Louisiana- New Orleans

We stayed in a campground just outside of New Orleans, a 15 minute drive more or less depending on their traffic. This was on the floor in the Visitors Center where we started our 3 day Hop On/Hop Off bus Tour. The coordinates Upriver, Down River Riverside and Lakeside refer to their area; up and down river are of course referring to the Mississippi River. Lakeside is the huge Lake Pontchartrain, which is about 630 square miles but only about 12-14 feet deep! Riverside again refers to the Mississippi River.
This map that was in the visitors center shows the New Orleans area as it was first laid out by the French in 1718.
This was St. Louis Cemetery #1 right across the street from the visitors center. We chose not to tour it,  just a couple of shots as our bus pulled out.


The pyramid shaped crypt in this photo is reserved for Nicholas Cage. He purchased it as well as some property here when he was making movies here. He fell in love with New Orleans and wants too spend eternity here I guess!
This gorgeous Magnolia was on the tree in the visitors center. My second deck seat was just the right height to get this picture! The Magnolia is the state tree and they’re everywhere in and around New Orleans.
On one of our stops we walked through Louis Armstrong Park. Unfortunately, they were working on his statue and the entry gate, so the pictures here were of many others in the park, including this interesting one of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, a coronet player .
This is the statue of Charles “Buddy” Boden.
The park was originally called Congo Square. Its where the plantation workers would spend their limited time off; usually one or two days a month. During season when there was harvesting they would generally not get any time off!
The tour included a little of the “new” city as well.
The Superdome; you don’t realize how big it is until you see it in person! I couldn’t get it all in one picture even with my wide angle lens!
Parts of our tour of course where on the Mardi Gras parade route; it was pretty evident when you were on it!
Beads hanging from everything; trees, wires house balconies!

Some decorated year round apparently! There’s always a reason to party in NOLA as the locals call it!

Famous Bourbon Street.

The old French Quarter influences even extend into the modern city.

The first day we stopped at Creole House and had these scrumptious Oysters!
There was quite a variety of architecture with both the Spanish and French having been here for eons. Lots of very ornate ironwork touches came from the French influences. These larger estates were in what’s called the Garden District. We saw these on a really fun walking tour of this area.
And these stately hundreds of years old live oak trees were equally impressive!

This looks like graffiti, right? It’s not. It’s from hurricane Katrina. The police and other rescuers would use these markings to mark which homes had already been checked for people (living and/or deceased) and that the gas and other utilities were turned off. The zero at the bottom is what they wanted to see; that meant no one was there, alive or dead. some people decided to keep the markings as a constant reminder!

Another day for lunch we went to Bubba Gumps. This was the bench and suitcase and box of chocolates used in the movie.
An old picture of the real Forrest with his mom.

mardi gras world- where mardi gras floats come to life!

On the way to see Mardi Gras World we passed this abandoned power plant. It’s been used on several movies (none of which I remember the names of)!
And this interesting art display! He wasn’t the culprit, just painting something nearby!
The entrance

DISCLAIMER: I apologize for the poorer picture quality, I forgot to bring my Nikon so these are all iPhone pictures! Inside was a vast array of present and past characters from parades. They try to reuse whenever they can with updates and changes. All the staff is paid. Unlike the Rose Parade, they do not enlist volunteers. They make everything in house in many locations around the city; it’s an amazing process that continues year round. As soon as the current year parades are over they start planning and building for the next.

Some are stranger than others!

Some downright weird!

I noticed a trend; the artists like perky boobs; and it wasn’t cold in there!

The Queen of England even made an appearance in their styrofoam shaping room!
Along with the Chick-fil-A cows. They make these for them at a price of about $16,000 each. Nice side job! Apparently their ears double as coat racks!

They have this cool NC machine that can carve out these huge designs in a fraction of the time it would take by hand!
Yes, that’s not snow, it’s piles of styrofoam dust from the process! It all gets recycled.

There were some “normal” figures; like this one of their own Drew Brees!






Buccaneer State Park- Waveland, Mississippi

On our way across the south we stayed at this really nice beach front state park in Mississippi.
Our camp spot was spacious and shaded.

There were beach front sites available for $15 more a night but we chose the more shaded and secluded spot.
It wasn’t open for the season yet, but this park even had a water park and two pools.

And being right on the water with an average elevation only a couple of feet above sea level, everything of importance such as electrical stuff was elevated!
This was the beach drive; miles of beach with nobody on them!

We stopped at this beach restaurant along the way; many to choose from!
The beach view from their rear deck. It’s quiet now but the Spring Break crowd was coming that weekend.
Another crazily named restaurant along this beach route.
Regardless of which restaurant, the food was great. Jan had this Seafood Étouffée in another place called Cuz’s.
To combat the relentless surf and storm damage, their houses are all built on elevated lots or platforms on stilts (or both!). I don’t know if you can see, but this guy had secondary precautions; a boat underneath!

Here’s nice fixer upper for sale; the possibilities are boundlesss!
This one is brick all the way to the ground, but the living area is still elevated. He was also on a hill, so probably 6 or 8 feet above sea level!
Another one under construction.


Lake Lurleen State Park- Coker, Alabama

This was a huge beautiful reservoir! Much needed relief from the big cities of Florida and Georgia!
It even has a swimming beach with paddle boats and kayaks for rent .
This was a really nicely laid out park with lots of space between campers. You can’t tell in this picture but that was another Grand Design Solitude in the middle of this shot.
And of course the local residents!

And this was our spot! Other than being laid out backwards so we couldn’t have our front door facing the lake AND hook up our sewer, it was very nice. We loved the private deck overlooking the water!

All the trees were getting their leaves. They were beautiful!
Spring flowers too!
Our resident woodpecker was too quick to get a good clear shot, but his metallic red colored head was cool!
Nice greenery or water views from every window!

And nice sunsets too!

Savannah, Georgia

While our rig was being repaired (Finally fixed the slide issue!) we went to Savannah for a few days and stayed in a VRBO. We have no pics of that, it wasn’t anything picture-worthy , but lots of pics of this beautiful city!
As I said before, our apartment was nothing to write home about but this was Forsyth Park right across the street. Everything was within walking distance which was good since finding parking for Big Blue was nearly impossible!
We took a Hop On-Hop Off trolley/bus tour of Savannah. Along the way these folks in costume would hop aboard to give us entertaining spiels about various characters in Savannah’s history.

We saw many of these old colonial traditional homes; very well kept and preserved.

We loved all these streets lined on both sides with Live Oak trees; so named because unlike most trees, as soon as they drop their leaves they sprout new ones right away!
Some of the many beautiful displays of Spring flowers. The Azaleas were especially abundant and thriving here!

From the original layout of the city, they have always had these 24 squares around . All different and all beautiful. Each had some sort of monument or statue commemorating one of their historical figures.

We loved this building with it’s tower.
A few buildings had these ornate cast iron downspouts. Our bus driver/guide called them dolphins but we think they’re just fish; still cool!


Some of the homes and bridges also had this ornate iron work.
An original pharmacy from back then.
And there was a film crew in town filming Gemini Man with Will Smith; all we saw was the police cars blocking the street and the movie set trailers.
We also saw the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange. Now it’s occupied by various shops, businesses, restaurants and hotels but keeps it’s historic charm.

These bridges were used back then for the assessors could inspect loads of cotton for sale so they could assess it’s value.
The cobblestones here were stones the original merchants had in the holds of their ships as ballast when they came to America. Once they arrived they would offload them and load up whatever treasures they would buy to take back.
While in Savannah we had to of course take a riverboat cruise!
Very authentic looking paddlewheel, until you notice a few things. Here, the paddlewheel isn’t touching the water.
And then there were four of these huge diesel exhaust pipes!
And the original smoke stacks now houses life jackets! Oh well, that’s progress; still cool though!
A view back towards the Cotton Exchange from the boat.
A closeup of that gilded clock tower reveals the clocks apparently no long are functional. At least they could have matched the time on the clocks for those that are OCD!

The interior was beautiful as well!
One of the free river ferry boats.
A view of the suspension bridge nearby. Impressive piece of engineering!

