Monday, February 27, 2012

I know I am behind on postings and more later

Turquoise Mardi Gras costumes at MS welcome center
Thanks to my bloggy pals who ask me about catching up on posts...I will do that after we get back home tomorrow..and I get settled back in.  .I have just been far too busy traveling, enjoying,  seeing so much to take time at night to write about what we have done all day long.  Now and then I have pasted some to Facebook, but that's the limit.  I have some great photos to share especially of the Mardi Gras costumes on display in the Mississippi Welcome centers which are  like mini museums...above is just one, look at the beautiful furniture and display.  They do it up right.  I can think of other places in this country where it would be destroyed within a day with an over abundance of people, but everyone seems to be respectful touring around here.  Likely  extending a reciprocal appreciation for the wonderful welcome of Mississippi.


Plum Mardi Gras costumes at the staircase


 I have heard from Bea over at Frog & PenguInn that Blogger is requiring some additional or dual word verification.  I hope that does not discourage the comments some leave here and there.  It was not my doing, and Blogger gave us no option whether or not to participate in that which I  hear is to eliminate spammers.  We don't complain about much of anything when Blogpost puts out a restriction, because, well, the price is right to post here. 


Mississippi morning through the trees



I received some comments lately on older posts from unknown folks, always  brings enjoyment.  Hearing  from previously unknowns, such as  one from someone in SC who  just has discovered SAS comfy shoes yet good looking sandals.  So she left a comment on my  old post about Moody shoes.  That's the beauty of blogland, we search and find some common ground.  Or we find something we enjoy reading and  maybe  we  return again.  Maybe we  link and find out what we have in common.  Ironically something like this blog which I set up so family could track us on our travels has become much more. Truth be told, what "family" we have  pays not a  bit of attention to this, my ramblings.  My blogging has a  purpose beyond that. 

Au revoir from Bouvier
We are going to miss this warm spring weather we have enjoyed this trip.  Friends report that a wintry dusting and cold awaits us, not a worthy welcome back.  But such is the punishment for escape....that and the tasks that await...


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Louisiana

Pat in Manzur, La. with Mardi face

Tomorrow we depart south toward  Baton Rouge, Lakeside RV at Livingston, La, leaving this perfectly set RV site behind.  Here we have had  the cheapest rates anywhere, that our Passport America membership gets us $8 per night!  Full hook ups.  Cannot be beat!  Good Sam would only have been $15 but half is better.   However, I have encountered here some of the strangest people I have ever met strange talking when they do talk to you even if you are a customer and  strange to rude behavior. Remember I lived in CA over  40 years and so I know strange when I encounter it.  One example was the Wal Mart cashier who left us and her register mid way through checking us out to shoot the breeze with someone who appeared to be her friend.  No kidding she just walked off to continue her conversation without so much as a "just a minute."   Had I been shopping alone I would have left everything and given her the pleasure of figuring it out when she returned.  But Jerry is more patient than I am and so we waited.  This took only a minute or so but was very rude, I thought.  When she returned she resumed ringing up our items without any explanation or apology.  She seemed to have a chip on her shoulder that we and those behind us in line interrupted her time with her friend.  Wal Mart employees are usually known for courtesy and customer service but that cashier must not have been so trained.    

 It is Mardi Gras, evidently all over Louisiana. all month leading up to next Wednesday when Lent kicks in. This lady above, no not me, the one with the gold face is prominent everywhere with the colors of Mardi, green, purple and gold.  Many homes are lavishly decorated outside with the colors and the  party attire.  This was an out of the way antique shop of sorts in an out of the way tiny town, Manzur  sometimes spelled Masur, depending on which map one uses.  See what I mean, one tiny town, population of no more than 1000 spelled various ways. It is off Hwy. 1 close to Marksville, where we've set up at the Paragon  Casino RV.   The prices inside this Antique store surprised me because they were upscale for an area with limited traffic and off season.
We started out at some other local Marksville shops but found nothing we could not do without.  Although this handsome handmade  rocker, on the primitive side was tempting,  how to get it into the RV to take home was the challenge and so we passed on it.  I should admit, I passed with Jerry's adamant insistence that this would not fit anywhere.  Notice the sign  over it?  Some kind of sense of humor, don't you think for this handicap accessible rocker..And that was not all that caught my eyes at this shop, Treasures, in.Marksville which has spaces rented to those who would sell their collections. 
Remember the song, Coca Cola Cowboy?  It was  a 1979 single written by Steve Dorff, Sandy Pinkard, Sam Atchley, and Bud Dain and recorded by Mel Tillis. The song was featured in the film, Every Which Way But Loose, starring Clint Eastwood.  Well, here in the south where coca cola rules, this store offered a coca cola rooster.  Something else we resisted purchasing, but intriguing none the less, which is why I so enjoy browsing these places. 


