<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 13
Little Log



Stephanie is one of those persons who can fit a lot of words onto a standard size postcard -- usually by writing sideways, around corners, and even upside down if she can find some extra space. Most of these go to family and friends. But some of them -- those which document our RV adventures -- find their way onto this portion of our website...

Postcard: Home Again, Home Again!

March 20, 1999

We had an uneventful trip home. The weather cooperated; no rain, little wind, bare and dry pavement all the way. We overnighted in Red Bluff, and then proceeded to Junction City, Oregon, home of Monaco and Country Coach, to tour their respective factories. There surely is a lot to learn!

The technical "stuff" is Tom's bailiwick, but I do know more now about such things as air bags, wheels (steel vs. aluminum), semi-monocoque or full monocoque construction, the pros and cons of welding or lag bolts, and a mystifying item called an echo charger. Do I sound like the proverbial "a little knowledge" person?

Inside the rigs, I was much more comfortable. I understand such things as the placement of pantries. I know whether I would prefer an over-under or side by side refrigerator and how many burners I want on a stove. I have new thoughts about and appreciation for hanging closets after our 3-month sojourn. However, I am still uncertain which coach I would choose if that decision were to be made today. Each coach I saw had different and more attractive features than the one before. They were all gorgeous. And we still have Alpine left on our visit list.

This morning we are on a very crowded ferry en route to our Island. A sunny Saturday and Spring Break have combined to bring out hundreds of tourists. I sit in the galley, (the only area with a free table for the computer), and watch the customer line snaking out of the galley and around the corner, as people order everything from coffee to nachos (at 9 in the morning!).

Our trip is over. We traveled 12, 337 miles in 85 days. This is 146.87 miles per day, with fuel economy of 13.49 mpg. We estimate that this mpg was with 90% of the miles being towing miles. In these 85 days, our longest stay was 6 days at Emerald Desert RV Resort, Palm Desert, CA. Had we known we would stay that long, we would have signed up for a week! Poor planning on our part.

In an hour or so we'll be home. Time to clean up yard debris from all those bygone winter storms. Time to visit with neighbors and find out what has happened since we left in December. Time to start the process of getting ready to spend a year on the road.

It will be a busy few months for both of us!

Postcard: Bakersfield Breakdown

March 15, 1999

We finally decided that we just had to go north. We packed up the bikes and golf clubs, dried out the swimwear, slid in the slideout and left Palm Desert. We hadn't gone 20 miles when we heard a popping sound, and 5th gear stopped working -- it was just like being in neutral. Pulling off the Interstate, we checked out the other gears. All worked fine as long as we didn't attempt 5th. So off we went, 200+ miles in 4th gear.

We pulled into the Bakersfield Orange Grove RV park early in the afternoon. The friendly check-in gal commiserated with our plight and told us that there had been others with automotive problems who "had been here a week" waiting to get them fixed. Oh dear!

So, this Ides of March found me sitting in our 5er while Tom went off to the Dodge dealership. It had started to rain and was colder than it had been for some time (or else we have become desert habitues).

But this cloud definitely had a silver lining. Tom came back with a rental car and off we went for breakfast. What had happened was not all that unusual, and, left unchecked, first 4th, then 3rd, 2nd and 1st gear would have been lost. So we were really lucky to have made it all the way here yesterday, and to the Dodge dealership today.

About noon, we stopped by to check on the progress of service, and to talk to the service manager. This individual was most considerate of the plight of the stranded motorist, and promised utmost efforts to get us back on the road. It was a very small part which had come loose, but of course it was located in the transmission -- lots of labor involved. And, equally easy to guess, there was no such part in stock -- it would have to be shipped up from Los Angeles. However, they were fairly sure that it would be in tomorrow and we could be on our way by mid-afternoon.

Meantime, we explored the surrounding area. The Haddad Dodge dealership is conveniently located on auto row, where there are all sorts of potential new tow vehicles for our as-yet-undecided-upon diesel pusher. We window shopped among Hondas, Jeeps and Saturns. There was also a large RV dealership right next door. Lots of time to look at RVs, talk to (and learn from) the various salesmen.

