Chanukah – making it up as we go

Okay we knew the date of Chanukah a long time ago. We carry a Chanukia or Chanukah Menorah with us that my sister gave us maybe 50 years ago. So what’s the problem? When we left New Orleans we entered territory where there is no market for Chanukah candles. Not in WalMart, not in any grocery store, for that matter the nearest synagogue is in Houston, 90 miles to our south, a long way to go for some candles and it is too late now anyhow, next up Purim.

We scratched out mutual heads and decided we would be okay if we brought out the menorah and looked at it. That just does not work. What to burn, without burning down the coach. Tea Lights! we bought a lifetime supply several years ago in some junk shop (probably a Christmas Store) for $2. Here is a picture of our dashboard last night, 2nd night of Chanukah:

Its all there. The Shamas is elevated on the priority mail box. The Chanukia Sandy gave us, my name in Thai (I think) and oh yes the expiring registration for the coach to give the date 🙂 
Happy Chanukah 
and Merry Christmas as well for those who celebrate it.

Rip Van Winkle Gardens

I promised to write about these gardens, located on Jefferson Island in southern Louisiana. This is one of the five salt dome islands which include nearby Avery Island, the home of Tabasco Sauce and the MciIhenny  Family. Joseph Jefferson bought Jefferson Island with the proceeds of his acting career. Without providing the entire biography, he came from a family of actors and he sought a “property” that he could make his own and tour with. He met Washington Irving and decided that the Rip Van Winkle story would be that property. He made his costume and properties first and then set out to write a script. He produced the show and took it on the road across the country playing to large and happy audiences for years. He became world renowned for his depiction of Rip Van winkle. Eventually he had homes in Massachusetts, Florida and Louisiana. This was his winter home and he loved the view from the front porch.

View from the Porch with Carol
Eventually he died  and his children sold the place to John Lyle Bayless who developed a salt mine in the salt dome. The salt was considered the finest quality table salt available. His son J Lyle Bayless sold the salt mine to Diamond Crystal and developed the gardens, eventually building himself a new more “modern” house on the adjacent lake. 
Nearby Texaco was looking for oil under the lake in 1980. They made a miscalculation and put a 14″ drill bit through the roof of a section of the salt mine creating a major sinkhole. The results can be seen on this Youtube (runs about 9 minutes) The new house that had been lived in for 30 days went into the lake. 
Lyle continued to develop the gardens and created a foundation to own the property and preserve it. The son of the gardener who developed the gardens continues to maintain them. We took plenty of pictures, but the web site is worth seeing. Be sure to check out the recent history as it is far more complex than I have written. They had plenty of time and their choice of light to photograph the gardens and the peacocks. But they did not get this picture:
Its after Carol’s ankle!

Out of Time and Out of Place

As usual we refuse to take a major road when a lesser road will do. We left Grand Isle with eight days to drive 700 miles to Livingston TX. We could have driven up to I 10 and stopped in Lafayette, but we have spent time there and wanted to try something less direct so we turned on to LA 24 toward Houma. Again we really didn’t want to stop in Houma and US 90 beckoned, but we turned on to LA 182 through Waterproof LA (never even saw a road sign for it but it is on the map so we must have passed through it). Eventually we were forced on to US 90 as it was the only road going our way. Approaching New Iberia – think about that name in French speaking Cajun country – we located a Passport America campground, half off is always good, at the Iberia Parish Arena.

Each white pylon is an empty RV spot
We are one of fewer than 10 in this campground laid out for 180. We are definitely out of time here as there is nothing doing at the fairground and this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas 

 seems to be very quiet wherever we have been.

We are still two days from Livingston, well one if we actually wanted to be there sooner and take I 10, probably not going to happen.  We are staying in place at the empty campground while we catch up with laundry and finalize updates to our websites.

Speaking of which, with Dan’s help we have moved both of our websites to a new hosting company, Carol has completely redone with new galleries and new images. I have wiped the cobwebs off and added some new links. These are both “works in progress”. I will try to remember to note when I make changes to mine so, if you are interested, you can jump to either of those websites and then follow them back to our blogs. It is a bit messy right now, and I hope to have it cleaned up before we leave for Israel.

Our personal links as of today are:
Xctraveler Blog
Message in a Minute

Grand Isle and other stuff

We made it to Grand Isle and without a reservation we only had a choice of 40 of the 49 sites here. This is not the biggest season on the Gulf. LA 1 bridge may not be the longest in the US but it is clearly the longest in Louisiana. Toll was $9.50 for the coach and car, one way (no return toll). It was built because after Katrina it became clear that the former road would be under water any time there was a major storm, and with rising sea levels it eventually will be under water at high tide. No one in the Louisiana government would attribute this to climate change, that is far too scientific. They are just being practical.

Grand Isle makes Red Bay look like a hotbed of activities. To get anyplace requires a long drive over a two lane road to get to Cutoff, yes that really is the name of the town. There are two parallel roads that run from Larose to the Golden Meadow. One, LA 1, is along the bayou and is lined with small towns and fishing companies and shipyards. The other, LA 3235 a block to the west, is newer and presumably quicker as it doesn’t have traffic lights at every town. We took the old shore road down. What was the hurry? But we will take the newer road north when the time comes, it may be less stressful, with less cross traffic.

