grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

26-31DEC13 Houma, LA (happy new year!!!)

For the last week of the year not much happened as we awaited the New Year.  One “event” that did happen was our first crawfish dinner of the season on Friday, 27DEC.  We met everyone (Joe, Tasha, Rebecca, Raymond, Jaxson & Mason) at the restaurant & enjoyed cajun spiced, boiled crawfish.
Monday & Tuesday (30/31DEC) not much was done, other than trying to unplug Rebecca & Raymond’s sewage using a rental power snake.  Thankfully Raymond did all the hard work, since it was cold & wet out.  Not sure if we got the entire blockage, but system definitely flows faster & better.
Age is definitely catching up to us, as shown by this year's New Year’s eve!  The kids (Rebecca, Raymond, Joe, Tasha, & grandkids) headed out to a friends house for BBQ & fireworks, leaving us to celebrate by ourselves.  We didn’t make it past 10:30PM!
2013 wasn’t a “bad” year, but we’ve seen better.  First the year started with Dan just released from the hospital, & undergoing rehabilitation for two months.  Then at the end of the year, Dan’s youngest brother (Gary) passed away.  The birth of our second grandchild, Mason Ryan Pitre, was the highpoint of the year!
As the Dutch say – GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR!!!  De beste websen voor 2014!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

05-25DEC13 - Houma, LA (merry xmas!!!)

Thursday morning, 05DEC, we hit the road back to Houma, LA to beat the cold front/ice storm that the weather forecasters have been talking about for almost a week. Originally we were going to head west & south to stop in Vicksburg, MS, & spend the night. But since the cold front was coming from the west, we decided to head due south & spend the night in Philadelphia, MS; staying at Frog Level RV where we stayed back in 15NOV12.

Friday morning we started driving to Houma, LA, after hooking up in the rain as the predicted cold front had finally caught up to us. Our window defroster had a hard time keeping up. Earlier this year we noted that our dash AC was not working. We arrived back in Houma to 80 degree temps & more rain, but an hour after arrival the cold front came thru & the temperature dropped 30 degrees!
Sunday evening, 08DEC, Tasha & Joe had a family dinner for her grandma, mother, two aunts, three friends w/two kids, Rebecca & Raymond w/two more kids, & us. Very enjoyable time, with family reminiscing thrown in. Monday, 09DEC, we helped decorate Rebecca, Raymond, Jaxson & Mason’s xmas tree. While doing this, Dan discovered that a special ornament was made for him last year when he fell off roof & spent week in hospital at Ocshner.
Wednesday, 11DEC, took the RV into a local garage for hopefully minor repairs to dash AC system so the window defroster system would work. Turns out that a seal in the AC compressor was bad. We then learned that our after market insurance does not cover seals & gaskets. Since we need the system to work, we made an appointment for the repair. If some sort of “mechanical” damage is found during the repair that caused the seal failure, we will be reimbursed by our after market insurance.

Thursday evening we along with Rebecca, Jaxson & Mason headed into New Orleans for “Celebration in the Oaks”. This is an annual Xmas light display in New Orleans’ City Park. We had visited once many years ago. Back then there were two parts. One part was large light displays that you could view from your car. The other part was vendors & smaller displays that you could walk thru. Apparently someone woke up to the fact that most families only paid to drive thru & skipped the walk thru section (ie money was being lost).

Now both displays are combined & there is no drive thru. End result is you have to walk through the displays & past many vendors selling food, drink, toys & pictures w/Santa. As adults without kids, we prefer the drive thru. But the children definitely prefer walking thru the displays, especially those they could play on!

Tuesday, 17DEC, we took the RV back to the shop to fix the dash AC. When the AC compressor was opened the mechanic discovered it full of metal “filings”. This is good news because our after market insurance should cover the repair. The bad news we now must wait for an adjuster to come out to authorize the repair & more parts will be needed. As a result we must spend the night in RV behind shop. Wednesday the after market insurance adjuster did not show up. The shop keeps working on the AC system, but we spend another night behind the shop. Thursday, 19DEC, the insurance adjuster shows up & approves the repair. This gives us another reason to celebrate our anniversary that night.

