Towards Home, April, 2020

Usually when the time comes to head back to Minnesota to our home on the Mississippi we are ready to go, even eager. We look at weather along the way over the next few days, look at routes and places to stop. This year was pretty much the same except that the eager part was not so strong. Weather in Kansas had us delay for a day. It had snowed 5″ or more in Hastings just a few days earlier. Lots of low temps in the 30s. And we knew that we were giving up green grass and trees, sunny skies and warmer temperatures for the beginnings of spring at home.

Days are slowly getting warmer at home, almost everything is still brown, another two weeks until buds on the trees are noticeable. Spring is always full of new energy here. But not quite yet.

And this year we had no idea what traffic would be like and who or what would be open. From Fredericksburg we wanted to go east to Johnson City then up to Marble Falls and then NE to pick up I35 at Georgetown south of Waco. Last time we were going up to Waco traffic was heavy and there was lots of construction. We were not surprised to see the ongoing construction but surprised at how little traffic there was.

And then up towards and around Fort Worth, some trucks, a few cars, it was like nothing we have seen. We just blew through the Dallas/Ft Worth area and headed towards Oklahoma.

Our first stop was at Gone Fishing RV Park near Lake Texoma. It is a smaller park owned by a Foretravel owner and Forum members, Al and Tauna, They invited all Forum members to stop by for a free night so we did.

https://gonefishingrvresort.com/

It was pretty quiet there. I talked with Al for quite a while, he had some FT questions and some stories. I really wanted to pay him something but he said no.

Last fall Al and Tauna had their first anniversary at the park and at least 10 Foretravels came to help celebrate. We wish them all the best.

The next morning we continued on through Oklahoma and into Kansas. We thought maybe we could get to the other side of Kansas City but it was getting late so we looked for spots and found another small RV park, Homewood RV Park, near Williamsburg, KS.

https://homewoodrv.wixsite.com/mysite

It is owned by a young couple who paused their full-time life for a while to raise their young kids in a fixed place.

Nice sites, up on a hill with nice views. The grass was green and trees just starting to bud out.

We got a good nights sleep and headed to Ottawa KS for fuel. We have a discount card for use at Loves and we get up to 80¢ a gallon discounts. So diesel was just $1.43/ gal. We got 80 gallons. Then north on I35.

Through Kansas City, into Iowa. There was snow on the sides of the road into Iowa. what have we done?

There were almost no cars and fewer than normal trucks on the road. It was not uncommon to see nothing ahead and nothing behind us. It was kind of spooky but made driving pretty easy. We had thought about stopping north of Des Moines but it was early when we got there so we pressed on. We could have driven home from there and arrived before 7 but the wind direction changed to a strong headwind so we decided to stop at a Camp Walmart in Albert Lea, MN. The Walmart closed at 8 and by 8:30 the parking lot was empty, even the almost always present semi trucks we gone. We may have been the only ones in the lot. Good for us, it was the quietest night in a Walmart ever. But spooky!

We had a nice breakfast, watched Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley for a while, and got ready to go. We stopped at the only Loves truck stop in MN also in Albert Lea and filled the tank, another 75 gallons at $1.53 with our discount.

And then the long 80 miles or so to home. We jogged over to US 52 just north of Rochester and then north. Pretty soon we entered Dakota County, crossed the Vermillion River and saw more familiar sites. Then County Rd 46 east and a jog to County Rd 42 that goes along the Mississippi River and a few more turns and we were almost there. Stopped and disconnected the Jeep, Susan drove it and lead the way. Pulled up just past our driveway and backed in the 400 ft or so to the barn.

The house looked fine, inside it was only 50° so the thermostats got bumped up, water heater got turned on and the water pump in the well got turned on.

We went back to the coach where it was warm and had lunch and started the process of moving from one house to the other. No hurry, it will take a couple days.

So we are home, safe and sound, warm and rattling around in probably 10 times the space we have been accustomed to. We find ourselves looking for each other and succeeding. We have to listen more carefully, we are usually much further apart than in the coach. But we are here together, still healthy, still happy and thankful for all of that and especially each other.

The sky and the river are blue, trees are brown. A familiar and comforting view.

And now the long list of things to do at home comes out. All worthy projects. We will get going on them, our summer plans are changing, probably leaving more time than we expected to get them done.

We sure hope all of you out there at the other end of the blogs are doing well. It has been nice to try to keep track of what we do and where we go and what we think about things. Let us know how you are doing. We are trying to stay in touch with as many as we can.

This has been a very different winter. Not what we expected in many ways with much more time on our own but we are very much OK with that. All in all we felt like we had a very good time together being elsewhere.

Thanks for coming along.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, April 2020

Everyone we knew who were going to be in Fredericksburg came and went. Norm and Shirl from Colorado were there when we got there and when we left. Probably for the rest of the summer.

On Our Own

Almost everything was closed. Some restaurants were open for take out. We picked up dinner for us and Norm and Shirl one evening from Hondo’s, a popular place for food and music downtown. We also got lunch to go a couple times at Nury’s which is a great spot adjacent to the RV Park. We were really hungry for a burger and they filled the bill perfectly.

