Sunday, February 28, 2010


After dinner out on Friday night (what happened to our plan of restraint?) at Prejean’s with an interesting couple we met here at Poche’s, we decided we need a day of rest on Saturday – meaning, little driving and just one Cajun meal.

The Atchafalaya Swamp Liz and Robert, our dinner companions from Friday night, had mentioned Pat’s Fishermans Wharf, just a few miles away in Henderson, as having a good reputation with the locals.  It was of particular interest to me because Pat’s is located on the “dry” side of the levee – just the other side from the huge Atchafalaya Swamp.  So, after two laps around the ponds, off we went for another po’boy experience.

The po’boys… better than what we had in Texas, but not as good as the those at Suire’s (which have the benefit of being a 5-year old memory).  Great bread, good catfish… but the sauce seemed lacking to me.  Maybe I’m experiencing Cajun overkill?

Our waitress was a 60+ year old, no-nonsense, petite Cajun lady.  Conversation was kept to a minimum, food delivery was speedy and straight-forward.  It took me by surprise, then, when she asked how I liked the pecan pie I had for dessert.

Fried Catfish Po'BoyThe “real” answer would have been “too small, too sweet, too much vanilla, should have been served room temperature instead of almost freezing cold, and the crust is thick and gummy”. (Odel and I had already discussed the pie’s shortcomings in detail – it was the low point of the otherwise good meal.)  Instead, I just smiled and said “fine”.

Her next words: “Where you from?”

Me: “California”.

Her, pointing at Odel: “This yo-ah husband?”

I didn’t quite catch what she said, since my ear is not attuned to the rolling Cajun speech.  Since she was pointing at Odel, I assumed she asked where he was from, and I said “Memphis”. 

Pat's Fisherman's WharfShe spoke again, enunciating more clearly: “Is he your husband?”

I said “yes”, and she, this petite, hardworking and seemingly hard-living lady, said “He a pretty man”.  At my look of astonishment, she added “a handsome man” – like maybe I didn’t get her meaning.  When I agreed, she told me – in a long sentence heavy with dropped syllables and new-to-me words - I’d better keep my eye on him (and apparently all who might try to tempt him away). 

Well, you know what I had to put up with all the way home from The Pretty Man.  :)  Guess I’d better watch my step!  Excuse me while I go fix myself up…

Friday, February 26, 2010


Hallelujah!  Two days of sunshine in a row!

First: Yes, Willy Ray’s BBQ was just as good was we remembered.  We both ordered St. Louis style ribs with cole slaw and carrot soufflĂ© as our sides.  No photos – we just dug in and ate.

Next morning, we took off for Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  We picked Breaux Bridge because of it’s Cajun country location… and picked Poche’s Fish N Camp because they participate in CampClub USA, the 50% off camping club we are using this year.  I didn’t have the highest hopes for a campground with “Fish N Camp” in the name, but what a surprise!  We love it here; it is just our kind of park – friendly, roomy, well-maintained, with excellent walking right out the door. Click here to read our review.

The view out our window at Poche’s

Next morning was 29 degrees – but clear!

Our view at Poche's Cold Morning

It was a perfect day for travel, and we settled into our site at Poche’s around 1 pm.  The park is built along the edges of huge “ponds”, dredged by a Poche ancestor to raise the level of the land above the easily flooded surroundings.  Now the ponds are used for fishing, and attract herons, anhingas and egrets who stalk their fishy prey.  After a long walk on the levees, we arranged our chairs on the leeward side of Scoopy and enjoyed a relaxed outdoor happy hour for the first time in MONTHS.

Poche's crawfish etouffee The forecast for Thursday stipulated sunshine, so we planned a full day of tourism.  After walking two long loops around all the ponds at Poche’s, we took off around 11 am to catch a “plate lunch” at another Poche enterprise, their “restaurant, smokehouse, and specialty meat” business.  Many cars were already in the lot when we arrived, and the place was hopping inside with shoppers in the small market, diners in the large dining room, and to-go lunches walking out the door.

The lunch items were on display in a deli case – five or six different entrees with half a dozen or so sides.  I had crawfish etouffee on white rice with yams and cole slaw; Odel had pork roast on dirty rice with the same sides.  It was down home Cajun, and absolutely delicious.  I think I could live on their dirty rice! We left fulfilled and ready to see the sights.

