Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Bend Country, New Mexico, Arriving Phoenix

I finally got on my way a little after noon Headed for El Paso – about 450 miles

Friday morning, I’m up bright and early, well, actually, neither bright nor early
I took til nearly noon just to dry out the tent and fly.

We’re still in the Hill country, low rolling hills, scrub oak, just the bare beginning of “Green-up”
New grass just starting to poke through. But I will say that this morning when I woke up at the campground, there was a sprinkling of beautiful little yellow flowers across the hill where my tent was pitched. They were actually very short stemmed, but the blossom was about the size of a silver dollar.

This part of the country is the beginning of the Chisholm trail, they would gather cattle from all over, then drive them up to Kansas, and looking at this scrub oak, it couldn’t have been an easy job.

As I’m headed through this hilly country on a little 2 lane road, headed for Hwy 10, we are now entering mesquite country. We still have the live oak, but they are getting fewer as the mesquite takes over. Very rocky soil and trees as far as I can see. This is so cool, the way the topography changes. This is lonely country – I’ve only seen 1 other car along this route.

I’m approaching Hwy 10, and I’m going to stop at the first rest-stop and rest. I’m tired. I’d like to get another 200 miles today – maybe, maybe not.

The speed limit in this part of Texas is 80 mph. It’s still 200 miles to Ft. Stockton. I’m hoping I can make it that far today, and be able to find a campsite tonite.

I-10 is a 4 lane divided highway headed due west across Texas – as far as the eye can see. Trees, all the highway cuts show limestone below the soil, so this is really poor soil, and rocky.

I’ve finally left the hill country behind, and I’m in Big Bend country, which is high plains, lots of low shrubs, and just goes on forever. There are plateaus - flat topped hills, but not as flat as the buttes in Montana.

Here, spreading from horizon to horizon on the ridge line, is the first wind farm I’ve seen on American soil. The only other windfarms I’ve seen were in Spain. This one is huge!!!

OK – tip to the travelers! For anyone travelling in West Texas, do not have a Big Gulp with your meals. The rest stops are 80 – 90 miles apart, and the towns are not much more frequent than that.

OK, now I am seeing some sagebrush, and more and more desert hills.

Hark! I hear a lonesome whistle blow as a freight train chugs across the plain.
I just keep peddling, and peddling, and peddling some more, but I can’t seem to get out of Texas!!! This is real “cowboy and Indian” country – when I passed a picnic area, the shade awning over the tables were Tipi shaped.

I finally made it to Ft. Stockton – Put up the tent in gusty winds – what fun! I crawled in, went to sleep, and woke up about midnite with a flat air-mattress. Luckily the pump was inside the tent, and I remedied that problem, only to be kept awake for hours by the gusting wind and flapping fly.

Saturday a.m. Everything was dry so I was able to pack up relatively quickly, then went to the laundry room to get on line and re-stock my cellphone minutes. I made a call to my niece in Phoenix, then got the battery low signal. So, now I had about 10 hours of calling time, but still couldn’t call anyone.

I kept peddling as fast as I could, finally made it to El Paso, and crossed into New Mexico. Two days ago – in Texas, I paid $2.57 for gas, today, in New Mexico, I’m paying $3.30. I also noticed billboards for the first time in several days, and realized I hadn’t noticed them so much in Texas – perhaps leading into towns – smaller signs for sites and attractions, but not a couple dozen huge billboards in a row, blotting out the countryside. Ugly, Ugly, Ugly.

Spring is a little slow here in New Mexico. I’ve just passed several orchards, and nothing is even starting to bud. And I don’t see, really, much green anywhere.

The area is beautiful, with the exception of the billboards. Absolutely flat, ringed by dark mountains, starting to turn blue as the sun goes down. They have no trees on them, just scrub and rock.

I’m also driving through areas with dust storm warnings. Lets hope we don’t have one.

I started looking for a campground in Deming, NM – One didn’t have tent sites, the other was on the main street of the town, and the tent site was between the old truck with flat tires, and a rusted out washing machine. I demurred and drove on, but not before I noticed my tire was low, and I put some air in it.

I finally found a KOA in Lordsburg NM – It was nearly dark, my back hurt, so I was an easy sell for a cabin. All I had to do was haul in my blankets and computer. With power, and internet, I charged my cell phone and my computer. I even watched a TV show – an old Highlander episode.

When I woke up, I had a flat tire. Thank goodness for AAA. However, he was so far away from Lordsburg, it took a little over 2 hours to get to me. He didn’t have capability to fix tire – looks like it’s the valve stem – so I had to unload half the car to get to the spare. Thank you Brian, for that tire. I am ever so grateful to have it!!! (It was a gift from my mechanic as his contribution to my trip)

While I was waiting for the tow truck, I walked over to talk with a couple at another site. They were from Oregon, headed to Texas. The two of them on a Harley, pulling a little pop-up trailer. It would be perfect to pull with Madame – couldn’t be lived in – but great for camping and travelling – basically a tent with 2 beds. But at least I wouldn’t be sleeping on the ground.

