Video-Poem Recap

Forgive us, readers, for it has been 6 (?) months since our last confession…

Yes, post-road trip life happens. The stall in photo-posting about mid-way through our trip I shall attribute to not having fast enough Internet and also because our nightlife ramped up once we starting visiting friends and experiencing the wonderful music of the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans. That’s our excuse and sticking to it!

However, I was recently introduced to the use of a poetic story-telling format, and so here’s a brief synopsis in words and images of our Redwoods 2 Gulf Stream Waters Road Trip, until the next prequel chapter rolls out…

TripChix – This Land Was Made for You and Me!

Blogging Retrospectively – Home again, home again, lickety-split!

On Thursday, our last night of our trip, we excitedly retraced our trip through the Sierras, and as you can see, our trip Kewpie was happy to see those gorgeous snow-capped mountains again…


We had dinner in Reno with Maggie’s sister, Katie, who is recovering nicely from a recent hip replacement, and husband Mike fixed us a wonderful Mexican meal. Easy to tell that these two sisters are like peas in a pod and a force to be reckoned with!

Checking the latest Caltrans report on road conditions, we decided that delays on 101 were shorter than on 299, so we drove Friday through the ‘upper’ Central Valley, and connected to 101 close to the Willets bypass.

We got buzzed by a crop duster just outside Colusa – one of those ‘which way did he go? moments’ – where he flew right above us, then flew just outside my passenger window, barely off the water…


But it was worth it, braving the crop duster buzzing, to get gorgeous strawberries, cherries and blueberries from a farmer (who does not dust his crops) – sweetened by that California sunshine and all the rain!

And so, Maggie and I drove up 101 Greeted by the Redwoods, and the cool, misty climate of our dear home, sweet home. My sister, Amy, hosted with friends Quynh, Suzanne, Mimi and Nancy, a wonderful welcome home dinner, as we ended our 42-day journey coming Full Circle, playing our mini-harmonicas from the legendary Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale (to be described in a later blog, faithful reader…).

A sumptuous meal was served, with Nancy’s fancy FloraDora cocktails, and we all traded stories about recent trips, from our Redwoods2Gulf trip, to Nancy’s recent ‘Hamilton’ San Francisco trip, and Suzanne’s Galapagos adventures. (Sorry that my only group photo has Amy’s eyes closed…)


As the map link below shows (Mapquest could only map our trip stops up to Twin Falls), add the additional 200 miles we travelled on Thursday (taking in the Minidoka Internment National Historic Site and Shoshone Falls, before staying in Elko, NV), and then from Elko to home, we will have logged another 650+ miles, making our trip closer to over 7,200 miles! My Ford Escape, aka Esperanza, has served us well!

Partial route up to Twin Falls, ID

Obviously, we are about ‘3 weeks behind’ in posting — just too much fun visiting with old friends, enjoying food, music, art, beautiful scenery and walks and hikes, and the time it takes to drive across the country. I admit that by the time I realized that the desktop version of WordPress is more facile than the app, the trip was winding down. 

And so now, we have the benefit of higher speed Internet, time to reflect, and the ‘long view’ perspective needed to draw out themes from our trip experiences (shades of my training as a qualitative data geek) and understanding of the people we met, and the context of place, history, and customs. This is to say that the blog will continue, retrospectively, and not necessarily in a temporal fashion (day-by-day), but rather guided by insights and observations.

It’s been a wild and joyful ride, and it’s not over yet!

Day 20: North through Mississippi

We headed north on the famed Highway 61 (yes, Bob Dylan also immortalized that highway that connected the Mississippi Delta blues to Minnesota). As a harbinger of the finest fried foods the South has to offer (seriously, they DO know how to fry food in the South – crisp, not greasy or oily), we had to stop and take photos and purchase cracklins from a roadside market – Praise da Lard!


We stopped at the Melrose Estate (not plantation, as the mansion was not on-site adjacent on their fields) outside Natchez. Our intern/guide CJ, soon to graduate from Alcorn State, for this historic National Park site, was the grandson of the longest-living resident there, having lived there into his 90’s and had a unique knowledge of the home, being a servant to the last owners. He taught CJ about the house, and his oral history is being documented by the NPS.

 

Upstairs bathroom

This is a hand-operated paddle fan in the dining room

 

Pushing on, the terrain changed from beautiful rolling hills to the flat, flat delta with huge acreage of corn, enabling us to see a gorgeous Mississippi sunset, as we rolled into Clarksdale around 7:30 pm. Juke Joint Festival, here we come!

Days 19-20: Adventures in Acadiana

What better thing to do, while waiting out a thunderstorm and tornado watch in New Orleans, than to get caught up on the past week and a half? When we last left you, faithful readers, we were in Denham Springs, LA. Mary and Bob took Maggie and me to Lake Martin about 2 hours to the east, and we had a wonderful fried catfish lunch at Buck & Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge.

