Saturday, August 31, 2013

An excursion to HEB's Central Market...

Bill told me Central Market was a hell of a place.  We decided to go there today.  It was bustling with people and appeared to be Whole Foods on steroids.  In fact, it was just as crowded as Whole Foods often is.  I was impressed by all the stuff, though...


Nice produce, not that we had much time to look at it...


It was a busy day...


I really enjoy fresh pineapple and they sure had a lot of 'em for sale...


There's something fishy about this...


Wonder if the wet floor sign is up because there was an escapee...

As we shopped, there was a duo sitting in the cafe playing music.  They both had guitars and it sounded like the female half of the duo was doing her best Bonnie Raitt impression.  She sang "Angel From Montgomery" and "Louise".


Say cheese?


I liked the cheese section, even though I don't like to eat cold cheeses.  I only like my cheese melted and mild.  I bought some nice French butter, though.  They had an impressive array.


Lots of interesting beers, including some cool ones from Texas.  I spent more time in the wine area.


Brewniversity...


Time to check out...


This parking lot made me have flashbacks to shopping at Whole Foods in Buckhead, near Atlanta...


This van came by as we were about to leave.  A sign from above?

All in all it was a productive trip.  Shopping at Central Market was a lot like shopping at Whole Foods.  The difference was the woman singing in the cafe.  I don't think I have ever encountered that at another high end grocery store.  I think I like Whole Foods better.  I also like shopping at Fresh Market, but they don't have them in the San Antonio area.  We'd have to travel to Houston for the pleasure of The Fresh Market and its very appealing lighting.

I did enjoy Central Market more than the local HEB, though, so that's a good thing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Texas discovery... Spec's

One good thing about leaving North Carolina is that we don't have to deal with ABC stores here.  Texas has private liquor stores and one of them is Spec's.  Spec's carries an impressive array of beverages ranging from sparkling waters to rare scotches.  We even spotted a couple of the whiskies we found while we were in Scotland last year, as well as some tasty Guyanese rums I've had to buy online until now.

When we first visited Spec's, it reminded me of a Best Buy store.... only for beverages.  I am not all that impressed with Spec's beer selection, though they do have some good stuff.  I just don't think there's much variety, nor do I think the prices are that impressive.  If you want wine or liquor, though, it's a good place to be...


Our local Spec's... very much at home near outdoor malls...


Nice inviting entrance.  Bill picked up a handbasket and I shook my head.  I knew I was wanting some beer.  He knew it probably meant a $200 tab.  He wasn't too far off.


And tequila.  We need tequila for Labor Day festivities...


Not so bad.  We've definitely had bigger orders.  A few items were food.


Bill checks out the beer cooler... Wish it had more interesting beers, but it's decently stocked.

A couple of months ago, we found Triangle Wine Company, a great beer and wine store in Southern Pines, NC, before we moved to Texas.  It's probably a good thing we didn't go there sooner because they had some really fabulous stuff.  I prefer beer and wine to liquor anyway.  

Texas also has Total Wine and More, which is also a good place to find unique boozes.  We have enjoyed Total Wine in Virginia and North Carolina and it's a great place to shop for libations. 

The Spec's pictured about is not too far from where we live, though... and it helps that it's near World Market, another favorite cash drain.  Spec's is a Texas institution with locations in major cities around the state.  

Tomorrow, Bill plans to take me on an excursion to Central Market, which is supposed to be a really nice HEB.  Maybe afterwards, I can talk him into hitting Trader Joe's so I can get some frozen "crack and cheese"...



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kids on SeaDream...


SeaDream I in San Juan, Puerto Rico...

I will never forget the first time I boarded a SeaDream cruise.  It was April 2010 and Bill and I had booked a five night cruise that would take us from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands.  I remember the fare was a very reasonable $1599 per person plus government fees.  Yes, it sounds like a lot for a cruise, but SeaDream is all inclusive.  I had been trying to sell Bill on the concept of a luxury cruise for a long time.  Prior to our first SeaDream cruise, we had been on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas, which took us to four ports in the Baltics.  We spent almost as much for that cruise, which wasn't nearly as intimate or special... although given how expensive Scandinavia is, I think we probably got a nice deal with Royal Caribbean's cruise.

