Have you ever been to New Orleans??

This is actually our second time here. I didn’t think it would be a place that I would care for but the culture is so different and interesting. It’s a party for your senses! You can’t escape the sounds of the city from boats passing by on the water to the steady clip clop of the horse drawn tour carriages to the jazz music of the street musicians. As you walk along you can smell the Cajun spices wafting in the air from the dishes being prepared in the many restaurants lining every street. If you’re smart, you’ll enjoy some of the food that New Orleans is known for like a beignet from Cafe du Monde, a muffuletta from Central Grocery or a bowl of jambalaya. It goes without saying that the sights you may see are not always typical or ordinary. It’s a lot to take in since it’s happening all at the same time. Like I said, it’s a party for the senses!

Enjoying a muffuletta and a couple of beignets!

The architecture is consistently remarkable. Even as you drive through the most ordinary of streets, each house is “gingerbreaded” to the max. Even the color choices for houses are a bit unusual, but side by side, they paint a beautiful picture.

We HAVE to tell you about our very favorite NOLA restaurant, Willie Mae’s! This place is about as “unfancy” and “untourist” as you can get, yet there are long lines to get in regardless of the time or day of week. Willie is an old woman, in her nineties, who knows how to make the BEST EVER fried chicken! It literally melts in your mouth. It’s the “sides” that Howie is also in love with. You can choose from mush, fried okra, red beans and rice, green beans, and home made mashed potatoes to name a few. This place really brings out the “southern” in Howie!! We recommend that you all make time to visit Willie Mae’s if ever you’re in town!! Tomorrow, we’re planning on going for shrimp n’ grits….another Howie fav!

(I’ll be looking for something a wee bit more “northern” to order.) Bless my heart!

Fried chicken that literally melts in your mouth….how does she do that?? Howie has a hard time deciding between all the southern sides. Here he chose red beans and rice, fried okra and a corn muffin along with his chicken, of course!
Willie’s is a small little building right in the middle of a residential area. There’s almost always a line any time of the day. There are multiple small rooms, sparsely decorated – certainly nothing fancy except for the southern cooking!
Here are Howie’s shrimp and grits along with a rosemary buttered biscuit. On top is my northern girl’s choice….a BLT! It goes without saying that Howie got my fried green tomatoes!!

On Halloween day, we just couldn’t help ourselves….we went on a carriage ride through the French Quarter and the oldest cemetery in NOLA. Not scary at all, but very historically interesting. Here you must have family already in the cemetery to be entombed here….there are as many as 150 people per vault!! You have to wait a year and 1 day to add a body since the last one, allowing for proper decomposition. Then they take away the faceplate, chip away at the cement or brick behind it, and slide in another body, pushing the previous remains to the back. Pretty weird, but interesting! By the way, the pyramid shaped tomb is Nicholas Cages – just waiting for him!! (FYI – our mules name was “Stormy”.)

So as I said earlier, there are always some “different” things to see in the French Quarter. Here are just a couple for us to share.

Night time on infamous Bourbon Street
Newlyweds??
Wedding pictures in the park – bride and bride. But the really “unusual” part of this picture that Howie took, is the HEADLESS PERSON in the foreground! Howie just happened to snap the pic as the guy leaned over. And on Halloween……cracked me up!
Another couple of strange ones!!

While in New Orleans, we stayed at Pontchartrain Landing RV and Marina. A really nice campground at fairly reasonable rates, considering it was NOLA! The sites were gravel and were separated by tropical bushes and palmetto palms. While we were there, four days in all, we got quite a bit of rain – but we were able to do all that we had hoped to while in this amazing city.

Our next destination is Gulf Shores, Alabama. We plan on being at Gulf State Park for the month of November. Thanks for following us and until we meet again………… happy trails!

Diamonds, diamonds everywhere……

And not a single one found by us!!

We are in Hot Springs Arkansas, birthplace of President Clinton and home of historic bath house row! Yesterday we drove over an hour south to Crater of Diamond State Park where the largest diamond found in the USA was mined. It’s still active and open to the public to find white, yellow or brown diamonds – only if your lucky! You keep what you find but we left empty handed! It was a super fun experience and I would do it again. Just plan on getting really dirty. While we were there 5 diamonds were found, including a 3 1/4 karat brown diamond.

First you watch a video so you have an idea of what you should do. Then you pick a spot in the 27 acres and fill your bucket with dirt and gravel.
Oh well…..like I said, we had a good time!

Yesterday, we went to the visitor center of Hot Springs National Park….it’s not like any other national park – this one is centered around the bath houses, not so much nature like you’d expect. The campground here is small (40 sites – all with full hook up) but beautiful. Very wooded and we have a babbling brook behind our site. We are also graced by the presence of one pesty little red cardinal!! He keeps knocking/pecking on our windows – I think he wants to be friends.

This is what I awoke to this morning, about a foot away from my head. Like I said, pesty but beautiful!! I named him Louie as in St Louie Cardinals.

Today we went to the mineral pools on Bath House Row, downtown Hot Springs. Four different pools with temps of 95, 98, 102 and 104. It was amazing and surprising what difference just a couple of degrees makes! We spent several hours relaxing and soaking it all in.

This is the mens bath room in the museum depicting how it was historically. There are private deep tubs in each room behind the doors or the men could sit under the stained glass ceiling around the bronze statue fountain.

Another final goodbye…….. So yesterday we closed on our home – that makes it official…….we’re homeless. Except we do have Junebug! Have to say, living in a 36 foot motorhome is a bit of an adjustment. It’s hard to get away from your spouse….good thing Howie and I actually like each other. We keep marveling that this is actually our life now. So far we are completely enjoying this new life style. Happy Trails!

We’re in the Bluegrass capital of the nation!

So here’s how it happened…….it was the night before leaving St. Louis and Howie was browsing the internet looking for things to see in Arkansas. Our plan was to meander south toward Hot Springs to spend a week or so before moving along. He found a town called Mountain View in the north central part of the state. The description intrigued both of us as it claimed to be the Bluegrass capital of the nation AND it boasted of an Ozark Folk Center where you can stroll the gardens going from house to house watching exhibitors of area arts. So we hit the road about 10 am and headed to check it all out. It did not disappoint!!

If you ever have a chance to get to Mountain View Arkansas, this is a fun and interesting way to spend a day. The town isn’t somewhere you “happen across” as there’s no interstate you can jump off of to get there. The roads are winding and hilly and on occasion a bit narrow especially in a 36 foot motorhome pulling a “toad”! Howie’s a natural at driving the rig so we didn’t have any problems.
Above is just a small portion of the grounds and artist buildings. The exhibits included fiber arts, quilting, copper work, pottery, stained glass, a blacksmith, basketweaving, doll making, broom making, knife making, and printing to name a few. There was also a restaurant and ice cream shop on the premises. Additionally, there was a theater where we relaxed and took in performances by a couple of different groups – all bluegrass of course!
The “Whoa Mules”. They not only performed musically, but they also entertained with a funny comedy routine.

And last night, we went to “The Meeting Place” to watch the Pam Setser Band, a local, featuring Charlie White (former Nashville musician and a current member of Wynonna Judd’s band), Brad Apple and Irl Hees on bass (formerly played with the Judds).

We have already met some super nice people along the way. For instance, our neighbors in Mountain View are Ron and his wife Jimmee. They are also in a Winnebago MH. They have been coming here for years and are actually pretty permanent fixtures in town. They have a couple of dogs, a couple of cats, a parrot and a miniature pig, HAMilton! He’s potty trained and starts squealing (like a pig) when Ron pulls him from grazing on the grass to go back in – what a hoot!

So we’re pretty much “packed up” and hope to get a pretty early start tomorrow morning. Heading further south where the climate is hopefully still a bit warmer. I actually folded up the extra quilt from the bed tonight and stored it away – probably a sure fire way to find record low temps where we’re heading!! Catch up to you all in a little bit – and as always, until then, happy trails!

Here’s your clue……

Yep, you’re right……we’re in St. Louis!!!! Yesterday we went to the Cahokia Indian Mounds and much to my surprise, it was VERY interesting! The museum is phenomenal! Howie is a big history buff but I think I enjoyed it just as much as I’ve always had a big interest in the native Americans. We spent several hours viewing the exhibits as well as watching a documentary film. Here are a few pics of some of the exhibits.

A replica of the village, population of 40,000, which existed from about 600 AD to 1300. The people eventually had to move due to over population, pollution of the land and exploitation of natural resources. Sounds a little too familiar!
Because it was about 50 degrees with winds around 18 mph we opted out of climbing Monk Mound – 156 steps to the top where the “king” had his house, He was high up so he could see the people (about 40,000) and keep them all in line. It took the people about 300 years to build this mound, carrying soil weighing 50-60 pounds per basket load!

We decided we needed a reward after contemplating climbing these stairs, so on a tip from my sister, Lori, we headed for “the best soft serve stand in the nation”. The hype is REAL! It was fantastic! Howie had a Hawaiian sundae and I had a “Christy” – a frosted brownie covered in vanilla ice cream and topped with fudge and caramel – yikes!

We asked that all the calories be removed!!!

Today we visited Gateway Arch National Park – a true engineering marvel. Howie’s been inside the arch before but I never was until today (My kids will argue that my memory has failed – they’re both certain that I was there years ago.) Something that “different” would have been deeply engrained in my brain so I think I’m right on this one. Anyway, it was certainly an experience. The weather was beautiful – a clear sunny day – perfect for viewing from the top.

Tomorrow is another travel day. We’ll be heading “south”, taking our time as we head toward Hot Springs, Arkansas. The weather’s been a bit nippy here so we’re hopefully heading toward a bit warmer climate. We are so grateful for all of you who have been “following” us and we certainly have been enjoying all the encouraging comments, well wishes and prayers for safe travels. To all of you who have welcomed us to “drop by”, be careful…..sometimes what you wish for comes true! Happy trails!

Saying goodbye and hello……

Beside, selling the house, we also made a big change…..we traded in Lady Bug! After just a few trips, it quickly became evident that towing a car with a tow dolly, just wasn’t for us! It would take about 45 minutes to get the car hooked up correctly and involved an “old man” (Howie’s now 72!) doing some contortions on the ground….definitely NOT one of his favorite things to do! Because the Beetle could not be towed with all four wheels down, we decided it was time to trade her in.

We found the perfect car for us….a Honda CRV. After much research, we believe this to be one of the easier cars to tow, four down. It now takes about 7 minutes to hook up and all from an upright position! So please, meet “Tag-A-Long” (named for obvious reasons!) We’ll be referring to her as “Tag”.

So, we also decided to trade in Junebug for an updated model! We found the perfect RV but were disappointed to find it was not available! I guess some things are just not meant to be!

That’s all for now folks…..happy trails!

Hi, everyone…..we’re back!!

Oh my goodness….what a whirlwind we’ve been living! After receiving an offer on the house, we returned home on September 19th. We packed for three weeks, weeding through too much “stuff” and sorting into motorhome/storage/pitch/sell. All went smoother than we could have imagined even though we were exhausted! We both marveled at God’s hand in all of this for everything we let go of, He brought a buyer or a taker. We now have (two) storage units and an empty house. It is SO hard to let go of some of the material things, mostly those that have a degree of sentimental value. Now I fully understand what my dear mother went through each time she had to downsize!

Moving is definitely messy business! Its exhausting in every way….physically and emotionally. To my wonderful Blunier family, the hutch in the background is one that Grandpa made for Grandma to store supplies to feed 16 kids! One of my most prized possessions!
Looking a bit empty but we’re ready to let our sweet home go…..time to “full time” it!

While we packed up the house, we also found time for some wonderful events. Howie’s oldest grandson, Mark married Morgan. It was a beautiful wedding and the newly married couple just glowed! The lucky couple will be honeymooning in Italy!!

Congratulations! We love you both and wish you the happiest marriage ever!

The following morning we headed to Peoria to see Kailey in a volleyball tournament! It is so much fun to watch her compete…..I just wish I could still jump as high as she can. The team took 6th out of 24 teams. Good practice for the state competition which is the beginning of November….Good luck, girls!

She’s number 14, just like her Grandpa, Bill, who wore the number throughout his high school days!

We also got to spend some time with my daughter, Amanda and her children, Kailey and Garrett. One event led us to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Here we’re standing in front of the Caribbean Reef! A great group pic, right? What most of you may not realize is that my son, Casey, is also in the shot! See the diver in the tank?? That’s him!!! He volunteers at the Shedd every Monday morning to dive the Reef and feed the fish…..he claims it’s the best day of the week! It’s so much fun to see him in there!

We ran across a couple of monkeys in front of the museum!
And after the Shedd, we went to one of my favorite hangouts in the city…..Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, where the bread is flat like pizza and the pizza comes by the 1/2 pound in a bowl! Try it sometime….you’ll love it!

So, we were supposed to close on our house on Tuesday, Oct. 15th. However, that morning, we received a request for a week extension. Luckily, we had given our attorney power to sign for us as we had planned to be on the road that morning. So off we went, heading south for parts unknown…..or did we know exactly where we were heading???? Stay tuned for the next adventure and as always……happy trails!

We love Brown County State Park and Nashville, Indiana…

Wow, this state park is completely awesome! We are at Brown County in Indiana – campsite 379. It’s in the woods, level, close to the showers which are large and clean, and private. In the park are riding stables, an olympic size pool, hiking and biking trails, a lodge, cottages and a nature center. We have 50 amp service but we agree that it earns a score of 9/10 simple because the sites are missing water hook up and sewer. But….we love it here!

This is the covered bridge into the campground. We had to turn around and use the west entrance which accommodated larger RV’s.
Site #379….perfect!
So today is my birthday. I got to go shopping………
….. while Howie stayed home and worked!
We went out to dinner……my pick. We ate at Casa Del Sol, a restaurant in Nashville, IN. I had a great day!
The Lodge
A Family Suite cabin….they also have family cabins and rustic cabins – all really nice!
A Travel Gnome ……. thought it appropriate that we take our picture with him!
Nashville Indiana is full of quaint, artistic shops! It would take a week to get through them all!
Adorable pottery birdhouses!
Howie’s finally getting a pedicure……the old fashioned way!

So tomorrow we hit the road again. We’re heading for home! We have a whole house to pack up over the next 3 weeks. We “close” on October 15th – immediately following, we’re heading for St. Louis and then south from there. We plan to be gone for about 7 weeks on “Leg 2” and will be touring through Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Our plan at this point is to be “home” again for Christmas. We’ll try to post over the next 3 weeks to give you an update on our progress….until then, Happy Trails!

A Tried and True Campfire Favorite…..

There’s nothing like a hot dog roasted on an open camp fire, right? Well, we found a way to “step it up a notch”. Granted, you have to have the right equipment….a cast iron hot dog iron. We’ve had ours for years and we all agree that there isn’t a better hot dog to be found….anywhere!

So here’s the recipe…..

2 slices of bread, buttered on one side

2 hot dogs

1 hot dog iron

Place each hot dog on the unbuttered side of each slice of bread and place end to end in the hot dog iron. (See the picture) Close and lock the hot dog iron. Trim the excess bread/crust sticking out from the side of the hot dog iron. Roast slowly over red hot coals. Open the iron, remove the hot dogs and enjoy the best dog EVER!

Dip these “puppies” in ketchup and/or mustard and ENJOY! Another option is to forget the bread….instead place the hot dogs in the hot dog iron and cover with prepared Jiffy cornbread mix, close the lid and roast over the hot coals until done – a campfire version of a corn-dog!

Junebug……

Thought you might like to see the inside of the motorhome. We made a few changes to make it more comfortable and accommodating for us. Here’s what we did…..

Below is a picture of the U-shaped sofa that came with the motorhome – a really awesome concept with some serious engineering flaws. The two ends retract in while traveling to minimize the size, however, they still extended into the hallway making moving through the unit difficult. After sitting on it for an hour or so, you’re bottom would start to hurt. There’s a pull out full size bed in the middle section but we couldn’t imagine how anyone could sleep on it since there was no mattress and gaps here and there, making the hard surface uneven.

So we pulled that puppy out, replaced the carpeting and installed this…..

This is a RecPro sofa recliner and it’s super comfortable! Now we can relax in complete comfort with our legs elevated. We added end tables and lamps to give it a more home-like feel.

Here you see the sofa in the reclined position. Before the changes, we were hauling 3 dog crates along. The end table on the left is actually a large dog crate! We found it on line and love it!

On the opposing slide out, there was a recliner and a table. We had to move the recliner to another area for it to be functional. The table had “wings” which extended to fit in the middle of the U-shaped sofa – again, a good idea but we never used it so it was taking up valuable real estate. So out they both went!

We replaced them with another piece of furniture. Below is the sewing center/desk which we found on-line. I’m a quilter and bring my machines along with projects. The desk serves as the perfect work space when “working from home”.

AFTER……

These changes really work for us and open up the living space quite a bit!

We didn’t make any other changes but we plan to replace the carpeting in the cab and bedroom to match the new carpet we had installed in the living room.

So that’s it guys……hope you enjoyed the tour and happy trails!

We made it to Ohio……

Yesterday was a travel day. We spent most of the day on the road moving from Cumberland State Park in Kentucky to Deer Creek State Park in Ohio. WE LOVE IT HERE! It’s a beautiful large park with stables, a marina, a gorgeous lodge and cottages, a swimming beach, golf course, frisbee golf course and a spacious campground. The sites are mostly level, private and comfortable. All sites have 50 amp, but no water or sewer hook ups. There are numerous water stations and a dump station so we’re set. Howie and I each rate it a 9/10 because of no water or sewer hook up! But it is the nicest state park we’ve seen to date.

Here we are in Ohio. We found a stand for the awesome camp sign my co-workers at Valley West gave me. We love it. Zoom in for a closer look!

So we spent most of the day exploring the state park and the surrounding area. We found an awesome town about 20 minutes from us by the name of Washington Court House. It is filled with a lot of quaint shops and antique stores. Needless to say, Howie couldn’t quite understand me buying some new old things since we just sold our house! That’s OK…..he found a favorite store too – Two Scoops of Sugar, a bakery. We were amazed at what $6.50 bought – see below.

In the middle are 2 “buckeyes” – after all we ARE in Ohio.

Here’s the store I was telling you about – it was one of the best stores I’ve ever seen. Some very cool furniture but I just couldn’t figure out how to hook up a trailer to the car behind the motorhome!

We bought tickets today for a huge “Country Living” show in Columbus this weekend. It advertises that the magazine “comes to life” with over 200 vendors. Sounds like fun to me! I’ll let you know about the show later.

We also did some videoing today. Howie’s still learning how to use the GoPro including how to edit. As soon as he gets it up and running, we’ll send it along. Until then, happy trails!