Tuesday, January 31, 2012


We'd heard a rumor that "Texas Jess" was going to be in Houston so we headed down to check it out.

Houston is Angie's hometown and she still has people there so we were also able to visit her Grandfather, Bill, who surprised us with some fantastic news...

He's engaged to this wonderful lady, Joan!
They were high school friends but had lost touch and hadn't seen each other in 65 years!
Joan's daughter found an old home movie from 1947, digitized it, and gave it to Joan as a birthday gift.  Joan tracked down the friends from the movie and Bill happened to be one of them.  They started talking regularly, then took a trip to Costa Rica, and, voila, they're engaged!

Congratulations Bill and Joan!

Bill will be selling his house and leaving Houston in the near future.
There's rumor that he might be looking for a home for his little Bijon Frise, "BeeGee"...

After a nice visit with Bill and Joan, we headed across town where we heard "Texas Jess" was rumored to be and sure enough, there she was.  Jess lives in Rhode Island so naturally some TexMex food was a high priority.  Here we are at dinner with Jess's family (and our adopted one), Nancy, M.A., Laurent, me, Angie, Jess, and her man David.

When in doubt, walk your dog, or someone else's!
Shadow, David, me, and Kipper take a stroll to the local "bark park".
Jess and Angie pick up the rear.

When we got back to M.A. and Laurent's house this Mardi Gras mask was on the door!

Inside a feast was being prepared...

The menu:
Boudin balls, Crab stuffed shrimp, Gumbo, Brisket, Bacon wrapped tenderloin, and more...
I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Cocktail time!
These are the components for "Pain Killers", a little concoction we were introduced to while aboard M.A. and Laurent's sailboat, "Blithe Spirit", in the Caribbean.


Jess and Angie
Jessica is Angie's BFF!

Laurent and myself doing what we do best...
Posing for pictures!

Jess salivates while Dave, aka Batman, and Doug carve the meat.

Thatcher chose to go with cereal for dinner.

Meanwhile Dave is transfixed with Jess's musical glasses.

Doug, Mark, Liz, M.A., David, Angie, me, Laurent, Jessica, Val, and Jarret.
Nancy is operating the camera and Thatcher has Vicki held hostage upstairs.
Right after this photo was taken the party...

.......went wild!
"When the Saints Come Marching In" was played multiple times and the whole place erupted into a dance party parade Mardi Gras celebration.
I am not kidding!

That's the mask decoration from the front door that Jess is stylin' while M.A. and her sister, Vicki, urge her on.

M.A., not to be out done, grabbed the decorations off the buffet and sported them like a feather boa!

I think we'll have to give Laurent the MVP award though.
When the music started playing he called us "Lard... something or other" and demanded that we get on our feet!
This man knows how to have a good time.

The aftermath...
Kipper was so exhausted he curled up in the nearest bed, which belonged to a much smaller dog, still wearing his Mardi Gras beads.

Thanks to Laurent, M.A., Nancy, Jess, and everyone for such a great time!!!

Oh but the party didn't stop there!
Next day Jess and Dave borrowed Doug's ssswwweeeet BMW convertible, aka the Bat Mobile, and headed to Austin for a night where Jess had LOTS of fried okra.
No joke, she got the "sides plate" at Stubb's BBQ (which includes 3 choices) and got triple okra.  Our waitress was soooo impressed.  She said that had never been done!
Jess ate every bit.

After okra at Stubb's we headed over to the event that Jess was really in town for, the KNACK 20th reunion party.  KNACK is a legendary Austin radio station that Jess worked for back in the day.

Me, Angie, Jessica, Amy, Dave in the back, and the KNACK "Psycho Baby."
Scott was there too, he's taking the photo.

Great to see Jessica and David in Texas.
Stay tuned, we'll be seeing them again when we get up to Rhode Island...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Austin, We Love You, But It's Time For Us To Hit the Road!!

We thought our time in Austin would be a month, five weeks at the most.  Then we found out that our good friend Jess would be visiting Texas in late January, so we decided to delay our trip a bit so we could see her.  After all, she did fly all the way down here from Rhode Island to surprise us in June!!

