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A Few Cool Things I Did

July 14, 2019
Sue at Opry

Pickin ‘and a grinnin’.

…and forgot to tell you about.

Grand Ole Opry

I was just going to stop by the Grand Ole Opry early in the morning to take a few photos, but when I heard an announcement coming over the loudspeaker “The backstage tour begins in 12 minutes,” I changed my mind, threw down some cash and got in line with eight other early birds.

I felt like a bit of a fraud because the other people were real country music fans, and I know about six Johnny Cash songs and can hum along with “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

But the Grand Ole Opry knows what they’re doing. The first thing you do is sit on couches in a comfy lounge for a 20-minute movie on the Opry’s history (projected on a cool fringe screen), and by the end, I had a lump in my throat, tears of appreciation in my eyes AND knew who Brad Paisley was. These people know showbusiness and how to work a crowd.

Backstage

Peeping out from backstage.

The tour takes you through the hall of Opry members (I didn’t even know what Opry members were) and through the delightfully decorated green rooms, each of which has a unique story and use. Porter Wagoner’s is fanciest, of course, because he was famous for his elaborate costumes. Still, when they said “The next green room is decorated in purple and you can guess who that is for,” I thought “Prince?” Miss Dolly Parton always uses that dressing room when she plays the Opry so she can feel close to her old partner.

Porter

Porter Wagoner’s fancy green room.

The tour’s culmination is a moment on stage in the circle, where a mike is set up and you can sing if you want to (no one did on my tour. Everyone should have thanked me personally for not doing so). They shoot a photo (which is available in a variety of sizes and digitally for $25 in the gift shop, already printed and packaged for convenience. No, I did not. I’m cheap and I want LESS stuff, not more) and you get a chance, for a moment, to imagine the crowd cheering your debut.

If you’re going to the Opry to see the show, you should definitely do this tour.

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Across Nashville in Mount Juliet, a pretty yellow building houses a building I have seen 100 times before, even though this was my first visit to Tennessee – the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. The reason I’m so familiar is that this home for dogs 10 years old and above has a famous live video stream. I find it relaxing to watch the dogs stand around and sleep, which is mostly what old dogs do, so I will visit the stream on one computer while I work on another.

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They keep bonded dogs together for life.

They offer tours on weekends, just one tour per day for 10 people, at $10 each. This supports the shelter and is low-key enough that it doesn’t wear out the dogs, and also gives them a way to politely decline the hordes who want to stop by and visit every day.

The dogs who live there are old, grey, slow-moving, one-eyed, blind, three-legged, scruffy – but the most important part is they are happy. They snooze on couches and old recliners, walk around in the big yard outside, and hang out with each other. The shelter also has 250 foster dogs out in people’s homes and a full-time vet to go do home visits and to care for the shelter dogs.

The place smells like pee and you’ll get covered with fur, but also gives you plenty of chances to interact with dear old doggies and perhaps even to take a couple home, as one man on our tour did. I left with a t-shirt and some stickers from the irresistible gift shop. They take donations here. Places like this give me hope for humanity.

Mammoth Cave National Park

How are sandstone caves formed? Acidic water collects in depressions in the earth and begins to flow downward over centuries. The acidic water carries away limestone and leaves sandstone behind. Channels form and grow bigger.Mammothcave

350 million years later, you are left with the Mammoth cave. At 420 miles of KNOWN passageways, it is the longest cave in the world.

And yet somehow I managed to choose a tour that took us only about 1/4 mile back into a cave. It was cool (both literally and figuratively) and the Frozen Niagara structure was impressive (though a good deal smaller than the actual Niagara), but it wasn’t what I expected. The bus ride to and from the site was almost as long as the tour.

I was chickenly trying to avoid the tours that have 500 or more stairsteps, and a good thing, too, because my knees were feeling it when I went up the 50 steep steps on this tour (which are an optional section). I have to work out and go back when I’m feeling stronger.

The area around Mammoth Cave is filled with small private roadside-attraction-type caves and rock shops. There are fascinating stories of “cave wars”- different cave owners battling it out for attention when tourists began showing up after automobiles became common.

The best part of my tour was the time I spent chatting with a fellow traveler, a Canadian man who had lost his wife of 22 years to cancer the year before. He was on a US-wide tour of places they had been and had wanted to go. His grief was raw and real, but his determination to walk without her while at the same time carrying her memory by his side was pure and strong, and I’m glad I struck up the conversation.

 

Horse and Buggy Days

July 6, 2019

My RV Gladis and I are partners on this trip. Sometimes we travel for me; others we travel for her.

A trip for Gladis is what led me to Middlebury, Indiana. Gladis needed her leveling system repaired and the manufacturer was nearby in White Pigeon, Michigan. We didn’t have to go there – we could have gone to an authorized dealer’s shop – but why not go to the source? I had to be in Illinois, right next door, on June 21, so north we went.

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You know you’re not in the South anymore when you sight your first cheese curds

Indiana/Michigan

I didn’t know anything about Northern Indiana. I certainly did not know it was Amish country, which I had always thought of as Pennsylvania. I was surprised to see women in traditional clothing and horses and buggies clopping along the roads.

I had also thought of the Amish as being a small population, but when I went to Target, about half the people inside were Amish.

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I HAD to try some Amish food, didn’t I? Peach filling.

Their ways are so foreign to me, and I was suspicious of their dedication to their dress and limited use of technology – what does that have to do with religion, and why do the rules change?

I learned that the rules are made in consideration of what benefits the community as a whole, not necessarily as a religious stricture. They change as the community discusses and modifies to account for their needs. For instance, when it became practically impossible to do business without telephones, they allowed them for limited use, but not for just chatting, because they felt communication should be face-to-face in the community.

Rurality

Being from a coast, I’m always surprised at the giant chunks of completely rural land out there. In that part of northern Indiana, towns were small and far apart. Near me, there was only a gas station and an ice cream stand, where on summer evenings, the line was often 30 people or more long.

It was lovely to stand in the setting sun with teams of Little Leaguers around me, eating their Blizzards and turtle sundaes. It felt like a kind of Americana I rarely get to experience in California.

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Yup’s Dairyland is the place to be on a summer evening. 

 

 

On the Run

July 1, 2019

Sunday 5:46 a.m. Shepherdsville, KY

“BWAA BWAA BWAA The National Weather Service has issued a severe weather alert.”

My eyes popped open and I scrabbled for my phone. Torrential rains. 60 mph winds. Flooding. Lightning. Right where I was, due in about 20 minutes.

I threw on some shoes and sweat pants and flew into action. The wind was already howling, the skies black.

I was in an RV park under heavy tree cover, prime for broken limbs. The entry to the park crossed through a gulley over a low bridge, barely above creek level.

Running around outside as rain began to hammer down, I turned off the gas, unscrewed the water hose and unplugged Gladis. Put the heavy things in the sink and tub, started her up, and fled, heart pounding.

I checked the storm path and headed in the opposite direction. Pedal to the metal.

There were some pretty good winds and the dark clouds stayed right on our tail, but Gladis and I skeedaddled to safety.

That’s too much excitement for before 6 a.m.

Every Day I’m Waffling

At about 6:30, we got to a Waffle House and I put on street clothes – I was still in my PJs – and got me a mound of fluffy hash browns and a fairly bad waffle while I listened to an 80ish man tell me about his college golf tournament days when he got to play in California.

My waitress, Kelly, was just a delight – loud and funny and exceptionally competent. I also heard her whisper to a co-worker about how her husband wanted something specific for Father’s Day that she didn’t have the money for. I left her $40 on a $10.87 bill and watched her mouth open and close in shock for a couple minutes, then break into a grin.

Getting the Spirit

She didn’t know I had just come through Louisville and had made a quick stop at Fourth and Walnut (now Fourth and Muhammad Ali), site of Thomas Merton’s spiritual revelation:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I just wanted to share the spirit of that in a small way, in the dark, on a Sunday morning rain in Kentucky.

 

 

My Old Kentucky Home

June 21, 2019

I struggled with how much to say about visiting my brother’s family in Kentucky, because it was a great part of my trip, but they are also private people who don’t necessarily want to have their lives on the internets.

So I’ll say this: after 3 months on the road among strangers, there’s a deep sweet satisfaction to seeing people you love. It’s like water in the wilderness.

My brother and his wife moved to Kentucky to be close to the kids and grandkids, and they have put together a life that is so full of love and fun that anyone would be envious, and I’m lucky to get to share a slice of it whenever I visit.

I had such a great time that I forgot to take pictures for 4 days, except, of course, of the dog.

So here’s the dog, Pockets. Thanks, family, for the wonderful visit.

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Going to Jackson

June 19, 2019

Going to Graceland

I got to Graceland late and left early, so no tour for me. It was a pity, because I was staying at the Graceland RV park, which is right across the parking lot from all the museums and shops, and about 1/4 mile to Graceland. I got to walk around the Graceland GigantoMegaplex™ and take photos, but skedaddled in the morning because it was supposed to rain all week and the Mississippi river was ready to flood.

I wasn’t down to experience Memphis in a flood, because the infrastructure there is already on the shaky side. The people, though, were so beautiful and the city is built on a foundation of pure soul, so I want to return some day soon.

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Gladys was Elvis’s mom’s name. Gladis is my RV’s name. 

Going to Jackson

Heading down the road, I ended up in Jackson, Tennessee, a place I had never heard of and had never anticipated going. I always had assumed the Johnny and June Carter Cash song was about Jackson, Mississippi, but now I think it is probably about Jackson, TN.

Wanna Talk?

Jackson is home to the friendliest people on earth. People there will talk to you for an hour with little prompting. They just stop down and converse.

I was staying in a very odd, very pretty park. It was a mobile home park that converted empty mobile home spaces to RV spaces, so the two were intermingled. The only disadvantage was that you had to back up onto two long strips of concrete – the former mobile home foundation – very carefully to avoid being all catywampus and unlevel. This only took me about 10 attempts. It was a good learning experience.

The park was pretty, though, full of trees and flowers, and I got to know the residents and their dogs and cats through my walks around the place because, like I said, Tennesseans will talk to anyone. A group of the ladies had a feral cat spaying and feeding operation going and they gave me the lowdown about the cats and their personalities.

I had super-friendly neighbors, Dixie Lee and her son Marcus, who both loved the Lord and lived to tell about it. I had to watch out on my trips back from the pool, because I would be caught listening out there as the sun set and would end up getting absolutely eaten by mosquitoes. They were great, friendly people; the mosquitoes were jerks.

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Abundant Life Temple

Downtown

Jackson is home to a pretty little, somewhat decaying downtown that will probably gentrify in the next 10 years. I could see little spots of it beginning already – the organic grocery with the 74 brands of CBD oil, some fancy brewpub type places.

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Rockabilly Hall of Fame Mural

It’s also home to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, to which my old high-school friend Benton Owsley is due to be inducted for his longtime internet radio station, Rockit Radio.

This is the best part of this trip – finding people I never thought I would meet and places that I had never even thought I was going to.

 

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Rockabilly Hall of Fame Stage

 

 

100 Days

June 17, 2019

Today is my 100th consecutive day on the road. Prior to this, I also took a 3-week trip in November to Oregon and a 3-week trip in January to the desert south of Palm Springs.

The stats: 100 Days, 9 states, 4425 miles (plus driving around town).

The prettiest drive? Sedona to Monument Valley, Tuba City notwithstanding.

My favorite place? Taos, New Mexico. Gorgeous mountains, history, deep blue sky, quirky people and good food and coffee.

My least favorite place? El Campo, Texas. It looked like the beginning scenes of every serial killer movie, and had this weird racist sign thing on the approach to town.

Best food? Austin. The rest of America needs to do better.

Worst food? Somewhere in Arkansas.

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Arkansas “burrito”

Place you’re dying to get back to? Memphis. I was only there overnight because of rain and flooding, and damn, that city has soul.

Scariest Bridge? Lord preserve me if I ever have to drive the Calcasieu in Lake Charles again. I mean, look at that thing.

Nicest People? Tennessee, hands down. Hope you have time to talk.

Highlights? Seeing my brother’s family in Kentucky, Monument Valley, White Sands, the nice people in Jackson, TN, Ojo Caliente, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.

Lowlights? Knocking a hole in the roof of Gladis with a monsoon storm approaching. Thinking a tornado was going to get me in Texas.

Learned anything? Americans aren’t terrible people when you talk to them. Pretty much everyone is polite, even when they disagree with you.

How do you feel? Profoundly grateful for the opportunity.

Where to next? Off to see my brother-in-law Mike in Chicagoland.

