Thursday, April 29, 2010

Antiques in Collins, MS

Thursday, April 22, I wake up with a kink in my back. As I'm sipping my coffee the weird, older couple from yesterday comes by walking/jogging. They are out there at 7:15 for another hour. After breakfast I use my new brass cleaner on the shower hose. It works great but my knees only let me do the first 12 inches of hose-and I was standing up! Maybe I'll do more later.

We take the bikes off the truck and put them under our new 'carport.' One of the things we liked about switching to a 5th wheel is having a dry carport area to park the bikes under. We head to Sumrall to browse "Things In The Attic." I find a wine bottle recipe holder that I will use for postcards. We like two black framed old bathtub prints but she wouldn't break up the set and we only have room for one in our compact bathroom. I walk across the street after we leave to mail a card at the post office and the gal comes out and flags me down to say she called her Mom, the owner, and she says she'll sell us one. But when I get it down off the wall it has a pane of glass on the front and the back in order to suspend the print. That is why I liked it but it also makes it way too heavy for RV purposes. I thanked her for her trouble and we head to lunch at Lau-Tori's.

There is a big local crowd as usual. I enjoy their homemade vegetable soup. Bob has the grilled chicken pita with cucumber sauce that I liked so much the other day. A young boy about three years old behind us had a meltdown when they brought his food; something was not like he expected it to be. His Mom took him outside and said they were leaving. A few minutes later they were back and he was all happy and sat down and ate every bit of his lunch. His Mom had his number!

A 40-something guy who was eating at the table next to us got a call on his cell phone and told them where he was. He said "Oh no it's not new, I've been coming to this place for 20 years. Hell, my first wedding party ate here.!"

We take 589 north to 49 to Collins and find Collins Antique Mall on Main. What a great place. They have a great, life-sized old time bicycle planter for $150.00. If only we had a yard-Not! We find an art deco puzzle and a neat bicycle clock that will look great in the RV. We also find a few books and cheese knives. She says the mayor owns this mall and Collins is the only debt-free city in Mississippi. She directs us to Galleria Antiques on 49 just north of town. It is an upscale decor and antique place. I find two polka dot plastic iced tea glasses and a book by Caleb Carr (right now I'm reading his "Killing Time.")

Bob tries General Dollar next door for SoBe's but they have no sugar free ones. We get a paper at the gas station and head home by 4:30. What a fun day. Back home we have leftovers. I walk to the office and pay for two more nights at $30.00 each. We'll leave on Sunday. This turns out to be a great decision as a Category 4 tornado sweeps across Mississippi just north of here for 150 miles on Saturday! Today's high is 83 after a low of 55. It's 5:40 p.m. and 80 degree but it feels like 70 with only 30% humidity. After a week they have reopened Europe's airports after the Iceland volcano erupted and spewed ash into the airspace.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cycle 51 Miles to Prentiss, MS

Reet hops off her bike to get a picture of a begging emu
Wednesday, April 21, early this morning we watch a 70-something RVing couple go round and round the RV Park. He's running and she's power walking for about an hour. Both have very strange arm positions; she's holding a towel like a Southern belle with a hankie and he's holding his sweat rag in a Heil Hitler position and facing all four directions. Very weird but I admire their fitness routine. They are both in good shape but are wearing short shorts on this chilly 51-degree morning. They both end up working up a sweat and using those towels.

We eat a hearty breakfast and hit the road at 10:30. It was fairly easy to lift both bikes and the rack and put them back on the truck hitch. I didn't need my stool I was going to use as a resting box. We go north on the trail at 10:50 a.m. against the wind. Only a minute or two north of Sumrall we pass two older ladies on big balloon tire bikes with no gears. More on them later but I was thinking they were just out for a couple of miles near Sumrall. A few minutes later we see a deer jump off the trail into the woods. I paced myself on the first two-mile grade this time. We took our first, and only, break between Sumrall and Bassfield at the emu farm. I took pictures through the fence and fed trail mix to this awkward looking birds. There was also a pair of llamas, or are they alpacas? I don't know how to tell the difference.

Just give me a piece of the trail mix already!

The restaurant on the trail in Bassfield is open today. We check out the hours after a short break and pictures of a church and the water tower at the Trail Head. The place is only open until 2:00. It's 12:45 now and we can't get back here from Prentiss by then so the snacks I packed will have to last 4.6 miles to Carson. We zoom past our old mark from Monday and head into new territory. At the Carson Trail Head a guy is cutting grass on a riding mower and ruins our peace and quiet. A young gal is pacing up and down on the trail in front of the restrooms carrying on a cell phone conversation and airing lots of personal issues.

Love those feet!

We hop back on our bikes and to our delight it is completely downhill from Carson to Prentiss-about six miles. My elation was curbed knowing we have to cycle back up when we turn around. s There is nothing visible to eat from the Trail Head at Prentiss so rather than adding miles to our trip we eat our PB&Js at the turn around and take a 25 minute break. If we make it back we can say we rode the entire Longleaf Trace!

Bob calls me over to get a picture of the llamas

There's nothing left to do but face the hill. It turns out not to be too bad as the grade is 1 or 2 percent. Before our first break on the way up the hill we see those two older ladies coming from the opposite direction towards us. We can't believe they almost outpaced us to make it to Prentiss from Sumrall. We don't know whether to be impressed or depressed. They couldn't have taken many breaks. Not bad for 55 to 65 year olds on those bikes. We're inspired to forge on despite the hill. We saw no one else on the trail so far until two firefighters (a guy and a gal) pass us while we take a break halfway up the hill. They came from Prentiss and we never see them again. A little dog chases us as we head up the hill. I barely have enough leg strength left to outrun that little guy.

Quaint church in Bassfield, MS

We take another rest at Carson and make it back to Ward's (a cheap local burger joint chain here) near Bassfield. An older local guy is walking in as we dismount. He's here for the 39-cent coffee mug refills. He asks Bob how far we're going. Bob says "Oh, about 50 today." His eyebrows shoot up and he yells "Miles!?" We splurge on soft serve cones and a diet Coke. Those cones for $1.29 are ten inches high! Yikes, I almost fell asleep eating that much dairy.

Last time we had our lunch at this pretty spot in Faler Park in Bassfield

We make it back quickly with the wind at our backs and downhill most of the way. Even with our stop to feed the emu (one wouldn't let the other one near the fence) we still got back in good time. Three huge dogs were running loose in a pack and gave us a scare but they didn't pursue. Whew! We get back to Sumrall by 6:05-six hours and fifteen minutes and 51.25 miles after we started. We get a newspaper and head home for leftovers. It's 6:05 p.m. and 77 degrees with 28% humidity-perfect cycling weather. The high was 78.

Proof that we made it the entire 40 miles of Longleaf Trace from Hattiesburg on one end to Prentiss on the other

Antiquing Petal and Hattiesburg, MS

Tuesday, April 20, up at 6:30, slept like a rock right after Jay Leno's headlines last night. So sorry to hear Kevin Eubanks is leaving the show. I wonder who will replace him?

As I'm sipping my coffee this chilly, 58-degree morning (63 inside the RV) I hear a loud zap out by Hwy 49. A big truck was coming by so I thought it blew a tire but it seemed too loud and forceful Bob gets up and says we have no water and no power (the RV Park's water pump needs power.) The loud pop was a transformer out by the road. Oh great. I thought it would be hours before they fixed it. But a backup must have kicked in about 10 or 15 minutes later.

So we had breakfast on schedule! It's a goo thing as I'm hungry after yesterday's cycling. We get cleaned up and go to Petal, MS, northeast of Hattiesburg where the antique mall Bob scoped out on-line is out of business (why do they never remove things from the World Wide Web?) So we go to Calico Mall Antique Center on Pine in downtown Hattiesburg. We were here when we were part-time camping in our little Casita staying just south of Hattiesburg at the State Park many years ago. I found $13 worth of postcard. Most everything else was overpriced we thought.

We took Pine Street to 49 and went to The Antique Mall after stopping for a newspaper and a Peach Soda (like a Cream Soda only peachy.) We were here in our prior life also. What a great place. I found 20 or so postcards at 50 cents and a dollar each. Bob found a mini crock creamer that I've been looking for. We spied a brass gofer doorbell cover that looks great about our living room slideout. And I found a $3.00 Christmas tree, skirt, lights and all. And Bob found four heavy-bottomed juice/whiskey glasses. We are too nervous drinking our morning V-8 and juices out of tall, stemmed little wine glasses--not a good combination with light colored carpet. On our way out the door Bob spies two golf pins so we go back and buy them. Since I used my credit card twice in such a short time the guy had to look up a pass code to make it work. I never knew that but it's an interesting security procedure.

We ate at Raynor's Catfish & Seafood place on 49 near the RV Park; it's finally open on a day we went by. Too bad as it was not very memorable and they only take cash. As we go home Hattie greets us at our RV. We stow our treasures and Bob hangs the golfer. He looks perfect aboard the Titanic as you can see from my picture. It's 6:35 p.m.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cycle 35 Miles Longleaf Trace through Bassfield, MS

Rest stop sponsor sign on Longleaf Trace

Monday, April 19, I'm up at 7:00 after I tossed and turned for a couple of hours. Eventually I got a good rest. I finished John McEnroe's "You Cannot Be Serious." Interesting book. He sure is hard on himself and doesn't seem like a very happy guy sometimes.

Our neighbors on both sides leave early. The curbside folks with the skinny, good-looking dachshund and Schnauzer have their antenna up as they come around the circle by the pond. I run out and wave to flag them down. Somehow they saw me and got out to unlock their RV and lower the roof antenna. He yelled out thanks as they left.

We take a break at Bassfield Trail Head

We load up the bikes and hit the trail at 10:45. I mail some cards at the post office across from Sumrall Trail Head. Bob is by the trail bulletin board and a gal in a car turns right onto the trail and zooms down the hike and bike trail to the next block where she makes a right turn. That is completely illegal; not to mention dangerous. Bob was trying to get her attention but she was completely oblivious. I can't imagine if cyclists were coming down that hill at 25 mph and came around the turn to run into a car going 30 mph in the other direction. Yikes!

Luckily we go the opposite direction and head northwest, although into a headwind. It is mostly uphill this way and my knees and leg muscles really feel it after 14.2 miles of incline to Bassfield Trail Head. The scenery is beautiful with farms, cows, llamas, and emus. The azaleas are blooming everyone. And we spy one coral-orangey colored ornamental bush or tree that we've never seen before. On the way back we stop and take some pictures of it. The color is almost like a 1970's coral nail polish that I had.

Does anybody know what this unusual colored bloom is?

In Bassfield we can't find the restaurant on the trail that Bob scoped out on-line. We search all over at the crossroads of 42 and 35 and end up wasting 40 minutes and killing my knees cycling around in sand and soft gravel on the shoulders. Finally Bob makes a command decision to continue on towards Carson Trail Head (4.2 miles north.) First I tried to call Lau-Tori's back in Sumrall to see how late they stay open today. But incredibly I can't get a cell connection in the town of Bassfield. Only 2 or 3 other times have we ever not gotten a signal when we're in an actual town.

