Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random thoughts:

In Alabama, we saw 7 helicopters, 4 blackhawk type, 2 Chinook and a Bell Huey. Interesting that we did not see an airplane the entire time in Alabama. They like their helicopters, eh?

Speaking of flight: After so many states, we finally saw large birds that were NOT turkey vultures. Odd that we would cover so much country and see so few birds. It was a red tail and several crows. And, I saw my first blue bird. Not those jacked up Stellar's Jays from back home.

Truckers are nice and crazy. They change lanes so fast at such close range that you cringe expecting the grind of metal and that gut punching sound of a traffic accident. But on the other side, when we approached an accident, we had a 3 mile warning that the RIGHT lane ahead was blocked. The truckers moved into the RIGHT lane to keep that sneaky brat that ignores the signs to sneak 5 places farther ahead of everyone else and cause everyone to slow down even more. These truckers set up a moving road block to control traffic.

In Tennessee there is a Hotel chain, called the Jameson Inn. It was beautiful, charged only a 10 dollar pet deposit and had a great big room with a wonderful king size bed. The bed was the best sleep K and I had slept in many years.

Just up the road from the Jameson Inn is a restaurant called the Texas Roadhouse. I ordered another cheap steak that tasted not at all cheap. K had a rib and chicken plate. We both feel, out of all our travels and all the places we have eaten, this was some of the very best food we have ever had.
I know, I know, I said that about the etoufe. But in its own way it was the best etoufe. The sauteed mushrooms were the best I have ever had, the steak was almost perfect, the beans were with onions and ham, and they had fresh baked rolls with a cinnamon honey butter that was almost as good as the sopapias at The Pepper Sister's back in Hamster land.

We detoured to the Great Smokey Mountain park today. Las Vegas and Disney World had sex and the illegitamate love child is Pigeon Forge Tennessee! With a name like Pigeon Forge... well... It is glitzy in the woods. But what fun... a Dinosaur walk museum, a Jurassic water ride, 3 or 4 miniature golf courses, a muscle car museum. We will get back to this place, some day.

Breakfast and dinner were Cracker Barrel. If you know them, you know how good that food is as well. Ahh... foood.....
I did not allow myself to go to a knife/cooking gadgets store boasting over 1000 kitchen gadgets.
Tomorrow, more roads. We are almost there.
Soon, soon...

Southern colors by K:
I decided there must be a law about driving only red vehicles in Alabama. This carried into
the beautiful state of Tennessee. It struck me when I found myself surrounded on all sides:
first a fire engine red Hummer, then a cherry red pick up truck, then the off road vehicle
being transported to some heavily hilled dirt pile somewhere nearby...
the red brick homes in Tennessee where they use small and long bricks that are textured on
its outside length...
Alabama's team is known as the Crimson Tide. I had yet another Cherry Limeade To Go!
I wasn't quick enough to click pictures of some of the local restaurants which used horizontal
red stripes to elongate the look of their building. It was striking enough to make me want to
pull the car over and take the photo though...

Ruby falls is advertised everywhere, a wonderful kind of repetitious reminder that there were
places on the map that were yet to be discovered...

I'd like to tell you about Rose, a petite gal who worked at Country's Barbque in Montgomery
Alabama. She had a smile that lit up the Roadhouse architecture like moonlight. "Mama" was
behind the counter cooking. I thought Mama would be softspoken for some reason. The image
shattered quickly with Mama yelling orders: "ONE PORK, ONE BIRD TO-GO!"
Rose walked me to the door since my hands were filled with barbque dinners and an order of
sweet tea (yes Arnitha, there is sweet tea still brewin' here!)
I made Rose laugh. "I need to learn to bump the door from behind like you do", she nodded and
laughed. I'd hoped she'd heard it as a compliment and a thank you.
when you are tired and hungry and in between homes, a brilliant smile and a kindness go a long way...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Some random thoughts and random pictures

Nap Time!!!!

Inside joke to our friends: Look at the street sign.

Which way do we go?

Church reader board signs seen in Alabama:

Give to God what is RIGHT not what is LEFT.

