Week 14 update

February 18-24, 2015.

This week we wrapped up a fabulous stay in New Orleans and headed toward Texas – stopping in Baton Rouge and Lafayette along the way. We stayed in Houston for the weekend and then onto Austin. We were lucky we had many friends to visit this week (and as it turned out, new friends to meet as well).

Highlights:

The day after Mardi Gras (we were feeling stellar of course) we headed to help on a post-Katrina rebuild project with the St. Bernard Project. We met Kate from Delaware and spent the day installing closets with her.

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We visited an old friend of Erin’s from Nova Scotia who now studies in Baton Rouge. Thanks for showing us the university mascot Jill and Barry! Yes that is a Bengal Tiger like the one for “life of Pi”.

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Near Lafayette, Erin was keen to visit the Acadian village depicting the early years of the Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia (just a few miles away from where Erin grew up) and then settled in Louisiana.

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The painting below shows Blomidon in the background, a similar view to one from Erin’s parent’s house. It was quite something to see such a familiar sight so far from home.

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Erin spent some time talking with Charles Goulas (shown below in his shop). His background is Acadian and they spoke a little French (which was very different from Quebec French but somewhat similar to Chiac which is the English/French blend heard most in New Brunswick). He said he still keeps his heritage alive through language and cooking – like cow tongues.

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The next stop was Houston. One of the little-known rather unique things to visit in Houston is a house decked out in beer cans. John Milkovisch was an eccentric man (with a very supportive wife) who got pretty crafty with putting beer cans to good use on the outside of their home. It certainly looked like a labour of love.

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We also visited the Waugh Street Bridge to see the bats come out at dusk. Let’s face it, neither of us are that patient unless the pay off is big (and it was mediocre).

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We attended the Unitarian Church science lecture which discussed the intersectionality of health and how some of their case studies found unexpected results (e.g. poorer people being healthier on many metrics possibly due to activity level, social connections, active commuting, etc).

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During the church lunch we met a fabulous woman, Leonora Hamilton. She has had such a rich and varied life (social change, education, the oil business, being a Unitarian minister and more). She was such a treat to speak with. We pegged her about 20 years younger than she really is – a sign of smart living. Leonora invited us out to dinner at Ginger Cafe with her neice Diana. What fun!

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She invited us back to her beautiful home in the River Oaks area after dinner. We loved this resilience reminder she had posted in her kitchen.

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We visited with another high school friend of Erin’s (well, they met at Legion Leadership Camp in 2000) who is now living in Houston. Josh – your humour ages well!

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As we were driving from Houston to Austin, we saw an adorable tiny house being towed behind a truck. We looked up their slogan “tiny house, giant journey” online and found that this couple built this house and was touring around the US. They had an open house lined up in Austin the afternoon we arrived so that was our first stop.

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We love the idea of tiny living (and have been testing it out through this van trip). This couple – Guillaume and Jenna – did a fabulous job on the structure and details of their home. It definitely had everything that was needed to live well. You can follow their journey at: http://tinyhousegiantjourney.com/. We’re hoping to meet up with them again in California next month.

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Then we headed to our friends Kim and Kyle’s place in Austin where we’ll be spending the week. Awesome couple! Erin is Kim’s Canadian equivalent and vice a versa for Kim (both into co-ops, serving on boards, facilitating workshops, doing personal projects, crafting, etc). Erin and Kim caught up over Thai food (as is their tradition wherever in the world they meet up).

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Stats:

2 US states this week (LA, TX), 20 in total during the trip
1021 kms this week (634 mi), 11239 total on the trip (6984 mi)
Spent $577.19 this week, $11807.63 total

Week 13 update

February 11-17, 2015.
This week has been a major high point of our trip. We here in New Orleans and feeling like a team again (Jackson & Erin). We fully embraced the sights and sounds (and tastes) leading up to Mardi Gras.

