One Last Crawfish Run

Time to leave Mississippi and head north, but not before stopping at our favorite crawfish hole – The Crawfish House in Ocean Springs. Gonna miss this place

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I GOT THIS!!!!

I should have never uttered those famous last words!!!!

You are probably sitting there right now asking what I did and remember a time you said the exact same thing.  As you all are probably aware I quit my “Corporate Job” and now travel full time with Charlene, my beautiful wife, as a contractor for various gas companies.  This involves lots of walking every day to survey natural gas pipelines and services…and this day was no different.  The map shows a line headed off the main street up a narrow alley and as I look at the area I must now traverse and Charlene tells me “it’s late in the day and we’re both tired, get it tomorrow”.  This is where the utterance of those famous last words laced with pure ego, who said I learn from my mistakes, once again gets me into trouble.  You see this narrow alley is about 3 feet wide, over grown weeds, small trees and basically hard to see down.  With equipment in hand I break out my man card, strap on my ego, and saunter into the unknown.  Okay, step over the vine, duck under the branch, whoa watch out for the brambles.  I see it, the gas meter is just ahead.  I say under my breath “yeah, I Got This”, and press forward.  Mr. Murphy, you know the guy that makes up all those laws, must have been listening to me.  All of a sudden, my right foot just stops moving; and I mean… all of a sudden.  While my right foot stopped, forward momentum did not.  This is where slow motion kicks in.  I start wondering “what the $%^# just happened”? I can see the ground looming ever closer.  This is when my mind’s eye sees the pile of homeless clothing and trash just inches from my face.  It took less than a second for those last few inches to pass by but it seemed like an eternity.  An eternity I had no control over.  Suddenly I hit the ground.  Nope, didn’t miss… I land face first into discarded clothing from the homeless person who had been living here (I will let your imagination put words in my mouth and finish the story). 

The ending… A severely sprained ankle, badly bruised ego, and yes, I needed a shower.  Thankfully my wife let me in the car or it would have been a really long walk back to our campground.  Oh and by the way, yes, I did get it.      – Don

Sick in an Airstream

Being sick with the flu in an Airstream, pray for our survival…..

I never thought about being sick in less than 300 sf would be such an issue, right?  Everything is close, you have several TV’s to entertain you and then your husband comes home.  WTH……seriously……we almost needed an intervention.  I wanted peace and quiet and he wanted to talk, yeah no.   

I like to be left alone to my own devices when I am sick.  I like to roam around my space to either pick at food, watch TV or just plain die of my sickness (I know….being a little dramatic here lol).  Don wanted to talk, do dishes, clean up, watch TV, talk some more, play games on his computer, talk some more……I wanted to do bad things to my husband and not in a good naughty way either.  He was getting on my nerves, but I was sick and entitled to a little consideration like maybe you need to sleep in your truck until I get better. 

The laundry was piling up, I was getting cabin fever and Don still wanted to talk……..what do you do, seriously?  You have to talk and work things out.  I asked Don to come home and to be quiet.  I tried to do things, during the day, to help me along.  One day was some laundry and the next could be some of the dishes.  I tried to get a shower daily, but not always.  Some days I over did it, but I was going nuts with being sick.  I had no place to hide, not enough TV channels and I could only do so much internet surfing.  A book could not even hold my attention and I love books. 

To be honest…..this was the worst case of the flu/bronchitis/crud that I have ever had and it had to happen in our Airstream. I had been to urgent care once, the emergency room twice and my primary doctor twice.  I was put on an IV to restore my fluid intake on one occasion and there was thought that I might be having a heart attack on another visit…..I think I had a heart attack when they told me that.  I carry all the drugs I am on in a plastic grocery bag.  They come with me everywhere.  Did I mention that I hate being sick? 

I am now on the down swing of this nasty crud, but ever cautious that something else does not attach to me.  I am not sure what I could do differently the next time I get sick, but maybe a one way flight to an island in the West Indies might help…..did I mention that I did get the flu shot this year……lucky me…..