Lots of other places too, Camp Verde, Alamo Springs Cafe, Airport Diner, a half dozen BBQ places, all closed. All of the German food places in town were closed. Opa’s Smoked Meats was open for curbside takeaway. We got some pastrami.

Bottom line was we ate mostly at home, walked every day, played a lot of Quiddler, watched about half of the Foyle’s War series. We watched the movies Midway and 1917.

I finished our 2019 taxes and then decided to wait until June to file. I had a few last details to finish up in the post final retirement process. Almost all done.

Odds and Ends

We went for a drive one day up toward Llano and the Willow City Loop to see Blue Bonnets, red Indian Paintbrush and yellow Buttercups. It is a nice drive, lots of open fields with wild flowers. We were on the early part of the season but lots to see.

River crossings were interesting. Part bridge, part dam. Cross at your own risk. Most have flood depth gauges to show how deep the water is over the road. Even a foot of running water can wash your car downstream.

I want one of these to show snow depth.

One day we made Evil Jungle Pizza on the grill. A spicy peanut sauce, chicken, vegetables, a bit of cheese all on a home made crust. We cooked them on a silicone grill sheet. They were wonderful.

Better than anything frozen or take out.

Another day we went to see a new RV park east of Fredericksburg in Stonewall. It was about 14 miles outside of town. Pretty nice and reasonable sized sites. Monthly rates were attractive. For us it was just too far out from town.

Another park NW of town, the Vineyards, is new, kind of spartan, very small trees, almost no grass. In a few years maybe.

And another park, Cedar Bliss. Holy cow. Down a steep rocky road small park. Eight sites. Very tiny. We would never drive our coach out there.

And a final new park. It is located in a beautiful grove of mature oak tees. But it was crowded, each site had a metal car cover, very little outside space. It looked like it was designed for long term people.

Nice but not for us.

We drove around looking at property. A grove of oaks, access, water, electric. Perfect for 4 or 5 RV sites. We saw several possibilities. Just window shopping.

These poor COVID-19 escapees ran out of food. But a nice spot.

Back in Fredericksburg our view was good. Nobody here.

The folks at the park offered to let us stay another month. It was given consideration but it seemed time to go. We watched weather along the way and chose a departure day.

On our walks around the park we said farewell to all of the folks we had come to know. One couple was heading home to South Dakota, another to Wisconsin, another to Alexandria, MN.

And then we left. We have come to really like it here. We will be back.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX, March, 2020, Part 2.

Most everyone we were thinking would be here in Fredericksburg during the time we were here decided not to come because of corona virus concerns. They each made the best choice for themselves. Everyone was disappointed.

Amanda and Douglas were coming for a week arriving a few days after we did. They checked with us, were we OK with them coming? We were so they arrived on Wednesday.

They had been in Port Aransas and then at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, TX.

No chance of corona virus there, right?

Keith and Jo had their weekend in Louisiana cancelled. Actually they were OK with that. They both had to be back to work on Monday and with the virus spreading rapidly in Louisiana they were worried about getting back into TX. Arrrgh! We were just in New Orleans. They called Fredericksburg RV Park and got a spot and arrived Thursday in their new-to-them 2003 Foretravel.

It was cool at the end of this week, jackets required.

We walked around the park every morning. Spent a bunch of time over at Keith and Jo’s coach helping them figure out new stuff. Douglas figured out the basics of their TV connections to an external source. I spent some time with Keith looking at hinges and adjusting some door alignments and looking in the basement at things.

We got together in the evenings for some rousing games of Quiddler. Keith complained he never played card games and probably wouldn’t be too good at it. He won the first game we played. Jo was good at it too and I recruited her as another Words With Friends competitor. She brings a new bucket of medical words to the match. I enjoy the competition.

One evening I cooked walleye on the grill on a new silicone grill mat. Never tried it that way before but with the grill turned all the way up it fried up nicely. We had some Capt’n Kens baked beans in the freezer. Susan made some coleslaw. Jo brought corn on the cob. Amanda brought desert. We ate in the rec room because it was pretty cool outside.

Pretty tasty. We found some Blue Bell ice cream in one of the freezers, washed and reused the small bowls to have some with the cookies Amanda made.

Another day Susan and I made an apple pie with apples we brought from home. We have peeled and sliced them last fall and frozen them so we could make pies in Fredericksburg. We had plenty so, a pie for desert while we played Uno.

We ate the rest of the ice cream too. I think Keith won the first Uno game too.

It was nice to have Keith and Jo come for a visit. I am sure we will see them again.

Locked Out

Amanda went to the grocery store and came back with another tub of ice cream and put it in the rec room freezer. Later that afternoon in response to the Texas recommendations for corona virus response the park closed the rec room. We had to enlist the help of a maintenance guy to rescue the ice cream.

More Supper

The next few days were much warmer. Douglas and Amanda were scrambling to figure out what was next for them and where they were going to go. Several of their upcoming craft shows were canceled or postponed. Some of their campground reservations were canceled too. It took a few days but they rearranged enough to have an idea what was going to happen for awhile.

A Birthday

We had baby back ribs in the freezer, more for a shared supper. Roasted corn, mashed potatoes, salad. Another wonderful supper.

And Susan made a carrot cake, two layers. I had to slather on the frosting.

