Monday, June 26, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 10


Today was mostly a travel day, but we did see a few things that I want to remember so I'll recount them here.

First we got up, got dressed and then grabbed breakfast at the hotel.  Holiday Inn Express has a good breakfast some days and I love their cinnamon rolls.     We then loaded up and headed over to Sandra's to drop Murrell off and visit for a few minutes before leaving.  I didn't get to visit with Sandra or Vicki very much this trip and it was my first time meeting Sandra.   They are supposed to come to the house in a few weeks to bring Murrell for her annual summer visit so I'm hoping to get to know them some more then.

We then had to leave, which was hard for Mama, but we can't stay forever so ... off we went.   Today was mainly a drive to Austin which was about 6 hours away, but we broke it up by stopping in Corsicana.   There was a pioneer village that was on the AAA things to do list and I told the nieces not to get excited... glad I did!

It was a replica of an old pioneer village crammed into maybe a 1/4 acre lot.  Most of the buildings were extremely musty and the lady we paid for our tickets with looked surprised to have guest.   There was some things that were worth remembering though:

  • They had a "Lefty" museum that was a nice surprise.  He was a country music star and there were neat pictures and memorabilia that were neat to see.
  • There was an old out of tune piano that looked kind of neat.
  • There were some really old creepy dolls... the stuff horror movies are made of.
  • The had a building filled with old pictures from the town.  It was not climate controlled so I hope they have copies as these will not last long :(
  • Amanda tried to brand Mama with an old cattle prod.
  • Mama climbed up in a tree at 72 years of age - I was worried.   
  • I climbed up in a tree to make her happy..... I'm insane.
  • She wanted to climb into the stage coach, but I thought it would fall down ... so No.

After that Amanda and I went to find a bathroom while Mama and Kaylee went to take pictures of some flowers.   The bathroom was difficult to find and a nice gentleman playing basket ball told us where it was.  He also said I had pretty eyes and I said thank you... a few minutes later I realized he was talking to Amanda, oops!

We then made sandwiches and ate them in the truck as it was just too hot to sit outside at a picnic table!  Sweat was pouring down my back from the little walking we did :(

After that we left Corsicana and drove the remaining 2.5 hours to Austin.  We are staying in a Crowne Plaza a little outside the city and it is nice.  The valet offered to help us with the bags, but I felt subconscious about the sheer # of bags we have so I did it... I should have let him help.   I am going to be muscle bound by time we get home from lifting these things all of the time.  

We then settled into our room, got baths, rested, and were up and out again.

We went and ate at a local Tex Mex restaurant that was amazing.  I had a skirt steak meal that was melt in your mouth good.   I wanted to wash the truck after dinner, but everything had closed so that will have to wait for another day.   I also needed to get a new Compact flash for my computer, but Best Buy didn't sale them - Can you believe that?  So I needed up buying a card reader given I left mine at home so that I could empty my 32 GB card.... I'm getting a couple of 100GB cards for Europe this year!

Anyway... we ran our errands and came back to the hotel.  It was getting late + it had started storming so I was glad to get back.   We have a jam packed day of touring tomorrow so I'll get off of here now. Sleep well blogland :)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 9.2


So I thought I was done for today, but I have to tell you about our laundromat experience.   Everyone but Kaylee and I were asleep so we decided to wash the cloths that we had planned to wash later in the evening.  I thought the hotel had a laundromat, but it didn't so we headed out to the local laundromat.  

I realized upon driving over to this laundromat that I have no idea how to use a laundromat.  I told Kaylee to stay in the car and I got out and popped in to make sure they sold washing powders.  I was walking in and there was a gentleman standing there and he said "yes, there is a machine to the right that sales it."  I popped in and a guy that worked there confirmed the machine so I went out and got Kaylee.

We then proceeded to get change and put or cloths in the washers.  The guy was extremely helpful and showed us how to use the machines and how much to put in each one.   I believe he may have been slightly autistic, but he was highly functioning and helped me out extensively.

After getting our cloths going we sat and visited for a while with each other.   We then put them in the dryers and the gentleman once again helped us.  I'm sure he was laughing on the inside, but ah well - I needed the help.  

We then waited a bit longer until they were done and then we started to fold them.  At this point the guy is hanging out chatting with us as we fold.  It was a little bit awkward as it felt like he was analyzing our cloths, but he was just trying to get some company I think.  Anyway, this excursion cost me like $25 - I'm not sure how people afford laundromats, but the cloths are clean.   It was a funny adventure and I had a ball telling the girls back at the hotel.    

Once we got back everyone repacked their suitcases and we are checking out in the morning to head to Corsicana and then to Austin.    I'll let you know how that all goes tomorrow :)

Texas Adventure Day 9


Today has been a day of family, so not too terribly much to write journal wise.   Murrell spent the night last night so there are 5 of us in the hotel room here.  You would think it would be crowded, but she is so tiny and I enjoy Mama and  her interacting so much that it's not or if it is I'm not noticing.   We all, including Murrell, got to sleep a little late and went and got breakfast in the hotel... I missed taking the picture again, but the breakfast was good and also free, so win.

After breakfast we drove to Marshall to pick up my cousin - Ima Jean.   Ima Jean has always scared me.  Back when I was younger and we came to visit there as always yelling and shouting in the house she and my aunt lived in - its how they communicated.    I have memories that made me seriously want to never come back to TX so I was very apprehensive about this visit.  However, I was so surprised.  I'm guessing my memories are skewed as she was very enjoyable to be around.  We picked her up and went to the Willow Oak Cemetery in Gilmer TX.

This is the cemetery where Mama's grand parents are buried.  We wondered around, looked at the graves, and tried to determine why everything looks different than Mama remembers.  I think it is the fact that storms have taken trees down which causes the entire place to have a different look - Mama swears they moved the graves.   Who knows what is true, but we did find the markers so I'm considering it a win.

We then headed back to Longview/Marshall area.  Before we took ImaJean back we stopped at a local restaurant, the Bootlegger Grill for some lunch.  The food and service were both excellent.  They did not have a shrimp plate, but they made one for my Aunt Murrell, which was super sweet.   They also had fabulous sweet tea and Amanda's Alfredo was to die for.   I really wish I had ordered that, though my shrimp was also good.

After lunch we drove back to ImaJean's, but we took old rows and Murrell, ImaJean and Mama were pointing out places they and others they knew had lived, things they had done, etc...   Most of it is gone now and it's just fields, but it was nice to hear them reminisce.

We then went back to ImaJeans and her and Mama looked at some old pictures.  My other cousin Steven aka Peanut was there and they were talking loudly and at the same time just as I remember from back as a teenager.   They were not arguing, it is just how they communicate - Mama and Murrell joined right in.  All talking at once and all hearing each other - I don't know how they do it, but they do.   It raises my stress level, but I'm not around it all of the time and am just not used to it.  

We stayed a bit and then headed back to the hotel to do some laundry and nap.  Currently everyone is in nap mode.   In a bit I'll go do the laundry and I think the rest of the night will just be visiting and getting some rest.  If anything else interesting pops up I'll be sure to do a part 2 for the day, but in the meantime I hope you have a good afternoon/evening.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 8


Today was a day set for family and we did see family, but it ended up being a day trip into itself.  We got up around 10 (slept in a bit), grabbed some breakfast at the infamous Waffle House and then headed over to Sandra's house.    But before we talk about Waffle House let us talk about the Waffle House visit.

We get our seat in a bench and I go to take the normal group picture I take and post to FB before every meal.  Only this time an elderly gentleman sticks his tongue out behind the girls heads... which I post to FB anyway :)   Then Mama decides to go get a picture with him... which was hilarious, and it gets posted to FB too.  Only my Mama... I wish I could be that way with strangers.

After breakfast we rode over to Sandra's, my cousin, and almost immediately got into the cars to go see Kilgore.  Kilgore is the home of one of the major oil boons during the 30s.  We went to the Oil Museum, which was great.  They made it look like an old town and it wasn't "stuffy" like many museums are.  You could touch things and well just have fun with it.  They taught about the different soil layers and how oil is made.

They have a pretend elevator ride to take you "8 miles" into the earth.  It has the cheesiest puppets you have ever seen or heard tell of, but it was cute.    They also had a movie about the "oil boon" that was actually pretty interesting, until the end when they shook your seat like you were at an oil drill... that was pretty high on the cheese factor.

I actually had to change my Card in my camera today at the museum.  I started shooting RAW a while back and this is the first big trip since then.... 32GB card filled up :(  I am using my 8GB card now, but I see a purchase in my future...  Ah well, back to the adventure.

We then went to the oil derricks in Kilgore, took some pictures and visited a bit before getting back in the car.   Then we drove and kept driving to see an Indian Burial ground.  What was funny about this is that I had no idea where I was going - I was just following Sandra.   For those that know me, they know this lack of control is a pretty big deal, but I was game so here we went.   When we got there Sandra actually passed it - there was the ground and some type of teepee.   We stopped and took pictures, then headed on to catch up with Sandra.  Only to see her driving back, she thought the burial ground would be like a cemetary vs. a mound of dirt.   It was so funny - the priceless look on her face.  It made the journey worth it.

We then drove down to the New London school memorial.  It was blown up in the 1930's due to a gas leak and over 300 people, mostly children, died.  Very sad...

We then stopped for some dinner at What-A-Burger (where I failed to get my group photo), had dinner and then went on our way again.  We drove down to an Indian Massacre Site and took a few pictures.    I believe Sandra got turned around a bit on the way they stopped and asked a guy directions.   He was gesturing and we have video of him giving them directions which I hope is as funny as I think it will be.

Once we got there and looked around for a bit we headed back to Longview.  When I had Amanda put our hotel in the GPS I realized we are over an hour out - I think we drove around all of East Texas today, but it was fun.  Murrell rode with us the entire day, so her and Mama were talking and visiting which was good.   Overall it was an enjoyable, but long day.   Now Murrell is staying with us the rest of the visit.  Her and Mama are on the sofabed, Amanda and I are on our bed and Kaylee (the smallest of us) has a bed to herself.  It's pretty funny.

Tomorrow we go visit some additional family and go see Mama's parents graves.    Sleep well blogland.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 7


I'm so tired I almost put off writing this, but I know if I do I'll regret it.   Today was amazing - it was also exhausting.   We got up, ate breakfast at the hotel, packed up and headed out.

The first thing (after Walmart and the ATM) was Hot Springs AK.  We visited the visitor center, walked around the bath exhibits and then went for it.   A bath/massage in Hot Springs.    I was expecting to go into a room, get undressed, put on a robe, go to another room, get in bath, etc...   This is not what happened.   You go into a room - get undressed - then a lady helps you put a sheet on, while you are naked - your butt is facing her!  Yep, she gets to see it in all it's glory.

Then she takes you to another room, where another lady, takes your sheet and helps you get into the bath - she then runs more water, and hands you water to drink.   All while you are naked as a jaybird. Now the lady doing this for me, her name was Mattie, was extremely nice.  She made you so comfortable and it was obvious she didn't give a dang about my lady parts so I was ok with her... but she saw more of me than even my Drs.     Both of my nieces and Mama also had this experience... we weren't together so we didn't see each other (Thank God), but I would love to have seen just their faces - it would have been priceless.

You sit in this tub, in water that is 100 degrees, with a jet that is super powered churning the water.   It was relaxing, but after a while I was ready to get out -it just got to be too much... I was ready to remove myself about 2 minutes before Mattie came back into help me, so good timing.  She helps you out of the tub, wraps another sheet around you and takes you to a bench.   You lay on this bench, drinking ice water, with a hot towel behind you and a cool one on your head.   It was amazing!

After this experience, I think I'm done, but NO.  I then go and sit in this steam box - I didn't let her close the door on my face, but everything else was in a metal box, full of steam.  And yes  I'm still naked as the day I was born.    After the steam box, she puts my sheet back on and I sit in a tub with just my butt.   It was odd, but it soothed my lower back so no complaints.

I then am taken to a shower where I rinse off before going back to wait for my massage.   I then get a full body massage (which was amazing) before getting dressed and calling it an experience.  I'm not sure I'd do the whole thing again as getting that hot really takes it out of you, but it was a fabulous time and something I will remember for ever!

After the bath we were all hungry.  So we went to a local burger joint and ate burgers while regaining our energy.   Once done there, we bought some souvenirs in a shop and left Hot Springs behind.

Next on our agenda was Crater Diamond Mine State Park.  This one was something Mama wanted to do... so we did.  It was an adventure.   I brought buckets and shovels with us as I could get them for a $1 and they wanted $4 to rent them...  So we go down with our buckets to this park.  I had a feeling going in I was going to skip out early and take a nap in the truck, but I expected the others to have a good time....

Let me preface this to see it was hot - I mean really hot.   We went down and everyone started digging in this field of nothing but churned up dirt... tons of churned up dirt, that is all it was.   I took some pictures of the girls and Mama digging and then I went back to the truck.  I got the air on, got all settled in and was about to take my nap when the girls come up.   They were hot and wanted in, Mama on the other hand decided to stay- so I let them in and we are all taking a nap.  I tell them to check on Mama in 10 or so minutes as it is really hot and she doesn't do well in the heat.

It hadn't been no more than 10 minutes as Kaylee was just stepping out to go check on her and here comes a golf cart with a woman on it and Mama.   She had almost passed out in the field due to heat - and here I am laying in the A/C truck looking like an ass to this woman I'm sure.     She is fine, it was just too hot, but geesh... I should have stayed down there.   I guess it's OK given everyone is OK, but aaaah.

So I get her and her rocks settled in the truck and then we head to Marshall/Longview where the family is.   We are here for 3 days to visit and rest.   We checked in and I was getting luggage in when Mama found our room was not good.  The carpet was wet from the A/C, so I went to the front desk and was upgraded to a suite.   The room is awesome and we will enjoy it for the next bit.

After we settled in and I got a shower we went over to Sandra's to see Meryl and the family.   It was a good visit and the homemade pie was excellent.   I am tired though and glad to be back in my bed.   Tomorrow we will get to visit more which will be good.

Sleep well blogland - I'm calling it a night!

PS:  I forgot to say that on the way to Longview we ended up going into Hallsville.  We stopped and saw where my Aunt Jenner and several people Mama knew are buried.  We also stopped at the church where she was a baptized and took a picture.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 6


We are now in Hot Springs AR, checked into the hotel and everyone is gone doing this and that - so I'm in the hotel room, alone.  I love my mother and my nieces, but I also love my alone time.   So this moment of solitude is much appreciated :)   The introverts reading will understand.

Today over all was a great day.   We got up, loaded the truck and headed out.  We ate breakfast at this odd place called The Root Cafe.  It was what I would call a hipster restaurant and not really my style, but that is point of vacation.  Try new things.   The eggs were ok, the toast horrible and the bacon was ham.    The coffee was drinkable, but they only had the raw sugar.  What is wrong with this side of the Mississippi?  They don't seem to believe in regular white sugar.

After escaping the breakfast joint we went down to the Central High School location.   This is where the first public schools were integrated and it was extremely interesting.  The visitor place had videos of the 9 black students who went to school there as they are today, recounting stories and giving their perspective now.   It was amazing to hear them - you have to admire their bravery and determination.

They also had a video explaining how the activism of the 9 blacked students was being carried on students today who are actively protesting social injustice.   It was a well done exhibit and the park ranger was extremely nice and helpful.   It was obvious he enjoyed his job.   We also got to see the school itself, from the outside, and the gas station where the reporters were set up.   Amanda seemed to be moved by it - Kaylee - well she is hard to read.

We left the school and headed to the AR state capital and took a few pictures from the outside.   The capital also has statues of the 9 students who integrated which was pretty cool.

We then went to the Clinton Presidential Library.  Clinton is by far my favorite president, at least of my lifetime, but his library didn't really impress.  JFK still has the best library by far.  Clinton's was too much reading and modern looking.  It was hard to take pictures of the few artifacts because of the way they had the lighting set up and it didn't really grab you and tell a story.

There were a few interesting things:

- When he left office we did not have a deficit, but a surplus!
- We had a balanced budget & we still helped the less fortunate in our society.
- He passed FMLA.
- He was extremely well liked internationally.
- He was impeached, but then he was acquitted by the Senate.

Also, they library seems to want to make money off of stupid things.  $24 for a picture behind the Oval Office desk and their souvenir plates are outrageous ($150).    I think they could have done a much better job.

We then and ate lunch at a Noodle house.   It was pretty good, not something I would do often, but it was something different.  After eating we walked up to this red interesting building and took some pictures.   We asked a gentleman what it was and he told us it was their courthouse... very cool looking.

We then drove down to the Big Dam Bridge :)  It is the largest pedestrian bridge in the US.   It goes over the AR river.  The view off of it was pretty and the rapids sounded so relaxing, but the dam/bridge itself was kinda ugly. After seeing Hoover Dam I think my expectations may be a little high.

We then loaded up and headed to Hot Springs.  After we got 5 minutes along the way I spotted the blessed sign - Dunkin Doughnuts!  So we hopped off and grabbed some Dunkin and a Tropical Smoothie for Kaylee.  I was so happy to see some DD: )   We then proceeded to drive to Hot Springs. The rain was full of rain and construction - my favorite things, but it pretty uneventful.

We are now sitting in the hotel and resting.  Dinner is sandwiches and I think everyone is happy just to rest.   The hotel here is pretty central, so the girls walked down to get some ice-cream from a near by shop and Mama went to the goodwill next door.

Life is good and we are enjoying ourselves.   Tomorrow is the Hot Springs and the Diamond mine, then over to Marshall/Longview to visit family.    Have a good night blogland :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 5


Today was mainly a travel day.  As I mentioned yesterday we changed our schedule to come up North to try and avoid the storm.   We got up, packed our stuff up (which was a miracle in itself) and headed out.   I don't know I think I did something different last time, packing this morning was difficult and I wasn't sure I was going to get the truck to close, but it all worked out.   I do want to say we had two really nice gentlemen help us this morning, one offered and picked up our large suitcases, while the other one helped to close our truck cover.   People are so nice...

We then grabbed a bite to eat at a great restaurant whose coffee was top notch!   I also sat down and chatted with a complete stranger.   He had a O2 machine that is different than Mamas and I wanted to know about it so, I asked to sit and we had a chat ;)   The old me would have never done that, I'm getting nutz in my old age.

We then drove, mostly in the rain, for 6 hours.   The drive overall wasn't too bad and we crossed the 1300 mile marker for our trip which was cool.   There were a couple of things I wanted to remember about the trip so I'll record them here:

- Driving out of New Orleans up 59 you get on this bridge.... or this amazing bridge network, that is.    Mama said it was the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, but I'm not 100% on that.  What I do know is that it's long.... and it has intersections where other bridges come off of it like you were on land.   There are turn around sections (that are blocked off) with Port a Potties  -- I guess in need of emergency situations, lol.   It was really cool.  In some areas we were in brackish/swampy areas and in others we were over water and that was all you could see.   I liked it a lot.

- Then we drove through farm country.   Farms as far as you could see.   Very little in the way of towns, but tons of farms.

- I got hungry and we had planned to eat sandwiches.   I couldn't find anywhere to really pull over so we finally ended up eating in an abandoned buildings driveway.    I was about to be a Snickers Commercial all by myself!

We are now in Little Rock Arkansas.  We got here a few hours ago, settled in, and then drove to get a bite to eat.  I had looked on Yelp earlier for the restaurant, but when I got in the truck I remembered the wrong one.  So we went in, sat down and ordered drinks. While she was gone to get them I looked at the menu and freaked.... this was the expensive, not good place.  So I said "GET UP" and we all left very quickly before she got back with the drinks... it was embarrassing, but hilarious.     We then went to our intended restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful meal with good service.  I had a chicken noodle soup.  It tasted very different than your traditional chicken noodle, but it was yummy.

Now we are all in our pjs ready to settle in for the night.  Tomorrow is a busy day and I'm praying the rain holds off.   Sleep well blogland!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Texas Adventure Day 4


Today was kind of a bust.  We got up to rain...   It was mainly drizzling so we headed out determined to get the most out of the day.   We drove to our restaurant of choice Cafe Fleur De Lis.    The food and service was good.  I had the french toast and it was yummy, not in my top 10, but excellent none the less and everyone else seemed to enjoy their food.  The coffee, however was too bitter for me.  I actually haven't had a cup all day as I had them exchange it -  shocked I  managed.

We then headed back over to the hop on / off parking lot and purchased tickets for the tour of St. Louis Cemetary # 1 where Marie Le Beu is buried.  At this point it was still just drizzling.... The tour starts in 30 minutes so we wonder the visitors area, use restrooms and get ourselves settled in.   We meet our tour guide, who happens to be the same one from the Garden City Tour yesterday and set off.  Then the rain comes... we were no more than 5 feet in and it started raining.  Not so bad you couldn't do it, but bad enough you couldn't enjoy it.  I took a few pictures - Mama held the umbrella over my camera.   But the longer we went the harder it started to rain and I'm not sure I heard anything that woman said as I was focused on my wet feet. ... Wait I did hear a couple of things to note:

  • XXX on tombstones has nothing to do with Voodoo, STOP defacing the graves.
  • Nicholas Cage built a triangle tomb there for when he passes away.  I think he loved his National Treasure part a bit too much.
  • They don't bury them above ground due to sea level... some are actual underground individual tombs.
  • Some of the tombs in the wall have sunken in and you can no longer access them as things sink in this city.
  • People are still actively buried in the cemetery and families often share an above ground tomb.
We got back in the visitors center after the tour and looked at each other.  Everyone was wet and miserable.  So we high tailed it back to the hotel to get dry and stay that way.  We ended up taking naps (all but Kaylee whom I'm sure was board) and woke up around 4 pm.  

We had cancelled our river cruise so that left the evening free... but it's still raining.   So, I found the BB King restaurant that had live music and the girls could get in.  So we went down, ate dinner and listened to the music.    The service was bad, but the food was good and the music was awesome.     The first band was enjoyable, but the second band we listened to was fabulous.  I felt bad taking their table so we didn't sit through the entire set, but wow!  The piano player played both Piano and Organ at the same time -it was amazing.  The main singer was and elderly black man that Mama would have run off with if she could have.  

We then headed back to the hotel and got here around 8:30.

Due to the tropical storm headed our way I have spent the past 3 hours re-planning our trip.  I don't want to be on the beach when the storm comes so I called and modified hotel reservations.   Then I went through and modified our agenda to meet the new dates/drive schedule.   It adds some drive time and is not as efficient, but we will enjoy it more.     We will be going to Little Rock tomorrow and will go back down through Austin/San Antonio / Padres Island next week after the storm has passed.   May I just give a shout out to IHG Hotel Brands.   I called and they were fabulous in helping me get the rooms modified and making sure we were properly taken care of!  She rocked.

And on that note - I need sleep!   I hope you are enjoying traveling with us virtually -more to come tomorrow!

Texas Adventure Day 10

6/26/2017 Today was mostly a travel day, but we did see a few things that I want to remember so I'll recount them here. First we got...