Monday, May 17, found us once again on the road headed south, this time leaving at 6:30 AM!!! I KNOW! Ridiculous!! MW (Mr. Wonderful, although that wasn’t the first name that came to mind at the time) actually WOKE ME UP at 5:15 AM!! Texas was calling, and we decided to break our normal routine, hit the interstate, and drive all stinkin’ day. Yuck! We headed west out of Reelfoot, then caught the Levee Road, TN-181, and I-155 to cross the Mighty Mississippi into Missouri. Next it was south on I-55 into Arkansas and to our first stop of the day, the childhood home of the legendary Johnny Cash. (We really had to squeeze that one in!)

Johnny Cash was born J.R. Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas, in 1932. There was a disagreement about what to name their fourth child (the middle of seven eventually), so he was just given initials at birth. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the Air Force that he became John R. as they would not let him have initials as a first name. When he was 3 years old, his family moved to Dyess, Arkansas. (Part of the New Deal’s federal agricultural resettlement program, families in Dyess were allowed to earn land through farming it.) Tours start at the Dyess Colony Visitor’s Center where you can learn more about the community and the Cash family and purchase a variety of souvenirs. They take you down to tour the home, which is reportedly furnished as it was when they lived there. When we arrived, the facility was short-staffed. We were unable to take a tour, but we did ride down to where the house is and look around. To this day, it is on a dirt road in the middle of crop fields.

Back on the road, we headed west on AR-14 to AR-77 south, which put us back on I-55 south to I-40 west. Short of Little Rock, we stopped to take a break and have sandwiches for lunch. We were sorely tempted to pop in at Nick’s Bar-B-Q & Catfish (World Famous Since 1972) in Carlisle, Arkansas, but resisted the urge. (We’ve stopped there several times on trips back and forth to our daughter’s place when she lived in Texarkana. It is totally worth a visit!) Finally off of the interstate, we headed south on US-167 all the way into our fourth state of the day, Louisiana. After 472 miles (our normal day is ~200), we finally made it to our destination, Jimmie Davis State Park on Caney Lake.

Side Bar…the trip took us through El Dorado in southern Arkansas. There are a few things I do to purposely push MW’s buttons. One is a running commentary about the same movie, same director, same producer, same lead actor movies with different names…Rio Bravo and El Dorado (and I recently found out Rio Lobo, too). He defends, and I offer disdain. Amazingly, once we settled in for the evening, El Dorado was on one of the channels we picked up. Of course, we watched it. What is better than a day of Johns, starting with Cash and ending with Wayne.

Tuesday was catch up on sleep and veg day. We did take a nice walk around the park, but that was about the gist of the activity. Well, I also did some bookkeeping and made tuna salad. It was supposed to start raining, but never did. The same forecast for Wednesday didn’t materialize, either. From what I understand, that is a good thing as Louisiana has been pounded with plenty of water over the past few months. After working in the morning again, I headed out to Jonesboro, Louisiana, about 15 miles away on an errand run. I decided to forego laundry day…I just wasn’t feeling it. Back at Petunia, we took a ride around the picnic/beach area of the park. Then it was chili dogs for dinner with the leftover “Chili for a Crowd”. (Yum! Message me if you want the recipe!) Ended up not being able to sleep, so spent a little time at night on blog work.

Jimmie Davis State Park is pretty darned cool. During our visit they were renovating the campsites and doing an awesome job. The sites are paved and level, and are spaced out very well, Each has an additional paved area to the side for the picnic table and a fire ring. We’ve often said that people who renovate/build RV sites should have to have RVing experience, and it appears these guys do. They widened out the site entries and made them large enough to accommodate slides without running into trees or utilities. There are a couple of loops, each with a bathhouse and a total of 73 water & electric campsites, 9 of which are considered premium due to location. There is also a laundry available. In addition, there are 10 “glamping” tents available for rent. (I only saw these from a distance as they are walk-in, but they remind me of the large, square tents you see in old safari movies.) Other accommodations include cabins (sleep 8), lodges (sleep 14), and a group camp (sleeps 120). There are also a boat ramp and small marina area, plus docks at the cabin/lodge area. Pavilions are available, and there are plenty of picnic tables near the huge beach. There is a cool water playground for the little ones, as well as several hammocks strung up among the trees for the adults. A couple of hiking trails that appear to be just laid out, and there are plenty of water sport/fishing opportunities. There are also two playgrounds, one in the campground. Aside from the park activities, there is not a lot to do in the area. The nearest town, Jonesboro, is about 20 minutes away for groceries and Walmart. There is also a Dollar General about 6 miles down the road. During our visit, which was middle of the week in May, it was very peaceful with not too many people around. It would be high on our list, for both couples and families, as long as you are looking to hang at the park. For this visit, we paid $87.34 for three nights.

