So I'm alive!  I quit my job and just started a new one today...which is why I find myself in a crappy hotel in Sacramento.  After a full day of going over policies and procedures, I'm ready to hit the road back to Oregon.  But alas, it's not meant to be.  I'm here for the week.  And, turns out the guy making the hotel reservations (as cool as he may otherwise be) is a cheapskate.  First, nothing is nearby except the office which is a bit of a walk.  Wait, maybe I should start with, FIRST, the company car I'm supposed to be using is being used by someone else.  So, I'm on foot.  The nearest place to eat is around the corner, over the overpass, down the street and through the woods to Grandma's house. Second, the room has two beds...which is a good thing since I pulled the fancy cover back (famous for being infected will all kinds of crap) only to find a blanket beneath that looks like it hasn't been washed for years.  I'm talking HAIR and all kind of stuff.  I actually grabbed one thing with a piece of toilet paper to see if it was squishable.  The other really cool thing is there's a wet spot on the floor.  I can't tell what it is, and don't think I'm going to lean down and sniff that stuff.  Let's just say as I was walking down the breezeway I took a second to look behind me and make sure there wasn't a bloody print from my shoe.  It's THAT kind of place.

Beyond that, I've checked for bed bugs, hidden cameras and bodies under the bed.  All clear.  Well, except that my skin is itching and there's a good chance I may go into shock from all the dust.  Did I mention I'm allergic to dust mites?  Yeah.  Awesome.  Good call on quitting the solid 40 hour a week job with excellent benefits so I could go private.  I'm sure it will all work out.  I mean, after all, how much worse can it get?

So, I'm in this new job because in part, it will give me freedom to take multiple weeks off if I so choose so I can ride my moto!  So excited for that part.  It's a good thing.  I would love to stay and chat about where I'm going to ride but I need to get a black light and some rubber gloves.  

Cheers for now.

From NOLO I headed north to Monroe, LA again (had to return a POS camera) so I stopped and hoped to see the Duckmen again. No such luck.  Evasive bastards.   Headed to Tyler, TX for the night since they had a RUDY's BBQ...which I ate for dinner and breakfast.

After Tyler, I rushed to Waco, TX,  my favorite destination:  The Branch Davidian Compound. Last time I was in Waco I had back pal Jenn (well, if you count someone who ditches you and leaves you with strangers as back up).  This time, I was solo and really just curious about how the place had changed over the last few years.  Why?  I have no idea. Mostly, I was wondering how much the place has grown and if the troops of religious zealots had returned...and if so, what did they hope to gain?

The place looked much like it did in 2011 when I was there.  The only major change was the awesome fence surrounding the place.  Imagine my shock as I drove past the church and saw Simon, the man who had given me the previous tour in 2011.  He was tending the garden and as I made my way to his location, he kept working, not looking up until I was almost standing next to him.  He wasn't wearing the hat I'd come to associate with him, but a simple baseball cap.  His teeth had been fixed and when smiled he wasn't as scary as he had been previously.  I introduced myself and told him I just stopped by to check things out.  He said I must have come back for a reason.  I insisted I was just curious...and he proceeded to break into a sermon that would revel all sermons...talking about how I was sent there and how I should just go home and pack my things and come back because it was God's will.  Hmm...that'll teach me to visit.   Charles Pope (the most recent preacher) called Simon and he disappeared, rushing to do Pope's bidding.
The church at the Branch Davidian Compound 2013
I wandered over to the church where two dogs were scurrying my way with big barks and wagging tails.  Along the way a small rat snake cross my path...reminding me where I was and that evil, scary crap was all around.

Simon came back and asked my name.  When I told him, he started talking about how Jess is a branch and I was meant to be at the compound.  I eased over to my car and kept smiling...wondering if anyone would notice if I were kidnapped.  We exchanged numbers and I was quickly on my way.  Yes, fine, judge me.  But frankly, I think being on the inside with a scoop of the next massively religious Waco event would be cool.  Or maybe not.  

From there, I went to the library to do some serious research, stopped by the Texas Ranger Museum for a tour and spent a great bit of time at the hotel, chatting it up with the a local about the day Waco went wild.   
Today's journey took me from Monroe to Mississippi to Myrtles Plantation (most haunted place in Louisiana?) to Baton Rouge to New Orleans (NOLO).

