Borrego Springs, CA

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Eiffel Tower?

If you went to Paris, isn’t the Eiffel Tower something you would want to see?  Of course, so this morning I headed out to see just that.


Notice that big red cowboy hat in top?  Well, there’s a story that goes with that.  It seems this Texas Eiffel Tower, built by the pipe fitters union, was dedicated in 1993, and billed as the world’s second largest Eiffel Tower.  And it was until Paris, Tennessee, erected one slightly taller the same year. 


So by 1998, the local people here in Texas put a tilted red cowboy hat on top to make it taller than the tower in Tennessee.  Remember that everything seems bigger in Texas!  (Just try driving across the state from west to east and you’ll know what I mean.)  I got a real kick out of seeing that some starlings were nesting in that great big hat!


At the base of the tower is a state map.  If you look really closely, you might be able to make out the engraved Paris name in the northeast corner.  So Texas beat out Tennessee, but a year later Los Vegas built an Eiffel Tower along the Strip that is almost ten times taller.  Anyway, it was one of those fun Roadside America things to see.  I’m afraid I passed on the chance to see a Jesus in cowboy boots grave monument in one of the cemeteries in Paris.  I thought that a bit too much for my tastes.


What I didn’t know until I arrived at the tower, was that right next to it the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial is in the process of being built.  It’s presently about 40% done. 


“This memorial is being built to honor all veterans who have served our country in the past and are currently serving in our military.

This impressive memorial is located in Paris, Texas next to the Eiffel Tower at the Love Civic Center.  The memorial’s centerpiece is the Ring of Honor, an elevated ring of granite walls containing the names of all men and women from the five county Red River Valley area who made the ultimate sacrifice in a combat zone while in service to our country.  Surrounding the Ring of Honor will be double-sided granite walls etched with information and graphic depictions of each war or conflict beginning with the Texas Revolution up to the present war in Afghanistan, with room for depictions of future conflicts.  Leading up to and surrounding the Ring of Honor will be walkways with 1’ x 2’ granite pavers engraved with the names of the men and women who served and were fortunate to return home, or those who are currently serving our country. 

The Red River Valley Veterans Memorial will be a place for reflection, remembrance and gratitude.  It is our hope that this will also be a place to educate present and future generations of the service made by members of their own family and their community to secure the freedoms we all enjoy.  And may it be a reminder that “Freedom Is Not Free.”

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Whenever I come upon a veterans memorial, I am compelled to visit it even though it is always a very emotional experience for me.  I must walk among these plaques and give thanks to those who have so valiantly served.


                                    As always, there is at least one plaque that reduces me to tears.

I left with a feeling of deep reverence and gratitude…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, April 28, 2014

I’m back in Texas!

After weathering the storm yesterday in northern Louisiana, I was able to continue my journey north this morning.  There were high winds in Louisiana yesterday, but we didn’t get any rain until five this morning.  The thunder and lightening that went with it woke me right up.  I’m glad I didn’t head out yesterday because I would have been driving right into the storm.

Anyway, when I got to Shreveport, I headed west on I-20 and ended up in Texas once again.  Last year I took US 71 out of Shreveport and wandered around Arkansas for a week.  I didn’t want to repeat that route again so I’ll be taking several roads I’ve never driven before. 

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Last night I picked out this campground (Angels Camp RV Park) a little north of Paris, TX.  Jack-in-the-Box didn’t pick the route I would have taken to get here, but it turned out just fine.  I did have one pucker moment as I suddenly encountered an underpass that was only 13’ 7”.  I figure my rig is 13’ 6” tall, so I sucked in my breathe, went really slowly, and passed through unscathed. I don't know smile

Angels Park is very convenient to US 271, but that also means lots of road sounds.  Full hookups with 50 amps, cable, and Wi-Fi is $30/night.  They don’t give any discounts.  It’s a nice enough camp, but a little overpriced in my opinion.

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It does have one feature, however, that I’ve not seen before.  This is the tornado shelter.  I don’t know how big it is under that lid, but it kind of reminded me of a grave.  I suppose if I had driven here yesterday, we might have had to use it.  Disappointed smile


The last place I visited on my tourist day on Saturday near Natchitoches was the Rebel State Historic Site.  I wanted to see two things at this state park.  The first was the Louisiana Country Music Museum. 


