Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sisters on the Gulf Coast



 We spent one night at Fontainbleau State Park on the east side of Lake Pontchartrain.  Expecting only a place to park for the night, we were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of....


...WILD life.


This guy was so tame he strolled right past us without a concern,


But here was REAL wild life.


We didn't try to get close.  There were also deer roaming around, just a great spot right off the highway for getting close to nature.


Our first beach stop was Biloxi and we discovered that Daisy could earn her keep.


Jo was thrilled to get her feet back in the sand...


...but for 'Hilo Mary' it was just more of the same but without the lava.


Daisy discovered that someone put salt in the water.


How annoying!


It was a sublimely pleasant time.  Three (cranky, independent, opinionated, slightly senile) sisters plus a dog, spending 10 days and nights in a 24 foot long RV--has its challenges.


Staying close to the water with lots of room to play...


Soft breezes, the whooshing sound of foamy waves, plus the occasional cawing of hungry seagulls is the perfect antidote to 'ruffled feathers'.


We took the ferry across to Dauphin Island then traveled to Gulf Shores State Park south of Mobile where we stayed a few nights before heading back towards New Orleans.


We explored Fort Morgan. 







As we left the park we noticed the nest on top of the chimney at the Ranger station.



When we crossed back into Louisiana we received the call from Suzanne that Aunt Louise had died. Her passing was easy, she went with no pain.  She was a very strong lady.  She fully expected to be around for a few more years--and so did we, but in the end I think she was just too tired to keep going.
We were 24 hours from the family reunion in Thibodeaux so we decided to attend, especially since Mary had to change all her flight plans and I had to repack the RV for the trip.  So for the next two days we wore out the phones making all the arrangements to reside for most of the summer in Ft Worth and do the very difficult task of closing up an apartment, a history and a life.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sisters Memories--and the French Quarter

Sister Mary and I returned to New Orleans from the Islands then picked up Sister Jo at the airport. The relatives were gathering for a family reunion the last week in May so Mary, Jo and I were going to enjoy a mini reunion of sisters beforehand.


The very first request from Jo, "Can we go walk on the levee?"  That was not such an easy request for Jo as her Parkinson's was doing nasty things to her legs but that didn't stop her--she went right to the top and got a long look at the muddy Mississippi.


It is universal that our childhoods will pull us back.  There is an undeniable urge to return to 'where it all began'.  Nostalgia is powerful--sometimes good and sometimes not.  The above is the house where the three of us and mother lived for approximately 18 years.  
The grade school is still in operation but the junior high school burned to the ground last year.  I didn't try to find the high school--somehow it held too many negative memories for me.


The next stop was the French Quarter.  Jo had not been here in 50 years so she had a fun time remembering her teen years ...


when the Quarter was our introduction to the 'wild life'.  


Not one of the three of us was so 'wild' as to shock anyone with our behavior but we each had vivid memories of some fun times and some really uninhibited people.


These two could have stepped right out of memory banks.  Please note what is on his backpack.


Yep.


NEW ORLEANS
First sighted as Indian Portage to Lake Pontchartrain and Gulf in 1699 by Bienville and Iberville.  Founted by Bienville in 1718; named by him in honor of the Duke of Orleans Regent of France.  Called the Crescent City because of location in bend of the Mississippi.


Like any city, anywhere, New Orleans has it's good features and its not so good.


The very best thing about the Quarter is its respect for its history.

(Beignets and Cafe au Lait)

Second best would be the food.



And third would be its art and music culture.



Agreed, it is dirty and smelly, mosquitoes thrive, humidity is sometimes unbearable.  But the good parts outweigh the bad--at least for the length of a vacation.


(Crossing Lake Pontchartrain on the causeway, the longest bridge in the world--23.83 miles.)

Next on our itinerary was to head east toward the Gulf Coast.  We were going to spend the week camping and exploring the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and get back in time for the reunion.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Good, The Bad, a new Beginning...The Virgin Islands

April 26 to May 7

It has now been one year since Irma, the Category 5 hurricane ravaged the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The wounds are still evident though the islanders are doing their best to heal the scars.


Mary, Tom and I managed to enjoy what is best about this island and found....


most of the important things cannot be blown away by a hurricane.


Tom's apartment was headquarters for many weeks for some of the islanders that suffered damage to their homes.  The balcony became the center for nightly barbecues to cook up all the food that no longer had refrigeration.


This little gal is Tom's next door neighbor and a real darling.


Sitting here it is hard to believe the turmoil of the past year.


Honeymoon Beach was our go-to place for sunbathing and swimming....


...and it was perfect.


Tom is working several days a week ferrying tourists from downtown Cruz Bay to Honeymoon Beach. The beaches throughout the national park are still beautiful, however the trails to and from the highway need clearing and there were no park rangers on the Island to do the work.  Volunteers are showing up and trying to help but it is an overwhelming task.


First of all, were do you put the debris once the landfill is filled?  There are few answers to a job that requires major government intervention.  




People are waiting for the insurance companies to come through but a year later finds them still waiting.


Tom had damage to the Sadie Sea and, even though the insurance company has approved the repairs, he is still waiting.  In the meantime he uses Sadie Sea to run supplies back and forth from Island to Island.


 

Kenny Chesney, the country western singer has been St John's major benefactor. He has done much to get the island back on its feet and everyone I spoke to praised his efforts. 


As we drove around the island we learned that every local boat had been destroyed by being rammed up onto the shore or sunk.  



In total, all 401 boats were destroyed!  All except the Sadie Sea.  Tom's boat had dents and scratches from other boats careening into her and all the windows were blown out but she survived the storm.  I credit Tom's 20 years in the Coast Guard with acquiring the knowledge that it took to survive the storm.


And how strong was that storm?  Some of the gauges on the island registered 240 mph!  How strong is that?  Hang your head out the car window at 60 mph then multiply that force by four.


This flagpole couldn't take it.


I learned that in the midst of the storm Tom ran out into the street in an effort to stop the church steeple (shown above) from blowing down the street.  When I asked him what he was thinking he just shook his head and said "I don't know.  I just wanted to stop it from blowing away."  The blue tarps on the church roof show they are still waiting for the insurance company as well.


But the island is coming back.  The spirit is alive and well and Sadie Sea is waiting at anchor for the tourists to return.  (She is the red one in the middle of the boats in the photo above.)


Mary was starting to worry about the lava in Hawaii and was on the phone several times a day checking with Jim.  






On the plane back to the mainland I sat next to a young woman who was heading home to check on her husband and daughters.  It had been her third trip to St John since the hurricane.  She was a volunteer who was helping to rebuild homes, clear trails, paint school rooms, etc.  She said this trip was not her last.

Anyone wanting to assist the island in any way get in touch with.... 

www.lovecitystrongvi.org

LOVE CITY STRONG
5000 Estate Enighed,  Ste 102
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
00830