Myrtles Plantation...reportedly haunted.....
My plan was to spend a night in Baton Rogue but after hearing everyone talk about NOLO I decided I may as well keep driving the extra hour and a half.  I found a hotel in the French Quarter that wasn't badly priced and booked three nights.  The Chateau Hotel is on Chartres and St. Phillip and it has parking (win)!   Apparently in NOLO's French Quarter they can charge any price they want for a hotel, so each daily rate is different, even if you book at the same time.  WTF.  I ended up paying $109 per night for a room smaller than the size of my living room.  It had a tiny tub (seriously, it looked like someone stole it from an RV) and even the bathroom door was mini.  But, it was in a good location and had really good AC (though the TV was from 1980 but I'm wasn't really there for the TV).  There was a small courtyard that had a pool and some seating areas.  It was a nice place...nicer than my buddy's place across the street...which made me feel like I scored (and I actually found $20 when checking under the bed for serial killers, so double score).  

The wildest ladies I've met in a long time, The "Ohio's"
The first night I was there I was walking around lost when a man named Walter stopped to help. Walter does maintenance at St. Louis Graveyard #1 during the day and walks the FQ at night just helping people with directions.  Turns out Walter is quite the tour guide.  As we were walking he was telling me all about each house or restaurant's ghosts and residents.  It was pretty cool.  As we were walking we stumbled across two other tourists (from Ohio) who were trying to find their way back to their hotel.  We gathered them up, cautioned them at every curb (seriously, they had been drinking a bit) and we all had a jolly time learning about FQ and chatting it up.  One of them was wearing an Oregon shirt (ISUN:  I shit u not!)  so we became fast friends.

I made my way to Coop's and had some awesome (but very spicy) Gumbo with rabbit and deer meat. Then met Ohio 1 & Ohio 2 at their hotel bar...where they continued to drink Hurricaine's and amaze me with their drinking ability.

The next morning we hit Cafe Du Monde for beignets (which were good but possibly not worth the hype I've been hearing about them all week, I mean, who doesn't love a donut smothered in powdered sugar?).  The Ohio's and I then walked to the graveyard to meet Walter.  Good times.  I won't bore you with the details.  We did NOT see any ghosts but we did see Nicholas Cage's tomb (thinking ahead and apparently why he's in debt...) also did not find Walter for our personal tour so I may go back and try again.

Cemetery #1, NOLO
We parted ways so the Ohio's could hit Harrah's casino and I could go to Hotel Montecello  (the most haunted hotel in Louisiana ...hmmm  a lot of places are claiming that....).  I ate breakfast there, giving the ghosts time to wake up.  They didn't.  Oh well.   I then tromped back to my hotel, stopping at some shops that caught my fancy along the way.

Talented 'gator.   
The next few days were spent hanging with the Ohio's, eating great food, touring the city, drinking (a lot more than I would have though given the Ohio's ages).  While sitting in a bar waiting for a ghost tour a group of wedding goers paraded down the street with music and umbrellas waving...totally the coolest thing I've ever seen.  We went on an alligator tour that rocked. This is a MUST do...though by the end I was freaking out about snakes and not too concerned about the alligators.  Apparently the best time to go to see the 'gators is in May when they are waking up from the winter and hungry....note to sell....stay away in May.

Overall, my time in NOLO was awesome.  Mostly thanks to the great company.  But, I was excited to get stop...Waco TX.  Not your typical tourist destination, but me, I'm definitely "Waco Curious".

Flew into Dallas, TX yesterday with the intent of taking a week of vacation to do...well...nothing.  I had the pleasure of sitting by two dudes from Tok, Alaska on the flight.  These guys, Darrel and Scotty, ended up being really cool.  Funny cool.  The kind of people you wish you were in a bar with, sipping (or chugging) the night away because you just KNOW there will be some great stories and a whole lotta laughter.  After ditching the men I jumped in my sporty rental car (Hyundai Elantra) and drove to the Rudy's BBQ that was on my way to Monroe, LA.  Yeah, I admit it, I drove an hour out of my way to Tyler Texas just to get BBQ.  It was worth it.  As I sat in the parking lot in my Elantra (because some things are better in private), I thought, good BBQ is like sex.  The excitement of what could be is almost torture and when you finally get it, it doesn't last nearly long enough (maybe I should stop that train of thought right now before my pervo friends make comments).

I ended up driving a total of almost six hours to my destination, West Monroe, LA.  Why West Monroe?  Well, Duck Dynasty, of course.  I have not been a devoted fan this season, though I do have the episodes waiting on my DVR...but still, this was at least a place to visit.  I ended up getting into town around 11:00 PM and was happy to have booked my hotel in advance, as I met a nice lady out front who was turned away in the pouring rain.  I'm used to rain.  Oregon is rain grand central.  We do rain.  We do rain well.  But, in Oregon the rain doesn't usually keep me up...or come with thunder storms that rattle my bed.  I finally fell asleep around midnight only to be awakened around 1:00 AM by the loudest  storm I've ever heard.  Pounding and shaking weather that you only read about.  It was like someone was dumping a full water truck on my window.  I seriously started wondering if evacuation sirens were going to sound.

This morning I slept in (vacation, remember?) and drove to the Duck Dynasty home front, their duck call warehouse.  Now, keep in mind, I haven't watched the show this season except for maybe one episode...but somewhere along the lines, the TV made the warehouse look like it was in the country...and well...I could go on, but let's just say I saved you a trip.

There are houses next door, a car wash on one corner and a auto parts store on the other, and a large parking lot that I'm guessing they had to put in because of the FLOCK of tourists.  Despite it being closed today (along with everything else that's awesome in this town), There was a steady stream of Duck stalkers...and I drove by twice just to make sure I wasn't completely crazy...which makes me sound crazy.  But, in my defense, my hotel is right up the street.   I met people from Georgia and Texas...and one cowboy whom I think should have been more afraid of ending up in my suitcase than he was.   He was McDucklicious.  

That's me at the compound.  I know my head is too small for my body.  Must have been something I ate.  
I did the whole "Duck Dynasty" day...for a few hours until I became increasingly bored.  I drove to a few eateries the gang had used in the show...Haskel's Donuts (a block from my hotel and an overly sweet 60 cent donut), Danken Trail (where I was planning on eating BBQ but found it closed), Catfish Cabin (which came in second place on my food list but was also closed), Landry Vineyards (the wine episode, also closed), at I attempted to find Excalibur Family Fun but got lost and decided there was no family fun I'd experience there anyway (you know, on account of me being alone and all).

I finally settled for a steakhouse...ordered me a nice steak and some shrimp (cause it seemed like a mandatory thing since I'm in Louisiana) and a margarita.  Um, yeah, no hard liquor served (It's Sunday, you tourist!).  Of all the disappointments I've had in life, being stuck in West Monroe without a margarita is up on the list near the top.

Tomorrow I hit the Duck Store and buy some trinkets for my Alaska pals, and maybe a few of my friends if you all promise to post photos of yourself with beards.  Monroe and West Monroe are pretty run of the mill towns.  I was hoping West Monroe would be more rural and picturistic but it's not.  I found everyone here very nice and approachable and hey, Jack, no one seems to care about the Robertson's other than us tourists.  One chick in Walmart even said she's always asked if she sees them and she never has.  Hmm..maybe they ship them in...cause I sure didn't see anyone with a long beard wearing camo around.  I'm betting those boys don't come to town much.

PS.  So far, Louisiana is a lot like Oregon...but we have better roads.  Much better roads.  It's also green and lush here...but in Oregon we don't have as many things hiding under rocks and in the waters that can kill you.   Yeah, I choose Oregon.

Just a quick note to share with you some things you missed this summer...

I went to the BMW Rally in Salem this was so close to my house I just had to go.  Volunteered for three days and sat in on a good lecture and on one that was "so so".  The "so so" one was on riding in Oregon...and I was pretty amazed at the level of local knowledge that was not represented.  I thought surely there would be some stuff that knocked my socks know...something I could learn since I know there are a million places I have yet to explore.  Nada.  There was a great slide showing how moss sometimes grows on the roads...and how deer can sometimes get in the way.  Uh huh.  Thanks.  Most of the riders represented I'm sure they are already fully aware of the hazards of the road...even if they aren't from Oregon.  There were a lot of vendors present, which was pretty cool...but it was in attending this rally (even from mostly the sidelines, as it were) that made me realize riding is about having fun and enjoying what you are doing.  It's about finding your own way and not feeling the need to be a follower.  It's about riding at your speed, to your destinations, the way you feel most comfortable.  And, thus, I've decided that group rides suck.  Sure, they serve a purpose.  But, for me, with what I want to do in life, group rides are a lot like going to the dentist.  I go because I have to, but I certainly don't look forward to them and I only want to do it once a year if possible.

