Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where do you get the best Pho in the world? Pitkin, Louisiana, of course!

When we return to Oregon at the end of May, and I am 20 lbs heavier than when I left, it is this dude's doin.  He researches the local cuisine and makes sure we eat the most insulin-climbing, aortic-caking concoctions.  And then he puts a gun to my head and makes me eat it.  Because as we learned in Texas, "The Second Amendment IS my gun permit!" While Emmett still says no one's barbecue beats the Fishers, we've explained that they can all exist together.  Texas, you don't play.  Two greats were Coopers and Soulman...hit them up whenever possible.  Except if you live near them.  And then make sure it's rarely, or you're doing lots of cardio and veggies in between.  Please hit the Coopers's worth your time.

We crossed over to Louisiana, and while the night before we didn't know where we were going to stay (ahem, Gary has taken over trip planning starting in February; he tells me I'm not good with ambiguity when I freak out about not knowing where I'm going to sleep tomorrow night.  Help me out, people). Well, we found about the best place ever to sleep on your way through Louisiana.  And while we missed our Trader Joe's opportunity in Baton Rouge, it's likely because we had so many leftovers from our stop at Dr Charles and Susan Allen's BnB in Pitkin.

 Dr. Allen is a Louisiana botanist, who showed us around his property, then took us for a walk in the forest behind his place.  Let's just say we learned some stuff.
Des making the loblolly pine rain 

Emm found his walking stick/staff

the boys found shelter; the base of the tree opens up near the water because it's frequently under water

guess what makes these holes?  You guessed it!  The yellowbellied sapsucker!

the adventurers crossed the pond on the big log!we didn't get a good shot, but it was quite far and slippery

the boys have gone native; they blend in here in Louisiana!

well-named turkey tail bracket fungus

Des helps collect the quail eggs

I chose to hold the eggs while the boys collected; didn't want all that work to go splat!

pretty eggs...each one's different

Emmy's dancing with Barnaby

the guard rooster, Metallica

And last, but most certainly not least, the amazing Susan Allen.  Susan and Charles met in Vietnam during the war, and have been married some 40 odd years.  Susan is Chinese, raised in Vietnam, and now Louisianan.  She is the best of all three places.  She grandmothered us in all the right ways, starting with gumbo, then stirfry, and finally Gary's favorite, pho.  She made cookies, improved the boys chopstick habits, and improved upon each dish (Chinese rice with the gumbo, ten times the meat/richness of the pho, Louisiana shrimp in the Chinese stirfry).  She hugged us, made sure we were comfortable and happy, and had a wonderful "y'all" in her Chinese/Vietnamese-accented English.  As I said, who knew you had to go to rural Louisiana for great Vietnamese food?  Yet another example that it's the journey, not the attention to the spaces in between!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

There's a NEW Mexico?!

(Yes, Homer.)

And a Texas and a Louisiana too.

(Our first new state since NM in December.)

We just rolled into northwest Louisiana, after being hosted for 2 nights in Fort Worth--birthplace of grandma Janet! We saw the stockyards and the world's only twice daily cattle drive. It was about 12 longhorns going one block, but still. Pretty cool. Emmett decided to film it, so I filmed him. (No word yet on if anyone filmed me filming him filming steers.)

Our hosts were the parents of our Shanghai pal Erin, who we used to be in Documentary Film Club with. They treated us like their own kids, and fed us to the gills! We better watch out, as we head to N'awlins, or we will all gain 20 pounds. Thank you Polly and Bill!

Side note: On the way to Ft. Worth (which google maps insisted on pronouncing "F T Worth") we stopped in Comanche, TX. My mom's mom grew up there, and the store my mom's cousins (below) ran is still there. I chatted with the wife of one of these guy's sons. Which makes her my second cousin's wife. Weird.

Forth Worth was where the boys finally got to see The Lego Movie, after being told "maybe tomorrow" in several towns. THE MAIN CHARACTER'S NAME IS EMMETT. Sarah took them to the theater while I slipped off to Dealey Plaza. To face one of American history's darkest days. After I exited the freeway in Dallas, I saw in the distance a brick building that I have seen so many times before. I gasped--the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Not much has changed, so it is almost unsettling to actually be standing there. And it is all so much smaller than I imagined. The Sixth Floor Museum is a great way to spend an hour or so. Very thorough, lots of multimedia, AAA discount, mentions the conspiracy theories just enough, and focuses much more on the gobs of evidence that Oswald was the one and only shooter. Highly recommended if you are in the area.

You can stand where Zapruder stood as he filmed (that's where I was for the photo below). You can comb the grassy knoll for evidence (none). And there are 2 white X's painted on Elm Street (see next to center lane), to mark where JFK's car was when he got hit by the second and third shots.

What JFK would have seen if he had turned around (and had he not been getting shot at the time)

As our Cowtown send-off, we paid a visit to a Texas drifter we used to know in Portland. Our boy Noah has gone and settled down, married a wonderful woman and even fathered a son. Our boys enjoyed helping the little guy at the park, and we loved catching up with Noah. Still urban planning and still a mellow dude. Pics soon (wifi issues)!

Unrelated to anything, we saw this giant wheel guy:

Before Fort Worth, we spent 3 rejuvenating days in Fredericksburg, a fun little German town that punches above its weight. Lots of beer halls and shops, great ice cream and a wonderful Museum of the Pacific War. Our hosts, Kim and Dan, made us feel so relaxed and at home. Which was nice after camping for several days in the WINDY Guadalupe Mtns National Park.

The great hikes made GMNP (as I like to call it) worthwhile. One was Devil's Hall, which was mostly along a rocky (dry) creek bed and ends in a natural amphitheater. Which reminded the boys of the Roman Coliseum (where they've never been). So they staged a sort-of gladiator fight.

They became junior rangers at GMNP and at nearby Carlsbad Caverns, which was aMAZing. Pics speak for themselves, then I am going to bed.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Breaching the dam

Hi all…has it really been 2 1/2 weeks since our last post?  Wow…lots has happened.

We're currently sitting in a Super 8 in Roswell, New Mexico, on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.  We needed a break from nights in the tent in freezing weather, which lead to not enough sleep for the parents.  The Gila Cliff Dwellings were worth a stop in Silver City, even with the cold.  Got to meet Stephen, who is walking across the country from Tampa to Seattle.

But I digress…the question many of you are asking, and we've been remiss in answering…where are we moving next year?  And the winner is, Portland, OR!  We tried our luck at the Search Associates job fair, and found a) we had very few places that we wanted to move to, and b) those places didn't have jobs for us.  As we've been figuring out what's next, we've realized that Portland has nearly everything we want: clean air, lots of friends and family, and easy access to nature.  We're starting our job search there just as the city shuts down with a freaky ice storm and the teachers of Portland Public vote to strike.  Yeehaw!

It's hard to recount all that has happened in the last couple of weeks, especially because we have to check out of the hotel in 40 minutes, and I doubt there will be wifi at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where we're headed today.  I will throw up a couple of pics to breach the dam of the blogpost blockade.

at the top of Tom's Thumb

showing off our dye jobs and sweet shades

Grandpa Steve and the boys at the Suns Game…honoring Vets like Gramps!

Des with a rattler at the Desert Museum outside of Tucson

our curious Junior Ranger at the Gila Cliff Dwellings

some broke down some such on the way to Roswell...