Awesome crawfish dress on sale!

Restaurant was previously an auto repair shop

Note the oil can light fixtures

We got our alligator fix by walking the shore of Lake Martin, and also saw some wood ducks, recently hatched turtle eggs and herons.


The rest of our trip should have been less than ‘a 3-hour tour’ (as in Gilligan’s Island), but as evidenced by this small sampling of billboards that dominate the Louisiana Interstate – seriously, I took photos of all these billboards in the space of 2 minutes, and didn’t even capture them all! Bob and Mary shared the story about how a little boy somehow idolized Morris Bart, one of the more ubiquitous attorneys, to the point where he had a Morris Bart-themed birthday party and dressed like him. They invited him, but he declined – sad!

Morris moving into flood damage litigation now


Gordon McKernan actually had a billboard quoting the Bible (?) that said, “Blessed are those who mourn”

Gordon always had easy to remember phone numbers

His building had a huge ‘GK’ identifying it. And a 3-D billboard like this one of him standing on the hood of the truck cab.


C. Jack stays current with a website

We were soon to learn why all these attorney billboards – when we were 30 minutes from Denham Springs, we hit a traffic snarl on the Interstate, which soon turned into a complete standstill – FOR SIX HOURS! We saw a big black plume of smoke (ahead of us by 2.5 miles), that was the impact of two semi’s colliding (with a car caught in between). It took 6 hours to put out the fire and clear the debris – the image of the burned & melted trucks & car was the most horrific accident I’ve ever seen. While it was an inconvenience, we counted ourselves lucky that we weren’t closer to the accident, and ended up befriending a Mexican truck driver, Mauricio. With Maggie’s bit of Spanish, we talked and showed photos of our kids (& grandkids) from our phones. And in the car, the 4 of us shared stories and jokes (we heard several Boudreau and Thibodeau jokes, a staple in Acadiana). Definitely making lemonade from lemons… it’s all in the attitude!
We were a bit keyed up and hungry when we finally got to their house after midnight, and we women stayed up into the wee hours doing ‘women-talk’… Poor Bob had to get up in the early morning and teach a class! Luckily he had graded papers in the car on the way to the lake. So ended (& started) our last day in Denham Springs. We ended with a tearful goodbye, and picture taking on the porch (bottom border is surface that my camera was resting on). We will be back! XOXOX

Day 18: Denham Springs and more Acadiana

My dear friend, Mary Loofbourrow, and husband (& now dear friend) Bob Anderson, greeted Maggie and me with big hugs, and we sat down to Mary’s delicious gumbo dinner and salad, and for dessert, a Cajun chocolate cake called doberge and a strawberry cream cake. We marveled at the progress they’d made in recovering from the great flood of August 2016, that was chest-high in their house, and still continuing bit by bit. The next morning, we saw the water marks on both their house and at a nearby restaurant. Evidence everywhere that many people and businesses are still getting rid of flood-damaged infrastructure and rebuilding.

Mary & Bob’s house got new porch steps recently

Compared to house down the road still tearing out structure

Their pond behind their house (no grass to mow!)

Note the watermark on the screen door behind us

Watermark in their favorite restaurant is over our heads!

The sign of the Goodyear shop where I got my oil changed


The next day, Mary took us to one of her favorite little towns, St. Francisville, where we ate at the Magnolia Cafe, which is adjacent to the quaint little cottages for rent.  We shopped at her favorite store, Grandmother’s Buttons, where they use old buttons to make into jewelry, and Maggie and I continued our gift shopping spree for those we left behind 😉

At Grandmother’s Buttons (Mary & I bought the same hat) 🙂


And as part of the history of St. Francisville, we visited the beautiful Grace Episcopal Church, built in 1827. While Maggie and I had seen many Catholic churches in Acadiana, this was one of the few Episcopal churches we’d seen, and is one of the state’s oldest Protestant churches. We looked up the origins of the Feliciana Parish, where St. Francisville is located, and learned that Feliciana is a Spanish word meaning ‘happy land.’ It was originally home to the Houma, then the Tunica Indians, and in 1775 by the Spanish. After that, over the centuries, those lands then passed to the French (LaSalle), then back to Spain (French and Indian Wars), then claimed by Britain (as a part of its West Florida colony). Then ceded back to France (1800), then sold to the US as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Spain continued to claim the Feliciana region, but those colonies revolted and established the Republic of West Florida. They petitioned Pres. Madison to annex their area, and then finally declared to be Feliciana County as part of the Territory of Orleans. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this history.) No wonder the food & culture are so rich, with all the influences over the centuries. At any rate, back to the Episcopal church, which definitely represents its English origins, with the church and church graveyard, and those stately live oaks.