Now that we are here it feels restful. Carol is updating her new website almost daily with new pictures. I am doing little projects that somehow have cropped up or been put off because I don;t want to do them.  I have recreated  and should be opening it for viewing as soon as I get up the gumption to transfer the domain from Myhosting where it has been since 2002 to BlueHost. Watch for the announcement. In the mean time you can see Carol’s in progress at (I just asked her permission to post his).

The shore birds are plentiful and I have even gotten some reasonable pictures with the Panasonic DMC -ZS20 20X zoom lens:

and even one crab:
About the size of my thumbnail

 We cannot help but think about the many people we know who are in various stages of fighting for their lives or making adjustments knowing that their time may be near. Just the other day my sister and her husband cancelled a trip to New Zealand and Australia, when her middle son’s mother-in-law was stricken with a burst aneurysm in the brain. That she is still alive and recognizes family seems to be a miracle. May the miracle continue to improve! 

The fog has lifted, it is warm and sunny time to go out and play.

New Orleans

We left Summerdale on Monday the 1st with a plan to stop at Infinity Center at Exit 2 in Mississippi which also encompasses a Welcome Center and Stennis Space Center. We had stopped at this Welcome Center several times passing through and decided that it would be a good time to take time to go on the tour. I also had seen that overnight parking might be possible in a side section of the Welcome Center. We always look for free. The tour got off to an unlikely start as the cash register computer was down and would not reboot to even open the cash drawer. They issued us paid bands and said they hoped the cash register would be working when we came back from the bus tour of the Space Center.

This center was developed in the early ’60’s after Kennedy’s call for landing a man on the moon within the decade. Senator John Stennis saw to it that this site would serve for developing and testing the engines for that project.

 They built a canal to enable the large engines to be transported from there, by barge round Florida to Cape Canaveral – later renamed Cape Kennedy and yet again renamed to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The engines were much too large for any other mode of transport and they could not tested in Florida as there was not a large enough buffer area to make it feasible. The tour is worth a stop if you can allow a couple of hours in your travel schedule. It is no where near as exciting as the the Houston Space Center or Kennedy Space Center tours. The Infinity Center would be a fine break for families with younger children on a road trip looking for an educational event during a long day on the road. Also it would be an interesting stop for nearby locals looking for something different. The center today houses 7 different government agencies and several universities’ space and research departments. Just in the “N”s are NOA, NASA, Naval Research Laboratory and Naval Seals.

It turned out that the signage was clear that overnigitht parking was not permitted and the staff at Infinity confirmed that and one remembered there is a Walmart in Waveland, MS about 15 miles back to the east. That is where we spent the night. Mid morning on Tuesday the 2nd we drove about an hour to French Quarter RV Resort located just 2 blocks north of the French Quarter. It is almost unbelievable that such a nice RV Park is located where it is with I 10 just to the north, I can watch traffic without getting out of my seat, and the French Quarter just two “ugly” blocks to the south. We do not walk back late at night as it does not feel safe to walk through a no man’s land of abandoned public buildings and parking lots in the dark. We have not moved the car since our arrival nor will we until we prepare for departure in the morning.

Our special New Orleans treat yesterday was dinner at Commander’s Palace. This is one of the most highly rated restaurants in a town of highly rated restaurants. We had eaten there only once before, a brunch because that was all that was available on short notice (two days) during our visit. This time the notice was even shorter as I called mid morning and was able to get a table for 2 at 7:30 that evening. To make it really memorable we walked to St Charles St and Canal and followed the St Charles Street trolley tracks to the first Car Stop on St Charles where we got a trolley to ride out to Washington Street where the restaurant is located. We arrived within minutes of our reserved time and were seated immediately. The only complaint of the evening was that Carol’s risotto got gummy as the meal progressed. My osso bucco of lamb was delightful, no there are no Foodie pictures, it looked like beautifully presented food! Naturally the shank of the lamb was vertical. A minor cavil, there was no marrow scoop. Not that I have ever seen one other than in a picture as on this page.

A cab brought us back to FQRV and Geewhiz and a good night’s sleep. Wednesday brought us back into the French Quarter and lunch at Stanley’s. Great oyster poorboy for me and Carol had a delightful salad. We stopped by the French Quarter CVS to pick up a prescription and had a long talk with the not very busy pharmacist about  places to eat and places to visit. His lack of “busy” is due to the location and the very short pharmacy hours, 10 AM to 2 PM daily! We continued to walk through many shops and buy nothing and several galleries where we also bought nothing. Back to the coach before dark. we will have dinner on board and watch a movie.

Tomorrow we are planning on moving to Grand Isle, about as far south as you drive into the gulf in Louisiana.  We will stay a few days and Carol will be able to finish the latest updates to her website and I will work at bringing my website out from under the cobwebs and presenting it in a new “dusted off” version and then I will be able to add some new material. I may even move this blog to it. Watch for the news

Updated 12/6 to include image of Engine Test Stand