Anyway, though our first SeaDream cruise was not at all perfect, Bill and I had a wonderful and unforgettable time.  We disembarked in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands completely blown away by the experience.  It took me a couple of months to stop fantasizing about our next SeaDream cruise.  I talked it up constantly and constantly shopped for new voyages.

We took our second SeaDream cruise in November 2011.  That cruise was also very special, as we were celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary.  Bill and I made a couple of new friends and I got to swim in some of the world's most beautiful waters.  I got a terrible sunburn, but I also got to enjoy the piano bar for the first time.  By the time we were enjoying our Champagne and Caviar Splash in Mayreau, I was making plans to book again.  When we got home, I happily began what was becoming a ritual, searching for our next cruise.

Our third SeaDream cruise was in Italy and Greece in May of this year.  By the time we boarded this cruise, I was beginning to feel like a regular, even though there are others who sail SeaDream a lot more than I could ever hope to.  I started noticing things that made SeaDream less magical to me, even though our most recent voyage was probably the best of the three.  It was the best even though I got sick with a nasty cold during that week onboard.

I think one thing that made SeaDream less mind-blowing the last time was that Bill and I also sailed on Hebridean Princess less than a year ago, and that experience in Scotland made us realize that there are other great small ships out there waiting to be explored.  Another thing that made it less special was the fact that there were some obvious cost cutting measures being taken.  On our first cruise, champagne flowed freely.  On our second and third cruises, I noticed prosecco was being offered instead.  I wasn't upset about the prosecco.  I like it fine.  Also, I understand that if I had asked for champagne, I could have gotten champagne.  But it was a sign that there were some pennies being pinched.

And then, I started noticing a lot of people on Cruise Critic complaining about kids on SeaDream.  While Bill and I have been really lucky-- we've only encountered one kid on our three cruises and that was a baby who rarely made an appearance-- others report having to endure large groups of unruly children running around on what are very small cruise ships.  Think about it.  SeaDream I and II are both tiny vessels; each is designed to carry just 112 passengers.  There aren't that many places to go onboard when the rugrats are running wild.  Add in the fact that there are no balconies on either SeaDream vessel and you realize that locking yourself in your cabin for a little peace and quiet can result in claustrophobia very quickly.  Who books a cruise to hang out in their stateroom, anyway?

Our last SeaDream cruise cost about $7000, not including airfare, transportation, and hotel.  That price includes a 15% discount we got for pre-booking onboard.  All told, we probably spent $10,000 to do Italy and Greece SeaDream style.  Our last voyage was very good, but it didn't make me forget Hebridean Princess, which was gloriously kid free and, in many ways, ultimately a better value than SeaDream was despite its generally higher fares.  I thought about pre-booking another cruise on our last SeaDream cruise, but realized our financial future is less certain since Bill has to retire.  And I remembered that there are other cruises out there just waiting to be explored in places SeaDream doesn't yet go...

But also, I know that if I spent $10,000 for a SeaDream cruise and had to worry about kids pooping in the pool, hogging the lounge chairs, or snorkeling in the hot tub, it would really piss me off in a big way.  I realize that some kids are great around adults and enjoy grown up travel experiences.  Those kids are few and far between, though, and the average kid on SeaDream would probably not enjoy the experience that much.  SeaDream has recently started offering a makeshift kid program for voyages that have a lot of kids onboard, but it's nothing like what other lines offer, including Crystal, which is considered a luxury cruise line.

Frankly, I can't understand why a loving parent would subject their kids to a cruise where they won't be looked upon fondly by most of the passengers or staff and probably won't be kept entertained.  There are so many vacation options out there for families with young kids.  Some of those options are quite luxurious and allow adults to have their fun while their kids are properly supervised and can take part in fun activities with other kids.  Why choose a cruise line that is advertised as an adult experience for couples?

SeaDream is not designed for children and most children, when they are bored, will make sure everyone knows about it.  What ends up happening, then?  SeaDream's "regulars" get pissed off and decide not to book again.  SeaDream loses revenue and has to drop prices, which makes it more attractive to families.  And then the families show up with their kids, who will no doubt endure dirty looks from other passengers.  The staff will endure complaints from child free  passengers who are rightfully upset about not being able to use the jacuzzi for a couple of hours because someone let their child take a dump in it.  Or passengers who can't go to sleep because someone has let their children run up and down the halls, shrieking.  The kids are just being kids, wanting to burn off their abundant energy.  But many people go on vacation to escape this sort of thing; and people on SeaDream ships pay a lot to be there.  It's selfish to subject innocent vacationers to your kids on a ship that is not designed for kids.  It's selfish to SeaDream staff to expect them to entertain your little darlings when they are trying to entertain adults who can be very demanding and expect a lot for what they're paying.  And it's selfish to your kids to expect them to act like adults when they're kids and just want to be entertained and be able to blow off some steam.

Granted, I have seen some adults on SeaDream act much worse than kids ever could.  The difference is that SeaDream apparently has no issue dealing with unruly adults who bother other passengers and will even kick these people off if they get too out of hand.  They apparently don't do as much about kids or their parents, who let their kids annoy others who have paid a lot of money to be on vacation and may not have that many vacation days available to them.  The end result is that people who might have been loyal to the brand now can't be sure of what their $10,000 is paying for.
 
I met a man on my second SeaDream cruise who said he had sailed four times with SeaDream and it was his favorite line.  Recently, he told me he doesn't want to sail on SeaDream anymore.  And he has also expressed doubts that the line can survive the way it's going now.  I didn't want to believe him when he first said it, but I must say that the griping on Cruise Critic is starting to reach a fever pitch.  Unfortunately, even choosing cruises that happen at a time of year when kids are usually in school doesn't seem to be helping some hapless cruisers, nor does it seem to matter if one chooses an expensive cruise.  The recent very attractive Black Sea cruise was more than Bill and I could spend for a vacation, but apparently it's overrun with obstreperous kids anyway.

I don't know if or when Bill and I will sail on SeaDream again.  I still have very high regard for SeaDream and its wonderful staff.  When it's good, it's very good.  But Bill and I don't have the time or the money to gamble on SeaDream cruises if we can't be sure our vacation won't be ruined by the antics of unsupervised children running amok.  There just isn't enough premium liquor in the world for that.


Still... this is pretty hard to give up forever...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My kingdom for a Publix...

One thing I miss about life before Texas is the ability to choose my own grocery store.  You'd think a big state like Texas would have a variety of grocery store chains to choose from.  Unfortunately, so far we have only run across one chain... HEB.  HEB is a grocery store that has locations in Texas and Mexico and, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the only game in town around these parts.  We do have Whole Foods and Trader Joe's somewhere near San Antonio.  But you won't find any of the other national or local chains.  Indeed, even when we lived in po-dunk Sanford, North Carolina, we could choose between Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, or Lowe's Foods.  In Georgia, we had the delightful Publix chain, as well as Kroger and Ingles.  Here in huge San Antonio, HEB is pretty much the one place to shop.  From what I've seen, HEB wants you to shop there... and only there.  And they sell everything, just like another chain we all know about that wants to be all things to everyone.

I understand that not all HEBs are created equal.  I don't much like the HEB closest to us, though.  It's huge and the two times I've been there, it's been really crowded and obnoxious.  In fact, it reminds me a lot of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a store I haven't set foot in since the early 00s.  I walk into HEB and am assaulted by the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls.  It smells good, but entices me to eat things I shouldn't.  The lighting is very bright and the decor is bare bones.  There's a lady handing out sushi samples while another is offering tastes of Smirnoff Ice.  There are people everywhere and no matter where you turn, you're bound to obstruct someone's shopping progress.  

My senses overload as I try not to get in anybody's way.  Forget about enjoying a leisurely shopping experience.  Our local HEB is the supermarket equivalent to a crowded interstate, with people just wanting to cruise on through but repeatedly hitting traffic jams.  I am annoyed as I end up in the section of the store with fucking board games and Barbie dolls in it, as if I'm at Target or something.  If I wanted to shop at Target or Wal-Mart, I'd fucking go there.  


We pass in front of the cash registers on our way to get some of the sushi we tasted as we first came into the store.  A guy who works at HEB sees us and incorrectly figures we're ready to check out.  He tries to direct us to a lane.  That annoys me, since the way the store is laid out means that a person could start their shopping on either side.  They could start on the "drug store" side and pass the freakin' toys and hot bar, or they can start on the "food store" side, where all the produce and shit is.  The meat area requires that one walk through an entire section devoted to raw meat, cold cuts, and non highbrow deli cheeses.  But if you want grated Parmesan cheese not made by Kraft, you have to go to the deli area, which is in another section of the store.


As we were walking out of the store yesterday, I noticed they were selling grills!  $499 smoker grills, mind you-- the type you might buy at Home Depot or Lowe's, not one of those little aluminum foil jobs meant to be used once or twice.  Who buys grills at a supermarket?  I guess somebody must.  Otherwise, why would they be selling them?  But do they have to have so many?  They have enough grills in the above picture to cook ribs for a whole lot of Texans.


In the above photo, you can see that they're also selling garden stuff... Soil and trees, and plants, and shit... same stuff I saw for sale at Home Depot just twenty minutes prior to our food store stop.  Again, why would I buy these things at the grocery store?  Especially when I can go to Home Depot with a minimum of fuss?

I'm sure some people love HEB.  But for me, it's too much like a Wal-Mart, a store I loathe, not just because of its business practices, but because shopping there is too complicated.  It takes too long to wade through all the stuff I don't want or need.  Some people like one stop shopping, but I, for one, like stores that don't try to be all things to all people... and don't take forever to get through.  I don't like stores where I feel like I'm holding someone up because I want to look at a label for a minute.  You'd think in a really huge store that wouldn't be a problem.  But it has been one every time I've set foot in HEB.  In fact, the first time I went to HEB, it was so Bill could get a money order.  There was a really long line of people, all of whom had business... business that probably should have been handled somewhere other than a grocery store.
  

Our local HEB is like a cross between Wal-Mart and Shopper's Food Warehouse, a chain we used to frequent occasionally when we lived in the DC area.  I disliked Shopper's Warehouse for the same reasons, if I recall correctly... though at least they weren't trying to sell $499 grills in their parking lot.  In fact, HEB has in common with Wal-Mart the whole "stomp the comp" mindset, that means running out of town everyone who might be a competitor. 

I know everything is big in Texas, but I hope to find a smaller, less complicated place to shop for food at some point.  Unfortunately, I have heard from many sources that HEB pretty much corners the food store market in this area... They do have a nice Central Market, which is like Whole Foods, but is still owned HEB.  It's not that close to us, but might be worth the drive.  Maybe I can at least avoid the smoker grills there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fabulous evening last night... impromptu par-tay!

Bill and I went to Dough last night to meet his old high school friend and his wife.  As we were going there, we were commenting on our runaway electric meter, which Bill says shows us using 10,000 kilowatt hours.  So we were bitching about that as we pulled into a crowded parking lot at a strip mall.  We found a place to park and walked up to the restaurant.  There were many people there and a musician was playing jazz.

Suddenly, I saw the back of a guy who looked very familiar to me...  In 1993 and 94, I was the cook at Camp Paddy Run in Star Tannery, Virginia.  Star Tannery is a beautiful place, but it's tucked away in the mountains and isn't even noted on a lot of maps.  Anyway, in the summer of 1994, I worked with some great folks and one of them was a guy named Jason who grew up to become an Episcopalian vicar and is now married to a former Paddy Run attendee who is now a San Antonio surgeon.  I knew they were in San Antonio, but I didn't know they were going to be at Dough last night.  And we ran right into them while they were waiting to buy wine!