Locks of Love

Decided it was time to show Biloxi how locked in love we are. And since we have eclectic taste and Mardi Gras is around the corner we chose a lock to say it all

Happened Upon A Gem

Google maps search for a restaurant led us to an “Innovative Mexican Cuisine” spot 2.3 miles away in Downtown NOLA. We didn’t realize we stubbled across Johnny Sanchez restaurant. How cool to stumble upon a restaurant by one of the judges of the TV show Chopped.

#johnnysanchezno #mexicanrestaurant #NOLA

New Year’s Day, Saint Scholastica Monastery, and Fort Smith, Arkansas

The pastor from the Hot Springs Methodist church recommended that we visit the Saint Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, AR.  We did and we went on New Year’s Day.  We called ahead to Sister Kimberly to request a private tour.  Don and I decided to go early and go to mass.  For some reason, we thought the church was separate from the monastery and drove around the monastery and the school and did not find the church.  Then we thought that the church might be in the monastery, which it was.  I thought most of the people in the church, which were mostly women, were locals…..buzzer moment here, wrong again.  They were all the nuns from the monastery.

 When you think of a nun, you think of the habits they wear.  Apparently, they are no longer required to wear such things.  As long as they are modest, they can wear what they want.  The nuns can even wear make-up and color their hair.  I have to say that the mass was lovely and the church was beyond words.  The architecture was modern and positive for women, but you can see their Bavarian roots in the artwork, the paintings and so much more.  The monastery is huge and unique.  It was beautifully decorated for Christmas.  The calm you feel when you walk in is lovely. 

 Sister Kimberly asked us to come for breakfast and then gave us the grand tour.  Those ladies can cook.  We were well received and I so enjoyed talking to the nuns.  They are light hearted, friendly, well educated (most hold jobs of teaching, nurse practitioner, etc.), and love to laugh.  There is so much history at the monastery and too much to put into writing, but I will say that some of the nuns had talents that were certainly God given.  When you see the paintings, the old robes and so much more you realize that some of the nuns were not educated in these arts, yet their artwork almost seems to belong in a museum.  Unbelievable and just wow!

 Sister Kimberly asked that we come back for dinner, which we agreed to, but I wanted to spend some quality time in the church.  I wanted to reflect, pray and just breathe.  I have to say that I felt a huge burden lifted off my back and I felt happy.  We left for lunch to walk the Fort Smith National Historic Site.  It certainly does not compare to Gettysburg, but I think we all forget that the civil war was struggled and suffered in many states, including Arkansas.  The graveyard is always the hardest to visit, but the most memorable to see.  You walk past people from history that you read about, but really know nothing about.  Books only tell you a certain side of who these people were.  The hanging judge was one of them.  Every person who came before him had either murdered someone or raped someone.  Per the laws at the time, they had to hang which they all did.  He was a wonderful family man and served his country well.  It was sad that his nickname was the hanging judge, but such is history.   

We headed back to the monastery to eat dinner and to get ready for our leave the next day to Oklahoma City, OK.  We arrived to the offer of spirits, a lively young violinist and the enjoyment of the sisters.  I never knew that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day provided good fortune for the rest of the year.  Don was not touching the black-eyed peas, even with the possibility of good fortune.  All the nuns prayed for our safe travels and I was so thankful for the food and their comradery. 

 If you are ever in Fort Smith, AR, please stop in to say hello, get the grand tour and visit with the nuns.  They are so much fun and love to have visitors.  They are not stuffy and you do not even have to be Catholic to come, but come. 

Sister Kimberly (on left) an instant friend
The Alter at St. Scholastica Chaple
We happened to stop under the Mistletoe
The last stop for rapists and murderers in the “Old West”
Not Forgotten

New One Room Rancher Available for Immediate Occupancy

New One Room Rancher Available for Immediate Occupancy

When researching backpacking, especially a 2100+ mile multi month trek like the AT (Appalachian Trail) you always hear about “The Big Three”; Tent, Sleep System, and Cook System.  Part 1: Tent.  Let’s be honest here, the last time I backpacked was 40 years ago in the Boy Scouts.  I basically had  a lightweight for the time “pup tent”.  And the last time I slept in a tent it was a GP Medium in Korea, not exactly a “packable” tent.  Bottom line, research had to be done.  Charlene said “Don, you like to research things, pick it out”.  She also tells me to “not be a cheap ass” and get a quality tent that will work for us. A great idea since this will be our home for SIX months in 14 states.

Research Engaged.  Back in June we sat down with “Postcard” aka Mark at REI in Marlton, NJ.  He has hiked the AT twice and has a couple books on the experience.  We discussed the various options, looked at a couple of tents, and Postcard made his recommendation.  YouTube video time showed me Tarps, Pop-Ups, Hammocks, 1P,2P,3P tents.  There was Big Agnes, Hyperlite, ZPacks, MSR, REI, and many more brands to choose from.  Books were just as varied and EVERYONE has an opinion.  Guess we need to find out our basic needs to have a starting point.  Packable-obviously, lightweight, comfort, room, ease of setup/teardown.  Oh, and what about our gear, almost forgot we have to put our packs and shoes somewhere. 

Using these as filters, I decided upon the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 (what a mouthful) with a footprint/tarp for underneath.  The HV model is a new design with oodles of head/shoulder room and believe it or not, the model first suggested to us.  Lets look at the filters:

  • Packable – check.  Designed to be compact and we can share the burden of carrying
  • Lightweight – check.  Overall it weighs about 3 ½ lbs.  Not the lightest but for the room and features this is it. 
  • Comfort/Room – Sleeps 3 – Why three? Charlene, Me, Gear, and yeah room enough not to kill each other.  It’s HUGE.  41 sq ft of living space, the 2P only had 29 sq ft.
  • Ease of setup/teardown – I was able to watch a video and set the tent up without issue and in short order.  There is even a way to set it up in the rain that keeps your crap dry(ish).
  • Gear – With the rain fly installed there are two 9 sq ft vestibules for even more room and to keep your wet stuff out of the tent and the rain.  And let it try and dry overnight.

Part 1 of the BIG THREE is locked down.  Better yet this system retails for about $580 with the footprint.  Doing some shopping and a little luck on Ebay and I nailed one down for almost $200 less.  Woo Hoo.  We stated with a 1600 sq ft farm house, moved into a 240 sq ft Airstream, and will be shifting to a 41sq ft tent.  The best part is the HUGE back yard the tent will offer… Can’t wait.  Next up… our cook system.

              

Time for a cushy upgrade

Have you ever sat on the school bleachers until your butt was numb?  That’s what watching TV on the couch in our Airstream was like.  After too many uncomfortable evenings watching a little boob-tube we decided something had to be done.  A MiFi, phone, an Air Book, and elbow grease later Charlene finds a company called Southern Stitch in Gulfport, Mississippi that might be able to help us (Note: You never want to clothes shop with us-lol).  The scene now shifts to Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  I see the puzzled look in your eyes, follow along and you will get the picture.  We walked into Southern Stitch, explained our problem, and walked out a few days later with the white foam in one of our couch cushions. Will call this cushion “The Tester”.  After sitting on “The Tester” we called out “this is too hard”, and back we went.  This time we picked out the blue foam.  Another few nights sitting on “The Tester” and we cried out “this is too soft”.  One more time we headed back.  After many discussions, a decision was made to layer the two different colored foams. A couple more nights with “The Tester” and we had our Goldilocks moment… “This is just right!!!”.  Now it’s back one more time to Southern Stitch; this time with all the bottom cushions off the couch and the dinette.  Another week, thankfully we were on vacation, and five C bills later (pretty darn cheap for the patience and quality of work) and we are back in business.  Sitting at the dinette no longer feels like you are seated at the kids table and the couch is comfortable enough to sleep on; and take in a rainy-day movie marathon (Pictures are in the gallery).  Now where is that remote… Charlene!?!?!

Our Airstream A/C Takes A Leak

Gurgle Spit Gush… our Airstream takes a leak

Let me lay this out for you. Wednesday night Charlene says “Did you here that gurgling noise?” Me being the perfect husband replied “That? Oh, that was nothing”. Thursday night I’m laying in bed around midnight when I feel a drop of water hit my foot. “Hey baby, I think we have some condensation in the A/C unit”. But since we turn off the rear unit every night I figure it will just evaporate and all will be good. Now Friday we have plans in Mobile, AL; about an hour plus away. As we are getting ready… gush. What seems like 2 or 3 gallons of water just pours out of the inside grill onto the bed. Did I mention we just replaced the mattress on Thursday morning? That will be another story. We pull off all the linen thankful we spent the extra for a quality everything proof mattress cover. I have to give my darling wife credit here, no I Told You So when she had the perfect opportunity. The plans get changed and we get to work.

While I start checking references Charlene strips the bed and pulls out the extra towels. Dometic manuals…nope; google…nothing really helpful; forums…hmmmm blowout the tube and clean the top of the unit. Call Airstream…love the mothership. They don’t ask if it’s under warranty, just jump in to help. What, now the thermostat has an error code?! WTF does E1 mean??? Phone call in and returned from Colonial Airstream service department. Walk me through the removal of the inside cover, explain the drain system, discuss E1 and tell me how to dry out the communications, and explain the “what” and “why”. My heros.

A phillips screw driver, Ryobi cordless air pump, a few choice words, teamwork, and a little time and … we are back in business. On vacation from our vacation in a couple weeks, so Alice will go in for an A/C check up and cleaning.

Kayaking the Jersey Pines and Being Happy

I used to kayak at least once a week with my dad and his cronies, but then life got in the way.  Funny how you wake up one day and realize that you are not happy with your life.  You want things different to the point that we both left our jobs and bought an Airstream.  I think I need to go back on my meds lol.  I found the more money I made I was less and less happy.  I know that money makes life easier, but does it make you happy, right?!  My friends make me happy.  My family makes me happy.  Don some days lol.  How does money make you happy?  It has no soul, no life, but it does buy the things we need – damn, almost had it figured out.  We all have our own story and our own journey, but mine is just like yours.  How do you change in your 50’s?  How do you live differently?  I let go of a good job.  I rented my house out.  What was I thinking, really??!!  My soul was lost and I was not happy.  Actually miserable and Don said the last month of my job I was a bear to live with.  I had the perpetual frown on my face when I am usually the happy smiling kind.  Unless it is before morning tea/coffee then all bets are off, seriously.  I have to admit that I felt I was a slave to our house with all the maintenance, cleaning, repairs, bugs, and whatever else could possibly happen with a property.  I wanted more out of my life.  I tried to find a job somewhere else, anywhere.  I wanted to move and see different things.  Taking vacations several times a year was not enough to cure that itch.  Then Don found a way for us to do it and I am so glad he did.  I am scared.  I am actually terrified.  I am excited.  I want to throw up.  I am going to miss my family.  I am going to miss my friends.  I am going to miss my colorist.  I want to scream in joy.  I want to scream in fear, but we are doing this – together.  It is going to be one hell of a ride for sure in the Airstream or was that a kayak?
Oh, but this was supposed to be a talk about kayaking in the jersey pines and being happy.  I kayaked with my dad and his friends yesterday and it was awesome.  I had not seen some of these cronies in a few years and this was always something that I enjoyed doing with my dad.  It will probably be one of the last times I will do this with him.  He is getting older and I am not sure how often I will be back to do this with him.  It was easy, relaxing and enjoyable.  We all laughed, especially at me, as I loathe spiders and they always find a way into my kayak every damn time.  I am getting pretty good at killing them without tipping over.  We stopped for lunch on a bend and talked about how the water had risen from the cranberry farms letting the waters out and the dry summer we had……just easy things about life and taking time to enjoy.  We only did a few hours and the current was taking us more than we were paddling.  The weather has been unseasonably warm and we certainly took advantage of it.  Maybe I never took time to smell the roses or those kayak trips or maybe the light bulb finally came on for me.  I really do not know, but I am happy, calm and comfortable.  I feel like I can breathe and get out in a kayak to enjoy the jersey pines and my dad

