Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. We got married in July, 1976 because “everyone in the family gets married in July”; it was a very hot and humid day. It was a nice wedding in a small town in a small church stuffed to overflowing with guests. Barry’s cousin married us and asked, “Do you Sharon …. uh …. Susan take this man?”, and I laughed out loud! All our family and friends were there and went to the church basement after the ceremony to enjoy cake and punch. Barry’s uncle took the photos and many of the guests left before we could join them downstairs. Afterwards, we changed into our polyester wedding clothes and drove to St. Louis for a night in a hotel.
Our marriage has been just like that; nothing flashy or showy, just comfortable for us. We fight and laugh and like and dislike together. We have 3 sons, 1 daughter-in-law and 1 grandson. We have loved and lost some of our grandparents and parents. We have lived in 4 houses and, now, 1 RV. We have had 8 dogs, 1 rabbit, 1 chinchilla and 1 parakeet as well as 25 different cars (we would probably be richer with less of those). We have had 10 different jobs and more part-time ones.
Last year was our big year: we both turned 60 and celebrated our 40th anniversary. Truthfully, we did not really “celebrate” last year, we just recognized those days. This year was different. We drove to Kansas City and ate dinner at Chaz on the Plaza located in the Raphael Hotel. Years ago, Barry surprised me with a weekend getaway to the Raphael; it has great memories for us. A delicious dinner in an intimate setting reminded us of the good parts of our marriage.
I think we will keep counting anniversaries for the rest of our lives.
We spent Father’s Day weekend in Nashville with our youngest son and his girlfriend. After the last time here, I looked only at Corps of Engineers’ campgrounds around the big lakes and found a very nice spot at Cedar Creek Campground on Old Hickory Lake.
Although the road in was NARROW, with no shoulder and a couple of 90º turns, the campground is lovely. There are lots of trees and the sites are mostly in circles with water and electric hookups, good satellite visibility but no WiFi. Our site (#38) had a little peek at the lake from the front window, with a large fire pit and chat-gravel picnic area. If we would return here, I would try to get the lakeside sites first, much larger and they all look right out on the lake. There are nice shower-houses, a sand volleyball court, public beach and boat ramp here also. Apparently the Cedar Creek Marina has a kick-ass breakfast which we will try next time here!
We agreed to tour Greenbrier Distillery for Father’s Day and booked our tour for 2:30 pm. We have toured other distilleries in this area and this one has a great history of money made and lost and found (greenbrierdistillery.com); however, they are very proud of their product. We did not want to spend $80/bottle for good whiskey and had to leave it there after our tasting. P.S. The tasting starts with white whiskey which is basically liquid fire and then progresses to the good stuff. I don’t know why though, my taste buds were burned off after that first sample!
The distillery is in a little industrial-turned-retail area and is next to a huge old brick building that was formerly home of the Marathon Motor Car factory. It has been reconfigured into offices and shops, a wine house, deli, etc.. Although it was raining outside (well that’s no surprise), the entire place is under roof and you can pop into each spot easily. The Antique Archeaology shop here is a pickers store and fun to visit.
Great old building
Marathon Motor Cars
After we left the area, we met some of Tyler’s friends, Adam & Amanda, for dinner at Five Points Pizza. Delicious pie, NY style with great toppings!! They serve Garlic Knots as an appetizer; big pizza dough rolls tied in knots brushed with basil and garlic butter and served with a side of their very fresh tomato sauce. Great stop even with a 45 minute wait! They also serve my personal favorite: sweet southern tea! I have been drinking that since I got off the bottle as a baby and can’t imagine having to do without it! By the way, adding sugar at the table to a glass of unsweet tea is not the same!
We left Nashville on Monday morning and headed north to Illinois to work for a week there. I will bet the sun will shine on us as we move and work!
I have been trying since we bought this RV in September to get a reservation at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park…..it is about the hardest site to reserve ever! But I finally got a 2 night reservation for Barry’s birthday, and we planned our trip to Florida around it!
The campground is small with only 39 campsites; but to get there you have to drive through the beautiful mangrove hardwoods and past the dive / snorkeling / kayaking / swimming lagoons! Our site (#37) backed up to the mangroves and was completely shaded by noon…..an important feature in the Keys. We had full hookups and used our WiFi HotSpot rather than the spotty campground WiFi, but our Dish found the satellite easily for TV watching. There is no dog park here, but lots of bags and trash cans for their deposits. Of course, Ratchet took me to the nearest waters edge and waded in to his belly as usual! I was watchful for things that might be lurking in the water though! The shower rooms are clean and nice and the campground is gated to prevent the public from wandering in! Every type of campers were here: big coaches, 5th wheels, campers, even tents.