I had not seen either of them since 1994, but had reconnected with Jason on Facebook.  I must say, he looks very much the same as he did back in the day.

Bill's friend Matt, and Matt's beautiful wife Jess, showed up a little later and we enjoyed two bottles of wine and a couple of pizzas, along with a delightful appetizer.  Matt, Jess, Bill, and I were getting along great... then Jason and his wife, Susannah, finished up and came out and chatted with us for awhile.  I was amazed at how well everyone meshed, despite most of us being strangers.  After all, Jason and I were not really close buddies in 1994, but we were friendly, as most everyone at Paddy Run was.  I remembered Susannah as a "counselor in training"; she was a teen when I last saw her and was only at camp for a week.  I had never met Matt or Jess before, though Bill knew Matt in high school and recently had lunch with him and I had chatted with him on Facebook.

But there we all were, hanging out like long lost friends.  At one point, I got excited and went to drink some water, but missed my mouth and spilled water all over my shirt.  I guess my "drinking problem" is flaring up again.




  
Our appetizer... Dough makes all cheeses and breads on site.  



This pizza was called Pork Love...  Supposedly, it was showcased on the Food Network and after tasting it, I can see why. It was quite nice.


This was a sausage pizza that had onions and pistachios and it was insanely good!


 Menus


We shared a couple of bottles of wine and then Jason gave us the half he didn't drink.  The three hours we hung out together passed very quickly.  It's not often you run into a small group with that much chemistry!  Bill and I really had a marvelous time.   I hope we can do it again sometime soon.  

When we got home, Zane and Arran were happy to see us... and Arran had pulled The Joy of Cooking off the bookshelf.  Guess he got hungry.

San Antonio is already turning out to be better for me socially, even if I already want to find a new neighborhood.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pizza tonight...

Bill has a long lost buddy from high school who lives in San Antonio and he has asked us to meet him and his wife at a restaurant called Dough.  Bill met his friend last week for lunch and it was the first time they had seen each other in about 30 years.  Naturally, I have not yet met this guy, but I have chatted with him a bit on Facebook.  In fact, he chats more with me than he does Bill.

Bill's friend has a wife who works for Novica.com, which is my favorite place to blow money, except SeaDream, of course.  Apparently, San Antonio has a very small Novica office staffed with a couple of people and she happens to work there.  My house is full of Novica stuff and I have many scarves and pieces of jewelry from that site.  I bet our houses could rival each other with all the Novica stuff there...

Novica is a site run by National Geographic that offers cool art, furniture, jewelry, gifts and such from artisans in India, Mexico, Central America, West Africa, Bali and Indonesia, Brazil, and the Andes.  The goods are mostly handmade.  I have loved most of what I've bought there and have actually bought so much that I am considered an "ambassador".  That means I get half price shipping and certain incentives to buy more.  Every quarter, I get credits based on how much I buy, plus they send me codes  around my birthday so I can load up.  It's a sweet deal.

I will try to get some photos for a new post.  I don't have any travels in the works for the near future, so I may be reviewing a few San Antonio area restaurants for the time being.  Hey... San Antonio is a tourist destination, right?  It was for me until a few weeks ago, anyway.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our second NAO trip in San Antonio...

Bill and I had a date night tonight.


Mr. Bill is very studly tonight... and he always makes me smile.

We decided to go out to NAO again.  We went last month, when we were house hunting.  We had a good time and the prices are right, so Bill decided to take me out again to help boost my lagging morale.

We had a good time.  I started with an El Diablo cocktail...


This was a cocktail made with tequila... and other stuff that I don't remember right now.  It was very refreshing and interesting.  I would order it again, even though it was not cheap.  


I had a delicious lobster and crayfish soup as an appetizer.  This soup was like velvet and was delightful.  I liked it better than my entree.


Bill had a bacon and goat cheese salad... I didn't taste it because I don't like goat cheese, but he said it was excellent.


I had a pork tenderloin entree with a cool potato, asparagus, and pea salad.  I liked the appetizer better.  This was kind of a paltry entree, though it tasted fine.  


Bill's dinner was shrimp... and he got a heartier serving than I did.  As we were finishing dinner, our waitress asked if we wanted more bread, though she hadn't brought any out to start with.  No matter.  I was glad not to feel stuffed.  And she did get us some cheese rolls and tortillas that tasted like grits.  


Sweet Bill doesn't know how handsome he is... especially over Argentinian Malbec. 


Chocolate Encounter.  Bill had this last time.  It was a nice dessert, but once was enough.


Bill had a pineapple savarin-- kinda like angel food cake with pineapple.  He liked it.

As we were finishing up, I was suddenly confronted by the dentist who fixed my tooth two days ago!  She's a very charming lady and she happened to be enjoying NAO for the first time tonight.  She was giving us all kinds of restaurant tips.  Her husband is a hand surgeon, so I'm sure San Antonio is a very exciting town for them.  If you're medical, you're golden!  

I was actually glad to see her.  She did a great job on my tooth and I think we will get along well.  We seem to like a lot of the same things.  In any case, we had a nice night out and we'll have to go back again soon.  San Antonio might be the right place for us after all.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Settling in...

We're mostly unpacked.  There are still a few more boxes to unload and pictures to hang, but by and large, the moving process is winding down.  I even made an appointment with a new dentist to take care of the loose filling I discovered on our road trip.

Bill was telling me that guys in his office have dealings in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Brazil.  Everybody speaks Spanish, which means he will need to brush up on his language skills.  Now that we're settling in, it's time to figure out when, how, and where we will go on our next big trip.  With any luck, it won't be to southeastern Virginia.

Seriously... I checked the flights to where my parents live, and it would cost a bundle to get there in November.  The cheapest tickets are about $1400 for two of us.  $1400 for a guaranteed stressful "vacation".

I swear I'd rather go to France... or Costa Rica...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A new passport...

Not for me.  For Bill.  Yesterday, was his first day of work and he was immediately sent to get an official passport.  That means he will probably get to travel for his new job.  Given that he will be working with officers from Central and South America, that may mean getting to go to some interesting places.  If he does... I hope he takes me with him.  If I can't be as close to Europe, maybe I can see some interesting places in the Americas I've never seen before.

I don't have any exciting travel planned right now.  This move has been quite an undertaking and has actually resulted in travel... not the fun kind.  My mom wants me to visit Virginia for Thanksgiving and under the circumstances, I'm not sure we can swing it.  If I plan another trip and tell her about it, I will likely catch hell.

But I can dream.  I'm still looking for our next adventure.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The big road trip... part four

Since we had good luck with La Quinta in Beaumont and needed pet friendly digs in San Antonio, we decided to book the La Quinta on Rittiman Road in San Antonio.  There are several La Quintas in San Antonio.  I chose the one on Rittiman Road because it was close to where the property manager's office is.  It's also very close to Fort Sam Houston, which is where Bill will be working; but that wasn't important for this stay.

I should mention that San Antonio has a number of pet friendly hotels.  But the Army will only pay so much per night and since we don't really know our way around yet, we opted for Rittiman Road.  In retrospect, it wasn't the best choice in terms of lodging or locale.  The La Quinta we stayed in locally was a bit of a dive.  Located between a mega church/Christian school and another motel and Mexican restaurant, it was obvious this particular property had seen better days.  There are also train tracks on the other side of the interstate, so when you don't hear the rushing of cars speeding by, you'll hear the train whistle blow.


First view of the room.


Bathroom


The "view" from our one window.


Peeling wallpaper


Yuck!  What is that?


And that?


"Helpful" handout...

It was not the worst place Bill or I have ever stayed, but it was a bit on the depressing side.  The wallpaper was peeling and the carpet was pretty gross.  There was one spot where someone had apparently spilled something.  Arran would not stop licking it until we covered it up.  They gave Bill a handout that was supposed to help with concierge needs, but as you can see from the above photo, it's not very legible.  Their printer needs servicing.

