Archive for April, 2010

Etouffee, Gumbo, Boudin,Po-Boy, Andouille, Roux, Maque choux?

Friday, April 30th, 2010
We arrived in Abbeville Louisiana on Tuesday and have tried everyone of these local foods!  I can’t decide which is my favorite.  They also use some really great spices – “Slap yo Mama” is very popular and adds a lot of flavor to most anything.

Our first night we went to a local eatery called “Chucks”, not like the name but like chucking corn.  A nice little place where we had Gumbo & Crawfish Etouffee.  The Gumbo was like a brown soup with rice and seafood – ok but the Etouffee is to die for!  Of course it is good, it has lots of cream and some great spices,thick & creamy with fresh crawfish pieces over rice – Yummy.

Our second meal was Crawfish Pie -Etouffee over pastry instead of rice and some catfish!  This goes on for 4 days while we are staying in Abbeville which is a small town in the Vermilion Parish about 150 miles west of New Orleans.  We chose this town because of an RV park we had heard about and wanted to check it out.  Betty’s RV Park where the hostess, Betty has happy hour everyday at 4:30 pm – my kind of place.  The park was everything we hoped for and a perfect place to park while we enjoyed the local flavor.

A swamp tour wasn’t about food at all.  Bryan Champagne’s Swamp Tours is all about getting up close and personal with the creatures that live in a swamp.  A swamp is just what you think it is, a wet, dark, muddy area that is the overflow from a Bayou.  What is a Bayou? A stream or creek off the main river or lake. 

Lake Martin - Looks harmless, but just wait!

We went onto the lake but quickly Bryan, our guide quickly turned left and we were in another world.  The good news is as he told us, you do not need life jackets because where we are going the water is at most 1-2 feet deep, you can walk out – I DON’T THINK SO!!!


Beautiful by day.....

Closer to a swamp

Dragon Flies keep mosquitos out of the swamps - For real!!

Cute little turtles

There were lots of turtles sunning themselves but as soon as our little boat got within 30 feet they were off swimming.  There were lots of birds in the bayou & swamps but our favorites had to be the Alligators!  They are not afraid of the boats at all – infact it seemed like a game to them.

They look so harmless

A small one- 6 feet

12 Feet +

No! i am not using a zoom lens - he is about 3 feet away!

Right after this little guy swam away Bryan our guide informs us the boat is stuck on a log and we are stuck!  Someone may have to get in the water and push us off – kidding, we just had to all move to the side of the boat where the alligator was  and hopefully that will dislodge the log.  The good news is we didn’t fall in and the boat again floated so we could be on our way.  The scary part of this whole thing is that Alligator was about as long as our little aluminum boat was and there were 12 tourists that had to get the photo at all costs!

That was enough excitement and we are back to the food tour!!!   We ate in places that looked really scary but had awesome food; places were not big enough to call a restaurant; and places that were in the middle of nowhere.  We ate food like peanut butter balls (very much like homemade Reese’s); fried shrimp po-boys; platters of crawfish that you order by the pound and have to extract the tail.  We have a freezer full of fresh off the boat shrimp and Boudin (meat sausage with rice). 

No menu - are you kidding? Everyone just orders Crawfish - you want 3.5 lbs or 5 lbs?

Nowhere to sit but the Boudin is the best in the Parish

You know it is good when the parking lot is full and it is in the middle of nowhere!

Right next to the town of Abbeville is New Ibernia, the town made famous by TABASCO Pepper Sauce.  We had a tour of the factory as well as tasting such goodies as jalepeno ice cream!  Very interesting.  We also visited the oldest Rice mill that still produces a million pounds of rice each year.  The coolest thing there was they had cats everywhere, all sizes and colors to keep the rat population away from the rice. 

This was a great stop on our way East and we will be back to see Betty and enjoy her hospitality and all the great food!  Next stop New Orleans.

Things you just won’t see everywhere

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Drive up liquor stores and guns is just something that does not seem natural for this California girl but here in Texas no one seems to think that is odd.  They do ask that you unload your weapon before entering the local liquor stores but if you drive up,  I don’t think that applies.

One stop shopping

 I guess you can pick up your Bourbon and get your shells and be on your way to the range! 

The other part of this issue is I have never seen so many churches.  They are everywhere.  We stayed in this little town of Schulenburg which is right off the interstate between San Antonio and Houston.  It is a German settlement from the 1800’s and their tourist attraction is the Painted Churches.  They have a route that shows off 4-5 Catholic Churches within a 10 mile radius that were built when they settled and they made good use of paint opposed to marble.  Inside these churches is beautiful and very ornate however there is no marble!  The ceilings are hand painted as well as lots of detailed painting along the walls.  They even add detail painting to the stained glass window panes. It all looks very beautiful and a bit overwhelming when you first enter.  The churches are pretty small and probably seat about 100 not including the balcony where the choir would sit.  There are several other Catholic Churches in the same area but are newer and not part of this tour along with churches of every other denomination.  I think there are about 30 churches in this small town and it’s outlying area and there just are not that many people.

High Hill Catholic Church


Ammannsville Catholic Church

Along side Ammannsville Church

Most of the churches have cemeteries attached.  I just thought the view of the hillside near this one was amazing, complete with a small lake.   Walking around the outside we could see many headstones and these people live very long lives and most of the plots had flowers so I am assuming that many families live here for generations.

Seeing double

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Duke found a new friend

Duke is always ready to meet a new friend but today he got more than he bargained for!

Which one is he?

I couldn’t believe it when this dog came walking down the street.  He looks so much like Duke and behaves similarly!  His name is Harry and he is  a Laso.  Duke was still bigger – that boy has grown right out of his breed!

Oh – Duke is the one off leash!  And neither dog was nearly as impressed as I was.

Texas White House – LBJ Ranch

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

 A one hour drive from San Antonio to Johnson City takes you through some of  the most beautiful Hill Country and this time of year everything is in bloom.  The wild flowers are spectacular; red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, pink, white sprinkled in the tall grass.  Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th presidents home has been donated to the National Parks and the Texas State Parks where they have made the ranch available to the public to enjoy.

Show Cattle!

The ranch has been left the way it was during LBJ’s presidency so we get to see a glimpse of how he operated as the President.  He would invite heads of other countries here, congressmen and others so that he could get them on his turf.  After being here I see how powerful this place was.

The river runs infront of the Ranch and can be seen from many places on the property

Beautiful fields

The front entrance to the Texas White House

Backyard Pool area

Back porch near the pool

The Ranch and land are spectacular the house is very modest.  It does not look like a president lives here nor a place he would entertain or make political decisions but the house is not important it is the feeling you get on this land!

The school he attended as a child of only 4

His childhood home - part of the Ranch

Family plot

I found it interesting that you could walk within 30 feet of his grave.  No guards, no high wires, just part of a National Park and made available for us to walk around.

As part of the State Park is a German farm that is operational today and part of this park so we had a look at how they did things in the 1800’s.  We saw fresh squeezed milk sitting on the counter turning to yogurt and cottage cheese.

Paul is grinding corn for the chickens

The perfect farm scene

Beautiful fields

 After being here I can see why he chose to bring people here for whatever reason and why Lady Byrd chose to stay for 35 years after he died.  It is the most tranquil, beautiful place.

Remember the Alamo!

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Uncle Ben picked us up for our tour of the Alamo.  Being here at the Alamo made me realize how much I didn’t learn in school, or maybe it is because then I wasn’t interested and now I want to know what happened a really long time ago and how important it was to our history!  Just shows you can’t teach someone something until the person receiving the information is ready. 

Entering the Alamo

The Alamo is right in the middle of the city so after seeing the grounds we decided it was time for lunch.  A short walk or a ride through the canals should get us to a nice place to have some lunch, right? Not today!  Remember when I said we had reservations and we never make them? Well the reason we made reservations in San Antonio is because of Fiesta San Antonio!  3.5 Million party goes come to San Antonio for this 10 day festival and we were going to be there the last weekend!

So when we decided it was time for lunch a huge parade was going on right in town and we had to get across the parade and down two blocks to try another favorite of Ben’s, Shilo’s Deli.  Still no Steak! (which I am very happy about!).  Shilo’s is a German Deli.  That is something else I learned – Texas doesn’t just have a bunch of crazy cowboys, there is a large population and history of Germans settling in Texas.  

Anyway, we made our way to Shilo’s and only had to interupt the parade once.  The parade was fun to watch however there were just way too many people and we only have 2 days to see what we came to San Antonio to see.  Lunch was excellent.  A Rueben and German Potatoe Salad!

After lunch we took a little boat ride through the canals where the guide gives us a bit of history of the river and the city.

Uncle Ben

The many bridges

Riding under a Bridge

The ride was really nice and gave us a chance to see the whole riverwalk system. 

