Beryl Staves’ Journey, Page 3

Continues from Beryl Staves’ Journey, Page 2

Final day… Journey’s end arriving in Mesa, Arizona… 

[Be sure to check back this winter, as our friend Beryl will be taking periodic trips!]

Ooops! – forgot – yesterday I passed thorugh my first Border Patrol check point ( there are lots of them down here) and once again I was waved through with a “Thank you Ma’am”. I may look like a sweet little old lady, but how do you know I’m not smuggling half a dozen Mexican pool boys in the back of the van? It could happen (not in my life time, but it could happen!) !!!  Seriously, I could easily get 6 Mexican pool boys into the back of this vehicle and hide them with the suitcases !!!!

I love driving across the high desert…lots of thinking time… the road is a horizontal plumb line !!  I stopped to pick up coffee, and saw a sign advertising the breakfast special of chorizo and eggs ! Really? Chorizo is one of my favourite food groups! I have resisted (for now).
I love crossing the high desert for so many reasons …  it’s like crossing Saskatchewan and yet not !! Both areas are flat with plenty of room to swing a cat. In SK, either side of the road has fields of wheat, canola and flax, and cattle. In Arizona, I see mountains in every direction, clumps of pear cactus, scrub brush, and signs saying “possible dust storms for the next 30 miles”….and follow-up signs telling the traveller what to do next! (move to the side of the road and turn off your lights) I find these instructions a bit odd. I was caught in one of these dust storms last spring, and they happen so fast, the chances of finding the side of the road are iffy..but I do know for a fact you turn off your lights so some other vehicle doesn’t think you are still on the road, and hit you.

I also think about the early settlers who would have picked a point in the distance, and trudged towards it. The flatness would certainly have been a relief from the mountains they would have to endure the closer they got to the west coast. I’m thinking of the Donner party and their ordeal in the Sierra Nevadas.
The area also reminds me of a Bob Ross painting. Bob Ross is to oil landscape art what Arthur Murray is to dance. Each man took an art form, created an easy to follow process whereby the average person could develop a new skill – and do it relatively well. Bob Ross programs are still shown on PBS television. He is so mezmerizing to watch, and has a lovely gentle voice, and I swear I could pick up a paint brush and become a Michaelangelo. (cannot swear I will become Ginger Rogers).

At a gas stop, some nice folks were running a small gourmet shop with fresh jerky, locally grown pistachios, honey, stuffed olives from California, etc.  The jerky had been advertised by those obsequious highway billboards, so sampled the product. The sweet variety was light and yummy. The Cowboy variety was tougher to chew (something along the line of boot leather but in a good way). The hot variety left a wonderful tingle on the tongue long after it had been swallowed. There was a deal if you bought 3 packages, so one of each of those came with me !!!

Along the road, I saw a group of 4 javelina eating something. They are nocturnal and will eat anything, so it was a huge surprise to see them in the midddle of the day. Somehow I doubt they were eating vegan !!  It’s all about the circle of life folks.

In Benson AZ, I stopped for lunch at a local spot called the Apple Farm Bakery and Restaurant. I think we should organize a group road trip to come down there, and order one of everything on the menu. It took me 15 minutes to read it all, and try to settle on one item. And this after I had spent the morning arguing with myself the age-old question – Which is better Chorizo or Chocolate ??  There wasn’t even a dessert menu – you just walked over to the bakery case and drooled on the glass !!  Many thing in life aren’t fair, and this was certainly one of those moments !!
I (eventually) ordered a pork loin sandwich that came with cinammon apples, and a small cup of au jus. This was not your mother’s brown gravy !!!  It had an apples and mesquite taste to die for !! I did have one of their chocolate chip cookies. It was the size of a saucer, as in cup and …..). And I ordered an apple cinammon bun to go. My rationale was I would need groceries once I got to Mesa, and so I was just stocking up !!  That chuckwagon I slipped off…..well, at this point I’m not even trying to catch up to it, never mind getting back on !!!

