Saturday, December 8, 2007

Down in the Bayou

What is a Bayou?

"A Bayou is a slowly moving body of water, usually attached to a river." That's what we learned on the Swamp Tour, at least. We also learned that this particular bayou is home to a myriad of plants and animals, including an enormous alligator, a slew of smaller ones, snakes, birds, and people.

The swamp tour was a third-day diversion from the buzz of New Orleans. After umpteen "be careful in New Orleans" warnings, Linds and I were so preoccupied with watching our back, we barely saw a thing in front of us the first couple of days in the Big Easy.

A little nature was just what we needed, because frankly, we were doing everything else all wrong. We got to the French Quarter around 5 o'clock the first night with every intention of easing into a raucous evening. After nearly 2 pounds of boiled shrimp (we ordered 1 pound, but the waiter "brought extra"), a dozen Oysters on the half shell (we ordered 1/2 dozen), salad, beer and dessert (the latter bought for us by, you guessed it, our waiter) we were too spent to do much else, so we went home around 9pm after a relaxing smoke at the Hookah Bar.

The second evening out, we prepped ourselves again and again succumbed to the food coma.

By our third day we were prepared both mentally and physically, and realized that perhaps all of our guardian angels were probably being a little tiny bit over dramatic about crime in the Big-Easy.

Before the swamp tour we stopped for beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde and went house shopping in the Garden District under a picturesque November sky (t-shirts in November = 2 happy yankees). After the swamp, we went home and STAYED THERE until around 8:30 pm - we figured that by going out later than we had even stayed out the previous nights, we were bound to find some fun.

It's been brought to my attention that this blog is all about food. Dick & Jenny's was the restaurant that topped them all. We ate crawfish cheesecake as an appetizer. We ate fried oysters as an appetizer before that. Lindsay's lamb was the best plate of food we've been served anywhere in the country - and dessert (bought for us by our waiter - again) was beyond belief bread pudding. All of this in blue jeans and a relaxed atmosphere, with a wonderful waiter whose band we later learned we missed by just minutes that first night at the Hookah Bar.

We finished our night with a stroll around the quarter sipping a Hurricane, stopping to chat for nearly an hour with an artist painting in her open studio. We winced at the strip clubs on Bourbon street (Lindsay because she winces at strip clubs, me because Lindsay was there). Marveled at the antiques and the architecture. Wound our way to Frenchmen St. into Snug Harbor for Jazz that turned our untrained ears into Jazz-loving sponges (while sipping a Monsoon). Then wove our way back to the car by popping into club after club to soak up some more music.

The next morning we hit the highway through the Bayou, smiling about what a great time we had had - and how nice it is that there are no mosquitos in the swamp during the day (betcha didn't know that!).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lovely (warm) Austin

We headed into Austin extremely excited to see my Uncle Tom and Kati and my friend Erica whom I have known since she was born. We pulled into the Pecan Grove RV park in south Austin and later learned what a cool place it was. The park was aptly named, all day and night pecans plunked down onto our roof. We collected a bunch and ate as many as we could. We noticed all of the locals doing the same thing. There were many people who lived in the park year round, the few we spoke to chuckled as they told us that the rent was the cheapest for miles and they were literally living on prime real estate. The owners and renters had created a funky, artistic, neighborhood, right in the heart of downtown Austin. The city had once put pressure on the owners to sell so they could fill up the empty land with more condos but NO, the owners and the people living there would not budge. There is great camaraderie within the park and everyone was cheerful and welcoming.

The first night in Austin we met up with my Uncle Tom and Kati at their beautiful house, got the tour and then went out to an amazing Chinese/Japanese restaurant. It was such a treat! We caught up and laughed for hours. We left them to meet up with Erica and her buddies for a drink and got a taste of what Austin had to offer. After a bit we headed back to Erica's house for another tour and more laughing.

The next day we headed over to my Uncle's for a full day of catching up, sharing stories, Football (on TV), and eating (surprise surprise). Katie had been cooking away in the kitchen a dinner of corned beef and cabbage. It was amazing, we ate until we couldn't eat anymore and waddled off toward home.