I believe the lady working there told me that it was opened in 1988.  I’m not a big country music fan, but I can appreciate most kinds of music so I found the museum very interesting.  There was a good movie to watch to give you some background.  While I didn’t recognize all of the performers named, I did know some of them.


I especially liked this definition of country music.  My only regret about the museum is that the music was missing.  There were four or five stations with a button to push to hear the sounds to accompany the era of each display, but none of them worked.  They would have added a lot to my experience.

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The second reason I came to Rebel State Historic Site was to see the grave of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, and pay my respects. 


This grave was the original focal point of the Historic Site, before the museum was built.  I found it very admirable that the Barnhill family tended this grave for nearly 100 years, before the state of Louisiana took over its care.

Since today’s drive was a bit over 200 miles, and the winds are supposed to be blasting again tomorrow, I’ve decided to spend two nights at this campground.  I wonder what I can find that’s interesting in Paris, Texas, tomorrow…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A tourist day

As planned, I headed out today in quest for some Louisiana pecans.  (I say peh-cons, some people say pee-cans, and there are several other pronunciations.)


First up was Natchitoches (pronounced knack-eh-tish) Pecans at Little Eva Plantation.  I was hoping for some fresh roasted nuts, but it seems this is not the season.  October until January is the time for those.  Oh well, who knew?  Not me.  I didn’t end up empty handed however.


The pecan trees are just leafing out, and it looks like there’ll be another crop next fall.  I was able to purchase some honey-roasted pecans along with some dark chocolate coated pecans, and just couldn’t pass up a luscious pecan roll and praline pecan patty.  Hey!  I’ve run out of sponge candy, and nuts are more nutritious than sugar is, right?


Did you notice all the purple flowers in front of the pecan orchard above?  Well, these flowers are blooming all over the roadsides here in Louisiana.  I know they’re not bluebonnets, but I’m not sure what they are.  At any rate, they’re beautiful.

There are two pecan plantations each located on opposite sides of Hwy 1.  I had hoped to visit both, but the Louisiana Pecan Plantation appeared to be closed up tight.  The lady at Little Eva’s told me that it had been sold last fall to new owners.  They apparently didn’t understand all the work involved in raising pecans, and shut down for good last December.  That’s a shame.


The next stop on my tourist expedition was the Grand Ecore Visitor Center.  As you can see, it’s an Army Corp of Engineers project along the Red River. 


The Red River empties into the Mississippi River.  There’s a lot of history in this area about how the Red River impacted early settlement here.  This is a very nice visitor center, and as usual, I learned something new for the day.


There are four ports, so far, along the Red River from Shreveport until it gets to the mighty Mississippi.  Apparently there is a lot of barge traffic along this river.  That was my learning point for the day.

_MG_0020I’ve never thought much about barges and commerce, but this visual brought it home to me.  Each barge can carry as much as 15 railcars and 58 18-wheelers! _MG_0022

Think of all the savings in fuel, and so much less pollution.  That was amazing to me.  There are lots of other displays here, and I especially enjoyed the interactive presentation about eight specific individuals that have lived and explored here over the last 300 or so years.


After my time inside, I stepped out the back door to this view on the observation deck of the visitors center.


        Can’t really get over how brown the rivers are here compared to the sky blue colors I see up north.

I had one more stop on my itinerary today, but I’ll save that for a separate post.  I’ll probably talk about that tomorrow as it seems I may be sitting out some severe storms tomorrow rather than moving on.  I’ll just see how things look in the morning.

I do want to say, though, that my biggest challenge here has been learning to pronounce Natchitoches correctly.  I want to just sound it out, and knack-eh-tish just doesn’t compute! Disappointed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy 

Friday, April 25, 2014

I have a cute name??

All the work on the rig was finished by yesterday afternoon, so I spent one more night at Thibodeaux’s Premiere RV before heading out this morning.  I didn’t rush things getting out of there since my journey today was around 165 miles.  The drive was uneventful except for a little nerve wracking detour after going through Alexandria.  I-49 was suddenly closed and we had to exit.  It ended up being about a seven mile detour, but there was only one tiny little detour sign to give you any idea where you were supposed to go.  Even the big 18 wheel truck drivers were going in circles.  Luckily, I spotted that one little sign and eventually got back on the interstate.

By 2:00 I was set up, once again, in the Ajax Country Livin’ RV Park about 17 miles north of Natchitoches, LA.  This is a Passport America park that is only a half a mile off I-49.