The town of Breaux Bridge developed along the banks of the Bayou Teche (“river” to us Yankees, and “river with water in it” to you Arizonans), and is actually named for a bridge.  In 1799, Firmin Breaux, an early settler in the area, built a suspension footbridge across the Bayou to make passage easier for his family and friends.  Before long, traveling directions included the phrase "go to Breaux's bridge...", which eventually was adopted as the city's name.

From our lunch at Poche’s, we headed into Breaux Bridge and crossed the current incarnation of the famous bridge.  After a quick loop through the historic district of the town (we plan to come back another day), we headed south.  Our ultimate goal was New Iberia, for a visit to the Conrad Rice Mill and the Tabasco hot sauce factory, but our first stop was in St. Martinville, home to the “Evangeline Oak”.

We’ve seen the Evangeline Oak before; this trip, we headed to the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center, which houses the African-American Museum and the Museum of the Acadian Memorial.  I finally learned the meaning of the word Creole, and the difference between Creole and Cajun.  It was an interesting and enlightening stop.

By the time we were done at the museums, we are ready for a sit-down break – and we knew just the spot: Le Petit Paris Cafe, home to the “Hot Beignets” sign I posted recently in my recollection of our prior visit to Cajun country.  I meant to get a photo, but the beignets were gone before we knew it!   :)

Odel heads into Le Petit Paris Cafe

Nothing left but powdered sugar.

Le Petit Paris Cafe Beignets are gone

Another several miles, past huge old oak trees and small wood frame homes raised off the ground on short concrete piers or blocks, and we had arrived in New Iberia – home to the Conrad Rice Mill, “America’s Oldest Working Rice Mill” (click here to read the history), listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  We paid a few dollars each for the tour, which began with a video about the company and ended with a sample of freshly cooked Wild Pecan rice in the company store.  In between, we took a short walking tour though the mill, where they still use original equipment, 100 years or so old.  I loved it!  How many manufacturing businesses do you suppose are using original (antique) equipment?

The rice mill silo holds one million pounds of rice.

“Boss Cat”, relaxing on the rice bags.

Rice Mill Boss cat on the rice

With our rice purchase in hand, we had to make tracks to get to the Tabasco factory, another six or eight miles away, in time to take a tour.  Our tour began at 3:30, and we were the only two people on it.  Rather than speaking directly to us, our guide gave the complete spiel – looking slightly over my head - as though she was talking to a group of 50.  Pretty funny, but also an interesting place. 

It’s a simple process: pick perfectly ripe peppers, mix them with lots of salt from the on-site salt mine, mash it into a pulp, and ferment/age the pulp in oak barrels (purchased from the Jack Daniels distillery after they have been used for making spirits) for 3 years.  Open the barrel, mix the pulp with vinegar, and you’ve got Tabasco sauce. 

Tabasco aging barrel

Tabasco sauces by the gallon

Tabasco barrel Gallons of Tabasco

After our guide explained the process, we watched yet another video (from yet another backless bench), then took a self-guided tour past a long, long window into the factory.  No 100 year old equipment here, I promise you!  Everything was spotless and stainless.

From the factory, we took the short walk up to the company store.  Just about everything they manufacture can be sampled there, including “Sweet and Spicy” pepper ice cream.  We left with some of their yummy, new Chipotle Tabasco sauce and a jar of pepper jelly.

We were 30 miles from home, at the end of a long day of playing tourist.  After negotiating rush hour in Lafayette on the way home, it felt great to unlock our door, change into stretchy clothes and settle down with a glass of vino!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Shrimp PoBoy, Texas style Our visit to Palacios was short, but full of good eatin’.  After I mentioned Baytown Seafood, Keith commented that we should give their gumbo a try.  Since we also wanted to sample their catfish and fried shrimp, we decided to visit for lunch – if the food was as good as the reviews claimed, we’d return for dinner.

My lunch order was a shrimp po-boy… not as good as what my memory conjures up from Louisiana, but a good warm-up for our arrival in that state tomorrow.  Odel ordered fried catfish, which might have been the best we have ever had: sweet, succulent, with a very light, very crisp coating – served too hot to eat.  We split a bowl of the incredible smoky gumbo – thanks for the tip, Keith, as I think the gumbo vegetables have been my ONLY vegetables in the past several days.