We cycle north about four miles and decide to turn around. We'll hit the Carson Trail Head next time. On our way back towards Bassfield we find the restaurant right on the trail with a new bridge to the parking lot. But it is closed up tightly and we can't tell if it is out of business or just closed today. The hours Bob found on-line are not right or else it is closed for good.

Love these cool car signs on the trail to indicate on-coming traffic

We stop at the Bassfield Trail Head and eat our PB&Js and fruit under the pavilion. About 1:40 we head back towards the truck in Sumrall. It is much easier going with the wind but my knees and legs are fried by now. A little dog runs out nipping at our heels and I can't out cycle him at first. But he gives up after about 400 yards. I'm not sure if his little legs got tired or it was the edge of his property.

Bob brakes for three cars that appear around a curve as we were zooming downhill around 10 mph. I was watching the curvy road to my right for the speeding cars and came within a half an inch of crashing into Bob's back tire at 20 mph. That got my adrenaline going! We have been cycling on flat ground for a month and when you stop peddling you almost come to a stop. But going down these hills you have to be careful about you're stopping distance.

At last we make it back after 2 hours and 20 minutes. It looks like Lau-Tori's is open as we go by so we load up the bikes and head over there. Sure enough they are open every day, all day. We get a new waitress today and sit in the front room across from the 'wet paint' mural someone is putting on the wall.

I try a cup of their Chicken and Dumplin's. It comes in a big "Dootsie coffee mug and tastes just like Gram Rood's (my paternal grandmother.) I also had a Chicken Pita with cucumber sauce and hash browns. The pita was grilled and browned and heavenly, along with the sauce it was a great wrap. Bob had Lau-Tori's grilled chicken with ham and cheese sauce. We're both happy after our long ride.

Hattie the campgournd beagle hangs around outside our back window

We get a paper and head home where we try taking both bikes and the rack off the truck all at once. It worked and we stored in under the 'carport' created by the 5th wheel overhang. We'll see how bad it is to lift back up on the truck's hitch next time. Maybe I won't be this tired and sore.

It's 4:55 p.m. and 71 degrees with only 28% humidity. The low humidity makes it feel much cooler. I work long sleeves and Capri's to cycle and was still chilly on the bike. The high was 77 after a low of 59. Our major network TV channels keep coming and going here.

Olive Garden and Gander Mountain

Indian Paintbrush and Texas Bluebonnets-Oh how I miss them in the Springtime!

Sunday, April 18, I wake up at 7:30 on a board. I couldn't sleep last night so I read John McEnroe's book until 1:30. Some very young boys keep driving a 'Gator' around the campground all morning. And I can hear a domestic disturbance going on down by the pond. I see a Sheriff doing a drive-through in the park later. I try to ignore it all and work on pictures this morning and check email. But I still have energy so after breakfast I stretch and then clean the bugs off the front of the RV. I like to do that pretty soon after we move before they get baked on there by the sun. Bob stows the bikes and we try putting the bike rack under the front of the RV to keep it handy.

Drive anywhere in the Texas Hill Country and this view could greet you in Spring

While I'm scrubbing with my long pole brush our streetside neighbor, and older gent, walks by and says our RV is a beauty. He starts telling us that someone is coming by today to pick up the travel trailer he has been renting. Later we see a younger guy helping him load all of his belongings into a Penske rental truck. He says after living their whole life in Hattiesburg, they are moving to California. He has a friend who got hi a job out there as a retail manager and he will make $15,00 to $20,000 more than he was making here. He says he realizes with the cost of living difference he will probably need it. They are renting an apartment out there. We wish him well. Unemployment is 11% here in Mississippi.

Both of our neighbors leave before 10:00. I run out to get "Hattie", the campground beagle out from under the Florida couple's motorhome on our streetside as they can't see her right under their passenger side wheel. He says they fed her and I guess she's trying to keep them from leaving. He thanked me because he couldn't see her down there.

Many thanks to my Austin friend Jean for these wildflower shots, including this classic fenceposts and bluebonnets shot!

I get cleaned up and we go over to the retail area on 98. There is less traffic today than when we got here Friday. We have lunch at Olive Garden along with everyone else in Hattiesburg. I have a bland pecan-crusted tilapia but enjoy my minestrone. We go across to Gander Mountain next door where Bob find a Thermarest matt for his camping trips and some lures. I find a blouse for 70% off.

The Antique Mall on I-59 is out of business. So we stop for a paper and I try the Mississippi Herald Sunday paper. When we get back to the RV Park there is a bunch of overnighters that come in around 6:00 p.m. They sure arrive late here. I have a text message from my brother Mike--his corn is poking up through the ground already! I work on final paperwork from our latest mail pouch. And I print mailing labels since I've run out of them. We have leftovers for dinner and I watch the Academy of Country Music Awards.

I'm posting some pictures my Austin friend Jean took of the wildflowers in Texas. She says they are the result of their long, wet winter. It makes me miss Central Texas for sure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cycle 30 Miles Longleaf Trace

Saturday, April 17, I'm up at 6:45 and spend the morning reading John McEnroe's "You Cannot Be Serious." After breakfast we head to Sumrall, MS, to ride Longleaf Trace, a 10 to 14 foot wide paved trail that winds over 40 miles between Prentiss and Hattiesburg. This is Mississippi's first Rails-to-Trails effort and was dedicated in June 2004. There is also an equestrian trail adjoining the bike trail that runs for 23 miles. We start in the middle third near Sumrall where we find a cute trail head.

Bob wishes he was fishing Beaver Pond

On our first ride we go east towards Hattiesburg as it is the shorter of the two directions. There is a screened overpass over I-59 and tunnels under 38th Ave. and 7th St. Much to our surprise the first 1 and 1/2 miles are a slight incline; 1 to 2 percent grade. Wow! It has been awhile since we did anything but flat. The area is gorgeous with every hardwood tree imaginable. We'd love to ride here in the fall. Dogwood blooms are all over the ground; we just missed them. The weather is gorgeous today. We take our first break around five miles at Beaver Pond. Another couple around our age coming from the opposite direction stops for the view as we are leaving.

Lily pads cover Beaver Pond

It is odd that electric golf carts are allowed on this trail. But they must pull off and stop if anyone passes in either direction--weird. We see a collage age couple in a golf cart and their parents following in another. They obey the rules and pull over and come to a complete stop as we pass them in the other direction.

We love the snazzy cup holders on the benches at the rest stop--more on these innovative convertible bench/tables later

I love this trail as there are restrooms and water every five miles! We cycle all the way to the eastern end at Gateway Southern Miss on Ole Miss campus. We go in the bike rental place for a trail map. When we ask the old gent behind the counter where to eat in town he seems surprised to find we are on our bikes. How weird in a bike shop. He tells us to go back to the first underpass, walk up the embankment and eat the best burger in MS at Mug Shots. I told him we could smell them cooking as we cycled by.

Instead we have our PB&J and fruit at the Trail Head. They are building new dorms right next door. It is a huge complex that we saw in the newspaper to the tune of $30 million. After our snack we cycle back 15 miles for a total of 30.25 miles in 3 and 1/2 hours. It was WAY FUN having hills to go down. Of course there is some 'up' too. We see lots of people on the way back. The guys on racing bikes have a funny wave on this trail.They stick one hand down as they pass by.

At several points along the trail the trees are identified with huge signs. We have heard of many and there are also quite a few we aren't familiar with. It helps pass the time as the miles fly by.

I have to hop off on the way back to take a picture of Old Glory strung across the Trace. I little further on I hop off again to take a picture of a big cedar tree on the side of the trail that local folks have started decorating like a Christmas tree. We enjoy the nice rest stops along the way but we find that if the trash can lid has blown away that stop will be swarming with bumble bees that won't leave you alone.

One of many rest stops along the trail

We're both glad to be back to the truck. Fortunately the last part is downhill and we really get to fly into the station. We put the bikes on the truck and drive to Lau-Tori's on Hwy 42 West in Sumrall near the trail head. What a great place. It is busy and everyone here knows each other. Most have just come from a funeral and they are all going to a local baseball game this afternoon. Sumrall is in the finals of their local leagues and it's a big deal.

We have one of the specials of the day--Catfish Jolie (grilled catfish with crawfish/mushroom sauce over pasta, a salad with a heavenly thick honey mustard dressing and cornbread hush puppies. We'll be back. On the way home we get a Hattiesburg paper at Chevron. The high was 82 after a low of 60. A Cardinal 5th wheel pulls in curbside. They are from Robinson, TX, and are heading back there after spending two weeks in Florida for a high school reunion. He seemed very nice and upbeat as I chatted with him. His wife appeared to be a stroke victim who lost her speech and walks with help from him. My heart goes out to both of them.

Our lunch stop at Gateway Southern Miss in Hattiesburg

The campground beagle, who I call Hattie, is still shy and will not come up to me. A Class A from Florida pulls in streetside. I go for a walk, stretch, get cleaned up and we have our Four Bean Turkey Soup. It's 7:48 p.m. and 76 degrees with 41% humidity.

Volunteer Christmas Tree

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Movin' On to Hattiesburg, MS

Big Bertha the Titanium Driver at Shady Cove

Friday, April 16, I got up at 7:00 and we packed up without incident. At 10:32 a.m. we left our one-month home here in Slidell. As we pulled out the gal in the office asked if she needed to move her truck for us to make the left turn but we're okay. I get out to make sure we clear the curbside tree. The back of the RVs have a tendency to swing around farther than you think.

They don't call it Shady Cove for Nothing! And the azaleas are in bloom everywhere

Part of Bob's pre-move adjustments included putting red nail polish on our Superglide hitch. It works like a champ to let us know at a glance that we are locked in tight. I feel better after hearing Shane next door to us here tell his terrible story of his Superglide not being locked in and having his RV drop onto his tailgate. I can't imagine our 14,000 pounds crunching down on Big Bertha. Yikes!

We head north on I-59 for only 88 miles to exit 67B where we take Hwy 49 north to Shady Cove RV Park, 7836 US Hwy 49 North, Hattiesburg, MS 39402, Forrest County, (601) 268-1077. Hattiesburg's population at the last census was 45,000.

Bob fishes Shady Cove Pond

Charlene, who I made our reservation with, is on the phone when we arrive so I take the opportunity to use our restroom, as there is a keypad on the ladies room behind the office. She finally gets off the phone and her and Bob get in a golf cart (that won't start) to drive around and choose a site. Two RVs are pulling in as they head off in the golf cart. One guy runs to the rest room behind the office and actually gets in. Charlene tells us later the ladies room keypad is operating but the men's room keypad is broken. What are the odds? I had to go just as bad as that guy did I'm sure. Anyway, his truck and 5th wheel are blocking another truck and travel trailer and two cars behind them at the front entrance. He runs out and sets his car alarm off and zooms around our rig making me nervous.

While I'm waiting for Charlene and Bob to return, a little female beagle who clearly has just had pups shows up. She is skittish and won't eat my trail mix. Charlene calls her the campground dog when they return. We're all set for site #14. We pay her $150.00 for one week. She tells Bob they don't get any snowbirds here during the winter; it's too far north. They all want to be on the Gulf Coast. She gets some in May and June when the hurricane season gets going. But mostly she has pipeliners here who are all out of work right now. She put a lock on one guys trailer hitch who owes her money. First she stopped his utilities but he still didn't pay.

