Frozen alligator filets
Yummm! Tastes like chicken.

 

Having traveled through much of The South now, I can confidently say, southerners do strange things with alligators. First, they eat them. This must take a great deal of effort, and considering the fact that it tastes like chicken (actually it’s a cross between chicken and frogs legs—which taste like chicken) it seems like more work than it’s worth.

For one thing, chickens can’t eat you while you’re trying to catch them. In fact, they willingly waddle over to any human who calls them to a meal. They don’t even seem to be suspicious that they might be the main course, no matter how many of their friends and family have disappeared lately. Alligators, on the other hand, seem offended at the very presence of humans even if they come with alligator food.

Secondly, chickens have skin you can eat, thus saving you the time of removing it. I have yet to see anything saying “Deep Fried Alligator Rind” down here, although I imagine it’s been attempted. The advantage of alligator, I suppose, is that, after you’re done killing it, you get to decorate your walls with what’s left. But only if you live in the south where they don’t think that’s strange.

Alligator heads for sale
Alligator wall hanging anyone?

 

There’s also the added bonus that alligators make purses, hats, boots, and other clothing, but I think the southerners send most of that up to New York. Decorating with alligator heads is apparently politically correct, but I didn’t see anyone wearing it.

Speaking of wearing things, southerners seem to be cold in any temperatures lower than 90 degrees. At one meeting, it was easily 75 or 80 in the back room where we met for the Chinese language. And there were two non-old people wearing coats. Everywhere we went, there were coats while we were ready to go swimming. It’s a good thing they are comfortable in higher temperatures, because when we left it was 90 degrees and getting hotter.

As we drove north, we thankfully crossed what they call the “gnat line.” and could finally go outside without a gnat or two struggling to extricate itself from our eyelashes. After spending a few days within the gnat zone, I can’t imagine how Pharaoh made it past the gnats without surrendering. I would definitely have preferred frogs. At least you can eat them. Actually, you can eat gnats too, but not on purpose.

Just before we left the area with the worst gnats, a sister let me in on the secret of gnat repelling. She stuck out her arms, rubbed her skin and said, “barbecue sauce!” No wonder I was hungry at every meeting.

 

Here I am again.  I'm glad Julie has been keeping the blog updated.  I've had other things keeping me busy lately.  Besides I think once a week is probably a better posting frequency.

This one is going to be less exuberance and just more what we've been doing.  I hope you find it interesting.

I recently realized that Google keeps track of my travels every day so I don't have to.  I had started keeping a trip log so I wouldn't forget where I'd been and when but Google keeps a much better version.  I'm not sure what to think of a company having so much information on me, but it's convenient.

 

Jaden pets Pablo as we pass oil tankers in the harbor
Lots of oil tankers near the massive refinery network at Port Arthur

On May 3, we made our way from Sea Rim to Baton Rouge.  Along the way we had alerts popping up on our phones about flooding.  It's the first time Google has alerted me of anything other than a traffic incident on the highway, and it was a little scary.  We did some quick checking online to see which areas were expected to be affected.  We did happen to be in an affected area but fortunately the highway (aptly named) wasn't subject to flooding.  I snapped some photos out the window as we drove past Lake Charles.  That city was the subject of news reports as many were stranded by the high water.  We could see flooding a foot or two deep on roads right next to the highway.

We enjoyed our brief visit in Baton Rouge very much.  Capital Heights also has a Chinese group.  There weren't any Chinese people at the meeting we attended but we were impressed how hard the local brothers work to keep up with the parts on the Treasures from God's Word part of the meeting.  We rejoined the rest of the congregation for the balance of the meeting.  One of the parts was an update on the LDC.  The brother handling the part expressed appreciation for the help the LDC had provided to those in the local area who suffered so many property losses in the recent floods.  I don't even remember hearing about those, but our own very recent experience impressed on us what it must have been like for them.  What a privilege to see (or at least hear firsthand reports about) our brotherhood in action.

We had originally planned to visit New Orleans, but before we left Baton Rouge we learned that the two-week jazz festival was in progress.  Besides Mardi Gras, it's the biggest yearly event in New Orleans.  Not being fond of crowds, we decided to bypass the city this time.  Besides, we're not typical tourists so the main attractions of New Orleans didn't entice us.  On the other hand, I recently listened to an NPR story about the lower ninth ward and I wanted to see that for myself.  On second thought that part of town looked like neither a good place to park an RV nor even a good place to drive one through, so we decided not to stop.

By the way, if you ever go to Baton Rouge, make sure you stop to eat at Parraine's.  You'll be glad you did.  We are.

Eating on the patio at Parraine''s in Baton Rouge

Another shot of the patio at Parraine''s

"The whole shebang" - a cornucopia of Lousiana flavors

The Whole Shebang - Gumbo, shrimp, catfish, even alligator!

On Star Wars day (May 4) we made it to Mississippi.  We stayed overnight at a rest stop.  It was actually a very nice one.  That's pretty much the extent of our experience with Mississippi (See also Texas).

We spent just enough time in a few strategically chosen spots to get a taste. A bluebird would have to move fast to stay on my shoulder, but everything certainly was satisfactual.

Friday we whizzed through Alabama and Florida.  We didn't stop anywhere to speak of, just kept on cruising.  I've visited Florida once before, so I know a bit about what it's like.  Hot and humid.  Not my cup of tea.

Well, we actually did stop for a while in Mobile, Alabama.  When we stopped to use the laundromat there we noticed a truck-sized bay at the nearby do-it-yourself car wash.  So we gave Humpty Dumpty a bath.  He really needed it, especially with all the bugs that were by this time embedded in the paint at the front of the vehicle.  It took me a couple hours but I got rid of the bugs and got a fresh coat of wax on to prevent such a thing from happening again.

Shiny clean front of motorhome with the wash bay in the background
Bugs gone, and shine back

After we finished the waxing and the laundry we hit the road and computed we'd spent $10 on laundry -- about half the cost of a night at the campsites we've stayed at.  With our little portable washing machine we decided the campsite is the better way to go.  But at least we got to see Mobile for a couple hours.  Mobile is very pretty, especially the part facing the bay.

Photo of Mobile bay ripped shamelessly off a random web site

My Google trail for May 5 ends without an endpoint because we were still driving at midnight.  We decided to get as close to Leesburg as possible before putting Humpty into park and hitting the sack.  We stopped at a Wal-Mart in Albany, Georgia.  Little did we know we would be spending quite a bit of time in and around Albany.  Leesburg is much closer than the five miles on the map.  Lee County line is right next to Albany and the old Leesburg Kingdom Hall is actually in Albany.  I say "old" because it's still there, but not used for meetings anymore.  More LDC involvement here: This year, the congregations that met here were merged in with those that share the double hall in the South of Albany. They also had some tornadoes come through just four months ago.  One jumped over the Kingdom Hall and ripped out a huge swath of trees right behind it.  Of course the LDC is helping the brothers who suffered from that as well.  Fortunately none of our brothers were hurt.

We did a little sightseeing in Leesburg on May 6.  

A sign that says Leesburg.  And Luke Bryan.
This is the only sign of Luke Bryan we saw in Leesburg.

The next day we joined the Century congregation for their meeting.  Leesburg is in their territory, and unlike the congregations we visited last week, they don't have a Chinese group.  Yet.  I did meet a zealous young pioneer brother named Darius with an interest in Chinese.  Darius and his mother and brother are now our good friends, as is Brother Marshall who conducted the Watchtower study that day.  We felt right at home there.  Julie and I also enjoyed getting to know Sister Jones who we worked with in service after the meeting.  We also joined them for service Monday morning.  We were sad when it was time to leave.  It's a good feeling to be welcomed so warmly by people we just met.

We spent the first two nights at Wal-Mart but the last two we spent at the old Leesburg KH.  It's shaded on all sides and we were given permission to hook up our water hose, which was great since we were having some water pump issues at the time.  

The welcome we received might have curbed our determination to head Northward except the weather turned up the heat on us again.  Remember how we had to beat the heat in Arizona?  We've had quite the series of rainstorms since then to cool us off.  I've already mentioned the storms in New Mexico and the tornadoes that simultaneously hit East Texas. Of course the storms we encountered in Louisiana kept things cool there and for the following several days as we made our way eastward.  But this week the forecast was for more hot weather.  Hot for us, that is, not hot for Georgia.  We had no inclination to see how hot the South can get.

As you know if you've been following us this far, our next big destination was Raleigh, NC.  (We removed our Virginia stop to give us more time here.)  Rather than go the whole way in one sprint we found a campground along the way at Aiken, South Carolina.  Pine Acres campground turned out to be a nice place to make a pit stop.  We finally got our water pump issue and a bunch of other things buttoned down.

Pine Acres campground with sign saying "Repo center" underneath

A nice little campground right off the highway.  Super reasonably priced, and very quiet.  I don't know what the repo housing thing is.  We didn't budge from our campsite for an entire day.  But by the next day the RV was shipshape.

Should we stay in Aiken another night or head to Raleigh?  Another glance at the local weather reports told us, guess what?  More rainstorms coming.  To Raleigh, not to Aiken.  So northward we go.

As we got further north the skies began to cloud up which was helpful since we've had some problems with the generator during the last few days.  We think we may have got a tankful of bad gas and clogged the fuel filter.  The sun does a great job charging our batteries but also really warms the place up.  Add mid 80s temperatures and you've got a hotbox.  But with the sun hiding behind clouds it was bearable with the windows down.

We had already arrived in Raleigh when the rain started to fall.  We watched the May broadcast inside as the rain poured outside and the lightning lit up the sky.  It reminded us of the night in Baton Rouge when we didn't dare walk across the parking lot during the heaviest part of the downpour.  It was glorious.

Next post:  Our stay in Raleigh, and the home stretch!

A big advantage of having a motor home instead of a fifth wheel is that you are in your home while you're traveling. So we don't need fast food, we always have our toothbrushes, and we drive right by the rest areas.

A big problem with having a motor home is you are in your home while you're traveling. So I occasionally move around, make lunch for the family, fetch things, or nap. But none of these things are as easy as they used to be, because anything I do must be done at a speed meant only for cheetahs and animals trying to avoid being eaten by cheetahs. It makes lunch an interesting preparation experience and a nap about as restful as a trip to the gym. I’ll let you know if it results in my getting into better shape.

So far, the cat and the dog have lost weight from learning to balance on the move. After a little practice, the cat has become quite good at sitting on the dashboard with his leg in the air, but every once in a while, he flies off the dashboard with his tongue still out. The dog, on the other hand, couldn’t stay on his feet when we were perfectly still, so I don’t expect he’ll get any better at it. This does not stop him from trying to walk around, but it is quite entertaining.

I keep thinking I’ll get used to the movement, like getting sea legs.

I’m still waiting.

Gussy riding shotgun
This looks like a relaxed dog. It's actually a falling dog. The RV was sitting still at the time.

For Ed and me, it was pretty easy to get rid of almost everything we owned. For Jadelyn, it was a bit harder. Teenagers tend to link their identities with their stuff, and getting rid of it is like cutting off their arms. But Sis did admirably, selling, donating, and giving away much of what she once held dear. This is partly because she saw the space she had to store it in and didn’t like picturing herself buried in all the teen artifacts.

One thing we did keep was all the stuffed animals and, of course, Pascha. He’s been Jadelyn’s baby since she was a year old. Over the years he has been relegated to a more background position in the house, but he is still very much there. I’m not sure it wouldn’t feel like losing MY arm if we lost Pascha.

Sissy taking a picture of Pascha
Pascha goes everywhere with us and has gathered quite a collection of memorable moments. Here he is at Multnomah Falls.

Pascha, on the other hand, takes the loss of arms, legs, and even his head in stride. He keeps smiling as we pop the parts back on to his tattered body. When Little Sissy decided to put “eye drops” in his eyes, well...it didn’t matter to him that it was Crazy Glue. He just winks and smiles.

Pascha doesn’t take up much room except in our hearts. This is not the case with Mna-Mna. There was no getting rid of him. You might think having a six-foot bear in a small space would be inconvenient and you’d be right. But he does have some uses. For one thing, Pablo is in love with Mna-Mna.

Mna-Mna and Sis with Pablo

 

So is Gus-Gus.

Gussy and Mna-Mna

Mna-Mna is also very good at dodging drafts as well as heat. Put him in front of any window, and the temperature almost immediately changes for the better. He’s ridiculously comfortable to sit on, lay on, lean on, or wrap yourself in. And when one of us is sad, Mna-Mna is always there with a soft shoulder, arm, or big paw. He’s like a sweater, blanket, insulation, animal bed, and pillow all rolled into one. He’s pretty much the most useful thing we’ve brought with us.

Gussy and Mna-Mna