One example of the strange culture of this area where the people are Cajuns and other mixtures, tied tot he swamps was this tourist center which was touted for several miles into town.  Isn't this a fine gesture, parking for tourists only the sign reads, by order of the Police no less.  Well, this is  the site of the Hypolite Bordelon Home Museum, a historic site.  It is one of the few surviving mud and moss homes and was built back between 1790 and 1810 in the French pattern of two rooms centered by a double fireplace  and a small back cabinet room behind.  The history of the Bordelon family in Louisiana and in the area  here known as the Avoyelles parish is   intriguing.  But let me continue.  We had looked for a tourist center as we came into Marksville but  decided wherever it was it must have been closed on Sunday.  Inquiring at the  registration desk at the Paragon gave us  the response "no such place in town that I know of." 
So I satisfied myself that there was no tourist center and that if we wanted to  know about the area and what to see, we"d have to try to look online and punt.  It is a quaint area and worth driving around, so this was not a big issue.  The levee roads are interesting drives, many aged  outskirt homes and some new ones here and there.  Then yesterday enroute to Mansur we stopped at  the 4 H Museum on Hwy 1.  There was a  full scale visitor center with several helpful women who showered us with maps and brochures about sites to not miss while we were here.  This Bordelon house is one the women explained we might enjoy seeing and they said,  the Marksville tourist center is inside.  On our return trip we decided to  continue to town to see this tourist center which we surely had missed repeatedly.  And we were interested in seeing a house that old with mud and moss walls.  What would the architecture resemble?  You can see it in the following photo right next tot he parking area reserved for tourists.  We'd passed this repeatedly and it did not register with us.     

This sign is prominent.   

Only one little issue,  the home/museum  is absolutely not open, closed and it did not appear to be just for the season.  Jerry was braver and ventured up onto the porch and tried the door which had no handle, just in case there was a way in.  There was not, but we could park there, here is Jerry looking around.     

Now to cap off our visit to this town, I had been noticing drive through Daquiri huts and buildings some along side bars and some free standing only similar to   drive up wondows at fast foods or coffee shops.  But this takes drive up to a new meaning, booze and beer right out your car window.  When I told a shop keeper I had to take a photo of the sign and the building she  said I would not be the only one to do so.  When people come from out of town they notice it immediately. 


I admit that this afternoon I felt  we could not leave Marksville without my trying the drive through.  A 20 ounce strawberry daquiri for only $4.  Brought it back to enjoy at the motor home, although since Jerry was driving, I could sip along.  Notice the guard alligators at the entrance and the teddy bears which were on sale for Valentines' Day. 
There is interesting architecture in town too, like the courthouse in the midst of the town adjacent to the district attorney and  the police station.  The town appears to have a flourishing attorney industry as the law offices have taken over several old homes   downtown. 



The last tidbit about Marksville"s  emblem, a broken wagon wheel.  Legend has it that the  founder of the town, Marco Litchie a traveling peddler from Venice Italy  who migrated to the area in 1794  set up a trading post when his wagon wheel broke.  He married Julie Carmouche in 1796 and obtained more than 400 Spanish land grants.  The area became known as Marc's place and finally Marc's ville to the name today.  There are more than 100 historical markers around the area.  This last photo of the sculpture alongside the highway commemorating Marc;s broken wheel  is courtesy of the local Chamber of Commerce.   

   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Southern and Louisiana journey, Paragon stop

Reposting this after pulling it because of incessant spam.  Now that I have blocked the ability to comment  anonymously on my blog, the spammers are no more...and I can repost the ones they seemed to target.  So tiresome...

So today Feb 2012,  we drove a mere 88 miles to Marksville, Louisiana  enroute to New Orleans and  visiting friends in Alexandria.  That has become another story for another time.  On our way into town we stumbled into the preparation for another small community Mardi Gras gathering; if we keep this up we will be in a Mardi Gras parade yet!

We plan to stay  here at the Paragon Casino RV Park  for a couple days  taking advantage of the cheap cheap RV rates, $15 per night with our Good Sam discount and full hook ups.  This RV site at the Paragon Casino run by the Tunica and Biloxi  Indian Tribes is first class, resembles the RV resort we pay top dollar for in Tucson.  The Spa at the Casino is beckoning me for  tomorrow.  Entertainment and restaurants are top notch.  Now if the casino itself does not stink from cigarette smoke, I might even  drop a few coins in some slots or find a card table, my preference for any rare gambling.