The best worst snacks too … we managed to make them last for a week.

And more quiddler made it a pretty nice birthday celebration with great friends.

Thanks.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, TX. March 2020

After Baytown we drove to Fredericksburg, TX. about 5 hrs away. We had to drive through Houston on I10 and that was an OK drive until about Seguin, TX.

A Bucking Bronco

After that, I10 is a disaster. Endless construction, rough roads. It was last year when we went way around. We should have done that again. There is a San Antonio 1604 Loop road that gets you around the east side. A worse choice. Every inch of the 20 or 30 miles of this is torn up. Even worse than I10. We finally came to the end of it and we thought we were at the end of it. Not so. It got worse. We were going to go to Kerrville and then up TX16. We got off early at Comfort and went up US87. Another 25 miles or so on much better roads through the rolling hill country and we made it to the Fredericksburg RV Park.

Fredericksburg RV Park has been here for a while. It is right in town, a short drive or bike ride to downtown. The sites are reasonably sized and level Most have one or two mature trees on each side for shade in both the morning and late afternoon into the evening. Nice picnic tables, a very nice laundry, bathrooms and showers and a large rec hall where we often get together in the evenings for cards, fellowship and sometimes desert. We walk around the park almost every day, up and down each lane is 1.6 miles. Sometimes twice. I have done it all four times and a bit more for 7.1 miles.

A GPS app on my phone keeps track. Folks in the park are friendly, we have been here long enough now that everyone says Hi. There is a duck pond in one corner with some very plump ducks.

And some immense bull frogs in the lilly pads.

Disappointing News

Our friends Mike and Jackie from Nacogdoches

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nacogdoches,_Texas

were going to be here at the same time. We enjoy their company immensely. They know everywhere within a hundred miles for lunch. And all the fun places to go visit. And they have two small poodles that are fun to play with and take for walks. We spend many evenings playing Quiddler and Uno with them as well. Well, the corona virus heebie jeebies got the best of them. Between the news, social media, screaming meemies and what seemed like nothing getting done slow down they decided for their own health and with concern for their kids and grandkids to stay at home. There was a lot of anxiety there and we were concerned more about that than for them maybe getting something here. A tough choice for them but probably the best. We were all disappointed.

And Bill Blackmon was coming too. Along with his sister and her husband and another friend from the park where he lives. The day after we got here, they decided to back out as well. We were all disappointed.

Good News

Amanda and Douglas were coming to Fredericksburg for their first visit. Arriving a few days after we got here and staying for a week. We were hoping it would happen, and it did! They came. We were as careful as really good friends could be, no handshakes but a few hugs in there anyway.

Keith and Jo Newlin were headed that weekend to a Foretravel Motorcade Rally in Natchitoches, LA. A sister city to Nacogdoches. Go figure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchitoches,_Louisiana

They were expecting about 20 coaches. It got canceled with maybe 5 days to go. A few were going anyway. Then all of that fell apart. While Fredericksburg RV Park would normally be “No Vacancy” at this time there were empty spots. I suggested they call, get a spot and come up here. They were eager to try out their new coach so they called, got a spot and came up on Thursday through Sunday.

Moovelous

We have been to Fredericksburg a couple times before. We always wander around town, see what is what. We had in mind something for the coach. We knew we had seen this at three places in town. Due to the start of Texas beginning to close down, one place was closed. Another place was closed for good, we found another shop but what we were looking for was twice the price.

So the shopping winner was the Pottery Ranch. More yard art, patio stuff, indoor things, everything in one place than we have seen before. Things we need!?

How can you resist?

What we were looking for came from Brazil. Lots to choose from, we found one we liked. We brought it home, several different alignments for the best fit.

It is an amazing cow hide. Soft feel on your feet. A cowlick right in the middle of the back and the hair goes towards the corners. The white parts are different from the brown.

Pretty neat!

Fredericksburg, TX

Fredericksburg is a German immigrant town in the Texas Hill Country founded in the 1840s. There is a very strong German imprint. It is home to the National War of the Pacific Museum, the Nimitz Museum, many vineyards in the area, the LBJ Ranch nearby and much more. The more we are here the more we discover. It is a very pleasant winter spot. Even though it only has a population of just over 10,000 it seems much larger.

Main Street and many other streets in town are very wide. A center turn lane, two lanes in either direction, and diagonal parking along each side. We wondered why and discovered that these old towns were laid out so that a loaded freight wagon pulled by a team of horses could make a U turn in the width of the street.

It has many original limestone block buildings like the historic library and many new ones are built to look the same.

Across the street from the old library is the Market Square. It has a mid 1800s community building in the middle of the square.

It is surrounded by covered pavilions, picnic tables and a nice rose garden.

Walking down Main Street many of the shops were closed due to the coronavirus. So you get to pay attention to the overlooked details.

Between buildings a private alleyway to gardens and apartments behind.

A nice wall mounted fountain.

And some interesting signs in windows.

And a relaxing take-out lunch in the park. Lucky we could get take-out. And with not many people finding a table was easy.

Well friends are showing up, got to run.

More Later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Houston, March 2020.

Remember the plan?

