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Marlene

Camping, Princess Style

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1 hour ago, Smithy said:

 

Yep, we've spent 4 nights on the road and tonight we're staying put. So far we've gone from post-Hallowe'en fall...

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(I should have realized epicurean would have a factory outlet!  How have I missed it all this time?)

 

...to summery temperatures and juniper in fruit...

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...with a lovely, fortuitous stop to meet @kayb at her favorite diner!

 

More later, as I get my pictures and stories organized.

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I'm sure @kayb and the food were nice and all but I am taken by the sign.  I have that pictured epicurean as my breadboard and I love it!

 

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2 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I'm sure @kayb and the food were nice and all but I am taken by the sign.  I have that pictured epicurean as my breadboard and I love it!

 

 

I haven't sprung for one of their breadboards, but I have at least one of their spoons - to be used when I would formerly have used a wooden spoon. It's excellent stuff. I'll be visiting that outlet at my next opportunity. 

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As usual, we weren't very successful at emptying our home freezer before we left - and besides, there's the summer's frozen bounty to enjoy. The Princessmobile's freezer was packed when we left home.

 

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This is a mix of meats I simply had to buy but never found time to cook during the summer and fall, roasted tomatoes and peppers captured during the harvest season, citrus juices, egg whites, Hatch chiles purchased a year or so ago, chicken jello from a marathon session with my Instant Pot and 3 chicken carcasses; nuts and grains, ice and some precooked frozen dinners for our ease of travel. My darling makes huge batches of chili and pea soup and apportions them into dinner-sized containers for us. They were made far enough in advance to freeze in our chest freezer at home. Two meals' worth sat in a small cooler, slowly thawing, for our first two dinners.

 

We have this routine for a couple of reasons: first, we drive long and hard for the first few days to get to warm weather as quickly as possible; second, the living and cooking space are relatively limited until we empty the "garage" of its toys and equipment and turn it into the dining room. Unloading takes a half hour to an hour; reloading takes more time. It isn't worth the effort for an overnight stay, nor indeed (we have now decided) for only two nights. This is the available space, as seen from the vantage point of the kitchen.

 

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The first day's drive was longer and harder than usual. An unexpected but vital doctor visit the day before we departed put us back about 4 hours in our preparations. I'd have been satisfied to depart a day later, or drive less the first day, but my darling is - heh - driven by weather considerations. The cold had already arrived in his opinion, and rain and snow were coming. We left at noon. 91/2 hours later we pulled in at a Walmart parking lot in Peru, Illinois and did our minimalist setup for the night. It hadn't helped that we'd taken a wrong turn on a tollway, had to double back and had to pay an even more expensive toll on the return!

 

We ate grocery store deli sandwiches that we picked up from our local grocery store on the way out of town, and split pea soup once we'd set up for the night. There were cut-up vegetables and Hallowe'en candy for driving snacks. (We knew we were unlikely to get any visitors on Hallowe'en, but it's a great excuse to buy those little tidbits!) This is my only food photo from the first day. Since my first-day travel photo collage is two posts up, I won't repeat it here.

 

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Walmart generally allows truckers and RVers to stay the night in their parking lots. We think it's a clever marketing ploy. We are almost certainly not the only such campers to stock up while there. Inevitably there will be something we forgot to pack, or some deli food we want. The next morning, indeed, we went shopping for some supplies and picked up a gigantic hero sandwich, loaded with various deli meats, for the road lunch. Then we pulled in the sides, went across the way for fuel and breakfast, and hit the road. We aren't usually big fans of McDonald's, but this and a hash round hit the spot. So shoot me.

 

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Several hundred miles later, we were pulling in - this time, happily, before dark - at a campground near Cairo, Illinois. Chili for dinner that night.

 

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I love being on the road with you---I know that at times you very much miss your house, though, but, hey...at least you have us 😁.

 

J'adore the fireplace under the TV.  I've never seen that before.  So cozy.

 

I never knew Wal-Mart allowed that, but you're sure right.  Guarantee it gives them additional business and their parking lots are the size of Texas.

 

There is a chance for measurable snow here tomorrow and Thursday so I hope you guys are past me....I know how allergic your husband is of the white stuff.

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@Smithy  In Ontario, campers can also stay at casinos.  My sister and BIL parked their RV at the casino in our city a couple of weeks ago for a couple of nights.  They also park at Walmart when in the US of A.

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Yup Walmart and casino parking lots are a thing here. 

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My BIL from the Twin Cities is out here for a few days. He said that when he left there on Sunday it was snowing by not sticking. He's enjoying the Southern California warmth while he can.

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Sometimes, the stars align in such a way that the original plan A, and the alternate plans B and C all fail - but the resultant Plan D turns out to be even more dandy! So it was when we left Cairo.

 

We had headed eastward from home because we planned to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway for at least some of its length. This roadway is a National Park that follows a very old travel corridor dating back to the early inhabitants of the area. There are no facilities or services along it, but it's supposed to be a lovely drive with historic sites along the way and camping possible without going too far from the route. We had been watching the weather to determine our route from home; on the day of our departure the weather looked promising for the Natchez Trace. Two days down the road, the promise had turned to a threat. Of course we can drive and camp in the rain, but it isn't conducive to sightseeing except through the windshield. It also appeared that the longer we waited to head westward, the more widespread the rain would be.

 

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We changed course, and I realized there might be an opportunity to meet @kayb! A flurry of PM's ensued. How near to her would we be passing? Did she have time to meet up? If so, where? She sent several recommendations. My darling gave me the fisheye when I began discussing the chance to meet. Once he hits the road, he likes to keep driving. More to the point, our truck and trailer don't fit just anywhere. We have to be careful about where we decide to go, lest we get caught on some side street with low overheads and no room to turn around. (In an earlier life, he was an over-the-road truck driver. He once got caught on Manhattan Island, going the wrong way on a one-way street, when he hadn't intended to go through the Holland Tunnel at all. The memory has stayed with him.) More PMs. More consideration. Careful looks at Google Earth. We made a decision, and Kay and I set our schedules.

 

The Shake Shack in Marion, Arkansas is one of those quirky burger joints with Coca-Cola adverts and old signs and paraphernalia decorating the walls and shelves. You place your order at the counter, and someone brings it out to you when it's ready. It's also a very friendly place. We spotted Kay and her grandson when we came through the door, but before we reached them we were greeted by the proprietess. (Loretta?) She welcomed us warmly. "You must be the folks Kay told me about!" We chatted a bit about our trailer travels and the weather back home, then Loretta said a cheery "Enjoy your meal and visit!" and went her way. We placed our orders at the counter and admired the doodads behind the counter. Kay told me that people bring things in to add to the collection. 

 

We had a fine visit, and the burgers and fries were good. It seemed as though half the town dropped by and greeted Kay by name; she's obviously well known and liked there. Her droll wit, so obvious in her writings, is just as clear in person and we roved through funny stories as well as serious. (She also bought our lunch, a quite unexpected treat! Thanks again, Kay!)

 

Why I didn't take more pictures of the restaurant, when it was a meeting with another eGer, is beyond me. Nonetheless there are no interior shots - just a shot of what was soon inside my interior.

 

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I think we could have talked a lot longer, but the road called us and her chores called her, so we gave them a quick trailer tour and then headed down the road. I hope we meet again someday.

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It was a delight. Brock is still talking about the "big puppy" and the "big kitty." He was entranced. And I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the burger.

 

Sadly, I forgot to get, or recommend, the peanut brittle (which is, well, to die for). I meant to get some for both of us to take. Oh, well, I'll be back through there tomorrow, and will swing in and pick some up.

 

I hope your travels bring you near Marion and/or East Arkansas again!

 

(And yes, it was Loretta. Be assured she'll ask me about y'all next time I'm in there.)

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I meant to ask earlier, was there room to bring your IP with you?

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Our day went downhill after lunch with Kay. We drove onto Interstate 40, headed toward Little Rock and points beyond. Kay had recommended some interesting places in Hot Springs, southwest of Little Rock, and we were considering staying around there. Until, that is, we encountered this string of stopped traffic between Memphis and Little Rock:

 

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Traffic was at a complete standstill for nearly an hour, and then it slowly crawled for a couple more, with no possible exits from the freeway. We found out later that a tanker truck had crashed and closed all the westbound lanes for 4 hours. I think our travel time was extended, all told, for 2 or 3 hours. It became another Walmart night. I'm no longer sure what we had for dinner. Leftovers, I think. But it could have been these sandwiches using chicken I'd roasted a couple of days before we left home:

 

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After dinner, I went into the Walmart to check out their deli selections and find out the operating hours of the Subway there, so we could make plans for the next morning. Subway's sign said they opened at 9 on Sundays. Sunday morning I arrived at 9, to find no signs of life at the Subway and the Walmart deli still understocked. I was incensed. What the heck kind of operation did they run in Benton, anyway? I bought an oversized "New York Style" deli sandwich and we headed for Texas.

 

It was not until Monday morning, 24 hours later, that we realized Daylight Saving Time had ended on Sunday. We'd been an hour ahead of ourselves all day. :laugh:

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1 hour ago, Shelby said:

I meant to ask earlier, was there room to bring your IP with you?

 

I brought the IP Mini - the 3-quart version.

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Lake Mineral Wells State Park in Texas, some distance west of Dallas, is one of our happy accidental discoveries from last year. We originally chose it for an overnight stay because of its distance along our route, but liked it well enough to keep it on our "good to visit" list. It has a very interesting way to get to the campgrounds: across the spillway of the dam.

