terryandcarol

Travels through Canada and the US

Category: Uncategorized

November 15 – 23: San Antonio and area the most – historic, visited and beautiful according to the tourist literature

November 15

Off to New Braunfels where a must stop is Naegelin’s, the oldest Bakery in Texas for sausage roll’s, cheese blitz, strudel and a bismarck.  What is a bismarck I was asked and when I explained what I wanted, the clerk told me it is called a filled donut.  A fellow customers asked me where I was from and told me the only other person he heard call filled donuts bismarck’s was his mother who was from Regina, Saskatchewan.  The bakery has been in operation since 1868.

Germans immigrated to this area of Texas in the mid 1800’s.  To celebrate the German history of the area, The Wurstfest, or sausage festival is held for 10 days in November.  By the time we arrived at 11:30 if was impossible to find a seat,  No one wanted to sit outside in the rain on wet chairs leaving seating capacity reduced.  On a warm sunny day it would have been wonderful to sit outside, listening to German music.    The festival offers small shops to browse through, 40 local, national and European bands, funnel cakes, chocolate covered deep fried pickles, pork chop on a stick,  frito pies (frito’s, a layer of cheese and a layer of chilli), fried oreo cookies, smoked turkey legs,  a carnival, a craft fair and many plastic pitchers full of one of the 35 types of beer sold.

German polka's

German Polka Band

Wurstfest in Landa Park

Wurstfest held in beautiful Landa Park

November 16

Trader’s Village a flea market in San Antonio has over a 1000 vendors.  We bought 5 fresh mandarin oranges that smelled wonderful and turned out to taste that way too.  We got our morning walk in and that’s all we can say.

The Cove appeared on the Food Network which inspired us to check it out for lunch.  The Cove bills itself as a SOL establishment, sustainable, organic and local.  When we arrived I was sure we were at the wrong address, there is a car wash, laundromat and then an unappealing door into the restaurant.  We are very glad we continued in.  We placed our order and sat at the family style tables where at every fourth chair was a roll of paper towels, a good indication we thought.  We were correct the burger’s were all excellent.  The Cove also offers a playscape, ping-pong tables, basketball backboard and a dog run.  And then we learned there would be music starting at 1:00 pm.  It was well worth the 15 minute wait.

The 9 members of The Ear Food Orchestra played and sang Gospel Music in New Orleans Style as they introduced themselves.  All money raised went to a children’s counselling organization.  During the hour we never stopped tapping our feet nor clapping our hands.  We sang along to the song’s we knew, When the Saints Come Marching In, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Come Follow Me to name a few.  The orchestra members sat in chairs, turned down the volume when asked, played in the afternoon – check marks all round.

Ear Food Orchestra

Ear Food Orchestra

Large rough green fruit commonly called horse apples of the Bois D'Arc or Osage-orange tree. Nothing eats them and each weights about 1 pound,

Large rough green fruit commonly called horse apples of the Bois D’Arc or Osage-orange tree. Nothing eats them and each weights about 1 pound,  We found many scattered under a large tree during an afternoon walk near our RV park

November 16

Fredericksburg, established in 1846 by 120 German immigrant’s, the unofficial capital of the aptly named Hill Country.  This part of Texas is known for its German heritage, sausage, peaches and their wine industry.

Our GPS continues to give us grief, it tells us to make a left turn going north on I10, however the highway signs say to turn right going north.  Well, the GPS  directions are correct but it is hard to ignore the official highway signs as we learn after going up and back around twice.

Street art!  What can you recognize?

Street art! What can you recognize?

Lunch at Der Lindenbaum consisted of weinerschnitzel, warm potato salad, sausage, cooked red cabbage, sauerkraut and German chocolate cake.  No supper for us.  We spent 2 hours wandering Main Street.  More fudge and ice cream for someone.   Our last stop was at Opa’s Smoked Meats where we filled our cooler with some of the delicious sausages we had sampled at lunch and to buy a sandwich to eat at Luckenbach.

