15 April 2014 (Tue) – Paul went for coffee with Sam this morning. When they came back, they worked on the posts in the front of Sam’s house. At noon, we took a ride with Sam and his friend, Steve, to Home Depot to get some stain for the posts (after stopping at Johny’s Pizza for lunch). The guys finished the project after we got back but no one likes it. They are going to buy paint tomorrow to cover it over.
Frieda made dinner tonight. It was one of the most delicious chili soups I have ever tasted. I have to get the recipe.
It was very cold this morning – 37 degrees. It never really got that warm today. I think it hit a high of 59 degrees. And once the sun started to dip in the sky, the air got chilly again. I think it’s supposed to be in the 30s again tonight. Bbrrrrr.
14 April 2014 (Mon) – Woke at 7 a.m. and drove to the hospital to take a medical test for the gastroenterologist. It turned out that my appointment was scheduled for Wednesday, despite the fact that the scheduling nurse told me Monday. It was my fault that I didn’t look at the date written on the paperwork. They made adjustments and fitted me in anyway.
The nurse injected gamma ray stuff in my arm then used a machine to trace the movement of the stuff to my liver, gall bladder, and small intestines. The test was one and a half hours long and there was no discomfort during it.
After the test, we went to IHOP for breakfast. A cold front blew in and lowered the temperature by 22 degrees. Damn! It was cold. We went to CVS to get a prescription filled by the gastroenterologist. My medical insurance will not approve the specific medication – just a generic equivalent. I have been taking that generic since November and it is not working. Dr. Geist wants me to try a different medication. I had to get a number for the insurance company, call the doctor’s office and give it to them, ask them to call the insurance company, justify the reason for taking this new (non-generic) drug, fill out a form and swear to the reason. The insurance company will review the form and, if approved, will send notification to the pharmacy to fill the prescription. A person could die waiting for the wheels to turn here. Fortunately, the doctor gave me 25 days of free samples because he knew there would be a problem with the insurance company. Ugh.
We then drove to the movie theater and saw Noah. It was interesting but a little too much computer graphics for my taste. It entertained, and that’s what I wanted. We then walked along the boardwalk although it was too cold to linger for long.
We returned to the camper, fed the animals, then went in to visit with Sam & Frieda. Paul & Sam researched generators online. Sam would like to buy a generator for the house in the event of a power outage. The two of them will probably go shopping for one tomorrow.
13 April 2014 (Sun) – I enjoy walking Bonnie in the morning. Chocktaw Lane is a straight, narrow paved road with no shoulder that dips and rises for over a mile. It passes brick, one-story homes situated on 5-acre lots and large front lawns. Most of the houses have dogs that bark loudly when we pass by. One house has a rooster. There are not many flowers in bloom yet, but you can imagine what they will look like. There are many areas filled with trees where so many different kinds of birds hang out. I have been able to identify cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, hawks, and woodpeckers. It is a peaceful walk and gives me my daily exercise.
Went to church with Sam & Frieda. It was quite a show. They had two large TV screens on either side of the stage and a very large screen set up in the center of the stage. There was a large choir of maybe 50 people up in the choir loft. They were going to read their lyrics on a screen in the back of the hall but it wasn’t working. The technical folks brought in a large TV screen but couldn’t get that working either. Someone finally came in and handed out hymn books to the choir.
They started with the story of creation and continued through the generations to the birth and death of Jesus Christ. People on stage read scripts and the choir sang at key points throughout the slide show. It was quite breathtaking and very moving. It leaves me wondering what they are going to do for Easter. They told it all today.
After church, we went to IHOP for breakfast/lunch. There was a 40 minute wait but we were finally seated and had a good breakfast/lunch to eat. We returned to the house, then Paul and Sam went on a ride to test his oxygen system with his car.
I cooked dinner and brought it over to the house to eat. We had coffee, cookies, and pleasant company afterward.
12 April 2014 (Sat) – Paul and Sam drove off to look for generators today. A tree fell on the power line yesterday and the block was without power for several hours. Since Sam depends on electric for his oxygen, he is very concerned about not having power for when he needs it so he wants to get a generator for the house as a backup for power outages. Apparently, it happens fairly frequently.
Frieda cooked a wonderful dinner of red beans and rice, sausage, and tossed salad. She tried a box of Zatarain’s rice and beans. She said it wasn’t as good as another brand she uses. We didn’t think it tasted as good as Copeland’s rice and beans.
