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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Last Leg of our Fabulous Journey

Sunday March 30, 2014 Executive Suite!! 130 Comfort Inn Erie Pennsylvania 5:40 PM EST

As you may recall we decided to spend two nights in Bowling Green, especially since we had a hot tub and a nice big comfortable room. Friday, dawned rainy and foggy but by afternoon the sun had broken through and the clouds were huge puffy and tall but all in all the day was quite nice. We read and in general reveled in what we felt would be our last Southern warm day. The weather looked as though it was going to move out ahead of us and by staying the extra day we hoped to assure ourselves of clear driving the rest of the way home. I started The Devil’s Backbone : The Story of the Natchez Trace. It is very interesting but is slow paced and the author throws in not only the names of the people who traveled the Trace and their enterprises but also their ancestry complete with names and locations. There is no sense trying to read the book quickly because it only leads to confusion and back tracking to clear it up. It is not difficult reading, just slow.

On Saturday we woke up to rather heavy rain—the Weather channel had said it would be well past us and the USA Today maps showed the whole area clear. Well, so much for trusting anything you hear on TV or read in the papers. We had the most hellacious rain and wind and horrible driving from Bowling Green all the way to Cincinnati. I amused myself by playing tag with the windshield wipers—how many pictures could I take between swipes? As you can see I was successful more times than I thought possible. Needless to say, with the rain and the mist from the trucks I didn’t take many shots. Notice, though, that the weather has become cold enough that I’ve put away my sandals and am again in sneakers. It was in Cincinnati on the way South that I first put on my sandals and also gave up my sweaters. I haven’t dug them out yet, but I think I’m about to do so tomorrow.  The traffic was quite heavy especially across the Ohio from Covington, Ky into Cincinnati, Ohio, Haven’t a clue where the Ohio welcome sign was—probably obscured by some truck or other.  After dinner at Applebee’s we retired early—both of us quite tired from a stressful day on the road.

Fortunately, today dawned cold but bright with sunshine. We didn’t see any snow until some distance north of Cincinnati and then it was very little and obviously had been dropped yesterday.  We stopped at a rest area and could see how the wind blew it –even up the trunks of the trees. I was able to remember where some of the Ohio barns were this time so I could add pictures of them to my collection. It wasn’t too hard to drive through Columbus even though there was enough traffic—it is pretty much a straight shot. Up around Mansfield we began to see significant snow—and it is fresh. Looks as though that extra day in Bowling Green was good after all. Instead of the torrential rain we would have been far enough north to hit the snowfall. I’d rather have the rain and so would Bill.

There is a good loop road around Cleveland so we really don’t have too much of that traffic. Although we had planned on making Batavia today we decided to stop in Erie—we’d still covered over 300 miles. It will be a long haul to Barbara’s in Saratoga tomorrow but we’ll head out early. She says there is supposed to be a wintry mix in the morning near her. Our weather seems to show clear and partly cloudy along our route==of course, there are no guarantees.

Bill will stay at Barb’s Monday night and then go on home and I’ll spend a few days with her before heading back to Vermont. I like to delay it as long as possible—mud season, leftover dirty snow, flooding in the fields—not in any hurry to see that. For tonight we have a four room suite with another hot tub. Sounds like a plan for me—then Call the Midwife, Selfridges and ,if I can, I’ll fit in the Good Wife otherwise I’ll stream it later in the week. So, the next missive you will all receive will be my summary with which I always end our trips but it won’t be until I’ve been in Vermont for a bit—there is mail to be opened, unpacking to do etc, etc,etc. Til then, thanks for coming along with us on our journey. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we have and that you will join us again the next time we hit the road!  Night all KandB

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Trace to Nashville then On to Bowling Green

Thursday March 27,2014 Room 306 Sleep Inn Bowling Green, Kentucky 7PM CST

Continued on the Trace in on again off again drizzle ---at least through the remainder of Mississippi and the tiny bit of Alabama across which the road runs. Although we saw none of the promised daffodils yesterday and the Trace people said the large field was located south of French Camp, we did see several clumps here and there and several large swath of them, especially in Tennessee.

They are in really strange locations, not near any cellar holes or other evidence of ancient habitation. Also, though they are “ naturalized “ as bulb catalogues describe the scattering, they are in many places just a single clump—the rest could not have all been planted and died out! So, I did a bit of research to determine whether they could be wild. It seems they are—BUT since daffies are not native to North America they must be escapees from earlier planted gardens. It seems that like all angiosperms they form seeds and, though bulbs are the more successful method of propagation, the seeds will germinate if they fall in favorable conditions. The plants produced are smaller than the garden variety and they also take anywhere from five to seven years to bear flowers. This explained the presence of multitudinous clumps that we easily recognized but that had not borne flowers nor did they seem to have buds in the offing. At any rate, like all daffies they were wonderful touches of golden sunshine on an otherwise dreary day. Very few trees leafing out and those that were are really more encased with a slight haze of color indicating swollen but not yet opened leaf buds.

In several places along the road in Mississippi there were swaths of trees that had been blown down since we passed through here in February—there were certainly several areas of very gusty winter winds if not outright tornadoes. In one area the very large trees had been blown over on the edge and fell right across the two lanes of the road. Glad we weren’t here for that!

Once we crossed Cedar Creek at Bear Creek Mound we entered Alabama and came across fields that will be planted in corn a bit later when the ground starts to dry out. There was, however, a field of cotton already planted for this year. Alabama line is 310 miles from Natchez so we pass through a good distance of Mississippi on the Trace—as a matter of fact most of the Trace is in Ms—since it is only 444 miles to Nashville from Natchez. We cross the Tennessee River within a few miles of the Al-Ms line which is really interesting. That river flows in a very  strange path to the Ohio! Although the next picture shows us entering Tennessee it is really a distance from the river but the scenery didn’t change very much so I didn’t take many pictures.

Once in Tennessee we had entered Mid-Temperate hardwood forest—no more stands of pine, no more magnolia, lots of oaks with last fall’s leaves still clinging to them. The greenest thing around is the grass at this time of year and the clumps of daffodils and clumps of leeks—which by the way, according to my research are connected linguistically, at least, to daffodils.

Let’s see if I can explain this clearly. St David is the patron Saint of Wales and the daffodil is his flower. In Welsh, which I’ll neither try to spell nor pronounce, the name of the daffodil translates as Peter’s ( who knows why ) leek AND the leek, as we all know, is the symbol of Wales!

Shortly after Little Buffalo River is the Tobacco Farm and Old Trace drive. I didn’t photograph the field of cut tobacco nor the inside of the empty tobacco barn—probably have a dozen pictures of both—when growing, when harvested and hanging in the barn and when the harvested field is dry and the barn empty—but we did take the Trace drive—which is always scary because there is an area where it runs dangerously close to the eroding edge of a very high ridge. Still, I love driving on it and looking through the trees to the fields of the farms below. For most of its short distance it isn’t much different than that “two lane paved road” I found to follow in Louisiana the other day! This time I spotted a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree looking over the valley, too. Bill backed up slowly—got me right opposite the hawk—I opened my window—lifted my camera--------------and the hawk yawned and lifted himself off the limb and with wide-spread wings and tail flew swiftly through tangled branches and out of sight. How do they, with such a wing-span fly through that mangled mess so swiftly and without mishap? Amazing!

When you return to the main Trace you soon come to the Baker Valley overlook and my favorite farm in this part of the country. I have a zillion shots of it framed by that tree but I just love it.

Then it was onto that part of the Trace we followed weekly while staying in Nashville last Fall. Took shots of the ever present, throughout the country, of these ugly but graceful turkey vultures. Soon we crossed the beautiful white bridge that crosses the Franklin historical area—it is the bridge that every website and brochure use to depict the beauty of the Trace.

Stopped at Loveless Café on the off chance we might get a table—much of the parking lots are out of view so I didn’t know they were packed. The wait was 45  minutes to an hour. No way—there isn’t food delicious enough to wait for it. I should have remembered the whole town is packed with this March Madness stuff! So, off we went down Old Hickory Blvd under trees so full of blossoms they looked covered in snow. Got on 65 north and struggled through traffic and roadwork until finally across the Cumberland and headed to the suburbs the traffic thinned out.

Traveled the remaining hour or so to Kentucky and Bowling Green. Ribs for me and Pork loin for Bill at Smoky Pig. Then to the Sleep Inn. We are staying two nights—trying to get in just a little more warmth if not sun before truly entering the North and the eastern time zone and the return to what is left of winter—probably another month to month and a half. Sad smile

Have a nice double hot tub, books to read, a River walk park, if it doesn’t rain all day tomorrow and maybe a museum if we feel like it. NOT the Corvette plant and museum—have done that several years ago and have no desire to see a sinkhole close up. Tomorrow, therefore,may be a slow picture – blog day. Just another lazy day!

Have to go—cute Cavuto is on---just love him. Goodnight all, KandB



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Natchez to Tupelo on the Trace

Wednesday March 26,2014 Quality Inn Tupelo Mississippi Room 128 7:19 PM CST

Uneventful driving day on the Natchez Trace. The weather was beautiful –sunny, clear skies, 58 degrees or so. The most interesting thing was to notice how the flowers and leaves changed as we drove Northeast. Near Natchez the redbuds, cherry trees and dogwood was opened in great profusion. The leaves of the trees are small and fragile and depending on the species a variety of greens, oranges, reds. On the ground many yellow and white blooms and a few purples as well.

As elevation increased and we moved farther from the Mississippi the trees became less leafed out and the redbuds and yellow vine etc became less prevalent. By the time we’d gotten 145 miles from Natchez there was a very noticeable lack of leaves and flowers and the Spanish moss had totally disappeared. We stopped at the Reservoir outside Jackson and listened to the goose who was quite irritated by a dog and its female owner. I thought he was going to lose his voice he was squawking so much.

