WEEK THREE: BIG EASY & TEXAS TOWN


CONTENTS
Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week: French Quarter to Cowboy Country
Pups Across America! - Our latest canine encounters: Meet Sugar Bear
RV Gourmet - Jan shares her on-the-go culinary secrets: Pasta E Fagioli
Favorite Photographs - Pick pics
Travel Tools & Toys - Gadgets for fun and productivity: Digital SLR
Camper’s Corner - Thoughts on were we stayed and other RV topics
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading

REARVIEW MIRROR
Start: Riverboat Travel Park, New Orleans, LA
Stop: Miss Ellie’s RV Park, Waskom, TX
Stop: Wichita Falls City Park, Wichita Falls, TX
Stop: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon, TX
Stop: John Martin Reservoir State Park, CO
Stop: Cherry Creek State Park, CO

Sunday
Jan and I walked the Pups down an old New Orleans neighborhood that was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The houses within the block ranged from the tidy brand new to the “in recovery” being repaired to the boarded up and condemned. Mid-morning, along with the Little Ones, we drove the 10 minutes down to the French Quarter. We had contemplated going to the Jazz Festival, but opted out so that we could take Mitzy and Jerry. We had thought about taking a guided walking tour, but decided to take control and stroll on our own. Leashes in hand, we started down the street. Within two minutes, we had found Sugar Bear, a 12-year old Great Pyrenees lolling on a porch. Raised on a goat farm from a litter of 13, this big white bear of a pup found his Pet Parent and moved to the Big Easy. With permission, I took several pictures of this royal beast. He reminded me of pups past. What a great start to our stroll.

The Little Ones Are a Hit
We saw lots of other pups (including Easy Luke the Bar Dog) and lots of other tourists as we wandered the narrow streets of this famous quarter of this famous city. Of course, the Little Ones attracted lots of attention, and we were stopped often by other dog lovers needing a pup fix. The truth be known, Little Mitzy was the star, getting the highest percentages of, “Ooh, isn’t she cute?” and “I have (had) one at home that looks just like her.” Being polite, people then glanced at Jerry and made some obligatory comment; he took it all in stride.

Four hours of heavy-duty tourist stuff took its toll. When we got back, we saw the meaning of “dog tired.” Both Pups collapsed, barely rousing for dinner several hours later. Wonderful day.

Monday
Travel Day
Monday we awoke to a beautiful, sunny day. I did some work, walked the Pups, then we started getting ready to roll. West on I-10 was a little windy at times, but it was a sunny day in the low 80s. East of Baton Rouge we pulled into a rest stop for my Monday marketing meeting. While I took the call, Janny walked the Pups and fixed our lunches. At Lafayette we turned North on I-49 and made it all the way to Texas before stopping for the night at Miss Ellie’s RV Park.

Tuesday
Jan Gets a Present
I was up early completing an article on productivity while traveling by RV for my business newsletter, then Jan and I walked the Pups. It was a sunny, but chilly morning in the 40s. Traffic was light as we headed west on I-20 facing a westerly wind. All along the way, the ditches and dividers sparkled from the blues and whites, pinks, reds, and purples of the wild flowers brightening up the roadways. On the outskirts of Dallas, we picked up the I-635 loop around the city, then sped North on I-35 North. At Gainesville we turned west on Highway 82 and made a stop at Muenster were I pulled into a hardware store parking lot to buy Janny a new combination screwdriver. As she fixed a leak beneath the sink, I walked to the local bank to get some documents notarized. Muenster is quite a little hamlet, complete with three hardware stores, a winery, and a beer garden!

Right before reaching Wichita Falls we made one more stop. As I replenished supplies at the local grocery store, Jan researched and phoned a campground for the evening. We picked up Highway 287 at Henrietta and followed it into Wichita Falls. We pulled into a well-manicured, almost empty campground and park, and as I set up the outside, Jan talked to some neighboring RVers. Come to find out, we were in the wrong park! However, after talking to them, they said that luck was with us and that this was a much nicer place at half the cost.

Wednesday
Perilous Crossing!
Forty feet from BALY was a walking bridge across the stream that bordered the park. The bridge was like those you see in movies in the jungle, where the heroine tries to beat the bad guys across the huge crevice as the bridge sways and the rickety boards collapse from her weight and fall slow-motion into the abyss. Well, this bridge was in much better condition, but the Pups did not like the swaying motion one bit! Both had to be picked up to make the cross over. We took a path and walked along the water amidst the trees for a couple miles before returning. After a couple hours of work it was back motoring down Highway 287 Northwest.