Nearby construction; they’re tearing down an old power plant to make way for new construction.
One of the many massive freighters and tankers that visit this bustling port of entry. This one has a ramp out the fantail where they can drive vehicles on and off.
Here’s a steam shovel, I mean excavator (sorry Reeve!) coming off. It gives you a sense of the size of this massive ship!
Wood chips for paper production I assume.
This is a statue in the park along the Savannah River of a woman who always greeted all the ships arriving by waving a white flag; she is legendary. Legend has it that she met and fell in love with a sailor who promised to return for her when he left. She did this for over 40 years!
Some of our locals to greet the passing boats!
Down the river a ways was Fort Jackson.; a restored 19th century fort built in 1808, used in the War of 1812 and used by the Confederates during the Civil war.
Every time this riverboat passes they treat the passengers to a firing of the cannon!

Winter in Florida (After the Orlando and Cuba Adventures!)

larry and penny’s memorial park & campground

While staying at Larry and Penny’s Memorial Park campground there were wonderful hiking and biking trails leaving right from the park; no need to drive anywhere!.
From the park it followed the path in the previous picture past this beautiful lake (with the obligatory lawyer signs about dangers of alligators of course!)
This path went about 9 miles towards Biscayne Bay along this channel; beautiful!
With lots of wildlife along the way including these cute Iguanas! Lots of them!

everglades national park


This amphitheater area was completely wiped out; much rebuilding to do. The campground was also closed for renovations.

The boardwalk continued out to the coast where it’s supposed to loop back. Notice all the barren trees?
Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t think it should; blocked off from storm damage!
We doubled back and went around the other way; same thing!
This walkway made from Trex® was no match for the hurricanes fury! Instead of breaking and splintering like wood, it just succumbed by twisting and bending from the force of the storm surge!
But the wildlife remains!

hillsborough state park

This was a nice park that was very close to our campground in Thonotosassa.
This tree was hollow inside but still growing!
I took this shot by pointing my camera up inside the tree with the flash on to show that it truly was hollow!

Stuff grows just about anywhere and everywhere!

As you can see, a beautiful path; although not well marked, we got lost a few times!
Very tropical and jungle-like, don’t you think?

visiting my sister and joe in naples

We went to visit them just before Christmas at their home in Naples. Their home miraculously survived the hurricane with little damage but they said many trees in the area were uprooted and destroyed along with some structures.
The view from their Lanai.
At the entrance to their neighborhood there are these beautiful bronze horses!

our time in the tampa area

Bok Tower Gardens was beautiful! This bell tower has 60 bells ranging from 16 pounds to nearly 12 tons! It is the focal point and they have daily Carillon (bell) concerts; such a beautiful sound!

These iron gates by the tower were interesting too!


The layout of the property.

Mr. Bok’s reasoning for opening up this property to the community!
This hand laid patio at the visitors center was amazing! Each flat stone was laid on edge in this mesmerizing pattern!


The courtyard of the visitors center.

There was this beautiful Pinewood estate mansion on the property as well to explore. It’s a 1930’s 20 room estate; each room was a different style of architecture and design by request of the original owner, Charles Buck; very interesting!
his office
One of the sitting rooms.
And the main living room
The master bedroom.
With Mr. Buck’s Rum and cigars of course!

thonotosassa (northeast of tampa)

Our campground was an okay place, nothing noteworthy, other than these two local residents. They run the park! So much so that they put bronze ones at the entrance!

visiting friends and family while in thonotosassa

Barb and Zach came and stayed in Clearwater while we were in the area. We went over a few times to visit and enjoy the beach with them.
Zach just chillin’ at the beach soaking up rays!
Even their cat Mimi seemed to like the beach from the safety of her cat carriage !
The view from their condo.
The shockingly white sandy beaches of Florida!

Barb enjoying(?) the chilly water!

A passing sailboat.
Claude and Hope came out to the area for their annual trek to see the Phillies Spring training. We took this Manatee dolphin tour with them. We saw plenty of Dolphin but unfortunately no Manatee.
Harbor fun- boat names!
The captain has a good sense of humor!
A Coast Guard buoy tender.

On our way out!
Can you see these two chasing us?

Old Glory!
Harbor residents.
Some pretty pricey homes and boats along the shores down here!

This mangrove island is a bird sanctuary (and it smelled like it has been for quite awhile !
The boys.
After a lovely lunch!
We met my sister Anne and her husband Joe at a halfway point one last time before we left Florida at Hurricane Charley’s in Punta Gorda for lunch.
Some leftover hurricane memorabilia?

goodbye florida! on to new adventures!