Tag Archives: Louisiana

Random thoughts/ month 21

2 Feb

We’ve been met with lots of changes this past month, between the new year and our return to this US. This month we:


+ rang in 2015 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We threw a party at our apartment (3rd gathering in 5 weeks. Can you tell I miss entertaining?!), cooked a giant lasagna and partied until it was 20-15 with Home on the Highway, Neli’s Big Adventure, Kelly, Anthony and some new friends. We watched a spectacular fireworks display in the Jardin, popped some bubbly on our roof then roamed town for a while. I still can’t believe we missed an entire calendar year of life in the US but am thrilled to report that we didn’t work a single day in 2014. Oh things will be different in 2015! New city, new jobs, new beginnings. Bring it!

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+ celebrated Three Kings Day. We watched the small parade as it rode by our apartment, complete with a band, horses, and a king in blackface, tossing cookies to spectators (of course I got one). The parade ended in the Jardin where eager children and their parents were questioned about their (good?) behavior that year, given gifts, beverages and a slice of the most massive cake.



Because of the holiday, our favorite taco stand wasn’t open but we were able to squeeze in one last round of churros!


+ left San Miguel on January 7. It was bittersweet, as we were very ready to leave the city (there are only so many coffee shops to bum in) but not Mexico. All great things do come to an end though.

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+ spent our last days in Mexico searching for a doctor. I stepped on a cactus as we were leaving San Miguel. Yes, a cactus. How very Mexican of me. And I was wearing flip flops because what other footwear exists for a Floridian. Just one little stab near my heel was all I got. It didn’t hurt that much at first but slowly swelled. By the next morning, the pain was intense and I couldn’t walk. We ended up going to a pharmacy doctor for $2, got some meds and began round one of antibiotics. Now, 3 weeks later, my heel is STILL infected, I walk with a limp, I’ve had to wear flip flops despite the cold weather because any shoe puts too much pressure on the area, and I’m taking another round of antibiotics. Who would have thought that one tiny prick (ha) would cause so much agony!


+ had a nasty welcome back to the states. On the two occasions I flew home last year, I was greeted back in the states with a joyful “welcome home.” Stupidly, I thought we’d receive the same warm welcome coming back in Skyhorse. Leaving Mexico was easy and painless…once we actually found the exit. Please explain to me what’s the point of brand new buildings if they aren’t marked or manned by people telling you where to go? Once we got to the US side, they couldn’t decide whether we were a car or cargo. Border agents unnecessarily flexed their egos to the point that I was told to stand and wait in the cold rain with the dogs while Hani drove Skyhorse to be x-rayed. Mind you, I couldn’t walk because of my cactus foot so I’m literally hopping everywhere and NO ONE offered to help me. At least on the Mexican side they offered me a wheelchair! Our own countrymen just yelled at us and were dumbfounded about how we re-enter the US. Let’s just say the entire ordeal ended in Hani making not one but two formal complaints. Welcome home to us!


+ were immediately assaulted by real highways, advertisements, chain restaurants and country music. Blech! And as an ode to our long driving days leaving Mexico, we spent our first night back in the US parked at a Love’s, the American Pemex.


+ miss topes. NOT!! Every gas station accepts our credit card, we don’t have to search for branches in the road to indicate a problem up ahead, the highways are paved, properly signed, and don’t have craters in it. It’s the little things that we missed the most.

+ forgot how amazing radio in English, NPR, paper maps, and real fully stocked grocery stores are.

+ spent a relaxing night in San Antonio visiting friends we met while in Jaco, Costa Rica. Since we last saw Nadia and Brett, they relocated from Ft Lauderdale to San Antonio and offered us the warmth of their home for the night. We had a great time hanging around, drinking REAL BEER, playing tea party with their kids and eating a delicious meal. Thank you again Nadia and Brett!



+ toured Austin for a week and a half. It felt familiar–like home. Maybe it’s because we now have a few pieces of Key West in Austin. We crashed at our friend Rhonda’s place in an effort to escape the freezing weather and the dogs snuggled with her pup, Mari.


