Cindy's April 2007 Blog
April Fools Day
We are back from our much awaited trip to Jamaica and enjoyed every minute of it. The best part of the trip wasn't that we were on a Tropical Island with nothing to do but sun bathe, eat, drink and sleep; No, the best part was the company we kept.
Being with true friends and enjoying the laughter of old memories and new found ones made the time away from the USA an unforgettable one. (Not to mention learning that the sun circles only around the island of Jamaica) It is great to be home and sleeping in our own bed, even though we don't have room service anymore.
I feel very ashamed that I have let this April Fools Day come and go without a single prank. Unlike the previous years when Pat and I, with our very Twisted Humor, put a dead raccoon in my sisters drive way and propped it up with a cigarette in its mouth and a pair of sunglasses on.
We thought this was hysterical and laughed till our faces hurt at the thought of her moving it in order to park in her driveway, we didn't know she would just drive across her lawn and bust a few sprinkler heads, which turned our prank into an even better story to tell at family get-togethers.
Or how about the time we placed a dead bird on the top of her front door so it would land on her when she opened it (She's terrified of Birds) or maybe the time we called Pats mom and told her we were done with each other and I would be staying at her house until the divorce was final. (Sorry Guys! We let you off easy this year)
This year we did something different and I mean really different. My sister, here in New Orleans, invited us to a Lakota-Sioux Sweat Lodge where we would sweat in a tepee for an hour and become one with ourselves!!
This was so much more than what she had described to us in her laymans terms. You see my sister had never been to one either, so none of us were sure of what we should expect. We rode with a new friend, Billy, who has been to this ritual around eight times before. Billy didn't want to give us any impression and wanted us to judge for ourselves what we could take home from this excursion. When we arrived we were greeted by some very nice, normal people who gave us a friendly hug and made us feel very welcome.
We proceeded to find out that it was a different kind of tepee and it had no hole on top which is what my sister had said. The Sweat lodge was made with hand cut willow branches that were bent to make the shape of a low tepee (Think Igloo). Heavy dark blankets, around 50 of them, were then placed on the top and the sides as not to let any light in. What looked like lava rocks were heating in a fire when we arrived and they would be placed in a hole which was dug into the center of the lodges mud floor.
We counted 23 people that would enter this small dark spiritual place! I tried to put the fact that I am very claustrophobic into the back of my mind. My sister looked at me with a very strait face and said "That's small and I'm Claustrophobic!" I told her to "Shut up and don't be a wimp" and said "We would be just fine."
Some of the regulars had brought various musical instruments such as leather covered drums and various hand held noise makers to take us to a more spiritual place and bring the higher power closer to us. After a few songs/chants, we all entered the tepee on our hands and knees, I was seated between two people and had a row of people in front of me. The wool of the horse hair blankets was on my back and a few nice people were practically sitting on my lap with my legs crossed Indian style (no pun intended).
The fire tender brought fourteen glowing, hot lava rocks in and dumped them into the sacred hole in the tepees floor. I thought "This is a piece of cake, I can handle this!" Just as I was feeling comfortable and enjoying the prayer and spirituality of it all, they poured the water on the rocks. Just then Pat said to cover my face with the towel and don't forget to breath!! (Duh, who could forget that?) After around 10 minutes I was dripping with more water than I could possible have ever retained in my cycling days. I told myself to relax, I knew where the flap was if I needed to get out and it really was a very surreal feeling to hear everyone's prayers and feel like we are all one entity.
I continued to tell myself "I will be OK!" That was until the nausea kicked in and my head started to spin, at this point I was in a full on panic attack!! I waited for this lovely woman to finish her prayer and hear the instructor announce the first round was over asking "Is every one OK?" This was my chance, I said "I gotta get out!" As I crawled my way across the cool mud of the lodge floor towards the door I thought "I'll be alright", while crossing over a few people I heard some other panicked voice ask to be let out and I thought, "Good, at least I'm not the only wimp."
I made my way out and took a deep breath of nice cold 80 degree Louisiana air and soon realized my panic had went away. As I was sitting down out side the Lodge to gather my thoughts I saw the person with the other panicked voice, it was my sister! We sort of looked at each other and giggled as we sat as close to the tent as possible to continue to hear prayer and also do some praying ourselves.
We waited for the others to come out, which was around 30 minutes and 28 rocks later!! It took a few minutes of silence and sucking in fresh air, before everyone started talking and sharing their experiences. We hosed the mud off, said our "Good byes" and went on our merry little way.
This was a very challenging, beautiful experience and I would love to do it over and over again until I can enjoy the grandeur, yet simplicity of it all. We hope to find other sweat lodges like this while we are on the road if at all possible. I would do this again in a minute, as you know the old saying," You have to face your fears before you can concur them."
Thank you Billy & Teresa for a wonderful journey and good luck with yours also. Take care for now and hope to see you all soon.
April 3rd 2007 My First Crabbing Experience
This morning we woke up with the intentions of finding a place to kayak so that we could see the lay of the land here in Bayou country. We had seen a couple of outfitters on our way in here and had gotten some great suggestions and directions to a few of the close spots. The thing I like best about asking the locals where to find the best spots is not the places they tell us to go its the places they tell us not to go. Pat and I had our hearts set on kayaking the Atchafalaya Basin in the middle of the state, after talking with the locals they said it is so easy to get lost and no one will ever find us except for the gators! Needless to say just driving by it will have to suffice.
