Travels With Charlie Brown (Downs) travel blog

Parade of Lights

Saucie MS

Good morning, America! It’s cold everywhere this morning, I think. Here a mild 39 degrees. It’s 7:00 am and a bright, sunny morning. The campground is awakening. The camp’s mascot, a large, long-haired, white dog can be seen across the lake being walked by a large, long-haired, white woman.

My neighbors, two sites down-checked in a few minutes before me Wednesday evening-are in an older Class B motor home towing a trailer with two street legal, off-road motorcycles. The women, of my age or older – baby boomers – can be seen moving about possibly preparing breakfast.

A half dozen sites down from Charlie’s and mine, a woman sips coffee. Normally, such an action would not warrant comment. There is no camper on the site. No tent. She is staying in her little white Toyota. Her coffee pot sits on the site’s power, water and cable “tower”. She also is a boomer.

“There, but for the grace of God go I”. That quote really hits home when I witness people forced to live in their car! I have the advantage of choice. She does not. I have a wonderful motor coach with more conveniences than I had in a stick built house. She does not. I’m sitting here watching cable television and sipping a cold Coke, while I can see her moving about in the back seat of her car.

I take Charlie for his morning walk and head toward her car. It’s not a Toyota, rather an older Mazda. She moves to the front seat..wears a white knit hat. I try to catch her eye hoping she will beg for money or food. She stays in the car. Perhaps she will scavenge sites as campers depart. Hope so as I will leave some cans of food behind. Not sure what else I can do. Anyone else will probably leave the food alone. Leaving cash could easily disappear without her getting to it first.

I continue to watch as she cleans the floormats, slapping them against a tree. It’s difficult to tell her age but as she gathers her coffee pot and shuffles around in the warming morning sun, I would guess late fifties to early sixties. There are Florida plates on the car. Perhaps she will head south to warmer climes. Perhaps the cold doesn’t bother her. Continuing to watch, she starts her car and drives away…

Wow! What a difference low wind and no wind conditions make while driving the coach…found myself creeping above the speed limit several times! Today, I was not the slowest turtle on the road.

Sometimes wind and other diversions are a good thing when driving along boring interstates. Becoming too comfortable and listening to some favorite tunes may easily have contributed to an unfortunate incident where a tractor trailer ran off the interstate into a strand of trees. Didn’t appear there were injuries and there were enough onlookers to offer assistance.

This leg was great until Mobile Alabama. Here, the combination of increased traffic, construction, intersecting roadways, the George Wallace tunnel all made navigation a chore. This is when a “co-pilot” would be much appreciated.

Rolled into Lakeview RV Park right on schedule. A slow economy was given as the reason I could stay as long as I care to using the lower Passport America rate. We’ll depart Monday.

This park was once someone’s great idea. Designed around a 16 acre man-made lake, most sites are full-service and pull-through. Each site is poured cement with a lighted utility tower. Sites are fairly level and grassy common areas are well manicured with lush green grass. The host led me to my site in her little golf cart and I took my time setting up. Charlie approved.

There were only a few campsites that showed evidence of activity. The others looked as though people lived full time in their respective units but were gone perhaps to work…perhaps gambling.

Riding around the park, Charlie and I visited the other side of the park across the small lake. Geese announced us to anyone who cared to listen. On this side of the office, once expensive units were propped up on flattened tires. Awnings flapped in the light breeze. ATVs and pickup trucks sat on cement blocks and rusted wheels. It will be shocking to learn if people are still living in these units and that the park would allow them to stay without cleaning up or hauling these eyesores away. Especially since the park’s website warned pet owners to clean up after their pet or they would be asked to leave without being given a refund.

Charlie had a good dinner including a ½ cup of white rice to help settle his little tummy. He ate most of it only after I added some cheddar cheese. Picky devil…spoiled, too!

No cable available here but the WiFi seems strong. I tuned in my HD antenna and was surprised to find 27 channels coming in loud & clear! Twenty seven “free” stations! Who needs cable?

So Saturday arrives along with sunshine and hopes of the low seventies. Strong winds urged me to close the awning which wasn’t doing much of anything but looking cool. The rest of the morning was researching my next two stops and enjoying a hot shower. Today will be the first time Charlie is left alone in the motor coach while I go off to lose money at a casino.

Charlie’s first disappointment of the day…all drapes and curtains were closed to keep him from being able to see outside the coach. He loves sitting on the large dashboard peering out the huge windows but alas, curtains span the entire area keeping him in the “dark”. He definitely knew something was wrong when I took the trash out and didn’t take him with me. He loves taking the trash out. I returned and listened outside the coach and thought I heard a rooster crowing. There were no other sounds. No barking, whining or howling.

Having eaten a small breakfast, I timed my trip into Biloxi around noon with plans to check out “IP” Casino…lose for about an hour and then find something to eat that didn’t cost a small fortune. The plan was to return to the coach long before sunset…stopping only for some cokes and catsup.

I saw the International Palace as I flew past on the highway. After driving out and over the gulf (the road actually puts you over the edge of the water), I stayed with traffic. When the Gulfport sign appeared, I turned around promising not to act like a lemming, again.

On the return to Biloxi, I passed a large sign advertising another hotel casino. I turned, found a parking space and walked to the hotel where two story glass doors lined both sides of the drive. Limos were parked diagonally along the hotel side. The valet and casino entrance were on the opposite side.

Though the casino was only one story up, I chose to ride the elevator. The rear wall was clear affording a nice view of a sparkling pool. As the doors opened, I was met by a Wal-mart greeter who kindly directed me to the restrooms. Electronic bells, whistles and tones chirped constantly in the dimly lit room. Room? More like an arena. Inside there were no windows and the humming and squawking machines flashed and blinked and glowed…each a little more than the last vying for a patron’s coin.

Nestled among the flashing menagerie were different game tables. I saw craps and roulette and many more unrecognizable games…some with a dealer standing alone, others surrounded by cheering men and women. Dress was extremely casual. Men wore jeans and shorts with polo style shirts while the women wore jeans and shorts with polo style shirts. Most of the customers also wore pretty much the same thing.

Only the waitresses offering “free” drinks were close to dressed up wearing short black outfits with black stockings and high heels. Normally a pleasant combination however this “uniform” was worn by all waitresses; some young, some old, some fit some fat.

After walking about ½ way into the room, I found a section dedicated to Black Jack. I sat at a table sporting a sign that read, “21 + 3”. Here, you placed your minimum $5.00 bet in a large circle in front of you and you had the option of placing $1.00 up to $500 on a smaller circle to the right. The large circle represented your bet on Black Jack while the smaller circle was for a three card poker hand that paid 9 to 1. $5.00 would net $45. If your first two cards dealt along with the dealers “up” card made a three card poker hand, you would win the bonus.

I budgeted $1000 for gambling in two venues, Biloxi and Vegas. I placed $20.00 on the table and received four $5.00 chips. The dealer called out, “Changing twenty” and a man standing at a tower behind us acknowledged the exchange.

Within :30, I turned the $20 into $50. By the time my stack had grown to over $100, I had to get up to stretch and visit the men’s room. When I returned, my dealer had been replaced by “Christine” and all the players had new faces. I took my seat and continued to play. $200 gone just like that! I started to leave when a roulette table called to me. $40 slipped through my fingers very rapidly. One more trip to the restroom and it was time to go…$240 lighter. Back at the Blackjack table, I took my time losing an additional $60 and headed for the door.

It was dark. “Poor Charlie,” I thought to myself. He’s going to be crossing his legs when and if I find my way back to the coach. The Jeep was where I’d left it. Traffic was light until I approached the bridge access that would take me to Highway 67N. Cars were at a standstill-their lights competing with the lights along the casino corridor. Great!

But it was great. Looking to my right, as far as the eye could comprehend, boats and ships alike were adorned in festive holiday lights. They spanned a great distance but were in a single file headed toward Biloxi. It was a magnificent view and one I would have missed had I stuck to my original plan. People lined the street waiting for something to happen. My guess would be a fireworks display or the parade of ships was about to begin. Losing $300 was almost worth the price of admission to this wonderful Christmas parade.

The Mississippi night was turning cold and I found myself back at the coach within 15 minutes. Charlie was anxious to see me and happy to go outside. After concluding his business, he ate a good dinner and retired to his room to play with his toys.

It was an illuminating day in more ways than one. I can truly understand how gambling can become an addiction. “One more hand. I know I’m going to do well, just one more hand.” Right. Even now as I am readying for tomorrow’s travels, I have the urge to run back into town to try my luck…I won’t. I know better. In fact, I don’t plan on going into anymore casinos, ever.

Well, maybe in Vegas!

Still needing catsup and sodas, Charlie and I ventured out today; Sunday. And needing fuel in the Jeep as well as the coach we found a good station, filling the Jeep and planning a stop Sunday morning to fill the coach…again.

We drove for over an hour trying to find a grocery store. Walmart was fairly close to Lakeview, but the traffic was horrendous. Finally found a Winn-Dixie and along with other basics bought a broiled chicken. Wow! Cajun style…didn’t expect that…wonderful…

Just a note, an observation…I’ve got a great camera…a Nikon D90 but taking it with me is inconvenient in a Jeep that basically cannot be locked. The rear windows merely zip out making valuables easy targets for the bad guys. So…next time I see a “big box”, I’m going to pick up a pocket camera for our excursions that take us away from the security of the coach.

Charlie has problems and after administering his medicine received a good meal of chicken (Cajun), rice and regular food. I had the same minus dog kibbles. Hope his poor tummy settles before hitting the road tomorrow…

Today is tomorrow or tomorrow is today. Cold and windy packing the coach and hooking up the Jeep (TOAD). Winds whipped us all the way to Baton Rouge. Charlie is still ill but seems to be getting better. He misses Tom’s cats.

We had to use Verizon’s GPS to find the Catfish Heaven RV and Aqua Farm in St. Martinville, La. Google’s directions were far too hard to follow. This might be a great campground in finer weather. Now, it is all but deserted. The host is retired Air Force. He was a C-130 instructor. Born in Brooklyn, NY…he landed in the deep south never regretting his decision.

Sites here are spacious, flat and poured concrete. There’s only a handful of trailers and/or coaches and all amenities are closed. In warmer weather there are fishing tournaments, catfish eating contests, Cajun cooking and more. The clubhouse features pool tables, a giant screen television and a small restaurant, “Ca Cest Bon”? I would guess that means it’s pretty good.

Charlie and I are tired tonight. We only drove a couple hundred miles but getting the coach ready in the cold of morning, in the wind of morning and driving the rig in heavy winds is tough. Then, once at the new site, setting up camp…even a short drive becomes and all day event. Additionally, navigating a city like Baton Rouge adds to the stress of the day. Crossing over the Henderson Swamp is accomplished via a narrow “bridge” that seems to go on forever! Yes, we are tired. Did see an authentic “air boat” though.

Next stop, Texas!

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