Thursday was another early start to get on down to Texas. We thought we would be breaking down in the rain, but it held off except for a few sprinkles as MW was dumping the tanks. While waiting for him to get done, a cardinal really wanted to get into the truck with me. (I guess he saw his reflection in the window.) He fluttered around both sides, then parked on the mirror for a while. The drive, overall, was LONG and wet, sometimes raining hard. Just after we left the park we saw something rare…a LIVE armadillo walking at the road’s edge. Normally you see them dead with all four feet in the air, although this is the second live one we’ve seen in our travels. (Video of the first is here.) A zoo worker once told me that they don’t see very well and aren’t very smart, which explains all of the road kill. This little fellow didn’t even look up as our giant rig went by. Later in the morning we saw another unusual sight: along the side of a divided, four-lane road was a doe and what appeared to be a brand new fawn. The mama was licking and nudging the baby, who was struggling to stand. Traffic was just whizzing by, and I said a little prayer that they would choose to head into the woods on their side instead of attempting the cross. Our first destination was intended to be Fort St. Jean Baptiste National Historic Site (a replica based on blueprints of a French fort from the early 1700s) in Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish), Louisiana. As we passed through downtown, we made a photo stop. The oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, the town was established in 1714. It is definitely one of those places you could hang out in for a bit…restaurants and cute shops on beautiful streets right across from the park along the Cane River. After walking around for a while, we continued to the Fort, but could find no place within any reasonable walking distance to park Brutus and Petunia. Bummer! (That is the one negative to traveling through these places while towing, but it honestly doesn’t happen often.)

Let’s have a quick convo about roads. I know we’ve discussed the atrocious condition of I-10 across southern Louisiana. We’ve also talked about roads in Arkansas and a few other places, too. As we were bouncing along LA-117, I managed to get a pic that said it all.

You always know when you cross into Texas, because the speed limit jumps up. We never do more than 63 or so when towing, but that still leaves a close rate of 138 mph on some of these two-lane roads! For lunch, we found Smitty’s Smokehouse in Jasper, Texas, which was pretty finger-licking good brisket. Our only complaint was that the bun was a little stale and not worthy of such great meat. Before hitting the final stretch, we took a walk around Harbor Freight and Family Dollar just to move a bit. As we approached Houston, we found the ever-present traffic and sat in bumper-to-bumper waiting to get past an accident on the bridge. That is always very stressful for both of us, but especially my chauffeur. We were exhausted when we finally arrived at the Texas RV Park around 4 PM. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining for our setup. Bonus! The rain has really done a number on Louisiana and Texas, though. We passed through quite a few flooded areas along the way.

Friday morning I went out to get a mani/pedi, normally a relaxing experience that I enjoy. I found LA Nails in Hitchcock, Texas, and made a 9 AM appointment. (Reviews were mixed.) From the moment I arrived, it was unpleasant. They were very brusque before they realized I had an appointment, subjected me to a heated exchange in Vietnamese that seemed to be about other people who worked there, repeatedly tried to paint my toes with the wrong polish, rushed through my manicure while I was still in mid-pedicure (the shop was not busy), did a terrible job, and basically ignored me when I was standing up front waiting to pay. It wasn’t until I was almost done that I realized two things: 1) the lady working on me could not possibly have any type of license, and 2) she didn’t speak ONE WORD OF ENGLISH. I’m sorry, but I believe someone in a service-oriented job that requires information from the client should understand what is being said. When I left I was more tense than when I arrived!

