Monday, November 24, 2014

Grandsonville......and renewing my love affair with Gizzards!

     We arrived in Marlow, Oklahoma escaping the worst of the early cold front that reduced much of the Midwest to shivering far too early this year.  SW Oklahoma was still very cold with nights in the low 20s.  We camped at a local RV park about 5 miles north of town; nothing fancy, but the essentials at a fair price.  For the first night we still ran the portable space heaters to keep pipes clear and on the morning of the next day were able to successfully pump and heat water without any damage.  Of course, the first hot shower in a couple of days was a welcome experience.  We now own a 'heated water hose' which ensures good flow in any type of cold climate (hopefully). 

       Our grandson is now 13 years old and attends middle school here.  I am not going to
elaborate further except to reiterate '13 year.....middle schooler'.  Yep, those days of innocence are gone.  We enjoyed some great times together, but did include daily inspections of the backpack to ensure there was no 'forgotten' homework.  We do share a common serious interest in classic Sci Fi movies, especially the old ones in black and white.  I picked up a few more of my favorites (that I could find) for us to share during our visit.  He is HEAVILY into the gaming culture, but far and away his passion is old Sci Fi flicks.  I'll take what I can get.  Apparently he missed the opportunity for school pictures this year so we spent an afternoon with him at the local park taking plenty of shots which we saved to CD for his mom and dad to have printed as they please.  We also did our Christmas shopping for the lad although he didn't seem to appreciate waiting on Grandma's love of gift wrapping as much as she did.
      Down to the nitty gritty.  I LOVE GIZZARDS, always have ever since my grandmother made them for me at a very young age.  Of course, you won't hardly ever find them up north so my visits down south sometimes center around this delicacy.  I don't know what it is about that buttery, crunchy, lean taste of a chicken gizzard that makes me feel warm, fuzzy, and down home all over.  There is also BBQ and plenty of catfish.  This is the home of some of the finest southern cuisine you can experience.  The key to healthy eating is proportions and control.  We did not harvest a deer this fall so we made do to restock part of our freezer with local fare such as hot links and a great ham.  I used to love my trips back to Oklahoma to purchase a great piece of brisket, sometimes on sale for $.89/pound.  The price of beef has skyrocketed in recent years and with the drought the prices now hover around $3.89/pound.  We took one day to drive up to Oklahoma City to do some shopping for hard to get items.  I returned with 4 pounds of alligator meat, 3 pounds of boudin, and 2 containers of roux mix.  You know, the important things!
     We did dine out quite a bit with our grandson, but still managed to create a Reindeer Casserole and a Cajun Venison Andouille Chorizo Cassoulet for him at the RV.  He LOVED the Reindeer, polishing off half a 9" x 12" dish by himself!  Actually, he loves just about anything within reach of his fork.  I know Grandpa wishes he could still eat like that without packing on the pounds!
       We celebrated Christmas a bit early as well.  Brock now has several new games for his system and about 6 more classic movies to watch to fuel our future debates.    

     We had a great visit, staying about 2 weeks.  We always thoroughly enjoy our visits to Oklahoma and this trip was no exception.  Next up for us:  we head further south beginning our search for the "Holy Grail"......the Top BBQ joints in Texas.  Of course this may be a bone of contention between my recommendations from the Food Channel and local friends we intend to visit.  It will, of course, all work itself out on our own taste buds. 
WiFi courtesy of Dave and Sharon's RV Park.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Smokin' Joes Rib Ranch

     There are literally dozens of places in Oklahoma on which to do reviews.  I had my choice of many different cuisines, but my heart is always on BBQ when we are here.  I had dinner at a franchised place our 2nd night here, but was not impressed.  It is hard to get excited about your meal when they are weighing the portions in front of you.  This local place was recommended to us by someone at the campground.  We were not disappointed. 

     Smokin' Joes Rib Ranch is in the little town of Rush Springs, OK.  We arrived at a little before lunch time and were followed within minutes by many more workers and locals alike.  The interior is nothing fancy: small town flavor with large roomy tables and walls adorned with many different signs of the past.  The napkin of choice is always my favorite:  a roll of paper towels per table.   Good BBQ requires this. 

      The fare here is typical southern BBQ:  Brisket, Ribs, Hot Links, Polish Sausage, Chicken, Pulled Pork, and a variety of sides.  I am told that their 14 oz. rib eye steak is as good as there is available. 

     The lady who met us at the door knew were 'first timers' so she suggested we share the 3 meat platter with 2 sides and Texas Toast.  With 2 sweet teas, total:  $17.95.  You have a seat with your tea and they bring you the feast.  The meal arrived on 2 trays covered with paper and 2 pieces each of hot links, polish sausage, and 4 ribs as well as our chosen sides of Texas Toast, coleslaw, and okra.  No sooner had we begun to 'dig in', than the lights went off for a few minutes due to a local power surge.  I tried to 'chalk it up' to the extra ambience I ordered, but Barb wasn't buying that.  