Our plan was to see Rudy and Carolyn, see Scott and Carol, see Keith and Jo, probably eat more than we should. Best laid plans, you know how that goes. We got the word the day before we left Bayou Segnette that there were new plans.

We heard from Scott that they had sold their coach and had moved into an apartment. Wonderful. We didn’t have to help with that. But the surprise was that they had sold it to Rudy and Carolyn.

We never imagined Rudy and Carolyn would sell their Foretravel and buy another one. Rudy said Carolyn wanted to look so they went with Keith and Jo to see one near Galveston. It was a nice coach but not quite what Carolyn had in mind. They went to Motorhomes of Texas in Nacogdoches to look at more. They didn’t see anything that made the cut. So they went to see Chappell and Mary Elizabeth Jordan for dinner. Chappell reminded Rudy that Scott and Carol were selling their 2001 U320, 42 ft, 2 slide, tag axle coach. Rudy and Carolyn went to see it and bought it.

In the mean time I had been carrying on a running conversation with Keith about his 2000 40ft U320 single slide and some of the upgrades he was considering, solar, batteries … all the fun stuff. Keith had gone with Rudy and Carolyn to see the coach near Galveston. A 2003 40ft U320 tag axle, 2 slides.

Next thing I hear is Keith and Jo bought that one.

All of this happened in the week we were in New Orleans, we started to hear about all of it the day before we left. We got to Baytown on Sunday.

The next morning on Monday we went with Rudy and Carolyn to see Carol and Scott to finish the deal and pick up the coach. Rudy and I drove the coach to a friend of Rudy’s that has a grass farm. At the grass farm there is a pit to drive the coach over to work on the underneath parts.

Their new coach, Carolyn checking on the kitchen, Rudy already on the phone and driving away from Scott and Carol.

Rudy wanted to get the oil and filters changed, the chassis lubed, the brakes checked. While underneath Rudy and Richard, the guy that was helping out, discovered a minor leak in the rear transmission seal. And the alternator was seized up. And the drive pulley for the alternator needed replacing.

So the next day Rudy dropped me off while he went to find the correct oil filter and fuel filter and a new alternator and alternator pulley. He already had the replacement drive pulley so Richard and I removed the old alternator and started to remove the drive pulley. The alternator was easy. It took more than a couple hours to pull the drive pulley, it was a very snug fit. We greased up the new pulley and tapped the new pulley into place with a three pound mallet.

Rudy got back with the new alternator, that went in pretty easy, put on the new belt and adjusted the belt tension. The oil filter got installed, 36 quarts of oil added. The rear transmission seal got removed so that Rudy could take it with to make sure he got the right one.

Somewhere in here we all got cleaned up and went to Monument Inn for dinner. This is a great seafood place that we try to go to when we are visiting Houston. We had battered, fried stuffed Jalapeños for an appetizer. I have never had them and they were quite tasty.

Thursday another fellow who had done these transmission seal replacements before helped Richard get that done. Then Rudy and I got the coach back over to a place near Rudy’s.

Susan and I were going to have lunch with Carol and Scott on Friday. By this time the corona virus was roaring about and Scott was concerned about exposure. He has immune system issues so they suggested we call off lunch. We were really disappointed. They were disappointed. Seeing them was a primary reason for stopping in Houston.

So instead we went over to where the new coach was. Rudy and Carolyn brought over their current coach and had enlisted some help to swap mattresses from one coach to the other. There was an issue with the compressor that supplies air to deflate and inflate the slide bladder seals. It was not putting out any air.

Foretravel slides have an air bladder that goes around the slide to make it waterproof when it is in or out. It is sort of like a bicycle tire inner tube. When you want to move the slide in or out you need to deflate and retract the seal so that it doesn’t rub on the slide when it moves.

With no air to deflate the bladders Rudy wanted to put in a couple vacuum pumps to make them delate. Off we went to the hardware store. In Houston, going to the corner hardware store always seems like it takes 45 minutes. And it did, each way, and at least that long looking for parts that they didn’t have or have enough of. We got just enough parts to connect a new vacuum pump to deflate the bladders. This is a pretty slick way to to it, quick and efficient and it doesn’t depend on having compressed air. But you still have to have compressed air to reinflate the seals. Rudy ordered a rebuild kit for the compressor and then later found a spare compressor in Scott’s spare parts bin. The spare compressor seems to work fine.

Rudy and Carolyn are moving into their new house. It is like any time you move. Some surprises, things to figure out, where is this and that going to go. It takes some time but we think it will be a nice change for them, more room, slides, an AquaHot for heat and water, more AC capacity. As soon as they are ready their older coach will go on the market and find a new home.

Saturday we all drove down to see Keith and Jo and their new coach. It is the same sort of event for them as for Rudy and Carolyn, they are not full timers but it’s a whole new coach. Even though it was only three years newer it is a big change.

Of course we went out for lunch.

We are excited for Rudy and Carolyn and Keith and Jo. New coaches, new things to learn, new experiences. Good for all we think.

It made for a busy week. By Sunday we needed to leave, heading for Fredericksburg, TX about 5 hours away. We were expecting to see several friends there but the corona virus epidemic was getting worse. We would just have to wait for a few days to see what would happen.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

New Orleans, Louisiana, March, 2020, Part 2.