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When I went into the office to register, I told them my name. (I had called for a two night reservation yesterday afternoon.)  The lady said, “Oh Judy Bell, what a cute name!”  Huh??  “You stayed here almost exactly a year ago with us.  Would you like your same spot?”  I said, “Sure.”  That’s the first time a campground owner has remembered me from a brief two night stop.  I didn’t even have to pull out my Passport America card as she had my number from last year.  Very nice.


After getting everything hooked up, Emma and I headed out for a walk.  I remembered this lovely swing facing the pond from last year.  It was peaceful and relaxing once again.

I’ve often wondered if Emma remembers places we have stopped before.  As I sat down in the swing…

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she did the same exact thing she did last year… a good roll in the green grass.  After four nights in a gravel parking lot, she found pure bliss in the grass.  Winking smile


Like last year, I also don’t have any rigs on either side of me.  What a nice little place this is, and did you notice the locked in DISH on the top of the motorhome?  Wahoo! 

The last time I was here, I visited a National Park Service historic site with a plantation.  This time, I’m thinking about a pecan plantation and store for tomorrow and a couple of other places.  I have a grandgirl that just loves honey roasted pecans, so that will be first on my list tomorrow. 

My tentative plan is to leave on Sunday, but there are possible severe storms in the forecast for that day.  If that happens, I’ll just sit tight until the weather improves.  After all, they’re still having snow in Minnesota, and I’m not anxious to experience that.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another first for me today

Well, I sure am enjoying that automatic DISH satellite locator.  For almost eight years I’ve been dragging my portable and its heavy holder out every time I’m some place for more than a day or two.  It’s hard on my back and can be more than a little frustrating at times to find the signals; especially if I’m in an area with a lot of sounds that interfere with my hearing the different pitched hums from the receiver.  Just punch a button, wait about five minutes, and everything is ready to go.  Today I love advances in technology.

After lunch, the knock on the door let me know that I had to pack things up for Thibodeaux’s to move the rig back into the building to have my routine maintenance done.  I unhooked the water and electric, and brought in the slides.  That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had the DISH automatically turn off and fold up for travel.  You need electricity to do that.  Rats!  So, I turned on the generator and got it done.  I have to figure out a way to remind myself to put the dish down before I unplug from electrical power. 

I thought of tying  a bright piece of fabric to the steering wheel, but by the time I get to the steering wheel I’ve generally already disconnected from power.  A reader suggested that I hang my keys on the handle of the cabinet where the disconnect button is located, but that just won’t work for me for several reasons.  I’m now thinking I’ll tie something on the electrical cable to remind myself not to pull the plug until I fold up the DISH.  That might work best for me.

Anyway, I had several hours to kill before the rig would be out of the shop, and I just didn’t want to sit around in the heat.  So, I drove around the area instead. 


I put off stopping at Don’s Specialty Meats for as long as I could, but I knew I wanted to stop here and pick up a few things.  Don’s has lots of Cajun meat type things as well as a limited butcher counter.  They are most known for their Boudin and Cracklins. 

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I really like their pork chops from the butcher’s case, and usually pick up a small tray of Cajun chicken patties.  Remember that I’m from the Midwest, and my pallet prefers meat, potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable.  I’m not into spicy foods, and the last thing on earth I’d eat is something with jalapeƱos in it! Smile with tongue out  But the coarsely ground chicken patties have no jalapeƱos…  Only salt, red pepper, black pepper, and green onions in them.  They’re a spicy enough burger type thing for me.

As I went to check out, I asked the cashier what those things were in a container under a heating lamp.  She said they were ‘Cracklins’.  It seems like every time I visit Louisiana I have some kind of minor stomach ailment, so I’ve never tried Cracklins before.  My stomach was fine today, so I told her I’d never tasted them, and she gave me a sample.  Then she asked me, with an incredulous look on her face, “Where are you from?”  To make things simple, I just said South Dakota.  She just shook her head. 

As I left the store, I had my first bite of a Cracklin.   Oh my goodness!  It was hot!  I crunched down on one bite and it was also a little spicy, but…what a delicious artery clogging taste!  I think I could get addicted to Cracklins.  I wonder if you can buy a little bag and then reheat them in the microwave for that hot and spicy taste?  Would they get soggy?  I’m going to find out.  Don’s has a big gravel pullout for trucks and big rigs, so I’m going to get a small bag to snack on when I leave here on Friday.  I’ll be ‘cracklin’ down the highway!  Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Po’ Boy Pilgrimage

Well, I’m happy to report that the trip to Billy Thibodeaux's Premiere RV yesterday was uneventful.  Thank goodness!  By 1:30 I was ensconced with full hookups under the repair area. 


