Monday, April 27, 2015

French Quarter Festival

After leaving Alabama, we spent a quick couple of days at Louisiana’s Bayou Segnette State Park - just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.  The campground was quite nice with spacious sites,

Campsite at Bayou Segnette

decent restroom/showers and, unbelievably, free use of washers and dryers.  The park has a healthy population of waterfowl, most notably Yellow Crowned Night Herons and Wood Ducks.  A nearby canal with boats roaring up and down it was rather obnoxious, therefore, one big minus for the campground.

Our reason to be here was to attend the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, which is billed as the ‘Largest Showcase of Louisiana Music in the World’. 

French Quarter Festival 2015

This is a free four (4) day event with stages set up in various spots in the French Quarter featuring musicians from Louisiana.

We started the day by driving to Algiers

At the Ferry

and taking the ferry across the Mississippi to the French Quarter.  The ferry is reasonably priced at $2 per person.

New Orleans Skyline from the Ferry

Our first stop was CafĂ© Du Monde for beignets. 

Cafe du Monde

There was a pretty long line to get in, but it moved rather quickly and before long we were seated and eating the sugary, powdery beignets. 

Coffee and Beignets 

Now, between Loretta and me, she is by far the one that craves ‘sweets’, but I gotta admit these were pretty tasty with a cup of hot coffee au lait.

My craving was for a muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery,

The Famous Central Grocery

the originator of the famous sandwich.  We had heard about long lines waiting to get one and sometimes they (gasp) run out.  We made a bee line to get there pretty early and get one to go to eat later back at the Rambler, and that worked out perfectly.

For the next several hours we just wandered the streets of the French Quarter checking out not only the performers on stage, but the street performers, too. 

Talented Street Performers

Some were quite talented and some were just plain weird. 

Very Disturbing...

ALL of them were entertaining though.  One thing about New Orleans, it ain’t boring!

Our favorite was the stage that featured Zydeco music.  One band in particular, Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe, has a guy playing washboard that I can only describe as a total ‘spaz’ but damn, he sure was good!

Washboard Guy with Dikki Dee & the Zydeco Krewe

By late afternoon we were pretty wore out and made our way back to the ferry and then somehow figured out the maze of streets back to the Rambler at the state park.  We had a blast in New Orleans at the French Quarter Festival!  Oh, and the muffuletta sandwich was mighty tasty!

Muffuletta from Central Grocery...mmmm....

Here are a few more photos of New Orleans and the French Quarter Festival experience.

Louis B. Armstrong

Filming on the Ferry

Hot Sauce, Anyone?

Typical Ornate New Orleans Ironwork

Granite Woman

Steel Man

VooDoo Blues

Huge Ass Beers and Burgers!

Gator Gumbo File

Orleans Umbrellas

Forgiveness in St. Louis Cathedral

Candle Lighting

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coastal Bama Birding

Post by Henry

Since we’ve been here in southern Alabama, we’ve been doing a good bit of birding.  This is the time of year when the birds are migrating back North after spending the winter in Central America.  Amazingly, these birds fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico and when they get here they are hungry and exhausted and they stop at the first sight of land.  Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island, located on the Gulf, and Mobile Bay, near here, are some of the places they like to stop.

Fort Morgan

We’ve made several trips to Fort Morgan over the last couple of weeks and I believe we can say we may have seen more ‘birders’ than birds.  Yep, it’s been pretty slow.

One day we broke up the birding non-action and went for a bike ride at Gulf State Park.  They have a quite nice network of trails there that twist and wind through the forest of the park. 

Trail in Gulf Shores State Park

It was a very relaxing ride and you feel worlds away from the crush of condos, hotels, restaurants and bars of Orange Beach located just a few hundred yards away.

Picnic Pavilion and Butterfly Garden
Bottle Brush Bush in Butterfly Garden

Another day we took our bikes on the ferry across Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island.  

In Line to Board Ferry to Dauphin Island

Our good friends Ken, Trisha, Marshall and Donna were spending the week there in a beach house.  Unlike Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island is very laid back, with a few Mom and Pop motels, rental beach homes, and private residences.  It was a four (4) mile ride along a mostly shaded bike trail from the ferry to where our friends were staying.  We spent the day with them catching up, eating lunch and then, of course, some birding.  First, we strolled the west end of the beach to some tide pools where we saw a good variety of shore birds. 


Deserted Dauphin Island Beach

We also saw quite a few sting rays in the water along our walk. 

Yes - there is a Sting Ray in there

Later on the other end of the island in our last hour before catching the ferry back, we were fortunate to catch a view of a few REAL BIRDS! !  A Prothonotary Warbler, Summer Tanager, 

Summer Tanager

Louisiana Waterthrush, White Eyed Vireo, Eastern Kingbird,

Eastern Kingbird

and Orchard Orioles.  FINALLY!

All too soon, though, it was time to catch the ferry back to Fort Morgan and say goodbye to our friends.

Trisha, Ken, Marshall and Donna

It was good to see them and there’s a good chance we may rendezvous with them this summer in Colorado.
On the ferry ride, we were excited that we had finally seen some of the birds we’d been looking for and were hopeful when the ferry docked at Fort Morgan we’d see a few more.

Nope.  A big zero.  ***sigh***  Maybe soon?  Hopefully.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Florida to Alabama

Catching up……..

We’ve left Sumter Oaks in Bushnell, Florida.

Before we left, we got in a good paddling trip on the Withlacoochee River.

Paddling the Withlacoochee

We paddled six (6) miles round trip from Hog Island to Iron Bridge and back.  It was beautiful with the fresh green leaves on the trees reflecting in the dark river water

Spring Reflections on the Withlacoochee

and we had the river all to ourselves that day.

Also before we left Sumter Oaks, the resident pair of Sandhill Cranes were showing off their two new babies! 

Sandhill Cranes with Babies

We had wondered why we had only been seeing one adult recently, but we’ve since figured out they were taking turns feeding and sitting on the nest.  Then one day all four (4) of them were spotted in the pasture next door.  The whole RV park was ‘abuzz’ about the new babies!

The Babies!
Sandhill Crane Family 
Watching out for Babies

Sumter Oaks is also known for its resident Barred Owls.  

Barred Owls at Sumter Oaks

We heard them often, but it wasn’t until a couple of days before leaving that we were able to get really good views of them. 

Stretching a Wing

I'll Scratch Your Back, If You'll Scratch Mine

They are magnificent birds!

On the day we left Sumter Oaks, we took advantage of the Escapees Smart Weigh program.  This is where they weigh each wheel of your RV to see if your weight is evenly distributed and to be sure you are not over the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating for your RV.  We are happy to report we came in comfortably under our GVW rating with the weight reasonably distributed.  YAY!!!

We headed to another Escapees park in Summerdale, Alabama.  We made a one night stop in Sopchoppy on the way and arrived at Rainbow Plantation mid-afternoon the next day. This is a very nice, quiet park with very spacious campsites and at least one nice Live Oak tree at almost every site.

Rainbow Plantation - Site 51

We needed to take care of some business at our home in Guntersville, so we left the Rambler at Rainbow Plantation and made the trip in the HHR.  While in Guntersville, we were visited by and had dinner with Loretta’s granddaughter, Jessica and daughter, Lisa.

Jessica, Loretta, and Lisa

We also had Doctor appointments (we’re healthy!), got the oil changed in the HHR (it’s healthy too!) and various other odds and ends.  After six (6) days it was time to get back to the Rambler in south Alabama and I can honestly say we missed our home on wheels and our traveling lifestyle!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Day on the Bay

Post by Loretta

Henry’s younger brother, Ed, now lives in Florida and is in the process of building a house South of Tampa Bay.  We were recently invited to meet him and his wife, Terry, for a tour of the construction site and also got to enjoy a nice meal and relaxing sailboat tour in Sarasota Bay.

We arrived at their house and were warmly greeted and were taken on the grand tour of the expansive, spacious, modern home under construction.

Under Construction

They have incorporated a number of uncommon ideas, including a very large salt water aquarium that can be viewed from the living room or master bedroom,

Salt Water Aquarium under Blue Tarp

as well as a koi pond with hand picked Arkansas river rock.

We strolled to a local eatery and enjoyed a seafood lunch overlooking the bay.

Restaurant overlooking the Bay

An appetizer of calamari was shared and we each had a bowl of their famous lobster bisque. And this was all before our main meal!  Whew!

We paused for a quick photo outside the restaurant.

Loretta and Henry
Then, to top off the day, we were treated to a sailboat experience around Sarasota Bay.  The sailboat is a forty-four (44) foot catamaran

Let's Sail Away

and Ed maneuvered it expertly, with the assistance of Terry, as they deployed the sails and followed the rules of the sea.

Captain Ed
First Mate Terry

The boat has all the features of a home, a full kitchen and living area as well as three bedrooms, each with a full bath.

Galley Area
Our Hosts, Terry and Ed

We viewed The Ringling mansion from the water.

The Ringling Mansion

The Ringling is an Italian inspired mansion built by John and Mable Ringling, of Ringling Brothers Circus fame. You can read more about it here:
Ringling Mansion

We had a few dolphins surface and put on their own little show, and pelicans, of course.

Pelican at Rest

The weather totally cooperated and we had sunny skies and warm sunshine as we sailed around the bay.  I could get used to this!


We finally said our goodbyes and made our way back to our home on wheels.  It was a wonderful day and hope it isn’t so long before we see them again.