How is that again? Is that implying that the RELIGIOUS RIGHT is what needs to be given to God? What about the LEFT?

Righteousness exalteth a Country?

Sounds like zealotry. How righteous is a Zealot in Iraq? Afganistan?

Move too far south and the brain does begin to shrink, it must.
In the south, It is astounding how many churches there are. What is odd is to see an LDS and a Jehova's Witness Kingdom Hall amongst all the Baptist and Episcopall and Church of God and............ Do they cancel each other out or is it the source of some hell fires that make it so bleeding hot down here?

I found a great surprise for K . We have been wanting to find a Cheeseburger in Paradise on the way accross the country. I went to a starschmucks, no free wifi, no soy for my latte, but I found a Cheeseburger in Paradise!!

And I had a Cheeseburger in Paradise:

" I like mine with lettuce and tomato, heins 57 and french fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer, good God almgithy, which way do I steer for my...?" Cheeseburger in Paradise, Jimmy Buffet.
It was good, the atmosphere was fun. Our waitress, Donna, was a hoot.
Last night, K and I found a great little place, Kenny D's, 2964 US-98 W Scenic Gulf Dr
Miramar Beach, FL 32550. Since we did not get to have southern cookin in Louisiana, we had it here.
I had the crawfish etoufe, K had fried grouper smothered in etoufe. This is some of the best food I have ever had in my life, hands down. The etoufe was so wonderful.
We walked into an empty restaurant and were ordering when the Kenny of Kenny D's made his suggestion to have the grouper fried. Fried, the texture of the grouper was delicate but held up to the etoufe so well, tempered down the spice a bit.
The food has been so great.

Tonight, K got us bar b que from a great little place down the road with the most moist and tender slow cooked chicken. Green beans with hunks of ham and little corn bread muffins that were only missing honey butter.

When we went on vacation in Las Vegas, K, my sister, her partner and I ate well and often. We had warned my sis that we went to eat. We vacation to eat. So my sis called my mom and said to her "They really do plan their vacation around where they eat.

Is there a better way to cross the continent than eating?

We passed several little places out in the middle of nowhere that had a huge wood pile, an out door chimneyed slow cooker and smells that promise ambrosia.
I have said it before, Ahhhhhhhh.

So it is OK that the southern zealot follows their drummer, as long as the food tastes this good.

Some folk art K snapped in downtown Brantley Alabama.

K is asleep, so are the Puppies, I should be too.
Hello to all the wonderful friends at Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital. Debbie, I kissed Puppette on her wet nose for you.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wastin away...

OK, it is not Margaritaville, per se, but it is so grand.
I tried, for the majority of the life of the lap top battery to get a video clip or two on here for you to see the water, hear the surf... but it looks like I need to read the manual for transfering videos.

It is too beautiful to describe. The temperatures are from 72 at night to 91-92 in the day. The humidity is heavy, like stepping out of a hot hot shower with the bathroom door closed. The water is so inviting. The red flags (dangerous conditions watch for rip tides) were down and yellow ( watch for possible rough water, but calmer than red) flags were up. No so much for the boogie board, but great to just let the waves push you around a while.

The person in the unit above us left yesterday so now we are all alone in our complex. We went out later last night in search of food.
It looks like so many of the wait staff at any restaurant are so tired from the hustle and bustle of the season, that they have nothing left to give. We went to a wonderful place list night, we had been there before. We ordered golden fried button mushrooms and smoked amber jack dip. We were supposed to get crackers with our dip, but got nothing. The look on the waitresses face when we said we would be taking it to go was a look of resignation of another lost tip. I will not get into the argument over tipping, go to Waiterrant for that.

We made a late night trip into a local food store that was closing and shopped fast. After a week of fast food, we I found myself suddenly craving fruits and vegetables. We bought an apple or two for Poppy. All was well.

We got back to the place and tucked in to the best smoked amberjack dip I have ever had.
We got ready for bed and found an uninvited house guest.

The wonderful man renting us the condo warned us the lizards could get in. This was a fiesty lil guy. He was calm enough until he realized he was trapped in the plastic container and then he got all fired up. I let him out, into the damp grass off the patio. Fare well little guy, good hunting.