So, we adjusted our departure date to Jan 18.  The plan was to drive to Houston, visit all my family, see Jess, and drive on to Key West.  We'd hang out in Key West for a week with Greg's dad, then head up the Atlantic coast through the Carolinas, into Pennsylvania, up to NYC, Rhode Island, Maine, Canada, etc, etc, etc.  Great plan, right?  

Not so fast.  

We couldn't find a place for Kipper in Key West!  And, some of our tenants gave their notice that they would be moving to California to pursue a job opportunity after their lease is up in March (*sad face* we really like Greg & Heather).  

OK, no problem.  We're nothing if not flexible.  We'll just come back to Austin after the Key West leg of our trip and deal with the open property.  And Scott & Amy offered to take care of Kipper for the few weeks we'd be gone (I have no idea how we're going to repay all their generosity!!!).  We'll drive my little Mazda to Florida and back since it gets better gas mileage.  And, coming back will give us a chance to do our taxes.  So we'll come back to Austin, take care of some stuff, collect the dog and LeTigre, and resume the trip up the Atlantic coast.  Another plus: by delaying the drive up the Atlantic coast, we might avoid some of those nasty winter/spring storms that blow through that area.  So everything's working out, right?

Well, sorta. 

We decided to stick around longer to deal with the property so we (read that: Greg) can relax while we're gone.  Argh.  No offense to Austin....it's been beautiful weather and we've been able to spend lots of great time with all our friends and family, but other than that have Nothing. To. Do.  We have no jobs.  We can't go out that much because we're still on our budget.  I can't shop (*another sad face*).  We can watch only so much Netflix....I'm all caught up on shows I didn't even know existed!  So we're getting a little antsy.

But, things are already looking up, as things have a tendency to do, given enough time.  We've got a couple of good leads on new tenants.  With any luck, that will be dealt with soon and we can head out.  A bit late, but no biggie.

In the meantime, I need a distraction from pacing around the dining room table.  And now I've bored you with a too-long explanation of what's going on.  Enough with the verbose play-by-play of our plans.  Here are some pictures of what we've been up to for the last few weeks!  

Speaking of play-by-play, I don't think this needs one.  Needless to say, "my" team lost. 

Remember this?  Well, I tried to make it .........

 ....with less than stellar results.  It looked and tasted raw, even after twice the amount of time in the oven.

We witnessed the first carrot pulled from the Ryder's garden.

 And hung out with Stacey and Maslow at the park.  Gotta love the expression on Maslow's face.

 We ate at hopdoddy's A LOT.  They have very delicious hamburgers.
This is actually the "Buffalo Bill", a bison burger, yum.

 We took Vince to Sarovar for his birthday.  Ali is appropriately impressed with the Paper Dosa.

 We went to a party at South Congress Athletic Club.  When else can you go to to a gym and drink beer?

 We went to an "art" show where this was one of the "art" pieces.  We weren't impressed.  Am I an art snob?

 Ania's birthday!

 The de Valpines, being cute.

 We had to make some modifications to the Mazda so we could fit camping gear and supplies for a road trip to Florida.  Greg took out the back seat.......

 ......and we did a dry run pack........

 .....and fit everything in my little car!!  Including 2 full-sized bikes, a tent, sleeping bags, full-sized cooler, a small camping grill, kitchen stuff, a food bin, pillows, etc.

LeTigre and the Mazda (does the Mazda need a name?), both called to the line of duty.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Check out our guest blog...

We were recently asked to do a guest post on our friend's Keith and Shelley's travel blog:

They're seasoned global travelers with some great tips on getting cheap airline tickets and other great travel deals.  Take some time to peruse their blog and read about their experiences.

Keith and Shelley are currently in Nicaragua...

...where they "ash boarded" down a volcano!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 - Just the Facts, Ma'am (Summary of Money Spent and Friends Seen in 2011)

One thing that we haven't really talked about is the budget.  That's my (Angie) department.  I can't fix LeTigre, so I try to make myself useful in other ways.   I enter every single receipt, every single penny we spend on the road into a spreadsheet so we can track our expenses.  Since we're on such a tight budget, it's very important that we know how much money we're spending!

