By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

Day 1 – We’re in New Orleans, about to experience one of the world’s great annual celebrations, Mardi Gras.  We arrived here two days early to get settled and meet some of the 44 other couples that signed up for an RV rally.  More on that in a minute.

Our group’s introduction to the Mardi Gras season Sunday was beautiful, a bit chilly, but when the sun smiled on us, it couldn’t have been much better.

Before I continue, I want to clarify something.  Participating in the revelry in New Orleans is not dangerous.  Some places in the city do get crowded, but most viewing areas along residential streets are family-friendly. 

On Mardi Gras Tuesday (February 21, this year) and the weekend preceding it, the city swells to a million people.  It’s fun, and considering the number of people over-indulging, it’s unusually safe and fun.

Crime?  Every city faces it, but none of them have the high level of crowd control and crime deterrence that New Orleans has and incidents are relatively rare.  THAT’S WHY THE MILLION PEOPLE RETURN.

A rally is similar to a caravan.  However, instead of moving from location to location each day or two, in a rally, we all settle into one park (a state park this time) and are bused to events – and there are dozens on the schedule over the 10-day urban adventure.

This past Sunday, we traveled across the mile-wide Mississippi River from the park to “the Avenue,” which all N’Awlins natives know as St. Charles Avenue, one of the most stately, mansion-lined residential streets in America.  We positiioned our folding chairs along the parade route, got ready for the King of Carrollton’s float and were not disappointed when it rolled toward us a few minutes later.

We love Fourth of July in Idyllwild, but Mardi Gras parades are not like any others you’ve experienced.  There is the splendor, of course. Masses of folks line the streets … but that’s where the first difference shows up.  Where else do you see children in homemade seats atop folding ladders?

Where else do you see so many parade-watchers wearing silly hats?  When the parade arrives, that’s when all hell breaks loose.  At no other parade venue do sensible, sedentary, normal-type citizens jump out of their chairs to vie for the cherished beads and other items thrown from floats.

For Sunday’s parades, we boarded buses mid-morning to position ourselves early with ample turf from which to compete with cute 5-year-old towheaded children and grey-haired great-grandmothers for Mardi Gras beads, cups and stuffed toys, etc.  Don’t be accusatory!  It’s part of the ritual accepted by even the weakest of the species along the route.

Each parade is manned by a “krewe,” the local name for carnival organizations, as in the first parade our group experienced, the “Krewe of Carrollton.”  Krewe members are mostly masked and wearing costumes that carry out the theme of the float, which helps carry out the theme of the entire parade.

All that is very interesting, of course, but when you’re trying to catch beads, it’s hard pay attention to any of it.   In the second of Sunday’s parades — the Krewe of King Arthur — floats depicted “King Arthur Celebrates the Louisiana Statehood Bicentennial.”  The theme is lost to many concentrating on the next float approaching their viewing spot.  The krewes take a lot of time and go to a lot of expense to explore the theme.  On the ground, however, probably only a small percentage even realizes there was a theme.

Members of our rally “krewe” got their first glimpse of what Mardi Gras is all about.

I’ll mention here that I spent the first two-thirds of my life in New Orleans.  When I’m asked where I’m from, it’s always New Orleans.  The Crescent City has a culture all its own, and I am still part of that culture.  After that statement, Monique and I differ on the “where we’re from” explanation.  Monique says we have a cabin in on a mountain in Southern California; I say we travel full-time.

Monique is experiencing her first Mardi Gras.  She liked it, but I think the most memorable part was eating beignets (famous New Orleans powdered-sugar-coated donuts) at a restaurant a few feet from our viewing area.

It was when we climbed back into our travel trailer at about 4 p.m. and she spread our “loot” out on the floor that she was struck by the glittering fun and excitement of Mardi Gras.  And that’s just the beginning.

If I hadn't been busy playing photographer, our haul of beads would have been larger. No one leaves empty-handed.

Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill

Barry & Monique



© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved




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Across No-Man’s-Land to Mardi Gras

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

A Welcoming Rest Stop Along Interstate 20We, “the Never-Bored RVers,” paused from our almost five years as full-timers to purchase and build an addition to a cabin in in Fern Valley.   We took a few scenic jaunts in 2012 year, but our main focus was on the cabin.

With the commitment to participate in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, we hitched up at the beginning of the month and, knowing the construction was in good hands, ventured out for a 2,000-mile journey that included desert, range, forests, bayous … and butterbean!

 Had we been in a great hurry, we would have opted for Interstate 10 all the way, but we chose instead to veer from the desolate path that we have suffered too often for the excitement of Interstate 20, the route connecting West Texas with Abilene, Dallas, Nashville and beyond.

“butterbean” [“and itz lower case, I ain’t a hi-falutin Capital case
type!! I’m just me!!”] is a frequent  commenter to my submissions on RV.net, the Good Sam Club news site .  Finding him interesting and often a jovial contributions to the blogs, we decided to take him up on an invitation to drop by “the ranch” if we were in the neighborhood.  We had the time for a visit, so off the beaten path (if I-20 can be called an unbeaten path) we ventured.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, we scanned the Texas State Map for a good stopping point along the way, eventually choosing Colorado City State Park.  The ‘miles and miles’ of ‘miles and miles’ were relentless.  For anyone longing for hours of isolation from the real world, this is a recommended route.

Texas, famous for its oil wells, does not disappoint.  The vast level scrub desert is dotted with the ground-pecking pumps, and when their reign over the landscape ends, up jump the power-producing windmills … miles of them grazing among the barren never-ending desert … in rows, in clusters, a few strays, all apparently connected to the power grid with underground cables.

 The windmills and a few pumps dominate the sandy terrain, eventually giving way to rangeland with a few small herds of cattle.  We didn’t see any of the trademark Texas Longhorns until we got to East Texas and Louisiana.

One surprise was prosperity surrounding Odessa.  Manufacturing and distribution facilities abound, many of them oilpatch-related, cropping up in the middle of nowhere, and even more, we were caught off-guard when the population of plants continued to line the interstate and well back into the desert for mile after mile.

As per instructions, we veered from I-20 for a 75-mile drive on side roads.   There was butterbean, wife Joyce and their menagerie of horses coming out to greet us.  Their home, mostly hidden by their Georgie Boy motorhome parked in the front yard, is a traditional rustic one-story, featuring walls lined and countertops speckled with items they have collected over the years before and since moving from the Dallas area.

"butterbean," left, and, Monique visits with Joyce

Both have retired to the work of taking care of the half-dozen or so American miniature horses plus Rosie, the mare who was the first to beg Monique for attention.  When not outside with the herd, butterbean said he spends his time on the computer, monitoring RV.net and other websites and blogsites.

Running short of time, we threaded our way between the fence posts and over the cattle gap, back onto the country road heading to the U.S. 84, once a major highway, now a connection between red lights and once prosperous towns.

That led us to the beautiful city of Natchitoches, Louisiana, worth a blog on its own, and then on narrow roads to visit my new granddaughter, her big sister and mother near Fort Polk (my son is attending a military school for promotion).  From there we showed up at my sister’s home in time for 16 pounds of the best crawfish we ever tasted.

And finally, we reached our destination:  New Orleans, where Mardi Gras is just 10 days away.  New Orleans is my hometown, where I grew up, worked and was part of the local scene for the first two-thirds of my life.  Beginning tomorrow, we will experience New Orleans to its fullest, having decided to participate in Adventure Caravan’s Mardi Gras Rally.

You’ll be hearing more about our experiences here over the next two weeks.  As for us, we’re getting ready to meet our fellow travelers at orientation.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler” – Let the Good Time Roll!

Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill

Barry & Monique



© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved


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By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander

If the title of this blog were really what it’s about, most people wouldn’t bother opening it, but I’ll try to make it worth your time to read on.

Monique Climbs the Stairs to The Getty

Last Saturday (January 21), we boarded a bus with 34 stalwart local culture-seekers for a two-plus hour trip to the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  In addition to being housed in a true work of modern art, and in addition to having free admission, this is always worth the long ride across the Southern California freeways.  But that only touches on “the where,” not “the what” that this article is about.