Highlights:
We did a whiskey tour of “Old New Orleans Whiskey Factory”. Our tour guide Jeff was funny and the whiskey was yummy- especially the gigeroo spicy ginger whiskey. We bought some to enjoy later.
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Michalopoulos, the artist, was the person who started the whiskey factory which is why they had so many different label and bottle designs over the years.
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On the whisky tour we met Anna from New York who we spent the afternoon with. First beignets (donuts) and chicory coffee from Café du Monde in the French quarter.
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Next we walked through the market and then had some charbroiled oysters.
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We headed to a parade that night by fluke on our way to meet up with Anna again to see some jazz on Bourbon Street.
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Then we did jazz.
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So Jackson was keen to shoot guns again… being in America and all. So we got a groupon and went to a range.
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We also headed just west of New Orleans to do a swamp tour in Laplace.
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People seemed very impressed by the raccoons who eat marshmallows. We’ve lived in Toronto with six camped out in our back yard for months…. different perspectives.
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And the best part
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Back in town we saw another parade -Endymion, one of the super krewes
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That’s right, this kid had a ladder and net to catch the goodies being thrown from the floats.

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On Sunday we went to the First Unitarian Church which offered a relaxed service.
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We joined a bunch of the regular congregation for lunch after the service at the High Hat restaurant (Max, Sheree, Kathy, Audrey, Jacob, Cathy).
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Monday we visited Hazel from Calgary who was visiting her mom. Hazel and Erin have known each other for a while through co-operative activities and conferences. Hazel is the Vice President of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada where Erin used to work before heading out on this trip. She’s a mover and a shaker. What a great visit!
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We had po-boys with her kids Alex and Gabby and her mom.
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Great family
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She brought out some traditional food for us to taste including shrimp gumbo.
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And red beans and rice
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So then Mardi Gras happened! Even though it poured, we took a walk through the French quarter on lundi gras.
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Then fat Tuesday came
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The city was bustling. We hung out with a couple from France for a while (they were on their honeymoon) so we got to practice French. Gotta say, because it was so cold, no college debauchery to be witnessed.

Stats:
1 US state this week (LA), 19 in total during the trip
234 kms this week (145 mi), 10218 total on the trip (6349 mi)
Spent $545.30 this week, $11230.44 total

Week 12 update

February 4-10, 2015.
This week we finally left Florida (we get why people winter there) and headed west. The temperature is significantly colder at nights, but still sunny during the daytime which we appreciate. We made it to our next key destination – New Orleans. In a mere few hours, we affirmed we like it here and we’ll be staying for Mardi Gras. The festivities have already started so we’re in the thick of it – parades, party attitudes, crawfish.

Highlights:

We stopped at Miramar beach just south of Destin, Florida before we left Florida for good. People were wearing parkas at the beach but the icing sugar sand was beautiful.

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So we were innocently doing laundry the day after we arrived in New Orleans and a guy from the restaurant next to the laudromat noticed our license plate and came over to ask if we’ve ever eaten crawfish. He told us we haven’t had the real New Orleans experience until we did and they had a fresh batch coming in that afternoon. We took the opportunity! The Harbor Bar and Grill was full of locals and lots of people who wanted to chat. We made some new friends and made a mess of ourselves eating crawfish.

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Here is our new buddy Jim showing us a live crawfish before going into the boiler (vegetarians look away)

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And the finished product. The locals suggest eating these with a mayo-ketchup-tabasco sauce.

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We took a walk through the French Quarter which was swarming with people. Many houses were decorated for Mardi Gras and there were already tons of people in costume.

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Here we are in Jackson Square (Jackson already in his party beads)

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We stopped into the market in the French Quarter and got some party hats

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We met this darling Kandalyn during our crawfish experience at Harbor Bar and Grill and she hooked us up with free tickets to Mardi Gras World. Jackson also joined her and a bunch of her friends for a parade night (while Erin went to bed early – day in the sun). Mardi Gras World is a magical place where tons of artists are at work fashioning all of the artwork that goes on the magnificent Mardi Gras floats.

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We sampled the traditional king cakes too which are somewhat like a cinnamon bun with the Mardi Gras colours in icing on top.

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We did a walk about a couple of graveyards too which is really something to see. Because of the rain and flooding, people are buried above ground in raised graves or in mausoleums.

