Scooter racing

Scooter racing
After parking for the night, we'll still have time for a little racing

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Aiyeeee......dat's good eatin'

Getting ready for Mardi Gras
We headed for Louisiana a day early in order to beat what the weatherman said were severe thunderstorms.  I guess it's true what they say:  little boys who lie grow up to be weathermen.  Except for one short bout of rain (we weren't even home), there was nothing.

 Anyhow, made it back to Lafayette and immediately started looking for Billy's Balls.  This is the Boudin capital of Louisiana and everyone sells them, along with cracklins (fried pig skin) and crawfish (mudbugs).  Boudin are pork sausages but Billy makes them even better by stuffing them into balls and deep frying them.  RRR really didn't like them but I think they're worth a trip to Louisiana whenever you can get there.

We also took a tour of the oldest rice mill and saw how rice was produced.  Very interesting and lots of fun rice products to look at.

We toured Vermilionville, which was the original Acadian settlement.  This place was amazing.  They had people in period costume, artisans sculpting wood, people in the smithy and a woman who showed up how to clean, card and then spin cotton into thread.  It was a really interesting afternoon.

The best, though, was Champagne's Swamp Tour.  We spent 2 hours on the boat and saw some amazing sites: birds, bugs, turtles, little alligators and some huge 'gators.  This is my second time on the tour and I'd go again - it is so beautiful!


Last stop was Avery Island, where they produce Tabasco Sauce.  Also a very interesting tour, lots to see and the Jungle Gardens are amazing.  We got 3 little tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce when we registered:  for me, that's a lifetime supply.

Of course, I couldn't leave Louisiana without trying crawfish.  At Avery Island, I had a big dish of crawfish etouffee (that means stuffed or choked - which would be nearly impossible, given the size of the mudbug).  Anyhow, it turns out that they are delicious..... much better than tripe (thank gawd).  It's sort of like shrimp, but with a swampier taste.  Another reason to come back to Louisiana.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Oh Cripe.....Tripe!

View of the restaurant from the boat
We got to San Antonio and did (or tried to do) all the usual San Antonian things….we again took the boat through the River Walk (always fun) and wound up eating at the oldest Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, which had really good food. We tried to get to the Japanese Tea Garden but couldn’t get near the place because it’s right near the zoo and this was a) Easter weekend and b) school break.  Not a chance of getting a parking spot.  

She forgot to bring her insulin :-)

We went to Gruene (pronounced Green) to look for the old German town but all we found was an old German bakery with what turned out to be old German bread.  We even went to Buc-Ees and drooled over their wall of candy and had some ice cream dots.

Of course, we had to go see a Mission (I’ve been in more churches in the past 6 weeks than I have in the past 50 years). 

After that, we all felt the need for ice cream and the GPS led us to a funky little ice cream shop that mercifully had no children in it.  There was a big sign out front announcing the availability of “fresh Menudo”.  Being naturally inquisitive, we asked what it was and the lady told us it was beef tripe in a spicy tomato sauce, which is very VERY popular with anyone who has a hangover.  Unfortunately, she was sold out.  But, as luck would have it, she had a little bit left over in her fridge and she very kindly warmed it up for us and brought us a bowlful with 4 spoons.  Floating in the bowl was an oily red sauce with pieces of a rubbery grey substance (which turned out to be tripe), a greyish-brown gelatinous something attached to a bone (which turned out to be pig’s foot) and some white fatty-looking blobs (which turned out to be hominy) It’s hard to describe the aroma:  probably the closest would be the smell you get from a baby’s diaper first thing in the morning.  And that kid has been sick!

Anyhow, Jackie and I tried a spoonful and I’m proud to say we didn’t hurl.  Carm just about tossed her cookies when she poked at the bony thing.  Auntie Rita just said no.  I almost gagged when I bit into the white hominy blob….. bad idea.  After a minute, the lady told us we weren’t eating it the right way – it was better with lime.  It really wasn’t. 

What we can’t get over is the fact that she was sold out of Menudo, which means that she either makes minute menudo batches or else there are a lot of very hungover Mexicans living in the area.  And believe me, you’d have to be really hungover to want to eat that stuff.

We tried, we really tried….but I think Menudo is off the Menu for now.
Full moon over the campground

Friday, 18 March 2016

My Kind of Snow

We stopped for a couple of days in Las Cruces, New Mexico and went to the White Sands Monument.  I’ve driven by this several times but always figured it was a statue to some local Native Chief or something.  Nope!  This monument is actually hundreds of miles of pure white gypsum “sand” that looks and feels like flour.  It is stunningly beautiful and absolutely amazing.  The kids were sledding down the slopes as if they were on snow.  Naturally, I threw myself down and had to make a “snow angel”.  The sand is amazing – it doesn’t stick to anything, not even hair (good thing too).  Just a couple of inches below the surface, the sand is ice cold.  What is even more amazing is that the temperature jumps about 12 degrees the minute you leave the park!  All that white stuff just sucks the heat out of the air.

I’m definitely going back there again!

From Las Cruces, we made 2 overnight pit stops in Van Horn, Texas and then Ozona, Texas.  Not much ot report from either place.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Maoris, Minis and Missions

On our last day in Apache Junction, we went to the Aloha Festival in Tempe.  Wow!  Picture thousands and thousands of people, dozens of vendors, food carts, arts and crafts and 3 big stages with all sorts of Polynesian dance happening.  It was excellent, although slightly psychotic.  Some of the acts were excellent; others should really think about switching halaus.  It was a lot of fun but there weren’t a lot of photo ops.  I would certainly go back.

