Archive for June, 2019


Delay

I hope to return soon to my trip recall, perhaps today, perhaps later. A woman newly my friend and hoped for travel companion was victim of a brutal homicide. Has taken my concentration to post, to reason with the world. I can only call upon kindness and compassion as all of us live our lives.   My heart pours out for her family and friends.

Homicide and Grief

This is not the original post

 

Flying Curls Jeana

 

My dogs had been on the sick side from me letting them drink the local Texas water, I needed to get some chicken & rice and probiotics, was time for shopping. Turned out that was not easy in eastern Texas, sent me scrambling back and forth checking shops, nope, they never heard of probiotics, found a stockpile of all the bad stuff we don’t give our dogs in a feed store in nowhereville, so this is where they sell it, too bad. Went into H-E-B in Beaumont, hum, interesting. Maybe some are better than others. I do enjoying checking the local places, groceries, are there any natural food stores, does a salad exist, what’s the local style.  Is there regionalism?  Takes me back to studying geography, the development of the city and the importance of place. I’m not focusing that well right now but you get the idea.

State Park

I camped at Holbrook Park, Sulphur Louisiana    Holbrook Park was the next closet place to the State Park and a common way out-of-towners arrived at this location. I didn’t know what I’d find. I rejected the State Park for lack of appeal of the RV area, too cluttered, no easy walking for the dogs, no swimming with lots of alligator warning signs. there were so many nicer places in the Park for camping but  someone had decided to shove them into a view less corner.  I check my camping apps, I  use a few different ones and then just point and drive.  Holbrook Park was just what I needed, I recommend it.  It’s a small community campground with a fishing lake and small river. I paid $4.00 for a tent site and for the first time dragged out my sun tent. RV sites with power are $12.  You need a tent to use the tent site, I enjoyed copious space for my dogs to play.  Did not take a chance on dogs in the water, maybe alligators, maybe not.

My copious camping area for $4.00!!! Can’t find that in CA.

The lake

 

The manager invited me and my four over for wine and conversation on his deck; his dog gave us the stare from the top of the couch,  his nose pressed stoically against the window. If you’re friendly and stay longer you’re likely to get invited to a home cooked southern dinner. There’s a song written about this place and the camp manager Harry, would love to post it but is missing at the moment. Maybe you’ll have to go out to Louisiana yourself and ask him, he has a long long beard, a big smile, and a friendly demeanor, can’t miss him. Great story about the naked campers running through the camp. Loved the hospitality, just watch out for the blood-sucking mosquitoes.

Another shot of the lake

Drove a wayward path that only my GPS system could invent down to Lake Charles passing miles of petroleum research labs, gas and chemical plants, petrochemical refineries.  The reason for all the people around. Everyone was at work, I wondered how many people were employed in this area.

Didn’t expect the Lake Charles vibe, there were signs every few feet around the lake, no animals allowed. A beautiful walking path, nope! How I could partake without my pack, too ridiculous. Motorist were in a hurry, honking, slamming their doors, smoking, dropping still lite butts out the door, their faces looked irate. Nothing but the bible and Jesus on the radio, grim stuff, not uplifting. The town is known for gambling, rhythm and blues, cuisine and education. In 1994 there was the ethylene dichloride pipeline spill, the Bridge itself is shrouded in controversy. The sky was darkening, quickly clouding over. I called it quits and headed onward.

Visited the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge, LA  didn’t want to leave the dogs too long as it was getting too warm; I wanted to find me an alligator, didn’t see one so I didn’t stay as long as I might have.

Walking along the entrance trail at the Nature Center

Drove around the Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge didn’t interest me enough to stay longer and there was that mass of traffic so I backtracked and drove over the swamp to New Orleans, that was fun.  My mom texted me how the New Orleans wetlands are the fastest disappearing land mass on earth. That’s scary.