The trees along the Trace are so varied and at times there are individuals alone in a field and just are so perfect in shape and style. I haven’t a clue what most of them are, nor does Bill. There were certainly none of the fields of daffodils that the Trace Group posted this morning, not even South of French Camp where they claimed they are. The ride was beautiful nevertheless, as it always is and much different than when we passed this way in early February.

Arrived in Tupelo, having made a reservation last night, and therefore did not have the same problem of a furniture convention and no rooms available that we ran into on the way down. We ate at Chiles and I had their Caribbean chicken salad with oranges, pineapple and dried cranberries with a lime citrus dressing. Quite good.

We are now in a quandary. I didn’t make a reservation in Nashville while in Lafayette since I wasn’t sure when we’d be arriving. I knew that the Women’s Basketball March thing is there but thought we’d be able to get a room at the motel closest to downtown. Actually, I pretty much knew we wouldn’t and also that Bill really didn’t want to spend the money to go into town. I took a chance –having told him I would—and I lost. So, now, where to go—there is nothing in Tupelo that is interesting, nor in Bowling Green. We have an extra day and would rather NOT spend it in the North. So, it is to the map to choose where we want to spend the extra day. We will ,at any rate, continue on the Trace to Nashville area tomorrow.

Stay tuned—it looks like a new adventure is brewing. Until tomorrow—good night. KandB

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

East to Abita Springs and Back West Again to Natchez

Tuesday March 25, 2014 Quality Inn Room 123 Natchez Mississippi 4:41 PM CST

Yesterday, after seven wonderful sleeps in Lafayette, we departed in the morning to head east to Abita Springs and the brewery to savor fried oyster po’boys and some seasonal Abita Beer at the brewery Brew Pub. Bill loves, and so do I, the Atchafalaya Swamp and the causeway over it at Breaux Bridge so off we went the back way to BB and I 10, which crosses the watery Atchafalaya Basin including Whiskey Bay. We have criss-crossed this area so much that it is difficult to find a way we haven’t traveled it. Looking at the map, however, I discovered a heretofore neglected path, an innocuous black line running through the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. The map legend indicated that 975 to Krotz Springs is two lane paved. Well, let us just say, Louisiana’s idea of two lane, let alone paved, is not the same concept to us Yankees. Despite this slight difference of interpretation, the 17 miles of the one and 1/4 lane—oh,okay, with a little give we were able to pass oncoming pick-ups with no problem—gravel road was quite pleasant. On one side the Bay with camps all along it and a power line marking our way and the other side the wooded scrub area. In time the road left the Bay and so the power lines and camps were replaced by the levee that separated us from the Atchafalaya River. With such low land, almost all rivers are obscured from view by the iconic Southern levee, which is privately owned, mostly by oil companies, and strictly off-limits. Though the area was pretty rural and natural we saw no wildlife at all. Well, not animal wildlife—the woods were golden with lovely daisy-like flowers which grew in great profusion. In time we reached 190 and proceeded across the Morganza Spillway, which you may remember was opened up a few years ago, sacrificing agricultural fields in order to save New Orleans from incredible flooding. With the Northern snow pack this year I really think the same thing will happen again this Spring.

At Livonia we chose the same path we’d taken from St Francisville to Lafayette in February. We always enjoy the lovely Oxbow Lake known as Lost River at New Roads. The Mississippi once flowed here but over time its path has altered and this lake was left behind, silted in as the mighty river changed its course. In what seemed an incredible short time we reached the Audubon Bridge which replaced the St Francisville Ferry about five years ago, much to our disappointment. I don’t know if I’m finally so used to the bridge or what but its height did not bother me in any way. I do really think it is a beautiful structure.

As long as we were passing through St Francisville we stopped at Grandmother’s Buttons. I’d bought a pendant there last year made with a button having a rather long shank. It protruded from the back of the pendant and prevented it from lying flat on my neck. I took it in to ask if the shank could be bent down—the lady took it right to the shop and they bent it for me in seconds. The salesgirl remembered us from February when I’d made some purchases and had them send Betsy her necklace for her birthday. This time I bought the other necklace with which I’d fallen in love.

We then hopped over to the IGA where I snagged a last six pack of Lazy Magnolia Pecan Stout, two six packs of Abita Strawberry lager and one of their Grapefruit IPA. There was also a six pack of LA37’s Passione. Headed to the bank for some cash and left St Francisville in our dust until next year.  Passed through all the old towns along La 10—Jackson, Clinton, Darlington, Greensburg, Fluker and Wilmer. We then turned southward on a road new to us, 450, and suddenly we were in an entire new world—a land of thoroughbred horses and cattle ranches. But these are for sale, a ranch with show and breeding cattle and horse outfits that have signs designating the Mare Division! Huge spreads, some visible from the road and others discreetly hidden by forests and screening landscaping. At a surprisingly shabby crossroad 450 connected with La 25 which took us into Covington. Picked up La 21 to La 33 and the Brew Pub only to find THEY ARE CLOSED ON MONDAYS!!!!!! Do you remember the guy we met in Oklahoma last year who was down from Ill or In  doing business in Texas, only to find that business does not get done in Texas on Sunday or Monday?  He claimed that is why the South lost the war—I’m thinking he may be right!

So back we trekked to Covington and Outback, where to console myself I had the lamb with baked sweet potato, spring vegetables , mint jelly and cabernet sauce. Helped to make-up for a trip that was totally out of our way and not all, but mostly for naught. Met a cute young guy from Mississippi who was a friend of our young barmaid. He is out of work and hoping to hook up with a friend’s father on a construction job tomorrow. He left Mississippi because he was getting into drugs and felt he had to leave his friends, some of which he’d known since grade school, in order to avoid a bad end. He said it was so hard to do and giving up work was hard, too but he just knew if he hung out with them any longer it would not end well. I hope things work out for him. He also taught me the proper way of saying Natchez—Nahchess—no T and no Z!  As for Kiln, he said he’s always called it Kiln and no one ever corrected him so forget what the kid at Lazy Magnolia said. LOL

Back to our room, probably later than we should have stayed out—but we are usually in by 6 and Bill is asleep by 8. Every so often I get to stay out to socialize and not have to retire like an old bag—I like to socialize. Still in before dark and managed to watch The Blacklist. How do you like my new nail job?  Optimistically, hoping the colors will encourage an early arrival of Spring after we get home to the deep freeze in Vermont!

Such wishful thinking Sad smile  Well, until next time. KandB

Back again: still in Natchez:6:35PM on Tuesday March 25

Forgot to tell you about the Feliciana Parishes in Louisiana. Originally settled by Indians, the area was taken over by the Spanish by right of exploration and remained in Spanish hands until around 1699.LaSalle had explored the Mississippi in 1682 and claimed all the lands drained by it for France in the name of Louis XIV. Spain also had claimed Florida by right of exploration.  After the French and Indian War, Spain ceded the Florida territory to England and France ceded Louisiana to Spain. England determined that the Feliciana or Happy Land portion of Louisiana actually was part of Florida and so this area became known as West Florida. Over time, land grants, emigrants from British areas and British loyalists began to fill West Florida. American colonists wanted West Florida to revert to American territory and with Spain’s support the West Florida Territory became Spanish once more—until 1810.

In 1800, Spain had to cede Louisiana back to France and Napoleon sold it to the US in 1803. West Florida was not included in this transaction and though Jefferson insisted that it was American the Spanish did not agree and remained in control. Soon, however, the settlers became unhappy with Spanish rule, revolted and set up a short lived Republic while petitioning the US to annex them. In 1810, President Monroe assumed control under the determination that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase. When Louisiana became a State in 1812—Feliciana was included as a County made of four Parishes. Eventually, Feliciana Parish was divided into East and West Feliciana and that is how the division exists today.

We think of Louisiana as so French but in actuality there is a very old Spanish culture including in New Orleans which predates the French culture that is so prevalent today. 

To continue with today’s adventures, we left Covington with a tip from an anti-Serta ovine. Back across the Bogue  into the country and horse farms and cattle ranches of yesterday. The day was so sunny and the trees and flowers, including the beautiful wisteria, just screamed SPRING! One nursery had a sign that said when I see and smell Spring I just wet my plants!  And that’s how we felt—just singing hearts and smiles and the urge to wet some plants somewhere. One of those horse farms even has a private race track—to test out a thoroughbred before purchase???

There is a vine down here that climbs on the trees before they have even leafed out or as they are just leafing out—it has the most beautiful yellow flowers and with my telephoto I was able to see that the blossoms are bell-like. So beautiful. After Fluker we took I 55 to get a bit farther north but the wind was so strong and the road just so brutal, especially once we entered Mississippi that I sought a less traveled and more protected route. Found rte 24/48 which traveled due west to Liberty and then continued on 24 to the little town of Gloster. By this time we were starved and found the Gloster Café. Let me tell you the place was hopping.