The room was obviously very old school, yet had some modern touches like a big flat screen TV with some rather fancy features.  The bed was very comfortable and had decent linens, though the pillows were cheap.  Breakfast was fairly lame, though Bill did manage to make me a Texas shaped waffle.


I don't actually like most waffles that much, especially when served with "butter spread".  But I had to admit that waffle was pretty cute.

I must also give credit to the La Quinta's shower, which offered plenty of hot water and great water pressure.  I had no way of knowing how much I would miss hot showers when we checked out, since I thought we'd have gas hooked up in our house.  

The Mexican restaurant next door also has very good food and is easy to walk to, so that was also a plus.

There are also no pet fees to speak of, which is a good thing.  And there is a coin operated washer and dryer available  for guests and that came in handy, too.

All that being said, though, I wouldn't stay at that particular La Quinta again unless circumstances forced me to.  It's not the most awful dive I've ever been to, but it's very far from being even close to the best.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The big road trip... part three

We decided to make our next stop Beaumont, Texas.  It's a bit over the Texas line from Louisiana.  That meant we would drive across the lower part of Louisiana on our third day of driving.  I thought it was interesting when we got down to Mobile, Alabama since the horse I owned as a teenager was born in Baton Rouge and purchased by a woman in Mobile who bought his mom when he was a foal.  Mobile was interesting, because that was when the wetlands started.  It was also cool to be so close to Florida and Mississippi at the same time.  But once we got into Louisiana, with its welcome signs in French and English, that's when I noticed we were down in the bayous for real.

We stopped in Mandeville, Louisiana for gas and loaded up on some high octane stuff for my car.  I noticed that once the tank was full, I had a range of 567 miles!  Amazing!  My car holds about 15 gallons and we didn't have to stop again for gas until we got to Flatonia, Texas, which is not far from San Antonio.

Anyway, after gassing up, I followed Bill and we had to detour through a parking lot to get back on the interstate.  A lot of traffic was coming and Bill and I got separated.  Some nice lady noticed me waiting in the parking lot to get on the road and very kindly let me in.  Yes, I bitch about inconsiderate drivers, but I also like to call out the ones who are nice.  She did me a solid.

I thought about pulling off of I 10 for a pee break, but decided I didn't need to.  And then I saw the sign warning us that there were no more facilities for the next 20 miles.  Yup... there's a nice bridge over some serious wetlands in Louisiana.  As we drove across, we encountered some heavy rain.  Wish some of it would hit Texas.

When we got to the other side of the causeway, we stopped for lunch at a Wendy's.  Bill got me a burger that was smothered in mayo.  Pretty gross for a sweltering hot, humid day in Louisiana.  It actually felt like Hell outside.  I called my mom because she'd left me a message.  As Bill was fetching lunch and I was trying to handle the dogs, Mom laid a big guilt trip on me about attending Thanksgiving in Virginia this year.  I was kind of annoyed by the conversation.

Then we started back on the road.  The first thing I noticed when we crossed into Texas was how much nicer the roads were.  It reminded me of the time I took a bus trip from Yerevan, Armenia to Istanbul, Turkey.  As soon as we crossed into Turkey, stuff worked.

The second thing I noticed was that the exit mile signs start at 850.  There's a sign that says it's 850 miles to El Paso.  That's a long way.

The third thing I noticed was that the speed limit went up to 75 miles per hour.  Of course, I couldn't enjoy the higher limit because Bill was towing a UHaul and I needed to stay close to him.

We stayed in a La Quinta because they are pet friendly; I had never stayed in one; and they don't charge pet fees.  The one we encountered on the west side of Beaumont was very nice.  It was right next to a Sonic, so Bill was able to get me some ice cream.  And it was very clean; the room was large; and the bed was very comfortable.  In fact, I actually went looking to find out what kinds of beds La Quinta uses.


Nice bed.


The bathroom had bare essential toiletries, but was functional.


Nice view of the TV.


Microwave and fridge


Arran decided to make a bed out of my duffel bag.

I can give high marks to the La Quinta Inn and Suites in Beaumont West.  They were pretty awesome to deal with.  Wish I could say the same about the next La Quinta we stayed in.