Saturday, 21DEC, we went to the new Cosco in New Orleans to buy a new laptop computer for Dan. As we have discussed in previous BLOGs Dan’s present computer is over six years old & still running MicroSoft Windows XP & an old version on MicroSoft Internet Explorer. Dan did try upgrading to Windows Vista & latest Internet Explorer; but it was such a disaster, that he paid someone to re-install XP & an version of Internet Explorer. Although we are happy with what we have & it is powerful enough for our needs, we feel “forced” to replace it!

MicroSoft has tried several times to stop providing upgrades to XP, but customer complaints have forced them to backdown. Latest rumors are that it will happen in the spring of 2014, no matter what. Additionally, today’s websites often will not work properly on older versions of Windows & MicroSoft Internet Explorer. Although the new laptop is the latest & greatest, the odds are that most of our old software isn’t compatible?

Christmas Day, 25DEC, Joe & Tasha came over early AM to Rebecca & Raymond’s to open presents. We didn’t count & are guessing, but there may have been too many presents for grandson Jaxson. Right now it appears his favorite is the small workbench with tools? Uncle Joe did manage to scare Jaxson with the clown in the jack-in-the-box; another child who will fear clowns for life. Grandson Mason didn’t seem to be interested in anything he received, but the jack-in-the-box clown didn’t scare him.

Late that afternoon Tasha & Joe came back for Xmas dinner (way too much food). Interesting that it took 45 minutes to open presents, & only 25 minutes for dinner? Christmas is always enjoyable, especially with family. This year’s was better than others because it wasn’t in a hospital, like last year when Dan was injured. Hopefully your Christmas was as enjoyable & Santa was good to you:)!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

03/04DEC13 - Savannah, TN (shiloh national military park)

Tuesday morning, 03DEC, we hit the road to Savannah, TN, to explore Shiloh National Military Park. We are still worried about the ice storm heading from the west, but we should be ok if we head south to Houma, LA, by Thursday? After setting up camp (including satellite TV) we headed into Savannah for a walk about.
Wednesday morning it was off to Shiloh National Military Park. There are 25 battle sites preserved because of their national significance consisting of National Military Parks, National Battlefields, National Battlefield Parks & one National Battlefield Site. Originally these sites were administered by the War Department, now they are under the National Park Service. Shiloh was created in 1894.

First stop was the visitor center to watch the excellent award winning 45 minute film about the two day battle at Shiloh on 6/7 April 1862. Note, the film clearly shows the horror of war, & the death & casualties involved. The area of Shiloh, TN, was not significant to either side. Each side wanted to control the major railroad junction in Corinth, MS, eighteen miles south. The east/west rail line in Corinth was the south’s only railroad connection between its Atlantic coast ports & the Mississippi River. After viewing the exhibits in the Visitor Center we then walked thru the National Cemetery located on the grounds of the National Military Park.

National Cemeteries were first created during the Civil War (the first was Gettysburg in 1863 where President Lincoln delivered his famous address). The Shiloh National Cemetery was created in 1866. After the two day battle the bodies were buried in several mass graves; & Confederate sites were separate from Union. Most National Cemeteries are administered by the Veterans Administration, however Shiloh is part of the National Park Service.

The cemetery holds 3,584 Union dead, 2,359 of them unknown. In the fall of 1866, workers disinterred the dead from 156 locations on the battlefield, & 565 different locations along the Tennessee River. Headboards of wood first marked each grave, but were replaced in 1876 & 1877 by granite stones. Tall stones marked the known dead & square, short stones denoted unknown soldiers.
The overwhelming casualties at Shiloh led Union doctors to the “development” of the forerunner for the field hospital. In addition, the battle at Shiloh shocked both the north & the south with almost 24,000 men killed, wounded or missing (75% of the combatants had never been in combat prior to Shiloh). Up to this date the bloodiest battle had been at Manassas in June of 1861, with 4,500 killed. Shiloh changed the tone & future conduct of the war. The South now realized independence would come at a high cost of human lives & resources. The North grew convinced the war could be won only by complete
conquest. As strategies shifted, the conflict became an increasingly bloodier affair.

