Day 13 – Texas

We had the most incredible thunderstorm roll through last night between 1am and 4am. So much rain and thunder and lightening; and our trailer weathered it like a champ.

Gorgeous white sandy beaches

We spent the day traveling from Bay St Louis, Mississippi to Austin, Texas where we were headed to see family. It was a mostly uneventful 12 hour day of travel.

As we left Mississippi and headed into Louisana the sun came out and the sky started to clear.

There was a wind blowing from the north and we were heading west. The cross winds made for a wheel griping ride for Jon. The trailer really wobbles in the wind and there was a tremendous amount of road work which meant that they had the road shifted over into the shoulder which mean there was little to no shoulder to handle the trailer wobble.

I find the forest to be so interesting in the south. It’s all the same height and when the highway goes up high over low lands or rivers you can see the tops of the tress and it looks like an ocean of green puffy clouds extending forever. As you get into Texas, the entire height of the forest shrinks by a few feet.

We stopped in Lake Charles, Louisana for lunch, a bathroom break and gas. We stopped at Wendy’s which was next to this crazy building that was mostly boarded up. Apparently it used to be the IRS and FBI but they’ve relocated. No idea what happened here but it’s crazy looking. The blue panels are glass the but brown panels are all boarded up wood.

I don’t know what I was expecting Texas to look like but it’s a lot greener, at least the parts that we’ve seen so far. I understand that it will change as we travel further west.

There are miles of these fields filled with colourful flowers that just look so beautiful. And I’m not the only one who thinks so as there were tons of families and photographers out taking photos in the flowering fields.

We stopped in Brenham and got chicken fingers and fries from Jack in the Box and we can finally check that restaurant off our list.

As we drove into Austin, the sun was setting and it was so incredible beautiful. The photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

Our first stop was to see Tyrone – one of Jon’s cousins. We’ve met Tyrone before when we came and stayed with us in Abbotsford. I can see Josiah, in Tyrone’s look and it’s always fun to see family resemblance. We also met Tyrone’s oldest daughter, Alishah. We chatted and hugged and our visit was way to brief. It’s been an incredible experience for the boys to meet family from Jon’s side of the family. My family is mostly all near by in Canada and we are close but Jon’s family, on both sides, are spread all over the world so this is a truly special experience.

We hugged and said good bye and headed out to Jon’s other cousin’s place where we are going to park for the next day or two.

We arrived in the dark and got about parking the trailer. We received such a warm welcome from family that we’ve (Patti and the boys) never met and Jon hasn’t seen in 40 years. We sat and chatted until midnight. The boys were so happy and comfortable talking with the extended family and it was just incredible to see.

I feel like a broken record but there are so many soul warming moments. Our hearts just feel so full! We are so very thankful for this incredible experience to see the States and visit family.

Day 12 – New Orleans, Louisana

We woke up this morning expecting a thunderstorm to blow through during the day and sure enough, the sky was grey and cloudy.

We moved a lot slower in the morning than I had expected. Siah really enjoyed the spicy Jimmy Dean sausage that we had at Xani’s and we had bought some more. Jon made eggs and sausage for us, for breakfast.

Siah was pretty happy and really, it was pretty delicious.

We tidied up and headed into New Orleans and down to the French Quarter. It’s just about an hour away from Bay St. Louis.

We drove across Lake Ponchartrain and planned to come back over the Ponchartrain Causeway. It was pretty grey and definitely felt like it was gonna rain although it was holding off.

The Ponchartrain

Driving into New Orleans was fun as Jon shared memories of where they lived when Pastor Charles Green brought them back from Indonesia and pointed out where the church was.

Driving down into the French Quarter was amazing. The trees hanging way out over the roads and the colourful houses with their offsetting colourful window shutters. The wrought iron balconies are gorgeous too. There is stunning graffiti art all over and it’s just a riot of color and creativity.

We found a parking spot right on Decatur Street about a block away from the Cafe Du Monde.

The boys were a little overwhelmed with the smells and sounds and the sheer number of people around; but it sounded and felt like excitement and anticipation and creativity to me. Smelled like weed and BO!

We found the line up for the sit down part of the Cafe and it wasn’t very long at all. So we queued up.

Jude is happier then he looks, I promise. It’s hard to catch a smiling picture of him. He pointed out this artist sitting on the bench beside us. Look at the saturation of color on his pages. It’s incredible.

