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Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Very Cold Southwest

Saturday February 28,2015 Quality Inn Room 139 Alamogordo, New Mexico

Woke up to snowy mountains and fields and very cold Friday morning yesterday. Headed up to Tularosa and stopped along the way at McGinn’s Pistachio Farm. Bill was curious about their nuts and wanted to get some more to replace those he’d eaten. They make the lemon-lime that Heart of the Desert no longer makes so I was happy. Picked up a couple of post cards to send my Aunt and my Nephew and his family. As we came back onto the road there was a large group of servicemen cleaning up the shoulders. I figure they were from Holliman. Really impressed to see their community service, probably on their own time, since we saw them on the way back getting into their own cars.Continued into town and the bank to get some cash and then the Post Office. Very interesting with many displays of the history, primarily of Alamogordo and La Luz, which is much smaller now. Half way through I was getting too tired to absorb much more information. In speaking to the docent we found that this is much smaller than the new museum will be. They are in the process of moving into a historical building that is being renovated for them. They should be in by early June. I said I didn’t envy them the packing and moving and hoped they’d have plenty of volunteers. She said they would and that fellows from the base have already volunteered to help, too. She said the town always can count on them in times of need. Makes me proud of our servicemen all over again.

By this time it was noon and I was feeling very tired. Came back to the motel and once I got myself settled in, took a nap and slept until 2:30. Bill also slept and then we went out to the Alamogordo Zoo.  Much bigger than it looks from the outside. Several of the animals were so friendly and curious –the llama like animal came right over and was face to face with me. She strolled alongside me as I moved to the next enclosure, where an Emu silently chewed me out. The mouth was going a mile a minute but not a sound came out. Strange.

I foolishly walked in my shirtsleeves, outfoxed by what looked like a warm sun but was not. It was warm enough to have melted all of the morning’s snow but not warm enough to keep me or many of the animals happy. Though the mountain lions, especially one, just like all cats stretched out and slept. Loved the large kangaroo on his back with all four legs up in the air. The coyote surrounded by the holes he must dig when he’s bored. We figure he’s working on an escape tunnel.

After this good workout stroll we headed to Chili’s for a guacamole burger and onion rings. Then the day was done once more.

Today we are headed to Las Cruces, across the Sacramento Mtns through San Augustin Pass and back up the other side to Truth or Consequences and probably Socorro for the night. Maybe a stop at the Basque on the way. The weather has been awful north and northwest of here. Albuquerque had real problems last evening with snow melt that froze into a sheet of ice on the roads. No salt, no studded tires, lots of accidents. It has been so snowy I’m not sure we’ll be able to go to Gallup for the first time. No Perry Null?????? To think a year ago today we were tooling around Taos and Santa Fe.Not this year. Well, we won’t get on the road if I don’t tie this up.

Have a great day and pray for warmer weather. Hugs from the Two Traveling Peas

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Criss-cross, Up and Down in New Mexico

Thursday February 26,2015 Quality Inn Room 139 Alamogordo, New Mexico

Left Roswell yesterday morning around 10 am on a day as beautiful as had been predicted. 38 degrees but sunshine and clear skies with no wind. Headed west out of town after passing the sprawling campus of the New Mexico Military Institute which looks like a huge fortress on the Main St of Roswell, not far from the beautiful county courthouse but before the tacky shops and museum with research center celebrating the UFO crash that the government has kept completely covered up for ages. Have chosen not to explore any of these emporia of blobby green men (  or women ? or non-sexual beings?) and spacecraft models in the most horrible silver material I’ve ever seen. I laugh each time I see the research center—just not buying it,

Once beyond the city limits the countryside becomes beautiful—mountains as far as the eye can see and on this trip across the area, covered in last few days’ snow. We soon twisted and turned downward into the winding Rio Ruidoso valley to the town of Tinnie. Farther along this route, which we’ve taken many times is the town of San Patricio, the home of Peter Hurd a well known artist. He was commissioned to paint the official portrait of LBJ, who hated it. If you get to chatting with the lady who runs the small museum there, she will show you a few of the sketches of LBJ that Hurd did, showing LBJ as a jack-ass. The artist’s response to the lack of appreciation from the President. There is also a neat looking shop that I did not notice near Tinnie last fall, when Barb and I passed this way. Going to have to figure out how to plan our route to take us there again before we return home since neither of us were in the mood to shop that early in the am. ( Not that Bill is ever really in the mood to shop, for things I like, anyway—lol)

This time however, we did not go to San Patricio but rather turned toward Lincoln, a major stomping ground of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett and Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur. Wallace actually was a Union General in the Civil War and after the war, became the Governor of New Mexico Territory and held that office during the turbulent Lincoln County wars in which Billy played a significant role. The town is an interesting place that has been very well preserved, with many of the original buildings still intact and open to the public. Bill and I spent half a day there one year. It lies in the Lincoln National Forest and is high up the mountains from the Ruidoso. It is as high as Bill and I have ever gone, because I have always avoided going up higher to Capitan. The road, on the map, looks very switch-backy and I know from experience that those kinds of wiggles indicate steep drop offs, without guardrails, almost inevitably on the passenger side of the car. No fun for me. BUT, last fall, traveling in the opposite direction and with no snow on the ground, nor any possibility of it, Barb and I did climb to Capitan. The road is a piece of cake. And so, for the first time, I consented to going over it in winter with Bill at the wheel. The mountains are so beautiful, with the ground fog still trying to find its way over the tops. We came across a high power firing range, that I’d missed in the Fall. No one was out but it is rather large. We rounded a narrow curve with the only drop-off on the whole route and into Capitan we went.

This is quite a tourist town and last October it was filled with cars and people and very active. Now it looked almost deserted. Everything is named after Smokey the Bear, since the real Smokey was found as a young cub during a forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest now far from this location. There is even a park dedicated to him and a statue.  We opted to move on. These are the Capitan mountains and though Capitan itself is over 10,000 feet, we actually skirted its base rather than going over it—I think there is a road to a ski resort that goes closer to it. So, as you leave the town of Capitan, you begin to descend in wide sweeping curves that bring ever more beautiful mountain views. In time the Sierra Blancas become visible and Sierra Blanca stands out with its snow covered jagged peak. We have skirted that mountain near Ruidoso many times but have never, nor will we ever, gone closer to it by climbing Cloudcroft. That one I’ve researched with locals and everyone has told me—you do not want to go there—high, narrow and tons of drop-offs and steep slopes with hairpin turns. Even the description makes me queasy.

You may have noticed, as my sister-in-law, Sally, had that this stretch of an otherwise deserted road seemed to have a fair share of pedestrian travel. Well, some were jogging, some were walking and some were struggling but all of them were taking part in some sort of fundraising marathon. There was a vehicle alongside the road at one point but by the time I paid attention enough to read the placard on its side, we were by it. And soon we had descended totally into the Tularosa Basin. It covers more than 6,000 square miles—bigger than Connecticut. And at its edge is Carrizozo and the Four Winds Restaurant. Bill was hungry but I was not. He had a green chile hamburger and I had a piece of lemon cake and coffee. Chatted a bit with the three Staties at the next table. Picked up a couple pieces of this delicious peanut marzipan-like Mexican candy that I only ever see here. Then off we went across the Basin –this is a route I think I could drive blindfolded we’ve taken it so many times. 65 miles of nothing but valley floor—no towns, no houses. Just outside Carrizozo is the Valley of Fires and the Malpais Lava Flow. As you descend into the Basin from any direction, the wide dark black band that runs lengthwise north and south on the Basin floor stands out starkly against the tan scrubby ground.About five miles wide it runs 40 miles into the Basin, is believed to have originated ten miles away from Little Black Peak and at 5000 years old it is considered to be one of the youngest flows in the continental US. Cannot imagine trying to cross it on foot or horseback before the road that crosses it was built. Actually, cannot imagine building the road—it is rough stuff and deep.

