A good day on the road starts with everyone having been to bed early enough to get up with a smile, then complete school assignments without having to pull teeth, and allowing us to get out and see the area we’re in right after lunch. Today was just like that.

The obscured entry is kitschy attractive and instantly nostalgic thanks to the authentic theater marquee letters. (although that nostalgia is not true to the vintage of the museum displays- which reach back into the 1800's !)

This day was chock full of local flavor, starting with a slice of old America at the American Dime Museum, unfairly tucked away in an empty shopping mall at the end of its life. Facing redevelopment, the mall is awaiting a new face, and sadly not turning any heads to catch the smart looking theater marquee letters that spell out the name of this jewel. Up front, you already know that we would rather checkout behind the scenes, or around the corner from the main stage, or underneath the pressed linen tablecloth- so we were quite happy to reach the only destination for our family in this city at this out of the way, crumbling shopping mall.

Last night we realized that the museum hours were different than most museums, “until 11pm” according to the flyer we had picked up at the Abita Mystery House. Is that weird? I called to check up on the hours, and confirm tomorrow’s tour as early as we could- since we had planned to scoot out of Baton Rouge to a Cajun music jamboree in the afternoon about 60 miles down the highway at bus speeds. The proprietor, Peter, admitted that they would be there until 11, and open again at noon the following day. That’s when our plan for the next day came together: up on time, eat, school, drive to museum and on the road to Eunice, La by 230. Planning this tour deserves some comment, since that planning is what sets this lifestyle far apart from what we’ve taken for granted for so many years: getting up in the same spot with the same challenges and opportunities in our home community every day. Part of the excitement, sure, but where we’ll be parked tonight, if we’ll be plugged into utilities or running the generator, if we’ll make all of our meals in the bus or eat a meal out, if we’ll be able to grill outside, if we’ll have to do the pre-highway mechanical bus checks, etc etc etc. There’s more though! What route we’ll take: if there are height/length/weight restrictions (13.5’ / 67.5’ / 50,000lbs), fuel level and if there’s acceptable fuel along the route, if we’ll tow or drive the van separately, etc etc etc.

Yeah, the planning can put a dent in the daily activities! Kelly has more than once been on me about planning for so long we didn’t have time to DO anything. She’s right. Some of our better stops have been by the seat of our pants without any pre-planning. That’s also how we got into the situations where we had to unhook the van to make a U-Turn, or dodge low hanging TV cables by weaving back and forth across residential streets, or driving- rather creeping- along the road as we quickly surveyed what was ahead… So planning is a big part, but we’re still figuring out the balance of adequate planning versus safe travels. A big help in this area has been the ability to pull up Google maps on my phone, and take a satellite view of a destination- in search of the truck route into Walmart, or this shopping mall, or any place we’re not familiar with. From the Google map view, we can usually pick out the heavy truck route into a place by looking for the dark road beds, marked up by heavy truck traffic. Take a look at any Walmart for example and you’ll see the path I’m talking about. Picking this route is usually not via the main entrance, but a side road that if you can locate ahead of time saves jumping curbs and mowing down small trees and things like that. Thanks Google maps for that view. Wow, technology is so scary and cool at the same time, isn’t it? I laugh at carrying a Sony Cassette Walkman in high school when I look left and right at what we enjoy using today.

Instantly rendered harmless by carrying his cute daughter, this museum's passionate curator: Peter Excho with part of our family.

Finally at the museum we’d been discussing for several days, only some of us decided to go in, and what a mistake not going in was for them- the folks running this place really put on a great show.

