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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ramblin' Day 22: Florida! When in the South . . .

 

Souce from Greer's Market in Beaumont Mississippi. What is it? Read on . . .

Last night Wayne satisfied his hankering for breakfast steaks for dinner with a run out to Greer's, the local market in Beaumont, Mississipi, a 15-minute drive from our camp at Lake Perry.

"They had this weird stuff you'd be interested in," Wayne told me, but couldn't remember what the said item was called. Wayne knows I'm culinary-curious, and that I grew up with my Dad making delicious soups which included organ meats. I'm far more curious than squeamish than your average bear when it comes to putting parts down my hatch.

Before we took off, Wayne's wifi ceased working at our campground. He needed some extra time to participate in the "war room" of his game and a more cooperative wifi connection, so we agreed to mosey over to Greer's parking lot for better wifi for him, while I sleuthed out the weird food Wayne spotted for me. I figured out it was souse, a new item for me. However, I didn't want to pay $4.52 for a melange of pig snout, hearts, and other sundry hog bits with 20% fat. Besides, when I used my phone to Google recipes using souse, Google insisted I must've meant tomato sauce.

Later I found out it's also a form of head cheese, generally served like you would any other cold-cut—in sandwiches or crackers with cheese. Pass.

Yoohoo: Harlan Coben's favorite character Myron Bolitar's favorite drink.

While we're road-tripping, we're more thirsty than hungry, so I scouted Greer's drinks, too. I've read several Harlan Coben novels which frequently feature Youhoo, so when I saw how cheap it was, I bought a sixer. If you want to know more about Yoohoo, Harlan offers a link on his author's FAQ page. If tldr: it's really bad for you chocolate milk, loaded with corn syrup and 35 mg of sugar/serving. I usually keep my sugar doses to 14 mg or less.

Buc-ee's sign: even off I-10 in Southern Alabama, you can't miss it.

Gas Buddy prompted Wayne and me to reconnoiter at Buc-ee's in Southern Alabama for a fill-up, before crossing the border to Florida. Little did we know we were entering a hallowed Texas gas and convenience-store institution with followers as fervent as Disney. Instead of Mickey Mouse, Buc-ee's famed mascot is a beaver.

Buc-ee's Southern Alabama convenience store is 50,000 square feet!

Driving in was akin to entering a Costco parking lot, where cars weaving their way to one of 120 fuel pump stations feels a bit like an adult bumper car ride—alert, defensive driving required!

Fast food, packaged food, tchotchkes, libations: Buc-ee's has 'em, whether you need 'em or not.

"You've never been to a Buc-ee's?" gushed our pump station neighbor, incredulously. You've They're a Texas phenomenon. You gotta go inside; they've got the best jerky and even their restrooms are amazing!"

I told her I planned to use our RV's toilet because I know whose ass was last on our seat. I was masked; she wasn't.

The Buc-ee's truck, loaded with Buc-ee beavers in three sizes.

Mask wearing wasn't required by customers, but the most prominent Buc-ee beaver for sale in the store wore one, complete with a logo patch of his own image on it.

Pickled quail eggs, Buc-ee branded.

Inside, sound ricocheted off the tile floors while customers bustled about, eagerly buying whatever Buc-ee's was selling. I felt like I landed in Wall-e world.  I did cave and try their $5.99 pulled pork sandwich (okay) and some cold drinks for later.

I am no longer a Buc-ee's virgin. But next time, I'll get my gas and go.

This afternoon we crossed the Florida border. We're in a parking lot in Tallahassee. Tomorrow is old home week in Jacksonville Florida. We'll stay at the JAX Naval Air Station (NAS) until Friday when we head south to Fort  Pierce.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Rambin' Day 21: Mississippi Mudslide to Lake Perry

 

My low-clearance Prius once again demonstrates its lack of off-road prowess.

"Yahooo!" shouted one of our neighboring campers, rousing me from my slumber at 6 am. It was still dark. Their generator and the volume required to hear each other over it kept me from dropping back to sleep. Wayne, wearing earplugs, snoozed blissfully away for another two hours.

It poured overnight, making for muddy roads. Wayne sent me off in the Prius first. figuring he could play read guard rescue if needed. Despite the road being slicker than a greased pig, I only lost control for a few seconds, once in the five or so miles back to the paved road. Wayne said he was saying "Don't stop!" as following me, fighting to maintain control of "The Beast" too.

The official appearance of this sign on a formal building made me smile. Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Given how thirsty The Beast gets, we often use Gas Buddy to find the best price, that's not too out of our way. In Jackson, Mississippi, we bought gas at the cheapest price we've seen so far this trip: $1.63/gallon. 
Classic Hattiesburg architecture in its historic downtown area.