When the tow truck finally arrived, and changed my tire, I asked if I could take his photo – cause he was “carrying”. He said that one time recently he was called out in the desert to tow out a car stuck in the sand. When he crawled under the car to hook it up, he came eye to eye to a rattlesnake. He started rolling out from under the car, and the snake crawled after him. Every time he stopped to try to get on his feet, the snake struck at him. Finally he managed to get up and emptied the entire clip at the snake. Now he loads with buckshot!

Yep, I’m definitely in the West.

Once on the road, I was only about 20 miles from the Arizona line. I’m starting to see Yucca plants and cacti along the road.

I just crossed the Continental Divide. Not like the Divide I know in Montana. We’re still on flat land, but at an elevation of over 4600. So, I guess it still makes a good watershed divide.

It was quite chilly last nite, and now I see why. In the distance, there are snow-capped mountains. I’m glad I decided to stay on the southern route, instead of going up to Hwy 40.

I’m starting to see wildflowers – drifts of yellow and orange along the roadway, and creeping up the sides of the hills. They are really pretty.

Here in Arizona, the topography has changed again. I’m in low hills, just jumbled with huge, huge boulders. I plan to come back out to this area from Phoenix – there are several places I’d like to stop, but I’ve got to get this tire fixed before I stray too far.

At Wilcox, I saw the first white stone “W” (initial of the town) on a hillside. Couldn’t get a photo cause it was too far away, and wouldn’t show up. I guess that is a western tradition – since I’ve not seen any in the East.

I’m beginning to see saquaro cactus, mostly on the south side of the highway, I saw a few barrel cactus, and a lot of prickly pear, so I’m in cactus country.

I arrived in Phoenix at 4 or 5 pm. I’m not sure, cause I set one clock to mountain time, but….. Phoenix is on Arizona time (no daylight savings time) And, of course Jack tried to take me through town instead of by the highway – but

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

PS - if you think I'm getting wordy, blame it on the tape recorder - I can remember more to write about!!! LOL

Hill Country

Leaving San Antonio
I overslept this morning, got on the road about 10 a.m. It’s raining, not quit cats and dogs, but perhaps mice and moles. I took off on 1604 as I was told, and somehow, messed up and ended up on Hwy 10. That’s OK. It’s going the same way I am – just differently. Hey, the rain is letting up, so there is hope for today after all.

Hill country – low rising hills, valleys, grazing cattle and scrub oak. One thing I like about Texas is that they have lots of pull offs for picnic areas. Not rest stops. After all there are just miles and miles and and miles in Texas. Where are all the 7-11’s. I thought they started in Texas – I haven’t seen any of them. Lots of Dairy Queens, though.

The rain stopped about 10 miles short of Fredericksburg.

The first thing I did is find the information center, and get directions to the Lady Bird Johnson RV park. I had noticed a lot of classic cars driving by, and parked along the street. They told me there was a big classic car gathering in Kerrville, and a lot of the people were up visiting Fredericksburg that day.

Made my way to the campground, and set up the tent before I did anything, cause it’s suppose to rain tonite.

Then I went into town. Fredericksburg was originally settled by German immigrants. It was obviously a cattle town. The main streets are amazingly wide – 4 driving lanes, 1 turning lane, and angle parking on both sides of the street. I’m told the reason for the wide streets was so a wagon with a 6 in hand team could easily make a u-turn.

First stop! Chocolat!!!! What brought me here in the first place. Oh, my, what exquisite chocolates, dainty, European type chocolates. Their speciality is liquor filled chocolates, but I opted to try a Mexican vanilla truffle filled white chocolate shell with ground pecans on top. And, then, I walked out of the store. That’s right, Ms Chocoholic, had one and left the premises. It was so good. The taste lingered as I sauntered down the street.

I wondered in and out of shops. I stopped for lunch at a little bistro – not bar-b-q, not Mexican or Texican, not German, but French – I had quiche and fruit. Aren’t you proud of me ladies?
After that I wandered into a kitchen shop. It ‘s funny how I am drawn to kitchen shops when I can’t cook! They did have a wine tasting room. Sorry Susan and Tommy, I don’t think your training “took” I ended up with a bottle of Peach wine – It’s a Reisling infused with peach nectar. Wow! I also sampled some mead, but unfortunately, they were out of it. I tasted the raspberry wine, but it didn’t measure up to the peach.

I perused a western shop – hesitated over a split skirt, then passed it by. I passed the market square – a very large area with covered picnic area, opn grass – plenty of room for community gathering.

I walked past the Museum of World War II – Impressive – in an old building which I imagine started life as a hotel. The compound encompasses a whole city block. I finally crossed the street, and headed back toward the car – I was a good part of a mile from it. As I wandered along, I stumbled on a curb – Yes, it was painted yellow, but I weasn’t looking at my feet, and besides it was right in the middle of the sidewalk. My upper body pitched forward, my feet started peddling like a duck in warp speed. Luckily, my feet caught up in time to prevent me from falling. Thank goodness!

