Sunday, January 07, 2007
It seems like we've been on the
road ever since we picked up the RV in Missoula, Montana on August 1st.
In the last five months, we've been to four national parks (Glacier,
Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Hot Springs), made two trips from points
west back to the midwest (Kansas/Missouri/Kentucky), gone down to check
on the progress being made in coastal Mississippi's recovery from Hurricane
Katrina (especially in and around our old neighborhood), piggybacked
Mexico's Copper Canyon, and discovered Sedona, Arizona. We've put 22,000
miles on the Dodge Ram and 5th wheel since mid-May.
December found us traveling to see
family in Austin, TX; Topeka, KS; St. Louis; and finally Kate, Steve,
and 7-month old grandbaby Bobby in Kentucky. Seeing everyone made the
holidays very special for us. We were blessed with fantastic weather
all the way
very, very unusual for the Midwest in December. Having
Christmas in the rearview mirror signaled our migration South, and we
headed first for Graceland in Memphis, only to discover that it is closed
on Tuesdays in December and January. Plan B was to go to Hot Springs,
Arkansas, and that is where we ended up on the last week of 2006.
As it turned out, we fell in love
with Hot Springs and are already planning our return. After all, if
it was wonderful in December, imagine spring or fall! We were so taken
with everything about Hot Springs: our RV park, Cloud 9; the friendliness
of everyone we met; the National Park itself. We'll write and post a
separate blog for this stop.
We've been in Abita Springs, Louisiana
since January 1st, and we like it here very much. The location is perfect:
it's about 50 miles west of Bay St. Louis and nearly the same distance
from New Orleans. The town is so small (its population is less than
2,000) that one would not expect any claims to fame. Alas, Abita Springs
- Abita Springs Water Company
-- The natural spring water from the artesian wells of Abita Springs
has long enjoyed a good reputation in the area, and Abita Springs
Water is bottled and sold throughout the southern portions of Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama and in the Florida panhandle.
- The Abita Brewing Company
- In 1986, Abita Brewing Company was established as a microbrewery.
By 1994, Abita Beer, brewed with the pure water of the artesian wells
in Abita Springs-was sold in 30 states and the microbrewery outgrew
its original location. The now-legendary Abita Pub & Grill occupies
the brewery's original site, while the Abita Brewing Company is now
located a couple of miles away on Louisiana Hwy. 59.
Something rather unexpected threw
a monkey wrench into our plans: Dave's mom, who lives in Topeka, Kansas,
had major health issues that, ultimately, resulted in him and his brother
needing to make nursing home arrangements, move his mom in, etc. Dave
knew he would be making multiple trips up there, and having the RV somewhere
South appears to be a good home base for the winter months.
Besides the probability of it having
a mild winter, staying at Abita Springs for three weeks was appealing
because of its proximity to Bay St. Louis. We made several trips there.
Sadly, 17 months later, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is still
everywhere, many areas are still devastated beyond belief, rebuilding
is not happening fast enough, and "less important" issues-like,
what about the hundreds and thousands of dead trees that threaten to
fall at any time? There is no money for projects like that. An interesting
story to read on www.gulfcoastnews.com
is "Where's the Money?" Most interesting and very enlightening.
We visited with friends at the
Chamber last week; two whose homes survived the storm are still not
repaired; one lives with her family of four (including "tween"
twin girls) in a rented 2-bedroom duplex; the other lives with her family
of four (including 13- and 17-year-old girls) in their FEMA trailer.
Another friend whose home was completely destroyed has made little progress
getting a new home built: only has the pilings for her new home have
been driven. Needless to say, Vicky and her husband are still in their
FEMA trailer. Another friend is back in her home, though she says that
if it weren't for her brother doing the work, it would not be livable.
Yet another, whose home in Long Beach only sustained some roof damage,
has recently had both her homeowners insurance AND real estate taxes
doubled. Barbara doesn't know if she and her family will continue to
live here. And she and her husband have good jobs (he is a Navy Seabee
and she works for the University of Mississippi.) Stories of despicable
contractors who vanished after accepting a down payment from a storm
While driving a friend from Missouri
around Bay St. Louis last week, she asked why more FEMA trailers were
not on and around the beach, where so many homes used to be. The answer:
you can only get a FEMA trailer if you have electric, water, and sewer.
The infrastructure of so many neighborhoods was destroyed, and the mammoth
task of having it rebuilt is going to take a long, long time.
We were disheartened by the amount
of Mississippi Sound muck that still remains in our neighborhood's streets
(exacerbated by an above-average rainfall this winter), driving by businesses
and homes that still have not been gutted, but above all, seeing the
hopelessness, frustration, and desperation in the eyes of people we
care very much about. I feel guilty for feeling that, the longer I'm
away from Bay St. Louis, the less I want to rebuild.
More than one friend told us, "You
were smart to leave." While that is probably true, the camaraderie
that is generated when "misery loves company" yields deep
friendships that might not have happened otherwise. To say that we feel
torn is an understatement.
I've spent a lot of time thinking
of a way I could spread the word of the plight still facing the Mississippi
Gulf Coast. Maybe these blogs can serve as the segway! While researching
the Salvation Army's official website, I found that of a group from
Pennsylvania who, I can attest to, who puts their money where their
mouths are. Please click on the link below and especially go down to
the tail end of the page and click on the movie.
On one of our trips to Bay St.
Louis, we saw the brand new daycare center on Highway 603 that this
group has built, and it is truly a testament to power of an idea.
God bless the Bucks-Mont community and the Salvation Army! Someone had
an idea and ACTED. Thank you!
On another trip, this time with
an out-of-town friend, something suddenly dawned on me! Most of you
have received my letter in hard-copy version, but if you haven't, it
was because I didn't have your address. Bottom line: I think I've found
a CAUSE that merits your consideration. I truly believe in the power
of networking, and I JUST KNOW that most, if not all, of you can help.
Please take a minute and go to:
Besides finding a good haircutter, a challenge to full-time RVers is
figuring out the puzzle known as health care. Right now, our
primary doctor is in Diamondhead, Mississippi (north of Bay St. Louis),
our dermatologist is in Biloxi, and our dentist and optician is in Hopkinsville,
Kentucky. We also had good luck in locating an emergency dentist in
Rexburg, Idaho and a dermatologist in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Any suggestions
re: health care and traveling are welcomed! Please e-mail us.
Even though we bought our 5th wheel
with the Arctic Package (meaning, it's supposed to handle cold weather
better), we will be spending the next three months down South, most
likely between here and Austin, Texas. From April through September,
we will be workamping at the marina at Crab
Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southern Illinois. The location
could not be more perfect: we will be only two hours away from Kate's
family (read: Bobby) and only two hours away from our St. Louis family
and friends, (read: St.
Louis Cardinal baseball games)
Judging from its website, Crab
Orchard looks ideal from the perspective of birding, hiking, and its
proximity to boating and fishing, ALL on our lists of Things We Want
to Do. In exchange for 20 hours/week in their marina pumping gas and
pumping holding tanks (we certainly done THAT once or twice!) we are
receiving a full hook-up camping site, phone, service vehicle, and monthly
subsistence. With any luck, we can talk Maria's brother, Don, into leaving
his Whaler there for the summer : Working part-time will enable Dave
will continue on as the webmaster for the Hancock
County Chamber of Commerce and Maria will be able to put time into
writing. And, of course, babysitting whenever asked!