Friday, December 13, 2019

Florida: Land of Water

Water is everywhere in Florida. Even the most modest home can have waterfront property here.

Friends paddling in the Gulf, as seen from Islamorada in the Florida Keys on a calm afternoon

The seabirds are plentiful, so are the bugs; the worst of the biting bugs... no-see-ums. These nasty little buggers even manage to get past the window screens so our best self defense is to keep the windows closed and the air conditioning on, and layer on copious amounts of bug spray before venturing out. Everyone has their own answer for bug repellent; the recipes I've heard include vinegar, Vapo-rub, tea tree oil, lavender oil, and even some particularly foul-smelling blue Calgon perfume. I've tried it all and despite my concerns about wearing poison, I find the green Deep Woods Off with Deet works best. It smells like some demented chemist's idea of what a tree should smell like, if they had never actually left the lab and sniffed at a real tree. So I stink. Better than being eaten alive. For some reason they don't bite Lance at all. It's so unfair.

What ate the gators?

Speaking of being eaten alive... check out these gator eggs discovered within 100 yards of our campsite. We've been puzzling over these for quite some time and still are no closer to figuring out what could have drilled such perfect holes and slurped the baby gators.

The view from Sharky's patio in Key Largo - our favorite location for Taco Tuesday and live music

Our first stop in Florida was a Thousand Trails park in Crystal River Springs on the Gulf side. It was a lovely little resort town but we didn't get to explore much of it as we were boat shopping most every day. It's definitely worth circling back in the coming months if we can make it work.

Manatees resting on the surface in the Fort Pierce Marina.
They look like they are mooning us. This is as close as I've been to a manatee so far.

Our second stop was Jensen Beach where we caught up with some friends for Thanksgiving. Since Lance, Todd and Lorri aren't into traditional Thanksgiving fare we ate at a fish and steakhouse overlooking the ocean and it was lovely. Todd & Lorri know the area well so they took us along for local happenings such as live music and a farmers market hosted every weekend by the Fort Pierce Marina. Lorri and I even got in some swim time in the pool at her swanky mostly-adult resort.

Stone Crab Claws at Conchy Joe's, Jensen Beach FL
The crab claws are harvested from the still living crab and he/she
is returned to the water to regenerate a new claw.
I sure wish we could develop this technology for people feet.

Our third stop in Florida was the Elks Lodge in Tavernier, where we were warmly greeted by friends and it felt like home.

Mother Ocean is a second-hand boat stuff store, similar to Minney's in Southern California. A gal could wander around here for days.

On Key Largo we discovered Mother Ocean, a store for used boat parts. If I ever turn up missing, start the search there because I've likely gotten lost in some pile of small parts in the back 40 somewhere. I love this place, and if we end up finding Miss Right on the East Coast I expect we will spend a lot of time here in the future.

Now that's a helluva cascade system! Air, anyone? Everyone?

Internet Speed Comparison
Pritchard’s RV Park, Jensen Beach, FL
Sampled 11/24/19 at 4:07 pm

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi
None available

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Chasing Miss Right

Manatees resting at the City Marina in Fort Pierce, FL

We are searching for the perfect boat. This is a dream we've had for years, it's taken so many twists and turns in our almost-20 years together.

Back in April 2000, less than a month after our very first date, Lance talked me into our first boat. It was a 14' zodiac on a trailer with a 35hp Mercury outboard motor, we each came up with half of the asking price of $800 and bought her from some spearfishermen in the Oakland Hills. The inflatable body of the boat was covered from stem to stern in assorted repairs. Naturally, we named her Patches. We dove the hell out of the Northern California coast in that little inflatable boat - from Big Sur to Crescent City we'd load our gear, pump her up, slide her off the trailer, motor JUST over there, roll over the side and go for it. She could fit 6 abalone freedivers or 4 well-organized camera-laden scuba divers and we were then able to anchor along the outside of the kelp forests and enjoy new angles on the dive sites we loved, without having to lug our gear across the sand. Heaven.

One of our regular dive sites involved backing the trailer down a switchback mountainside road to dunk the trailer, and then camping in the cold fog overnight. We upgraded our pickup to a stick-shift F250 diesel with the intent to install a cab-over camper so we'd have somewhere warm to sleep.

For a brief moment we played with a HobieCat which promptly flipped and left us clinging to her hull until the wind pushed us to the lake's edge where we laid shivering in the sun until we could gain the sensation in our limbs required to drag it onto the beach. We towed it home and later onto the lawn to restitch the failing trampoline. But I never came up with enough nerve after that to try sailing it again.

At about the same time the landlord started giving me trouble (he was miffed about us having the Hobiecat on the lawn for one afternoon for tramp repairs, or Lance telling him to *ahem* go away...or something along those lines... when he got snotty about our lawn activity). We talked about buying a boat to liveaboard on together - what a romantic idea for our next home! We shopped hard for that liveaboard and found a dreamy 35' Cheoy Lee trawler on the Sacramento delta around the time Lance graduated from the Engineering program, then he was offered a job in Southern California. The very weekend we were going to hand over the liveaboard down payment we decided instead to accept the job offer in an area with more income opportunities and started tying up loose ends in Napa.

Angels Gate Lighthouse as shot from the deck of the Sea Monkey. This photo was selected as the contest winner and printed in Good Old Boat magazine in 2017. The spinnaker was a gift from the cousins and made light-air sailing infinitely more fun.

In 2004 we moved to Los Angeles County for Lance's new job in Hollywood and a parking space for Patches was one of the criterion for the rental home selected. I taught my last scuba class in Monterey while Lance traveled ahead with our stuff, after the class I waved goodbye to family and our favorite Monterey dive spots, then I towed Patches down to our new home, with big dreams of scuba diving in warmer waters. It was February. Northern California reluctantly let me go, spitefully spitting big fat cold raindrops on me all the way to the Grapevine. When I arrived to Pasadena I was greeted with sunny 80-degree blue skies and palm trees waved me in. The very next weekend we found a boat launch, donned our gear and puttered around Long Beach looking for a kelp patch to dive. That's when we discovered our little inflatable boat wasn't cut out for Southern California. The good diving is WAY over there on Catalina Island - 26 miles away - barely visible from the shores of Long Beach. A very long haul for little Patches and a cold, wet and bumpy ride for us. We needed a bigger boat. We placed her with an old man who wanted to take his grandson fishing on lakes. He didn't mind the patches as he said he would probably add more with the grandson and the hooks anyways. I cried while hooking her trailer to his truck.

The next boat in our lives was an old Bayliner. We bought her from a broker on Lake Mead and dragged her down the mountain without trailer brakes - it's good that nobody short-stopped in front of us or we would have ended up crushed by the heavy old boat. The very next weekend we dunked her at the Alamitos boat ramp in Long Beach and set out for Catalina. Our brave friend Matt "Hardvickenstein" came along to help us wrangle her. During our first outing Lance, Matt and I shared a bottle of champagne while swimming two at a time in the endlessly blue deep water halfway between the island and the mainland. Years later that I found out we'd been swimming in the same area where great white sharks are often seen by the paddlers competing in the annual Catalina Classic. Oops.

We had so many adventures in that boat, most of them involved a healthy dose of cursing. She was a beast - heavy, old, cantankerous, and she didn't fit well on her trailerSome days she refused to be loaded back onto her trailer, sometimes she wouldn't idle or wouldn't go in reverse, or just would not turn over at all, then later in her own time she would fire up just fine, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering what we'd done right that last time and wrong all the times before.

We eventually named her Christine (with a nod to Stephen King), because she generally ran best when one of us was bleeding on her. She had so many sharp edges it usually didn't take long to find an exposed screw or other sharp edge and then she would be appeased. One time Lance was cutting kelp off the anchor and sliced his hand open, immediately after that she decided she would run in reverse when we asked her to. That lasted a few weekends for which we were grateful, when his wound healed into a scar she again refused to go into reverse. I wasn't superstitious when I met this boat, over the years together she changed my mind.

  Every morning at anchor we'd wake up to several inches of water on the salon floor - the two of us sleeping in the bow changed the pitch of the boat enough so that the bilge pump couldn't get it all. We tried every trick in the book and never did find the source of that obnoxious leak. At first it was alarming, over time we came to accept it as part of our daily routine and calmly made coffee from the kitchen table while keeping our feet elevated on the salon chair, handed up the mugs of coffee to the big stern cushion, and sipped our coffee while gleefully discussing the day's dive plan, during which time our weight on the stern changed the pitch enough that the bilge pump could suck most of the rest of the water out of the galley floor. The last inch or so would disappear while we motored to the first dive location of the day.