OK, a wonderful bistro, carb heaven since it is a bread shop, but for all its wi-fi connectivity, there are no outlets to plug in so the lap top battery is dying.

We are trying to decide when to leave out little piece of paradise. There might not be another post until saturday.

Hang in there, everyone.

From the South we is wishin' y'all ta hev a nice day.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fun in the sun!

We are arrived!!

The sand on the beach is so fine, so white that it can squeak under your feet. There is no hopping form one foot to the other exploring the depths of your cursing abilities, but a cool soft floor of nature to escort you to the gentle waves and sureal vista that is the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfold the new beach chairs, bought at one of the local (there is one every block, no really, one EVERY block) beach store. The smell of coppertone sun block 50 competes with the salty winds and the rare waft of cigarette smoke from down there, some where.
Thank you Jennifer, here's one for you...

" No, really, AJ, the wave was HUGE!"

Meet a local or two:

A lizard above, a flock of pelicans below.

Look at the local dining room:

One word: GROUPER!!!

Local color:

Relax with friends:

It is a good thing, to realx. To lie under an umbrella that blocks an almost too hot sun that pinks your skin and beckons you back into the waves. Waves that are bath water warm and that play with you not unlike a big puppy. Misjudging size and hitting you just a touch too hard, they can throw you down in the sand and surf only to grant you that momentary reprieve so you can stand up, wipe salt from your lips and eyes and be tagged by the next bubbling breaking wave.
Walk out a bit further, the water is up to your hips now and you are more fully embraced, less likely to be toppled. You judge the incoming swell and jump at the right time to be carried back to the beach. The outgoing wave sucks at your ankles and pulls you out to play again. The white sand beach is inviting you to come sit under that umbrella, relax, listen to the song of the waves and the stories of their travels.
Come, sit.. listen...

I am sitting in a cafe, wifi enhanced, latte on board, K is at the condo, puppy sitting. I have been away from them too long, away from the beach too long.

Last thoughts:
Sherri and Richard, peace and our thoughts and prayers and hugs to you.
Thank you, once again, to everyone who helped us get here.

A picture for Craig, courtesy of K:
We miss you all, we cherish you all.



Moving right along...

Moving right along, dug a dum, dug a dum… Fozzie and Kermit from The Muppette Movie.

In this grand adventure…

OK stop a sec. I know I have refered to this odyssey like this before but there are only so many ways to describe this trip and all its myriad of happenings, so I apologize if I repeat myself.

We finally reached the Condo!!!!!!

Florida was 86 degrees at 7:00 PM and muggy as hell.

We crossed three states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida in just one day. Everyone did a great job. We hit much more rain since a failed and weakening “tropical depression” was heading north. That rain was a true deluge. I do not use that word lightly… it was heavy enough to keep you from seeing the car ahead.

All the states are very pretty in their own way. K and I saw many places we would like to come back and explore. But that is for another time.

After settling in the animals, and finding out there is someone in the unit above us, we tried to leave to get something to eat. It was just after walking out the door and almost reaching the van that we first heard Puppette barking. Then Bugsy and Poni was yelping in a very high pitched voice (at least we think it was Poni, for all we know she is the most well adjusted of the critters and it was Bug making the yelps)

Since we have someone above us, we trashed our plans to leave and came back in to relieve the dog’s anxiety and our neighbor’s discomfort. I went upstairs to talk to the neighbor, but they would not answer their door. How am I supposed to tell them what is going on if they will not co-operate.

This brings up a dilemma: If we can’t leave the animals alone because they will bark their brains out and disturb everyone, how will K and I get to the great restaurants you all know we have been talking about for two years? How will I get to the beach and have K videotape me on the snifty boogy board my PT partner gave me as a going away present? How is this going to be a vacation?!?!?

So it goes…

There is no internet here, I have to go to an internet café down the road and post. And, I will have to go alone.

It is murder, I tell you because the sun is shining, it is already above 70 and humid, and looks to be a grand day for FL adventure, and we are stuck with separation anxiety dogs. We will probably give them all Benadryl to make them sleepy, our vet said it was OK to do this, so hackles down people.