We ended up traveling to see a couple of the places that were recommended to us that were close to our home base. After driving for a while we turned down a small dirt road (Hwy 434) which looked like it was hit hard by Katrina. The houses were either in disarray or being repaired as we were driving by.
It is really hard to imagine what these people have had to endure for the past two years just to get their lives back together. It is also nice on the other hand to see the rebuilding and know that they are one step closer to having a home. As we traveled further to the end of the road we met a couple of nice guys who explained to us that even at high tide the end of the road is completely covered with water.
Our new friends Matt and Chris were on the side of the road fishing or so we thought. Actually they were doing what they called Crabbing. This consists of a long thick string, a big piece of raw chicken, a rock and a net.
The thick string has a piece of raw chicken at one end and a heavy rock at the other end, the chicken is then thrown about ten feet out into the water and within a few seconds it seemed the blue crab were biting. Sometimes the chicken would have one crab on it and other times we saw up to four crabs on the bait at the same time! The netter (person holding the net) then swarped, as Matt said, the crab off of the chicken and the crab was put into a deep pot. Chris told me that all he had to do was add water and seasoning to the pot and after boiling for a while they made an extravagant meal, a little hard to get to but well worth it.
Matt is here in Louisiana from West Virginia working for the government to do ecological clean up due the destruction of the hurricane. Chris lives here and he is also working to clean up the water ways and remove the debris that could cause future damage. I think they both have rewarding jobs working for NRCS and I would feel good coming home at night knowing I had helped rebuild this place to even better than it was before.
As we watched them crabbing I could see all kinds of mullet fish jumping out of the water and we also got a few sightings of the cutest little 50 pound otter. The female otter had some pups in a den right across the river from us and she kept stealing the chicken off of the lines.
Chris and Matt would throw rocks near her when she came up out of the water not to hit her, only to scare her. I think this tactic didn't work, because she eventually stole the entire piece of chicken off of the line and ate it right in front of us.
Eventually Chris noticed how excited I got watching them work their magic and offered to let me try it. I tried the swarping technique and to my surprise I caught two at one time. These little buggers can snip you hard, so they taught me where to hold them so that I could show my catch. Man was that fun!! I just really can't say enough about Southern hospitality and the way perfect strangers have treated us as old friends.
We are going to try and kayak this water tomorrow but we found out that the chance of rain is 40% so my fingers are crossed for some good weather, so we'll let you know.
April 5th 2007 The Ogden Museum & The Circle Bar
The weather here in the New Orleans area has turned pretty chilly and windy on us so the kayaking is out until it gets above 50 degrees again. I guess its not as bad as some of the weather our family is having back in Michigan, we spoke to them yesterday and they told us it went from 70 degrees one day, to 6" of snow the next!?!?
We decided to take a suggestion by Daniel, one of the guys we met at Massey's Outfitters, and check out the Ogden Museum of Southern Arts in down town New Orleans. The museum is located in what they call the Warehouse District which is just what it sounds like. It is nestled amongst a few other museums and allot of warehouses. It's only minutes from The French Quarter and probably an area not too many tourist get to. It's a shame, as the area is filled with great buildings and cool attractions.
On the first floor of the museum, a lovely four piece band consisting of all horn players started us off with a great taste of that New Orleans Jazz music the city is so famous for. The open foyer lead us to art located on the next four floors. After walking around looking at the different works displayed, we went up to the roof top deck to have a drink and check out the views. With the Abita Beer Brewery being just across the Lake, we sampled a few different types of locally brewed beer while meeting some of the museum regulars.
While getting to know the locals, they informed us that we had an open invitation to an after hours party by the museum director. This was located in the Patrick F. Taylor Library. The Library has been recently renovated to its original grandeur after years of hard work. The floors are taken from matching wood from an old warehouse, the huge sandstone fireplace has been repaired using stones from the original mill in Massachusetts; even the oak hammer beams in the vaulted ceiling were restored as closely as possible to the original structure.
So good of a time, that when Pat showed me the last few pictures taken, I had a blurry recollection of them. When we arrived home at 4:30 a.m. I was ready for bed, thank God Pat paced himself, sometimes I think I take advantage of the fact that he is always the driver.
This was the agreement when our trip first
began, he drives and takes care of the outside of the camper and vehicle
and I cook and take care of the dogs, the cleaning and keep track of our
expenses. I think it's a pretty good arrangement since I love to
cook and hate to drive. My only hope is that I will still remember
how to drive when this trip comes to an end.
April 9th 2007
Today we bid farewell to my family to venture out and see some more of the countryside. It's always sad, leaving your loved ones wishing you could take them with you, but then on the other hand, I was getting very eager to explore more of the unknown. We said our "Good Byes" and planned our destination for the upcoming days. It was actually only a few hours away, but still to far to keep Folsom as our home base. It took us around five hours of driving and we ended up in Iberia, Louisiana where we've settled in at the KOC Campground.
When we arrived our plans were to stay for one night and tour the Tabasco Bottling Co. in the morning, then continue on our way North.
At our arrival to the KOC we were greeted by the owners of the park, Mildred and Charlie, who were very helpful in giving us many more ideas in the area to see and do.
