20190624 – Overland Rig Stow-able Top / Stow-able Rack Debut

This showed up on Facebook today.

“This is the first look at the 2018 Ford F150 with a stowable rack AND a softtopper. Here is a complete set of pictures. I designed and then worked with a machine shop to fabricate new bed rail caps. They allow me to use both the stowable rack and/or folding bed cap at the same time. There are permanent solutions that do both, but this is one of the first stowable solutions for the F-150 I have ever seen. I also included a pic of the sanitization/sunscreen/bug spray compartments.”

20220624 – Nothing has changed. It has gotten some sun and rain and dirt on it. The clamps still work fine. The 2018 F150 still has post holes on the top of the bed rails like Sanford and sons or Beverly Hillbillies. I could/should/may weld posts to the bed rail caps. The result would be more bomb proof. I haven’t had any issues, it might be a little cleaner look.

People ask why. I tell them… If I bought a hard top camper shell, I would find a motorcycle or something I couldn’t live with out. This insures I will never be tempted to buy something cool like a motorcycle, because this level of flexibility insures that will never happen.

20220202 – Manatees at Weeki Wachee

The first two times I completed Red Cross lifeguard training we had to watch these old training films that were filmed in the crystal clear water of Cypress Gardens, Florida. I have been fascinated with the springs of Florida ever since.

I took my kids to Ponce De Leon Spring one Spring Break. It’s not in the same class as the large springs, but was an excellent diversion. The drive from the pan handle to the nice springs on the gulf coast was always a little too far.

So this year, Mrs. Jon Bruce Entertainment and I put together a quick jaunt to Weeki Wachee. We struck gold. We stayed at the Lucky Duck Lodge right smack dab on the Weeki Wachee spring. They have their own kayak fleet. It was “iguanas falling out of trees” cold the first couple of days so we checked out places were manatees congregate to stay warm. Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River. Homosassa Springs, and Weeki Wachee State Park.

Weeki Wachee State Park has been home since 1947 to the famous mermaid show. I don’t have any fascination about mermaids. I have always believed that moistened bints lobbing scimitars was not a good system of governance. I do have a deep, aforementioned, fascination with people who get paid to go swimming in crystal clear Florida spring water. They weren’t mermaiding because it was too cold, the day we visited. There were several manatees keeping warm by the spring though. There were a pair of mermaids taking photos with the guests and since there were approximately 11 people in the whole park, we got to talk to them for a couple of minutes. They are awesome. Hopefully, they have a rich history and alumni association. The two we got speak with were charming and formidable swimmers.

The next two days I got a permit and floated by kayak from the Weeki Wachee State Park to the lodge and then down to Rogers Park Boat Ramp and back up stream. I am glad that I worked it that way. The air temperature was high 30’s. The water from the spring comes out around 70 degrees. The spring behind the lodge looked faster and more exciting that it was actually. I was worried about dumping and then being cold and wet.

In reality, I was able to attain upstream with no difficulty. The water was really warm and flowed smoothly. The sun was nice. Mrs. Jon Bruce Entertainment and I even took a canoe out and paddled up a mile or two with just one of us paddling from the stern (humble brag).

We had seen manatees from shore the previous day, but the first time a manatee swam under the keel of my kayak was a moment I will never forget. Manatees just want to eat and stay warm and do manatee things. Nevertheless, I had several times were a manatee seemed to be messing with me.

Almost immediately after launching, I saw a manatee near the boat ramp. I wanted to get another look, so I paddled upstream past it, a good distance. I floated back down, scanning frantically for the 1000 pound sea cow. At the last moment, it came gliding by, effortlessly, from behind me. This trick was accomplished in crystal clear water that is five or six feet deep at most. Manatees are magic!

Manatees are wild animals. They are endangered. You aren’t supposed to touch them or feed them or annoy them or run them over with speed boats. I had surmised that pretending my kayak was a log and floating by would be within the rules. It worked great.

I am not a big fan of video, but I rigged my GoPro to a selfie stick. If you start the camera upside down, it records in the same orientation. So I ended up getting a couple of cool videos of these floating passes on manatees.

The pretending to be a log thing worked great. Several times a manatee would surface close by to take a breathe and get right back to doing nothing. Almost got hit with a manatee booger once. Their breath is gross. Enjoy the manatee from a distance. You have been warned.

A couple of notes about planning your own trip to see mermaids.

