"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Free Campng, New Friends & Kongos

Tomball, TX
Spring Creek Park

Wow did we find a gem of a campground!  Spring Creek has a park like setting (it is a park after all), electric, water, wifi AND sewer.  FREE.  Just outside of the town of Tomball, which is just NW of Houston.  There are some short trails, sports courts, playground, historic areas, showers and it's quiet as well. Did I mention it's FREE?  What's the downside you say?  Well, nothing really.  There are 8 paved, level RV sites that will hold 40+ length RVs with grass between them.  A few trees.  The only thing we could come up with that could be negatives, are a couple of sites are close together.  Had someone parked next to us on one side and they had slides, we probably would only have a few feet between us.  The sites on the ends and a couple of others are the best as they have much more space.  There were only 3 of us there and we were spaced out.  They will take reservations and there is a 14 day limit.  The other thing that could be a problem for some is that there is a fence completely surrounding the park and the gates are closed and locked between 10p - 6a.  No code.  You're in or you're out.  There is an emergency phone or 911 you can dial if you need it.  There is also shopping, gas, propane and plenty of restaurants nearby.  Great cell, AT&T and Verizon mifi.  Dogs are welcome.

There wouldn't be much privacy if someone were parked on this side of us.
We were in site #3.  Site #1, which would be to the left of the empty spot, is the best.

This historical marker has been added in Spring Creek Park to commemorate the recent discovery of a pre-Civil War cemetery that might contain the graves of freed slaves and other early Tomball-area settlers.  It is fenced off and protected while historians and archaeologists remove trees and brush that have covered the site since the last burial there in 1935. Historians believe the site was first used as a cemetery as early as 1828.  I have always had an interest in old cemeteries and genealogy.  I wish I could've gone into the cemetery but it is still closed off.  You can't even see it from the fence.
While I was reading this marker, an older gentlemen joined me and told me other stories of the area.  The marker on the right is to memorialize those killed when an explosion happened at the powder mill.
He also told me about the nearby pond (now fenced off) and all the strange drownings.  A later google search found this info about it. (in part)
In 1864 a horrific explosion destroyed the facility killing three men working there. The force of the blast was so great that a huge crater was created that over time filled with water and became a popular swimming hole for locals. Despite rumors of spirits at the pond and in the surrounding woods, the lure of the cool dark water continued to draw swimmers to the powder mill site willing to risk a ghostly encounter for a quick dip. Unfortunately for some that decision ended in their death. After several curious drownings the powder mill pond was fenced, but the rumors remain even today.

One of the trees cut down at the park was carved into a horse type totem pole.
We had a nice time at this park relaxing and exploring.  The best part was getting to meet up with fellow bloggers Mike & Sandy of Phannie & Mae.  Since they knew the area well, we met up at a Mexican restaurant they've enjoyed  before called El Palenque.  After weeks of delicious seafood, we were ready for some great Mexican food.  We were all happy with our meals and it was wonderful to meet Mike & Sandy.  They are as adorable in person as they sound on their blog.  They are part-timers who still have their house and travel many weeks at a time.  Some of it to visit with their two grandkids.  Mike is a retired airline pilot and Federal Aviation Administrator.  Sandy is a retired School Teacher.

New Waverly, TX
Cagle Recreation Area Campground

While we would've loved to continue our stay at Spring Creek a few more days, we needed to move because we would be attending a late night concert and knew we wouldn't be back before the gates locked.  So we moved to Cagle Rec Area on Lake Conroe where we could do some kayaking also.

The campground is easy to get to and get in.  No problem for 40' rigs.  Spots in the loop closer to the lake have a nice water view.  We were in site #34.  Not the most level, but we were able to level the 5er.  Water, 50amp and sewer.  Campground and sites are well maintained and very clean.

It sounded like a good idea...
Friday was beautiful and sunny so we wanted to get on the lake for some kayaking.  Funny story. The lakeshore near our site wasn't going to be the easiest to launch from, but we didn't want to have to drive to the boat launch.  There was about a 2 foot drop from the water to the bank making it a bit awkward for Steve to get into.  The bank was covered with dried grass.  After a few discussion on how best to launch, our plan involved Steve getting in and letting gravity do its thing.  As the kayak was sliding into the lake (about 15 feet or so) I tried to hold onto the back to slow it down.  Well, the grass was slippery and I wasn't able to hold on for too long.  The kayak sped up a bit and as it glided into the water it bumped a couple of roots at the last minute causing the front end to dive into the water and quickly roll to the right.  Yep.  It dumped Steve right out.  Good thing it only turned out to be 1 foot deep.  Steve was soaked and I was trying not to laugh (too loudly).  After he quickly rescued his beer, he tossed up our jackets and gear.  Of course, both our cell phones were in our jackets, so unfortunately there are no pictures to go with the story.  According to Steve it was a near-death experience much like this:

but I thought it was more like this:
Poor Steve!
While we were not happy about the phones (Steve just got a new one) we both laughed uncontrollably!  We went to the trailer so Steve could change clothes and put the phones into rice to let them sit for a couple days.  Back to the kayak.  Since Steve now knew the water was quite shallow he just walked into the lake and got into the kayak.  We had a couple of nice paddle days.  Didn't see much waterfowl or otherwise, but it was a nice paddle into some deep coves and creek inlets.  Since my phone was in the rice bag, I was unable to take any pictures the rest of the week.

Kongos Concert!

There is a new band that I've become interested in that just happened to be playing at a small venue in Houston.  This is one of the reasons we decided to come to the Houston area instead of Galveston.  The Kongos are 4 brothers who grew up in London and South Africa.  Their music has an African/Cajun sound to it.  Some songs remind me of the Beatles.  It's a unique sound and it's the heavy drum beat that really attracts me to it.  Growing up in an Italian family with my Gramma playing the accordion, I've always loved that instrument too.  I enjoy hearing it played in a different style of music.  Here is "Come with me Now", one of my favorites:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Avery Island, LA, Home of Tobasco Sauce

Abbeville, LA
Palmetto Island State Park

On our last day in Abbeville, we took a trip to Avery Island where Tabasco Sauce is made.  On the way out of the campground we kept spotting what looked like mole hills on some lawns.

Upon closer look we knew they were something else.  Our campground/blogger friends, Jim & Barb, told us they were made from Crawfish. After googling it, I read that rice is planted in the spring and harvested before fall.  The rice fields are then flooded in mid-October into foot deep ponds.  I don't know if the crawfish were "planted" in these yards or maybe the yards are soggy and the crawfish just come on over from other ponds.  Very interesting nonetheless.
Back to the island... 
Avery Island sits on a plane of sea salt, covered with marshes and swamps.  The McIlhenny Company was founded in 1868 on Avery Island and the company is still family-owned and operated. 
The Original Red Sauce was created in the mid to late 1860s by Edmund McIlhenny. He was a food lover and avid gardener. When he was given seeds of capsicum peppers that had come from Mexico and Central America, he planted them on the island.
To make this well loved sauce, the reddest peppers are crushed, mixed with salt mined from the island and aged for 30 days in oak barrels. It's then mixed with French white wine vinegar and aged 3 more years.
A factory tour is offered every day, but the bottling is only done Monday - Thursday.
The factory tour was just so-so and since we couldn't watch the bottling, we were looking forward to touring the gardens.  We figured there wouldn't be much to see in winter, but it was nice to be outside.  You can walk, ride bikes, or drive through.  Since it was still cool and windy, we drove. 
There are old, gnarled oaks with huge limbs that defy gravity, reaching out.  Sometimes touching the ground before stretching back towards the sky.  They are covered with moss, lichen and Resurrection Ferns.
During spring, summer and fall, there are many different animals and birds.  The most well known of the birds are the Snowy White Egrets.  After years of killing egrets by the thousands for feathers to make fashionable ladies’ hats, Mr. McIlhenny raised 8 young birds on the island and released them in the fall to migrate to the Gulf of Mexico.  They return each spring to the rookery Mr. McIlhenny made.

Picture of nesting egrets from the Tobasco website.
There was a tunnel made from this colorful Holly Berry Bush.  I liked the red berries against the green leaves and blue sky

The shrine that houses a centuries-old Buddha — a gift to E. A. McIlhenny in 1936.


The pointy stump looking things growing out of the swamp are called knees.  They grow out of the roots of the cypress trees and are thought to help the trees breath or anchor them down.  They do not grow into trees however.

They have beautiful bamboo groves.  Some were green in color and some yellow.
 We were able to see some Camilla's that were blooming. 

 There were colorful lichens, moss and ferns growing on this large oak.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Louisiana - It's all about that FOOD!

Abbeville, LA
Betty's RV Park

We were all set to spend a week at Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville when we decided to stay a couple of nights at Betty's RV Park.  It seems to be "The Place To Go" when in Abbeville if you are an RVer.  She is a very nice lady and we were able to get in even though she is usually booked a year in advance.  There are only about 20 spots that are very close together around her house.  It's one of those places that is known for the eclectic atmosphere and her daily happy hours and get togethers with potlucks.  She has quite the following and people come back yearly.  It's more geared for the over 65 crowd.  For us, it wasn't the kind of place we normally enjoy.  We had a nice enough time and met some nice people, but we probably wouldn't return.

Myself & Betty

We have some family friends that live in and around Abbeville.  One night we had dinner with Angie & Bobby at their beautiful new home.  Angie made us her special Sausage & Chicken Gumbo which she served over rice and a creamy potato salad.  It was delicious!!  She went out of her way to make sure we could sample as much of the area specialties as possible.  She also picked up some Boudin (pronounced boo-DAN) and Boudin balls which are rolled in bread crumb and deep fried.  DEE-lish!  King Cake sliced for desert.  We'd not had it before or even heard of it. 

Originally, king cakes were a simple ring of dough without much decoration. Today they are much more festive. The dough is braided and baked and the "baby" is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.  Inside every king cake is a tiny baby, usually plastic. The person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is supposed to bring the King Cake to the next party.

Bobby, Angie, Me & Steve                King Cake
On another evening we went over to Randy & June's house.  We knew another fantastic meal was coming!  Randy grilled up the most amazing Alligator/Jalapeno Sausage!  He also gave us some to take home.  I think this was my favorite of all the different foods we tried!  More Boudin Balls.  A close second.
June made Etouffee  (eh-too-fay) with crayfish, another great dish.
The food of this area is one we were excited to try and having friends make homemade meals for us was the best way to try them!
Geez, I can't pronounce any of the names around here!  We also went to AYE-bare, not Herbert.  Great meat market.  We bought some stuffed chickens, gumbo, more boudin balls and turtle soup for the freezer!
Abbeville, LA
Palmetto Island State Park

As we pulled into Palmetto Island State Park we immediately loved it.  The sites are very private and nicely spaced.  It's a newer campground.  The laundry is free and the laundry room and bathrooms are very modern and very clean.  Water and Electric for $20.  And they have the cutest inhabitants.


This is the screened in porch attached to the laundry room & bathrooms.

There are armadillos all over the place.  Some wild pigs, bears and alligators too.  We didn't see any pigs or bears, but a bear did come through the front gate on our last night.

Another great thing about this park is that Jim & Barb of Jim & Barbs RV Adventure were there too.  We've followed each others blogs and made plans to meet up while we were headed West and they were headed East.  We also got to meet the adorable Daisy.  Hurley was happy to have a friend.
Hurley                                  Daisy
I don't think they wanted their pictures taken.
We had a great meal at the Blue Dog Café in Lafayette on our way to a Swamp Boat Tour.
Crab Cakes and Andouille was very tasty.  All decorated for Mardi Gras.
Champagne's Swamp Boat Tours
We enjoyed the Swamp Boat Tour.  $20 each.  We road through the swamps, bayous and Lake Martin.  The bird sanctuary is closed from February through August.  We were lucky to be able to ride through it and see where all the nests are.  There were just a few birds on the nests.  In a few weeks it will be full of nesting birds.

We were told that this type of pink algae only grows on the north side of cypress trees.

An alligator nest.

I like the tiny plants that grow on top of the swamp waters.



Steve was working so Hurley and I went kayaking in the canals and lakes at the campground with Jim & Barb.  We saw lots of birds and a couple of alligators.  Thanks to Barb for the next 3 pictures.

Another evening the four of us took a drive to the Parish Brewing Company.  The guys were enjoying their flight of beer samples.  The consensus was that the beer was just ok.  Off for some food next.
One night we went out for raw oysters.  This was a first for Barb & Jim.  Can you tell??
Bottoms Up!
We can do this!
That was yummy!  Can we have more?

They were great sports!  We had so much fun talking a talking that we were the last ones in the place!
That wasn't the last of the foodfest though.   Jim, Barb, Randy, June, Steve & I went to Richards (pronounced REE-shards) to have the feast of all feasts.  A crawfish (don't call them crawdads!) boil.  Besides several pounds of crawfish, there were potatoes, corn, frog legs and shrimp.  The best yet!  People come from all around to eat here.  The place was packed!

Our wonderful friends, June & Randy.

Barb being brave sucking the brains out of the crawfish head.  I tried
it after her.  We both though it tasted spicy.

Then it was off to Shucks (pronounced SHUKS :-)  for more oysters and their famous Bread Pudding.
Here's the crew shucking the oysters for hungry customers!

Charbroiled oysters, very, very good!
The bread pudding was amazing.  It was served in a vanilla rum sauce.  SO good.  We forgot to take a picture of it when it first came out.  Next thing we knew it was gone.  Again, for the third time, we had so much fun talking about hunting, fishing, being on the road, etc, that we closed the place down!

We are going to have to step up our hiking and biking after this fantastic food marathon!