We dove every named spot on the Catalina Franko dive map, and then we filled our little handheld GPS with new spots we found ourselves, giving them names that often made us giggle with a specific memory.

The good thing about having an old fixer boat is that there's nothing to lose by trying new things. We carved holes out of the top of the livebait well that perfectly secured our dive tanks and weights, freeing the deck of gear. I made custom bags for wrangling clean and dirty laundry, storing tools and other boat gear. Lance modified just about every mechanical, plumbing and electrical system.

One day, after a long night of lobster hunting on Catalina, she died at sunrise on our way back to Long Beach and would not be resuscitated. We called Boat US who towed us back to Long Beach and helped us wrangle her onto the trailer. Lance was so disgusted with her behavior he called the Boat Angels to pick her up from the storage lot - he couldn't stand the sight of her even to deliver her to the charity. We did not cry over that good-bye.

At some point during the nausea-inducing 4-hour tow home that day we decided we'd learn to sail. With an alternate method of propulsion we hoped to never need to be towed again. It seemed like the logical next step.

The very next weekend we dropped a pile of cash at the Long Beach sailing school and collected books and basic navigation tools. We cut off a short length of rope and left it lying around the house, while studying for our sailing exams we'd take turns practicing knots with it, and for years afterwards that rope remained lying around the house somewhere, usually if the television was on one of us could be found absentmindedly tying knots.

We took every sailing course offered by the Long Beach ASA school, and rented their sailboats as often as we could scrape together the funds and time. One day, the little bean-counter at heart than I am, I added up what we were spending on rentals and announced we could buy a sailboat of our own for less than we spent with the rental agency, and if we didn't pay to store it we'd actually save money by the 10th month. Before long there was a MacGregor 26X sailboat with a 60hp outboard on a trailer in the driveway. Dual Porpoise was much lighter and narrower than Christine, we had big dreams of sailing and scuba diving from that MacGregor but found that adding dive gear to the little trailer sailboat just made us miserable - there wasn't enough space to get around. The dive gear collected dust while we sailed on without it.

Dual Porpoise on the trailer in the yard
With the big and noisy outboard motor roaring, the bilge empty and the centerboard up, the MacGregor could really scoot if the seas were calm. On one pond-smooth day we flew around the breakwater wall and were surprised by some Sheriff recovery divers and for a moment I thought we'd get a speeding ticket... in a sailboat... and I sort of hoped we would so I could frame it. They were as surprised by the sailboat speeding past them as we were surprised by them being there in the through-way with their tiny dive flag down way too low to be seen from the oncoming traffic. Everyone aboard both boats exchanged wide-eyed glances as we swerved belatedly wide to give them room to work.

Dual Porpoise on a mooring ball at Two Harbors, Catalina after our first crossing together. Our first improvement after this trip was a boom kicker to raise the boom off the deck, which greatly improved topside comfort at anchor.

With the mast on in motorboat mode she was pretty rolly, so she was not a great powerboat except in glass-calm conditions. In sailboat mode she wasn't a great sailboat either, she was too lightweight and her freeboard was quite high so she felt fragile and skittery  - I never trusted her to keep us safe in any sort of real weather. It took hours to drive her to the dock, get her mast setup and get her in the water. Often a significant amount of bickering was involved and generally by the time we motored away from the boat ramp either on the water or on the highway we were exhausted and cranky. So one summer we decided to leave her on the trailer with the mast up at the boat yard, to limit the setup effort because she'd already be there ready to go. From there it was a short jump to "let's just leave her in the water at Marina Del Rey all the time". Not long after that first summer at the marina we found ourselves eyeballing our cousins' Hunter sailboat with envy - they were actually taking up the whole width of their slip... for the same price we were paying to keep the skinny MacGregor in the water we could have a proper sailboat with room for dive gear too! We sold the MacGregor and bought a 28' Hunter sailboat.

Sea Monkey at rest in Long Beach

We loved that sailboat. We christened her the Sea Monkey and sailed every chance we got. Finding a little elbow room on the water saved our souls, which by that point had really begun to chafe at crowded city life in Southern California.