The sea level around Louisiana is up to 24 inches higher than it was in 1950. This increase is mostly due to sinking land, and it’s causing major issues. New Orleans is the largest population center at risk from sea level rise in the country and is now experiencing one of the highest rates of sea level rise in the world. Because the state is already losing approximately 25 square miles of land per decade due to sea level rise,2 Louisiana’s coastal marshes, which provide protection for inland communities and habitat for countless species, are threatened. The state is planning over $25 billion in sea level rise solutions, which include building levees, restoring shorelines, and relocating entire communities.  https://sealevelrise.org/states/louisiana/

 

Drove across the water to the Big Branch March National Wildlife Area on Lake Pontchartrain, 15,000 acres of pine flatwoods, oak rides and coastal marsh. Seems I like marshes, swamps, estuaries and other bodies of water.  Twisted my way around, thank you again to my GPS to a close up view of the Bay St. Louis Bridge. At the end of the road was a fishing place, it was closed, I considered siting there, with the air running and the doors closed to keep out the little flying snarky things and watching the traffic and the water, maybe parking overnight but eventually decided to move ahead dropping down onto the 90 / 607 over another bridge to Henderson Point along the Gulf of Mexico.

Spent that night at the Walmart Supercenter in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Two of the largest hurricanes hit here, Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Katrina. Is a good place for fishing, fishing charters, golf, cemetery tours, art galleries, history, stately homes and the beautiful white beach. The Walmart was across a wide boulevard from the beach, could hear the sounds of water, but not quite see it. yep it was a Walmart night.  Walked up and down the boardwalk with the dogs, no dogs actually allowed on the sand, was warm and balmy, capris and sandals .

 

In the morning I visited the War Memorial Park, the marina and harbor, an upscale coffee shop for breakfast with Santa Barbara prices, more walks with the dogs along the gulf, drove around and looked at the homes, then continued to Gulfport and Biloxi.

I drove onto this spit, people were hanging out, fishing, taking in the view, having lunch.

 

Before I knew it I was in Mobile Alabama.  I kept getting driving in circles due to the odd signage seeing some bizarre parts of tow.  I visited the Mardi Gras Park, the Port of Colonia Mobile, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum, did a little shopping and stopped a park or two for the dogs where the sprinklers nicely cooled everyone for a great beach day.

 

Mobile Mardi Gras Park

Headed over the Mobile River thinking I’d stay at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Orange Beach, it didn’t seem such a good idea so I drove to the Orange Beach access lot itself wondering if I could stay there as the parking area said it was open 24 hours, but as always  no dogs allowed on the beach, could only walk them around the parking area and they were not feeling well so decided I needed more security and comfort. I took the windy road to the Gulf State Park but once there I learned it would be $54 to $70 for a crammed spot, if she could find me one, they were nearly full; the ranger took pity on me and told me to go to Walmart…  it was a different Walmart I was to park at…   a larger one on Fort Morgan Road in Gulf Shores, $0.00 was just the thing I needed especially as  I spent most of that night up with Jackson. Every 2 hrs he needed to go out. I think this was my first Walmart posted with no overnight parking signs. I was told to park there and sure enough no one bothered me or my dramatically sick dog. Felt safe and had no trouble but was not a restful night.  In the morning I took a walk at the Cotton Bayou Public Beach. I loved it, the dogs, yeah they only got to see the parking lot.   Soon, I’d find them a great swimming beach!!!  …  next post…

Why not visit the Southeast.

I was excited to see the Southeast. I met a senior gentleman the other day at a local coffee shop who told me he’d rather visit West Africa than the Southeastern US and as far as driving with dogs, he said, well, I want to have someone to talk to. He then started in on his list of the counties, I tuned out, I couldn’t imagine him being better company than my canines so I left him to his writing. He’s not alone in his dislike of the South. Me, I want to see it all, if I haven’t been there I’m ready to go which is most of the world. There are ecosystems to discover, natural forces, wildlife, history, the people, the built environment, local food; bring it on!

I headed to Austin with the warning that it might not be doable given I was driving an RV. I wound up on a paid expressway as I’d approached Georgetown and was determined to remain off of these. I still don’t know what driving on them costs. Billing is by mail, no signs are posted as to rates. Congestion wasn’t bad until I arrived in Austin. I took a driving tour of the city. It was filled with co-ed pedestrians, motorists, pickups and SUVs, heavy gridlock, cyclists, segways, scooters. It was Saturday everyone intent on getting somewhere other than where they were by whatever means they could.  I had an image of no one staying at home in preference of covering ground even if there was nowhere in particular to go.  Growing too fast? It was true, not an easy place for an RV, even a little one so I aborted an idea to hang out, expecting fun in San Antonio. Well, really I was, seemed I picked their Fiesta and if I thought Austin had a lot of gridlock, oh my!