On we went, past Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated. As we approached San Antonio and the Rio Grande, the clouds darkened and virga was quite heavy. Made a right onto route 1 at The Owl in San Antonio, passed through the small community of Luis Lopez and into Socorro. It was only 2:10,and, though the sun had disappeared, the temperature had risen to 45 degrees. Settled in to watch The Five, which out here, is on at 3. Cindy Pino, the General Manager, who had been so upset that she only had a smoking king room left to offer me and Barb, was on the desk. She immediately remembered me and said she had a family king ready for us. We could have had a formal cocktail party and dance in the room, it was so large!  Headed to K-Bobs for a steak and brew, then home to NCIS, NCIS New Orleans, which I don’t really like, Perception and Rizzoli and Isles---then off to dreamland.

Yesterday we were up before dawn—the sunrise was beautiful over the streets and lights of Socorro. Got dressed quickly and ate a fast breakfast before heading out the door as the rooster at the house next door was waking up the neighborhood. Took the Interstate down to the Bosque where some of the smaller pools had skim ice on the surface and there were patches of snow and bits of ice along the road. The low trees and shrubs sparkled in the brightening sun with the ice on their thin limbs. It is such a special place this wildlife refuge. We’ve been to many but this one is magical and a visit to New Mexico would be incomplete without at least one visit to it. We never know what animals we will see. The hawks and Canadian geese are givens. We have known this great blue heron for years—he’s always in the same area. Often we spend time with a lovely slinky skunk who runs along the road in our shadow, but she must have been keeping warm somewhere in this 24 degree morning chill. At the far end of the first loop there was the field of Canadian geese and in the far distance the snow geese that often fill that grain field. In the foreground a mule deer buck was a bit edgy about our proximity to his 8 gal harem. At one point, it seemed as though he might cross the water canal to confront us but he seemed to decide we weren’t trying to accost them and he called the girls closer and continued to graze.

It is in this area that we’ve seen a herd of javelinas. They are a most unappealing looking animal and, if one believes the rumors, as unfriendly and dangerous as they look. No sign of them today. It wasn’t until we reached the other extreme fields of the refuge that we were rewarded with the chief avian visitor from the North, the Sandhill Crane. We’ve only seen them here once before—our first X-C trip when we were here in January. By this time they have usually left for their summer homes in the Dakotas etc. Although the roads are close to the fields the animals prefer to be out of range of humans, so the size of these guys is hard to determine. When we were in Nashville last year there were a couple in the zoo. You may recall the pictures I sent of the mating ritual we observed—they are huge—at least four to five feet tall with an incredible wing span.

So many of them winter here in San Antonio that there is an annual Crane Festival in October ( Barb and I were too early on Oct 5 ) for the fly-in. I bought a new sweatshirt with the birds on it. So it was incredibly exciting to see them here again. When we went into the visitor center, a couple who was in the refuge about ten minutes before us saw three mountain lions strolling through. We missed them, but we’ll be back again and who knows what we’ll see next. Saw several road runners, too, which we haven’t seen for awhile. One was really funny—I’m surprised he didn’t jump up on the hood, he was so curious about us and almost against the car. Funny to watch. They are one of my favorites along with the adorable quail with their bobbing head dresses.

After our usual hour and a half we went back to the motel, showered, packed and headed out at 1045 in 57 degree sunny weather back across the Tularosa Basin to Carrizozo, where we made a right turn toward Tularosa. Love McGinn’s pistachio farm with huge pistachio out front—reminds me of the Wonderful pistachio commercials on TV. But our favorite shop is Heart of the Desert at Eagle Ranch. It has been here forever and we stopped in 2000 and every year that we are have been in the area. Bought a huge bag of red chile and lime and a smaller one of green chile and garlic, on which we are munching now..Also bought a dozen of their pistachio cookies and two pistachio-cranberry biscotti.

From there we headed to Johnny Carino’s for sausage skilletinis—we both love it—and being in the Southwest the green peppers are not Bells but Poblanos—a bit more picante!  Had a delicious Malbec to wash it down. As usual the serving is huge so brought home the leftovers which I ate for lunch today. Also got an Italian iceberg wedge which I ate for dinner tonight with six wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. These restaurants are all on the strip in Alamogordo where we checked in at 3, right on time. Sunny and 64 degrees—had to turn on the A/C to cool off the room. Read USA Today,watched the Mysteries of Laura, Argo, and The Americans—didn’t get to bed til midnight!!!!

Looking at the date and what we want to do, we decided to stay another night here. Up again early though not before dawn, quick shower, quick breakfast and a spin down the road past Holloman AFB, after the morning rush when the two lanes of traffic turn in formation into the base, to White Sands National Monument. Another favorite place. Never see any wildlife but the white dunes against the blue sky is just so soothing. The yucca and desert grasses take such graceful forms and cast such dramatic shadows of varying shades of gray on the blinding whiteness of the sands. It is a place where I love to play with the camera trying to get dramatic compositions of light and dark. Today we had better timing that usual. I’ve been too early in the past—the sun not high enough, though I’ve gotten a bit of pinkish tones that disappear as the sun rises. Other times, I’ve been too late, so the sun has been so high that the shadows aren’t deep enough. Today was pretty good. I think next time  I’m going to try black and white shots. Don’t know why I haven’t thought of that before.

Came back to the room and did the books, paid the bills and that’s about all—it is so time consuming and irritating but it’s done for another month. Well, that and getting the pix shared and the blog caught up. Now it is Big Bang and then Blacklist, so time to wrap it up.

Until next time, we’re thinking of you all. Ceil, loved your note and am so glad I was able to refresh your memory of Leesville etc. I think that trailer is still there, lol! Love hearing from any of you with anything you want to share or ask. For now, good night, the Two Traveling Peas

Monday, February 23, 2015

Three Days and Crazy Weather in Texas

Monday February 23, 2015 Quality Inn and Suites Room 129 Roswell, New Mexico

Left Lafayette on Thursday and since we slept in late and got on the road a bit later than usual we decided not to bother with Keller’s. Since they open at 7, we figured that by 1030-11 the bakery shelves would be pretty picked over. Also, since we set our goal as Lufkin, Texas—about 270 miles away that we would forgo the longer more scenic route through the small towns of French Louisiana and take the Interstate up to Opelousas. From there we took 190 due West through Eunice once more. I made notes of the motels available there, should we return for Mardi Gras in a future visit. Though there are no Choice brands, there is a Days Inn, a Best Western and Holiday Inn Express, so we could make reservations in advance and have a nice room. Eunice is not as popular as NOLA or Lafayette etc to the tourist, so I doubt there would be a full house in town. On we went through the Louisiana prairie land: rice paddies, grazing cattle and cotton fields being prepared for planting. Probably some cane fields, too. A young couple we met in Shucks told me that cane harvest is July and August. They said I wouldn’t want to be there when the cane was being burned nor would I want to be too close to the fields as they are harvested since the rats that have been living there come out in droves—i imagined the Pied Piper leading them out along the lawns. The fellow said that anyone who has even a small plot of land turns it into a cane field or a rice paddy.