I ordered a hamburger with bacon and American cheese. It was huge and freshly made. Bill had a chicken salad on white and we both had Sweet Tea. The waitress, the lady in the blue shirt, came over and said that she had no quarters, dimes or nickels and hadn’t had a minute to get to the bank to get change. Bill offered to sell her $10 worth of quarters for which she was very grateful. Used the bathroom while waiting for our food and it was a hoot—go in the door and there is a platform with a wrought iron fence around it and three steps up. Here is the sink and commode—literally, the throne!  Used the last of the toilet paper and opened the cabinet door and, just like home, there was the extra—so, just like home, I replaced the empty roll!  LOL

While we were eating I noticed the two gentlemen at one table over each had a brownie sundae—after each eating that huge hamburger!! Well, Bill and I couldn’t resist—but we ordered one, with two spoons. The young cook also put on two cherries—LOL

As we were leaving the waitress, the owner, asked where we were from—when we said Vermont she shrieked and told the young girl—go get Murdock!  As her husband, who had been seating people and getting their drinks and was now taking a deserved break as the crowd had cleared, appeared, she declared these folks are from Vermont!  Apparently, Murdock is a retired history teacher and she’s been after him to put up a big map with pushpins because all sorts of people come passing through!  I guess there were some from Ireland the other day and they had to ask Ireland, Ms or the country?  It was the country and they were doing what we do—happily traveling back roads to see what there is to see. Murdock said that they are building a pellet factory outside of town and one of the guys is from New Hampshire. He was complaining that the red mud was thicker than NE mud in mud season and his work boots were quite encaked the other day. Bill said but I bet he isn’t having any trouble with this weather! All laughed and agreed to that. Murdock said people ask how they can put up with the heat but particularly the humidity of summer and he said we just stay indoors. I guess that’s what we do in snow-time, too.

Murdock was impressed that I had navigated us to their establishment and that I knew where we were headed through the Homochitto National Forest. He said when we cross the Homochitto River that that area has many Indian relics still buried in the mud. A fellow a few years back came across an ancient weir the wood of which was pretty intact but the willow weavings just fell apart. He also said that a flood knocked the bridge out several seasons ago and two men were washed away. While looking for their bodies an old canoe was unearthed. He said there is so much history in the area and you never know what can be found even today from the Indian settlements.

Well, after wishing us a safe trip and urging us to return someday we shook hands and were off. Out to Crosby and the old mill town it was—the mill houses are still there and the huge school is empty and the blinds all broken on the windows. From there basically 17 miles of woods ‘til Route 84 west into Washington and then south a few miles into Natchez and the motel. Over the office door, a cluster of hot peppers and a lime to ward off evil spirits—I think it is just a handy bunch of flavoring ingredients for something Mexican! It is pretty no matter and just seems to be another colorful reminder of spring and harvest time in California and the South.

Bill has gone over to the Mexican restaurant for an appetizer—I’m going to catch up on the newspapers and get ready for NCIS and NCIS LA. The regular one is set in New Orleans tonight—how appropriate since I’m just filled with Acadiana spirit by virtue of temporary adoption through exploration. So, take care. We are officially in the East now, having crossed the Mississippi but happily for now, we are still in the South.

Tomorrow, the Trace to Tupelo! Til then KandB

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bayou Teche Brewing Company

Saturday March 22, 2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette,La 6:00 PM CST

Not much to write today. We started out at Keller’s Bakery where I picked up some whoopie pies, fruit pies and praline brownies. Hoping I can get some home and that they aren’t too stale. From there we used the Garmin to get us to Arnaudville and a tour of Bayou Teche Brewery. It is a fairly small operation so far as the size of the plant is concerned but the family has just joined a distribution group that will bring their beer to Upstate New York from which it will be distributed to Vermont and New Hampshire. That is good news since we loved several of their beers. In preparation they have ordered some new aging tanks and a larger bottling machine.

Stephanie Knott and her husband, Karlos, were alone when we arrived right at noon and so we had a chance to really talk to them about the brewery and the family members involved, the excitement of expanding with its nervousness, and the fact that they will be bringing the bottling of their 12 oz bottles home from Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi. Around 12:30 another couple showed up so Karlos returned to his mowing and Stephanie gave us a tour and explanation of the brewing process.

After that we adjourned to the tasting room. The two pictures of taps show the number of beers available. They are extremely generous in their samples—four oz glasses that do add up when you are tasting at least seven beers in a short time. We started with the biere that they developed with a brewery in France. The name is a combination of the rivers that flow behind them both—the Bayou Teche  here and the Youst in France so it is named Bayoust. It is delicious and we bought a bottle of it for home. I am fond of dark beers and so I tried both Biere Noir which is a beer based on an old German recipe for Schwartzbeer and is also quite good, as well as Loup Garou,which I loved but maybe more for its name than the taste. Loup Garou is a werewolf and parents used to threaten their children when they didn’t do as told with a visit from Loup Garou who would get them. Loup Garou would not cross a threshold over which were placed 13 stones—why? because Loup cannot count higher than 12! During Lent if one did not totally give up what they’d promised to give up, after nine violations, they would turn into a Loup Garou!!

There is also a lady with long fingers, the French name of which I cannot remember, but she could not easily be locked out when she wanted you because with her long fingers she could reach between the door and lock and open it.! Karlos said he once asked his Grandmother why adults scared their kids in such awful ways and she said—we had no TV!

My favorite beer of all, though and of which they only had a couple kegs left, was Miel Sauvage. Wild Honey—oh, Karlos laughed when I tasted it and almost fainted it was so good. Good, huh?  Oh, indeed. And dangerous, said Karlos—I guess!  Tried several others but I’d have to look them up. If you have any interest in more info they are on FB under  Bayou Teche Brewing Company.

The other couple turned out to be pretty interesting and we chatted with them for a long time, They have a house in Fl which they are trying to sell. They’d moved there from Washington State but really don’t like it—they find their neighbors very racist and quite incestuous among other things. So they’ve emptied out the house, put it on the market and bought a large , 40 ft RV, behind which they tow their car. They’ve been traveling since Jan 1 and basically live in it and travel. They said they will go back to Fl around May but will stay in the RV. Soon as they sell the house they will figure out what they want to do—buy another place somewhere or just keep traveling in the RV.  She’s a druid, he’s an atheist—funny.

While we were chatting Stephanie went off to give a large party a tour and Karlos went somewhere—so there we were in the tasting room, pouring drinks of our favs and chatting. Steph came in with that group,gave them sampler trays, asked if we were doing okay and went off to give another tour! When she returned we make some purchases—a bottle of Loup and Bayoust and a six pack of the Mardi Gras brew, Courir as well as a pint glass. Then we bid our new acquaintances Adieu and Bon Chance and off we went to Lafayette.

We wanted to go to Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge but couldn’t remember precisely where it is. Set the Garmin to find it and she took us west on I10, off at exit 104 and then told us to go on I 10 east. Forget it, We went to Logan’s and called it a day with a steak.

BTW, forgot to tell you about our ditzy but cute waitress at Shucks yesterday. I’ll spare you all her missteps serving and just tell you that she brought the bill while Bill was in the rest room. I glanced at it and saw it was in the amount of $18 and change. I didn’t think anything of it. Bill went to the bar and paid it and we left. Just outside the door he asked if I’d seen the bill and I said yes, why? Did you see the amount and then my eyes got big—yes, $18!  That’s not right—how did she get that?  Then we figured she charged us for the two etouffee at $7 each and two sweet teas at $2 each and the rest was tax. She hadn’t charged us for the oysters!!! $12 a plate!  $24. plus tax. Said we have to go back in and tell her—which we did, quietly—didn’t want to get her in trouble. She was so impressed that we didn’t just go on about our business. Bill told her I wanted to take off—she laughed and said, oh, she just wanted to jet on down the road? Sometimes Bill is such a jerk, but she knew that neither of us ever thought to do anything but come back and pay up. Wonder how often she does that?  Won’t keep that job long if she doesn’t pay better attention,

Well,have to get going. Wash day and organizing the car tomorrow and reading for on Monday we are off to Covington, where the couple we met today just came from, and Abita Springs Brewery where I’m going to pick up some saison—Strawberry lager!  Oh, yum!! Take care—was 77 today and humid. Was supposed to rain but it’s held off. Think it will come tonight though—looks kind of gray out there. Later, KandB

Friday, March 21, 2014

French Bread, Cane Fields, Etouffee and Oysters

Friday March 21, 2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette, Louisiana 3:28 PM CST

Happy Spring, officially!  Sunny, 77 degrees and the John Deere machines are dusted off and working!

We don’t often go farther southeast than New Iberia when we spend time in Acadiana but I’ve known about a very old bakery in Jeanerette for many years and have often wanted to go back down there to find it. I’d read about it in the visitors’ guide for this part of Louisiana and saw it the only time we passed through town on our way to Morgan City several trips back. As long as we were staying here for a week I thought it would be a nice idea to head down and pick up some fresh French bread, baked by Acadians using a 19th century recipe.  We pulled into the driveway as two young thirtyish guys came out of the bakery carrying a loaf of bread and taking off in their dusty pick-up truck. Looks as though local Acadians still eat it, too. A good sign, I think. There was a  recipe using rather large amounts of ingredients posted on a clipboard on the customer side of the baking room. I asked the baker how many loaves a recipe starting with 100 pounds of flour would make and he answered 360! There were some tarts in a basket as well as pralines but we don’t care for pralines as a rule but both like tarts—Bill chose a lemon and I chose a pineapple. There was coconut, too, but that isn’t a form in which I like coconut. Though Bill doesn’t like ginger I could not resist the Ginger Cake—I love Ginger bread but never make it because he doesn’t like it. I don’t know if Betsy does—she and I both love ginger snaps. I’ll have to check with her.

The next town is Franklin which is really more beautiful than Jeanerette the downtown of which is really pretty caput. There is a grassy median with lovely streetlamps bordering a wide thoroughfare but we wanted to explore the deeper Cajun country along the coast so we turned south toward the Intracoastal Waterway. The turn came after the lovely residences of Jeanerette and at the sight of a very large cane treatment plant.The hilled rows in the fields are covered with the early fingers of this year’s cane crop.

Sugar cane is a perennial grass and so it is already sprouting. The cane growers are out spraying it, watering it and rehilling the plants. There will be some replanting because the crop begins to peter out after three or four harvests. There will also be fertilizing of the repeat crops.