They gave us some brochures and offered their assistance if we needed directions or phone numbers for any of the local attractions. After checking into their suggestions, we've decided to stay for a couple of days to take advantage of the many local attractions. It's always great to meet Campground Owners that know the area and want to make sure their guests get a full plate of fun.
April 10th 2007 Jungle Gardens and Stalking Alligators
We woke up this morning to torrential down pours and gloomy skies which altered our plans a bit and kept us inside until the rain was over. It didn't let up till around three o'clock in the afternoon. We decided to try and go to Avery Island which is only six miles from the KOC Campground. Avery Island is a natural deposit of salt which is surrounded by a bayou on one side and salt marshes on the other. The salt is so dense and deep that it actually rises above the rest of the low lying land and brings the island to around 163 feet above sea level at its highest point.
The Marsh family first started mining salt here in 1818 and before that Native Indians used the salt as a natural resource. The Avery Island salt mine is still in use today as well as the Tabasco Bottling Co. located just a few miles from it. Ned McIlhenny who mastered the growing technique of the Tabasco pepper was also a naturalist and decide to cultivate over 250 acres of land and turned it into an incredible garden with various plants, flowers and trees that he imported from all over the world. The park has some species of trees and flowers that have become extinct in their native country, yet are kept alive and strong here in Louisiana.
His garden has now become a park that you can drive though at your own pace to see the wonders which he had discovered in such things as Chinese Wisteria, Papaya Tress, Grapefruit Trees, Soap Trees, Arbor Vitae, 64 different types of Bamboo and many more species of his favorite plants.
The park is also rich in wild life ranging from alligator and snakes to white tail deer and the almost extinct Snowy Egrets. Legend has it that in the late 1800's the plumes of the Snowy Egrets were used in ladies hats and they were hunted close to extinction to fill the demand for them.
When Ned heard of this, he ventured into the swamps and caught seven young Egrets and brought them back to a man-made pond where he had installed raised nests specifically to breed them. A success story to make any Naturalist proud, the Snowy Egrets have since increased into the thousands and return every year with April being the heaviest of the breeding season to raise their young.
After spending over a month in Florida, we couldn't believe we hadn't seen one Alligator?! The Bayou is different and the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island are a haven for them. Within minutes of driving into the sanctuary, we had spotted dozens of them.
Pat got out of the truck to get a close up shot and I couldn't just sit in there letting him have all the fun. I jumped out and was stalking up behind the little 3 footer when it lunged at Pats camera that was just feet from it's razor sharp teeth. We laughed at how when ever we would get near one and it would lunge at us, I would push Pat towards it and run the other way.
We ended up spending over four hours in the Jungle Gardens seeing so many great things that we drove around it again taking as many pictures as we possibly could. We left the park at nightfall and turned in for a good nights sleep in our little cabin on wheels.
April 11th 2007 Champagne's Swamp Tour & Tabasco Hot Sauce
This morning we got started early in order to see all the destinations we had planned. We started off with a tour of the Tabasco Bottling Co. which was "OK" but not much to really talk about. We did get some really cute little samples of a couple of their best selling sauces and we were on our way to the Champagne's Swamp Tour. We had called Brian from Champagne's Swamp Tours the day before and set up our appointment.
He gave us some great directions and explained it would be a 2 hour tour where he would get us to the best parts of the swamp (He wasn't kidding). We boarded a 12 person swamp boat and off we went bumping and jumping through the water amongst all of natures creatures that live in this Bayou country.
Brian told us to sit in the front of the boat as we would get the best pictures from there. He brought us so close to some alligators that we could have reached out and touched them. At one point, Pat had his camera inches from the snout of a 10' Gator!!
We saw the Nutria which is basically a large, very destructive water rat that was brought to this country a hundred years ago and the Cajuns have been regretting it every since. Brain told us it ruins the swamp land and the Louisiana wildlife has a bounty on their heads.
There were so many turtles hanging out, taking in the sunshine, that I lost count after 75 of those critters. When we were very deep into the oldest part of the swamp, we had the luck of spotting a very large barred owl.
Brian killed the motor and inched us right up to this magnificent bird as it just watched us as we floated around him. We saw a cypress tree which is said to be at least 1000 years old!! When you see nature this way, it makes you realize that mans life span is just a drop in the bucket compared to many of Gods creations.
Brian also brought us to an area which was a breeding ground for the gator and he knew the babies would be plentiful in this protected area of the swamp. With a bit of work and allot of bulldozing his boat through the thick brush, we got close enough to catch a crying baby gator.
Brian reached into the dark, murky water and grabbed the little sucker with his bare hands, not thinking twice about it or wondering where the momma was. He let us all hold the little guy and showed us how they can't really bite enough to hurt at this young age. This trip was filled with local info from Brian that you wont read in a book and can only be seen first hand.
I would recommend this to anyone young or old. We even had a wonderful gentleman on the boat with us that is 92 years young and he very much enjoyed it as much as the rest of us. He was from Colorado and told us it was his first trip to the Southern part of the United States. You should have seen him light up when he held the Gator in his hand and scared his wife with it trying to get her to touch it.
