Alleluia! He lives!
Up this morning to pack up. The
sky is dark and ominous – hardly a bright Easter morning! And the temperature must drop at least 10
degrees between 7am and 8am as the wind picks up. We say goodbye to Greg, Bea, Frances, and
Chuck and pull out a
few minutes after 8, bound for the side street near the
Methodist Church downtown. An 8:30
service beckons! We are warmly welcomed,
especially since we are wearing our CAV nametags. I enjoy watching a young family sitting in
front of us with two girls, the youngest of whom was having a great difficulty
sitting still this morning! She had the
cutest ladybug style outfit on and carried her empty Easter basket.
head east from Mason at 9:45. The skies
are still cloudy and the wind cool and strong, but we find the sun beginning to
shine the further east we go. The
bluebonnets and paintbrush are still spectacular on this stretch of hill
country highway. In places some yellow
flowers and pale pink morning glory types also dot the roadway.
fail to find a restaurant quickly that will serve up breakfast, so we finally
stop in Bertram at Pueblo Antigua, a Mexican place. I check that it is open and give Rick a
thumbs up! We both have quesadillas –
mine is Hawaiian with pineapple and ham.
I figure that
Yellow flowers line the road.
will be my Easter ham!
Georgetown (north of Austin) and we link up with US 79 near Taylor. Gas up and I take the wheel for the next 70
miles or so. We immediately seem to
leave the hills, the prickly pears, and a desert feel. The land is flatter, green grass and cultivated
fields surround us. This is my first
foray east of Austin into the land known as East Texas! Frances promised hardwood forests and pine
trees. We are on country roads that wind
in and around, up and down. Trees line
the road, wildflowers in profusion.
Paintbrush are especially the color of the day with whole fields deep
stop in the town of Franklin for a drink and Rick takes back the wheel. US 79 seems to follow a railroad much of the
way and hence many of these small towns line the tracks with rail buildings on
one side and ‘Main Street’ on the other side.
Gas in Palestine and then another 12 miles or so to the R Space RV
is no visible office and just a scattering of RVs in the heavily treed
area. We see a guy working on a concrete
slab and drive over. ‘I have a
reservation for tonight.’ “How in the world
did you get a reservation? Who did you
make it with?” ‘Online. I have a
receipt.’ “But the web site was taken
down, it isn’t operational! The park has
changed hands.” ‘I believe the website
is VERY operational…my credit card has been charged.’ Anyway, the guy was very flexible. He found us a spot, no charge (he’ll take it
up with the former owner!), do we want the wifi code, and BTW, you are invited
to dinner over at the RV next to the fence!
A nice pond, but stagnant, and I did get
some mosquito bites! A rustic little
cabin and a bathhouse under remodel. But
the corker is that they are reopening in a week as a ‘clothing optional’
campground! I told Rick this might be
the strangest campground I have booked us in!!
A walk around the grounds amidst the trees and then phone calls to moms and boys. Quiet evening and I have to admit....not much competition for the wifi!!
Well, an eventful day of travel
touching three states in under 300 miles! We left Palestine around 8am, the air brisk,
and the mist rising from the pond with all the moisture in the air! Rick ended up driving all day today (my
bad!), but we took breaks in spite of a fruitless effort once again to find a
breakfast place at the appropriate time!
We traveled up and down, noting more and more the waterlogged areas
still under water from the recent flooding.
It got even worse once we were in Louisiana.
We crossed into Louisiana at
Loganport and then to Mansfield. I tried
to text Mac and find out where Diane grew up because I had the idea it was
somewhere around here. But cell service
today ranged from No Service to LTE T-Mobile premium! Go figure!
The Sabine River forms the boundary between Texas and Louisiana and this
upper region suffered torrential rains a couple weeks ago which eventually made
their way down to the gulf and closed I-10!
We passed logging trucks today in
the middle of Louisiana. Rick remembered
at some point that Weyerhauser left the PNW and went to the southeast pine
forests! Our US 84 route took us through
some struggling small towns, beautifully landscaped homes, lots of oil and
natural gas evidence, and water….lots of water and greenery!! Without the internet I am struggling to
finish identifying some of what we saw, but for sure crimson clover and
wisteria. The other horticulture
highlight were the azaleas! Huge bushes
everywhere in a range of colors from pink to salmon to red to lavender – mostly
pink though. Very few bluebonnets
now. Thin spreads of paintbrush. But the purple wisteria (I THINK that’s what
it is!) is draped from trees, telephone lines, and stands alone as a bush. I’ll have to confirm that later!
After the fourth little town in a
row in which we couldn’t find a place to eat breakfast, we gave up and Rick
pulled over at the side of the road and we ate from the trailer! He was hungry and needed to stretch! I found an abandoned building there, nearly
covered with overgrowth, and it reminded me of Pastor Katy’s Easter
sermon. I did NOT go exploring inside ….bugs,
snakes, alligators, and dangerous timbers lingered!
Just west of Vidalia, LA, we passed
the Frogmore Cotton Plantation. Frances
of the Mason CAVs had told us it was worth the visit, so we plan to take it in
tomorrow while the weather is still decent.
