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Published: January 16th 2012
KJ, Peggy, Sarah and Ila
Suffering yet again from an abundance of time and sufficient gas money Karen and I decided to embark on a one month road trip. Head westward my liver spotted friends!
We made our first stop in Pensacola Florida where we enjoyed the asceptic confines of a downtown hotel in the old section of the city. Our room was one of only five rented in the 100 room facility. Pensacola is a Navy aviator town. There are buff young men in abundance and wreaths of hopeful young women clustered around them. Think of 'Officer and a Gentleman' without the cardboard box factory. We ate at Jackson's Steakhouse where my friend Marc and I dined nearly a decade ago. Same great food and service without the pretentious bill. Ask for Antonio to be your waiter. The only genuinely funny Catalonian I have ever met.
We burned rubber the next morning for New Orleans cruising along I-10 through Mississippi and past the battleship Alabama in Mobile. I've visited the ship twice with Marc and Noah. The kind of attraction that brings out the little boy in every man but I would be hard pressed to envision Karen climbing up and down the
Cafe Du Monde Waiters
Mostly Vietnamese employees. The lady on the right is from Da Lat in the central highlands.
narrow metal stairs with any gusto though she would be game enough to pretend to enjoy it for my sake.
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel St. Marie on Toussant Street in Nawlins. A great place a block from Bourbon. We raced to Cafe Du Monde for a 2,000 calorie snack, skimmed through the French Market, talked at length with a vendor who told us that the economy is still suffering from Katrina, ate at the Old Flame restaurant, listened to Blues at Chris Owen's club on a subdued Bourbon Street and slept hard. We escaped the city just in time as LSU and Alabama fans flooded the city for the BCS championship game to be played at the dome.
We headed along the coastal roads to Teche Bayou, a place made famous by James Lee Burke, one of our favorite writers. We stayed at the Teche Motel, a 10 cottage motor court straight out of the 1930's. Rosebud the owner/ operator looking at the tags on our car asked us why we were visiting such an out of the way place and when we told her it was because of Burke's books she told us that she
could put us in cottage number four where Tommy Lee Jones had made "That movie". And so we happily slept in the cottage where they had filmed a gory murder scene for 'In The Electric Mist' based on one of Burke's books. Rosebud explained how 'those movie people' had covered the walls in movie blood and how much Tommy Lee enjoyed his cocktails (apparently she and Tommy are on a first name basis) and how they paid her $1,500 for 5 days use and they even left her a new lamp from the props they had brought in. Later that evening I had reason to go to the grocery store and I was a bit tired and cranky from the drive earlier in the day and as I sat at a red light a man in a 1965 GM pickup done in turquoise blue and primer grey rolled up next to me and starting gesturing wildly in my direction and I looked up at his grizzled features and wondered why he wasn't racing home to brush his tooth when I finally relaxed enough to roll down my window and he smiled at me and thanked me for my service and
This sign was built by the movie production team for the film. Rosebud already had a sign but apparently it wasn't film worthy so this one was constructed and after filming Rosebud propped it against a wall.
I wondered what the heck he was talking about when I remembered that I had Vet tags on the car so I told him that my service had been a pleasure and he looked me happily in the eyes and welcomed me to Bayou Teche and with that he was gone in a swirl of oily black smoke. Such is Bayou Teche. We were the only visitors at the motel. I doubt it will be around much longer but if you're smart enough to pay a visit say hello to Rosebud for us, ask for cottage number 4 and bring $40 cash 'cause Rosebud don't do no credit cards.
We enjoyed the next two days with my Army buddy Rick and his wife Sam in Houston. They have a stunning home outside the city. We were pampered and fed and entertained as well as any guest in history has ever been. We caught up on family news and played with their dogs under a brisk Texan sun. They treated us to a Texas-sized steak dinner with their sons Dan and Ty. On my last visit 2 years ago the Houston economy was running full tilt boogie but now it
Scene of the Crime
Cottage number four
appears that the sins of our leaders have finally started catching up with it. At least they have the oil industry. There is always that.
We headed to X-ville and spent 2 nights with family X. Beautiful Baby X has doubled in size. Momma X is well and Father X is a doting Dad so all is well in X-ville.
We drove straight through to Alamogordo, running through snowy roads and towns dotted with boarded up businesses. From El Paso we headed north to Alamogordo, New Mexico nestled in the Tularosa Basin. The winter wind was playing at the white sands giving the plain the look of a dry ice bath. I paid my first visit here in the mid 80's and have been a regular visitor since that time. Karen's Aunt Ila and Uncle Jim look happy and content. Their home an extension of our own. It's like living with the Waltons as children and adults wander in and out at will. Ila is the busiest short order cook I have ever met. All of her meals are prepared in quantities that require a minimum of 5-pounds of meat and the last plate is often cleaned up
after Sara gets off of her shift as an ICU nurse at the local hospital. Alamogordo looks better than it has. The economy appears to have stabilized. The housing market is viable and a steady stream of German military personel keep cash pumping into local businesses. Days here are lazy and the non-stop flapping of our jaws produces gale force winds. I caught 'War Horse' with Wes and Pam's 10 year old son, Bradley at Alamogordo's new cineplex.. This is New Mexico's 100th Birthday and it seems like Ila, Jim and Jeff are all actively involved in the celebration. Jeff is finishing up a permanent display to be placed in the city. The dedication is on January 21st so they are all engaged in last-minute construction details. We had dinner at Peggy and Tom's new place (new to us) last night. Tom stayed up all night BBQing a monster-sized beef brisket that turned out to be an amazing dining experience. We were all bumping elbows at the crowded table, passing platters around along with stories and laughs. The house is blessed with huge windows looking out over the Sacramento mountains. Clancy the cat lay on his high, livingroom perch watching
us with bemused detachment.
Oliver Lee State Park sits along Hi-Way 54. Home to Dog Canyon, it is always on Karen's and my mandatory list of things to do while here. The 6-mile round trip trail has a 2,000 foot vertical climb that taxes the body and fills the senses with the unique beauty that only a trip to the desert can provide. This narrow box canyon has provided shelter to the Apache Indians for the last 500-years. There is an imposing waterfall at the back of the canyon with an old, stone, cabin squatting in its shadow. The entire trip takes about 3-hours if you don't dally but this is most certainly a spot to relax, enjoy and take more than a few photos. Bring water and high-energy snacks along with you. Entrance fee to the park is $5 per car no matter how many people you pack into it. I was lucky enough to do the climb once before after a heavy spring rain. The meadows were ablaze with wildflowers and hundreds of Tarantulas paraded down the trail oblivious to human presense. There are rattlesnakes in the area but I have yet to have encountered one. White
Karen, Ila and Jim
In the kitchen as usual.
Sands National Park is 16-miles away. Admission there is $3 per person. Lincoln National Forest can be enjoyed free of charge. Alamogordo is often overlooked by travelers. It shouldn't be.
From here we head north through the Valley of the Fires to I-40 and the myriad of major National parks that dot its path.
Talk at you later.
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