Tuesday morning we were up and out by 6:30 AM.  Our typical moving days are around 200 miles, but this would be about 300.  Because of the distance, we planned to spend most of the drive on…GASP…the interstate!  We took I-45 to the Dickinson exit, then headed west to take TX-146 up to I-10.  We were going to hit Beaumont during rush hour (plus we were side-swiped on I-10 going through there on the last trip, and we have a bad taste), so we diverted around the south side on TX-73 through Port Arthur, joining I-10 again at Orange.  The weather was very grey and dreary, but we didn’t hit any rain. As we approached the Louisiana state line, we began to see evidence of the recent hurricanes. Pretty much all of the billboards and quite a few business signs were skeletons, their messages torn off or shattered and hanging or scattered around on the ground. Entire swaths of pine trees were snapped off, and huge oak trees were toppled. Giant piles of debris were everywhere, and many structures were partially destroyed. A massive clean-up effort was already making a dent, but clearly would not be finished for quite a while.

Then, it was pretty much I-10 all the way to Lafayette, Louisiana, where we turned south.  The traffic and crazies reminded us of exactly why we do our best to stick to back roads. I read a lot of RV forums and find it interesting that most people think that choosing back roads means things are much rougher. While we definitely hit our share of rough roads, taking a little drive across I-10 in Louisiana confirms that they aren’t any rougher than those the highway travelers are driving. We were very thankful to get off of the interstate and head south.  Instead of going directly to the park, we chose to take LA-182 down to Jeanerette, Louisiana, to check out my laundry options.  In New Iberia, we stopped at Duffy’s Diner for lunch.  They offered sandwiches and a good variety of meals.  MW went for the club and chips, and I had the BLT and sweet potato fries.  I asked the guy across the way how the onion rings were, and he said they drove over an hour just to eat there.  Our sandwiches were good, but I was secretly coveting his rings and shrimp.  Full, we continued south, passing something I haven’t seen since Hawaii a couple of years ago (and before that, South Florida)…sugar cane fields. It actually took me a few minutes to figure out what I was looking at. I guess I just don’t think of cane in Louisiana. For that matter, I don’t relate it to Georgia, either, but I remember getting hunks of cane to chew on as a child living there. In South Florida we would drive through the cane production areas on trips, sometimes smelling the cane burning. For decades, fields have been burned at harvest time to get rid of the excess foliage and make it easier and less costly to get to the sugary stalks. Environmentalists and those who just don’t like the smoke and smell have been battling the sugar industry over the practice forever and probably will be for years to come.

We did a drive-by on the laundromat, then circled around the south end of Lake Fausse and turned northwest towards the campground. Now, we were sent on this route by the GPS, and it started out fine on a paved road, then a wide, well-traveled gravel road with plenty of nice houses. We got a little nervous when we had to go over the flood gate on a bridge just wide enough to accommodate us, and skepticism grew as the gravel road became more narrow and rough. Nowhere to turn around, though, so we soldiered on, double-checking the GPS to make sure it showed us heading to the park. Then MW saw a sign that said something about no trespassing, private road, and fines. WHAT??? I started to picture a Deliverance-type situation, but still no place to turn around. Then the cell signal went away. Damn! When we saw another of those signs a ways up, we realized that it was talking about the road leading to the top of the levee. Sigh of relief. We continued north for about 15 MILES. Finally, we saw blacktop coming up and breathed a sigh of relief.  Both Petunia and Brutus were covered in dust, and I’m pretty sure neither MW or I had un-puckered for at least 30 minutes.  Amazingly, the park entrance was just beyond the beginning of the black top.  Imagine that!!  Both extremes – interstate and serious back road – had worn us to a frazzle, so our evening was simply vegging.

Cell coverage at the campground was a big fat zero, so Wednesday I headed out to find a place to do laundry and get some work done.  I headed north towards I-10, because you know I was not taking the gravel road back to Jeanerette!  Amazingly, the road north from the park was some of the smoothest blacktop we’ve driven in Louisiana. Go figure! No joy on a laundromat, so I parked myself in a booth at Subway near Henderson to get some work done.  When I got back to the campground, I used their laundry facilities (two washers and one working dryer) to get the job done.  Thankfully, it was just across the street from our site, and I was also able to get some more writing done, too.  It took forever! At almost 10 PM when I went to get the last load out of the dryer, I found the clothes still very wet and the dryer without power. WTHell??? Nothing I could do about it at that time of night. One of the best things I bought for Petunia was a curtain rod that fits above the shower.  It is normally out of the way near the back wall, but comes in handy for hanging things to dry.  I also hang our towels on it when we are in transit to keep them from falling off of their hooks into the bathroom floor. Yuck! I hung the entire load there to dry and hit the sack.

Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is 6,000 acres in the very swampy area that was once home to the Chitimacha Indians. East of St. Martinsville, Louisiana, it is about a 25-minute drive to groceries and other shopping or dining opportunities. The facilities include picnic pavilions and tables, a nature center, meeting room, boat launch, cabins. There are several hiking trails and a canoe trail through the area (once part of the Atchafalaya Basin) that offer primitive campsites. There are also several playgrounds, the coolest of which is a small water park. The campground offers 14 full-hookup sites, 12 water and electric, waterfront sites, 20 water and electric, wooded sites, and several hiking, canoeing, or primitive options. In October 2020, we paid $20 plus tax per night for a wooded site with electric and water. There were only a handful of people there during the middle of the week, and the campsites are spaced out very well. Ours backed up to a little swampy area, which the egrets liked, and we enjoyed watching them. There were mosquitos, even in October with the warm weather, so I imagine bug spray would be warranted most of the year. We would go back, as it was very quiet and peaceful. There were information signs up about alligators, although we didn’t see any. One odd thing…the power and water hookups were on the door side of the trailer when we backed into the site. Oh, and while checking out the park, I ran across a PHONE BOOTH! Kids, I know that isn’t a word you understand, so let me explain. Back in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we would go hang out with our friends at the mall or go to a movie. Let’s just say that I was running late coming home and didn’t want my Mom to worry. I would look for one of these strange booths, dig a dime (or later a quarter) out of my wallet, and dial my home number to tell my Mom I would be late. Or, if she was over visiting her friend, I would pull up the book that hung under the counter in the booth, look up her friend’s number, and call her there. I KNOW! Crazy! At either place, she would answer on a telephone that was plugged into the wall and had a cord, which meant she couldn’t just walk around and talk on the phone! I know. It’s a LOT to comprehend. Why don’t you take a little break, rest your mind, and come back to this later. In future episodes we’ll talk about a time when there were no microwave ovens, how we went places without GPS, when our pictures had to be developed, and life before the internet. It’s overwhelming, so we’ll just take it a step at the time.

On Thursday it was time to ease on down the road to visit two of my favorite peeps ever! We hit the road before sunrise for the long drive, not looking forward to the necessary evil…more I-10. The lazy sun finally made it up as we were crossing Lake Bigeux headed east. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day for a drive. At Baton Rouge we took I-12 to avoid New Orleans (we certainly didn’t need any more traffic). Near Ponchatoula a log truck’s entire load decided to disembark on the on-ramp loop. Poor guy. That is a bad day! Back on I-10, we finally crossed into Alabama, went through Mobile and across the bay to exit at FL-83. What do you know!? There is a Buc-ee’s there. (It really was no accident.) We popped in for a couple more Christmas gifts, then zig-zagged southeast to Lillian and our home until Monday, the Gulf Shores/Pensacola West/Lost Bay KOA. On the way there, we passed cotton fields ripe for harvest. We also got a good look at the area’s recent hurricane damage. (Sorry for the glare on some of the pics.)

After getting settled in, we headed over to see the Florida Jones Crew. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE me some Mark and Jennifer! They live in Pensacola just off of Gulf Beach Highway. Along the way we saw lots more hurricane damage. I think almost all of the privacy fences in Pensacola bit the dust. Mark and Jen had to replace theirs. They were lucky, though, with just a little roof damage and the fence. We had a delicious dinner of chicken and roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus. Yum! Then spent the evening catching up.