After we checked in, my friend, Cindy and I went snorkeling there. I grew up terribly afraid of water and never, ever put my face under……until about 5 years ago when Cindy invited me to come down here with her to snorkel. I knew my son and Cindy loved to snorkel and thought it was about time I got over that fear…..now, five years later, I will go out of my way to snorkel! Cindy and I love to come here to John Pennekamp (the $$ is right, and we love the protected reefs here), love the 2.5 hour trips (4.5 is just too long!), and could float around Grecian Rocks every time! We have been to both Grecian Rocks and Dry Rocks and the Christ of The Abyss area and took a private tour out to Molasses Reef once also; Grecian Rocks is our first choice. If you have not been snorkeling before, it is amazing! It takes about 45 minutes to get out to the reef and we pass over beds of sea grass before the water begins to turn a breath-taking color of light blue/green…..that is the sandy bottom before the reef. The boat moors off the reef and far enough away that he can’t be washed over it to avoid any chance of damage. The boat captain & dive master (necessary for every trip out) have lectured us before we left the dock, as we moved through the mangroves and again, just now before we left the boat about safety and not touching anything or standing up anywhere and, splash we were in the warm, salty water! We saw sea urchins, barracuda, fish of every size and color (grouper, parrot fish, angel fish, I don’t even know what they all are) and so many varieties of coral! Sorry, no cameras or phones on the trip!
Afterward, we joined Barry and had dinner at the famous Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. Lobster bites, Mahi was the fish of the day, sweet tea and the famous Key Lime Pie finished our wonderful day!
The next day was Barry’s actual birthday, Cindy returned to Ft. Lauderdale, and Barry & I went out to kayak in the mangroves. I am not the most coordinated person and fought with my paddle and kayak as much as possible….usually propelling myself into the low-hanging mangrove branches and then trying to figure out how to get out of them! We floated deep in the mangroves trying to see wildlife, any wildlife, but for nothing! No reptiles, amphibians, birds, well, maybe a few fish…..but I was hoping to see manatee! Nope! After a couple of hours, we went back to the RV to shower and rest and walk the dogs before dinner.
Barry’s choice for his birthday dinner was our favorite Key Largo place, The Buzzard’s Roost. It sits away from the main road and touristy places, and shares the water with Garden Cove Marina. They have 3 dining areas: A/C, covered screen porch, and an outdoor space near the water. We sat in the porch (less flying insects here) and enjoyed the marina activity while we enjoyed our dinner. The important thing here is the unbelievable coconut cake with warm pineapple rum sauce. Every time we visit the Keys, we stop to eat this sweet treat, and never regret it! During dessert, a fishing boat came in to unload his huge fish coolers, they were full of ballyhoo, a bait fish used by saltwater fishermen. They were small, silvery-green fish with a long “beak” and the coolers filled with fish and ice were full!
Our two nights passed too quickly, the skies clouded, rain threatened, and we headed to Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate our grandson’s 2nd birthday!
I normally select and reserve all the campgrounds while we travel. While we had been making plans during late March / early April, Barry found one online and thought it looked like a great choice….our criteria: full hook-ups, concrete parking site, quiet, dark at night, good WiFi, clear view of the SW sky for the Dish…..
He found Alliance Hill RV Park just south of I-10 but near Marianna, Florida. He needed to travel north about an hour to Dothan, Alabama for a sales call; this seemed like a great site. The beach is a little over an hour south of here. The website looked good enough, there were good reviews; but you know that feeling that something is just a little bit off? When I called to make our reservation, a friendly older gentleman answered and said he would be please to confirm our dates. Yes, he said, just call me the day before, and what is your name? There was no exchange of RV Club info, no address, no email, no deposit…..just see you soon. Hmmmm…..
I called the next day, same man answered, “Yes, ma’am. See you tomorrow.” Who runs a business like that? We pulled in a bit late in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 17. We had driven 7 miles south of I-10 and turned on Alliance Road….the campground was about 2 miles east on opened to a security gate. I called and Glenn said, “I’ll be right there.” We saw him come out of the office inside the park and drive up to the gate, turn his car around, then come back to talk to us. “How long did you say this RV is?” and turned to look around at the mostly empty sites. “Hmm, maybe I’ll put you…..” and he looked over at first one site, then another, and then a third before deciding on one. He opened the gate and we drove through and followed him around a gravel loop road, across the grass (“It’s really hard.”), across one parking site and finally into our site. Glenn advertises this park as a Luxury Campground, no tents, no old RV’s, full hookups, pool, clubhouse, dog park, WiFi.