Why an AIRSTREAM?!?

The almighty tin can was not even on our radar when we started to look at RV’s. We wanted an RV. Plain and simple. Then we found
out how much they cost. Holly shit those things are expensive. Plus, they depreciate. Yikes!! We even tried to go back a few years in certain models to find they either needed too much work or they were not even our style/taste -yuck! On a whim, we said lets look at the Airstream. Wow, just wow. Everything we were looking for was in the Airstream, less the dishwasher and washer/dryer. We ended up in a used 2013 International Serenity 30′ from Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ. We wanted the extra length and called it “the no kill zone”. Anyone married gets that one on so many levels. It came with all the awnings and solar (score) to boot! We were in love. Then we had t find a truck to pull “Alice” with. Holly shit trucks are expensive and there are so many options to choose from. We really wanted diesel, but our wallet said gas. Damn wallet. We ended up with a 2009 Ford F250 gas and we named him Lucky.  Mmmmmm should we be saying Lucky Alice? A story for another day…….

Discovering My Roots

Recently I took a journey I never thought I would make, a journey to discover my family roots. To be honest I always thought this journey would take place by traveling to Ireland and visiting Castle Doh not spending a few wonderful hours in a little town called Gravelly in Arkansas.  My mom past away many years ago and was raised in Los Angeles, but I remember her saying she was from a little town outside Little Rock. Little did I realize the Charlene would encourage, embrace and even push me to go “take a look”. 

 Back in its hay day Gravelly was a town of almost 1000 people. If you look for it in the internet you will find a very short reference and maybe a picture. Today there are somewhere short of 200 people and a town that could easily pass into obscurity.  We stopped at a little store that until someone step out of you would have thought was closed for business.  At the store, we met a wonderful woman and her husband who made us a cheeseburger and fries… or tater tots if you wanted them. To describe this little place, “The Gravelly Verity”, could never do it justice; but let me try. The outside is in need of repair and is getting a new coat of whitewash. The owner and the local painter/handyman are chatting outside. Stepping in we find a few chips, hostess cakes, and sodas for sale. On the wall are pictures of Arthur Hunicutt, an actor born here in 1910 with over 40 movies on his resume and a lynching at the railroad trestle back in the 30s.  These are the towns claims to fame.  My cousin Janice told me Arthur could be a distant relative… cool!!! The bubbly and friendly lady inside offers us lunch and lets us know there is no soup of the day since “the guy that makes it didn’t bring it in yet”. The back room has a dining room table with a few chairs, have a seat. The kitchen is off to side and I notice the stove is broken and she is using an electric skillet, the kind your mom and mine had, to cook the burgers. There’s a TV with an old western movie playing and two lay-z-boys to kick back in. Oh, and the walls have some can goods and a few sundries available. Food was a little greasy but I give it 4 stars for friendly service, treating us like old friends, and for being authentic.  Maybe I should send Guy Fieri a note… hmmmm.