We had planned on taking in the view from a State Park on a Point out in the Bay. When I saw the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway I told Bill I was content with the State Parks we’ve already toured on this trip, Eventually, we had to go over bayous emptying into the Waterway as well as the Waterway itself. More humane engineers constructed draw bridges over these. We stopped at a boat launch where several fisherman were returning from early morning fishing, There were several broad sweeping curves along the coast dotted with several small villages, including Lydia, which is no longer on the map-No PO, no map Dot.

We crossed the Waterway once more and entered Abbeville, which I also love. An adorable doll house on the Government List of Historic Places is for sale and has a lowered price. Still don’t think we can afford it.Meandering through town we came upon our intended destination—Shucks!  Ordered crayfish etouffee and oysters on the half shell. The Oysters were huge and since I swallow them whole, it was necessary for me to cut them—especially that one in the middle—into THREE sections. As a result, by the time I finished ten I felt as though I’d eaten two dozen rather than one dozen. Gave Bill my last two. Dave came over to greet us once more and I asked him about cane growing. Much of what I mentioned above came from him. He did add that Steens no longer crushes and processes the cane. His reason is that the old men who used to do the work died off and none of the younger men took over. That is probably true to some extent but reading about sugar cane harvest and processing I see that the modernization requires very fast treatment because, like corn, the sugar starts to break down as soon as the canes are broken up—the sugar being at the joints in the stem. As a result they are rushed to a processing plant—huge one like that which I photographed out near the fields—to salvage as much sugar as possible. So now Steen goes out to the plant with a tanker and brings the syrup back to be boiled in enclosed boilers. Dave misses the sweet smell that used to permeate the air in Abbeville from Oct to Jan while Steen boiled in open kettles. 

Stuffed and content with a lovely day we headed back to Lafayette Parish from Vermilion Parish by way of Johnston St—past LSU and the Cajundome—onto Jefferson with the Mardi Gras float still sitting in front of the hardware building—quick left onto Pinhook and a quick right onto Evangeline another quick left across Evangeline and into the motel lot and home.

Now, somebody on the other side of the pool is blasting music with a very heavy bass-line. Ah, Summer in the City.  Tomorrow I think we’ll find the Bayou Teche Brewing Company in Arnaudville. Don’t you love the names of these towns?  And every place in this country except Vt talks in terms of counties and parishes. No one would be from Post Mills they’d be from Orange County!  It is crazy.  For now, I’m off with my cold milk and ginger cake to enjoy the remainder of this heavenly day!  Hope you are enjoying yours—it is,--- weather or not—misspelling intentional—the week-end. Later, KandB PS--More info on the history of Sugar Cane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane Also, I'm looking forward to reading a new novel called Queen Sugar. I think the title is clever considering we all know about King Cotton!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cajun Country Swamp Tours

Thursday March 20,2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette, Louisiana 4:10 PM CST

After spending a wonderfully lazy Wednesday catching up on photos and blog, sitting in the sun on the deck and eating fried oysters for dinner, reading an interesting book about life in 19th C New Mexico, we felt we wanted to do something more active today. So yesterday afternoon I made a reservation for an 11 am tour of the Swamp of Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge.

Several Februarys back we’d gone out on Lake Martin with Butch Guchereau. It was just us and Butch which was really special. He is a very interesting and knowledgeable man, whose family has lived here for at least three generations. When I called for the reservation his daughter told me that Shawn, his son, is now also giving some of the tours and wondered if it mattered which one we went out with. Told her no, we’d give Shawn a shot and see how much he’s learned from his Dad. I would have gone out on the 9 o’clock but Bill, interestingly enough, preferred the 11. No matter. So up at 8, coffee, shower, washed hair etc, dressed and we were off.

If ever any of you are in this part of Louisiana and have any interest in a Swamp tour, I cannot recommend this outfit enough. Neither Butch nor Shawn beat you over the head with biological science but if asked they can answer you with accurate scientific information. They do both talk of the formation of Lake Martin, its age and how it has been set aside as a recreational area for fishing and hunting, Its care is based primarily on an honor system and, though there was not to be any building within the perimeter of the levee built to maintain the Lake, there have been some folks who have violated that understanding. I know that since we were here last there is a small snack bar/ drinks bar right on the Lakeshore. When we were here last the wharf had been built and is used by other swamp tour operators but Butch and Shawn will not build a wharf nor will they use the one there. They also urge people not to support the snack bar by our patronage. Primarily, because this will encourage more development.  Shawn also spoke of the feeding of alligators during the Fall when the gators have stopped eating naturally in preparation for winter rest. This he feels is dangerous for both the animals and people—they are eating when they should not and they are becoming less fearful of people, leading to attacks on children etc. I do wish to make sure you realize these are only a couple of comments made during a two hour tour—so again, not beating people over the head with environmental comments.

Because we took a later tour this time there were fewer birds in the trees—they had already eaten breakfast and were off in the rookery, as Shawn put it, building nests, dancing courtship dances and other domestic chores. It is the time of year when the alligators are coming out of their tunnels and holes and are trying to regain their strength and warm up. It is amusing to see three sharing a log—with the largest not getting much space. Once things get into swing that won’t be the case. The big one will drive the others off, if he doesn’t eat them. So, we cruised along getting our fill of alligators of all sizes and turtles who jump off the logs as we approached, only to resurface and resume sunning once we passed.

We enjoyed the cormorants though they are becoming as much a problem here as in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Saw several snakes and lizards—snakes not of interest to me and lizards too swift to film. There were a couple of nutria; several great blue herons. We looked at the bald cypress, the Spanish moss, which is neither Spanish nor a moss, pink lichens, cypress knees and the various theories of their function as well as water hyacinthes and duckweed.

Got a close look at a few of the duck blinds, Shawn’s included. His looks like a huge trunk with a neat hinged door entrance. He took us into the boat garage of one so we could see the shooting porch on which the hunters sit. Having been on the tour before we knew that he was taking us to the location of an alligator tunnel—but this time there was no getting out and pushing an oar down the tunnel to show its depth under the ground. There is a video on the website that you can check out, as well as one showing a bull alligator bellowing. Today, the tunnel was quickly filled by a mother alligator who ducked into it as we approached, much like that newscaster in California dove under his desk when he felt the earth quake beneath him. She ran and hid but left her babies, who’d hatched last fall, in a cluster sunning themselves. Baby animals of all kinds are so cute. And then it was a slow drifting ride through the hanging moss and narrow paths through the swamp. Didn’t see Stumpy but Shawn says he’s still around and the lady missing half her jaw is now a Mother Gator in the backwater behind their Quonset hut, which was a relief to hear.  As we departed, Shawn was loading the boat for another tour—I could have re-upped and gone back out, but not Bill, so off we went to find Legnieux for some oysters.

Sad to say the restaurant was closed—lunch over, dinner not begun. So we went into the Market and bought some legit Andouille, some Steen Pure Cane Syrup made in Abbeville and some Cajun Power Garlic Sauce, also from Abbeville. Then we headed over to Logan’s Roadhouse. Bill had steak and I had a pork chop with applesauce, slaw and sweet patata fries. Our barmaid, Maggie, chatted with us about her school trip to Canada and loving Montreal. We also talked about Lake Martin and how Shawn said that Swamp People had caused an increase in their tour numbers. Still, he said, it is really awful to see alligators taken out of the water, made to lunge several times to tire them and then wrestled. Maggie said that she is amazed that people believed that the show really depicts how the people here live--she said it provides a good laugh to them. I said I won't watch the show, since I think it mocks the people who live in the area. We then talked about our friend Dynelle who’d given us local tips a month ago. She loved the places Dynelle had suggested and said that downtown Lafayette is such a hidden jewel. With which we concurred. She suggested French Press for breakfast –so maybe one morning before we leave we’ll have to try it. As we left she told us to have a good day and keep unearthing some more special gems. We laughed and said that’s the plan.

Then it was back to the motel to read some more and plan tomorrow.  The sun is shining on the deck and sitting out with a cold bottle of water sounds very pleasant. It is 74 degrees so it’s the deck for me. Until tomorrow and our next adventure—good afternoon, KandB

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Few Days Catching Up to Do ( Mar 15- Mar 17)

Tuesday March 18, 2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette, Louisiana 2PM CST

The last few days have been a bit of a blur—not only because we covered a great deal of distance but because we also tried to absorb a huge chunk of Texas history and then tried to get around a huge chunk of Texas real estate in one piece. But let me begin on Saturday morning when we departed San Angelo, Texas. I didn’t take a great many pictures because we were still in the flat, dry West Texas area which doesn’t look very different from Southeast New Mexico—as a matter of fact, one doesn’t realize we’ve left New Mexico for quite a few miles.

So I’m not exactly sure where we stopped at a rest area but I was very taken with the toy like appearance of the picnic area there. As a matter of fact, throughout the country there are some really creative picnic area structures. Some are made to look like skiboats in white snow, others like miniature adobe dwellings etc. I didn’t always photograph them but maybe next year they will be my focus. Each year I kind of find something to use as a constant in each area—one year it was steeples, another, old buildings. It makes looking at familiar places less repetitive if I find something new for which to look.

We eventually came to a town called Eden, Texas where Venison World caught my eye. Neither of us are great lovers of venison but we do enjoy some good chewy beef jerky on which to munch our way down the road. We got a bonus here, they sold pepper cheese sticks too, so with my larder of crackers and a cold bottle of water we made our way into Texas hill country. Eden is very appropriately named—it lies right on the edge of the hill country and its abundant green, green trees. It is desert no more!

Menard, Texas has a rather imposing welcome sign as signs go and an intriguing small sign, in brown—the color of historical signs—indicating a “ Ditch Walk” going both ways across the highway. I can’t get Bill to dally much and look at these things –not the way my sister and I do—but even he was curious about a DITCH walk. Well, it is beautiful—it is a man-made meandering stream along which are built some really cute homes. Of course, it wasn’t built with that aesthetic in mind, Texans are much more practical about water. It is a ‘ditch’ not a stream and it was built to irrigate the fields of a fairly large ranch—2000 acres—large to an Eastern mind but really modest out here.