It just goes to show you that you're never too young to be out here enjoying the great outdoors and really gives Pat and I a warm feeling knowing if he can still do it, then we know we can do it for many more years to come.
Check out the Champagne's Swamp Tour Gallery for our days photos
Extreme Ice in the Bayou and New friends
After our exciting swamp tour, we stopped at a quaint little roadside bar called Extreme Frozen Ice for a frozen daiquiri. Fortunately we had picked the right spot to stop at again, feeling like we just walked into our good friends living room.
The owners Ed and Michelle were on duty and Michelle blended us some cocktails. We sat around in the Southern Louisiana heat sharing stories with each other and learning more about the local area.
While we were there we had the honor of meeting Jason, one of the locals who lived across the street. He was hysterically funny and we had so much in common it that was scary the way our minds all clicked together. Ed offered us some home made Cracklin to snack on. I had to explain the deep fried pork skins to Pat as he was clueless to what Ed was offering him. Seeing as how I'm from Tennessee I was familiar with the southern delicacies and these home made treats.
After a few hours of fun, we had talked with Ed and Michelle about their family and the ages and antics of their two girls. After a few phone calls from the girls I realized that they were probably missing their mom and dad and I asked them when they usually closed, granted it was around 9:30pm at this point. To our shock they said they usually closed at 6 pm!!
You see I told you it was like we were at a good friends house; Pat and I always seem to be the last to leave a good gathering. We wrapped up the night by exchanging numbers and email addresses and were given an invitation to join them for a night out on the town the next night. Jason said after sitting drinking with us all evening, he wants us to meet his girlfriend who sounds as great as he was. We will let you know what comes of this excursion as I am sure it will be some crazy fun!!
April 12th 2007 Two Stepping with Hubert Maitre @ Randol's
We started our morning with updating the web site and organizing photos and such. We spoke with Jason and asked about plans for the night and unfortunately he had to work late. We ended up going to the office at the KOC campground and spoke to Mildred, our little tour guide. She gave us directions to a restaurant which is only 15 minutes away from us named Randol's. She said that the bands there are true Cajun style musicians that really get people up and dancing so we wouldn't be disappointed.
When we got to Randol's the dance floor was packed with two steppin, side steppin, twirlin' and swirlin' dancers all stomping their feet to the sounds of Hubert Maitre and his band. This was a little intimidating at first since I enjoy dancing but I can't imagine getting up there with them.
The band was as Mildred told us, quite a sight to see, it was hard for me to understand the words they were singing with the French and Creole twang added into it but that didn't matter because the rhythm and beat was incredible. My feet did not stop moving and my fingers were snapping while I tried to clap my hands. I can't even imagine how terrible uncoordinated I must have looked to all those great dancers. We ordered some appetizers and continued to watch Hubert Maitre and his band play until we were the last people in the place.
We did meet a nice couple who could cut-a-rug with the rest of them and they filled us in on a few places to see some of the culture and rich Louisiana heritage. I walked out of there saying to Pat how I could stay here in Louisiana for a really long time and would love to be a Cajun even if for just a day or two. The traditions that are being passed down through the generations are something to really be proud of.
In a society where everything is becoming disposable, including our heritage, this area has been untouched by the passing of time. When ever I hear about Louisiana it is usually about New Orleans and Marti Gras, don't get me wrong, Marti Gras is something to enjoy at least once in your life time, but the rest of this state is where the real delight has come from for us. The people are friendly, helpful and the way the alphabet rolls off their tongue is something I could listen to for hours.
April 13th 2007 Cajun Hot Sauce Festival & Jaryd Lane
Today was the beginning of the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival here in New Iberia and we attended to enjoy the festivities. The gate opened at five o'clock with a variety of things to see and do. They had a pretty big outdoor fair and some rides typical of a local county fair, under the enclosure were lots of venders so we could bring home a souvenir, plenty of food and lots of hot sauce.
We walked around for a while checking out the food items and the two of us non fish eaters enjoyed some fried catfish with fresh made potato chips. Some times we just have to step out of the box realizing that trying new things will often surprise and delight us.
The night got started with a home town entertainer named Jaryd Lane. He sings country music and his voice will send chills down your spine, not to mention he is very easy on the eyes. We at first had not recognized his music until a ballad was sung, San Antone; we had heard it on the radio just the day before and wrote down the name of the song but didn't get the artist. I have to say that even though Jaryd was not the head liner, he was my favorite entertainer of the night. I am listening to his CD right now and I haven't heard a song that doesn't sound incredible. We were able to be back stage so we could get some really nice pictures and talk with him after the show, he seemed so happy to just be doing what he loved. I really hope that the rest of you get a chance to hear his newest CD Jaryd Lane, Riding for the Brand, because it's just fantastic to the ears.
At 9 o'clock, national recording star Billy Currington began his show, we were really surprised at the big names and awesome talent they had at this festival. When I think of how small the town of New Iberia Louisiana is, I didn't think this would be such an awesome event. It was really well run and everyone seemed to have such a good time. At one point, while waiting for the next act to come on, the whole crowd was dancing the hustle together. That has to be really hard to get a couple thousand people to sway together let alone do the same dance move.
Billy sang my favorite song by him, Must be Doing Something Right, and I could just visualize him rolling around on the beach with his shirt off. (The Video!!) By this point the floor was so packed with people singing and dancing and screaming that we went up into the bleachers so we could get some photos with out peoples heads in the way. He puts on a good show and the crowd really loved him and knew all the words to his songs.