Windy!
Every day of our excursion we have been faced with a westerly wind. However, crossing the Panhandle Plains of Texas was the worst wind by far—a constant 35 to 45-mile-an-hour obstacle gusting up to a 60-mile-an-hour, rock-the-bus blasts. In fact, it blew so hard that it tore the weather station anemometer right off the top of the coach!* However, this slight inconvenience was soon greatly overcome. Jan had seen an intriguing billboard talking about “the second biggest canyon in America.” Some quick Internet research on her part uncovered that we were within 70 miles to Palo Duro Canyon State Park from the rest stop by Hedley where we were having lunch. Making the necessary changes to our navigation plan, we took 287 to Claude, then 1151 South to 1541 South to 217 East.

One Cool Canyon
We pulled into this spectacular park mid-afternoon. Why had I not heard of this place before? Why is it not a National Park and not a State Park? One-hundred-twenty miles long, 800 feet deep, lots of trails, and lots to look at. Soon after leaving the ranger station, we started down a 10% grade that winds down into the canyon. Surrounded by the red canyon walls you drive past the interpretative center and museum, horse stables, and trading post. Our campground was at the very end of the park, about seven miles from the entrance.

Living Theater
Soon after set-up, we were treated to a drama. About 30 feet from where we were sitting at our picnic table, a tom turkey was courting three hens. Fluffing to show his full beauty, strength, and breeding potential, he pranced around, back and forth, showing his stuff to a trio of seemingly uninterested females. Amidst this serious display of male virility, small birds flitted in and out of the scene and bunny rabbits ran back and forth like harried cast members in a play trying to get into position. A drama? A comedy? We viewed this action for over an hour, thoroughly enjoying it.

*Actually, I’d knocked the anemometer off a couple days before when I hit a branch maneuvering into a camp site. I just thought it sounded better the way I told it above :’>>

Thursday
We started the day with a pre-sunrise hike starting right outside our door. Being careful to step around cacti and avoid any crawling reptiles, we made our way following deer paths and taking in the vistas.

Rival Arrival
After breakfast, the hero of the Wednesday night play (let’s call him Tom) was back with a vengeance. We watched as this male turkey in rut defended his territory against a “rival” male! Actually this rival was his own refection seen in the chrome bumper of the camp host’s motor home. Tom would sneak around the side of the coach, then fluffing up and rustling his feathers as loud as he could, he would charge around the front, then thrust and peck at his rival reflection. This went on for well over an hour before the intruder was vanquished. During this courageous defensive action, Tom was totally oblivious of me as I sat on the ground and snapped away pics attempting to capture the true image of his valor.

After breakfast we took the Pups for a nice long walk. We spotted a few mule deer crossing the road, saw a corn snake playing dead on the path, and viewed cardinals, woodpeckers and buzzards as we walked along.

Alex Goes All Out
Since starting our trip we had not eaten out once. Being in a magnanimous mood, I promised Jan that I’d take her out for lunch at the finest restaurant in Canyon. Drawn like a magnet to steel plate, we ignored the glitz of the Holiday Inn Express and the Buffalo Corral and drove a straight line into the parking lot of Fat Boys Barbecue. We could tell immediately by the distinctness of the exterior signage, quality of the interior décor, and the professional demeanor of the wait staff that we had accomplished the goal of finding the mecca of exquisite cuisine in Canyon. The very name of the establishment also confirmed their commitment to nutrition and health. We asked for their very best and were soon each devouring a pile of shredded beef, a mound of pork sausage smothered in barbecue sauce, a dollop of bright yellow potato salad, a small dish of cole slaw, and a pint or so of pinto beans (plus bread and peppers, and Diet Dr. Peppers).

Next we toured the city for about five minutes then returned to the park, stopping at the Interpretive Center, were we purchased a get-well card for our friend Char, and a new hat for me.

Friday
Unwanted Excitement
Early in the morning, I took the Pups out for a pre-dawn romp. No lights, no one up, we just walked at a brisk pace down to the end of the park. As we moved along, I sensed something behind me and turned quickly to see a robust looking coyote following along behind us. I stopped and stared at the critter, but his countenance showed no fear, just interest in the Little Ones. Was this wild beast contemplating a Terrier taco or a Schnauzer burrito? When we started walking again, he continued following, closing the space between us. With pepper spray in my left hand and the leashes in my right, I pivoted on my heels let out a growl, and the three of us started running right at the potential pup eater. As hoped, he loped back into the brush and caused us no further concern as we returned to the safety of camp.

Nice Hike
After breakfast, Jan and I drove down to the GLT trail and hiked for two-and-half hours or so. After seeing more wild turkeys, another coyote, and several mule deer, we meandered up and down, over and back, till the morning sun first illuminated the canyon walls to the west and the rock formation called the Lighthouse.

