Day #5 – Ooh, la lah….We are in gay Paris’!

LOCATION:  Paris!  (Tennessee, that is)
CAMPGROUND:  Paris Landing State Park Resort.  Yes, a state park resort!  Beautiful.  Electricity and water.  Ours is the best site – nestled in the woods.  Level, large graveled site with picnic table, fire pit, and George’s favorite – a stand-up grill.  Marina, lodge, golf course, and restaurant.  $27/night.  Definitely 5 stars out of 5!
WEATHER:  Each day gets a little chillier.  High 64.  Mostly cloudy

We left the Harvest Host brewery in an eastern Memphis suburb and were able to avoid the big city traffic.  Sadly, we had to drive on an interstate today, the first time so far this trip.  I-40 wasn’t too bad, at least going our way.  We saw a semi-truck rolled over with a wrecker rescuing it, on the other side of the Interstate.  Cars and trucks were stuck for at least 10 miles.  What a mess!

We have driven a little over 1000 miles so far in these first 5 days.  It is now time for a rest.  We will spend two nights here.  We are not unhooking, as we plan to just relax in this beautiful park. We successfully avoided lots of storms on our route here….

We pulled into the small city of Paris and were bombarded by signs proclaiming “Paris, the World’s Largest Fish Fry”.  And, indeed it is happening this week!  At the fair grounds, they have prepared 12,500 pounds of catfish,  and for $15 you can eat all you want.  I think we will pass.  Parades, catfish races, Catfish Queen and King, entertainment, etc. 

Paris even has its own Eiffel Tower!

This state park is about 15 miles out of town, and is incredible.  The campground is just a small part of the entire park, situated on huge Kentucky Lake which flows into the Ohio River, then the Mississippi.  After we got set up, we did a hike, first over to the lodge and restaurant.  We learned it is just one year old.  It looks like a 5-star hotel!

They were having a wedding in one of the private rooms.

Then, down to the marina where a replica of Columbus’s La Pinta ship was docked.

This area is called “The Land Between the Lakes” as there are big lakes and rivers all around.

There is one other Airstream here, and of course George had to chat the owner up.  It turns out that he and his wife stay in Mission, Texas in the winters at the RV park adjacent to our community.  Wow!  Small world.

Speaking of Retama Village, they experienced another bad storm a few days ago.  High winds – 80-100 mph.  Lots of trees down.  Electricity is out for about 5 days.  Must be miserable – no A/C and food going bad in the refrigerators/freezers.  Our neighbor checked our place out.  Everything ok.

DINNER:  Spiced Caulflower and Rice Pie.  Quite different, with an Indian flavor.  (Recipe below)

We have electricity here, but no TV reception.  So, we spent the evening watching Downton Abbey on a DVD.  I picked up the first 3 series, which I think we missed.  So, throughout this trip, we can watch these old shows.

Spiced Cauliflower and Rice Pie

2 onions, diced
olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup rice
3 chiles
1 bunch cilantro
curry paste
Indian Puppooums

Saute onion.  Add a bit of water.  Add cauliflower florets and curry paste. Add rice, then 2 cups of water.  Prick chiles and add whole.  Add most of cilantro and puppooums.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook 15 minutes..

Rice should absorb all the liquid.  Uncover and drizzle more olive oil around edge.  Mash with masher.  Reduce heat to low and cook 5 more minutes to get crispy crust.  Rest, covered for 10 minutes.  Add remaining cilantro.  Serve with yogurt and another drizzle of olive oil.

Day #4 – Traveling through the rural South

LOCATION:  Olive Branch, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis (TN)
CAMPGROUND:  Mississippi Ale House, a brewery through Harvest Host.  Parked with one other RV in their parking lot.  Easy to park.  Great brewery atmosphere.  Very friendly.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 65

Now that we are farther east and north, the sun comes up earlier.  We awoke to the sun rising over the vineyards right in front of our trailer’s front door at the Harvest Host winery where we stayed last night. 

Since we were up and at ’em, we got an early start.  We planned our route with the option “Avoid Highways”.  It added only 20 minutes to today’s drive.  Our first segment was right through the city of Munroe, Louisiana, versus the horrible Interstate 20. 