We had read that Luckenbach was not much, a few buildings, a post office, general store and a bar, however it’s all in one small building.  Luckenbach is known for its daily picker’s circle.  On the weekend it has 2 officially hosted circle’s with one beginning at 5 Monday – Friday.  However we were told that there is usually someone playing no matter the time you come.  The musicians sit on folding chairs in one corner of the 3-stool and 1 bench bar, another room is at the side and away from the wood burning stove.  We were inside due to the cold and rain as usually the circle’s are held outside under the magnificent oak trees where there are picnic tables for everyone to sit.  But tonight we are happy to be crowded inside this warm little bar.  We were welcomed by the locals and talked to all our fellow tourist.  I could go on about all we learned about this tiny hill country hamlet where “Everybody’s Somebody”.  Luckenbach, Texas (Back to Basics) was a huge hit for Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1977.  I urge you to go to http://www.luckenbachtexas.com to learn more.   It all very casual, the pickers never really introduce themselves, someone walks in with a guitar, get a folding chair and joins in the circle, waiting his or her turn, strumming along or singing as they feel.  The music is not loud, people chat and get to know each other.  Each circle has a host who invites other pickers.  They gave these Canadians a hard time about the weather.  I wish I had looked at my weather app as it was +4C in Drayton Valley and -1C in Luckenbach when we left, but by the time we go back to San Antonio in an hour it was +8C.

The picker's circle

The picker’s circle

Note the chicken on the outside of the window sill.

Note the chicken on the outside of the window sill.

Luckenbach, Texas

Luckenbach, Texas

November 18 – San Antonio Missions

The chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 1700’s is evidence of Spain’s most successful attempt to expand its dominion north.  Even before mission life the bands of hunting and gathering Coahuiltecans were being pressed by nomadic tribes encroaching from the north and then by European diseases that decimated the bands.  The bands practice of sustainable fire to regenerate prairie life ensured food was available.  With mission life this changed and soon with over grazing by cattle and sheep the sea of grass that was Texas prairie was lost to mesquite and cactus.

Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo

Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo

Mission Nuestra Señora Concepcion de Acuna

Mission Nuestra Señora Concepcion de Acuna

Note the thickness of the walls and defence shutters.  The nails holding the locking mechanism to the shutters were 3 inches long and bent with the ends pushed back into the wood

Note the thickness of the walls and defence shutters. The nails holding the locking mechanism to the shutters were 3 inches long and bent with the ends pushed back into the wood

Beautiful view of church, we talked to a local who has lived there 65 years and he spoke of the many changes to the mission grounds and area.

Beautiful view of church, we talked to a local who has lived there 65 years and he spoke of the many changes to the mission grounds and area.

Frescoes estimated to be dated from mid 1750's

Frescoes estimated to be dated from mid 1750’s

The Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, became known as the Queen of the Missions.  Founding ceremonies took place in 1720.  Leaders of 3 Indian bands that wanted to come into the mission were appointed governor, judge and sheriff.  The building of the limestone church with its Spanish Colonial Baroque architecture began in 1768, at the peak of the missions development 350 Indians lived in 84 2-room apartments.  The mission residents learned to use guns to fend off Comanche and Apache raiders.

The Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepcion looks essentially as it did in the mid 1700’s.  Colourful design’s once covering its surface have faded.  However original faded interior paintings remain,  some are religious symbols and others are decorative.  It is reputed to be the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S.  It is known for its great acoustics.

Both these churches are active church’s celebrating weekly mass.

By an outdoor chapel there was a small cactus garden

By an outdoor chapel there was a small cactus garden

The River Walk

Twenty feet down from street level is the beautiful and famous San Antonio River Walk.  This gem is a charming canal and pedestrian walkway.  The Rio San Antonio Cruise gives an overview of the area.  The river and man-made canal complete a square with access to museums, shopping, office buildings, hotels and restaurants.  We crossed under many bridges which offer multiple points to enter this area.  Due to the cool weather the restaurants had blankets on each chair plus tall propane heaters, all very inviting for a 3:00 coffee, bailey’s and dessert or two.