Outrigger Pub and Grill, Palacios The quality of the food dictated another visit for dinner – this time, more gumbo (served in the classic style: a bowl of soup/stew accompanied by a bowl of white rice) and nine coconut shrimp, served with cole slaw.  Good, good, good.  I’d say that the Outrigger Grill has better atmosphere – close to the seawall, with a nice outdoor patio in the back and a venue for live music - but the food is excellent in both restaurants.  I doubt that we will ever return to Palacios but, if we do, we won’t go hungry.  :)

It might have been the dreary, gray weather, but I found the drive from Palacios to Beaumont very boring – when not downright depressing.  We followed Hwy 35 most of the way, through miles and miles of flat, winter-bitten scenery, broken by small town main streets that had seen better days.  Around noon, we hit I-45 and jogged north to the toll road skirting Houston, paying $9 to avoid the worst of the urban traffic.

We saw miles and miles of this…

Followed by miles and miles of this.

Miles of this on 35 Resuming on I-10

Between Hwy 35 and I-45, we took a 6-lane suburban road past banks, car dealerships, and strip malls.  When we came to a major slowdown, complete with sheriffs directing traffic, we were mighty surprised – even in TEXAS – to see horses, riders, and covered wagons pulling out of a mall parking lot onto the road!

Lee Road Trail Riders Wagon

Texas Independence Trail Riders in suburbia

Little wagon on the road. Texas Independence Trail Riders

It was the Texas Independence Trail Ride Association heading to the Johnson Space Center (Huh??) on their way to Houston for the Rodeo – an 8 day ride.  There is no telling what you will encounter, even on an otherwise boring travel day.  :)

Site 80, Gulf Coast RV Park Now we are settled in Gulf Coast RV Park (read our review here) in Beaumont, Texas, on a narrow concrete slab – much appreciated as rain is pouring down.  Our high temperature of 50 degrees  has given way to the low 40’s, on its way down to the low 30’s tonight – and sleet?  snow??  Our site is in the front row, where we can watch each new arrival as they pull in – since I took this photo, neighbors have arrived on both sides.  It’s so good to be OFF the road before the rain begins. 

As soon as we great a break in the downpour, we’ll be off to Willy Ray’s BBQ for St. Louis style pork ribs and carrot soufflĂ©.  Will they be as good as we remember, or will four intervening years of travel – and plenty of mediocre ribs – have distorted our memories?  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


We left Mustang Island in dense fog with a bit of rain mixed in.  135 miles and 2:34 hours later, we pulled into Bayside RV Park (read our review here) in Palacios (pronounced Puh-LASH-us in the Texas dialect – forget any Spanish you know!) as the sun was peeking through the clouds.  By the time we checked in and set up, the sun was shining.

Foggy departure from Mustang Island Sunny Palacios, viewed from the pier.

Leaving Mustang Island in dense fog.

A sunny walk on the Palacios Pier

Odel did a speedy wash of the Jules – it was so covered with road grime after being pulled along behind Scoopy through rain and damp that we couldn’t see out the windows – and we went rushing off to find a shrimp po-boy at a restaurant in town, the Outrigger Grill.  Their website said they closed at 3 pm – we arrived at 2:30.  Whew.

Half an hour later, Odel had finished his po-boy, and I had polished off a Seafood Basket of shrimp and catfish – with Odel’s help.  Palacios is the self-proclaimed “Shrimp Capitol of Texas” (third largest shrimping port in the state) and the shrimp we ate was outstanding – tender and succulent, not at all chewy.  The catfish matched the shrimp – superb.  Talking with the owner during our meal, we discovered they are closed Monday through Wednesday; if we hadn’t arrived by 3 pm today, we would have been out of luck since we are leaving on Tuesday.

Shrimp boats at rest in the basin. Palacios is NOT a tourist town – no t-shirt shops or gift stores, or at least none evident on our cruise through town.  They do have a seawall with a walkway that extends 1 1/4 miles, and several public fishing piers in good shape.  We enjoyed a walk after lunch, then headed home so Odel could resume the endless fight against road grime, on the lower part of the motorhome.   I walked a short distance away to take photographs of the shrimpers in the basin nearby – our unassuming RV park is tucked in behind “Basin #3”.

Tomorrow we have another restaurant on our radar screen, reputed to have excellent catfish: Baytown Seafood.  Here is part of the review I read:

“I have to drive 110 miles to eat catfish. Yes, I have to. From the time I had my first plate of catfish at Baytown Seafood in Palacios, I have been hooked. Perfectly seasoned crust that houses the flaky, tender, juicy pieces of catfish...... oh man, that is eating.”

