Back to Texas Again: An ironclad, a late start and crawfish

By 2 p.m. on Jan. 25, we realized we probably wouldn’t make it all the way from Chattanooga to Meridian, Mississippi. Packing, cleaning and repacking wasn’t going as quickly as we’d hoped.

By 5 p.m., we were calling my cousin in Birmingham to see if her driveway was available.

By 8 p.m., we were settling in to spend the night in the RV in the driveway in Chattanooga, having never even cranked the engine.

After about three weeks in Chattanooga, Jan. 25 was our day to get back on the road again. But it didn’t exactly work that way. There were no problems, we just couldn’t get loaded up and ready in time, which led to our night in the driveway. This is what happens when an extreme optimist plans your schedule I had thought that Jess could work until Friday Jan. 19, we could run a film festival over the weekend and be ready to go Wednesday morning. In hindsight, I’m not sure what I was thinking.

Once we got on the road, things went a little more smoothly:


For a little background, I helped found an outdoor adventure and conservation film festival called the Lookout Wild Film Festival in Chattanooga back right after Braden was born. The festival has grown into a 4-day, 60+ film, 3,300 attendee monster that sometimes feels like it takes over my life. The fifth annual festival was scheduled for Jan. 19-22 so we
knew we needed some time in Chattanooga in January. Then in November, Jess’s former employer had called and they asked if she would be willing to help out and work for a couple of weeks in January or February while a coworker
k9nizwas on maternity leave. The opportunity to be back in Chattanooga for three weeks to stay at the Rabun’s home, work on the film festival and allow Jess to earn a couple of paychecks was too good to pass up. We really enjoyed seeing friends, including celebrating the birth of our dear friends Patrick and Beverly’s baby daughter. The timing couldn’t have been better. It also gave us a chance to do a little maintenance like getting new front brakes on the Honda. More on that later.

The film festival went really well including an appearance by our Canadian friends Julie and Christian. With me being on the road with wi-fi that can’t usually handle streaming movies to preview all of the films, I had to rely on other volunteers and board members much more than in years past. This was a major blessing in disguise because I enjoyed the festival more than I ever had and I think the overall experience was better for everyone. Thank you to everyone who helped and attended!

Jess was very thankful to be offered the opportunity to work at PACE again temporarily to help out a co-worker preparing for maternity leave. It was wonderful to see all of her co-workers, some previous clients and meet new ones. It was also great to dust of her social work skills and put them to use.

Getting to Texas and eating crawfish

Losing the travel time on that Wednesday in the driveway meant we would have to hustle to Texas to get back on schedule.

On Thursday
we bolted through Alabama and made it all the way to Vicksburg on the Mississippi River on Thursday night.

After a quick stop at Vicksburg National Battlefield, we pushed on along I-20 through Louisiana and across the line into Texas. Friday the 27th was my birthday so our target was the one and only Seth’s restaurant in Quitman, Texas. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I have a love for Seth’s that knows no bounds. The last two years on my birthday, Jess has said “We can go anywhere you want for dinner.” I’ve sadly said, “No we can’t because where I want to go is Seth’s and it’s 700 miles away.” But 2017 was different.

We pulled into Seth’s that evening and were very fortunate to meet up my friend and client Mcxie and her family. Not only were timg_0066hey excellent company that night, but they were crawfish coaches. We’d never eaten crawfish before but it was crawfish season and that’s a specialty at Seth’s. Even super-picky-eater Braden got in on the action. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Crawfish are delicious.
  2. Make sure they are curved, because the ones with straight tails died before they were cooked and that can be sketchy.
  3. After you eat the tail meat, you can suck out the juices from the head, but this is best done in a not well-lit area so you don’t see too much.
  4. Never look back in the shells after you eat it.
  5. There are some words in Texan I may never understand.

It was delicious. Jess and I both think crawfish are better than lobster, crab or shrimp — and we love shrimp. In addition, we enjoyed Seth’s new boudin (boo-dan) egg rolls, DGS, catfish and white chocolate caramel bread pudding. Make the drive to Seth’s people. It’s worth it.

More Texas

From Quitman, we headed for Fort Worth where Jess’s brother Jamey and his wife were attending a wedding. It was nice to visit with them and we went to the historic Fort Worth Stockyard the next morning.

We had planned to stay at another “free” Thousand Trails campground 40 miles south of Ft. Worth that night, but on the way, we noticed our front tire temperature on our Honda was up really hot. When I stopped to check it, I heard a hissing noise and saw the front driver side tire going flat. The wheel and tire were so hot that the hubcaps were starting to melt. Apparently, the towing brake box that was designed to stop the car if it ever detached from the RV had shifted and was pushing down on the brake pedal enough to create a lot of heat on the braking system. The heat had caused the air in the tire to expand, which blew out a seal on the valve stem of the tire. When I changed it to the spare, the wheel was so hot that the tire tool I was using to unscrew the lug nuts started getting too hot to hold. With the spare on, we had just enough time to get to a nearby Walmart tire center before they closed. The guy fixed it at no charge and off we went again. Luckily for us, the flat and flat repair had taken place about 4 miles from a Jellystone Campground, so we changed plans and stayed there. This made Braden very happy. At the Yogi park we enjoyed a giant game of Connect Four and being serenaded by a guitar player. Braden even made requests for songs with Country Roads and Ghostriders in the sky.

More Texas


After Fort Worth we headed south through Austin and San Antonio. You may know that Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and I think we discovered why. Austin is home to what may be the western-most Zaxby’s and eastern-most In-n-Out Burger in the US. It’s the only place I know of where they co-exist. That explains everything!img_5804

West of San Antonio, I had set up a work meeting in Ingram, Texas. Ingram is home to a Stonehenge replica which made for a fun stop.

We stayed for a night at an oil workers campground in Fort Stockton, which was our sketchiest campground to date. I walked the dogs twice without incident, but Jess and Braden didn’t get out of the RV the whole time we were there. My only other trip outside of the RV was to chain the bicycles to the bike rack, just in case. The reviews of the campsite online said “standard West Texas setup” and we soon learned that you have to kind of adjust some standards out in West Texas.

img_9726Our final stop in Texas was Guadalupe Mountains National Park, right near the New Mexico border. It’s home to very pretty hiking trails, the highest point in Texas and possibly the least friendly park rangers in the National Park system. It was a nice stop for a hike, but it’s not one of the “must-see” national parks.

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