Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gulf Shores Alabama

"four and a half acres of sovereign U.S. territory, anytime, anywhere"

One week in the Gulf Shores area and we did very little, we had some nice sunny days but they were on the chilly side. We did take a day to drive over to Pensacola to pick up our mail and to go to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. We've been to the museum three other times and always enjoyed it, but this time they made some changes to it, it seems like they had about three times as many planes on display and it just made everything to crowded as you can see from the pictures. It was hard to just pick out one plane and see it without having having it blend in with others. It's still a great museum just not as good as it was.

On the way home we took the road along the coast to see how much building they have done it the last two years, and it was a lot. We decided to make a quick stop at the outlet mall (not) and see what bargains we could find. Went in the Crocs store and really didn't see anything that looked that cheap until Cathy asked the clerk if they had any specials. See pointed out two big racks of Crocs and said that the sandal type were $4.95 and the regular Crocs were $9.95, plus some up front were $1.99. Very limited in size and color but we ended up with seven pair (for us and the kids) for less then $50.00, Cathy was very happy.

Now that's what I call,
"A pile of CROC(s)"

Slowly heading north so our next stop will be Montgomery Alabama for a few days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Great Food & New Orleans

We ate at the best restaurant in the world, then we went to New Orleans

We got a late start today on purpose since our first stop is only an hour away and doesn’t open until 11:00 AM. We have been dreaming about this stop ever since the last time we left Baton Rouge with tears in our eyes. Of course everybody knows that we’re talking about Mike Anderson’s Seafood Restaurant, the world famous Mike Anderson’s Seafood Restaurant. The last time we were in Baton Rouge we ate here on our third day, and then again every day until we left, all seafood places are now rated against Mike Anderson's and none come close. Mike Anderson was a two time All-American when he played for the LSU tigers in the early 70’s, but if you Google his name all you’ll find is his restaurant. We parked at a Wal-Mart’s just off the freeway unhooked the car and drove cross-town to the restaurant, hoping to be the first ones there but about 15 people had beat us there (can you tell how much we love this place). We have always gotten the daily special and never been disappointed, sometimes it’s shrimp, sometimes crab but always good, today we had “The Jason” it’s a fillet of fresh fish wrapped around crab meat , fried and topped with crawfish tails cooked in a cream sauce on a bed of rice, with your choice of potato, salad and a piece of garlic bread.

It was our little hour of heaven on earth, and now we probably have to wait another 3 to 4 years before we can return to Baton Rouge, tomorrow we’re heading to New Orleans and will probably get stuck eating at some junkie place in the French Quarter.

Today we did something that I have wanted to do for a long time, we went to New Orleans by driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Cause Way. This is about 25 miles of bridge that cuts right across the middle of lake Pontchartrain, there are seven cross overs between the two bridges and each one had a Cause Way cop sitting there. If you ever drive this and get stopped by the cops be sure to do exactly what they tell you to, if you should ask them why, they will tell you “Cause Way told you to” I crack myself up sometimes. Any how, we drove through the city on the side streets and could still see a lot of damage from Katrina, we went to the Chalmette Battlefield, remember the song:

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

To bad, but you're going to be singing this the rest of the day.

The brick visitors center was gone and had been replaced with a trailer and a ranger that was about as useful as a bucket of sand, he did manage to push the button to start the video for us, so I guess that was something.

We were planning on stopping at Jackson Barracks but it is still closed, they are doing a few million dollor restaration which is going to take a few more years.

Went up to the garden at City Park, this is a freebee for us and thank God it was, took us about 20 minutes to go through the gardens, it looks like they have done very little work trying to clean this place up. The only thing worth while was a bunch of birdhouses dislayed around the gardens.

