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Normally, the entries in this blog show the newest first. We have been able to reverse that order so that it reads from beginning to end, rather than the opposite.

As you read, you will need to click on "OLDER POSTS" at the bottom of each page to continue.

Because of the way the blog is set by the programmers, clicking on "Newer Posts" will bring you back to the beginning of the story. 

We apologize for the cumbersome process.

Thanks for reading along.
Feel free to add your comments at the end of each entry.



So, at Juju's suggestion, we are beginning a BLOG!  We're not sure anyone is really interested in what we do, but this is more for our own edification.  As we accept the 21st century, we realize these are nothing more than old fashioned "Diaries".  The big difference...there is no lock on the cover.

That being said, here is what we imagine you can expect if you choose to follow along.  We can't promise Pulitzer quality writing, but we'll do our best to describe the wonderful places we see and the things we do.  Rest assured that we are not sharing this journey to "show off".  Rather, we are trying to create a journal upon which we can reflect and remind ourselves how blessed and lucky we are to be able to do this.  If anyone wishes to join us on our trip via this medium, we're  more than happy to have you along for the ride.

If no one other than us enjoys this venture, that will be fine.  Hopefully, our Grandson, Demetri, will be inspired to develop his own traveling "bug" and enjoy the world, or whatever parts he cares to see.


Wednesday, December 1st

The previous weeks included changing oil/filter, air filter, fuel filter and air dryer, lube, tires then inspection.  New brakes and an air line were required to get a sticker.  With all that behind us, we were able to load the motor home with our belongings and vacuum up, or toss out, all the Stink Bugs that invaded every home in the area this summer.

Now all we needed to do was get the Harley's, the bicycles, the car and various other "necessities" into the trailer.  The last tasks before we can hook it all together and get on the road.

Left the house at 6:30 a.m. to go get the trailer with the truck and bring it to the motor home.  15 minutes to get there, over an hour to get back.  Overnight, snow and wind caused downed trees and power lines resulting in snarled traffic.  Wind and of the reasons we're leaving town.

After hooking it all up, our 65 foot combination takes off at 10:30 a.m.

Traffic was still heavy and Ohio was a nasty mess.  Saw 5 accidents on the interstates between Columbus and Cincinnati, including one overturned pickup.

All in all it made for one long day and not much mileage.  It was so cold and windy, it pierced the cockpit and we decided to stay in a hotel rather than use up all our propane trying to stay warm.  We had to sneak Mia into the non-pet friendly facility.  Enjoyed the warmth, hot shower and free breakfast.


Thursday December 2nd

Better day for driving.  Cold but clear and dry.  Tossed out a couple more stink bugs and headed down the road. 

Rolled up and down the hills of Kentucky that produce some of world's the best horses and bourbon. 

Without much incident, we breezed through Kentucky and into Tennessee, watching the outside temperature gradually climb.

By early evening, we had reached out first destination, Memphis!  We squeezed the rig around a tight turn past some ill placed trees and got into our assigned place.  After hooking up the water, sewer and electric, Juju made dinner and we retired early.


Friday December 3rd

     Memphis Baby!  We've been here before and were looking forward to our return.

We waited until after rush hour and headed to the visitor center near Riverside Drive near Mud Island.  We decided to be "true" tourists and sign up for the 1:30 p.m. City Tour.

With a few hours to kill, we walked the few blocks into the downtown area to have breakfast at the Blue Plate Diner.  The season's first taste of true southern grits, biscuits and gravy warms the soul.  Leaving the diner, we cross the street to walk through a small park overrun with squirrels running up and down the trees and across the grass.

Strolling down historic Main Street, we decide to take a ride on a trolley, not unlike the ones we used to have in Pittsburgh way back when.  We hop aboard the Riverside Loop, a wooden trolley the operator said was over a hundred years old.  It clicked and clacked down Main then tuned down to Riverside Drive along the Mississippi River.

The road was lined with "riverview" apartments and condos, old shops and homes.  Eventually, the track looped around to the southern part of Main Street and turned north toward our original starting point.   Along Main Street, we passed the Orpheum Theater, where Elvis used to bring family and friends to see movies.  In true Elvis style, he rented the entire theater when he wanted to watch a flick.

After walking back to the visitor center, we were picked up by the tour operator, for what turned out to be a private tour. 

We visited St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Stax Records, Sun Studio, Graceland, the site of Dr. King's assination, mansions, stopped for a beer and some blues at The Juke Joint on Beale Street and then finished up with the "March of the Ducks" at the Peabody Hotel.

After the tour, around 6:00 p.m., we headed back to the motor coach to feed Mia and let her do her "thing".