Check out Florida State Parks for information on Weeki Wachee State Park on the Mermaid Shows. The mermaids don’t swim when it is really cold. https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/weeki-wachee-springs-state-park/mermaid-shows

A couple of notes about planning your own trip to see manatees.

There are several places and ways to see manatees. I don’t know them all. Here is what I did see and know. Manatees congregate in the warm spring water during the coldest part of Florida winter. There are springs for viewing manatees at Three Sisters Spring on the Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachee Springs, among others.

We also visited Tampa’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach Manatee Viewing area. Manatees congregate there in the warm waters created by the power station. There were a ton of manatees.

We were visiting during COVID, so we avoided getting on crowded buses, which can save you additional walking. We parked in a strip mall and walked into Three Sisters. Apollo Beach Manatee Viewing has a great group of volunteers, great parking, and a nice facility. It’s a good place to start.

Around the same time I was in the area I heard a trip report from another kayaker who visited Crystal River. They saw manatees, alligators and MONKEYS. I now have a new bucket list item. Let me be clear. Being around wild monkeys or tame monkeys is a horrible and dangerous idea. HORRIBLE AND DANGEROUS. They are not a native species to Florida. They are dangerous. Do not make eye contact with primates. Do not approach them. Do not strand them on island and hope everything will be okay.

I can’t wait to go and see them.

these people survived the monkeys, barely

Weeki Wachee State Park is a great resource. I am glad Florida State Parks stepped in to manage it. We are at an age where we have elevens of dollars to throw around for a couple of admissions. The boat cruise, the animal show and the gift shop were all worth the price of admission. The main thing we got to see was the manatees up by the spring and a visit with the mermaids. I would definitely go back for the mermaid show.

The kayak rental place at the state park is your best bet for the upper spring, unless you are staying at the Lucky Duck lodge and can arrange a shuttle. “Reservations are required for all boats launching (private boats included) “. You have to pay, even if you aren’t renting their boat. It’s totally worth it. They also have the most restrictive rules about food and drink I have ever encounter so do your research. Always leave no trace.

The second day I launch, one of the staff checked my bag. I usually buy an Aquafina bottle when I travel and use it for the duration of my trip. I own a Nalgene, but I rarely have room to pack it when I am flying. Instead, I recycle an Aquafina bottle for a week. The staffer at the kayak place confiscated my “disposable” water bottle and a small bag of trail mix. I totally get that my Tilley Hat, Columbia Shirt, Water Shoes make it look like I am about to destroy a case of natty light and hump a manatee, but seriously, folks. I managed to pack in and pack out the same stuff the day previous with no issues. (shhh.. don’t tell). The upper part of the spring/river is really nice. There wasn’t hardly any Aquafina bottles or trail mix bags any where.

I did see a group young rowdy people on a sand bar messing about. I was floating by when a manatee brushed up against one of the sandbar swimmers. The blood curdling scream from the unexpected contact was a delight to me, the rest of the party and probably the manatee.

Manatees just want to eat and stay warm and do manatee things. Sometimes they want to mess with people just for fun. Manatees are wild animals. They are endangered. You aren’t supposed to touch them or feed them or annoy them or run them over with speed boats. Pretend to be a log floating along and watch them. It is a gift.

Kurt Vonnegut : Unstuck in Time the documentary.

I am not in the habit of writing reviews. Kurt Vonnegut : Unstuck in Time the documentary is worth breaking that rule.

borrowed liberally and without attribution from https://www.ebay.com/sch/sideshow-art/m.html

I am a total fan of three authors. Hunter S Thompson, PJ ORourke, and Kurt Vonnegut. I came to Vonnegut last. I read his most famous work after exhausting everything else. Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. As a younger man, I fancied that I might be the famous Indiana writer in that regional mix until I dealt with James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, and most devastatingly Kurt Vonnegut.

I turned on Hulu the other day. Kurt Vonnegut : Unstuck in Time was on the list. Yes please…

If you don’t have time to read everything he ever wrote, watch the documentary.

One of the things that gets highlighted is Kurt’s artwork. I encounter this about two years ago. I was looking for a Ralph Steadman (the artist who worked with Hunter S Thompson) thing to hang on the wall and discovered that there exists pieces of paper decorated by Vonnegut. After careful consultation with my art director, Mrs. Jon Bruce Entertainment, we got one of those too.

The biggest surprise of all was that the person entrusted with these works, Joe Petro III (wikipedia). I had encountered Joe’s name at a Steadman exhibition in Lexington, Kentucky at University of Kentucky, then again the the Speed Museum exhibition in Louisville. Joe has collaborated with Ralph Steadman and Kurt Vonnegut. After getting over my jealousy that there is one locus, one person who bridges these artists and has worked, corresponded and met them both, I was delighted at my brief correspondence with Joe.

Some of the prints he as available are for sale at https://www.ebay.com/sch/sideshow-art/m.html

You can also stalk him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/joepetroart

Because the internet isn’t permanent. There are lots of dead links pointing to places that are neglected.

borrowed liberally and without attribution from https://www.ebay.com/sch/sideshow-art/m.html

About that Uncle in the Basement

or Sometimes seeing Elvis isn’t the hallucination of a crazy person

Ronald Wayne Hayes age 60

If you play the Kevin Bacon game with me and Elvis Aron Presley and me, there is one step. My uncle Ronnie. Same for me and the original line up of KISS and countless other acts who played in Evansville and needed a limo. One time he even gave us the towels KISS used to clean up their makeup. My uncle knew what KISS looked like before the rest of the world.

He was born in the 1939, the son of grocer and a homemaker. He was an only child for about 7 years. He graduated high school and served in the Marine Reserves. Worked in his family business, Married, Had a son. He got divorced when I was a little kid. He got remarrried. It didn’t work.  

His dad, my grandfather, had a heart attack. Sold the family grocery store. Ron got a job at a bank or a printer. A security guard. He drove limos for the guy grandpa knew who owned limos.

He was a pretty cool uncle. He had a CB. I really have ton of good memories from when I was little. His kid was a little younger than me and little older than my little brother. He took us to the zoo. I think we maybe went ice skating. He took us to a park.

He had a CB when CB’s were cool.

But at some point, around 40 years old, things took a turn.

He got a series of apartments that spiraled into grandma and grandpa’s basement. His car broke down after work and he walked all the way home. I think this was the thing my grandpa pointed to as the moment something was wrong. I don’t know what it means.

He got a red Chevrolet Chevette. Kept his security guard job, his gun and his badge. His relationship with his son fractured. My grandparents became Ronnie’s guardian and emancipated the grandson.  They stopped talking about the grandson. It wasn’t talked about. Not just my grandparents, my mom and my aunt too. 

I can tell you the last words I heard him speak were his son’s name. I know this because I, my brother and our wives were in the room when he passed. I would also tell you that his son’s name were on his lips when he passed. 

I can also tell you that my cousin was on his own path. I don’t think we could have done anything to stop it. I can also see clearly how I have developed the ability to burn a bridge as soon as I have crossed it. 

I have gotten ahead of myself. Ronnie was in a twenty year long decline. There were an assortment of diagnosis. Bottom line, he was not able to work, not able to care for himself, not able to live independently. It got progressively worse for twenty years. 

My grandfather had been the authority figure that kept him going. When he died, my mom became his guardian. He moved into a nursing home. His health declined. He was hospitalized. He died. 

His ability to communicate had declined to the point that things were in short hand. Around the time my grandfather passed, Ronnie would defiantly point towards the garage where his car had been covered and stowed just in case he magically got better and moved out. “Dad, I am an independent person, I have autonomy, I could leave right now” became “red chevette”

My grandparents went to incredible lengths to preserve his dignity. He kept the gun and the badge privileges right up to the nursing home. I think maybe his employer was a family friend. The car sat in the garage until my grandfather passed and we moved grandma out. 

As a kid, you assume everybody has an uncle that lives in grandma and grandpas basement. It’s just the way things were. We could tell how much it worried my mom and grandparents but it was like everyone agreed to pretend this was normal. One time my mom bought him a grow light for his room in the basement, just in case this was a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It didn’t help.

He came to visit one time at my own home when we were newly married. We were standing in the back yard, waiting on dinner. I don’t remember a great deal about what he could express, but the well of grief that opened when he spoke his son’s name. He would also pull the “red chevette” line on my mom and dad. He could hear his “brain popping”.  That is my uncle Ronnie in a nut shell. No pun intended.

This is pretty summarizes my memories from my birth in 1969 to his death in 1999. He has been gone for 20 years. 

My parents were moving after three decades in their home. I was helping them pack for the move. 