While we were talking and learning, the cell phone rang. Leslie, from Haddad's service dept. was calling to tell us that they had found the needed piece in stock, and, if we called her at 4 pm, she would see if we couldn't get the truck back tonight! The silver lining persisted, and now, instead leaving tomorrow afternoon, we will be on the road in the morning. Hurrah!

Postcard: The Other Side of the Sea

March 10, 1999

The Salton Sea. This, the largest inland surface water body in California, lies just 30 miles southeast of Palm Desert. We usually drive the west side of the Sea en route to El Centro and points east. Today we went exploring on the Eastern side.

Highway 111 travels through California desert farmland. Odd as it sounds, there are beautiful green farms out in this desert landscape. There are fields of lettuce, artichokes and vegetables I could not identify -- all in the process of being plowed, planted or picked. There are orange and grapefruit orchards, large clumps of date trees and the ever present vineyard.

The Salton Sea. As we approached from the north, it sparkled in the desert sunlight, beckoning us to visit the several campgrounds along the shore. The Sea is so big, 360 square miles, and 45 miles of highway, that it is a wonder that there is not more traffic. There are only a few small "towns", comprising very modest homes, some mobile homes and trailers, and the California Park Service campgrounds.

The Parks department has 5 campgrounds. Headquarters campground has 15 full hookup sites, and Mecca Beach has 4 with electricity and water in a campground of 109 developed sites. Corvina Beach, Salt Creek and Bombay Beach are on the shore of the lake and have only chemical toilets.

The Salton Sea. The birding is reportedly wonderful, and even as we drove rapidly along, it was easy to spot flotillas of pelicans, California and Western gulls, herons and eared grebes. The parks department has a birdlist which is free to anyone who requests it.

The Salton Sea. There are a lot of misconceptions about the cleanliness of the water that the department is trying correct. It is not contaminated with raw sewage. The New River, coming out of Mexico, does have a contamination problem, but by the time it gets to the Sea, the bacteria is no longer viable. The biggest problem the Sea has in this area is its salinity, and this problem is being addressed by such agencies as the Salton Sea Authority.

The Salton Sea. It isn't quite heaven. It is beautiful to look at and ugly to smell. Not the odor emanating from the electrical generating plant in Niland, nor the occasional odor from the waste products of the animals, fish, algae, etc. which can occur when there is a temperature inversion in the area. Today, as on our one previous trip along this shoreline, the odor was of rotting fish. And no wonder. Scattered like driftwood along the beaches, ignored by the gulls, were thousands of tilapia corpses. Tilapia is an African perch, introduced into the canals as an algae eater. It dies when the water is too warm. It dies when the water is too cold. It washes up on the otherwise beautiful beaches, and discourages shoreside camping. But the odor is not noticeable until you actually walk on the beach. Hike on the nature trails, stay in a non-beach campground, and you probably will not know that the shoreline is littered with dead fish. If this could be cleaned up, I would camp there in a minute -- on the shores of the beautiful blue Salton Sea.

It was a beautiful desert day for a drive. We have been postponing our return to the rainy, windy Pacific NW for just as long as we can, but the day is soon coming when we will have to go home. Then we can look out at the gray skies, and watch the rain fall, and remember the brilliant sparkle of the Salton Sea.

Postcard: Bicycle Begone!

February 28, 1999

We are staying at the Desert Trails RV Resort in El Centro for a couple of nights. This park surrounds a golf course, has a nice pool, lots of activities, and, in season, it can be hard to get a site. So we counted ourselves lucky when, by calling ahead, we were able to book one.

The number of bicycles here is astounding. The golfing group all have hitches on their bikes, and go off to the course towing their clubs. And everybody leaves everything out! Walk around the park in the evening --bicycles are not locked and are parked by the sides of the rigs. Golf clubs are ready for their morning game -- and also left outside. There is a Security person, whose unit is parked near the entrance, and is prominently marked Security. Safe place, yes?

Not necessarily. But thinking so, we left our bikes out last night, unlocked, not even "hidden" behind the fiver. This morning we were the owners of only one bicycle -- Tom's. Mine had disappeared.