We followed it for as long as there was a road beside it, which was only several blocks along which there are benches and street lights. Then we turned into what was the original center of Menard and which, like so many of the old towns in this country, is pretty empty and dilapidated. We made a left and headed into the countryside once more. Came to another rest area, this with the tables nicely placed in the natural setting. As we moved Eastward the sky started to cloud up heavily and it seemed we might be moving into rainy weather.

Sometimes we manage to catch a few of the historical signs posted along the roads and I particularly love the mental image of the trial under the live oak home of wild bees. Don’t think I’d attend, thank you. I must admit, though I love the deserts of the West, trees, the threat of rain and gentle hills were a welcome change. Took a few pix of Kerrville and its surroundings for the grand-daughter of one of my friends. Kari’s other grandparents live here now and she spent part of last summer at camp in Kerrville. I thought she might like to see what it looks like in winter/early spring.

Then we entered an area of Texas that was a surprise to me fourteen years ago. I had not known there was a concerted effort of Spain to get the area populated and that a German Prince (a minor one to be sure) gathered up a sizeable group of his people and came and settled in this area of Texas. Their intent was to establish a new Germany within Texas. The group is known as the Adelsverein—actually that is a shortened form of the whole name—and Admiral Nimitz’ grandfather was a member. Initially, an almost 5000 acre plantation was purchased, maintained by Indian slave labor for the recreation of the members. The whole history is very interesting for those of you interested in history. So as not to bore the others I will merely share the link to the story:


It certainly explains The Nimitz museum in Fredericksburg  which is housed in the hotel his family owned. It also explains all the Germanic names in the area. Interestingly, Texan German is a sub group of American Germanic groups!

Bill and I made bets as to what the large Church-like building on the horizon would be—he said Baptist!  I said no, Lutheran. But then, realizing the size and ornate design I decided it was a Catholic monastery. Turned out to be a Catholic Church—St Joseph’s Rotary in Honey Creek, Texas.

Another thing that catches my eye are cute billboards and in this country there seem to be lots of Chick-a-fil ads with the cows encouraging the ingestion of chicken! LOL

And then we were at the Quality Inn at New Braunfels, which lies between Austin and San Antonio and let me tell you, the traffic NEVER stops on that interstate outside the window.


Sunday morning dawned sunny but a really series of strong thunderstorms passed through the area in the early morning. Bill had been having a cigarette outside around 6 and the lightening was very strong,though he didn’t hear any thunder. I slept right through it!

Headed to Seguin where Bill gassed up and I noticed a donut shop. Bill didn’t want any, so he said, but he came in and bought a glazed one. I had a zebra and bought a sugar/cinnamon crueller for Monday. I also got a cup of coffee—the best coffee I’ve had in ages—not the weak stuff we Americans drink and rave about. This would put hair on your chest—that Lina SanFrancisco knows how to brew a good cup of coffee. Woke me right up!

On through Stockdale, Gillette and Yorktown—ranches with all kinds of breeds of cattle and cross breeds. AND even among the grazing cattle, huge oil wells drilling away. No little pony wells, big boys here! Not as smelly though. Just outside Yorktown we came to another historic sign—this one telling of the Lithuanian immigrants to the area.

Following behind the band of rains and over wet roads we arrived at Goliad. Several years ago, while visiting our friends Karen and John in Corpus, Karen bemoaned the fact that the Alamo is the battle that is so well known to Americans when the siege at Goliad was so much more brutal and large than the Alamo. At that time, I decided that we would sooner or later visit Goliad and learn about the battle, more about the Angel of Goliad and gain a better understanding of the Texan Revolt.

Our first stop, Goliad State Park in which is found the CCC restored Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga. The Spanish don’t name anything simply. No Notre Dame here though I don’t think Notre Dame is the full name either!  Here is Our Lady of the Holy Spirit of Zuniga. There is a Ranger and his wife who guard the place very closely. Other than walking the grounds toward the exit, we were never left alone in or outside the shrine. In actuality, both were very informative and in today’s day and age of routine vandalism and graffiti writing on anything white, I guess I cannot blame them for their vigilance.

The oldest Mission in Texas is in the North near Natchitoches, built to repel the French who were attempting to enter Texas from Louisiana. This mission predates the Alamo and those other Missions around San Antonio. Apparently, there were so many missions so close together because the various tribes that the Franciscans were trying to convert did not get along together—so a different mission for different tribes. Makes sense. The Apaches were a particular problem, raiding other tribes and the missions. Actually, in at least one case the Apaches raided a mission, stole articles made by the Comanches, raided a settlement and left the items, so the settlers raided the mission serving the Comanches. Fun times in the old West! As beautiful as this mission is, it was desanctified and is no longer used. What a shame—the acoustics are incredible. The lady said there was a concert there just recently and it was wonderful. Also two priests from Crimea visited just recently. One spoke no English, the other very little. The Ranger showed them the Missal on the altar and they proceeded to start to sing the liturgy together. He said it was so moving—I wonder if they were doing it in Gregorian chant! So beautiful.

The lady showed us a picture of the Crucifix taken about 2006 on Easter Sunday. The light from the window in the choir loft totally illuminated the Body of Christ in a circle of light. Can you imagine the “ miracle” the Franciscans would have used to awe the pagans they wished to bring into the fold? She isn’t sure how often it happens, but the unexpectedness of it makes it even more striking—even for the friars!

Walking around the reconstructed Chapel we were surrounded by the original walls of the mission. The black and white picture of one wall is all the CCC found when they began the work—that wall is still standing and is behind me on the wall that is running perpendicular to me. We were sort of herded out from between the buildings so I was unable to get a picture of how it was incorporated into the new structure.

We drove around the park and took pictures of some of the new spring flowers. While the hot pink one is really beautiful it is, in actuality, orange not pink. Don’t know why the camera wouldn’t record the real color. The first blues are the famous Texas bluebells and the cup shaped in called a five dot for obvious reasons.

Continuing down the highway we came to the Presidio la Bahia. Both it and the Mission we’d just toured were originally build closer to the Gulf and both were moved inland twice until they were build here in Goliad.

Texas history is very different from the AMERICAN history most of us are taught in school. While the British were running the French out of Quebec and establishing strong British colonies along the Eastern seaboard, the Spanish were establishing strongholds in New Spain, part of which included modern day Mexico and Texas. The Spanish settlers of Tejas were known as Tejanos. ( One of their descendants with whom Bill worked in West Leb said he was Spanish, NOT Mexican and that he and his fellows resented the illegal Mexicans in Texas taking their jobs! How many of us think of their being Tejanos in Texas whose family dates in this country longer than many of ours?)

This Presidio or Fort was established in 1721 and was moved to its present site by 1749. During the American Revolution Spain was an ally of the Revolutionaries and beef were sent by the Spanish government from Texas eastward to feed the American rebels fighting along the Gulf and Mississippi! The Tejanos were subjects of Spain—not Americans! The American Revolution did not involve Texas!!!! ( By the way, California was also at this time Spanish and had missions and converted Indians, too. They also were not involved in the American Revolution!)

Eventually, France under Bonaparte was able to weaken Spain and cause it to lose its power to control the New World Colonies and so Mexico revolted to gain its independence and began to establish a strong new country. Texas had pressure from two fronts—another new Nation bent on westward expansion that had many politicians and settlers who believed that Texas was actually part of the Louisiana Purchase made from France, giving Louisiana to the US. There were still French within the Purchase who wanted to be independent of the US and sought to move West into Texas. In addition, Mexico vowed to protect the Catholic religion and secure those areas that were once controlled by Spain.

One of the Royalist Mexican military leaders was Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. In 1812, Tejanos captured San Antonio from the Mexican ( Spanish ) forces and declared Texas a free independent Republic. When the Tejanos massacred captured Spanish officers, Americans who had helped them left the cause and Santa Ana was able to recapture San Antonio, killing many and driving others into Louisiana.

Eventually, the Mexicans were successful and once independent of Spain established a constitution and joined the under populated Tejas with another under populated state. Then to improve the economy of the area the Mexican government opened the area to immigrants from the US and Europe. In just a few years the newcomers so populated the area that they did not get along with the Tejanos who were happy with the Mexican Constitution nor with the Mexican Government who did not provide them with the rights to which they felt entitled. Land feuds erupted between the established Tejanos and the new Americans who arrived to grab the land grants given them by the Mexican officials. In the South of Tejas, there was an Irish contingent with their own dissatisfactions. A new air of Revolution was rising. It is funny to note that Tejanos felt like strangers in their own land. There are pockets of this country—South Texas, South California and some Eastern cities where I feel like a stranger in my own land. Why? Immigrants—many of whom won’t or can’t speak English and who demand rights not given to others. How history repeats itself. Don’t think we’ll see a Revolution, though.

The final blow to peace was the election of Santa Ana to the Presidency of Mexico and his subsequent dissolution of the Constitution and takeover of the Government as Dictator. finally, he was successful in defeating the Texan revolutionaries at San Patricio, The Alamo, Refugio. The Texans were at first disorganized with about four men claiming leadership of the movement. The Presidio de Bahia was eventually seen to be threatened with little chance of survival. The commander, Fannin, however, had been ordered to hold the fort and he refused to abandon his post. In time, Houston assumed sole leadership and he ordered Fannin to leave and rejoin him at Victoria. Unfortunately, he waited too late and as he and his men marched off they were trailed and overtaken by Urrea, one of Santa Ana’s leader. Urrea wanted to take the men as prisoners of war but Santa Ana ordered death to a man. All of the troops were returned to the fort, including the wounded in carts. Then over the course of several hours, with Fannin watching at least some of them, the soldiers were executed by firing squad. 342 soldiers, some of them already wounded. And then,last of all, the wounded Fannin was to have his turn. He asked that he not be shot in the face, gave his gold watch over to assure a Christian burial and asked that the remainder of his possessions be sent to his family.

