The winter blahs

Wow, this winter has been one of the more uneventful ones for me in quite a while.  Maybe that's good but really leaves me not much to write about, let alone, take a picture of.

Let's see, since Michigan, I've had a short stay in Kaufman/Mesquite, Texas, a week and a ½ in Moss Bluff/Lake Charles, a couple of weeks in Grenada, Missippy (that's the way it's pronounced there) and the week before Christmas, I was sent to Buggtussel, Tennessee. Actually, it's Waverly, a little burg in north central Tennessee and a very long drive from Memphis, especially when it's snowing and cold.

I'm guessing it will be a fairly short stint or at least that's what I'm hoping for.  Aside from being about 7 miles north of  Loretta Lynn's Ranch, on the banks of the Hurricane Creek, there's not much I find noteworthy.  Possibly there may be to it during the spring and summer months.

An update may be forthcoming once I get out of the hotel for the weekend.

Update:  Saturday, 12/29/12.

I could not take sitting in this hotel room.  I've looked at motorcycle websites, cruised bike and camera forums, edited pictures and watched some of the most awful TV ever broadcasted, so I thought I'd check out some of the local towns nearby.

Gray and gloomy with a light snow falling, the drive through Bucksnort and Dickens just wasn't much of an inspiration.  I had heard Franklin was a nice spot so I took the new 4 lane down that way.

Franklin proved to be a very nice and vibrant downtown with trendy shops, coffee shops and even the old theater was still in business.  Even though it was in the low 30° ranges, people were out, some with friends, some with their little kids and some with designer dogs.

 After having a reasonable gumbo (who would have thought) at Papa Boudreaux's Cajun Restaurant, I headed back to the car and looked at a map.  I was only 30-35 mile from Nashville.  Oh, what the heck, I have nothing better to do.

Still, a light snow was falling when I arrived and parked near the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and walked a few steps down to Legends Corner on Broadway.  I hadn't even made it to the corner before I was accosted by bums looking for a handout.  Sure, I'm a softy, it was cold and wet so I handed him a few bucks.  On Broadway, dodged a gaggle of other tourists with Canons and Nikons dangling from their necks.  Even with it cold and wet, there was a significant amount of foot traffic walking by the ever present mandolin or guitar picker, playing for tips.

Broadway still has quite a few bars, clubs and pubs on it but I can see how it is becoming Nashville's version of Bourbon Street.  Broadway has it's T-shirt and tourist traps like Bourbon but being what it is, there's also boot and hat shops.  The thing about those shops are, they still carry those  old pointy toed roach killers worn mostly by entertainers and are almost a cartoon of western wear.

So, having my fill of walking in the rain and snow, I took leave and made my way back to the parking garage  through a gauntlet of beggars and hustlers.


OK, the party's over

Over the past week, I've strained out a few days of vacation and really enjoyed myself.  It included a day at my grandson's school Grandparents Day, a motorcycle trip up to get my mother for Thanksgiving (she didn't ride the bike), a very nice Thanksgiving at my son's house and to top it off, a Sunday ride supposedly sponsored by the Harley dealership.  Well, it was on the website calendar.

My brother-in-law, Gary and I fired up Sunday morning and left the garage early in 32° temps.  Well bundled, we arrived at the and found another half-dozen bikes/bikers who had planned on doing the same thing.  However, there was no representative from Harley there so we discussed amongst ourselves what would be a proper ride.  Gary and I are not veterans of sponsored rides so we didn't interject much except to voice the opinion that we wanted to stay off the interstates as much as possible.  That was fairly unanimous.

There was this really vocal rider who was riding a pretty slick looking Road Glide and boasted that he had spent over a hundred grand at the dealership this year.  I understand a 110 cu Harley engine is a special and they cost out the yang to have one made, but heck, it didn't even have pontoons and a propeller.

Since he talked a lot and had a lot of gadgets, we decided to make him our leader.  A man spending 100 big ones on a motorcycle should have something to show for it.

We made a tour around Port Vincent, through French Settlement and across the Sunshine Bridge at Donaldsonville headed to Pierre Part.  Somehow, Dear Leader took the wrong turn and we found ourselves meandering the back streets of Napoleonville, touring a bunch of cane fields and eventually coming to a dead end at Lake Verrett at the Attakapas boat launch.

While it was fun laughing while Dear Leader whipped out his Magellan GPS trying to locate Pierre Part, it really wasn't that bad.  I knew where it was but I wasn't the leader and it wasn't in my job description.  After all, it wasn't about the destination, it was about the ride and it was good ....... plus, we got to see a lot of wildlife.

Abandoning our quest for Pierre Part, we made our way back over the Sunshine Bridge and located a restroom at a gas station.

After a few minutes a chatting, we shook hands, fired up and split in different directions.