The last time when we drove cross-country from Portland to Florida in 2018, Hattiesburg architecture and vibrant spirit intrigued us. We made a point of stopping there again to stretch our legs in their historic downtown and enjoy the architecture.

National Bank of Commerce, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Vernon F. Dahmer quote outside their courthouse, If you don't vote, you don't count t seemed especially apropos, with the Presidential election a little over a week away. Vernon F. Dahmer was a martyr; he stood up to the Klu Klux Clan in defense of black voting rights. He and his wife were murdered for it, but his family made sure their killers were prosecuted.

Close up on the Bank. Note the build date, 1895, and the plants taking residence.


Hattiesburg also posted more signs urging mask-wearing than anyplace else we've driven through this trip. Mask-wearing was still hit-or-miss.

More cool concrete building detail. Hattiesburg Mississippi.

If I chose to live in a small town in South, Hattiesburg appeals. Housing prices are more reasonable than most, with a 1600 sq. foot 3-bedroom for less than $150K—36% less than the national average.

Detail on Hattiesburg Mississippi Post Office facade: airmail delivery.
I remember the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle exhibit on airborne mail carriers—
a dangerous job, back in the day. 

On the other hand, Hattiesburg rated a "D" in crime and an "F" in schools according to Area Vibes. More homework required if we ever choose a place to settle down!

Welcome sign, Lake Perry, Mississippi.

We mulled whether to burn a few more miles and treat ourselves to a meal in Mobile Alabama for the eve. However, we'd camp in a Walmart or Costco parking lot if we did. 

One of several Lake Perry docks. Mississippi's Pine Belt.

Instead, we opted for fewer miles and a $15 camping fee for Lake Perry, outside Beaumont Mississippi. We opted to skip the power use, for $7 more.

Not hard to tell who's being welcomed to Lake Perry—fishermen!

After the Little Sunflower River Recreation Area's smelly mud pit, Lake Perry offered a pleasant place to rest our heads.

The swampy area off Perry Lake Nature Trail. Near Beaufort Mississippi.

We wandered the docks and walked the nature trail.


Different shape to lily pads on Perry Lake, Mississippi.

Instead of the dank stench of swamp mud, we inhaled Perry Lake's pleasant piney scent. It's considered part of Mississippi's Pine Belt.

Wayne wasn't going to feed the 'gators. Perry Lake, Mississippi.

"Nah, I don't see any 'gators," scoffed Wayne when he saw the warning sign. 
"Just because you don't see them, doesn't mean they're not there," I countered.

Look closely! The dark streaks parallel to the gator look like another two swimming alongside.

Sure enough, later I pointed one out to Wayne. Initially, it looked like a log. "That is moving mighty fast for a log," Wayne observed. My zoom confirmed our suspicions—definitely, at least one 'gator swam by.

A good warm-up for when I return to Florida, where I kayaked with many a gator—and only once got scared. I still don't know if that was a 'gator or a manatee.

Tomorrow we'll end up somewhere in Florida; not sure where, yet.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Ramblin' Day 20: Toad Suck to Little Sunflower

 

Toad Suck Park, Arkansas.
Image credit 
Toad Suck | Scott5114 [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)]

Okay, today's drive was really from Aux Arc Park Arkansas to Little Sunflower River Recreation area in Mississippi, but we did pass Toad Suck Park exit about 100 miles along. I wanted to stop, but it was closed.

You may be wondering how the heck anyplace got such an oddball name. Click here for the story.

Instead, we drove through long spaces between blink-and-you'll-miss-'em towns, with one of the largest a population of a little over 3,000. We drove through driving rain, thunder, lightning, and oppressive humidity. A thick towel is now resting on the dash of the passenger side dashboard to catch the liquid sunshine. Since this is our first rainstorm in the RV, we're not sure how much those leaks are due to the accident or were there before.

We settled at the edge of a swamp in the Delta National Forest between Rolling Fork, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City—Little Sunflower River Recreation area. The middle of nowhere but better AT&T hotspot access than I get in most towns.

Boat launch area at Little Sunflower River Recreation Area, Delta National Forest, Mississippi.

We called it a day, squatting on a spot far enough from the other campers to cause no offense. We walked down to the boat launch, taking in the muddy water and the dank scent of mud. The humidity and those first hungry mosquitos drove us back to our RV, pronto. We still got a few bites.

Tomorrow we're not sure how far we'll go yet. We'll probably stopover in Hattiesburg, Mississippi which we liked when we passed through it on our last cross-country trip, then just ourside Mobile Alabama for the night. Last time, Mobile surprised us with its New Orleans-style charm.

Seen on the back of a motorcycle in Oklahoma, where we stopped for gas and propane.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ramblin' Day 18 & 19: Ozarks, Arkansas

 

Mulberry River launch area off Arkansas Pigtail Scenic Byway.