Just as we thought the night was coming to an end we had the delight of another band that started at 11 pm. We had heard of Jamie Bergeron & The Kickin' Cajuns band from numerous people whom all said they loved them and I can see why. The first thing that caught my eye about this band was a little boy that was playing the accordion which was as big as him. He was probably around five years young and he was already a showman, tapping his toes and kickin' up his leg when he hit a certain note. That was just an enjoyable distraction to the rest of the talent that was on the stage. Wow!! Kickin' is a great name for them.
All I could do was smile and clap my hands the entire show. I don't think I've ever been to an event at which I smiled through out the whole show. I can't even begin to explain the energy that they put out to the screaming crowd. Again it is the Cajun feel in the music that I loved. I could not understand anything that was said and I am beginning to like that about Cajun Music.
By the time we got home I was exhausted and we are debating on weather to stay another day and go to the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival tonight to see what they might have in store for us. Tonight's main headliner is Percy Sledge, who doesn't love his music?!?
April 14th 2007
We got up this morning and headed down to the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival a little to early. When we arrived people were still setting up for the day, getting ready for the afternoons excitement. We decided to venture out for a while and give them some time before things start rolling.
We ended up going to see Ed and Michelle to spend some time with them before we left on Monday. Ed and Michelle asked us if we wanted to go into downtown Iberia to see what the downtown had to offer. We would also get a chance to meet some of the people we had been hearing stories about while playing pool and getting to know each other at their little bar.
The 4 of us went to a couple of places which were their favorites and met some of their good friends. We ended up ordering some pizza for dinner which was delivered right to the bar and after our bellies were full, we called it a night with plans for having a cook out on Sunday.
April 15th 2007
Sunday around noon I called Michelle and asked her what to bring for the cook out and her reply was "don't bring nutin' we have plenty" When we arrived at Extreme Frozen Ice, there was a line of cars wrapped around the building to get a nice frosty beverage.
Michelle was busy keeping her customers happy while Ed got the feast started. Ed had some BBQ chicken, Polish sausage, pork tenderloin, and one of my favorite things was the Boudin, which is a Louisiana special.
Boudin is a casing that looks like kielbasa stuffed with a sausage kind of meat and a seasoned white rice. We also had some rice dressing (Yum), beans and all the beverages you wanted. We hung out and played pool with some new friends and called it a night around 11pm finding very hard to say "Good Bye", reassuring each other that we would stay in touch.
I find this area extremely hard to leave because it just seems like such a perfect fit for Pat and myself. I could just see us sitting out on our front porch swing, enjoying the sunsets and the Louisiana weather, while our friends and family are playing horse shoes in the yard and enjoying time spent with us. I need to remember that we have more places to see and people to meet before our journey is over. We are heading out this morning to find another favorite place, but this one I will always remember.
April 16th 2007
Somehow today after driving all day long I just happened to doze of for a minute or two and BAM! We are in the wrong state. I wake up at the point as we are crossing the state line and I see "Welcome to Mississippi" Much to my surprise, Pat says in the few minutes that I was sleeping he got lost?!? We decided to make the best of it and stay at a place close by.
The Natchez State Park was the closest spot and we hunkered down for the night, catching up on the world of bill paying, phone calls, mailing letters and all the junk I have so learned to put off. Unfortunately we could not get a signal at our camp site, so we spent a few hours in the parking lot of a local grocery store while we made our needed phone calls and answered our many emails.
We have decided that it might be better for all of us to go ahead and put Lucy out of her misery while also saving money on the vet payment. Pat thought of it so I went along with it. There was no struggle and it seemed painless enough. We will miss her, especially Luca for they were best friends.
April 17th 2007
OK, that thing about Lucy was just a joke. The cable that is attached to her collar is the seat belt that keeps her from jumping out when we have the window down. We found it very funny that she loves to sleep on the bag of books that we were going to donate to a library, so we snapped a picture while she was napping.
After we looked at the picture, we just kind of ran with it and I think the story fits the photo perfectly.
The dogs are actually doing very well; especially Lucy. I have really tried to keep her thyroid pill exactly 12 hours apart which has brought her energy level up and she is even putting weight back on.
We hung out by the campsite today and I made a great dinner on the open grill that is stationary on the site. There is something about those heavy wrought-iron grill grates and those real charcoal briquettes which makes everything taste that much better.
We played some cards outside and had a bonfire until the rain drops ran us inside. By that point, we were both ready for bed anyway. I guess falling asleep and getting lost wasn't that bad after all.
April 18th 2007 Heading North Along The Back Roads
We woke up this morning to more rain and decided that it was time to head North and maybe get back on track to our original destination of Arkansas. We found some great back roads that we're filled with eye candy for the curious.
Many times I would say "Pat just turn around so we can see that house again" The places we drove through have been untouched for decades and are still very much lived in by everything from goats, cats, dogs, donkeys, and we even saw a rooster in the front doorway of one house. Unfortunately the road was so narrow that we didn't have the room to back track and take as many pictures as I would have liked to, so I guess you'll have to take my word for it.