He was shot in the face, his things were taken by the Mexican soldiers and his body was thrown into a ditch with some of his men and burned along with them. This massacre as well as the loss of the Alamo incited the Texans and a new rally call: Remember the Alamo , Remember Goliad! Rose. A new flag showing a detached right arm carrying a bloody sabre was flown as the Flag of Goliad and at the Battle of Jacinto—westward toward Houston was the sight of the final battle and the capture of Santa Ana. And so, the Texas Republic was born. Those Tejanos not in favor of the Revolution moved to Mexico or Louisiana. Many filed suits to regain their lost holdings in Texas. Most did not win.

In time, Goliad and the Presidio fell into disarray—the war had taken its toll. The Chapel of Loretto which had served the people of the area was deteriorating. It had served as the site of the signing of the first Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1835 and the place where some of Urrea’s captives were held before their execution in 1836. It was then used as a residence.

In 1853, the Catholic Church acquired the Presidio and Chapel from the Town of Goliad. It has been an active Church ever since. The statue on the front is Our Lady of Loretto and was sculpted by Gustav Borglum’s son!

There is the misconception that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spain that preceded this Texan Revolt. It does not. Cinco de Mayo celebrates a victory that took place over 30 years later—it celebrates the defeat of the French in 1862. The defeat was short lived and the French were able to set up Emperor Maximilian in Mexico City for several years. But that situation is a whole different story! Interestingly, Cinco de Mayo is not a very big deal in Mexico, probably because it wasn’t the total defeat of France.

As the day grew older and the wind grew stronger I walked around the outskirts of the Presidio to see where the executed defenders and their commander are buried and to the plaza that commemorates the efforts of a local woman to save as many of the prisoners as possible. One of the survivors later told of this woman whom he describes as nothing short of an angel. Hence the name-Angel of Goliad.

After a very full and mentally exhausting day, we continued on to Victoria and the newly opened Comfort Inn. It smells like a new car and is just beautiful. Ate at Johnny Carino’s. Didn’t in Alamogordo, Roswell or San Angelo. Figured I’d better before we got out of the area where the restaurants are. Had the sausage Spagatini skillet that I love with a glass of Malbec. So much food I saved half of it for lunch the next day.


Yesterday was basically a long drive to get to Louisiana. We were going to go to Galveston and follow the Gulf into Acadiana and then head up to Lake Charles and Lafayette. When I got up we looked again at the map and decided that we probably wouldn’t make it to Lafayette easily that way and since I really want to just spend easy time in Lafayette we decided to go more directly. That entailed some fancy navigation to keep Bill out of five or six lanes of awful traffic going through the center of Houston. If it were my sister I’d take her right straight through on I-10 but all those lanes make Bill tense so instead I got him close then swung us North on 6 to farm road 1960.Let me tell you, even the planes use 6 to get into Houston as noted by the several that looked as though they wanted all the traffic to move so they could use the road as an additional runway! 1960 hasn’t seen a farm or ranch in over 50 years! After what seemed like hours we finally got past the city. I ate my leftover Johnny Carinos and Bill stopped at a Burger King. When he came out the traffic on 90 was backed up for what seemed like miles. We figured we’d have a mess all the way to Lake Charles! As it turned out, there was a super wide load with some kind of tank on a flat bed. A bucket loader was in front with the pace car to lift power lines as this thing went under them. There were two wide load cars, one in front, one in back; two motorcycle cops with lights flashing in front and one other in the back. Quite an entourage. But after he got under the lines at the intersection we were able to leave him in our dust. Crossing the Sabine was a relief and the bridge wasn’t too bad. The Bridge across Lake Charles was another story—felt like we were going to kiss the sky.  By that time I realized that I’d left my SD card in my computer and the camera’s memory was full. Not too many miles later we arrived in Lafayette. Almost 400 miles, most of them slow and tense.

After some confusion and changing room numbers and then physically changing rooms we were settled in. The temperature a freezing 43 degrees and a TV without a guide. Needless to say, I didn’t go out to eat—fried chicken and pinot noir and I was in for the night. Slept until 11 am today. Haven’t gotten dressed. But got the blog caught up, the pictures sorted and some bills paid as well as ordered another book on Amazon. So a productive and quiet day. Bill put a chair on the deck but it was cold today and whenever he opened the doors I froze. It is going to be hard getting used to Vt winter when we get home. It is 4pm now—so think I’ll eat something and read a bit—it has clouded over so no deck for me. Tomorrow supposed to be 70’s and sunny. That’s my kind of weather. Until the next time—bye from Louisiane KandB Forgot to say that St Paddy's Day really didn't get celebrated this year. Wore my jade earring and Claddagh ring. No Guinness, boiled dinner or soda bread!!:( Also Bets called while we were trying to get round Houston. Having a heck of a time getting health insurance coverage she can afford. No job and doesn't qualify for any help and no one to assist with the application forms. Typical government--make something mandatory and make the sign up process written in Swahili or something.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Skyscapes and Landscapes Deep in the Heart of Texas

Friday March 14, 2014 Roadway Inn Suite 408 San Angelo, Texas 5:38  PM CST

Covered over 300 miles today and had yet another lost hour as a result of leaving the Mountain Time Zone. Traveled in a sort of drifty mood noticing things like the appearance of the clouds over the flat, flat East New Mexico and West Texas landscape once we left Roswell and the New Mexico Military Institute, which looks like a huge castle on Main Street, behind. With nary a tree in sight it was interesting to see that the power company or telephone company, whichever erects the poles along Rt 70, provides nesting platforms every third or fourth pole and that the birds make use of them. Saw a couple of blackish birds courting at one and a lone blackish bird checking out a nest at another. Looking into the sun made it difficult to tell if they are raptors or not. In Western NY at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge the osprey make nests all along the power line and on platforms also provided them by the power company.

Much of the land between Roswell and Big Spring is flat and is used for agriculture, mostly cotton. I recognized the harvesting equipment I saw used last Fall in Alabama and sure enough we came to a coop gin and then fields in which last years chocolate brown stalks and some cotton boles still lay. Unlike in Alabama the stalks are left in the fields. With the flatness and the winds out here the topsoil would be lifted away if they weren’t a la the days of the Great Dust Bowl fiasco. The colors of the earth: chocolate brown, tan, golden, brick red, dull red are so intense and beautiful contrasting as they do with the Emerald green of the irrigated fields. The farmers are out already—harrowing, mounding, raking. Some they will be planting if they haven’t done some already. I could handle a place where the Spring is as long as our Winter, although the bugs are out, too and they don’t excite me that much.

In addition to agriculture, many of the same fields have oil rigs. Some only one or two but others around 20 or 30 and those areas smell like gas stations. We weren’t in Odessa or Midland this time, though not far from them. These are not the huge fields of rigs found in those places where the oil deposits are so very extensive.  We came into LaMesa from the north this time not from the east as we did when we were headed West. So we crossed our outward path at that point but continued on 87 to Big Spring and thence to San Angelo. This was a new route to places we’ve been on past trips. As a result we saw a different area in Big Spring with a hotel that looks to be from the 20’s or 30’s. In looking up the history of the Hotel Settles I found that I was indeed correct—it opened in October of 1930 and was the tallest building between El Paso and Ft Worth. It is seen in the opening scenes of Midnight Cowboy!  Thought it looked familiar—LOL! If you are interested in that kind of history and it is rather interesting here is a link to its story:http://www.hotelsettles.com/node/15

After Big Springs, which I am sure was probably a stop for cattle drives in the day, the land gets scrubby and seems to be range land. The flatness gives way to hills and mesas, not very high, but rolling. And this, in turn, gives rise to streams and washes, most of which are dry. The number of oil wells increases slightly and there are some agricultural fields mixed in.

After stopping at a historic sign—we missed quite a few because they are thin and parallel with the road so by the time you see them, even with a warning sign a mile before, you’ve sped past the pull out and it isn’t really sensible to backtrack—I happened to notice a strange circular pattern in the sky above the car. Sticking my head somewhat out the window I realize that the sun had a huge halo around it. Cirrus cloud ice crystals refracting the light caused a big ring around the sun with a bit of a rainbow margin. So neat. I’ve seen sun dogs on our trips and other sun, cloud images but this is my first halo outside our meteorology book and it is just the way the book says.

 After that we arrived in San Angelo—but I was so busy looking for the motel that I didn’t take pictures of the beautiful river that runs right through the center of town. We are in a Rodeway which is considered one of the lower echelon of Choice Hotels. This one, however, costs $145 for a suite so we used 16,000 points and have a two room apartment. It is every bit as nice as the other suites we’ve had in Clarion, Comfort and Quality—considered the top of the line in the chain. Have not a clue why it is classified as a Rodeway.

I’m going to take my Coke and sit out on the patio overlooking the pool to catch the last rays of the day. High today was 81—in the air conditioned car that wasn’t too bad. Have a lovely evening—will catch you up in San Antonio. Night all. KandB

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Heading East so Retracing Steps to Roswell, New Mexico

Thursday March 13, 2014 Suite 129 Comfort Inn Roswell, New Mexico 4PM MST

Few pictures today since we are retracing some of our steps East. There are just so many ways to leave New Mexico to get where we want to go in Texas. We’ve been on every one of them, either East or West so not much new to record pictorially except maybe the weather conditions. When we came this was heading West a few weeks ago there was snow on Apache Peak, over 7000 ft. Today, not even a small patch. As we left Alamogordo we looked up at Cloudcroft which we considered climbing to Artesia but it is over 10,000 ft. and Bill wasn’t sure he wanted to submit this older car with lots of mileage to such thin air. I was reluctantly willing to try it, since he’s wanted to go that way for at least five years and I’ve always resisted. Can’t say I was upset when he decided to take the car’s feelings into consideration.