So we drove past Baytown Seafood, to make certain they would be open tomorrow.  No cooking going on at home while we are here – we’re taking advantage of the good seafood dives while we have a chance.  :)

Friday, February 19, 2010


Mustang Island CampingI just finished up a review of Buckhorn Lake Resort, our “home” for three days in Kerrville, Texas, earlier this week.  Buckhorn Lake is a true resort, with facilities deserving of the name: well manicured and beautifully maintained, with spacious sites and resort amenities.  Still, we would not be likely to return, because it didn’t meet some of our top priorities.

Now we are at Mustang Island State Park (click here for a review), along the Gulf Coast of Texas, just south of Corpus Christi.  The campground is just an asphalt parking lot, and the state’s budget problems mean that campground amenities are beginning to look a little “iffy”(or worse, like the day use area’s unusable restroom, below) – but we’d return here without a second thought.

It’s all about priorities.

Day use restroom is no longer maintained.As I write this, I am looking out on a big asphalt slab, with RV’s parked side by side, each next to a deteriorating wooden shade structure and picnic table.  I can see beach dunes behind the rigs across from us, but the primary feeling is of a somewhat neglected parking lot.  This is not a visually appealing campground. 

Yet: we have a strong Verizon signal here, so our phones and aircard work.  We can easily communicate with friends and family, and research upcoming travels.

A wonderful beach, with miles of entertaining walking in either direction, is right behind those dunes.  All we do is step out the door and head off.

Parking is level, access is easy, and we have 50 amps of power.

So, in spite of the lack of visual appeal, life is simple here, and all of our top priorities are met at a reasonable price.

Stormy morning on the beach

Sunny afternoon on the beach

Friday Beach Scene Beach on Tuesday

Buckhorn Lake Resort (photo below right) is quite beautiful, with graceful mature trees and well manicured lawns.  Sites are much bigger (and don’t flood in a rainstorm), and many very well maintained amenities are provided.

Buckhorn Lake Resort Yet: Verizon service is very poor in that location, so our phones and aircard didn’t work (not the park’s fault, of course).  The park’s free WiFi was unable to handle the traffic – speedy at times, then slowing to a frustrating crawl.  Ease of communications and research is a high priority for us – and we didn’t find it here.

Taking a long walk without driving somewhere first wasn’t an option, unless you wanted to do laps around the park.  Ready access to safe, interesting walking/hiking is another high priority for us – and we didn’t find it here.

As with Mustang Island, parking was level, access was easy, and we had 50 amps of power.  We have satellite and local TV stations in both parks, and local NPR on the radio – lower priorities, but they do affect how long we want to stay – and on those issues, the parks were evenly matched.  No sewer hookup at Mustang Island, but that isn’t a concern to us for a 5-day or less stay.

The campgrounds could hardly be more different, and staying at the two back-to-back really opened my eyes to our current priorities!  Since we bring our own amenities (don’t need to use campground restrooms or laundry), reasonable price, good phone and internet access, and walking/hiking opportunities trump visual appeal.

Sunrise on Wednesday morning, reflected on our side window.

View from our doorway on Friday morning, after a stormy night of constant rain.

Sunrise Morning View in the rain

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


This post is a special reminiscence for JoAnn and Doug – and it is all about food (surprise!).

Hog Lard on Sale We drove from Mustang Island State Park to up to Rockport to visit with them for lunch today, and spent several pleasant hours discussing our future travels.  Doug and JoAnn are heading for Betty’s RV Park in the small town of Abbeville, LA.  Odel and I stayed there in March of 2005, and we fondly remembered several culinary experiences from the area – our first in-depth encounters with Cajun food.  As we rattled off the names of restaurants and some of their specialties, Doug asked if we could put the specifics in an email.

Once I got home and began looking through photographs, I realized I had too many to attach to an email.  Since I wasn’t blogging in 2005, I decided to do an “Abbeville Eating Extravaganza” retrospective.  :) 

I’ll kick it off with a shocker: I took this photo simply because I couldn’t believe anyone would buy (or sell) hog lard by the gallon (or ounce).  I still can’t believe it!  What the heck do you do with it?  Fuel the motorhome?

First, though, I link that I promised to send to Doug: Life in the Blue Daisy.  The Blue Daisy is a converted bus that belongs to the son and daughter-in-law of our mutual friends, Richard and Marlene.  The family of five (mom, dad, and sons aged 9, 5 and 2) are traveling through Mexico, and blogging about their travels.  This particular link (above) includes a story of the consequences of a wrong turn in a Mexican town… I really laughed when I read it, though I know it didn’t seem at all funny at the time.  It is times like that when margaritas are medicinal.