Famous people that survived Shiloh: future Presidents Grant & Garfield; Lee Wallace who wrote “Ben Hur”; Theodore O’Hara who wrote the poem “Bivouac of the Dead”; Henry Stanley who found Livingston in Africa; John Powell who lost an arm at Shiloh but became first man to raft the Grand Canyon; William Jenney father of the skyscraper; & John Clem a ten year old drummer boy who retired as a Major

After a car tour of the rest of the park we drove to the new(?) Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth, MS. This is an excellent facility that many people pass over after only visiting Shiloh. But first we walked thru the town of Corinth looking for a lunch spot. Luckily Dan spotted Borroum’s Drug Store the oldest drug store in Mississippi (1865). We last ate here 20JUL04 on our first long RV trip after Dan’s Coast Guard retirement.

Then it was back to the interpretive center to view their three films & view their many exhibits. If you visit the Shiloh National Military Park leave time to drive to Corinth & visit the interpretive center. The two facilities also encompass the Shiloh National Cemetery, Shiloh Indian Mounds National Historic Landmark, Corinth Contraband Camp, Siege & Battle of Corinth National Historic Landmark, & part of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

One of the things we learned at the Interpretive Center was that Lincoln was elected President with less than 40% of the popular vote. In fact, his name was not even on the ballot in ten southern states! We also learned that the freed slaves (called contraband by the Union) around Corinth had a camp with their own schools & hospital, that made a monthly profit of $4000 to $5000 per month.

Tomorrow we hit the road south to beat the ice storm threat.

Friday, December 13, 2013

29NOV-02DEC13 - Memphis, TN (via vicksburg, ms)

Friday (aka Black Friday), 29NOV, after Corrie did some more Xmas shopping we hit the road for Memphis, TN. From our last BLOG you will remember that we were going there on 12NOV when Dan’s youngest brother, Gary, passed away, necessitating our return to Houma, LA. Now we have decided to again head to Memphis; & decided to split the drive into two days. Our first stop was at the Ameristar Casino RV Park where we stayed back in AUG06 before we started full timing JUL07. Back then we visited Vicksburg National Military Park & the USS Cairo Museum along with local attractions & the Casinos. This time we just visited the casino.

Trivia – where was Coca-Cola first bottled (hint – its not Atlanta)?

Saturday morning we continued our highway driving into Memphis & checked into the Graceland RV Park & Campground right next door to Graceland. Dan wanted to eat dinner at Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous for ribs; but Corrie learned that the Memphis Grizzlies B-ball team had a home came tonight & that downtown might be a little congested? But when Dan checked Vergo’s website, he discovered they would be closed Sunday & Monday. So we headed out early for some of their BBQ.

According to Wiki - “Rendezvous was founded by Charlie Vergos in 1948 in a back alley of Downtown Memphis. Originally the basement of his diner, Vergos discovered a coal chute and turned it into a barbecue pit. Eventually, Vergos converted his diner to a barbecue restaurant and moved the entrance from the street to the alley. Rendezvous is one of the older and more storied barbecue joints in Memphis due to its more than sixty years of operation and "hole-in-the-wall" atmosphere. The Memphis City Council voted to name the alley where Rendezvous is located "Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous Alley...”
After sharing a sample plate appetizer & large order of babyback ribs (both excellent) we headed to Beale St for a walk about. First we cut thru the lobby of the world famous Peabody Hotel to view their Xmas decorations, then it was off to Beale St for a little window shopping.
Some people from Memphis compare Beale St to New Orlean’s Bourbon St, but in our opinion it is a pretty poor comparison since Beale St is only three blocks long & has signs posted saying clear the street by 3AM. Since the Grizzlies were playing at home everyone on Beale St were treated to a “drumline” show by their official drumline the Grizz Line. Turns out tonight was their official debut for the season – very, very good!
Trivia – Piggly Wiggly started in Memphis in 1916, what major innovation did they bring to grocery stores that is still used by all stores today?

Sunday morning we walked over to Elvis’s Graceland to take the Platinum Tour. The normal tour only gets you the Mansion & the grounds. For $7 more each we got additional access to his two private jets, automobile museum, “Live from Vegas” exhibit, Elvis’ Hawaii exhibit, & the ’68 Special Exhibit. In our opinion worth the extra $7! Additionally because it is the “holiday” season, Graceland was decorated for Christmas as it would be for Elvis & family.
Thankfully Graceland was pretty much empty all day. We could tell by the size of the parking lot & the queuing areas in front of the different exhibit areas, that during busy times you would spend most of your time waiting & get very little time at each exhibit. In our opinion you would be hard pressed to spend any real time to viewing the different rooms in the mansion itself. This is because while Graceland might have been a mansion in the sixties when Elvis bought it, the house & rooms inside are not that big by today’s celebrity “standards”. Add to this, that you can only view rooms from their hall entries & are not allowed upstairs at all, & you might only get a few seconds to view the rooms as thousands of tourists try to get their limited photo opportunity.

