"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat."
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven't read anything of his, you should take some time and do so. The reason that I chose this quote, however, is because Steve and I watched "Midnight in Paris" last night. It's a movie that just came out on DVD and it has a ton of stars that make cameo appearances throughout. Owen Wilson plays a writer who's in Paris with his fiancee and her parents and every night, at midnight, he has encounters with various figures from history (F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of them) that change his life. I know, it sounds weird but it is truly a wonderful movie. Check it out.
So, we've had a great week. First off, the weather has been spectacular. As I write this, I am watching the Denver/Pittsburgh game and it's still 70 degrees outside. It was just a gorgeous weekend. Both days got up to 76 degrees and the thundershowers that we were to have seemed to pass right on through without leaving a drop. Nice!!!!!
Our first adventure this week was to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. Apparently Central Texas is lousy with dinosaur fossils. Who knew??? Anyway, Steve and I visited a riverbed that had theropod and sauropod tracks that were left in the limestone bed of this shallow river. Apparently these tracks are 113 million years old. A good number of the prints could have been anything, let's be honest here, but there were a couple of three-toed prints that were absolutely spectacular. We also had a nice picnic there as it was a beautiful sunny day.
The next day we took our new truck and trailer on their first journey and headed to Livingston Texas where we stayed at the Escapees headquarters campground. Escapees is a camping club that we belong to. If you are thinking about doing some serious travel with your camper in the future, I highly recommend becoming members of a couple of camping organizations. These organizations provide discounts at a number of campgrounds, but Escapees and Good Sam's go one step further and do a number of things that help full-time campers like Steverino and I. Anyway, we were in Livingston for three days and took the time to check out Livingston Lake State Park. It's a great park with absolutely awesome campsites so if you are in that area, check it out.
The next day we went into Houston and visited the Johnson Space Center. Man, I sure do love rockets and the space program so I was in my glory. Anyway, we took the tram tour around the facility and learned about and saw some really cool stuff. First, there are 14,000 people who work at the Johnson Space Center and part of the land is dedicated to the local school system to use in their FFA programs. They even have a prize-winning longhorn steer on the property that is worth $500,000. Can you imagine the cost of that filet??????
So okay, back to the rockets. Since Steve and I have visited other space facilities (Kennedy in Florida and U.S. Rocket & Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama) so some of what we heard was not new information. But for me, it was just the coolest being at the facility that actually manages the space voyages once they lifted off from Kennedy Space Center. We sat in the room where they mission control group worked through the issues with Apollo 13, which I thought was sweet. We also got to see the actual podium that President Kennedy gave his "We choose to go to th On our visit, we made a stop at the facility where the astronauts train on mocked-up versions of the actual facilities where they will live and work in space (such as the shuttle and the international space station). We also visited a Saturn 5 rocket where we saw the British version of the Travel Channel filming a segment - - so if you are ever in the UK and are watching the Travel Channel and see a segment on the Johnson Space Center and happen to notice a woman with khaki capri pants and a red shirt in the background, that's probably me.
The really cool part of this trip, however, was a tour we took that was guided by an actual rocket scientist. This gentlemen had worked for Lockheed for 40 years through various projects that included the space station and the shuttle and the Saturn 5 rockets. He was so knowledgeable and interesting and took us through the history of the space program using real space equipment and actual moon rocks. That was the best part of the day for me and we capped the day by coming home and watching the movie "Apollo 18". That was a mistake for a number of reasons. First, it was a painfully bad movie. Second, (SPOILER ALERT - do not read the rest of this paragraph if you haven't seen the movie but plan to) the moon rocks in this movie are actually little spiders that kill the astronauts that are sent on the top secret Apollo 18 mission. So, after having touched moon rocks earlier in the day, I was rather creeped out thinking about the possibility that I could have been infected with the spider virus that killed the astronaut in the movie.
That was it for our time in Livingston and for our time in Texas, for that matter. We were in Texas more than any other state and we didn't even scratch the surface. We will be back next winter and check out the Central and Western parts of that State (Austin, San Antonio, and especially Big Bend National Park). We then ventured on to Lafayette, Louisiana and crossed over one of the scariest bridges I have ever been on in my entire life. I am serious when I say this. It was an old bridge that angled up at what appeared to be a 45 degree angle, no kidding. To make matters worse, there was construction on the bridge so we were down to one narrow lane pulling a 40' trailer. I was nearly lightheaded by the time we crossed the center and headed back downhill to the other side. HATED IT.
Back to Lafayette, let me begin by saying I am just taken aback at how much a culture can change in a mere four hours of driving distance. We are in the heart of Acadia or Cajun country and it is hugely different from the cowboy culture we experienced in Texas. The language, the food, the music, all different. It's like being in another country. That's what I love about this United States we live in. We are all Americans but the diversity we've experienced and enjoyed across this great country is remarkable. There is no vanilla in the United States. Know what I mean?
Anyway, Lafayette is fun. Our first night here we had cajun food for dinner. I had the best crab cakes I have ever tasted. They were spicy and lumpy, which means it's good crab. Steve had something he hated, which is saying a lot since the guy will try just about anything, but the zydeco music we got to listen to that evening more than made up for his culinary displeasure.
