What a treat to wear shorts again.  The Nature Walk was through the KOA planned shelter belt which is situated directly on the Lewis & Clark Trail.  This piece of land was part of the Portage Route around the thundering “Great Falls”.  The trail markers tell the story of the region – from mining, including the rare red Sapphire.  One of the many reasons Montana is called “The Treasure State”.  Garnets and gold were also mined throughout the state.  During the 1800’s the prolific mining operations uncovered dinosaur skeletons, which bought more attention to this largely unnoticed area of the US.  Oil and gas industries employ many people in the area.  Great Falls is part of the “Golden Triangle”, running from Cut Bank in the NW and to the Havre in the NE and at the centre to the south is Great Falls, the bottom of this inverted triangle where a large percentage of US wheat production is grown.  Beef ranching is also a big industry.

The RV Park was getting ready for winter – watering all the trees in the shelter belt – it was very nice to see proper care for these trees that are to often ignored.  Of great interest to us was the productive vegetable garden growing out of bales of straw.  Irrigation hoses ran up and down the rows of bales. We must do more research to learn the method.

 

October 21

We arrived from the north after our 3 hour drive to Billings via Hwy’s 87, 191 and 3.  The River Park was only a short drive from Billings Village RV Park where we strolled around picturesque Josephine Lake, home to the first settler’s in Billings, the Cochran Family.  Many of our fellow Canadian travellers were happily resting, enjoying the path and honking their displeasure at us interrupting them, who but Canadian Geese.

 

Lake Josephine, Billings, MT

Lake Josephine, Billings, MT

October 22

Up early today as we have a long day’s drive to Rapid City where we will meet Orval and Darlene.  A hour drive on the I 90 and we arrive at Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.  An informative video disputes the stories we have heard about Custer- we learn he was a highly decorated soldier from the Civil War.  The pamphlet that accompanies our admission fee is titled “A Clash of Cultures”.  A very sad statement to describe what happens to the American Indians.  Each June 25 the descendants of the Lakota and Cheyenne people gather to honour their ancestors.  On June 25, 1876 approximately 260 officers and soldiers were killed during the battle, the Indians lost less than 100.  (Indians is how American natives are referred to in the film we watched and literature we received.)  The Indians won the battle but lost the war against the US gov’t who wanted to end the Indian indepentant and nomadic way of life.  The 1874 gold discovery in the Black Hills in the heart of the new Indian Reservation lead to a stampede of gold prospectors.  The government could not stop the prospectors, the Indians would not sell the Black Hills back to the US Government to avoid confrontation.  The Lakota and Cheyenne resumed raids against the trespassers and on Jan 31, 1876 the government ordered the Indians to be treated as hostiles.

The area is a very moving site, the story a very sad one but not unfamiliar to any country that has an indigenous population.

In 1890 white headstones were placed marking the place where Custer’s men fell, dot the landscape.  109 years late in 1999 the National Park Service erected red granite markers at Cheyenne and Lakota warrior casualty sites.

Little Big Horn Battlefield and markers of soldiers

Little Big Horn Battlefield and markers of soldiers

Markers of fallen Indians

Markers of fallen Indians

North view of Battlefield

North view of Battlefield

Back on the fantastic I 90  just after noon and just south of Sheridan we hear a loud pop and pull into a historical marker a mile up the road where we discover a tire on the trailer has blown.  My role is tool gofer, go for this tool and that tool, while Terry changes the tire and 30 minutes later we are heading back to Sheridan to buy a new tire.

Dang tire was only 11 years old.

Dang tire was only 11 years old.

 

Wyoming is beautiful, hilly and grassy.  Beef ranch, sheep herds, long coal trains and enough oil and gas facilities to make Terry feel right at home.  Irrigation systems support the required hay bales production.  The herds of antelope loved these green acres, we wondered what the farmers do with them during the spring and summer in order to keep them out of their fields.

After we left Gillette we found the speed limit increased to 80 mph, Terry happily drove 65 mps as everyone passed by us and disappeared over the hills.  About 30 miles from the South Dakota border the grasslands become forests.

We set up in the dark at Hart Ranch RV Park, a highly recommended place to stay but don’t follow the GPS instructions.

 

October 23 Mount Rushmore

Majestic, awe-inspiring, magnificent and an impressive work of art as Gutzon Borglum, sculptor, hoped and meant it to be.  Doane Robinson who first perceived the idea of a massive mountain carving and Senator Peter Norbeck who carried the torch for the idea and Borglum selected 4 great presidential figures for the carving.  Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.

In order left to right, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln

In order left to right, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln

Begun in 1927 and completed in 1941 the project was actually only 6 1/2 years of work time.  The project would shutdown due to financial shortfalls.  400 workers built roads, ran the hoist, generated power, sharpened drill bits, set dynamite charges (these were considered the most skilled workers making $1.25/hr), or did finishing work on the sculptures.  These workers had to walk the equivalent of 40 stories up the mountain twice a day, as blasting was done during lunch and at the end of the day.  Recording of interviews with the workers who said “When they first started it would take them 30 minutes and by completion of the project they could do the walk in 9 minutes”.

In places 100 feet of rock had to be blasted out before solid granite was reached.  Almost a million tonne of rock was blasted in the 6 1/2 years.  Dynamite was the main tool in the sculpting process, the sticks were cut into small pieces to dislodge rocks to sculpture lips and eyes.

The model Borglum made was a 1:12 inch scale, one inch on the model equals one foot on the mountain and was used as the blueprint for the mountain sculpture.

Each face is 60 feet tall, each eye 11 feet wide and the noses are 20 feet long.

Borglum died before the sculpture was completed, his son Lincoln who worked with his dad spent 7 months refining the monument.  The US was preparing for war and funds were needed else where therefore the mortar sculpture does not match the scale model

 

Crazy Horse

Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Oglak Sioux wrote Sculptor Korczak Zlolkowski, who worked as an assistant to Borglum at Mount Rushmore, asking him to consider carving a giant sculpture dedicated to the American Indian, “so the white man know the red man has heroes also”.

He agreed and started work in 1948.  No state or federal funds are accepted so this explains why the sculpture is not completed, though the family of Korczak is slowly working on it.  Apparently they have recently received a $10,000.000 donation with the qualification the horses head be completed within 10 years.

View from the base of the mountain

View from the base of the mountain

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Model with view of mountain sculpture

Model with view of mountain sculpture

The model Ziolkowski made depicting Crazy Horse atop his horse will be 563′ and will be made in the round  (seen from both sides and the front) when complete.

At the Welcome Center a video is shown, you can decide to take a bus to the base of the mountain or begin touring through the Center with its vast collection of Indian art, including bead works; paintings; sculpture’s; baskets;pottery; traditional clothing items; weapons, including arrow collections and portrait collection of American Indian leaders.

example of bead work

example of bead work

The history and the future plans of Crazy Horse are amazing and we sincerely hope they will be realized.  We spent 3 hours here reading and learning but there was still more to see and learn.  It is certainly worth visiting

 

October 25 – Deadwood

in 1875 John B. Pearson finds gold in Deadwood Gulch.

It seems that everything you have watched in old western’s happened here in Deadwood.  Fire, Flood, Indian Raids, Murder, Robberies, Brothel’s, Gunfights, Hangings, Gambling, Cheating, Cattle Drives, Rodeo’s and probably more.

Deadwood is one long street with steep cliffs on both sides, no wonder the floods and fires devastated the town 5 times.  Wild Bill Hockok was shot in the back while playing cards in Saloon NO. 10 in 1876.  Hence the name “Deadmans Hand”, aces, 8’s and the 9 of diamond’s.

No. 10 Saloon

Saloon NO. 10

Now that's a "door" in Saloon NO.10   We couldn't see any bullet holes

Now that’s a “door” in Saloon NO.10 We couldn’t see any bullet holes

Wild Bill is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery.  Calamity Jane asked to be buried next to him as is Potato Creek Johnny, John Perrett who found a 7 3/4 ounce leg-shaped gold nugget in May 1929.

The gravesite of 'Wild Bill Hickok"

The gravesite of ‘Wild Bill Hickok”

The Adams Museum is considered the Black Hills oldest history museum.  It has a very interesting and eclectic collection and well worth the visit.  Tales of Deadwood Dick, Poker Alice, Canadian Seth Bullock and Charlie Utter make fabulous reading.   This museum was ranked #3 among the True West Magazines 2009 Top 10 Western Museums.

Adams Museum

Adams Museum

Adams Museum

Adams Museum

IN 1961 the entire city of Deadwood was designated a National Historic Landmark.  In 1947 gambling officially ended in Deadwood.  November 1, 1989 is the first day that legalized limited-stakes gaming begins.  Deadwood begins a transformation from a town struggling with a crumbling infrastructure and dwindling population and fewer tourists to a financially secure community who has paid homage to their past with their historic preservation and restoration, an ongoing process.  A very enjoyable day.

 

October 25 – Custer State Park

A drive through landscape of grassed rolling hills, very few trees.  We see bison, burrows and mountain sheep.  A stop in Custer for ice cream and then home to get ready to leave tomorrow

East view from NW corner of Custer State Park

East view from NW corner of Custer State Park

 

5:28 pm almost sunset, very peaceful, we hear the cows mooing in the hills behind us

5:28 pm almost sunset, very peaceful, we hear the cows mooing in the hills behind us at Hart Ranch

Memphis, Elvis and much more. March 7-14

March 9

On our first day out and about we took the free shuttle to Sun Studio for their tour.  The $22 for 2 tickets was well worth the price.  Our tour guide, Launa, was exceptional and she made the tour lively and interesting with her knowledge and theatrics.  Sun Studio was unimpressively small and dingy but reeked of history.  We were “all shook up” (can’t help myself) listening to the who’s who of this small studio.

Terry giving his best Elvis impression

Terry giving his best Elvis impression

The famous Sun Studio

The famous Sun Studio

Sam Phillips opened the studio in 1950 as a recording studio, Marion Keisker was his assistant and the person who recommended Sam listen to the recording Elvis made at the studio.  Marion reported, “Over and over I remember Sam saying, If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel I could make a million dollars”.  On July 15, 1954 Elvis was fooling around in the Sun studio after not being able to do justice to a recording of a ballad, when he began playing “That’s All Right” which was the sound Sam had been looking for and the rest is history.

Studio’s would send records to DJ Dewey Philips to play on his program “Red, Hot & Blue”.  On the day Sam gave Elvis’s record to Dewey to play on his evening program he played it 14 times after receiving many phone calls.

In 1955 a cash short Phillips sold Elvis’s contract for $35,000, an unheard of sum’ to RCA Victor.  The career’s of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Junior Parker, BB King, Jackie Brenston & his Delta Cats, James Cotton, Rufus Thomas and Rosco Gordon benefited from the sale of Elvis’s contract.

The Southern Delta had its own music, the whites was melodic celtic folk music that brought country music.  Blacks had a rhythmic, beat driven music of “field hollers” a call and response where one voice sings the lead and is answered by the chorus.  Black churches began blending call and response with white music – African tradition interwoven music and worship.  Anglican hymns took on a new and different African rhythm.

In 1954 Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips when Sam told Johnny to come back after he had written an uptempo weeper love song.  Cry! Cry! Cry! was released in 1955.  Johnny stuck a folded dollar bill under his guitar strings to get the raspy sound.  Johnny wrote the song “I Walk The Line” after talking to buddies about other guys running around on their wives.  Carl Perkins and the Perkins Brothers arrived at Sun Studio begging Sam for a chance to play. While playing at a dance he saw a dancer in the crowd trying to keep his girlfriend from stepping on his “blue suede shoes”. 21 year old, twice married and born entertainer, Jerry Lee Lewis sold 13 dozen of his daddy’s eggs to pay for his trip to Memphis.  Playing the piano like a wild man on the keys, playing with his feet and then it happened.  Whole Lot a Shakin in 1957 and 6 months later Great Balls of Fire, cemented his career.

Memphis Rock and Soul Museum is a Smithsonian affiliated museum, where you can see the entire Memphis music story.  Here the story begins in the rural 1930’s, urban influences of the 40’s and the radio in the 50’s.

