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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dothan, AL & Unadilla, GA

We left Southern Louisiana with numerous unseen items placed on our list for the next time.  However, we had an appointment to meet up with our daughter in Dothan, Alabama for her birthday.  On the way we made two overnight stops.  First, we stopped at Martin Lake RV Park in Biloxi, MS.  We had a very nice level, pull-through, site with concrete pad and 50 amp. service.   This is a Coast to Coast park, so we used points for the majority of the fee and spent $2.84 for the 50 amp. service and tax.  This was a great park for overnight, but we would probably stay here again for a longer term if visiting the Biloxi area.  Our second stop was at Eagle Landing RV Park in Holt, FL.  The price here was $22.00 with our Escapees discount (make sure you ask for it specifically).  The price included a 50 amp. pull-through site with easy access on and off Interstate 10.  The folk here are friendly and knowledgeable and the park is well kept and groomed.  On the third day we arrived in Dothan.  RV parks in Dothan are “slim pickins.”  We chose Pecan Point RV park and paid the weekly rate of $165.00.  Our first site pick was in the back of the park away from the highway, however, the park slopes from front to back, so the site was a swamp.  We opted instead for a front site near the highway.  The site itself was gravel, dry and level with a cement pad porch, 50 amp. service, and excellent free wifi.   It did have the expected highway noise, but was convenient to our daughter’s house (about 10 minutes away).  We would give this park a 6 on the Moore 1-10 scale.  Here are few pictures of the site (exciting!).

Our Site at Pecan Point ...  Look for the Owl & Dragon!

Pecan Point - Dothan, GA

The only flooded part of park after a deluge is in front of our site!

Dothan is known as the peanut capital of Alabama and peanuts are available in all varieties.  Kim was especially fond of the boiled peanuts as they reminded him of his youth and even picked up a few cans of them to snack on further down the road.  The town of Dothan has encouraged businesses to decorate their own peanuts; which provide fun and whimsical markers for businesses.   In addition, downtown Dothan is decorated with some really nice murals and the town really supports the town’s artist community of which our daughter is a part.  Mostly, we had a really nice visit with our daughter and granddaughter and did the normal grandparent things while there.  Here are a few snaps including some family shots.

Mural honoring Tuskegee Airmen

Mural of Early Dothan

Mural of Early Native Americans in Alabama

Peanut at Firehouse

Peanut at Plumbers Shop

Peanut at Import House

Peanut at Cable TV

Peanut at Paint Store

Peanut at Newspaper Office

Our Granddaughter Willow (left) and our Daughter Charity

Linda, Kim, & Charity
From Dothan we continued our trip through the South by motoring up to Unadilla, Georgia.  Why Unadilla?  When we first started RVing we purchased a Coast-to-Coast membership on the secondhand market and our home park was Southern Trails RV Park in Unadilla.  This was our first visit ever to the park and we were anxious to see what it had.  Southern Trails is located right off of Interstate 75 at exit 121.  There is even a gas station with diesel at the exit with truck pumps that are ideal for big rigs.  That being said, the park sits right off of the highway and there is tremendous traffic noise with an occasional nightly train.  That is particularly true if you want 50 amp. service, as the only 50 amp. sites are closest to the freeway.  The park mainly is an overnight stay park, so rigs are constantly moving in and out of the park.  Our membership allows us to stay at the park for 14 days at a time free of charge, however most memberships come with a ten dollar a night charge for members (we had to argue with the manager and produce our contract to get the free stay … and still ended up paying a mandatory $2/night cable fee because all the 50 amp. sites come with cable whether you want it or not … very annoying!).  On the positive side, the park has a nice pool, a wonderful miniature golf course, horseshoes, playground for kids, and propane.  The sites are gravel and level.  Even after a huge rainstorm, most of the roads were well drained and held up well.  Services like Walmart are 15 miles away, but it is a great park for a short stay.  We would give the park a 6 on the Moore 1-10 scale with 10 being best.

There isn’t a lot to do in the area unless you want to day trip to Macon (70 minutes) or Atlanta (2+ hours).   However, the Andersonville historic site and Prisoner of War museum is only about 20 minutes away and the Cotton Museum is close by as well.  Andersonville was really depressing.   Over 13,000 Union POWs died here during the Civil War, at one time dying at a rate of 100 men a day.  Individual states later payed homage to these men by erecting monuments from the states (a sampling is shown below).  The POW museum is interesting and well displayed, but did not make for happy conversation.  Nevertheless, everyone should see this at least once … that was certainly enough for us!  While in Andersonville, we ate at Patsy’s Café in town … nice old fashioned café atmosphere with friendly people and three or four tables.

Patsy's in Andersonville

POW Museum

Closeup of Museum Sign
Rhode Island's Monument

Wisconsin's Monument

Massachusetts Monument

Part of the old stockade at Andersonville Prison

Andersonville Prison has been dismantled and is now a field of markers showing the old walls

Providence Spring was discovered late in the war and saved many men with fresh water

A monument to those buried here at the National Cemetery
Outside of the Park, the landscape is almost too idillic

On a happy note, we ate at Yoder’s Deitsch Haus, a Mennonite restaurant in Montezuma, GA.  The food is served cafeteria style with each item ala carte.  It is really inexpensive, but can add up if your eyes are bigger than your stomach (it all looks really tasty!).  Linda had the roast beef and Kim ate the pork tenderloin, with salad, vegetables, potatoes, and pie.  Linda’s cherry pie was nice, but Kim’s shoofly pie was terrific.   They are closed on Sunday and Monday but open the rest of the week for lunch (11 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m.).  We also tried Country Boys Cookin’ BBQ in Unadilla next to the Piggly Wiggly.  It is a little store front place with one long table to sit at, but the food is a good example of Georgia’s version of BBQ.  Another place we ate was Emilio’s Café in Bonaire, GA.  It is a bit of drive … around 30 minutes and is located in a strip mall.  However, it is worth the trip.  We split a Cuban sandwich with rice and black beans … very authentic … and then had the Tres Leche cake for dessert with Cuban coffee.  Don’t miss this cake!!  It is mouthwateringly good!!!  Finally, a must do is … the Ellis Bros. pecan shop.  They carry pecans, peanuts, honey, and all kinds of other mouthwatering treats.  We bought a pound of dark chocolate covered pecans, ½ pound of dark chocolate amaretto covered pecans, ½ pound of dark chocolate espresso beans, 2 jars of different honeys and 3 lbs of fresh runners (peanuts).  Would of bought more but we dragged each other out of the store, slobbering all the way!

Until Next Time ... Keep Doing What You Love!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Around New Orleans

From Lake Conroe we headed east into Louisiana.  Our first night found us in Lake Charles at the Twelve Oaks RV Park.  The Park is an easy drive from the freeway and is a mix of permanent residents and travelers.  The check-in staff were very friendly and we had a cement pad and 50 amp.  However, our site was quite narrow and difficult to back into with plenty of mud if you strayed even slightly from the beaten path.  We would give this park a 6 out of 10 on the Moore scale (mainly due to the narrow roads and soggy conditions).  That said, we would stay there again, for an overnight or a few days.  The park management recommended a very nice local restaurant: Steamboat Bills (somewhat of a dive) that had the best traditional cuisine Louisiana had to offer.   Kim had a large platter of crawfish and Lynda sampled two types of Etouffee.  We recommend Steamboat Bill’s for great traditional Louisiana fare.

Great place to eat!