It took us about 2 hours to get through the rest of Louisiana.  Lots of flat flatness.  Rice fields, rice dryers, corn fields (flooded due to recent rains), cotton gins, and small towns. 

Then, through a part of poor Arkansas for about an hour.  More of the same.  It was interesting to see big signs warning “Speed Trap Ahead” as we went through dying/dead little towns.

Then, three more hours through Mississippi, not much better.  It has rained here a lot and there is water everywhere.  Our route took us on the “Great River Road”, the highway that parallels the Mississippi River.  Unfortunately, it is several miles away from the river, so we didn’t see it other than to cross over it into Mississippi.

As we neared Memphis, our gas gauge showed almost empty.  As we neared our destination, we were on a narrow road with no shoulder, just a steep ditch next to the road, filled with water.  I was SO afraid that we would run out of gas and have no place to pull over.  I spotted a gas station, and pulled in, not caring how much the gas was.  The tank took 23.5 gallons; its capacity is 24.  I was so relieved, and didn’t care that soon after we filled up, we saw a station with 10 cents less a gallon. I’m not sure, however, that we could have made it that far. 

The brewery was easy to find, and the bartender came out of the brewery to help us get parked.  It was conveniently designated….

The brewery is in an eastern suburb of Memphis, but still in Mississippi.  The town of Olive Branch is kind of quirky and artsy.  The brewery is on a block with little shops on it, including a pizza place and hamburger joint.  They are remodeling an old event center, and it will eventually be a beer garden, taco truck shop, bookstore, and coffee shop.  Really cute.

We did a beer flight, tasting 5 of their beers. Then, I ordered an IPA and George a stout.

DINNER:  We ordered a pizza from the pizza place inside the brewery.  Pretty good, but too much! 

BOOK:  “Little Beach Street Bakery” by Jenny Colgan.  Kind of a silly book, but easy to read – just a paperback I picked up somewhere.  The redeeming feature is that it takes place in Cornwall, England and I enjoyed the description of the land and people there.  3 stars out of 5

Day #3. Help, Police! Let us out!!!

LOCATION: West Monroe, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  Landry Vineyards, through Harvest Hosts.  Superb.  Easy to park, facing vineyards.  Lots of parking.  Friendly staff.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Overcast and heavy clouds all day.  High 75

It was a dark and stormy night.  We had opened up to cool Joy down.  In the wee hours, it started to storm, so we closed up.  Crash!  Bang!  Thunder, lighenting, and hard rain.  Then the wind picked up and really howled.  All OK, and it nicely cooled down for sleeping.

We got up early to prepare for a long day of driving.  We spent last night at a Harvest Host brewery, which felt very safe as it was gated and locked.  The owner had given us a gate code to get out.

So, about 7:30, we headed out.  The gate code did not work.  We tried and tried.  We left texts and phone messages with the owner.  No response.  So, George called the police!  An officer came and tried his special override code.  Still wouldn’t open.  Finally, the policeman said he would go to the owner’s house and see what he could do.  About a half hour later, a former employee (at the request of the policeman who had tracked him down)  came by.  He was able to disengage the elecric pad and manually push the gate open.  Meanwhile, the septic tank driver and employees had arrived, all trying without success to use the code to enter for the day. 

Finally, about an hour later,  we were off.  So much for our early start!

We drove about 4 hours to the Louisiana border.  We were certain we were in Louisiana when we started seeing:  1) crawfish stands, 2) lots of Baptist churches, 3) drive-through daiquiries bars, 4) bayous, and …..5) terrible road conditions.

We arrived at the winery and set up.  We have been here once before.  It is lovely.  Our front door faces one section of the vineyards…

We went to the tasting room and sampled their dry wines. We bought a bottle of their red blend, and paired it with tonight’s dinner…..