Soon we were back in BALY and headed west on 217 then north on I-27. Surprise, surprise, there was once again a heavy wind from the west, keeping me alert at the wheel. We drove through Amarillo, then north again on 287 leaving Texas, and continued the short 41 miles through Oklahoma and into Colorado. We continued north on 287 across the SE corner of the state, making it to Lamar. Here we turned west on Highway 50, and after 20 miles turned into the John Martin Reservoir State Park, our final stop of the day.

Saturday
We woke up to 28-degree weather, so my first job was to turn the furnaces on before making coffee. The four of us took a very nice walk around the small lake that adjoins the campground. After morning chores it was back onto Highway 50 West. At Pueblo we picked up I-25 North and took it all the way into Denver. We jagged NE on I-225, exited on Parker Road, then pulled into Cherry Creek State Park. Then things got busy! Within minutes of our arrival, up drove our son AJ, his wife, Kelly, and our almost-three-years-old grandson, Austin. AJ and Kelly left to go to a party as Jan and Austin jumped into the car and drove off in search of groceries for RV Gourmet and campfire smores. Jan did her magic cooking, AJ and Kelly returned, and we had a marvelous meal with smores around the fire for desert. His parents went home back to Parker, but the Little Man spent the night camping with us.

It is going to be a great week.

PUPS ACROSS AMERICA!
Not much was done this week to advance this project, as our main focus was just getting to Denver. This next week will be spent making some contacts and trying to firm up some dates and locations for big shoots. However, if you are in the Denver area, we are scheduling shoots by appointment at our Cherry Creek campground the week of May 2.

Please e-mail me at alex@PupsAcrossAmerica, or call me at 239-671-0740 to set up a shoot or if you have ideas or suggestions.

Pass the Word
Know other Pup Parents that might enjoy this blog and the Pups Across America event? Please spread the word.

RV GOURMET: PASTA E FAGIOLI

This cold weather made us hungry for some Italian comfort food. The pasta e fagioli fit the bill:

1/2 lb. lean ground chicken
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 large onion chopped
1 cup carrots slivered
1 cup celery chopped
1 large can tomatoes, diced
1 can red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can navy beans (drained and rinsed)
44 oz. beef stock (I use "Better than Bouillon" brand and add water)
1-1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. black ground pepper
2-1/2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce (I use "Cholula")
1 lg. jar of spaghetti sauce
4 ounces of whole wheat penne

PREPARATION:
Sauté meats in large pot until it starts to brown. Add onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse (less sodium) beans and add to pot. Add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce and penne. Add chopped parsley. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes.

Yummy! Enjoy!

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS
From New Orleans pups to Texas Toms, here are a few of my favorites.

TRAVEL TOOLS & TOYS
Want to capture memories of your Pups? How about your kids? Better yet, your grandkids? :’>> Invest the money in a Digital SLR. Yes, today’s point-and-shoot cameras take high-quality shots of scenery and posing people. However, to get great pics of fast-moving objects, you need the speed that only a DSLR can provide. You can buy an excellent basic DSLR for $800.

CAMPER’S CORNER
When you drive through the industrial area and first pull up to the gate of the Riverboat Travel Park in New Orleans, LA, your first thought is a question: “Did you made a good choice in campgrounds?” As you drive onto the small, concrete property you see a mixture of RV’s—a travel trailer that looks as if it hasn’t moved since Space Race, a rusted fifth wheel alongside a $500,000 top-end motor coach. However, after you spend a little time, you realize that this place is alright—full hook-up, cable TV, quality Internet, easy access to the Quarter, plus one-half the price of other campgrounds in the area. For a night or two, I recommend it.

Just a couple of miles over the Louisiana line into Texas is Miss Ellie’s RV Park in Waskom.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon, TX. www.palodurocanyon.com. Great place to camp with full 50 amp hook-ups, big lots with covered picnic tables and fire rings. Hiking right from your rig. Only downside is modest AT&T signal and nothing on Verizon. Strongly recommend.

John Martin Reservoir State Park, Hasty, CO. Big sites, several pull-throughs, 50-amp power. No water directly at the sites. Lots of birds, including white pelicans. Limited cell-phone coverage. Recommended.

HEADLIGHTS
Next week we will be in the Denver area for our grandson, Austin’s, birthday and his birthday bash. Should be a blast. Here is where we plan to be.

5-1 thru 5-3
Cherry Creek State Park: Site 16
Denver, CO

5-3 thru 5-8
Cherry Creek State Park: Site 26
Denver, CO

TBD
Boulder, CO

5-22 & 23
TBD: Pup Shoot
Denver, CO

5-27 thru 5-31
TBD
Denver, CO

Mid June
TBD: Pup Shoot
Carlsbad, CA

Going to be near? Look us up. Have some suggestions? We are open. Know a Pup Parent in the vicinity? Pass on this Web site and have them give me a call at 239-671-0740 to schedule a shooting of their best friend.
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