There is a dream

photo 4It is hard to find the words that do justice when you experience something that stirs your innermost being. Today was just that kind of day as Jennie and I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. I grew up in the 1960’s as part of a Midwest household that didn’t give much thought to the plight of anyone but our own.

Two full-time working parents with two latchkey kids reared by a host of neighborhood stay-at-home moms. Ones with parental authority to smack us on the behind if we got out of line; which did, on occasion, happen. Television was a mainstay and I watched the goings on of the world as part of the Nightly News with Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. At times the world looked pretty scary; especially after the assignation of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

My brother and I grew up in a poor to middle class neighborhood (depending on the street you happened to live) that was, as I recall, 100% white. The Blacks in our town lived in their own neighborhoods and went to their predominately Black schools. We didn’t go to their neighborhood and they didn’t come to ours. It was just the way it was, and we didn’t think to question it.photo 1

It wasn’t until I started going to the YMCA to hang out in the late 1960’s for swimming lessons that I began to see and interact with Black kids from around town. It wasn’t a dislike thing for either of us, it’s just that we didn’t have much to talk about or seem to share anything in common, so conversations didn’t go very far. I couldn’t imagine how later in life I’d learn just how far from the truth this was.

I’ve come to learn that discrimination is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter what a person owns or how they feel about themselves or their accomplishments. Discrimination says, “You don’t fit here; whoever you are, irrespective of from where you came.” Discrimination strips away all dignity and individual purpose and freedom.

Discrimination enslaves the will of an individual so that all that is left is the fight to retake that which was taken or acquiesce and become, literally, a walking dead. Dead to hope; the heart of despair.

Due to the fact that my mom was a single-mom rearing two boys from 1958 to 1964, we experienced some short-term discrimination from those that looked down upon our station of life, but it pales in comparison to the world beyond our four walls.

photo 2Today I stood in hotel where Dr. King worked, prayed, laughed and died. I gazed upon his hotel room just inside the wall where an assassin’s bullet ended his life as he stood on the hotel walkway. Like many places I’ve seen of late, this place looked very small, fragile and surreal.

photo 3It was said that Dr. King, after giving his extemporaneous “I’ve been to the mountain top” sermon, came back to the Loraine Hotel to rest and hang out with friends and supporters of the Memphis sanitation worker’s strike, and had a pillow fight with one such friend.

The Civil Rights Museum is done conscientiously well. The exhibits, interactive displays and video presentations allowing a visitor to walk through time and see life from slavery to today, from the Black perspective.

We all have a lot in common in the human condition of wanting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Beyond Graceland, and within walking distance of the two-block area of Beale Street, sits The Civil Rights Museum; a destination worth seeing even if seeing nothing else.

Adieu Nouvelle Orléans

As has been said, all good things must come to an end.  And so it is with New Orleans as the Paisley Turtle packs up and heads North to Memphis, Tennessee Sunday morning.

Boyou SignetteWe’ve been staying at the Bayou Signette Louisiana State Park since April 27th and can say, without any hesitation, this is a great place to stay.  Close to all the hub-bub of the New Orleans French Quarter and, even more, on the outskirts of the fray that is Bourbon Street.

Spacious sites with 50 amp hookups, water (no sewer hookup), free laundry facilities – with AC for those hot Summer nights and days, and a diverse tree population that ads character to the property.

This time of year, and on into late June, the “Love Bugs” come out and annoy you to death, but they’re harmless unless you squish them; at which time, they emit a protein that stains paint and smears windshields to the point of opaqueness.  Love BugsThey were worse in Florida last year during August, but they’re a pest nonetheless – with no known predator.  In case you didn’t know about this little black and red flying insect, it get’s it’s name due to mating while in flight.  Yeah, I know, disgusting.