After confirming everything worked on "the beast"—aka our RV—after getting sideswiped, we made sure we got our ducks in a row for the insurance.

The barge on the Arkansas River across from our campsite at Aux Arc, Arkansas.

We expect that the bodywork our RV needs will prompt the insurance company of the woman who caused the accident to consider it totalled. It looks pretty bad. Meanwhile, we moseyed on down the road.

Ozark, Arkansas, view of the house atop the hill across from our campsite at Aux Arc, Arkansas.

Wayne tracked down a campsite at an Army Corps of Engineer site, at Aux Arc Park, across from the town of Ozark, Arkansas. With our America the Beautiful pass, it's only $10/night. Much better than the Walmart lot in Henrietta, where we tucked in to assess the damage to our RV and spend the night.

Former Coley Grocery store in Ozark, Arkansas.

We found out the name "Ozark" came from a simplification of the French naming "Aux Arc."

Former bookstore in Ozark, Arkansas.

We were curious to see the area because it looked so beautiful in the Netflix tv series Ozark. Technically, the series was set in Missouri; the Ozarks straddle Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The bridge crossing the Arkansas River at Ozark Arkansas.

However, the series was shot in Georgia! 

Ozark, Arkansas is a small town, population 3,000-something, with some decent bones, but much of its sidewalks are rolled up for good.

Mulberry River Bridge from canoe and kayak takeout. Arkansas.

Our campsite at Aux Arc on the Arkansas River is picturesque, but the crown jewel of the area is the Pigtail Scenic Byway, named for because it's the popular route for University of Arkansas sports fans to take to see Razorback games.

Tree at Mulberry River kayak takeout area. Arkansas.

The 19-mile stretch of road curves its way through brilliant foliage in you're lucky enough drive it in the fall. With temps in the 70s and 80s. we picked a perfect day to enjoy the road.

Walking stick on Wayne's shoe. Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

When we stopped to enjoy views and a hike, we came across quite a few waking stick (insects) and daddy longlegs spiders. They were we;; camouflaged, but we're grateful their scurring habits caught our eye so we didn't step on them by mistake.

Glory Hole trailhead off Highway 23, near Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

We enjoyed a leisurely start and pace and picked a relatively short trail to allow plenty of time to enjoy the drive and return before dark. At less than 2 miles round-trip, the Glory Hole trail fit the bill.

Homestead across from Glory Hole trailhead off Highway 23, near Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

Throughout the drive, we saw quite a few former homes and barns in state of decay, including one directly across from the Glory Hole trailhead. However, when we left, we saw someone delivering a bale of hay onto the property.

Rock clives, Glory Hole trail, Arkansas.

Glory Hole trail was a former road, so other than a lot of potential ankle-twisting rocks, it was pretty easy hiking.

Ledge overhang, home of the Glory Hole. Arkansas.

The trail's feature is a hole bored through an expansive rock, viewable from a hollowed-out cave-like ledge underneath. 

Glory Hole: a trickle in late October after a dry summer and fall. Arkansas.

We knew from reading reviews ahead of time that normally water basted through the hole, but not to expect much this fall.

Glory Hole: looking up from underneath. Arkansas.

Still, the hike was worth it even just to enjoy the fall foliage and inhale the rich scent of loam. Besides, if more water rushed through the hole, we would've missed out in the terrific view looking up through it from underneath.

Beautyberry, growing wild. Arkansas.

It's a popular trail, but we encountered less than a dozen hikers on a Thursday in fall. We needed a good day after getting sideswiped. We'd love to come back and explore this area again someday. If you can make the time, do!

Fall decor: Clarksville, Arkansas.

Tomorrow we resume our convey form of travel, me in my Prius, Wayne in the RV, heading across Arkansas. We may or may not roost in Mississippi by the time we call it a day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ramblin' Day 17: Accidents Happen

 

In our case, it was a Lexus and our RV. Actual damage photos coming.

If you're wondering what happened on day 14, 15, and 16 . . . . 

Wayne stayed in Albuquerque, I spent time with family in Larkspur, and we reconnected in Amarillo Texas last night. That was my most boring, uneventful drive.

Amarillo Texas, Travel Assistance stopover. Foggy, this morning.

Our drive today was equally uneventful—right up until when Wayne, driving our RV, got sideswiped this eve by a woman driving a Lexus, 

Everyone was able to walk and drive away but there's major body damage to our RV. Tomorrow we'll figure out how that plays out from an insurance perspective.

More on that tomorrow. We plan to head to the Ozarks for a day of hiking tomorrow. Our next stop is only 130 miles down the road. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ramblin' Day 13: Albuquerque to Larkspur Colorado

 

Rio Grande River at Embudo Station between Santa Fe and Tao New Mexico

The drive was 400-some odd-miles from Kirkpatrick Airforce in Albuquerque base to Larkspur, Colorado, home of my brother Mark, and sister-in-law, Patty. It's hard to believe it's already been a year and a half since we saw each other; the last time was heading cross-country from Florida back to Portland, in May 2018.