Although we were certain that it would not be found in the Park, Tom rode around to check. He stopped by security only to learn that, between the hours of midnight and 6 am, there isn't any. We also found that our campsite was probably the most vulnerable in the park. Anyone walking up the drive to the park, (no gate), and slipping in beside the office, would walk right into our site. And there was my bike, parked conveniently under the overhang of the fiver.

The park management could not have been nicer. They called the police to report the theft, and the police arrived promptly. Asked to describe my bike, I was chagrinned at my lack of descriptive powers. A blue woman's Trek, 21 gears, orange lettering -- it could be any one of thousands of bikes. Add to that the fact that most bikes are stripped down for parts and/or repainted, and I am sadly aware that I will probably not see it again.

Lesson learned. No matter how safe a place appears, from now on, I will take at least reasonable precautions. At night, if I do not lock my bike (and, at some time in the future, I probably won't), I will at very least put it in a place where a thief will have to walk around the rig to get at it. That doesn't help this time, but from now on I vow to be very careful.

Postcard: Challenges and Choices

February 19, 1999

Every full-timer has faced the innumerable challenges and choices which go with a change in life style. People write about it, there are seminars given on it, but there is nothing like doing it yourself. Tom and I have decided to lease the house and commit ourselves to a year on the road.

Now it's our turn to make some choices. We have decided to move from our fiver to a diesel pusher. So off we went to an RV show in Casa Grande to look at different makes and models. We decided before we arrived to keep our minds as neutral as possible. Not an easy thing to do.

Tom is in charge of the engine choice, chassis, transmission type, etc. decisions. I look mainly at the inside -- where is the table placed, where I will put the pots and pans, the sheets and towels -- things like that. There are a lot of options.

There were many different coaches represented at the show. We looked at Fleetwood, Holiday Rambler, Safari, Monaco, Alpine and Country Coach. At Country Coach, we got some good advice from the manufacturer's representative, Kevin Atkinson. He suggested going to the service department of the various companies at 5 in the afternoon. Having spent a fair amount of time in service departments over the years, we thought this an excellent plan.

For a couple of hours, we climbed into and out of gorgeous rigs. We opened drawers and closet doors. We looked at different floor plans and color schemes. Long used to the great amount of under-the-bed storage in our fiver, I attempted to see what was under the bed in a diesel pusher. Imagine my surprise, (and embarrassment), when I was finally able to lift a bed, and what was under it is the diesel that pushes it! But storage should not be a problem. Under every coach there is so much room that right now it doesn't look like we would ever fill it.

From the RV show, we drove into Phoenix to the Earnhardt dealership. Here Mike Simmons, Internet and Fleet Manager, also gave us some tips on what to look for as we explore our motor coach choices. Again, we went in and out of coaches, finding things we had missed at the show. We had not noticed that many rigs have a carpeted piece of flooring which covers the top of the exit stairs. What a good idea!

We have not decided anything yet, but, after all, yesterday was only our first day. Now we will visit some factories -- several are conveniently located on our trip north. Then we will try to make up our minds. We had better get good at this, for there are going to be a lot of decisions to make in the coming months. But what excitement!

Postcard: Developing Arizona -- Views from Three Towns

February 15, 1999

We are staying at a brand new RV Resort in Benson, AZ, for a couple of nights. This is a great place from which to explore the surrounding countryside, so today we took a loop trip revisiting three towns we haven't seen in some years. What a difference!

We took Highway 90 south from Benson toward Sierra Vista, a place I remember as having one small mall and a scattering of homes. The road travels through the pinyon spotted hills of the Whetstone Mountains on the west, and the peaks of Cochise Stronghold to the east. South you look down the valley toward Mexico. Within a few miles you pass the entrance to the Kartchner Caverns. These are caves in the process of being opened, a little at a time. There are great plans to keep them as pristine as possible, even including misting the clothing of visitors, so they do not dry out and ruin the cavern walls over time. Unfortunately, although advertisements and billboards tout the Caverns, they are not yet open, and may not be for some time, at least until some of the political controversies surrounding them are ended.

