Cajun Vacation: Home Sweet Home March 11

The rain continued to come day on Friday morning.  The plan was to pack up and drive all day until we reached home.  Vacation was just about over for us.  This was our last day on the road.

After showers and packing up, we went down to load up the car one last time.  Pulling out of the garage, we got out onto the streets of Memphis.  I headed south before I realized that I really wanted to go north to get across the bridge to West Memphis.  The navi saved us and got us out to the expressway without going too much out of the way.  Thanks, Navi.

Traffic was a little heavy.  The rain was light so it wasn’t causing things to slow down much.  The road curved to the west and led us over the river.  A white Ford Escape in the left lane was driving well under the speed limit.  The driver was talking on the phone.  I bet he had no idea he was causing a traffic jam as everyone was trying to get around him.

We stopped in the West Memphis service plaza to grab breakfast.  My thinking was that we ate well here and make it down the road a good ways before we need to stop for a meal.  The restaurant we picked had a breakfast buffet with just about everything you could want.  Sylvia, our waitress, got Rich a couple of eggs over easy.  She also brought a full coffee pot to the table.  We could fill our cups as we liked.  After eating, I filled the travel mug from the pot.  This was convenient.

Rick and I went through the shop to look around while waiting for Rich to make a stop.  Halfway through my round, I realized I had forgotten the travel mug on the table.  I hurried back to the restaurant just as Sylvia came out looking for me.  I thanked her profusely since Rich would have been unhappy not to have coffee for the trip back.

Back in the car, we headed into Arkansas with the rest of the northbound traffic.  It was pretty much uneventful.  The flood waters stopped a few miles north of Memphis.  I pulled into the Missouri Welcome Center after driving for a couple of hours.  It was time for Rich to take over.  I took a nap.  With my sinus unhappy from the wind and dust in New Orleans, I needed to rest.

About 2:00 PM, Rich decided the car needed gas and he was empty as well.  I’m not even sure where we were.  We found a gas station and a Hardee’s next door.  As we waited for our food, a group of guys were finishing up and I heard one of them say, “I haven’t seen a Hardee’s around in a while.”  The manager asked where he was from.  The guys answered, “Illinois.”  I swear that he pronounced all of the letters in the name.  Do people from the state actually say it that way?  I know Southerners tend to say it that way.  I thought it was very funny.

We got back on the road and headed toward home again.  Somewhere around Champaign, we pulled into a rest area to take a break.  In the rest room, a group of 10 to 12 year old girls huddled in front of the door and hand dryers.  What do you call a group of girls like that?  I was thinking a gaggle.  I’m sure there is a good name that fits.  When I looked it up, the closest was a bevy of ladies.  Naw, that doesn’t work.

Rick took the wheel and got us a little further up the road.  I got to sit in the back seat and read.  I always love when I can read from here.  I snuggled in and got comfy.  Before I knew it, it was a couple of hours later and Rick was pulling into the last rest area before hitting the Chicago area.  As he was pulling, three buses were pulling into the truck lanes.  One bus was pulling into the car parking.  We parked ourselves and made a break for the bathrooms to beat the worst of the crowd.  I made to be third in line, even though I can’t run.

Getting back out of the bathroom proved to be more of a challenge than getting in.  I had to wind my way through girls standing in the hallway to get to the sink.  At the door, I had to almost shout excuse me at the top of lungs to get out again.  The girls in line wouldn’t part ways to get through.  Did they really think I was trying to cut line to go again?  There were kids standing everywhere in the rest area lobby.  Why were they all standing around in here?  It’s nice outside.  Go out there and walk around!

In the car, it was my turn to drive us to the house.  Traffic was tight and rush hour was going to make it tighter.  A fender bender on the eastbound side of I-80 was causing traffic to be slow on the westbound.  I’m always amazed that rubbernecking causes so much trouble.  There was no blood.  Once past the accident, the traffic picked up and moved down the road.

It was getting pretty dark by the time we got into the Schaumburg area.  Rich was planning to stop for chicken in Palatine.  I really had a taste for hot and sour soup.  Since I was getting this anyway, it was decided to come on in to home and get food from there.  We arrived home about 7:00.  Yes, we had made it.  The guys picked out food while I started to unpack the car.  The order was called in and everything was brought into the living room.  There was time to get everything into its own place later.

The guys went after the food while I settled into my chair and took a lot of deep breaths.  Home always feels so good.  One more Zurek Family Vacation in the books and ready to be written about in a blog.

Cajun Vacation: Walking in Memphis

Today, we are on the move again.  We woke up to dry skies, but the clouds were very low.  It’s probably good we are leaving NOLA today.  We start our first leg back to the real world and home.  After packing up, Rich went down to the lobby for coffee so that he would be prepared for the drive.  We would stop and grab something to eat on the way out of NOLA.

I called down to get our car brought around by the valet and to have someone bring up a cart to help us get all of this stuff downstairs.  I thought it would be easier to tip someone.  I am on vacation, you know.  The young man knocked on the door and even had his own doorstop.  That’s good planning.  We got everything to the door and he loaded it up for us.

Rich had not returned, so Rick and I headed to the lobby to try and catch him.  No luck though, because we missed him somewhere.  Rick sent a text to join us in the lobby.  A couple of minutes later, Rich appeared with phone and coffee in hands.  He said he got to the room and saw the guy taking the cart to the service elevator.  He figured we were already downstairs.

I thanked the ladies at the front desk for helping us around the French Quarter during our stay.  They had the best information and always willing to help me figure out how to do something.  The Courtyard was the best place.  We had a wonderful stay with them.

Down in the garage, our car was ready and waiting.  The valet was giving me instructions for getting out of town and back on the road toward Memphis.  Our luggage showed up and I packed the car with my usual expertise.  Time to wave good-bye and creep out into rush hour traffic in New Orleans.

We got lucky and traffic was clear.  We headed west on Dauphine St and followed the Navi to I-55 going west.  We had gotten on the other side of Lake Ponchetrain when the first rain drops started hitting the car.  It was only sprinkles at this point.  So we made it out of town before it got wet.  Now that was great planning.

We stopped up the road for gas and something to eat.  That would take us into Clarksdale.  The rain got a little heavier as we were getting around the Tennessee border.  Then it really broke loose as we got off the interstate and onto the minor highway.  There were times when it was a little hard to see.  In some places, we hydroplaned somewhat where water just couldn’t run off.

As we moved north, the evidence of flooding was getting more and more.  In several locations, the fields looked like good sized lakes just standing with water.  A couple of places had water running from one field across the road to another field.  It was a single lane of traffic at these points.  Luckily, it wasn’t trying to sweep any vehicles with it.

We got into Clarksdale at the crossroads.  The viaduct on 61 was closed because of high water.  We snaked our way through the neighborhoods.  At one point, the train was blocking the tracks because it was stopped for water.  We got around it all and back over to 61.  Across the Sunflower River, we found that Hick’s BBQ was still open.

We had just an hour before they closed for the day.  We ordered half a dozen tamales, rib tips, BBQ pork sandwiches with fried okra and baked beans.  Rich and I had been trying for a couple of years to catch Hick’s open so we could eat the best tamales in the world.  The guy behind the counter laughed when I said that.  However, it is true.  These were some of the best hot tamales that I’ve had.  We’ll have to stop by and try them again.

We got back to the crossroads and headed north for Memphis.  I tried to stop for gas outside of Clarksdale, but apparently the pumps and computer system was down.  With the storms and rain, it appears that things have been down off and on all day.  I opted to get gas further up in the delta.

We’d be spending the night in Memphis and hopefully get to see some blues at Run Boogie Blues Hall.  Rick can check out the act on stage next door at Rum Boogie, if he wanted.  I knew Rick also wanted to go by the Gibson Factory.  He wasn’t interested in the tour so much as the guitars on display and the fact that you could play them.  I think we had a full day for our one night there.

We got within 10 miles of Memphis when a sign said the road was closed.  Apparently, the high water here had the road closed to traffic.  We got on an east-west highway to get around the block.  This took us out of our way by some miles, but it was better than nothing.  This road took us back over to I-55 so we could head up to Memphis.  The road was drier here, but there were still some places with standing water.

The exit off to the interstate ran down into some of the industrial areas.  At one point, we were detoured again because of high water.  This wound us around through some of the older neighborhoods and right by Gus’ World Famous Chicken.  We turned on Union and right down to the hotel.  We were across from The Peabody.  I tell myself I’m going to stay over there someday, but today was not that day.

We got checked and ready to walk to Beale St.  Somehow, Rick talked his Dad into going over to Lansky’s first.  When I caught up to them, they were standing by waiting for the famous Peabody ducks to go up to their penthouse for the night.  I pulled them along to the Lansky store to shop instead.