 Grabbing a Mt Dew (soda not moonshine-lol) I stepped out and struck up a conversation with Mike, the owner, and the Handyman who’s name I wish I wrote down. These are real hardworking common folk who would give you the shirt off their back. I find out where the local cemetery and Baptist Church is, down Young Gravelly Road a piece. I also am told of a man who was old as dirt and a school teacher for 40 years that might know my Mom or the family. We shake hands and head out to the Church and cemetery. Young Gravelly Road isn’t pavement, or young gravel, it’s a dry and dusty dirt road. After heading down the road a piece we find then cemetery and church and pull in. The graveyard is OLD. There are makers that are ornate, other not so much. Some that are easy to read and others that are worn and illegible. Then there are makers that have no name at all or just a last name. We notice there are also stones, common rocks, laying around. We find out later there are actually grave stones.  What? Yep, they mark the graves of people who’s family was too poor to afford a “proper” grave marker. We wander around taking pictures of people with my mom’s last name and begins to notice that in 1910 and 1911 so many children died. I wonder what happened. 

 Heading back into town we make a right down “Blue Ball Rd” and follow directions like “head down there a piece and when you get the white house with the $80,000 Kubota tractor, hell he’s to old to drive so he uses this to get around, just pull in and knock on the door.”  House and tractor found we pull in and stop. We see there is “brick-a-brack” all over the front porch as we head to front door. Knocking we hear “come on in, it’s open”.  We open the door to find an old man sitting in the La-Z-Boy the house is a little cluttered but overall clean to the left of him is another lazy boy that is empty my guess is it has not been set in or changed since he lost his wife over 10 years ago. This elderly man’s name was Mr. tween Willis. We sent Mr. Willis is a very interesting gentleman born in 1930 son of a sharecropper join United States Army served in Korea got out using the G.I. Bill became a schoolteacher and it was a schoolteacher back in the local area from us 40 years. We chatted for almost 3 hours about my mom’s family and the local area what it was like back in the 30s and what has become now. We discuss the graveyard with Mr. Willis and he found in his records a listing of all the greats the sad part here is the listing of the graves it’s just like we saw most of them did not even have a name attached to them. the people at that time we’re so poor but he could not even afford a Greystone just a rock and unfortunately people are forgotten who is buried there. Mr. Willis remembered that the Poindexter’s have some property down young gravelly Road and lived up on a hill and gave us some directions those directions were more like go down the dirt road about a mile and a half past the Baptist Church and after the second Creek Road turn stop that’s the property and look up on the hill and you should find a house or at least that’s what I remember. Mr. Willis tried to get us more information calling friends and relatives. And when I mean calling friends and relatives I mean picking up an actual telephone looking in the white pages and looking in the phonebook. Cell phones don’t work out here and you have to do it old-school. We left our phone numbers for Mr. Willis just in case he can find out any more information for At thanked him and headed out the door time to go find mom’s place. 

 We head back down young gravelly Road past the Baptist Church in the graveyard go over the first creek then the second creek come to the corner and just like Mr. Willis said we run into some land it’s a farm that’s one of the families area but we do see your house up on the hill after second discussion we drive on up the road apiece further get up to the house and look around to the left is a Is a form called the red river farm Mr. Willow said that used to be the Poindexter’s property will look around and we see a small house maybe 400 ft.² in size and it looks like a sharecroppers house was this where my mom was born. Where my mom’s parents sharecroppers. All I know is that she was born there and gravel he moved to Colorado and want to been raised in outside of Los Angeles California. I give my cousin a call send her a picture and she tells me that she remembers a picture my mom and her brothers her grandfather being one of those in front of a small house and it’s very possible that this is the house. I get back in the car sit down and chat with Charlene for a bit and I realize I have tears in my eyes emotion in my voice and yet at the same time I’m as happy as a child at Christmas. 

 But it’s getting dark it’s time to head home got I hope I don’t have to drive back down that dirt road again but on the way home Charlene and I talked about family and we talk about how Mr. Willis came from nothing became something and then maybe think about my family even more so on a day that started off on a journey that might never of happened had I not found myself in Hot Springs Arkansas I may have just found my roots. 

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