As we reached DeRidder and West Louisiana the terrain changed and began to take on the piney woods look of East Texas. As the roads merged Bill said he was going to cut in front of this vet—I said how do you know he’s a vet, does he have a bumper sticker? He said, yup, a Nam vet and he’s black—I said how do you know THAT!!!???? Within minutes a black corvette flew by us in the passing lane. He sure got me on that one. I munched on a morning apple and some Laughing Cow wedges as we approached and then crossed the Sabine River, over an old bridge onto a Texas state road. A welcome sign or two but no welcome center so my poor tattered, stained Texas map will have to serve for a few more days.

As we passed through Jasper there was a gas war going on between two stations across the street from each other. One had gas at $1,37/g and the other had it at $1.35/g. Needless to say there were lines into and out of both stations Reminded me of the time when gas was rationed and you could only get it on certain days. I was living in Burlington and working in Swanton—took a bit of planning to make sure I had enough gas to get to work and back for several days and that I got up early enough on “my day” to get to the pump and to the Interstate in time to make school on time. Took a bit of planning and a good alarm clock for sure.

Almost didn’t recognize Zavalla, they’ve widened and paved the road and made a loop road etc. Nothing like the dirt road it was the first time we came this way,BUT the little cafe that had a poster for a lost long horn back then is still there, as is the hand carved eagle in front of the school and the post office where I chatted with the Postmaster about the cuts that were going to come to the postal system. Glad, his wasn’t one of the offices closed, though I didn’t stop to see if his hours were cut. Passed by a town that is no more, through one that is the Gateway to the Sam Rayburn Reservoir and into Lufkin for the night.

The Quality Inn in Lufkin does not serve breakfast. Instead there is a small restaurant off the lobby that has some of the best dinners, though very pricey. They wanted $28 for chicken fried steak, for example. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 28 cents for it. I’ve always said it is either a good cut of beef they’ve absolutely ruined cooking it this was or it was a lousy cut to start with. Either way, keep it—only thing that should be chicken-fried, in my humble opinion ,is chicken. I had a delicious pork chop with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli that I’m sure got steamed when I ordered it. For as good as dinner is there, the breakfast is terrible and over-priced. Since it is the only game in town we ate it and headed west once more. The day, for the most part, was gray, drizzly and windy. We passed by the locations of once upon a time towns of which there is absolutely no evidence now. Yet, since I don’t think the area has changed much, it is not hard to imagine the shops and people and churches that once stood in a big open desolate country. The towns that are still there cannot be too different—although they are there still because the railroad did not pass them by.

It isn’t hard to recognize the politics of the area—Marquez was the most blatant in their prescription for saving the country but other towns had smaller signs advocating the same strategy. Texas pride is everywhere—including a Texas map on the tailgate of the ever present pickup. While the people are very friendly and welcoming, there is no doubt that, to Texans, the center of the world, no the universe, is Texas and not New York or Paris or any other self-important place.

The King-Williams cemetery was very peaceful and beautiful. Although the historical sign says the last interment took place in 1944, there are two more recent—2004 and 2009—if I remember correctly. I would imagine it was these people who spent the money to place more durable granite markers in front of the original stones on the graves of their ancestors. When the old stones become illegible the information will still be there, reproduced on these new markers. In at least two instances, they have already served their purpose.

We stopped shortly after the cemetery to have a lunch at a picnic area—Bill had sardines and I made a ham and cheese pita. We drank V-8s and had a bowl of Dole fruit cups. Then we resumed our Westward trek through towns whose storefronts are empty and sad facing the wide red brick roads that once served a thriving community. It is so sad and the distance to a shopping center so great now, one wonders what has happened to the neighborly ambience that must have once existed. It was nice, though, in one town –a rather large one, with everything closed for Sunday, to see two young boys—brothers, I think, one around nine, the other about eleven, headed several blocks down to the park—the younger boy with his football tucked under his arm. I was so pleased to see there are still places where kids can do that with nary an adult in sight and they are safe.

Eventually, we reached more open spaces with the roller coaster roads—not really hill country but on its edge. With the change in terrain and being more westerly we had driven out of the rain and gloom into a sky filled with big white clouds floating in a deep blue sky. It was still windy and the birds were enjoying the thermals on which they could soar. Turkey vultures are everywhere –I don’t remember them as a kid—have their numbers increased through the years? Don’t know, but by the time we reached our suite in Early, I was ready to upload pictures and blog. So off Bill went to the Italian restaurant next door—Prima Pasta—while I opened the pate, dug out the club crackers and some Merlot for dinner. Unfortunately, the wi-fi was terrible so I decided to read my eBook—something I don’t really enjoy. Reading on the computer—but the book is okay. Bill surprised me with a slice of Black Forest cheesecake and all was well with the world. Ate it while watching Blue Bloods.

Saturday we moved into West Texas—like a another world in comparison to East or Central Texas. It is a huge State and it is so impressive how different each area is from the other. Here it is wide open land—grazing land but the drought has caused most ranchers to get rid of the cattle that filled the area. Oh, there are still some really huge herds that extend as far as the eye can see, but now there are lots of sheep and goats. Oh, the farmer and the cowhand are not only friends now, I think, in some instances they are one and the same. As wide open the land is, the winds blow mightily and so wind farms are huge and extend many many miles.

Since the distance between Early and Big Spring is not great we took more time driving through some of these towns and was amazed to see many streets, wide and brick paved and yet if not totally filled with empty storefronts, they still had several of what once were main streets desolate and empty. Loved the old Sinclair station, complete with the old pumps. It didn’t appear to be a museum or in any way used but certainly it was being maintained.

We have traveled this area many times before using different Farm roads and or State roads but they do crisscross so there are some places that we’ve been in before. Winters is one town that we’d not been to but had seen a historical sign on another back road in the area that told of the town and its significance as the birthplace of Rogers Hornsby. Despite our exploratory meandering we arrived in Big Spring around lunch time. We drove all through the town checking out the restaurants and decided on the Red Mesa Grill. i had a salad with little bits of chicken, too much cheese but delicious beans and pico de  gallo. Washed it down with a Dos Equis. It was good but much too much food so I didn’t finish it. Things like that don’t reheat well in a microwave so did not take it with me. Decided we’d get the gas for tomorrow and head to the motel.

We were amazed at the bundles of wood—though we’ve seen them sold at home –mostly for people with fireplaces in town. Guess that’s how it must be used here, since it doesn’t get cold enough to need lots of wood, plus, there isn’t a lot around here—lots of scrub but nothing I’d call a forest. If these bundles are like ours at Price Chopper they are about 1/128th of a cord, making the cord about $1000. Not bad for the seller.

And so off we went to the motel where we watched Patton! Good heavens.

We also started to pay attention to the weather reports calling for sleet and freezing rain the next day by 6PM and in New Mexico even earlier. Decided that we needed to get to New Mexico and Roswell before it hit.

So, yesterday, we were up before daylight and on the road by 7:30am. As we were eating breakfast the desk clerk said that when we working in another motel they  had a regular traveler who used to tip the staff with—I said, Maple syrup!—and he said yes. The little cabin shaped cans and that once you’d tasted Vt maple syrup what you got in the store just didn’t match up. I laughed and said,nope it doesn’t and we have some with us for our transplanted New England friends in New Mexico.