OK, enough of this city, time for use to find a place to eat then get out of here, we decided to take the surface streets rather then the freeway, big mistake, took us over an hour to figure out how to get out of town, and we really didn't figure it out we more or less lucked out and finally made a wrong turn that got us out of there and we didn't stop till we found a CiCi's Pizza Inn.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lafayette we are here

Pulled into Lafayette LA, actually we're in Broussard which is about 7 miles south, the weather channel said that we should have rain most of the time that we are here so we'll see what we get in.

The sun is shining but the wind is gusting up to 25 mph so that means that we have to put off the Swamp tour that we wanted to do today, so instead we'll go into town and visit Vermilionville.

Vermilionville, which was the original name for the city because the Vermilion River runs through it, is a living history museum of what life was like in this area between 1765 and 1890, it contains 18 buildings of which 6 are originals that were moved here and restored. About half had interpreters to demonstrate the crafts or music of the period, others just explained what it was like to live back then.

The Acadian Cultural Center, which is part of the National Park system, is right across from the village. They have two films that take about 45 minutes to view, the first is about how the Cajuns or Arcadians came to settle in this area, and the second explains what live was like living in the Atchafalaya Swamp, both well worth the time to see.

OK! A quick a quick history lesson on the Ragin Cajuns, they were expelled from France by Napoleon for refusing to fight in the his army, they were loaded on boats and shipped to the Acadia (now Nova Scotia), here they lived peaceably with the local Indians until a treaty was signed between France and Great Britain which gave this territory to Great Britain. There were two different exiles of the Arcadians during the 1750's, one sending them down the coast of America where they were sold into servitude and the second where they were shipped back to France.
In the end there were two colonies of Arcadians, one in New Brunswick (known as Arcadians)and one in Louisiana (known as Cajuns). It's a very interesting history to read about, everything they went through and the influence they had on the areas they settled in.
One of the great things about being in this area is talking with the people and trying to follow what they're saying, since they have an English all their own, remember the Cajun cooking show whit Justin Wilson the Cajun Cook, well just image everybody talking like him. The other great thing is the music, a lot of the restaurants in the area have a stage, and during the day if no band is playing you can just go up on stage and start playing and then someone else might join you and then all of a sudden people stop eating and start dancing, when the music stops they go back to eating.

The second film is about the Atchafalaya Swamp, which is the largest in the USA; if you ever drove across I-10 then you will know how big it is. It basically tells about the town they settled in the swamp and how they lived there for over a hundred years until floods destroyed everything and forced them to move out.

We did find a little hamburger joint, The Judice Inn, it was built by the Judice brothers back in 1947 and it's still in the same building today but now it's run by the sons and grand kids. Its been voted the best hamburger in Lafayette for something like the last 3000 years. It was a very good burger but being Cajun country it was also very spicy.
And as the menu said, STILL NO FRIES.

It's coming so you better get read for FAT TUESDAY.......

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We left Aransas Pass after spending a month there and we still don't known how to pronounce it. Did a long drive through the flat cattle country to Houston, we went through around 1:00pm so traffic wasn't to bad but I would compare it with Atlanta type traffic, until you get to an interchange with the freeways. I've never seen anything like this, I think there blueprint was a big bowl of spaghetti turn upside down, they have stuff that is four levels high. Glad that we're camping about 20 miles east of Houston, so we don't have to do it again.

Anybody remember the old Spaghetti Western Named "China 9, Liberty 37" , well where we're camped we could call it Liberty 19, China 30,. If you don't remember this movie then none of this will make any sense to you. Just noticed that I've never used the word spaghetti in a blog and here I've already used it twice.

According to our map there is a Penzey's Spice store in Houston, so that will have to be our first stop, if you've never heard of Penzey's you can check out their web site at , the best spices ever. This involved driving back into the heart of Houston and fighting the traffic but with just the car it wasn't that bad. After Cathy filled the basket and I filled their register we were ready for the second stop of the day. After about 25 minutes of navigating the side streets we found our objective without any problems, The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. For once we had pretty good timing because in about two weeks they're boxing everything up and moving to there new location. If you're a history nut this is a fantastic little museum (soon to be much larger) if not then keep right on moving.