One of the many bridges we passed under

One of the many bridges we passed under

Part of the river walk outside of the downtown area

Part of the river walk outside of the downtown area

November 19

The hop-on and hop-off tour has just 9 stops.  Market Square a two block long multi-stored market is the place to go if you are in need of anything from Mexico.  Strolling musicians talked Terry into paying $5 for one song during our lunch.

The Alamo (Spanish word for Cottonwood)

Some Texans consider the Alamo a pilgrimage site, with 2 million visitors a year it might just be.  The main chapel is known as the Shrine.

The Mission San Antonio was the first of 5 Spanish missions established along the San Antonio River 1718-1731.  The Spanish military stationed a Cavalry unit at the former mission in the early 1800’s.  In 1835, Texan volunteers (Texas was not a state yet but was the Republic of Texas) took control of the Alamo defeating Mexican forces.  General Antonio de Santa Anna attacked the fortress February 23, 1836 and captured it 13 days later.  The 189 men in the Alamo garrison were badly outnumbered but held the Alamo until the reinforced Santa Anna troops stormed the walls and the barricaded compound.  It is estimated Santa Anna had 2000 on his side.  All of the men in the church were killed, including Frontiersman Jim Bowie and American folk hero Davy Crockett.

Texas remembers the Alamo as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds, a place where the ultimate sacrifice for freedom occurred.  It remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.  In 1906 the Daughters of the Republic of Texas purchased the Alamo to ensure all citizen remember its role in the history of Texas.

November 20

The old cotton gin overlooking the Guadalupe River houses the Gristmill River Restaurant in Gruene.  Four huge brick rooms hold 1000 customers, the waiting area during the busy summer months is under beautiful oak trees where you can sit at picnic tables and enjoy a beverage until you are called.  Next door is the oldest continually operating dance hall, Gruene Hall which still holds nightly dances.

Our guided tour at SAS, San Antonio Shoe company was 45 minutes long.  The company began operations in 1976.  No number were available, no concrete answers were ever given.  But we think 20 people touch each shoe, from the cutting of the leather to inspection and boxing.  Most of the employees were Mexican women whose wages were based on piece work.  The store with the owners personal collection of antique and classic vehicles parked outside was eclectic inside.  Bargains were offered on shoes, popcorn sold for 5 cents a bag and coke was 10 cents.

The Gristmill with the beautiful view of the river and when the 15' windows are open you can hear it.

The Gristmill with the beautiful view of the river and when the 15′ windows are open you can hear it.

 

Gruene Dance Hall and supports to hold up branches on the magnificent oak trees

Gruene Dance Hall and supports to hold up branches on the magnificent oak trees

November 22

About 7:30 pm a severe weather warning came on our cell phones and weather warning radio.  Severe thunderstorm, sheet lightning, possibility of 2-3″ of rain in an hour, hail, severe wind, flash flooding.  I was quite concerned because the RV Park is in a flash flood area as stated on the welcoming brochure.   One nearby motorhome had a large branch fall on its roof, due to our satellite dish on the roof of our 5th wheel we do not park under trees.  In the heat of the summer it would be significantly cooler and the shade welcome.

Nov 1 – 14 Lubbock, Poolville, Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston a whole lot of country and people

November 1 the wind is blowing to hard for our friends to safely drive their motorhome so we hunker down for an extra day,  just as well as no RV spots are available in Lubbock as its a home game for college football.

November 2 the wind has changed directions and we sail into Lubbock in 2 hours.  We don’t even unhook as we catch a ride in with the Watson’s to the Buddy Holly Center which is about 5 minutes from the rv park.

The BH Gallery is shaped like a guitar and follows Buddy’s life in Lubbock to his last concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. His unique style, playing the guitar only with down strokes, Holly and the Crickets are recognized as the first self contained band, they wrote a lot of their own songs, made a huge and lasting contribution to the early days of R & R.  John Lennon said, “There would not have been a Beatles had it not been for the Crickets.   Chris Oglesby said “While Elvis will always be King of Rock-n-Roll, Buddy Holly is most certainly its George Washington”.   Buddy who died at age 22 recorded 110 songs from September 1957 to February 1959 among them Peggy Sue; That’ll be the Day; Oh, Boy; I’m Gona Love You Two; Maybe Baby; Rave On; are the ones we remember best.  This Texan was referred to as “the gentleman of rock n roll”, he and the band wore suits and ties as each performance and of course for his signature glasses that he refused to not wear.