Since Rhonda is still relatively new to Austin, we all explored the city, jammed to live music, watched some two-steppin, and ate and drank like lil piggies. We also visited other Key West escapees Jedd and Christina for a few meals. It really was comforting to see some good friends after being away for so long.






+ went road tripping with Rhonda. One afternoon, after fixing her flat tire, we drove through hill country to Deep Eddy’s vodka distillery then to BBQ at the Salt Lick, where we made the unfortunate decision to get all-you-can-eat. Let’s just say day drinking and pounds of BBQ are not an ideal combination. The leftovers were heavenly though.



+ bought several pounds of jerky. It’s all gone now.

+ left BBQ and jerky land to enter po’ boy and oyster country: New Orleans. We stayed with my youngest cousin Rinat who recently moved here and also dined with the gang we met in Grand Isle when we first started the trip. Again, we ate our way through the city gorging on all the staples (beignets three times, fried oysters, po’boys, king cake), topping off our food extravaganza with dinner at our favorite, Jacques-Imo’s! Seriously, I need a giant salad right about now.






Random thoughts/ month 1

29 May

We left Key West one month ago but it really feels like a lifetime ago. Each day feels like 5 Saturdays. It’s awesome.


This month I:

+ am totally impressed with what amazing travelers the pups are. They are adjusting to life on the road, love exploring and are game driving around for as long as necessary. Olivia is off Dramamine and hasn’t puked once!

+ got sunburnt twice. I just can’t seem to recognize I’m frying until its too late.

+ can’t get over how many Capital One banks (didn’t even know they exist), DQs, and Dollar General/ Family Dollar are in rural America. To the point that we started a punch-buggy Dollar/Family Dollar game. My left arm is kinda sore. It’s rare to find a BOA, Starbucks or Target. Toto, we’re not in suburban Miami anymore.

+ forgot what a clutz I am. Apparently, Hani had no clue. Not sure who he’s been living with the past 6plus years. I ruined one shirt. I smacked the top of my head twice. I missed a step on the ladder and have a huge knot on my knee. And I’ve banged up my legs getting in and out of the truck more times then I can count.

+ will scream if I hear Bruno Mars again. I can’t reach the radio fast enough once I hear those opening piano notes. Sorry Betsy.

+ have been underestimating people. I guess growing up in Miami where everyone ignores each other, you learn to not confront strangers. But everyone we’ve meet north of south Florida has been incredibly welcoming and sincere. We’ve been constantly greeted with a smile and thumbs up everywhere we go. We’ve met some fabulous people so far and I know that will continue. Skyhorse brings out the best in people we meet.

+ drove Skyhorse! On my first time behind the wheel, I drove over 100 miles and over a state line all at a steady 45mph. #speeddeamon

+ resolve to check the weather before beginning a day of driving. No joke, EVER long day of driving has been in the rain.

+ traveled through 5 states and just entered the 6th. Bring on month 2!!

Tabasco country

16 May

Before leaving Grand Isle, we asked our new friends where our next stop should be. The answer was a resounding Avery Island. So there we went. (Now, we really don’t have a set plan and are just asking around where to go next so if you have a suggestion, let us know!)

The drive wasn’t long at all and finally our first in 100% sunshine. I really had no idea what was on this island except they produce Tabasco there, as everyone told us to take the tour. We had no internet and our phone service stinks (thanks Sprint) so we couldn’t even look up what there was to do on the island. We arrived around 6 to find out that the small island is private homes and the only areas that are open to the public are the Tabasco tour area and Jungle Gardens, a preserve, both of which were closed. Since the area was really beautiful and they opened early in the morning, we decided to just camp right outside the gate and then tour first thing in the morning.

We parked in a parking lot for boat trailers, across the street from a lake. There were people fishing all hours of the day and night and, of course, also admiring Skyhorse.

