Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - RANDOM PHOTO - ARIZONA

The Desert is Blooming!



Hello Everyone, I am sharing another random photo until I can put together another account of our travels.  I still have a few before this day.  We were at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  It was hot but absolutely gorgeous!  I look forward to telling you more later on.  




Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - FRIDAY, APRIL 14TH, 2017

Friday, April 14th, 2017



9. 29 a.m. and the odometer reads 49924.  We are leaving our hotel in Wharton, TX at 9.29 a.m., heading to the Gulf just East of Corpus Christi.  Getting back on 59 south now.

As you leave the road our hotel is on, right across the road is a plastics factory.  We saw thousands of pipes in the back.  

4.47 a.m. we passed a farm with a huge building and a very large silo.  The sign said it was for rice.  There are fields of what we think are rice, as far as the eyes can see, on both side of the freeway.

The speed limit has been 75 mph for most of our journey.

10.14 a.m. and we are now 1800 miles away from home.

10.53 a.m. and we have just passed the small town of Tivoli, now on Texas 35 South.  


11.36 a.m. stopping at Whataburger.  This is a new one to me but our son remembers it from his trip a few years ago. The fries were excellent.  My burger was a bit too vinegary for my taste but Gregg enjoyed his.

1.01 p.m. we are on a ferry. We joined the line of cars waiting to get on, and for a while we were next to three giant oil rigs.  


We studied them. and the wait to get down to the ferry seemed not so long.  It was a short trip across to the other side, a five minute ride.


1.40 p.m.  We have walked on the beach overlooking Corpus Christi Bay.  To get to our parking spot we drove over a wide expanse of sand.  It was firm enough.  We saw RV's on here and watched as other cars made their way without sinking into the sand.  We figured it was safe!



There were several beachgoers and I talked with one lady who was strolling with her dog.  She said she lived in Texas, about a four hour drive.  


She apologized if her dog had scared the birds, but I assured her she had given me a few good shots of them in flight.  







Gregg walked along the breakwater....


as I took photos of Black-headed Gulls....


(This beach had a lot of scrubby looking brush.  Not sure what kind of plant it was but no one seemed to mind, including the birds.)


Common Terns.....




and Sanderlings.









The beach is part of Port Oasis Park.  

I had a nap in the car for about half an hour.  All that walking on the beach I guess.  Gregg said we will stop early and true to his word, it was about five when we pulled into the hotel's parking lot.  But first we found a Walmart close by.  There are days when we don't feel like finding another restaurant, especially when we feel tired.  Walmart has pretty good pick-up foods.  


Gregg chose a roast beef sub and I a protein pack with a hard boiled egg, cubes of cheese, miniature sized Dorito-type chips, apple slices and grapes.  We also picked up a small veggie snack tray for that evening if we needed it, or snacking tomorrow.  For dessert, an individual cherry pie which we shared.  These relaxed dinners in a hotel room are very nice.   

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - RANDOM PHOTO - ON THE ROAD

On the way from Lubbock, Texas to Santa Fee, New Mexico.




A lucky shot taken as we were flying along at 75 mph - yes that was the speed limit along those long stretches of road in Texas, and still we were being overtaken.  I was, just in case anyone is wondering about our safety even further, in the passenger seat.  We had been seeing thousands and thousands (no exaggeration) of turbine windmills filling the skyline.  When this one turned up I quickly grabbed my iPAD, rolled down the window and hung onto it for dear life, and this is the result.  The old windmill was still working.

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12TH, 2017

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Odometer reading is 49223

9.00 a.m. we left our hotel in Meridian, Mississippi.  Gregg has just taken us a ride through downtown.  


We saw two prisoners dressed in prison garb.  The name of their correctional facility was on their shirts - didn't see what it is - and their trousers had wide, light green horizontal stripes.  They were using leaf blowers and cleaning up in front of the courthouse, doing general gardening work.  



We went by an old train station, nothing to do with the top photo but Gregg had read about it and wanted to take a quick look. I don't have any photos.  It had a railway car and a museum.  Gregg read up at the hotel about Meridian, and told me a few things as we drove through the city.  It was very interesting and I told him he would make a great tour guide.

11.20 a.m.  Meridian is behind us and we are on a very LONG road, Route 63.  Hardly any cars, the occasional crossroad but no towns visible.  Very flat country.  

11.24 a.m. we passed two more prisoners on each side of the road - recognized those green striped uniforms from the ones in Meridian.  They were picking up trash. A truck 30 yards away from them piled high with trash in the back.  The roads do look really clean around here.


1.12 p.m. we took a very nice walk along the Bayou Heron Road.  Beautiful trees and very happy butterflies, who didn't quit flapping their wings or settle long enough for a photo, but I got a wildflower.  I have to admit I wasn't getting a lot of success with photos along this trail.



But first we visited the 
and Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  We were  in Mosa Point, Mississippi.  We had read about it.  You can click on the above link for information.  


We followed a couple of horseriders for a while and they moved onto the side so that we could pass.  One of the horses seemed very skittish, even before they knew we were there.  I was a little concerned, but the lady riding him was obviously very skilled as they waved for us to pass them.

The building is quite big.


There was a relatively short trail at the back 


and we did see bright green lizards....




dragonflies.....and the mosquitoes seemed to be getting bigger!


No birds yet.  The gentleman at the visitor center said they were late arriving.  



1.41 p.m. and we are going through Pascagoula, Mississippi.  We are seeing every fast food franchise imaginable, which includes waffle houses.


3.21 p.m. Gregg and I have just finished lunch at a restaurant called Snappers Seafood.  


It is on the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Gregg had a seafood gumbo which included one of his favorites - okra.....


and I had fish and chips with coleslaw.  


Our meals were very good but we absolutely loved the appetizer, cheese puppies.

 
They are not like a regular hush puppy.  On the outside they look like one but when you take a bite the melted cheese takes you by surprise, and it is delicious.  Added to the mozzarella/cheddar cheese mix, are little bits of Jalapeño. A little heat but not too much.  


I could not bring myself to try the alligator meat.  You can enlarge the menu and the red arrows I have added point to that particular item.  I truly wanted to try it but I am not an adventurous soul.  I would be very interested if anyone out there has and can tell me what it tastes like.  You can enlarge the photo to see other items on the menu.


On a somber note, this area was hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina. We still see signs of the devastation from 10 years ago.  The restaurant we were in was new.  On the wall is a photograph of what the restaurant used to look like, and right next to it is a photo of how it looked after Katrina.  There was nothing there, it was completely blown away, gone!  Inside it also showed a line painted on the wall where the surge of water reached, and we were on the second floor. 

The new place is now built on stilts.  In fact, many of the buildings we passed were built on stilts.  There was also a lot of open ground where buildings once used to be and have not been built on since.  I remember our son coming through Biloxi a year after Katrina and he was greatly shocked and saddened thinking of how awful this hurricane must have been for so many.  I still remember his phone call that night.

We are on our way to Lafayette, Louisiana.

4.40 p.m. We just passed into Louisiana and the mileage is 49473.  We have also just crossed the Pearl River.

5.58 p.m. we passed through Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana.

6.00 p.m. just saw a huge billboard for Angola Prison Rodeo? Click on the red link to learn more.

6.01 p.m. we just crossed the Mississippi River.  Gregg said we did this with my Mom and Dad when our son was 2 years old.  I remember the trip but I don't remember the bridge.  We are now officially in the west.

At 6.11 p.m. we have just driven 1400 miles.

6.23 p.m. a sign says Whiskey Bay 1 mile.

6.25 p.m. now passing over the Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel.  (I am going to be looking up and reading about all these places once I get home.)

We have been traveling on a road that is elevated 30 feet above swampy ground.  Not only have we been driving over swamps but have also been crossing rivers for at least 20 plus miles.  

Now we are driving on regular roads next to rice fields.

(I guess I didn't write any more after this.)  





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - TUESDAY, APRIL 11TH, 2017

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017


Heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I forgot to make note of the time we left our hotel and the odometer reading.  I am still half asleep but the coffee is waking me up.


11.31 a.m. and we have just finished our first meal of the day in Chattanooga.  It was a nice stop at a restaurant called the Blue Plate near the waterfront, but someone looked a bit bored don't you think?   No, I'm not bored, I'm just sleepy.  This sweet thing looks bored.


1:50 p.m. we have driven 808 miles since we left home. 


4:31 p.m. we are leaving the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, after having a lovely walk around the Japanese Garden.  We weren't there all that long but what we saw was lovely.



I saw a Mockingbird as we entered the garden, it hopped into the undergrowth very quickly and with purpose. I lined up a shot with my zoom, a bit blurry, but I saw a dark little shape scurrying away.  Curious, we walked over, scared the bird away, not on purpose, and as my eyes adjusted I spotted what I thought was a tiny mouse, and then another.  I had saved them from the bird who kept trying to make off with one. It is the first time I have actually seen a mouse and okay, strange to some but I was delighted.  They were tiny, about an inch-and-a-half long.



(Later I felt that my ID wasn't quite right, as when I had a chance to look at my photos that night on the larger screen of my laptop, I thought it might be a vole. Please let me know what you think.  If he is a mouse he has very small, almost invisible ears!)