And, I want to take a moment to vent about men drivers. WHY do they get in the fast lane, then fall asleep, and when I pass them on the right, wake up and speed up? Is it because they suddenly realize a minivan is leaving them in the dust?  I am surprised that I could even see out of my windshield – because the air in my vehicle was BLUE !!!  One of those moments, it is probably better that I am driving alone !!  I turned off the Interstate before Gert was telling me to to avoid any more nasty language on my part. And I was that close to my goals, I could navigate on my own.
First stop was the dance studio to set up some lessons. Second stop was my AZ home. I”M BACK !!!

So, now you know…..I am safe…..or rather the world is safe from me. I am ensconced in Mesa AZ, and looking around to seeing what mischief I can get into here !!!  First, I have to find someone with their TV cable hooked up who watches DWTS. Its the finals people !!!!!!  Tomorrow night, all will be revealed, and the mirror ball trophy awarded.
My final words of advice – dance as if no one is watching !!  You’ve got a 4 month break until I take California !!!  Signing off – Beryl.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

This morning I became my very own industrial revolution – a driving robot !!!!  I have travelled over 7000 km, and must admit I’m really bad at stopping to get out and stretch, so right now everything from the waist down is either asleep or locked into a position !!!

Van Horne Texas. Photo from Wikipedia

Three hours after I got on to the road, I pulled into the small town of Van Horn Texas.  It is home to the newly restored El Captain Hotel – and what a restoration !!!  Where to begin, how to begin …..  the original was built in 1930, and was part of a chain of hotels built to promote tourism within 200 miles of El Paso. It has a Spanish design to it, and the tile work and vigas were gorgeous. As you walk to the front entrance, you pass through a courtyard with a fountain with goldfish !!  So pretty !!!

But – El Paso was calling. I saw a string of billboards advertising the Saddleblanket selling all things Western.  So when I got into town, I pulled off to check it out, only to discover it is closed on Sundays!  That was going to be my stop to get out and walk off the kinks !!
Back in the van !!  I had passed through another time zone so it was early afternoon – why not get some lunch? and why not make it at a local barbeque joint? So I asked Gert (the GPS) to locate something west and near the Interstate. She did – but it was in the poorest section of town, so I very quickly got back on to the Interstate and kept driving.
The theme of continuous drivng is still happening !!!!!

I picked another restaurant, and got off the Interstate again! This time a Barnes and Noble caught my eye – so I headed into it – and then finally I stopped for lunch !!!!  Nice place called the Greenery, which was inside a shopping mall, but didn’t look at all like any mall restaurant I’ve ever seen.  Caesar salad, raspbery iced tea, and a zucchini muffin – yummy !!!

Stepped out into the mall for some retail therapy. The next store I went into is fairly common in the States, but I don’t think so much so back in Canada.   It is a massage and reflexology store.  The prices are great …no waiting …  great reflexologist !!!!!
A half hour of that and I felt ready to take on the world.  Found my way back to the Interstate, and made it halfway across New Mexico.

I’m sitting back enjoying the American Music Awards. I can hardly wait for the finale by LMFAO because I heard their concert in Ottawa was a whole lot of fun, so I’m expecting to see something outrageous !!

My musings of an average life are spreading – and are also online at www.cwrtottawa.com.  Who knew !?!?!?

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Saturday, November 19

Wow !!  The end of week three – where has the time gone? I know my vehicle has over 7000 new kms on it  – and the front floor mat has sand from Daytona Beach and now white powdered sugar from beignets.

Travel tip received from a local in Biloxi – do not inhale through your mouth when eating beignets, as the icing sugar will burn the interior of your throat.

Travel tip from me – no matter how much icing sugar I tried to shake off prior to that first bite, it was messy !!!

Anyway, back to the road – this morning, I got a crazy early start (the sun wasn’t even up yet) and again wanted to see how much pavement I could cover. The first city I came to was Lake Charles Mississippi – and apparently they have never heard about the energy crunch, or how to turn off any lights they might not be using. These folks had so much electricity  going, I think we could point a finger at them for burning a hole in the ozone layer !!!  I’m thinking of writing a letter to somebody !!

Shortly there after, I hit the Texas state line and stopped to change footwear – BECAUSE IT IS ALL ABOUT THE BOOTS !!  And I do have my Ariats with me. To balance out yesterday’s shoe description, let me tell you about my Ariats – they have a work boot sole with a walking heel, and are great for mucking through mud and crap. Mine are a caramel Ostrich leather with darker caramel suede shafts.  They are peewee height, and pretty enough to be a dude  boot, but practical enough to use everyday !!   They come in all sorts of “girlie” colours – purple, blue, burgundy, and usually have pretty stitching on them as well.