It is now early March, the coronavirus has been renamed the COVID-19 virus. Much of Europe is being overrun. The Seattle area is suffering. New York is about to get overrun. We are aware of what is going on, keeping an eye on things, learning best practices, watching little or nothing happen at the highest levels of government except ignoring it.

French Quarter

The Hop On/Hop Off bus took us around the parts of the city that never flooded. The French Quarter at Jackson Square was one stop. There was a walking tour as well. And carriage rides. And lots of traffic.

I am not sure what the French Quarter on Bourbon Street looks like today, in the evening in the early 80s to a young choirboy from Minnesota it was dirty, smelly, lined with music spots and carnival barkers trying to get to come in and see things your mama would not have approved of. Drinking in the streets, partially clad women, wanton behavior right here in the Crescent City.

We did not get to see that. In fact we didn’t even go down Bourbon Street. The street sweepers and water trucks were over there cleaning up from the night before. But at the intersections we got a peek and a whiff.

So the instructions were the same, don’t lean on the buildings and watch your step. There seems to be no inclination to fix the streets or sidewalks in this city.

The French Quarter is one of the original parts of the city. Lots of old buildings, some with street level shops and apartments above for those who could afford them. We learned the difference between a balcony

a self supported extension on the side of a building, generally less than half the width of the sidewalk below. And a gallery

a side of the building structure supported by columns generally the width of the sidewalk below. If it is raining look for a gallery. Many of these buildings had the lower levels converted from stables to car parking. Some had discrete entry alleys through the buildings side to a center courtyard and access to the apartments.

These were quite elegant looking.

We went by an old convent turned into a church turned into a museum of the Catholic Church.

The guide mentioned a museum dedicated to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city and the people that was not open that day. The Presbytere.

Jackson Square is quite lovely. Busy, noisy, lots of people.

The big church is the St Louis Cathedral. At the other end of the square was Artillery Park

which over looks the Mississippi River.

On either side were old buildings originally living quarters, one side for Catholics, one side for Protestants and every one else. Today they are luxury apartments with luxury rents, some as much as $7,000 per month we were told. They are also the oldest apartments in continuous use in the country.

We walked a block or so the Cafe duMonde for a cup of coffee and a beignet. It was packed, no lunch there just coffee and beignets. They look like little puffed up fried doughnuts except they were a bit hollow kind of like a sopapilla. And not just dusted with powdered sugar but buried in it.

Three to a plate.

We were sitting at a tiny round table wondering if anyone was ever going to come and take our order. There was another couple nearby looking for a table. We invited them to join us. And then the waiter came, cleared the table took our order for coffees and beignets. Our treat.

These folks were from England, here in America to see as much as they could while escaping the cold and winter dreariness of home. Gee, we were doing the same. They were fun to chat with. He had been to the USA a few times on business, she had not. A chance meeting, the best kind sometimes. Several beignets came home with us in a greasy bag.

Back on the hop on/hop off to the station, actually an old railroad station. Fun to look around, nice gift shop of course. Car park nearby and another successful navigation session back to Bayou Segnette.

Ravages of Katrina

Along the way we saw block after block of abandoned buildings, a huge VA center, a hospital, a hotel and more. All boarded up. No renovation, no tearing them down for something new just rotting away. All flooded during Katrina and deemed too hazardous to do anything with mostly because of massive asbestos contamination. They sit empty, too dangerous to fix, to dangerous to tear down.

Ravages of Progress

There was much talk on the tours about how New Orleans prided itself on restoring and rehabbing old buildings We saw many examples of nicely done old building being used in new ways. They were pretty proud that they had figured out how to sink footing hundreds of feet into the mud to now hold up modern buildings.

And then this …

what we thought was some new modern art building. But no it was a monument to sloppy construction and poor design.

An 18 story Hard Rock Cafe Hotel under construction collapsed killing several workers. A building that was cited for willful and serious safety violations by OSHA as well as serious design flaws apparently overlooked in the permitting process. It collapsed in October of 2019 and like the Katrina ravaged buildings it still stands as an unwanted monument.

World War II Museum

The hop on/hop off took us by the World War II Museum for a look. There was nearby parking so we decided to come back another day to check it out.

This is a big museum, five buildings, some very old repurposed buildings in the New Orleans tradition and some newer ones as well. We went through three buildings. One focused on the war in Europe. Like many newer museums these days it followed history in a timeline which helps understand how history unfolded. The road to Berlin down one path.

The second building had a more home front focus. Factories to build the war machines, the tanks, the air planes the bullets and bombs. And more at a human scale the uniforms and equipment each person needed to get by with every day. Food rations, boots, personal things. It is hard to imagine the scale-up to get ready and continue on in an endeavor of this scale. And at home, ration cards, limited gasoline, sugar, meat, flour… everything for the war effort. Grow a victory garden, make flour sack dresses, reuse and repair for as long as possible.

We hear these words again today in this COVID-19 pandemic, “we are all in this together.” Are we all today with the same commitment for the common good and the common welfare as these people were then? Nowhere near it seems now compared to then when we all believed in common goals, common goodness and common sense.

Somewhere in here we got a bite to eat at a 1950’s looking cafeteria sort of thing. I had a meat loaf sandwich, Susan had a BLT. And a shared chocolate malt. All better than we expected. Looking back, it was crowded, close, no concern for the coming pandemic.

The third building was an immense open building with airplanes hanging from the roof.

A giant workhorse in Europe, a B17. Thousands and thousands of bombing missions, 10 men to a crew, shocking losses. Each of these big bombers with four 1,000 hp engines could carry 4,000 pound of bombs per trip.

And the other personal favorite of mine, an F4U Corsair.

Built later in the war for the Navy and Marines mostly in the Pacific it had a single 2,500 hp engine and a single pilot. Each of these plane could carry 4,000 pounds of bombs.

Susan waited patiently for me as I crawled through the four levels of catwalks to see it all. She was nearing her museum limit.

On the way out heading for the car park we were pooped. We saw a bench with an older fellow … we asked if we could sit with him. He was the silent type so we did,

A decent sort, comforting, calm and solid, a steady gaze on the way ahead. We felt good and reassured stopping for a minute with him.

As Far As We Could Go

We have been to the very beginning of the Mississippi River, walked across its humble beginning flowing out of a small lake in northern Minnesota. As some of you may know we now live on a bluff along the left side of the Mississippi River (heading up stream) about three miles upstream from Lock and Dam #2 in Hastings, MN. Where does it all end? Off we went in search of the end of the river.

The Mississippi River turns into a huge network of channels as it spreads out through the delta. Any one could be the main channel which in a boat one might follow the correct one. In a car you can only follow the road.

For us it ended in a flooded road just south of Venice. At some other time of the year we might have gotten further but for today we are at the end of the river,

There was a ways to go but no road that day.

Lunch at a place that said EAT.

It was good, people were friendly. Definitely a working neighborhood. Fishing, boat repair, helicopter bases to shuttle people to off-shore oil rigs. Lots of mobile homes on stilts.

Most of the river was on the other side of the levee. Except at Fort Jackson built in 1822 to protect the river.

Ships were going by on one of Americas busiest waterways.

Just across from this place was Bayou Mardi Gras. The first known place named Mardi Gras. In this part of the river nothing is very permanent. It is there, somewhere, no one knows exactly where as the river changes as fast as time.

Heading for Baytown

Oh my, NOLA was a whirl wind. Just a week, so much to see. We would come back, stay at Bayou Segnette again. I would really like to see more of the city, more of the people, more of what Katrina took and people rebuilt. The visitor section of town is nice. The rest is where life happens. We are going to get back one day.

Now on to Houston, Baytown to be precise. Our plan was to see Rudy and Carolyn, see Scott and Carol, see Keith and Jo, probably eat more than we should. Best laid plans, you know how that goes. We got the word the day before we left Bayou Segnette that there were new plans.

More Later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

New Orleans, Louisiana, March, 2020, Part 1.

The only time I was in New Orleans was in the early 1980s on a business trip. Susan has never been there. So between Orange Beach and Fredericksburg, TX we stopped in New Orleans (NOLA). Sounds like some government agency.

Bayou Segnette State Park

We stayed in Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego. West of the river and New Orleans but not far.

It was a very nice park, reasonably sized sites. And right in the middle of a bayou which is a slow moving flow of water through a swamp. Our guess is that the bugs might be bad here in the summer.

The park had a boat launch, a water park, lots of picnic areas and a long enough set of roads. We got in some bike riding. The park is along side of a massive levee with a 10-12 ft high concrete wall on top of it. There were huge steel gates that we open for passage to the other side.

On the other side of the levee and wall was a waterway leading into the fishing docks at Westwego at one end and somewhere else at the other. There were 16 floating cabins along this road. Each had 2 or 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room and a nice porch. They each had air conditioning and satellite TV and their own wifi antennas. Even if the river flooded and the road was under water these would just float up on tall stilts that held them in place. Each had a power pole much taller than the cabin and the transformers and electrical equipment was above the top of the levee walls.

Down by the boat launch the walls were even higher. There were more big gates to protect the fishing harbor.

All of the water lines were elevated and there were huge dams with sliding gates to manage flow.

Over the River, the Mississippi River

There were two ways back over the river into New Orleans and both took about a half hour. Both involved bridges and elevated highways. Almost every highway in New Orleans and the surrounding area is up on stilts, not just because of flooding in a metro area which is mostly below sea level but because the city is so densely populated and crowded with buildings.

These are big, old riveted together bridges. The kind that look like any one piece could fail and the entire bridge would collapse into the Mississippi River just like the one in Minneapolis did several years ago. Four and five lanes in each direction.

We were here at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. No sense of concern at all while it began to explode in the Seattle area.

The Garden District

Some of you might be familiar with one of our favorite musicians and songwriters, Randy Newman. He was born in LA and grew up in New Orleans. Many of his songs are about the South and growing up in New Orleans and the Garden District is mentioned more than once.

We bought tickets on an open air tour bus with a guide that made 22 stops (hop on! hop off!) on its way around town. At two of those stops there were guided walks of the Garden District and the French Quarter. So we found the bus station, inexpensive parking and got on the bus.

This bus was a double decker with the upper deck being open to all of the noise and commotion and smells as we went by. The Garden District stop was not far along on Magazine Street, one of the avenues with lots of shops and eateries. They pointed out one of the spots where NCIS New Orleans shot an episode. We got off at the Garden District stop and had a 45 min wait until the next walking tour started so we crossed the street and found a coffee shop up a block or so and had a coffee and an almond croissant. I have had better. And then back to wait for the walk.

The walk leader showed up and counted off the 28 people who could go in each cluster. She gave us all the rules: don’t walk in the gardens, don’t lean on the houses or walls, stay in a group and most important watch where you are walking. She repeated that a couple times. Everybody ready? Walk this way. We didn’t even get across the intersection before a woman face planted in the street. Believe me it sounded terrible. Just flat out, face first into the street. Amazingly she was uninjured and was making comments about her bad knee. The caution to look down where you were walking got repeated a couple more times.

Down the street past some nice older homes. The Garden District was an early part of the New Orleans area, originally farms, these were bought up by a wealthy land developer who realized the land was more valuable for very upscale homes for the New Orleans elite. The land was divided into generous blocks, four lots per block so everyone lived on a corner. Maybe an acre apiece. And the high and mighty moved into the garden district building expansive homes. The major streets were grand divided avenues with trees down the middle. Many became street car lines. Some of the street cars came from Minneapolis and St Paul after the Polad’s (they own the MN Twins Baseball team) joined with General Motors to get rid of the street cars that ran from Stillwater to Lake Minnetonka and replace them with General Motors busses. The street cars that were not burned went to New Orleans and Mexico City.

We walked down a sidewalk, watching every step, they were very uneven, to a corner where there was a famous restaurant. The Commander’s Palace. It was more famous in its early days as a brothel upstairs and fancy dining downstairs. Today just fancy dining up or down. The walk leader said some of the upstairs tables were in high demand.

We never got back there to eat.

We turned the corner and went past a home owned by Ann Rice where she wrote many of her books. A few doors down across the street was an immense “cottage” done in more of a Queen Anne style that what you might expect in New Orleans. It was built by a wealthy business man as a honeymoon cottage for his son and bride who were expected to move back to the father’s home after the honeymoon until they started a family. The cottage was a temporary thing to be sold off as surplus after its initial use. Well, the newlyweds liked the life they started in the cottage and never moved out for the rest of their lives. After the cottage stood empty for a bit until another single lady came along looking for a place to stay in when she was in New Orleans. Not her primary home mind you, just a second home.

Nestled in behind a substantial hedge Sandra Bullock now lives here when she is in town.

Another block or so to the next corner lot was a huge Italianate style home. The original owners built it as just a rectangular home but found it too small so the took the plans for 1/2 of the house and added that on to the side to make a T shaped home. Many years later and many years ago an up and coming Hollywood type and his then girl friend were looking for a home in New Orleans and bought it. They still live there, married now with their dog. The tour leader said they are often seen letting the golden lab out the front door or coming to the gate to fetch the morning news paper. We didn’t get to see John Goodman or his wife but we did get to see a puppy come out the front door followed by the golden lab who came to the gate a-wagging her tail. “Pray tell what else would she wag?”

We thought all of that was pretty neat. It turns out the Garden District was one of only two areas in New Orleans that didn’t flood during Katrina. We wondered about all of the homes and businesses and people in the 80% of the New Orleans metro area that did flood. The hop on, hop off tours don’t go there.

Pascal’s Manale Restaurant

It has been so long since I was in New Orleans and then only for a couple days in the early 1980s that I have no recollection of it at all. Except for a memorable meal at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant. Barbecued Shrimp. Nothing like it anywhere else. We did manage to find the recipe for it published in a cook book and made our own Pascal’s Manale Barbecued Shrimp for several of our porch picnics when we lived in St Paul. A dozen or so folks shared picnic fare on long tables on our front porch. We all got our annual share of butter and New Orleans cajun spice, baguettes, potato salad and more. We hadn’t discovered gumbo, cheesy grits, beignets and more bits of New Orleans cuisine that we now hold dear.

So we made reservations to pay a return visit. I had no idea where it was or what to expect. It has been on the same corner in the same old corner grocery store since 1913. They have added a room here and there but it is still small and wonderful.

Not what one might expect, a bit understated on the outside, but casual/formal in the inside.

White linens and us in our shorts. If you order the Barbecued Shrimp all pretense is set aside, they bring bibs.

You need them. We had the same thing but a lunch sized portion with grits and the peel and eat bits removed.

It was wonderful. Was it as I remembered? I don’t know. My imagined dinner was probably more like what we used to make. In any case it was very good. We had a bowl of gumbo too.

We topped it off with a shared key lime pie and a cup of what you would expect in a fine restaurant, good coffee.

All those who remember the porch picnics raise your hand. Maybe its is time for a feast renewed.

There is too much more to cram in one blog so…

More Later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

COVID-19 Update, Late March 2020

Susan and I are doing fine. We are in Fredericksburg, TX in the now 1/2 full Fredericksburg RV Park. When we have been here before it is always “No Vacancy”. Most of the folks we were going to see here decided not to come. Some did and we were glad to see them. More on that later when I catch up on Blog Posts.

No reported cases yet in Fredericksburg or the surrounding county. Most stores are closed. Food places are generally only open for take out. All of that is supposed to end on April 4th.

The big grocery store (H-E-B) and Walmart are open and reasonably well stocked. We got TP at Walmart yesterday!

Pretty easy to be as isolated as we want to be here. Everyone here is very friendly and the weather is nice. We are fine. We hope all of you are as well.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Odds and Ends, Orange Beach, Alabama, February 2020

Hot Dog

One day walking at the beach we saw what we all wished we would be someday.

It was pretty cool, just drove up, they opened the doors and people started showing up for pictures. Two person crew, dressed in OM outfits. We though maybe they would be fulfilling everyones dreams, free hot dogs, but no. Maybe they were giving out coupons. But it was fun to see.

Beach

This is not us but lots of beach to sit on and walk.

Great big long fishing pier. Complete with pelicans.

RVs

One day this RV showed up in the campground.

A GlobalX Vehicle. An off road monster with a vertical slide, bedroom was on the second floor. I talked to the owner, they had just picked it up and were on a shake down trip. My guess is that with those giant tires and suspension there was indeed some shakin’ goin’ on. He said maximum speed was 58 mph but it drove OK. Probably have a ladder stored somewhere for getting the bicycle down. And a fork lift to get the spare tire off.

Where do you go with one of these? Probably out in the BLM lands in Arizona. We have seen others like this. Kind of an oddity.

These were very amazing. We first saw these in 1980 in Utah and they are still around (newer ones though).

Signs

We have been looking around for a sign to put at our campsite while we are there. Who we are, where we are from. At every corner the answer was staring us in the face. And easy to get at Amazon.

Now all we have to do is find a post.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Mardi Gras, Gulf Shores, Alabama, February, 2020

Mardi Gras is a season. It starts each year on January 6 and runs through Fat Tuesday the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. That means the length of the season is different each year. The big events of the season are the Mardi Gras parades which happen during the season culminating with the biggest parade on Fat Tuesday.

I don’t know much about it so I am paraphrasing a bit here.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday“, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the penitential Lenten season.

The first U.S. Mardi Gras occurred in Mobile in 1703 with a secret society, the Masque de Mobile, formed to organize the celebrations. This society is similar to the “krewes” in New Orleans who sponsor the elaborate floats used in the parades before and during Mardi Gras. The celebration arrived in New Orleans soon after its founding in 1718.

About a century later street parades had become established in many cities in Louisiana and Alabama and many krewes had formed, their members remaining anonymous and their faces hidden by masks. In 1872, a “King of Carnival,” Rex, was introduced to preside over the parades. The tradition of float riders throwing trinkets to the crowds also began in the 1870s. Typical “throws” include beads, cups, coins and stuffed animals.

Well all of that and Moon Pies.

All of this sounds like the St Paul Winter Carnival except there it is cold and in the winter.

Orange Beach and Gulf Shores had several parades in the days before Fat Tuesday but the really big one was at 10 AM in Gulf Shores.

We headed for breakfast about 8:15 at the Sunliner Diner. We got right in and had an unremarkable breakfast. Service was slow and inattentive. In just about every way imaginable a blah breakfast.

I suppose they hoped the decor would make up for it. Ya it was pretty 50s like right down to the black and white tile floors. Trouble was most of the folks coming here found the floors really slippery so they had long black runners everywhere people walked. There was even a cut up Chevy or some other old car with a table in the middle.

We ate, drank poor coffee, paid the bill and left as long lines had formed to have the same experience.

The Mardi Gras Parade route was right down the street in front of us. There were barriers on either side of the center two lanes to keeper the “catchers” from getting too close to the “throwers”. There were some chairs but this is mostly a stand up event. Folks had those two wheel grocery cart bags for all of the expected booty.

At 10AM we could hear sirens and drums and music at the far end of the route but it took 45 minutes to get to where we were. We were right at the barriers, not really very crowded on our side but 2-3 people deep on the other side.

The police cars went by first to make sure everyone was behind the barriers followed by the Gulf Shores HS Naval Jr ROTC.

And of course a rousing marching band.

And Cindy the Pink Fire Truck.

And very colorful characters and more fire trucks.

And floats of every description, some two stories tall so that there was room for more throwers.

And hats too.

Susan was ready for bling.

Between the two of us we got quite a bit. It seemed that if you made eye contact with a thrower you were quite likely to get some trinkets. We got a rubber duck, a plastic cup, maybe a dozen moon pies and maybe 50 strands of shiny beads.

Most of the beads went into a plastic bag to bring home. They had a distinct plastic smell. The duck is on the dash of the Jeep.

The moon pies … well there are many forms of soggy cookies making a sandwich with marshmallow filling in a variety of packaging. Some have a powdered sugar coating, most something else undefined. They may be a treat somewhere but one bite and the rest went into the trash.

All in all it was great fun. After the parade there was a tremendous traffic jam that added about 10 minutes to our trip back to the campground. Kind of nice being in a smaller town for all of this.

A few weeks later we were in New Orleans where they had 53 Mardi Gras parades during the “season”.

And at the same time our friends Ted and Karen became grandparents.

We are very happy for them.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan