Monthly Archives: February 2018

ūüéľ ūüéľ BIG BEND, BIG BAD BEND ūüéľ ūüéľ

February 14, 2018

THE FIBERGLASS RALLY

We finally made it to Quartzsite, AZ for the fiberglass RV rally. ¬†It was really something to see the 200 or so little trailers gathered in one place. ¬†There were a few organized events. ¬†One of them was a soup potluck. ¬†Everyone is asked to bring a can of any kind of soup, as long as it isn’t a creamed variety. ¬†The hosts (I think) put the soups into large vats for cooking. ¬†At the specified time, you go to the “soup area” with your own spoon and bowl. ¬†Needless to say, I did not participate in this activity. ¬†I donated my can of soup, but I did not / could not / would not ¬†taste the final product, although I was told it was “delicious”. ¬†On the last day, there was a dessert potluck. ¬†Again, everyone was supposed to bring one dessert – of any kind. ¬†I think it’s fair to say that every single person in the desert that day lined up for dessert with their own plates. ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever seen dishes piled so precariously high. ¬†Those people could really eat !!!

While in town, we had dinner at the Quartzite Yacht Club (“Long time no sea“).

I collected a number of quartzite rocks.

All I have to do is find a rock tumbler,¬†cut them¬†and voila — spectacular jewelry (after I learn how to cut them and actually make jewels).

And that’s about it. ¬†The rally is primarily for meeting up with other folks who enjoy traveling in the same types of trailers to discuss things like trailer modifications, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. ¬†It was an interesting few days.

 

BIG BEND

In Big Bend National Park, the ¬†miles of roads end at the Rio Grande, the river boundary between the United States and Mexico. ¬†There are more than 100 miles of paved roads, greater than ¬†70 miles of unpaved roads and 238 miles of trails, stretching deep into the park’s wilderness, very difficult to access. ¬† Something ¬†easily accessible in Big Bend are the stars. ¬†Simply look up into¬†one of the darkest skies in the US, and you will easily see the Milky Way. ¬† ¬†In 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the order for this 801,163 acres of land to be protected. ¬†The name Big Bend refers to the great southwest Texas U-turn of the Rio Grande defining the park boundary for 118 miles . ¬† “…by legend, Pecos Bill lassoed a wild tornado and carved a series of magnificentand canyons”. ¬†One of the reasons it has been deemed a national park besides the stunning beauty, is the fact that it is the only park that consists of three different ecosystems – a place where water, desert, and mountains converge. ¬†Big Bend provides habitat for 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, 56 species of reptiles, and 11 species of amphibians.

The Rio Grande

   

The river you see in the background is the Rio Grande.¬†This green ribbon not only cuts across the dry desert, it also carved and continues to carve, deep canyons. ¬†Anywhere the terrain rises, water has carved everything from tiny gullies to springs, trickling streams, and canyons. ¬† This is the Santa Elena Canyon. ¬†Its north wall is in the US and It’s south wall towers in Mexico. ¬†( In the picture below, to the left is Mexico and to the right is the US)

By the way, we certainly don’t need a wall between the US and Mexico in this part of Texas at least. ¬†Unless people have expert rappelling skills, there’s no way they can cross into the US via this route.

The Rio Grande is the park’s most prominent water source. The river supports 40 species of fish, several species of turtles, beaver, and numerous species of waterfowl (both residents and migrating species). ¬†It is a place where visitors can fish, canoe and kayak.

The Desert

Big Bend lies in the northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of North America’s four major deserts. ¬† ¬†Some people think the desert is a vast emptiness, but I happen to love this landscape. ¬†I’m amazed at the adaptations of plants and animals that live there. ¬† ¬†Desert life is adapted to save its energy and to get and keep water. ¬†Dormant seeds wait for rain, and can stay dormant for years. ¬†Most animals beat the heat by coming out only at night. ¬†Snakes do this because on hot summer days, they would die in minutes. ¬†Note how the desert gives way to the mountains.

 

I want to give a shout-out to three of my favorite desert plants.  The Torry Yucca, the Ocotillo, and the Century Plant.

The Torry Yucca

The Torrey Yucca is generally ¬†a multitrunked shrub 3‚Äď10 feet ¬†in height. They can be single trunked and tree-like to 20 feet tall. The bladed leaves range from 2 to 4.5 feet ¬†in length. The flowers, ivory to creamy white tinged with red or purple and bell shaped, are on a flower head up to 2 feet long. ¬†The fruit of this plant ¬†was used by the Apache people¬†as a food source. ¬† They also used the plant leaves as a fiber in basketry, cloth, mats, ropes, and sandals. ¬†Why is this one of my faves? ¬†Because the flower head has been known to weigh as much as 70 pounds. ¬†That my friends is a flower – try putting that in a vase!!!

 

The Ocotillo

One of the most amazing of the many unique and unusual plants found in the Chihuahuan desert is the Ocotillo. The Ocotillo is not actually a cactus but a family of its own. Its bundles of gray, thorny stems, often look drab and totally dead.

But, with ¬†warmth and moisture, they miraculously transform into a leafy green, orange-crowned flowering wonder. This plant is one of the best examples of living in and surviving drought, and that’s what makes it a favorite. ¬†With rain the Ocotillo develops¬†leaves but¬†drops them when the dry conditions return. ¬†This can happen several times a year.

Colonies of mature Ocotillo are pretty impressive. Older specimens can reach heights of 25 feet, some spreading out more than 15 feet across.

 

The Century Plant

Another of my favorites is the Century Plant.  They hold a special place in my heart because when we lived in the islands and our children were very small, we used it as a Christmas Tree.

Naturally, we only cut trees that appeared to be dead, dry and withered.  And contrary to what you may be thinking they were spectacularly adorned with tinsel and ornate shell decorations.  Promise!!

The Mountains

The Chisos Mountains are the green island in a sea of desert.  They attract creatures rare and unexpected.  Over thousands of years the animals became isolated Рstranded in the mountains by the increasing dryness.  For example, Carmen Mountain white-tailed deer are unknown anywhere other than in the Chisos.  The Colima warbler nests only in the Chisos, after wintering in Mexico.    Also living here for thousands of years is the mountain lion, known locally as panther.

The pictures below clearly show how the desert gives way to the mountains.

 

 

Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks due to the fact that you have to go way out of your way to see it. ¬†You don’t just pass by. ¬†The only reason to be in that neck of the woods is if you were specifically on a mission to visit Big Bend. ¬†Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

 

We are currently in Del Rio, Texas. ¬†It was one of our favorite towns (city?) on our “big trip”. ¬†Broke Mill RV Park is immaculate and close to lots of neat things. ¬† Last night we had a delicious filet mignon dinner with mashed potatoes, beans, cowboy bread, cherry cobbler and ice cream. The meal was prepared by the owner of the park, Mike, ¬†who also happens to ¬†be a cattle rancher – fresh beef. And if that’s not enough, there was a show after dinner by the Broken Mill Players.

The fiddler is none other than the same guy- Mike. He truly is a master of many trades.

Fun fact: ¬†Whenever you’re traveling and find yourself at an event in a park, the guests begin to talk about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen. “Has anyone been to Alaska?” Those who have chime in on the conversation, “Oh yes, plus, we’ve been to all 50 states and nine Canadian Providences.” ¬†After the travel issues are exhausted, we play the “did you see” game. ¬†People get to boast about all the places they’ve been. Often the boasts are about historical sites and museums – the more esoteric the better. ¬†I’ve learned how to turn these conversations around. ¬†I ask, “Has anyone visited the last washboard manufacturing company in the US?” And further, “has anyone seen the largest ball of twine in the world?” “No?” ¬† By then, people look at us through squinted eyes and ¬†a “huh?” expression. ¬†I love it!

¬†Such fun. If you want to know more, check out blog posts from the past. ¬†We’re headed east, eventually for home. ¬†Next stop – Port Aransas, Texas, another favorite. ¬†See you there.

 

PLEASE DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR MY RANT !

This has happened to us twice in our travels, once in Redwood National Park, and once in the desert. ¬†To all sales people – we are on vacation – and you are, too. ¬†Stop trying to sell us stuff! ¬†It’s been the same both times. ¬†People trying to entice you with their pyramid schemes. ¬†“I have never felt better in my life”, they claim. ¬†“I would not be able to sleep at night if I didn’t tell you about this miracle product.” ¬†When you are naive enough to ask, “What is it”, that’s when they spring into action. ¬†Even going so far as ¬†to showing a picture of themselves before taking the product, and after the product. And how they paid for the very trailer they’re camping in by selling this product, and letting other people in on the wonder of it all, so that they in turn can make people healthy and wealthy. ¬†When they first approach you, it’s seemingly just to be friendly. ¬†You’re thinking, oh, what a nice couple, offering glass of wine, a little cheese, some crackers. Then they start. ¬†And believe me, it’s a hard sell. ¬†They’ve been so nice…can you really say “no”…how will I avoid eye contact for the remaining time we’re camped beside them. ¬†Yep- it’s very awkward. ¬†So just STOP. ¬†If I ask you a question like, “Do you know of anyone who sells a product that will make my gray hair turn brown, help me lose weight, and feel healthier than I ever have in my life?” , then give me your spiel… otherwise, please don’t !!!

Enough said!

QUARTZSITE

February 8, 2018

In the last post I told you all about Rayne, Louisiana. ¬†What I didn’t tell you is that Rayne is about a 15 minute ride from Lafayette , Louisiana, where Mardi Gras was already in swing. ¬†During the day we went to a Chili Cook-Off and a Jamie Bergeron and the Cajun Kickers concert.

We met Jamie last time were in Louisiana at Whiskey River. ¬†Actually, we like his music so much, we stayed in Rayne an extra three nights just to hear the band. ¬†After the Chili Cook-Off and Jamie Bergeron, we headed to Lafayette to watch the parade. ¬†Way more beads than New Orleans, but much more family friendly. ¬†So if you want bare skin, boobs, and too much booze, Lafayette may not be what you’re after.

Jazz Musicians…

Chiefs…

Floats…

And Dancers

 

FLY EAGLES FLY

Tim and I were not only able to watch the Superbowl, but partied with 400 other Eagles fans — in Houston, Texas of all places. ¬†How does that happen? ¬†Well, while we were on the road, we figured we’d be in or near Houston for the game. ¬†So we googled ‘where to watch the Super Bowl in Houston?’ Surprisingly, there was a bar called Ladybird‘s¬†where all Eagles fans in Houston converge to watch them play. Hmmmm, strange. ¬†Even stranger, it turns out many people in Houston dislike all things Dallas as much as Eagle fans hate the Dallas Cowboys. ¬†One of the founders of the¬†Houston Eagles Nest,¬†(below are two of the founders)

a Texas native himself, told us it was only natural that they would root for the Eagles.  Weird, huh?  And of course there also are many transplants from Philadelphia in Houston for school or work.  So there we were with hundreds of fans all wearing green and going crazy every time the Eagles did something right.  Trust me, it was a  strange, but crazy good time.

 

Check out this logo!

 

Just a second here – I just noticed my box of Raisinets. ¬†Check out the box…do you see it? ¬†It says this box contains real fruit.¬†Is there such thing as fake raisins??? ¬† I don’t know, I’m just asking.

 

We finally arrived in quirky Quartzsite, Arizona.

When we arrived, we checked into Quail Run RV Park. ( Park review to be available soon under Campsite Pages.)

¬†After being on the road for awhile, we had laundry to do, and as much cleaning as can be done in a 17′ nugget. ¬†Tomorrow we’ll fill and empty (dump, ugh) our tanks and ¬†head for Dome Rock where the fiberglass rally is being held. ¬†I

What in the world do camels have to do with Quartzsite, Arizona you may ask.  This article written by by Sam Lowe in 2009 can explain it much better than I can.

Quartzsite’s Legend of A Camel Driver

“The thing most people notice right away when they enter the Quartzsite Cemetery is a stone pyramid topped by a copper camel, and there‚Äôs quite a story behind its presence. The cairn marks the grave site of a man they called Hi Jolly, who came to this country in the 1860s ¬†from Syria, to act as a camel driver for the U.S. Army during an ill-fated attempt to use the animals as beasts of burden for military purposes in the deserts of the Southwest.

His real name was Hadji Ali, but the soldiers had trouble pronouncing that moniker so they shortened it to Hi Jolly. He served with the Army until the camel experiment was abandoned and the camels were either sold off to private enterprises or turned loose on the desert. One of them became known as the Red Ghost, and allegedly stomped a woman to death, and the Hi Jolly legend says that when he died, he was out in the desert hunting for the renegade animal. Before his death, he bought some of the camels and operated a freight line along the Colorado River but it failed so he turned to prospecting and, like so many others, never got rich at that, either.

He died in an old rock cabin near Quartzsite in 1902, but his memory is preserved every year when Quartzsite stages Hi Jolly Days and Camelmania in his honor.”

 

A BIT OF HUMOR

Thought you might enjoy some quirky Quartzsite humor. This town is all about RVs.  Many, many ( too many? ) retired folks spend the winter here in everything from tiny pop-up campers to mega-monstrosities that cost several million dollars each.  But whether they are large

or small,

they all have to dump (such an ugly word, “dump” ) waste. ¬†That system may break down. But have no fear, the Proctologist is here. ¬†I can’t stress enough the quirkiness of this town.

Check out his gloves and stethoscope – what a hoot !

We checked into the rally today. ¬†It is expected that over 200 fiberglass trailers will be in attendance. ¬†There are no services ¬†at Dome Rock like water, sewer, or electric. ¬†We have a small Honda generator, so we should be fine. ¬†This is BLM ¬†(Bureau of Land Management) property, so there is no fee. That’s pretty sweet for about 3 days, then it gets a bit old, for me at least, but many “snowbirds” stay for the entire winter. ¬†Here is a picture of just a small portion of the campers.

And here we are all set up. ¬†Don’t you just love our “patio”?

OK folks, they’re calling us for the Happy Hour Party – stay tuned…

 

DON’T RAYNE ON MY PARADA

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Y’ all know I don’t post this often, but we took so many pictures in The Frog Capital of the World yesterday, I gave it its own post so you wouldn’t miss out on any of these delightful creatures. I’m fairly certain we’ve all been to a city or town where the sidewalks are festooned with one animal or another, then later auctioned off to raise money. ¬†We saw elk in Elkton, Maryland, and moose in Anchorage, Alaska, among others. ¬†But here in tiny Rayne,Texas, there are¬†¬†over 35 concrete frogs all over town. ¬†And the best part? ¬†Most are painted to look like the employees of the business they are seated in front of. Before I reveal the pics, I want to tell you how the town got it’s nickname.

Obviously, they’ve got a bunch of frogs. But, the story goes that “in the 1880s businessman Jacques Weil and his brothers were in Rayne and were sampling frog legs. They were so impressed by how good they were, they figured it could be a profitable industry.¬†The brothers started selling frog legs to a high end restaurant in New York called Sardi’s, who put the delicacy on the menu as “Frog Legs from Rayne, Louisiana. Frog Capital of the World”. ¬†Rayne took that ball and ran with it, and rightly so. Rayne’s frog legs were so popular they were actually sold in Paris. At that time, if you ate frog legs anywhere in the world, chances were they came from Rayne!”

And now as promised –

WELCOME TO RAYNE

MONSIEUR JACQUES

 

BARBER FROG

CPA FROG – says “Nothing in life is certain but croakin’ and taxes”

DRY CLEANER FROG  (even his eyes are white)

RAYNE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT FROG

MADAME CRAPPEAUX – FLOWER SHOP FROG ¬†–¬†(If you have the time or inclination, google the word “crappeaux”)

RUBYGIFT SHOP FROG

HIGH SCHOOL FROG – “GO WOLVES”

POLICE FROG

FATHER JOE – PRIEST FROG

I’ve saved Father Joe for last because he’s a great segue for the next and last part of this post. ¬†There is one more oddity in Rayne –

WRONG WAY CATHOLIC CEMETERY

Father Joe Frog sits in front of the beautiful St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. ¬†Next to the church is the St. Joseph’s Cemetery, dubbed “Wrong Way”. ¬†Tim and I were both raised Catholic, but neither of us had ever heard of this tradition. ¬†It is said that when people are buried, the grave must have an east-west orientation. ¬† Why? “Some of the earliest solar based religions buried their dead facing east in order to face the ‚Äúrising sun‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúthe new day‚ÄĚ, as did the pagans.” ¬†The Christian tradition of east-west facing burials “is more firmly rooted in biblical text and the belief that Christ will come from the east at the time of the resurrection, thus the dead would rise up to face him. There are several scriptural references to this. Matthew 24:27¬† For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Although Christians are traditionally buried facing east, clergy members are generally buried facing west. The belief behind this is that when the dead are risen, clergy will rise facing their congregations, ready to lead once again. (Guess they thought  all kinds of things back in the day). Today, many cemeteries have broken away from this tradition for practical reasons, such as cost,  space and easier layout.  Although not all modern cemeteries follow such traditions, north Рsouth  facing cemeteries do exist and trigger curiosity of people today.

The proof of the pudding…

We’re headed to a Chili Cook-Off and Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin’ Cajuns concert. ¬†And, later today, the “Mardi Gras ‘Parada’ of the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio” Lafayette, Acadia Parish, Louisiana.

Stay tuned..

PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG

February 1, 2018

We made it – we’re finally on the road. ¬†In fact, I’m writing this post from Metarie, Louisiana. ¬†Metarie, pronounced “Metry”, is about 8 miles west of New Orleans. ¬†Our ultimate goal is Quartzite, Arizona, a desert town close to the Nevada border. ¬†It’s famous for rocks, geodes and that kind of thing, but we’re going for our first ever Casita Rally. ¬†It is expected that at least 200 little fiberglass travel trailers will converge in this small town for a fun and fabulous weekend. ¬†We’ve never been to one so we thought, why not?

(This photo compliments of Eggshells in the Outerbanks)

Today’s post is to give you the highlights of just a few of the sights between New Jersey and here. ¬†Keep in mind that this is our second go-round, so if you have some free time, you may want to check-out the post from the beginning.

I want to give props to Pomona RV Park & Campground (ūüĎŹūüŹĽ ūüĎŹūüŹĽ ūüĎŹūüŹĽ). We had to flush all the winterizing fluids out of the Casita and fill it with fresh water, and certainly not in our driveway. ¬†I called Pomona and they allowed us to come in, get rid of the anti-freeze, and fill up with fresh water- all for $5 – that’s a deal. ¬†It was very nice of them to allow it, and it solved a huge problem for us.

So I want to give them a little plug with info from their website.

“Pomona RV Park and Campground offers outstanding family camping in the heart of Southern New Jersey‚Äôs fabulous shore area. Our shaded campsites can accommodate the biggest of ‚Äúbig rigs‚ÄĚ, with picnic tables, fire rings, water, electric, full sewer hookups, and FREE Cable and Wi-Fi! Located just 10 minutes from the Atlantic City Casinos and Boardwalk, we are also within easy and convenient reach of championship public golf courses, fine restaurants, unique shopping, fishing, boating, a wide range of attractions, and world-class beaches at Atlantic City, Brigantine and Ocean City. Our park features a 50 ft. swimming pool, hot tub with Jacuzzi, and a wide range of planned activities for both children and adults. Make your plans and reserve your site for the 2010 camping season today, and enjoy a great weekend or summer vacation with us”!

And here we go…

We saw this car while getting gas, that I’m fairly certain must have come directly from “Pimp My Ride”. ¬†Must have cost a fortune, especially those wheels. Wow!

If you know me, then you know how much I miss the most elegant and eloquent president of my lifetime, Barack Obama.  But not to worry, look what we found in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

Yep РObama Gas.  What a hoot !!

We took a ride to Fort Jackson Army Training Center, also in Columbia, South Carolina, for a very special reason.

Tim’s dad was training at Fort Jackson when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changing all plans.¬† ¬†His bride-to-be traveled from New Jersey to Fort Jackson in February 1942 to be married on-base, and later that year he sailed with his unit to England in preparation for Invasion of Europe. ¬† They were reunited some time after the German surrender in May 1945, newlyweds separated for three years — how that generation was tested! ¬†It was moving to stand at that site and ponder what they experienced. And it was important to me because, under different circumstances, my partner in crime and love, Timothy, might not have been born. ¬†And chances are pretty good that you would not be reading this hard-to-put-down saga.

We’ve visited many National Parks during our travels and have heard about many more, but have you ever heard of Congaree ¬†National Park? ¬†Somehow this one escaped us – until now.

Congaree is not as dramatic as many of the other parks but it is just as important – maybe even more so. ¬†“Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees”, some of the largest in the USA. ¬†These ancient trees have seen wars, slavery, freedom, and destruction. ¬†Imagine all of the ¬†twenty-seven thousand ¬†acres covered in water several times a year.

The visitor’s center offers an 18 minute movie that brought a tear to my eye. ¬†I was reminded that each and every one of the National Parks has that designation for a reason. ¬†The preservation of nature that is so special it must be saved for future generations. ¬†If you want to know more about Congaree, check out this link – it’s terrific.

Congaree: Where The Trees Are Still Tall – American Forests

Another very important thing just outside the visitor center is a Skeeter Meter.

The day we were there, it was at level 1, all clear, but look at 4, 5,and 6. ¬†YIKES!!! ¬†I think we need one of these in the visitor center at Forsythe Wildlife Center near our home. ¬†One other important thing about the creatures who love human blood is that they may be the very reason that this area wasn’t devastated by humans. ¬†The meter registered at War Zone at important times in history. ¬†Thank goodness the blood suckers ¬†won the war (never thought I’d ever say such a thing).

On the road to Graniteville, SC, we saw this amazing untouched photo of a double rainbow near sunset..

 

We came across a most disturbing monument in North Augusta, South Carolina,¬† a Monument to a White Supremacist Martyr. ¬†In 1876 there was a battle in South Carolina between a black federal militia who called it a “massacre”, ¬†and a white mob of about 100 men who called it a “riot”. ¬†Six black men and one white man were killed.

Forty years passed, and segregation was firmly in place. ¬†The state erected a monument to the one white guy who died, 23-year old Tom Meriwether. ¬†After 40 years, you would think Tom’s motives for being in the mob were a bit hazy, but not to the monument-builders. ¬†According to the inscription (below), Tom was a” young hero” who died “maintaining those civic and social institutions which the men and women of his race had struggled through the centuries to establish in South Carolina”. ¬†“In life he exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon civilization. ¬†By his death he assured to the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal”.

This is my WTF stance.

These are inscriptions on the 4 sides of the obelisk in order.

We found this monument to be extremely offensive.  With all the stuff going on with wanting to tear down any statue of Robert E Lee, it seems to me that this one should be first.  Someone should take a sledge hammer and bust this into a million pieces. End of rant.

Well not quite the end.  Check out the inscription on this monument honoring The Confederacy in Augusta, Georgia.

 

 

I want to end this post on a fun note. ¬†While in high school, James Brown was Tim’s favorite musician. ¬†And so in Augusta, Georgia, we found this tribute.

 

and the best for last…

My man with James Brown, in Augusta, G-A, HEY!!!

See you in just a few days.  After all, who wants to miss Wrong Way Catholic Cemetery ???