DINNER: Arugula, Radicchio, and Faro Salad

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp miso
1 T sweetener (I used agave)
4 dashes Maggi (I used some bouillion)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water

Combine all but salt and water.  Blend in food processor.  Add water, 1 Tbps at a time until pourable.  Season to taste – more salt and pepper if desired


1 cup uncooked faro
1 15-ozcan Northern beans, drained
2 heads radicchio
2 cup arugula
1 large radish, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomates
1/2 cup pickled red onions

Cook faro per package instructions.  While warm, combine with beans.  Season with salt and some of the dressing.  Coat.  Allow to come to room temperature.  Refrigerate until serve. 


Pickled red onions

1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1-2 T sweetener (like agave)

Heat vinegar mix until simmer.  Combine with onions in a jar.  Screw on top and shake.  Marinate at least 3- minutes.  The pickled onions will last 3-4 weeks.


Final prep –

Arrange arugula, radicchio, radish and tomatoes on plate.  Distribute faro mix.  Add more dressing as needed.  Top with pickled onions

This was all about substitution.  I could not find arugula or radicchio in the grocery, so substituted baby spinach.  We had a regular tomato that needed to be used, so I subsitutued that for the chery tomateos. 

All good.  We liked it, especially on a warm evening when I didn’t want to cook too much

Day #2 – Happy Beer-day (Birthday) to George!

LOCATION:  Brenham, Texas
CAMPGROUND:  Brazos Valley Brewing Company, through Harvest Hosts.  Easy-peasy parking in a huge, flat parking lot.  Since it is Wednesday, it is not crowded.  Food truck.  Nice tap room.  Very friendly.  Walkable to downtown.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Overcast with threatening thunderclouds all day

It was a very pleasant morning at Corpus Christi State Park, so we enjoyed our coffee outside. 

We spotted these two beautiful Whistling Ducks in a tree next to our site. 

We took it easy in the morning, and took off around 11:30.  The entire day was on good highways, and no Interstates. Not much traffic, so it was an easy day.  We drove through a lot of cattle country with signs advertising different kinds of cattle such as Brahmas, Brangus (a combo between Brahma and Angus) and Black Baldies, to name a few. 

There were no picnic areas along the road, but we found this great Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspection Station  for lunch  – perfect.

Brenham is famous as the home of Blue Bell Dairy.  They have been voted as having the best ice cream in the USA.  Everyone told us that we really needed to visit the dairy while here.  So, we went and had some great ice cream.

We pulled into the brewery around 4:30.  Since it was still hot, we sat in the tap room and enjoyed a drink. 

We found the brewery, got parked, and went inside to have a beer.

Then, we walked into town and explored the very cute downtown with lots of shops, cafes, and wine bars.

Back to the brewery, we discovered that another patron had ordered George a birthday beer – a float made with Russian Imperial Stout and vanilla (Blue Bell) ice cream. He really had to make an effort to get it all down!.

For dinner, we ordered from the brewery’s food truck – a Tijuana hot dog and fried Brussels sprouts. Good!

Day 1.  And…..we’re off!

LOCATION:  Mathis, Texas
CAMPGROUND:  Corpus Christie State Park.  We’ve been here before.  Nice pull-through site with view of Lake Corpus Christie.  Covered picnic table and firepit.  Water and electricity.  $20/night.  No wifi.  Poor TV.  Fair cell service.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cloudy.  Some rain storms.  High 80

We had originally planned to leave tomorrow, but that would have meant a 370-mile day.  So, we changed plans to divide up the first day’s trip.  Even though we had done a lot of work yesterday, it took about 3 hours to finish up everything in the house and in Joy.  We managed to leave at 10:00 AM, not too shabby.

George was concerned about the battery.  He had unplugged Joy from shore power to see how the battery did overnight.  It did not charge as it should.  So, he decided to swing by the battery store on our way out of town to buy a new battery.  We will be boondocking (no electricity and dependent on battery and propane) for several nights.  At the battery place, he opened up the compartment and found the culprit….only one of the two batteries was hooked up.  So, he hooked it up and saved us a bunch of money!

We have found a new way out of town that avoids the terrible construction on I-2, so driving was pretty stress-free.  After 2 hours of driving, we stopped at a roadside park for a light lunch.  Then, onward….through black skies and pouring rain.  The visibility was bad in some places, but I plowed on.

After we got settled in, we walked around the park and chatted with a few fishermen.  One just caught a catfish.  We saw a few deer and some buzzards.  Not many people here. 

This is our general route, a big circle around the USA and southern Canada.  It will be 5-6 months.   The dotted line will be a flight from Winnipeg to Grande Prairie to visit my aunt and uncle.  We will find someplace for Joy to rest while we are away those few days. 

We made a campfire and enjoyed the “ambiance”.

DINNER:  George had leftover mushroom, chicken, and noodle soup.  I had a chef’s salad with spinach and chicken pieces.

This is dark sky country.  Once the sun set, it was pitch black.  Cool.

All my bags are packed……

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Really nice.  Turned off the A/C all day!  High 75

I played my last game of pickleball and actually hit a few good ones.  A good way to end the season!  I will take my racket in case I see any games along the way.

Today’s theme…….pack!  I turned off the house refrigerator and transferred everything to the refrigerator in Joy.  Of course that means that I am running back and forth to retrieve things at every meal.  Clothes, pots and pans, etc are all loaded.  And….the wine cellar is fully stocked!  We don’t use Joy’s shower, but instead, put it to good use….

A neighbor posted these photos of their cute dog looking very lonely in the dog park.  All his friends are gone!  Ditto with people…..another 3 motorhomes left in a convoy today.  There aren’t many occupied houses left….

I had to run a few errands – mainly to the post office to get a mail-forwarding form.  I had to wait in line for about an hour only to learn that they were out of forms.  The (un)helpful clerk suggested I try a different line that perhaps had the forms.  After another half hour’s wait, I found out that they, too, are out.  We had tried to do it online, but for some reason it would not go through.  So, I drove to a town about 7 miles away to their post office.  After another hour’s wait, I did the job.  Wow!

On  my way home, I stopped at a BBQ place to pick up some Texas pork ribs.  Today was not my day for efficiency…..the road was closed to do bridgework, so I had to take a long detour.

More packing in the PM.  We brought in all our outdoor furniture, so it is quite tight inside.

George made his last fire in the firepit to burn up all the scratch paper we have collected recently.

DINNER:  We thought it was appropriate to have Texas BBQ on our last night here..  (Also, I didn’t want to dirty the kitchen much).   The ribs were very good and the sauce was not too sweet.  Side was a baked potato.

BOOK:  “A Sunlit Weapon” by Jaqueline Winspear.  This is part of her Maisie Dobbs series, a detective in England during WWII.  Pretty good.  4 stars out of 5

Storm damage – There really WAS a storm!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot, but less humid.  High 90

We are a small group of pickle-ballers now, and send out phone texts each morning to see if there are enough (4) to play a game or two.  Today we had 5, so we had a good time for about 1.5 hours.  Then, the wind picked up, as usual. 

Everyone was talking about yesterday’s  storm damage on a street about 2 blocks from our house, near our former house.  Fierce winds had blown through there.  The worst was a big metal sheet of pergola that blew off someone’s house and flew across the street onto another house’s driveway.

A piece of the pergola jammed into the neighbor’s house, resulting in what looks like a spear!

The window glass was also broken.  Lots of limbs all over the place.  We were lucky – just a few palm fronds scattered in our yard. 

I did an exercise class, solo, then worked in the library shelving books.

George’s to-do list is getting shorter, although he doesn’t look too pleased about it….

DINNER:  Curried chicken and vegetables over rice.  I sauteed chicken, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and sweet potato.  Then, I added curry paste.  I should have bought the spicy kind, as I had to add a lot of “jazz” like cayenne, cumin, and curry powder. 

Big storm!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot and muggy.  Storms in the AM

A few  of us got together and went to the state park across the street for breakfast.  The little cafe is nestled among the trees so you can see a lot of birds.

I had the avocado toast which was good. 

No sooner had I returned home than it was lunch time!  Our neighbors wanted to take us out.  We found a place that looked interesting from the street – Casa de los Tacos.  It was surprisingly good.  George and I shared the “sombrero”.  It was a platter of fajita meat, onions, peppers, and salsa topped with melted cheese, then the “hat” (a tortilla) was placed on top.  Too bad I forgot to take a photo!

A guitarrist strolled around and played for the customers.