As we were settling in for the night, a man knocked on our door. The man, Dick Parsons, recognized Skyhorse from the article in the Citizen in December! Turns out, he’s an avid reader of the Citizen and lives seasonally in Big Pine and on Avery Island. His wife’s great grandfather is a McIlhenny, part of the Tabasco family that started it all.  Because of this, he and his wife have exclusive rights to live on Avery Island along with the rest of her family, all of whom are descendants of the McIlhennys. The following day, we toured Jungle Garden (saw turtles and alligators) and the Tabasco factory, where we sampled some delicious spicy snacks–every flavor of Tabasco sauce, Tabasco coke (so yummy), and condiments spiked with Tabasco. The raspberry-Tabasco soft serve was a-ma-zing! Too bad we don’t have a freezer or I would have bought it all. As part of the tour, we also got mini Tabasco bottles in a variety of flavors. Check out the bottle in your pantry. The label has the family name and says “Avery Island.” The little things you overlook while making your bloody mary 🙂 Here’s a bit more about Avery Island: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avery_Island,_Louisiana

Later, Dick drove us around Avery Island, giving us the insider private tour. It was amazing to learn the island’s history and that all his family lived in that one place! The family has been exclusively living on the island for almost 200 years and have a big reunion every 5 years. We learned that the island is very green, has active oil and salt mines, an Egret refuge, and pepper plants. It really was a hidden piece of paradise and we are so grateful to Dick for showing us the marvels of Avery Island. He invited us into his gorgeous house to meet his friendly dogs and gave us a bottle of reserve Tabasco. The hospitality continued when Dick, his wife Brina and her nephew Tuck invited us to dinner in the neighboring town, New Iberia. There, Dick mentioned that I looked familiar and he may have been on a jury panel of mine a few years ago. And as I sat there  racking my brain to no end, I DID remember him as a potential juror, talking about how he was a retired pilot for Delta. Really, what a small world!

I’m so glad we stayed around an extra day to spend time with Dick and Brina. And I still can’t believe this crazy coincidence! I hope we run into many more of these situations along our travels!

Having some technical issues with embedding pictures into the blog but all pictures thus far are in snapfish albums. The links are under the “Photos” tab.


15 May

We arrived late at night before our friends. Do we go in? Do we wait till our friends arrive? We go in as strangers. We were welcome. Food was offered and good conversation started. Despite the continuous rain at the beach, I knew we would enjoy ourselves.

When we first arrived to visit our friends, the Khans, in New Orleans they invited us to stay the week and come to Grand Isle to spend the weekend with their friends at a rented beach house. I went to high school with Zia and Traci. Traci was a year ahead of me and Zia was the other ethnic kid in my class. My friendship with Zia helped contextualize my solicitation. I didn’t feel isolated anymore. No one wants to be alone. Our friendship arose out of a complete understanding of one another. That and I had a car before Zia so he used me for rides. Zia’s friendship means a great deal to me. He is the only person from high school who I still keep up with. He and Traci now have two beautiful daughters. I hope they are walking at Audubon Park now enjoying nature and their girls. They are fortunate to be moving to Hawaii. While I believe this will be an excellent step for them, part me knows that this distance may weaken our bond.

Zia had said the beach was not as nice as a Florida panhandle beach. You can also see oilrigs from the shore. Our trip isn’t to only see beauty but rather to be open to the possibilities that present themselves to us. Once something has closed, it no longer seeks to add. There is no room for growth. In Key West, there was a radio host who would always say, “your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open.” The energy you arrive with determines your destination.

We moved from one conversation to the other. Quickly felt comfortable. Snacked throughout the day. I kept telling Sarah we couldn’t leave Louisiana without going to a crawfish boil. Saturday it happened. Two rounds of boil eating on a long bench facing one another. It wasn’t food, beach, or drinking, but rather a gathering of people for the sole purpose of sharing our selves and what we had. Work was hardly discussed. It’s how people were meant to exist. Thank you all for being open to us and to each other. It was an experience that renewed my belief in being open and more importantly in humanity.