There was still an ugly green trunk that my mom had kept. Uncle Ronnie’s whole life in one box. Evidentiary proof of a life lived. Proof that he was a man, who lived and breathed. A functional adult with two little sisters, one of whom was my mother. 

My mom was showing me the contents, ready to let this stuff go, until she realized that there were a ton of pictures and ephemera that hadn’t been scanned or reviewed. 

I offered to take the box on the condition my mom stop crying. We had a ton of other more important memories to process before the move. 20 years on, the possessions of a man who died surround by two nephews and their wives needs to be dealt with.

There is a shadow box with stuff that mattered. 

The Shadow Box

A cigar box of fetish objects and treasures that only a crow or the man who collected them would appreciate. There was also a vulgar, cheap plastic whirly-gig that turned up. I threw it in the trash. If you get to my hard drive after I die please do me the same courtesy, thanks in advance. 

There was also the matter of all of the pictures and ephemera of Ronald’s life. Unprocessed. I took the whole trunk with the promise that I would get it sorted out. 

What I found would make an interesting podcast, if there is a market for a podcast that would only interest my two cousins and my brother, I am looking for a sponsor. The contents of the trunk filled in the picture.

Wayne Hayes, Vivian Hayes, Ronald Wayne Hayes

Probably the most valuable thing I found was my grandmother’s smile. She lived close to us towards the end of her life. She was always anxious and worried. She was a world class fusser in health. At the end, it was a constant distraction. The end was the only thing I could access in my own memories. Here in the trunk, I found evidence of a young mother and wife who could genuinely light up a room with a smile. There is even a magnificent picture from one of my uncle’s nursing homes of her just beaming. Inexplicably beaming.

Vivian Hayes, My Aunt Laura (who probably would not approve of this photo) and Ronnie

Same for my grandfather. He was as young man with a tragic hairline that will afflict generations of his descendants. Glorious.  

My uncle was born in 1939. He was born at a dip in the national birthrate. He was also an only child for 7 years. His first seven years were excessively documented. I would tell you my grandparents were very thrifty, but they spent some money on their only child. He played organized sports, he had a bicycle. My mom and her twin sister were born in 1946, baby boomers. There were so many babies born in 1946, you couldn’t swing a cat and not hit five of them. All of Ronnie’s school pictures are also packed with kids. The schools must have been bursting at the seems when the boomers hit.

My uncle and a peer recreating Joe Lewis versus Max Schmeling (just a guess)

He wasn’t really tall. I saw one place that listed his height as 5 foot 7 inches. There was a mention in middle school or high school as “our little man”. He lettered twice as manager for the football team. I never noticed he was short. He was always my uncle. I looked up to him for so long I don’t ever remember noticing that I was looking down when I became an adult. Maybe he had a late growth spurt. Some of the kids in the sports pictures are wiry, barrel chested giants. My uncle was none of those things. 5’7” would have been close to average height for a guy his age. Maybe he wore platform shoes to the Marine Recruiters.

some sort of gather of young people

He wasn’t that short.

Oh yeah, my uncle was a mutherfuckin’ United States Marine Corp Reserves Devil Dog, a 17th Rifle Company Leatherneck. 1957-1965. Honorably discharged. Trained at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The Evansville paper did a nice write up of the Evansville Reservists training. My uncle was on the front page, top of the fold, washing dishes after a delicious training meal. He was on the bottom of the fold tending the ammo belt in a machine gun bunker. Until now, the machine gun nest photo glued to the back of the shadow box was the only proof of this chapter. There is also a great picture of Ronnie in his uniform with his little sisters. A wood box has all the insignia and awards from his uniform, an M-1 Garand tool, a cleaning brush, grenade pins and spoons.

Linda Hayes Bruce, Ronald Hayes USMCR, Laura Hayes Rueger

caption from caption

Ronnie was a husband. He married twice. I don’t have any memories of the first wife. My mom would argue that I still have a thing for red heads because his first wife doted on me until her own son was born at which point she divorced my uncle and I never saw her again. His second wife, I remember from an awkward holiday or two. She came with her own kids from a previous marriage. It didn’t last. 

Ronnie was a father. His son was born in 1971. I cannot understate how big of a deal this was. I was the first grandkid. I think we can all agree the best and most favorite, but this was a son and grandson to carry on the family name. Ronnie was a devoted father. He coached youth sports teams. He showed up for his weekends. He worked it so we could spend time with our cousin.

Ronald and his son were not immune to the charms of Olan Mills/Sears Portrait Studio

He was a private eye. His security badge, CrediThrift Security Officer badge number 004, licensed to kill. His private detective credentials are preserved in the box along with a yo yo with his initials carved by hand and a couple of tie tacks.

He was a graduate of Evansville Central High School, class of 1957. I scanned the whole year book if you need a copy. His high school in 1957 was more diverse than mine in 1988.

Right in the Middle

TLDR: To Long Didn’t Read

Ronald Wayne Hayes
Son of Wayne Chapman Hayes and Vivian Hayes nee Sullivan
Born – 04/28/1939 – Evansville, Indiana
Graduate Evansville Central High School – 1957
United States Marine Corp – May 1957 – May 1965 – Honorable Discharge
Married – May 21st, 1966
Father of Jay Wayne Hayes – 1971
Died – 06/05/1999 – Indianapolis, Indiana
Interment – Pleasant Hill Cemetery Marion, Kentucky

Penn & Teller 20220219

Penn & Teller Theater at Rio Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV

Third time is as much fun as the first.

Penn & Teller Theater at Rio Las Vegas – Las Vegas

Penn & Teller are still blowing my mind after 30 years. This was my second time at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino and my third Penn and Teller show. They have added all new material for about 90% of the show! It is awesome. One of the tricks went off the rails and the guys just made it glorious. It was so funny. I will be back.

Best travel tip… internet addition

I came up with the best travel trick ever. I changed my phone name to match my home WiFi network and made the password the same as the home network.

My kindle,and all my other WiFi devices like blood pressure monitor, heart, cpap, scale, Nintendo switch, hair curler, toe nail trimmer, and gold fish tank, were able to connect to the internet just like home. Seamlessly!

iPhone -> Settings -> General -> About -> Name

iPhone -> Settings -> Personal Hotspot -> WiFi -> Password

Bonus! Most important! Turn it off when you get home or all your data with go away!

But wait what do you call your iPhone when you aren’t traveling? My regular phone name is the same as my webpage. No reason.

20210726 – New Orleans to Memphis

20210726 – New Orleans to Memphis

We woke up at a reasonable hour and got loaded up.

First stop was Black and Gold Fluff and Fold to dry our damp clothes. It is highly rated and has an attendant. He had to call the manager, but was able to dry our damp clothes and fold them for money. I asked if there was a breakfast place nearby. He wasn’t sure and asked the three other people in the laundromat. The one guy that I would trust in the whole place, totally made my day.

He suggested The Vintage. The Vintage is on the edge of the Garden District and a real treat. They have “Fancy” Beignets. Three of them served on a board with three kinds of filling and whipped cream. The breakfast sandwich was even better. A biscuit served with bacon, artisan cheese and a poached egg. I guess I really haven’t had a lot of poached eggs but this sandwich was delightful. Merryweather got Avocado toast also with bacon and poached eggs.

One of the locals gave us the low down the Garden District. It is very nice. The roads are only slightly better than the Lower Ninth. Maybe twice as good. That is not saying much. Merryweather also figured out where Anne Rice’s house was located. We got a peek at that as well.

We started to mosey out of town. I spied the New Orleans Jazz National Park sign. I wanted a National Park pin. It is close to the French Market. I pulled into a no waiting, no parking zone and asked Merryweather to get in the driver’s seat, but not move until a cop told him to. He said okay. The park visitor center was closed. In the minute or so it took me to figure this out he was long gone. Apparently, he heard me say drive off and get stuck in the French Quarter for half an hour. He did. The non-parking spot was still open when he got back, but only after I had walked eight blocks trying to find him. We stopped at the French Market so he could look around. I parked illegally again and cleaned up the Overland Rig while he shopped. I was right there when he got back.

I can see value in both techniques, but must admit that I have a preference. Especially where it concerns me walking around NOLA in the midday heat.

We headed east. First, I was headed to Gulfport, Mississippi. Then I kept on to Mobile, Alabama. Merryweather was asleep so I kept going to Pensacola, Florida.

We had generally agreed to head home today, probably stop in Memphis. He was a little testy to find out I had set a new world record for most US states visited in one day.