Wayne remained behind with the RV to do some repair and enjoy having the place to himself.

Krysteen Waszak happily posed with her awesome plein air painting. To see more of her work,
visit www.krysteenwaszak.com or via IG @
krysteenwaszakart.
Krysteen's studios are in Albuequrque and in Taos.

I took the more scenic route, through Santa Fe and Taos. 


Fishermen plying the waters of the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

Golden cottonwoods arched over the Rio Grande River, paralleling the highway. 

Sange Cristo Mountains, Colorado.

Entering Colorado, the sagebrush somewhat gave way to agricultural plains and small pioneer towns, the Rockies soaring up from the valleys. I'll enjoy a few a days kicking back with family before heading of Monday morning for a long drive to meet Wayne in Amarillo Texas.

Prarie dogs just outside our camp spot in Red Rock NM,  near Gallup New Mexico.

This is a little bit of cheat. I didn't download the image of this prarie dog couple until we were leaving Red Rocks New Mexico. Better late than never, and they were too cute not to post, especially since I didn't get a snap of the white-bottle-brush-like tails of the kaibob squirels hopping around outside our Jacob Lake campsite.

I'm hoping the next time I see Mark and Patty, it will be aboard our boat in Florida or the Caribbean.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ramblin' Day 12: Off-Road Misadventure, Courtesy of Google Maps


This road should've been my cue, even though Google maps told me this route
led to Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico

99.99% of the time, Google maps serves me flawlessly well. Then there's that other .01%. Today was one of those days. 

Remember seeing that sign up in the school counselor's office: If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably wind up someplace else?

My Prius, high-sided in the sand from the front en route to Kirtland AFB Albuquerque NM.
This wasn't my first visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico. but my other visits were long ago, limited in scope, and brief. I've never been to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. I did what I usually do when I have no idea where I'm going: I plug the address into my GPS application, usually Google maps.
My Prius' front tire, in spin position near Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The dirt road in the middle of nowhere should've clued me in, but instead, I let blind obedience lead me to follow my Google map directions instead of listening to my common sense. After about two miles of gravel road which became a sand road, my GPS cheerfully chirped "you've arrived at your destination"—in the middle of the sandy road in front of—nothing.

My Prius, it back-end also high-sided in the sand and rear tire in spin position
en route to Kirtland AFB Albuquerque NM.

I turned around, retracing my steps, or rather, tire treads [where the sand still showed them]. As I got within sight of the paved road [about 1/4 mile off], I puzzled over which fork in the road to take. Just then, Wayne called me from the air force base. I stopped the car, answered my phone, and told him I was lost. When I restarted my car, I realized the other fork in the road was the correct one to take, and promptly high-sided my car. That's not hard to do in a Prius; my one complaint about it is its ridiculously low clearance.

I tried to back up. My tires spun. I tried to go forward. My tires spun. I got out and looked at my car: definitely high-sided. I looked for something to dig it out or provide traction under the tires and saw: sand, sand, and more sand.

Kurt, driving away in my rescue vehicle after he made sure I was good to go. Albuquerque, NM.
I looked up and by some miracle, saw a dirt biker. I gave the land equivalent of the swimmer's distress arm signal. He rode up to see what was going on. Daniel, the dirt-biker, tried a bit of this and a bit of that to no avail.

"Do you know anyone who could tow me?" I asked. He told me he had a truck and could probably do it. About 10 minutes later, he returned on his dirt bike, followed by the Parks and Recreation truck. "His truck is better suited," he told me. 

"Where were you going?" Kurt, the truck driver, asked. Kirtland Air Force Base, I told them. They scratched their heads, brightened, and said, "Oh yeah, up that road [pointing the paved road] there used to be a gate to it, but it closed, maybe about three years ago."

Within less than 5 minutes, I was on my way.

"Don't use Google maps," Kurt and Daniel sagely advised as I pulled away. "And don't slow down on the sand." I didn't.

Thanks, Daniel and Kurt, for being my heroes for the day, and refusing any reward, and insisting it was a pleasure to help.

As far as Google maps: follow it unless your common sense tells you not to; then follow your common sense instead. But I used Waze to get to Kirtland AFB.

Tomorrow I detour off from Wayne and our RV to see family in Colorado until Monday morning and may well hold off blogging until after I rejoin Wayne on Monday eve in Amarillo Texas. If you're keeping count, day 11 was Grand Canyon area (we camped at Jacob's Creek) to Red Rock Arizona. I mostly just drove that day, but may post the photos of Navaho Bridge once they decide to stop playing the hide part of hide-and-seek on my laptop.