Now, back to food:

Cajun Claws Restaurant Pistolettes

Above: Cajun Claws Restaurant – the place to go to eat crawfish.

Below: Diane, Odel and Lloyd… and crawfish!

Above: Our friend Jim enjoying his pistolettes.

Below: Lloyd taught us how to tackle a crawfish meal. He ordered the 5 pounder.

Diane and her crawfish Lloyd with his Crawfish

On Betty’s recommendation, we – along with our friends Jim and Diane - choose the Cajun Claws restaurant for a crawfish meal.  The place was packed, so crowded that we put our names on their waiting list, then went back home for an hour!  When we returned, we waited another 20 minutes or so to be seated, at a table for 6.  As we tried to make sense of the menu (should we order 3.5 pounds of crawfish, or 5 pounds – and, is that for the table or a single diner??), the hostess approached our table and asked if she could seat a single diner with us – a local regular.  We said “sure”, and Lloyd joined us.

Lloyd is a trucker who eats at Cajun Claws every Friday night.  Thank goodness he joined us!  In no time, he had us straightened out: 3.5 pounds is a small dinner, 5 pounds is large – and they are ordered per diner, NOT per table.  He knew the ins and outs of ordering “sides” – boiled potatoes and corn on the cob, half order or full order.  He know how to mix together the “my-naze” (mayonnaise to you Yankees), ketchup, and hot sauce the waitress plunked down in front of each of us to produce our customized crawfish dip.

(You might have noticed Diane is wearing vinyl gloves in the photo above.  This was a great suggestion – your soft, inexperienced hands will be sore and stained after cracking and peeling 3.5 pounds of crawfish.  Also, I didn’t order crawfish – gasp! – and can tell you the fried catfish is delicious!)

Lloyd also knew about the pistolettes: a small slab of vanilla ice cream is inserted in a French roll that has been split in half, then the entire thing is briefly deep-fried.  Choose chocolate sauce or lemon sauce as your topping (see top right photo). OMG.

Perhaps the best shrimp po-boys we found were at a little crossroads cafe somewhere near Abbeville (ask Betty) names Suires.  Died-and-gone-to-heaven food in what appeared to be the most unlikely spot!

Jim and Diane in front of Suire’s

Suire’s menu sign – would your brake for this?

Jim and Diane at Suire's Let's Eat - Suire's menu sign

On another day, we drove to Maurice, LA, for a visit to Hebert’s Specialty Meats (pronounced “A-Bears” – with “specialty meats” in the normal Yankee dialect).  Hebert’s specializes in deboned poultry, and is likely to have been the “inventor” of the Turducken, a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a deboned turkey, each separated from the other with a layer of stuffing.   I can’t remember everything we loaded into our car, but I know we had a deboned chicken stuffed with rice and sausage, a deboned rabbit stuffed with ???, and a couple of boudin, a cajun rice and meat sausage (click here for a cool map of the “Boudin Trail” through Louisiana), all ready to be roasted and consumed over the next few days. 

Standing outside Hebert’s Specialty Meats

These are the offerings at Richard’s Specialty Meats in Abbeville, which sells the pork lard!

Hebert's In Maurice Richard's Specialty Meats in Abbeville, LA

Another day:  we visited St. Martinville to see the “Evangeline Oak”.  The big, beautiful oak tree only captured our attention until we turned around and saw the glowing neon “Hot Beignets” calling to us.  Fresh, hot beignets and steaming coffee on a cool day…  ‘nuf said??

The graceful “Evangeline Oak”.

Hot Beignets!

Evangeline Oak Hot Beignets

Our visit to Louisiana came on the heels of our first trip into Mexico, down the east coast to Veracruz.  The Mexico trip was an exciting adventure – a new language, and different culinary traditions.  We totally enjoyed ourselves.  As we walked around Abbeville a few weeks later, we thought “Why go to Mexico?  We can only understand 40% of what they say in Louisiana (is it English?), and the food is all new to us – and delicious!”  Really, it was like a different country – no passport required.  We can’t wait to get back!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Sunshine!  Glorious sunshine! 