Odds & Ends

10 May

New Orleans has been our first stop after leaving Florida.  We encountered a few issues so we decided to take a few days to make life a bit more comfortable.  On the drive our windshield wipers gave out.  The plane blocks a lot of the rain and I put some Windex so the rain would bead.   I replaced the faulty wiper motor.   We also discovered we have weak headlights.  We switched them out with some brighter ones and added auxiliary driving lights.  Those have yet to be road tested.  A few organizational changes were made to the cabin.  The last few days were productive.

I decided to install a composting toilet for the following reasons: they have no odor, they can be dumped anywhere, they have to be dumped less frequently, and they do not require the installation of a holding tank.  These toilets are pricey.  I bought a marine toilet and spent lots of time modifying it to make it compost.  The key is to separate liquids and solids.  I accomplished the separation but it wasn’t pretty.  It did work for a while until Sarah and I first spent the night in the camper.  It had a major failure.  Needless to say sometimes its better to buy some things then make them.  I found a few suitable toilets in the market.  I bought a Nature’s Head toilet.  So far it has worked great.  I am always happy to use it.  The install was easy and we have no odor.  Anyone interested in a compost toilet should go with a Nature’s Head.  If you want more information email me and I’ll give you the skinny.

I also wanted to mention that I will be trying to be honest and transparent with my entries.  Being on the road I feel I have the freedom to be honest without having to deal with the fallout.  When you have a job and are one place we all have to play politics and be diplomatic.   My good friend Doug is always transparent in all situations.  He is not only honest about who he is, how he sees things, and his emotions to me as his friend but to anyone he meets.  It’s refreshing and it makes me want to be honest and quit hiding my thoughts.  So I dedicate this initiative to Doug who has showed me that being open and vulnerable is liberating and endears people to you.  If any issues arise with this approach take it up with Doug.

I heart NOLA

9 May

After we left Miami, it seemed like we were playing beat the clock. I wanted to be in New Orleans to see Fleetwood Mac at Jazz Fest on May 4. But once we got to Hani’s parents’ house, we started running into problems.

The drive from Miami to Ormond Beach was long and a bit shaky. Hani couldn’t diagnose the problem and needless to say, I had no clue. So we spent the first full day in Ormond going from one mechanic to the next to the next to the next. Eventually, it was suggested that a good start to fixing the problem was to get our tires trued (rounded) or buy new ones.

Thus was my birthday.


Fun. We spent all day (and $1,000) at this truck repair shop. All. day. But we now have brand new front tires so I can’t complain too much. Since the day was already shot, we drove over an hour in traffic to the Apple store to get Hani a new iPhone after his inexplicably died. We got back to the house around 9 that night to a nice dinner and birthday cake. And with the intention of spending my  birthday with belated festivities in New Orleans.

With the shaking problem (mostly) resolved, we planned on leaving that next morning. Then re-orangization got the best of us and it took for.ev.er. to re-pack and get ourselves together to leave. And we realized our water tanks had green gunk growing in them. My uncle was right. Never start a project involving water in the evening.

We were so anxious to leave Ormond, we didn’t care that the next morning we were hitting the road in a semi-monsoon, with windshield wipers that were not quite up to par. It rained basically non-stop the 2 days it took us to leave Florida. We drove along the coastal roads, which were really pretty, and would have been even prettier if they weren’t being viewed from behind rain soaked windows.

Despite all these set backs, we made it to Jazz Fest! Neither of us thought that was going to happen. And we went Saturday and Sunday just because we could and because we were so happy to be here!


Even forging through the mud to reach the stage.


Now its time to slooooow down. We have spent almost a week in New Orleans hanging out with friends and doing minor adjustments on the truck while parked on their residential street (the looks we get are priceless). We now have working wipers, organized storage, and a new set of headlights! We plan on going with them and some of their friends to the beach this weekend in Grand Isle, LA and then continuing on to Texas.