I still get choked up when I think of her. If you've read this blog from the beginning you've met the Sea Monkey, we sold her just before selling the house to become full-time RVers, all of which was done so we could go in search of the perfect liveaboard boat. While we don't regret moving to Southern California to pursue career opportunity, participation in the rat race or becoming homeowners, the liveaboard dream fueled by that Cheoy Lee on the Sacramento delta never really left our hearts, it just grew sails and bigger horizons.

So... back to today. We're boat shopping seriously now. This next boat will be so much bigger than we've ever had before, somewhere in the 38-42 foot range. There needs to be room for two adults, a dog and two cats, space for my office stuff and it would be nice if we could fit a couple of guests for short stays. Of course we'd like to bring dive gear aboard so there needs to be storage for that and room on deck to wrangle it. Because we'll be sailing "short-handed" all the lines need to be led aft, either of us need to be comfortable with most of the sailing duties while the other rests or does chores and if the majority of the captain's work could be done from the dry safety of the cockpit all the better. Plus, space for all the little things that get done in daily life need to be considered - from swimsuits to warm jackets, from sewing machine to coffeemaker, from tools to cat food.

Sailboat shopping... we've learned a lot. Like usual, we have our list of well-considered requirements at our fingertips. We know our budget, the absolute must-haves and the dream-haves. We know the approximate cost of the electronic goodies we will likely need to add. We've spent countless hours debating this or that hull shape, boat architect/designer, motor, interior layout. We've toured a handful, it's a lot like used car shopping in that the brokers tend to try to pry you into whatever's available in their inventory, so it's important to know what you want/need before you go there or you'll be dragged all over the marina looking at sinking derelicts or megayachts only manageable with a crew of several.

We've learned that a "bluewater boat" means small windows, deep fridges and secure lockers. "Traditional styling" means lots of heavy dark wood will line every surface; so in a "traditional bluewater sailboat" I will not be able to see out the few small windows and will have a panic attack in the cave-like salon, and I will never be able to reach anything in the bottom half of the fridge, let alone keep it clean.

We've learned that "center cockpit" means Lance likely can't stand up straight. Since he is our chef he needs to be able fit in the galley, and since we will be taking turns at the wheel he'll need to be able to stand straight there too.

We've learned that "turn key" actually means nothing whatsoever, as we have yet to tour any that are actually really ready to leave right now although we have toured several that were advertised as such. We were initially hoping to avoid significant boat work before departure but are coming to accept we will be doing some work before sailing away, perhaps quite a bit of it.

This one's too big. That one's too small. This one is unsafe. That one needs too much work. This one costs too much more than it is worth. That one doesn't really fit us - it's too short for Lance or I can't see out from behind the wheel.

First world problems... right?

We will keep searching. Miss Right is out there somewhere.

What all of this means for Loretta and Mr. Toad, we just don't know yet. It depends on what and where Miss Right is and what she needs, and whether or not we want to boat year-round or switch between land and sea cruising life. We hope it will all become clear when we finally meet her.

In the meantime, RV fun is scheduled through February, we'll continue to fit boat shopping around it.

This mossy souvenir was collected from Crystal Isles RV Resort, apparently I got a little closer than planned to that tree in our campsite

Internet Speed Comparison
Crystal Isles RV Resort, Crystal River, FL
Sampled 11/13/19 at 10am

MB down
MB up
Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi
Not tested, extra $

Monday, November 11, 2019

This is Cajun Country: Abbeville Louisiana

Seemingly since the beginning I'd been hearing about Betty's RV Park in Louisiana. Folks said it was a "must stay", a "real experience".

Without knowing what else to expect we rolled in to the tiny little park. It's actually Betty's backyard. And it felt just like home right away.

Lance and Betty on her patio

Happy Hour is every afternoon at 4:30, hosted on Betty's patio under the collection of license plates brought by returning travelers from over the years, surrounded by fountains, lamps, sculptures of colored glass and Mardi Gras beads. Everyone brings a tasty treat to share and a cuppa something tasty. The adventure stories and the laughter flow freely.

Bloody Marys in Cajun country are typically served with pickled okra garnish, and plenty of Tabasco

This is the heart of Cajun Country. Music festivals are everywhere, great food and bloody mary drinks are on every menu. There are drive-through daiquiri shacks. I was in heaven.