 This is the summary of our budget.  The number highlighted in green is how much money we budgeted for the trip.   I've already taken out all the stuff that's mandatory, like insurance and cell phones.  So this amount is for things we control, listed in the column on the left.   The amount in red is how much we have left for the rest of the trip.  The "Actual $/Day" is the average of how much we spend per day.   For this posting, I've only included the expenses up to our return to Austin on Dec 2, 2011, so you can see how much our actual trip cost.  But we're still tracking every cent we spend since the number in green is for a year, whether or not we are  traveling.  The summary also calculates our gas mileage, miles driven, and total days of travel...all helpful info.

 This is part of our gas budget.   Check out the gas prices in Canada!

 Even a $2.10 parking fee gets put in the budget.

 We would've saved a TON of money if our route had been a little more straight forward.

This was our first experience with the circuitous route......... 

 ...........but California was really our crowning glory.

So, we've already spent 75% of our gas budget!  Fortunately, we were able to stay with friends (old and new) and family, so we saved some of our "camping fees" budget to make up for it.  

My Mom and Grandma got the short end of the stick, they had to put up with us for 15 days!  This is our first stop with them in Pueblo West, CO, right after we left Austin in June.

 We also got to see Jim & Gemma, in Longmont, CO, twice!  The first time was over the 4th of July.

 Henry, in Silver Gate, MT, was the first "stranger" who welcomed us into his life.  We parked LeTigre among his vacation cabins for 4 days.  He wasn't a stranger for long!

 We also had visitors!  Greg's mom, Barbara, spent 8 days with us in Banff, Alberta.

 And, of course, Saint Michelle, who we met on the ferry over to Vancouver Island and who rescued us from our soggy camper.  We stayed with her in Chemainus, British Columbia,  twice!  She put up with us for 3 days the first time.

 We toured Vancouver Island for a couple of weeks and met Brad & Jacqueline on Denman Island.  We stopped by their house in Comox, B.C., for a night before heading back to Michelle's.....

 ....where we stayed for another 5 days!!

The very day we left Michelle, we took the ferry back to the U.S., spent the night in a WalMart parking lot, and met Terry!  He invited us to a nostalgia car drag race in Forks, WA, which OF COURSE we couldn't refuse!!, so we spent the night camped in the crew area.

 We met Ian (on the right) at Mt Ranier.  Greg loaned him some rain pants, and Ian loaned us a place to stay.....4 days in Portland, OR.  Good times!

 Karen and her friend, John, were stranded with a flat tire in the middle of Mount St Helen's National Volcanic Monument.  Greg changed their tire and Karen invited us to stay with her in Berkeley.  Yes, please!!  We stayed in her lovely home for 4 days.....

....where we met a several of her neighbors.  One of them, Carla, lent us her cabin in Rescue, CA, for a couple of days while we waited for......  

 .......Kat!!!  She and her boyfriend, Jerry, flew up to San Francisco to see us.  I'm including this because we used some hotel points our friend Erika gifted us to stay in the city of San Francisco.  It made our visit with Kat a LITTLE more affordable.  Thanks Erika!!

 And then we had more visitors!  Scott & Amy Ryder!!  We hung out with them in Tahoe City, CA, right on Lake Tahoe, for 4 days.

 Debra and Ed are old friends from Austin.  They moved to Flagstaff about ten years ago.  We got to see them when we bought LeTigre last year, and we visited them again this year....so it's kinda full circle.  They were nice enough to put up with us for 5 days this time around! 

 Then we went back to Mom and Grandma's.....

 ....and back to Jim & Gemma's near Denver........

 ....where we picked up my brother Vince from the airport (another visitor!!).....

....and headed back to Mom & Grandma's for the week of Thanksgiving.

Our final non-camping stop was to see Karon, my aunt, in Albuquerque.

So, out of our 161 days on the road, we actually stayed with family and friends 67 days!  That was a HUGE help with our budget, but really was an invaluable part of the experience.  We were expecting to see majestic scenery, but we were not expecting to meet such cool people.  We had such a great time with everyone...reconnecting with people we already knew, and getting to know new friends.  That's the best part of the trip!

P.S.  Since we've been back in Austin (and for the three months before we left on the first leg of our trip), we've been staying in Scott & Amy's guesthouse.  We are paying some "rent", but it's such a small amount that we're able to save money while we're here.  We really owe them a gigantic THANK YOU for sharing their home and lives with us!!