Once inside the shop, the colors and textures are wonderful.  I find it hard not to run around and touch everything.  Rich started looking through shirts and hats.  Nothing was standing out for him.  Rick saw shirts he liked, but he figured he would never really wear.  One of the salesmen asked about our day.  I explained we had stopped by to look.  Rich then found the perfect shirt.  It was a black camp shirt with guitar picks and a fret board on the front.  On the back was a full guitar and the words, “Home of Rock and Roll” in bright colors.  It was beautiful and it was in Rich’s size.  Out came the credit card and Rich purchased it.

I ran the shirt back over to the hotel while the guys walked down to the Gibson Factory.  By the time I came back down to the street, it was starting to rain.  I had left my rain jacket upstairs guessing that the rain was over for the night.  If you have to decide something, I figured I’d go for warm.  Darn, I got that wrong.

I didn’t see the guys when I got to Gibson.  Inside the door, I looked around.  A young lady who worked there asked if she could help.  I explained I let my kids come down where and I couldn’t find them.  Rick walked from behind one of the racks about then.  I told her I found one of them.  She laughed.  Rick sat down and started to play a Les Paul that he had admired.  Price tags here are to be admired, but not paid either.  Rich sat down on a couch and waited as Rick and I walked around and around the guitars.  It is an impressive place with lots of guitars just hanging around.  After buying a new guitar strap that says Gibson, Rick was ready for me to drag him out of the store.

We walked back down to Beale Street, but no one was playing any live music yet.  That would be around 8:00.  We checked on the schedule for a couple of places and getting the names of groups who would be playing.  We walked down toward the Handy Park to check out some places.  Across the street, Dyer’s was open.  Rick decided he was hungry again.  We went in for burgers and beers.

Back out on the street, we wondered up Beale Street toward B.B. King’s place and then around the block back to the hotel for a rest.  The rain had pretty much quit and it was getting a little bit chilly.  We’d rest our feet and then head back down to Beale for the 8:00 shows.

Live music started up at 8:00 PM on Beale Street.  We left the hotel just after the guitars started.  The rain was coming down slow and steady.  The five minute walk up to Beale Street didn’t soak us through.  We got to the door for the Blues Hall Juke Joint with the music coming through the door.  The doorman checked our IDs and stamped our hands.  Luckily, the bar is free to enter.  We stepped inside and the music surrounded us.

We took over one of the high-topped tables and shucked the raincoats.  Rich stepped up to the bar and got us three bourbon high balls.  Well, they were actually Canadian whiskey high balls since that’s all they had.  The Blues Masters were on stage.  I wouldn’t say they were exactly blues.  They were playing mostly R&B and Soul.  They weren’t bad though.  We heard three or four songs.

The crowd was ebbing and flowing around us.  People would move between the Juke Joint and Rum Boogie Café through the adjoining door.  A large group of guys and girls came in at one point and tried to find seating together.  They ended up at a table behind us and a table right up front.  They didn’t stay too long before they picked up their Big Ass Beers and moved back out to the street.  I assume they were looking for a specific type of music and hadn’t found it yet.

The band brought up their singer after the first few songs.  Her name was Queen Anne.  To my ears, it sounds strange to name your child with a title as their name.  She had a nice voice.  Unfortunately, the lead guitarist was also the sound guy.  To hear Queen Anne over the band, he cranked her mic up over the other sounds.  This meant the sound now made your ears bleed.

We hung out for a couple of songs and finished our drinks.  It was time to go while we could still hear.  I would prefer to hear more music.  I asked the guys to walk through Rum Boogie Café in hopes that the band there was still on stage.  I wasn’t having any luck though.  No one was on stage and the lights were dark.

On the street, we could hear music blaring from several locations all at once.  The rain was coming down harder.  Maybe it was time to call it quits for the night.  We were planning to be on the road early tomorrow.  It would be a long day as we planned to drive on home for the 8 and more hours.

The street was dark with the rain coming down.  In a couple of spots, we had to skirt puddles to keep our feet dry.  We debated crossing the street at Peabody Place against the light because there was no traffic coming down the one-way street.  At the last minute, the pedestrian light changed in our favor.

We joked about melting before we could get back to the hotel.  Good thing none of us were that sweet.  As we passed the Peabody Hotel, Rick told me we’d be home now if I had just made reservations there.  I told him I would have, if he were paying.  We crossed the street and entered our warm and dry hotel.

The night in Memphis didn’t work out as well as I had planned, but we did manage to do a couple of things we wanted.  Rick got to play guitars at Gibson.  Rich shopped at Lansky’s.  We got to see the Peabody ducks walk to the elevator.  The live music was short, but enough to remember.

Beale Street in the rain
Beale Street in the rain
Gibson Factory
Gibson Factory
Rick with one of his favorite guitars
Rick with one of his favorite guitars
Love is a new guitar
Love is a new guitar
Little dobro with that song
Little dobro with that song
Peabody Hotel on a dark and rainy night
Peabody Hotel on a dark and rainy night

 

Cajun Vacation: Day 5 Happy Birthday, Rick!

Happy Birthday, Rick.  Today is my son’s 22nd birthday.  On this day 22 years ago, he woke me up from a sound sleep to take care of some important business.  He arrived about 4 weeks early and has been dragging his heels about things ever since.

We weren’t in any hurry today either.  I didn’t have that much planned.  I did want to do a trip to Cemetery #1, but it turned out to be $25 a person.  It wasn’t that important to me.  We saw the cemetery on the way in.  So the first plan was to find breakfast.  Checking the lobby meant something expensive and maybe not that good.  We headed to the street to find a restaurant.

Can you believe that not that many places serve breakfast in the French Quarter?  I made the executive decision to go to a little place that sounded interesting.  Unfortunately, it had been replaced with a Vietnamese restaurant that wasn’t open.  We backtracked a bit to Café Beignet and got coffee for Rich.  He’s not really human until that first cup goes in.  We found a table on the patio and got gospel songs from a homeless man.  He was very good and sang “Amazing Grace,” which is one of my favorites.

Rich had a sparrow take an untimely accident on him.  It wasn’t too bad and he could clean himself up.  From here, I got money and we headed down to the river.  I wanted to check out Jackson Brewery for lunch before going over to the French Market.  I talked to the bartender for a bit and we decided to come back there.

Down the shore a bit, we entered into the French Market.  The first half was a market for foods and food stands.  The smells were wonderful.  We stopped to try some pralines.  Rich got rum, Rick got peanut butter, and I got original.  They were delicious.  We should have had breakfast here!

Further down, the flea market took over.  Most of this was handicraft items being sold by individuals.  I looked at the jewelry, but it was really good quality.  I decided I could make any of that.  There were leather goods and wood carvings.  A few people had artwork or photographs that were interesting.

I circled back around to find the guys had gotten water and Rich a second cup of coffee.  Since the coffee was still hot, we moved to the park to watch the people and talk.  People watching can be quite fulfilling here in the Big Easy.  There are so many different things going on at the same time.

We headed down to Jackson Brewery for lunch.  Inside, we had choices to make.  I would stay downstairs at the main bar, but Rich decided to sit upstairs and have a view of the Mississippi River.  Rick decided not to drink quite yet.  Rich had a pomegranate beer while I had the Canebrake IPA.  I ordered the shrimp and grits.  Rich got the alligator jambalaya and Rick got the Chignon du latté (milk pork) po’boy.  The food was so wonderful.  We ate and watched the world go by outside and basketball for the ACC play inside.

After lunch, I was trying to find a t-shirt for New Orleans, but not having any luck.  The guys found theirs earlier this morning.  We headed up St. Peter St to Bourbon St.  First stop here was to the Tropical Island to try a Hand Grenade.  Louie from work said that we had to do it.  OK, we were game.  A couple at the bar acted like they had already had several.  They were excited to have someone come in and order.  The taste is fruity, but with a bitter after flavor that was almost like an artificial sweetener.  It wasn’t that great.  However, it was pretty potent.  Rick managed to lob the grenades from our drinks into the overhead basket.

While sitting at the bar, a couple of people came in and ordered shark attacks.  The bartenders would sound the siren and ring the bells.  A drink was set on the bar and a plastic shark was put into turning the drink completely red.  It was a nice gimmick, but not one that I would try to drink for.  As it was, I couldn’t finish the drink I had.  We slipped out and I deposited my cup in the trash.  The guys kept their souvenir glasses and headed back to the hotel.  We tried it, Louie.

I was still on the hunt for a t-shirt.  I had seen a large shop on Bourbon St that I wanted to check out.  The guys left me to shop and headed to the hotel.  I walked around the shop, but nothing looked like what I wanted.  If anything came close, it was not in my size.  I might have to go home without a shirt to commemorate my visit.

At the hotel, I got on the elevator with a family of 5 from Texas.  I know they were from Texas because the Mom, Dad, and the eldest son said it about 5 times between the two floors.  I made my way through the sprawling hallways back to the room.  It’s funny.  The hotel seems to be built between three different buildings, which requires you to make random turns to get way to our room.  It’s nice because it is us and one other room back here.  Now that I know the way, it’s not too hard anymore.  Learning the intricate turns was a little difficult at first.