Several big motor coaches like ours are starting to pull in but there is plenty of space.

I"ll be taking advantage of their spa tomorrow for a pedicure, manicure and facial....maybe a massage too.  Now this is the life....

 Check out their website http://www.paragoncasinoresort.com/Home.aspx    


Tribe logo which I find intriguing. 
Godfrey, Jerry's latest and soon to be replaced again Garmin GPS did not recognize this place and would not direct us until we put in the co-ordinates.  It is a hard place to miss a massive structure near the tribal headquarters and reservation  off  Hwy.1 so we had no difficulty.  Nevertheless, there is no excuse for Godfrey Percival Stallworth this time as he was updated fine tuned online  before we left on this trip; the Paragon has been here since 1994.

Since the casino's opening, unemployment in Avoyelles Parish has steadily declined. The casino employs over 1,780 employees and offers training and educational opportunities that enable them to advance their careers and improve their quality of life.  The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe maintains a cooperative relationship with the community and looks for ways to strengthen those ties. Since 1994, they have donated a considerable amount of money to various nonprofit organizations on the local, regional and national level. In addition to monetary contributions, many associates at Paragon Casino Resort have volunteered their time and talents to local community organizations.  Marksville's transformation into a resort destination will continue as the Tribe dedicates itself to developing amenities

Ever interested in history, I learned the following about these Indians:  The Tunica and Biloxi Indians have lived on their reservation near Marksville for over two centuries, during which the tribes, though speaking completely different languages, intermarried. The Tunica exercised influence over a wide territory, encompassing present-day Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, and even Florida. They were traders and entrepreneurs of the first order. Under severe pressure from European diseases, famine, and warfare, the Tunica steadily moved southward, following the Mississippi River.   The Biloxi were a tribe on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at present-day Biloxi, Mississippi. They were the first people encountered by French colonizers Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1669. The Biloxi, like the Tunica, formed a strong alliance with the French, which for a while brought them important economic and political benefits. Later, after the French were expelled, they allied themselves with the Spanish, rulers of Florida.

The shuttle is cruising which picks up RV'ers and transports them to the Casino.  We are about to depart for a browse at the big casino and a meal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Vicksburg MS to Natchitoches, La and around

A couple days'  at Vicksburg reminded me how much I need to reread history about the Civil War.  We toured the Vicksburg, MS  battlefield which was a turning point in the Civil War, along with Gettysburg.  The Union strategy to capture Vicksburg and  the access of the mighty Mississippi would isolate and cripple the south.  We spent most of the afternoon driving around and walking through parts of the entire Battlefield.  All along there are markers to the various infantries, cavalries, from the states and commemorative readings about the soldiers and their commanders. 
Vicksburg Battlefield

One  big surprise was the USS Cairo museum,
It is pronounced Karo here.  This was a Union gunboat, torpedoed
by the Confederacy.  It was sunk in the Mississippi until 1964
when it was hoisted out and restored.  Exhibited here at Vicksburg

Jerry amidst some cannons at Vicksburg
While Georgia is the birthplace of Coca Cola, I learned that it was first bottled  in Vicksburg at the Biedenharn Candy Company as they expanded their business.  Today there is a  small Coca Cola bottling museum in the building which is right near the Smith Drugstore.




Dual bridges new and old across the mighty Mississippi at Vicksburg

While there is plenty to learn traveling around this country there is always fun too.

This Vicksburg Merchant  decorates the outside with party girls
I had to join them
From Vicksburg we  drove on to Natchitoches, LA. home of the famous fried meat pies which we have enjoyed for appetizers and a dinner.  They are similar to an empanada,  a mixture of ground beef, pork, and seasonings  in a pastry similar to pie dough which is all deep friend in peanut oil.  Maybe not health food, but it's a vacation so we indulge. That's the beauty of travel, eating things we don't find at home.  Today it was fried alligatior bites at a pub for mid day snack. 

