Sunday, December 16, 2007




As usual, I headed to the showers in the morning in the Wilderness RV Campground. There was no hot water!! The closest I could get to hot was “warm” – and this is on a day that is close to freezing in the early morning. This made for a very quick shower, indeed.

After unhooking, I drove up to the clubhouse and took advantage of the wi fi connection there to update my blog and check on my email. My friend Lynn James, had put me in touch with a dear friend of hers, Lou White who lives in Houston, so I emailed him to see whether a visit was possible in the next few days. An hour and a half later, I took Ripley for another walk before we headed off..

I have had no further allergic reaction, so perhaps there was something on the comforter that had caused the itchiness after all.


Shortly after crossing the state line, I stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and to take a photo of Ripley. The person manning the desk very kindly offered to mail my Christmas cards for me, and informed me that it was only 75 miles across to Louisiana.

I had noticed a sandhill crane wildlife refuge marked on the map and enquired about it. The man behind the desk told me that it had been closed for renovations but that they were supposed to have re-opened on November 16th and suggested that I drive by to see if they were open. The refuge borders both sides of Highway 10, and I did indeed drive off at the turning, but found that it was still closed. There was a design of a brand new visitor center there, showing what was being constructed, but I suppose that like most construction jobs, it was behind schedule.


I chose not to go south to New Orleans, but instead continued along Highway 10 on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain – I believe that this was the lake that caused so much damage during Hurricane Katrina, along with the levees that were broken.

Gas here was $2.98/gallon.

The counties are called parishes here in Louisiana, and I stopped at a parish visitor center to ask for a map and information on the state parks. Fontainebleu State Park was only a few miles away, so I headed there and got into a traffic jam, as both the high school and the adjacent junior high school were letting out for the afternoon. A crossing guard was directing traffic, allowing only a few cars to move through the interaction at a time.

Eventually I got to the state park, paid my $16 fee and headed to the campsites where Leroy, the camp host, offered to help me back into the site and hook up. Leroy and his wife Jessie are from Minnesota and are spending the season at the park, acting as hosts.

Ripley and I went off on a long bike run around the spacious park. Some of the trees looked as though they were a few hundred years old and many were curved from the force of the hurricanes, I imagine.

It had been a long day, and I turned in early with my book by Gary Troup. I have never read his books before, and this was his last before disappearing on Oceanic Flight 815 over the Pacific. The book is called “Bad Twin” and a good read. I will have to look for more of his books.

I drove 262 kms. today.



I’ve had no recurrence of the allergic reaction, so I guess there was something on the comforter after all. No wonder it was so cheap!

I was up early and took Ripley for her morning walk around the campsite. I decided to have breakfast in bed and prepared some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with coffee. Along with my book, it felt quite decadent just to lie in bed!

After yesterday’s disappointing shower, it was bliss to have lots of hot water this morning!

I spent an hour or two installing my various shelves and baskets, and now have two shelves in which to keep canned goods. You will recall that I was having a problem installing the shelf for the canned goods, but solved it by buying a plastic support and using bungee cords. Slowly but surely I am getting organized, but still have a couple of cupboards to tackle.

After dumping at the dump station, I drove a little way down the road in the state park to the nature trail, parked the RV and set off with Ripley, my camera and binoculars for the 1 ½ mile trail. Ripley enjoyed running along off leash, investigating various smells, while I tried to identify some of the small birds in the trees. I’m afraid I’m not very good at it, but did see a bird that I think is an Eastern Phoebe, according to the bird book. It had a brown head, with a white breast, a thick beak, and black wings with white.

Ripley scared up a hawk that had been on the ground next to the trail, so possibly it was eating its kill when she startled it.

I couldn’t help but notice the damage to the trees, presumably done by Katrina. Some of the tops of the trees were dangling precipitously downward and some
were simply dead. We came across the remnants of a boardwalk leading out to a bayou of Lake Pontchartrain. There was new lumber stacked alongside the trail, and it looked as though work was slowly beginning on replacing the boardwalk. Eventually we came out onto a large field with beautiful old trees, next to the campground, and walked up a little further to where I had parked the RV. Ripley, in the meantime, had gone off to investigate something and I continued to walk. When I realized that she was no longer in view, I called her a few times and she came out of the bushes some distance away, looking for me. She couldn’t see me amongst the trees and started off in the wrong direction, until I called and waved my warms. She immediately came tearing over at full speed. I have to say that she is really quite an obedient dog and so devoted to me that I think that she might probably attack anyone or anything that might appear to be dangerous to me.

Across from the nature trail is the ruins of a sugar plantation, which is what the area had been before being turned into a state park.

After a leisurely morning, we were on our way again around 1:00 p.m. – a rather late start for me. I decided then that we would not travel too far today and made our destination Lafayette, 207 kms. Along the highway, we encountered a very very long bridge crossing the Atchafalya Basin, and I estimate it to be having been about thirty miles long. Trucks were signed to stay in the right hand lane and not to exceed 55 mph, which was fine with me.