We had planned on going down to Carlsbad and revisiting the Caverns but when counting the days til we have to be home and what we really wanted to do between now and then we decided we didn’t want to use two of the remaining days to go to a place we spent many hours visiting several years back. Instead we want to go to the scene of the Battle of Goliad in Texas which, according to my friends in Corpus, was a much more serious battle than the Alamo. We have never been there and would like to go to someplace new, rather than repeat a visit.

Of course, I say that, but it is also on the agenda to spend a few days in Lafayette and return to the Swamp to see if Stumpy is still going strong. For those who haven’t been on the trip with us before that probably doesn’t mean much. If we go, all will become clear. Also Abita Spring Brewery has just released its annual production of Strawberry Lager, a seasonal. Have to get some for home.

And,if all goes well, we may honkey tonk in Nashville and hit Smoky’s on the way home. So, the pictures today look at Sierra Blanco in Ruidoso New Mexico with the only snow for miles around. A wave at the new welcome sign to Tularosa, a couple of signs that play right into the book I just finished about a man who claimed to be Billy the Kid, rather convincingly, I might add and several shots of the rolling hills that lead us out of the Rio Bonito Valley into a high mountain plain before dropping us into Roswell.

Grabbed a lunch at Pepper’s Grill and Pub and then checked into our suite for which we used 16,000 points of the over 100,000 which we have accumulated so far.  Bill is watching Judge Judy so I’m going to catch up on the silliness. Tomorrow into Texas and loss of yet another hour. No wonder I’m tired!  Take care, all KandB PS: New nail job--didn't consciously choose to do Blue and Gray but how apropos for Texas and the Confederacy! LOL

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Rest in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Tuesday March 11, 2014 Suite 155 Quality Inn Alamogordo, New Mexico 5:53 PM MST

Slept poorly last night, though the bed was super comfortable and the room was nice and airy. Had left the window open in anticipation for the overnight cool down but the traffic proved too noisy so closed the window and turned on the A/C. For some reason Bill was blocking the flow and so, with just a sheet I was cold but with the down comforter I was too hot. Went to bed at 10 only to be awakened by neighbors who came in at midnight—talked at normal voice in the hall and never heard of holding doors so they don’t slam. Wish I knew what room they were in, would have loved calling them at 6 when I was awake for the day! But, at least, as I lay in bed at 6:30 deciding I might as well get up, I watched the day begin through the window and had a lovely red reflection on the ceiling of the sunrise.

We took I-10 from Benson to Las Cruces, New Mexico, losing yet another hour. Decided I didn’t care about Chiricahua National Monument near Willcox so on we rode. In 2000, when Barb and I came to this area there was one little winery in Elgin—I had my first Shiraz there—now the whole area around Willcox is filled with pecan trees, walnut trees, pistachio trees and lots of wineries, though I didn’t see any vineyards.

From I-10 route 70 runs over San Augustin Pass onto the White Sands Missile Testing Area. For the first time in ages we were directed to a Customs’ and Border Patrol inspection station. Nice Patrolman merely asked if we were citizens and we were off. Stopped at the National Monument to use the restrooms. What a difference two weeks makes—a regular zoo! Hoping to go over at 8 am tomorrow and see the Sands in early morning light.

We are staying here for a couple of nights to rest. May go over Cloudcroft or through El Paso—each equally bad—to revisit Carlsbad.Should be a new Visitors’ Center since 2007 when they were operating out of trailers. Then we head across Texas to Goliad and the worst massacre of the War for Texan Independence. Next our favorite Louisiana Area for a little while. The time is slowly running out and soon we will be headed home in earnest. Don’t want to rush the last leg of the journey.

Looking forward to R and R tomorrow when we get back from the Sands. Have to find a copy of The Blue Tattoo—should have bought it in Santa Fe. Oh, well, there is always Amazon. Time to put up my feet and watch NCIS. Later KandB

Monday, March 10, 2014

Saguaro West and East

Monday March 10,2014 Room 245 Comfort Inn Benson,Arizona 6:22 PM MST ( 3 hrs difference from Vt)

Slept like a log last night—went to bed at 9:30, got up twice but fell right back to sleep and slept until 8 this morning. Felt really great today. Having stayed in North Tucson it was a mere hop and jump to Saguaro National Park West. When we went out to dinner last night the young man on the desk googled the back way to the Park from the motel so we had a wonderful upward climb into the Park and through magnificent old Saguaro all the way to the Visitors’ Center. When we were here in 2007 it was in a cold rain which was icy at times and at the heights brought us snow flurries. This  was  a much nicer day—sunny with temperatures in the low 80’s. We watched the 15 minute video again and loved when it ended and the screen lifted as the curtains opened onto a view of the Cactus Forest climbing the hill.

The loop in this section is rather short but there are an incredible number of Saguaro of all ages and conditions. According to the literature, after 15 years the cactus may have reached a height of 12 inches. Around 30 years old it will flower and bear fruit. When it is 50 years old it may be seven feet tall but it will not sprout any arms until it is around 75 years old. By 100 it may be 25 feet tall and will get its biggest at about 150 years old.  They die of old age, or by wind or lightening damage or drought. There is also cactus poaching, invasive species and vandalism as well as damage from cold winter temperatures.  So as you look at these pictures you can see some pretty old guys and gals among the young folks and the ocotillo , barrel cacti, staghorn cholla and jumping jack cholla, mesquite and creosote and hedgehog cacti and prickly pear. One of my favorites here, too, are the fishhook cacti.

Plenty of other desert growth however and at last I saw something other than the yellow wildflowers—a particularly beautiful red flowering staghorn.  Other cacti are putting out new colorful thorns including a particularly lovely fishhook.

We had gotten directions to the Eastern section of the park from the volunteer lady, who assured me that Gates Pass would be fine for me, since the mountain would be on my side. She was right but look closely at that sway backed mountain in several pictures—there are very tiny cars and trailers climbing on the very outer edge of the road up into the Pass. I was fine but never looked to my left though the view of Tucson from the top in front was a bit unnerving too. Fortunately, the whole thing was about a mile, up and down and so was over pretty quickly.

We had to go through Tucson and the University of Arizona campus on Speedway Boulevard which was a bit stressful for Bill once more, but upon reaching Old Spanish Trail we were in the country again and the entrance to this part of the Park.At the visitors’ center a delicate pink barrel as well as a dark maroon hedgehog were part of the landscaping.

The driving road here is paved and is 8 miles long. While there are zillions of cacti climbing the mountains, there are not many at the elevation of the road. It was fun to see the various nests in the arms of saguaro as well as in the holes dug out by various birds.

We left by way of Houghton Road upon which the map showed an Air Force boneyard. We never saw it but my friend, Ruth says it is visible from I-10. We had taken back roads between the two sides of the Park so missed that portion of 10 which cuts through Tucson and so missed this huge dead end for various planes.

Arrived in Benson at the Comfort Inn which has just barely become the Comfort Inn. Got the feeling that the desk clerk felt this was a comedown from the Desert Rose Lodge that it had been. Haven’t lowered their prices at all—this room is $145—used 16000 points instead. Going to do my hair and watch TV. Ate in tonight—sometimes I just feel like calling it a day—sardines and crackers are a favorite and easy.

Think we’ll be back in New Mexico tomorrow—somewhere around Alamogordo probably. Looking to see how to miss El Paso into Texas. Might go to Carlsbad again. Stay tuned. Good night for now. KandB

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Kingman to Tucson by Way of Phoenix and Some Ruins

Sunday March 9,2014 Suite 104 Comfort Inn North Tucson, Arizona 6:25 PM MST

Started the day by calling Betsy at home, though there is a three hour difference as long as we are in Arizona. We had a time zone change from PST to MST yesterday when we left California but Arizona does not use Daylight Savings Time, so until we reach New Mexico we have only lost one hour. Called her at 8 am our time but of course she’d already left for Jay Peak. Sang Happy Birthday to her on the answering machine then called her cell. She and Fred had just gotten to Jay and were on their way out to the slope—glad I caught her.

We went to get gas at the same station we used four days ago and they’ve raised the price 5 cents per gallon to $3.54. A few miles east and the gas was $3.39/gallon. Crazy! Today was a drive from Point A to Point B day so the pictures are basically the scenery on a diagonal from Kingman to a town called Wickenburg 108 miles away. Through canyons, over washes and mountains, through valleys. I’m getting so I know the name of these cacti. Though we saw lots of Joshua Trees and creosote bush and smoke trees, we have entered the habitat of the Giant Saguaro. We followed the power lines into Phoenix on route 60 and then took 303, a loop around the worst of the city traffic. Past the Home of the Angels—the ballpark filled with people in the broiling sun—part of the Cactus League. We’d thought about getting tickets for a ball game but decided against it.Ticket prices are quite reasonable, as NBL tickets go—the highest is $38, but the aggravation of the traffic and the probable high cost of a room, though we could use points, were deterrents. Bill had a fit driving through what seemed easy traffic to me, in that it was a straight shot without over or underpasses.

After Phoenix which is a really large town even after a loop by-pass, I noticed a sign to The Casa Grande Ruins and suggested we take the big u-loop from and back to I 10, as sort of a traffic break and also a walking break. It was well worth it—the sun is blinding here and the temp was almost 80 but the wind was cool and so the walk around the grounds was very pleasant. The Ranger who checked us in grew up in Saco and went to Bates. Her job here ends in April and so she is transferring to Calais, Maine—some island in the St Croix River administered by both American and Canadian National Parks. Have to look it up.