But first we had to eat. He found a seafood restaurant on the gulf. It was a little too restauranty for my needs today. I looked at the menu and walked back out the door. I found Maria’s Fresh Seafood Market. It is an actual market, but also has a restaurant. It was a little too hot to eat peel and eat shrimp in the parking lot, but I considered it. We sat down in the restaurant, instead. I got shrimp and grits and greens. It was also excellent. Merryweather got grilled shrimp. Also excellent. I dumped the best cooler contents(Diet Coke) into the second best cooler and loaded it up with shrimp to take home. I tried to arrange for the one of the new battleships in Mobile Bay to fly a banner that said “Mission Accomplished”, but no luck. Also no luck getting the message out from the Stennis Space Force base. Or NASA.

I had gone so far out of the way to touch base in Florida, that we ended up driving US45 across most of Mississippi. We got gas in Tupelo. Pulled into Memphis late.

20210727 – Memphis to Home

20210727 – Memphis to Home

We woke up and re-iced the shrimp. First stop – Gibson’s donuts. I got a free sample of a hot and fresh donut. Life is good. This place is a little hole in the wall. The donuts were excellent. I got a chocolate glazed and chocolate cake. The guy who gave me the free donut recommended another kind. I swear he said something about New Orleans style, but I can’t find any reference on the web. It looks kind of like a buttermilk drop(whatever that is). I bought four for Mrs. Jon Bruce Entertainment. Three of them made it home. Merryweather was a little gun shy about any more fried bread after New Orleans. He certainly has a point. He did spot a maple glazed and another that he got to go. The whole thing including a chocolate milk was $6… I think I may have robbed the place in retrospect. I eliminated all evidence of my crimes before I got out of the parking lot.

We went to Stax Records Museum. We both agreed that it was a very nice museum. The music is so great. There were a couple of issues. Their payment system was down, but I was able to get tickets online. Then the movie that starts the museum was buggy. One of the attendants was explaining it to the other. I offered to take a look at it. I know a little about AV stuff. They declined. We went in to watch the short film. It stopped three times. The first time I told the attendants. They advised me to cut my losses. Merryweather was more adventurous. He hit the play button on the control panel a couple of times. It worked. It worked the next time too. And it worked the third time as well. I told the attendants before we went on. I don’t know if they heard or were actively ignoring me. Whatever. We walked through the rest of the museum. It was cool. The exit is through the gift shop. BUT they don’t take cash because of COVID, and they can’t take credits cards, because the machine it down. They didn’t offer to barter. You can see how everybody’s hands were tied. Apparently, adults who can make decisions were not working today. I just walked out. I am not going to yell, but it would have made me feel better. I have a credit card reader in the truck just in case I decide to start a small business for crissakes!

Before noon, Beale Street was mostly empty. We had a mini photo shoot with the Overland Rig.

We had the first of several unexpected stops today. Number one, Memphis Equipment Company is the nations largest Army truck and parts dealer. The US Army uses a trailer called the M1102. It’s made of aluminum and designed for the Hummer. They show up for sale occasionally. I have never seen one in the wild. Memphis Equipment had several in stock. The sales guy had some practical, honest and helpful opinions on its suitability for my intended use. I would recommend Memphis Equipment for all your military vehicle needs. Their office is all glass and dark wood paneling. I would also recommend them for 1970s office film location. 

We left Memphis. Interstate 55 winds along the Mississippi towards St. Louis. The next stop was Dyess Colony the boyhood home of Johnny Cash. Google took us straight to the house. There is also a museum. We went there too. Their cash register worked fine. We didn’t do the tour. I donated $20, because I am down for the cause, but not getting on the bus for a tour down. The guy working at the register offered to show us how to get to the house we had just visited.

Did I mention we got to see a crop duster? Today it was zooming around Dyess Colony. They were dusting rice fields. I honestly didn’t recognize the crops that were growing around there.

We had a late lunch at Zaxby’s Chicken. I don’t think I have ever been before. The chicken sandwich was well constructed. A bit more substantial than Chik Fil A or McDs. The chicken wings were good. Not great food to eat while driving, but I am a chicken wing champ.  Merryweather got cheese curds. I wouldn’t order them again. The fries were unremarkable. Did you know the founder is a graduate of Purdue University? I do now. 

We finally crossed into Missouri. Last Stop of the trip prize for 2021 goes to Mildred Connover of International Falls, Minnesota. She correctly guessed New Madrid, Missouri.