We set up quickly at 1:00 p.m. after we gather our wits and push the RV back a foot so our awning will open next to a big tree. Then we head to lunch. We find an O'Charley's on Hwy 98 after we circle around the University here. We both have salads; Bob's is a pecan-crusted chicken salad and I have a California chicken salad with mandarin oranges, strawberries, honey pecans and baby spinach. Our waiter is an annoying mumbler.

We try Target across the street but it is not a Super Target so we go to a nearby Wal-Mart for groceries. The area is very congested and on the way back we can't get on I-to north from the left lane so we circle around the University again on every back road and service road until we reconnect with 49.

Our last stop is Dollar General for SoBe's and Gatorades-got to have them for cycling. I walk next door to BP for Hattiesburg American newspaper; quite a small publication compared to the Times-Picayune. We get home at last around 4:45. I cut up veges, we put the bikes on the rack on the truck so we're ready to ride tomorrow. It's 5:26 p.m. and 81 degrees with 22% humidity. The high was 88 and the low was 61. We have no ABC or Fox here. Yikes!

Bob fishes the pond at the back of the campground but catches nothing. It's very shallow and seems to be about three feet low. I take a short walk but my heart is not in it. Some overnighters pull in across the road and drag out all of their BBQ stuff. That makes me tired after moving all day. We have soup, veges and fruit. It beats all that work of BBQing after such a long day.

Some camping club calls on the phone and says they are affiliated with Good Sam (who is not supposed to give out our info) so I ask if they are on the Good Sam website and she hangs up pretty quickly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Laundry and Speckled T's

Fin-tailed silverware at Speckled T's
Thursday, April 15, I slept like a rock in spite of a headache from the sun and wind on our bike ride yesterday. Or maybe it was dehydration. Whatever, it started to hit me last night but I managed to pass out. The headache returned this morning as soon as I got up. This morning I finished Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike" trying to find inspiration. It seems appropriate to read it now as we're doing all of this serious (for us) riding. His heart rate on the big climb in the Tour de France was 190 beats per minute. Yikes!

I stretch and then sort five loads of laundry. We have breakfast and Bob lubricates and adjusts the hitch and checks the air pressure and fluids. There was a weird drip under the truck when we got back to the trail head yesterday. He suspected it might be a fuel leak, maybe from when they dropped our tank to fix the intake pump. But he doesn't see anything when he checks it out this morning.

Around 11:00 I take the laundry across the road where I find one German lady in the laundry room who is just putting two loads in the dryer. She gives me some lip about "you must save up your laundry for a month or something" when she sees my five loads. I wanted to9 ask her how she only does two loads and manages to get her bedding done but I decided silence was the best policy. It must have been 95 degrees in that laundry room so maybe that was making me testy.

Anyway I got two rolls of quarters from the office and helped Bob move the bikes to the garage while I was over there. Then I found a new book; John McEnroe's "You Cannot Be Serious." It seems I'm on a sports theme kick this month. Bob comes over to help me fold. We stow it all and head to lunch by 1:30.

We ended up eating at Speckled T's as we couldn't find Pat's that my hairdresser recommended. I have today's special "Crawfish Monica" (sauteed crawfish tails in a cheese sauce with new potatoes over angel hair pasta and salad with four-cheese Parmesan dressing-excellent! Bob has catfish that reminds us of The Maxican's in Burnet, TX, except they served it with cocktail sauce here. We just love the cute fin-tailed silverware here. We looked at the dessert menu but alas they have no DoBerge Cake. I guess we'll have to leave Louisiana without trying it. Our waitress recommends an outrageous banana rum thing but we pass.

We stopped at Margarite's Bakery off of Gause that my hairdresser also mentioned. They have a DoBerge Cake for $32.00! We only want one piece, not a whole cake. These things are huge, six-layer concoctions. Finally we get fuel and a car wash. The third gas station has a newspaper.

Back home I take the decor down and do the pre-move packing. And I still have to remake the bed after our trip to the laundry. Then we bring in the bikes. It is very windy today. I'm glad we're not riding. I call Shady Cove RV Park in Hattiesburg, MS and leave a voice message. Charlene calls back and says they have a site for a week to ten days. I can't believe we're leaving tomorrow. I'm pretty sure I say that every time it's time for us to move on. This lifestyle is so weird. You go somewhere for a month and it stretches out before you as if it will never end. And then, poof, you wake up and the next day it's time to move again.

It's 5:21 p.m. and 74 degrees with 55% humidity. It sure feels warmer than that. The high was 75 and the low was 61. It is 81 degrees inside the RV. We can't seem to get a cross breeze today.

Cycle 48 Miles to Abita Brew Pub

Green caboose at the Kids Playground Trail Head on our way west on Tammany Trace
Wednesday, April 14, we hit the trail by 10:55 a.m. When we get to the trail head the rest rooms are closed for repair--not a good sign. The high gets to 76 degrees after a low of 60 with 75% humidity; that is way higher than it has been. The wind helps us on the way out. We get to Mandeville in one hour and 22 minutes--a new record! I ran over a green snake, pencil size, when I didn't see it on the trail in front of me.

Partially submerged gator in a pool right next to the bike trail

At our first rest break I took my heart rate as I jumped off the bike--126 beats per minutes! Lance Armstrong said in his book that 130 is a moderate ride for him. We continue on and at last enjoy lunch at Abita Brew Pub. We split a Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Remolaude and a Turkey Sandwich. After lunch we take a break in the sun by the famous pavilion that was moved here from New Orleans. I snap some pictures. This time Bob points out the legend of the Springs healing powers. Many years ago a dying Choctow princess was brought to drink from a natural spring flowing from a cypress stump. After drinking from the spring she fully recovered. The healing properties of Abita Springs have been famous ever since.

There's nothing left to do but head back against the strongest wind yet the whole way. We saw a gator, about a four-footer, in a new spot. Bob's sharp eye spotted him at 8 miles an hour and we stopped for a picture. We got back to the truck at 5:50 after 7 hours and 47.5 miles. We're both very tired. It's 6:38 p.m. and 73 degrees with 64% humidity.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good Hair Day at joli' coupe' Salon

Tuesday, April 13, I'm up at 7:30. Before I change my mind I open the mail, pay and mail the RV and truck registration, fill our an insurance questionnaire for our RV insurance, file stuff and deal with the rest. After breakfast I take down the Easter decor and put up new stuff. Then I clean the bathroom and vacuum the whole place. I guess that cycling gave me a burst of energy.

I get ready for my hair appointment at 1:00 and leave here at 12:30. I stop in the drug store for a newspaper and sundries. Then I arrive promptly at jole' coupe' Salon, 2132 E. Gause, (985) 781-8969, where Angel greets me and listens attentively to what I request. She is very knowledgeable and makes some suggestions to add hi-lights to my low-lights and some texture to my cut. She has lived here her whole life; her parents still live in the same house. Angel and her husband lost their condo on Lake Pontchartrain in Katrina. They have a new home now. This shop used to be on the north shore of the Lake but was ruined in Katrina also and moved here to Gause.

She loves to travel and just returned from her husband's grandparents' place in Florida; some of the islands. They also have a summer place in Vermont that they visit. She would love to move to either one. She was really envious of our RV lifestyle. I enjoyed chatting with her. She says the gnats are bad due to the cold winter and they all popped out at once when it finally got warm. I get a great cut and highlights. She's nice enough to write it all down for me.

I head home to get Bob and we go to Texas Roadhouse at 4:00. We both have the Early Diner Special. Then we head home to read the paper and watch NCIS and The Good Wife. It's 6:25 p.m. and 73 degrees with 38% humidity. The high was 77 and the low was 59.

Cycle 31 Miles to Granny's Attic, Mandeville

Monday, April 12, we have the bikes packed up by 10:30. I check at the office for our mail but today's is not there yet. We hit the bike trail by 11:17 a.m. There is a north wind today and we find almost no one on the trail. We make good time to Mandeville. On the way we saw more wildlife today since the trail didn't have much human traffic. I little lizard ran right in front of my tire. Then a Pileated woodpecker swooped very low across the trail. I was just going to tell Bob how great it was that the trail was deserted today and we got to see so much wildlife when he yelled "Lookout, there's a snake!" Sure enough a four-foot black snake was coiled up in the middle of the trail hissing at us as we zoomed by. That got my adrenaline going. Later on I saw a rabbit hop it front of me and returned to my good feelings about the wildlife.

When we get to Mandeville we cruise by the special board outside Kickstand Cafe (actually they have their banner up and have officially changed their name to Old Mandeville Cafe.) We cycle on by to go to Samaritan Thrift shop a.k.a Granny's Attic before it closes at 2:00.

We leave our bikes in the rack out front with some kids bikes that the thrift shop is selling. We browse and find a 2009 Almanac for $1.50. And I find a colorful summer bracelet. When we pay the lady she asks "Are those your bikes in our racks out front? We've had several people want to buy them!"

We hop on before someone buys them and I stuff the Almanac in my panniers. We ride back to Old Mandeville Cafe for lunch; our last here probably. I have a heavenly Cream of Asparagus Soup and a garden salad. Bob has a Tuna Twist and we split a homemade Chinese Almond cookie. The gal heats it up for us. I couldn't come here all of these times without getting one of their homemade desserts.

Outside we take a break at the trail head after Bob gets his pedal caught on a curb by the Cafe. But he rights himself and we sit in the sun as it lulls us to sleep. At last we fill our water bottles and head back against the strongest wind yet. We're only going 31 miles today so it's not too bad. We make it back to the truck by 4:00.

Back home we put the bikes in the garage so I can just leave for my hair appointment tomorrow. The gal in the office catches me at the door and hands me our packet of mail. We crash with the A/C on to avoid the bugs. We eat Ham Hodge Podge Soup and watch House and Castle. It's 5:20 p.m. and 76 degrees with 35% humidity. The high was 78 and the low was 60. It was 87 degrees in the RV when we got back from cycling.

I called my brother Mike tonight to wish him a happy birthday. He says he started a new project at the Lake house on Lake Texoma, on the hill in the back yard, next to the peanut field. He planted a corn field; 40 ft. by 12 ft. Four rows of 50 seeds for a total of 200 stalks. How fun! It reminded me of watching our corn grow last summer in Bluffton, Iowa, behind our RV at Twin Lakes. He also said they are all going to a Beatles cover concert on Thursday. It will be my great nephew Ethan's first concert!

Mickelson Wins The Masters

Sunday, April 11, I slept like a rock until 9:00. I called Sunrise on Second and they said they are open until 2:30. So we take the bikes off the truck and head out to breakfast. I have New Orleans French Toast Plate and Bob has Blueberry Pancakes. A groovy looking guy is playing classical guitar. He really knows his crowd as he strums Moon River and Amazing Grace. I enjoyed breakfast after our waitress turned down the ceiling fan above us.

Afterwards we stop at Rouse's for fruit and Ham Hodge Podge ingredients. We're home by 1:00 to watch the final round of The Masters golf tournament. The high gets to 77 here today but it is 87 degrees inside the RV after we closed it up to go to breakfast and the grocery store. We had to reclose them when the streetside neighbors starting BBQing. He used half a bottle of lighter fluid right under our window. Anyway, the low was 57 this morning.

Phil Mickelson defeats Lee Westwood by two strokes and has an emotional scene with his wife Amy who is in treatment for breast cancer. This tournament was Tiger's 5-month comeback after his sex scandal and he tied for 4th.

Bob and I make our soup and eat healthy while the neighbors scarf down BBQ pork chips and beef steaks. It's 6:27 p.m. and 54 degrees with 42% humidity. I stay up until 10:30 working on French Quarter pictures and journal pages. Today I read in the paper that the French Quarter Festival is the second most popular event in the French Quarter after Mardi Gras. Late breaking news today reveals a shooting on canal street near where we were on Friday. Eight people were shot. All are being treated and none have fatal wounds as of right now. How scary to think we were just there.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cycle 55 Miles to Covington

We finally reach Covington at the end of Tammany Trace Trail

Saturday, April 10, I wake up at 8:00 a.m. on a board. The low is 56 and the high gets to a gorgeous 73 degrees. There is some wind which will be a factor on our ride. First thing this morning I got a small spot of dirt out of my new shirt. We had a hearty breakfast, stretched, packed up the bikes and hit the trail at 11:05. As Bob is putting the bikes on the rack on the back of the truck our young, blond, skinny streetside neighbor asks him where we ride. He gives her a brochure of The Tammany Trace Trail and says it's 30 miles. She says "Thirty miles; that don't sound too bad." Right!

Current site of Abita Springs Pavilion

A Trace Ranger catches us in the parking lot of the Slidell Trail Head and asks our name, zip code and how we found out about the Trail. We go west through lots of weekend cyclers. We make the Mandeville Trail Head by 12:35 just in time for the Saturday Farmer's Market that ends at 1:00. Most of the vendors are packing up. We take a cursory glance and are off to the west, bypassing Kickstand Cafe and heading on to Abita Springs. When we reach the trailhead there Bob has a restroom break and I stick my head in Abita Brew Pub to ask how long they are open today. She says they serve until 10:00 p.m. We're safe to continue on!

It is 1:45 the first time we leave Abita Springs to head west to the end of The Tammany Trace Trail in Covington. No one is on the trail hardly after we leave Abita Springs. We find out why at the heavy traffic crossing Hwy 190. And after that the trail ends in a deserted older section of Covington. They built a nice trail head and station but the town here is dead. We saw an antique store and two eateries but we are headed back against a horrific wind to Abita Brew Pub. No wonder it seemed so easy cycling on the way up. It's a funny thing about cycling that you cannot tell when the wind is helping you but you sure know when it's hurting you.

By 2:50 we are back at Abita Brew Pub. It feels great to sit down on something besides a bicycle seat after four hours. We split Thai Chicken Salad and Pork Loin Sandwich. They were both heavenly. We ate every morsel and we didn't even feel hungry before we got started. Afterwards we sat outside at the trail head near the pavilion. I made my tired legs get up and take pictures of the Brew Pub and the museum. Then I stepped inside the museum to get a brochure.

The docent told me in 1888 city founders, Poitevent and Favre, acquired the octagonal two-story pavilion at the New Orleans Cotton Exposition. It was designed by the famous architect Thomas O. Sully. After the Exposition it was taken apart and moved reassembled here in Abita Springs where they erected it directly over the spring. It stood there until after the flooding from Katrina. Now it stands on higher ground in the park. Under the pavilion when it was over the spring, the water flowed into a twelve-foot deep cement lined pool that was covered by a glass and bronze canopy. Tourists could drink the healthful crystal clear water from four fountains surrounding the well. Today a water company bottles 50,000 gallons per day of Abita Springs Artesian Water for delivery throughout the southeast. And Abita Brewing Company, founded in 1986, produces thousands of bottles per week and ships to most of the USA.

Unfortunately we couldn't have one of the beers as we would never have made the long cycle back after a brew! I did find a quarter and go back in the museum to purchase a postcard of the pavilion as it stood over the springs. Now I'll have to look for one of the Exposition in New Orleans. As we rest on our bench a group of horseback riders heads west on the trail. This is the first time we've seen horses on The Tammany Trace. We see two more riders on our return trip.

There is nothing to do by now except begin the long cycle back. We leave Abita Springs the second time at 3:50. We have to make the bridge before it closes at sunset (7:23 p.m.) That should be no problem--famous last words. We take shorter breaks, six minutes instead of 10 or 12. That really shortens the total cycling time back but is sure is hard to make yourself get going again so soon. The wind is relentless and never winds down as the sun drops in the sky. We are both very tired by the time we reach the truck at 6:35; seven and a half hours and 54.5 miles after we started! Wow! That was pretty good after all of our walking in the French Quarter yesterday.

It's 67 degrees with 35% humidity. We watch the 3rd round of The Masters that Bob recorded but it's hard to stay awake. I have a voice message confirming my Tuesday hair appointment.

French Quarter Festival

Courtyard at Oceana's where we enjoyed breakfast

Friday, April9, I managed to wake up at 6:15 without an alarm. That gave me time to have coffee and a shower before boarding the free shuttle to New Orleans here at the campground. There are nine other passengers today along with our chauffeur Kathleen. She heads west on I-10 across the newly-opened spans. The lanes were switched to the new bridge just yesterday after replacing the Katrina-damaged spans across Lake Pontchartrain. She points out the lower 9th ward and places that were completely underwater after the hurricane.

French Quarter Festival Parade begins!

