Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A Crazy Roller Coaster Week

We are okay but it's been a crazy roller-coaster week. The weather has been like a normal Vermont winter but they are just not ready for that down here. And neither were we as it turned out. We started up to Oklahoma last Tuesday to visit our cruiser friends Jerry and Deborah. The first night north of Dallas our trailer freshwater hook-up froze and we only got it back running yesterday. There were so many accidents and road closings due to icing that we turned around and headed back to our son's in Dallas. 
Jonathan and Shira make a snowman in the 

Before the snow the below freezing
conditions caused serious ice 

There Scott poured anti-freeze into the black and grey water tanks so they were all right until we finally reach below-freezing conditions at night. Then our flights to Florida to get the second vaccine shots were canceled and rescheduled through NC and then to Miami. On the morning of our flight, we had been through two days of intermittent but lengthy blackouts and below-freezing conditions. At 4:30 in the morning on Tuesday, he informed me that he couldn't leave. He needed to refill the propane and charge up the batteries on the trailer to keep the heat going for our days away. He insisted I leave on my own. 
So I flew to Miami after 4 hour delays and then I drove up to Orlando (5 hours with torrential rain)  arriving at 10 PM  Scott did all he needed to do and managed to get a late flight to Orlando and join me.
We stayed at Harpal's house in Winter Park again. He is spending the winter in California. Our appointments for the second shots were for the next morning. Of all things, the water wasn't working at his home either! It turned out his credit card had changed on the automatic payment and the water had been turned off. Then lightning forced a temporary closing of the drive in clinic and the wait turned into hours. We got the shots but we sure worked hard for them. 
Winter Park is a beautiful community and we treated ourselves to 3 very nice meals outdoors in the historic district. On Thursday we flew back on separate flights. The water got turned on just before we left.  Meanwhile, our son's home, like most others in the North Texas area, couldn't handle the lack of heat and the pipes burst and several rooms flooded. They were without water for 24 hours. Luckily they knew of a plumber who managed to fit them in but two rooms are uninhabitable and it will be a long time before they can get them repaired. Still, we are all lucky compared to the thousands who don't have the resources to fix their homes and in many cases keep warm and safe. We are indeed blessed. 
Conditions in Dallas improved quickly on Friday and Saturday morning our water came back on. We are heading south to Big Bend National Park this Sunday morning for at least 4 days and then on through southern New Mexico and Arizona to San Diego. We're hoping to avoid freezing conditions for the rest of our trip!
Josh, Jonathan, Maya, Shira and ourselves

Scott and Shira made challah every Shabbat

We sprawled all over the living room before
the deep freeze occurred

Ariella, Shira, and I make waffles (and lots of
other baked goods)

Shira, Maya, and I painted together on
multiple days

When the power went off we all adjourned to
Josh and Michal's bedroom where they had
a gas fireplace. That is until their bathroom
pipes burst and flooded it and this room.

Winter Park has a series of lakes with parks
encircling them. Downtown is lively with a big
park and lots of landscaping. We ate at 3 of their
many excellent restaurants.
My wonderful and beautiful daughter-in-law
Michal "Mish". 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Texas - Here we are!

Texas was our big goal for the first half of our trip west. Our oldest son Joshua lives in Dallas with his wife Michal, and four of our grandchildren, Ariella "Cookie", Maya, Jonathan "Uzi", and Shira (oldest grandson Daniel is in Edinburgh in Medical School). Leaving Louisiana we stopped at one more Harvest Host location, Valle della Pace Winery in Garden Valley, TX. After settling into our site under the trees, we sampled a number of their wines. I'll be honest, I didn't have high expectations, but they were very nice, Instead of buying a bottle or two, we settled into the chairs on the terrace overlooking the vineyards and enjoyed several glasses of wine. It wasn't busy so we had a long conversation with the owner's daughter, Bethany, and learned the history of their family and the business.

The next morning we braved the miserable traffic on the highways around Dallas in the pouring rain to arrive at Josh's around noon. Happily, the rain ceased and the sun came out. Scott and Josh somehow managed to shoehorn our rig through a narrow alley and gate into their back yard. I couldn't watch. That was last Saturday and now it's a week later. We've been exploring hiking locations around the city almost every day. There has been no more rain and mostly sunny with highs in the upper 60's to 70. We took this opportunity to bring the truck in for some repairs too.