Fiesta® San Antonio started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. That historic commemoration still takes place, but for more than a century, Fiesta® has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures. Fiesta® has evolved into one of this nation’s premier festivals with an economic impact of more than $340 million for the Alamo City. Funds raised by official Fiesta® events provide services to San Antonio citizens throughout the year.

I was jammed in roadblocks, not having a good idea where I was going I could not get away from the congestion.  I finally learned that most of the city was shut down for the Fiesta. Would up driving back and forth, trying to see stuff, trying to find my way while avoiding the entire central district.  The Alamo and River Walk would have to wait for another time.

Drove to Braunig Lake Park but did not stay, likely would have been a an okay place to drycamp with all the fishing people. Spent the night at a TA Travel Center near San Antonio. when I woke in the morning there were several cars with towels stuffed in their windows, snuggled next to my van, Made me feel like mamma van.

In the morning I manged to avoid the Fiesta, went to the Koffee Kup for breakfast, interesting chat about sustainable agriculture with the young woman serving me, she telling me and filling my heart with talk of how important it is to care for the land. Took a morning walk at Woodlawn Lake Park including a short distance on the the city trail across the street.

There was a nature trail here with native Texas plants. Dogs and I stopped and looked at each tree and flower.

I did not stop in Houston. It was a strange feeling, sad and moody as I thought about my friend and ex-dance partner, Steve Laib. He’d wanted to reconnect and hoped that when I passed near Cypress we could meet again. His wife did not agree and forced him to silence; she did not let me know of his passing. He and his bride stopped to visit a long time ago in Santa Barbara not long after their wedding I’d wished them happiness. I had feelings of anger, loss and confusion and a good bit of amazement at how long it took to cross Houston. By the time I was out of the city I felt I’d let go of my resentment. I would have loved to have seen Steve, I hope he was happy. This was an unexpected catharsis, driving alone one has time to think, to process feelings, to dream.

I was rewarded by a lovely night on the Gulf at Fort Anahuac County Park. Yeah for Texas! I had this recreation area almost completely to myself overnight, one other RVer on the other side.  Folks were fishing here, I asked the sheriff if I could spend the night and he said, sure no problem but you might want to park up on the hill, I was down on the spit by the water when I asked him. He explained about the mosquitoes. I asked him who to pay or to register with, his answer, it’s Sunday don’t worry about it. Beautiful spot, ran around with the dogs. I wound up here as the upper areas with power had burrs in the grass. I drycamped and it was perfect, a bit windy.  Didn’t let the dogs swim as there were potential of alligators or sharks. Some said, nah, their dogs swam all the time others said they’d seen them. Chatted with local folks down with their families fishing for the day, then they all went home. Later in the season I image this park gets crowded. I was in heaven being on my own with the birds and the gulf. Couldn’t help but laugh at the the RV Parks I’d passed all crammed in with no view. Let the dogs run, play ball and ramble about in the morning. Bathroom was a bit trashed but I didn’t care.

 

 

Sentimental view of the battlefield, 19th Century. Samuel Chamberlain. “on the battlefield the Night After the Battle” watercolor and gouache.

The rest stop facilitates in Texas double as storm shelters. They tend to have delightful mosaics. Yeah for Texas!

 

I am not now currently on the road. This is my disclaimer, I am back in Santa Barbara, California so the weather and events you will read about have come and gone. My blog for this trip will be a recall, and as asked, will include where I camped, what I paid and what I saw. Comments welcome.

Oh boy, a camping trip! Mason and Jackson.