She startles us by pointing out that our campground in Slidell was under twelve feet of water! New owners had just purchased it three months before the hurricane and lost everything. There used to be a huge building here and cabins. All were lost including the utilities. They had to start over. Kathleen said her house was under 22 feet of water and the only way they knew that (since there was no water line) was to observe the water line on a three story house behind hers. She said she moved to Picayune for a while but just had to move back as it was too far from New Orleans and she loves this city. That was obvious as she continues our tour. As we exited I-10 she points to a field that was 20 feet under water and notes how close it is to the French Quarter that didn't have enough water to flood.

I'm sitting in the second row of seats in the van, next to Paul and Carol from Georgia. He retired last December after 38 years as a preacher. After cancer treatments they decided to sell their home and full-time RV in a Cardinal 5th wheel. He said they are going west on I-10 through Texas after this and was asking us about places to go.

City of Umbrellas!

City of balconies!

City of umbrellas AND balconies!

And bicycles tied to every balcony!

She points out the 'raised' cemetery where the famous voodoo queen is buried, cruises by the Cafe du Monde and points out places to eat. At last she shows us where she'll pick us up near Elysian at 4:30. Most of our group (Paul and Carol's kids and grandkids) head to Cafe du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee.

Bob and I had been there and done that on past trips so we walk along hunting for breakfast elsewhere. We stop in a Muffalatta place where we went with our St. Louis friends Jim and Donna way back when. And lo and behold we run into another couple from our van. They are RVing in the area and live in Traverse City, MI. We wish them a fun day and walk on down St. Peters to Bourbon Street.

On the way we see a gelato place across from The Gumbo Shop but we can't find it back later in the afternoon when we're hot and looking for a cool treat. We stroll down Bourbon Street to St. Louis to eat at Oceana's. They had an inviting courtyard that I snapped a picture of but it is too chilly for us to eat outside. This beauftiful day starts out chilly with a low of 50 and a high of 73. We're mostly glad we chose to wear long pants. For breakfast I have Malanzana Benedict (eggplant, ham, eggs and hollandaise sauce.) Bob has Seafood Omelet (crawfish and shrimp.) Both are great but pricey. Oh well, we are tourists!

Oops! Careful where you step!

As we walk out of our breakfast spot onto Bourbon Street we run smack dab into the start of the French Quarter Festival Parade-my first ever parade here! (Bob was at Mardi Gras years ago.) I just love all of the decorated umbrellas as you can tell by my pictures. About six paces from the start of the parade, a huge horse leaves a huge pile on the pavement and the entire parade contingent has to divert around it. After a while it was comical to see their faces as they encountered this mess and watch them try to continue playing their instruments, marching and dancing.

St. Louis Cathedral

After the parade we walk down to Jackson Square and tour St. Louis Cathedral. As we come back outside onto the steps I hear some guy call out "Rita". It's Paul from our group! How funny to run into another one of our group in this mob.

Azaleas bloom in Jackson Square

We check out artwork around Jackson Square and really like the slate tiles the artists are painting on. They are from the roofs of demolished New Orleans building. The slate was floated here down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River from quarries up there in the 1800's. In a gift shop on the side of the square I find postcards and then we head towards the Flea Market beyond Cafe du Monde. But first we stop at Margaritaville; always on our itinerary.

At the Flea Market Bob find good prices on t-shirts. My favorite t-shirt is a bright pink with black letters "I want to be Barbie; the Bitch has everything!" But pink is not my color so I pass on it! We walk back to try to find the gelato place. We know we're close but can't pinpoint it. So we enter the Festival grounds in the Square where one of the free music stages is located. We split an Abita Amber Ale (from Abita Brew Pub on the Tammany Trace Trail.) We cross the street to walk up the stairs of Moon Walk so I can catch a picture of the crowd in Jackson Square. We rest on a bench and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River traffic.

Wasting away again in Margaritaville!

We find a Visitor Center and the lady points out DaVinci Gelato on St. Peters behind the Cathedral. So we were close. She also locates a Doberge cake place, Haydel's nearby in New Orleans. I'm determined to try a piece of that great-looking cake before we leave here. But she says Gambino's is the one we want.

Even his teeth are silver!

With map in hand we find the gelato shop. Cinnamon and Cookies and Creme for me. Bob has chocolate and something else-I'm too busy enjoying mine to notice. We walk back towards the Flea Market and are entertained by a performance artist who is painted completely silver (teeth and all when he smiles.) He has a crystal ball that seems to float above his hands as he entertains the crowd around Jackson Square.

I find two shirts at a gift shop; bargains at $7.99 each, one long and one short-sleeved. It's time to head back to our pick-up spot so we walk through the Flea Market and buy a Coke and use the restrooms. Bob finds a leather belt for one last purchase. An older, heavy-set lady falls on the sidewalk nearby but gets up and continues on in spite of losing her hat and her soft drink.

Bob and I arrive at the pick-up spot at 4:10 to find our whole group is there ahead of us resting their tired feet leaning on the low wall. Two or three minutes later Kathleen pulls up and we all jam into the van. She takes a different route back to avoid traffic. She points out new government housing still going up. The traffic is heavy but it is moving at least. I snap some picture out over the flooded area where the levee broke. Kathleen says 'ain't no way no barge broke that levy, the barge floated right over the water was so high.' She points out acres and acres of empty sections of New Orleans. She says the population was about 500,000 before Katrina and is now less than 200,000. So many are never coming back.

The Muffalatta that got away!

We get home just after 5:00 and rest our tired feet while we read the paper we found in a vending machine in the French Quarter. We have soup for dinner, wishing we had taken Kathleen's advice and got a Muffalatta to go! It's 7:35 p.m. and 66 degrees with 36% humidity. Sooner or later we're going to pay for all of this perfect weather.