SQUIRREL: I used to be an Air Traffic Controller and was once stationed at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta. One of the fixed base operators on the field ran training classes all the time, and on occasion had students come over from China. Before arrival, they were supposed to know enough basic English to understand directions as they learned to fly. You know, things like…cleared for takeoff, cleared to land, downwind, crosswind, upwind, final, taxi…basically all of the normal stuff. Well, that was all well and good as long as things progressed along normally. Once, on a beautiful VFR day (meaning you see it and don’t hit it), I had a student doing touch-and-goes in a little Cherokee. (That is where they continually circle and practice approach, descent, and departure without stopping.) I also had a blimp (either Shamu or Goodyear…can’t remember which) ready to depart. FYI, blimps do not have the speed and maneuverability to move out of the way, so they always have the right-of-way. The blimp was cleared for takeoff and advised of the traffic. The student was advised of the blimps departure and direction. Easy peasy. The student does his touch and go, turns crosswind, then starts into his downwind. The blimp is about to cross the downwind on his way out…very slowly. “Traffic twelve o’clock, 3/4 mile, blimp.” Now normally that’s the signal to change your route slightly so that you don’t crash. Student response, “Raja”, while still puttering along straight for the airship. “Traffic twelve o’clock, 1/2 mile, blimp.” “Raja.” He continued straight ahead, and now I’m wondering what he means by “raja”! “Traffic 12 o’clock, 1/4 mile, blimp.” “Raja.” “Do you have the blimp in sight?!” “Raja. He move.” “NO! You MOVE! DON’T HIT HIM!” At the last minute he veered left and passed behind the blimp. When I talked to the school later, they said he didn’t understand what I was telling him to do and thought he had to stay on the downwind in a straight line. Ugh! In the case of flying, more understanding is good.

Back at Petunia, I finally had to break down and do the laundry I put off earlier in the week. This park is terrific for sightseeing in the Houston area, and their laundry facilities are top notch. I did a review here before, so I’ll just add that the road noise was not bad, and there was no party next door this time. There seem to be a lot of folks here that are working in the area, but the owners are very particular about keeping everything clean, so there are not any junked up areas. In fact, I met one of the owners in the laundry mopping and folding clothes. She said a lot of people work at night and sleep during the day, so she offers a wash and fold service that is a win-win. By the time we had everything cleaned and put away, our niece, Taylor texted to say she was home from work. We ran by Target on the way to her house (more in a minute about that), then ordered Chinese takeout (delicious) and visited with Abby and Mack, her four-legged children. Well of course, Taylor, too, although she’s convinced that MW only comes to see his Ab-abs! Both of the dogs seem to be in constant competition for his attention when we visit. LOL. This time, though, Abby was a little slower than usual because she was attacked by a neighbor’s dog the day before. Poor thing had a knot on the side of her muzzle where she was bitten, and although she didn’t pull away when you touched it, she didn’t look happy either. Extra love was definitely in order!

Back to Target…one of the things that I originally LOVED about Petunia was all of the cabinets, including a bank across the front wall. (Well, MW would say it is the back wall, because when you are outside, it is the rear of Petunia. But like Doctor Who’s Tardis, when you come inside, everything changes. In a home, the living area is normally in the “front” and the bedrooms are typically in the “back”, so the back wall becomes the front. Follow? Don’t listen to MW.) If you are just camping for the weekend, you don’t need things like flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc., but full-timers (at least those that cook) definitely do. I purchased canisters with rubber seals on the lids that firmly closed. Shortly thereafter, we crossed a particularly rough railroad track, the lids did not stay on, and flour was all over the place. Back to Target for another set of canisters. This time I spent a small fortune on the OXO Pop containers. Problem solved…NOT. After several particularly rough driving days, those lids were off or loose, too. Well DANG! So this time I found Progressive canisters with lids that are attached on one side and have a super tight seal with a latch. (The OXO set are great for a stationary house, so I gave those to Taylor.) Problem solved…I hope!