I got up before dawn this morning.  Temperature in Kerrville: 19 degrees.  Because we have been using our wonderful Kozy World propane heater, we had condensation on the inside of our windshield… and it was FROZEN!  Yes, ice on the INSIDE of the window.  Sheesh.

After goodbye hugs with Gloria, we were on our way around 9:30 am.  By then, the temperature was one degree above freezing, and we were dressed in double layers of fleece (our new “usual”).

We arrived at Mustang Island State Park around 2:30 this afternoon, a 246 mile trip from Kerrville (average speed 55.3 miles per hour, mostly on deserted, two-lane roads).  The sun was out, the wind was calm, and it was 62 degrees, the warmest we’ve been in many weeks.  As soon as we checked in (for a 5 night stay) and set up, we hit the beach.  Yes, I am wearing my sweatshirt, but that sunshine felt SO GOOD!  See, I have the sleeves pushed up.  :)

Laurie on the beach on Mustang Island.Tomorrow we are meeting friends Doug and JoAnn for lunch, and we have dinner plans on Thursday with Barry and Jan, camp hosts here at the state park.  Mostly, though, the agenda calls for long beach walks, relaxation, and time to research our travels east. 

After the weekend, we’ll be heading on to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida.  If any of you have suggestions for favorite camping spots, restaurants, or attractions, please let us know.   We’ve been to New Orleans before – not sure if we will visit again – but haven’t traveled farther east along the I-10 corridor.  Advice welcome!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Gloria and Tom (photo swiped from Gloria's blog) In spring of 2009, while at Cal-Expo, we were joined on “The Slab” by wonderful new neighbors, Tom and Gloria.  We were side-by-side for a week or so, enjoyed each other’s company, and exchanged email and blog addresses.  We renewed our friendship while Odel and I were volunteering in Hood River, Oregon, last summer, when Tom and Gloria came to visit us on a day trip.

I kept an eye on Gloria’s blog, enjoying her reports on their travels.  In September, I was shocked to read that Tom had suffered a stroke in South Dakota.  Gloria continued to write her blog each night, and we followed Tom’s progress as he recovered from surgery and began rehabilitation.  In December, Tom and Gloria were reunited with their motorhome in San Antonio, Texas, and outpatient therapy continued.  We followed their progress eagerly.

Early in January, I caught up with Gloria’s blog just before I went to bed, a late night.  The title, Home (click here to read it), did not prepare me for the message: Tom had fallen, suffered a significant bleed in his brain, and had not survived.  Gloria’s blog post was simple, eloquent, and shocking.  It was very hard to absorb.

We are here in Kerrville now, at Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, to visit our friend Gloria and to remember Tom.  We spent a couple of hours yesterday hearing the story of Tom’s stroke, progress, setbacks, the final accident, the memorial, and Gloria’s plans for the future.  Gloria’s strength and wisdom are astounding.  It felt good to share hugs and hear her story.  Our reunion was full of tears AND laughter, and non-stop conversation. 

Redbud in bloom in Kerrville in March, 2007.  This visit: cold and rainy!Gloria has good friends in the park, Jim and Diane, and she arranged for us all to meet for dinner last night.  It would be very difficult to find a more animated and hilarious group than this trio.  Jim and Diane are also fulltimers, with outrageous stories.  One of my favorites:

Driving through Arizona in their motorhome on a very windy day, they were towing their Kia with two kayaks in an “after-market” rack on top of the Kia.  A couple of bikers pulled up beside them, motioning for Jim to pull over.  When he stopped, the bikers told them that the kayaks and rack had come off the Kia.  Oh, oh.

They unhooked the car and went back ten miles for the kayaks, but the rack was so twisted that it was unusable, and the kayaks wouldn't fit in their Kia.  Jim flagged down a guy in a pickup truck and told him it was his lucky day - he could take the two kayaks ($4000 worth) for free.  Jim says, "He looked at me like I was crazy and said 'Look around, man!  What do you see?  There's no water within 500 miles!'".  Sooo funny.

Gloria, Diane and I went out today for a special tour of a privately owned collection of western art, and lunch afterwards.  The talk and laughter was non-stop – a really super time.  We feel lucky to have met Gloria and Tom, and now to know Jim and Diane. 