Jeana checks out “her spot”

I left town on the west coast knowing I wanted to take the southern route, touch the Atlantic sea and return through the Great Smokey’s either via Interstate 40 or back to I-10.  I left on Sunday April 21st, 2019, visited Mom and Dino in the SFV on the way to my first night at the free dry camp, Chiriaco Summit (GPS: 33.663864, -115.723976)  30 miles east of Indio (or 70 miles west of Blythe,) behind the General Patton Museum. There are no facilities but on the pull off below there is the museum, gift shop, post office, cafe, convenience store, gas station and truck parking.

There’s a camp host who will check with you, you can use any open designated site, fairly level, with a fire ring, a view of the desert and the I-10 below. Large gravel sites, some road noise. Lots of room, friendly, privately owned, be careful of snakes. I wouldn’t let dogs run free here, plenty of walking. I’ve stayed a few times and would absolutely stay again. Night skies, sunsets are beautiful, strong Verizon signal too.

My idea was to head east quickly so I was geared for long driving days,  didn’t want to get burned out getting across the country. Austin is 1,474 miles from Santa Barbara, that was my first point of interest.

 

As I approached Deming, New Mexico I noticed the sky ahead was lighting up, like you’d see for a festival. It was on the horizon off to the right in a circular bowl shape. The lights were so steady and continuous that it didn’t occur to me that it might be caused by natural means rather than technology. Darn ignorance of a California driver!!! I kept going without a care wanting to make time, the sky was clouding over. Ho-hum, I was fascinated by the light show, at least I can say that about my ignorance. And then I was in Deming. It was lightening! I’d never seen such a mass of continual and steady strikes, the thunder was reverberating as if I was in the center of a cresending symphony written by a madman. Well I could drive past I thought, it didn’t look so spooky…  did I mention I’m from California, land of earthquakes and fires, we don’t have the sky doing this kinda thing to us. There were other cars and lots of trucks on the Interstate. I was enjoying being able to drive in the dusk. The closer I got the more intense the storm became. Kind of like it was happy to see an old camper van stuffed full dogs and a solitary female driver and wanted to greet us. All of a sudden just as we entered town, someone turned Niagara Falls on top of us. The wind started battering us, and the thunder!!! The thunder was striking every moment and it was hitting the highway in a fantastic display. To my credit I took the van off the Interstate, I was shaking so hard I could barely hold the wheel against the wind. My dogs were terrified. I pulled into a parking lot and my terror intensified as I realized this was not going to stop and the likelihood of enduring the onslaught unscathed in this location was risky so I did the only thing I could think of, I got back on the Interstate and followed a big semi-truck. I had to settle the dogs who all wanted to be in my lap. They did not believe me that we would all be just fine, I wasn’t exactly reeking in confidence.  Pulled out at about 10 mph, remarkably my little LT Daisy pulled up the hill and out of this depression which was turning into a water park. As soon as we got up the hill the thunder stopped, the flooding stooped. I was amazed. Seems I had made the right choice.

Spent that night at Sunland Casino in El Paso, I was very tired, it was dark and the same as my last time through this area, the roadways were torn up with closed freeway exits and bizarre detours, roadblocks with quick unexpected turns into a dark unknown. This is were I discovered my headlights with their new housing were disgustedly insufficient, at least if I cared about where I might be going. I paid $15 for electric and water, neither of which I used or needed. Was not impressed with the bright overhead lights and all the noise; it’s a spot in the parking lot, there is security so depends on what you’re looking for.  Never saw my neighbors but made friends with the parking security guy, he loved the dogs, talked to me about the weather and gave me a ride a few times back and forth from parking to the casino. I was so shaken I had little strenght left for walking. I tried to buy a hot meal, that was hopeless, the workers at the casino didn’t know what they severed and they were about to close, the menu was flashing on and off overhead, couldn’t read it, they kept offering me a hamburger – I don’t eat red meat. I gave up and had something cold and snacky from my cupboard. Would not stay there again. A hot shower to calm my nerves would have been great. They also have a hotel and a racetrack.  The odd thing was how once in Texas the Deming storm seemed unreal.

Somewhere Texas, loving the wildflowers.

Checking out the caverns.

The night after I stayed at the Caverns of Sonora.  I did not tour the caverns, dogs and I walked all over, was a place to rest, exercise the dogs and as such was fine. Hardly anyone there, so nice and peaceful. The dogs of course attract attention even if there are only a few people. Can’t remember what I paid, am thinking it was about $20.