I saw signs advertising gator country, and that one could hold a baby gator – and why would anyone want to hold something that is not soft and cuddly, and can chew your arm off? Just not my thing !

I love cowboys, their hats, rodeo buckles, Wrangler jeans, boots, pickup trucks with dualies, and cow dogs !!  Just thinking about cowboys….well perhaps I should leave that to your imagination !!  But to date – I haven’t met a cowboy I didn’t like !!  They have a way of looking at the world like no one else – a wonderful down-to-earth sensibility. Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, was even a cowboy in his day, and he owned a ranch in Alberta, that is now a museum of sorts.

Houston – huge city, and I thought I would see some references to the space industry there? but didn’t. I went through during morning rush hour, and kept on going. Texas is quite a large state no matter which way you cross it, and it looked like l might pick up some exercise in San Antonio so I was motivated to carry on !!  Unfortunately I spent a couple of hours, and never located the studio, but got my exercise in walking around the city !!!

Wyoming has Little America, South Dakota has Wall Drug, and Columbus Texas has Buc-ees !!  I stopped because I wanted to know what the beaver nuggets were, and sure enough, it is one of those treasures that don’t make the tourist guides! You would not believe the line of cars getting off the highway to go to this place. It served up all sorts of food, souvenirs, kitchen implements; you name it and they likely had it !!  I saw an institutional soup pot for sale with ladles that were the size of dog water dishes !!  As for the beaver nuggets – think of cheese puffs, soft and easy to crunch but with a caramel flavour !!  Yummy – (they give out samples) !!

Once I was back on I-10, I realized I have relatives buried in Boerne Texas, and felt I should stop and pay my respects. For some reason the local Chamber of Commerce forgot to mark the location of the cemetery on their map, so I tried checking out churches to see if I could find cemeteries that way.  No luck !!  It wasn’t that big a community – how hard could it be? I am so used to locating anything I set my cap to, that I was mildly annoyed, but karma has a way of making the world right. When I was driving out of town, I thought I had taken a wrong turn, so made a U-turn, and at the corner I had just gone through spied a sign with arrow to cemetery !!  Serendipity !! Drove a grid ( it was larger than expected) and hoped I would get lucky again – but no. However, there  were a couple of unexpected bonuses – 4 large deer were grazing among the tombstones and let me watch them; when I was making an exterior circuit of the graveyard, I saw a wonderful full-size sculpture of a long-horn steer. It was standing near a seriously art-y driveway – nice lawn ornament !!

Now I was back on the interstate and making up time. West Texas is a beautiful area. I think George Strait lives out here. There are lots of rolling hills and pasture for cattle. I had seen lots of deer roadkill earlier today, and now I was seeing herds of deer in the fields.  That is always the neatest sight !! I stopped in a small town called Sonora, and after finding gas and a motel, went back to a local restaurant called the Country Steakhouse. Again this was for research, I had the steak fingers with baked potato and country gravy, and coffee that was strong enough to melt the spoon !!  If there is a 12-step program for folks on diets, would someone please give me their contact info?  I have slipped off the proverbial chuckwagon, but feel guilty – so will the calories really count ??

Tomorrow – I’m almost 6 hours off the New Mexico border, and 6 hours more to Mesa. Piece of cake !!
Friday, November 18

Hey everyone !!!!!  Once again I have faced my fears (over and over again) and today I have been on more causeways than all the rest combined !!!
First I must give kudos to Gert – my trusty travelling companion – and GPS…..aka Gertrude Pollyanna Staves !!!
Last night she got me into Mobile Alabama, and I easily found a quaint little hotel.  It was so cute – built on a courtyard design, with lots of that southern wrought iron on the balconies and posts.