Canadians plaque to  Natchitoches
We depart this lovely area and best little town of  Natchitoches tomorrow for Marksville, LA.  I say it like it looks, natch--ee-toe--cheez....while the locals say Nakatesh....I bring smiles to their faces when they hear me and I get that puzzled look on my face when I hear them.  This is a different dialect a combination from the early first French settlers to the Indians, Spaniards, Africans, etc.  So the  talk is different.  The area was first settled by the French in 1717 or thereabouts.  Many here have that gorgeous French Cajun Creole look, but there are many retirees here from all over the country, making it a very comfortable place for us.  It is comfortable to be with others who relocate in retirement.  I could easily live here except for the hot humid summers, and the bugs.  Then I'd be happy with MN or north.

Natichitoches from  near the post office.


Steel House in town
 The movie Steel Magnolias was filmed here and the southern atmosphere, the lovely ornate iron scroll work around the homes and the balconies show the French like influence.  Our last visit to Natchitoches was in  December 2004, and the traffic along the  Cane river Front street has increased a lot, indicating an increased  population or excess traffic for the old brick two lane streets to handle. This is a tourist mecca with the multitude of shops offering all sorts of miscellany.  On the other hand,  it reflects the economy of the country with many  places closed, out of business and many others for sale. As one shop owner who has been here for  20 years, relocated from Illinois shared, the last two years have  not been good.  The cost of  gas has decreased the number of people driving and  traveling.  It is also a college town, Northwester University--we seem to be attracted to these college towns, smaller in size and lots of cultural activities.
Tulip trees have  almost finished their spring bloom
We ventured  out along the Cane River drive today south on Louisiana Hwy 1 and stopped along the way to see the new beautiful brick homes, Plantation Development, very nice spread out homes several with motor homes in the driveways and many with  boats.  This area is a recreation dream for  fishing and water sports and many live along the Cane River with their own boat docks and what I can only describe as boat porches.  This is the off season for the historic plantations, some are part of the National Park Service along the Cane River Drive. 

Melrose Plantation main house
Clementine Hunter
One print of Clementine's
The Cane River plantations are very different from the famous Nottoway and fancier  antebellum plantations we toured years back out of New Orleans.  These of Cane River have a different harder worked  perspective and are not set up for tour buses.  There are many old building all around, the smoke houses, the weaving houses, the cooking houses, the bindery, etc in addition to the outlying slave quarters.  Our  primary stop was the romantic Melrose Plantation, famous in the life of Clementine Hunter and the legend of  Marie Coincoin who was  born in 1742, a  slave who  became the matriarch of a family of  14 children and the founder of a unique colony of people whose descendants today proudly tell of their heritage.  Marie and several of her children were sold to Thomas  Metoyer who later  freed her and her children.   Between 1794 and 1803 she and her children received multiple land grants and built the Yucca house and other structures. After 1884, Melrose Plantation became a hub of art and education under the ownership of John Hampton Henry and Miss Cammie Garrett Henry. Miss Cammie, as she became known, made Melrose a haven for artists and writers.  At the time there was a field hand and cook at Melrose who also became known as a renowned artist. Clementine Hunter, one of the south’s most primitive artists, began painting the people, life, and scenes of Cane River. Hunter was in her 50′s when she began painting and continued until a few months before her death in 1988. Clementine is Louisiana’s most famous folk artist, and her paintings are on display at the plantation. I had heard of Clementine and purchased a small print of one of her works at a town shop.  Clementine's story is a significant part of history today especially during  Black History Month; she began to paint from memory at night  when everyone else slept.  Looking at her characters evokes a range of emotions and multiple feelings. 

Weaving house at Melrose
Bindery House which is now the Gift Shop at Melrose
Mardi Gras  parade in Clouterville, LA
   We met a group of locals who enticed us to drive on to Clouterville which they pronounce "Clooteeeville"  and enjoy some of their local Mardi Gras parade.  Like  small town events all over the country it was fun.  The kids particularly were having a great fun time, like these two below mid air stepping to catch their place on the float.    Oh the energy!
We are late for our float!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Graceland

February 4 Pat arrives at Graceland
It is an indescribably good feeling to scratch things off one's Bucket list making room for new additions....yesterday in Memphis was a great scratchoff..... .We had a great time yesterday through the sporadic Memphis drizzling rain, spending all day at Graceland, the museums, the venues, the airplanes, the shops, etc...listening to Elvis music everywhere..