On Friday I spent some time working on a project for a client, then we headed out to run a few errands. I was certain that MW would pick Whataburger for lunch. After all, he will only have a couple more chances. We drove past a Krystal, though, and the pull was just too great. (I call this the McRib effect. He can’t have them most of the time, so the desire builds up. It applies to McRibs, Krystal, and Whataburger.) At Cordova Mall, we checked out Beyond the Grape. Brandon spent a bit of time telling us about a few of the wines, and talked me into a cherry-cabernet infusion for Jennifer and me to try later. I recommend the place if you are looking for something special. We headed back to Petunia to put stuff away, then relaxed a bit before heading over to meet Mark and Jennifer. We started the evening at Gary’s Brewery & Biergarten, one of Mark’s favorite places. It’s a pretty cool setup. They have a small indoor space with just a couple of sitting areas and a counter where they sell a variety of beer and wine. Outside is a large, covered patio with lots more seating, and additional tables in the uncovered garden area. There is also a food truck there some nights. We sat out enjoying the weather and the company for a while. Next we headed over to Butch’s Bistro & BBQ to pick up a takeout order. I had the Shrimp Po Boy; MW had the Rougarou; Jennifer had the B.O.L.T; and Mark went with The Cochon. Oh, and we shared the Canadian Style Poutine (fries topped with cheddar cheese curds and brown gravy). Totally delicious food in huge portions means you need to give this place a shot if you are in the area.

Saturday I worked a bit more on the project, then the Florida Jones crew picked us up for a little sightseeing. Along the way we saw more hurricane damage. We headed over to Barber Marina near Elberta, Alabama. There an artist named Mark Cline, working for eccentric, billionaire patron George Barber, has been adding fiberglass sculptures to the forests. First stop…Bamahenge. Yes, there is another henge! This partial replica of the original in Wiltshire, England, has the same astrological alignment. That means that, on the morning of the summer solstice (the longest day of the year), if you stand in the stone circle and look east, you would see the sunrise. Well, you would see it if you decided to get up before sunrise, drive out here, and walk to this replica, nestled in a clearing in the woods. Oh, and if it wasn’t surrounded by woods that would block the sunrise. But, in theory, it works. Alas, this is another structure that did not escape the recent hurricanes unscathed. Built of a fiberglass composite, a couple of the center stones became…un-henged.

We continued towards the marina, keeping a watchful eye out for dinosaurs. Yes, you heard right…dinosaurs! First we found aTyrannosaurus Rex lurking in the woods. Then there was a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus hanging out along the road. There was also a strange, metal sculpture that looked a little bit like a giant, bent sword blade. Not sure what it was supposed to be or stood for. A little further down, as we entered the marina area, there was a huge water fountain (turned off) and multiple statues spread around. The area was all but abandoned, which we thought was odd on a Saturday. Although the landscape was perfectly landscaped, we did see some signs of hurricane damage, too. There were several boats around that were destroyed, but no way to tell whether that was old damage or from the recent storms. There were also some giant yachts, near a huge, metal spider, too. After driving around a bit, we headed back out, finding the Brontosaurus on the way.

We headed back to Petunia to pick up Brutus and go hang out at the Florida Jones abode. There was more storm damage all along the route. Pine trees, in particular, fell in huge clusters or just snapped off. There are just no descriptive words for the amount of debris piled up everywhere. All back together, we enjoyed a scrumptious meal of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and roasted green beans. These people can cook! I actually don’t like them at all, but come for the food. Okay, that’s not true, but it could be if they weren’t ab fab. We visited a bit more before heading back to Petunia.

Sunday was very grey and dreary. After getting our act together, we hung around to listen in on our church service. Then we headed to get MW’s last chance Whataburger and pick up a couple of things from Target. I got a few more storm damage pics for you while out and about, then finally, we made it to the Florida Jones abode to spend our last day together. There was a little football, a lot of conversation, and more good food…grilled grouper, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and a rice dish with tomato and bacon. Once again, all delicious! At evenings end, we said our goodbyes. I’m always happy to see them and sad to leave. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see them again. It’s time for another trip together, guys!!!

The Gulf Shores/Pensacola West/Lost Bay KOA backs right up to Perdido Bay. Like most private campgrounds, it is large on amenities with a pool, hot tub, beach, clubhouse, kid and doggy playgrounds, boat launch, fishing pier, camp store, laundry facilities, mailbox, and bath house. For overnights, they offer a variety of cabins, primitive tent sites, and a large variety of RV sites in both 50- and 30-amp, some pull-through, some with patios, some shaded, and most with cable. Also typical of private campgrounds, the sites are crammed in really close. There are no fire rings, but they do have a grill up near the clubhouse. Our picnic table was in sad shape, and the roads could definitely use a little work. Amazingly, it was very quiet at night despite being pretty full. If we couldn’t get a site at a local state park, we would come here again to hang with our Florida crew. Distracted by visiting, I forgot to get good pics for you. I did snap a few on the way out, though. I loved the sign at the exit.

Next up…Roll Tide, Neewollah, and a Hurricane (Yes, Another One!) See you on the path!


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