As I looked at the huge red sign on the top of the Hotel Settles, I thought about its history when it was the tallest building in the area—probably still is but buildings have been built up around it. In the late 19th and early 20th century it was the only place to stay for miles and the cattlemen could see it from way out on the range. It fell out of vogue in the late 20’s and 30’s and eventually closed and sat empty and vandalized for years. About ten years or so ago it was bought and refurbished and the restaurant and bar has reopened as has the hotel. We didn’t eat there but will check it out sometime.

Off we went into the cold and fog which soon changed to rain. We were once more on back roads so did not have trucks to contend with and though the Texans have speed limits of 70 and 80 we were early enough on a Sunday morning to pretty much have the roads to ourselves. We’ve learned that it is the custom here to run halfway on the shoulders to allow people to pass if they so desire and so the few times some hotshot came up behind us, we just let him/her go on their merry way.

On this particular road, which we’ve traveled before there is no indication when you’ve entered New Mexico other than the route signs which are quite distinctive and the different style of historic signs. We’ve been many times through Tatum the street signs of which are all wrought iron made by a metal shop in town—so unique and pretty.

About 35 miles outside of town I was amazed at the poor performance of the window wipers. All at once I realized the tips were iced up and the side corners of the windshield and the frame of the side view mirror was iced. Fortunately, the temperature had been in the 70’s not too many days earlier, so while the fur coats of the black angus were getting white with the ice accumulating on it, the roads were not icing up. Douglas Bristlecone’s window and mirror defroster works like a charm so in no time at all the ice was melted and the wipers were good as the new that they are.

We arrived in Roswell by 10 am, having gained an hour immediately upon crossing the Tx-NM border. We decided to kill some time at the wildlife refuge. The water was very choppy with whitecaps and the ducks were almost obscured in the swells. Only saw three geese but lots of Northern Shovelers and Mallards plus others I didn’t recognize. Got to the motel around 1130 but our room wasn’t ready and the people in it had asked for a check out extension so they wouldn’t be leaving before 130. Bill decided to go next door to the Tia Juana Cafe for a couple of beers. Since we’d just eaten at Sonic I had a Butterfinger Sonic Blast to drink so I ensconced myself in the lobby and watched Stars on Ice until the room was ready.

We also saw that the weather was going to continue messy and snowy so we extended our reservation to leave on Tuesday. Brought my little computer over to the king sized bed and read some more of my eBook and then when the time came watched Downton Abbey and Grantchester and then to sleep.

Woke up to a snowy Douglas Bristlecone. I shut the curtains, climbed into bed and read my Irish Country Doctor. Watched The Five and then spoke to Betsy. Worked on my pictures and now caught up the blog.

Going to watch NCIS La and probably go to sleep. Tomorrow I think we’ll head to Socorro since Wednesday is supposed to be beautiful and we’ll spend some time in the Bosque. After that we are thinking of doing a loop through TorC and back up through Alamogordo—but who knows—we never plan that far ahead.

At any rate, we were so amazed to see how much of Texas we have explored –there are a few places we still want to spend some time checking out—but not many. Too bad it is always so crappy when we come down that we can’t skip Texas, though we really do like it.

But for now, it is time to close and get ready to watch TV. Hope you are all well, warm and this horrible winter isn’t playing too much havoc with your lives. Take care—The Two Traveling Peas

Friday, February 20, 2015

All Around Lafayette, etc

Friday February 20, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 103 Early, Texas

On Monday the 16th, thinking that we’d missed all the Mardi Gras hoopla to be had in Lafayette and environs, we went to Wal-Mart to pick up some replacement drinks for the cooler and some laundry items to do the wash. I also picked up some gold and purple nail polishes to create Mardi Gras nails for “ the day” and also to go with the earrings I’d picked up in Eunice (where I also replenished my muscadine jelly supply). Then it was off to Shucks. Dave, one of the owners was there, so I chatted with him about the celebrations and he suggested that we head to the Cajun Dome area where the parades end and the festival is going on. The place was packed but eventually we got a table and Courtney was our waitress. She is the black girl who had the purple bow in her hair when we were there in the Fall, Barb. She is such fun—laughing and just kidding all the time—she is just such a ray of sunshine, you can’t help but feel terrific. Or, should I say, more terrific, since the food is definitely a spirit lifter. Bill had his dozen oysters on the half shell with a cup of crawfish etouffee. I had six and then fried oysters and onion rings. All washed down with constant refills of sweet tea. Since we wanted to avoid the crowds on Johnston we headed back over to New Iberia. Stopped at my favorite bookstore, Books on the Teche and picked up my next James Lee Burke, Purple Cane Road. I am so far behind!!!!! Also asked Lorraine if she had Queen Sugar in paperback since the book came out last time I was there and she’d told me the paperback would be issued soon after. She was out but said she’d have it in a couple of days and could send it to me. I asked if I could pick it up in March and she said sure. Her husband, Howard, came out of the back room and we four chatted about books, Acadiana, our trip and my visits to the bookstore.As a matter of fact, it was Howard who suggested Shucks to us. We’d been going to the Oyster Bar across the street from them and Howard said—go –to—Shucks in Abbeville. We’ve been going there ever since.

Turns out there is a bit of significance of Shucks to them—seems Howard was there with a men’s group to which he belonged. Lorraine was also there for the event as the date of one of Howard’s friends. They met that night, he called to ask her out and that was it. They’ve been married for 35 years. One daughter lives in Fl and the other in Az. She was on the phone  when I walked in and I thought I heard her mention Shucks—well, she was speaking to the girl from Az who had just flown into New Orleans with her family. The Fl girl and family was already here. They were all going out together but on Thursday—she was making the plan—everyone was going to Shucks together. Soooo, locals really do go there but we knew that from our many visits—it is almost all local folk.

Saying our goodbyes, I walked Bill into the shop next door where I bought a cherry wood roux spoon. Do not ask how much it cost—but how can I make my gumbo without an official roux spoon???

With all the driving from Lafayette to Abbeville to New Iberia and all the eating and visiting the day was pretty done. Besides the weather report said that there would be thunderstorms and high winds around 3pm so we headed back to the motel. At almost three on the dot, the heavens opened up. Bill dropped me off under the front door canopy and parked Douglas Bristlecone in the lot. We made no effort to bring anything in from the car, including my new book. It poured for hours and in the morning, Doug was so clean, all the salt and dust gone and he sparkled in the sun.