We spent the next day with Erica, checking out the sights, sounds and tastes of Austin. Again we ate at all the cool local places and tried to get our fill of Texas BBQ and sweet tea. We were lucky enough to get a tour of an amazing house that my Uncle had built, and is continuously updating due to the owners beautiful sense of design and style. We were awed by the grand entryway, the intricate tile work and the meticulous craftsmanship.

The next two nights we spent exploring the fabled downtown Austin, we heard amazing live music, ate on a rooftop with an stunning view of the city skyline, and enjoyed the company of more friends we hadn't seen in a very long time. Those friends were Annette and John Markward. Nettie and my folks have gone back as far as anyone can remember and my sister and I grew up with Nettie's kids Evan and Katy. It was a wonderful blast from the past. Nettie and John had just bought a house and moved from Maine to Texas. A trip that my Uncle and Kati knew dearly because they had made the same move many years before.

To top it all off Josh and I went to see a play that Erica and been the Dramaturge for. The play was called Elephant Graveyard and was based on the one and only known public hanging of an elephant. It was a tough play to watch because of the subject matter but the acting was impeccable and the story captivating. As an added bonus Erica's mom Sue flew in for a visit. Sue and her husband Terry were the one's who gave us the wonderful gift certificate for our pre-nniversary stay at the B&B. It was so nice to see her, it gave me a little taste of home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Frontier

Heading south from Fort Collins towards Austin, TX, we really didn't have anything on our itinerary. We discussed stopping in Boulder, but the weather wasn't holding up, so we loaded up on grease and headed for warmth again.

We ended up in Lamar, CO for one night, a charming if antiquated town. Our Campground was a large pebble parking lot in the middle if the prairie - a little disconcerting to have nothing surrounding you.

There in Lamar, the truck issues really came to a head. Instead of the usual inoperable gas pedal, the truck was now revving to red line all by itself. Charming! It turned out to be a fluke, but also turned out to be inspiration to really track down the problem. No one around really had the time (or wherewithal) to do a fuel filter change for us (one of the variables that needed to be eliminated) - but at one garage, a wonderful guy said he could get us in, and then literally let me use the shop as if it were my own to do the change. It was awesome. Turns out it's a really simple process on this truck, but having a shop floor instead of a dirt parking lot to work on made all the difference. It also made me a lot less concerned with spilling diesel all over the place!

This little update made a clear difference in truck performance, but did not fix the accelerator problem. So, back on the road to Post, TX, we dealt with it as usual. Post was a quick, overnight stop for us, and the rest of the much-longer-than-we-thought ride through Texas was dappled with the tiniest towns you can imagine and cotton fields as far as the eye can see. We, of course, stopped for authentic Texas BBQ at the first opportunity - damn it was good.

We grabbed a fluffy white cotton bud and it sits on our dashboard to this day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Halloween!

So we zigged and zagged a bit here in our itinerary. My good friend Katelyn had recently moved to Fort Collins with her boyfriend Nathan and we had promised her that we would come to visit. So North out of Pagosa Springs we headed. We planned on making the trip in two days but Lead Foot Lynn got behind the wheel and we got from Pagosa Springs to Fort Collins in one (long) day of driving.

On the way we stopped in the tiny town of South Fork CO at an organic market and restaurant. This restaurant was a diamond in the rough. We were in desperate need of good food after our amazing soak in the springs.

(Peace of Art Café - 14475 West Highway 160 - Del Norte, CO)

We wolfed down a chicken, red pepper, onion, mozzarella melty sandwich and learned of a better route through the mountains than we had been planning on taking. We chatted with the cook, the owner and her husband about our grease car, we even got a few tips on what might have been causing some recurring truck issues. Just as we were about to leave we were ushered into the fresh produce aisle and were personally introduced to the hand picked local tomatoes, the farm fresh organic eggs, and the local poultry, we also indulged in a few new teas. Almost $70.00, and a few new friends later we were out the door.

The drive over the hills, through the afternoon was beautiful, again, words hardly do the beauty of this amazing country justice but here are some samples.

We called Katelyn thirty minutes before our arrival with a request...Chinese food. It seemed that after our super healthy day of eating we needed the grease, and so did our truck! We arrived, hugged and chowed down.

We stayed with Katelyn and Nathan and their adopted dog Louis for a week. During that time we pimped out Josh's bike, made many amazing family dinners, raked leaves, carved pumpkins, handed out Halloween candy, took Louis on walks, rode our bikes a lot, talked a lot and laughed a lot. Oh yeah, and we got the watch the Red Sox sweep the Rockies. We went out to a bar for game three and felt horribly out numbered. But Katelyn wore her Sox hat bravely and quoted stats for anyone who dared to call her a fair weather fan.

We ended up being there during the work week so both Katelyn and Nathan were busy during the day, no problem. Nathan owns a bike shop so Josh and I took it upon ourselves to hang with Nathan at the shop almost every day and persuaded him to come out to lunch with us. Nathan also did some sweet custom work on Josh's bike. Nathan bought the bike shop a few weeks earlier and had made himself quite at home with new paint on the walls, new (vintage) cruisers, and a whole new way of doing things. While Josh and I hung out we watched him greet customers, make them feel like part of the crowd and then tend to whatever issue they might be having. We watched him fix flat tires, install new break lines and install new seats. It is always fun watching someone do what they are really good at.

On that note while we were there we got to watch Katelyn sketch a three canvas piece of artwork to hang over their couch in the living room. After what seemed like hours in the art store we happily left with the materials needed to make their living room look like a gallery. For hours Katelyn poured over what to draw, when the decision was made we watched her carefully, painstakingly measure then sketch a beautiful scene. We left before the color went on it but I am hoping for a picture of the final product (hint hint).

On Halloween we carved pumpkins in the living room and handed out candy to the witches and goblins who dared to knock on our door. Katelyn had originally thought Josh and I had gone overboard with the bags and bags of candy...but no, we had to send the last of the trick or treaters away without any candy. Even though they could have tricked us and smashed our pumpkins they didn't and our grinning orange friends were still there in the morning.

We parked in front of their house until the cops asked us to move, then we squeezed the RV into their tiny driveway. It was such beautiful fall weather in Fort Collins and it felt like we had just gotten settled when all of a sudden there was snow in the forecast and Austin TX was beckoning.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

We could live here, and here and here...

After we left Vegas we hit up three locations that we had heard we would love.

Our first stop was Flagstaff AZ. We got our first taste of cold the night we arrived. It hit the mid 20's for the first time. We had been averaging 40-50 degrees at night until we got to AZ. Brrr, we got the furnace going and were amazed at how cozy and warm our RV got. We spent the next day wandering the town, doing errands, and taking in the crisp fall weather.

We always seem to find that we really like staying in college towns. They tend to have the really interesting bars, and coffee shops. In the case of Flagstaff Josh and I found a great little combination of both...a coffee AND wine bar. We ordered two glasses of wine and proceeded to play a pretty amazing game of Backgammon. I totally thought I had it in the bag, Josh kept asking me the rules and I kept mercilessly sending his chips out, but he won by ONE chip. He was as surprised as I was. We headed out the next morning, to.....

Durango Co. We decided to spend only one night here because the next day we were headed to Pagosa Springs to see Mark Devoti, who toured with my parents when I was just a wee one. He was my body guard/baby tamer. But before we headed there, we hung out for most of the day in Durango, again, awesome little college town. We wandered in and out of galleries, and coffee shops. It (again) was a beautiful, clear, crisp day and we enjoyed being out in it.

Pagosa Springs was a mere hour away so we hit the road again. The drive was beautiful. When we got there we settled down on their front porch to catch up and take in the view which was breath taking. You can see our RV parked next to their horse barn in one of the shots.

Mark's wife Erica is an endurance rider and she has two race horses. We heard tales of 25-50 mile races completed in 12-24 hours. It was amazing to hear stories about just her and her horse, during a race, in the middle of the night when both of them had to keep awake and moving. Talk about a wonderful feeling.

We had a great lasagna dinner and opened the wine that Josh and I brought. Mark shared old pictures of the touring days complete with me as a bald, chunky, baby. Boy, does it look like they had some fun in those days. We chatted and caught up but before long we were all yawning. We headed up to bed with explicit instructions from Mark and Erica to go to the local hot springs the next day on our way out of town....

And boy are we glad we did. Pool after pool had been created from the natural hot sulfur springs that bubbled up from the ground. Your could choose which tub you wanted to soak in depending on the temp of the water to how much privacy you wanted. We soaked until we were pruney and relaxed. We got back on the road, this time headed to Fort Collins CO to see one of my partners in crime Ms. Katelyn Foster.

We had the Rockies looming on the horizon and the promise of a long slow haul over Wolf Creek pass. Luckily Mark had dropped off CD he had recorded of a few of his original songs, one of them being about the fabled pass. We ended up listening to the CD twice and burned 1/4 of a tank of gas by the time we finally boogied over the mountains.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mini Turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving from Savannah, GA, everyone! We'll continue the narrative after this post, but we just wanted to take a moment and let our friends and family, wherever you all are, know that we're thinking of you.

We also know you're thinking of us and you're worried that we're missing out on the feast. Fear not! Our little "kitchen" and "dining room" can't cook a 20 pound bird or host 12 people, but it can certainly pack all the flavor.

We just finished our meal of Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Gravy, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Cranberry/Orange Sauce and Green Beans with Toasted Almonds. We're taking a break to prepare our mini-pies (apple & pumpkin, of course) and we'll be sure to post a photo of the final product a little later.

This morning, we spent 3 hours doing prep work and serving food in a Savannah Mission Kitchen - what a gratifying and rewarding experience. We met a wonderful group of people and it really made the day special. A Happy and Thankful Thanksgiving, indeed.

The Much anticipated pie photos...

Boy they were good!!

Viva Lake Meade

Vegas has it's allure, that's for sure, but after so much city time, we were overwhelmed with the idea of actually living in Vegas for the next few days.

We arrived at Lake Mead (40 minutes from Vegas) at night, and went to visit our good friends Jesse & Jon (and their new peanut Felicity). Jesse is Max's older sister, again she and I were raised practically as siblings.

Jesse assured us we would be awestruck by the morning's view, and boy were we ever. The photo above was our view from our front porch. Josh and I were both ready to unwind after so much city time so we set up camp, did laundry, made amazing meals and visited with Jesse, Jon and Felicity as much as we could.

We met a great couple (Jack and Allison) who were doing the same thing as us except they were really living in their RV with their very sweet dog Humphrey. They were also starting a new business in Vegas, they are setting up scooters so they tow mini billboards. I'm sure we've all seen those awful gas guzzling trucks that pull billboards. Such a waste, but the scooters use so much less fuel, can buzz down the strip where their fuel swilling counterparts can't go because they are stuck in traffic, and the people driving the scooters can stop and hand out information related to what they are advertising. Brilliant! Jack and Josh immediately fell into a business relationship.

Jesse and I got to catch up on all of the books we had been reading and take turns passing Felicity back and forth. Jesse used to babysit me when I was little and we reminisced about all of the hilarious stuff we used to do. I was a happy kid when Jesse came over toting her clothes, makeup and candy.

Josh and I also "did" Las Vegas, don't worry, we're still waiting to get married next summer. Even though the temptation to get married by Elvis was great. We headed to the strip for a late dinner and a tour of the casinos. Basically we found that Vegas is a lot like Burning Man. People everywhere in costumes, heels, boas, or cowboy boots and jeans. People wandered by completely drunk or open-mouthed by the spectacle. We tried to take it all in, we ate, drank and yes gambled. We were amazed by the extraordinary measures these casinos go through to make you feel like you are in Paris, or New York. We got to travel the globe that night. We had dinner in Paris, wandered down the Champs Elysees out in to he night, past the statue of Liberty and back into another magical world.

We did decided to spend some time in the Bellagio just because I was hoping to see Matt, George, or maybe Brad (Oceans 11,12,or 13 anyone?) All in all we lost $2.50 at the nickel slot machines. We headed home soon after that, after months in flip flops my feet just couldn't stand the high heels I had worn out.

On our way out of town we drove over the Hoover Dam (with the RV in tow) before we crossed we stopped to have Homeland Security check our truck and RV, no terrorists with us on our trip! Josh attempted to leave me behind while I was taking a video, he thinks this trick is hilarious and has repeated it many times since (oh I feel sorry for our kids already). Once I was safely back in the car we headed off to Flagstaff Arizona.