As mentioned above, this site had all the criteria to make this a great RV campground for us. Except, there was zero shade and it was unusually hot for this time of year. Humid and in the 90ºs everyday with a hot breeze lightly blowing. And there were gnats during the day and mosquitoes at night…..lots of them. Every time we went outside, whether to walk the dogs, enjoy the sunset, clean the bugs off the windshield, etc., those gnats were on us. They landed in our eyes and nose and ears, on my fresh wounds from a stupid fall in Mobile, on the dogs, every where. They came in the coach with us and we had to swat at them constantly. And the dog park was at the bottom of the hill, un-mown, and a walk through tall grass while swatting at those pesky gnats……
But there was a bit of heaven here…….due south was Panama City Beach. On Friday afternoon, we drove south to find the Gulf. We picked out one of the only true on-the-beach bars and sat there for several hours. We had snacks and drinks, then dinner and lots of sweet tea and a piece of Key Lime pie while we watched the waves and surf and sun-bathers. We talked and relaxed, we listened to everyone around us talk and tell their stories to each other.
New Orleans is such a fun town to just relax and hang-out! After all the fun of JazzFest, we relaxed the next day at the RV, Barry got to use his new Davey Crockett pellet grill to fix a huge dinner for all! Pork loin, shrimp, and red fish along with a meatloaf to save for later were the grilled and smoked delights! I served fresh asparagus with a Béchamel sauce and yellow rice (a Zatarain’s favorite!). We all enjoyed the time together to talk and reminisce about JazzFest.
On Monday, Barry, Mom, Alex & I decided to head to the Quarter for some fun. Our first stop was (of course) Café du Monde for Cafe Au Lait and beignets and some good people watching. On the way, we passed this MtF crossdresser street performer, photographs were for tips……seems like a lot of work on a hot day to me, but, maybe there is money to be made!
We looked for a spot to grab lunch/dinner; Alex wanted to try a crawfish boil for the first time. We stopped at a little speakeasy called Saints and Sinners for the crawfish; Mom always gets gumbo, and Barry & I had more seafood, but it was too early in the afternoon for live music. Alex’s BucketList: Crawfish Boil √
Our next stop was Pat O’Brien’s for a cooling hurricane…….can’t go wrong here……just remember that they charge you for the glass when you get the drink, you have to return it for a $3 credit afterward!
Last stop of the day was for everyone’s (but especially my) BucketList: Preservation Hall! We have all been to many concerts and expected this to be a smaller version of a concert hall…….it is not! Behind old doors and off a cool, dark hall, you are ushered into a small room, maybe 25’x40′, old wooden walls, with a band set up in front. Nearest the band are floor cushions (not for us, thank you), behind them are about 5 rows of heavy log benches and there are 2 log benches along the wall on the right. That’s it! The front benches are reserved for guests who bought tickets ahead of time, the rest of us sat toward the back and late comers were allowed to sit on the floor or stand in the very back. A couple of ladies served as unfriendly ushers, one made sure everyone was ready and all phones & cameras were stowed away and then she introduced Darryl Adams and the PresHall Brass Band. What followed was an hour of intimate, toe-tapping, sweet Jazz music without the conflict of flash lenses or clinking glasses or table conversations……just music. My BucketList: Preservation Hall Jazz concert √
Alex left the next day, Mom & I got relaxing mani/pedi’s. She flew out the next day and we waved goodbye to NOLA……..no, not goodbye,
I cannot tell you how much I love JazzFest! The crowds of people are all hot and sweaty and happy and full of good food and music! There is dancing near almost all the stages (there are 12 stages by the way), and you can just stand up and dance by yourself or with a friend (new or old!). There is food, and I do mean, there is food! And crafts for sale. And, did I forget the music? Let’s start from the very beginning!