First thing this morning, Billy and a helper were up on the roof of the rig to figure out where to put the Winegard automatic DISH satellite receiver.  At first they thought to put it up front, but that didn’t work out.  In order to get the wiring to the entertainment center and TV, it was placed about halfway back.  I put Emma in her crate because they were in and out of the rig so much.  After a bit, I decided that it was probably best if Emma and I got the heck out of there and let them do their work.

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Each time I’ve been at Billy’s in the last four years, I’ve made a trip down to Kaplan, LA.  It’s sort of a pilgrimage to visit this unique Cajun Restaurant and Grocery pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.  I always order a shrimp Po’ Boy and a root beer at Suire’s.  It’s about the only time I drink pop.  Of course I have the Po’ Boy ‘dressed’ with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo; hold the ketchup.  Very tasty!

_MG_9999It was a bit of a surprise for me today to see ten cop cars from many surrounding communities in the parking lot.  It would certainly be safe to have lunch here today!


The surrounding countryside is a prime area for raising rice and crawfish.  I saw both kinds of fields as I drove around, but I’m not sure what this farmer was doing.  That tractor was sure kicking up a lot of dirt.  Perhaps he was preparing the field for rice?  I just don’t know.

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After lunch, on the way back to the rig, I spent some time in Rayne, LA.  It’s known as frog city.

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                                                         Lots of frog statues all over, and…

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                                                            …murals on the sides of buildings.

When I got back to Billy’s, I pulled the rig out from under the roofing to check out the new DISH and how it worked.  It worked like a charm, and I kind of regretted that I’d have to move back under the cover tonight.  So, Billy maneuvered the rig to the full hookup site out in the back so I could put the DISH through it’s paces tonight.  I think I’m going to like this upgrade to my rig.  Tomorrow they’re going to install a couple of switches so I can still use the portable dish I have in case I’m under tree cover in my travels.  Most of the refuges I stay at for extended periods have pretty open sites for volunteers, so it will make my life a little easier. It’s a wonder just to watch this dish scan the skies until it locks in at the exact right spot for outstanding reception.  I’m happy as a clam!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I think I’ve figured it out

For the last several years, I have dreaded driving the rig to a new location.  It didn’t start out that way, but as time has gone by the dread crept in.  I think I’ve figured out why.  For the last three or four years, every time I head out it’s like the Trials and Travails of Pauline! 


                        Finally saw a least bittern on my last drive around Shoveler Pond last Thursday.

I read a lot of blogs about RVers, and they seem to travel all around the country with very few traumas or mishaps.  I, on the other hand, don’t ever seem to go anywhere without Murphy following me.  I’ve had to have the rig towed three times, had three windshield wipers fly off, had the fridge break down twice, had the awning unfurl while traveling several times, and have had the computer mother board that controls all driving of the rig go kaput.  Why am I so plagued?  I keep the maintenance on the rig up to date, but that doesn’t seem to help.

IMG_6777Anyway, I’ve decided that I will have a trouble free journey this time.  I sure hope I’m right.  I’ve got just about all my packing up taken care of for my departure tomorrow.  All I have to do is unhook the utilities, hook up the toad, and blow this popsicle stand!

I was going to wait until tomorrow to pack away the DISH, as there were a few programs I was going to record tonight.  I thought better of that idea.  I keep the DISH stuff in the trunk of the car when I’m traveling, and have my bicycle hooked onto the back of the trunk.  I decided to get it all done tonight.  I was surprised that I was able to lift the bike up above my shoulders to get it on the holder, but I muscled it up there.  I thought sure I’d have to ask someone for help tomorrow. 

I’ve only got a little over 150 miles to go tomorrow to get to Thibodeaux’s to get the new automatic satellite dish installed and some maintenance issues taken care of.  I’ve pretty much plotted out my course to Minnesota, and I’ll be taking some different roads this time.  I’m not going to push it too hard at the beginning of the journey because I’m hoping for it to warm up some in the north woods.  Ever optimistic…


                                                                               THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy