Thursday, May 6, 2021

Pensacola and Tammany - Continued


 The day after meeting with Camille in Pensacola, I decide to take a day away from touristy go-go stuff.  I decide to write, and cook, and do yoga and exercises in my campsite.

It felt good to get some writing done on book three.  The writing helps me feel grounded in some purpose.

I enjoy preparing meals outside.

At 3:00 or 4:00 I was ready to break out.  I decided to ride right from the park and take sidewalks and streets that were just outside the State Park.  All the neighborhoods were self-contained and full of dead-ends.  None of them led anywhere.  So I just decided to always turn right. 

Eventually I would find myself back on the main road again.  

There were waterfront properties that must have been destroyed during Hurricane Sally.  Only the driveway and foundation remained.  Other properties still had tarp over the roofs and siding missing.

One neighborhood had the requirement that all homes have a standard white fence.  It gave the neighborhood a Disneyland fantasy feel.
I rode into a children's park.  The playground was quite elaborate.  There were children climbing and running, it was good to see.

On May 2nd it was time to leave the Big Lagoon and head over toward New Orleans.  It is under 300 miles.  I drove on back roads and it took me all day.  At one stop I noticed that my passenger seat was beginning to look like I was a hoarder.

I arrived at Fontainbleau State Park.  It is located north of Lake Ponchartrain, which is on the northern edge of New Orleans, LA.  My picnic table and fire ring were sitting in water.   They must have gotten a lot of rain.
While I was setting up camp I got excited when I saw a woman and her dog in a truck moving into the site next to mine.  Maybe I would have a someone to have happy hour with!

After she was parked she got out of the truck and waved excitedly and said "Hello!".  I waved and responded with a greeting.  While I watched her and her dog walk quickly to the road to meet up with a friend, another woman with a dog who was walking over to her site. Dang!  She wasn't saying "hi" to me!  The dogs greeted each other with barks and tail wags and butt sniffs.

After the two women chatted a while and the second woman started heading back to her camper I asked if they were sisters.  She explained that they both are full-time RVers and they met in Washington state.  They were meeting up again for the first time and were going to travel together a couple weeks.

I talked with her a while and mentioned how I thought the big "Hello" was for me.  I was excited because I thought there would be someone I could join for happy hour.  She invited me to join them for happy hour the next evening.

She had just gotten free of a clinging tag-along camper and I think she was wary of me, but I tried to assure her I am independent.  I don't think I was pushy, but maybe a little needy.  Ha ha.

Fontainbleau is known for its ancient oak trees.  They are scattered around the park, twisted trunks and branches that reach high and some branches that reach out low along the ground.  Many of them covered in swaying Spanish moss.   These trees would have stories to tell if they could talk.  

There is a yard of these trees and a plaque says that under them were the shacks of slaves, 157 slaves at one time, many of them skilled in a variety of trades.  Children under 10 were used to push sugar cane into the mill, a dangerous job.

The park is quite impressive and on the day I arrived, a warm, sunny Sunday, it was very busy.

There is a beach and people were enjoying the water and the beaches.

I was admiring a water park where young children and their parents were playing.  A woman came up and we chatted a bit.  She said in her German accent that the water park was new.  They had built it during the COVID shut-down.

 The Tammany Trail crosses the entrance to the state park.  After I explored the beach and picnic area I took a ride a few miles down the trail.  

Tomorrow, I told myself, I would ride the trail.

And I did!  I rode my trike from the park to Sidell.  

I knew it was going to be a good ride when I pulled out early and saw five deer before I even got to the trail.

I went by a pond with waterlily were blooming.  I remembered that George and I had done this trail at the start of our "last hurrah" road trip after his dementia diagnosis.  We were here about the same time, because the lilies were blooming then too.
The Tammany is a lovely trail with tall towering pine trees that are close to the sides of the trail in places.  I loved zooming through the shaded tunnel.  I rode back to Mandeville where I wound my way to an Anytime Fitness.  This is only my second or third time at the gym since I have gotten my COVID vaccines.  I have lost some strength and I look forward to building it up again.

I side affect of those trees close to the trail is that the roots can cause bumps.  Most of the trail was smooth, and some places had brand new smooth pavement.  That is always a delight, smooth new pavement.

After working out, I was mighty hungry.  I rode down to an area of restaurants down by the waterfront.  I picked the pizza place, but as I waited alone on the deck for my pizza and salad, I regretted passing up the bustling coffee shop.  There was no people to watch here.

Back at camp, around 4:00 there was a knock on my door.  It was Lynn, one of the women with the dogs.  She said they were gathering inside Susan's trailer because of the heat.  Was I ok with that?  

"Yes!  I am fully vaccinated," I told her.  She and Susan had been too.

Susan's dog was a loving leaner.  One of those dogs that just sit and lean on your leg and let you pet them forever.  Lynn's dog was a player.  Her dog had a whole big bag of toys to pull from.  The whole hour and a half that we were together, Lynn was tossing for her dog or hanging onto something while the dog pulled at the other end of it.  You never know what you are going to get when you get a dog.

Susan has been full-time in her trailer for two years.  It felt so roomy!  Even with three of us in the trailer we were all close to six feet apart.   I asked them where they have been that was the most fun or most interesting.  Lynn said Big Bend National Park in Texas on the Rio Grande.  

That is interesting.  This must have been the fifth time someone has mentioned it as a great place, a "you must go there" kind of place.  

We exchanged contact information.  I wrote down the address of this blog, but I doubt if they will come here, their lives are full with making plans for where they will be going next.


I had thought I might ride the trail to the other end on my last day in Fontainbleau, but instead I hung out and wrote and hiked.

On the hike I took some pictures of more amazingly huge old Live Oaks. 

I went for a little trike ride around the park.  I left a copy of my second book, The Journey Continues, among  a shelf of books in the laundry room.

My legs are covered in bites.  I learned that the name of the bayou here came from the native word for the area... "riddled with fleas".  Though my bites are probably mosquitos, my anti-itch cream is getting used a lot!

It is hard to get an idea of how huge a tree is from a photograph.  I put my coffee thermos in this picture to give you perspective.

In the afternoon the clouds gathered and the thunder rumbled, but no rain fell until the evening.  Then it came and came and came and the thunder boomed and rolled and rolled off into the far far distance.  I began to worry that I might have to vacate, and I didn't like the idea of packing up in the pouring rain.

I posted on Facebook asking people how they check on local weather alerts when they are traveling.  I knew there were flash flood warnings for this area, but I had no idea if I was supposed to move to higher ground.

Before this trip I bought a weather radio, but it doesn't help if I have no clue how to tune into the local alerts.  I guess I need some instructions or to play with it.

But in the morning, the rain would quit for a bit and start up again.  I managed to pack up between the drops.

While I was at Fontainbleau I decided I didn't need to stay at the next campground, instead I could go see my friend, Jean, sooner.  I could move up my reservation in Tombigbee National Forest.  And then spend an extra day at Craighead Forest in Arkansas.  Which is where I will be picking up my mail.

So leaving Fontainbleau I went off to meet up with a friend.  YAY!!!!  She lives near Jackson, Mississippi.  I am so looking forward to connecting with her.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pensacola and Tammany



As I write this I am sitting in my Weeroll facing the open back doors. I am looking into the woods.  In my big screened window I see the woods has quite the variety of trees, not like the pine forests in Ochlockonee River State Park.  Among the trees within 50 feet of my chair I see:  Tall Long Leaf Pine; Oak, Magnolia, and what I think is a Maple.  The dirt is dark and damp, the lower vegetation is sparse, indicating a population of deer.  

 The fan is sending a nice steady stream of air on the back of my head and shoulders.  The heat has been high and the humidity thick at times.  I am looking forward to heading north a bit, starting tomorrow. 

The evening before I left Ochlockonee State Park I got a knock at my door.  It was my campground neighbor from across the way.  Susan just wanted to let me know she enjoyed meeting me and wanted to keep in touch!  How nice is that!  