I had wandered into a couple fudge shops, but the fudge looked unappetizing – like who ever made it didn’t care at wit

Then I stopped into a Store. The reason I stopped was that in the window was a package mix for brownies with chipoltle. I thought that was interesting. The shop was quite large, and stuffed with sauces, jellies, pickles, and amaretto sugar syrup. Also peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter, orange peanut butter, raspberry peanut butter! I tried a few things. I found fig balsalmic vinegar which my daughter mentioned she was having trouble finding. Didn’t buy any – we can order it if needed. I turned around and there was a fudge counter. Beautiful, artistic, perfect, delicious fudge. "Oh, my, yes I would like a sample, please." I tried the vanilla, peacan carmel. OK – friends, I now have another fudge to add to my repertoire. I know Amanda will like it cause she likes the caramel fondant rolls I made last Christmas. And yes, I bought some – and if I wasn’t thinking about what the ladies would say, I would have bought a full pound and yes, I would have eaten it all. Yes – I bought some, too – but…. just a quarter # - just a little.

I continued along the way, stopping at a dry goods shop, and decorator shops, and art galleries. Had a nice visit with a couple ladies in one gallery – the gallery had work of all local artists – much like Blue Skies.

So, here I am thinking I don’t have anything to eat for dinner, I don’t even have any ice in my cooler yet, I’ll just get out a book and crawl into my tent and be a lay-a-bout. I’m going back into Fredericksburg tomorrow – I just really enjoyed it.

I finally made it back to the tent at about 6 p.m,, settled down with my book, and within about ½ hour, I heard the first rumblings of thunder. By 7 p.m. it was roaring with thunder and pouring down rain. I snuggled down – sleeping bag, double fleece blanket, flour sack quilt with a WWII wool army blanket in it, and topped it all off with my fleece lined rain poncho. If the tent did leak, that just might keep my bedding from getting wet.

My, that was a wild and wooly nite. Gusts of wind shaking the foundations of my tent. A few gusts blew the back side of the tent almost to my face – so I had to turn around with my head toward the vestibule end. The rain stopped about midnite, but the wind continued on. It was cold and windy when I woke up. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay another nite.

The main reason I picked this particular tent was because of the vestibule – a place to dive out of the rain, and get muddy shoes off before entering the tent. Well, now that is the biggest drawback. I can actually step into the tent in a standing position, but I have to crawl through the door to the vestibule. I will have to get a lot more flexible for this life.

While I was trying to decide whether to stay or go, I drove to town.

I stopped in a little quilt shop and met a fellow traveler – she and her husband were staying at the same park I was at, when I told her I was in the orange tent on the hill, she said they wondered how whoever was in it had fared through the storm. She told me about a quilt store in Kerrville about 25 miles away.

Somehow, I found myself on the road to Johnson City. I stopped at the LBJ ranch, saw a movie about the park, and wandered down to the living history farm. It was really interesting. The docents were very realistic – and when I entered the kitchen, they were having lunch – all prepared in the cast iron stove. They were in the midst of planting the garden. The docents do all the work on the farm, just as they would have in 1900.

After seeing the farm, I decided I didn’t want to visit the ranch itself – cause I am definitely coming back to this area.

I stopped at Wildseed farm. Huge wildflower farm, however I was too early – nothing in bloom, but plenty to see anyhow.

On the way back to the RV park, I stopped for a self guided tour of Fort Martin Scott` Very interesting. It only was in use for 5 years. The German immigrants had made peace with the Native Americans before the fort was built, so the soldiers never had even a skirmish. Must have been very boring duty.

I drove back to the campground, paid for another day, then headed for Kerrville.

I found the quilt shop, and oh, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! It was in an old house – which had many rooms and all the rooms were filled with fabric. I did buy some fabric – not for a quilt, but to make a blouse. It is Organic cotton canvas – but soft, and comes out of the dryer ready to wear. My kind of stuff.

I stopped at KFC – got some grilled chicken and returnd to the tent for the nite.

Shortly after returning, the boy scouts arrived – they set up about 30 tents – but they were amazingly quiet – they got up early this morning, and I didn’t even hear them.

I got up about 8 , but here it is nearly noon – and I haven’t left yet. One thing you can’t be while tenting is in a hurry. I had to dry the fly – It had heavy dew on the outside and condensation on the inside – the tent also needed a little drying, then I decided I would draft this blog, so I could erase my recorder and start over.

I’m headed for Texas’ big bend country!!!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Braunfels / Greune

Susan, Sara and I left early this morning for New Braunfels, a German settled community about an hour from here. We left early so we could have breakfast at the Oldest Bakery in Texas. It was worth the wait, without question. I had a pretzel – with brown sugar and pecans – but, it wasn’t made with bread dough, it was made with pastry, flaky, tender pastry.

Many of the buildings in New Braunfels have murals painted on the sides. We walked around for awhile, wandering through an Antique mall, playing “Oh, I remember these, do you?”

Then we visited an historic hardware store, where I saw the flamingo birdhouse. Holly, if I were buying things, I would have bought this for you. Aren't you glad I'm not buying?