The exhibits are good but not state of the art; the audio devices you are issued don’t play automatically as you approach a display, you must press double digits to start or restart playback, & sometimes the signs with the double digits are not obvious. In addition many videos being shown of Elvis are without audio. It appears that more effort was spent on opportunities to get you to spend money – there are eight gift shops squeezed into the small area of Graceland that you are allowed to tour (one outside each exhibit, even one at the RV park). For lunch Dan had Elvis’s grilled peanut butter & banana sandwich. In our opinion unless you were a diehard Elvis fan Graceland was worth visiting once; but only with small crowds like when we were there.
Trivia – how many millions of fans did Elvis entertain in concert outside of the USA? What is the only awards ceremony that Elvis ever attended?

After returning to the RV, we headed to the Peabody Hotel for the marching of the ducks. According to their website:

“Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Jack Daniel's Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.”

“Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Soon, five North American Mallard ducks would replace the original ducks.”

“In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.”

“The original ducks have long since gone, but after nearly 80 years, the marble fountain in the hotel lobby is still graced with ducks. The Peabody ducks march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.”
After the marching of the ducks it was dinner at South of Beale(SOB) for dinner. They call themselves a gas-tro-pub? We are not sure what that is, but the food was good.

Monday morning we went back into Memphis to ride the trolley system for sightseeing. We discovered there are very few Memphis tours operating this time of year & none on Monday. So Dan came up with the idea that we ride Memphis’s three trolley lines just to see what we could see. Turns out that for $3 per person, you can ride the trolleys & the busses all day!
The present system went into operation in 1993 to start a restoration of the city wide system which was removed in 1947. The system consists of three lines – Main Street, Riverfront Loop, & Madison Avenue. An unique thing about the system is it uses restored vintage streetcars dating from 1927 to 1940. Most of the cars used were obtained from Porto, Portugal, & Melbourne, Australia. Although there was no “tour guide” to explain (or point out) the sights we were traveling past, it was excellent to see many of the neighborhoods of Memphis for little money, & see truly unique antique streetcars!

Next it was off to Dyer’s Burgers for lunch – according to their website:

“Back in 1912, the late Elmer "Doc" Dyer opened his own cafe and began to develop a secret cooking process for the uniquely delicious world famous burgers we still serve here today on Beale Street.”

“Legend has it that the "secret" was Doc Dyer's ageless cooking grease. This famous grease, strained daily, has continued to produce our juicy Dyer's Burgers for almost a century now.”

Last stop for the day was the Memphis Rock & Soul Museum. According to the museum website:

“...the museum offers a comprehensive Memphis music experience from the rural field hollers and sharecroppers of the 1930s, through the explosion of Sun, Stax and Hi Records and Memphis’ musical heyday in the 70s, to its global musical influence. The museum’s digital audio tour guide is packed with over 300 minutes of information, including over 100 songs, and takes visitors at their own pace through seven galleries featuring 3 audio visual programs, more than 30 instruments, 40 costumes and other musical treasures.”

“The “first born” of the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution and developed by the National Museum of American History (NMAH) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1996, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum became the first exhibition to have ever been developed by the Smithsonian Institution with another museum.”

In our opinion this was one of the best museums we have visited, with excellent audio/visual exhibits!!! Not only do you get an in-depth history of the development of rock & soul from the 30s to the 70s, but you learn how the music was changing society at the same time. Like – the first radio station in the nation devoted totally to a black audience with black DJs, WDIA (where many white teens listened in against their parents rules) was in Memphis in 1947; & the first all female radio station in the nation, WHER, was in Memphis in 1955. In fact, if you were only able to visit one place in Memphis for rock & soul history, we recommend skipping Graceland & visiting the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.
Trivia – what famous blues guitarist was a DJ at WDIA (think Lucille)? Holiday Inn started in Memphis in 1952, what did the hotel chain have to do with the recording industry?

Originally we were going to spend a couple of more days in Memphis, but have decided to hit the road tomorrow to avoid a possible ice storm later in the week.