One of the many performance costumes Elvis wore

One of the many performance costumes Elvis wore

Over 300 minutes of information and over 100 songs can be listened to on the MP3 audio guide tour.  This museum was our favourite music museum of the entire trip, as we recognized so many of the artists and sang along  to the songs (quietly).

Oh those Famous Peabody Ducks!  When we arrived at the Peabody Hotel at 4PM a full hour before the duck parade begins it was already crowded.  The red carpet was rolled out at 4:30 by the uniformed MC and duck wranger.  The tuxedoed wrangler told us  how in 1933 the general manager and his friend returned from a weekend of duck hunting and Jack Daniels consumption and thought it would be funny to place live ducks in the fountain.  The ducks were enthusiastically received by the quests and have been there ever since.

The ducks exiting the fountain and beginning the march to the elevator.

The ducks exiting the fountain and beginning the march to the elevator.

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In 1940 Bellman, E. Pembroke a former animal trainer taught the ducks the famous Peabody Duck March.  The ducks, 1 male and 4 female are mallards.  They reside on the roof of the hotel, work between 11 and 5 every day for three months and then retire to a farm to live out the remainder of their lives as wild ducks.

The famous part of Beale Street is only 4 blocks long and is blocked to traffic except at the street intersections, in total Beale Street starts at the Mississippi River and runs for 3 km.   Beale Street became the hub of the black community in the South.  The Blues were everywhere!  Every night club, dance hall, gambling place and den of iniquity had a stage with music.  Every street corner had a jug band that played for pennies.  The street was alive with energy.  To a Bluesman Beale Street was like New York’s Broadway for an actor.

These music notes with Names of Blues musicians are found in the sidewalk throughout the Beale Street area.

These music notes with Names of Blues musicians are found in the sidewalk throughout the Beale Street area.

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Officially declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 .In 1977 Beale Street was declared Home of the Blues by an act of Congress.

Highway 61, The Blue Highway running from New Orleans to Memphis is a 400  mile drive through Southern music, soul, gospel, R’nB’ and the blues.

During the 60’s civil rights struggles Beale Street was a natural rallying place.

Graceland

We are staying at Graceland RV Park and Campground which is directly behind the Graceland Hotel and both are adjacent to Graceland complex.

Graceland was surprisingly small

Graceland was surprisingly small

Rear view of Graceland

Rear view of Graceland

Looking left between the back of the house and the racket ball building.  The neighbourhood.

Looking left between the back of the house and the racket ball building. The neighbourhood.

Finally I am here.

Finally I am here.

Wahoo, double discounts +60 and AAA.  We take our headphones and board the shuttle that takes us across the street to the Elvis Presley home and revisit the 70’s.  Immaculately kept and preserved the 15 foot white leather couch in the blue, gold and white living room to the green carpet on the floor and ceiling in the family room to the fabric covered walls and ceiling in the billiard room.  It is amazing and sad.  Fresh flowers bouquets from fans attest to the love the fans still feel for Elvis.

Come in through the front door and this is on the right, the living room

Come in through the front door and the living room is on the right

The Kitchen - oh my!

The Kitchen – oh my!

Love the 70's, ha ha, especially the matching carpet on the ceiling.  Family Room

Love the 70’s, ha ha, especially the matching carpet on the ceiling. Family Room

TV Room

TV Room

Pool Room, walls and ceiling covered in fabric.  Reminded me of a dress I wore in the 70's.

Pool Room, walls and ceiling covered in fabric. Reminded me of a dress I wore in the 70’s.

In the audio tour, Lisa Marie mentions her love of snuggling up in the chair.

In the audio tour, Lisa Marie mentions her love of snuggling up in the chair. The brick wall is a water feature

The incredible number of awards from record sales and humanitarian causes he supported line many walls and are floor to ceiling in the 30′ high racket ball court.  Some of his favourite  jumpsuits he wore to perform, the suits he wore to certain award events and Priscilla’s wedding dress are all on display.

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The memorial garden with his grave and those of his parents, Vernon and Gladys and his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley who outlived all of them.  A small plague remembers his twin brother Jesse Garon.   It would be hard not to feel sadness and regret while standing in the garden.  Elvis Aaron Presley January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977.

Beautiful stained glass window wall behind the family graves.

Beautiful stained glass window wall behind the family graves.

The shuttle delivered us back where we toured the Elvis Automobile Museum, Live From Vegas Exhibit, Tupelo Exhibit, Hawaii Exhibit and his jets.  We loved listening to the music, watching his home movie’s and the movie’s he starred in.

The car Elvis gave his Mom

The car Elvis gave his Mom

Inside the jet "Lisa Marie"

Inside the jet “Lisa Marie”

His smaller jet

His smaller jet

The tour took us 5 hours to complete and the cost was $29 each.

After a long tiring day of touring Elvis we called the pink cadillac limo from Marlow’s to pick us up.  This restaurant has been on diner’s, drive-ins and dives and several BBQ shows.  Terry and I shared a combo platter, brisket, pork ribs and chicken, love, love it!!

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We explored Chucalissa a C.H. Nash Museum part of the University of Memphis. Chucalissa (chuck-ah-lizza) is a Choctaw word for abandoned house.  This site was an American Indian Temple Mound Complex.  It was home to 800-1000 people and occupied between 1000-1550 AD.  There were lots of hand’s on display for school kids.  The Choctaw practised head flattening by placing a small sandbag to the baby’s head as it lay on the cradle board.  It was though to make an adult look handsome, to improve the eyesight and make a man a better hunter.    The list of medicinal plants and their use was also interesting.

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The remains of the mount complex

While in New Orleans we struck up a conversation with a couple from Memphis who were attending there 22nd Mardi Gras.  They took the bus from Memphis to N.O. for a grand total of $4.20.  The further out you book the trip the cheaper it is thus the cheap total.  We choose Majestic Grill a recommendation from them.  Yummy burgers!  Dessert was served in 5 shot glasses on a wooden tray, choose a cake for $1.99 each, just a perfect size.  Lemon cheesecake and carrot cake.  We rode the Riverfront Trolley for $1.00 to get a little tour of the area and hopped off at the river and walked to the Cotton Museum.