The Itinerary Miles
Ventura to Coachella 

202

Coachella to Yuma

143

Yuma to Quartzsite

83

Quartzsite to Tempe

139

Tempe to Sedona

126

Sedona to Tuba City

107

Tuba City to Monument Valley

117

Monument Valley to Albuquerque

311

Albuquerque to Santa Fe

64

Santa Fe to Taos

70

Taos to Ojo Caliente

41

Ojo Caliente to Santa Fe

84

Santa Fe to Belen

96

Belen to Alamagordo NM

176

Alamagordo to Fort Stockton, Texas

319

Fort Stockton to San Antonio

312

San Antonio to Austin

80

Austin to El Campo

130

El Campo to Lake Charles

214

Lake Charles to Lafayette

74

Lafayette to Shreveport

213

Shreveport to Hope AR

103

Hope to Hot Springs

79

Hot Springs to Memphis TN

188

Memphis to Jackson TN

87

Jackson to Dickson

93

Dickson to London KY

244

London  to Barbourville

26

Barbourville to Cave City

144

Cave City to Shepherdsville KY

67

Shepherdsville to Elkhart IN

293

Total

4425

 

 

Hot Water

June 17, 2019
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One of the retired bathhouses

I Love Hot Springs!

Remember how I went to Ojo Caliente? And remember how quiet and relaxing it was to lay in the New Mexico sun all day long, dipping in and out of mineral pools?

I realized I would be heading through northern Arkansas and decided to make a trip to Hot Springs National Park, the weirdest national park. No, it is. It has the typical wilderness kinds of areas, but is also part of a town, and commercial hot springs are mixed in with the national park in the town, and it is all very confusing.

In the middle of this cute little town, I found 2 baths still operating, and discovered they were the only way to bathe in the hot springs. Ok, fine.

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A retired bathhouse lobby is now a nice air-conditioned place for a sit on a hot summer day.

Taking the Plunge

I picked one, stood in line and paid my money, choosing the most modest package of services. A trip up a creaky elevator took me to the second floor, where ladies only are allowed.

Some laconic looking workers told me to have a seat in a changing room. The other ladies and I sat in a row. Some were in sheets wrapped like togas. No one had told me to bring a toga. Was I supposed to bring a sheet?

No, because soon enough a woman ordered me into a changing booth and told me to lock my clothes and belongings in a locker and wait, naked, with my back to the booth’s curtain. She soon came along and wrapped my corpus into a toga, too, then ordered me back to wait in the line of chairs.

Shut Up, Suebob

Time passed quickly because I started talking with the lady next to me. We started talking racial politics and though she was black and I was white, I was far more radical than her. We were deep in conversation and I was just about to say “Respectability politics are bullshit!” when I realized two things: 1) the lady was calling me for my bath and 2) the other six white women had all stopped their conversations to gape at mine. Um…Read “So You Want to Talk About Race?” Bye!

Where are the Mineral Pools?

A woman named LaToya led me into an exceptionally hot, noisy and wet room. Women were lying on what looked like physical therapy tables, covered in sheets with towels draped over them. I was taken into one of a row of booths along the marble walls. The booth had a large bathtub already filled with hot water and a thing the size and shape of an outboard motor in it.

Huh. I guess this was a different kind of mineral spa. It looked for all the world like a 1900-era sanitorium.

She told me to step up on a stool and into the water as she deftly removed my toga with one move. I got in the tub, but she had obviously calculated the amount of water on a woman of…smaller stature, because when I plunked my large ass into the mineral water, a tsunami of water cascaded over the edges of the tub and onto the floor, adding another inch of water to the already sodden tiles. It was truly impressive. I could hear the ghost of Archimedes laughing.

Mind Your Toes

She gave me some instructions and turned on the outboard motor, which turned out to be the bubble machine. The one instruction LaToya neglected to give me was to keep my feet away from the intake, because that thing sucked onto my foot so hard, and LaToya was already gone. After a panicked second, I jerked my foot away from the evil sucker, inspecting it to make sure there was no lasting damage.

I perched in the pool and breathed in the scalding air as the other outboard motors cranked away around me. A large clock ticked away on the wall. LaToya had told me I had 20 minutes and she then would come get me.

She also brought me two tiny cups of mineral water. Hot mineral water. “Sip on that,” she told me. Ok, that’s just weird. She also came in and gave my legs and back a very perfunctory scrub with a loofah they had given me at the front counter. I had expected some Korean-level exfoliation, but nope.