Ten miles before we got to Sierra Vista, we started encountering construction. The road is under construction, being widened to four lanes. The surrounding countryside is under construction, malls and gated communities being built or are signed as "coming soon". Homes are springing up everywhere; some seem glued to the hillsides with barely enough room for their foundations. The altitude -- Sierra Vista is above 5000 feet, the activities -- hiking, birding, etc., and the proximity of Fort Huachuca, have contributed to this town being one of the fastest growing in the state.

South of town, we got back in the desert again. Here came the Canyons, where wildlife viewing is reported as wonderful. Ramsay, Carr, French Joe -- all beckon the hiker or birder. We drove up Ramsay Canyon, to find at the end an Arizona wildlife refuge. The sign said no vehicles over 18 feet, and our truck is 22, so we turned around without exploring further. Next time, with a smaller vehicle...

The road from Sierra Vista wanders through countryside largely unchanged from our last visit, until we drew near Bisbee. We sidetracked to the small town of Naco, 10 miles south, which sits right on the Mexican border. Here there is an interesting looking RV park across the street from a golf course, quite busy on this holiday weekend. Then off to see what the years had done to Bisbee.

Entering from the south, we drove through Bisbee, the mine town, the Copper Queen branch of Phelps Dodge. Here small homes are literally at the bottom of the open pit mine. They are surrounded with high dirt and rock walls of the most incredible hues -- pinks, greens, yellows, reds, grays, every conceivable color. It is beautiful, and more than a little eerie.

Further on, is Bisbee, the tourist town. It is a charmer, cornerstoned by the red and green Copper Queen hotel, with narrow streets running every which way up the area's gullies. There are many more tourists now, packing the streets and filling up the RV parks. There are innumerable artist studios, doing a brisk business today. There are more stores, selling everything from postcards to mine tours. Again, our truck size precluded us from a grand Bisbee tour.

Up the hill behind Bisbee, through the Mule Pass tunnel, and into a different world. As soon as we emerged from the tunnel, we were back in desert country again, and off to Tombstone.

Tombstone has changed the least of the three in the last few years. It has always been a tourist town, with gunfights on the hour, and stagecoach and buckboard rides through town. But even here, there are more homes being built, and potential building sites are being advertised. The neighboring town of Gleeson has noticeably grown.

Each of these three towns has seen the inevitable changes that the years bring. Each has its own personality, attractions, and reasons to visit. For the wildlife watching and for the history, each is well worth a visit. We will be back, in a smaller vehicle, soon.

Postcard: The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail

February 9, 1999

We are glad to be out of big cities. After almost a week in Houston, which stay included a tin can (air) trip to Los Angeles, and a larger, more enjoyable tin can (rail) trip back, we are off to explore the towns on the Gulf Coast.

We left Houston on US Highway 59, (interstate, really) and headed southwest. About 50 miles out of town, we headed due south toward the Gulf and the town of Palacios. Here we joined the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Binoculars came out of their case, eyes were peeled toward the sea or the marshes. I was ready.

As we travel along, Tom is always the one who spots the unusual bird. Generally, he sees what I miss, and then describes it as "larger than a robin, but green". Somehow, I never see his birds. But this time, he found one hawk sized, black and white and red on top -- a Crested Caracara. The bird obligingly left his road kill cafe and perched on a nearby fence post to be admired. Next were some Sandhill Cranes feeding in a pasture. This Trail has promise!

We were headed for the Goose Island State Park, just outside Rockport. We were here about 8 years ago, and remembered it as having wonderful Bayside sites right on Aransas Bay, as well as many wooded sites, where there are trees on three sides of your rig. The years have only changed this wonderful camping spot in one respect -- now you need a reservation at this time of year. We were in overflow, which meant the parking lot of the picnic area. Not too bad, there were only 4 rigs in it, all spaced out. The wind off the Gulf was sultry and warm, and the biking and the birding terrific.