The next day we ventured south to the Gulf. Our first stop was Cypremort Point State Park where we stopped for a picnic lunch. Some of you were lucky enough to get a picture text from Steve boasting about our luncheon surroundings, which were fantastic, by the way. Bright sunny day, about 73 degrees, nice gulf breeze blowing - - - ahhhhhhh, yeah, that's what I'm talking about for January 7. Anyway, we enjoyed our lunch and visited with some people who were fishing for catfish on the pier. The little girl (her name was Kaylee) was afraid of the catfish that was caught and sitting in the bucket. She was adorable. After lunch we drove around the point and checked out some of the houses. We especially liked the mobile homes up on stilts... too funny.
Alright so we come to the coolest part of our stay in Lafayette. Steve and I took a tour on a real live, actual oil rig platform that was used in Gulf for 32 years. Man was this interesting and Steve was in his glory the whole time. We learned a TON about the oil and gas industry so let me share some facts with you:
1) There are more than 115 of these drilling rigs in the gulf but not all are in operation due in part to the BP accident and a backlog of drilling permits in Washington DC.
2) There are 3400 processing rigs that take the oil, via underground pipeline, and process it and send it to shore via more underground pipeline or tankers.
3) There are up to 250 people one a drilling rig but some of the processing rigs are completely unmanned.
4) For each person that works on a rig, there are 6 other jobs created to support the work done on the rig.
5) The workers on these rigs work either 14 days on/14 days off, or 28 days on/28 days off, depending on how far from shore the rig is.
6) These workers (men and women) make a minimum of $20 per hour and work a 12-hour shift every day (4 hours OT every day) plus meals are included. So you do the math, and that some serious coin they are making.
7) The drilling in the gulf has come to a screeching halt (thanks to Obama) so a good number of the viable rigs are going overseas to China and Venezuela to drill for those nations.
8) The BP disaster was caused by a series of decisions made by BP, Schlumberger, Halliburton and other vendors. They based decisions on past practice but the pressure in the hole they were drilling spiked to a level they had never encountered before.
9) They are finding oil at 35,000 foot depths which is defies what scientist told them. They claim fossil fuels would not be found below 18,000 feet. So, the theory that oil is from fossils is now under question. Many believe that the earth itself is producing the oil from it's mantel and is therefore not a limited supply natural resource. Google "abiotic oil" and see for yourself.
10) Old drilling rigs rested on the ocean floor, but modern rigs are now self-propelled and "float" and are held in place by maneuvering thrusters and GPS signals.
Our tour guide was a man named Virgil who is a chemical and civil engineer who has spent the last 42 years working in the oil industry. He presently uses the oil rig we were on as a training facility for the contractors that are hired to man the rigs that are put out in the gulf. He was hugely knowledgeable and very interesting and both Steve and I could have listened to him all day. Since I am not mechanically inclined and therefore, not capable of spewing all the details of "Oil Rig 101", here is a link to a website that will explain to you how the drilling operation works. www.science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/offshore-drilling.htm
What an awesome time that was and if you are ever in Morgan City, please check it out. You will not be sorry. Their website is www.rigmuseum.com.
By the way, if anyone reading this blog is looking for work and a career, please check out this area of the country. Jobs are plentiful and there are signs everywhere for open positions for general labor, etc., not just oil-specific workers. We met a gentlemen who drives truck for Ryder as part of their oil support team and he said that they cannot find enough people to fill the positions that they have so think about it. Anyway, on the way home, Steve and I stopped at the Cypress Bayou Casino and lost $80 in the slots. I swear we are coolers for each other and should not step foot in another casino as we NEVER win. We have friends and family members who have hit big money in a casino, but not Steve or I. I think our biggest haul ever was $170 at Greektown.
Today, we went to church at an Assembly of God church. Like the Baptist church we attended last Sunday, you would not really know any difference between our home church, Westgate Chapel, service and either of these denominations. Makes me wonder why we have so many of them anyway. After church, we visited the Jean Lafitte National Park and the Acadian Cultural Center to learn more about Cajun history and the story of the Acadians. The Acadians were French refugees that came across the ocean to settle in what is now Nova Scotia. The British took over this area and had them expelled because they were French and Catholic. They were sent to various cities along the Eastern seaboard of what was then the colonies. After the French government found out about how the British treated these people, they were brought back to France but, because of their long separation from the French culture, they could not reincorporate into French society. So they all packed up and headed to the French colony in Louisiana and there begins the story of the American Cajun culture.
Ok, school is done for the day and so am I. The Denver Broncos just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sorry Gary) in a very exciting overtime situation. I have some Bible study to do and then hopefully a relaxing movie this evening. Both Steve and I miss all of you very much but are truly enjoying the 70+ degree weather we are having here so don't plan to see us until at least the winter months are well behind you.
Take care and next week, we're headed to Mississippi's Gulf Shore. I need that sun. I gotta work on my Ban de Soliel tan!!! (NOT)