Next post: Further adventures with Mary & Bob – alligators, billboards and trucks, oh my!

Days 15-17: Acadiana

We met up with Indivisible Acadiana and helped to pick up trash downtown Lafayette for a prequel to Earth Day, and we enjoyed meeting with Matthew, Christi, John, and Agnes. Much like our meeting with our compatriots in Prescott, we found we shared similar views and the impetus to take action since the election, and we learned about environmental actions being taken to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast. They are recycling oyster shells to build oyster reefs which will also help provide fishing habitat and improve water quality. Lafayette provides discounted rain barrels to reduce storm water runoff pollution, among other benefits.

Our 2 degrees of separation was at play when we met Agnes Courville, an activist originally from France, who had recently hosted Laura Kangas in her Airbnb (Joan Gold’s daughter).

Our first attempt to go on the waters of the Atchafalaya with our Airbnb hosts & Cajun Customized Excursions guides, Mark & Peggy, was foiled by impending thunderstorms, so they took us to their local brewery, Bayou Teche. We heard the final set of an excellent zydeco band, and stayed on for a trivia game (name that tune from the 70’s through current pop hits). Somehow we managed to win a case and half of beer by recognizing such obvious songs as Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves of London’ & ELO… Helps to be an ‘oldie’…

So we awoke Easter Sunday morning, and put on our finest, wrinkles and all, to attend Easter services at St. Charles Borromeo, a beautiful church in Grand Coteaux about 15 minutes away. Maggie and I figured we were set for the week then, and on a parishioner’s advice, we went for a Sunday brunch in Lafayette at the Blue Dog Cafe. We were not disappointed, either in the food or the great blues music provided by Marty Christian and Lee Allen Zeno (who has played with Buckwheat Zydeco, and many others). Filling our plates with: Crab cake eggs Benedict, Andouille cabbage, oyster cornbread stuffing, Dirty Dog rice, sweet potato crunch, Gouda grits with pork grillade, sautéed veggies, creamed spinach crawfish enchiladas, bacon & bottomless mimosas or champagne.

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We finished our Easter Sunday by going out to Avery Island, owned by the Avery family for almost 200 years. The island is home also to Tabasco sauce, but the factory tour was not open on Sunday. We did tour the beautiful Jungle Gardens, which hosts hundreds of egrets who are nesting now. A Buddha was given to the McIlhenny family and a little pagoda was built to house it, above a pond. We met a charming young couple from Spain (now living in Dallas), and tried to share some ‘tips’ to see in the area.

Beautiful Maggie under a live oak with Spanish moss


Our final day, Mark took us for a cruise on the Atchafalaya (pronouncing it incorrectly,  accenting the 2nd syllable finally after 20 tries). This magnificent basin is about 17-20 miles wide and 150 miles long, existing primarily to relieve flooding for the NOLA & Baton Rouge areas. Our highlights were seeing the magnificent cypresses, some housing wood duck boxes, and alligators. Mark showed us an osprey nest high atop a cypress.

The bridge pillars were hollow, and went into the mud, about 30 feet deep.


Farewell to the Atchafalaya, and on to Denham Springs reunion with Mary & Bob!

Day 14: Archer City to Acadiana

Forgive me, Father, it has been a week since my last confession, er, post… Oh my, the events of our visit to a Catholic Church on Easter has gotten me confused. When we last left off, we had arrived in Archer City, where Larry McMurtrey grew up and now has 2 of 4 bookstores he formerly owned. How did we find Archer City? Just Google ‘cool little towns in Texas’ and of the plethora, Archer City was the one on our route. This hotel has been through 11 owners, but the last did a major remodel, and they are currently trying to make a go of writers workshops, particularly for young people. Miss Sarah Junek, was our hostess, who also directs the Young Writer Workshops, and she was busy running the lights for the play in the Royal Theater around the corner, which was the inspiration for McMurtrey’s ‘The Last Picture Show.’ Between marveling at the decor of the hotel, having a ‘breakfast bowl’ at Murn’s Cafe across the street, then shopping at the antique shop, Cobwebs, with its resident kitties, and spending time in one of McMurtrey’s bookstores, Maggie and I had a full morning before heading to Louisiana.

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McMurtrey auctioned off almost half of his books a few years back, with quite the pricey event (showed ‘The Last Picture Show’ in the Royal Theater, which did not make a favorable impression amongst some of the good Christian folk of the town, we heard. These photos do not even begin to capture the thousands of volumes in one of the bookstores (the garage is the bookstore ‘Annex’).

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Farewell to our one day in Texas, with its beautiful roadside wildflowers, and hello to Acadiana, arriving at the Cajun Cabin in Arnaudville at 11 pm, a sight for sore eyes!