We then stopped in a German restaurant/bakery for a sniff and moved on down the road to Greune (pronounced green) Texas.

Greune is an old town which they say gently avoids change. The dance hall was the among the starting gigs of many western musicians, including George Strait and Willy Nelson. It was also used for the dance scene in John Travolta’s “Michael”.

We wandered up and down the streets, visiting such shops as the Tipsy Gypsy, Gruene with Envy, Dancing Bear, Cotton Eyed Joe’s, and Fickle Pickles, among other things.

As for the photo of the U-No bar - I now know I am finally out west, as it is a western product that I have only found once in the east - in a shop specializing in unusual candy bars.

We returned to New Braunfels, and in this German town, had an Italian lunch - I had Caprise salad – delicious, as well as my first taste of gelato. M-m-m-m-m

We then poked our heads into a quilt shop, and returned to the bakery for some take home goodies.

While in San Antonio, I found some necessities, and not so necessary stuff. I finally found a stick on clock for the car, and I bought a new toy – a tape recorder. I find that when I am driving down the road, I often have fleeting thoughts and observations, but I don’t get a chance to write them down while driving. So, I thought a tape recorder would answer the need. I also, finally found a collapsible cup for my go bag.

Susan, Sara and Mitch are off to bowl, and I’m packing up the car. I leave tomorrow morning for Johnson City. I plan to camp for 2 nites, keep your fingers crossed that the weather cooperates.

Then I will leave for Phoenix – I changed my mind once again about going north through New Mexico, cause the weather still is not stable.

It has been a great visit here, and I look forward to returning at some point to see more of the area.

Til next time,
Bear Hugs

San Antonio

San Antonio

I am visiting with Sue and Mitch. I worked with Sue in Virginia Beach – the same time/place I worked with Susan from Alabama. So it has been years since we’ve visited, but it could have been just last week!

This morning, Sara, Sue’s daughter was my tour director. We drove downtown, and parked close to the Alamo. It is amazing to see this tranquil park setting in the middle of a busy city.
We wandered around the plaza for awhile, stopping to listen to a talk about the Alamo, and to catch a short film on the history of Texas.

Then we headed for the Riverwalk. I was last here in 1974. At that time, there wasn’t very much to the area – a couple restaurants is all. My how that has changed. It is beautiful, and lined with restaurants, with the patrons sitting out on the patios under bright colored umbrellas.

We took the boat tour. In 1968 when San Antonio was getting ready for a World’s Fair, they built a huge Hilton Hotel in just 200 days. How did they do it? Each room was manufactured off site, decorated, furnished, and then just lifted in place by a crane – just like building blocks.

I’m going to try to post a couple photos of one building. They call it the disappearing wall. From one side of the bridge, you are looking at the end of a triangular building, once under the bridge, you can only see the front of the building, and it looks as though the side wall is just gone.

They suffered a great flood in 1921. One building has 2 trees growing out the side of it – said to have washed in during the flood. One is a fig tree, but sorry, I can’t remember the type of the other tree.

I saw a 300 year old tree the locals call the Sniper Tree, because it was used by Mexican soldiers to fire upon the Alamo.

The encroachment of modernity is sad, with huge hotels lining both banks of Riverwalk, but I am very glad they have honored as much history as they have.

After the river, we caught the trolley, and went to El Mercardo – the Mexican market. What wonderful, diverse and colorful merchandise. No sadness here. With all the color, you had to smile. I was good, I only bought a bottle of water. I have no room for souveniers.

We had lunch at Mi Tierra, a restaurant recommended by Joy, and also by Sue’s family. We really enjoyed it. Such a wonderful setting.

After another short walk through El Marcardo, we caught the trolley back to Alamo Plaza and headed home. It was a wonderful day, the weather was perfect, and I do believe my face picked up some color from the sun.

Tomorrow, we are headed for New Braunfuls.

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back Roads of Texas

I left Joy at about 10:30 a.m., and leisurely drove west. The weather was perfect. Large, fluffy clouds scudded across a blue canvas of sky. Spring flowers in yellow and pink mixed with the bright greens of grass. As I drove northwest from the coastal plains toward hill country, I passed small towns, and farmland, and I could see to the far horizons. Such wide-open spaces.

I fixed my keyboard – with 2 AAA batteries. Duh!!!! So now, I can wax poetic – copiously.

I feel I’ve been stingy with photographs. I remember way back when I always carried 2 cameras and figured if one photo is good, 10 is better – so I plan to take many more photos as I travel.

Driving the backroads makes it so easy to stop, or make a u-turn to take a photo. I had to make a U-turn to take photos of a small herd of Long-horns, and I kept snapping until I got a good one.

I stopped at a historical marker, then drove down a dirt road for a time, just drinking in the fresh country air – stopping to watch a herd of black angus grazing in a field of wildflowers.

I only had about 200 miles to drive to San Antonio, but I took nearly 8 hours to do it.