     The waitress checked back on us often, refilling our tea and asking us our opinions of the meal. The service was always friendly.  She really cared that we enjoyed our meal, treated us like family.   The portions were large with excellent food smoked to perfection, especially the ribs that were easily pulled off the bone with great darkened bark, but always tender and mouth watering flavor.  They offered two BBQ sauces: mild and hot.  I tried both, delicious.  To be honest with you I could have easily eaten this meal without any sauce at all, the mark of truly great BBQ.  The okra and coleslaw were excellent as well.  The meal was a great recommendation, just enough for the both of us at a price that I considered very fair.  Smokin' Joes, in Rush Springs, OK. about 65 miles SW of Oklahoma City....we'll be back!  I might have to try that Rib Eye Steak...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Deer Camp

   What is it about 'Deer Camp' that not only brings out the best in men, but puts them back in touch with the great outdoors, living off the land in order to harvest food for the table. restoring relationships with family, friends, campfires, camaraderie, and memories.  In reality, it isn't even about getting a deer at all.....some of my best trips didn't result in venison.  In far NW Oklahoma  Fort Supply consists of a large lake teeming with fish as well as over 5,000 acres of bottom land, milo fields, and creek bottoms that are home to quail, turkeys, rabbits, and of course whitetail deer.  I hunted here for many years when we still lived in Oklahoma.  We pulled several very nice bucks out of this area as well as plenty of good venison as well.
     There are 8 primitive camping areas in the area and we were lucky enough to make ours in the same we used years past.  These are primitive spots with NO FEES so we 'watered up' before we arrived and set up our boondocking protocol, including solar panels, battery bank, and generator backup.  The nearby Supply Lake Park was still open so we had water access to haul back and forth when needed.  Grey water disposal is always part of the 'Boondocking Protocol' with some being used as flush water, saving us a full gallon of fresh water daily. 
     I had not hunted here in nearly 17 years and so I would have to virtually re-scout the entire area I wished to hunt.  Some had changed, others not at all, but our conversation with the game warden on arrival made us aware of the situation.  The weather the first month of archery season was unseasonably warm, including a 92 degree day just last week.  The trees were still very green and not much foliage had dropped.  Hunting had been slow simply because there was still too much cover and not enough cold weather to make the deer move.  Additionally, fawn production over the previous 5 years was down about 80% which made our chances even slimmer.  I was hoping that the first two weeks of November, typically the peak of the rut, would change all this.  Days 1 and 2 consisted simply of setting up, stocking up, cutting firewood, and scouting/setting up the blind.
     We took a day off (as well Barb several days off herself) to do some fishing off the dam in search of some fresh local catfish.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon, but had only 3 bluegill to show for our efforts.

    One of the best parts about Deer Camp is the evening.....firewood, meal planning, sitting around the fire with a couple of 'cold ones' talking about the day, spinning tales, or just plain solving all the world's problems.  Of course this year the Mid Term Elections brought smiles to our faces.  Among the meals the 'Mad Chef' created were Fajitas from the remainder of last year's venison, Fried Razor Clams, Smoked Ham Casserole, Bratwurst Kabobs, Halibut Royale, Garlic Rosemary Chicken Thighs, some incredible Venison Wraps made from a complete backstrap among other retiree inspirations. 
     The beginning of our second week gave me hope, but be careful what you wish for.  A strong cold front was forecast to move in bringing strong winds and much colder temperatures for the next week.  Oklahoma weather can be awfully unpredictable and we were so not prepared for what would happen.  The front arrived on schedule, with winds 25-35 with gusts nearing 50 at times.  The temperatures dropped from a daytime high of 87 degrees to a freezing 32 within 90 minutes.  The first night was cold and blustery.  I was hopeful that this might bring some action to my hunting.  The next day temps hovered around freezing with the same winds.  Life in the deer blind was miserable.
      Boondocking in very cold weather without RV park water hookups and a full freshwater tank provide for a completely different set of challenges.  First of all you use much more propane for heat.  There are no water hoses to disconnect.  You are completely on your own.  This was our first experience at such camping.  By night the temps had dropped into the teens. During the day I had rigged a portable heater to our generator in order to free up the frozen water valves beneath our RV.  The overnight temps dipped to 9 degrees so I turned off the pump and drained all the water from the lines, opening interior doors to allow warmer air to reach the pipes as well.  I once again positioned the portable heater.  Once I had freed the ice from the drain valve I emptied our fresh water tank to prevent damage.  I left the heater beneath the RV and ran the generator all night.  Needless to say, it was a very long night. 
     The next morning brought the situation into stark reality.  The rest of the week would not be much better with the overnight temps always in the low 20s.  Remember, it was me who wanted the colder weather.  Me, the guy who traveled south to avoid winters.  We retrieved my hunting blind and decided to break camp.  Although the hunting part of this adventure had brought zero results it was still a good break from city and RV park life, getting off the grid and living on our own, as well as learning some very valuable lessons for the rest of the trip.  This was our 57th day off grid since April.  Total energy costs for these 11 days averaged $9.58 per day, mostly due to generator gas and propane.  
WiFi for this stop courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers Office.