While we waited a few light drops of rain started to fall and Jon ran back to the truck to grab an umbrella. He came back just before they seated us.

There was an incredible busker serenading the line up with his Karoke machine. He was joined by a gentleman dancing along. The dancer definitely looked down on his luck but he had the kindest smile and eyes!

We were seated in the cafe and our waiter came over to get our order.

We ordered 3 orders of Beignets, 2 Cafe au Lait and 2 Sprites. As soon as we ordered, the heavens opened up and the floods came.

The Thunderstorm that we had been expecting arrived with a bang. A lot of bangs. There was thunder and lightening and SO MUCH RAIN. It was awesome!

You can see the sheets of rain in the above video. And even though it’s pouring and storming, it’s warm. When the rain started all the people that had been in the streets and parks moved into the covered sidewalks and it got even more crowded, loud and pungent. The beignets and cafe au lait was delicious and the boys would have ordered another 3 orders if we said yes.

We stopped in a few of the stores along the way back to the truck. We had planned to walk through the Market but when we got back to our truck, the boys were done and just wanted to head back to the trailer.

Our boys do so well travelling but we must adjust our wants to accommodate their needs and that often means cutting our plans short. So we hold plans loosely so as not to be disappointed and even then, it can be frustrating and disappointing to want to see or do something and not get to but going to an emotional breaking point is not worth any “attempt” to “make a memory”.

We headed back to Bay St Louis and seeing as both boys were on the edge of meltdowns we didn’t go over the Ponchartrain Causeway as it added an extra hour to the trip. We also did not communicate that well enough and the lack of communication did trigger a meltdown. That’s hard. It’s really hard. It was just the last straw that an “already at his breaking point” kid reached!

To read a great explanation of dealing with a meltdown, go to Jon’s blog and read this post he wrote.

Part of the stress was mounting internal pressure of undone schoolwork, so we found a McDonalds with wifi and the boys did some school while I shopped at Walmart for a few groceries for the trailer.

The battery in Siah’s computer died and the Walmart McDonald’s didn’t have plugs available for customers. He wasn’t quite finished so I finished shopping quickly and we headed to a different McDonald’s that did have outlets.

We headed back to the trailer and the storm had settled some.

Siah wanted to go back in the water. Jude wanted to try fishing again and I wanted to tidy the trailer and take a shower if possible.

So Siah went in the water. It was quite a bit colder than the previous day, thanks to the storm so that didn’t last long and he was actually the first to try out the shower!

Jon took Jude to a pier down the road to try and catch a fish one last time. They had no luck but it’s still fun though.

They came back to the trailer and Jon and I both made it through the shower although it’s more of a bird bath situation and less of a luxurious relaxing experience but clean hair and parts are worth it.

After showers, we made hot chocolate for the boys and I had a tea.

There are times when things feel more peaceful and normal and other times when it just feels more chaotic than anything. I really love peace and calm.

The boys chattered and played together before bed and Jon chilled and it was such a nice evening. We are up bright and early tomorrow headed to Texas to see family and friends. It gonna be another great day of travel and I’m so thankful that we had this special time to see where Jon grew up and to see first hand things, places and people that he’s talked about for years.

Day 11 – Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Coming to Bay St Louis is a home-coming for Jon. He spent his childhood here before coming to Canada when he was 13. He was back in the South for a couple of weeks when he was 15 but other than a one day stop a couple of years ago, he hasn’t been back. So this is a special visit.

We were fortunate to have a gorgeous day lined up for us, with clear sunny skies and temps around 24 degrees. We woke up at 6am to catch the sunrise and was it ever stunning.

It was amazing how fast it rose up out of the horizon once it started.

Our RV pad is right behind this little beach area. The sand is white; the water is warm and it’s SO shallow. It’s a small piece of heaven.

Our trailer is behind Jon and Jude!

After the sunrise, Jon and Jude walked out a little further on the beachfront; and Siah and I headed back to the trailer.

I was still in my pyjamas wrapped in a blanket.

As the sun and the temperatures continued to climb, we made coffee and had some breakfast. Jon connected with a family friend who had some fishing gear so He and the boys popped over to grab them and I had some quiet time to set the trailer straight and enjoy my coffee.

Isn’t this a gorgeous place to base ourselves from for the next few days? Look at that sunshine. Look at that view.

The boys came back with the fishing gear, donuts and a pound of shrimp as bait; and Jon took them down to the water.