On a previous day, I had noticed signs for Travel Centers of America truck stops, and had look up online to see what they offer. It turns out that they have a similar arrangement to that of the Flying J truck stops – RV’s can stay overnight in their lots, and they have a restaurant, large store, internet access and (if you are a trucker) showers. So, this was our destination today.

Gas here was $2.95/gallon, so I filled up once again. It was then that I noticed that the section allocated to RV’s was closed off because of re-paving. So I had to drive around to the rear where the big rigs were parked. Luckily I found a spot at one end where there were cars parked next to the restaurant, as I didn’t really relish being beside the big noisy rigs that leave their diesel engines running.

In the store, I noticed a book that lists all the truck stops across the USA and decided that this would indeed be a handy book to have -- $19.95.

The internet is available only by inserting dollar bills into a machine, so I hurriedly got online to check to see if Lou was returned my email. And yes, he has invited me to his weekend home and left me his cell number. I called him, and we estimate that I have about a five-hour drive to get to his house tomorrow.

I drove 207 kms today.



I had drunk a Coca Cola yesterday afternoon and I paid for it overnight. The caffeine kept me awake most of the night, along with the noise of the trucks coming and going. I finally gave up trying to sleep at 3:30 a.m., went in and got a pseudo Egg McMuffin before continuing our journey.

I had heard about the Christmas lights at oil refineries, and was able to witness it for myself as I passed Baton Rouge. The lights that are installed on the refineries really do look like tiny white Christmas lights in strands, just as we see on houses.

Once we passed the Texas state line, I stopped at the Orange Visitor Center. I tried to rest but gave up because of the noisy trucks parking going in and out of the Center. At 8:00 we continued on our way to Houston.

On my way I passed a few “adult superstores” where there were always several trucks parked. Hmmm.

Gas is $2.89/gallon here.

A large white cube van passed me on the highway with a sign saying “Protecting America’s Patriots”. Does that mean the van was full of guns?

I relied upon Maude to take me through Houston traffic to Lou’s house, and although she got me there, I later learned that it was not the best route. She has a mind of her own!

Lou White was not home when I arrived, but I was greeted by his two Chinese Crested dogs Nero and Lollie. Just to be on the safe side, I waited outside after having contacted Lou. He arrived shortly, and we entered the back garden. He lives in a lovely Spanish-style house in an older subdivision of Houston where each house is different.


We managed a peaceful introduction of Ripley to Nero and Lollie and they all got along very well together.

First on the agenda was a tour of the lovely organic garden which contains various citrus trees, papaya, banana trees, a pond and other plants and vegetables. Lou’s wife, Kim, was a master gardener and recognized for her work as an organic gardener. Unfortunately, she passed away two years ago from cancer, and Lou has been challenged to maintain the garden. There is a large field behind the property owned by an Australian couple who have since gone home. However, they have left behind a donkey and two miniature horses being cared for by their son. There is also a large pond and I could see a great egret and cattle egrets on it. The scene made for a lovely vista in the middle of a suburb in Houston.

Lou has invited me to come with him to his Lake Livingston property for the weekend northeast of Houston, so I parked my RV beside his house, packed a few clothes and off we went in his fancy Honda truck. I have never seen this model, but it has a great compartment under the truck bed for luggage. Nero and Lollie slept in their beds on the back seat, and Ripley sat on my lap. We chatted while he drove. Lou is a retired civil engineer who has worked in various parts of the world, including Iraq where he met my friends Lynn and Kit. They have maintained their friendship over the years since then.

What should have been a ninety-minute drive actually took us 3 ½ hours because of the Friday night traffic. On the way we stopped at Luby’s a nation-wide chain cafeteria where I had chicken piccata/spinach salad and mushrooms, and Lou had a fish dish. Our server, named Gerard, was very talkative and when he learned that I had a Jack Russell he went on to say that it was his mother’s favourite breed, but he liked Skye terriers and was waiting for a puppy. He was very gregarious, with a true southern accent – very different from some of the surly servers I’ve had.

Onward to the town of Trinity and then to White Rock Storage, Lou’s property. He stores boats and household goods, as well as renting out three mobile homes, keeping an additional double wide for his own use. He showed me to my room and then went out to meet some of his local buddies while I retired to bed.


Lou had previously indicated to me that he would be busy most of the weekend, so I am on my own, which is fine with me. I was up about 8:30 a.m. and took Ripley for a walk up the road. There is a park across the road, so we will have to investigate that later.

When I returned, Lou was on the phone, so I took Nero and Lollie out for their walk.

Lou with Nero and Lollie in his yard
I busied myself with various projects that I had brought along – writing Christmas cards, knitting, updating my log on my laptop, etc. However, I have one of my headaches and don’t feel like doing too much. It is very hot and humid.