In the evening Paul and I went back to take a walk along the river and enjoy one of the many fine restaurants and bars along the walk!  Margarita’s on the river with music in the background was very nice.

Horse drawn carriage that looked like Cinderella's carriage

Fiesta Colors

It was hard to get pictures at night but the idea is there is lots of stuff going on and it is very colorful.  Getting home around midnight we were in a hurry to get some rest for another big day of touring on Saturday however it was so hot and humid I wasn’t sure I would fall asleep.  We got out the fans, turned the air conditioning on for a few minutes and just about the time I dosed off Mother Earth or whoever is incharge of the sky decided it was time to raise the roof!  Hail the size of Golf Balls, wind that was bending trees, thunder that made your ears hurt and of course the lightening and rain!  It only lasted about an hour and it amazingly cooled things off!  It went from 80 degrees at midnight to 60 by 2 am!  Yeah, I can sleep now.

The next morning we look out our window and the neighbor has a tree right on the cab of their truck! Ouch.  The truck looks totaled and I am very thankful that it wasn’t ours because we have reservations in New Orleans and no time to spare!

The great state of Texas

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Staying off the interstates, we entered Texas straight west of Dallas and headed south toward Odessa hoping to see the small towns of Western Texas before arriving in San Antonio.  Well, we did see some small towns but all they farm are Oil Rigs!  They were everywhere and most of the towns were so small they barely had fuel.  So after about 100 miles of that I voted to get onto Interstate 10 and get to San Antonio so I could see some civilization!

Wow, once we got on the Interstate things started brightening up, lots of color, the road started getting a little curve here and there and there were actually a few trees.  The Interstate is full of wildflowers and the trees start getting taller as we got into San Antonio.

Paul’s Uncle lives here in San Antonio so visiting is a top  priority for this stop.  Ben arrived at the RV park shortly after we arrived at 3 pm and was taking us out for dinner.  Figuring we were getting standard Texas fare I was prepared for a BIG Steak but surprising in San Antonio you can get all kinds of food and as we will find out they do an awesome job.  Tonight we went to a Thai/Chinese restaurant and I have not had a lot of Thai food but enough to know this was really, really good! 

Tomorrow is touring the city!  Can’t wait

Carlsbad Caverns

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Way cool!!!!  Can’t really describe the caves!  but this is something that should be on everyones Bucket list!  I enjoyed the cave so much that now I am ready to do one of the tours where you need the headlamp and have to crawl around on your knees!  I wanted to this time but we had “reservations” and had to get on our way.  Reservations is something we try not to do and this is why. 

Come along for a tour of the cave with me.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


The Natural Entrance

Here goes

The beginning of the desent into the cave

Looking back toward the entrance


More Formations

And more

Proof that we really did desend into the cave (at least Paul did!)


Above ground again

Some cactus are finally blooming

And that is the tour of the Carlsbad Cave.  The only thing you missed is the feeling you get when you walked into a black hole; the eerie feeling you get in total darkness; a chance to be in awe of the first guy who actually climbed into this hole and then convinced others to come with him; and lunch at 750 feet below ground level!  AWESOME!!!

Ruidoso, New Mexico

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

I never expected New Mexico to be this beautiful but this town is so much like Lake Tahoe without the casinos, well there is one Indian Casino but it is out of town.  The town is a winter skiing destination, summer resort and an Artsy Colony.  Lots of tiny galleries, outdoor Art, Coffee houses and of course the 5 star Golf Resort.

SkiApache Ski Resort

From town you can see this massive mountain and you have to drive up a steep, windy, road 12 miles to get to the base of the mountain for skiing.  The drive was spectacular but I am not sure about it during winter conditions.  The ski mountain closed last week for the season so we didn’t get to ski but Duke did get to play in the snow.

Cold, what's that?

I'll find it!

The resort at the base

Looking back on our way down the mountain

The Valley below

 From here we wandered around the town of Ruidoso and then we went to the town of Capitan for breakfast.  Not much in this town but a school, this restaurant and Smokey Bear’s home!

Calamity Janes Coffee and Eatery

Not a fancy place but the biscuits and gravy were wonderful.  Paul was in heaven, a dive and good food!  The cook was a guy with many tattoos, a bandanna and very friendly.