2 lbs of craw fish

Good eats

 From Lake Charles we continued east to our destination: Abita Springs RV Resort in Abita Springs, LA.  This is a Coast to Coast Premier park … that’s right … those of you who paid a bit extra to belong to a Deluxe Coast to Coast Park have been downgraded.   The top of the line is now the Premier park.  We went on line to try to find out what the difference was and the Coast to Coast site was uncharacteristically silent on the point.  Apparently since being bought by Good Sam, there is a different sheriff in town.  All the site will tell you is that you need to contact a Premier park directly to get the scoop.   So we did.  We ventured upstairs in the Activity building to the lair of Abita Springs sales staff to listen to the pitch and get the scoop.  Here it is.  Coast to Coast Premier members can go to Coast to Coast Parks for FREE.  That’s right folks … they are taking up the banner to compete with Thousand Trails and others.  That is Free without anything extra for “resort fees, 50 amp., wifi, or anything else.  Premier members get 21 days at a time free at other Premier parks, 14 days at Deluxe parks, and 7 days at Classic parks.  They can go park to park and can make reservations further out than you can!  Apparently, the cost to upgrade to this membership is different depending on your home park, but we were offered an upgrade for a whopping $11,200.00 … but wait … we have a discount for you of $2,000.00 because you are already a deluxe member … so you can get in for a fantastic price of only $9,2000.00 plus $695.00 a year in dues.   What could we do with such an overwhelmingly fair offer (read sarcasm here)?  We passed.  We use C2C parks at most around 100 days a year and currently pay $10.00 per night plus an average of $5.00 for extras.  At $15.00 a night that is $1500.00 per year.  When dues are added to the purchase price, we would not recoup our investment for 10.76 years.  By that time, undoubtedly, there will be a super premier program … and the dance goes on.

The Abita Springs Park itself was very pleasant.  We stayed for our 14-day max.  They offered 50 amp. for an additional $5.00 (the book says $4, but it was $5) and wifi for an extra $3 fee (we passed on the wifi, as we have our own) so we stayed for $15 a night ($210.00 for two weeks).  The park had experienced quite a bit of rain before we arrived and many days while we were there and yet stayed relatively well drained, considering.  Our site was very narrow and the roads were not exceptionally wide.  To make parking a bit more challenging, the park marks their site numbers with six-foot tall posts at the front of each site.  To get in we had to remove one of them and then replace it … don’t you get tired of folk who run RV parks that have never driven, or parked, a big rig?  Oh well, all was well that ended well.  Overall the park is clean and neat, there is a pool and an activity center.  The park has a cafeteria and offers meals on weekends.  We would definitely stay at this park again and we give it a solid 8 out of 10, taking off a couple of points for the narrowness of the sites.

In the Abita Springs area don’t miss the Camellia Café on Thursdays as they offer a 55% discount for seniors 55 and older.  Their food is Louisiana traditional with lots of seafood offerings, but a nice steak can also be had.  We splurged and order their bread pudding for dessert … it is served in a lovely rum sauce and topped with a thick layer of meringue …  Plan on waddling out if you eat this yummy treat.  Another restaurant in the area (Covington over on highway 190) is Copelands.  They are a bit more “high range” but offer some excellent selections.  Lynda enjoyed the “Shrimp Orleans” which consists of shrimp, smoked sausage, Andouille sausage and rice in a tomato-based Creole sauce.  Kim had a nice steak with a side of greens.  Both meals were excellent.

Abita Springs is located across the causeway over Lake Pontchartrain about 30 miles north of New Orleans.  It is a nice spot to stay and easily go into the city or visit other sites in the area.  As most of our readers know, there is plenty to do and see in New Orleans and one cannot possibly see it all in one gulp.  Some of the things we didn’t do were to take a river cruise to see the 1815 battle ground that made General Andrew Jackson a national hero (Kim had seen this on a previous trip and Lynda gets sea sick), go to the WWII museum, or visit one of the many spectacular cemeteries.  We did venture out to take a tour of the town on the Hop On Hop Off tour bus to get a general feel for the place (included the French Quarter, Business District, Garden District, and waterfront) and then walked around the French Quarter.  We ate jambalaya at Desire’s (delicious) and beignets with café au lait at Café du Monde located just off Jackson Square.  Here are some pictures from our adventures in New Orleans.

The Street Car still runs in New Orleans

Drove by the Superdome

WWII Museum

Beautiful Iron Works

Po Boy Place in the Garden District

Trees lining St. Charles Street

Beautiful homes in the Garden District

Warehouse where Mardi Gras floats are constructed

One of many churches

Neptune rules over the waterfront

Andrew Jackson

Take a carriage ride through the French Quarter

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

Inside the Cathedral

Beignets ... Yummmm!

