Friday, November 27, 2015

Exciting Thanksgiving Beaumont TX

On paper Beaumont looked like a bigger nicer town than it turned out to be. The idea was to be someplace not out in the middle of no where for Thanksgiving. It didn't really work out they way.

Beaumont was and is an oil town, you can see refineries on the horizon. The downtown was practically a ghost town.

There was a nice park near our campground and Tucker got a few nice walks there.

We also visited a recreation of the original gusher at Spindletop. It was about the only thing open that day after our first choice of the Texas Energy Museum was closed.

Crackerbarrel ended up to be our only choice for Thanksgiving meal but it turned out to be pretty good. And no leftovers or extra desserts was good for my waistline.

After talking to family we hit the last Hunger Games Movies at the theater next to Crackerbarrel. It was just OK.
Not far from Beaumont was Big Thickett Nation Preserve.  We checked out the visitor center and then decided to take a short hike there.

First we ate lunch and it was hot and really really buggy. We decided a shorter hike than planned.

A lot of the park was dirt roads which was fun and then we took a short loop hike.
They have several different carnivorous plants in the thickett and we spotted some piture plants. The others we smaller flowering plans which I think are only around in nicer weather.
There were also a lot of little lizards running all over the place.

After some shopping and call with the friend who checks on our house our exciting time in Beaumont was almost over.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A few days in Natchez MI

After leaving florida we head through Mississippi to Natchez MI.

In Natchez is a small Nation Historic Park comprised mostly of an Antebellum home which we toured and ate lunch at.

The Natchz Trace parkway also ends here, it is a scenic parkway kind of like the MI version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We didn't drive much of it but you could spend a week on it.
Nearby the state park we camped in was Emerald Mound the 2nd largest Indian Mound in North America.

It was a just a quick stop as there are only a couple interpretive panels.

On a prior trip we visited a much better mound site where some of it was recreated and there was much more information
Sadly we missed getting to eat at Mammy's for lunch because they closed right before we got there. We really only wanted some of the legendary pies they serve.

Instead we had to hit a Steampunk Coffee shop downtown for coffee and a snack. But even they had no snacks... the world was against me!

The downtown is really cute with nice shops and a few restaurants. There is a nice walk right along the river where there is also a small casino.

In Natchez we also watched the Patriots game at a Ruby Tuesday only because the game was cable and none of the downtown places seemed to be open late enough to see the whole game.
On the way to TX we passed through LA and stopped in a town called Kinder for lunch and some boudin.

It is pork and rice cooked in a sausage casing. We got two one smoked one plain. They were tasty.
Traditionally they are served with cracklins and that is how we had them.

We also had them for leftovers the next day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Departing the beach the long way.

Leaving FL we were only heading for an overnight at a Walmart on our way west so we took the long way as we didn't need to get in early.

First we finally drove all the way to Fort Pickens which looked close to where we were camping but turns out the Santa Rosa Island was a lot longer than it looked on google maps.

The for was cool but it was a very windy and chilly so we didn't stay that long.

Driving out to the fort on the tip of the island was fun, the island isn't very wide at the tip and the sand looks more like drifts of snow than sand.

At the fort we were only a few miles as the crow flies from the Naval Aviation Museum, however the drive was a lot longer as we had to back-track on the island go inland and then back to Pensacola to the Naval Base.

The museum is on-base but it was no problem bringing the trailer through the check point I am sure lots of RV'er stop here.
We ate lunch in the parking lot and then hit the musuem.

We only spent a hour or so there so we could get back on the road. There was a lot more to see and learn and we didn't even see the planes they had out on the airfield

The big plane here is an NC-4 Flying boat, it was the first plane to cross the Atlantic in 1919, I had never heard of it before. It took 19 days. Seemed like a good feat but 2 weeks later a plane crossed non-stop in 15 hours!

After that we motored to Hattiesburg AL and did our shopping and slept in the Walmart.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A fews days at the beach in Florida

After all the rain we needed some sun! We decided to head down to the panhandle of Florida, we hadn't thought of going down this direction but that is the beauty of RVing you don't have to know where you are going.

Several towns in florida seem to have created small food courts out of Airstream Trailers. This one was in the town of Seaside where they filmed the Truman Show.

The beaches were nice but there were biting flies and we didn't have any bug spray handy.

Our campground was a private resort which was taken over by a Florida state park so it was really nice and even had a pool and great trails for walking.

One night we went out to dinner with a friend who used to live in Boston but moved to florida about 8 years ago.

We also had dinner at their house the next night. He and his husband have two fun dogs!
 Tucker was welcome but it would have been a wild night with 3 dogs around so we left him at home.

He also got a nice trip a dog park although it was still flooded from the rain over the last few days. Not that he minded!
Turns out Steve is an excellent cook somethings we didn't know about when he lived in Boston.

It was great to meet and get to know his husband Derek.

I am glad we took a detour to Florida.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Montgomery AL

From Huntsville we travelled to Montgomery Alabama. There was a big storm heading across the south so we wanted to be in a city at a campground with services.

The storm did come and it rained pretty much for 18 hours straight.

Tucker did not like hanging inside the trailer so much.  Will got some work done and I did our first laundry of the trip.
After the a while you just need to get out of the trailer so we decided to go out to lunch. We went out for BBQ at a chain from the south call Jim'N Nicks. It was a deluge of rain so we wanted to go to a place with parking and indoor seating. Most of the more authentic local BBQ places were just take out and that wouldn't get us out of the trailer long enough.

The BBQ was pretty good and I had a some leftovers too. I asked the waitress which was better the Bananna Pudding or the Lemon Pie and she said the pudding was better so we decided to split that.

To our surprise the waitress brought us both the pudding and the pie and said she thought we should try both... I never turn down a free piece of pie!

The pudding was better and something we don't get up north.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Marshal Flight Center Huntsville AL

At Marshall Flight center there is a Museum and the home of NASA's Space Camp Program as well as being where they developed much of the Apollo Moon Landing technology.

They also have their own campground which is dirt cheap and had FAST Wifi (If you are a RV'er you know advertising Wifi doesn't mean it works or even is fast enough to check your email).

Here is the launchpad for the Space Camp Rockets.

As a kid who launched a lot of rockets and really likes the space program and I am sure begged my parents to send me to space camp it was a bit disappointing.

Apparently the idea of re-usable space systems died with the shuttle because the entire campground and fields surrounding the launch area is littered with I kid you not thousands of rockets and rocket parts.

It was pretty sad, as were some of the exhibits in the museum so cracked and damaged by sun and exposure you couldn't read them.  Of course they also had a brand new Saturn V Building where everything worked and looked nice.

Even cooler than some of the museum stuff was the random abandoned rocket and plane parts in the woods and trails around the campground.  This cockpit was the first I found, but later found nose cones and a fairing from a multistage rocket and other parts.
Rocket Garden some are repro and some are real rockets.

 This was a real Apollo Isolation Airstream used to keep the astronauts quarantined after the first few Apollo Missions. They thought it was destroyed in a fire but it was found in a swamp that was part of a fish hatchery.

After a few moom missions they stopped doing this as they decided there was no dangerous life on the moon to be brought back.
Here was a cool RV in the parking lot, of course like the cool rigs we saw in Alaska is was German.

I am alway amazed at the tires and off-road capabilities the Germans think they will need to see America.

After touring the museum Will had some work todo So I took Tucker up to a big state park nearby for a 3.5 mile walk. If was on a small bluff overlooking Huntsville but there were too many trees to get good views of the city.

Before leaving we took one more walk through the woods and found more abandoned missle/rocket parts.

This seems to be an upper park of some kind of rocket with control thrusters. It also had a lof of electronic componenets still in tack.

That reminds me one of the most interesting things I learned about the Apollo missions is how the Saturn V was controlled by a ring of electronics including a computer with less memory/power than the electronics in modern kitchen appliance.  This ring was below the command module and the LEM.
Originally the astronauts wanted to control the rocket but that was veto'd by NASA and lucky for one Apollo mission that was struck by lightning temporarily frying the command module but not touching the control ring or else they never would have made it to orbit.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nashville Part II

Right down the road from the campground was the Gaylod Opryland Hotel and Convention Center so we thought we'd check it out. We drove over and found the parking was $26 that is more than we are paying to camp!

We ended up driving back to one of the places across the street from the Opryland and parking for free and walking over.

Inside the hotel they have 4 different attriums of gardens and shops, one even including a boat ride.

We walked them all and it was a bit like being in Vegas except no gambling.

We had parked here next to Cooter's Dukes of Hazzard Museum which I had checked out on Tucker's really long walk from the day before.

This time I had my phone so I took a picture.

We also visited The Hermitage the home of President Andrew Jackson.

On the site he had several homes ranging from the original log cabin (converted to slave housing) a bigger home (which mostly burned down) and a final home which was converted to a museum not too long after he moved out.

In the parking lot was this awesome restored VW Bus!
 On the way home from the Hermitage we went to McKay's Books (Ok is wasn't on the way at all...) an amazing used book and music and dvd and electronics store.

I have never seen so many used books, I finally found the 2 I had been searching for in Asheville.

Then we fell for the Temptation of the McRib my favorite McDonald's sandwich. They were 2 for 5$ and we we did drive through (very rare for us) and ate them with home made salad at the campground.

On one drive someplace I detoured through a patch of green on google maps and happened upon the biggest dog park I have ever seen. Tucker got 2 trips here before we left Nashville. He had a great time although he thought there could be more squirrels and of course a dog park is never as much fun without his buddies Duncan and Charlie!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Nashville Part I

Although we arrived in the dark and the temperature was very chilly overnight we woke up to a beautiful sunny day.

First we took Tucker for what turned out to be a very long walk when we found a road on the map wasn't public.

After that checked out the replica of the Parthenon and took a walk around the park it was in.

Checking we located a good place for lunch, Arnold's a classic southern Meat and 3.

We got there just in time as a very very long line formed after we arrived.

I had fried cat-fish, collards, mac & cheese and fried green tomatoes for my sides. Will had the same sides with meat loaf.

And of course we each got a piece of pie! It was a lot of food!
After lunch we drove to the downtown entertainment district and walked around. This is there street of bars and clubs.

Each establishment has it's own cool bright sign. If it had been darker I would had take some more photos of them.
With all those drinking places people are bound to have problems with the law!
We walked too and went inside State Capital Building.

People really like these pedal powered pubs. It is clear people come to this city to PARTY!

And to visit the Bails Bondsmen.
Awesome Hot Dog stand... trust me some of these people need to get some food in their stomachs!

We had plenty of time left on our parking so we went into the Honky Tonk bar (3 levels of bar each with it's own live music) and had a beer and listened to some music.

This band on the first floor was great, the other two floors weren't as good.

Time for a rest we ended up walking around 12 miles between Tucker and the visit to the city and my dogs are barking!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mammoth Cave National Park

From Asheville we started heading off to Mammoth Cave NP. It was long drive day at over 325 miles to the cave.

Travelling in winter has been very different from our other trips. There is a lot less day-light for driving. A lot less considering both our other trips were north of home and had a lot more day light per day.
We drove through Cumberland Gap a slight detour from the fastest route to the cave but we got to go through this cool tunnel.

The drive was really pretty as we crossed the mountains. We stopped at the Cumberland Gap Nation Historic Site Museum ate lunch and watched a movie about the gap. Tucker got a nice walk on the trail around the park too.

Well we decided not to drive all the way to the park. We would have got to the campground there in the dark and that is no fun. Instead we stopped 20 miles shy of the park and did an overnight at a Walmart.

In a first for us we used the BBQ to make a big steak in the parking lot. The briquets I used we the easy light kind and put on a big show but it didn't attract any negative attention.

We also drank a very expensive bottle of wine with our steak. Probably the most expensive meal ever eaten at a Walmart.

The nice thing about this plan was we had a nice day to spend at the Mammoth Cave Park.  We pulled in by 9 am and got tickets for a tour at 1:15 (Because it was the long tour we wanted to take).

After that Will did some work and I took Tucker for a walk on the trails around the park.

This was a cool tree, maybe a shagbark hickory?

I've been sink-hole obsessed since seeing a Nova episode about them.

Well the caves cause a lot of sink holes and I hiked past this one. It was static so it wasn't going to suck me down underground.

This tree really really wanted to live!

The cave tour was interesting, Mammoth Cave claims to be the worlds largest cave system at over 400 miles of tunnels.

We toured a big former underground river portion of the cave which is now dry. We have seen a ton of stalagtites and "Cave Bacon" before so it was nice to see a different kind of cave.

After the cave we hit the road for Nashville, TN and ended up getting in just after dark but it wasn't too had to back into our sight and get settled.