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The Cotton Museum tells the story of how Memphis came to be.  Wonderful exhibits explain how the art, history and music evolved around the cotton industry.  Founded in 1812 it became a shipping port for cotton and African slaves whose hard work was the foundation of the southern economy.  The museum says one of the cities treasures, the Blues; evolved out of African rhythms, soulful spirituals, creative instruments and desperation.  The museum explained the grading and selling methods of cotton, the many uses.  It gave a very honest account of the cruelty of slavery times.   The audio tour was very informative.

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Some of the grades of cotton are:

1.  good middling white color

2.  strict middling white color

3.  middling white color

4.  strict low middling white color

5.  low middling white color

6.  stict good ordinary

Color, strength and trash were the determining factors to grading.

The last room, The Exploration Hall, explained how the cotton industry has changed since the 1940’s.  Planting methods are similar to wheat, ground temperature must be 68F at a 2″ depth.  The seeds germinate within 10 days.  Two months after planting flower buds appear and within 3 weeks the blossoms open and after 3 days the petals fall off leaving green pods called cotton bolls.  As the boll ripens it turns brown and finely split apart leaving the fluffy cotton.  We saw many cotton fields in North Carolina and Georgia, very picturesque.    Planting to harvest is approximately 160 days.

Choctaw Mound

Choctaw Mound

Civil Rights Museum

At the entrance to the museum

At the entrance to the museum

A sombre quiet museum. Unfortunately they have expanded and the grand re-opening will be April 4 so we had an abbreviated tour.  The exhibits tell of the key events in the civil rights movements, the Martin Luther King JR. assassination, the day is cronicled from the view of many people who with King, the residents, the police, the investigation, the life of James Earl Ray and the evidence.  The controversy so like the Kennedy assignation is confusing.  Ray recanted his confession, the amount of money he spent prior to the shooting with no explanation where he got this unearned sum from. The fingers points at the police, and the government agencies possibly both having been involved with the assination plot or the actual shooting.    I doubt if there will ever be a definitive answer.

At the Lorraine Motel where King was shot

At the Lorraine Motel where King was shot

We were warned by many that Memphis is not a safe place to be, to be careful, not to go out at night.  We never felt unsafe, the grocery store and walmart we shopped at we were a minority of two.

Memphis seems to be a busy city.  Services is the largest employer.  Three firms on the Fortune 500 list have their head office in Memphis; Fed-Ex (lucky us we were very close and can attest most of their planes take off between 2 and 3 am), HCA (Health Care) and International Paper, the largest paper company in the world.  40% of the US cotton is traded in Memphis.

Among the top industries are beef production, broilers, soybean, processed foods, grain products, bread, breakfast cereals, flour, beer, whiskey, soft drink, transportation equipment, industrial chemicals, paints, pharmaceutical’s, plastic resins and soap, mining limestone, coal, zinc and clays.

March 6 & & 7 – Driving through Mississippi rock n’ rollin’ to Memphis

More raised concrete roads where every little joint gives us a little shake.  Surprising number of trucks on the road, but then we begin to see huge distribution warehouses.    The roads are in rather poor condition in preparation for Memphis we laugh, as we shake, rock and roll.   The terrain changes from swamp land to rolling hills with farm land and forestry plots.  We continue to see red clay.  From 6 below sea level to 600′ above sea level.  We spend the night in Clinton which is just outside Jackson.  For $385 you can stay a month in the Mobile Home and RV Park.

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A huge Nissan plant is north of Jackson.  We see more cattle than we have in a long time.  Major industries include casinos, manufacturing including brick, tile and textiles, poultry and egg production, cotton and soybeans, wood and paper products.  One long city begins about 15 miles from the Tennessee border.  Diesel is now $3.64 and our odometer is at 25,000 kms.  We arrive at Graceland RV Park and Campground by 3 and struggle to get our TV working again.  I fear SHAW will soon block my calls.  It’s amazing what a little reset will do – damn.

February 26 – March 6: New Orleans, Mardi Gras, Parades, Plantations, Swamp Tours, Crusin’ the Mississippi

Mardi Gras colours, purple, green and gold greet our arrival into Louisiana.  Purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.   We arrive at Pontchartrain Landing and are pleased to be on a canal just off Lake Pontchartrain.  The staff say fishing from the bank is allowed and that the fish are biting.  They have cabins, floating villas, motel rooms and 80 RV sites.    Even the over flow was full.  The shuttle to the French Quarter is now a 2 bus shuttle.  The RV Park was built on what was an industrial warehouse that was wiped out by Katrina  The 6′ cement fence across the road from the RV Park had water running over it into the neighbouring residential area during the hurricane.

We drive down to the French Quarter to attend the New Orleans School of Cooking on St. Louis and Decatur Street.  Parking was $22 for the day, with the price escalating to $50 the next day.  We will be taking the $6 shuttle from the RV Park from now on. Approximately 30 out of a possible 40 seats are occupied by 5 men and 25 women.  Pat, our instructor, entertained and enlightened us on the life, history and cooking  of New Orleans.  Her talk was so educational I offered to pay for a copy which unfortunately for me is not written but based on questions people ask and her knowledge.

Shrimp Creole being served  - view from ceiling mirror

Shrimp Creole being served – view from ceiling mirror

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

We were served yummy biscuit and molasses syrup, the visitors poured it on the halved biscuit, the resident poured it on the plate and broke off a piece and dipped.  Great coffee, iced tea and a local microbrewery beer were offered.  This was an observation class – so no work just eating.  We received copies of all the recipes.

1st Course:  Corn & Shrimp Bisque;  2nd Course:  Shrimp Creole; 3rd Course:  Pralines; 4th Course:  Banana Foster

The guys didn’t want to come with us but at the end of class I was able to get them leftover Shrimp Creole and Banana Foster.  This is definitely a recommendation and for $25 the spouse should come even if its just for the food.

We took a carriage ride through the French Quarter and strolled through the French Market enjoying the quiet before the storm.

Private residence in the French Quarter

Private residence in the French Quarter

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Friday, February 28

Plantation Tour Day – We drove 45 miles SW of the RV Resort on miles and miles of raised concrete roadways over water and swamp land.  Our first stop is Oak Alley Plantation for lunch which did not disappoint.   The live oaks lining the gated front driveway is breathtaking.  Opposite the driveway is the Mississippi River Levy, sloping away from the road approximately 30′  high.  We climb to the top of the levy and three freighters pass by us.

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Front driveway to Oak Alley Plantation

Front driveway to Oak Alley Plantation

Delicious lunch

Delicious lunch

Dessert

Dessert

Then to Laura Plantation for a 70 minute guided tour of Laura’s Creole Family Saga telling the story of 200 years of this sugar plantation. This plantation was built in 1805 and Laura was the third generation of women who were presidents of the family plantation.  Listening to the disregard and cruelties the slaves suffered compared to the life of the plantation owners and the high degree of importance they placed on their own family was difficult to hear.  But as the tour guide said “It was just the way it was”.  The tour of plantation was so informative and fascinating, if anyone is interested just google it.

Laura Plantation

Laura Plantation note the water flow through under the house. This house was built well before modern levy’s when floods were frequent.

Refrigeration - 1800's.  These glazed urns were dug into the ground where due to the high water table the cool water kept food from spoiling.

Refrigeration – 1800’s. These glazed urns were dug into the ground where due to the high water table the cool water kept food from spoiling.

Original basement beams, note the numerals etched at Laura's construction 200 years ago

Original basement beams, note the numerals etched at Laura’s construction 200 years ago

The banana plants on the plantation had all frozen due to the unseasonable cold weather.  They will be cut back and new growth will quickly reappear.  The sugar cane plants were greening up and new growth was about 4″.  Tractors and fertilizer equipment were lined up in the fields.

Among the Plantation assets are the names, age and job description of the slaves.

Among the Plantation assets are the names, age and job description of the slaves.

Frozen banana trees

Frozen banana trees

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

The RV Resort held a Mardi Gras Parade and Party starting at 8:30, a one float parade with lots of throws and a surprising fireworks display.  We gathered in the upstairs restaurant/lounge to listen to music and visit.

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Saturday, March 1

With the promise of a warm, sunny day we board the shuttle with our lawn chairs and cooler.  The spot to be is St. Charles Street where the parade crosses onto Canal Street.  St Charles Street is close to the end and the float participants will be wanting to get rid of all their throws we were told.   St. Charles street is a 4 lane street as is Canal Street which is the western border of the French Quarter.  Soon we are visiting with all our new neighbours while waiting for the parades to start.  As I sat and reflected on this event unfold I realize it is more than I could imagine.  We are sitting in front of metal police barracks that line the gutter on both sides of the street where the parades will go by.  Behind us are three rows of people half sitting in lawn chairs they had bought, the other half wishing they were, the people standing behind us with nets did catch the majority of throws. Behind the parade attendees is a one person wide pedestrian pathway walking or waiting for the tide to shift so they can begin to move forward.  The other side of the street is the same.

It may be hard to spot, but you can see kids sitting on the ladders

It may be hard to spot, but you can see kids sitting on the ladders

Across the street are numerous 5 step, step-ladders, where people have ingeniously built seats on top of the ladder that will hold up to 3 children.  The platform is 4′ long and about 12″ wide with back supports, dividers and a bar over the front to keep the kids in.  A parent always stood on the back of the ladder to catch throws and steady the ladder.  New regulations this year have moved the ladders 8 feet from the front of the sidewalk because they were being tipped over by people reaching for throws.  Some of the these platforms use many ladders and parade goers have brought living room and kitchen furniture, the new regulations specifically ban these items now.

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What a beauty, eh?

What a beauty, eh?

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Elvis, Elvis and more Elvis

Elvis, Elvis and more Elvis

A new neighbour was hit by a throw Friday night and it broke off a portion of her front tooth, her husband has a bruised cheek from a throw.  They have a friend whose friend rides on a float.  Each float participant must supply their own throws at a cost of $2000.  They pay $900 for a spot on the float and they have annual dues to pay to the Krewe they belong to.  The majority of the people on the floats are 50+ caucasian.  The school marching bands were 90% non-caucasian some were very poorly equipped with no regard to ergonomics given.  We were seeing them at mile 3 so they were a very tired bunch.  All the bands had a vehicle following where exhausted member could recover, they also had band supporters who walked and  carried water for the students.  Only 1 band wore track pants and t-shirts, with the hot weather the kids in the heavy military style uniforms, some wearing helmets, had lost their umph. The cheerleaders who accompanied the marching bands were wearing boots, some with taps, imagine walking 3 miles in that, omg.

"Iris Rocks" theme floats

“Iris Rocks” theme floats

"Rock ettes"

“Rock ettes”

The little one was very young.

The little one was very young.

The 10:45 parade arrives at 1 pm and the first two parades were continuous for 4 hours.  We watched the Krewe of Iris, the Krewe of Tucks and the Krewe of Endymion at 7 pm.  The police presence was strong.  We never felt unsafe, though we did hear that pick-pockets especially enjoyed the parades.  Coolers and lawn chairs left were undisturbed.  Both Terry and I got bonked on the head from 2nd level float throws while watching for 1st level throws.  It is crazy, the throws are cheap, cheap made in China crap, that people compete to get.  There is no recycle, a good 1/3 of the stuff ends up crushed in the streets.   We filled a reusable grocery bag full and gave another 1/2 again away and then only raised our arms in self protection.   Some people left with 3 of these bags full. One throw was toilet paper, try to catch this if you can as the port-potties have long run out.  Bring wipes with you!

Motorized easy chairs.

Motorized easy chairs.

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Parade aftermath

Parade aftermath

I walked into The Pearl, a restaurant on St. Charles Street and framed on the wall were copies of a James Lee Burke book, The Tin Roof, fans of Burke books will recognize that some of his books are based in Louisiana.

With the established themes, it seemed if you could dream it or imagine it there was a float portraying it.  Irreverence is the goal.

Madri Gras is a satire on the lives of kings and queens.  Each Krewe elect a  King and Queen.  An article in the newspaper interviewed one man who had decided he would like to be the King of his Krewe one day and began saving money 16 years ago.  It’s basically a political campaign with gifts given to those within the Krewe who influence others within the Krewe.

Founded in 1917 Iris is the oldest, largest all-female Krewe.  Named for the Goddess of the Rainbow and messenger to the Gods.  “Iris Rocks” was the 2014 theme.