Nearer to Vidalia we pass a Wal-Mart and decide some grocery shopping is
in order before we get out to the state park.
Seventy five dollars later, we are back on the road!
Through Vidalia and over a huge
bridge arching across the mighty Mississippi.
We can still see evidence of some flooding here as well. Through Natchez, which appears to be a clean
and beautiful town – catering to the tourists!!
Natchez State Park is located about
13 miles northeast of the city. Our plan
was to get settled and then come back into town for dinner and a visit to the
Visitor Center to collect some information.
But….once we wind our way back to our campsite (another 3 miles I would
figure from the highway) we decide a home cooked meal will be just fine!! I pull out the venison steaks we had with us,
make a salad for me, and Rick enjoys the tater salad he picked up at
WallyWorld. We picked up materials at
the state park office which give us what we need to know for tomorrow at
We picked well on the internet! Our site, with concrete pad, is nestled on
the outer edge of the loop with the door facing a thick stand of trees. We can see the water of the lake just barely
through the trees. The lake is VERY
muddy right now from all the rain and flooding.
Rick said he is MUCH happier here than at Riverside RV Park right on the
Mississippi in downtown Vidalia. We don’t
have sewer connections, but the bathhouse is decent and if we are careful we
can go four days on our holding tanks.
And….the price is very right at $18 a night rather than $35+!! We have been warned, however, that ticks and
wasps are currently abundant on the trails!
Conversations with Luke and Cherrie tonight on the
phone --- spotty service that bounces from No Service to 3G! But we got questions answered anyway! Good
My brain is overloaded with
information tonight as I sit down to record our educational day! A restful night as the park quieted down and
the air cooled off (that won’t be the case tonight we fear!) We pulled out shortly after 9 to drive back
across the river to the Frogmore Plantation in Louisiana, about35 miles
away. We passed the plantation
yesterday, and it comes highly rated, so worth the drive. Stopped at Walmart to get some drinking water
and postcards. I couldn’t get any
postcards…they didn’t sell them.
Obviously sending postcards is becoming a dated thing!
We got to the plantation just as a
tour was beginning, so quickly paid our $15 each and joined in. The tour guide was an Illinois girl, but she
has spent plenty of time in the South based on her accent, plus she said she
had worked the cotton fields as a young girl for her family. She is the owner of Frogmore now. The gift shop/headquarters is located in what
used to be the ‘company store’. We
visited various buildings all over the plantation and heard trivia and facts
that described the cotton industry from pre-Civil war when cotton was king and
slavery very real through the end of the 1800’s and sharecropping to modern day
Some random facts we garnered:
CRISCO is made from cottonseed oil!
Cotton is graded now by digital
camera based on the purity, the strength of fiber, and length of fiber.
Frogmore doesn’t charge other farms
to use their gin. Instead they keep all
the seeds gleaned from the cotton and sell it for oil or livestock food.
The cotton flower changes from white
to bright pink overnight.
Modern day machines can pick in a
week the acreage it would take 150 slaves all fall to pick.
During the heyday, 100 steamwheelers
plied the Mississippi between Natchez and New Orleans carrying cotton to
Gumbo is an African term for
okra. Niyami is their word for sweet
potato (hence the term YAM!)
Click on the link above to see the photo journal of the cotton plantation tour. They will tell the story the best.
Thunder rumbles while we are in the
tour and the road is wet in places driving back to Natchez, but we got little
rain ON US today. (The Frogmore gal did
say that the area had received nearly 14 inches of rain in the past month. They were a little tired of it!)
We are hungry! It is 1pm by the time we get back into
Natchez. We find the Magnolia Grill,
located in ‘Natchez Under the Hill’ (otherwise known as the area below the
bluff!). It is situated right on the
river and we get a seat right on the window.
Rick finally is able to see some barge traffic going up and down the
river!. The prices are a little steep so
we decide to just have a bowl of the ‘Soup of the Day’ – Crawfish Chowder. I think we both assumed it would be
comparable to the soup listed on the menu….around $8. Well, they were out of the chowder, so the
waiter recommended the shrimp,corn,and crab bisque instead. We said ok and I have to admit, it was a
large, very filling, bowl of soup laden with good size shrimp and chunks of crab. It was also $14 a bowl! (And no bread or roll – not even a cracker
with it!) So….lunch was good, but….
There was a photo at the Presby church of three women, skirts hiked up, staring at a tree. No one knows what or who they are and we couldn't photograph or sketch the exhibit....so I came home and drew it from memory!
Time to walk it off. We drove around a bit and then found parking
down at the Natchez Trails Pavilion right on the bluff. Four trails are marked all over town with
color coding – a bluff trail, a nature trail, and two ‘in-town’ trails
highlighting various buildings. We set
off on the blue trail, but shortly lost track of it as we explored the Old
Presbyterian Church and its huge gallery of
This is a manse!!
historical photographs housed
within. The church itself was white….very,
very white both inside and out. Part of
the architecture. Early
on the trail we passed a parsonage built for a Methodist minister. It looked like a mini mansion and overlooked
the river! Nice explanation though of
how the Methodists call it a parsonage, the Presbyterians, a manse, and the
Catholics, a rectory. It’s all the same
thing – the minister’s house!
