On the Road: Austin to New Orleans.

Florida sunset over Perdido Bay from Saturday night. 

Florida sunset over Perdido Bay from Saturday night. 

Well, here we are in Florida!  We made it to the Cumberland Islands National Seashore late last night and are camped in one of the prettiest state parks we've ever seen at Fort Clinch.  The entire drive into the park, which is 3 miles in length, is under a canopy of Spanish moss and low hanging ferns.  

But let me back up--we have had a whirlwind of a few days, so I’ll do my best to summarize and elaborate when necessary.  I work well with a list, so here is a list posting of the past week or so of our lives:

Friday November 22-Wednesday November 27th:

--Emily flew to Chicago (and had the luck of sitting next to a young lady who was traveling with her miniature poodle in a carrying case on the flight to Chicago. The poodle screamed the.entire.flight.  The girl obviously felt horribly, but it was a hard flight that even the Nashville soundtrack on as high as it could go couldn’t drown out.) to shoot a wedding with an amazing second shooter, Kendra Stanley Mills.

--I also shot an engagement session with a couple who is getting married in June and let me just say that this was the MOST fun engagement session I've ever shot in my entire life.  I'm sorry. But it was unreal.  A few words about it that will explain why it was so fun:  Cook County Hospital.  SHIFT exhibit at the Cultural Center.  Indoor pool at the Intercontinental.  I'll be posting their pictures next week!

--Ian stayed in Austin with Tasha and the Airstream, but good buddy Josh flew in for the weekend.  It sounds like, from the stories they have told me, they had a fabulous time of concerts and beer and barbecue and hiking and taxi rides and candy stores and friendship.

 

Wednesday November 27—

Emily returns to Austin on a morning flight and by 12pm we are heading East in the Airstream towards Houston, ready to get a few hours on the road under our belts.

Wednesday night we stayed in a swanky RV park in a really nondescript, sort of awfully Stepford Wife-esque area of the West Houston suburbs.  The highlight of this night is that we went to a Pho noodle shop that was in a strip mall about a ½ mile from the RV park and our minds were blown by the most authentic and tasty Pho and noodles we’ve had since returning from Vietnam—and yes, that includes anything we ever had on Argyle Street in Chicago.  I KNOW. It was that amazing.

 

Thursday November 28—Thanksgiving

We got up bright and early and headed out of Houston, aiming towards Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles, LA.  We had a reservation for the night, so we knew we had to get there and we also had a full Thanksgiving dinner to prepare!  On the menu for the evening was:

--Brisket Ian had picked up from Austin BBQ

--Biscuits from Bang Bang Pie Shop

--Green bean casserole—no Thanksgiving is complete without this staple

--Homemade cranberry sauce

--Bourbon and red wine

--Chocolate pecan pie from Bang Bang

 

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When we arrived to the state park after an easy drive, it was only about 1pm and we were the ONLY Airstream there.  This is not to say the park was not busy, because it was and the sites were super small and very close together.  After assisting Ian in backing into the site, I realized that we had quite the audience.  Usually I get nervous when people are staring at me and at us and at the trailer, assuming that most people are thinking, “What is going on with these young clucks?  Trying to drive this huge trailer around,” plus, I was wearing what I lovingly refer to as my “traveling outfit” which is a pair of leggings and an oversized Pendleton cardigan I bought at Goodwill.

However, I quickly realized that folks were not staring because they were upset or mad, they were staring because they loved Priscilla and they hadn’t seen anything else like her. Within moments of parking her and beginning to unhitch, we had numerous neighbors introducing themselves, telling us they loved our trailer, asking for a tour, finding out about us and our trip.  As per usual, we were the youngest people in this park by a good 20 or 30 years, but that didn’t’ stop us from entertaining tours and answering lots of questions.  We had made friends with the whole crew in a matter of moments and even met a former bull rider for Tennessee State University!  It was fabulous.  We went for a long walk with Tasha and then started preparing our dinner.  Most people in the park had eaten by 5pm and were watching football in their RVs or set up outside their campers having fires, but not us—we were starting our dinner at 5pm and it was fabulous.

