Thursday, June 9, 2016 Pre-Trip Planning with “Rat-Killing”
For anyone who was a fan of KIKK Radio in the 70’s and the 80’s, you’ll remember Happy Harvey T. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave any KIKK appearance and was so visible throughout the Texas Gulf Coast, many listeners thought he owned the station. When Harvey came in each Wednesday morning to find out what was happening that weekend, he’d make a list and “get to his rat killing.” I still use that expression when I’m down to the wire on a project or a trip.
I’ve packed my bags, printed my maps (going some places with spotty GPS), confirmed our reservations and gassed up the car. I’ve even gotten my road food – Jalapeno Cheetos that I only crave when I’m on a road trip. Even though my 17-year old dog Earl is blind and deaf, he smelled the Cheetos the morning and thought he was going too. If I’m quiet, he won’t even know I’ve left without him.
I set up my new camp chair and sat in it for the first time. One of the best parts of planning is getting something new purchased just for that occasion. Remember the new notebook binders for the first day or school and the new bathing suit for the first beach trip? Taking my turquoise camp chair out of its bag was like opening a brand new box of crayons without the wonderful waxy smell.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016 – Figuring Out My Iphone:
I’m lucky that Rindy will be along to document the first few days of the trip but after that, it is all on me. Landscape shots are great but when I remember the experience through pictures, it’s the people I want to see. That means learning how to do selfies better. It was serendipitous that I was having lunch and the waitress overheard my friend and I talking about taking selfies with your Iphone. The waitress told me that you can snap a selfie with the volume button on your phone or with the volume control on your earbuds/microphone. I tried it and she was right and so much easier. That sent me on-line to get more selfie tips about lighting, angle and composition.
A blog by Serenity Caldwell called Ten Tips for Taking Great Iphone Photos gave me a crash course on upping my photo quality. Here’s a few lessons I intend to use immediately:
Use the iPhone camera shortcut
Target your shooting mode around your end result – i.e. use square for Instagram rather than crop
Turn on your grid option and use the rule of thirds by going to settings-photos & camera – grid
Turn off your flash
Slide the exposure meter to brighten (or darken) images by tapping on dark areas until sun symbol appears and sliding up and down
Tap and hold your subject on your viewfinder until lock appears
To get good pictures when your subject or Iphone is moving, shoot in burst mode by tapping and holding down the shutter button (or volume up button)
It’s also time to load up music and audio books for solo driving. Bill Bryson is a good storyteller for long road trip but I think I’ve exhausted most of his output. Off to meet a friend for coffee who may have some good suggestions outside my normal authors or let me know what you think I should “read” while I’m a prisoner of the white lines.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016: Pre-Trip Prep: Over-packing for New Orleans
I probably have three times the amount of clothes and shoes that I need for this trip currently laid out and I’m still writing myself notes of what else I need to take. I’ve got the rest of today to keep adding and then tomorrow, I start the brutal culling. So often, we women pack all those cute resort clothes we see in Vogue and Vanity Fair and then those same outfits tag us as outsiders when we get where we are going. That was the case on my last two visits to Key West. Cut-offs, t-shirts or fishing shirts and Kino sandals were the uniform for the locals. Anything dressier looked like you were trying to hard.
Of course, New Orleans is pretty forgiving. If it’s got colors, feathers or leather insets, it blends. We had such a strange and wonderful visit to New Orleans last July, it will be hard to over dress. On that trip, we helped twelve Elvis impersonators make a grand entrance onto Frenchmen Street. That was after we’d met two cross-dressers at the Golden Lantern and were invited to return for a late night drag show. We’ve got a high standard to meet for this trip.
I just got an email for a former co-worker and close friend who is unexpectedly in Houston tonight on a business trip and wants to meet for a drink at the Hotel Zaza. It will be good to catch on my former corporate life and savor how nice it is to have the freedom and lack of responsibility to take this trip.
Starting a 3000 mile road trip with a two-inch v shaped slash in the side wall of your front drivers side tire is not a good idea. So, I started today at Discount Tire getting my front two tires replaced because my Subaru is all wheel drive and tires all have to match in tread design, depth, etc. That’s something I didn’t know but over the last two weeks I’ve had all kinds of check ups and tuneups for the car and myself and both of us are good to go, as soon as I get my tires.