While passing through the lobby I noticed some Mardi Gras brochures for the area. We decided we’d head down to Jeanerette, south of New Iberia and more rural and see their parade and festival. I’d painted a gold stripe at the base of my nails and a sparkly purple glitter at the tips with the base coat in green. In 1872 these colors were chosen to honor Grandduke Alexis Romanoff, who was visiting during Mardi Gras and whose house colors they were. Green represents faith, purple signifies justice and gold is an emblem of power. So, with my earrings jangling once more we were off. We’d been there before since LeJeune’s bakery is there and it has been making French bread for over 100 years. We’ve enjoyed a loaf or two in the past, but it was not to be today—the bakery was closed. As a matter of fact, there was no evidence of any kind of fest. So we stopped at Robie’s market to inquire about the parade’s location. Met a wonderful man, Mr LeBlanc—who told us that he assumed, being from Vermont or Massachusetts, maybe, that we’d say Le Blank. We quickly relieved him of his lack of faith in our familiarity with French name pronunciation or lack thereof. We had a wonderful chat with him about living in Jeanerette and being a local Acadian. He also told us that the parade had been earlier than published and that the parking at the festivities would be almost impossible so late—that we'd have to walk a half mile or farther. He was more than willing to lead us out to the site, since he said the roads were confusing but knowing we didn’t want to walk so far and then walk around the fest and walk back to the car, we thanked him profusely and declined. Picked  up a small King Cake and a huge bag of long grain rice, locally grown and less than $5 !!!  The same size bag at home is costing over $15. By now it was around 1 and it was going to be a zoo in Lafayette, too. So, having no better alternative we headed out to Shucks!

Always the go to plan, when things fall through. Being the actual day, the place was really jammed—a very long wait but lots of people with whom to chat. The old man who was a submariner, the grandmother with Chloe who’ll be 2 in July and Javen who flirted with me ( around six years old) outrageously. Finally, Trish escorted us to her table. She remembered me and Barb from the Fall, when she waited on us at the window table. This time I had my six but a large bowl of crayfish etouffee which comes with the creamiest potato salad cup I’ve ever had. It was the perfect meal since, though sunny, the day was only in the high 40’s low 50’s and windy. Bill had his usual meal of a dozen and a cup. Once more the day had gotten away from us but once more we’d had a fabulous time, touring the area and chatting with the people who live there. We were scheduled to leave on Wed but decided to stay one more day—it is always hard to leave.

Even though we really didn’t experience any of the excitement of the season, except for the stop in Eunice, we do now know where things take place and what the best way is to find a good place where Douglas can be left safely and we can enjoy the fun without walking miles and miles. We will plan to return again during Mardi Gras and really see parades, a courir and, most importantly to me, listen to the music and watch the people dance to it. It was amazing that the whole atmosphere of the place was different on Ash Wednesday. Did not find a Church nearby to get to Mass, since again, the Mass times were not posted anywhere. Disappointing.

Went over to Keller’s but they were closed. Then we stopped at the New Iberia Bank and opened a checking account. Nice to have a local connection since we spend so much time here. Mme Henrietta Hollier, with her large smudge of ashes, helped us get it set up. Once more it was almost 1130 and that is when Lagnieux opens and stays open only til 1:30 so off we raced to Ridge St and oyster po’boys and sweet tea. They have a wonderfully full buffet but lots of things I’m not really fond of. It is truly a hit and while we were in the original dining room, it was easy to see why they’ve added another room. There is a market next door, theirs. Since last year someone must have thought they were in reverse and drove into the market. The damage was extensive enough that the owners took the opportunity to enlarge the restaurant rather than replace the damaged section of the market. Wise move, I’d say.

After eating we returned to the motel to pick up all the things we’d placed around the room, do the laundry and plot our departure route on the next day, when we were to head across the Sabine and into Texas.

The breakfast at the Clarion is Lafayette is very poor to say the least on a good day and non-existent on a bad one. We ate our Florida grapefruit with honey and drank their coffee, which is truly excellent. And then, it was time to leave one of our favorite places until we return on the way home in March. I will continue the blog on another entry dealing with Texas. But for now, I’m going to take a break and eat the wonderful Black Forest Cheesecake Bill just brought me from Prima Pasta the restaurant next door. Until then, hopefully, I’ve filled you in on the pictures you’ve seen from Louisiana.

Take care from the Resting Traveling Two Peas.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Louisiana and Food, Food, Food etc!

Thursday February 19.2015 Room 111 Quality Inn Lufkin, Texas

We started out Sunday by putting a bit of Tiger in Douglas Bristlecone’s tank and headed southeast out of Leesville, Louisiana towards one of our favorite places in the country—Lafayette and Acadiana Parishes. Leesville is the town adjacent to Fort Polk and the road took us right past one of the main gates and one of the huge displays that celebrate the Special Forces Ranger Airborne that are stationed there. Quite an impressive large replica of their shoulder patch. As soon as we passed the end of the fence and made the right angle turn that would take us toward the National Forest planted by the CCC, the road’s condition truly deteriorated. No Federal funds keeping the Fort approaches nice and smooth. We went through downtrodden Pitkin where only the Post Office building seemed in use. Continued through piney woods until we reached Pine Prairie. Loved the name for it is truly located between the pines and the extensive prairie land that makes up so much of this part of Louisiana. I was also enamored of a town that, in the middle of February, still had the Christmas welcome banners hanging. I am after all eating the leftover candy canes from our tree as an occasional roadway snack.

As we left town there was the sign giving the distances to the towns where Mardi Gras is celebrated with the Courir de Mardi Gras, an event I’ve always wanted to see. The prairie is devoted to three things—well, maybe four, but two of them are often combined. The first is rice paddies and it is here that another enterprise is combined with rice growing. Crawfish are raised in the fields in which the rice is grown. I need to ask someone, when we return in March, how it is decided which fields are flooded for rice and which are left dry. The other two enterprises are cattle and cane. We certainly saw many grazing cattle but it is just a tiny bit early for cane.

We arrived in Eunice and for several miles encountered rather thick fog, for no apparent reason. But, by the time we were in the center of town it was evident that Mardi Gras celebrations had begun. We parked and walked over to the two main streets. We recognized the statue of the namesake for the town from a prior drive through several years ago when we were returning home from Texas through Louisiana. We had gone to two museums—the Acadian cultural branch dealing with the prairie life—and the smaller but equally interesting Cajun Music Museum, right across the road from this four corners intersection. There were two Cajun bands playing at either end of the right angle that is formed by the streets. People were dancing the Cajun two step and the Cajun waltz. I posted a video on my Facebook page showing the dancing and the audio includes the Cajun music. I love the dances and music and it is what I most love about the area. Of course, there is also the food and while enjoying the scene we ate some delicious jambalaya. It was around noon that we arrived and we stayed until 130ish but the children's’ parade was scheduled for 3, since it was Sunday and school would be open tomorrow,

We left and headed through Crowley, the largest town in the immediate area. Being Sunday everything was quiet and empty. Crowley is the center of the Louisiana rice industry and it is from this crop that the town’s affluence comes. Even the movie theatre is called the Rice, although it is now used as a meeting hall. We continued to Abbeville, fully anticipating filling our bellies with oysters in all forms. Aw Shucks, Shucks was closed. We figured Lagnieux would also be closed so we settled for Logans and chops and shelled peanuts, throwing the shells on the floor. I remember when the Tower in South Burlington had peanuts and you threw the shells on the floor, I simply could NOT do it. Now, I just love making a mess for someone to clean up—well, only in this situation, where it is expected and, therefore, allowed.

As we proceeded up Johnston St, where our barkeep said a parade was to occur, the barriers were in place and the surrounding trees were festooned with beads, so we assumed the parade was over. So we continued to the motel, checked in for the night and watched TV. It was wonderful to see the beautiful magnolia trees in bloom. Away from snow and cold at last.