This little fellow shared our table,
snuggled into Scott's mask.

Our hostess and Scott at Valle della Pace winery

Jonathan, Shira, Ariella and Maya at the Botanical
Gardens in Dallas

What a beautiful place!

With lots of sculptures to horse 
around with.

As you can see...

Next, we visited the Arbor Hills Nature Center -
our favorite of the week's hikes. The trails formed
a tangled web that the kids found fascinating - so
many choices. The high road and the low road!

Jonathan and Shira joined us for a trip to 
Cedar Ridge Preserve where we hiked a 
number of shorter trails.
This beautiful mass of green/red leaves and berries
really caught my eye. I may paint it later.
One day we walked a couple of miles right
from their house to this lovely pond where
we fed the ducks and geese. 
That's Maya and Ariella studying at the kitchen
table. They are all attending school online.
My two sous chefs in the kitchen - Ariella and 
Shira. We made waffles, cake, brownies, etc.
Josh snuggles up with Shira and Ariella

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Melrose Plantation, Louisiana

The Cane River National Heritage Trail contains many sites and we were sorry we didn't have more time to see much more of it. We are members of Harvest Hosts and try to stay at one of their properties when we can. Melrose Plantation came up on our route north from New Orleans to Dallas and happily, they were able to accommodate us. Earlier on the trip, we stayed at two other members, Bedner's Farm Market and the Southern Grace Lavender Farm. The overnight stay is free but you are encouraged to buy some products, or in this case, take the tour. 

The tour is built around the story of 3 women in its history. The first, Marie Therese Coincoin, was born a slave in 1742 and as a young woman had 5 children with her husband until her owner "loaned" her to a Frenchman named Claude Metoyer, by whom she had another 10 children. When he left to return to France he purchased her and their oldest 5 children's freedom and gave them a large parcel of land. Over the next years, Marie and her children added more land and successfully built a series of plantations along the Cane River. She was able to purchase the freedom of her other children. Their descendants have thrived and many still live in the area. The Metoyers were free people of color for 4 generations before the Civil War! Her oldest son Louis Metoyer settled opposite his mother and built Melrose Plantation. 

He and his son built the Big House, completed in 1832. The grandson inherited the Plantation in 1838 as a minor and over the next few years, his inexperience in business and the Panic of 1837 led to the property being sold to pay his debts. The Hertzog brothers bought it but had difficulty making it profitable in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1881 it was sold to Joseph Henry, an Irish immigrant. His son John inherited it briefly before dying and leaving it to his widow, our next amazing woman, Carmelite "Miss Cammie" Henry. She renovated and expanded the house, turning it into a writers' colony. One author was Lyle Saxon whose most famous book, Children of Strangers, was written about the Cane River history. Another, Francois Mignon (told everyone he was from France but actually was from NYC) came in the 1840s and stayed 34 years. 

The third of the three women spent the most time at Melrose. This was Clementine Hunter, born in 1886, and then brought as a young girl to the Planation with her family and worked in the fields originally and later in the house. She never learned to read or write, but in her 50's started painting. She produced thousands of pieces and her work is held in museums all over the world. She received many honors and her work was exhibited all over the country. A series of her murals decorates one of the buildings on the property. She lived until 101 in a small house on the grounds and despite opportunities to travel (she was asked to come to meet President Carter at the White House but didn't want to leave home). 

All three of these women accomplished much more than I could detail here. I recommend reading more about them - fascinating personalities that I had never heard of before. And the history of the Creole people in Louisiana is equally worth exploring. 

Here's a view of Melrose Plantation from the front yard. Originally the lawn went down to the 
Cane River, but now a road runs between it and the river. The Planation is owned and maintained
by the Association for Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. There is a gift shop and tours 
throughout the day. We had a wonderful one and one-half hours with Jim as no one else showed
up at 3:15 PM for our tour!

The cabin where many of the artists lived.

There are a number of smaller buildings around
the property. This one, the African house has
Clementine's murals still on the second floor.