New Madrid is a great spot to see the Mississippi River. The river turns north and west in a tight bend. You can see the whole river coming and going at the same time. New Madrid is most famous for being the epicenter of the worst earthquake in the United States. If visiting New Madrid for a short time can impart any wisdom into the nature of the New Madrid fault or earthquakes. I didn’t get it.  I have already done quite a bit of reading on the subject.  

The Museum is a local museum. It has an assortment of local stuff. The short film was handy. It was originally named and settled as Nuevo Madrid because Spain was doing the the naming. Merryweather walked away to see the collection before the film opening credits started. He built a house of wood on top of the earthquake simulator. The earthquake simulator huffed and puffed and blew his house down. The New Madrid museum had a working cash register but no collectible pin.  

I may be skipping over the headline on the New Madrid Museum. They have a ceremonial mace found in a pre-historic burial mound. I don’t think I have seen anything like in the USA. It looks like some Aztec Spaceship stuff. Here is a link. https://anthromuseum.missouri.edu/exhibit/lilbourn-mace

There are several mounds culture sites in Southern Indiana. There is a site in Illinois that was bigger than London at the same time. Pretty interesting.

Merryweather took the wheel after New Madrid. I took a nap. He ended up having to drive through downtown St Louis during rush hour while getting feedback on his driving from me. Road trips are the furnace in which future therapy sessions are forged.

We got home in time for dinner and to unpack and start laundry.

20210725 – New Orleans to the End of the Line

Filipino rough necks are no match for Bourbon Street on a Saturday night noise wise. Not even close. We are five floors up. I was shocked at how loud it was. I have been to a Pantera concert.

I woke Merryweather up at zero seven thirty. We walked over to Cafe Du Monde for first breakfast. It was busier than I expected but not unreasonable. I always go to the take out line. Thanks to covid all orders are “to go”.

Here is a pro tip for savvy travelers. The Mississippi River is directly behind Cafe Du Monde on the other side of the levee. Right there.

Street sweepers and sturdy men with high pressure hoses were cleaning Bourbon Street for a fresh Sunday round of entertainment. We saw several groupings of the pan handlers. Maybe a bible study or sharing tips on how to get more money. One of the guys felt strongly that nobody should be touching his foot. Biblically speaking, I thought he should have more empathy for the guy in the wheel chair with no feet. We walked back to the hotel via the Walgreens. The party needed to restock gold bond.

We took a nap.

For late breakfast, we went Le Bon Temp Roule for tamales and a beer. Merryweather spotted the Disco Warehouse. Despite the bubble machine, it was full of art and furniture and stuff.

We made it all the way to the ticket office of the Mardi Gras Warehouse where the floats are housed. We might go back tomorrow. We did get a picture.

We headed out of town down LA23 towards Venice. Venice is the tip of the boot in Louisiana. It was a pretty, but boring drive. There are levees on both sides of the road. The river and the gulf aren’t visible most of the drive. I was looking for the end of the road either metaphorical or literal.

We found it. On the way back we ate at Changes restaurant for first lunch. An overwhelming assortment of religious affirmations decorate the walls. They also have a railroad tie mounted on the wall to commentate all the props Dave Valant has sacrificed to the great Mississippi River.

They served a baked potato covered in shrimp and cheese sauce. Baked potatoes are a really solid choice. The secret sauce was suspiciously cheesy like a Velveeta.

Back towards New Orleans, I went to see the Lower Ninth Ward. I wouldn’t recommend it. Some of the roads in NOLA would embarrass a third world road crew. I haven’t been to many places like that, but I have watched all of Top Gear and Grand Tour and Jeremy Clarkson on a tractor. I did see what I went to see. Part of the 9th is below the river. You can look up at ships passing. Surreal.

Merryweather picked another gem of a restaurant for first dinner. The St Roch Market hosts several restaurants. We setup a base camp for raw and baked Gulf Oysters at Elysians. Merryweather also ordered Crawfish etoufee. I got a Bluesty Collins from the bar in the next stall.

Still haven’t found a place that will let me eat fistfuls of shrimp and crawfish until I pass out. New Orleans is all about its Southern Gentility.

On the street below, I heard a motorcycle with no muffler warning up for a drive around Bourbon Street.

We took a second nap.

The hotel keeps its nicest cars close to the front door as some sort of “hotel status symbol” You can imagine our surprise to see the Overland Rig front and center when we went back out to Rue Bourbon after the sun set.