We enjoy historic houses and tales of the past so one of the “must see” places for us was Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.  The plantation dates back to 1770 and was originally built by Alexander Latil.  The house was expanded in the 1820s by Wade Hampton and was further expanded in 1858 by John Burnside who expanded the plantation to 300,000 acres of sugar cane production.  Tours are offered and there are two restaurants on site, one for lunch and the other for dinner.  The current owner still lives on the property and the tours are excellent.  Unlike other houses we were invited to sit on the furniture and touch the contents.  We ate lunch at the Café Burnside which overlooks the luscious gardens and beautiful ancient live oak trees, some that are 600 years old.  We enjoyed Eggplant Napoleon which consists of deep fried eggplant rounds layered between lump crab meat in a saffron cream sauce.  We also enjoyed their praline butter made with raw cane syrup on homemade French bread …  Delicious!!  For you movie buffs, the house played host to the movie Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte starring Bette Davis.  We highly recommend this little side trip.  Here are some of our pictures.

Houmas House

Beautiful Live Oak Trees

Sorry didn't think about picture until it was almost gone ...

600 year old Live Oak

antique furniture

Live Oaks

Writing Chair

Bed next to floor to ceiling windows used for ventilation

Gardens at Houmas House

Cypress Floors connected without nails

More gardens

Lynda enjoys the gardens

We couldn’t come to Louisiana and not visit an Alligator Ranch.  Prior to alligator ranching and farming, the alligator was disappearing quickly from Louisiana due to over-hunting.  The state conducted a study of the situation and discovered that out of a clutch of 100 eggs only 6 hatchlings would grow to adulthood in the wild, with the loss of 94 individuals to predation.  It turns out that everything from turtles, to Cranes, to Owls, to snakes, to other alligators considers newly hatched alligator as a delicacy.  When that was added to the overharvesting of adults, the population declined rapidly.  The conservation solution is interesting and innovative.  The state figured that the best way to conserve the species was to make it economically beneficial to do so.   Alligator ranchers raid nests of alligators and take the entire clutch of 100+ eggs.  The adults will rebreed and lay more eggs.  The eggs are hand raised and all of them hatch.  The hatchlings are carefully cared for and raised until they are four or more feet long (big enough to survive without being a snack) and then 12 individuals are released into the wild (twice the previous survival rate).  The remaining individuals are raised for leather and meat thus insuring a profit to the rancher while at the same time increasing the numbers in the wild.  Today alligators are no longer a threatened species in Louisiana …  a tribute to a well-thought-out conservation program centered in capitalism.  Here are some pictures from the ranch.

Baby alligator

This one is no baby!

Gators in one of many temperature controlled pools.

Kim and Lynda hold a four footer ...  He's actually very soft.

A bit too large to hold comfortably

Our final stop was at the Creole Plantation: Laura.  Creoles are those individuals born in the French colony of Louisiana.  They tended to be wealthy and well educated.  They were catholic and usually received land grants from the French King (before the Louisiana Purchase by Thomas Jefferson).  The owner of a plantation would name the next “President” of the plantation.  He/She could name whomever they wished and did so without regard to birth placement (1st, 2nd, 3rd child etc.) or gender.  At this plantation both men and women served as President.  The plantation tour is a very different experience than Houmas House.  Creole culture and practice is emphasized and adds immensely to the experience.  In addition Laura Plantation was the location where the folktales of Compair Lapin were told within the 160 year-old cabins of west-African slaves.  These folktales when translated into English became known as The Tales of Br’er Rabbit.  Here are a few pictures.

Original owners of sugar cane plantation

Laura Plantation

Storage Jart

Bedroom/Office used by women Plantation  Presidents

Spinning Wheel

Slave Quarters where stories of Br'er Rabbit were told

Inside slave quarters

Lynda with Laura ... 

Gardens at Laura Plantation

One final item of note … One can never tell where the bizarre and the unusual will appear.  Lynda found this at Sam’s Club in Louisiana.   Yummm!

Yes ...  it says Pickled Pigs Lips!

Until next time …  Keep doing what you love.