Road Trip Day 22 – Roswell, GA to Arden, NC

… Quick update….

Breakfast at the Flying Biscuit.. Excellent fried green tomatoes!

Tallulah Falls… Hiking

Town of Cherokee at base of Great Smokey Mountain National Park

On to the Blue Ridge Trail

Beautiful sunset on an overlook, incredible foliage at 5000+ feet elevation

Hotel reservation madness


Road Trip Day 21 – Fort Payne, AL to Roswell, GA

…checked in late so pictures will be uploaded later…

Started the day with a short trip further into the mountains to a little artist village in the town on Mentone, AL. The town has a posted population of 463, but I hear that swells to several thousand over the weekend, especially during autumn, as people drive up for the weekend to shop and view the foliage.
My guest and I walked around the town convincing ourselves that we didn’t need most of what we wanted to buy. Of course, that excluded breakfast, which we enjoyed at The Wildflower Cafe… Tomato pie, spinach quiche, strawberry crepes, fruit, salad with raspberry walnut vinaigrette, and “hummingbird bird cake” ( banana pineapple cake with cream cheese and walnut frosting). It was all so good we didn’t have a crumb left over for Zoe. Sorry girl!

We headed down from Mentone through some state park and stumbled upon some lakes that happened to be part of a hydroelectric plant owned by the Georgia Power Company. We turned back early on a planned hike around the lakes when we realized how far it would be and then ran across a snake in the road. We were also a bit worried that some fishermen would want revenge after Zoe jumped in the lake and took stole their fishing bobbers…

The road to Roswell ended at my big sisters house where I got to catch up with her and her husband, and meet the weebit.

Road Trip Day 20 – Huntsville, AL to Fort Payne, AL

Hung out in the morning will my cousin Lyn – mostly chatted, reviewed her diverse book collection and took Zoe back to dog park.  We met Kyle for brunch and shared more stories about way-back-when and what’s-happened-since, then heading back so I could back up and get on the road again.  Although short, it was a really nice visit and I’m glad I made the trip up to Huntsville.

Me with cousins Kyle and Lyn, and a few extra pounds 😦

I had to rush back to the airport to meet a special guest.  My guest was appalled at the condition of my car — it had not been cleaned inside or out since the start of my trip — so out first stop was a car wash where I could vacuum out almost 3 weeks of dog hair and other road trip dirt collections.

Power struggle between Zoe and my guest for rights to the passenger seat

We headed up north-east from Birmingham with the small town of Mentone in mind, but got there to find out there were no pet-friendly hotels with vacancy; so we backtracked a bit to Fort Payne to settle for the night.  For dinner, we headed down the street to a local BBQ called “Ol’ Timers” when it just happened to be karaoke night… when my name came up, I was introduced at the girl from California, and sang ” Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” to a very polite applause…. :-/

I sang karaoke while my "guest" practiced her clapping rhythm

The bathroom at Ol' Timers... two's company?

Road Trip Day 18 – Houston, TX to Meridian, MS

I got a warning about my first territory this morning, that there was a stretch of west Texas that was particularly racist and that I should avoid stopping through there if I can. I wondered what ire my new Texas tan and Massachusetts license plate might dry, but followed my cousins advice despite my curiosity. Along the interstate, the only evidence of a place out of the ordinary were large painted “God is good” and “God is love” signs.. I’ve gotten used to Christian radio but down here they even advertise Christmas, encouraging people ( in early October!) to buy their Christmas buttons and give them to all the heathens who don’t celebrate.

Through Louisiana, I decided to take a detour to see some of the plantation homes. Visited the Houmas house, which is actually lived in by a very wealthy bachelor, and the Laura house, the site of an old Creole plantation with a very interesting family history. The second house tour was the far better of the two, enough so that I bought the full book about the plantation history written by the daughter who decided to sell it all and move to St. Louis.

Houmas House

the Laura House (a very interesting tour!)

Zoe likes Zydeco!

After the plantations, since I was so close to New Orleans, I had to continue the detour into the city for dinner and beignets. I got a recommendation for a place where I could take Zoe with me and ended up at a local bar down a dark side street on the edge of the French quarter. It was totally not my normal crowd, but the people were super friendly and the food was, well, cheap at least! Right before leaving a got a lecture from a young twenty-something couple who has lived all over the USA to “don’t stop to help any one.” It’s sad advice but good advice I suppose.