Krewe of Tucks is known for its impudence and great throws.  Began in 1969 by a group of university students who took its name from a bar called Friar Tucks.  This year’s theme was “Tucks Lives the Sportin’ Life.

Krewe of Endymion is a super-krewe.  Founded in 1966 and named for the Olympian god of fertility and eternal youth.  There motto is “Throw until it hurts”.    The theme this year is “An Evening at the Opera”.  A super-super krewe of  2850 men has much larger floats than other Krewe’s, one float this year has 9 trains (semi truck beds) and a celebrity Grand Marshal, Carrie Underwood this year.

The Louisiana Welcome Center told us there are over 60 parades during Mardi Gras, January 6 – March 4.  Thirty-four parades were held during the time we were there.

Sunday, March 2 – Swamp Tour,

A little treat for us before departing – beignets and cafe’ au lait, yummmm

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We took the LeFletch Tour which I would not recommend, we did see numerous alligators but the guide was not a nature speaker.  I would try Ultimate Swamp Adventure or Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours.  On the bus ride out we watched an interesting video called  Hurricane on the Bayou which highlighted the devastation of the wetlands and how this impacted the severity of Katrina.  The building of the levy’s in the 1930’s stopped much of the flooding that each year added nutrients to the land.  The ditching of many canal’s has allowed sea water to flow in and kill the vegetation.  We found the number of canal’s surprising and they range from Florida to Louisiana, straight as an arrow going for miles.   So the natural buffer that once would have sheltered New Orleans has dramatically deteriorated.  Amanda Shaw, a local cajun fiddle player who was 13 at time of filming, lived on the Bayou and film followed her family and how they were effected by the hurricane.

The alligator is 2 years old

The alligator is 2 years old

About 11 feet long our guide said

About 11 feet long our guide said

Bayou not a canal

Bayou not a canal

Monday March  3

Steamboat Natchez cruise on the Mississippi River.  Eating lunch and listening to jazz while cruising down the Mississippi was an enjoyable way to spend a cool, windy Monday afternoon while in the Big Easy.   Hurricane Katrina damage is still easily found, repairs continue on the docks and during our travels around the city as well.

Paddlewheeler

Paddlewheeler

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cargo ship waiting to load

cargo ship waiting to load

Homes can be seen with holes cut through the roofs.  As we sail back to dock we see a music festival and wander over.  Zulu Lundi(means Monday) Gras Festival  has two stages, numerous food and craft tents and is free.  Little Amanda Shaw, all grown up is playing and we enjoyed listening to her and watching her dance up a storm to help her to keep warm while on the stage.

Tuesday, March 4

Record cold and rains greet us Tuesday morning.  In the afternoon we troupe to the shuttle, me bundled in my down filled jacket, underwear, double socks, toque, gloves and rain cape.  We had watched the morning parade on live cam on the internet.  Pretty sparse crowds.  On Canal Street the mess left from the wilting throws is crazy, we have to pay attention as we walk as the many beads are difficult to walk on.  We try to avoid the puddles, finally decide to seek warmth in a restaurant, all are crowded with eager costumed Mardi Gras people dressed in layers and rain capes drying by their side.  Bourbon street is crowded, maybe the antifreeze will keep the masses from catching colds.  They are unconcerned.

Mardi Gras is a huge business, costumes, floats, throws, require many people to run efficiently.  It is a well oiled machine now.  Each morning as we departed the shuttle the street were clean, I could still smell the soap and disinfectant and see the bubbles in the street gutters.  A couple of hours later it returned to a sticky bead strewn mess.  My shoes became tacky just walking on the street in the Bourbon Street area. The rest of the French Quarter was pretty good but Bourbon, Royal and Canal Street were a mess.  People walked around carrying drinks in fish bowls.  It is legal to carry drinks in to go cups. There was a huge police presence and we always felt safe.

A clean street

A clean street

OMG,  lol

OMG, lol

Bar entrance rules

Bar entrance rules

The ladies making trades - necklaces for a brief showing!!!

The ladies making trades – necklaces for a brief showing!!!

I walked into an establishment for a cheap Hurricane not looking at the sign.  Pretty soon I am met by a pretty young thing introducing herself, naive as I am I told her I was happy to meet her too.  Finally looking around I realize I am in a strip club with some dancers on a stage behind glass and I swear this is true, a toothless bartender.  I read this story once in some detective novel.  LOL.

Wednesday, March 5

The 2 1/2 hour city tour proved to be very informative and worthwhile.  Reconstruction is ongoing, we were driven through areas that had 4, 8, 10 feet of water during Katrina.  New Orleans range from 6′ below sea level to 16′ above.  Many residents did eventually return, the times we took a taxi the drivers were gone for 2 years before they returned.  Rugby and Lacrosse were sports brought back to the city by returning residents and are thriving.  Shipping, tourism, oil and gas and the military are the major sources of commerce in the city.

Outside the Louisiana State Museum on display is a 24′ fishing boat used to rescue more than 400 people.  First pressed into service by a doctor desperate to save patients and then by others to continue to rescue those stranded.

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The restaurant where we had lunch served no coffee but did offer frozen strawberry daiquiri’ s for a dollar.  New Orleans full of surprises!!

Coden, Alabama, February 24-25 Gas Country

As we were departing Florida we found a hill, maybe the only one, it was the kind that if you go down fast enough your tummy does a little flutter.

There is water standing everywhere, the water table here is about 18″ and this is flat land so no run off.  A road sign warns us the highway is under water, but must be from the previous night’s rain.  The state change from Florida to Alabama would not be noticeable if not for the Welcome to Alabama sign.  More tree plantations, but the white sand mounds, home to the red ants have disappeared.  Red clay is being used in road construction.  There are considerable more brick homes than we saw in Florida we think maybe there once was a brick industry with the amount of red clay we see.

As we cross the bay into Mobile we pass an immense shipyard.  Mobile has the 12th largest port in the US.  It is also known for having the oldest Mardi Gras in the USA.

The Austal USA Shipyard is a major Alabama employer building ships for the US Army/Navy.  The number of ships lining the docks is impressive.  Vehicle manufacturing, gas processing, commercial fishing and shipping coal from northern Alabama are some of the local jobs.  We read the promise of cheap wages and no unions are bringing large corporations to Alabama.