Not for Germaphobes

Once my 20 minutes were up, LaToya again wrapped me in my sheet and led me to a soaking wet physical therapy table. She squeegeed off the table with the side of one hand and told me to sit there and wait.

I watched the proceedings as I cooled. LaToya and another attendant worked – literally feverishly – to serve the never-ending parade of bathers. In a precise, sweaty ballet, they moved toga-clad women from one treatment to another.

An ever-flowing faucet delivered a powerful stream of steaming water into a large tub sink. The attendants would come over, grab a clean, rolled towel, and saturate the towels in this straight-from-the-spring 143 degree (62C) water, then wring them out with powerful hands.

It was these towels that LaToya laid on my table, then had me lie down on, yelping at the scald. She put a cold towel on top of my head and gave me a cup of ice to suck on. I laid there and steamed for another 15 minutes.

Following that, I also had the option of a sitz bath (a bath for your butt, basically) and a steam bath (looking for all the world like an industrial kitchen steam cabinet), but I was hot enough, so I just got the “needle shower” (about 20 seconds in a shower with nozzles on all sides that had probably been needle-like in 1920, but which now just dribbled out a pathetic stream).

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Another old bathhouse. They are so elegant. Gangsters, baseball players and Mae West were notable guests.

Sweet Release

And that was it. I was free. I tipped LaToya a lot because damn, that is one hard-working woman and she had to see me nekkid several times. I squeezed my damp self back into my clothes and descended the creaky elevator.

I went outside and sat on an Adirondack chair on the porch for a minute, wondering “What the hell just happened?”

It was hot. It was weird. But on the other hand, my muscles felt great for a couple days, and my skin was softer and silkier than it had been for decades.

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It LOOKS relaxing!

 

 

 

Easy Being Green

June 15, 2019

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Typical 70 degree day in Ventura

Person 1: “I’m freezing!”

Person 2: “It’s so hot for this time of year!”

One of the perils of living where the weather is perfect year round is failing to realize just how much the weather sucks in other places.

People keep asking me why I traveled to somewhere when I knew it would be too hot there, or too cold, or too windy, or too stormy.

The truth is that I’m clueless about all of those things. My family has been in California since the late 1800s (ask my sister Paula, the geneaologist). We don’t know from bad weather.

Change of Itinerary

All this is to explain why I never made it to New Orleans. I was in Lafayette and planning on heading east, but the mid-90s heat and humidity completely defeated me.

“Oh, this is NOTHING,” people kept saying.

I headed north in the mistaken belief that I would find some cool somewhere. North = cool, right? Shreveport begs to differ.

But I did spend a work week in Shreveport, parked under some tall pine trees, reveling in my fellow campers’ Louisiana accents, swimming every night in the only-somewhat-suspect-looking swimming pool.

My Modus Operandi

I usually travel on weekends and stay put during the week, because working all day, pulling up stakes, leaving an RV park at 11 a.m checkout time, working in some parking lot with no air conditioning all day and then driving and then re-setting up on the other end is just too much.

Greensleeves

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My overall impression of the South is this: green and more green. From San Antonio through southern Texas to Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennesee and Kentucky – SO MUCH GREEN.

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I come from a dry and brown place. Don’t let the postcards they make during the one green month of the year fool you: Southern California is a desert.

And the quality of the green is so much more vibrant and glowing than our green ever gets, probably because our water is alkaline and in most places back here, it is acidic.

I tried to drink in all this lush green as best I could, knowing that I’ll soon be in less leafy places.

Decay

I have a weird fondness for the rapid decay that happens in a moist and rainy place. I’m always taking pictures of overgrown buildings. I loved Highway 49 for all of the interesting decayed places I found.

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On Highway 49

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The sign used to say I (Highway Sign) 49

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Not only could you get fresh livers n gizzards here, but there was a man, Clayton Dyess, singing the most beautiful gospel music with a guitar in the parking lot.

Hey, I found him on the internets!

Ways to Stay: Municipal Parks

June 14, 2019
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Suebobian foolishness

I never really thought about municipal parks as places to park an RV. RV parks range from janky to fancy. I have stayed in muddy rutted parking lots and in impeccably groomed golf-course-adjacent spots.

State and federal campgrounds tend to be somewhat rustic and usually lack cell phone service and full hookups, but make up for it in great scenery.

What I never thought about until I got to Welsh, Louisiana, was the possibility of camping in a city park. I don’t think this happens much in California. We probably have meaner lawyers.