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The West Texas Walk of Fame established what a music powerhouse this part of Texas is and evidenced by the list of they 67 Inductees, included on the list is Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Tanya Tucker, Roy Orbison, Gatlin Brothers, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Jeannie C. Riley.

November 3 on the road to Abilene.  The road is lined with cotton fields and the harvest is in progress, we saw a cotton gin in operation, the wind was swirling white fluffy cotton around the buildings.  Many  more windmills scattered throughout the fields.  It appears that most farm yards have no residences, looks like they have have been moved away from the reputed excessive noise and vibration.  Oil and gas fields are ever present.  Terry commented on the perfectly straight lined rows of pump jacks and recalls seeing plans in the 70’s of well drilling plans in Texas.  These wells are 5 – 6 acre spacings – so much closer together than he had ever seen. We stayed at the Abilene RV Park, so close to the highway we were kept awake.   Find another place to stay

Wind mills in cotton field near Abilene, TX

Wind mills in cotton field near Abilene, TX

November 4 the forecast rain began in earnest as we rigged up.  Terry had to don his full rain gear.  Lucky for him the rain gear had dried by the time we arrived at Ron and Heather’s in Poolville as he had to wear it again.  Ron told Terry, “You Canadians have all the best gear”, when he saw Terry’s lined rubber boots.  It rained most of the day but lucky for us Ron kept us entertained with all his stories.  We had a much appreciated home cooked meal when Heather arrived home from work.  Sure enjoyed the  visit we had with this gal who 26 year ago called Terry “a dick”, after he played a trick on her.

Ron toured us around the area, we are in horse country, Ron is a farrier and is kept busy shoeing and trimming hooves.

A Farrier's recycle bin

A Farrier’s recycle bin

Fencing called Cobb and Co Twitch, in place 10 years.  Posts and railings are mountain cedar, it looks like it should last a long time at Ron & Heather's

Fencing called Cobb and Co Hitch, in place 10 years. Posts and railings are mountain cedar, it looks like it should last a long time at Ron & Heather’s

While we waited for Heather to return Wednesday Ron and I had a little cooking marathon.   Heather graduates mid December and will be a RN, congratulations to her for all her hard and upon receiving notification she will receive the outstanding graduate of her class.  We sure enjoyed out laughs and the hospitality and were sad to leave our little canuck.

November 6 in the SUN our 45 minutes trip to CowTown RV in Aledo where we meet up with the Watson’s and enjoy an afternoon in the sun and wind.  Will the wind ever stop we wonder.

November 7

45 minutes into Dallas for our Apple appointment.  The line up for new phones is out the door.  Thank goodness we just needed a quick fix.  We had lunch at a Dallas staple, Wild About Harry’s.  Hot Dogs, diet coke and ice cream for dessert, Terry’s ideal lunch.

November 23, 1963 – the majority of people our age remember where and what they were doing when they heard the shocking news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The museum on the 6th floor of the School Book Depository Building is sobering.  The self guided audio tour covers the Kennedy era primarily from campaign to death and the various conspiracy theories.  Even though the museum was crowded people were respectably quiet. The view from the 6th floor looking down onto Elm Street chilled us and we recalled the many times we saw on TV the limo racing away.  AAA discount applied and the tour took about an hour.

 

On a lamp post in Dallas

On a lamp post in Dallas, the isolation period for the first victim was just coming to the end

The limo turns onto Elm Street at the corner

The limo turns onto Elm Street at the corner

Elm Street where the limo's raced off.  Supposed to be and X to mark the spot but we didn't see it.

Elm Street where the limo’s raced off. Supposed to be and X to mark the spot but we didn’t see it.