We unloaded our bikes and took off toward the Bay. There was quite a commotion going on at the fish cleaning station, and we paused to see what the racket was. The fishermen were filleting their catch and throwing the fish left-overs to a crowd of very noisy Pelicans. One bird would catch the fish, and the rest would bombard him, trying to get him to give it up. They would peck at his pouch, trying to get him to open his beak. The poor bird would either give in, or if he was lucky, be able to paddle away while the rest went back for the next fish. Add to that racket the screaming of the Laughing Gulls overhead, all thinking it was their turn to be fed.

Fishing seems excellent here. There are several small boat launching ramps, and a very long pier at the end of the Bayside camping area. The bay has some shallow spots, there was even one person who had waded out and was casting from the shallows. Along the edge of the campground, there were lines of poles set in rod holders which had been staked into the ground. The fishermen cast their lines in the bay, set the poles in the holders, and wait.

But you better know your Texas fish. Each kind has its own size and catch limit. You can catch Redfish, Speckled trout, Black drum and Sheepshead (white?). We talked to a fisherman from Colorado who said the speckled trout were far better than the trout at home. We have eaten redfish on our trip and found it delicious. We have yet to try the others.

Without sounding like a birder's checklist, I can only say that the range of birds is simply spectacular. Tri colored herons, reddish egrets and the omnipresent Laughing Gulls made my "firsts" list. And, taking first prize, Black bellied Whistling Ducks -- five of them on a nearby pond. Gotta love this Trail!

After sampling the bayside, we cycled through the woodland area. Here there was a short trail which promised good birding, but due to the time of day (mid - afternoon), was fairly quiet. When we thought we had reached the end of the trail, Tom turned back. I planned on walking down the campground streets to meet him.

But it was not the end of the trail, though this last section may be less traveled. At least the snake thought so. Rounding a turn I came upon a fairly large snake at the side of the trail. It was chocolate colored, with markings in a reddish tinge. And it would not move. I am not generally afraid of snakes, (though I hold the unofficial world's record at "running across the tops of rocks after startling a rattlesnake"), but Texas does have its fair share of poisonous ones. I tossed a small branch at the snake, and it struck at the branch. Terrific. I got on the other side of the trail, and moved very rapidly past. So much for bravery. Returning to the Visitor Center, I could find no one who knew just what kind it was, so it remains a mystery.

Tomorrow will find us en route to Port Aransas. We will trail 30 miles down the road, and across Aransas Pass by ferry. From here we plan on exploring North Padre Island and Mustang Island State Park, as well as the coastal towns. We will come back to Goose Island State Park on our next Texas trip, this time with a reservation.

Postcard: Cajun, Carnival and Crayfish

January 30, 1999

There was so much rain last night that we were a bit concerned about the condition of the secondary roads in the area. Concern about flooded roads, and given our penchant for getting lost, it seemed a good idea to stick to the Interstate and US highways. That's how we found Eunice.

Eunice, LA is about halfway between Baton Rouge and the Texas border, on U.S. Highway 190. It is the home of the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. That much we learned from the map. A stop at the Center, and we will definitely return to this small town.

The museum showcases the story of the Acadians, those French Canadians unlucky enough to be caught between the French in the Ontario and Quebec areas of Canada, and the British in the Colonies. The half hour movie on their story, one I had never heard before, was both interesting and tragic. Since they would not swear allegiance to England, because of the strategic importance of their home, and because they were French Catholics, they were exiled. From Acadia (Nova Scotia), 10,000 men, women and children were sent away, to different the colonies, into South America, and back to Europe. And they were not sent as families, but broken up -- often men to one place, women and children to others. Eventually, some of them came to Spanish owned Louisiana. By the time they settled here, more than half had died from the hardships of displacement and relocation.

The museum is devoted to the lives of these folks, their music, their dress, their cuisine and home lives. The exhibits are in English, with French words thrown in -- just enough to give flavor to the exhibits, not enough to make them incomprehensible.

The icing on the cake of this visit, however, was NPS person Vincent Fontenot. A Cajun himself, he is terrifically knowledgeable about the history of the area -- not only how the Cajuns got to Eunice, but also their Mardi Gras celebrations.