My party is over and it's time to call in to the office to see what the friendly skies has in store for me.


Oak Alley

Since leaving Michigan, I took a quick tour through Kaufman, Texas and another couple of weeks in Moss Bluff, Louisiana.  Feeling a tad under the weather through both assignments, I simply just did not feel like going out on photo excursions.

However, my mother had not seen our new digs since we bought the new house in August, so I rode up on Boudreaux (the Harley-Davidson) Tuesday and drove her down in her new car for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Oh, I mentioned "new car" didn't I?  Well..... It seems that Mama failed to negotiate a narrow corner near her home last week, nailed a metal gate post and managed to knock the bumper completely off her 13 year old Chevrolet Lumina.  Neither Mama or the fence post on the corner suffered any damage but the cost to repair her car was more than it was worth, so she and my brother went on a car shopping spree and came up with a Chevy Malibu to replace it.

Not that it was a burden but when you have your Mama down, there is this innate drive to do your best to entertain her.  So, today I chose to drive her down the river road to Oak Alley.  Oak Alley is a historic plantation site dating back to 1840.  The trees that gave the plantation it's name were actually planted 100 years earlier by an unknown French settler.

Mama and I took the paid tour which turned out to be a really nice half day trip.  She and I both truly enjoyed hearing the history from the guide.  The giant Live Oak trees were spectacular and with rows of Crepe Myrtles and beds of Flocks, I'm sure it's even more lovely in the spring.

Here's a few pictures.

She will be 91, January 12, 2013.


Oh, dey pass a good time, yeah.

When I left the Grand Rapids airport, I was dressed in a leather jacket, wool pants and an Indiana Jones hat which was fitting and appropriate for the 30° western Michgan temperatures.  A few hours later, landing in Lafayette, Louisiana, it was evident that I was way overdressed in more ways than one.

With no particular plans, Darlene mentioned a festival in Girard Park, near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  "We're here, so we may as well go", was the agreement.

Lafayette isn't shy about having some kind of festival, party or fais do-do, so here we are with the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles featuring 50 Cajun and Zydeco bands.

The music was loud and plentiful which released the inhibitions of many, not that it took much encouragement as evidenced by the late morning crowd.   I'm sure it would become more "interesting" later in the day or early evening when the Budweiser and Abita beer took control.

Aside from the bands, we found rows of tents selling local artwork, trinkets and displays of handmade musical instruments.   No self respecting south Louisiana festival would be complete without the food tents.  Darlene and I feasted on boudin and cracklings, passing up the jambalaya, barbeque, poboys, fried alligator, funnel cakes and beignets.

After a couple of hours, we enjoyed about as much of the heat and humidity as we could stand in a pair of wool pants, so we made our way back home and left the party life to the creoles, cajuns and those who aspired to be.

It's vacation time for me next week, with no particular plans in mind but just cooling my jets and trying to get business off my mind.


West Michigan Autumn

West Michigan isn't really in it's autumn color peak just yet
but since I'm a short timer here, I thought I'd get out and see
what was available.

All of these are on the west coast of Lake Michigan from
Ludington on up onto the Mission Point Peninsula north of
Traverse City.

(click on the photos for increased size and resolution)

Ludington, Michigan Courthouse

Pumpkin Patch, near Manistee, Michigan

South of Onekama, Michigan

Highway 22 north of Onekama, Michigan

From Sleeping Bear Dunes

Motorcyclists on Hwy 22 north of Sleeping Bear Dunes

Vineyards, wineries and orchards - Mission Point Peninsula

Grapes yet harvested

Orange and gold

While I was out, I managed to find three more lighthouses.
The Mission Point lighthouse is a few hundred yards from
45th parallel.  It's the point halfway between the north pole
and the equator. These are just a fraction of lighthouses on
Lake Mission but time doesn't allow tracking them all down.

Old Mission Point Lighthouse

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Big Sable Point Lighthouse north of Ludington, Michigan


Redundant Sundown and Lighthouse photos

Yes, it's redundant but I'm still drawn to a pretty sundown, especially with something like this Ludington, Michigan lighthouse in it.

This one was taken with my HTC Android cell phone.

Same place but with the Badger Auto Ferry coming in from Wisconsin.

Yet another one

and finally, this one.


Lighthouses of Lake Michigan

On Lake Michigan, there are 50 or so lighthouses. Some are large, old and works of art while others are small electronic structures.  Nevertheless, Michigan has 18 while Indiana has 6 and Illinois' contribution amounts to 30 or more.   Over the past few weeks, I've visited a few on the western shore in the state of Michigan.