Our next stop was Tucson, where we visited the “Time Machine Miniature Museum”.  Holy cow was this excellent!  We could have spent 2 days in
there.  The level of detail was incredible.  We saw dolls whose faces were made from a single grain of wheat.  There were other dolls made out of bread dough and others out of corn husks.  It was amazing and pictures don’t do it justice.

We then headed for yet another Mission (note to travellers: Arizona has 3 main tourist attractions:  cactus, rocks and Missions).  This one was to Saint Xavier and featured, for some reason, a replica of one of the Saint Francises (Franci?) laying in a glass coffin with holy medals pinned to his shirt.  No explanation of why or, for that matter, who this guy was.  There was also a great big statue of another guy wearing a black chef’s hat and wearing a large chili pepper emblem over his chest.  I’m figuring he was the patron saint of kitchens but darned if anyone could tell me who he was.  Still, it was an impressive old place, for a church.

And that was it for Arizona…. We’re heading east and then north from now on.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Boating in the Desert

Yup - that's what we did.  Right smack in the middle of nowhere is the gorgeous Canyon Lake.  When I say middle of nowhere, you have to kind of work to get at it.  What they don't tell you when you reserve the Steamboat ride is that you have to negotiate miles and miles of narrow, hairpin turns up and then down a mountain, with few if any guardrails to stop you from plunging 2000 feet into cactus fields.  Not that you would care about the cactus at that point.  The views, on the other hand, are breath-taking!

We were told to quit driving after Tortilla Flat because "the road gets really scary"!  Holy cow!  If it got any scarier, they'd have to have outhouses on every corner!

The boat tour is 1.5 hours and very informative.  The highlight was when we stopped and spotted about 2 dozen bighorn sheep up on the cliff tops.  Amazing sight!  They told us that, on occasion, one will miss his footing and fall into the lake.  Luckily for them (and us), that didn't happen.

Poor RRR nearly died on the trek to the boat - very steep ramp and lots of walking (be careful what you wish for, we told her).  They very kindly gave us a wheelchair to get her back up the hill.

After that, we decided to negotiate another steep, windy road to go to Tortilla Flat (Population: 6) for ice cream.  Then a butt-clenching trip up and down the curves, with the sun rapidly setting.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!  Great Day!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

OMG! You Have to See Sedona

We took off bright and early (for us) and drove 2.5 hours north (or possibly east) to Sedona, which is one of AZ's best keep secrets.  In fact, they keep it so secret that they don't even put up road signs to tell you that the town exists or where it is.  You have to keep going up and down mountains until you find the place, but when you do.....WOW!

The Red Rock Desert is stunningly beautiful.  The town of Sedona is cool - lots of little shops, lots of art galleries and lots of curio shops.  We opted for a bus tour to see a chapel (for the record, I'm not turning into a religious nut - it just happened to be where the tour went.) The views were amazing!

RRR learned that you have to be careful what you wish for.  As we were heading out, she said she wished she could get motivated to walk more.  When we got to Sedona, she got her wish.  We had to walk several blocks to get to the bus stop and then she walked through several stores.  We threatened to put horse blinkers on her so she wouldn't buy more earrings.

We ended up at the Barking Frog restaurant, where we had many firsts:  RRR tried bison chili, I tried frog legs (I had to, didn't I?) and we all tried cactus fries made with nopales cactus.  They were good, kind of like zucchini sticks, but the prickly pear sauce they came with was to die for!

We barely scratched the surface of what to do in Sedona.  We are definitely going back!

Lucky for RRR, it was dark when we left and she slept all the way home so she didn't miss much.  Exercise will do that to you :-)

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cacti, Ghost Towns and Rattlesnakes

We left Yuma on March 4th after some last-minute RV repairs and headed for Apache Junction, which is next to Mesa, which is next to Tempe which is all part of Phoenix.  We had a lovely ride in nice weather, took several hours to try to level off on very un-level lots (didn't happen), then went to the pool only to find it so cold that we would have risked hypothermia (by which I mean it couldn't have been more than 80 degrees).  So we jumped in the hot tub with a bunch of drunks and called it a day.

We hit the ground running after that.  First stop was the Mesa Marketplace and Swap Meet where
A few treasures to add to RRR's collection
RRR stocked up on earrings. (last count is 109 pairs).  This place is huge!  We tried to connect with Carm and Jackie but there was no way we could find each other in that massive crowd.  Interesting place but, since there is no room left in the RV, I just couldn't justify buying the gorgeous, 600-pound swing set or the $1200 folding bike.  I had to settle for blueberry cashew pemmican.  Oh year.

The next day we toured the Lost Dutchman State Park.  We looked but we couldn't find him, so we went cactus viewing instead.  It's amazing how many varieties there are and almost all of them bear fruit that can be eaten, although I don't know who would have the nerve to pick a single fruit off a 50 foot saguaro cactus.  Most things in the desert either want to hurt you or kill you, we've discovered.  RRR backed into one plant by accident and the back of her scooter had spines embedded in the leather seat.

We took Monday off for much-needed RV repairs (again).

On Tuesday we went to the Goldfield Ghost Town and had a great time looking at the shops, the chapel, panning for gold and visiting a reptile exhibit. Didn't have much luck finding gold but we did find a few garnets and came away with a bag full of wet dirt, which is currently in the trunk of my car, gathering mold.

The snakes were beautiful, but I'm glad they were behind a half-inch of glass.  Even so, I'm pretty sure that one of those big buggers could have had us for lunch if he was so inclined.  We were even lucky enough to see the albino cobra show his hood - amazing!  We thought the ghost town was going to be a fun little two-hour thing but we spent all day there and still didn't see everything.

Apache Junction turned out to be a fun place.   More to come....