We all try to ride together to pay for just one place to park; and it is usually in someone’s front/side yard near the fairgrounds. Yep, we pull into the grass, pay about $20 cash, and hope the guy that parked us really owns the property and is there when we return. Rosa gets an employee ticket from her friend at Smoothie King, Joey, and we can then get in the back entrance near the stables. Once we enter the gate, Mom takes off at a trot for her favorite place, Preservation Hall Economy Tent. The whole stage and seating area is under one ginormous canvas tent with chairs for sitting and a dance floor off to one side. She claims about 4 seats in the middle section on an aisle and sits there all day long! We use this as our base when we need shade or a chair or just want to hear the performers there. It is mostly Dixieland jazz, heavy with brass instruments. Here she can Second Line as much as she wants and knows some of the crowd that return every year for the same fun.
After she and Aunt Sis get their seats, the rest of us leave to find other music and fun! Alex and Barry were both first-timers and went out to get their bearings; Rosa & Pat to the Smoothie King stand, and me to the Sheraton Fais Do Do (pronounced: Fay doe doe – family dance) stage. They specialize in Zydeco & Cajun music here and I threw my blanket down and settled in to hear BeauSoleil and later, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr.. Barry & Alex joined me from time-to-time, we ate together and just relaxed and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day!
I also saw a Marci Gras Indian Parade and enjoyed the Cajun Combo: crayfish sack, oyster patty, and crawfish beignets….and got to hang out with Duckie Three!
Definition of the Mardi Gras Indians:
“Coming out of slavery, being African American wasn’t socially acceptable. By masking like Native Americans, it created an identity of strength. Native Americans under all the pressure and duress, would not concede. These people were almost driven into extinction, and the same kind of feeling came out of slavery, “You’re not going to give us a place here in society, we’ll create our own.” In masking, they paid respect and homage to the Native American by using their identity and making a social statement that despite the odds, they’re not going to stop.”
Ronald Lewis, former Council Chief of the Choctaw Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian tribe he helped to start.
Today, the Mardi Gras Indians parade everyday at JazzFest, throughout the grounds. They stop festival-goers in their tracks to enjoy the music, but much more, the fantastic beaded costumes each member makes by hand and wears!
At the end of the day, we all found our way back to the car (and surprise! The parking guy did own that house and was still there to help us get out!) and headed home to shower after a great day! JazzFest 2018…..can’t wait to meet you!
First, let me say that I have been visiting New Orleans and attending JazzFest for the last 14+ years with various family members; my mom, aunt, cousins……all girls! I Love JazzFest. No more really needs to be said, it is a long weekend of laughing and crying with music and food thrown in for fun. We always invade my sister-in-law’s (and my step-brother’s before he passed away) home and stay up long into the nights enjoying the time together.
This year was going to be different…….I was taking the RV and Barry. How was that going to work out? He is not a music-lover like me and lots of walking and standing are not for him. Staying in the RV and not with the family? What was I going to miss?
Good surprise: we camped at Bayou Segnette State Park on the WestBank of New Orleans. This was a great choice; quiet with so many frogs croaking, dark at night, wide sites with a bayou surrounding us. No good WiFi though and no sewer hookups made it a long week, but we were just 10 minutes from my sister-in-law’s home and good food all around made up for that.
My nephew had flown up from Key West to spend the week with us, another first, that gave us time to really get to know him as an adult, not a kid anymore. I started off with a dinner of delicious soft-shelled crabs that had me ready for anything going forward! And that was not just plain potato salad — that was shrimp & red potato salad made from a Boil!
Locally, Barry & I found a great breakfast diner, We Geaux Cafe, just 5 minutes from the park. (Okay here’s the joke: we were in Westwego, LA, named for the western access around southern Lake Pontchartrain. Every word in NOLA is mangled with Creole/Cajun and and Geaux is pronounced Go, so it was “We Go Cafe in West We Go, LA!!) Another first: grilled biscuits! Whaaat? A hand-made biscuit baked until light and fluffy inside, then sliced and grilled on a flat-top griddle for perfection! Oh my goodness, we had to go there almost every morning to satisfy our grilled biscuit craving!
We also had to stop at Morning Call and found this one in City Park near the Botanical Gardens. This is my Favorite Place for cafe au lait and beignets in New Orleans….I know you are thinking what about Cafe Du Monde? It’s good, but for the best, it has to be Morning Call.
We strolled over to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy a beautiful day together, mom, aunt, nephew and me! Lovely sculptures and plantings surrounded us as we walked and talked together. Outside the walls, protestors were clashing with local police over the removal of Confederate statues; inside the walls, peace and quiet. Sadly the protestors lost the battle and the historical statues were removed by the politicians. Inside the Garden though, this lovely nymph continues to play her flute silently.