Later, Lou invited me to go into the town of Livingston with him, as he needed to get some materials to repair one of the mobile homes that had been involved in a fire. The fire marshal is uncertain but thinks that it may have been an electrical fire. In any event, he and his manager Buddy are working on making it habitable so that Lou can rent it out again. He will not rent it to the previous woman, who is currently in jail.

We went to Lowes (a large hardware and lumber store similar to Home Depot) and while Lou was busy, I went off to see if I could get some metric screws, but the sales man insisted there was no such thing.

We stopped at Subway for a roast beef sandwich, and I went into the local supermarket to buy a barbecued chicken and Zatarain’s red beans and rice for our supper. Like most single men, Lou does not cook and does not stock his refrigerator.

Upon our return, we took the three dogs on a walk around Lou’s property and he showed me the little pet cemetery where previous dogs have been buried, and then on to two lots that Lou owns adjacent to his 7 ½ acre piece. He then turned back while Ripley and I continued on down to the lake road off leash. Ripley needs more exercise than she has been getting lately.

We both went our separate ways when we returned, he to go back to work and me to continue with writing Christmas cards. I made the red beans and rice and must say that it was very tasty. I’ll have to get some more packages. The barbecued chicken was a little different as well. It wasn’t one of the hot chickens found in the grocery stores, but rather was a pre-cooked chicken in the refrigerator case. However, heated up in the microwave, it was very good.


My headache got worse, so I took a migraine pill Amerge during the night. I like to use them sparingly, as I don’t have many and they cost $35 each. But I was fine in the morning.

Lou offered to cook breakfast – bacon and eggs and Eggo waffles. He actually can cook better than he thinks!

After breakfast, I took Ripley for a long walk on another route down to the lake. Lake Livingston is man-made from a river that has been dredged, and covers a huge area. The shores consequently have lots of stumps sticking up.

When I approached the pier, there was a local fisherman there with his dog, a rusty-coloured animal who greeted Ripley. Ah, a female! The fisherman told me that he hadn’t caught anything that day, but went on to tell me about other fish that he had caught, including 46 in one day. It didn’t look as though he would catch any on this particular day, however. But it didn’t really matter, as he only lives down the street. While we were sitting on the pier, I could hear the honks of several geese from a neighbour’s yard.

We returned to the storage property, where Lou was still very busy with some people whom he had hired to scrape and insulate the bottom of the burned trailer (the damage is primarily on the outside and hence it is worth saving). Lou had previously offered me the loan of his truck, so Ripley and I went off to explore the area. We went down to the town of Trinity where a local artist has erected a most unusual statue.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this sign for a local doctor.

As we passed the DQ, I stopped in for an ice cream. Then on to the dollar store to get some picture frames. I was surprised at how much traffic there was in this small town on a Sunday. There are a couple of stores offering bargains, and I guess that is what was attracting people.

We then backtracked past White Rock Storage to the park that I had seen earlier. Ripley and I went in to an old quarry and then on to the lake. Lou had mentioned that there were alligators in the lake, so I didn’t let Ripley get too near. But we did sit on a rock for awhile, just enjoying the water and some turtles who popped their heads up once in a while.

After this adventure, we returned to Lou’s property and I busied myself by starting to knit a dog sweater. I have been picking up cheap wool here and there along the way, and finally I am getting to work on this little project. I had it in mind to make dog sweaters to sell at flea markets, but at the rate I’m going, I’ll be home before I finish!

Lou often has people who leave things behind, and some of these are jeans. He very kindly allowed me to take one of the pairs that fit me. Thanks, Lou! He has also been spending time sorting through an abandoned bunch of boxes in a storage unit, to see what might be useful and what is garbage.

After dark, we put everything into the Honda and returned to Houston., stopping at a Mexican restaurant along the way. Lou has been graciously buying my meals, despite my protests, and this was no exception. We had a lovely meal and, as usual my plate was too much to finish.

It only took us ninety minutes or so to return, and I slept in the guest bedroom.


Lou is a very hospitable and generous person, and made sure that I had enough for breakfast. Although he is retired, he has many businesses on the go, and is extremely busy.

The house has doggy doors, and when we first visited a few days ago, Ripley did not know how to use them. However, she has caught on now, and goes in and out of the garden whenever she likes. She seems to be enjoying herself here, and plays with Nero, who in turns seems to enjoy her company.

After breakfast, Lou took me to visit two memorials to his wife Kim. The first is on an esplanade on a main street where there are beautifully scented roses, bushes and a tree, with a concrete bench commemorating Kim’s dedication to

urban gardening projects.

We then continued to a catholic school with whom Kim was associated, to see the memorial garden planted in her honour there. In winter many of the plants are not blooming, but I can imagine that in the summer it looks lovely. It is fairly large, with grape vines winding around the edge, a patio with chairs and a table, and plants spelling out the initials MIS for the name of the school. A cage with budgies and a dove is in one corner as well.

It is plain to see that Kim was held in high regard by the community in which she strived to encourage urban gardens.

No comments: