QUOTEWORTHY: “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. “ ~Steve Jobs

Monday, April 22, found us continuing the trek west, starting on MS-32. At Webb we jogged north on US-49, then back southwest on US-49W through Mr. Wonderful’s (MW’s) town, Drew (no kidding) to Ruleville. (Is anyone surprised that Drew is near Ruleville? I think not!) Next we took MS-8 to Cleveland and turned south on US-278 to Leland. There we had a couple of po boys at Ciceros Restaurant, which were pretty darned good. Our plan was to check out the Birthplace of the Frog, the Jim Henson museum in town, but they weren’t open. I was bummed!! I’m pretty sure Kermit is the reason for my frog obsession! So we turned on US-82 and crossed into Arkansas passing through Lake Village near Lake Chicot, where we stayed a couple of years ago. Continuing west through Montrose to Hamburg, we turned south on US-425 and crossed into Louisiana. At Bastrop we caught US-165, then turned on LA-2 all the way through Farmersville to Lake D’Arbonne State Park. This was a beautiful, but LONG, driving day. By the time we got set up, we were ready to relax.

Tuesday was a PAJAMA DAY!!! It’s been a minute, plus I had been having a sword fight with a migraine for a couple of days. I did manage to do a little bit of writing, but that was about it. So let’s talk about Wednesday. We headed down to Monroe, Louisiana, to pick up an Amazon package at The UPS Store, then popped into the Portico Bar & Grill next door for lunch. I had the star of the day…the Voodoo Nacho appetizer. Yum just doesn’t do it justice!! MW made out, too, because I shared!! We ran a couple more errands, and before heading back, stopped at a cool military museum in town. Later, I did a bit of writing and worked on a cabinet project.

Two things come together at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum…historic Selman Field and General Claire Lee Chennault. The former was originally the small civil Selman Airport named for Navy pilot Lt. Augustus “Gus” Selman, a native of Monroe who died in a plane crash near Norfolk, Virginia. There are two interesting bits about Selman, the airport. It housed a small crop dusting operation…Huff Daland Dusters, a subsidiary of Huff-Deland Aero Company out of Bristol, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1925, that little operation has touched a lot more of us than you might think. It became a founding component of Delta Air Lines. The tiny airport’s second act was military. In 1942 , the Army needed a place for their Army Air Force Navigation School, and Colonel Norris Harold headed up the team to bring that to Monroe. Four months after his arrival, the 74th Flying Training Wing base was fully operational at Selman. It was the only place in the country where a cadet could start his pre-flight training and go all the way through navigator’s wings without transferring. Operations continued there until 1946. As for the museum’s namesake, General Chennault was raised in Gilbert, Louisiana, and was pretty brilliant. An accomplished hunter and tracker, he graduated early from high school and, with the help of his Dad who lied about his age to meet the requirements, graduated from college (first Louisiana State, then Northwestern State) with a teaching certificate. He married and settled into an educator’s life, even serving as a school principal at 20 years old. Then the United States entered World War I in 1917. Chennault joined the Army to become a pilot, so they put him on a horse. It took him a couple of years, but he was finally flying in 1919. After the war he graduated from pursuit pilot training, then became a pursuit aviation instructor at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama. There, although he thought otherwise, it appeared the Army felt his career peaked as the Chief of Pursuit Section. Then in 1937, he got a call from China to command their fledgling Air Force. (At the time the United States was supporting the Republic of China against the invading Japanese forces.) While the contract was short, he felt that it might lead to a larger role and resigned from the military. By the summer of 1941, he was a brigadier general in the Chinese Air Force. In that capacity he oversaw recruitment of pilots for the American Volunteer Group, his solution to China’s need for pilots. With approval from Washington, 100 pilots and a bunch of ground crew guys from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army Air Corps resigned from the military and went to work for a private contractor, the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO), as “volunteers to train and instruct” Chinese pilots. Little did Japan know, the Flying Tigers as they would become known, were actually being trained in radical tactics specifically designed to combat their style and would soon be their opposition in the air. It was a pretty good ruse, and Chennault remained in charge until April 1942, when he was recalled by the Army Air Force and quickly promoted to brigadier general there. He spent the entirety of WWII in charge of the 14th Air Force in China. After the war, he returned to the U.S. and retired a few months later as a major general. When first offered the China job, Chennault said: “It may amount to very little except a good paying position, but it may amount to a great deal…it is even possible that my ‘feeble’ efforts may influence history…I couldn’t possibly pass up this opportunity for, after all, very few boys from Gilbert, LA will ever have the slightest chance to influence the history of the future years.” Well, that, he did. The museum has a big Chennault exhibit and stuff from every conflict going back to the Civil War with a focus on Louisiana veterans. A few other things I found interesting: 1) One couple from the area, Arlona and Carey Nelson, left quite a legacy…at least 27 of their descendants have or are serving in the United States military. 2) Ensign Walter Savage of Monroe served on the USS Arizona and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. 3) Local native Sergeant Sammy L. Davis is a Medal of Honor recipient. It was a pretty small building, so we were really impressed with the variety and quantity of items. There are also a few planes in an outdoor exhibit. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

Lake D’Arbonne State Park is the second in a row to be beautiful and very wooded. Located on the shores of the 15,000-acre Lake D’Arbonne, it is conveniently located near groceries, shopping, and restaurants in Farmerville, Louisiana. Facilities include a Visitor Center, swimming pool, pavilions, picnic areas, tennis courts, disc golf, fishing piers, and a boat launch. There are also about 7 miles of hiking trails. For overnight stays, there are cabins, lodges, a group camp that sleeps 52, and a campground with 65 paved, 20/30/50-amp sites with water, picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. A few of those have sewer hookups. There are also showers, a laundry, and a playground for camper use. It is a really nice park that is well-maintained. We would definitely stay again. For this visit in April 2024, we paid just under $25 per night.

On Thursday we continued west through Bernice and Lisbon, then skirted the south side of Lake Claiborne to Homer. There we turned southeast to Linden, then south to stay out of the Shreveport mess. We passed through Ringgold to Coushatta, where we planned to stop for lunch. The parking lot at our chosen spot was covered up, so we continued down to Pleasant Hill and the Dairy Delight. You know how things always happen for a reason, even if we aren’t quite sure what it is? Well this time we were sure. It was so that we would get to meet Terry and Jing Pilkington, the owners. There were a couple of people waiting for food when we arrived and one table seated. Terry sent us to a table and came over shortly. When he got to us, I asked if the shrimp were large or those tiny ones. “They are huge.” I placed my order, then MW asked what they were known for, and Terry responded: “The catfish is the best you’ve ever eaten, and the place was built on its burgers. The onion rings are cut when ordered and handmade, too” Hmmmm…now I was in a quandary. I had already ordered the shrimp, but that burger and rings was sounding pretty darned good. MW went with the single serving catfish, and I switched my order. Terry immediately said: “What you need to do is one order the all you can eat catfish with a shrimp add-on, and the other order the burger. ” That was just going to be too much food, so we stuck with what we had. With that settled, he asked where we were from and talked about how much he and his wife loved their trip to Tennessee last summer. We chatted for a few minutes, then things started getting busy. A little later, he delivered a catfish basket, a shrimp basket, and some onion rings. I guessed he forgot that I changed my order. The shrimp looked amazing, though, so I was happy. About two bites in, a basket with extra catfish filets showed up, then a burger appeared on the table. What??!! He worked the rush for a little longer, then came by to see how we liked everything. Honestly, he wasn’t wrong about any of it!! He actually retired, then they bought this place to keep the local institution open. Wow! He said that our state was so good to him, he was going to pay it forward…the burger and extra fish were on him. We protested to no avail. A little later when we paid, he insisted that we take his handmade milkshakes with us. Mine was Chocolate Covered Cherry…yum! He would not let us pay for those either, so we left a giant tip for the staff. Before we headed out, he called his wife Jing the food magician (she needs a t-shirt that says that!), out of the kitchen. These folks are just plain good people, and their food is absolutely worth the stop. Oh, and as we were walking out, Terry grabbed a Dairy Delight cap off the rack and plopped it on my head. I would even drive out of my way to hit the Dairy Delight again!

Back on the road and stuffed to the GILLS, we zig-zagged through Converse, Swolle, and Many, then crossed the Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Sabine River into one of my favorite states…TEXAS!! Next it was south to Jasper and southwest over to Martin Dies, Jr. State Park.

In the Amazon package we picked up there were a couple of black cutting boards for a project. Priscilla has a window over the stove that came with a black mini-blind. We had that on our first RV, and I hated it! Stuff from the stove was constantly spattering onto the blinds, and they were a pain to clean. Since we never open that window and always keep the blinds closed, it was time for a better solution. I previously covered the box valance with the same material used on the other windows. Then, after using brackets to connect the two cutting boards, MW installed them over the window. Now it cleans easily and still has the same aesthetic as before. Win-win.

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park makes it three terrific ones in a row. The park is divided into five separate units, Hen House Ridge, Walnut Ridge, and the day use only Tidelands, Wolf Creek, and Rush Creek, surrounded by the B. A Steinhagan Reservoir on the Neches River. Amenities included an office/park store, pavilions, amphitheater, discovery center, picnic areas, boat ramp, canoe/kayak launch, fishing pier and cleaning station, and playgrounds. Their swimming beach is one of the nicest we’ve seen with benches and picnic tables, both in the sun and shade, right there. They also have several hiking trails and plenty of roads to ride bikes on, plus almost 14 miles of paddling trails! Oh, and alligators can be found in the park and surrounding waters, so you might get to see a dinosaur! Both units of the park have ample camping, including electric and water and water-only tent sites. There are even a few walk-in spots. Although our one-night stay did not allow us time to do more than just drive through, we would definitely stop at this park again. For this stay in April 2024, we paid $26 for one night in a 50/30/20-amp plus water site, which included the discount for our $70 Texas State Parks pass (a deal if you will be staying at state parks in this great state for more than 6 days).

The next morning was not our typical Friday. Our objective was to make Dickinson, Texas, in time to spend the weekend with our niece Taylor. That required a one-nighter. Y’all know I don’t really like those! We headed out in the grey mist about 8 AM taking US-190 southwest to US-59 south. Then it was straight into the belly of the beast…Houston traffic…and out the other side on I-45 down to Dickinson and the Texas RV Park. We arrived around 11:30 AM, and after setting up, I jumped on the laundry chore. (They have one of the best laundromats we’ve ever encountered at an RV park.) Later in the afternoon we hung out at TayTay’s place, then she took us to her favorite Mexican spot, Red River Cantina, for supper. (It was terrific!)

Saturday we got over to Taylor’s in time to make it to Kat’s Barbecue before they ran out of brisket. You think I’m kidding, but it is required eating when in that area…tender deliciousness that melts in your mouth!! They open at 11 AM, and Taylor has been there before 1 PM to find it all gone!!! This time we showed up just after they opened and all was right with the world. Whew!! Next up was a drive down to Galveston. Several years ago we planned to see the Galveston Railroad Museum, but MW boycotted because they still had a mask policy. (Honestly, masks and that heat do not mix!) Taylor suggested we give it a shot this trip. It ended up being pretty darned cool, especially since they had the 2024 Railfest Model Train Rally that day. In addition to being able to check out the museum and the giant trains, lots of model train enthusiasts had their setups there. They even had a huge setup that was all Lego. Too cool!! After checking it all out, and then Taylor and me waiting for MW to finish (he takes a long time around trains and planes), we walked around the Historic Strand District for a bit. Did I mention it was blazing HOT??? We stayed outside as long as we could stand it, then cooled down with a frozen Pina colada before heading back to Taylor’s for the evening.

Sunday the three of us headed over to check out Clear Creek Community Church in League City. This is a very large church with many pastors and a music program that feels like a concert. While it isn’t our typical style, the music was good, and we really enjoyed the message. Dr. Yancey Arrington, their teaching pastor, gave the first of three lessons on the challenge of politics in the church. (It was so thought-provoking that we streamed the next installment the following Sunday and plan to keep up with his future lessons.) I don’t usually link sermons, but if you are interested, this series is really worth a watch. Afterwards we headed over to King’s Bierhaus in Dickinson for some German food. (Really good, especially the pretzel we shared.) Taylor took us by Priscilla so that we could change and she could get a gander at the new girl. (She liked!) Then we ran some errands including the required stop to wander around H-E-B. (There may have been ice cream, too.) Later we hung out at Taylor’s place for a while before saying our final goodbyes.

We’ve stayed at Texas RV Park multiple times (see review), and it has always been good. (Well, except that one time when the family in the neighboring back yard was having a quinceanera celebration until late into the night, but that wasn’t the park’s fault.) We enjoyed our stay once again, and I always appreciate that laundry room!!

Well that is another week down. Next up…More Texas, More Heat, And A TORNADO! See you on the path!!


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