November 8 Fort Worth Stockyards

We arrived in time for the Texas Longhorn Cattle Drive down Exchange Avenue.  Almost as many cowboys and cowgirls as there was cattle.  The spectacular horn’s spanned over 4 feet.  Then onto the Legends of Texas Gunfight Show.  Farcical and good fun.  Had lunch at the Star Cafe a former bordello, with the 1880 license posted on the wall to prove it.  The second best chicken fried steak in Fort Worth, we were told, the first of course being Momma’s.

Fort Worth Cattle Drive

Fort Worth Cattle Drive

The entrance door to the Cowboy Hall of Fame

The entrance door to the Cowboy Hall of Fame – must get hot in Fort Worth!!

 

Gun fight

Gun fight

License posted at the Star Cafe

License posted at the Star Cafe

The purchase of hats and boots to attest to the fact I’ve lost my mind, which was the reason I rode the Longhorn bull!!!

Not near as flashy as some nor as expensive as the made to order I tried on with the very pointy toe

Not near as flashy as some nor as expensive as the made to order I tried on with the very pointy toe

Me thinking, don't breathe, don't move.  Terry thinking, whack - yee haw

Me thinking, don’t breathe, don’t move. Terry thinking he should whack the bull – yee haw and let the rodeo begin

At the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame Terry recognized 7 names, as this was my first day of being a cowgirl I recognized no names.

A reminder in case you are planning a trip.

A reminder in case you are planning a trip.

We finished off the day at Billy Bob’s, the worlds largest honky-tonk, it can hold 6000 people.  Smoking permitted.

November 9 “Haug Day”

Haug Day in Fort Worth where we met Tyler and CeCe  at Pappasito’s Cantina, where they introduced us to Tex-Mex food, so delicious we were stuffed just like the fajitas we ate. On Terry’s list was the Charles Russell and Frederic Remington exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.  Bonus in that it was free.  Tyler drove us around Fort Worth and then a visit to their beautiful house to meet Duke.  Topped off the day with Gelato, a fine way to end our day with treasured cousins.

CeCe and Tyler at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

CeCe and Tyler at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

November 10 and R & R day.  We read our books outside in the shade and the wind.

We sold the house and bought this.  KIDDING, the gap between the truck and 5th wheel holds the matching electric car.

We sold the house and bought this. KIDDING, the gap between the truck and 5th wheel holds the matching smart  car.

November 11 we leave in +3 C, a 25 degree change in less than 24 hours.  Lucky for us the wind is in our favour and we sail into Houston and find Marina Bay Lake Cove RV Park in Dickinson with difficulty thanks to construction and the failure of our GPS to find the address for our RV Park.

November 12 and its supposed to reach +13C today, thank you Arctic Vortex.  As some of our tour is outside at the JSC, Johnson Space Center, we dress warmly.  JSC is home to Mission Control, the place where human space missions are monitored, it directs operation of the International Space Station and it is where astronauts prepare and train for their missions.  I have read Chris Hatfield’s book, he wrote about his time spent training here for his flights so I am excited about the tour.  The visitor center at NASA, JSC tells the story of America’s manned space program with historic exhibits, live presentations and behind the scenes tours.  There are also programs throughout the day for the kids to participate and learn from.  On the tram tour we saw the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules.  In Building 9 we see Skylab Lunar Module Trainers, a space shuttle replica and a Canada Arm, all of which are used for training by the astronauts and saw engineers and scientist performing tasks.   We observed 4 people working on a space suit, it had a partial screen in front so we only saw the head and legs.  We were told robots will be the future of space exploration and the rovers that will be used to explore far planets are all housed in this building.  The next generation, Orion, NASA’s exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations in deep space with exciting new capabilities.  On Dec 4, 2014 Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy Rocket from Cape Canaveral in a 2-orbit, 4 hour test flight.   We saw Historic Mission Control and sat in the famed observation room.

Historic Mission Control

Historic Mission Control

working on a space suit

working on a space suit

Robots and rovers

Robots and rovers

Orion

Orion

Canada Arm

Canada Arm

Huge, there is a road and parking between the Challenger and me

Huge, there is a road and parking between the Challenger and me

November 13 too cold and too windy to do anything.

November 14 and the drive to San Antonio is 220 miles, but it takes us 60 miles just to get out of Houston.  We made another stop at Buc-ee’s which are only located in the Central and Gulf Coast region of Texas.   This is an amazing fuel stop, 120 fuel pumps and we had to wait in line.  The convenience store is longer than a football field.  Diesel is 25 cents a gallon cheaper.  Full service deli, coffee shop, jerky, bakery, fudge, ice cream, jams, pickles, salsa, plus standard items, Texas themed gifts, products catering to hunters and river rafters, car wash and they do not sell lottery tickets as this slows down the check out process.  We loved the cherry maple jerky, Terry bought fudge and ice cream.    During the drive we saw our first cattle gate on the rail tracks.  The scenery consisted of hills with lots of scrub brush.  We are staying at the Alamo KOA in San Antonio.  Highly recommend it to all.

 

 

East through South Dakota, south through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Amarillo, TX October 26 -31

On our trip home in March we read a multitude of billboards advertising Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD.  Sign’s were up in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.  They claim they even advertise in other countries.  Wall has a population of 900, during the summer months there are over 250 employees working every day.  In the winter months the 50 employees out number the customers we were told.  The store is a one story building taking up an entire city block with approximately 25 stores plus the cafe and back yard.  Every kitschy souvenir you can think of plus a few more. Rocks, gold, bobble heads, books, sculpture, candy, western clothing,  footwear etc, to name a few.  I did find some beautiful Navajo Turquoise jewelry which I left behind and a pair of sandals that I did not leave.  Terry found a pair of $1000 boots which we agreed he would leave behind.  But the cafe sold freshly made caramel-iced donuts, which made the road trip with us.  The time changed at Pierre.  We stayed at Oasis RV Park in Chamberlain, SD.

Terry and his new friend in the backyard of the Wall Drug Store  There are many  unique non-typical mounts

Terry and his new friend in the backyard of the Wall Drug Store There is lots of taxidermy and many unique non-typical mounts

In the morning rain we crossed the Missouri River just outside Chamberlain.

The Missouri River, aka Big Muddy or Mighty Mo

The Missouri River, aka Big Muddy or Mighty Mo

It was so cool we turned on the furnace in the trailer while eating lunch.  Sunny skies after driving for two hours and then the wind picked us up and blew us to York, NE. where we stayed at Double Nickel Campground.   They have a water advisory due to high nitrates caused by all the fertilizer the farmers have been using for years and years.  Yikes – how many places in Canada test for this we wonder?

All campgrounds feature storm shelters and I always find out where they are much to Terry’s amusement, you can bet he would be happy to follow me if the need blew in.  Harvest is under way for corn and sorghum (milo) crops.  Many fields have 2 or 3 green (John Deere) combines and 5 – 8 metal wagons lined up waiting to be filled.  Tractors are busy driving up the side loads hauling the wagons.  We have seen one apple orchard still open with piles of pumpkins displayed.

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Biofuel plants, the farmers newest customers are very evident.  Grain silo’s dot the horizon and pump jacks dot the fields.  Feed lots and ranching appear to be a major industry as is the oil and gas industry.  Winter wheat crops are up and very green compared to the other harvest ready fields.  Even the counties are out mowing the grass in the ditches along the sides of the road.  The flatness is replaced by rolling hills as we arrive into 27C at Air Capital RV Park in Wichita, Kansas.  This is the first park that had a shelter and flash flood warnings but we were by “The Big Ditch” which diverts the Arkansas River around Wichita.   30% of all the worlds airplanes are manufactured in Wichita.

We had an early warm arrival into Rockwell RV Park in Oklahoma City just in time for us to do the laundry.  $3.00 per load to wash and dry, which is very good.   Diesel has been $3.69, regular gas $2.88 to date  We read of the famous land rush into Unassigned Lands in 1889.  An estimated 50,000 people lined up for 2 million acres.  I think I only saw this in the movies but it actually happened.