Around 7:30 p.m. it was time to head back to Beale Street and the Rum Boogie Cafe for some Gumbo, beer and blues.

What a great night in a great town.  Tomorrow we mosey on down toward New Orleans.


Saturday December 4th

After sleeping in a bit, we began to break camp.  Juju secures everything inside the coach and tosses a few more stink bugs, while I disconnect the utilities and load the car back into the trailer.

Morning temps are in the 50's, a far cry from the 20's and 30's back home.  As we drive south the thermometer climbs even higher.  When we stop for lunch, it's nearly 60 degrees.

Our creed in the motor home is "there's no place we have to be" so we take our time.

Around 6:00 p.m. we pull into a Wal-Mart in McComb Mississippi.  Love 'em or hate 'em, Wal-Marts are friends to RVer's.  They welcome you to park your camper in their lot overnight and get some sleep.  They know you're going to go inside and spend some money.  And we did!


Sunday December 5th

Since we knew we only had about a hundred miles to our next campground, and we were planning to do nothing when we arrived, we took our time leaving Wally World.  Breakfast, then changed the wiper blades and flushed a few more stink bugs before take-off.

On the way we stopped to fill the propane tank.  We thought it would be a good idea since we've used more than normal due to the colder temps.  Propane is something you don't want to run out of in the middle of a cold night.  Finding it though, turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.  Seems most businesses in the south still close on Sunday.

Anyway, we pulled into our campground a little past noon.  Juju used the time to give the interior of the coach a good cleaning, while I set up the satellite dish equipment for the first time since leaving home.  Steeler game tonight, have to get ready.

Tomorrow we venture into New Orleans.  We finally made it!  The last time we had reservations here, they were cancelled by Katrina and Rita.


Monday December 6th

After flushing yet a couple more stink bugs, we spent our first full day in NOLA.  We strolled the streets of the French Quarter for about 7 hours.

Lunch was at the Remoulade Restaurant on Bourbon Street.  We shared turtle soup, a Natchitoches meat pie and crawfish etoufee.  Juju enjoyed a coffee with Ameretto and I had the local Christmas Ale, Abita.  Very yummy stuff!

We made a stop at Marie Laveau's house of Voodoo.  Relax, the sign in the shop clearlyh states their Voodoo is used for good only!

A few hours later, after walking off lunch, we stopped at the Cafe DuMonde for their famous bignets and coffee (thanks Steph for the tip on this place).  Bignetes are French donuts.  Very similar to my Grandmother's zeppoli's.  Basically, they're fried bread dough covered in about two pounds of powdered sugar.  A real slice of heaven...good thing, because the restrooms in this place are a big chunk of HELL!

One odd thing!  Seems several of the local "characters" on the street just loved my shoes!

Speaking of odd things, I guess I should address the stink bug thing for those who haven't had the pleasure.

This past summer, western Pennsylvania was invaded by stink bugs.  More and annoyance than anything else, these critters have no known natural enemies nor are they effected by any insecticide.  They don't die in the cold, they just hibernate until spring.  They don't bite or sting and carry no diseases.  All they do is get into your house (or motor home) and hang out. 

Then, if you squash them, they emit an odor (hence their name).  Unfortunately, this odor also serves as an attraction for other stink bugs.  So, the more you squash 'em, the more you'll have to squash.  Best overall method for getting rid of them...flush 'em.

Most folks back home can rest assured that we've done oour part for the cause by transporting most of them to the southern states.  You're welcome!


Tuesday December 7th

Long and interesting day today.  Yesterday, while at the visitor center, we struck up a conversation with a woman who identified herself as Ann Leonhard, an instructor at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  She mentioned that they had cooking classes for tourists that teach local dishes and their history.  Sounded like a good idea, so we made a reservation for today.

This morning we took the class with Chef Kevin Belton.  He was very knowledgeable regarding Louisiana culinary history and really entertaining.  He demonstrated how to make Bread Pudding, Jambalaya, Gumbo and Pralines.  I'm pretty sure it won't be long until I'm trying to make pralines myself.  The best part was getting to eat everything for lunch.  Afterward we purchased some of Chef Kevin's seasoning blend and his latest book, which he autographed.

Later, we took a city tour.  Beside the expected French Quarter, the four hour tour took us to the Garden District, City Park, Treme, one of the city's famous "City of the Dead" cemeteries, the still evident destruction in the 7th and 9th Wards, and the slow, but promising recovery efforts.  One of the most disturbing sights was the spray painted markings on the damaged homes.  These marks indicated when, and by whom the first recovery effort was made at that location, the number of pets or human bodies found inside. 