From there I headed south to Dauphin Island. It is off shore a few miles with Mobile Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It is also home to Fort Gaines, site of a Civil War battle in 1864. But I am getting ahead of myself – first the route out to the island was interesting in that it was just a 2-lane road with no shoulder room to speak of – and yet I circumvented the prison work crew picking up litter, and a few miles later came across at least 50 pickup trucks with boat trailers, all off to the side. It appeared as if there was some sort of fishing derby taking place out on the water. After that I was on yet another causeway, but this one had a very tall bridge in the center. Sometimes my desire to do something leads me down streets I would rather not travel, but my inate curiousity pushes me forward !!  So over the bridge I went – and my reward was Ft Gaines. I have been through more forts than you would think, and after a while they can get predictable as to how they are built – but this one had some unique differences. It had a 10 seater latrine that connected by way of a culvert to the bay’s waters. Every day the tide would come in and act as a natural flushing system. This seems practical enough, until I went into the museum building and read the sign that tells about activities at the fort. Soldiers complained of the bad taste of the drinking water, and fishing and swimming were popular activites. They would also wade out into the water to collect oysters to eat.

Fort Gaines was home to Admiral Farragut, whose famous line “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” has likely been used in more Hollywood movies than I can count – if only he had a nickle for every time that line was used, the South might have won the war!!
M, the admissions money taker, explained to me about the high bridge – it accommodates a shipping lane and some cruise ships and the shrimp boats use it. She also saw a small plane fly under it one day as she went across which scared the wits out of her !!  She enjoyed my story back to her about Confederation Bridge, and the reason for its height – icebergs !!
M, also explained why some houses are on stilts and some are not. (I first noticed that in Florida I think) The houses built on the ground are grandfathered and predate changes in building regs that have to do with storm surges and abnormally high tides. The houses on stilts were built after the building code changes. The idea is that the water won’t come into the building, and stop/slow insurance claims !!  That seems so sensible and clever !!!

After a couple of hours wandering around the fort, and taking scads of photos, I headed west on Hwy 188, a scenic parkway on my way back to I-10. Unfortunately the road stopped abruptly where a lift bridge was under construction, and it was the only way across the water.  Sooooo, I got to backtrack several miles, before I could carry on. I was concerned this would take up a lot of time, but not so.  It seemed like only a few minutes, and I was stopping at the Mississippi Welcome Center.  Very nice place to stop – free coffee, and lots of helpful info. Some day I shall have to come back and see more of the state.  For today, I am trying to stick to sights along I-10, and by the best bit of luck that included Biloxi – home to the final residence of Jefferson Davis. He was the Confederate President and retired here to write his memoirs.

Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, was built on an absolutely gorgeous piece of land looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. It is Greek Revival style, meaning huge porches, tall columns, the kind of plantation home we are used to seeing in the movies !! The building really took a beating when Hurricane Katrina came through, yet more of it survived than didn’t. Apparently some other smaller buildings on the site will not be rebuilt, but a new Presidential library is currently under construction, and should be open next year.  The docent explained that the floor of the home is 23 feet above normal water level, and the storm waters were 24 feet high with wave action, so as we stood there we would have been in a foot of water.

While I was in Biloxi, I asked one of the locals to direct me to a shop to buy beignets. I figured when in Rome…..
She gave me wonderful directions to a local cafe; unfortunately they don’t make beignets anymore. Apparently the icing sugar is too messy !!  I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to eat anything else, but for the sake of research, I had the crab burger and hushpuppies.
The crab burger was to die for !!!!! Crab meat barely held together with some egg, grilled, and served on a regular hamburger bun. The hushpuppies (I’m still not sure how to classify them, although the menu called them a “side”) are made of cornmeal, rolled into a small ball and deep fried. They can be eaten plain or dipped in tartar sauce.

Biegnets from Cafe Du Monde, Wikipedia photo

In my quest for beignets, I headed to New Orleans. Little did I realize how large a city New Orleans is – but Gert got me down to the Latin Quarter and Bourbon Street. I had no idea the streets were barely 2 cars wide, so the city has an interesting scheme of one-way streets set up to move the traffic that is stupid enough to drive down there. Street parking was non-existent, and even parking garages were full. I spent a good 15 minutes or more driving up and down the area, looking for a shop with beignets or a parking spot, whichever came first !!  Well, as it happened I was getting annoyed, and saw a couple of guys talking on a street corner, so pulled over and asked directions. They were great, and a couple of blocks along, I found on-street parking !!!  Bonus !!!  Then I got out and walked another 2 blocks to the Cafe du Monde and bought beignets. Mission accomplished !!

I would like to say that I am definitely going to have to go back and take time to see the city – the architecture was blowing me away !!  And they have open alcohol laws, so a person can walk from place to place with their drink – a civilized mode as long as you aren’t stumbling along !!!  And I came across a trannie bar, I would have loved to stop at and see the show !! Oh well, another time !!

I haven’t had the beignets yet, and am hanging on to them until later. For now, I am going to continue heading west.
Houston is calling my name.

Thursday, November 17

Greetings from the cold weather in Mobile Alabama.

Yesterday was clean-up day; the day to tie up any and all loose ends before hitting the road again this morning. That included the practical like laundry – and selling my Disney ticket, as I hadn’t used all the days on it.

I also bought a new pair of dance shoes – so excited about that  – BECAUSE IT IS ALL ABOUT THE SHOES !!!!!!!

Beryl, these are probably way too tall, but at least they are shoes... All the best from the editor who is enjoying your journey very much!

They’re the pair I couldn’t find in Ottawa – black, closed toe, t-strap, and 2.5″ flare heels !!!  which means nothing to most of you but believe me, if I had bought a new pair of cowboy boots, I would describe them in detail as well !!

I located a Flippers Pizza place (recommended by KW) and tried it out.  Not bad, but Uno’s is still my all time fav !!! Observed a couple sharing a joint in the parking lot – it must have been that medical marijuana !!  LOL

I found a miracle worker named Dr. Sofer, chiropractor extraordinaire – I’m not sure what I did wrong, but needed some pain relief.

And then it was time for my tango class – which went well……so well, that after class I headed off to Uno’s for a farewell drink at their bar. Had a great chat with D, the bartender who made me the world’s best cocktail, and shared a super story about her mom and those pesky gorillas at Disney !!  Seems one of the bachelor gorillas flipped her the bird……I’m thinking we are not as far removed from the primates as I would like to believe !!!

Today, Thursday, I packed the van, and headed north towards Tallahassee, Florida. Oddly enough, it was just like driving through eastern Ontario on the 401. I would never have believed I was in Florida – right up until I saw the alligator on the side of the road ! I had kind of forgotten about seeing any, and there it was !!!  Of course, after that I had my eyes peeled to the ditches –  but there were no further sightings !!!

The radio stations have changed….there are more talk shows and lots of country music !!  SNORE !!!

At 2:30 pm, I turned West onto Interstate 10, my route until I get to Mesa. I have to be there for Thursday November 24 for Thanksgiving dinner.  Things I am thankful for – turkey in October for Canadian Thanksgiving, turkey in November for American Thanksgiving, and turkey in December for Christmas !!!  Really – if I have to be surrounded by turkeys, at least let them be on a platter with stuffing and gravy !!

Down the road, I came across the Stephen Foster Tourist Center and the Suwanee River. Stephen Foster is known as the father of American music. He wrote “Oh Susanna”, “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Old Folks At Home (Swanee River)”, among many others that are still well known today – well in some circles. These were songs written in the early 1850’s. I grew up with these songs!(yes, it’s true – I was a kid in the 1850’s !!)  ( for those of you who don’t know – my mother was a professional pianist, so there was a wide variety of music in the house when I was growing up). This was so cool to come across – but I was focused on putting as many miles behind me as I could, so no stopping.

I passed a time zone line somewhere, so the sun was setting earlier, but I carried on to Pensacola Florida.  It looked like it has multiple military bases, and apparently the Blue Angels live here. They’re the flying acrobatic team, the American equivalent of the Canadian Snowbirds, and the British Red Arrows. Gert, my GPS, brought me into the old downtown area, and I noticed a sign saying the town was begun in 1559, so it is almost as old as St Augustine on Florida’s Atlantic coast. I’m going to have to come back for a visit another year!!

This trip I had a quick dinner at a seafood place – catfish with a breading that was so light, it was almost invisible !!

And back on the highway until I arrived in Mobile Alabama.  I know I was on another one of those long causeways (thank heavens for the night). The city looks huge, and I know it has some Civil War connections, so first thing tomorrow morning, I’ll be taking some time to explore !!

Time to put away the mouse ears, and get back to reality – whatever that is !!