Small lighthouse at St Joseph, Michigan

Little Sable Point Lighthouse, Pentwater, Michigan

White River Light Station, Whitehall, Michigan

Grand Haven Lighthouse, Grand Haven, Michigan

Just as I was about to leave the area, I saw a couple of people
in the water.  It's not something you would look for but found
a couple of surfers trying to catch a wave.  One who turned
out to be a girl was mildly successful.

Grand Haven Channel Marker, Grand Haven, Michigan

Ludington North Pierhead Lighthouse, Ludington, Michigan

Mackinac Lighthouse, Mackinaw, Michigan (one of several)

Near the Mackinac Lighthouse, is the mile long Mackinac
Bridge spanning lower Michigan and the upper peninsula.  It's
a big deal up here.

As an added curiosity, there is a windfarm being installed just
offshore of Lake Michigan, near Pentwater and Ludington.  A
quick count out the window, suggest a couple of dozen of them
scattered across the countryside.


Michigan....once again

I Received a call Friday morning from the home office, beckoning me too Ludington, Michigan. Of course, they wanted me there now. There were no flights out of Baton Rouge so I booked a 5:20 pm out of NOLA and enlisted the aid and truck of my brother-in-law for the trip to the airport.

It never entered my mind to check road conditions and 10 miles south, we found the interstate shut down due to flooding from Sorrento to LaPlace. I called DOTD asking about closures and the nice lady told me that I-10 and even I-55 was closed so we hooked back to Baton Rouge then took I-12 toward Covington & the Causeway. I found out too late that 55 from Hammond to LaPlace was not closed.

After rerouting back on I-12, we ran into congestion such as you could not imagine on an interstate. Realizing I would not make my flight, I called in and changed it to a 6 a.m. Saturday morning out of New Orleans.

Four hours later, we arrived at the airport

To shorten this tale, lights were still out near the airport rendering all the hotels nearby out of business, so I elected to camp out in the world's most uncomfortable seating currently available in US airports to wait for the sun to rise and an airport coffee shop to open.  The stores and shops close early at MSY so I managed to grab an overpriced shrimp poboy before everything shut down.

It seemed like every 10 minutes some maintenance guy would roll a cart through making lots of noise or one of the cops would sail through on a 3 wheeled scooter and key his little Micky-Mouse siren, so there wasn't much sleeping going on. 

I may be getting too old for this nonsense.


Au revoir, Isaac

but I can't say "come again".

Hurricane Isaac finally came and went and is busy providing to drought stricken Arkansas and southern Missouri.  Speculation was that it could come on land, slow down and dump massive amounts of water on us for a 2 or 3 day period.  For some, that was the case but for me personally,  it was relatively mild.  For some, things did not work out so well.  

Wind damage for our area was limited, although my son lost a tree in his front yard and there were a few fences and roof shingles blown around.  The worst part around us was the rising water, particularly in historic flooding places.  Now that it's gone, there are areas that will have to contend with rising waters from the run-off that will fill the bayous and rivers flowing into the diversion canals of Lake Ponchatrain.

Electrical service for many of us went out Wednesday morning and some as late as early evening.  Those of us who have generators quickly absorbed friends and families that did not have them.  Our power was restored 24 hours later but as of this writing, Friday morning, there some who are still in the dark. 

Prior to Isaac coming ashore, most families went into to hurricane mode by stocking up on food, batteries, water and essentials.   As early as Monday afternoon, any kind of bread except Sunbeam white bread had been cleared from many grocery shelves as well as certain brands of milk.  Many canned goods that required no preparation other than opening the can disappeared.  The same was for beer.

Rising water was not a primary fear for us personally but concerns about blowing rain at our front door caused us to seek out sand bags.  The parish government set up sandbagging points around the area so Darlene and I found ourselves at the Dutchtown Fire Department filling a few bags for our own purposes.  Feeling like there was little more we could or should do to prepare for the storm, we found ourselves volunteering to help others who seemed a bit more desperate.  Most of the volunteers at the fire station were members of the the volunteer fire department so two old geezers who were helping others in the hot humid sun was somewhat of a novelty to the firefighters.
Realizing this might be a good way to teach our nieces/god-daughters the value of community service and love for others, Darlene called them and told them "Pop" would be at their house in 10 minutes.  Figuring I would not be well received when I picked them up, I was pleasantly surprised when they arrived at the bagging point and went right to work without so much as a groan.  Darlene and I, as well as the community were very proud of them for doing their part.

 When Isaac finally arrived, we were fortunate enough not to be close to waters that would rise and the force of the rains and winds hit primarily on one side of the house and the front which allowed us to sit on the screened back porch and pass the time watching the rain and discuss a broad range of topics.  The girls watched movies, played video games and slept.  With eight of us holding up in the storm, we never seemed to get on each others' nerves to any large degree.

This being Friday, everyone but me is back to work while I watch over 3 girls who still are sleeping late.