I will need to continue the blog sometime tomorrow, since The Blacklist and Elementary are coming on. Actually, since Elementary will be over by 10 CST, I will try to continue then.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hot in Louisiana

Saturday February 14, 2015 Suite 207 Comfort Suites Leesville,Louisiana

Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. We left Natchez before 9am today and the temperature was in the 50’s and sunny.  Warmest start of the day yet. Last night when we arrived there was an adorable young cat in front of our door. She meowed sweetly and ran over to be pet. She rolled to have her tummy rubbed and I just fell in love. If I could have figured out how to take her on our trip—after taking her to a vet for a thorough check, bath and de-flea-ing and shots. Nothing came to mind and she wasn’t there to greet us this morning so that problem was solved. While the two outside our door this morning were also pretty, they were definitely feral and had no desire to be touched. As a matter of fact, they ran if we moved close at all. So the Natchez kitties will remain Belles of the Evening.

I had not noticed last night but this morning discovered that there were no towels in our room . There was one on the rack near the sink and I used it to wash up before bed. Come to find out, it was the only towel in the room. Bill went to the desk and the girl gave him two and said these small ones were all she had. Well, she gave him two bath mats!!!! I called the desk and requested two sets of towels and wash clothes. Fifteen minutes later we still did not have them, so Bill went back. She then went to a room two doors down from us, where it appeared her husband was staying and got the towels from that room. They were clean but what a strange situation. Next time we stay at the lovely hotel in Vidalia that you can see from the Mississippi River bridge. The riverboat is a casino on the Natchez side.

We made our way to Ferriday and the Delta Music Museum and after reading about the three famous cousins and admiring the checkerboard stars of Ferriday music, we discovered that the museum itself is closed on Sat and Sun. Too bad, I’ve wanted to buy the book about Louisiana rocks and the one about the cousins. Among other famous facts about Jerry Lee’s song Great Balls of Fire, my record was shattered into a zillion parts by my father who did not want me listening to that filth. In my innocence, I had no idea why it upset him so much. Needless to say, there was no more Jerry Lee music in my house!

So off we went doing our favorite thing—back roads and small towns—agricultural fields and pecan plantations.

At one point we pulled over to watch the acrobatics of a lovely yellow spray plane. There are a battery of jets on the underside of each wing and as he flies low over the fields they are blanketed in whatever insecticide he is using.

At one large pecan orchard the farmer was multitasking his land—grazing his cattle beneath the trees. A pretty bucolic scene.

It always amazes me when I find that someone like Jay Gould should ever have built a mill in this tiny place buried in rural Louisiana.

It is fun to see a town, the main street of which is only about the third of the length of Fairlee’s main street, find the need for three traffic lights—one at each intersection and Fairlee has none. And what Indians were building mounds in 200AD in a small area where a town with one of the prettiest cemeteries sits now.

Eventually we arrived at the Cane River and the Heritage area along it. By the time we arrived around 11 am the temperature had risen to 74 degrees and my light weight hoodie with the long sleeves caused me to get very overheated while walking among the old buildings. When we returned to the car, I got out my cold water and changed into a lighter weight blouse. The uneven ground also irritated this “pump bump”, a real medical term for it, and my Achilles tendon was killing me. I haven’t worn pumps in over 15 years and the tendon started to bother me on the way home in the Fall. Since then the bump has formed and now it hurts more than ever. I hope it isn’t going to be a problem on this trip. I decided to see the doctor when I got home but I may have misjudged the condition. I’ll try icing it and hope it helps.

At any rate, between the heat to which I am not yet acclimated and the heel, I decided not to tour Melrose or the other National site, Oakland. We will have to return either on the way home or next trip. We sought out more and, may I say some of the worst conditioned, roads running through the piney woods until we reached Leesville and our suite. We are near Ft Polk and there are several groups of young men off base going to party tonight—at least so they said as they rode the elevator with us. So far they’ve been pretty quiet.

In closing, I apologize for the duplication of some pictures tonight. I uploaded twice and each time the pictures of Magnolia Plantation did not appear in the album. So I uploaded those pictures as additions to the album and lo and behold, there are now two sets of them. I give up. Going to go and enjoy my chocolates that Bill gave me for Valentine’s and I shall share with him.

Don’t know where we are headed tomorrow other than farther south since icy rain and sleet are predicted here within a couple of days. Such crazy weather this year. Bill has said he’d like to back track to Lafayette since we have two months. Of course, at least one week is gone already. But I love Lafayette, too and though we’ll probably go there on the way home, it is fine if we spend a few days there now, too. I do want to spend several days in the Fredericksburg Texas area on the way home. Just as long as we have time in Arizona and New Mexico. I wish he’d spend more time in California but he has some sort of disinterest—personally, I think it has to do with money—he can be cheap at times—well, frugal, is a nicer term, I guess. he always says we don’t have enough time and we have to make sure not to run out of money. Strange, but maybe Barb and I can make another trip sometime..

For now, time to close—hoping you are all weathering those North East storms and cold okay. It sounds really awful listening to the reports on the local stations here.

Good Night,The Two Traveling Peas

Friday, February 13, 2015

Natchez, 55 degrees and Daffodils


Friday February 13, 2015 Room 108 Quality Inn Natchez, Mississippi

Back onto the Trace in Tupelo on a beautiful sunny day that started out at a nippy 31 degrees. It didn’t take long to warm up into the 40’s and the A/C as usual came on to keep us cool in our traveling greenhouse.  This Parkway is truly a 441 mile park. The trees are so different throughout its length and one never knows what we’ll see for animals. Lots of hawks sitting on the ends of bare limbs surveying open fields for anything that moves, a few deer, a opossum , turkeys, crows, buzzards. A bit more traffic today especially around Jackson. As you ride along the Trace you feel so far away from main roads, towns and houses but in actuality, all those things, in most places, are just beyond the tree line.

We reached the site of an April 2011 tornado and once more we are overwhelmed by the destruction these twisters can cause and the size of the area that is damaged—here it is 5-7 miles along the length of our road and at least a half mile across. Just unbelievable.

Bill and I have never stopped at French Camp but Barb and I did on our way home last Fall so I wanted Bill to have lunch there. My red-haired Ryan waited on us once more and once more declined being adopted by me, since I live in what he calls Tundra Territory!  LOL He enjoyed meeting Bill and chatting and laughing with him. Bill had chili which smelled delicious and he said it was; I had the Big Willie once more. The thing is huge and I will not eat anything else today. It and a big glass of sweet tea is enough food for one 12 hour day, thank you.

I don’t know how I managed not to fall asleep with such a full tummy and in the sultry heat of the car. But manage I did. Unfortunately the sun was shining on the windshield in such a way that a film on the glass made my pictures hazy and/or dark. Basically, what I was recording was the lovely skeletons of the trees, the ever increasing Spanish moss as we traveled South and, 47 miles north of Natchez a wonderful cluster of wild daffodils in full bloom. The fields were purple with low growing flowers and in other places little blue and little white flowers were in bloom. Spring has arrived in Mississippi. As a matter of fact, a farmer was plowing his fields in Kentucky as we left Bowling Green. All along the road the red buds are in early bloom also and the temperature rose into the 50’s.

By the time we checked into the motel at 330CST the temperature had reached 55 degrees. We’re loving it!  Wanted to stay in the Comfort Inn which is on the levee overlooking the Mississippi in Vidalia, La, right across the river, but just could not justify $105 a night when we have a lovely room for $58. If we were staying for any time in the area, so that we would use the living room etc, we’d reconsider—or if we’d arrived on Valentine’s Day itself, maybe. We come this way often enough, we might yet splurge—I’d love a room overlooking the Mighty Big Muddy.