Sunday was a little more relaxed. We walked the length of Bourbon. We bought 144 beads and got an invitation to hang out on a balcony. Waiting for a doorman to ask if you would like go up on the balcony actually worked. I still can’t believe it. I am all about the hustle and being charming and nice, but sometimes all you need is a arm full of beads. Life is weird like that.

If any one asks, Merryweather is definitely 21. You can tell because he is tall. That is the official way for determining age. Now that we have that cleared up…

Throwing beads off a balcony on Bourbon Street is ridiculous. It has the added benefit of allowing you to people watch and stand in one place. I sometimes feel like I am good at grabbing people’s attention. I walked away with no remaining beads, but humble.

20320724 – Lafayette to New Orleans

20320724 – Lafayette to New Orleans

I had thought choosing a nicer hotel would equal better rest. I was wrong. The hotel hosts a bevy of Filipino offshore oil rig workers when they are not working. They have a basketball hoop and a pop up canopy and a grill. They also have a penchant for smoking and yelling outside my window at 2 in the morning. They also yell down the hallways and empty the ice machine at 2:15 am. We headed out of town at second light.

It turns out we were thirty minutes from Avery Island, home of Tabasco. I love the smell of Tabasco in the morning, it smells like victory. We did the tour. We ate some food. We cleared out the gift shop.

The self guided tour is truly one of the best I have ever seen. It is very well done. There is also a jungle gardens where you drive around and see many Asian plants and such. It was also nice. We saw wild alligators and Spanish moss and cool trees and birds. There is a lot of bamboo. It grows like a weed on Avery Island.

We listened to a zydeco CD bought in the gift shop all the way through once.

The Wilco Marsh Runner is basically the riding lawn mower of the future. It has two tracks, passenger seating and an optional brush cutter. It has a top speed of 8mph on land and 1mph on the water because it also floats. Convenient financing is available and basically this thing could be easily towed behind my truck back to St Louis. I saw one being trailered last night. It was love at first sight. Who doesn’t want a tank for around the house?

I had in mind that it would be fun to stay outside of New Orleans on Saturday night. It was not going to happen today. I did stop in Morgan City. It is one of the small towns that dot US90 on the way to NOLA. There was a crafts fair on the main drag next to the sea wall. There was boat racing at a lake and a BBQ competition with live music and vendors underneath the overpass. Merryweather and I got homemade pies. I could not persuade my travel partner to hang around for live music or more food. We got back on the road.

Parts of the US90 highway are not very smooth. The truck gallops like a horse at 75 miles an hour. It is a about 100 bpm bounce.

We finally pulled into New Orleans with no solid plan. I pulled over in the shadow of the Superdome to find a hotel. I got something figured out, but the hotel was on Canal at Bourbon Street. The valet line was a block long. We talked to one of valets. He said come back in an hour and a half. So I updated the GPS for a diversion.

We drove over to Willie Maes Scotch House. The last time I was here. It was the year after Katrina. Time magazine was doing a follow up photo shoot on New Orleans. The kitchen was in the weeds. Lunch took more than an hour. It was still excellent. The original location was closed today. They sent us to the new second location in the Market at Pythian.

Merryweather got a shrimp poke’ bowl from another vendor. I got fried chicken and butter beans. It was delicious. The butter beans and white rice look boring, but the flavor is a surprise. Very spicy, balanced, delicious. The fried chicken is exceptional.

After food, we headed back to the hotel to check in. You can see Bourbon Street from the window. The visually impaired need not worry, you can hear Bourbon Street just fine. Not planning on being well rested tomorrow either.

We went out to check out the French Quarter.

I think the most interesting thing I saw was how comfortable some people are with their bodies. There is NO mystery in a single layer of Lycra or spandex. Some folks just let it all hangout but just cover it with a little stretchy fabric. New Orleans is also apparently also too hot for undergarments. Good for them! Maybe? I am keenly aware of my deficits in form and dress to minimize them. As much as I am shocked by the outfits people will wear out in public, I try to not to be judgmental. Lord knows I got some judgements. I got lots of opinions. Gentle Readers, Miss Manners taught me that silence is the better part of valor.

We gave some money to buskers. I gave some money to a bartender. We got some steps in.

Tomorrow will be bright and early for Cafe Du Monde or breakfast.