grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, November 17, 2007

13NOV07 - Houma, LA (please buy this house!)

Today we woke up to dense fog and very poor visibility (welcome to Louisiana). But being in an RV meant we didn’t have to leave immediately, so we waited for the fog to lift. The drive east on I-10 was uneventful. But when we turned off on to old US 90 at Lafayette to head toward Houma things did not go as well. First, getting through Lafayette is always an adventure even in the best of times, in an RV it is even more fun! US 90 runs right through the heart of Lafayette and has three very narrow lanes with a speed limit of 35, and numerous traffic lights. Everyone tries to drive 45 or faster, and tries to get ahead of the next guy by passing on the left and right. Throw into this mix numerous semis carrying large oilfield machinery, and you see why we enjoy it so much. We have learned long ago to just get into the middle lane and be patient.

After clearing Lafayette we had another pleasant driving experience. Everything was going well when all of a sudden we slowed to 20 mph behind a two mile line of traffic. Turns out that someone was moving a house down the freeway with a LSP escort, and there was absolutely no way to get around the moving roadblock! After twenty minutes of this the entire procession came to a complete stop and we sat there for many minutes not moving. Turns out someone forgot to measure the airgap under the house and they were hung-up on a guard rail! Finally Dan got a Louisiana map out and went up to a trucker to ask where we were on the map and if there was an alternative route? First driver asked did not speak English (Espanola); second driver was from Louisiana but had no idea where we were on the map; third driver was the charm. Luckily the RV was right next to a paved cross over, so we made a U-turn, back tracked three miles, drove five miles north out of our way, got on LA highway 182, drove through New Iberia and reconnected to US 90 east and made it home.

We are now parked in our driveway of our vacant house which has not sold in four months on the market. So if you know anyone in the market for a nice house in the bayou, send them our way. Anyway, we will be here at least for the holidays with the kids. And Rebecca is engaged to Raymond Pitre, and we are discussing wedding plans. So there probably will not be much in the way of new entries on the blog, but keep checking because we will be making small trips and will be back on the road by the spring at the latest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

12NOV07 - Lake Charles, LA

Today we continued east toward Louisiana and after an hour on the road we began our transit through the metropolis of Houston! Houston is probably second to Los Angeles in the nation for the number of freeways going through and around the city! You’ve got I-10, I-45, beltway I-610, beltway 8, US 59, US 90, and others. On top of this there seems to be never ending construction at the major intersection of these highways. Thankfully we made it through at least three major construction areas with small delays and no scrapes. The only problem was northeast of Houston when we stopped to refuel both vehicles. One driver successfully negotiated the standard Texas u-turn to get back on the highway, only to see the other driver stuck in the wrong lane with no hope of getting on the freeway. Thanks to cell phones the convoy was back together within ten minutes.

Back in Louisiana we decided to stay in a RV spot at the Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles. You only get electricity but the cost is only $10, which gets you access to the health club, showers, pool and daily paper. Before we tried the casino it was off to our favorite Lake Charles restaurant Steamboat Bills. Turns out they were named one of the top ten restaurants to exit the highway for by USA Today in May of 2006. (In fact two of the ten establishments noted were in Louisiana. The second was Prejeans outside Lafayette. We highly recommend their eggplant pirogue!) Bills boiled crawfish were voted best in Lake Charles ten years in a row. Unfortunately it is still too early for crawfish, so we settled for oyster poboy and red beans and rice.

11NOV07 - Columbus, TX

Today we departed Sharon and Tim’s to begin the drive back to our empty house in Houma, LA. We have decided to be in close proximity to the kids at least for the holidays. Normally when we make this trip we head due east on 290, through Austin, and then try to skirt north of Houston, doing the drive in two days. This makes for two extremely long driving days and kinda defeats the purpose of relaxed RV’ing. So we decided to take three days to make the trip, with no portion longer than four hours, or about 240 miles. We also decided to change our route to take us southeast until we connect with I-10 east leading to Houston, a city we dread driving through with an RV. Another factor in our decision was that Corrie had to drive the Benz back from Kerrville to Houma. We had hoped to sell it before the RV adventure began, but it didn't happen. So now are taking it back to Louisiana to clean it once again, and hopefully sell it.

Anyway our first overnight was in the town of Columbus, TX, about one hour west of Houston right on I-10. Columbus is a pretty typical small Texas town that had a brief spell of prominence based on cattle and the arrival of the railroad. And as was also somewhat typical the new cattle barons decided to show their “class” by building a very large and ornate Opera House. What is unusual about the Stafford Opera House funded by Robert Stafford, was that Mr Stafford had the entertainment portion of the building located entirely on the second floor so that the first floor could be devoted to businesses like his bank, thereby guaranteeing a positive cash flow. He also had his house build next door with a special window in his bedroom that allowed him to watch the show in the Opera House from the comfort of his own bedroom.

Trivia – The first district court in 1837 was presided over by Robert McAlpin Williamson, why was he called Three-Legged Willie? (remember this is a family show)

Monday, November 12, 2007

06-10NOV07 - Kerrville, TX

For the last four nights we have been staying at Sharon and Tim Tompkins (Dan’s sister and husband) because we took the RV into Freightliner of San Antonio for a check-up and routine maintenance. After the major repairs done last August in Minot, ND, we felt that after four thousand miles it would bring some peace of mind if the repairs were checked by another service facility. Since we are living in the RV, having a place to stay while the RV sits at the service facility is needed.

Getting your RV service while you live in it is probably the biggest headache of full time RV’ing. RV dealerships that sell RVs are not really equipped or staffed to service the complicated engine, transmissions or chassis. Unlike cars or trucks, most RV manufacturers do not make their own chassis with engines and transmissions, they buy them from third parties. That means that a seller of RVs could be faced with having mechanics certified for Ford and GMC gas engines; not to mention Cummins, Caterpillar or Detroit diesel engines; and the list grows when you throw in transmissions or chassis. So for other than routine maintenance, you need to find a truck facility that is certified to service your chassis, engine and transmission.

Anyway, after four days we finally got the RV back hopefully with a clean bill of health. While we waited, we had a very enjoyable time as house guests at Sharon and Tim’s. It was a nice extended family visit that included Dan Sr. Sharon and Corrie prepared delicious meals, and Dan even contributed by BBQ’ing a brisket.

While there Sharon showed us Xerox letters and newspaper articles dealing with Dan’s great aunts Helen Ryan, Marie Ryan and Marie’s husband Olda. Turns out Olda, who was Czech was conscripted into the Czar’s army during WWI and was in Russia for the Revolution. Once Olda realized what was happening, he removed his Russian uniform and ended up being an interpreter for the French embassy (Olda spoke six languages fluently). After surviving WWI and the Russian Revolution, Olda ended up back in Czechoslovakia selling a light weight machine gun that the British turned into the BREN. From then until WWII Olda traveled the world as an arms dealer, spending most of the time in the Orient. Meanwhile, the Ryan sisters Marie and Helen did something very rare for their time, they took extended trips from Seattle to Asia as single women. We won’t bore you with all the details, but Maria traveled much more than Helen and eventually met Olda and married him. It was fascinating to read everyday letters detailing the worsening world situation in Asia leading up to WWII. In fact the tone of the letters is that its just an inconvenience that shipping schedules mean nothing since the Japanese have invaded China and they wait in Hong Kong to get out. Truly amazing reading.

The end result was because of the delay waiting for servicing we were in town for Dave and Shelley’s wedding at “Backdoor Pottery and Botanical Gardens”. (see blog entry before this one if you are not familiar with Dave’s establishment). The four of us attended the event. The two story green house was decorated for the ceremony, and it was lovely ceremony. But Dave being a good businessman, did not have an open bar.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

01-05NOV07 - Kerrville, TX

The last week has been very relaxing, not doing much other than a little relaxed sightseeing. Plus the weather has been fantastic, low 80s during the day and high 50s at night.

One day we traveled to Medina, TX, with Dan’s sister, Sharon. Medina is very proud of their local apple orchards; they claim that their unique micro climate produces the best apples in USA! We had lunch at Love Creek Orchards, where they cook a pretty good hamburger. We also sampled their cider, soft apple ice cream and of course their apple pie. The ice cream was a definite hit, but the pie was so-so being made with sweet red apples rather that tart green apples.

On the return from Medina we stopped at combination general store and post office called Camp Verde. Turns out this was the site where the US Army experimented with camels as pack animals for about a dozen years. Although the building is over a hundred years old, it is not the original business that developed to support the Army workers and soldiers involved in the experiment. People still drive in from the farms and ranches to pick up their mail (and socialize).

On another day we met Sharon and Tim in Kerrville to take in the annual Texas Furniture Maker Exhibition. This annual event is a juried show (ie invitations only). The furniture entered was truly beautiful, often bordering on art. Of course the price tags reflected the beauty of the pieces. It was interesting to note that all the craftsmen stressed the use of natural Texas woods; and if exotic woods were used, they were from sustainable forests.

From there we traveled to Dave’s in Center Point. Sharon and Tim know our interest in unique/eccentric establishments, and feel Dave’s fits the bill. The official name of Dave’s is “Backdoor Pottery and Botanical Gardens.” Thirty years or so ago Dave started throwing pottery and has since become well known for his pottery. Meanwhile he has kept adding on to his business so that it now includes: two story green house with a mid level balcony; hundreds of exotic birds (parrots, parakeets, macaws, etc); bar-b-que; game rooms; several decks overlooking the Guadalupe River; and a bar. In our opinion Dave’s is unique and eccentric. And if you happen to be in town on the 10th of November at 7PM, then drop on by Dave’s for his wedding to Shelley. That’s right, Dave is getting married in his establishment and has extended an open invitation to everyone!