For now, I must look at the map of Louisiana—we are reaching the Cane River historical District and Faraday—the home of Jerry Lee Lewis and his famous cousins. Must check out the Delta Music Museum.  Lots of good stuff.

Good God, they are predicting snow here next week—no way!!!! Grrr, until tomorrow—hugs from the Two Traveling Peas!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cold in the South, Too!


Thursday February 12,2015 Room 102 Quality Inn Tupelo, Mississippi

Up early this morning and out into the windy cold 28 cloudy day with snow spitting everywhere. So disappointing after yesterday’s beauty. Had snow all the way to Nashville and the Batman Building, though it didn’t accumulate on the roads. The wind made it a little hairy with the wind causing the tractor trailers to weave back and forth more than I’d like. It was a relief to get off I 65 at Old Hickory Blvd and head out to the Natchez Trace. Love the mansions along the way and the wishful thinking of one owner with the three rubberized snowmen. Maybe it was relief that they only had to use inflatables instead of having to deal with the real stuff?

The Trace looks very different than its Fall foliage color or its profusion of early spring flowers, including the fields of wild daffodils. Still, it is nice to ride a peaceful no traffic road through three States. By the time we reached Fall Hallow and our lunch stop the temperature had risen to 33 degrees but it was a raw cold. We ate in the car with the window cracked to listen to the stepped falls off to the side. Not much water flowing but enough to create that soothing water sound. We took a bit of a stroll to stretch our legs and then continued southward.

By the time we reached Mississippi the sun had broken through and the temperature rose to 42 degrees. With the sun roof uncovered and the sun beating through the windows it was like riding in a greenhouse and I happened to look down to see that the automatic heating system had switched to A/C to maintain the 73 degrees that we find comfortable.  Liking that sunroof!

Arrived in Tupelo around 330ish—we are in Central Time as we were last night, too. It changes somewhere in Central Kentucky. Watched The Five—which is on at four here—then went to Longhorn for dinner—nice little 6oz sirloin, baked sweet potato and a glass of Malbec. Wouldn’t you know that here they show Jeopardy before Wheel ( unlike the past three days when it has been reversed) so I missed tonight’s edition.   :(

Tomorrow we reach Natchez and then return to the Cane River Historical district that we didn’t explore two years ago. I’ve wanted to return ever since. Hope things are open and that it is a bit warmer to walk around. Well, must run, I’m missing The Blacklist—until tomorrow—take care.

The Two Traveling Peas!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kentucky Warmth


Wednesday February 11, 2015 Room 306 Sleep Inn Bowling Green, Ky

Had the worst time sleeping last night in Cincinnati. The room was much smaller than they’ve been and, though I turned the heat off, the fan kept turning on and off all night with a light that also flashed. The room was uncomfortably warm and I slept with only a sheet covering me. I guess I did doze off at times, since Bill said whenever he got up I was snoring. But I do snore and hear myself when I’m awake—at any rate, I turned the light off at 11 and saw the clock at 1, 3 and 5 before finally sleeping until 730. If I slept it was certainly sporadic.

Still we were on the road headed to Cincinnati proper before 9 am. It is so hard to get a good shot of the Reds Ballpark or the Bengals stadium but there they are, right next to the road, heavy with city traffic. I love the American Insurance Company building, probably because Mom worked for them on Maiden Lane in the financial district. She worked on the old insurance maps, which I never kept copies of and which are now considered pieces of art work and hang in the Museum in Windsor. I also like going round and down to the bridge crossing the Ohio and the winding climbing hill into Covington, Ky. One of my favorite places but not one in which I would like to do the driving.

We continued along under buttermilk skies toward Louisville and Bardstown—the bourbon center of the state and beautiful horse country when not on the Interstate.  Just before Louisville there is a loop that goes around the city center and connects to I 65 which goes all the way into Alabama. This is one of two loops that make perfect sense—the other is the one that bypasses Cleveland. And Columbus is the smartest city in the country with its express lanes that avoid all the exits into the city. Just makes life so much easier driving in large metro areas.

Once we were on I 65 headed south toward Bowling Green the skies cleared more and more and the temperature rose higher and higher. By the time we left the tractor trailer convoys behind and drove into Smokey Pig’s lot on Louisville Road, the sky was cloudless, I’d uncovered the moon roof and the temperature reached 51 degrees with full sunshine and snowless ground. It almost feels tropical and my eyes teared in an effort to adjust to the unfamiliar glare of sun. I can handle the discomfit—pass the sunglasses, please!

Smokey Pig—what a delight—BBQ sauce running down my chin and all over my fingers. Delicious ribs and the best mayo slaw in the world and baked beans to die for. AND, sweet tea that causes an immediate insulin rush. This season they’ve added pie—had to have a slice for TV watching tonight.

Checked into the Sleep Inn and with an upgrade to a Jacuzzi suite, we were glad to have stopped by 230. Barb and I stayed here in the Fall, had a regular two queen room and paid almost $100. This room is costing us $73 !!! And though the view is rather commercial from our room, it is bathed in that heavenly sunlight, with a light breeze and blue skies and temps in the ‘50’s.  Did I already mention that, LOL?

Oh, saw an Allied Vans, an Atlas Vans and this other moving outfit today. So I guess Allied is still around and others have shown up. I’d forgotten about Atlas. But one of the major businesses running these roads is FED-EX and what, exactly, is the difference between Ground and Freight?

Lastly, I happened to notice on Snapfish today that Jane asked a couple of questions. I missed them earlier—wasn’t ignoring you, Jane. Betsy is at the house and taking care of our only pet that is left, Attila the Hon(ey). Also, we’d gotten from Saratoga to Batavia—almost to Buffalo last Thursday. But on Friday, after going only about 25 miles we stopped due to snow and remained, still East of Buffalo, in Williamsville until Monday morning. The snow stopped within two hours of our stopping and, if we’d stopped at a restaurant and waited a few hours instead, we probably would have gotten to Ohio. Having stopped, however, we got hit with snow on Sat and there was sleet and freezing rain on Sunday along the route we planned to take. On Monday, in spitting snow, we decided to get to Pa—not far, but beyond the snow mass and on Tuesday,which was predicted to be clear and was more or less, we made it to Cincinnati. Totally out of snow danger now. We are just north of Nashville now and will be in Tupelo, Ms tomorrow night.

Well, must run, The Five is on and I’m missing the Jon Stewart segment. So, I’m off. Until tomorrow and more sun and fun, we are the Two Traveling Peas, signing off. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snowless Ohio

Tuesday February 10,2015 Room 121 Comfort Inn Cincinnati, Ohio

Boy, our rhythm has been so disrupted by the snow and our lengthy stay in New York. Usually we leave Barb’s in the morning, stop the first night in Batavia and the second night in Cincinnati. By going only 25 miles or so past Batavia and then going only as far as Erie, Pa yesterday we are going fewer miles and stopping earlier than usual. What we would have covered in one day we’ve spread over three days of driving. As a result we stopped today at 2 pm, much too early in my estimate.

On the plus side, however, we had sun, weak though it was most of the time, for today’s drive and by the time we left Columbus behind we were pleased to see snow diminishing by the mile. Here the sun is out strongly, the temperature is 31 degrees instead of 19 or lower and the snow is all gone. This part of the trip isn’t particularly interesting anymore, we’ve driven it so frequently. I fell asleep after Cleveland and slept almost all the way to Columbus. Didn’t miss much. Biggest “HA” moment was seeing a car carrier truck, the cab of which said it was from South Glens Falls, New York!!

Saw a big orange rig without any markings and it made me think about Allied Van Lines and Mayflower Van Lines. I haven’t seen their trucks in years---have they gone out of business? Don’t people move anymore or do they just leave stuff behind and buy new when they relocate?  Is everyone driving Ryder or other rentals with their belongings?  I wish there were some requirement for a truck driving training before these drivers can rent those big rigs. So many of them are so far over their heads so far as driving ability of such vehicles is concerned. They are scarier than the big rigs.

Well, since we are in so early I guess I’ll get the paper read and part of my book before NCIS etc. Tomorrow we should be back to the old routine and have BBQ at Smoky Pig in Bowling Green and maybe stay there or Nashville before heading down the Trace and the real South. We’re ready, that’s for sure.  Kind of worried, haven’t heard from Bets since Sat. Think I’ll give her a call now.

For the rest, keep warm and take care!

The Two Traveling Peas

Monday, February 9, 2015

Buffalo in the Rear View Mirror

Monday February 9,2015  Room 142 Comfort Inn Erie, Pennsylvania

FINALLY, we are out of New York State. It was snowing fairly heavily when we awoke this morning in Williamsville but we decided to head down to breakfast and see if things settled down a bit after the rush hour. By 930 the snow had stopped and, though the day was very gray, we decided to try to get at least to Erie, Pa. I went online and reserved a room, since there were few left and we didn’t want to get here with no room at the inn.

The road, once we got on the Thruway was clear. They don’t stint on salt in NYS so the way was wet but not slushy or icy. Within minutes we paid the toll and were on our way toward Pennsylvania along the Eastern shore of Lake Ontario and eventually the shore of Lake Erie. Both of them are far enough west of the highway that they aren’t visible. There is a high point where Lake Erie is usually visible momentarily but the day was so overcast that it was impossible to distinguish it on the horizon.

Getting through Buffalo was very easy since we were well past rush hour and it was not yet lunch time so the traffic was  practically non-existent. Of course, there were plenty of tractor trailers but with a fairly clear roadway they didn’t present much of a problem.  The sun did peek out twice for a fraction of a second but that was enough to lift our spirits and make us believe that tomorrow may be even better, weather-wise. Had we realized travelling was going to go so well we probably would have aimed to make Cleveland today but the reservation was made and so we stopped after 101.5 miles and only a couple of hours. It did allow us a nice leisurely lunch at Applebee’s before checking in. The girl on the desk upgraded us to a lovely Jacuzzi suite which is poolside. I love the balcony outside our room and direct access to the pool, although we are not using it, but enjoy the view, which is quite tropical spa-like. That, in itself, makes the reality of the city with the most snowfall of any so far this winter, seem far away. The snow piles are huge and the sidewalks are paths through walls of snow. The cost of gas is quite pleasant --$1.94 a gallon. Almost feels like the days of my youth—loll

All in all, a good day—we are out of New York, we have another beautiful, comfortable room and with luck we’ll be heading south tomorrow. It is terrific to be on the road once more. Until tomorrow night, take care, stay warm and drive safely. Good night from the Traveling Peas.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Depressing Snow Delay


Friday February 6,2015 Room 128 Clarion Hotel Williamsville, New York

Bill asked me last night if we could be on the road by 8am so that we’d make Cincinnati by early evening—at least around 430 ish. So I got up at 630, was in the breakfast room by 7 and got the car packed and on the road by 745. It was snowing, though the weather report had said this would be a good driving day with clear skies. The interstate wasn’t too bad initially although it had not been salted. Soon, however, the wind caused several white outs and several times we had to pump our brakes because of inexplicable braking by the cars in front of us. We continued on in ever worsening conditions.

As we approached the Depew exit I saw that there was both a Clarion and an Econolodge. I told Bill I was getting really sick to my stomach and didn’t know if the tension was worth it. He agreed. At the exit ramp, as we got in the right lane leading into it, the traffic came to a standstill and the cars entering the Thruway were backing up as well. We pulled into the Clarion and were relieved to find that we could go into a room immediately and we were also invited to partake of their breakfast since it was still being offered until 10. We had gone around 25 miles in an hour or so. You can see the traffic on the Thruway in the background of Bill’s bringing luggage into the lobby. The overpass is the actual Thruway headed into Buffalo.

This is a lovely hotel and because we are Diamond Elites the desk clerk gave us the $80 room for $69! We got everything into the room, went down and had a coffee and sausage biscuit. Within the hour the sun came out!!!!! So depressing!  But the wind did continue and it was very cold. Though totally bummed and very tired, I think we did the right thing. The only problem is that snow is predicted for the whole weekend, with the worst being on Sunday into Monday. So at this point it may be that our first prolonged stay may be five miles east of Buffalo!!! Oh, well, there is a terrific swimming pool and hot tub as well as an exercise room. Neither of which we used today but if we are here for days we might as well treat it as a spa weekend.

Will let you know how it goes tomorrow. Until then, stay warm and drive safely—we are trying to do both of those things. Later the Two Traveling Peas.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Our Way, At Last


Thursday February 5, 2015 Comfort Inn room 105 Batavia New York

Left Post Mills at 730 am yesterday and headed to our first stop, the traditional brunch at Barb’s house in Saratoga Springs. Said goodbye to Attila the Hon, for whom  we delayed our departure. He was to have his rabies and distemper shots on Monday but a snow storm required a reschedule until Tuesday. Took some shots of the driveway and house to compare to what, I hope, will be a snow free yard in April!  Ha!! Also took a shot of our Evergreen Toyota Corolla,which is heading out on its first, but hopefully not its last, cross country trip.

The roads were terrible, particularly Killington, where we became trapped behind a New York driver who was afraid to pull into the slow lane, which was hardly plowed. He drove from the base of Killington on the East all the way up and over to a road just before the Rutland line. As a result, what is usually a three hour drive turned into a four hour drive. As a result, we knew that once we ate brunch we would not make Batavia, so we stayed the night. It actually turned out to be a nice visit, Barb and I sharing our new computers—she has a new 17.5 inch HP laptop and I have this baby Dell. Also, Bill cooked Nepali food, which we all love, for dinner. Got to chat with my nephew, too.

After a cholesterol free bacon sausage,buttered English muffin, coffee breakfast we headed out at 1015 this morning and for the most part had a beautiful drive to Batavia. The roads were totally dry, the skies blue and sunny and the winds easily handled. We did have a couple of snow squalls, around the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge but the roads were heavily salted so though the temperatures never went above 13 degrees Fahrenheit, the wet roads did not freeze. We made excellent time and were checked into our hotel by 230. Headed over to Applebee's for early dinner so that we would be able to watch The Five and get this subfreezing room warm by prime time TV. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear as well so we are hoping to reach Cincinnati which is almost south.

The drive gave me time to study one of the three manuals that came with the car. We also arrived at the new name for the car. Since the color is called Evergreen by Toyota, we decided the car needed to be named after evergreen trees. His name is Douglas (fir) Bristlecone (pine). Even sounds Native American. A win-win, as they say in every situation these days.

Until tomorrow—good night from the Traveling Two Peas.