Near McLean Texas.  Wind turbines, cotton and sorghum which looks a lot like corn but the top is dark red

Near McLean Texas. Wind turbines, cotton and sorghum which looks a lot like corn but the top is dark red

Flat farmland turns into hilly grazing land dotted with the ever present pump jacks, small oil facilities and the occasional compressor station.  We wonder if the numerous wind turbines are a hint to the availability of wind.  The soil is tinted red and the harvest is underway, but now white field of cotton are added to colour palette.

We arrive in Amarillo by 2 and stop at the tourist information center, where we receive a recommendation to stop at the “Big Texan Steak Ranch”, the home of the 72 ounce steak which will be free if you eat it, the salad, the bun, shrimp and the baked potato in under an hour  We didn’t consider ordering it but did enjoy a shared order of steak slider sandwiches and they were delicious.  $65 for 2 nights at Oasis RV Resort is the average price to date, but diesel is now $3.39, wahoo.  Terry has driven 4100 kms.

 

Can you find the Cottontail, hopefully the rattlesnake that we were warned about doesn't.  At Amarillo Tourist Information office.

Can you find the Cottontail, hopefully the rattlesnake that we were warned about doesn’t. At Amarillo Tourist Information office.

 

The 72 ounce steak and sides.  The record was last broken May 26, 2014 by Molly Schuyler, a professional competitive eater.  She ate the first one in 4 minutes and 58 minutes the second took her and second took her 9 minutes and 59 seconds, her record for eating two complete meals is 14 minutes 57 seconds.  burrrp

The 72 ounce steak and sides. The record was last broken May 26, 2014 by Molly Schuyler, a professional competitive eater. She ate the first one in 4 minutes and 58 seconds the second one took her 9 minutes and 59 seconds, her record for eating two complete meals is 14 minutes 57 seconds. burrrp

 

There is a shooting gallery, a store, lots of photo's and picture's on the walls as well as taxidermy

There is a shooting gallery, a store, lots of photo’s and picture’s on the walls as well as taxidermy

 

Texas

30 miles from the RV Park is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Texas’ second-largest park and the second-largest canyon in the U.S.  It is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep.  As the film we watched stated it’s really just a hole in the ground. The approach gives no hint, flat land and the next step you would be over the edge.  The Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne called it home until forced onto reservations in 1874.  The land opened to settlement but most of the canyon was part of the JA Ranch where in its peak in 1885 had a total land area of 1.3 million acres and 100,000 head of cattle.

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Six places where water flowed over the road, a few signs had grass hanging from the top

Six places where water flowed over the road, a few signs had grass hanging from the top

 

The only wildlife we saw

The only wildlife we saw

It truly is a spectacular canyon with 30 miles of biking, hiking and equestrian trails, 145 campsites and 6 rental cabins.   Well worth a visit.

 

We met Jack of the Jack Sisemore RV Museum who happily introduced himself and spoke about his collection.  It was very interesting to see campers of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  The design of tent trailers from the 30’s hadn’t changed much from the one we owned in the 70’s.  The Tear Drop has made a resurgence and we see more of them on the road now.  Jack’s brother Jess was happy to talk to Terry and Orval about the motorcycles on display.  Many of which he, Jack or their dad had owned.

1962 Airstream Bambi

1962 Airstream Bambi

 

The Cadillac Ranch was one of the world’s first roadside sculpture’s.  10 Cadillacs buried nose down in a farmers field.  As one departing visitor said its held together with all the spray paint that visitors are invited to bring and use on the car skeletons to express their artistic ability.

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Tyler’s BBQ, a top rated BBQ joint only takes cash.  It has about 12 tables and does a terrific take out business.  Tyler told us we were the second group of Canadians in the past hour.  Terry and I both ordered and loved the brisket.  I had coleslaw and potato salad as my sides, they both had a little kick but were excellent. Terry had the beans which he didn’t care for as he likes beans a little sweeter, however the peach cobbler was gone in a flash.  The BBQ sauce was so good we bought a bottle.  Recommend a visit.

 

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!!

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