Never wanted always needed.
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (BSNM)is a result of a 30 year hobby of a Viet Nam Veteran and African-American (Buffalo Soldier) military historian, Mr. Paul J. Matthews. He was in the museum today and we got to talk with him, he said that 30 years ago he read an article that had two paragraphs about the Buffalo soldier, he decided that he wanted to learn more about them and after 30 years of research, reading and collecting artifacts he opened the museum in 2000. During the Indian Wars out west the 10th Calvary,was made up of all Black Soldiers and assigned to fight the Cheyenne warriors, it was the Cheyenne that gave them the nickname Buffalo Soldier, it stuck and soon became a symbol of pride for the Black Calvary men. The museum and a film they show documents the history of the black soldier through American history, from the Revolutionary War to our troops today in the Mid-East. Through donations of articles they have been able to put together a great collection on items, many of them one of a kind, had we read everything we wanted to we might still be there.

I made The Last Buffalo Soldier as a large photo so you can click on it and read the article.

Our next stop for the day was only a mile or so away, the Houston Zoo. The Zoo is located in Hermman Park which covers over 500 acres the city's center and has enough stuff to keep you busy for a long day. The Zoo's front is undergoing a major facelift, but once you get through the gate you don't notice it until you get around to the far back corner where they are adding about another 10 acres of exhibits to the zoo. The exhibits are set up very nice and the animals were pretty active for late afternoon, our favorite thing her was probably the Tropical Bird House. We were there for about two hours and only covers half of the zoo, we had to get going to avoid the rush hour scramble on the freeways.

Other then the animals we were about the only ones in the zoo today, as you can see from the Picture

This one became my new desktop photo

Did a little drive south of camp along the Trinity River today to a park that was the location of Fort Anahuac, this was a Mexican fort that was manned to control the Texan colonist in the area. This is where the Texas Rebellion that lead to the Republic of Texas started, in 1832 Col. Bradburn who was in charge of the Mexican troops arrested William B. Travis and imprisoned him in the fort. About 200 colonist formed up and shot it out with the Mexicans winning the release of the future Alamo hero.
About 80% of the buildings in this area were destroyed by hurricane Ike.

San Jacinto Battlefield.
The battle that won Texas its independence from Mexico. General Santa Anna marched 6000 troops into the Texas territory to destroy the rebels, they were to be treated as pirates and shown no mercy. The Alamo fell with close to 200 troops killed, then the Massacre at Goliad were more then 400 troops were executed and Sam Houston and the Texas troops were retreating in front of his army.
Santa Anna feeling confident divided his army into three and set off chasing Houston and the Texas government which were fleeing, once Houston heard that he had split is army he stopped the retreat and picked this location, where the Buffalo Bayou met the San Jacinto river, for his attack. Santa Anna was expecting the attack April 22, instead Houston attacked on the 21st at 3:30pm, catching the Mexican troops off guard the battle last just 20 minutes, with the victorious Texans having killed over 700 while only nine of theirs died. Santa Anna was captured the next day and was forced to sign a treaty giving Texas its independence.

Today this 1100 acre site memorializes the battle with markers placed around the battlefield and the San Jacinto Monument which rises 570 feet above the battlefield as a memorial to the men who fought for Texas independence. There is an elevator that will take you to the observation deck at the top, also the base of the monument houses a museum with a great many artifacts from the battle.

On the west side of the battlefield along the Buffalo Bayou you'll find a stone that marks the spot where Santa Anna was brought to a wounded Houston to hear the terms of his surrender. A little farther down the shoreline is the Battleship Texas, she is the only surviving battleship that fought in both the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

Think we should paint our motorhome like this one.

Since we are leaving Texas tomorrow after almost four month here (heading for Lafayette LA)this will probably be your last Texas History lesson.

Hookem Horns and Don't Mess with Texas.