Rich is napping.  Rick is messing around some online game stuff.  I’m writing up today’s blog.  All of this is while we rest before taking off again.  We are headed to Lafayette Square for Wednesdays on the Square.  Tab Benoit and the N’Wahing Johnnies are playing.  There are supposed to be food booths to buy all different kinds of foods.  I’m hoping there are different kind of drinks as well.  We thought we’d listen to some New Orleans blues and enjoy some time in the park.  I’ll let you know how that went when we return.

So sad.  We got our chairs and walked down to the park.  There was no concert about to start.  There were no food trucks parked waiting for people to order up food and drink.  We talked to a couple of people sitting around the fountain there.  Apparently, they came in and tried to set up.  The wind was pretty strong so they packed it up again and sent everyone home.  No concert tonight.  Darn.  So we packed our chairs back to the hotel.

After resting our feet for a bit, we went out to look for food and music.  We already figured out that the best places to be were not on Bourbon St.  Heading down Dauphine St., the first place was a martini bar that didn’t really have much food.  So we had one drink and moved on.  Rick did try a Stinger and really liked it.  The band was OK.  I didn’t care for the singer’s style, but the sound was OK.  We left and headed down Iberville to a small bar the guys thought was pretty cool last night.  The music didn’t start until 8:00.

In the meantime, we needed food before we could really carry on.  Between them, the guys decided to try the Vietnamese restaurant from this morning’s adventure.  It sounded good to me.  Rich got Pho while Rick and I got different rice dishes.  It was all pretty darn good.  The place was really small and was filling up around us.  We got enough food to be able to enjoy the evening and it was tasty.

We headed down to Decatur St. to see what was happening at Big Mama’s Blues Lounge.  It was comedy night and not what we were looking for.  We moved on to the jazz bar down the street.  Unfortunately, the first act had finished up and the next group didn’t even show up.  That’s OK because there was some pretty good blues music playing, the night was warm, and the bar was all opened up.  It was a great night to be out and about in New Orleans.

Around 8:00, we picked up and moved on to Iberville and the 21st Amendment Bar.  This place was tiny.  There were three or four tables and the bar itself.  The menu was mostly whiskey drinks, but there were some interesting mixes.  I saw the Day of Death Chocolate Stout and that was my drink.  Rich got the Bull in a China Shop and Rick did the peach shandy, which was surprisingly good.  Shine Diehl was playing with a group of string musicians.  It was kind of folk, Jazz, and ragtime with maybe a hint of old Jewish sound.  It was different.  Shine had this kind of donkey braying sort of laugh that he did after every song.  All in all, it was pretty good though.

We finished up our drinks and the band took a break.  Time for us to make a break for it also.  We were all tired from walking around town.  Believe it or not, we walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 steps for the day.  So for all the eating and drinking, we also walked it off.  Not a bad vacation.

Tomorrow is supposed to rain here and it has been raining cats and dogs in Memphis.  Not sure what we will find when we head normal tomorrow.  Hopefully, we can get into Memphis and back out again on Friday.  I’d really like to hear more music and get to see a bit of the Beale Street areas.  Wish us luck.

Rick the birthday boy
Rick the birthday boy
Rich with his morning coffee
Rich with his morning coffee
Going into the French Market
Going into the French Market
Rich contemplating getting something from a food vendor
Rich contemplating getting something from a food vendor
Jackson Brewery up on the levee
Jackson Brewery up on the levee
Eating lunch with a view of the Mississippi River
Eating lunch with a view of the Mississippi River
Alligator jambalaya with frog legs
Alligator jambalaya with frog legs

Chignon au Lait po'boy

Shrimp and grits at Jackson Brewery
Shrimp and grits at Jackson Brewery
Windy Day on the Mississippi River
Windy Day on the Mississippi River
Walking down St. Peter Street toward Bourbon St.
Walking down St. Peter Street toward Bourbon St.
Antoine's is oldest restaurant in NOLA
Antoine’s is oldest restaurant in NOLA
Musicians playing in the street
Musicians playing in the street
Museum of Death by our hotel
Museum of Death by our hotel
Jazz band pouring out of hotel with group doing their own parade
Jazz band pouring out of hotel with group doing their own parade
Mascot leading the parade
Mascot leading the parade

Cajun Vacation: Day 3 Avery Island and Gator Cove

Today, we had a bit of a slow start.  After breakfast at the hotel, we headed south to Avery Island.  For Rick, we were doing a tour of the Tabasco plant.  He so loves this stuff.  I do believe he puts it on just about everything he eats.  Rich had been in the area almost 30 years ago while working for Motorola on a Louisiana system.  He highly recommended the Jungle Gardens on the island.  So we were off to tour and wonder around.

I stopped in the New Iberia tourist information office once we got off the highway.  The man there gave me a lot of ideas for things to see and do.  He said that that the azaleas were in full bloom so the gardens would be full of blooms.   I love azaleas!

Down the road, we got into the swamps and crossed the bridge into Avery Island.  The brick buildings were ageless and had been standing for quite a while.  Walking up to the ticket office, I noticed the Tabasco sign and had to have a picture of the guys in front of it.  It was perfect.

In the museum, we went through all of the exhibits that told us the story of Tabasco.  Pretty amazing that one guy started something because he lost his job.  He knew pepper sauce and figured why not.  It has been a family business for many generations now.  The tour goes from the nursery where you see the different types of pepper plants, to the cooperage, to the mashing, to mixing and fermenting, and then on to bottling.  The line we watched was bottling garlic Tabasco for the Chinese market.  They are in just about every country of the world!

After the tour, we stopped by the Country Store to see what souvenirs were available.  Rick picked up a shirt and some sauce he couldn’t normally get.  We sampled the different sauces and some of the products made at the plant.  I most certainly don’t have the taste buds for the hot stuff.

We ambled down the road to the Jungle Gardens.  Rick ran in for a map and then we made our way down to the first stop.  This is bayou country back here.  With that, we came looking for gators.  Most of the ones we could spot were small.  We got a lot of great pictures.

The road led around through the Southern oaks hanging with Spanish moss and blooming trees and bushes.  We walked several trails.  There was a lot of timber bamboo growing in groves in the garden.  The estate uses it for railing and for bedding on the The Rookery for the storks.  We saw one of the oldest know trees in the state.  The Survey Tree was a large, overgrown tree back in 1810 when one of the settlers used it as a marker.  It was a rather larger and pretty heavily damaged tree as we looked it over.

One trail led back to a Buddha set up in a temple on a small rise.  The plaque says that the statue was pillaged from a temple in China when the Chinese Empire fell.  The rebel general scavenged the statue and sent it to New York to be sold.  A friend of the McIlhenney family told them about it and it was purchased and brought to Louisiana where it has resided since.  I’m surprised that it was not required to be returned to China.  It is beautiful and the hilltop is peaceful over the lagoon.

We took lots of pictures and walked all of the trails that we could.  We had plans to go to Gator Cove for lunch.  Rich wanted to do a crawfish boil.  Unfortunately, the Cove was closed and wouldn’t be open until 5:00.  Dinner it is then.

We stopped by the Blue Dog Café and had another round of seafood.  Rich had the crawfish enchilada.  Rick went for the crawfish pasta and I had gulf shrimp with more of the corn macque chow.  There was dirty rice with boudin sausage.  I love that stuff.  The flavor is so wonderful.

After our late lunch, we went over to the Acadian Village.  This is a collection of homes and businesses from around the area with ties to the Acadian people.  The lady in the country store was wonderful to talk to.  Her father grew up with the Acadian version of French.  She said her mother was Cajun (non-Acadian) and learned to speak French to communicate within the family group.

The houses all have history and each one is devoted to some aspect of life within the Acadian settlement.  There were lots of things to see and look at.  The village is arranged around its own version of a bayou.  It was nice to walk through and take our time.  Stopping into the offices, Rick and I went through the local art gallery.  I even had a conversation with one of the artists as she volunteers there.  She was so interesting.  From her speech and word choices, she was definitely Acadian.  It was bonus to talk with her about her art.

One the way back to the hotel to rest, Rich decided he had to have some of the local coffee to take back home.  I haven’t had any yet, that I know of, to judge if it was worth the trip to find some or not.  We passed a grocery and stopped in to see what we could find.  There were a couple of types in whole bean.  This was good enough for Rich.

Now we are back at the hotel resting up and waiting for dinner time.  Then it’s off to Gator Cove to enjoy a crawfish boil and probably get some of the BBQ to go with it.  More to come later.

Okay, I’m back.  The road outside of our hotel turned out to be a main road for everyone in Lafayette.  We turned the other direction and hoped that the Navi would come up with better directions.  It did.  We took a left and followed the road to the next road going east.  This road turned out to be directly across from the frontage road where I needed to go for the restaurant.  That was cool.

We drove down the hill and around the back of the building.  Hurrahs went up as the Open light was lit.  Time to get some crawfish boil.  I did stop the guys from going right in.  We just had to take a picture with the front doors.  The gators and crawfish were so cool.

Inside, the young lady at the podium had a great accent.  We heard y’all a bunch of times.  We got seated and ordered drinks.  When she returned we had figured out the order we wanted.  Then she threw a wrench into the order.  Do you want 3 lbs. or 5 lbs.?  That was the question.  Rich made the decision for 5 lbs of crawfish, some sausage, corn, and potatoes.  We ordered boudin and pepperjack cheese as an appetizer.

The appetizer came as eggrolls filled with goodness.  I so love boudin sausage.  It has such flavor without a lot of burn.  I do see that it is different from each person that you order it from.  Our waitress returned soon with a big black container.  When the lid came off, it was full of red bugs topped with corn and potatoes.  This was the moment for pictures before we delved in and learned the skills to twist the tail and pull out the sweet meat.

I had our waitress show me on one of the bugs first and show me how it was expertly done.  She deftly twisted the tail.  It came away easily with the outer shell attached.  Peeling off the shell, the tail was exposed and ready for dipping.  The dip was more like Russian dressing, but you could add hot sauce or horseradish.

We began digging into dinner.  Pretty soon, 5 lbs of bugs was down to just a couple.  Rick and I had reached the end.  I still wanted dessert.  Rich took care of the leftovers.  At the back of the room where sinks where you could scrub up and remove the seasoning.  It didn’t really burn the skin much, but the lips were on fire a bit.  It was highly recommended that the guys wash up good before going to the bathroom.

By the time I got back to the table, the dessert tray had come and gone.  I heard there were great things on it though.  The waitress came back with the tray and it was scrumptious.  I ordered the strawberry and dark chocolate cheesecake.  Rich got the bread pudding with whiskey sauce.  Rick got the Butterfinger cake.  Yes, it was all heavenly.

Time to pay the bill.  I just had to get t-shirts from the place first.  The guys got gray shirts that say Got Crawfish on the front with the Gator Cove logo on the back.  They were really nice.  We talked to the owner for a bit.  I guess all of the good seafood was being shipped to the Northeast since Sandy to meet demands and good money.  That was sad.  I guess they had seen better days with all of the restaurants that had opened in the area.  This was type of place that I really look for when I go to an area.  It has atmosphere and great food.

Well, dinner was over and we were so full.  It was time to head back to the hotel and settle in.  I can finish this blog and post it along with pictures from the day.  It was definitely a great day on vacation.  Tomorrow, we head to New Orleans for a couple of days.

Rich and Rick outside of the Tabasco Factory
Rich and Rick outside of the Tabasco Factory

Barrels of pepper pulp ready for formenting

Vats of pepper pulp and vinegar fermenting.
Vats of pepper pulp and vinegar fermenting.
Rick with his favorite one
Rick with his favorite one
Certified sign from the Queen
Certified sign from the Queen
Spanish moss in the Southern oaks
Spanish moss in the Southern oaks
Gators on the bank
Gators on the bank
It's just a baby gator
It’s just a baby gator
Azaelas in bloom
Azaelas in bloom
Double beauty
Double beauty
Heading down the
Heading down the
Buddha in the garden
Buddha in the garden
Purloined Buddha in its pagoda
Purloined Buddha in its pagoda
Doing limbo under the oak tree
Doing limbo under the oak tree
Pink camelia
Pink camelia
More cameilas
More cameilas
Rick versus Massurat the gator
Rick versus Massurat the gator
Lizard chasing a moth
Lizard chasing a moth
Visit to the Acadian Village
Visit to the Acadian Village
Rich feeding the fish and turtles
Rich feeding the fish and turtles
Two big kids feeding the fish and turtles.
Two big kids feeding the fish and turtles.
Welcome to the Gator Cove
Welcome to the Gator Cove
Crawfish boil with Rich and Rick for dinner
Crawfish boil with Rich and Rick for dinner
Rick getting a lesson is twisting the tail
Rick getting a lesson is twisting the tail
Rich is the expert at getting to the meat of things
Rich is the expert at getting to the meat of things

Cajun Vacation: Day 1 and Day 2 Drive, Drive, Drive

Vacation came early this year.  Rick had his spring break start on March 4.  I decided that March might be a great time to go and check out Louisiana.  As long as I was paying, Rick was up for joining us.  Sure, why not.  Besides, his 22nd birthday would be during that week.  It’ll be like old times again.

Rich had his first distiller’s conference from March 1 through 3 for his new employer, Whiskey Resources.  Not exactly the best planning, but he could use the week to rest and recover.  Vacation planning went into full on mode in December and all reservations were made by January.

Rick arrived home on March 4.  He had finished up midterms the day before.  He managed to sneak in the door without my notice.  Sascha was right on it though.  Poor baby, she hobbled to the door so fast to greet him.  I ran to join her.  My babies were both at home.

As a side note, Sascha started to hobble on Tuesday pretty bad.  I was thinking she had bruised her paw somehow on the ice and snow.  By Wednesday, it wasn’t any better.  Being the worried mom I am, I took her off to the vet that afternoon.  After a big hit to my wallet with x-rays, visit, and meds, the diagnosis was a broken toe.  Yep, she had cracked it lengthwise down the second metacarpal.  No wonder it hurt so badly.  On the x-ray, it was pretty swollen.  The vet insisted on bed rest.  I told him that was next to impossible.  At least, she was going to the kennel for vacation and would be limited to what she could do.

Rich came in on Friday afternoon.  He was still pretty excited from the conference.  He had met so many people, tried so many distilled liquors, and had so much free stuff.  He also had the beginnings of a cold.  Darn!  This is no time to get sick.  He chattered away about his time with the distillers and I listened with lots of patience.  It was great to see him get so excited about this aspect of his new job.

We were all winding down that evening as we packed and got things ready for leaving on Saturday morning.  Rich still had to keg his Husky Paws beer before we could leave.  He got up and got moving without much prodding.  As he was moving the beer from fermenter to keg, Rick and I took Sascha to the kennel.  Everyone had to make over her paw.  As usual, she didn’t plan to stay, but could make a quick enough getaway.  We said good-bye and got in one last set of hugs.

Back at the house, Rich was finishing up.  Rick and I began to pack the car.  Wow, it was almost 11 o’clock by the time we were ready.  Breakfast was next.  I should say brunch, right?  We stopped into Island Café to get something good to hold us over until dinner that evening.  I had a plan.

It was almost noon by the time we got on the road.  Traffic was fair and we made good time out to the highway.  From there, speed was good and we were sailing along.  If you have driven in Chicago, you know it is mandatory 70 miles per hour out there.  I follow that run to keep from being run over.  Pretty soon, we were on 57 and heading south.

The trip was going well so far.  The temperature was hovering around 40, but I could blue skies up ahead of us.  Rich had checked his phone for weather and reported 65 in Cairo.  No way!  Warm weather was close at hand for us.  Just about Mount Vernon, we could see the line of clouds that outline the boundary between cold and warm.  Suddenly, sunshine was all around us.  The car was registering an amazing 55.  Vacation had truly begun.

I had been trying to visit a BBQ place in Southern Illinois for the longest time.  Today was the day we would stop and try it out.  The restaurant is called 17th Street BBQ.  The main restaurant is way off the highway, but they had a satellite open in Marion, which was right off the interstate.  We made it there about 5:00 and just ahead of a crowd.

We got seated and reviewed the menu.  Tracy, our waitress, made a suggestion to get Mike Championship Platter, which came with a little bit of everything they had.  We added several sides to that and were all set.  The food arrived.  Oh my gosh!  This was definitely some of the best BBQ I have tasted.  I do believe that Rich still makes the best, this ranked right up there.  We ate until we could eat no more.

It was back on the road.  We had a couple of more hours until we could stop for the night.  Blytheville, Arkansas was the destination.  This was the halfway point for our trip.  By 6:00 PM, it was getting pretty dark.  I saw deer hanging by the side of the road and worried that I was going to have to dodge one of these things in the dark.

Luck was with us.  We had no suicidal deer, traffic was quiet, and we managed to drive in the warm night to our resting place.  That evening, Rick and I hung out in the hot tub talking while Rich rested comfortably with his box of Kleenex.  Vacation is good.

The next morning, it was breakfast at Perkins and then out on the road.  We made a stop by Walgreen’s for more cold supplies.  Memphis was relatively quiet.  Sunday mornings must be a good time to circle the city.  We’ll be back on Thursday though.

We headed south and skirted the Delta for now.  The road took us down to Jackson, Mississippi.  We did manage to get Rick to pronounce it like the locals:  Missippi.  I was amazed to find that traffic was running pretty fast today.  I was pushing the upper limits of 75 to 77 while a lot of cars and trucks were blowing by us pretty quickly.  What is this the autobahn?

Rick took over and drove for a bit.  He was nervous, but probably with good cause.  He had to manage not to hit the group of black kids crossing the highway at one point.  Then there was the guy who was halfway up an exit ramp and slammed on the brakes so he could do a U turn and cross the grassy shoulder to get back on the highway just to try it again at the next exit.  Rick did manage to avoid all of this and get to the Louisiana Welcome Center in one piece.

From there, I drove to Lafayette.  That’s not without issues though.  We got to I-10 and the world went crazy around us.  Everyone started driving 90 miles an hour.  To keep from being injured, I felt obliged to join them.  I swear that the roadway automatically turned into the Daytona 500 and the vehicles all had decals of some sort on them.  I was actually keeping up in the race for a bit, but was getting left behind pretty quickly.  We raced on until just west of Baton Rouge when all of the participants seemed to melt away.  I didn’t realize that NASCAR was invented in Louisiana!

We got off the interstate and onto the main road leading into Lafayette.   Once again, it became a race track.  The speed limit was 40, but I swear everyone around was going 60 through town.  I was trying to keep up to prevent getting run over.  The turn for our hotel came and it led to a nice, calm street.  After several turns, we found the inviting lights of our hotel.

Inside, we talked to the clerk about the area.  He was quite humorous and had a lot of jokes to tell.  I asked for a recommendation on a restaurant.  Being Sunday, I figured most things would be closed and I was right.  He gave a coupon for Prejean’s, which I had looked at.  He assured us the Cajun food would be great.  We unpacked and headed out

This took us back out to the main road and the race was on again.  I even got passed by a sheriff’s car racing with someone else.  I guess it was just is the normal mode around here.  We made it up the road and off the expressway to Prejean’s.  Luckily, it wasn’t too busy.  The hostess tried to seat us directly in front of the Cajun band that was playing.  I asked to be seated at least one table back.  It was hard enough to hear and talk.

Scotty was our waiter.  He took our order without writing any of it down.  We had gator bites to start.  Rich got duck and andouille sausage gumbo while Rick had chicken and sausage gumbo.  It came with rice on the side and a nice yeast garlic roll.  I had the crab cakes with corn macque chow and rice pudding.  Rich got crawfish etouffee.  Rick ordered the seafood Alfred with crawfish, shrimp, crab, and some other seafood offerings.  I tasted it all just to be sure.  It was all so wonderful.  We had no room for dessert was the only regret.

Back out to the car and get gas in this out of the way location.  Then  it was back to the race track and a fast run down to Kaliste Saloom Rd.  Even the semis were trying to drive the route at 60.  It was impressive.  I wonder if it is better during the week.

Well, that’s the first couple of days of vacation.  Tomorrow, we are touring the Tabasco Factory at Avery Island.  From there, we plan to see a plantation, if I can find one that is open on Mondays.  The Acadian Village is closed so there went that plan.  Still, there is good food to be had out here and we plan to find some more.  Where is that crawfish boil?

Big Sky Vacation Day 1: Through the land of cheese haus

Luckily, the alarm went off this morning. Otherwise, I would have slept through the time to leave.  Sascha finished the job by demanding to go out and look for squirrels.  I got moving and took my shower.  From there, it was time to finish packing.  Rich got moving, too.  Wow, even Rick got up.  Just in time to put him to work.

Sascha took one look at suitcases on their way to the car and started dancing.  Then the barking started.  She never barks!  I think she has forgotten all about motion sickness in the car.  She just loves to go.  Rick had to put her in the house since she wouldn’t shut up.  I was afraid she would wake the neighbors.

We got the car packed.  Everything found its place in the back or in the back seat.  Only later did I realize we forgot to pack the travel cooler.  Or maybe Rich didn’t bring it up so I wouldn’t try to shove it in.  The new Subaru just doesn’t seem to have the same room as the Honda CRV.  I miss my CRV.

I gave Rick a hug and a kiss.  I tried to give Sascha a hug, but she was too excited and barking to get near.  I managed to get a pet or two in though.  We got into the car and headed out for the great Western states.

First stop was for breakfast.  We got up to Richmond and stopped at the American Café.  I love this little place.  Food is always good.  We got coffee and Rich took the wheel for the first leg.  This gives me a good few hours to work on the right arm out of the window.  Once the temp gets too warm, I have to roll up the window and give in to the air.

For those who aren’t aware of it, we have road rules for the car when we take trips.  Over the years, we have devised a set of rules to create peace and harmony between the passengers.

Rules are:

  1.  Driver rules.  Driver gets to pick the music.  If you don’t like, bring your own music and headphones.
  2. Windows down until temp hits 84.  Then air conditioning can be applied.
  3. Driver gets the first slot in the center console for beverages and other items.
  4. Passenger is designated navigator and better not screw it up.

We only ran into traffic just outside of Janesville, WI.  There appeared to be the remnants of a chain reaction accident with about 8 cars involved.  The single lane traffic was gawking at the cars and multiple police officers.  There was no blood.  So why did we have to crawl at 10 miles per hour?

As we passed through several exits, Rich voiced a puzzle that he saw forming.  Is it a requirement that all Wisconsin exits have to have at least one cheese haus?  I thought about and watching the next couple of exists.  Apparently, they do.  And it is correct to say cheese haus.

Construction was minimal and didn’t slow us down much.  We played with the new EyeSight feature in the car.  This is an adaptive cruise control feature that looks for obstructions and controls the speed of the car for you.  Rich loved it.  I hate, but I like the cruise control.  So I guess I’ll live with it.

Here’s how it works.  You set the cruise control.  You can determine the length of the distance between you and the obstacle in front of you.  Rich goes for maximum at 3 bars on the graphic.  I got for minimum at 1 bar.  When you drive up to an obstacle, the car regulates the speed so that you don’t approach too quickly and keeps you the distance you want from a car or truck.  So you come up on a car at 70 MPH and that car is only doing 60 MPH.  Your car throttles back your speed to match the car in front of you.  Once you go around, it speeds back up to 70 MPH.  It won’t let you get closer to the car in front of you based on the distance you set.

Sounds cool, but if you don’t pay attention, you can find yourself going 60 MPH for a while.  You also can’t apply more gas, because your car totally ignores you.  It forces you to pass to regain speed.  I hate a car that’s smarter than I am.  Of course, I can see where this going.  A car that drives itself to the location you designated.  Can I take a nap until we get there?

We made it across the great state of Minnesota without incident.  Rich had to have his 2:00 coffee.  About 2:00, we were in the middle of nowhere.  Every exit was blank and the signs indicates that you had to travel 10 miles north or south to find the town.  Finally, we saw signs of life pretty close to the interstate.  We found the tiny town of St Charles that was close by.  We drove through town and found the Coffee Cabin open.  It was fairly busy, too.  Rich ordered coffee and I took a short break.  I came out to find that he had ordered a sandwich also.  No harm.  I was driving from here on out today.  The place was decorated in log furniture and plaques about cowboys and cowgirls.  Funny thing was, this place was located on Route 14.  This is the same Route 14 that runs just south of us at home and we take to work every day.  We need Coffee Cabin on our Route 14.

Back on the road, we continued to listen to blues music and ride with the windows down.  The temp never got over 82.  Lucky me.  Now I was working on the left arm.  We’ve been down this stretch of road several times.  One of my favorite town names through here is Blue Earth.

Without anything interesting happening, we made it to our destination for the evening.  We stopped in Brandon, South Dakota, which is just short of Sioux Falls.  The location was perfect for easy off and on with food available.  We got checked in and went down to Tailgater’s for dinner.  Rich got the Land and Lake.  This was a steak and walleye.  Turned out to be so-so.  I found that surprising for South Dakota.  We’ve had some really good steaks here.  Well, on the way back, we’ll have to hit the cowboy bar in Mitchell then for good food.

So I finished typing up the blog du jour.  I’m going to stretch out, relax, and read before it’s time to get some shut eye.  Hope tomorrow goes as well as today.

We are headed for a stop at Rapid City to eat at Firehouse Brewing.  This is one great stop that we never miss.  Guaranteed good food there.  Rich will drive in the morning so he can enjoy a couple of beers.  I’ll have beers, too, but they’ll have root at the beginning of the name.

Happy Mother’s Day

Actually, my Mother’s Day was all weekend.  I started on Saturday by sleeping in.  Rich got up with Sascha to put her out, but that was just his excuse to go fishing.  It was a beautiful morning and he had made bait the night before.  He was ready for this.

I woke up to no dog or no Rich. I knew right away that he finally got out there on the banks of the mighty Fox River to try his luck.  That was fine.  It meant a quiet morning for me.  I got my coffee and headed to the couch to read the paper in peace.  I did check on Sascha, but she was totally ignoring in case I wanted her to come in.

Today, I was getting my Mother’s Day flowers for the deck and patio.  This is what I ask for every year.  It’s simple and it’s something I truly want.  I rousted Rick from his bed to go and be my labor for the day.  This meant I had to feed him breakfast.  Oh wait, he is a working stiff as of Monday, so he took me to breakfast.  We went out to Island Café.  As soon as we stepped in the door, Rachel looks around and asks where he is.  Who?  Oh yeah, Rich.  I assured her he was doing something else and it would just be two.  Throughout breakfast, everyone asked where Rich was.  I didn’t realize he was so popular.

Then it was off to Castle Gardens to pick out my flowers for the year.  I had been planning for this and had decided on the flowers I wanted.  On the road just past the Volo Auto Museum, the fire department had the road shut down.  The Gardens were just on the other side.  This meant that we had to snake through the roads in the tiny town of Volo.  The fire appeared to be a field right next to the nursery.

Once we go there and got a wagon, we headed up the hill to the annuals.  I said I wasn’t going to wonder around, but I lied apparently.  I walked up and down the rows looking at the colors.  Finally, I did settle on purple and yellow jump ups, purple and white alyssum, white snapdragons, red and yellow snapdragons, and purple variegated petunias.  I wanted some other things, but decided to wait on those.

It was back to the house.  Rich was just getting back from fishing with his prize.  It was one lonely, rather large carp.  He had a story to go with it.  Apparently, he caught the fish after it took his bite and was trying to make its escape.  It was a good sized fish.  So we left Rich with his carp since my running wasn’t over.

I still had to go to the grocery store for the week’s load of good eats.  Rick went with me.  I like the company and the help.  He had ulterior motives though.  As I said, Rick is starting work on Monday and he wanted to pick up some things for lunches next week.  I saw the dollar signs stretching out in a straight line and the pinch on my wallet.

The grocery store was nuts!  Who knew that Mother’s Day weekend was the biggest holiday of the year.  It was worse than Christmas and Super bowl.  I think it was because the weather was going to be so gorgeous and people were planning to grill out.  You don’t always get that at Mother’s Day in the Midwest.

Finally back home, Rich was done carving up the carp for dinner.  There were fish scales all over the yard.  We unloaded the groceries and put everything away.  Now it was time for me to get busy with those gorgeous flowers.  Dinner was a couple of hours off.  I might just get this done.

I have the flower boxes on the deck to fill along with three pots that I keep up there for more color.  The sun was warm and the wind was nice.  I worked around first to remove the old and dead leftovers from last summer.  Then I arranged my flowers in order along the top of the seats.  After that, it was all fun and dirt.  I finished up in good time.  That left the pots along the patio.  I arranged what I had left to decide the best coverage.  They came out with a very stunning look.  I was very pleased with my work.

That was enough for the evening.  Rich started up the burner and we prepared dinner.  Rich was going to fry up a mess of hushpuppies before doing the fish.  I found a recipe and started creating.  The mix was easy and tasted good before they went into the fryer.  But they were so much better after they came out.  A variation of fried dough is always good.  Even the crispies were delicious.  Dinner was excellent.  Nothing like getting the food yourself.

I’m not obsessed with finding out as much as possible about the next connections that I’ve made in the Zurek family tree.  Through more records, I’m finally able to identify Joseph Zurek, Rich’s great-grandfather, in the records and correlate his claimed hometown in Poland.  Rudy Rysie seems like an interesting name.  I found it on the map of Poland. It is about where I thought it might be, between Krakow and Tarnow.  The village is still there.  I can open a street view through Google.  It’s cute and reminds me of many German villages.

I tried looking through some Polish genealogy sites.  I don’t find much, but not being able to read Polish kind of hurts my efforts also.  I just need to find the church records for this part of Poland.  I see a Joseph Zurek, but he is three years too young.  The mother’s name is right though.

I did manage to find the immigration record where Joseph Zurek from Rudy Rysie, Poland came through Ellis Island.  He came from Bremen, Germany to New York.  It shows that his mother was Marya.  Now I at least have one parents’ name.  I had found a Civil Registration card for what would have been the Selective Service around the time of WWI for Joe.  I have a general description of him.  This also listed his hometown as Rudy Rysie.

See, I can get really obsessed with this stuff.  But it’s 9:00 by this time.  I had asked Rich to make me up a mint julep.  We had plenty of mix left from the party.  I just need the ice to melt into the mix a little before I can drink it.  Rick wants to try a taste.  He doesn’t really like bourbon, but he thinks it’s pretty good.  We settle in to watch an episode of “Father Brown.”  I like English detective shows and this one is quirky and cute.  Apparently, it was an inspiration for Agatha Christie as well.

The night is pretty over by now.  We watch a couple of other things and I start to think about ready.  I’m finishing up an Agatha Christie tonight and moving on to the next book.  Sascha has only been nagging us to go to bed since 8:00, as usual.

That takes us to Sunday morning now.  I get up first and handle the dog duties, which includes grabbing the Sunday paper.  Coffee gets made to help me wake up and to enjoy while reading the paper.  Sascha decides to stay outside since it is so nice.  Pretty soon, Rich gets up and heads for coffee.  Rick finally gets up.  After making it through the comics, he heads to kitchen to make breakfast.  We have Sascha’s favorite, corned beef hash and eggs.  Maybe that’s because she does expect to get a share in her bowl.

Rich and I decide to head out and get some supplies to work in the yard.  The winter was hard on the roses.  Rich lost a couple.  I want to get herbs to grow this year as well as tomatoes to add to the garden.  We head to Ace first, but we just don’t find what we want.  Over at Home Depot, it’s crazy.  We do find everything we want.  After loading up, we head for home.

I start working on the flower bed off the patio.  I’m putting my tomatoes and herbs in this bed for the summer.  I’m just hoping Sascha stays out of it.  She loves to dig when the soil is loose.  I find I have room for more herbs.  I just need to figure out what I can add.

Rich is around front digging up the dead roses and replanting with the new ones.  He sees that not all of the dead ones are totally devastated.  Problem is, will they really survive?  Better safe than sorry and just put in the new roses.  The new roses are grandifloras.  These are really huge blooms.  They should add to the bed with the rest of the roses.  Then it’s time to put down the Moo-Nure.  I love the name.  The picture of the cow on the front is cute.

I get the patio bed finished and move on to the garden on the side of the house.  The garlic mustard plants are taking over.  And they smell to high heaven when you disturb them.  Well, they have to come out.  They are right in the way of planting my other flowers.  Here I’m doing some seeds and bulbs.  I plant zinnias for Rich.  I have Bachelor Buttons and Anemones for the fence.  I have to find a spot for my Dahlias.  Unfortunately, I’m finding so many of my plants didn’t survive.  The daisies are gone.  So I clean out the bed and put the Dahlias there.  My butterfly bush looks like it is dead.  I have to start all over again!

While I’m working, Rich comes around to dig up two of the roses that survived along that side of that house.  He moves to the front where I have some space for them.  More of that Moo-Nure goes in and the smell is a little overpowering.  But I guess it’s not as bad as the grass in the compost pile.  It really smells this year.

I convince Rick to come out and burn all of the wood, sticks, and other burnables.  The pile is huge and it is threatening to keep growing.  He agrees and gets the whole thing going.  It burns really fast.  I guess the amount of rot is pretty good.  Before you know, Rick announces he is done and heading back in to his computer.  Really?  It’s a beautiful day out here.

Did I speak too soon?  After dinner the clouds start to thickening and rain looks like it is moving in.  Sascha must hear thunder from a long way away.   She cowers under Rich’s desk.  The lightning and thunder start up pretty good.  Rick attempts to get the trash out before the rain and doesn’t make it.  The garbage can is out, but the recycling will have to wait.  It pours down.  I go out to the garage to watch the storm with Rick.  We see some hail, but not much.  Then the second wave comes in.  This time the hail is pea-sized and quite a bit of it.  The storm finally passes and the sun comes back out.

For one final Mother’s Day taste, Rich is making rhubarb upside down cake.  I saw this in the morning paper and it sounded good.  Rich wants to do something with his rhubarb.  It sounded like a good thing to try.  We’ll see when it comes out of the oven and cools off a bit.

So tomorrow is back to the grind.  Rick starts up his job in the bay preparing the hardware for the engineers to stage systems.  The weather sound like spring:  a little warm with showers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and role models for us all.

One of the deck boxes with the flowers planted.
One of the deck boxes with the flowers planted.
I love the smell of the alyssum while sitting on the deck.
I love the smell of the alyssum while sitting on the deck.
Snapdragons, jump ups, and alyssum on deck.
Snapdragons, jump ups, and alyssum on deck.
My bleeding heart by the hot tub survived and was blooming this weekend.
My bleeding heart by the hot tub survived and was blooming this weekend.
The pots on the patio with their color.
The pots on the patio with their color.
There's the carp that Rich caught on Saturday morning.
There’s the carp that Rich caught on Saturday morning.
That's an ugly face.
That’s an ugly face.
Sascha always gets excited when there is fish to fillet.
Sascha always gets excited when there is fish to fillet.

 

Getting the oil up to temperature.
Getting the oil up to temperature.
And the hushpuppies go into the grease.
And the hushpuppies go into the grease.
Rich pulling the golden hushpuppies out of the fryer.
Rich pulling the golden hushpuppies out of the fryer.
Rich preparing the carp for the fryer.
Rich preparing the carp for the fryer.
Fish fry is ready.
Fish fry is ready.
Sascha is trying to be patient for dinner.
Sascha is trying to be patient for dinner.
Rick was learning to drive Sally on Saturday.  He didn't kill it once.
Rick was learning to drive Sally on Saturday. He didn’t kill it once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derby Party 2014

This year’s Derby celebration was going to be very scaled back.  There was no fresh Zurekbrau available due to the effects of the polar vortex.  It was just never warm enough out there to brew beer!  With freezing temps, it was hard to be exposed, standing on cold concrete, and trying to use water without risking frostbit.

On Friday night, I made margarita popsicles.  I gathered the ingredients and combined them into a pitcher so I could pour the mix into Dixie cups.  One of the last steps is to cut a lime into slices as garnish and to help hold the stick in place while it freezes.  As soon as I started cutting limes, Sascha’s nose went to work.  She was standing on top of me and nosing my leg.  She really, really wanted a slice of lime.  Or maybe it was nice aroma of tequila that she found attractive.

I finished up the leftovers in the pitcher after I filled as many cups as I could.  I wanted to make sure there were enough.  Why was I going to freeze this wonderful concoction?  I should just serve it like this!  I placed the limes on top with a stick in each cup.  Once adorned, I placed them into the carefully prepared shelf in the freezer to await the presentation during the celebration.

After the bowling banquet, Rich came home to start seasoning ribs, chicken and brisket.  Wow!  The slab of packer’s cut was more than 12 lbs.  It was a beautiful cut of meat.  As Rich was applying the rub, he was shaking it all over the floor.  Don’t worry, Sascha was right there to clean it up.  All I could think was that was going to hurt on the other end tomorrow.

So with ribs, chicken, and brisket seasoned and packaged, we were ready to get started in the morning.

Derby Day dawned pretty well.  There was a little sunshine and very little sign of rain.  Rich had gotten up at 5:00 to start the BBQ pit for the meats.  Sascha, of course, had to get up also.  She trotted around with Dad.  After the brisket had been added to the pit, Rich headed back to bed.  That meant Sascha had to come in also, which she fought.  She loves being outside when it is her kind of weather.

Rich had a bucket of wood chips by the pit.  These are part of his secret.  He has a mix of hickory, cherry, and oak chips to help give the meat a little extra flavor.  Sascha also found them very flavorful.  She was sneaking chips out of the bucket to chew on them.  When Rich tried to take them away, she actual growled at him!

At 7:00, Sascha had to get up and go back outside.  That meant that I had to get up.  Now Sascha didn’t want out because she had business to take care of.  She had to go out because the sun was up and shining.  That’s just how things work in Sascha’s world.

Since I was up, I started coffee and moving around to get things ready.  As always, we wait to do so many things at the last minute.  We cleaned up around the house and started getting out the items to help make a party.

Over the course of the day, Rich would go out and check the temperature of the pit and add more wood or chips.  As soon as he walked out there, Sascha would come running to help do the check.  Personally, I think she was hoping he would move the bucket of wood chips over so she could reach them.  Rich had made a mop, which is the sauce used to keep the meat moist and help give it that burnt skin.  It sounds funny to mop the BBQ, but it literally is a really small mop like you use on the floor to apply the liquid.  The smoker stay up to temp and the meats were getting down right on time.

Around 2:00, I looked out to see Rich sitting in his chair on the patio with a red solo cup of Zurekbrau.  I know I said there wasn’t any fresh beer, but there was a little bit of Husky Paws on tap.  Sascha was hanging on Rich’s lap trying to sneak beer out of his cup.  She can be very cute when she wants something.  I tried to take a picture, but I just wasn’t fast enough.

Tyler, one of Rick’s friends, was the first guest to arrive.  I love Tyler and I don’t see him as much these days.  Kim and Diane arrived not long after that followed by a few other people.  Rich started bringing up ribs for an appetizer, but the other meats were ready also.  Soon, we had a full on dinner set out.  With baked beans, potato salad, slaw, and the sides brought by the guests, we were filling plates.  The brisket melted in your mouth and the ribs fell right off the bone.  Oh my gosh!  It was wonderful.

I wasn’t sure about doing pots to draw for Derby horses, but Kim insisted that it would be more fun.  I had made up three pots, but we only got through two of them.  You really need to have a bunch of people there to make it easier.  There were 19 horses in the field and that takes a lot of dollars to make a pot.  We each had a horse or four in our hands by the start of the race.

We sat down in front of the TV and watched the race.  I explained how things worked and answered questions.  It’s really a lot of show and pageantry to the Derby.  One of the things I miss about being down there.  The three weeks leading up to the race are busy and always something going on.

In the end, Diane and Barb Doty cleaned up on the first and second places.  Rich and Mike got the third place horses.  It was a slow race this year without the excitement of past years, but it was cool to watch.  I guess in the end, it was no surprise that California Chrome won.  I was hoping for Hoppertunity, but he scratched early.

We continued to eat and talk after the race.  Barb, Mike, and Josh left to prepare for a night at the drive-in.  Before you know it, the clock said 7:00 and people started to leave.  We got down to just Spank for a while before he headed off.  He was leaving for a fishing trip the next morning bright and early.

We put in on picking up what absolutely needed to get down.  I started the dishwasher with one load and stacked the next load to be ready and waiting.  Sascha was sacked out from her exhausting day.  We settled into some TV before bed.

Sunday morning came way too early and Sascha wanted to go out when the sun was just coming up.  I got up, but not very willingly.  Coffee got started and I sat down with the morning paper.  The guys straggled out little by little.  Unfortunately, Rick woke up with a sinus thing going on.  Not too surprising with the weather.  Hopefully, it’s not a cold that the rest of us will catch.

We went out to Brunch to get breakfast.  I love this place, but it is a little crazy.  Everyone wants to eat there.  Luckily, we didn’t have to wait in line too long.  We came back and continued to clean up the house.  Rich worked on cleaning up the pit, with Sascha’s help.  She has to lick the grates and parts of the smoker.  Then there is the grease that drips down on the gravel.  I’m surprised she doesn’t eat any of the rocks.

So this year’s Derby party is in the bag and the cleanup is complete.  Have to think about whether to do this again next year.  Maybe we should not have a party and just go to New Orleans for Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Might be fun to do something different for once.

Rick and Sascha hanging out on Friday.
Rick and Sascha hanging out on Friday.
That's a sweet face.
That’s a sweet face.
Margarita popsicles.
Margarita popsicles.
Sascha was paying close attention as Rich was prepping the ribs.
Sascha was paying close attention as Rich was prepping the ribs.
Sascha enjoys her cuddle time with Rich.
Sascha enjoys her cuddle time with Rich.
Rich and Sascha enjoy their morning ritual on Saturday.
Rich and Sascha enjoy their morning ritual on Saturday.
Rich needed to move things around to get the most of the fire.  Rick helps by holding the brisket.
Rich needed to move things around to get the most of the fire. Rick helps by holding the brisket.
Rick holds the brisket while Rich tries to put it back on the pit.
Rick holds the brisket while Rich tries to put it back on the pit.
Diane always has a crazy hat for the Derby Party.
Diane always has a crazy hat for the Derby Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoky Mountains: Day 2 Adventure Awaits

So as predicted, we slept in. But only a little.  Sascha can’t seem to make it past 6:30 to go out.  It’s not because she needs to go to the bathroom.  She is wasting daylight if she is not out there guarding her yard from the much dreaded squirrel population.  As soon as it is good and daylight, she has to go out and sit in the yard.

I got up at 6:30 with Sascha.  Rich was left to sleep in a bit.  I got the paper and sat down to read in peace and quiet.  I made it through the whole thing before anyone else stirred.  After Rich made it through the paper, we showered and packed the car.  Rick helped get most of the stuff out there so I could pack.  Don’t think he was trying to get rid of us, do you?

No, he was hungry and invited himself to breakfast with us at Island.  We went out and eat a very nice meal.  That should hold us for a while.  But we couldn’t start just yet.  Rich forgot his Bourbon Trail passports and really wanted them for the stops in Kentucky.  We finally got underway.

Getting out of Chicago wasn’t too bad.  Traffic was relatively light with only the big trucks taking the road.  We hit I-65 in good time.  Then we got to Indianapolis.  The downtown route was shut down for construction.  This meant we had to take the loop around.  The traffic moved fine for a while, but was stop and go around the bottom half of the circle.  Finally, we managed to get back on 65 and head south again.

A few weeks back, I had to go back home to Southern Indiana and I stayed with my friend, Kay, and her husband, Don. I had forgotten my jacket while I was there.  I decided that I really wanted it on the trip.  We made a slight detour to go out to her house to get it.  We didn’t stay long.  Don was showing Rich around the place while Kay and I talked for a bit.  Pretty soon, we were back on the road and headed to downtown Louisville.

A couple of years ago, we had stayed downtown for a trip to visit the Bourbon Trail.  We had stopped by the Marriott to get a drink at Blu and hang out for a while.  I thought it was a very cool hotel.  I really liked the location.  This was our stop for the night.  We were 2 blocks from Fourth Street and just down from Bluegrass Brewing Company.

We went by BBC for dinner.  We started off with pretzel sticks and beer cheese.  It was so good.  From there, Rich had hot brown while I had a fish sandwich.  Both were excellent.  I had the Dark Star Porter.  Rich started off with the Double IPA.  But his second choice was better.  They had a Bourbon Barrel Stout that was out of this world.  Now, I don’t like bourbon that much and I loved this beer.  I wished I had gotten that one.

After dinner, we walked down to the Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar at the Galt House for a drink.  We were trying to catch Jeanne. Now Jeanne was the nice bartender who had started us off on the Urban Bourbon Trail a couple of years ago.  She had explained a lot of information to us and we appreciated the help.  Unfortunately, Jeanne was no longer there.  We had the signature drink for the bar though.  This was the Jockey’s Dream.  It was a fruit punch made with bourbon.  I loved it, but Rich wasn’t too thrilled with the sweetness.

We completed our drinks and walked out to the Belvidere to enjoy the river and the sunset.  Both were beautiful for the evening.  The Belvidere is the platform with gardens and fountains that overlooks the river.  We watched a very large barge of sand and gravel make its way up river toward Cincy.  At one point, a boat had stopped in the shipping lane to fish.  The barge was blowing and blowing its horn for the smaller vessel to move.  He finally did.  Bet that was a shock to almost get run down by a barge at twilight.  There is a reason why they mark those lanes with the buoys.

Then we walked down to Main Street and over to Fourth Street.  Festivities were already under way.  There was a band playing, people dancing, people wondering around, and just a general nightlife.  We walked down to the Maker’s Mark Bar.  Rich had experienced a Manhattan there two years ago.  He was wanting to try it again.  We settled in at the bar and Rich ordered his drink.  We noticed that some of the bottles were signed.  I just had to ask why.  Nicole, our bartender, said that when someone famous came in, they always tried to get a bottle signed.  There were sports people, music stars, and movie star types.  Pretty cool.

Rich finished his Manhattan and we moved on out to the street.  The evening was warm and we wandered slowly back up to Jefferson Street.  When we got almost to the entrance of Fourth Street, a young guy came running out of nowhere to Rich yelling, “Cool shirt, man!”  He and Rich were wearing Hawaiian shirts.  I guess his friends were giving him a hard time for his style.  He just had to appreciate someone else’s similar style.

We wandered back to the hotel.  But before going upstairs, we had to stop by Blu.  Unfortunately, neither one of us had room for more alcohol.  So it was beddy bye time.  We went up and got ready for bed.  We found out that the internet connection was going to cost us $15.00.  No way.  I got out the hot spot and we had internet for nothing.  I still didn’t get my blog written that night though.

Rich at his favorite brewpub in Louisville, Bluegrass Brewing Company.
Rich at his favorite brewpub in Louisville, Bluegrass Brewing Company.
Rich on the stairway to Bourbon in Galt House.
Rich on the stairway to Bourbon in Galt House.
Watching sunset from the Belvidere.
Watching sunset from the Belvidere.
Entrance to Fourth Street.
Entrance to Fourth Street.
Band playing on Fourth Street.
Band playing on Fourth Street.
Rich doing a rose pose outside of the Maker's Mark Bar.
Rich doing a rose pose outside of the Maker’s Mark Bar.
Manhattan at Maker's Mark Bar.
Manhattan at Maker’s Mark Bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9 We’re not in Kansas anymore?

We made it home.  We were in no hurry again this morning.  It’s vacation, right?  Our last day of lazy mornings and no need to be anywhere soon.

I started out in the passenger seat.  I wanted one good day to brown my right arm.  Since I do a lot of the driving, my left arm gets pretty brown after a day or so.  It had been too hot from Texas to Iowa to have the windows down.  A/C was a requirement to sustain life.

I got a couple of good hours in before I needed to take my turn at the wheel.  It was also my turn to read one of my books and ignore Rich.  Seemed fair since he was reading his newspaper and playing Sudoku.  By then, we were at the Illinois border.

We noticed right away that it had rained on this side of the river.  And rained a lot by the look of it.  There were flooded fields everywhere.  It had been dry over on the Iowa side.  At least it was sunny now.  We were making good time, until we hit the continuous road construction that occurs on this stretch of 88.  Every time I come this way, there is construction.  I think this is how they occupy those guys in the part of Illinois.

At one point, I thought it was trying to rain on us. I kept hearing what sounded like raindrops hitting the car.  No water though.  Then I realized that I was running into bugs.  As we moved east, the bugs got bigger and there were more of them.  What was that movie some years back about a growing bug population?  Maelstrom I think it was called.  I felt like I was living it.  Once we turned north, the onslaught stopped.

On the road, we had a lot of conversations.  It’s hard to put them down on paper.  It was more than funny billboards and interesting people in the car that we passed.  I like talking to Rich and I think our individual sense of humor plays off the other one.  Probably one of the reasons I like him hang around.  That and he pays his share of the bills.

When we got outside of Dallas, Rich was looking for the Texas roadmap that he had collected when we had entered the state some days ago.  We stopped at just about every Welcome center we hit during the trip.  It was a good place to stop for a break and talk to someone about their state.  Rich would get a roadmap for the state and any brochures that he thought looked interesting.  You never know when you might come back to visit the state.

So when Rich wanted to know something about roads, he would pull out the map of that state and study it for directions.  He was also looking for things we might stop and see.  We like playing tourist.  We will stop for just about anything interesting.

However, on this occasion, Rich just could not find that darn Texas roadmap.  He looked in the glove compartment, the hidey-hole in the console, and in the back seat.  After a while, we started to speculate where that map might have gone.  Did it get thrown out with trash?  Did someone break into the car and take just that map?  Maybe the guys at the repair shop took it.

Then we started getting closer to home.  Maybe Lily was reading it and forgot to put it back.  No, maybe Rose took it because she knew it would drive Rich crazy when he couldn’t find it.  We reached Oklahoma by that time and Rich pulled out that state map.  Our thoughts moved on to other things.

We always have music playing on the radio.  Rich prefers Bluesville to most of the channels we have plugged into the radio using XM.  I didn’t really care.  However, we got the download of the new Trampled Under Foot album.  This meant we had to listen to it on the way back.  We went through that album and several more on Rich’s music player through the Aux input.  It was a change and we got to listen to the TuF album in our own environment.  It was great.

When we first started out on the road, we heard a song called, Butter for My Grits, by Big Bill Morganfield.  Bill is one of Muddy Waters’ sons.  I loved that song.  We decided to make it our theme song for the trip.  I then attempted to get grits for breakfast or other meals just so we could say that.  We heard that song over a dozen times in the course of our driving days.

The song is about a guy who goes to eat his grits and finds that he is out of butter.  He goes to the store, but they are out of butter.  He goes to the neighbor’s house, but they are out of butter.  He just can’t find butter for his grits.  Just not a southern thing to eat grits without butter.

I found out a lot of facts as we traveled also.  Oklahoma raises the most horses and has the most horse related events than any state.  Kansas has a lot of limestone and in the central section where the Tallgrass Prairie is, you can see a lot of stone fences.  We had a couple of people arguing if they were walls or fences.  Apparently in Kansas, they are fences.

OK, I’m winding down here.  We got close enough to home to call Rich and tell him to get the party out of the house.  We do this every time and you would think he would be used to it.  He just gripes at us.  I think I heard something about grow up.  Not sure though.

We came up Oak behind the garage.  Sascha was outside, but couldn’t really see up until we got past the new garage that blocks her view of the road.  She was pretty much just lying next to the house watching the world go by.  Then you could see the thought go across her face, “Daddy and Mommy are home!”  She pushed open the small door as I raised the big door.  She was dancing and barking.

Rich went to get his Husky hug.  I didn’t wait for my hug.  I had some place I had to be and quick.  I got my hug when I came out to help bring in the bags.  She was so excited to see us.  I think she was more excited to see Rich than me.  After we got the stuff all in the house, I brought in.  She attached herself to Rich for the rest of the night.  She was on his feet, touching his foot at dinner with her paw, and leaning against him as he was working on a secret project.

It was nice to be welcomed by one person.  Rick just tells me he liked having the entire house to himself with the dog.  Maybe we could go back out on the road.  However, we did have to pay all of the bills and keep moving money to his account for food and necessitates.

Did you wonder what happened to that Texas roadmap?  I found in with some papers I had stuffed into my backpack.  Oops!

It’s good to be home.