Dinner tonight was at the Oceana Grill on Conti and Bourbon Streets.  We shared Alligator Sausage, Fried Oysters and Crab Cakes.  All excellent selections.

Tomorrow may begin a little later.  We need to have a little do nothing time.

Oh! And by the way, no stink bugs today


Wednesday December 8th

Lazy morning today.  Early afternoon, I wired up the plug on the bike for the heated jacket Judy got me for Christmas (early gift).  Later I shined the scooters up for a trip to bike nite at the Coyote Ugly Saloon in the French Quarter.

We took the back roads into the city rather than the interstate.  Went through the towns of La Place, Norco, New Spary, Kenner, and Metairie.  We passed several residential areas and about a dozen shopping centers and malls.  We noticed, that much like when we were in Memphis, almost no one decorates for Christmas.  At least not like back in Pittsburgh anyway.  We only saw a few homes with lights outside, and none of the shopping centers or business districts had decorations on the buildings or light poles.  Downtown New Orleans had a few on Canal Street, but not many other places.  I guess outside decorations are not the norm down here.

Anyway, we pulled up in front of Coyote Ugly and the bouncer immediately ushered us to the VIP parking in front of the door.  However, much to our surprise, the total number of bikes at bike nite was TWO!  Juju's and mine.  Apparently, 46 degrees is too cold for anyone to ride down here.

So, after a cold beverage, a chat with the bar top dancer, and giggling at the relatively small braziers hanging from the ceiling, we mounted up and went in search of food.

The ride back took us to Dot's Diner in Metairie.  A classic diner with little booths and high stools at the counter.  I finally got to try a local favorite...a PO-BOY!  I got the fried shrimp version.  A tasty sandwich, but I don't care what they say, it's nothing more than what we call a hoagie and others call a sub.  Regardless of what kind you order, a fully dressed one means lettuce, tomato and pickle.  The locals will argue with you that a Po-boy is NOTHING like a hoagie.   Whatever!


Thursday December 9th

Today was kind of a day off, but not really.  We took a day off from being tourists and did more "home" things.

Some phone calls were made, laundry was done, new jeans were purchased, a new kitchen faucet was installed, floors vacuumed, and a general put stuff away kind of day.

Later, in the evening we were able to visit with our Grandson, Demetri via Skype.  It was great seeing him and he seemed happy to see us too!  He was talking up a storm, and I wish we knew what he was saying.

Thomas Kincade tapestry

Even though we're living in a different kind of home for the winter, it's still home.  Christmas decorations are up and cards will be going out soon.

A "Major Award"

Tomorrow, we plan on doing some outside the city exploration.


Friday December 10th

What a beautiful day.  Judy, the dog and I all piled into the Smart Car and headed to the French Quarter for one specific get a Muffaletta at Central Grocery on Decatur Street.  She got it to go so we could enjoy it later in the day.

Leaving town we headed south to the Jean Lafitte National Park near Baritaria, about 20 miles south of New Orleans.  Unfortunately, the road to the park was closed for levee construction and we were not able to reach our destination.

Undaunted, we got on US 90 west and headed about 50 miles to the town of Houma.  Houma is where 9 different Bayous converge.  A bayou is described as a slow moving body of water with a poorly defined shore line. 

While there, we found a little park that was decorated for the holidays.  We picked out a bench and opened our Muffaletta and the bag of Voodoo Gumbo potato chips.  The sandwich, made by the folks who claim to have originated it, is made on about an 8" round loaf of Sicilian bread covered with sesame seeds.  Inside it is loaded with salami and Swiss cheese.  The sandwich is then dressed with a chopped Italian olive salad.  Quite the tasty treat, and thankfully, it was cut into quarters, because between the two of us, we could only eat half of it.

As good as it was, if I were to try to make it at home, it would have provolone instead of Swiss and it would be toasted instead of cold.  But then, I guess it would be like ordering a Primanti sandwich with no fries or slaw on it.

After our late lunch we headed back to our base camp, and with temperatures nearing 70 degrees, today was the perfect day for a drive.

Tomorrow's forecast is for rain, thunderstorms and winds gusting to nearly 50 MPH.  Don't think we'll be doing much tomorrow.


Saturday December 11th

Well, the local forecast for today is bleak...actually more like dire!  Heavy rain, thunderstorms and wind gusts up to 50 MPH.  Looks like we'll be spending most of the day inside.

This seems like a good opportunity for addressing our base camp for our fellow RVers.

We are in the La Place Trailer and RV Park, less than 30 miles west of New Orleans via the interstates.  When riding the Harleys, we opt for taking Airline Highway (US 61) into town.  It's a few more miles but a slower pace and more scenic than the Interstates.