After a day of driving, we ended up at a beautiful campground that I think Pat was afraid of. He said he hated to go this far out of the way just to stay one night. Little did he know that this long trek into never land was the route I had chosen to get us North when I first looked at the map this morning.
I like to take the tiniest little grey lines that are shown on the map with the most turns to them, in the shortest span. These roads always seem to have the most to offer for us photo nuts and friendliest people to meet along the way.
After a big dinner under my belt, a long walk with the very healthy and alive dogs made every thing settle and I'm ready for bed. Good day all, and we'll talk soon. I did want to say thank you to all of the people that have emailed us telling us they enjoy the site. It really means a lot to us that we can share some of our best experiences with you all.
Just an added side note
I'm sure that anyone that has been on our site has seen the picture of our Sunline camper. I must admit that I have never seen one with the decals/logos that we have, and ours is quite unusual looking. Our truck is also a little different with the A.R.E. Utility Bed Cover on it which makes it look like a work vehicle.
I cannot count the times that we have been asked if we sold camper parts for General RV or if we did repairs on campers. I will guesstimate and say 15 people have asked a repair question. Now Pat and I are both very new to this tow behind camper thing, and the most we know is what we read on forums and such. This makes our opinion on how people should repair things pretty much useless to whomever asks us.
The other question we get is, "How long have you rented the camper for?", or "Would you please explain the decals on your camper because we have some friends that would like to rent one like it?"
We had a very nice guy ask us just today "So do you both kayak?", after the guy walked away Pat said "Here's your sign!" I can honestly say that at least twice a day someone asks us where we rented our camper from and that is no exaggeration.
Every time we here that we say "Man, if our sponsors only knew how many times a day we talk about them" I just wanted to share that little tid-bit of info that we get a kick out of every time we hear it.
April 22nd 2007
For the past few days we have done nothing but relax. We have spent a couple of nights sitting out by the fire, eating some good grub and meeting some new friends. The White Oak Lake State Park that we ended up in is really nice with some great views of White Oak Lake, plenty of bird watching and listening to their distinctively different calls and we have also enjoyed the beautiful stars at night.
We have spent some time kayaking on the lake which is really eerie in the early morning when the dew has not quite burned off the water yet. It reminds me of a Friday the 13th movie the way the smoky dew surrounds me as I paddle through the dark tannic water.
The lake used to be a river and back in the 60's the state dammed it and flooded the area. Many of the old cypress knees are still sticking up out of the water as testament to the drier swamp land that used to lie here. A couple of times I would hit a tree stump that was not visible from above water, scaring the daylights out of me.
There is something about the unknown under belly of dark water that keeps my mind racing about what could be under there and what monster could possibly eat me while no one is looking.
We were sitting by the fire one night and the camper full of fisherman next door offered to share their venison stew with us. I must say to this date, that has got to be the best fire side dinner we have had yet. The meat was so tender and rich and the broth was very thick and filling with lots of fresh vegetables.
Our neighbor Don also offered us some great suggestions on where to go in the area to see the best wild life and the lay of the land here in Arkansas and Missouri. He even gave us his name and home phone number, telling us that he would volunteer his services as a tour guide around his neck of the woods when we get a little farther North.
Our other neighbor struck up a conversation with us and we found out they have a very interesting hobby which I can't even imagine how steady of a hand it would require.
Ron uses his skills to paint lovely pictures of wild life onto Turkey feathers. I had never seen one of these type of paintings before. His wife Brenda was trying to explain it to me when she finally said she would have here husband bring some over to show us.
Ron also frames them into old barn wood frames that he makes himself. I was really delighted when he offered to give me the one that first caught my eye. I am trying to figure out how I can frame it and hang it in the camper without loosing it over the bumpy roads that we have been traveling down in this neck of the woods. (Velcro!!)
We are headed out this morning and I'm not sure what our destination is at this point. We have heard so many good things about Arkansas that I think we might be hear for a little longer than planned. Gee that's a surprise!
April 23rd 2007
Rise and shine at 6 am and ready to take a long float down the Caddo. The Caddo River is located in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains and it has quite a bit of flow to it even though the outfitters explained to us that it has been very dry in this neck of the woods this year. We put in our kayaks around 10:30 am due to the fact that we love to talk any ones ears off that will listen and blue eyed Ron and his mom were happy to oblige us. Ron spotted our car for us and said "Have a good time and call if you need anything."
Within the first 100 yards of the Caddo River, we landed on a large gravel road , or at least that's what it seemed like it to me. I had to inch worm my way across the rocks, while the whole time trying to keep my kayak going strait as not to tip over.
At this point in our trip, Pat and I have not been on any rivers with any fun, tricky, fairly fast water to really challenge our kayaking skills. Although this river by no means was real difficult, I have not been seasoned yet to ride with the water, instead of acting like I'm trying to relocate the hundred year old flow of the rapids!
I swear Pat and his camera caught some of the dumbest looking faces that I have ever made, and I didn't even know I was making them. When we got off the water I looked through the photos and I had tears rolling down my face. Ha! None of you will ever see them though, or my husband will be seriously hurt.
All in all, it was a great river with lots of laughs and some challenging areas of rock jumping and hair curdling screams.