I stopped in Shiner to visit a painted church. The church looks quite ordinary from the outside, but is beautifully painted inside – in the middle European style, this area being settled mostly by Germanic immigrants.

I stopped in Luling for the “best Bar-b-que in Texas”, and then followed Hwy 90 until it re-connected with I-10 outside San Antonio. I hadn’t even asked what part of the city I was headed for. I let Jack take the lead, and wouldn’t you know it …….. He took my straight through the middle of San Antonio on Commerce St., Friday evening about 5:30 or 6, during spring break.

I had planned to see downtown on Saturday, and leave Monday morning, but after seeing the crowds Friday nite, we just ran errands on the weekend, and on Monday I’ll be visiting the Alamo, and Riverwalk.

Til next time,
Bear Hugs

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alvin, Texas

Alvin was founded by Alvin Morgan 100 + years ago as a railhead for the cattle industry. Area ranches would trail the cattle to pens in Alvin where they were held until loaded on trains headed for stockyards farther east. Morgan had a pet dog……..and a pet duck. Both the dog and the duck followed him everywhere he went.

Alvin is a small town in population – about 21,000, but good sized in land area. Lots of open land to grow into.

Years ago, Joy worked at the First National Bank in Alvin. One day, a regular customer came in with 3 baby alligators he had found in his rice fields. The bank had an atrium that for some reason, plants would not grow in – one of the officers suggested they put in a pond to put the 3 alligators in, which they did. The gators became real conversation pieces. They also grew. And grew. And grew more. Eventually, they outgrew their pond. The bank officers had a meeting to decide what to do about the gators. The solution? Build a bigger bank. And so they did. In the center of the lobby in the new bank is a very large atrium with pools and water falls, and rocks, etc just for the gators!!!

In the older sections of town, huge, stately live oaks line the streets. This was a project taken on by the ladies league ages ago. They bought hundreds of seedlings for about a penny a piece and planted them throughout the town.

One day, we visited Kemah – a small coastal community that has been developed into a waterfront recreation/entertainment area. They were either building or repairing a large wooden rollercoaster. Joy doesn’t remember it being there before.

Creeks and Bayous. Joy educated me on this subject. Using Montana creeks and rivers as comparison, she said Bayous were slow moving waterways, bigger than creeks and smaller than rivers. So there you have it, folks, in case anyone asks you.

Mexican food. If you love Mexican food as I do, this is the place for you. You can walk all day from one restaurant to another. I’ve never seen so many Mexican restaurants.

Yesterday, we went to the Space Center. The good news was that it was Spring Break, and the tickets were half price. The bad news is that it was Spring Break!!!!!! Wall to wall screaming kids. I did get to see Mission Control and the Saturn V rocket which was so awesome it made my knees shake, but I couldn’t stand the crowds, so I vowed to come back another time.

The day was saved by a stop at Joy's brother's home, and I got to hold a 2 day old .
kid (the goat kind) I was setting up to take the picture as Billy was walking toward me with twin kids when all of a sudden I had an armful of bleating, struggling kid, trying to focus the camera with the other hand.

Tomorrow I leave for San Antonio – about 200 miles and I have all day to get there!!!! I’m taking the back roads, and have some stops planned for along the way.

My wireless keyboard quit, my laptop keyboard is enough to drive me insane, and I still haven’t figured out the photos, but I’ll keep trying.

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I’d been to Galveston once before in 1974. It was intriguing then, and still is. We mostly drove around, because Joy is still recovering from a broken leg. She has graduated from crutches to cane since I’ve been here, but it’s still slow going.

First we drove along the beach. That in itself is really nice – not only can you drive right along the water, but you can also park along the breakwater. Free parking at that!

Texas was spared the ravages of Katrina and Rita, but Ike made up for it in September, 2008. There is still evidence of the damages. And I saw a postcard of Bolivar which I mentioned in a previous post about the lack of houses along much of the road. Well, there were houses there, but Ike swallowed them. The Postcard showed buildings tumbled into the surf – even the pilings were gone.

Most evident in Galveston is the Flagship Hotel. It is an over the water hotel built on huge pilings. Ike removed some pilings, tore away part of a wall, you can see right into a couple of the rooms, and then demolished the bridge/driveway. It has not been repaired at all.

Twin souviener shops built over the water were also destroyed, but they have been re-built and have just re-opened for business.

I took a photo of the Galvez Hotel – the oldest in Galveston. We drove through the Silk Stocking District – where many large Queen Anne and Victorian homes are. They are beautiful.
We stopped at one of the mansions on Broadway where the visitors center is. They marked the high-water mark from Ike near the door – It looked like it would be just about thigh-high on me and that is in the middle of the island.

We drove around the old financial district and along the harbor where their tallship, Elissha is berthed. A carnival cruise ship was in port. I had no idea they were so huge!

Moody Gardens. How can I forget. Huge Luxury Hotel, Three Pyramids – One is an aquarium, one a science center, and one a rainforest. Because of the recent weather, the landscaping was not spectacular, but I am sure it will make a full recovery. We took the elevator to the top floor, the view was fantastic. Waterfalls in the lobby. Art tile and art glass everywhere!!!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Monday, March 15, 2010

Texas Food Adventure


I arrived at Joy and Clyde’s in time for a good old fashion Texas meal of chili and rice.