I only stopped by Welsh because I think I’m part Welsh and thought it would be funny to take a picture. While I was doing that, a police officer stopped to make fun of me for taking a picture in front of the Welsh Fire Department sign (justified, I admit) and during our conversation – people in the South generally don’t mind stopping a while to talk – he told me to check out the city park.

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$15 will get you a spot

It was great. About 30 RV spots right on the lawn in the city park, $15 per night.

So when I got to Hope, Arkansas (home of Bill Clinton)a day later, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself parking on the lawn at the city fairgrounds. I had a long conversation with the park supervisor, a man who loved his park with all his being.

“I’d love to do what you’re doing,” he said. “But then who would take care of all this?” He gestured toward the fields with a baseball team playing and a kids softball team practicing, other kids riding bikes, playing basketball and tennis, the horse barns…and of course the RV park.

The showers there are in the fair office building, so if you want to use them, they just give you a key to the offices so you can go in and leave the key in the mailbox when you’re done. Welcome to Mayberry.

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Hope, Arkansas

Later, taking a lap around the park on my evening walk, I spotted him frantically trying to solve a problem at the swimming pool – an ant infestation. The south is weird, y’all.

 

 

 

 

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Ants. In the pool.

In my brother’s town in Kentucky, I stayed in the public park there. It had a boat ramp to the river and a splash pad, as well as the most popular walking trail in town. I did have to leave after 4 days because the barbecue festival was starting, but it was time. You know what they say about guests after 3 days.

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In my brother’s little town

Mudbugs and Drive-Thru Daquiris

June 13, 2019

20190526_143550_resizedSouth Texas

The closer you get to Houston, the more Cajun culture starts to appear. I was delighted to come upon it. Barbecue restaurants give way to signs advertising crawfish and Boudin sausage, gumbo and jambalaya.

My dumbest move of the weekend was to try to go to the beach at Galveston, forgetting that most of Texas would also be heading there for Memorial Day. I made it over the terrifying bridge onto Galveston Island. I gaped at the vast flat muddy expanse that passes for an ocean down there. Then I turned around and skedaddled back over the bridge before traffic got even worse.

The Oil Patch

I grew up traipsing around oil fields, thanks to my dad’s work, but it turns out I had the tank farms I had seen were tiny, miniature, really. South of Houston, the tank farms go on for miles. And miles. And miles. Traveling side roads, you get to see all the stuff that is hidden from the interstate highway.

And then the thing I had been waiting for: Louisiana. It was as overgrown, gothic and mysterious as I had expected. I rattled along through the flooded rice fields, listening to Cajun music on the radio. It felt perfect.

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Lake Charles, where pipelines are overhead.

I stopped overnight in Lake Charles, another oil town, where there are so many pipelines that they make overpasses out of them.

It also has a truly terrifying bridge, the worst of the trip so far. Narrow, tall, rickety – it ticks all the bridge-terror boxes.

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Lake Charles. If you squint, you can see Earl.

Earl Goes Fishing

Out on a fishing dock in Lake Charles, I met Earl, a retired truck driver and father of nine. He talked to me about life and fishing and asked all kinds of questions about my trip. I asked him what kind of fish he was hoping to catch.

“Ah, I don’t mind if it one thing or the other,” he said. “I just come out here to get out of the house.”

Lafayette!

Earl recommended that my next stop be Lafayette, a town full of gorgeous old buildings and moss-covered trees, so I went there. I visited the Vermilionville historical park, a collection of old buildings and historical exhibits, complete with actors playing the residents of the time.

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A parsonage house at Vermilionville

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The hand-pulled ferry at Vermilionville

I was surprised at the mix of visitors – about half were French, exploring this part of their heritage. It was fun to hear the actors speak to them in Cajun French and listen to their difficulty in translating, much like me with Louisiana English accents.

It was hot, though, well into the 90s and of course humid. My stretchable spandex-laced denim pants soon gave up stretching and just turned into dampish bags around my legs, my waistband sliding lower and lower. It made me think of the people who had lived here in that heat, cooking over open fires and picking crops.

I parked Gladis at my first KOA on a little Lafayette lake and went to the swimming pool where I spent the evening watching teenagers do cannonballs around me.

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Cajun Daquiris. Drive thru service.

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Natchitoches, Louisiana

 

 

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