Checking out the geology!

It was late to be seeing my fellow Lagotto breeder friends in Georgetown (Austin, TX) so I headed to the nearby reservoir. Tons of traffic. Had already checked with my friends and they advised not camping in Georgetown due to the Red Poppy Festival which we went to during my visit.  Red poppies from Europe arrived in Georgetown after WWI and have established themselves with natural reseeding. When they bloom there is a street party.

I passed through Marble Falls with its lakes and wineries, took a stroll through Fredericksburg; tried to get a cappuccino. The coffee place was closed so I tried the natural food store next to it, they had coffee. Oh my, Virginia!!!  Or rather Texas!!! This shop actually wanted $6.50 for a cap!!!  I thought I’d seen expensive prices for coffee drinks, so I asked if it was special coffee, no the espresso wasn’t that expensive so I ordered 2 shots and had her top it off with some oat milk, the total price $1.50! Go figure?  It’s a German town, shopping, cuisine, art, theater, wine, history, film festivals, spas, music, peaches in season. I popped into a few galleries and took the dogs for a walk at their central park.

Run, did mom say RUN!!!

Camped that night at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area for $12.  Was almost alone there so I let the dogs run free. And run and run and run. I was at first thinking, I could let them run and they wouldn’t instantaneously race across the open fields and plunge with utter delight into the water!!!  Nah, what kind of Lagotto would do that! So for almost 2 hours my poor van fevered badly stressed Lagotti played and ran and swam, Mason took a nap. I wish I could give them a place like this all the time. There are almost 10 miles of trails.  I learned from the gardener the next day that normally this is one of the top places to see the Texas Bluebonnets; this year the masses of flowers were underwater, flooded. I still thought the flowers were stunning along with the butterflies, bees and the gorgeous birds. Life was bursting. I would stay here again in a heartbeat, of course I was spoiled  having the park almost to myself. It was a little piece of heaven in spite of two of my ever so sweet Lagotti rolling in sticky mud and thick layers of burs and stickers right after we’d finished our run and I’d given them baths, ah-huh, had to do that all over plus wrestle the nasty stuff out of their coats. No rest for the dog mom! They did not understand the look on my face but I could see Mason, my dry one, smirking!

At dusk, sill almost alone here.

Spent the morning loving the flooded lake, then when I left I tried to take a scenic route to Georgetown, somehow that failed, mostly I found traffic. I took a wrong turn and missed the falls. I arrived at the perfect time in Georgetown, I’d just settled into a parking lot when Judith texted me. We, Judith, John and their two Lagotti and me and my bunch, met at lovely park for a walk. Berry Springs Park and Reserves, laced with beauty pecan and oak trees, Judith wondered if there were truffles. We walked around the lake and found a spot for the dogs to get wet and cool before heading for their home.

Five Lagotto all sitting in a row, amazing!

I learned how much and vigorously it rains in Georgetown and how the heat does not diminish at night. I parked comfortably in their driveway after chatting and relaxing with all the dogs running around. They treated me to a natural delicious dinner, the restaurant was upstairs in an unmarked building, I don’t know how you’d find it if you didn’t know it was there. Of course I don’t like elevators but it was fine, took the stairs after eating going down, the food was really good, then we walked around the Red Poppy Festival, snagged some wine and kept walking and talking, looking around. We stopped at a hat shop, there’s far more to a good Western hat than I ever knew. Returned to their home for dog talk, one of my favorite subjects!  Judith treated me to a really cool healthy homemade pancake breakfast and we took off to learn about Pecan Truffles. Our dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo are bred to find truffles so it’s always exciting to find where they grow and potentially let them do what the breed is meant to do.

One very appreciated thing Judith shared with me was a new weather app:  actually I have two, Storm Radar and MyRadar, now I could receive real time alerts for severe weather.

They do things different in Texas, apparently a cactus and a cow are types of types of trucks! Not so RVs! 

Okay, am taking a break ….  Will be back with the next review soon. I was very excited having made it this far all the way out to Austin especially with what happened in Deming. I had an idea I could relax after this.