I met Joy in the 60’s in Montana. We worked together at Continental Insurance Co. One memory that still tickles us both, is about the manager. He was not a tall man. We finally realized that he always talked to me while I was seated at my desk. He never came near me if I was standing up because I was considerably taller than he was!!!.

Joy was a real pistol. (Still is) Tiny, red hair, freckles, and full of energy, and southern Texas charm. We were referred to as “Mutt & Jeff” because of the extreme difference in our heights.

Joy recalls that I taught her how to knit. She says I was a bitch. Patient, but a bitch. She would work days knitting on her sweater, bring it in to show me, I’d spot a dropped stitch and rip it all out and make her do it over again. Well, what can I say. She DID learn to knit!!!!

The next day, we had a Tex-Mex lunch out, and dinner out at Joe’s Bar-B-Que
My first Texas Bar-B-Que since 1974. Beef –BQ, tender, delicious, pure Texan heaven. I ordered a sandwich – OMG – the sandwich roll was at least 6 inches across. I was stuffed!

The next day I joined Joy and her friends at Olive Garden for soup and Salad – Sausage/potato soup. For supper we had Frito Pie – Fritos, Chili, Cheese – m-m-m-m- Do you see where this is going?

Friday, we went to Galveston, and had shrimp and stuff at Shrimp N’ Stuff – Garlicky deep fried shrimp, tender young red skinned potatoes boiled in hot sauce, and a slice of Key Lime pie for dessert. For supper, it was a lite – stack of pancakes and syrup and bacon.

About midnite Friday nite, my stomach roared up and said ENOUGH!!! I got the message, and spent the next 36 hours in bed. End of my Texican food adventure!!!
Sunday, I finally dragged myself out of bed. In the afternoon, we joined friends of Joy and Clyde for a movie and dinner. While they had platters of lobster, shrimp, and oysters, I had soup.

Til the next time,
Bear Hugs,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Texas Ho!

The morning was dreary and I drove in and out of light rain showers throughout the day.

Crossing Louisiana was very interesting, even though I stayed on the interstate nearly the whole way. The highway became a very long bridge at one point, traversing swampland. The bridge seemed to go on forever , I’d guess it was 15-20 miles long. As I reached the end, the trees diminished, and flooded fields appeared on either side of the road. I thought they must have had some very heavy rain recently, until it finally dawned on me that I was looking at rice fields.

Before I go much further, I want to quiet any concerns anyone has about my stopping at rest areas after dark. While it is not my intention to drive after dark, sometimes I must while looking for a place to stay at nite. Starting even on Hwy 95 south, the rest areas have had signs stating they have on-site security at nite. The only time I had to stop at nite was in Louisiana. I pulled into an empty parking lot – it wasn’t late, just dark. Another Volvo pulled in beside me with a man at the wheel. I stayed put while he got out and started walking. From the way he walked, I could tell he was as stiff and road-weary as I was. So I got out, too. I was careful, not fearful (Thanks, Holly) I stayed alert, and when I left the restroom, I checked the area – by then several more cars had stopped, and the security man was on patrol. So all was well!

The closer I got to Texas, the scragglier the trees got. Gone were the majestic Live Oak Trees, and the start of cattleland. I stopped at the Texas welcome center, and checked with the attendant about my intention to cut south on a secondary road to avoid Houston traffic. She said it was a perfectly good route. I looked around and picked up some brochures for San Antonio, and New Braunfuls (a German heritage area). While scanning the display, a word jumped out at me!!! CHOCOLATE!!!! I picked up the brochure for a shop in Fredericksburg, TX, ---- and it is on my route! (More or Less)- so I’ve added Fredericksburg to my itinerary. It also has an “artisan” coffee and tea shop, 2-3 vinyards, old churches, and much more.

I passed Beaumont, and picked up the road south. It was about 30 miles of nearly straight road, very light traffic, through grazing lands. At the end of 30 miles, the road made a sharp right turn, and I was driving along the gulf once again. The surf in places was only feet away from the road, and there was evidence it flowed over the road at times. There were no buildings in the area – just wide vistas of water on one side and beach grass in the other.

When the houses finally started appearing, there was a lot of construction going on, and the newly constructed homes were perched upon 2 full stories of pilings. Usually with storage and parking space on the ground, open deck on the 2nd floor, and the house above that. Everything was on pilings, even the brick elementary school.

I finally arrived at Port Bolivar, and caught a ferry to Galveston, and from there to Alvin, arriving safely at Joy and Clyde’s home about 6:30 p.m.

Until next time
Bear Hugs

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Headed for Texas

Left Slocomb mid morning. I drove through the countryside, enjoying a beautiful spring day. Tree branches are softened with buds, the grass along the road is bright green. At one stop, I stood beside Madame for several minutes listening to a bird sing. What a wonderful day.