We meet many, many people as we travel.  Most are friendly, many are interesting.  Every so often, you make that quick and happy connection that causes you to stay in touch, to go out of your way to make certain your paths cross again whenever possible.  So it was with Gloria and Tom, and I hope we’ll find Jim and Diane along our travel route, too.  It has been an exceptionally rewarding visit.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), we will say our goodbyes in the morning and hit the road.  Hurray for email and blogs!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Lockhart's ornate courthouse I mentioned in my last post that two of our blog readers live in Austin, and sent us an email asking whether we’d like to visit Smitty’s, 25 miles south in Lockhart (this photo shows their ornate courthouse), for BBQ.  Can you believe that Odel and I haven’t been to ONE BBQ dive since we’ve been in Texas??  Shocking!

Though we were planning to leave Austin on Saturday, the lure of legendary BBQ with new friends was strong, so we did something rare for us: we stayed in our site until checkout time, which gave us sufficient time to drive to Lockhart, eat, and return, delaying our move until the afternoon.  When Mac and Dianna arrived at 11 am, Scoopy was all ready to go – buttoned up, jacks up, aired up.  We jumped into their car and away we went.

Mac and Dianna have plans for fulltiming in their future, but are still working in Austin.  They are friendly and fun, with lots of questions about “the life”.  They recently sold their travel trailer and found their fulltiming Class A diesel dream coach – we had plenty to talk about on the way to Lockhart!

Lockhart appears to be a Mecca for the BBQ enthusiast, with four famous BBQ joints in this fairly small town.  I’m glad Mac and Dianna made the choice for us, and knew their way around Smitty's.

We entered from the parking lot in back, past a Girl Scout with her cookie stand, into a short, smoky hallway.  To the right was a fire, burning on the floor of a smoky brick room full of activity.  Ahead we saw a counter, a chopping block, scales – and, on the wall, a “menu” of meats sold by the pound.  The comingled smell of cooking meat and smoke was intoxicating.  The inner sanctum! 

Menu counter and workers Smittys workers

Placing the order.  See the yellow menus on the back wall?  Meat by the pound!

Lots of staff in the BBQ room.  Meat cutter in the center, scales and registers right and left.

Thank goodness we had guides to lead us, as we were dazzled by the sights and smells, and wrestling with the concept of ordering a meal by the pound.  Odel and I decided on 8 pork ribs (whatever their weight) and several slices of brisket – Odel simply ordered by pointing out the amount of meat we wanted.  Next question: crackers or bread?  “Bread” in this case means soft, white, and sliced – I think of it more as an edible napkin than a food.  Everything is heaped onto two or three layers of pink butcher paper and passed over the counter to the buyer.

Now, when we decided on our “portion size”, I did NOT know that Mac was treating.  I figured we’d take home whatever we didn’t eat, and I was mighty embarrassed to see Mac counting out the bills for OUR meal (which turned out to be a meal-and-a-half)!  I am going to say it again, right here and right now: THANK YOU, Mac and Dianna!  We hadn’t planned to be your gluttonous guests; we appreciate it!

Our order of ribs and brisket What sides do you want?

Our order of ribs, brisket, and white bread.

“What sides do you want?”

From the smoke pits to the front room we went.  Long tables flanked with metal folding chairs dominate the dining area, with one corner of the room devoted to the purchase of “sides” (beans, cole slaw, potato salad) and drinks.  While I sat at a table breathing in the tantalizing smell of our ribs and brisket, Odel stocked up on side dishes, water and napkins.  Mac and Dianna were close behind, shepherding us through the process.

Dianna, Mac and Odel – so anxious to dig into the meal that he couldn’t look at the camera!

Our host, Mac, smiling over ribs, brisket, and sausage.

Happy diners Mac and his order

Then we got down to business, Texas-style.  Tender, smoky, juicy - greasy might be the better description, but in a good way!  It was everything we remembered about good Texas BBQ.  Lots of lip-smacking going on!

The firepit and smokers. While we ate, the joint began to fill up for lunch.  It wasn’t a spot to linger for conversation.  As we walked back out to the parking lot, toothpicks working, Mac pointed out to me the interesting mechanics of the fire pit – with the fire built directly on the floor, the heat and smoke are sucked into the big brick smokers, the ultimate indirect heating, the way it has been done here for decades.

I made a quick stop at the Girl Scout table for cookies, then we were off.  Mac and Dianna dropped us back at site 18, we hooked Jules to Scoopy, and headed west, back to Kerrville for a visit with our friend Gloria.  We’ve booked three nights at well-known Buckhorn Lake RV Resort where Gloria is staying.  More on our experience there later.

Mac and Dianna, thanks for a great Texas experience!  We look forward to our paths crossing again.