Huge old oak trees decorate the grounds

This bell used to bring the field workers in 
at lunchtime and at the end of the day.

A rooster like this appears in one of Clementine's
popular paintings and on her anniversary, local
students made this rooster.

The Cane River now flows in a different path
and this is now part of a Lake created by dams.

The cabin where Clemintine Hunter lived for most
of her life, behind the Big House
Here's one of Clementine's paintings
And another one.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Tickfaw State Park and Natchitoches, Louisiana

 Our first night after leaving New Orleans we spent at the Tickfaw State Park, about an hour and one-half north of the city. It was a nice change to pull into the green and sunny park. It was our first time backing up into a narrow site and much to our surprise, we did it quite neatly in one go! The weather had turned really lovely and we were anxious for a hike in the woods. Due to the recent heavy rain, we couldn't do the full River Trail, but we still had a great time. 

Our RV site had its own deck and picnic table.
At this time of year, the park had very few 

The next day we headed 4 hours north to the Melrose Plantation (a separate blog entry appears next) and again, the weather cooperated. Our site there overlooked the plantation grounds and it was a treat. The next morning at our guide Jim's suggestion, we drove into Natchitoches for a walking (self-guided) tour of this beautiful city, the oldest permanent settlement in the region (older than New Orleans) and founded by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis in 1714. It stretches again along the Cane River (now a lake) with parks lining the shore. We enjoyed a good cup of coffee sitting outside watching passers-by and then for lunch, got their famous meat pies for lunch back at the trailer.

The trails were a combination of boardwalk and

The weather was cool but sunny. My two
vests have got constant usage. We still haven't
taken out our "summer" clothes. 

The park seasonally floods, a natural process
that protects the developed land around it.

The "Grandma" tree, a cypress that's over
600 years old.

The waterfront park along the Cane River Lake
in Natchitoches
Beautiful old homes line the streets around the
center of the town.
Steel Magnolias was filmed here and there is a
film tour of the city. Many of the old houses are
now B & Bs. 
An unusual example of Queen Anne style
We really enjoyed the meat pies here, but 
brought them back to our trailer for lunch.
The restaurant had reviews posted from many
Southern magazines and newspapers but
the ones from the NY Times and the New
Yorker caught Scott's eye.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Walking Through New Orleans

Great night out with cruiser friends Roy (far left) 
and Dale (far right) and their friends who visited
Belize last year, Tiffany & Kevin.  Roy and Dale took
 us on a tour of the city on our first full day.

The French Quarter RV Resort was right in the 
center of the city, a short walk to the French
Quarter, Bourbon St. & the river. Noisy though!


The afternoon we arrived, we walked down to
pay our respects to the Old Man (the Mississippi).
A fun ad for this product, no longer
sold but very popular in the early
20th C as a natural laxative,
Artists and Musicians are still plying their wares
on the streets. But other than, Bourbon St., there
weren't that many people around.
We had the famous beignets and cafe au lait
at Cafe de Monde but didn't have to wait in line.
The only shopping we did was at 
this great mask shop - one for each
of our grandchildren.
The last of a large parade of protestors crossing
Jackson Square - lack of affordable housing.
We liked this sign and in fact, most people wore
Another house decorated for Mardi Gras.
It's hard to see the lovely decorations on this house
in the Garden District. Our second full day we
spent walking around there admiring the beautiful
The wrought iron work is really amazing.
This shaded cemetery is in the center of the 
Garden District.
I found the small homes on some of the
streets really charming too.
The homes are surrounded by gardens and the 
streets lined with beautiful trees.
You can see the banners here in the Mardi Gras
colors that are featured everywhere,

We enjoyed our lunch outside at Joey K's.
As you can see from the photos, the weather
was generally cool and overcast, with a lot
of fog. But on our last day we had a few
gleams of sun. 
Due to the cancelation of yet another Carnival,
New Orleans residents have decorated their houses
instead of floats.
Roy and Dale explained the meaning of the  various
pictures in the decorations.
Masks around our neck, but we're dressed in
our best for dinner out with Roy & Dale

This small house was one of the most decorated
we saw. Workers that normally would be working
for months on the floats switched to house work.