As I drove along country roads, I noticed that most of the churches had their own graveyards. Something I had only seen with very old churches before.

I had to put a quart of oil in Madame – only about the 2nd time since I’ve owned her that I’ve had to add oil between oil changes. Then, Jack slipped into a coma. Damn! A blown fuse. That takes nearly standing on my head to remedy. But, I was finally successful, and once again Jack was intoning “recalculating”. Frequently.

I followed Hwy 90 to Pensacola, and hopped up on I-10 until I got through Mobile, then back on Hwy 90 to head for Biloxi and Gulfport. I arrived at “gulf-side” at Biloxi, and it started raining.
The drive from there to Pass Christian, was beautiful, and sad. The gulf and snow white beaches were on one side, and the devastation from Rita and Katrina on the other.

Susan, those beautiful houses you spoke of are gone! After all these years – the evidence is lot after lot, block after block of knarled old, old trees shading if anything, foundations where the stately homes once stood.

There are more empty lots than homes, and those homes standing definitely look like new construction. I saw very few homes that looked old enough to have withstood the hurricanes.
I saw tall pilings standing alone, the homes they once held, washed away. I saw one house on pilings that was demolished to the studs. Really, a roof, and studs. Door jams, window sills, but no siding, no nothing.

And not just homes. I saw a parking lot, painted stripes for spaces still there, but no buildings.
A gas station that was just a concrete slab with pipes standing sentry.

The rain continued, and I finally stopped at dark about 75 miles east of Baton Rouge LA.

I awoke early, and listened to my book for a bit. I drifted off, and woke with a start at the vision of a large black pickup on a collision course for Madame. My heart was pounding, and I certainly hope forewarned is forearmed. I’ll be driving through rain today, and mostly on the interstate. Neither condition is comfortable for me.

Bear Hugs

PS I'll post photos next blog - camera is in the car.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

I arrived in Slocomb, AL about 3 (Oops, that’s 2 – crossed a time line) in the afternoon.
The trip up was very relaxing – no traffic to speak of – even on I-10.

Jack tried to exert his will, but I had written directions from Susan, and I won out. And we had no trouble finding the house

I met Susan and Tommy in VB in 1977 shortly after we moved there. Susan worked for the same insurance agency I did.

Currently, Susan drives a school bus, attends college, makes baskets, and canes chairs, and her work is meticulous! They have about 5 ½ acres here, and have measured out a walk that is a little less than 2 miles – really nice. Yes, I have traversed the walk – sometimes multiple times a day. – (and sometimes not at all I have to admit – once again the weather)

Tommy and Susan are both readers, and we all like similar books. I picked up “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown and devoured it. (I was reading to the Lost Symbol during the day, and listening to The DaVinci Code at night – very confusing) Then I started on one of Susan’s books, and hoping I can finish it before I leave here.

Yesterday, we ran some errands. Ending up at the commissary at Ft. Rucker army base. We were just about finished shopping –ready to head for the checkout, when the fire alarm went off. We had to evacuate, and wait across the street until the fire unit arrived to check it out. It seemed like hours, but was only about 20 minutes. They figured a youngster had tripped the fire alarm.

When we returned home, we all had a mixed drink (well-two to be absolutely correct) All of you that know me well – know I drink so little that it could be said I don’t drink at all (anymore)
Over dinner they decided to add to my wine education. So we talked about wine, sipped wine and talked more about it. Then, we opened the bottle of wine I brought them from St. Augustine. Myra!!!! It stunk!!!! It actually smelled bad, and tasted worse. I can’t believe I liked it when I first tasted it.

Anyway, the tasting and testing continued through the evening until very late. I stood up to go to bed, and Oops!!! No legs. Need I say more?

I have to tell you that Tommy and Susan are the very best cooks. They developed a taste for Italian food while in Italy a while back – for the past 1 ½ years, they have been following South Beach. They have adapted their cooking accordingly, and I tell you, I never knew dieting could be so delicious!

Last Nite (Friday) more wine tasting – Champagne this time, to go with our “legal” dessert, wine with dinner, and cocktail before dinner. I’ll be staggering my way out of Alabama.

Their son and daughter-in-law arrived for a flying visit yesterday, and took advantage of the visit to … TA DA!!! Drum roll: …. bottle Tommy’s very first batch of homemade wine. What fun!!!! As you may be able to see in the photo. We were searching for some “wine bottling” music when we came across a station playing “malt shoppe oldies” More fun – these were the songs my girls’ Dad and I danced to as teenagers!!!

And, once again, I stumbled off to bed

Saturday: Grilled fillets, salad, and …….. sautéed onions and mushrooms flamed with brandy.
Wow, I’m going to miss this restaurant!!! And once again – more education for my palate
It’s still early, so I don’t know what shape I’ll be in when I stagger into bed tonite.