The Bay Palms RV Resort is in Coden, about 30 minutes south of Mobile is suffering the effects from all the rain and our water outlet is broken due to a previous hard frost.  A young couple have just bought the business and are busy making changes.  Half of the 100 sites have permanent residents or snowbirds.  We were quickly invited to early morning coffee.  A group of men were making sausage, but a blade broke so we didn’t get to participate in that.  A group of 5 fisherman were cleaning their days catch.  They had gone 176 miles out into the gulf and caught a couple of small tuna, several small trout and one large trout, 48″ long and weighing in at 45 pounds.  They were fishing 600′ down and it took almost an hour to bring in this fish and 2 men to land it.  They didn’t have a knife blade long enough to fillet it.  One resident told us when there’s a catch like this one there usually is a fish fry the next night.

A walk down to the bay reveal’s murky water and many gas well platforms.  This area was effected by the BP Spill, the local commercial fisherman replaced their income by providing spill clean-up.  Fishing is back up and running.

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The resort is 15 minutes from Dauphin Island our Tuesday destination.  15 or so people were out fishing on the pier and on the jetty’s.  We spoke with a young man who was very pleased about his job working at Austal where he works as a fitter.   He had graduated high school 10 months ago and was happy he didn’t have to go to college to get a good job.

It was amazing to see the number of platforms out in the Gulf.  Looking left to right we counted 20.  Several had ships loading gas.    Very little was open yet so the island was quiet with only a few people on the miles and miles of white sand beach.  We walked around the Indian Shell Mound Park, evidence of early inhabitation.  A short stroll through the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary revealed no birds, too early for migration, but the short boardwalk to a little lake helped wear off lunch.  A menu at one of the restaurants offered, Skin, Legs & Tails (shrimp wrapped in bacon, frog legs & alligator) for $24.95.  No one ordered this item.

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All the new homes on Dauphin Island are built up.  Note the roof deck.

All the new homes on Dauphin Island are built up. Note the roof deck.

For $5 you can fish off this pier all day.  You do not have to buy a fishing license but you must purchase your beer from the pier store.  The best fishing in 2014 we were told will be in April, during this time the pier is open 24 hours a day.  Sting rays were being caught the day we were there.

For $5 you can fish off this pier all day. You do not have to buy a fishing license but you must purchase your beer from the pier store. The best fishing in 2014 we were told will be in April, during this time the pier is open 24 hours a day. Sting rays were being caught the day we were there.

The amount of money the south has paid for bridges and roads over water must be enormous and we are curious as to what that cost is.

February 17 – Beach time in Panama City Beach

Short distance today, long time, slow traffic, darn RV Resorts that cannot get their own addresses correct.  Note to myself to get back on board asking the prerequisite questions I have learned to ask but forgot this time.

1.  Is the wifi free for all our devices?

2.  Can we get Satellite TV, are there trees?

3.  Is the address in the campground book and on the website the actually one we need to type into the GPS?

4. Is is straight forward when we find you?  (We’ve been told, sharp left or right as you turn in, stop and wait we will come and get you)

Panama City Beach RV Resort has 70 sites and 4 apartments available.  Back-in is 370 a week or 650 month.  The 27′ sites are nicely landscaped with a concrete pads and a concrete alcove for sitting.  No picnic table, no campfire, no storage on ground or under trailer, but its just a short block to the beach which we can see from our alcove.  A 4-point deer surprised us by jumping out on the road from the ocean side, Terry was quite impressed with the size of its rack.

It is so nice to go for our morning walk on the beach and spend the afternoon on the beach.  Just a few little kids on the beach venture into the water, all adults are like us absorbing the warm sun, watching the endless waves sweeping into shore, feel the wind, and listening to the birds, the waves crash and the murmurs of conversation. We keep an eye on the fisherman hoping they will catch something but the porpoise swim by, hunting, soon the fish are jumping out of the water and the fisherman think the chances of them catching anything today has just evaporated or gone into the stomach of the porpoise.  Planes from Tyndall Air Force Base break the sound barrier as they fly overhead in pairs, the Navy Hovercraft is quite amazing to watch , chugging and growling along doing manoeuvre’s, we can’t feel the vibration but you know you would if you were close to it.  I found it hard to concentrate on my homework – studying Texas for next winter’s adventure.

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico

Hovercraft

Hovercraft

Only a few of the 17 attendees of the morning meeting

Only a few of the 17 attendees of the morning meeting

Patches the bar across the street has a Canadian Flag up during the women’s hockey game.  The game is delayed by a few seconds from our satellite TV so the cheer’s are late.  LOL  The couple next door from Missouri have amassed a wonderful collection of impressive shells, bigger shells than anything we’ve seen to date.

The Lonely Planet touted Hwy 30A scenic drive to Destin, so we thought we would give a try.  Hotel’s, condo’s, more condo’s and hotels, the only glimpse of the Emerald Coast was we were stopped at the lights.  A bust for sure.

Those super aggressive little devils, the red ants,  got both of us this time, I stopped on our RV pad to tighten my sandals and one crawled into my sandal and by the time I got 75 yards down the road I was limping.  I limped back and while Terry sprayed to kill them one bit him on the foot.  Ice and bug after bite controls the sting.

105 Days to Hurricane Season a signs reads.  On CNN the weather map shows tornado advisory’s in the south, not to far from us.  Friday morning beginning at 2 am the wind picked up and shook the trailer, just as I was drifting off a big gust would come and then I was awake again.  AT 6:30 the thunder, lightning and rain began.  The thunder felt like it was directly over our heads, we had never felt anything like that.  By 9 the sun was shining and the streets were drying up.

February 22

The Farmer’s Market at the marina is quite small but we manage to spend a little money.  An organic cabbage for $2 and purple sweet potatoes for $3 and a little dessert.

The 17th annual Krewe St. Andrews Mardi Gras parade was 50 minutes long with 30 floats and thousands of bead necklaces in every hue thrown into the crowd.  Moon pies were also thrown, we had a taste when we got home, good thing they were free.  Estimate of crowds was 40,000, the children’s parade Friday afternoon was a success as well.

Another Farmer’s Market on the marina concourse was interesting, Tupelo Honey was a big seller.  This honey is made from the flowers of the white tupelo tree, whose flowers only bloom for 3 weeks and is known for its unique flavour.  If you have a chance buy it, it is very different but delicious.    Terry and I both agreed that the Baklava was the freshest and most delicious we have ever tasted.  The baker told us she was from Turkey and had the best teachers in the world, her mother and grandmother.  We agreed.

Pirate theme seemed to be very popular with everyone, most people at least had a necklace on.  Also hats, big hair bows and vests.  The event had over 70 vendors and many food booths, featuring deep fried alligator, turkey legs, blooming onion, chicken on a stick, green tomatoes, funnel cakes etc.

When we arrived in Historic St. Andrews we found a shady spot to watch the parade from and placed a blanket on the spot.  When we arrived back 2 hours later it was still there.  The colourful floats usually had either a band on board or music playing, the floats were far enough apart the music from the one in front drifted away before the music from the next one came into range.  All participants on the floats were dressed in various colourful costumes, pirates, mermaids, tuxedo’s and long dresses, purple, green and gold were the primary colours.

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I took this picture

I took this picture

and Terry took this one

and Terry accidentally took this one!!

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We amassed a huge collection of necklaces, New Orleans here we come.

Another big storm this morning, we were woken up by an Emergency Flash Flood Warning.  Two inches of rain in an hour with a possibility of another 2 inches.  In our travels around the city  we did not notice  any Emergency Evacuation Route’s and the office here is closed Sunday’s????  With the storm the satellite TV wasn’t working for the entire second period of the mens gold metal game.Fortunately our Spruce Grove grandkids texted us results until signal  came back on for the 3rd.  So happy to see the shutout.

The RV Resort has no organized activities.  But the Winter Residents association in the city has a lengthy list of daily and weekly activities published daily in the local paper.  There is a cost to join the organization.  Cooking classes, exercise classes, fishing, golfing, farm tours, bus tours, wood working, dancing, painting, yoga, wine tasting, music lessons etc. etc.

February 15, 2014 “on the road again,we’re on..(sorry Willie)

Our rearview mirror compass says “N”, Chiefland, then Perry and then around Apalachee Bay on a 4 lane highway through miles and miles of nothing but perfectly planted pine trees.  Perry is the Forestry Capital of Florida and is home to the Forestry College.  Pulp mills are located in Perry and Panama City.  Many closed and dilapidated homes and businesses.  No rest stops so we stop onto the approach to 1 of 3 closed fuel stations for lunch.  The 2 ransacked motels are evidence of a once thriving community.  Only the post office remains in operation.

On the way to Carrabelle Beach we pass through the Apalachicola National Forest.  Carrabelle is a one street town that stretches approximately 5 miles but we spot an IGA where the word “Bakery” is posted.  Visions of fresh IGA bread pass through our heads.

The Carrabelle Beach RV Resort has 78 spots and 8 condo’s and park models for rent.  It is a long weekend here, President’s Day, there is no vacancy.  Being the newbee’s and from Alberta we are of interest to our neighbours who wander over, which is great because we are curious about them too.  One neighbour from Tennessee has been shopping in West Edmonton Mall.   We welcome tips for the next days excursion. A pre-supper walk is very welcome, the beach across the road stretches for miles and the breathtaking white sand is being enjoyed by just a few people relishing the sun and surf.

Breathing holes for clams

Breathing holes for clams

View of Terry in the RV Resort

View of Terry in the RV Resort

February 16

West to Eastpoint we cross the bridge to St. George Island a barrier island that is 28 miles long and 1 mile wide.

On the beach for $629,000. but you better check out the new Hurricane Insurance Rates - $5000/yr

On the beach for $629,000. but you better check out the new Hurricane Insurance Rates – $5000/yr

It was too cold to go search for shells so we strolled into the visitor centre and learned the history of the Cape St. George Light that stood for 153 years until toppling in 2005.  Erosion at the base caused by Hurricane’s Opal and Georges could not be stopped.  Life was wonderful for the lighthouse families as related by the children of the keepers.  The lens was protectively removed during the Civil War and was reinstalled at the conclusion of the war.

Boaters have to be mindful of the power transmission poles on the way to St. George Island

Boaters have to be mindful of the power transmission poles on the way to St. George Island

The drive to Apalachicola was on a causeway, once again the GPS shows us driving on water.  This town of 2500 was incorporated in 1827.  Before the development of railroads, Apalachicola was the 3rd busiest port in the Gulf of Mexico.  Cotton,also known as white gold, was loaded onto ships heading north.  Sponge trade was also important.  Shrimp ships were docked waiting for the season to start in March.  More than 90% of Florida’s oyster production is harvested from Apalachicola Bay.  The town is also famous for being the home to Dr. John Gorrie whom discovered the cold air process of refrigeration and patented the ice machine in 1850.

Saskatchewan Roughriders – a conversation starter wherever you go!

Our travelling partner Orval, wore his Roughrider cap today, much to the chagrin of his wife Darlene.  While walking down the street in Apalachicola a young man stops and asks him where he is from in Saskatchewan.  The young man  is from a small town in near Unity but left there because the farm could not support him and his dad.  He has been in the US Navy for 18 years and he and his wife are planning to retire in 3 years in the Panama City Beach area due to its perfect climate and great fishing.  They provided tips on restaurants and told us where to find the Farmer’s Market.

Neighbours at the RV Resort recommended a place to stop for oysters.  I had only eaten smoked oysters, which I thought were beyond gross and I told the waitress I would not eat them raw.  Luckily for us the menu had 10 other choices.  We shared 1/2 dozen Oyster Rockefeller that were cooked with butter, garlic, cheese and spinach, who could not like that combination.  I can now say I have eaten oysters, would I spend the money eat them again, not when there is dessert.  Terry wants both he says.

Our RV Resort has concrete pads, age restrictions and very few organized activities.  The rules include age of RV, condition of RV, no storage of items on or under RV is permitted.  The sites are about 25 feet wide and beautifully landscaped, great for a couple of nights but not for the winter.  The sites are $4o a night or $750 a month.

PS:  No fresh bread or fresh anything at the IGA, the next closest grocery store is 45 minutes away.

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