Greeted at the door by Caila Excho (say it ‘echo’), wife of the man that has the full vision and passion for this exhibition- that we would meet after our first impression had settled. This young lady toted her youngest child, and was accompanied by a couple of others. Families with kids are good for setting your mind at ease generally- knowing that all humans make a transition to parents and can be related to on that parent or familial level is comforting in a new place. That was the case here, a mom among the ODDS and ends that greeted our new impressionable minds, as we tried to absorb it all. Intentionally not brilliantly lit, a sitting room was our first stop for this tour. Peter Excho arrived, decorated from head to toe for his daily life. No stranger to piercings and tattoos, if you met him in a dark alley your hair might stand up with some apprehension about what kind of guy you’d just run into. Peter was quick to speak, and his soft spoken kind manner and what he had to say quickly shifted the focus from his striking appearance to the story he had to tell about the Dime Museum. He had us as soon as he asked the first question “Do you know what a dime museum is?” He seemed pleased that we didn’t, and as we settled into comfortable chairs he started to tell the story about how exciting collections and artifacts have been exhibited around the world since the days of a wealthy family sharing their personal collection with few friends, to the advent of the commercial attraction today a la Ripleys Believe it or Not.

...you think you're having a bad day? Siamese cobras trying to keep their tempers in check.

The apparent intent of Peters museum is to present not only the spectacular collection of one-of-a-kinds and never-seen-befores, but to share the excitement of entertaining an audience with a show of sorts. What do WE believe is real? What is real? We looked over every piece and missed some I’m sure. Most of the collection had a descriptive card that permitted us to move through the heart of the museum after enjoying Peters 20 minute, colorful commentary. He moved off to the tattoo parlor end of the business, that he would later relate was where they made the money to live on. (The 11pm closing time made more sense now) Did you know that there was an entertainer in the good old days that could squeak out a recognizable melody .. by farting? As part of his famous talent he sold bottled mementos of his work (if you get my drift, I’m trying to keep it family friendly), and Peter has one on display. Wow, that‘s the scope of the variety you’ll see here. Add that to the 2 headed mummified skeleton, the modern day circus collectibles, the pair of shrunken heads, the intricately carved miniature Chinese waterwheel, the 2 headed turtle, or the sexy leopard collar- and 280 other gems.

That's IT! The bottled fart. Just when you think you've seen it all- it's probably the rarest, most valuable piece in the museum.

I could completely obliterate the story of the dime museum, so I’ll leave its sweet story telling to Peter. You’ll want to plan a couple of hours to take in the American Dime Museum, and get inked if the timing is right. Also, they do sell snacks- bring along $2 for each box of cheddar cheese crickets or ranch flavored meal worms (I might have those flavors backwards). Peter mentioned toward the end of our tour that they might be putting the museum in storage for a few years as they pursue another interest- don’t delay your trip to this slice of the good odd days of true showmanship and entertainment.

10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 heads, 1 gown for the mummy's privacy.

Another quirky, unique find. Not the head (although that's cool) the leopard collar is officially on display.

It has caused me to take closer look at the feasibility of this kind of attraction in our home town- it was that cool.

We headed Northwest from Baton Rouge to the Liberty Theater in Eunice, LA for the Rendez Vous des Cajuns music show. In it’s 22nd year, this show was a collection of the best local musicians that changed every week, guided by a bilingual emcee (French/English)- the musicians showcased refined talent and were having as much fun as the crowd! Cajun music is hard to fully explain- on stage were a fiddle, guitar, accordion, drums and triangle chime (played by a cheery young girl about 13 years old). The old theater became very comfortable in the hands of these musicians, who provided an intimate chance for all of our family to see it happening before our eyes. At one point during the evening, everyone in our family joined my tapping toes and knees and bobbing head- although I may have felt the most rewarded by this display of local tunes. We did not however venture to the busy dance floor where some of the locals or well trained visitors strutted their moves. This might be a required stop for a Louisiana tour.

Ready for the show! This will be the first time Meila's cowgirl getup has made a public appearance. Very sharp.

Cozy, close enough to see the strings on the fiddle.

We were treated to the slick sounds of Vorance Barzas and the Original Mamou Playboys with Steve Riley. You BET we liked it!

We visited the adjacent fire station while Kelly whipped up dinner. Firemen are always nice, and enjoy showing off their trucks and talking shop. Strangely this is only the second fire station we’ve visited on our trip so far! ..and they didn’t have any shirts to give a fellow firefighter (sorry Donnie, I tried).

We hooked up the van and headed out, hoping to make Shreveport- HA! But too tired, we stopped to sleep and planned an early departure for Texas, where we will be checking the bus in for some new parts on Monday.

The strangest sight at the dime museum, for sure.