OK – Sunday – Last day here - repacked the car – again. More palate training – with dinner – we grazed – anti-pasto, some wonderful whole wheat flat bread with mozerella balls (marinated in olive oil and basil.) We watched Mystic Pizza, worked my way through several glasses of wine, when I realized it was only 9:30 p.m. - Give me grace!!!! (and more wine)

I wanted to ride Susan’s scooter, but I felt it was a little heavy, and I was afraid I’d lose balance and break my hip or something. Susan says this would be the best place for a broken hip, personal service, great food, wonderful company. But, I decided it wasn’t the right time. LOL

Brooke: Congratulations from Lt. Cmdr Culpepper for making Chief!!!! (Well, he just learned about it) And good luck on your retirement.

I leave in the a.m. for Texas - I’m taking a blue highway – Hwy #90 – along the coast, but it also weaves along with HWY 10 so I can jump on the interstate to go through big towns. Part of it will take me along the gulf – Biloxi and Gulfport. Susan says it’s a wonderful drive. Should take me about 2 days to get to Houston

Bear Hugs,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hudson Florida

The drive from St. Augustine to Hudson, FL was really nice. I dogged along on country roads, through small towns, and farm land. Jack behaved himself, and took me right to my cousin’s door.

What’s in a name:
Stumpknocker Campground
Bushwackers Café
Hillbillys Feed N Tack
Bulls Hit Stockyard

I haven’t seen my cousin, Sandy and her husband Gregg for some 30 years. We started catching up the minute I walked in the door. Non-stop catching up. And it didn’t end until after I left (stopped up the road to say goodbye again)

While we were growing up, Sandy and siblings lived in southern California, I grew up in Montana, but I spent some summers with them, and they visited Montana so, we have many common memories. I think the great Battle of the pin pricks, was one of the most memorable memories. I also remember complaining to my Mother that if Sandy could wear “boys jeans” why did I have to wear girls jeans (with the zipper on the side – remember those?)

Sandy was so-o-o cool as a kid, and loved to push the envelope. That translates into “Pushy Broad” in adulthood, but really, Sandy – a much loved and appreciated “Pushy Broad”

The other member of their household is Muffin – a Maine Coon cat (is that spelled right?) Muffin has the most beautiful soft jade colored eyes. I tried to get a good photo of her, but the vibrancy of the color didn’t come through.

As we shared memories and caught each other up on the past 30 years, we also started exchanging recipes. Sandy is another fantastic cook – how am I ever going to lose weight when I am being fed so well. She had recipes from her mother, and our grandmother also. More memories.

The Butcher Knife!!!
I have an old butcher knife that Sandy’s mother gave to me nearly 50 years ago. She said it had been my grandmother’s. This knife has a well worn wood handle, and an ugly black mottled blade, but it cuts and slices better than any knife I have ever held. My first husband used it to cut lead fishing weights, which broke off the tip, and threw it away a few times, but I always rescued it from the trash. My second husband threw it away a time or two, also. Since I have been divorced for many years, the question of “Me or the Knife”, always ended in favor of the knife. My mother has been telling me for years that it was used in Sandy’s Father’s tire business, which I hotly denied every time she mentioned it. Sandy has settled the question. We were both right!!! The knife began its life as a cutting tool in the tire shop. It had a long, rectangle, square ended blade. Each time it was used, it was heated to a red-hot condition. They would pull out a length of re-tread material (remember retreading tires?) and the knife was used to slice through the thick rubber. With use, the knife wore down to a normal sized knife blade, and was taken home to use in the kitchen.

My girls absolutely loathe the knife. I even bought a pair of butcher knives for them to use when visiting me so they wouldn’t have to use THE KNIFE. I am sure that when my time comes, the first things to be thrown out are my baskets, and THE Knife. Well, girls, Sandy has a request! If I go first, you MUST send the knife to her. For some reason, Sandy didn’t get one. She is astounded her mother gave me one, but she didn’t give Sandy one. Sandy’s two sisters and brother have the knives, but they are not sharing. So, I am changing my will to make sure Sandy gets my precious knife!!!!!

Sandy’s neighbor brought over some grapefruit for me to enjoy. My gosh they are huge. I’m going to try to post a photo of them. Please note, the plate used in the photo for size comparison is a dinner plate. They are sweet and red.

Around and about Hudson, Fl

We drove past Hidden Lake – a fly in community. Wow – Huge homes with even larger hangars, run-ways, planes, rv’s, and all sorts of big boy’s toys.

A still lake surrounded with trees draped in Spanish Moss

And gun laws – In Florida it is legal to carry a concealed weapon, and to defend yourself if you feel threatened. Beats the states that prosecute a homeowner who shoots a burglar breaking into his home.

Well, my visit with Sandy and Greg was cut short when Sandy’s best friend passed away in Arkansas. I headed for Alabama on a rainy morning. I took Hwy 19 north to Interstate 10. No rest stops on Hwy 19, so to keep my knees working, I would stop at large grocery stores, Wal-marts or K-marts to walk off the stiffness. Hey, it worked, and kept me out of the rain.

I'll see Sandy and Gregg again in Montana for our family reunion the middle of August, but also promised to visit them again next year.

Next time you hear from me – I’ll be in southern Alabama.

Bear Hugs