New Orleans has Carnival. It lasts a couple of weeks, and is well known for its parades and parties. Eunice, and the surrounding towns of Mamou and Basile, have the Courir de Mardi Gras, the running of Mardi Gras, the traditional way of celebrating it. Long ago, the period just before Lent was one of hunger for the French peasants. This was not the season of plenty -- far from it. So they had to beg for food. They were a proud folk, and therefore covered their faces with wire mesh masks and the sort of hat worn by the ladies of the court in Medieval times. Thus disguised, they could beg and still keep their identities secret.

On the Tuesday before Lent, Fat Tuesday ("Mardi Gras"), at 8 in the morning, nearly a thousand men and boys will leave Eunice in traditional Mardi Gras costume, and run through the countryside. They will stop at various farms and beg for food. The food can be anything from sausages to cheese, but traditionally it is a large, live chicken. The farmer throws the bird in the air, and the men try to catch it. Through barbed wire, through crayfish holding ponds, through the barnyards, they chase the chicken. When caught, it is returned to town to become part of the evening's feast. Since one of the benefits of being on this run is all the Boudin (sausage) and beer you want, it is easy to see just how crazy this can get.

Meantime, the city has music -- Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop -- traditional crafts and cooking demonstrations. There is a children's walking parade, the world's largest King Cake and an afternoon Mardi Gras Parade. The emphasis is on families, there is something for everyone.

As we left the Center, I happened to ask a question over which I have been puzzling since we came to Louisiana. I noticed small piles of hard mud in many person's front yards as we drove through many small towns. Does Louisiana have an incredible mole or gopher problem? No, they have a "crayfish population". In the winter, crayfish, which I thought only lived in ponds, dig through a lawn after water. (It isn't hard to find water in this state in the winter!) Coming to the surface, they leave a "crayfish chimney". If you enclose that part of your yard where the chimneys appear, you can make a crawfish pond, and enjoy the results. At the end of the season, drain the pond, and the crawfish will go back into the ground to reproduce and wait until the next season. If you do not enclose them, they will "migrate" -- leave your yard for the nearest water, never to return. I have asked three people about this, and they all have the same explanation, so perhaps this isn't just tourist baiting, but it still seems "fishy" to me.

So soon we will be off to Houston, with a business plane trip to Los Angeles and a return by train in store. We have arranged to store the rig and board the dog for a couple of days. Then homeward bound, very slowly, first along the Gulf Coast, then back toward Borrego Springs. But we are in no hurry, and will see where we go -- when we get there.

Postcard: Casino Camping

January 29,1999

We finally ran out of good weather. We knew it was going to happen, as the TV Weather Channel told us so. The coverage from this Channel gets better the further east you go. Not to say it completely disregards the Northwest, but...

Anyway, we are expecting a lot of rain, wind and possible tornadoes. It didn't seem a good idea to stay at Chicot State Park, even though it has a beautiful campground with wide spaces, hiking trails and fishing on Chilcot Lake. Instead, we opted for cement, and full hookups. We found a place perfect for our purposes.

We are riding out this two (I hope) day storm at the Grand Casino Avoyelles' RV Resort, in Marksville, LA. The Resort is very new; the restrooms are pristine, the laundry is spotless, and the reception area sparkles. It is inexpensive -- two nights for the price of one, plus a Good Sam discount. And, although we are not much into gambling, there is the casino.

The casino doesn't miss us much. The place is full of gamblers. You cannot find an empty 5 cent slot machine (though there are quite a few empty 10 dollar machines). There seem to be at least a half dozen tour busses in the parking lot at all times, but that lot is located far enough away from the RV park to make noise no problem.

We managed to get ourselves lost again yesterday afternoon. We arrived at the resort, detached, and took off to explore a nearby wildlife area. We were given what seemed extremely explicit instructions, but managed to go in exactly the wrong direction. Tom swears that our next exploration of the back roads of this state will be made with GPS in hand!

I have new respect for Louisiana rain. Go outside, and it's like standing under a hose! Just when I think it cannot rain any harder -- it rains harder. The thunder and lightening is passing, (so far), to the west of us, but the storm is headed east. This has changed our plans to visit Vicksburg, MS tomorrow. If we head west, with luck we should get out of the storm pattern more quickly. So now we plan to head west toward Lake Charles and another casino park, to wait out the storm and watch the Super Bowl. Then we'll slowly trek West.