William Johnson House
Our final stop is the William
Johnson House, which is part of the Natchez National Historic Site
buildings. Free tour! Johnson was one of about 200 free black men
living in Natchez during the mid 1800’s.
He worked as a barber and raised 10 children in the house. His father was probably the white slave owner
who set him free. Born a slave, Johnson
owned slaves as he prospered. Kinda hard
to understand that part. But he kept a
diary and that information shed a great deal of light on life as a freed black
in the South prior to the Civil War.
We are burned out. It is 4pm and time to head back to the
trailer for a light dinner and quiet evening.
Trace Parkway and Vicksburg National Military Park
We decide to head to Vicksburg today
as the forecast rain isn’t due to hit until after noon sometime, maybe even
later. Maybe we can dodge the water and
get this trip in, saving the visit to Melrose Plantation house until a
predicted very wet Thursday (at least it is indoors!)
I arise early to grab a shower
before things get busy. As it turns out,
the campground is absolutely still save for a couple solitary birds waking
up. Still relatively dark at 6:30 and so
very calm. I enjoy a good HOT
We take off around 8am, but have to
backtrack first toward Natchez because we realized we didn’t have enough gas to
get to Vicksburg! We missed the Walmart
and Murphys gas yesterday and it is coming back to bite us! But we only backtrack about 5 miles to find a
gas and convenience store, grab coffees and donuts for Rick, and put enough gas
in the truck for the trip (ignoring the fact we are paying almost 20 cents more
per gallon than if we had driven further into town!
I loved the wildflowers and split rail fences!
The Natchez Trace is an ancient
historic trail from Natchez to Nashville, TN, approximately 450 miles
long. It has been used by native
Americans, riverboat men to return to the Ohio River ports, mail runs, etc. for hundreds of years. The road is closed to commercial truck
traffic, so RVs are the only ‘big’ rigs you will encounter. Today there was very little traffic!
Our first stop was Mount Locust, a
former cotton plantation-turned boarding house.
When her second husband left her with 11 children to support and
situated a day’s walk from Natchez with requests for room and board, she turned
the plantation into a inn and died the 1850 equivalent of a millionaire! The trace passes within a hundred yards of
the old home. Interesting, educational,
We stopped at the Sunken Trace
briefly to walk down and see where the footpath has eroded down about 6
feet. I imagine during heavy rains it
becomes a creekbed!
From there it is another 20 miles of
Trace Highway, and then we turn on State Rt 27 to cut across to Vicksburg. It takes us right into town and the Visitor
Center for the National Military Park.
Time for a history lesson! Vicksburg
was the key to the Union victory in the Civil War according to Abe
Lincoln. By taking the city, the Union
regained control of the Mississippi shipping paths and divided the Confederacy.
But the victory did not come
easily. The city was under siege from
May until July. The Union suffered some
major loses. The ironic and perhaps sad part in all this is that Vicksburg
voted PRO-Union in the secession vote for the state of Mississippi. They didn’t want to secede and yet they
suffered gravely even after the war.
The park is literally covered with
memorials. It seems just about every
Infantry unit has one, and Illinois alone had 79 infantry units serving with
General Grant! Markers indicated every
trench dug, lines fought, etc. We had a ‘cell
phone’ tour in which I could dial a number, indicate which stop, and then we
listened to a 1-2 minutes description.
We used it for several, but actually didn’t even complete the 16 mile
loop. We stopped and visited the Shirley
House and the Illinois Memorial. The
Shirley house is the only building remaining from the war. All else are replicas. The memorial was like the Jefferson in
Washington DC. Huge domed affair with
open hole in the ceiling. Every man from
Illinois who served in the war is listed on the walls.
USS Cairo - ironclad ship that sunk
The park is hilly, much more so than
Gettysburg. There are few big fields,
but trenches and bumps where underground bunkers protected the soldiers. We headed down past more monuments to the
Cairo exhibit. Seven ironclad
sternwheeler ships were built in 100 days to aid the Union army in taking back
the Mississippi. Similar to the work of
the Monitor and the Merimac blockcading the Southern sea ports, the mission of
these fortified vessels was to regain the inland ports. The Cairo was sunk in the Yahzoo River by a
mine set by the confederates. The ship
sunk in just minutes, but no lives were lost.
One hundred years later it was excavated and restored. The museum was filled with all the artifacts
left behind by the fleeing sailors. It
was a fascinating display.
Chase took our picture
We left the park on a sidestreet
that took us downtown. We found the 10
South Rooftop Grill – located in a bank building. ‘Take the elevator to the 10th
floor’! We each ordered from the lunch
light plate – I had catfish tacos and Rick wafflefries smothered in chili and
jalepenos! Our waiter, Chase, was
talkative, helpful, and perhaps bored as we were his only table! He reminded me somewhat of how Luke would
wait tables, even writing out directions for me to get back on 61 South. (Perhaps it was the man-bun!) He brought us pretzels, water glasses to go,
and we talked about his goals, our Habitat work, the downtown demise, etc. A good meal.
Rick and Chase survey downtown Vicksburg.
Rick drove us out of town and then I
took over for the drive back down US 61 to the state park. Four lane all the way, except for a short
stretch in the middle as you go through Port Gibson.
We pull into the park with a few
raindrops falling, but we have escaped any big storms today! Rain stops.
Rick heads off immediately for a
good long walk and I take a shorter one, exploring the nature trail briefly
(bridge out), the lake shore tentatively (we have been warned about ticks and
snakes) and then out the road for a bit before settling down to read and write
I found a purple trillium!
Around 6:30 the radio gives several
weather warnings, but they are for towns to the east of us with the storm
moving NE. Severe thunderstorms, high
winds, and big hailstones. We do
experience some heavy rainfall during the evening, and to date it appears Rick’s
fix of the air conditioner has worked.
(Knock on wood!) No drips so far
and it has rained pretty hard. It will
be a warm night, however, as we can’t leave many of the windows open with the
wind blowing the rain in from all directions.
Oh what a night! It was 75 in the trailer when we went to bed,
Rick prepared to turn off the electricity during the night if thunderstorms
came. So far all we had had was rain…in
waves of intensity. We woke around 1 to
rumbles of thunder in the distance. Rick
went out to pull the plug then just because he knew he wouldn’t go back to
sleep otherwise! A couple big flashes
and booms eventually nearby and then rain.
We fell back asleep. About 4 am,
CRACK! We both about jumped out of
bed! That one was close! Flash and boom! Several more a little further away and then
more rain. Glad the power was off for
When I got up at 7, the rain had
stilled. Puddles all around. We are glad to be on a concrete pad rather
than the muddy spot we first had at Mason!
The birds are singing and it is still 71 degrees in the trailer. More storms are predicted today. For now….I am going to draw!!
Evening. We have had a few drops of rain early this
evening, but so far the storms have not come.
From what I could see the one time I was able to get online this
afternoon….we may be driving into them tomorrow!
We battened up the trailer and left
for town around 10 with a list of stops to make – some fun, some
necessary. First stop was at a Jiffy
Lube place to get an oil change for the truck.
We’ve driven 3000 plus miles and Rick is really good about taking care
of our truck since it has to work so hard to pull the trailer! Not the cheapest, but what we expected and we
got a car wash and a vacuum job out of it as well! Back on our way to make the 11am tour at
Melrose – the National Park Service antebellum home available for tours. Only when we arrive, we find an 11 o’clock
isn’t scheduled, even though all of us have read “tours on the hour”. Since there are 14 of us there, the gal calls
for help and then gives us the tour herself!
The Melrose estate belonged to a
Pennsylvania transplant to the south, trained and practicing as a lawyer. He received two estates as wedding presents,
along with the requisite slaves. He
moved up in the world rapidly and Melrose was built mostly for ‘show’ – to
exhibit his wealth and status in the Natchez society. Since it is park service owned and operated,
meticulous attention to historical accuracy has taken place in
restoration. Much of the furniture is
the original from either the first owners or the second, a banking family. The land itself was never cultivated after
the mansion was built. Previously it had
been the site of small cotton fields on the edge of town.
This is a 'Shoo-Fly'! Basically a large fan operated by a slave child to push air around.
There were four floors with a
‘clerestory’ on top – which I think is an opened patio with rails around the
outside. The basement and attic were
mostly for storage or slave use. The
main floor was the show/entertaining floor (hence the gold guilding above the
windows, fancy brocade upholstery, etc), and the family lived on the second floor.
Here we found a large central room with multiple bedrooms off of
Out buildings included the kitchen
with slave quarters above (now the NPS office and gift shop), a dairy/laundry
building with slave quarters above, several slave cabins, carriage house, etc. There was an excellent exhibit on the slave
life in one of the slave cabins. Rick
and I found seeing these lavish homes built and run on the backs of slavery
On the grounds
is a huge, beautiful live oak with fern-covered branches spreading out and
draped with Spanish moss. The azaleas
are starting to pass, but a row of white iris was in bloom.
Third item on our list – food. We wanted to try some authentic Cajun cooking
before we leave, so we find the Cajun Rice House serving Jambalaya and seafood
gumbo. I am leery of getting something
too hot for me to eat, but I found both ‘tolerable’! My mouth was hot when I was done, but it was
good. Both were not exactly what we
expected. Jambalaya is a dirty rice –
ours was laced with various pork and sausage flavors and seasonings. The seafood gumbo did not have okra in it,
unless the okra was totally ground up.
It was a gravy like broth, spicy, with shrimp and crab bits. The café also was selling live crawfish by
the pound, or you could buy it cooked.
We refrained and bought some frozen shrimp at Walmart instead! (Not quite the same, but convenient!) I am wishing I had internet so I could look
up some recipes to adapt to our tastes a bit more, but still with plenty of
fish in it!
We come to WalMart next for a grocery/gas stop. The gas is very important as we don’t have
much left in the truck! Inside for some
groceries and then….we find all the pumps have crashed at the Murphys outside
the Walmart. Sadly…they are 20 cents
cheaper than anything else around! So…
We hit a McDonalds in the hopes of getting internet
long enough to make a reservation at an Corp of Engineers campground in Alabama
south of Tuscaloosa. Al and Judy
reminded us in Mason of how nice some of these parks are, plus you get them for
half price with the Senior Pass. But I
couldn’t get the web site to work!
Finally Rick called and we are booked for Service Campground just
outside of Coffeeville, Alabama, about 210 miles away. We’ll stay the two nights and then drive up
to Tuscaloosa on Sunday morning – a mere 140 miles at that point.
And then….we must get GAS! Back to Murphys and we find the pumps are now
operating. Fill up the truck and off for
the campground! We are pleased with our
Natchez adventure. We are rested, yet we
have explored a little, survived a storm, seen plantations, battlefields, and
antebellum homes, AND tasted jambalaya, gumbo, catfish tacos, and seafood
bisque. Not bad!
The campground is quiet and relatively empty. Many of the rigs around us have left and no
one coming in until the weekend. Lazy
evening with the fan going. The air is
still, muggy, and it is still 79 degrees in the trailer. A warm night ahead!! Hopefully without those sudden bolts of
lightning and cracks of thunder!
My favorite scene entering Natchez State Park...the relic of an old building coupled with the beauty of a blooming azalea.
NO RAIN last night! Kinda eerie night, however. Lazy start to the day as we don’t plan to
leave until 10. But…at 8:45 a few drops
of rain start to fall which speeds us up a little. We don’t want to be hitching up in a
downpour! We had already put the front
end up last night in anticipation of wet, so that was already done! As it turned out the few drops were pretty
much it! So by the time we empty the
tanks at the dump station it is only 9:35 and we are on our way.
We follow US 84 straight across the
state of Mississippi. And you certainly
cannot complain about the traffic (very light) or the road (wide median, four
lane, all the way!)!! Rick drove to
Brookhaven, where we gas up again and switch drivers (armed with a new cup of
coffee as well!) Then I drove to Laurel,
MS, which ended up being a busier town than I anticipated. But it is the crossroads with an interstate
and another major US route, so…. We gas
up and then find the Waffle House right across from the gas station. Convenient.
Rick finally gets his promised breakfast out! I thought about trying grits, but was calorie
conscious and got the tomatoes as a side instead!
Pathetic welcome, 'Bama!
It is only 40 miles from Laurel to
the border and then another 25 to Service COE Park just west of
Coffeeville. The terrain has been constant
– GREEN! Plenty of southern pines,
hardwood trees, waning azaleas and purple wisteria everywhere. It did not rain more than scattered drops all
day. I was disappointed in Alabama. The only sign we saw was a green ‘Alabama
State Line’ sign. Where was my ‘Welcome
to Alabama’?? Plus the road changed from
the wide four lane to a two lane quasi country road! Oh well!
Our spot in the trees along the Tombigbee River
We find the entrance to the Service
COE Park very suddenly, but Rick manages to make the turn and we drive back to
a beautifully maintained, albeit damp, park.
After a drive-through we go back out to the park host and ask for a
different site (he had given us that option!) – the assigned site was difficult
to back into, a shared site, and backed right up to a site FILLED with cars and
kids. The guy said he understood! He is able to move us down 3 spots to #21
which is quite nice!
Along the Tombigbee River.
We settle in, but only open the back
bed and don’t unhitch. Will wait until
after the predicted storm for that….just in case. A quick walk through the park, back out to
the day use area. We find a Birding
Trail, seeing a bald eagle and bluebirds, Spanish moss, budding trees, and the
Tombigbee River – a wide muddy swiftly moving river, carrying a wide variety of
storm debris downstream.
Later as we listen to the rain fall,
something quite heavily, we hear what sounds like a train, perhaps on the
opposite shoreline. I look out the door
to see if I can spy it and find a tugboat pushing a barge downstream right in
front of us! River action! Pretty cool.
By 8:30, the rain seems to have
quit…perhaps temporarily. We shall
We got postcards written today. Sixteen of them! Plus text or email messages to both Moms and
Luke. (All done while in Laurel at lunch
where I had LTE T-Mobile service.) Here
at the park we have NOTHING. No
cell. No internet. No TV.
So….time for old fashion communication….handwritten letters and
That was the last of the rain for
abit! I awoke this morning to the sound
of birds, a 6:40 sunrise (we are further east!) and BLUE SKIES!! Hurray!
Flowers behind our campsite
And we don’t make much of it! I finished reading my book, we did a load of
laundry, and after lunch we drove into Coffeeville. Rick had already learned that the dam and
locks are gated off and closed to the public…a 911 thing. We did hear another tug on the river last
Our drive reveals a very small
village struggling. The high school/city
hall was hosting a trade fair and there was a fish fry happening. But we found the post office and mailed our
post cards. Who knows how long it will
take for them to travel to Oregon from here!?
We took a walk on one of the nature
trails this afternoon. It was very
soggy, but we found some new flowers we hadn’t seen otherwise. Really pretty! There is one plant I am curious to
identify. It has bright green leaves
nearly 12 to 15 inches long. When we
were in Mississippi we passed the Long Leaf Trace and there is a Long Leaf
River. I’m just wondering…. So many questions and no internet to provide
the answers! Ah well! (Addendum....Sunday morning another forester camper said they were BIG leaf Magnolias - only grow in southern Alabama)
Big Leaf Magnolia
It is cooling off faster this
evening. I might even have to get the
heater back out, especially since we have put away the heavy sleeping
I added to my ‘treasures’
today. Tiny shells from Perdanales
beach, cotton bolls from Frogmore, and now sweet gum pods and a wad of Spanish
Another tug pushes a barge upriver in the setting sun.
COLD this morning – the outside
thermometer is hovering around 30 degrees, but the heater worked fine – must have
been operator error the night before!
There is frost on the truck window we have to scrape before we can
leave! The golf course is covered with a
As I stir up the gray paint, I
discovered Rick's 'message' from
We pick up water and ice (!!) and
get to the job. A new couple has joined
us from the Alice, TX build. Veteran
CAVs, Shirley and Richard Harvey. I got
voice mails that Barb Ludwig will be coming in tomorrow. All the ‘extras’ are being sent over to the
Rehab house at this point.
Rick works to fit the supports.
A whole crew is sent inside to paint
ceilings while Rick is tasked with finishing porch trim and I get the gray
siding paint out and ready to go. More
siding is delivered this morning (evidently we were shorted on the previous
delivery), plus Greg asks that a dozen trim pieces get painted, some in baby
blue, some gray, some white! So
basically I paint with Bea and Judy most of the early morning. The sun is warming things up enough to be able
Paul, completed with chew in his mouth, describes the auction process to us.
One of the first cows to come through.
Today is the day of the livestock
auction and you can hear the cows down in the pens mooing away. At break time 7 of us walk over to the
auction barn and meet Paul (our lunch host last Friday and former Habitat board
president) who owns Superior Auction. Paul isn’t involved with this local auction,
but he spends a half hour explaining the whole process to us outside in the
sunshine before we head inside to watch an hour of fast paced
auctioneering. Rick and I estimated that
over $100,000 transpired in the time we were watching. They move the cows through every 30 seconds
(max!) and rarely could I even tell for who
or for what amount the sale transacted!
Halfway through Rick and I figured out that the two digital monitors on
each side were showing the weight of the
previous cows (they are weighed AFTER
they are bought). So I started guessing
how much each cow weighed – came close on several, but off by 100 pounds on
others. (That was during the calf
portion when weights only varied from 300 to 600 pounds!) We saw some long-horns, a few BIG bulls, one old
heifer with teats that practically touched the ground. Some were being bought for pasture and summer
grazing, some bound straight for the slaughter house. Paul said there are 180 of these small rural
auctions throughout Texas. Pretty
The big bull
We left at noon and walked back to
the jobsite (only three to four blocks away).
Everyone left today for lunch except Rick and I! After eating I got back to my unfinished
paint work of the final porch ceiling blue trim pieces. Rick spent a somewhat frustrating afternoon
trying to make some porch details fit right and look good. He has decided he doesn’t like finished
carpentry when it is right out front! A
little caulk and paint will make it look good!
I finished the blue, there were three people rolling gray siding, so I spent my
last 45 minutes cleaning brushes and rollers (which involved at least 10 trips
inside the neighbor’s fence to get the faucet turned on right and then turned
Lazy afternoon playing
catchup on pictures, happy hour, and evening.
Greg made a fire during happy hour which felt good! Yes the sun was shining, but it was still
cool with the breeze that was blowing.
Each day this week is supposed to warm up a little more. We got word from the boys that they arrived
in Death Valley earlier this evening.
They will have all day Tuesday to explore!
Walking back from the auction, I stopped at a field thick with Texas paintbrush. So pretty.
A beautiful morning, brisk, but
warming! Jack’s birthday! Rick and Al made GREAT progress today on the
porch trim. By the end of the day as Bea
and Frances finished the siding on one side, the house is really getting a ‘finished’
look. The trim is really coming
together. Inside, the paint crew got all
the living room and hall finished, plus one of the bedrooms almost done. Each bedroom is a different color, selected
by the family.
Judy and I worked together most of
the day putting up siding. We only
managed to complete 3 rows by the time we had to fuss cut around the bottom of
3 windows. The cuts did NOT go smoothly
and I am not particularly proud of how they look in terms of a good fit,
especially at the bottom of the window.
But both Pam and Greg gave oks on them, so…..
Our wall of siding....
Lunch today was at the Methodist
Church again, hosted by ‘The Study Club’, a group of women in town who meet
monthly and basically raise money for the library. At least 20 club members came and provided
the meal and ate with us. It was
wonderful! Rick especially enjoyed the
blueberry bundt cake, to the tune of 3 servings. He hugged the lady who brought it!
Giant yucca blossom
at park entrance
We stopped at the Chamber of
Commerce after work to pick up some postcards and talk with the gal. She was a wealth of information and very
friendly. The Seaquist House tour was
moved until Thursday afternoon.
Gypsy Barb showed up at Happy Hour
time and promptly gave me a new tie dye shirt she picked up somewhere! She will be working at the Critical Repair
house helping with the painting this week. Rick took a walk and discovered the Nature
Trail and I walked out to the entrance to take some pictures.
Laundry this evening and visits with
Barb. A beautiful evening out.
What a windy, restless night! After hitting 30 two nights ago, I don’t think
it got below 65 last night!! We were
Solar panels installed
Rick and Al on columns
Today is forecast for the upper 80’s
and I can believe it! We make our ice,
water, and post office stops and then get busy on the job! Rick and Al are still working on the front
porch trim. I have been reassigned to
work with Frances on the front siding and Bea is working with Judy on the rest
of the side siding. Frances and I
struggle initially because the siding marks on the wall don’t line up as you go
around the corner! But we finally decide
to move forward and hope the corner works out – we HAVE to keep the front of
the house level!
Our morning endeavors.
Excitement for the day is the
arrival of the solar panels for rooftop installation. Four guys come to help out/learn the process
along with Angela and Jake. By the end
of the day, 3 of the 4 sections are mounted.
Shirley and Richard continued painting inside the house.
For lunch today we head over to a
private home near the Catholic church (near our water stop) and wow – what a
spread! Their dining room table is huge
(Rick finds out later it is built on top of a full size pool table!) plus
several other tables set up. Delicious
food plus desserts. This family hosts a
meal once a year!
House is starting to look 'finished'!
After lunch, Frances and I slow down
as we are now working on top of the windows and doors which involves many
notches, etc. We get one board up and
another partially marked. So much of the
porch is being ‘written as we go’ which makes the process a bit difficult.
Angela and Jake with 'gifts'!
Quick walk along the nature trail
with Barb and OP when we get home – a chance to catch up abit – shower and a
quick trip to Lowe’s for more tomatoes and avocados for tonight’s dinner at
Keith Kahn’s house. We pick up Barb and
take her out with us to their 22 acre spread just 2 miles south of town, split
by Comanche Creek. Keith has a thousand
gallon cistern catching rain water under his shop, a guest house, patios and
pavers, keyhole veggie gardens, and a lovely home FILLED with antiques. His artist wife Sue is a big fan of Van
Gogh. Bea makes home-made tortillas for
all (delicious and warm) and everyone brought stuff to go with them. Jake and Angela had gifts for everyone and
then Chuck presented them with a few gag gifts.
Since they are 30 years younger than everyone else, they take quite abit
of ribbing! A very pleasant evening with
gracious hosts. We have an invitation to
come stay in the guest house ANY time!
Front of Kahn house...with bluebonnets!
The bluebonnets growing right in the middle of the paver patio!
Guest house with brickwork from old Fort Mason stones
Blooming pincushion cactus on patio
Sunset as we leave with contrail lines
Build Day 9; Seaquist Mansion Tour
BIG wind storms again during the
night including a little rainfall on one (not that amounted to anything,
however!) I wondered if the trailer was
going to hold together. And then there
was the sounds of talk radio….loud….from about 10 until 2 (or so, I didn’t stay
awake!) Turns out this morning we got a
confession and huge apology from Jake.
He was working late engraving and didn’t realize Angela had turned on
the outside speakers for his trailer. He
had it turned way up so he could hear over the engraver, not realizing the rest
of the campground, including his tent sided neighbors, could hear it all!
Back wall we are siding.
Visible progress is happening on
site! Keith found the needed part this
morning and brought it over so Jake and Angela could finish installing the last
solar panel. They worked to finish the
siding on the front of the house gable so the roof can be finished. Chuck and Pam were doing all the top siding
panels and other details, Rick and Al still out on the porch, but they also
were siding by afternoon. Frances and I
finished the last two boards on the right front and then four of us were sent
to the back of the house to do the top of the wall between the roof lines. Bea and I went up on the scaffolding, while
Frances and Judy cut the boards and handed them up. While I waited, I finished extending all the
lines on the greenboard from the middle to the edges. By end of day, we had 3 more rows up. Finish on Friday!!!
Wildflowers in neighbor's field
Everyone left for lunch and Rick and
I had a quiet hour to ourselves. I took
a lunchtime flower picture in the neighbors field and then called Mom for a
quick check. The boys are spending the
day with Rachael before heading northward again in the morning.
The Seaquist Mansion
After work today, Pam took Al, Judy,
Rick, and I through the Seaquist Mansion.
She and Greg volunteered there over the winter as they are restoring the
building, so they had a key and could give a ‘tour’! This is an 1880’s gem of workmanship. We visited all three floors and then down
into the catacombs of a basement. There
is a giant stone water cistern adjacent that used to have a windmill on the
top. The Seaquist family owned the
building until a year ago, but in later years they all lived in the small stone
house next door! I can’t imagine the
money that will involved to restore – new
Second floor wrap-around porch and deck
electric, new plumbing, wall
coverings, etc. There are 15 stone
fireplaces, the original kitchen is in the basement off a narrow servant’s
stairwell. Stained glass
everywhere. Fascinating to compare the
Alcove of unknown purpose
shuttered windows and screens to allow airflow during the hot months with
the design of the Geiser Grand. On the
third floor we found a ballroom with ‘viewing gallery’, a pool room, bar, and
poker/game room. And a tiny, stained
glass alcove off the bar and ballroom the purpose of which is unknown? Meditation?
We had to leave a little sooner as
Rick was scheduled for a haircut at 3:30.
We found the gal, Francis, in a little shop behind the post office
A beautiful evening. Happy Hour, visit with Barb, and catchup
Click HERE for all the Seaquist Mansion pictures (It's worth it!)
Our final day of the build and it
will be just a half day, as we are breaking off around noon. We start out with clean-up and load all the
scrap sheetrock, siding, sheathing, etc. into the trailer for Dave to take to
the dump eventually. Then painting 9
more boards of siding for our use, plus Rick and Al are siding, and Jake and
Angela (although they didn’t finish the front to the top because they
concentrated on getting the porch roof done where it abuts the gable). Bea and I were up on the scaffolding while
Judy and Frances continued to cut and deliver our boards. Around 12:15 I popped the last nail into the
top peak of our last board! We finished
the back end of the house!! While we waited, I took pictures of 'letters' to complete a Mason 'title' picture!
Back gable siding crew: Bea, Ginger, Frances, Judy
Inside corner of Rick's front porch
Inside is painted, the front porch
is just about done, solar panels
installed, roof installed, siding all but done.
The last phase will come in Sunday and have all the exterior caulk and
final coat of paint to do, cabinets, etc. inside, and that final punch
list. But we got a lot done!!
Stephanie's family gather for fish fry at park pavilion.
Back to the trailer and change of
clothes before we walk over to the pavilion for the family fish fry. We meet Stephanie’s sister, Diane and her
husband Robert – owners of the burned Ischar house, plus her brother Mannie and
his wife. Mom and Pop are there as
well. The menu is strictly catfish,
fries, and hushpuppies! Guess I was
expecting at least a cole slaw salad at least!
But the fish was delicious and I enjoyed my first hush puppies, which
are fried corn bread nuggets.
The Odeon is lit up as we leave the movie.
Back to the trailer at 3pm to relax
for the rest of the afternoon. I worked
to clean up a few things and then sort out the pictures from the build and get
them emailed out. Barb and Chuck were
over to chat for awhile and we all decided to go to the movies tonight at the
local theater and see Risen - the Easter film from the centurion’s
perspective. Rick and I to the movies
AND popcorn and candy for $10! Enjoyed
Easter bunny that hopped
over to Barb's trailer
And incredible sky as we arrived
back at trailer at 9:30. Clear and cool,
but the stars are so bright and distinct.
About half the group will be leaving tomorrow, and then several of us on
Sunday. The park is full and we hear
there could be more rodeo events going on tomorrow. If I hear horses neighing in the morning, I’ll
know that is accurate!
Well, we didn’t get moving too
quickly this morning. A little time with
Barb before she left around 9:30 (she brought over an Easter avocado!) and then
laundry time! Watched a few folks depart
and expected the park to fill with rodeo folk again, but only a few horse
trailers this week and nothing in the arena.
Sculpture next door to Santos.
Adirondack chairs made from wine barrels!
We went out to lunch at Santos
Tacqueria….Rick chose more wisely than I in ordering a Chile Releno Gordita. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal. I had an ensalada – the chicken was a little
too spicy for me and there was mostly lettuce and tomatoes. No sour cream, no avocado, just very
plain. Ah well!
Uncut topaz at Square Museum
Mason Co. Courthouse and the Square
Then it was time to poke through the
shops of the Mason City Square. We
checked out some art galleries, antique shops, the Square Museum, plus a walk
down to the Collectors Shed where they have all the metal sculptures as well as
a huge cut topaz stone. The only purchase we made was an
English/Spanish Children’s Bible for Amilio.
Fresh water, gas in the truck and a visit to the Ischar house to check
out the paint colors….bright, very intense!
It took us a little while to find the Fort Mason site with its officer’s
quarters rebuilt on the hill overlooking the area.
Fort Mason Officer's Quarters
View of downtown Mason from fort hill
Back down to the campground. At least 3 new CAVs have pulled in. Some might have to boondock cuz the last
three of us aren’t leaving until the morning!
We cleaned up the trailer, Rick unhitched the sewer lines, and we’ll
easily be out of here by 8 in the morning.
We have decided to forego the Sunrise Service in Art at 7am, in favor of
the 8:30 service at the Methodist Church here in town.
Beautiful sunset tonight and
pleasant evening. We have said goodbye
to most of the crew. I will start a new