Awoke this morning in Utopia and had no idea what time or what day it is!
In the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps provided employment for young men during the depression. They built the pavilion, park buildings, picnic tables, and worked on land conservation.
A unique tradition of the park is the dance hall. In the 30's dance was an inexpensive form of entertainment and bands played here regularly. The native limestone and cypress dance pavilion continues to be used on summer evenings today.
A couple of people have asked us: "so do you have a bathroom and a shower?" Yes, we have both! I thought I would show everyone our living space. This is "camping" in luxury.
We camped at McKinney Falls state park in Austin.
We came to see the bats; 2 million Mexican Free Tail bats emerge from underneath the Congress Street bridge at dusk. This is the world's largest urban bat colony! I should have realized that it's winter and almost all have migrated to Mexico ... So I'm sharing someone else's video.
Music, beer, and dancing. This place has the feel of a real Texas "dive"!
Back on the road after 2 weeks in Portsmouth, we picked up the VW and Winnebago in New Orleans and drove to the NASA space museum in Houston.
Two years ago we were fortunate to have Mark Kelley, commander of the last space shuttle flight, as a speaker at the national Shaklee conference in Long Beach, CA. NASA came to Shaklee in the 1980's and requested that they design a drink that would prevent returning astronauts from blanking out in re-entry as a result of electrolyte loss to the brain. We still provide NASA with complimentary "Astro Aide"! Performance our sport drink, is based from that project. Thank you Shaklee!
We were welcomed home to a winter wonderland
First we discovered the fish mongers along the roadside. This is a part the of the local flavor that we missed on earlier trips.
Then we proceeded to get lost and found this lovely home with the most dramatic mosaics. The photos don't give them justice!
Next we met the "Ambassador of NOLA" who directed us to the Oceanic restaurant for a Louisana meal.
We listened to several street musicians - when I figure out how to post videos you will be able to listen to them!
We poked around in the shops.
We did not stay here on this trip; however, this is one of our favorite hotels. We remember a special dinner with a personal mariachi band serenade.
Then we were drawn to a "foot reflexology" sign
Then we discovered the "singing fudge shop"! I can't wait to share the audio!
Biosphere 2 was built nearly 30 years ago to develop technologies for humans living in space and other worlds like Mars. Today it's mission is to help plan for Earth's (Bosphere 1), near future. Four women and four men, known as biospherians lived from 1991 to 1993 sealed inside the ecosystem. We are very interested in this project because of Shaklee's participation in the project.
Today inside the amazing steel and glass structure, the size of three football fields, is an ocean, a desert, a Savannah, and a rainforest.
It is a giant enclosed scientific experiment.
The site is owned and operated by the University of Arizona and is open daily for tours.
Researchers and students are studying climate change and are focused on what is happening to Earth now not on a future in space.
"Model City" is the name of the sustainability study of how we use electricity and water.
After leaving Gulf Shores " a small town with a big beach", we stopped in Mobile at the Memorial Park, where the Battleship Alabama, The Mighty A" rests. The ship was commissioned in 1942 and was decommissioned in 1947 after many battles in the Pacific. The park opened in 1965 and depends on admissions for daily operation. The park is the perfect place to experience history and pay tribute to veterans.
We crossed a southern slice of Mississippi, and have settled in for the evening at Elks Lodge #30 in Metaire, Louisanna.
The weather report for tonight is not the best; maybe it will be better tomorrow.
Remember the ham that your grandma made? That is what the Gulf Area Resort Ministries served the snow birds; and it was fabulous. Everyone contributed to the potluck. We are so fortunate to celebrate with a great group of people.
The rain stopped and the sun came out; we spent some time on the pier on Christmas Eve
Today we took Dr. Jill Buschmann's advice and drove the scenic highway to the Grande Hotel at Point Clear, Alabama. We had a delightful lunch in the dining room overlooking Mobile Bay. Then we poked around Fair Hope, AL, a quaint town with lots of small shops.
Since the weather is not cooperating we spent the day indoors.
First we toured the National Naval Aviation museum in Pensacola, FL. The Blue Angels were not flying; however, we really enjoyed viewing over 150 restored aircraft, an I-Max movie (The History of Flight), and several great exhibits from WW1 to space travel.
"The Brothers" BBQ caught our eye while driving. We always brake for good BBQ!
We ended the evening at the "famous" Florabama bar. 1/2 is located in Florida and 1/2 is in Alabama.
In 1963 Russell served with Platoon Sergeant Cleve Kendall, nicknamed "the Field Marshall" in Frankfurt, Germany. Russell respected and appreciated him as a great leader. I met him for the first time yesterday and was amazed by his energy at 86 years young! I also got to spend an afternoon with his lovely wife, Gisela. They met in Frankfurt and have been married for 50 years. Today they are retired and have moved from Michigan to their dream home on the water in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We had a wonderful afternoon catching up on the last 50 years!
For the next four days we are in a natural masterpiece in the middle of Destin, Florida. I've never seen anything like the sugar white sand beach of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1983 the land for the state park was purchased from the Henderson family estate for 13.1 million dollars. It opened to the public in 1991. Each campsite is protected by Mother Nature. This is by far the most beautiful campground that we have found on "The Journey ." We give it a five star rating! We are back to nature. Enjoy the photos!
We have been rescued once again by our fellow Elks! Our reservation was for a day later and we were stranded for the night. Never fear; the Fort Walton Beach Elks lodge not only had a space for us in their parking lot overnight, but served tacos and drinks for our dinner. There was karaoke, and Birthday cake to boot! Just one of the many reasons to love the organization and their motto is so true "Elks care, Elks share."
Fog, rain, darkness, and rush hour traffic combined with a very, very long two lane bridge results in a white knuckle ride for Barbara and a "relax" from Russell. Our daily commute to work is about 15 steps downstairs. Therefore, no stress: we work from home. Traveling in the Winebago has unleashed my "alter ego", a highly stressed passenger: Barb. Russell's says"don't worry, I drove a truck in the army" or "you've got to go with the flow of the traffic!" Translated by Barb: "that was 55 years ago" or "oooh!!!" It's not easy sitting up high over the wheel with a huge window speeding down the highway, towing a car. However; on this adventure I have discovered why my Shaklee customers love Stress Relief! I am a model passenger after just one capsule. My Boston commuters can't drive or live without it and I understand. I can now enjoy the ride except at night in the fog and on the bridge.
It's not snow, it's cotton fields.