The RV park is very clean and our hosts, Kent, Jane and Juliette are perfect examples of "Southern Hospitality".  Amenities are not abundant in this park, but we rarely use the pool, shuffleboard or basketball courts provided in many parks.  In fact, rarely do we find a park where the pool is open due to the cool winter temperatures.

What this park does have, that we need most, is space.  Our motorhome is 40 feet long and our cargo trailer is 24 feet.  When connected, we're over 65 feet from nose to tail and seldom do we find a place where we can get both on one site.  Some places we have to park the trailer in some distant storage area, and others will not even allow us in with the trailer (mostly State and National parks).

Our site here is probably around 50 feet long and more than 25 feet wide.  Although we were unable to park without unhitching the trailer, we were able to place it next to the motorhome.  For us, this is a real bonus!  The trailer is more like a garage for us than anything else.  When camped, we take the car out of the trailer, but we keep both Harleys in it as well as things like the riding leathers, our bicycles, tools and things you don't need all the time but hate to walk a half mile to the storage area to get.

The rates here are quite reasonable.  Our spacious level site includes 50 amp service, water, sewage and free Wi-Fi for $150.00 per week.  Discounts from the daily rate are applied for weekly and monthly stays.  There is a "luxury" RV park adjacent to the French Quarter, but expect to pay at least 3 times more.  Granted the amenities are very nice, as is the access to the Quarter, but after viewing it, I doubt we would have been able to navigate the narrow streets to this location, nor would we be able to keep the trailer nearby. 

If you're RVing to NOLA, La Place RV and Trailer Park is a great choice.


Sunday December 12th

We woke up this morning to the sound of the wind whipping around the motorhome.  This was not going to be a good hair day.

Sunday morning...go to church!  Nothing different, right?  Wrong!

Mass was being celebrated at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. It was originally built as a mortuary chapel to bury yellow fever victims.  This Church dates back to 1826 and is also the site of the International Shrine of St. Jude.  As her namesake, Judy holds St. Jude in high esteem.
As we approached the church on the edge of the French Quarter, it was obvious that this was going to be a bit different experience for us.  You could tell by looking at those headed for the door that some were tourists, like us and others were regulars.  Many dressed in number 9 game jerseys to pray for blessed Drew and his Saints.  Others were dressed in jeans and sneakers.  Then there were those dressed in white silk suits, dripping in jewels and wrapped in full length fur.

As soon as the bell rang out to begin the procession to the altar, the entire Church was filled with the sounds of a truly joyful noise.  This was the way to do Mass...New Orleans jazz style!

The choir was 10 voices strong and accompanied by organ, piano, bass, guitar, saxophone and drums.  The choir director was a slight woman with a voice that reminded me of Whitney Houston.  No one slept during this Mass.  Toes were tapping, hands were clapping and hips were swaying.  No pun intended, this was a truly moving experience.

International Shrine of St. Jude

Following the service, which garnered a standing ovation for the choir, we stopped at the Shrine of St. Jude,  which is next to the main altar.  Judy lit a candle and had a moment of thought and prayer.

On the way out, next to the Church, we noticed a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  Inside there were dozens of plaques offering thanks for prayers answered.

Behind the Church is St. Louis Cemetery #1, one of the oldest in the city.  This "City of the Dead" became famous, or infamous, for the scenes filmed there for the movie Easy Rider.  Ever since the movie's debut, there has been a ban, imposed by the Archdioceses, on filming anything inside it's walls.

Next, we headed to Mr. B's Bistro for the Sunday Jazz Brunch.  Champagne, wine and Bellini accompanied our meal.  As the 3 piece jazz combo provided the background music, we ordered an Andouille, red pepper, and mozzarella omelet, and Chicken Pontalba, a pan seared breast covered in hollandaise sauce, with a chopped mix of potato, prosciutto and green onion on the side.  Plenty to share and still have enough left over to take home and enjoy for dinner as well.

Another great day in the Big Easy.  For dessert...Steelers 23...Bungals 7

This evening's plans were for the Festival of the Bonfires in nearby Lutcher. Unfortunately, 30 MPH winds are not a good mix with raging fires.  We decided to stay home.


Monday December 13th

Today begins and ends with Andouille.  If you've been following from the beginning, you may recall that when we first arrived in New Orleans, we met a woman named Ann who was an instructor at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  One of the things she mentioned is that we just happened to be staying in the Andouille capital of Louisiana, La Place.  In fact, their water tower proclaims it for all who can see.  She also mentioned that Jacob's Smokehouse was Ground Zero for this hearty smoked sausage.

We started with lunch at Wayne Jacob's Smokehouse and Restaurant on 5th Avenue in La Place.  Not to be confused with Jacob's Smokehouse on Airline Drive.  The restaurant, is a plain building, that is sparsely decorated with a few photos on the walls, industrial grade carpeting and no atmosphere.  However, the parking lot is loaded with cars, and for good reason.  You go there for the FOOD!

Judy and I ordered three items.  Boudin Balls, Fried Andouille Chips and an Andouille Burger.  WOW!
The Boudin Balls were a ground mix of pork, liver, onions, peppers and spices.  The mix is rolled into little meatballs which are dipped in an egg wash, rolled in seasoned bread crumbs then deep fried.  They are served hot with a remoulade sauce on the side.  I don't like liver, but these were good and the sause made them.

The Andouille chips were just that.  Thin slices of Andouille sausage that were deep fried to a crisp and served with a coarse ground mustard for dipping.

Then came the Andouille Burger.  More than a third of a pound of burger goodness!  The patty was a ground blend of beef, andouille and pecans.  Fully dressed included caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo, with a side of fries.  This was one juicy, delicious burger.  The sausage and pecans in the burger added an incredible flavor. 

After lunch, we took a ride down the river road toward Luctcher, where the previous night's bonfire was to be held.  All along the route, for miles atop the levees, we saw dozens of pyramids made out of logs standing about 10 feet tall. During the three days of Festival of the Bonfires, one of these towers was lit each night.  The remaining bonfires that stretch through the towns of Gramercy and Lutcher, will be lit on Christmas Eve.  I can only imagine what a sight it must be.

Further down the road, we came upon some of the magnificent plantation homes that dot the area.  Some have been converted into schools or museums and some are still occupied as homes.  Most of the ones we saw were impeccably maintained as were the surrounding grounds. 

One of the plantations erected an impressive Nativity scene with life sized figures.

After making the turn, we traveled along US 61 (Airline Drive) back to camp.  But not without a stop at Jacob's Smokehouse.  This is the store, not the restaurant.  The customer area is probably less than a 5 foot by 10 foot space.  The nice ladies behind the deli case explained that the andouille is only sold smoked and will travel well.  They also sold whole smoked chickens, fresh pork sausage and a few other items.  But everyone knew that the reason you go there is for the Andouille.  If you need Andouille, this is the place to get it, and they ship world wide.  Our 1.5 lb stick cost a little over $10.00, not bad we thought.  I can't wait to try it in some of our own recipes as a substitute for kielbasa, Italian sausage or pepperoni.

What an andouille of a day!


Tuesday December 14th

Difficult day today.  We were awakened around 6:00 a.m. with news that our niece had been rushed to the hospital and went directly from the ER to the OR.  We didn't feel like doing much and wanted to be able to get and make calls, so it was a stay at home kind of day.

Later in the day we were informed that another family member unwittingly spent part of the evening with a white supremacist family.  They said they got through it without choking anybody or opening any veins.

Then the evening ended with word that a friend had been dealt an incredible injustice.  The kind that makes you wonder how anyone can be ignorant enough and dumb enough to not realize what they are doing.  Well, like I always say, you can't get into an intellectual duel with an unarmed opponent.

Tomorrow will be's going to be spent in the saddle with the wind in our faces.


Wednesday December 15th

After morning coffee, we rolled the iron ponies out of their barn and saddled up for a ride to Baton Rogue (that's French for Red Stick).

Going the recommended route is about a 60 mile ride.  Fortunately, we never go that way on the bikes.

After filling the tanks, we pulled out onto the road and went straight instead of left.  Did a U turn in the Popeye's Chicken lot and got back on course.  Heading down Highway 44 or River Road, we once again rode along the levees that contain the Mississippi River.

You may recall our previous, and shorter ride along this road when we described the bonfires being built for the Christmas Eve celebration.  This second trip yielded more details.  For the first 7 or 8 miles the pyramid shaped bonfire logs were placed about every half mile or so.  Then as we got into the epicenter of the bonfire tradition around Gramercy and Lutcher, the bonfires were about every hundred yards.  The entire rum of bonfire logs waiting to be lit stretched over 20 miles.

One of the things we learned very quickly is that Louisiana rarely puts directions on their State or Parish (County) road signs.  So after riding through the towns of Uncle Sam and Union (yes, we are in the deep south), we came to the junction of highway 70, and the sign said just that.  So I made the turn that I thought would take me to the Sunshine Bridge, but alas, it ran along side the bridge and then joined 70 heading east and away from the bridge.  I needed to go west and across the bridge so we made U turn #2.  The bridge took us across the Mississippi and was obviously designed to accommodate the tallest of tall ships.  This thing was WAAAAAY up there. 

After crossing, we pulled over and agreed that we were getting hungry.  Instead of turning on to highway 18 we went a little further looking for food.  There was none, so U turn #3 took us back to 18.  Again, we needed to go west and the sign only indicated the number.  After about 4 miles, we made U turn #4.

Along our route, we saw a wide variety of sights.  Industrial plants with names like ADM, Dow, and Shell.  Next to these plants were stately plantation homes, shanty towns and modest houses all mixed together.

Outside the Cypress Cafe,
Donaldsonville, LA
Donaldsonville's historic district was exactly what you would expect from a southern small town.  Quaint and inviting.  The Cypress Cafe was one of several eateries on Railroad Street.  An old store with wooden floors and homey touches.  We each got the andouille and chicken gumbo and shared the fried catfish bites.  Since I don't speak southern, I could have sworn the server said the catfish doesn't normally come with frogs, but they put them on, but I wasn't charged for them.  No problem for me, I like frog.  Unfortunately, I misunderstood.  She said FRIES.  O.K. I like fries too!  Anyway, the gumbo was terrific as was the catfish.

Leaving town we headed west in search of highway 1 north.  Again no direction indicator at the intersection.  Of course I picked the wrong one and U turn #5 was completed.  The remainder of the ride went smoothly through mostly sugar cane fields.  Some of which were being burned.  This is how they harvest the cane.

Before long we were in Baton Rogue.  We made it.  Stopped for a drink and potty break then made the turn toward home.  The return trip was along Interstate and U.S. highways with directional markings.  I'm pleased to report that no further U turns were required.

All told we traveled about 170 miles.  It was great to get another long ride in.  It's been a while.


Thursday December 16th

Due to an accident by a service technician at the Smart Car dealership in Pittsburgh, the spare car key/remote was replaced before we left home.  Unfortunately the remote had not be programmed and was now needed.  Fortunately the only Smart dealer in a four state area was here in New Orleans. 

A call to their service department confirmed they could perform the programming.  They would need the car and all keys to complete the process, and it could take 60 to 90 minutes.  Then the shocker...the charge for reprogramming a remote...$118.00.  We called the Pittsburgh dealership, Bobby Rahall, and told them the story.  Russ, the service manager took the info and said, "I'll call you back".  Later in the day he called and said they would take care of any charges and all we had to do was get there.

Our appointment at the New Orleans Smart Center was for 9:00 a.m.  Very nice folks met us at the door and provided coffee and brownies, magazines and music to pass the time.  After about an hour it seemed they were going to have difficulty getting the code information.  At this point they offered us a loaner car to go out and enjoy our day.

Leaving the dealership we went in search of the Parkway Bakery and Tavern.  According to our niece Jennifer, we HAD to get there for one of their hot roast beef po-boys.  At about 5 minutes before 11:00 a.m., we pulled up in front of the place and it looked like a corner bar.  We weren't sure this was the place.

After parking and walking toward the entrance, we noticed that they were not open, but there were a handful of folks milling in front of the door.  As we approached, the door was unlocked and we followed the others in.  We walked past the bar and then up the four steps to a dining room with about a dozen tables and decorated with shirts, banners and old signs on the walls.  Noticing that the folks ahead of us were forming a line at an ordering window, we grabbed a menu from the box on the wall and saw our target sandwich was at the top of the list.

Being 6th in line gave me the chance to observe how the orders were placed.  For those back home, it works about the same as ordering at the Original Hot Dog Shop.  Looking behind me, I was shocked to see that at just a few minutes after the doors opened, there were about 30 customers in line behind me.  At that point we were pretty sure this was the place.

I grabbed a couple of Barque's and a bag of "Crawtaters" chips and headed for the pick-up window.  The sandwich was wrapped in white butcher paper and sealed with masking tape.  I headed down another set of steps to the enclosed patio area, which was attached to the outside dining area.  An obvious sign that they need to accommodate large crowds.  Unwrapping revealed 8 inches of crusty French bread containing a huge mound of roast beef and gravy, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo.  This was a killer of a sandwich.  The meat was very tender and no doubt had been slow roasted for many hours.  The toppings added to the sloppiness and required a least a fork, perhaps a spoon to eat.  Yeah, there is no doubt this WAS the place.

After lunch we headed for the New Orleans Harley Davidson dealership.  I needed a new turn signal module and it gave us a really unnecessary excuse to hang out at another Harley shop.  I got my part, we looked at the shirts and gear.  I checked out the new bikes and decided which ones (plural) I would buy if I hit the Powerball. (gotta get Powerball tickets).

Now, after 2:00 p.m. the Smart dealer called to say the programming was finished and they were washing the car.  Nice bonus, it did need cleaned.

Although, we haven't been suffering through the weather like those back home, it's been relatively cold.  Today finally reminded us why we leave town for the winter.  With the temperature over 70 degrees, the ride back to camp was done with the convertible top down.

P.S.  With the return of warm temperatures comes the return of the stink bugs.  Flushed 8 today!


Friday December 17th

As we approach our Sunday departure day, we figured it was time to jump into the mouth of the beast and hit Bourbon Street on a weekend night. 

We decided we were going to Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, where the featured act was Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown.  The hotel was a lovely French style building and beautifully decorated for the holiday, and the club looked like something out of a 1930's movie musical.  Overstuffed chairs, little tables with candles, and patent leather booths.

Kid's quartet played all the standard jazz selections you expect to hear in New Orleans.  His trumpet was smooth and his fingers were fast on the valves.  The piano man, bass player and drummer were all excellent musicians and the group blended well. 

Kid Chocolate introduces his student
 At one point during the show, two 16 year old music students were brought up on stage to jam with the band.  Student's of Kid Chocolate and the drummer, the boys got to show off their stuff and experience playing in front of an audience.  They did very well and the crowd loved them.

After a few beverages, we headed out onto the street and into the swelling crows.  Bodies and beads were everywhere.  As you walked the street, you heard music coming out of every window and door.  Surprisingly, no so much of it was what you would expect, at least not what I expected.  From several venues we heard classic rock, like Led Zeppelin, then hip-hop, rap, pop and even one duo playing Seals and Crofts, Summer Breeze (eck!).

Then we stumbled upon the Bayou Club where a Zydeco band was playing up a storm.  This is some serious toe-tappin', fun music,  They had everybody smiling.  While there we tried some of the red beans and rice, served with Cajun sausage and an order of BBQ wings.  Both local favorites, the red beans and rice more than the wings, were either very good, or, enough imbibing had taken place that they just seemed very good.  Either way, they were enjoyed.

Debauchery is the norm here!
 Our evening kept us out into the wee small hours of the morning. Well past a proper time for us "oldies" to be running around.  But hell!  We ain't dead yet and we returned with our fair share of beads.  Nawlins Baby!  Enjoy it...We did!


Saturday December 18th

Well, today is our last full day in New Orleans.  We spent most of the morning doing some prep work in order to leave tomorrow.

I got the motorcycles strapped down in the trailer along with other loose items that needed to be secured.  Judy started to put away the items that accumulated on the tables and counter tops and rearranged the furniture into the traveling mode.  Kinda like that "seat backs and tray tables in the upright position for take-off" thing.

This afternoon, we headed into the French Quarter to go to Central Grocery.  We wanted to buy some of the Italian olive topping the put on their Muffalettas.  We finally found a place to park, and thank goodness for that Smart Car, you can get it into some tiny places.  When we got to the store, the line was out the door and down the sidewalk.  We decided to look up the recipe and make out own.

We then drove to the other side of the Quarter to Our Lady Of Guadalupe Church for Saturday Mass.  We payed another visit to the Shrine of St. Jude and Judy lit a candle.  Although not the hopping musical extravaganza that we experienced last Sunday here, it was still a nice service.  During the Mass, two Baptisms took place.  Always a happy event, those Baptisms are!

After Church, we took a drive to City Park and got a peek at their Celebration in the Oaks Christmas light display.  They had it set up with thousands of lights in the oak trees, a Christmas train, and carousel.

Time for dinner and the question became, "where do you want to go?"  We weren't what we wanted so we thought for a while and Judy suggested a return to the Parkway Tavern and Bakery for one of their Po-boy's.  Great idea!  It was the only restaurant we visited twice in the two weeks we were here.  I think that tells you something.  This time I had the fully dressed Hot Sausage Beef Patty Po-boy and she had the Rubin sandwich.  These are really hearty sandwiches on their own but we also got an order of French Fries and an order of Sweet Potato Fries.  I'm the traditional and she's the sweet potato, and both were excellent.  The atmosphere did not change much from the lunch crowd a few days ago to the evening crowd tonight.  It is a local bar and restaurant that has earned it's reputation.

When we got back the car was loaded and secured into the trailer.  Tomorrow morning we'll disconnect the water, sewer, electric and satellite dish, hook up the trailer to the coach and be on our way to Texas.  It's close to 600 miles so we will probably get there sometime on Monday.  So that means that we'll probably be taking a couple of day off from blogging.

Thanks to those who have been following along.  It's really nice to have you with us.


Sunday December 19th

Left La Place around 9:00 a.m. and headed west.  Pretty much an easy drive along mostly flat and straight Interstate 10.

Central Houston and downtown San Antonio were a little unnerving.  Even for a Sunday there was plenty of traffic and exit and entrance ramps all over the place.  Upper levels and lower levels to the roadways and cars coming at you from all directions.  And we don't want to have to make any sudden U turns in the rig.  On the bike, well, it's expected.  Not so much in the motor home.

We wound up doing close to 600 miles yesterday and stopped for the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  in the morning we'll find an RV park.  It's very difficult to negotiate your way around some campgrounds if you come in after dark or after they close.  Most have a night registration where you find a spot and pay in the morning.  Frankly, I prefer to do it in the daylight and make sure I get a spot that will accommodate our needs.

Tomorrow we take the Alamo.  According to our Son, we're supposed to ask about the basement.  Don't know what that means, but we'll see.


Monday December 20th

The morning fog was wet and heavy when we got up today.  After coffee, we found a campground and headed west another 20 miles to the Alamo Fiesta RV Resort.  We checked in and went to our site.  Easy to get in and plenty long enough for us to pull in without having to disconnect the trailer.  That is ALWAYS a bonus.  We leveled the coach, hooked up the utilities and took our showers.  By 10:00 we pulled the Smart out of the trailer and were headed into San Antonio.

Once there, we headed straight for the Alamo, and by now the temperature was in the mid 60's and headed for the mid 70's.  The first thing to strike you is of course, the architecture.  Originally established as Spanish Mission, the heavy stone construction and arches are typical of Churches of that period.  But what went on there was a bit different.  I won't go into the history of the place.  If you would like more info, just click on the word Alamo above.  The grounds and site are impeccably maintained and it is FREE to the public to get in.  It is operated by volunteers of the Daughter of the Republic and depends solely on donations and gift shop and audio tour sales.  Nice job ladies!

The previous day, when talking to our Son, he said that when we get there, we should ask about the basement.  When I asked why, he said, just ask someone.  Like a fool I walked up to a guide and stated that we wanted to know about the basement.  He laughed and said, "someone put you up to this, didn't they?"  Seems I had forgotten the scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, when he wants to see the basement, because he got a tip that his missing bicycle was being held there.  Click on Pee Wee's Big Adventure above to see more.

We've learned that one of the best ways to get to know a city is with a city tour.  Our favorites are the Trolley Tours available in many locations.  We hopped aboard the trolley after purchasing a two day pass.  The tour allows you to get on and off during the day.  Since it was mid afternoon, we opted to just ride the trolley for the entire loop today and figure where we would like to step off and explore tomorrow.  The tour took us to three different Mission Churches, the Market District, the Alamodome, the Institute of Texan Cultures, and the Tower of the Americas.

We ended the tour back at the Alamo and walked across the street and down the steps to the famed River Walk area.  This is an amazing place.  Water falls, bridges, shops, restaurants, and bars all along a couple miles of meandering sidewalks bordering both side of the San Antonio River.  During our afternoon walk we stopped at Rita's on the River for a couple of frozen Margaritas and chips with salsa.  Excellent drinks and salsa that makes your lips swell to twice their normal size.  Total bill...$6.00!  Having thought our "musical" tour had ended after Memphis' blues and New Orleans' jazz and Zydeco, we were pleased when the Mariachi players stopped at our table to serenade us.

A fairly long walk later, we found ourselves at the Tower of the Americas.  At 750 feet above the city, it's circular observation tower affords you a view for what looks like hundreds of miles in any direction.  The sun was just beginning to set and made for a beautiful sight.  The glass elevator ride is outside the tower, so if you're squeamish about such things, be sure to face the elevator door. 

We walked back to the River Walk area and with the sun now gone, everything was lit with the normal lights from the shops and the additional lights for the holiday.  The trees, bushes, railing and building all had some kind of lights attached to them.  Even the river boats we glowing in red and green. 

Dinner was at a Tex-Mex place on the river and our table was on the railing at the river's edge.  I got the Enchiladas Verde.  An excellent choice served with a green pepper sauce that was very mild and smooth.  Judy got the chicken fajitas.  A ton of grilled chicken and toppings all served on a sizzling plate.

As we walked back to the car to head back to camp, we stopped at the Menger Hotel.  A grand old style souther hotel was beautifully dressed for the holiday.  One of the more famous bars, the Menger Bar, is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited most of the members of his Rough Riders .

Back at camp, little Mia, after more than 10 hours inside was ready to explode.  She went out and did her thing and then off to bed and back to town tomorrow.