Cowboys Game Day

On December 24, we both were super-excited to go the the Dallas/Seattle game (my first live game, John’s second). We parked almost one mile from the stadium, and took a very brisk and chilly walk to the stadium. It was so cold I had a scarf around my face, a touque and a hoodie, plus I was wearing leggings under jeans (like long-johns!).

Once we got to the stadium parking lot, the chill was easier to forget. There were tailgaters everywhere, and barbeques, beer, blankets and music all over. I had no idea that some folks have a full-day tailgate party at their trailer/food truck/tent, and then just watch the game on their little tv or listen on radios – – the roar of the live crowd must be enough excitement. Plus, they had heaters.

As we got closer to the building, we could see a crowd had built up near and around the barricades put up near a certain entrance – the players’ entrance! It looked like what I’ve seen on entertainment news, where people scream the players’ names, clap and hoot, and hold out their hands for a touch from the famous. Of course I didn’t know anyone, but John knew who everyone was the moment they stepped out of their cars. In fact, sometimes the car gave them away. As they walked a non-existent carpet through a barricade alley, the screams would start each time. Players were dressed in jackets, sometimes parted with hugs to their children and wives, or parents, who were whisked away to another door, and then either ignored the crowd, or hugged their fans.


We had a few good laughs when we heard, “Hey, Taco, where’s your brother, Burrito?”, and “Taco, your jacket inspires me”. The photos I got are not great, but they may convey the excitement of the crowd, even when the player is not easy to ID at first glance. Football fans will likely be able to name everyone, no matter how poor the picture.


When we finally entered the stadium, I must have looked like a kid at Disneyland. It was so huge, so bright, so fun, so loud – but in a party/excitement way. The vibe was addictive, and I’m not even a proper NFL fan!
After gawking at the food and beverage prices (one drink for $13, anyone?), we found our seats and then wandered a bit more. It was so bright and loud, and full of excitement and anticipation.

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Back in our seats, the game began. Since I’m not a major fan, but wasn’t about to ruin John’s fun, I made sure to make friends with our seat mates. There were 3 boys in front of us, around 13 years old, a couple behind us (whose best friend plays on the Seahawks!), and a cute girl of 6 and her dad next to me. She was fully dressed in a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader costume, white boots included. I learned her mama used to be a cheerleader! Her little 3-yr old brother knew when to yell “get himmmmmmm”, and “nooooooo”, and was amazingly paying attention to the game like a little adult!

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Well, the Cowboys lost the game, but it really didn’t matter. The experience was once-in-a-lifetime for me (let’s not spend that much money on a non-fan again, ok?), and I could easily see what was so thrilling for true fans.

Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys

Since we are spending the holiday away from our families we had decided to make this year a Dallas Cowboys Christmas!

On December 21, we finally made it into Arlington, which has the most amazing Walmart on Earth. This is because it is a stone’s throw from the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium, the AT&T Stadium. We both were amazed at how much Cowboys fan gear there was, and this was likely the longest we’ve both browsed. In branded glassware alone, there must have been 50 different styles, and shelves with hundreds to choose from. We were laughing, but one poor man in a Minnesota Vikings jersey said “I’m in Cowboy hell, just shopping for my family..” HA!

After spending a few dollars on stuff that we greatly needed (Cowboys gear), we headed home to relax in the sun for a couple of hours, with John excited about his upcoming tour of the Star of Frisco, the Cowboys’ practice facility.

The next day John returned from the tour very happy and more informed than I expected (no pictures of cheerleaders, too bad). We started to get really excited for the game on December 24, me more for the experience, but also looking forward to seeing John so happy, watching his team.

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Dallas Cowboys Meeting Room
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Dallas Cowboys Draft Room
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Uniforms from the beginning

Willis, TX (Lake Conroe RV Park)

On December 14, we moved on from Beaumont to Willis, TX, which had a park with a lot to offer. Lake Conroe RV Park had all the amenities, and the pool area looked like a resort in Cuba!

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Cali is really enjoying Texas!

We tried disc golf once more, and this time, we had some tips from YouTube, but were only slightly better. On the way back to the bus we wanted to find some ‘down home BBQ’ so why not check out ‘Texans BBQ & Catering’?

The very limited menu and very friendly folks made it so famous, they only opened from 11 am to 3 pm. The owner told us he smokes 200 lbs of meat a day, and always sells out. He took 2 catering orders while we ate our ribs and various sides, then he chatted with John about the little old lady in her 90s, just down the road, who gets a new car delivered to her every two years. It turned out that she’s the mama of the WWF-owner, Vince McMahon! Not my sport, but another very interesting chat with another kind stranger.

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Two days later, John was busy puttering around the bus, so I thought I’d try Bingo again. Not being sure if they all work the same way, I brought some cash, but didn’t need it. The fun and games at Lake Conroe were all free, and the prizes were fun-sized snacks and chocolates. I tried to choose only those that we don’t have at home whenever I won (everyone won multiple times)! As usual, a lovely older couple beside me chatted and advised on the RV lifestyle.