They tried a few different spots with no luck. Oh actually, Jude caught a 2 in wide crab!

I went down and joined them as they came closer back to our RV pad and found a whole bunch of blackberries already ripe and ready to eat.

We relaxed in the sun for a bit. FYI – When you wake up at 6am there is a whole lot more day to fill up.

And then we headed to Long Beach to have lunch at Steve’s Marina with Ron and Phyllis. Sadly we got NO photos of our time with them because we were too busy being loved on and talking. Jon was able to get some Gumbo and Blackened Red Fish. I had a Fried Shrimp Po Boy, Siah had a Cheese burger and Jude had Chicken Strips and fries. It was delicious and the time spent together was SO incredible. The boys started to get antsy to leave and so we reluctantly said good bye.

I lied. I took a picture of a pelican from the restaurant patio. We ate outside & it was windy.

We drove back to Bay St. Louis and through some of Jon’s old neighborhood. His childhood home is still there and is so cute.

The boys headed back down to the beach. Jude to try fishing again and Siah to swim.

When did my baby grow up? He was such a tiny little button and now he’s morphing into a man.

At dinner time, we headed over to Word of Faith Christian Fellowship to see the church that Jon’s dad started 44 years ago. It was fun to see some more of Jon’s history and where he grew up. The current pastors were long time family friends and we went out for a good Southern meal with them. Again, we got almost no pictures except I did grab a photo of Jon’s HUGE shrimp Po Boy.

It was so lovely to connect with Tyrone and Carol and have dinner and hear from their hearts. I can see why Jon loves these people so dearly. They are amazing, amazing people with incredible hearts. After dinner, we stopped by their house to get some crawfish to take with us. Jon was so excited about that and I was so surprised that both boys tried one. Siah said it was okay and I managed to get Jude’s reaction on video.

They gave us a dozen eggs straight out of the coop, showed us their property; and the best part of the night was that they had 3 big dogs who the boys loved on for about half an hour. Big highlight for them.

We headed back to the trailer exhausted but happy. It was a huge day that filled our hearts and our tummies. Jude had been awake since 2am and we barely got his bed made before he fell asleep still in his clothes.

Tomorrow we head into New Orleans and to Cafe Du Monde. It’s SO exciting!

Day 10 -Part 2 – Arkansas to Mississippi

The trip between Arkansas and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi is about 7 hours of driving – which for us is about 9 hours of travel. We wanted to arrive late afternoon which is why we were trying to leave early.

The day was grey and we were expecting to drive through some rain at some point. We’ve been fortunate to have mostly gorgeous weather. Driving through Arkansas looked a lot like this……pretty green, some trees, lots of land.

At the second gas stop, we found Snowballs. Siah’s been wanting to try them. The package had 2, so each boy got one to try.

And then Siah got to eat both of them because they were NOT Judah’s fav.

We crossed into Mississippi just before noon and the rain started. We passed a sign for the Petrified Forrest and Jon shared a story about how he had petrified wood as a child and we made the decision to stop and check out the gift shop. We weren’t gonna do the trail because it was raining but we could stop and maybe find a souvenir.

We parked and ran through the rain to the gift shop. It was filled with Rocks and Gems and was such a fun place to check out. Jon got a piece of petrified wood which was a fun memory. It’s really cool looking.

The petrified wood is really cool and I can only imagine how interesting the trail must be.

I love the Color’s of the different rocks and gems. They are just so vibrant and beautiful.

As we travelled further down into Mississippi we passed through a rain storm and it was a downpour. Like big fat soaking wet rain drops that drench you.

About an hour from Bay St Louis the sky started clearing and it was stunning. We were pretty excited to be getting closer.

We pulled into Buccaneer Bay State Park around 6pm and found our RV pad. It was right across the street from the beach.

By 6:20pm the boys were in swim suits and down on the beach.

It’s been surprising how few of the sites that we’ve stayed at have had a fire pit. This one does and so we made a fire. Unfortunately, we forgot our marshmallow roasting sticks at Xani’s so the kids foraged for a dead branch to use.

Jude’s stick was ready to use but Siah brought back a dead small-ish tree and then spent an hour whittling the trunk down to a size that could hold a marshmallow. FYI, this park has no wifi and it was awful that I didn’t realize it when I booked it. I’m the worst mother for making them do things like having creative fun.

We eventually doused the fire and crawled into bed. Tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous, sunny and 24 degrees. I can’t wait.