What can one say? We are in FLORIDA!!! It is off season, fall just started, there aren’t as many tourists….. heaven if we can just get past the dog anxiety thing.


Breakfast from WAFFLE HOUSE! We have been waiting a long time for this. These calories and this cholesterol do NOT count, got it?

Dinner last night was peel and eat shrimp for C and we shared spinach artichoke dip and crab dip.


Crossing the Mighty Mississippi!



There is a rocket test center in Mississippi. This Lunar Lander module was actually used in the Lunar program as a training craft. How cool is that? And, one of the Apollo 13 astronauts had his boot prints placed in cement and it is under the lander module. Fred Haise.


Looks like snow, right? This is the sand and these are the dunes between the highway and the Gulf of Mexico.


Settling in at the Condo. K has great hair and does not look wiped out despite a full day of travel. How does she do it? I will never tell.

K asks… is this relaxation? Or exhaustion? Or maybe… a little bit of both.

K is on the couch, Poni on her tummy, falling asleep again. Maybe K9 anxiety will keep us here and make us rest… time will tell.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Spaghetti in Cajun Country

A long day.
Up early, pack all the overnight essentials into the minivan and leave the Hotel just in time for all the fast food joints to stop serving breakfast. Fortunately, immediately next door to the Hotel is the rib place we ate at last night. They serve breakfast burritos all day. Blessed be!
Get breakfast, gas up, hit the road. Doubt what the GPS navigational system is telling you, then believe it and turn around and find out that dumb little box that controls your movements, like sudden lane changes in the middle of no where Wyoming, and POOF you are back on track and skirting Dallas.
My father grew up in SE Texas and, if time just were not a concern, I would have detoured to see his home town. It was, says he, about 80 miles south, where we could have picked up another east bound highway and cut through SE Texas, but we did not.
As it was, I called him and talked to him for over 30 minutes (gotta love those free week end minutes on the ol cell phone) and had fun telling him where we were and having him describe the trees, some things he did as a kid. My father saw Elvis in Shreveport when he was young ( Elvis and my father were both young at the time. Dad is one up on the King, Dad is still alive!)In Texas, we saw a camel ranch. I have seen many odd things from the car window in my life. But I looked at the field and said "Look, camels". Dad was on the phone with me at the time and said "What?" and K said "What?" K missed the camels.

We hit our first rain of the trip. I am used to NW rain that kinda takes its own sweet time to fall out of the sky. Here, it kinda falls with an attitude. K described it to having a bucket of rain thrown on your wind shield. I can't come up with a better description.
There is the remains of a big storm that failed to titillate the National Hurricane Center
But managed to dump over an inch of rain in the area where our condo awaits us. K thought it would be OK to be stuck inside on a rainy day. She said reading a book in Florida is different than reading one at home. Again, I can't argue with her thought.

We settled into the hotel and we have a great big room with a HUGE king sized bed. The puppies promptly sniffed the room thoroughly and then fell fast asleep.

K went to a near by food place and got us american fare. I am in cajun country and wanted some crawfish etoufe, but I had grilled chicken with rice and cooked carrots that were so over salted, I could have thrown them out anywhere in NW Washington in place of a salt lick!
K took a chance and ordered spaghetti which she said was not too bad.It is too small to read, but it says "Becca's Steak and Seafood, The 'first' Cajun restaurant in Louisiana.

So that brings us up to date. Poppy did great again today. A bit more talkative, a bit more lively, but tired as hell since he can't sleep in the van.
A friend grew up in the mid west and had never seen the Columbia river. The first time she saw it, she was a bit awe struck at seeing what she had read about and studied in grammar school. Today I had one of those moments. It is not a great picture.

This is a cotton field. We passed many of them. Such a simple plant that has made so many things possible. Humbling, to me, to see what a huge part of The South relied on, created a demand for slaves, impacted history.

Manna station, better well know as Sonic. Love that cherry lime aide.Peace and quiet. If you follow the sine curve of the wiener bodies and extrapolate the function of that curve, I feel it would give you the equation to eternal contentment, peace, serenity.