Later during our walk, we saw a sign on an RV that said “Debi’s RV Cookin – look us up on the web”, so out of curiosity, I did. John found a recipe for a crawfish dip and I found a fun one for sticky buns, and, after our next grocery trip, we made and enjoyed both. We also used the gym at the park (ok, John did and I just stretched for a half hour) and then shared a grilled cheese at the café, and were back at the bus for dinner and to plan the COWBOYS excitement that awaited!!

 

Texas (Beaumont)

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Driving into Texas in a snowstorm!

On December 8, we arrived in Beaumont, Texas. We chose Beaumont due to the driving hours, and since we’re being adventurous, we figured we’d learn more once we arrived.

Well, after driving through a serious snow-storm we were told at the Texas Visitors Centre that they had last seen snow about 10 years ago (good planning, Reids!!), and that a real serious cold snap was a-comin’. No kidding…

We settled into our park, and in the morning enjoyed a free breakfast in the community centre. We “tried” (one bite only) biscuits and gravy, and both enjoyed a freshly made waffled in the shape of Texas, plus I had to try sweet tea!

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We had to try the Texas shaped waffles!

Beaumont, as it turns out, has the beautiful Beaumont Botanical Gardens and the September 11th memorial garden, and also the famous Cattail Marsh. We checked out all three spots, and although the unseasonable weather and recent floods (and wild boars that forage at night) had left most of the gardens in need of TLC, we did find the sub-tropical area where the orchids are was just gorgeous. One energetic volunteer asked us to meet her at the Koi pond, and when we did, there were the biggest and brightest Koi fish jumping up for the bread she threw. They were like a surprise we didn’t expect, and as feisty as the elderly lady feeding them!

We took a short detour to the Cattail Marsh, where we actually saw (thanks to some friendly strangers with binoculars!) an alligator lazing around at the water’s edge, perhaps 50 feet away. Lots of wildlife and a beautiful pier made this a very nice walk in the sun.

IMG_2869Later on in the week we asked for a recommendation for a good seafood place, and we scored big! Joe’s Crab Shack was amazing. We happened to be there during happy hour, and forget drinks, the snacks were so fun ($2 fried pickles, $2 crabby cheese fries)! John then thoroughly enjoyed his Steam Bowl, while I laughed occasionally when I looked at the size of the huge silver mixing bowl he was eating out of…

Pontchartrain, Louisiana

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On Sunday, December 3, we made a very quick stop for some groceries, and headed for a beautiful RV park on Lake Pontchartrain, LA, not far from New Orleans. (Apologies, but I have to share the cutest 2 slices of frozen delicious Key Lime Pie, adorably packaged, perhaps by Fisher Price – joke!)

The lake is also home to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the longest straight bridge over water in the world.

At Pontchartrain Landing RV Resort, we had our very first waterside site, just the other side of the docks from the beautiful boats moored on Lake Pontchartrain. Palm trees and fluffy clouds convinced us that this would be another warm-your-bones, relaxing stay for the next 6 days (we got bolder as we traveled, and started to book longer stays).

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That first afternoon was wonderfully warm, and we even sat by the pool (a first!) with our (MY) Louisiana pamphlets for about 2 hours. We then had dinner in the bus, and went to the “resto/bar” on site (another first!) for a drink. We chatted with a few regulars, and one local fellow who looked like a mall Santa on his night off, but ultimately turned in early because we were taking the morning shuttle to the French Quarter in N’Awlins.

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By 10am the next morning, we were in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Similar to Music City, Nashville, I could barely watch where I stepped while I looked around. Old buildings reminded me of Europe, very clean, but mostly obviously heritage-and-untouchable. A few had been bought and turned into modern and fancy hotels, but the majority of the area was definitely modest, to be polite. Still pretty, and such warm and friendly people, but not every block has benefited from, well, a benefactor.

 

I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I HAD to try the famous beignets, and according to a local (who works and lives at our park), the best is Café Du Monde (since the 1860s!!). It was crazy-busy at 11 am, like a chaotic but organized ballet – all they sell is beignets (fresh, hot square donuts) and a handful of drinks. Disneyland for the taste buds! We then walked and walked, took funny photos and serious photos, and saw the same talented, hardworking fellow doing his street-music-comedy act at 2:30, as he was when we first arrived around 10am.

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The next day was so rainy, and it stayed that way for two solid days. We heard enough Katrina jokes to last a long while. Note: Even after 11 years, there are obvious signs of the hurricane, and some homes permanently boarded up. It was pouring buckets, but we still needed to run an important errand – so YAY for my first-ever raincoat and rainboots! Seriously, first-ever for both!! The evening was spent baking, reading and wondering if we’d experience a flood.

We were looking forward to NFL-Bingo (huh?) the next evening, although we questioned how it would work. Surely the folks watching the game wouldn’t be interested in hearing the caller, and vice-versa? Upon arrival in time for dinner first, we learned that Bingo was cancelled for complaints around that very reason. John enjoyed the famous crawfish bisque, and again we enjoyed chatting with locals and other travelers, but headed back to the bus for the game.