From the Ruins we continued back to the Interstate and to North Tucson. Ate at Texas Roadhouse, right across the street. Tomorrow Saguaro National Park and then on to Wilcox for the night. Very tired tonight—up early and covered over 300 miles—unusual for us—we usually go about 150 or so miles a day. Don’t like days when we race without stopping anywhere. Looking forward to the Park tomorrow—it is divided into two sections—one west of Tucson and the other east of Tucson. We will start with the western section and then proceed to the eastern one.  For now, have to see what is on TV. Until tomorrow—nightie night and another Happy Birthday to our baby.  KandB

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Back to Kingman,Arizona

Saturday March 8,2014 Room 243 Quality Inn Kingman Arizona 7 PM MST

So we lost an hour today by returning to Arizona from California. Fortunately, Arizona does not go on DST so we won’t lose another hour until we go back into New Mexico which we be several days from now. It seems Barstow California has been destined to be the farthest West we will be on this trip. But that is more of California than Bill has ever been willing to explore before. That State just gives me such a headache—it is so expensive for everything. Paid $3.71 a gallon for gas and just down the street at I 15 it was $4.29!  Yet, here in Arizona it is $3.29. It has ever been thus. At any rate, we are now turned around and our travels will take us mostly South and East for awhile before heading back to the Northeast once more—but that is still three weeks away.

Once more we had to discuss our next step. We had thought to go to Organ Pipe since I was a bit disappointed by the lack of flowering of the desert plants and thought perhaps the more Southern Park and different cacti might provide a more spectacular display. But that is almost into Mexico and due South—so still very West. We talked about heading to Tucson and Saguaro but Bill has wanted to go to Guymon, Oklahoma as do I for steak at Eddies and to take in a rodeo as well as hit our favorite jerky seller. But then we want to spend a week around Lafayette before heading North. Decisions, decisions. So I went on the Internet—no rodeos in Guymon until April—decided on Tucson. We’ll hit Guymon again next year.

Slept somewhat late this morning but managed to get to the Restaurant in time for breakfast. Then we hit I40 to get back to Kingman—merely as a sleeping place on the way to somewhere else. The scenery was as usual spectacular and I tried my best to show the size and breadth of the distances along the road. Trains look like toys beneath the towering mountains way across the valley from our road. The moon looks like a white dot above the mountains in a cobalt blue sky. The golden and white flowers did form long mats along the sides of the highway and one lovely tree in a rest area was hung with chains of dainty yellow flowers. Most of my pictures are taken from a moving car and sometimes I’m astounded by the beauty of some of them—others not so much.

Called for our reservation from the road and then called the motel and asked for our room on the patio once more. Ate at the Dam Bar where the young lady remembered our drinks, at a very crowded bar, from the other night. Good waitress= good tip, although we always give between 18-20 % gratuity unless the service is absolutely awful.

Once more we arrived early enough to sit in the sun on the patio and read. God, I’m loving this sunny, mild weather.  After a rather uneventful day of travel, we are going to watch a couple more House of Cards installments. Almost finished this season and things are really unraveling for the Underwoods but they are so slippery they’ll probably pull through just a bit bruised. I do wish they’d stop with the gratuitous sex themes—what other perversion can they think of to make it more disturbing?  Gag!

Early bed and early to rise tomorrow for a new road through the mountains. Looking forward to the new sights. Hope you are, too. Later, KandB

A Day in the Desert or Joshua Tree National Park

Friday March 7, 2014 Room 120 Quality Inn Barstow, California  4PM PST

As we left our hotel in Blythe we were amused by the tiny sign in the front garden. Unless one got right up to it there was no way to know that it was a warning sign about carcinogenic chemicals in the hotel. You’d think it was a warning not to dig and disrupt a water, electrical or sewer line. Only in California!

Last night we discussed going to Death Valley but decided it was farther north than we wanted to go and that Joshua Tree National Park which sort of straddles the Sonoran and Mohave Deserts would have blossoming desert life as likely as would Death Valley. So, this morning, I was up by 6 and eating breakfast by 6:30 since the Park is about two hours from Blythe and the Visitors’ Center opens at 8. Not exactly sure how hot the day was likely to become and what the drive would be like it was our hope to be pretty well finished by noonish and the hottest part of the day.

We took I-10 through the mountains and mining areas of them to the exit for Joshua Tree. There were several pull outs, similar to those in Organ Pipe, explaining the various types of desert and the plants common to each. On maps the Sonoran and Mohave deserts are subdivided into smaller areas and upon entering the Park from the South we discovered that we were entering the Colorado Desert, a subdivision of Sonora. I loved a stone outcropping that reminded me of the way Bets used to sleep as a baby—on her stomach with her butt stuck up in the air. Little did I know, that though this was not one of them, there would be many rock outcroppings in the Park given fanciful names. I would call this one Baby’s Butt.

After several miles we encountered our first blossom and what a beauty it was—an Arizona Bluebell. Unfortunately, this was the only cluster of these that we saw. Throughout the Park there are several dirt roads that we can explore but for the most part it is suggested that you have four wheel drive. We do not, and, though curiosity does urge us to try, we use common sense and resist. The best I can do is take a photo in the general direction of the road and hope to imagine the mine etc that lies just out of sight. There are also several washes as there are throughout this arid part of our country. They are always dry except during Spring rains and snow melt, though they haven’t been frequent out here in the last few years. There was some heavy rain just about a week ago in the area which explains the widespread greening up and blossoming. The plants have to hurry up once water comes and get themselves pollinated and photosynthesizing before the water all dries up and they have to go dormant once more. I love the names of some of these areas. Fried liver is in the region where some guy thought he could establish a going turkey farm. Didn’t work out and I wonder if this name derives from his frustrating failure.

I fell in love with a spindly tall plant in Organ Pipe seven years or so ago. It is called Ocotillo and I have no idea why it appeals to me so much. It isn’t a cactus but rather a deciduous woody shrub and looks deader than a doornail without water—downright unattractive. But when it is green it is lovely and this time we saw it in blossom—wonderful red plumes, blowing in the wind. When it is green the whole length of every branch is covered in tiny spring green leaves.

Another favorite is cholla which is a cactus. There are several varieties one of which is called the Teddy Bear cholla and it does LOOK cuddly though the spines are pretty painful. They were so aggravating, teasing with lovely yellow and cream colored blossoms which they had not yet opened—I looked and looked for just one opened but NOOOOO.

Soon we came to the transition zone where two different altitudes, temperatures and precipitation patterns meet and overlap. The differences in abiotic conditions result in differences in the flora and therefore the fauna of the different zones within the Park.  This northern section of the Park was littered with huge boulders of granite at the foot of hills and mountains of gneiss. They were as fascinating and attention getting as the plant life around them. The vegetation here was quite different—lots of Mohave yucca and the species of yucca which give their name to the Park.

The Joshua Tree was named by the Mormons who felt the limbs of the plant, pointing in every direction, reminded them of the prophet Joshua, welcoming them to the Promised Land.  In places there were so many Joshua Trees that it seemed to be a forest, though the plants were far smaller than those we are used to forming forests around us. Here we came to some purple ground cover flowers, which, in only one spot, actually formed a noticeable carpet. In this area there were several hiking trails to see such rock formations as The Saddle and The Skull and The Oyster Bed. Also, here we found several groups of people scaling the smooth crevices of the rocks.

We saw only a couple creatures and boy are they fast. A pair of coyotes crossed the road in front of us—I couldn’t see them with the glare of the sun and the difficulty of seeing the display in bright light. But I shot blindly into the brush on my side of the car and did get each of them fleetingly in two separate shots. The jackrabbit that flew across the road in front of us just before leaving the park disappeared instantly in the brush and forget the little rodent that scurried among the rocks. We reached the exit of the  Park around 11:30 having entered at 8;30. The Visitors’ Center at our entrance was NOT open when we got there. At the exit they ask for your pass of receipt and I have a Golden Age Pass so pay nothing at any of the National Parks etc. The Joshua Tree Visitors’ Center is outside the Park and we stopped to get some Post Cards and then went to the Post Office to buy stamps and mail them.

Continued to Yucca Valley and headed North on Ca 247. Climbed high into the mountains on an unbanked two lane road and then descended into the long, long Johnson Valley, green with the run-off from the surrounding hills. We weren’t very far from San Bernadino, one of the suburbs of LA but avoided it all by swinging north out of Yucca Valley. Came to an area that obviously once was plowed and planted but is parched and dry—very great evidence of the drought that California has been experiencing for several years now.  Went over and around the mountains here to the windward side and the difference was unbelievable.

Traveling through this fruitful valley we came to Barstow and Rt 66 once more. Every light post has the name of some fellow from Barstow serving in the military. As is the case in most of the towns on 66 that served the people traveling the Mother Road there are old motels, restaurants etc. Some are closed and falling down others are still functioning, some seedier than others. We arrived at the Quality Inn and were given a very nice room on the courtyard. The weather was so inviting we sat outside our room reading in the sun for several hours. As an Elite I was given a nice box of POLISH chocolates,which we munched as we sunned.

Eventually, we headed over to the Mexican Restaurant where we sad at the sunken bar and visited with some of the locals. My favorite was a Spaniard from San Sebastian in Spain—he is actually a Basque, who raises sheep as he did in Spain. It is all I’ve ever known he told me. We talked wines and cities and museums and the horrors of Los Angeles and the glories of NYC. He and I really enjoyed visiting, while Bill talked sports with a couple of other guys. They did chat as well, about sheep raising etc.

I added this last around 730 and am going to watch a bit of TV before an early sleep—quite tired—a long day. The food tonight was delicious--had a tostada salad after a cup of albondigas soup. YUM! Goodnight KandB