Another critter I spotted on our way back to the garden entrance.  A frog jumped and I noticed its movement as we sat on a swing bench for a few minutes.  Cute little thing.  I had also disturbed his meal, as tons of ants were crawling around our feet.  We quickly left him to his dinner.


I was wondering how many flowers would be blooming and saw these at the main entrance.  


We started off in the Japanese Garden.  


Always very pretty.


There is no charge to go into the garden. It is also next to the zoo. There were signs on the walking path pointing that way. But we are now in the car heading for Meridian, two-and-a-half hours away.  


About 60 miles east of Meridian as we drove along, I could have sworn I heard a faint humming and low melodic singing. You know how different road surfaces change and you feel it, hear it?  This was like someone singing, or humming and the tones went up and down the scale. We were on this particular surface for several miles, and we were looking at each other a bit quizzically, checking to see if we had left the radio turned on, trying to hear where the sound was coming from. No it wasn't the radio.  We decided it was the combination of the the surfacing on the road and the wheels driving over it. Then all of a sudden we were on a different road surface and the singing disappeared.  Neither of us have experienced anything quite like it. 

10:32 p.m. We are in our hotel at Meridian.  Across the street we saw a Bed Bath and Beyond. I asked Gregg if we could stop there to replace our water flasks. I had left them at the last hotel and was way down the road before I remembered them, when I actually reached for water.  They didn't have the same kind but we chose a larger one and it will serve us well. We really missed our cold water on the drive today.  We fill them every night and pop them in the fridge to get nice and cold.  The flask keeps them cold all day, even when we have left them in a hot car for a few hours.  The previous hotel called us to let us know they had found them, and we have arranged for them to be sent home.  I must let our house sitter know that a parcel will be on its way.

We are heading for Lafayette, Mississippi tomorrow.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

HAPPY EASTER FROM GREGG AND DENISE - VIDEO

I am jumping ahead a bit because I still have daily travels leading up to these videos, but I wanted to share them now so that we could wish those of you who are celebrating Easter, a very happy one.
 And to all my blogging friends a very happy weekend.


   

 No we weren't in Houston!!! I misspoke as I often do after a long walk in the heat. I don't do heat very well. We were at the Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas.

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP - MONDAY, APRIL 10TH, 2017 - PART 3

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Now that I have told you about our visit to Mabry Mill and to Orelena Puckett's cabin, it's time to move on to Biltmore Estate.



At 10.34 a.m. we crossed into North Carolina. The odometer showed 48515.

I can't remember what time we reached Biltmore. We bought our tickets after we had parked the car at a nearby visitor center, before we got on the shuttle.  They were for 2.00 p.m.  A lady at the door of this extraordinary home ushered us in.


You can take a shuttle bus to the main house, which we did, but you cannot ride one back to where you parked your car.  I did see people dropping off their family members but from way off.  



I am not sure what the protocol is about this because a parking attendant seemed to be telling them to move on very quickly, and this was way off from the house.  


If you had a mind to visit in the future, I would check up on what the procedures are because it is a long walk. We didn't do any research along these lines and you might find a better way to get down to the house.  



For a Monday it was packed with tourists, so many of them. I was surprised to tell you the truth but it shows how very popular this Biltmore is. It is rather an extraordinary home.  


The above area is not too far from the front door. I think we would call it an atrium. The family would have had to navigate the few steps down.  It was blocked off to the general public and people were stretching their necks over the ropes to look around. Chinese lanterns hung from the branches of small trees.  They looked very pretty, very colorful. 


I was just thinking how lovely it would be to visit this place during Christmas.  


The glass roof and the wooden beams are spectacular to see with your own eyes, everywhere is.


The website is at this link.   You can also read about its history here.  George Vanderbilt visited Asheville with his mother and liked it so much that he built his country home here.  Construction began in 1889. It has 250 rooms and its architecture is that of a French Renaissance chateaux.  It has to be seen to be believed.  I am a visual person and I was absolutely mesmerized.  It is truly hard to capture it in photos.


One you get inside you can rent the hand-held self guided tour device, or join a guided tour led by a docent.  We didn't do either but there were plenty of docents in every part of the house where you could glean very interesting facts about the family. They are very receptive if you want to ask questions.


It is truly hard to comprehend the great wealth it must have taken to create this luxuriousness.  


There is an exhibit taking place until July 4th.  In each room there were mannequins dressed in the costumes that actors wore in various movies.  


These two photos were from unidentified characters in the movie "Sleepy Hollow".


I couldn't get too close to the costumes as the room was roped off, but they were from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.


The following costumes were from "Finding Neverland", released in 2004.


The same with the following two photos.


I share copies because it shows the fireplace better in this shot.


As I have always had a great interest in traditional clothing down through the ages, this exhibit was definitely my cup of tea. The workmanship of each costume looked incredible, and I would have enjoyed getting closer to examine each and every detail, every stitch.  


In the photos above and below, these costumes were worn in "The Golden Bowl" released in 2000.


All costumes were kept behind ropes but I was grateful that they were not individually encased behind glass, as I have seen in exhibits elsewhere.  A big plus for those who want to take photographs.  There were many doing just that, and taking videos.  When I asked if pictures were allowed as we entered the building, happily they were, just as long as you didn't use a flash.


From one of my favorite books "Jane Ayre".  I have read it several times over the years.  These costumes were worn in that movie, released in 2011.


Sometime in the future I will do another post on the other costumes I saw here.


We looked at rooms on two floors and could have gone to the top of the house, but we both had reached our limit.  


We had walked up one very long flight of stairs, and those to the top of the house seemed narrow, steep and claustrophobic.  It was a hard decision to make but on overhearing our conversation, one of the staff told us about a movie showing in a room close by.  Watching the movie we could see those  top floors.  


Also he said that there was an elevator he would take us to afterwards, so that we wouldn't have to walk back down the stairs.  He guided us through the barriers, unhooking the ropes as we passed in front of lines of people, and showed us the room where we watched the movie.  Then he took us to the elevator.  


It wasn't probably as small as I thought it was at the time, but it felt a teeny-weensy thing.  Two young ladies waited in front of us, and they were going down with the husband of one.  He was pushing their very sleepy toddler in a stroller.  These young ladies offered us their place and we said no at first but they insisted, and we gratefully accepted.  Gregg then gave up his place to a lady with a walking stick, and she thanked him.  

The elevator isn't in regular use, so I think we were lucky.  It is used for those who have difficulty navigating the stairs.  The lady who pushed the buttons told us it had the original mechanism still in place.  They wanted to keep it going for as long as they could before they had to replace it.  I tried to imagine the Vanderbilts using it all those years ago.

We started down.  No it doesn't have the smooth ride of a modern elevator but it did its job very well.  I did, however, have a flashback to a rickety elevator in a very old hotel in Switzerland when I was 13 years old.  I was on a school holiday.  The elevator was one of those that look like a cage and two of my friends were going up to our room.  The elevator grinded to a halt between floors, would not budge. Panic!  


We started shouting down to the bottom, and even yelled to the top, hoping someone would hear us.  Sure enough the sound of footsteps running up several flights of stairs.  A porter who was very good natured, reassured us that everything would be okay - at least I think that was what he was saying as we didn't speak French.  (We were actually learning the language and encouraged to use it by our teachers, but we could not understand a word he said dear man.)  

He worked his magic and after what seemed like an intolerably long time, the elevator jolted upward, on its way to where the kind gentleman was waiting for us.  We shot out of our prison like scared rabbits, thanking him profusely, he was our hero.  "Merci beaucoup Monsieur!"  At least we could say that.  

But for the rest of our stay, did we ever set foot inside the cage again?  That would be a definite no. We did get lots of exercise going up and down all those flights, and I have not thought of that in years, until getting into the old elevator at Biltmore.

I couldn't hop off it as fast as I could when I was 13, and I let the lady with the walking stick go before me, even though I was eager to get out of there as I am a tad claustrophobic.  

In turn the young man waited for me to exit.  He was a very nice young man and said he and his family were from South Carolina, and he would be driving back home, that it would take two-and-a-half hours.  He was hoping the baby would sleep and his wife could get some rest.  The little one could barely keep his eyes open.  I said there was a good chance that their wish would be granted, and so finished another pleasant interlude in the day.

Gregg and I will enjoy coming back here one day, maybe in December.  There is a lot to see and who knows, next time we will get to the top of the house?  Then maybe not but I am thinking positive.  The elevator doesn't go to the top floor.  I'm positive I might not make it up there, but I will live in hope.

Coming down back to earth after that mind boggling chateaux, the walk back to our car seemed twice as long, but we eventually made it. 




In the distance, still on Vanderbilt land, the patch of yellow was very striking.  Later we found that it was a crop of canola.  This may be a city girl talking but I had no idea that canola could produce such pretty yellow flowers.



We will be getting back on the North Carolina 143 W for about three hours.  Gregg wanted to take a pretty route he had read about on Yelp.  When we exited the Parkway we drove about 30 minutes to our hotel.  We noticed that there were still patches of snow in places up there.

8.01 p.m. we are at the bottom now and the sun has set.  We have been driving at the side of a very picturesque river, with gently rolling white water.

9.00 p.m. we reached our tour hotel for the night.  A long day for us as we usually stop between 6.00 and 7 p.m.  Time for another good night's sleep.