I was an Elvis pre teeny bopper rabid fan and recall sitting on the porch with extension cord strung through the door to plug in my 45 RPM record player and listen to Elvis sing Hound dog as loud as that player went.  Never loud enough for us girls, but too loud for Mom who'd shout "turn that noise down, you'll go deaf."   I didn't but she was ahead of her time because we know many young people today who have hearing loss from too loud music.  In one of the exhibit cases of memorabilia yesterday I noticed a plastic type child's wallet, I"d  had one of those, long gone.  But next to it, a gold like charm bracelet with a hound dog and broken heart charms among others, at home I have those two charms on  my old charm bracelet from high school days. I don't know whatever became of the full Elvis bracelet.   
Mary Hudson was our tour guide
at Graceland and knew the
answers to all questions
 We sprung for the VIP tour which escorted us through the front of the line into the mansion which is really a modest house, at 17,000 square feet on 13.8 acres. It does not compare to the Biltmore mansion in  North Carolina but it is impressive as a home.   Elvis bought Graceland in 1957 when he was but 22 for only $102,500 as his home.  He purchased Graceland from the original owners when it was out in the outskirts, in the country.  Today  the area is all very urban, but Graceland is on one side of Elvis Presley Blvd. while the museums, planes, shops, other venues are on the other side. Photos of Christmas time are lovely.  Graceland employs hundreds of people like Mary, here, all of whom have a smile and enjoy working there.  It's a boon for the local economy along with the $$ tourists bring. 

I did not know how philanthropic Elvis was all his life until our tour.  On one wall of exhibits are the  thousands of checks he'd write to any one who needed help from individuals to organizations.   In Lisa's special exhibit at the end which just opened in 2012, she remarks how her dad made money and gave it away as fast as he could.

Just one of these urns would look good back in MN
We did not tour the upstairs of the home which  is closed to the public but saw all the  first and lower floors and the out buildings, including  Elvis' racquetball court and bar and the smoke house he had used as a shooting range.  Today a cousin of Elvis is the primary groundskeeper, a full time job with many staff.   
 I remember when Elvis died and have kicked myself many times for not going to see him perform when we had the opportunity in Tahoe, I always felt there would be another time and it wasn't a priority for me at that time of my life.  There was never another time.    On the tour I was reminded he was only 42, but I recall he surely looked older from his lifestyle and drug abuse.  It was oxymoronical to learn how proud Elvis was when President Nixon awarded him a badge from the newly formed Narcotics Enforcement Agency and enlisted Elvis' help in the agency efforts.  Evidently Elvis was the proud collector of police and firemen badges from all over the country and donated heavily to  their benevolent societies.
Elvis Graceland kitchen
       To me the kitchen to me was very modest surprisingly.  We were told Elvis enjoyed having family and friends around and was quite the host, so I imagined this kitchen would have been bigger, notice the cast iron frying pan on top the stove.  But that was by the standards back then just like the TV room where there were 3 maybe 21" screen TV's mounted across a ledge.  Imagine Elvis would have enjoyed today's big screens.  He'd read that President Johnson watched the news on 3 TV's at once so he began to do the same thing.

Perhaps most fabulous were the multiple exhibits of his costumes and clothing.  Talk about  bling, he was the King and for sure da' man!  Looking at the costumes from his younger days when he was svelte and the massive size of the belt buckles, it's hard to fathom how it could have been at all comfortable. 

Elvis added a swimming pool which is not significantly
larger than the one we had at our home in Fair Oaks, CA
I had always wanted a swimming pool and  got that in our first home in CA 

The airplanes were different than any I have ever flown on and of course all set for entertaining, except for the smaller jet which must have been for short quick business trips.  Somehow I always imagines Elvis having his own rail car or tour rig, but there was nothing like that. The Elvis auto museum was a big fave for Jerry especially the Stutz bearcats, while I still favor the original pink Cadillac, Gladys which Elvis gave to his mother.  Although see here, the Rolls Silver Cloud calls my name out loud!
This white Rolls will do
Jerry between white and black Silver Clouds

Graves of Elvis, his parents.grandmother and twin brother  
Elvis grave
Today still people cpontinue to  leave flowers, and all sorts of
memorabilia at the graves
Market at the Memorial Garden

After many hours of walking and enjoying the full Graceland, we returned to our motor home for a brief respite and then departed for Marlowe's where we enjoyed excellent bar-b-que ribs, I tried the  local Southern Pecan beer, a brown nut ale and some take out banana pudding for me.  We met the original owner, Tony Gugliottti who is from Pittsburgh and when I told him I was born and raised in New Ken, he not only gave me a postcard but a cook book from Marlowe's.  I did not take the camera, but because we enjoyed the meal and the conversations and the (what else) Elvis music, Marlowe's is a place to return to when we are in the Memphis area in the future.   This link will take you to their site where you can read and see all about them...only you will not be able to  taste or smell the food.... http://www.marlowesmemphis.com/