Which brings me to the other thing I did this summer...the Third Annual Chris Kilcullen Memorial Ride.  I've ridden this ride ONCE and have volunteered for the three years it's been going.  Each year it seems we do more to improve the ride and make it a fun event...and each year this takes many months of planning, meetings, emails, texts, and endless hours and minutes from my life that is already filled to capacity with work, my dog and going to school full time.  I do it because I believe in the cause, because I want to make a difference, and because I consider the people I volunteer with to be my friends.  This year we had another great turn out...almost 400 riders and passengers.  It was almost a disaster with the food, lunch location issues and sponsor "dilly dally" issues but we pulled it off and I'm proud to say we fully funded the Chris Kilcullen Memorial Scholarship at $50,000.  That goal having been met, next year we are hoping to start giving back to the community by donating the money raised to worthy charities.  That's where the fun begins.  There will always be a place in my heart for this ride, despite the fact that I may not always be as involved as I wish I could be.  

I did just give Runkle his 12,000 mile service at the tune of $533 and replaced the chain and sprocket at another $300 all within the same week...which is enough to make any self respecting BMW rider want to throw in the towel and buy a Kawasaki KLR.  I can't even think about that anymore, let alone write about it.  

The summer has come and gone and again, I didn't do as much as I'd have liked.  Next year...there's always next year.  I probably say that a lot.  But yeah, next year I'm going to do some awesome shit.  Promise.  In the meantime, I'm going to start doing more dirt and gravel roads and researching...because as I move toward the future I see a lot more of those in my story.  After all, that's what Runkle was made for.  I'll try to keep you updated...until then....

Be safe.

After the BBQ disaster, Lou and I decided to drown our sorrows at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Vegas, home of the History Channel's Pawn Stars.  This is a tiny looking building in the middle of chaos.  And in front, a long line of admirers, actually waiting in the 100 degree heat to go inside and catch a peek.  Um, didn't they see the sign that said "Open 24 hours" ???  Why not come back when no one is there?

Anyhoo, we drove past a few times and decided jointly that waiting in line to get into a shop that sells used crap was a bust.  So instead we headed over to another television favorite, Counts Kustoms.

They weren't that far away from each other so if you see one, you may as well see the other.  Counts Kustoms is located in a tiny little industrial park with minimal parking with GRUMPY (notice all caps) neighbors.  Some of the custom rides were out front.  The totally cool Volkswagen Bus was a particular favorite of mine.  We would have gotten more photos but the jackass in the glass shop came out and was screaming at us.  Boy did he lose a sale.  You know, if I'm ever in Vegas and need a piece of automobile glass, he is SO NOT getting my business.

A few minutes away from Count's Kustoms is another television stalker (I mean "fan") favorite, Rick's Restorations.  I've spent some time watching this show with my peeps so I know there's cool stuff there.  Oh you have no idea.  There IS.  But you can't really see any unless you want to take a $50.00 tour of the place.  What the hell?  It's not enough that they have a million t-shirts (no, I didn't get you one) for sale along with mugs, stickers, magnets, etc.  No, they have to RUIN history by charging us.  It's not like they charge you to get into the Oval office (oh wait....).   There was some pretty cool stuff in one room, but everything had these signs that said "Do NOT touch."  Geez.  Buzz Kills.  It made me want to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go to TOWN on this stuff.  Smear.  Smish.  Smear.  Take that, Rick!!!!
Lola's -  YUMMMY
The best thing about being a television stalker is you always get second chances...our second chance came in the form of Lola's - A Louisiana Kitchen, another Diners, Drive Ins and Dive's pick.  And, shockingly well placed on a map, it was RIGHT around the corner from Rick's. Literally.  You could walk.  Lola's had good reviews from Guy, but more importantly, from Lou's sister, Bean.  We decided to give Guy another chance and BOY HOWDY was he right on track with this place.  Lola's is awesome.

If you go to Lola's, head to the bathroom. Really.  In the hallway there's a huge map of the United States and a tribute to 9/11.  There are map pins so people from all over the United States can put a pin in and show were they are from.  It's kind of cool.  I put a pin in for Lowell, Oregon since that's technically my hometown.