April 24th 2007 Happy Birthday to Me
I was awakened this morning by my husband singing his rendition of 'Happy Birthday to Maw' in my ear around 7 am. I turn 41 today and man am I excited - NOT! We usually go on vacation for our B-Days, however this year it just didn't seem appropriate. Pat asked me what I wanted for my big day and my reply was a fishing pole.
On our trip down the Caddo River, I saw so many big fish, I would like to try my hand at the skill that so many people enjoy here in Arkansas. We were headed into a bigger city than Daisy (population 118) when we had to stop to get fuel along the way. In this road side station was displayed the largest assortment of fishing stuff I have ever seen in a gas station, not that gas station fishing displays are a common occurrence in most states. I asked the lady behind the counter if she fished and she said "Every chance I get, I absolutely love it."
After an hour of choosing the right bait and tackle, with her help, I had found my first gas station birthday present! We purchased the fishing licenses and headed off to wrangle in some catfish. We stopped in the down town area of Hot Springs and had some dinner and drinks when we met a young 32 year old man named Sonny.
Actually I was talking with someone at the bar when Pat ran inside and said "Cindy, come outside quick, you have got to see this!"
This is when I was introduced to Sonny standing next to his home/motorcycle. This bike has so many side bags on it, its a wonder he doesn't have Wide Load strapped to the back of it. He said sometimes when he needs to dry his clothes, he just straps them to the various bags and they fly around behind him as he's riding down the road!
We ended up all staying at the same campground and since it was starting to rain when we pulled in, we offered him our couch. He declined stating that he needed to get used to adapting to what ever Mother Nature might throw at him for his upcoming journey around the US.
I went to bed earlier than I ever have on my B-Day, which was very uneventful and just the way I wanted it. I guess I am getting older and more laid back with each passing year! (WOW! that's pretty obvious)
April 25th 2007
Woke up this morning listening to the same torrential down pouring rain that we fell asleep to last night.
The first thing on my mind was poor Sonny, I am sure that he is soaked to the bone.
After an hour the rain let up to just a light drizzle and I needed to take the dogs out for a walk. I stopped by Sonny's and got the low down on the rain intake.
He explained to me that his tent became a literal water bed, floating on two inches of water throughout the night. He said "At one point, I was playing in the puddles under my tent and just began to laugh out loud." I can't even imagine how miserable that must have been, although I couldn't tell by his chipper attitude. We invited him over for some breakfast and a chance to sit somewhere warm and dry.
After a couple of hours of just talking and learning about the places he has been, including Japan, Australia, Samoa, all over Europe and a few stories of his native country Denmark, we realized that the three of us are a lot alike. Sonny had also sold his business and his personal belongings to tour North America, having no set time to accomplish this task.
We went outside with him and checked out all of the gadgets he had installed on his bike to make his journey more comfortable and brought him back inside to show him all the add-on's on our rolling gypsy wagon. It was at that time that we said our "Good Byes and Good Lucks" and Sonny rolled off down the road on his journey.
We took off for a nature ride around Hot Springs National Park because by this point it looked like the nasty weather might clear up. No such luck! By the time that we got back to our camper and ate lunch, it has started to down poor again. I am starting to think that Arkansas could be considered a rain forest if it weren't so cold in the winter here. Hopefully Sonny had made it somewhere warm and dry before the rain hit again.
I guess we will try our hand at fishing tomorrow instead.
April 26th 2007 Downtown Hot Springs
We woke up this morning with sheer determination to see this area of Arkansas, weather it rained or not. It was our lucky day because the weather stayed clear for us all day giving us time to check out the infamous downtown Bath area on main street. Most of the Baths are being refurbished right now and after speaking to one of the workers he jokingly laughed saying "It will take 5 more years at the speed we're going."
Fortunately they have accurately reconstructed the Fordyce Bath House and turned it into a museum which if free to the public. Pat and I took 2 hours to go through this spectacular Bath House. It seemed as though the Doctors and people of the 1920's and earlier including the Indians had extreme faith in the healing power of Hot Springs water. One of the Physicians disclaimers was that a day in the baths cures everything from Syphilis to Gangrene to Alcoholism and even Paralysis! Wow, if that were only true!
Pat and I were going to go into the only bath house that is still in use today and has actually never closed its doors since the beginning of the Miracle cures of the Hot Springs began. After entering the lobby, which was beautiful, we viewed some pictures of an elderly lady (70's) scrubbing people while in the tub. Now don't get me wrong, I always loved going to my Grandma's house and taking a bath in her huge claw foot tub and having her scrub the dirt rings off of my little Tomboy body; adding lemon to my hair to make it really clean and smell nice, however, I put a stop to that at the ripe old age of 8.
This made my decision to not indulge in the reasonably priced scrub and massage that was being offered. Pat and I continued on our sight seeing tour until the hunger got the best of us, which is usually every 2 1/2 hours for me and we walked back to the camper and had lunch. We were back on the road again to find our next destination.
Our travels brought us to a quaint campground in Lake Catherine State Park. I have come to the decision that I love being camped next to a lake! Rivers are lovely with the sounds they share with us, and Oceans are incredible with the huge expanse of blue moisture that emanates around you; but a lake has so many things to look at and enjoy. The trees, geese, ducks and the various plant life that grows in the calm waters can give some interesting sights for hours to gaze upon. Unfortunately our little spot right on the Lake was unavailable for the weekend or we would have stayed even longer.
April 27th 2007
Our trip today was an interesting one which I must say kept me wide awake for the entire drive. (Very unusual) We took Hwy 7 North, and drove along this scenic road the entire way to our next campsite. This road/trail has got to be one of the best roads we have been on yet. I find myself saying over and over "SLOW DOWN" to which Pat replies, "I'm only going 25!" I have this extreme fear of us flipping over and I can just see us rolling down the side of the mountain with me thinking "Is this mile going to be my last memory?" We only drove 4 hours until we found a nice spot right on the Fourche LaFave River. The River Road Campground was well hidden off to the side of the road, away from any traffic, as little as there was on Hwy 7. The river was flowing so fast from the Nimrod Dam letting go of its spring run off, that we were unable to fish in the strong current. I am still looking for even a nibble on my bait to give some kind of hope that I may one day catch a fish.
After my 4 hour attempt at just learning how to cast yesterday, I saw eight fish, non of which were interested in my stinky cat fish bait. I guess Rome wasn't built in a day. My only fear is that Pat will catch the first fish and I will never hear the end of it. This and I'm so competitive, that I don't think Pat even knows there is a major Fishing competition between the two of us.
April 28th 2007 Petit Jean & Cedar Falls
We had a big breakfast this morning with the hopes of getting to Petit Jean State Park in time to take the hike to see Cedar Falls. We got ourselves checked in and rushed to get onto the trail. Many, many other people had the same idea we had, so we passed alot of people on the trail. Most were on their way back up while we were headed down the trail late in the afternoon so Pat could get good light for his photographs. Pat and I were ready as we always are, due to Pats MacGyver mentality. We had our hiking boots on and I carried the survival back pack while Pat carried his big camera and camera bag. We had enough food and water for at least 2 meals while also carrying rope, bug spray, a first aid kit, emergency blanket, knives and a few other various must haves that Pat never leaves the camper without. On our trip to the Falls, we passed numerous people in flip flops, no water, wet shoes, no shoes, no shirt, you name it and man did they look uncomfortable.
I always make fun of Pat for the readiness that he always displays in times of need, but when it comes down to it, he sure does come in handy. When we were on the trail, Pat said "Wait just a minute, stand still" he pulled out the bug spray and removed a tick from the back of my leg. (TICKS LOVE ME) That's my MacGyver, always ready to take on the challenges of this world.
When we reached Cedar Falls, we both were amazed at first of all how many people were there and second of all the beauty that surrounded us. We hung out for a long time, waiting until the 50 or so kids got out of the water and we were able to enjoy the peacefulness of the falls.
Actually, for the first hour we sat on different sides of the river due to the fact that I was afraid and refused to cross the tricky rock hopping which was the only way to the other side. I saw to many people fall into that six inches of rushing water for me to take that chance. After around an hour of evil eyes and hand gestures telling me to "CROSS NOW", Pat finally figured out my weakness. He reached into my backpack, which he had slyly took with him to the other side, and brought out the food. With that luring me across, I quickly got up enough courage to brave the narrow crossing and made it over without incident.
His first response was "I knew you would cross for a sandwich." We sat and relaxed for a couple of hours and decided to head back just as it was getting dark. The hike back up the mountain was a great work out while picking two more ticks off on the way.
April 29th 2007 Catching the First Fish!!
This morning I am going to catch a fish!! We have moved camp sites to a great location right on the lake. This is where I am going to hone in on the fishes mentality and try and think like they think. Within a few hours I come to a conclusion that the fish are thinking "Stay away from her" so I am moving on to something else for now. We decided to take another short hike to see a bridge that was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Davies Bridge is a very quaint little bridge right near a small dam which looked like excellent fishing! I asked Pat to go back to our camper and grab us the fishing stuff so that I could finally get my big break and catch the big one I've been looking for.
Within the first 5 minutes I had caught a big, big, big branch. I was struggling to get it off the line and Pat yells after his first cast "I got one!!" Man was I glad and mad at the same time. All of this hard work and thinking like a fish and trying to see what a fish might see while giving fish kisses to try and really get the angler in me to come out and BAM, Pat got the first fish.
Below you can see why my disappointment turned into hysterical laughter in just a short breath. I couldn't believe it when he told me to get the camera?? I thought, "You want to show people that you actually caught that thing? I think we saw people using a fish that size as bait at the last place we fished at."
I had to put an arrow in the picture so you would know where to look to see the fish!! I didn't want to burst Pat's bubble, but I couldn't believe the fish could open it's mouth big enough to get the hook in there?!? I honestly think he must have snagged it, but I didn't want to tell him that, I'll just let him have his fun till I show him what a real fish looks like.
April 30th 2007
Today we did a whole lot of turning around on the back roads of Arkansas. We would get 20 or 30 miles down some little two lane road, laughing and farting the whole way and than we would realize we were going the wrong way and have to turn around. We saw some great sights including an innovative fifth wheel/Class C motor home and ended up stopping for groceries at a super center. By the time we finished grocery shopping, we decided to spend the night because it was 7 pm. We are only 3 hours away from Petit Jean State Park, but it took us 6 hours to get here. Tomorrow is laundry day so I'm sure we won't have to much to write about, but then you never know?