Those of us accustomed to “Smart Phones” have become reliant upon them for internet searches and
directions.  I used to have a Garmin suction cupped to my windshield; but now, it sits in a box somewhere under our sofa while Jennie’s IPhone sweetly recites directions.  We navigate like locals and see the innards of the towns and cities we visit, like the area of Magazine Street outside of The French Quarter and downtown New Orleans.

The Audubon Zoo resides on Magazine Street, just up Loyola_Logofrom Tulane atulane-universitynd Loyola Universities, as well as a Whole Foods Market.  Yes, we found everythinZoo Logog one could reasonably ask for in a city; great food, sites to see and leaving in one piece.

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The road beckons and the Paisley Turtle is packed and ready to roll Sunday morning.  Giving thanks for all we’ve seen and for the sights just around the bend.

Downtime for Maintenance – Praise for Onan/Cummins

Onan 7000Everything mechanical will eventually need maintenance.  Our Onan-Marquis 7000 Generator has been giving me fits for the last two months.  Partly because we have been traveling at elevations greater than sea level (beyond 5,000 feet) and that my generator has an altitude adjustment that I dared to change – incorrectly it seems, as the generator would start and then die quickly at any elevation.  Altitude Adjust

The only solution was to press and hold the START switch on the face of the generator until it would crank over; puffing blue smoke the whole time. Great for mosquito abatement, not so much for humans and the VERY sensitive gas sensor in hallway of my coach – which went off every time I started the generator.

As fortune would have it, my persistent push-and-hold regimen took a toll on the little switch, under the rubber boot on the face of the generator, and finally broke.  I thought, “l’ll order a new one!”; only to find that the switch ($35) is soldiered onto the circuit board that controls the whole generator.

Circuit BoardI have an electronics background and have built many electronic gadgets, including a Heath Kit digital alarm clock I built in 1975 that still works!  De-soldering and re-soldering a switch is, as they say, in my wheelhouse, so I was up for the challenge.  However, I began to think maybe the switch was merely symptomatic and not the real problem, so I opted to return the switch and purchase the entire circuit board ($150) as insurance; plus, the new board had the switch already installed.  Here’s where my elation with Cummins Mid-South begins!  http://www.cumminsmidsouth.com/partsandservice

I made an internet search for Onan parts and I was directed to Cummins Mid-South (I am currently in New Orleans, Louisiana).  Onan is a part of the Cummins Power division. lrg_Cummins_Onan These folks are amazing!  I spoke with a gentleman, named Everette, and he was extremely helpful and epitomized a “Can Do” mentality.  Their prices rivaled everything I found on Ebay and the parts came to me the very next day.  Shipping was only $12 for next day delivery. (your location will impact shipping)

Additionally, I was credited the same day the returned switch arrived back at their facility; this was a wonderful surprise.

Tearing into your RV generator my send chills up and down your spine, but I developed the philosophy years ago that if something is broken, I can’t break it.  As a result, I became, as my daughter once told me, “Daddy, you’re a good fixer” (she was only 5 years old at the time).

There are only two Torx Pan-head screws that hold the face plate to the generator and, after disconnecting the two wire connections, the entire face plate-onto which the circuit board is held with only four Phillips Head screws, comes out nicely.  Changing the control board made this literally a “Plug-n-Play” repair.

I estimate I saved over $400 in parts and labor by doing this repair myself.  Something to think about!

My generator started right up after installing the new circuit board and tweaking the altitude compensation screw a bit.  Still looking into the ‘proper’ use of this device, so I’ll let you know if, or when, I find it!

Happy Trails as you motor about the country.  Paisley Turtle-out.

We do’in da Cajun thang

NOLO 13The requisite destination to New Orleans (NOLA) is the French Quarter; however, it ain’t all Bourbon Street!  If you’ve never been to Bourbon Street, then you’ve missed the smells and sights of a party place reserved primarily for the young and stalwart drinker relegated to a few parallel  cobblestone streets lined with bars with catchy names, like “Huge Ass Beer” – known for a plastic beer container with a protruded posterior and 72-ounces of libation and a tee-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “How much ass can you handle”.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Another extremely popular destination is the Cafe Du Monde; famous for their interpretation of beignets and coffee laced with chicory.