The funniest moment in N.O. was when, while walking down Bourbon St., Zoe went up behind a woman and sniffed her butt before I could stop her. The poor woman turned around horrified that she had just been molested on the street and was SO relieved when she realized it was just a dog. Zoe probably should have earned some beads for that stunt.

iPad-ing at Cafe du Monde, yummy!

Well, it’s back to the interstate now. I’m supposed to be in Huntsville, AL at noon tomorrow, so I need to make up some miles tonight. Not sure yet where I’ll end up, but could go now now that I’ve had my fill of Cafe du Monde coffee!

Ended up in Meridian, still in Mississippi but close to the Alabama border. I’ve got a four hour drive in the morning before meeting an aunt from my dad’s side, who I haven’t seen since I was eleven!

Road Trip Day 17 – Harlingen, TX to Houston, TX

Highlight of the morning was when I have Grandma a gift and she knew my name!  Last time was was here she asked my aunt who I was (in her defense, the last time she has seen me I was probably 2 feet shorter!).

Headed out to breakfast with Tia Lidia and Skylar followed by a trip to the park to let Zoe have a swim.  It was  fun to watch Skylar and Zoe take off onto the grass and toward the lake; they both have such a zest for life that should be an example for all of us!

Skylar and Zoe at the park in Harlingen

Met another dog owner at the park who was jealous of my road trip, but I was jealous of the number of places he has lived already in his life. More and more on this trip, I’m feeling like I spent way to many years focused on school and missing so many other aspects of life.  I had lots of time to reflect on this and other things on the 5-hour drive from Harlingen to Rosenberg, and I must have been deep in thought through most of the trip because I really can’t remember much of the scenery except that this stretch of Texas is very green compared to West Texas.

Landed in Rosenberg (just outside of Houston) around 6pm and met my cousin Anton and his adorable daughter Adria.  She was super shy at first but opened up very quickly.  Once again, I think Zoe helped me win her over!

Me, Adria and Zoe in Rosenberg, TX

It was really neat to catch up with Anton and he only gave me more food for thought on the work-life-balance issue. He is super sharp and owned his first business at 16-years, but never went to college because it only slowed him down.  Now he’s working for himself so he gets to choose his hours, and chooses to spend most of his time at home with his kids (daughter Adria and young son Aiden).  I do think that there is an unhealthy obsession with college in our society and liked hearing about someone who’s “made it” without.  Anton’s sense and ability to do this is due to large part to the practical experience of growing up on a farm with do-it-yourself parents, as well as vocational training opportunities offered through public schools back in the day.  It really is a pity that every kid isn’t so lucky to have those opportunities and the public schools have been stripped of hands-on education and focuses only on book work.

Anton also invited me to go hunting sometime and has me seriously considering something I thought I would never do…

Ended up in Houston for the night and will head out early tomorrow for the last full-day drive of this trip! On to Alabama!

Road Trip Day 16 – Harlingen, TX

Today was a really good day.  I got to start the morning with huevos rancheros at Las Vegas, a popular breakfast restaurant in Harlingen.  All the Harlingen clan was there, Tio Felix, Irma, Tia Lidia, and Skylar.  It’s amazing how the Harlingen numbers have dwindled as the family continues to disperse throughout Texas and the U.S.

Me, Skylar and Tia Lidia at Las Vegas

Irma, Skylar and Tio Felix

After breakfast, we headed over to Downtown Harlingen for Market Days, a once-a-month flea markets along Main St. in Harlingen.  I had never been before, but was really impressed with the market- there was a good variety of “stuff” at very very good prices.  I got two pairs of really cute hand-made earrings for $4.50 total!  We followed Market Days with more eating at City Cafe in Downtown Harlingen.  These hole-in-the-wall family-run restaurants are the best!  My tacos were excellent and I’m only saddened that it’ll likely be a long time before I have tacos that good again.

In the afternoon, we went over to the soccer complex to watch Skylar’s soccer game.  It felt like a replay of the Friday night football game.  Skylar’s team is in their first year together and it looks like it might be the first year playing soccer for some of those kids.  Unfortunately, they were playing a team from Brownsville who wore the Italian jersey and dribbled as if they were from Brazil and passed like they were from Spain.  We stopped counting the goals when it got to the teens, and that was in the first half… I do have to mention that Skylar had the save of the game in the first 10 minutes when he stopped a penalty kick!

Representing Texas at Skylar's soccer game. (Mom, aren't you proud??)

We finished the day with a trip to South Padre Island.  Zoe had to spend the time on a leash, but lucky for her I had a 50-foot leash.  We just had to be careful to watch our own feet so as not to get tangled in it!

Zoe and Skylar looking out over the gulf