That is what I wish all of you: eternal contentment, peace, serenity.
Thank you all for your love and support and help making this adventure reality.
Thank you for riding along with us.
There is much more to come.
But now, to bed.


Food critic by K.

I have rediscovered the essentials for driving cross country as I've done this a few times
Sonic's drive in : best onion rings ever! chilli cheese dog, cherry limeade and iced tea

Salted nut roll: it's kinda like having some protein!

Lots of beef jerky: Jack's preferably (i am going to buy stock in this company)

Hotel room fruit: usually an orange or apple, today a banana!

drive through anything! save time, easy handling food, usually smells better than it
tastes but who cares when you're starved and you are considering snacking on the
parrot's food!
(ps. we take acidophilus every morning)


The young woman who greeted me at Shoney's Restaurant just 100 feet from
our hotel had beautiful brown skin. She looked smooth and sweet as any of their desserts, but I
thought "she doesn't know how beautiful she is!". I couldn't see the name on her tag but I noticed how serious she was about her job and later did discover that she had customers who favored her attentiveness.
C. wanted to try the Chicken and rice on the menu, I was only a little hungry
(I took a chance with the baked spaghetti). The fellow who actually took my order was a tower
of sweat, his name was Denny. "It's hot back there, huh?" I said rather obviously. "Yeah it is!"
said as only a southerner can say it. (God, I love the South!)
A pale skinned woman with lots of freckles and loose hair sat down to rest, she
asked me if I'd been helped and in my best NY version of drawal answered "yes, ma'am ah have!" (I just can't help slippin into it) She smiled and we both returned to watching a little girl
who cuddled with her mother for kisses.
Most of the patrons of Shoney's ordered the usual American fare, I heard orders
for Fish Sticks and such. I thought "Nothing much must happen here".
That's when Mina stomped in. Mina looked like Pebbles maybe all grown up in her midlife. Her hair was red toned and pulled up on top of her head and teased. She wore the classic waitress garb of button down white blouse and black pants and she complained that she was using someone else's apron tonight. "The pockets are too deep and I'm lost!" She looked harried and I felt a little sorry for her thinking, she's stuck here with no excitement...
That's when two fellas entered the restaurant and give her a "Oh my God you're alive kind of hug" and I get the story. Mina was arrested along with two bad girls with whom she shares a house ; there was a local woman murdered the other night as well. They thought it was Mina! So Mina's things by her frantic report are still at the Police station. (I haven't a clue why). No one knows who the dead girl is, "They won't release the name yet!".

Somewhere in between dramatic story lines, a couple dressed in dark purple
T-shirts for the local TIGERS team grinned as they shared the score with the family who cuddled the little girl. The fellow chewing on a toothpick said 28 to 16! "We gave 'em the 16!"
He laughed at his own joke quietly. His wife watched to make sure he'd given a decent tip. She
had decals of tigers on both her cheeks. (no lie!)

So here we are in Tiger country and I didn't even know it, in the middle of dark doings and winning games. I am remembering the look on that little girl's face as her mother held her upside down to blow kisses on her face. A lot more happens in Louisianna than one would think.

Friday, September 21, 2007


"Big steaks, big cars , no troubles, yeah that's the place for me... I'm goin' to Texas" - Chris Rhea, Texas

We crossed an entire state today. Now if one were in New England, that would be no big deal, the states are relatively small at the ocean front as each wanted a port for commerce, but I'll spare you the early american economics lecture...
We are now in Texas.
As we entered Texas, I played the song, Texas, by Chris Rhea. K laughed alot. was it that funny or were we starting to get a little punchy?
Kansas was beautiful and flat. As we were approaching a little town and trying to decide to go south now or continue east, K re-programed the GPS navigation system. As soon as she hit "enter", it said "TURN RIGHT". I was stunned and followed suit. Here is the catch, I was going 75 (yes, that is legal in Kansas) and was 2/3 past the exit beginning so I crossed a bit of the white hash marks. I thougth we still had a few miles to go. Then I thougth the GPS was wrong but there was no exit for over 3 miles. K consulted the old out dated paper atlas, and sure enough, the new fangled GPS was right after all. So south we went.
I am not sure what shook me more: the high speed lane change or the fact that I blindly followed what a dumb little box told me. The high speed lane change meant nothing to anyone else, as there was no one within a mile of us any way.
Oklahoma is flat. Hey, c'mon, that is why they are called the plain states, right?
The soil is very red. There was, of course, road construction, and the soil was surprisingly red. These photos do not show it well.