First up: the Cajun Food and Music Festival. The stage turned over one band after another playing a range of music from Zydeco to blues and the audience swayed to the music while gobbling fried corn on the cob, gumbo, and ice cream sandwiches. Crowds of children flocked around to pet Chloe; she was the center of attention at the festivals and rarely walked far without an entourage.

Ice cream sandwich in a sliced donut

Next: The 5000 egg omelette festival. The ceremony was conducted primarily in French, except of course for the singing of the national anthem. The omelette festival has been going on since Napoleon (click here for more about the Giant Omelette history), and Abbeville adopted this international tradition years ago. Each year they add one more egg to the total. This year's 5035th egg was presented to the crowd by a 6th grader who informed us the egg's name was Abraham Lincoln Eggbert, as decided by the local schoolchildren.

The chefs then paraded out, cracked all those eggs and set to making the giant omelette on a 12-foot diameter cast iron pan heated on a wood fire in the middle of the street downtown, and plates of omelette were shared freely with all in attendance.

Chefs warming butter on the 12' skillet in preparation for the Giant Omelette

The omelette festivities also included a car show. The winner of Best of Show this year was a souped-up Jeep.

Best of Show award

Live Oaks gracing the entrance at the Tabasco factory

Just up the road from Betty's is Avery Island, home of Tabasco sauce, one of my favorite foods. The surprise treat was to discover it's also sustainably grown by a ecologically-focused company with deep family roots in the community. Many of the employees have lived on Avery Island for multiple generations.

The Tabasco factory, largely unchanged since the 40's

The peppers rest in salt-covered barrels for three years before the sauce is extracted, pressed, combined with vinegar and bottled. The skins are sold separately for dry rubs.

The McIlheny family had the grounds surrounding their factory declared a sanctuary to monitor and protect the birds, fish and reptiles that live there, and currently work in close conjunction with LSU on assorted animal preservation projects. Their mindful attention has brought the snowy white egret back from the brink of extinction. The Jungle Gardens are open to the public and we were able to get as close as we dared to alligators and snakes, turtles and a plentiful assortment of birds. There is also oil under the island and they allow it to be extracted with careful supervision, a perfect marriage of capitalism and ecology.

Snowy White egret at the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island

Cypress love wet feet

The next thing we knew, Betty was shooing us out the door again - she had hooked us up with a concert and tour of a local accordion factory. The Martin family hand-makes Melodians in nearby Lafayette, Louisiana, and both the Cajun music and the instrument crafting techniques are handed down through the generations orally. They played a brief concert for us and a few other guests, and the music ranged from blues to country, gospel to Zydeco to Cajun.

Junior Martin and his pedal steel slide guitar

Three generations of Martins played an assortment of instruments; the most beautiful of which were the hand-made Martin Melodians. The most confounding was Junior's pedal steel guitar, which demanded action from both knees, both ankles, and both hands all at the same time - it was amazing to watch him elicit beautiful sounds from such a complicated machine. After the brief concert they walked us through the process from wood selection to a finished Melodian, the patience and attention required to hand-make each one is mind-blowing.

Joel Martin playing Amazing Grace for us on his favorite Melodian, singing in both French and English. The Martin signature crawdad on the bellows is hand-painted by an artist in California.

Examples of color and wood options. These will become part of future assembled Melodians.
Closeup of a hand-made Martin Melodian

The nightly happy hour at Betty's involves an ever-changing cast of characters, and folks enjoy sharing their own tasty homemade creations. One night we had okra gumbo and it was unbelievable. Everyone has their own recipe for gumbo and readily debate the best ingredients and seasonings; a person could eat a bowl every day in Cajun country and never have exactly the same meal twice. Even the local Chinese buffet had their own spin on gumbo and offered it on the buffet alongside shrimp toast, Asian noodles and fried catfish.


Next up: the local cemetery tour "if these headstones could talk". Betty again hooked us up. The local historians dressed in costume to tell us with first-person intimacy about the lives of local residents buried in the Masonic cemetery downtown.

Local historians hosting "if these headstones could talk"

At first glance Abbeville seems like a sleepy, small town. But there's always something going on and nothing escapes Betty's attention.