She shared that her husband was 10 years older than her and that they often talk about what they will do if one of them passes away.  She was encouraged and inspired by meeting me.  I told her that single women over 62 is a huge cohort.  I heard a woman on the radio who converts vans for people saythat 97% of her customers are divorced and widowed women over 62.   Susan and I exchanged info.  

I texted Susan when I reached my next location to let her know I arrived safely and what the campground was like.

Big Lagoon State Park

The drive over to Big Lagoon I tried driving on the Interstate a while, but the higher speed had the van's engine working pretty hard.  It added stress, I kept to the back roads.  And began to wonder how to lighten the load.  I am thinking there are two things that are heavy that I could remove are the inflatable kayak and one of the middle seats in the van. 

Big Lagoon is just West of Pensacola.  It is in an area that was struck by Hurricane Sally last year.  I remember hearing about my friend, Camille, having to sop up water as it came in around the doors.

I emailed and called a Camille once I got to Big Lagoon.  We arranged to meet for lunch at Carmen's Cafe in downtown Pensacola one day.

Big Lagoon had not fully recovered from the storm.  Some trails were closed, the beach was closed.  The camping spots and restrooms were top-notch though. And the boat ramp is open.  A lot of birds and rodents are back.  I saw a rat and an armadillo in my camp site.


I tried my inflatable paddle board in the big lagoon.  I was afraid of the tidal currents and for good reason.  I took the time to take pictures of the board as I assembled and inflated it because I was beginning to think I had made a pricey mistake by buying it.   I thought if this outing didn't work, I would sell it.

The tide was coming in, so that was good, I thought.  I would work hard against the current and it would take me back in.  There was also a steady wind blowing in from the Gulf.  I paddled hard and made it... maybe 500 feet?  I was trying to keep close to shore but the wind kept pushing me into the vegetation there.  A kayak sits down in the water a bit, this paddle-board sits on top of the water and is easily pushed around by the wind.  I gave up quickly, went back to the landing and sat defeated.  

I could admit I made a stupid, expensive mistake (yet again) and move on, or I can keep trying to make this board work for me.  I decided the weight of it in my van was also a weight on my mind.  I can sell it and free myself, or keep towing it around, blowing it up and assembling it, trying again and again.  My neighbor, Mari, told me that when I started biking it wasn't comfortable, but I kept going out (There was an ice cream shop up the road for motivation...).  This is the same, she told me.  You gotta keep trying, you will gain strength and resilience and love it.  Give it time.

About the time I had settled on selling it, wouldn't you know I get a call from Liz Lee.  She and I went out once this winter on a smaller lake and canal when the wind wasn't blowing.  We had a good time.  She urged me to give it time.  Don't get rid of it.  "We will go out more when you get back, I promise," she tells me.

Well I put the pictures up and tried to sell it while I was in Pensacola, it didn't sell.  So I still have it and now I am thinking, smaller lakes without wind... 

I had a wonderful time the day I met Camille in Pensacola.  I thought parking would be at a premium downtown so I parked a few blocks away and rode my trike.  I was able to explore before and after we met.

There were whole clusters of new or refurbished homes that were deep and narrow with big front porches and small front yards (designed to improve a sense of community).  Camille told me that Pensacola has a philanthropist that provides grants for city improvement projects.  He has traveled the country living in places and helping to revitalize them.

I thought of a few questions after we departed.  I also through I should have had the waitress take a picture of us together!!!  Dang.  I took a picture of the place we ate from across the street.  It was wonderful seeing her.  George and I stayed with her in her condo a couple nights on our trike trip from Illinois in 2014.  

I thought about Debra as I rode the neighborhoods.  She loves meandering neighborhoods with me.  I went by big mansions and small homes with barred up windows.  I went through neighborhoods with lovely front yards planted completely in flowers.  Historic homes and new homes, brick homes and brightly painted homes.

I stopped at the library and donated Alzheimer's Trippin' with George and thought I should have given copies to Camille for her church!  She said her church is mostly old folks and they might have found the reads helpful.  They probably have a church library.  

I got my trike back in the van just as it the first sprinkles hit of a heavy rain.  I drove to Perdido Beach which Camille recommended.

Well that is enough for now, I gotta go for a walk and explore Fontainebleau.

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