Being refueled we headed to the Smokey Bear Museumwhere Smokey is buried today.  What a blast from the past.  I remember learning  about preventing forest fires in grade school complete with coloring contests and information to bring home to mom & dad telling them how to prevent forest fires.  Paul and I grew up on different sides of the USA but our memories sometimes are very much alike and this was one of them.  The only thing neither of us remembers is that Smokey was a real bear and he was rescued in a forest fire right near Capitan so today he is buried here and there is a really cute little museum that tells all about him.

Smokey, R.I.P

Just down the road from Smokey Bears place is the historic town of Lincoln where Billy the Kid hung out and the Lincoln County War was fought!  Had no idea what this was but apparently it was a local war between Murphy’s & Dolans and the Tunstall’s, The last great shootout of the Old West!  The things you learn when you have the time to explore these great roads and towns of the USA.

Torreon or Fort

This was pretty cool, it is the structure they built to protect themselves from Indians when under attack.  It had two floors and many places where they could shoot from within.  It had a fireplace in the bottom so I suppose they could stay there for quite a length of time – not me!

Our last stop for the day was back in Ruidoso at the Billy the Kid Museum.  Mostly there were lots of pictures and stories about the Old West.  Next door there was a museum for the American West however I was museumed out (is that even a word?). Outside they had this really cool sculpture.  You can’t see them all but there were probably 15 horses running along the fence.  They looked real!

A real Stampede


Saturday, April 17th, 2010

In the middle of New Mexico, just past PieTown you might think Aliens have taken root.  You come up over the horizon through some spectacular mountains and there in the middle of the desert floor, where cows should be grazing you will see 27 radio antennas in a Y shaped configuration – The Very Large Array.  We had to stop!  It is just too weird plus we had been driving for several hours without a break.  Paul was fascinated, me I was sure someone was going to start telling me about the Aliens taking over!  I am definitely not a believer and this is New Mexico.  It was very cool and even I learned something new today!  Inside one of these dishes you could place 2 of our homes side by side! 

Very Large Array

27 Radio Antennas

422 feet in diameter

Very Small Array!!!

 From here we did a lot more driving.  We finally hit an interstate, Interstate 25 at Socorro, NM and drove on it south for about 3 miles before heading towards Ruidoso, NM.  The problem with this was Paul didn’t see any fueling stations that met his requirements in Socorro and we thought we would see more before we left the Interstate but there were not any and we were down to less than 1/2  of a tank, 30  gallons and we were not sure the next town had any.  We can go about 200 miles with that much fuel except we had no idea about the roads and I could see from the map we had to go over a pretty high pass, the top was 12,000 feet although the road didn’t get anywhere near that high.  The good news is we found fuel wih about 15gallons of fuel left!  That is not much fuel for something this big and traveling these roads.  Paul said we were fine, I don’t think so cause after we got the 57 gallons of fuel we went over the pass and it was long and steep!

We found the Elks Lodge in Ruidoso and Paul was so happy cause we parked on their grass and got to have a beer with the locals!

Eastern Arizona

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Leaving Mesa around 11 am today we headed out Hwy 60 toward New Mexico.  The landscape changes rapidly east of Mesa with huge mountain ranges and beautiful canyons.  The desert is in full bloom right now and with all the rain there is way more color than I expected.  Red, White, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Pink, Purple,  and more YELLOW than you can believe.  It looks like a mustard field all over the hills. 

We drove through the most amazing canyon, Salt River Canyon and it made me think again of the Grand Canyon although it is not near as large the hwy goes right  through it so you see it from above, inside, and exiting to the other side!  There were so many switchbacks going down into the canyon and Paul was driving so slowly that even he got to see a lot of the canyon.  We stopped only once and that was because there was an opportunity – you don’t just pull over 50′ of RV and check out the view!

Across the Canyon is the rest of the HWY

 Salt River

 Like most awesome landscapes you just cannot photograph it.  These are taken about 1/3 of the way down the canyon and as you went around the next bend, very steep grade you could see the most amazing canyon walls.

We ended our day in Springerville, AZ which is about 50 miles from the border of New Mexico.   Paul decided that after going 200 miles on some really tough roads that that was enough and saw this sign as we were coming into the town of Springerville.  An interesting place.  I feel like I am camping in my dads pasture without the cows!  There are about 40 sites and most appear to be here as construction employees for the Power Plant that is being built.  It is very quiet and we almost got to see a lightening storm but it fizzled out.  But we do have cable TV and WIFI for only $22.50.  Not bad!

Springerville, AZ