Poppy is doing well. Although we did not have a long noise making session today, He took the longer drive day in stride.
C has a low grade headache that Tylenol and then ibuprofen could not touch. That really sucks when I wanted to help with the driving today.
It turns out that we are just 37 lil miles from where Poni was born, but we won't be able to go visit. They do have new puppies though...

One thing to think on:
When you see this
and this

You know that you are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy. Figuratively or literally.

We had some good bar b que tonight, some brisket, some St Louis style and baby back ribs and an excellent cobbler for desert.
And, we spotted a mecca for C and K... WAFFLE HOUSE!!! No idea when we will get to eat at one, but soon, very soon (wringing of hands and maniacal laughter fit well in this mental picture, folks.)

A form of advertising in Oklahoma:

Sorry it is blurry but it is a semi truck and trailer stuck vertically in the ground, advertising a truck stop off I-35 south.

Ever wonder where all that Wal mart crap comes from? Like the ancient elephant burial grounds? I found it!!!
All that S#!T comes from TEXAS... anyone catching a trend?!?!?!?!?
You can not, unless you see the building for yourself, comprehend how enormous this ware house was. It is probably bigger then the 'Hamster Mall. I am not kidding.

OK I'll get off the soap box. In a flat land like this it just makes you a more visible target.

I need to take some more painkillers, try to fix my neck and pass out again. Tomorrow, another state. We might make it to the Condo in two more days.
Every one is well.

If you are reading this, please leave a comment. It just lets us know you are out there.


I now truly understand why Dorothy was trying to leave Kansas. I imagined even a modern
day D. attempting to find a cooler place to be:

DOROTHY: Aunt Em, I'm outta here. I heading west with Scary C!
AUNT EM: Now don't be foolish child, you know it's that time of year when all the crickets
descend on us. It's only temporary. And the heat and dust? Why...
DOROTHY: No Em! I've got my cell and a gig to play in Los Angeles at Witchy's!
I'm Hollywood bound...Don't worry about me.
AUNT EM: Now hon, be reasonable, you always go a little loopy when the temperature
breaks 90 degrees. Let me show you this cute gingham dress I made for you.
DOROTHY: Gotta fly! Em, Love you!
(dorothy runs to the car driven by Scary C waving to the farmhouse. she is being whipped
around by dry hot dusty winds)
You can catch me in my travels at my ""
(auntie em tears up the curly haired dog runs up to comfort her)
AUNT EM: Damn, she's left me the dog again. DOROTHY! DOROTHY!
DOROTHY: (climbs into the back seat behind Tinman, the saxophone player
Hey T, turn up the tunes. Let's play some ABBA! (then to EM)
Bye Em, Goodbye! Oh, and Em I couldn't find the shoes to go with my red dress!
Mail em to me would ya?!
Cool colors palette:
Poppy's Pistachio green

Suzie's Caligraphy Blue (Suz do you love the texture here?)

Betsy's I love you with a passion Purple

Lastly, we did see a rainbow in Kansas but it was a row of Skittle colored
Truck cabs-orange, turquoise, cherry red, lime green! and lemon yellow. I was so
surprised I never grabbed the camera...

Places we didn't stop today:
The OZ museum (my sister's favorite movie of all time)
the giant brick chess Pawn adorning a ranch gate entrance
the roadside art of a chimney sweep as tall as the overpass (who resembled Chico Marx of the marx brothers fame)
the toy and action figure museum in Paul's valley, Oklahoma
the red clay river bed
frontier museum
the pioneer women musem.
Poni's homestead in Decatur, texas
***We'll plan another trip this way with lots of time to wander-and maybe when it isn't 94 degrees! Hi to all