Postcard: Lost in Louisiana... or, We've seen a lot of Bayou Teche

January 26, 1999

We had always wanted to visit Avery Island and see the Tabasco factory, so we extended our stay and planned a loop trip. We did not factor in the Louisiana road system.

We traveled 25 miles south from this KOA to Abbeville, then took Highway 14 toward New Iberia. We detoured to Jefferson Island and the Rip Van Winkle Gardens. The entry road to this lovely antebellum plantation is flanked by old oak trees, festooned with the Spanish Moss we are beginning to expect on these stately trees. Past the oaks, the level grounds went on for acres. Time constraints and the length of the tour line kept us from actually touring the house and immediate grounds, but from what we could see, it would be well worth a return visit.

We drove south on Highway 90, and took what we assumed was the correct road to Avery Island. We had to wind through a bit of construction, and we must have missed the turn, for we found ourselves at the Port of New Iberia. It is a very interesting port, where the offshore rigs are repaired, but every area is "Hard Hat", and most are closed, and it wasn't where we wanted to be, anyway. Looking at the map, we decided that if we just went back a short distance and took a hard left, Avery Island would magically materialize.

Lesson #1. Distances which seem short on the map, are really far further.

Lesson #2. Louisiana roads are numbered for those locals who already know where they are going. If you don't know where you are going, the road will be unmarked, or marked with a number not on your map. Getting lost is a distinct possibility.

But luck was with us this time. In about 5 miles, we turned on an unmarked road (we were looking for # 329), which eventually led to Avery Island. We took the short tour, complete with movie on how the pepper sauce is made, and a got a glimpse of the assembly line. Thousands of bottles of different sizes being filled, capped and labeled, being watched by several persons whose job is to see that they are filled to capacity, capped correctly and labeled evenly.

The Company Store was fascinating. There are tasting areas, where you can dip a chip into all sorts of sauces, from kind of mild to exceedingly HOT! They have worchestershire, red and green sauces and barbeque sauces. You can buy aprons, hot mitts, T-shirts and caps, (I was tempted by the green cap with the alligator just about to bite a whole bottle of habenero hot sauce).They have candy, chili and glassware.There are stuffed alligators and cute red peppers with faces -- just right for small children Every visitor gets one free 1/8 oz. bottle of Tabasco. We got a bottle of their garlic basting/marinade sauce, and signed up for their catalog.

In addition to the factory tour and the company store, there is a jungle garden with a bird sanctuary where you can walk on the trails beneath the oaks. Here you can see those pepper plants which have been selected as seed plants for the next year's crop. But it was getting late, and we felt we should be getting back. Just as well, because we were just about to turn getting lost into a science.

I might have been a bit at fault, too. I did not notice that Highway 86 entered New Iberia in two places, and that the road we wanted was on the more northern part. Therefore we took the road the first time we crossed it and spent the next 30 miles crossing Bayou Teche.

We first encountered this lovely Bayou in New Iberia. We passed through areas of lovely old homes, set on huge acreages with the omnipresent oak trees. We admired the "Shadows on the Teche" antebellum home. We soon discovered that we were going in the wrong direction, as the road began to wander through every point on the compass. We kept finding roads which were not on the map. "Where does Road 344 go?" "It isn't on the map". It wasn't until we had crossed Bayou Teche three times that we came to Loreauville and I could tell where we were. But I wasn't sure how to tell Tom. Right about now, I looked more carefully at the map and saw the trick that Highway 86 had pulled. Oh Oh! Tom was very nice about it, but I felt a bit less than smart.

Loreauville was "on the Teche". So was St, Martinville. So was Parks. So was Beaux Bridge. The towns were charming and the Bayou lovely, and we were no longer lost, but were a lot further from the KOA than we had intended.

Back safely, and tomorrow headed for the "hills". Out of the cities and towns and back into the country. We are ready. I only hope I don't get us lost agin.