 

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As you can see, the spillway is plenty wide, but it gave me the willies the first time or two across. I tend to equate "wet" with "slippery". It isn't, at least not at these low flows.

 

The weather was warm and sunny, and we signed up for two nights. That isn't enough time to make it worth unpacking and repacking the trailer, to us, but at least it allows us to plan a lazy morning. We celebrated with stuffed pasta and pesto. The pasta had been taking up freezer space until then.

 

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The next morning, I was able to relax and enjoy my coffee, admiring the java djinn* revealed by the sunlight.

 

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*or java genie, if you prefer

 

 

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I've written before about the charming Badu City Park in Llano, its proximity to downtown and to good barbecue. The park has been a favorite stopping place of ours since we discovered it about 6 years ago, and it's gone through major renovations since then. Unfortunately - VERY unfortunately - the park was wiped out recently by flooding along the Llano River. There might have been space at another RV park outside of town, but it isn't as close and has never looked inviting to us. We decided to skip Llano altogether, and lamented the missed opportunity for barbecue and my favorite Llano kitchen/hardware store.

 

That left us with a dilemma: how and where were we to get good 'cue while in Texas? We asked the park rangers. "There are two in town," they said. "Mesquite Pit is good, but expensive. Natty Flat Smokehouse gets mixed reviews from folks who visit there. Geno's Mesquite BBQ used to be a ways out of town, but that's closed and he's a food truck now. We don't know how you find him." When we went into town in search of auto parts, we got much the same story - with an emphatic nod to Mesquite Pit from one woman, who recommended the chicken fried steak and the armadillo eggs. We ran our various errands, picked up wine and beer, then headed for Mesquite Pit.

 

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Too bad it was too early (for us) for margaritas. 

 

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We ordered our takeout meal, then I admired the interior while my darling admired the weather outside. We could have waited at the bar, but - well, it was too early for either of us and we still needed to drive back to camp.

 

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Besides, the decor was fun.

 

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There were a lot of antique farm and kitchen tools. Does anyone know what this is? The waitress didn't. I couldn't read the printing on the side of the box, but thought I might be seeing the word "churn". A recognizable butter churn stood next to it.

 

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Our food came. We'd ordered a pound each of brisket and pork ribs, and an appetizer of armadillo eggs. I'd restrained myself with great effort and had not added fried green tomatoes to the order. We packed it into insulated bags and took it home until dinner time. (I squirmed at the plastic clamshells and styrofoam - Cooper's packs everything in foil, or cardboard - but the clamshells can be reused. If I can find space for them.)

 

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The brisket looks dry but wasn't. The ribs had just the right toothsomeness. The barbecue sauce was some of the best we've ever had. I find most BBQ sauces to be syrupy and too sweet (he likes them sweeter than I do). This has a tart vinegary note that we both liked.

 

Check out the condiment tray, which was included for free:

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The onions are sweet and the pickles are tart; the pickled peppers have a nice heat but don't pack a grab-your-beer wallop.

 

The armadillo eggs were fun: jalapenos stuffed with cheese and brisket, then breaded and fried. I think I liked them better without the sauce, which was too sweet for my taste. They had a pleasant heat.

 

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We're still working on the condiments, and got 3 meals out of the rest. Not bad for 34 bucks.


Edited by Smithy Grammatical change of no importance to anyone else, probably. (log)
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Shouldn't read this when I'm starving.

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We ended up staying three nights, even though we hadn't unpacked the trailer. On the last night we grilled steaks over charcoal and a handful of mesquite chips. I couldn't tell that the chips made much difference to the flavor, but maybe I was supposed to have soaked them first. They flared up nicely and gave a good char to the steaks.

 

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(There are vegetables in the plastic containers toward the back of the table. Apparently they were there to salve our consciences.)

 

He isn't much of a wine drinker, but I had found this local Texas wine and I thought it was the perfect accompaniment.

 

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We might have stayed even longer, but the rain was catching up to us. We headed out...

 

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...and saw that the lake was already overflowing the spillway more heavily than it had been.

 

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When we checked out, we asked about the spillway road. They were watching it carefully and would probably close it if the water got much higher, they said. There is a back road that can be used in that circumstance, right through the helicopter training base. That would have been fun. :)

 

Here's a typical park building that I neglected to include earlier. I love the stone construction.

 

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We'll be back, I hope.

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Texas has wonderful rest areas with picnic shelters. Unless otherwise marked, you can stay for 24 hours there although you can't set up a tent or other "structure". The fines for breaking the law range, according to posted signs, from $1 to $200. I wonder whether the $1 fine is ever assessed or collected. 

 

We prefer to stay farther from the freeway, but it's nice to know that these are available. Each picnic area has a different theme.

 

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We have space! We have our rooms back! We finally lit for a few days, unpacked the garage and let it become our dining room. Although the cramped conditions haven't worn on us as much as in past years, we both feel relieved at the extra room.

 

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To celebrate, I cooked a skillet dinner of corn, bacon, potatoes, our uneaten road-trip vegetables, jalapeños and Hanford Jack cheese.

 

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I even broke out clean napkins. (They're from the same set as the previous batch, so don't worry if you don't see the difference. My darling didn't.)

 

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Funny to see the animals move in, where did you sit?   🙂

 

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How to make brussels sprouts fattening...and delicious...with minimal fuss. These were quartered, tossed with cut-up bacon ends and pieces, and left to render in the oven. Then cream and Hanford Jack Smoked Jalapeno cheese were mixed in and left until melty and brown.

 

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We had quite a discussion about whether this was a gratin (my description) or a hot dish or a casserole. Then we had another discussion about whether the brown, crunchy (and quite delicious, I thought) bottom crust qualified as tahdig, since no rice was involved. If we can't call it tahdig, then we need a word for it.


Edited by Smithy Added the bit about tahdig. (log)
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Now that is a br sprout comfort dish!  The crunch contrast makes it extra interesting. Years ago someone suggested a imple decadent one  on eG that was basically the sprouts baked in cream. I indulged frequently for awhile.

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1 hour ago, Smithy said:

We had quite a discussion about whether this was a gratin (my description) or a hot dish or a casserole. Then we had another discussion about whether the brown, crunchy (and quite delicious, I thought) bottom crust qualified as tahdig, since no rice was involved. If we can't call it tahdig, then we need a word for it.

I don't see any tots so NOT hot dish.

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21 minutes ago, suzilightning said:

I don't see any tots so NOT hot dish.

 

Ah, but in Minnesota (and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan) the default term for almost any hot baked melange is "hot dish". When I moved up there I had to learn that the word "casserole" was unused, and a bit uppity. :rolleyes:

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Deming, New Mexico sits off Interstate 10 to the west of El Paso and north of Columbus. We drove to Deming yesterday for groceries and other errands. The road between Columbus and New Mexico has a lot of creosote scrub punctuated by the occasional interesting sight: an airport development, a few ranches, beautiful rocky mountains in the distance. Toward Deming there are also a few pecan groves and one huge chile plantation. I don't know what type of chiles these are, but they're drying and wilting on the vine. It doesn't seem likely that the farm is abandoned. Does anyone know more about these?

 

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Peppers grocery store in Deming is, in our opinion, the best option for stocking up. Their produce may not look as good as the Walmart produce, but there's a greater variety and the grocery store is far friendlier and better run. The interior decorations are fun, too.

 

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Here's a sampling of their produce area. The selection of fresh and dried chiles, and dried beans, is impressive.

 

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(In the middle right picture are some orange wheel-shaped things called duritos. I tried one and couldn't see the point. Can anyone shed light on what they are and what one might do with them?)

 

I selected a few poblanos and jalapenos from among their fresh chiles, and a few pasillas and chiles de arbol from the dried. I was also able to get some dried hibiscus. I know it as karkadeh, but @heidih was good enough to tell me to look for jamaica. They spelled it slightly differently here (jamica? now I don't remember) but it's the good stuff.

 

The deli area had bags of freshly roasted and peeled Hatch chiles, both of medium-hot and hot-hot persuasion.

 

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This set my dinner plans. I grabbed a bag of the green medium-hot and the intoxicating aroma followed us around the store as we finished up our shopping. I also picked up fresh, warm tortillas. It's overkill to buy both flour tortillas and corn tortillas, but these are high-quality and I like both types. At around $2 per package - especially at this quality - it seems a shame not to buy both.

 

Farther along in the store, I discovered that they also have a wide selection of frozen Hatch chile products! I hadn't noticed them before this trip. That may mean we won't need to go to Hatch next spring on our way back, but we'll see. We enjoyed the drive and I'd like to see more of that town.

 

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Finally, I discovered these cute little guys among the eggs:

 

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Oh, I was tempted! But I don't know when I'd use them. I'll hope to see them next time through.

 

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I have regularly used frozen green chile for my sauce and stew.  I like it and the heat levels are true to the labels, sometimes the fresh roasted chiles are a surprise in temperature vs. labeling.  The brand I used a lot was Baca's and it looks like that turned into Bueno's.  

 

I am guessing the chiles left on the wilting plants may be for harvesting seeds for future crops.  A little known secret is the seeds for the "Hatch" chiles originate on a large chile farm in southern Arizona.  Letting seed crops dry on the plant naturally is the best way to get viable seeds for the next year.

 

Duritos are a snack food, I've not tried them in a long time.  I think they remind me a bit of rice crackers.

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