The What” is actually two-fold.  It’s about expanding any museum experience, and it’s about my wondering, “Why is the photographic art on the walls ‘art’ and my photography just photography?  Let’s take them one at a time.

Whenever Monique and I visit a museumof any kind in our travels across North America, whether it’s high art, classic cars or American natives history, I try to engage the docents or guards in conversation, asking, “What shouldn’t I miss in this room or in the museum?”  When it first started doing this, Monique was skeptical … until she heard the kinds of answers it elicited.

How DID Claude Monet See the Whole Scene and Paint a Few Inches from the Canvas?

“If you look closely, you’ll see the artist’s lover in the purple swirl.”  Or “It was

Smith’s earliest work, so there are inconsistencies that show how her artistry developed,” or “It’s here because the curator wants it here.  Makes no sense to me.”   I laughed when I heard something close to that from a Getty guard.

What was startling for me several years ago was when I asked a 25ish goateed guard which was his favorite work in the room he monitored, expecting him to tell me he had no idea.  Instead, he walked over to a very confusing piece, where he explained what he felt was the meaning of the subject depicted.  Wow!

Dottie Goldfarb and Adele Voell Admire a Moreau

While chamber-hopping last week at The Getty, we crossed paths with Adele Voell and Dottie Gardfarb, members of our Idyllwild group, who were watching the guard point a beam from his flashlight into a painting, showing them some hidden treasure.  It’s what I consider a gesture that greatly enhanced their entire visit.

Are you still with me? I want to digress for a moment and expand that to souvenir shops.  “Hi,” I say, as Monique looks for a place to hide.  “I’m a tourist.”

“Nooooo,” is the usual reply.  That leads to the clerk/often the owner asking the typical questions that don’t need answers about where we’re from, etc.  And now for the ‘payoff.”  I ask something like, “Where shouldn’t we eat around here?  That’s when the conversation opens up.  We learn the best place to eat, what we shouldn’t miss while visiting, and even a bit of hidden history, good and evil.  What was ‘just another town’ becomes a memorable stop in our travels.

Example:  Ask the forest rangers in El Rio, Texas, where not to eat.


Surfer Dude at Huntington Beach, California


Well, it is.  Why isn’t it hanging in galleries and museums?  Because I’ve never taken the time to have it prepared for canvas and framing.  Whether it qualifies as art or not is not the issue.  It’s the intention.

You take pictures during your travels:

To remember the great places you’ve been

To send to the kids

To post on your Facebook page

Because it’s free after buying the camera and memory card

To print and sell as a fund-raiser for your church bazaar.

It’s pretty much like crocheting or woodworking, I guess.  Are the

crocheted booties for your granddaughter or to donate to your church’s thrift shop?  Is it a pastime while you’re watching reruns of Oprah?  Or something else?

Avalanche Lake at Glacier National Park – Elements of Art

Our granddaughter receives an exquisite carving every year from a friend of the family.  Each piece would sell for $75 to $250 in a gallery, but he gives it to her for free.  It’s love and it’s because he treasures his works so much he doesn’t want to consider their commercial value.

My Stairway Art, Taken in Savannah

I was looking at a photograph of a stairway at the Getty.  I’ve taken pictures just as good, but his is art and mine is, well, still in my collection of snapshots.

Maybe I should take the high road and say, “I don’t want to lower myself by having my work valued.”  Ain’t gonna happen.  It’s just not a priority to turn what my eye sees into museum or gallery art.

I always put the emphasis on taking photos for the memories – it’s part of our richness in life.  And, of course, to make these blogs more interesting.

It’s another reason we’re On Top of the World.

Somewhere a Rainbow ...

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved


The Idyllwild Troops' Assembly

Marshall Smith (in Orange) and Nancy Borchers (in White) Peer Over One of The Getty Gardens



Marilyn O'Connor (left) & Jan Bruner Pause to Admire

Aboard the Bus

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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