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We’re staying for Mardi Gras and we’ve got lots planned – parades, a distillery tour, a gun range, a swamp tour and more.

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Stats:
4 US states this week (FL, AL, MS, LA), 19 in total during the trip
1203 kms this week (748 mi), 9984 total on the trip (6204 mi)
Spent $637.74 this week, $10685.14 total

Week 11 update

January 28-February 3, 2015
This week we started our journey driving up the gulf coast of Florida from the Everglades to Spring Hill (past Tampa). We are getting excited to move west and we have our sights on New Orleans (& Mardi Gras) in the short term.

Highlights:
We enjoyed as little sun before we headed to far north at a beach in Bonita Springs

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We visited a natural spring pool in Fort Myers

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We visited friends from Nova Scotia who winter in North Fort Myers. Great lunch with Gary and Audrey, Marg and Don

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We kept heading north to Sarasota and went to the Unitarian Universalist Church. All of their material says they promise their sermons will make you think. Indeed, with the ‘fifty shades of gray’ movie coming out soon, this week they made their sermon topic sexual taboos (the place was packed!)

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We stayed after and met some nice people during coffee time

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We went on to Tarpon Springs for the night. We met this great older couple Ray and Martha pumping iron at the gym who are 93 and 85 respectively. Their advice – never stop hitting the gym (noted)

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A real treat was staying with Jackie and John (also snowbirds from Nova Scotia) for a couple nights. These two are long time friends of Erin and basically like a bonus set of parents. They took us in, fed us well, toured us around on a golf cart… I mean it doesn’t get much better than that.

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Here’s Erin enjoying an afternoon in the hottub

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Stats:
1 US state this week (FL), 16 in total during the trip
556kms this week (345 mi), 8781 total on the trip (5456 mi)
Spent $642.85 this week, $10047.85 total

Week 10 update

January 21-27, 2015
We are staying in the sun. Our journey through Florida has comprised most of our trip at this point and we’ll be here for at least another week as we head up the Gulf Coast toward our next big destination – Louisiana. We spent week 10 in Key West and on the final day of the week we left the keys and drove through the Everglades Park and landed in Naples.

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Highlights:
We stayed at Leo`s Campground which was a great spot to meet other travelers. We got some great advice on what to see next. Morley is a gentleman from Vancouver Island who told us about lots of great campgrounds to visit as we head west. He took the picture of the moon below. We also had a great site right on the water of this beautiful inlet. There were huge iguanas in the trees which occasionally came over near our picnic table.

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Jackson went fishing

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Erin keeps singing

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We loved jet skiing so much last week that this week we booked a 3 hour tour around Key West. We saw all of the beaches, sand bars and luxury homes from the water. We zipped around, switching drivers, laughing and getting wet.

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We hit up Duval Street again several times, taking in live music, dancing and partaking in cheap beer.

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The best two nights on Duval Street were the nights we toured in power chairs that we rented (from Island Mobility Rentals).

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That’s right – it’s America and if you can dream it, for a small fee you can make it happen. And this was certainly Jackson’s dream. On our final night in town we brought a big box of Ferrero Roche chocolates and handed them out to people we met on the bar strip from the comfort of our power chairs (like Richie from Austin, TX seen below).

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We also kept the power chairs long enough to do our weekly chores

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Hurricane Hole was a local watering hole about a 5 minute walk from our campsite (or a 3 minute power chair ride) and we went there to watch the boats come in, eat and drink several times. We even had PEI mussels…hmmm.

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When we finally decided to leave the keys, we knew we would have the pleasure of driving through the Everglades Park. There were tons of birds everywhere. We took an airboat ride which Erin had on her wish list and we saw lots of gators (the baby ones were the coolest).

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After the airboat ride, there was a wildlife show where Erin had the pleasure of kissing a toad….and sure enough, her prince charming appeared…..a slightly tanned Jackson.

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Stats:
1 US state this week (FL), 16 in total during the trip
516 kms this week (321 mi), 8225 total on the trip (5111 mi)
Spent $1017.02 this week, $8404.55 total