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I have fondness for the coffee from a memory of having coffee with my grandfather when my brother and I would visit my grandparent’s home during Summer vacation from elementary school.

My grandfather, born in 1900, lived as an adult during the great depression in the 1920’s.  Many of those of the era, including my grandfather, would, due to the lessor cost, use chicory to extend their more expensive coffee.  If you’ve never tried this type of coffee, it is on par with a Starbucks-Americano, with three shots.  It’s an eye opener.

As for beignets, the name must be French for “may I have some fried bread and powdered sugar”.  It is a culinary indulgence not recommended for those of us eating gluten free or trying to shed our beer baby; but what the heck, it’s a NOLA thang!NOLO 4

A different NOLA is off Bourbon and N. Peters Streets on the back side of Jackson Square and down the streets of Toulouse, Dumaine, and St. Louis. There is a mix of restaurants, shops and 3-4 story apartments.  Many of the streets are one-way only and quite narrow; especially when street performers are busking for their daily bread

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We’ve searched for homes to buy in several states across the USA and have used the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to cull our search.  It seems that NOLA has added a new category for residences when we saw a sign that added, as one of the selling points, ‘Not Haunted”.  Not something I’d ever considered as a draw, but hey, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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It appears there is another world of gentry lurking behind the drawn shutters and wooden doors hardened by age and use.

We spied a glimpse of ‘normal’ life through a metal fleurs-de-lis gate and found a beautiful slate patio area lined with ferns and wrought iron furniture surrounded by a bright-yellow stucco edifice.

I’m an odd bird when it comes to the way I think and process information.  Whenever I visit a zoo and stand to study an animal, I often wonder if the animal is, in turn, studying me.

NOLO 5From the number of residences, that are the grace of NOLA, perched above the shops and bars, I have to wonder what, those who live above this foray and watch the day-to-day mass of humanity pass below them, are thinking of us.  Maybe the zoo came to them.

Our shell is staying a bit more in NOLA and the Paisley Turtle is inching onward to new experiences of people and stories to tell.

(All photos by Jennie Edwards)

Festival International de Louisiane

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Travel can be an insulator or a conduit. Whereas we may not get everything we want, we’ll always get 100% of nothing if we don’t invest in an experience.  Like all things, our reward depends on the amount effort we put into an endeavor, relative to expectations.

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The richness of travel is emersion into the culture of the area.  We either learn of something new, we didn’t know we were missing, or find a new entry into the chapter of “I’ll never have to do that again”.  Louisiana is a culture-rich state, steeped in language, music, food and beer.  Lot’s of beer.

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Our visit to Lafayette, Louisiana landed us in the middle of a week-long event called “Festival International de Louisiane”.  A blending of Cajun French inspired music that was a cross between Bon Jovi meets Bedouin Monk and Earth-Wind-and Fire meets Garage Band; set up in a 5-block area of downtown Lafayette.

Four large stage areas, at opposite compass points around the city, boomed with music throughout the day as the tens of thousands of people cycled from venue to venue sampling food, drink and each other.

Being the nosy one, I asked a 30-something couple, whose four year-old daughter was perched upon her father’s shoulders, about the dual-language announcements being made over the sound system between bands.  “Cajun French” I was told.  Unlike Quebec, Canada, where Parisian French is the preferred and dominate language, Cajun French has been relegated to a generation gone by and, according to this couple, “…is dying out.  When we were young, and in school, we were punished and looked down upon if we spoke Cajun French, so we just stopped”

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It appeared that some of the young people in the audience, and every performer we heard on stage, still spoke the language.  The revelry of the crowd ratcheted up a notch each time someone spoke in Cajun French; but I have no idea what they said.

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There was a sponsor banner above one of the venues we stood with the words Fais Do Do in the lower right-hand corner.  I asked a middle-aged couple behind me what that phrase meant.  They said it was Cajun for “Dancing in the street”.  Now that, I understand.

Our shell is moving and the Paisley Turtle is inching onward to New Orleans.

God Bless Texas

I saw Texas the first time in 1975 when my former wife and I traveled the country on our 1973 Honda 500.  We came from the North and traveled down to Corpus Christi.

The only portion of my first visit that exists is the amount of road construction going on.  Was in 1975, and is today, only on a grander scale.1507132_10203092440408887_1515716765_n

This time my wife, Jennie, and I entered Texas on the Western side where Texas meets New Mexico heading East on Interstate 10.  A windy, barren and dusty drive with Mexico to our right and vast nothingness to our left.  Miles and miles of the same view until we reached Texas Hill Country where the landscape began to green up.

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With the exception of mountains, the topography and horizons of Texas are an amalgam of every place I’ve ever lived.  Desert to lush, barren to treed, it’s all here.

We’ve observed a few things about Texas that makes me love this place.  The first being, Texas is a place of personal responsibility.  I have lived the last 25 years in California. California is the home of laws against just about every conceivable thing; the purpose I suppose, to protect people from themselves.  Not so much,Texas.

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Motorcycle helmet laws? Nope.  Purchase ‘really good’ fireworks? Yep.  Purchase automatic, high capacity ammunition, weapons?  Yep.

Drop Off

We camped on the beach side of Galveston Island, Texas for five days. (I kept hearing the Glenn Campbell song from my youth echoing in my head the whole time.)   There is a sidewalk along the seawall that stretches for miles that sits above the beach, several feet.  We saw a sign posted on the sidewalk that was one of the best examples of personal responsibility we’ve seen.  It simply reads: “Caution Drop Off”.  That’s all.  No fence, no guardrail or security patrolling the walkway to remind people not to get too close to the edge.  Nothing obstructed the amazing view of the beach and Gulf of Mexico as the waves continually lapped the shore.

Another observation is that Texans, really love Texas.  If there is a USA flag flying anywhere, there will be a Texas State Flag flying right next to it.  Homes and businesses alike.

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We observed that Texans love to eat meat.  I saw a bumper sticker that read, “I love animals; they’re delicious”  That just about sums it up.  Texas BBQ of ribs and brisket are a staple food and available from large restaurant chains to Leroy’s BBQ, in Willis, Texas – near Lake Conroe. If you’re anywhere near Houston, Thursday through Saturday, Leroy’s is worth the drive.  (http://www.allmenus.com/tx/willis/60419-leroys-b-b-q/menu/ )

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We found the most delightful senior lady whose property boarders the Steven F. Austin park in San Felipe, Texas. Her childhood home was declared an Historic Site and she shared stories of the home and area with us as her granddaughters frolicked about the park exploring the weeds and fences.

There are jobs aplenty in Texas.  I lost count of the number of “We’re Hiring” banners I saw draped across the front of businesses.  A friend of mine, who left Eureka, California a year and a half ago to join the family business in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, told me that his business grew from 200 to 600 employees in just the time he’s been there.  The oil business is booming and money is flowing to every other industry as a result.  Seems Trickle Down economics thrives in Texas.

The Texas State Department of Transportation operates a FREE vehicle and pedestrian ferry between Port Bolivar and Crystal Beach. (saves miles, not time; however, it is a very nice drive back to Eastbound Interstate 10).  We passed Seawolf Park and the memorial for the 3,500 submariners lost during WWII.  I served aboard the USS James Monroe (SSBN622), so I too paid respect to some amazing men as we passed.

Homage to Sub Sailors

As Texas is now in our rear-view mirror and Louisiana is in front view, our shell is moving and the Paisley Turtle is inching onward.

(All photography by Jennie Edwards)