In the late afternoon, big thunderclouds rolled in.  The sky darkened.  I quickly brought in the trailer’s cushions that I had washed in the AM and were drying outside.  George had just finished trimming the bush in the front yard.  He asked me to pick up the branches.  I had just bent over to pick up some sticks when….kaboom!   A really loud clap of thunder boomed right next to me.  Yikes!  I ran in the house and watched the storm roll in.  The winds were really fierce.  I watched all the branches that I had planned to pick up fly down the street.  I guess that is one job I won’t have to do!  The storm was worse east of here, even with some hail.  It didn’t last too long here.  Beautiful skies afterwards…

DINNER:  Swedish meatballs.  My goal the next few days is to use up as much as I can in the refrigerator and freezer.  I had some breadcrumbs and hamburger to use, so followed the recipe on the breadcrumb container to make meatballs – breadcrumbs, hamburger, tomato sauce, chopped onion, and a beaten egg.  I made mushroom soup from a can plus milk and sauteed onions and mushrooms.  I served it with tagliatelle noodles.  All good, except it made WAY too much!  Now more stuff to use up!

Contrasts in the Rio Grande Valley

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A little overcast.  High 80

Only four of us showed up for pickleball, but that was enough to play.  We played an hour, until the wind started blowing too hard. 

George went out to breakfast with some guys that go out together once a week.  They went to a little Mexican taco place that George said was great.  He had huevos con chorizo.  There are lots and lots of these little restaurants here in the valley.  They are really cheap – like $4 or so. 

While he was munching away, I went to water aerobics.  Again, only a few ladies.  It is getting quite quiet around here.

We both got a lot done on our to-do lists today.

One of the houses in the neighborhood has 2 lime trees in their yard, just loaded with fruit.  The people have gone for the season and told others to feel free to pick the limes.  So, I did, of course!  I squeezed a lot of them and froze the juice for this summer’s trip. 

In the late afternoon, we went to our favorite bistro, Loretto’s, for Wine Wednesday (bottles are half-priced).  They were having a special event in the courtyard, a fund-raiser for a politician, so we sat in their lovely dining room.

We ordered some Argentinean empanadas (shrimp, roasted corn, and cheese) as an appetizer.  I must say that they were much better than the ones we made in the cooking class in Colombia!

What a contrast from the hole-in-the-wall where George went for breakfast.  There are a lot of contrasts here in the Valley…..from very poor to the sophisticated and wealthy, like the ones seated next to us at Loretto’s.  They switch back and forth from English to Spanish seamlessly, ordered ribeyes at $65 each, fancy cocktails, and a table-full of appetizers.  Interesting!

DINNER:  Portobello mushrooms on the grill.  Well, actually George started them on the grill, but it was taking so long, I finished them off in the oven.  We had a toasted baguette with them and peas. 

Spring in Retama Village.

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast.  High 79

I went up to the courts to play pickleball this morning, but no  one else showed up!  It was a bit windy and spitting a little rain.  So, I practiced a bit by myself and came home.

A lot more people in Retama Village left this morning.  A caravan with huge motorhomes towing cars left as I went to the pool. It seems a bit early to go back North, as it is still snowing in parts of the Midwest. And, April seems to be one of the nicest months here.

After getting in one swimming class, we left to  meet with an attorney about our will.  Very confusing, and it is so annoying that it has to be so complicated!  Aargh! 

To calm ourselves afterwards, we stopped for a beer at a restaurant that has the best beer selection in the Rio Grande Valley – Roosevelts.  We ran into some neighbors so they joined us.  Nice!

Each day, we both check off a few more things from our “to-do” lists.  I like that feeling!

DINNER:  Flatbreads with a good combo of toppings – pesto and cream cheese spread, layered with salami, sauteed onions and mushrooms, all topped off with slices of mozarella and Parmesan. 

I love asparagus in the spring, and made up this recipe…

Lime or lemon juice

Saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic in butter.  On a greased baking sheet, spread out the trimmed asparagus.  Cover with the onion mix.  Then, squeeze some lime juice on top and sprinkle on some Parmesan.  Bake for only about 5 minutes.  Very tasty!