Ian tended to the fire while I worked inside the trailer. Everything went off without a hitch, the only struggle being getting an even temperature on the biscuits, but once we got the oven going, it all worked out great.  Curiously, when we bought the trailer about a year ago, I remember the man who sold it to us making a big deal out of telling us that his sister (who owned the trailer originally) had “cooked Thanksgiving dinner for all of us in this oven last year!” and I remember thinking, “Well, that’s never going to happen for me, so it doesn’t really matter, man, but I’ll still buy the trailer” And then…here I am, preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

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When we finally sat down to eat about 7:30pm, we had a feast and we both agreed that it was one of the best Thanksgiving dinners we’ve had together—it was on our time, our menu and our schedule.  Of course we missed friends and family but it was super special to spend it just the two of us, with a warm shepherd at our feet.

 

Friday: November 29th

 After a lazy morning saying goodbye to our new friends and getting their recommendations on where to camp near New Orleans, we pushed out of this campground.  We also realized that apparently having business cards to give out to other RV owners is like…a thing.  Sure, we have business cards that are connected to EAP, but these folks had just….cards…that introduced them and gave cell phone numbers and were like personal calling cards. Apparently this is something in the full time RV world that we haven’t yet caught onto.  At any rate, they gave us a bunch of satsumas, a local orange that grows in Louisiana and pointed us towards Fountainbleu State Park which is right outside of New Orleans on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain.  Off we went and we arrive in the late afternoon.  I have a client whose wedding is in March and she and I had made last minute plans to have dinner and meet one another on Friday night—she was making turkey gumbo and we were bringing pecan pie and off we went into New Orleans.

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Let’s back up—the fastest way to get to New Orleans from our campground was to drive across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway bridge which is….22 miles.  Ok, maybe other people were aware that there is a 22 mile bridge, but I honestly thought Google Maps had made a mistake when there was a long brown line drawn across this mass of blue in the middle of Louisiana.  A 22 mile bridge?! Who has ever heard of such a thing? Certainly not me…but across we went—Ian driving, me on the phone with a client for most of the ride, which was good as I wasn’t able to have a full panic attack realizing that it was taking 30 minutes to go across water in the pitch dark.  Thankfully it went off without a hitch and we arrived at Alli and Patrick’s adorable New Orleans apartment for a night of gumbo and jokes.  Now. I was excited about their wedding already—Alli is originally from Grand Rapids, self identifies the Leelanau County area as her “spiritual animal transformation place” and Patrick is from a small island off the coast of Southern Georgia and likes to tell stories.  When she first got in touch with me and booked me last Spring I was like “Yup, you’re cool.” But then after last night, I’m like, “Holy crap, we are FRIENDS and I LOVE YOU BOTH.” And Ian feels the same way.  Seriously, these two were so much fun and we laughed so, so, so hard that Ian and I bought left with huge hearts of happiness and joy.  It was such a fabulous night and I am so glad it worked out to meet up.

After our fabulous dinner of turkey gumbo and leftover pie, we prepared to leave early the next morning, heading towards Pensacola, Florida to a state park we had read was beautiful.  Getting off the main interstates and into some quieter scenic roads seemed appropriate, so we took Highway 90 all along the gulf coast for this whole trip, which was beautiful--ocean on one side, old antebellum houses on the other.  We pulled into a lovely campground right as the sun was setting and set about preparing tacos and catching up on some work.  

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Sunday morning after a run and some yoga, we made an impulsive decision to drive all the way across the in one shot with an effort to get to Fort Clinch State Park by evening--a distance of over 400 miles and certainly the longest haul we've made in a day (I'll admit it, I hate driving at night, I have visions of deer jumping jumping jumping into our path)--but at Fort Clinch is the base of the Cumberland Islands National Seashore, where they have WILD PONIES and we wanted to spend a few days in one spot, so off we went.  We arrived late last night to an amazing park and are ready to explore today!

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