Saturday morning was ROUGH for me. I was terribly nauseous by the time we went to bed, and it developed into retching as the night wore on. (Possibly food poisoning from the Garlic Shrimp or the ready-made margarita/wine hybrid drink. I suspected the latter, because that shrimp was just too delicious.) MW got up early and ran over to Buc-ee’s (his second favorite place here) for coffee and breakfast. Although he brought me back a muffin and a cherry kolache (because he wasn’t sure what I might be able to eat), I was worn out and couldn’t think about food at all. I did feel like the worst was behind me, though. The plan for the day was heading down to check out the Galveston Naval Museum. Located at Seawolf Park (named for a WWII submarine that was lost, it also has a playground and fishing pier) on Pelican Island, the museum has the USS Cavalla, which sank the Japanese Carrier Shokaku that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The other draw is the USS Stewart, a Destroyer Escort whose primary mission was to screen the fleet and drop depth charges on submarines. Having been on ship and sub tours before (after all, I am married to a military man), I knew the strong smells would not help my weak stomach. I opted to wait while Taylor and MW took a look. (I received a report that 1) I was right about the smells, and 2) the museum was pretty cool.) With the breeze, I was able to take a nice little nap in the car, too.

There is an interesting sight in the Galveston Bay near Seawolf Park. It is the scuttled skeleton of a CONCRETE ship! I would not have thought concrete to be a good ship-building material, but apparently there have been barges and ships made of reinforced concrete since the mid-1800s. Who knew?! This particular ship was commissioned in a group of 24 by President Woodrow Wilson when steel shortages in WWI caused them to experiment. Only 12 were actually built, and this one, the SS Selma, was the largest. Built in Mobile, Alabama, this oil tanker was named for the city of Selma and commissioned on the very day that the war officially ended (June 28, 1919) with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. She operated in the Gulf region, but sadly, did not have a long life. On May 31, 1920, less than a year after being born, the SS Selma hit a jetty in Tampico, Mexico. She was brought to Galveston where attempts were made to repair the 60-foot hole in her hull to no avail. Finally, on March 9, 1922, the government officially laid her to rest right where she sits now.

By the time they came back, I was feeling well enough that it was time to look for food. We had planned for days to find good oysters, so we headed over to the Kemah area to check out Tookie’s Seafood. I was totally going to opt for soup, but the oysters just looked so darned good. Luckily, it seemed that my stomach was just waiting for some raw deliciousness! I did follow them with soup, though…crab bisque…and a side salad. In addition to oysters, Taylor opted for a Shrimp & Oyster Po’ Boy, and MW had an Oyster Po’ Boy. Everything was great, and we will definitely go again when back in the area. Next, we made an H-E-B run, because, well, why not? It is MW’s third favorite place here, and he just loves to walk those aisles. (WE also picked up a few things.) After that, we called it a day, and Taylor dropped us back at Petunia. Still feeling a little worn out, I went to bed early.

Sunday I got some work done before we tuned in to our church broadcast from Sneedville. Then we headed over to pick up Taylor and find some lunch. Fully recovered, I was in the mood for a calzone, so she suggested Russo’s New York Pizzeria. Good job, TayTay!! This is a chain that appears to be mostly concentrated in Texas. If they are all like the one we visited, you won’t be disappointed in giving them a try. MW and I both had calzones, and Taylor had pizza. Yum! After lunch we made a final Houston Buc-ees run to give MW some browsing time. When we walked in, we spotted Buc-ee…seriously…in the middle of the store, and told MW he needed to get his pic taken to send to his brother. Dude made a beeline like a 5-years old to Santa Clause, totally missing the little kid who was waiting to see Buc-ee. He corrected the mistake immediately, but Taylor and I were cracking up. We all ended up getting in on the action, though.

We headed back to Taylor’s place to hang out for a bit. Poor Abby seemed to be feeling worse, and her swollen face was just sad, so she will be visiting the vet Monday. She was given extra love, but don’t feel bad for Mack. He didn’t miss out on anything at all. It was finally time to head for the hills, and as usual, I was sad to leave. We will see Taylor again in a few weeks, though, at her brother’s winging ceremony in San Antonio.

Next up…Waco, Magnolia Meh, and the Doctor…Pepper That Is. See you on the path.

Talisa