Live Oaks are typical in this part of Louisiana, these ones live in the downtown square of Abbeville 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway on a rainy day, as seen from one of the roomy pullouts

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a wilderness park that stretches 444 miles from Nashville Tennessee in the general direction of New Orleans and ends in Natchez Mississippi. I've been hearing about this stretch of road for years from fellow motorcyclists, and planned our approach to coincide with the fall colors.

The Buffalo River along the Natchez Trace Parkway

The Parkway travels through three states and became recognized in 1938 as important enough to annex into the National Park System. The speed limit is 50mph which gives you plenty of time to enjoy the tunnels of trees and pause at the many pull-outs, most of which are RV friendly and those that are not are well-marked. Here and there are hiking paths, creekbeds, picnic tables, and plentiful plaques to read about the history of the area.

A coffee break pause at Sweetwater Branch offered plenty of room for Loretta

Mr. Toad got us into the smaller turnouts along the Trace where Loretta could not fit

Wildlife is plentiful and we regularly paused or dodged
 to avoid hitting turtles, white-tail deer, squirrels, foxes, armadillos, possums, raccoons, and one very fast-moving black bobcat. The night skies are stunning and cell signals are scarce adding to the feeling of isolation. As the crow flies, the Trace is never far from a real town and you can easily exit the parkway and find fuel, food and internet, but while on the parkway it felt like we'd gone back in time.

A section of the Old Trace

The Trace was originally a game path which Native Americans followed to pursue bison, elk, deer and other tasty critters. The natives of the area were Chicosaw, Choctaw, and Natchez all of which welcomed the Europeans who came along the game path, trading and intermarrying with them and even establishing inns (called "stands") along the route and profiting from them until such time as they were eventually betrayed and forced out of their ancestral homeland along the Trail of Tears, which crosses the Trace at several points.

This is all that remains of an old Steel mill along the Buffalo River

Famous travelers along this route include Andrew Jackson, John James Audobon, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Meriwether Lewis, who at age 35 died at a stand not far from Nashville and was buried there. Other travelers include "Kaintucks" from the Ohio River Valley in the early 1800s who floated cash crops down the Mississippi River, sold their boats for lumber and walked or rode horseback up the Trace back home. Highway robbery was not uncommon and a few enterprising bad boys on the Trace became the organizers of some of the first (land-based) organized crime rings in the young country.

Look who we found on the trail

One of many river fords along the Trace, this one looked like it might be a likely spot to get ambushed

We stayed 10 days or so at Natchez Trace RV Campground, a Thousand Trails campground not far from Hohenwald, TN with a tricky entrance hiding behind an 11' bridge. There was no cell signal there for either my Google Fi phone or the Sprint puck on the bus, but Verizon occasionally got a text message through to Lance's phone and friends had good luck with AT&T in one particular section of the campground. The campground offered unlocked wifi at the rec hall which was pretty fast when I was alone there in the early mornings but bogged down in the afternoon when it filled with other campers, so I packed up my computer bag and went to the Hohenwald Library on workdays, where I enjoyed lightning-fast wifi and a quiet desk all to myself.

The Meriwether Room at the Hohenwald Library, my high-speed internet work oasis
The Meriwether Room contains books of the epic endeavor's maps, letters, and findings. Coincidentally, we have been following much of the same path this year in our RV, fitting that I should discover these at the end of the road for Meriwether Lewis.

Many of the campers in this park stay long-term and some have built elaborate decks out onto the lake from their rigs, and 4-wheel toys are standard equipment for most of these long-term spots. We saw lots of wooded trails where these would come in handy, including and crossing the original Old Trace Road. Fun.

4-wheel side-by-side commonly found at the campground

A seasonal camper's setup at the Natchez Trace Thousand Trails campground

I had this grandiose idea of drone footage of the Parkway with us traveling along, the sweeping red and yellow fall colors and the plentiful wildlife, and then the rain started and didn't let up for days. Sometimes it feels like the very nature we came out to shoot is playing hide-and-seek with us intentionally.

Closeup of fall leaves on a rainy day, I call this one the "bruised banana" leaf

Well, rain or no rain, it's time to roll South.  Next stop: Abbeville Louisiana, we should make it just in time for the 5000-egg omelette festival.