It’s Monday, June 6 and I’ve got three and a half days to finish preparations for the trip and secure the home front for husband, adult kids and dogs. On Friday, I drive across Houston to the Heights to pick up my road dog for the first leg of the trip to New Orleans. Rindy will be a great companion for the first three days in the Big Easy. She is a gifted photographer and we call her our own personal papparazzi. Rindy and I are both easily distracted and redirected so we are prone to travel down sideroads and stop at roadside attractions.
Sticking to the travelers attitude checklist, I’ve been listening for ideas of things to experience. At a goodbye party for the friend now living in Asheville, North Carolina, I met a couple who loved the plantations on the River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Robert mentioned that he and Annette really were drawn to a creole homestead called “The Laura Plantation”. A few days later, I was hunting through some books at a thrift shop and found the diary of Laura Locoul Gore, the woman for whom the plantation was named. She wrote the memoir in 1936 when she returned to see the abandoned plantation after she had spent many years in St. Louis. Laura lived until she was 101 years old and recounted the lifestyle and culture of old creole Louisiana. She covered the disruption of the civil war, the influx of Anglo planters and businessmen and dissolution of the family-run sugar plantations. Often, the oldest female served as the president of these family businesses. I re-read the memoir last weekend and have been planning our route to make a stop at the Laura Plantation. After two readings, I feel like I know Laura. The voice you hear in her memoir is so contemporary, a young woman wanting to be released from the strictures of the old ways.
The continuing rainstorms that are keeping Houston juicy (one meteorologist’s description) made it easy to spend Saturday checking an old road atlas to get an overview of the entire trip and going online to map the specifics. Google has not been my friend in this effort. Something has changed and it is hard, if not impossible, to change the route to take in stops like the Laura Plantation in Louisiana and Lookout Mountain in Alabama. It was easier to see on the atlas that trying to take the Natchez Trace and spend the night in Tishomingo State Park was going to add many hours to the trip from New Orleans to Asheville, North Carolina. Also, it could be late in the day when I got to the park which gave me no time to explore the waterfalls and old rope bridge. The stay in Tishomingo was going to be my first night as a solo traveler, having put my friends on planes headed back to Texas from New Orleans. Amid the glowing reviews for the isolated cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one review of hundreds said his cabin had a roach problem. ROACH?!?! Friends know I have two irrational fears – roaches that fly (and I believe all of them harbor that skill) and heights. If I saw too many that night in the CCC cabin, it wouldn’t be out of the question for me to spend the night in my Subaru and let the roaches enjoy the $70 per night lodging. After all, to the roaches, I would be just some transient.
Significantly extra travel time, no time to explore Tishomingo State Park and the possibility of waking up at 3 in the morning with a six-legged bedmate made me rethink this day of travel. I got out the atlas to look at likely routes then used that vague idea to go to mapquest to look at some alternative Monday destinations. At this point, I have to say that I have a little distrust of mapquest because 15 years ago, I used it to map a trip Riudoso, NM and it left out two hundred miles in the mileage calculation. I’d decided on a little town close to Lookout Mountain in far northeastern Alabama. I made the reservation in what sounds like a B&B that caters to honeymooners but I’ll try not to bother any of the other couples. I just take my bottle of wine and my Poldark novel and explain to them that my husband and I have been happily married for 40 years because we travel separately. Best wishes!
I’ve also been laying out my gear in my son’s old bedroom. So far, here’s what I’ve got:
1. Blow up mattress so I can bed down anywhere. I love sleeping on a good air mattress. A few years ago, I went to a book club meeting at a home around Canyon Lake and slept on a air mattress in a n unfurnished downstairs office. We had been reading “Empire of the Southern Moon” about the Comanche’s last stand and many of the raids and battles had been fought in Texas. Some happened close to where we staying. A storm blew in during the night. There were no curtains on the office windows that looked out onto a rocky wooded hillside. The tree branches close to the house beat on the window and from my mattress on the floor, it felt like I was hiding from the marauding ghosts of Quanah Parker’s braves, still fighting to hold on. I loved sleeping low on the floor and looking up and out the windows as the lightning illuminated the hillside.
2, Beach towel and folding lawn chair for a quick catnap at any lake, beach or park that may look inviting.
3. Soft-sided insulatateed cooler with a camo cover so I blend in with my fellow rednecks as I travel the south in my hippie car. In the cooler – wine and real cream for my coffee.
4. Pepper/Mace spray, flashlight, toolkit, first aid kit, window breaking tool, oil funnel, extra motor oil and my trusty bear whistle.
5. Good luck backpack from my daughter that has seen her through her travels in Peru, Australia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.
6. Travel diary and my tablet and keyboard.