Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Brief Visits: Houston, San Antonio and Stockton


This was a wild west themed car. On the walls was a show dedicated to a local artist and founder Ann Harithas. 

The paint job on this car was really beautiful. These cars both still look basically like cars, but many featured in the movie were turned into other things, like cats!

It was a long drive from Lafayette to Houston and we were pretty tired when we arrived at the Lakeview RV Resort. That may be why we parked in the wrong site! About 5:30 we got the knock on our door. At first they wanted us to move (a big job with the truck detached, feet down, plugged all in). But happily the fellow was able to find a similar site for the incoming RV and they agreed. Many of the people here are long term due to the proximity to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital. We had a long talk with our neighbor who moved here two years ago due to her now 21 year old son's battle with cancer. We were glad to hear that right now he is in remission. 

The Orange Show, closed unfortunately

The view from our lunch on the way to San Antonio

We mostly did errands and chores the next day. It was a very nice park with a small lake that made for nice walking, a big lounge area with coffee and a book swap, and a good laundry. Scott had made reservations for the Art Car Museum and that was fun, although small. We especially loved the cars and the movie on people, really artists, that turn their cars/trucks into art works and the big parade they have here once a year to show off their creations. We'd hoped to visit Orange Show nearby but it was closed.  Jeff McKissack, a mail carrrier, transformed his small suburban lot into the Orange Show in honor of his favorite fruit!

Our first walk on the River was on a Sunday
afternoon and it was packed with visitors

The beautiful central alter at the Cathedral
of San Fernando in the main square.

Next day we were off again to San Antonio, early as we had lots of plans to see this lovely city. On the way we lucked out when we spied a State Park near the gas station where we were filling up, and enjoyed a scenic lunch spot. The KOA San Antonio was close to the center city and we ended up going in and out a bunch of times. That afternoon we went in and enjoyed the famous River Walk. On the way we were accosted by a very charming gentleman who convinced us to go to yet another time share presentation. He had to be charming and to up the money value before we agreed. But the "deal" was too good for Scott to miss. We got $100 in vouchers for a variety of restaurants, two tickets to the boat tour and a carriage ride. So we were on for the next morning at 10 AM. 

Early in the day the River Walk was peaceful

Sculptures, gardens, waterfalls adorn it.

A selfie on our boat cruise

And a view back to our guide

This big sculpture was in front of the Briscoe
Western Museum which we'll have to see
another time.

Looking down towards the locks that protect
the River Walk from flooding.

Despite promises, the presentation (no tour as we weren't at one of their hotels) took the full 3 hours. It followed the usual course, although we'd always been to an actual location before, so that made for a more interesting time, as you got to walk around. But the perks worked out very well. We enjoyed the boat ride and had a very entertaining guide. And we used the full $100 for an excellent lunch at Iron Cactus Restaurant, sitting right by the edge of the river. We returned that night for the carriage ride and another walk.  San Antonio is a beautiful city and we'd enjoy another visit there!

Scott and I enjoyed the carriage ride, although it was very short.

The River Walk is beautifully lit up and night and bustling. 

We had one more night before arriving at Big Bend National Park as it's a long way. We stopped in Stockton at a small, rather charming Hilltop RV Park. Metal sculptures were scattered all around the place, all really fun and a local amateur astronomer donated quite an impressive telescope for anyone to use. Scott really enjoyed it that night. He took some amazing photos of the moon through the lens.  We were able to do a big shopping trip to the Walmart Superstore to prepare for our 6 days at the park. There would only be very limited food available there so we came fully prepared. And we emptied our septic, filled up with fresh water and charged up our batteries.  More on that in my next post. 

This Mariachi players welcomed us to the Hilltop RV Park. 

Giant versions of the metal sculptures at the park are installed up on a ridge overlooking the town - very cool!

A photo of the moon Scott took through the 
telescope at the RV Park!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Valentine's Day and lots of rum!


Julie and I in the back seat of the convertable

Heather, Julie, Ron and Scott with the remains of the po-boys. 

On Wednesday Valentine's Day, we had a date with our friends from last season in Lafayette, Ron and Julie. We met them at Wildcat Brothers Distillery during a wine tasting and they invited us to their home the next night (along with a lot of their friends and family) for Jambalaya. We contacted them when we knew we'd be back and invited them out to dinner - their choice. They had us over for wine and appetizers first, then we jumped in their bright red 1956 Cadillac convertible for the evening. 

The view over the pond at our Bayou Wilderness RV Park in Lafayette. Baby is just visible beyond.

And the view from Baby over to the pond. 

First we went to a favorite place for Po'boys. We had crawfish ones and they were excellent. Then to Carpe Diem downtown for gelato. Ron and Julie are such fun and we hope they will come up and visit us in Vermont! 

Three of their rums - my favorite is Noire and
we bought a bottle. 

May measures out a rum for tasting - very generous
pours. I had a smoked walnut old fashioned.

Rubia, Heather, Tait (co-owner), Bernard and Scott

We stayed at the Bayou Wilderness RV Park for 4 nights and then on Thursday we moved to the Wildcat Brother's Brewery for one night. It's a Harvest Host member and we had a blast there last year. We invited Bernard and Rubia to join us. They were amazed that we were introducing them to a place in their own town - only minutes away from their home. It was, as last year, so much fun. The barrister May talked non stop, just like a stand up comedian, for the 9 rums everyone tasted but myself. I did indulge in some cocktails and as a result of those and the few I had the days before, am in for 10 days dry (due to the medication I take now). 

It was sad to say good-bye to Lafayette and our friends but we were off to Texas. Two nights in Houston and two nights in San Antonio. Then after a single night breaking up the drive in Stockton, Big Bend National Park. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Mardi Gras in Louisiana

The pig was mostly demolished by the time we
arrived on Sunday.

There was a big table where outfits were being
sewed and glued. Bags of accessories were
around and some of the ladies enjoyed dressing
us up! And Scott has a silly streak.

Many of the guests were VERY costumed!

This looks pretty strange here but I took the
sequined top and put it over a purple (a
major color for Mardi Gras) top and wore it
with beads and black pants to several 

One end of the party which was at Mark's home

Some of the Pig Roast Crowd poses for a shot.

This neighborhood group had a sign that was very
 elaborate with lots of fringe,
this year's signature addition to every outfit. 


But not in New Orleans! We were in the Lafayette area for almost a week and it was Mardi Gras for part of the time. We would have missed it altogether but were saved by our old friend Barney Ussher, now known an Bernard. At our Christmas party our friend Decklin told us that Bernard had married again and was living there. We hadn't seen him for 40 years but when we contacted him, he was delighted that we were coming and persuaded us to come several days earlier so that we could party. And we did!!!

It's easy to meet people in Mamou and maybe
especially at Mardi Gras. And certainly at 
Fred's Lounge!

These four photos are all at Fred's Lounge.

The band was great - Zydeco or Cajun but
all good.

Our first event was a Pig Roast at Bernard and Rubia's good friend Mark's home. There was wonderfully dressed up crowd as you can see from my photos. And they worked on getting us into the spirit of Mardi Gras. Various bling was donated for the event to us. The roast pig was delicious and we met so many fun people.

Our next day was choreographed by our hosts and we danced to the tunes. We spent the morning in Mamou, a small town with a heart and Fred's . They are normally only open all day Saturdays but for Mardi Gras, they open Monday as well, from 9 AM to 5 PM. And the place was hopping at 11 when we arrived and we made new friends immediately. Dancing to Zydeco or Cajun is similar to jitterbug but a bouncier two step. And everyone dances all day and night! There were several food trucks for lunch - boudin, sausage/beans/rice and Cajun tacos for us. We brought some of it back along with some amazing crawfish bisque that we enjoyed the next day. 

These fellows were making boudin, the one on
the left was using his hands to mix up the stuffing,
a blend of pork mixed with onions, peppers,
seasoning and cooked rice. We're at Lakeview now.

Andouille sausages being smoked and grilled.

The crowd gathered around the chickens for the Chicken Drop - lots of money on the line for shit.

This is the barn venue at Lakeview, or a part of it. 

Then we were off to our next stop - Lakeview RV Resort. They have a big event barn with more live music, dancing and a Charcuterie. We were too early and already full for this meal but enjoyed watching the men making boudin and smoking sausages and pork of al types. There was a lively crowd around the Chicken Drop arena. People bet on which square the first chicken will poop!! Really!

Ren and Heather at the Whirlybird gallery

Bernard and Rubia on the dance floor

And the day wasn't over. We had a few hours back at our RV to rest and change for the evening. Bernard wangled tickets for us to the Lundi Gras at the Whirlybird.  This is a big compound with an Airbnb, B&B, a art gallery and studio, and an event space - another barn look alike. "Knock 3 times and whisper low", we were sent by Bernard! We arrived early as recommended before the music began and at first were worried we were in the right place. It seemed dark and not many cars were parked. But a lamp lighted path led us behind the main house and we met the owners, Jim & Christie greeting people. They suggested we tour the gallery and we met the artist if residence there, Ren, who was giving a class in Tibetan flag making! Looked like fun. Scott bought a wonderful blue shirt with embroidered sunflowers that she made. Then we moved into the big barn and the band was already jamming with lots of dancers. We managed to get one seat and later added a second. We took turns resting with Bernard and Rubia. 

It was hard to get photos that night at the Whirlybird but it was an amazing place and evening.

The next day we had our schedule mapped out for us. We met Bernard and Rubia at Iota and although it's a small town, it's a big celebration. Most of the main street was cordoned off with two stages and tons of food and other vendors. We sat next to the main stage (we brought chairs) in the sun and watched the band, dancers and all the crowd. This was a family event and at around 1:30 the kids from the community took the stage. They are fully costumed as you can see from the photos and parade and dance around while gathering the coins that the audience throws. Its a hoot and everyone had fun. 

We were supposed to go on from here to D.I.'s Restaurant for more music and dancing into the night but we begged off. Exhaustion had set in. And we were seeing Bernard and Rubia again on Thursday so we bade farewell to Mardi Gras...for this year. 

The highlight of the time in Iota was the children's

The costume were all different and elaborate!

After the march there was a scramble for the tossed

Often they just stood against the edge of the stage
and pointed at their hand. The money was collected
by adults and went to some charity.

Sometimes the masks were a little frightening!

There was some dancing as well. You can see the
fringe here which ornamented most costumes as
it was a theme for this year.

Here's a section of the crowd at Iota.

A view from the stage

Bernard and Rubia's masks on!