Next destination, Texas!

Battleship Park & The Beach

I’ll start by acknowledging that none of my hobbies include marine/navel themes (except maybe reading a book on the bench seat, while John fishes from a boat at the cottage, ha ha), but I was truly educated and impressed with the USS Alabama (battleship, commissioned in 1942, served in WW II – Atlantic and Pacific) and the submarine, USS DRUM (the oldest American submarine on public display). The tour was fascinating – we laughed, we questioned, we were surprised, and were saddened. We spent an amazing 3 hours exploring these massive vessels – time just flew by.

Much like the cave tour at Mammoth Cave, KY, I cannot do this topic justice, so if you’re interested please have a peek at the historical facts and figures for yourself on their website. 

Since it seemed that every minute there was something remarkable to record, I did take a lot of photos. We’re still at the beginning of our journey, but I can already imagine boring my loved ones with the wonderful facts and details when I’m home :o)

If your interest is “not so much”, here are just a few of my pics, below.


The next day we finally hit the beach. As per usual, there were not a lot of people around (families were wearing PANTS, but we were in shorts!). You could easily ID the folks who are just passing through – I’m talking to you, fellow with cowboy hat, flannel shirt tucked in, silver-platter belt-buckle, and your socks and boots on the bench beside you..

Although it did feel wonderfully warm as we lay on our beach towels for a half hour, it wasn’t quite ‘so hot I’ve got to cool off’. John, on the other hand, dove in and enjoyed the refreshing salty water. The town of Gulf Shores takes great care of the public beaches – they are spotless, the restrooms and outdoor shower towers (lots of kids getting their feet wet), and the parking set-up are very impressive. This would be a wonderful alternative to Florida for a vacation.

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Somebody tried to take my place as John’s date…. we think it was the salt water from the beach!

A few souvenir shops later and we were ready for our homemade dinner of steak, potatoes and green beans back in the bus. We had to be up early to head to Louisiana!

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Upon leaving the state park, and heading south, we had to make a stop. The “Check Engine” light had previously appeared on the bus, but since US Thanksgiving seems to close the country for a whole week, we had an appointment with a dealership in Montgomery, early on our travel day. Long story short, the team at Stivers Ford was super, and although we were frustrated at first, I soon grew to secretly enjoy the reliable wi-fi in the customer lounge – I was an emailing, Instagramming, uploading, downloading, portable-hard-drive-movie/book-dragging fool for about 3 hours! Again, no serious issues, so off we went!

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The beach was just past this bridge!

When we arrived at Gulf Shores, Alabama, my first thought was ‘Florida??’, as we drove along the beachy main strip, calling out ice cream shop names, goofy souvenir/surf shop names and the MANY seafood restaurants which all promised to be Best on Earth. For the first time on this trip, when we exited the RV to register, we were excited to feel that it finally felt like the South – WARM!

On our evening walk we waved to a friendly senior named Bob. We stopped to chat, and it was soon obvious that Bob-from-Michigan was John’s hero (John said so twice). While Bob shared tips and tricks for newbies, he joked that he hadn’t worn long pants in 24 years (#1!), and is excited for this January, when his pensioner years will surpass his 30+ years working at GM (#2!). He was such a delight to listen to, we just stood and smiled. My favourite chat:

  • Bob, to me: “Do you cook?”
  • Me: “Yes.”
  • Bob: “Really, you do?”
  • Me: “Yes, we both do.”
  • Bob: “Well my wife only makes 3 things – thaw out, go out, or take out!”

We all laughed, but Bob got serious quickly. He must have named about 6 lunch spots nearby, complete with detailed specials on their specific weekdays, PLUS recommended times of arrival – he’d memorized all the menus.  Bob’s main goal was for himself and his wife to eat a late lunch each day for less than $14 (they share a can of soup or a sandwich before bed). We thanked Bob for his tips, and parted ways. Alas, we never did make it to Roadkill Café, in Elberta, AL.

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Adorable decor at somebody’s site

The next night, we walked after dark and noticed there were many snowbirds at this park (easy to figure out by the décor around the sites). Some folks take decorating their site very seriously, which was neat, but still funny, with no snow. At this particular park there was a nightly float that drove along the park roads, with holiday music blasting, and candy being tossed out to bystanders.

As Jimmy Buffet fans, the next day we went to Jimmy’s sister’s restaurant, Lulu’s (one of only 3 locations). It was a bright sunny day, and we were seated on the patio, just a few feet away from the Intracoastal Waterway below. I’m not really a foodie, but I am adventurous, and so I had to try ‘Crazy Sista’s Crab Toast’, which was absolutely delicious! You know it is because I took a picture!

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Before we left Lulu’s, I had to check out one silly thing, due to a serious curiosity. Yes, there is such a thing as a Hurricane Simulator. And yes, it’s actually really hard to stand up – you get seriously tossed around even in this little booth!

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Fun Fact: Before we went out for lunch, John went for a bike ride – from Alabama to Florida!

Come back soon if you like Alabama Naval history, the beach – and after that, Louisiana!