We ended up heading to the liquor store and then rushing to get the rental car back to the airport.  We were going to take the South Point's shuttle back to the casino.  Of course we were cutting it close so we told our shuttle driver from the rental car place we were on a tight timeframe.  He told us that wasn't a problem and he'd get us there in 5 minutes.  Yeah right.  I don't know his name, but he was all tattooed up and said he used to own a few gyms until he met his girlfriend there and got her pregnant.  Apparently she forbid him from going back to that type of work since she was worried he'd meet someone new there. Kind of funny to see such a macho man all whipped up like a ...oh never mind. He was a good driver, even drove through a red light in his zest to make sure we were there on time.  We made it with minutes to spare and as we jumped off the bus and hoofed it toward the terminal we heard someone yelling, "Ladies!  Ladies!"  Lou turned around and noticed it was our driver, pointing the other direction!  We turned around and still ended up getting to the shuttle with at least a minute to spare.  

I'm always amazed when people are kind, as I expect the very worst after living in the big city of Portland.  I'm happy to report most the people we met in Vegas were perfectly wonderful.  In fact, many went out of their way to help us and make sure we were having fun and going to the right places.  Maybe that's one of the reasons we make the yearly pilgrimage...Vegas is a nightmare but the sights and people are pretty darn awesome.      
Today we hatched a brilliant plan to win millions in Vegas.  Ok, you're right.  We didn't.  But we did decide to use the rental car and check out some spots made famous by television.  Well, famous to an extent.  More so now that we've visited them.

Our first stop was John Mull's Meats and Roadkill Grill which was on an episode of Food Network's Diners, Drive-In's and Dives.  You'll need a GPS to get there.  It's tucked into a little neighborhood way off the strip.  It's one of those places you wouldn't find accidentally.  It's got some charm.  A cute seating area complete with fans and misters (which you'll need in the Vegas heat), and a long covered walkway for the lines I hear you'll have to wait in on a regular basis.  We arrived no lines held us back.  Which also meant we were a bit confused on which door to enter through despite the fact that one was aptly signed  "Entrance".  Walk in and you'll wonder if you haven't still taken the wrong door.  Inside you are greeted by a tiny area that houses a butcher shop and steps away, a counter for ordering BBQ.  There isn't room for more than maybe ten customers. All the seating is outside.  We grabbed our grub and headed for the picnic tables.

Pulled pork, brisket, ribs, sausage, mac and cheese and baked beans.
Lou and I were both so very excited to taste awesome BBQ.  This was going to be the highlight of our Vegas trip.  Oh how quickly dreams die with the opening of a food container lid (that was a fat joke, keep up people).

Um, Guy (host of 3D's), I'm sure you know your stuff...but you WERE SO WRONG about this place.  I don't claim to know BBQ (ok, well I claim it a little) but I do know that the BBQ cooking at John Mull's was a disappointment.  Not just for pal Lou didn't like it either.  We ordered a huge assortment...ribs, pulled pork, sausage, and brisket with mac and cheese and baked beans. The reviews rocked.  The food did not. This is probably good BBQ to some people.  I found it flavorless.  It was as if someone boiled all the meats and poured too much bland sauce on it and then slopped it on a plate and crossed their fingers.   This was the first time in history that I've left MEAT on my plate.  I swear, if I hadn't ordered pulled pork, I'd be wondering what that sloppy mess of congealed meat was on my plate.  I'm not going to be too harsh.  I mean, the sides ROCKED.  The mac and cheese was delish..and the beans, though not what I'm used to, packed some great flavor.  I wish the meat would have done the same.  Or that I'd tested it before I ordered extra to take back to the hotel...which ended up in the trash.  If you would have told me a week ago I'd be throwing BBQ away I'd have told you to shut your filthy mouth.   Oh the agony.  It's almost hard to admit I tossed pulled pork in the trash like a virgin throws away her morals at the prom.

Lou shows her disappointment for the worst BBQ ever....

I only hope there's still time to recover from this tragic event during the rest of our vacation. I've written a small poem so you can all feel my pain...

"Disappointment lingers
Where once bbq was on my fingers...."

That's all I came up with.  Sorry, I'm distracted by all the sadness in my heart.  

On to the next stalker local...I mean, place made famous by television....