After dinner, we took a ride around the area. Sam drove to Orangeport, Mooringsport, and Oil City. Louisiana used to be a booming oil producing area until Barack Obama was voted into office. During one of our earlier tours, we learned that a company had twenty oil rigs that employed 5,000 people each (a total of 40,000 employees). Because Barack Obama favors natural resources (i.e., air and solar), the oil companies left. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and the economy in the area collapsed. As we drove around these towns tonight, we saw dozens of oil wells with nonworking drills. Silent sentinels attesting to the oil companies’ evacuation from the gulf.
11 April 2014 (Fri) – Went to the casinos tonight. First, we arrived at Sam’s Town but the restaurant we wanted to go to wasn’t open yet so we played the slots for an hour. Had dinner at Smokey Joe’s. Everything was delicious. Then we walked over to the Eldorado and played the slots there for an hour. We lost just about everything we put in the machines.
On the way back to the parking garage, we spotted an area under the highway bridge marked the Red River District. We walked under the bridge where shops and restaurants lined the walkway. There was a band playing on a small platform. We stopped at a place called Nicky’s for drinks and listened to the music. The weather was balmy and just delightful.
10 April 2014 (Thu) – Woke to sunny, blue skies. The temps reached 78 today. The wind was blowing softly, the flowers were blooming, the smell of wisteria filled the air, the insects were buzzing around, and the birds were chirping away. What a beautiful day!
Collected Sam & Frieda and drove to Gibsland to try and get into that Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum again. Unfortunately, after an hour ride the museum was closed. We tried the door, hoping maybe the guy just forgot to turn the “Closed” sign around. No such luck. Went across the street to the service station and asked if they knew anything about the museum. Other than that it was supposed to be open at 10, they knew nothing about the place. The attendant did know that the owner lived in the trailer just up the block. We drove over to the trailer – a decrepit, run down, broken up residence. The man was sitting in a badly conditioned living room (broken window, walls falling in, stained carpet, etc.) with another man and woman. He said he was 80 years old, sick, and trying to listen to his doctor to slow down. He apologized for not having the museum open, gave Paul a business card, and encouraged us to call next time we wanted to come in to tour the place. Unfortunately, the phone number listed on his card is the same number with a recording that says the place is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. He needs to update his message.
We left and stopped at the Huddle House in Minden for lunch. It was a kind of 50s style diner – clean and attractive. The food was good.
We drove the hour back to the house, then Paul and Sam went off to visit with some of Sam’s friends. I looked over our mail and caught up with some paperwork. After Paul got back, we went over and played Rook with Sam & Frieda. The guys beat the gals soundly. We’ll get them next time.
9 April 2014 (Wed) – Skies were blue all day and temps were in the high 70s. We went to the Shreveport Water Works Museum and Railroad Museum with Frieda (Sam wasn’t feeling well). It was quite interesting. You just turn on the faucet and there’s the water. You never really give much thought to where that water comes from other than the water company. This water works was built in 1887 and operated until 1980 (almost 100 years). It sat for 30 years and was then opened as a museum. They got the raw water from the bayou and Red River. It entered the facility, was put through a filtration system that allowed the dirt and sludge to fall to the bottom of the tank. Then it went through a series of filter tanks, each time making the water cleaner and cleaner. Finally, the cleaned water went into a holding tank where it was chlorinated, then pushed on to the town. This particular plant processed 5 million gallons of water a day.
After the water works museum, we walked over to a trailer with some railroad memorabilia in it – some lights, tickets, brochures, news articles, a model train running on a track, etc. They are expecting to get some actual rail cars to set up around the area within the next couple of years. It promises to be quite an exhibit.
We came back to the house to get Sam then went to Copeland’s for lunch. We all had their red beans and rice. It was delicious. After lunch, we stopped at the Dollar store to pick up a few item, drove past a friend of Sam’s house to see how he was doing, then returned home. The dog and cat got some outside time, then we spent the evening visiting with Sam and Frieda. Sam is so depressed about his physical state. I hope our visit is cheering him up.
8 April 2014 (Tue) – The skies were blue today. Not a cloud to be seen anywhere. The temperature is still a little cool – high 50s. There is pollen covering everything. Frieda is literally washing off the porch every day to get rid of it. It seems to cover everything.
Tuesdays are Sam’s workshop day. When he had all his antique cars and scooters, he would work out there with friends, restoring stuff. Since he has been sick, he has sold off most of his vehicles. A friend of his still comes by on Tuesdays and they poke around the shop. Afterward, they go down to the pizza place for lunch. Sometimes, it’s not about what you do at all but the ambiance of the socialization.
Spent a good part of the day scanning receipts and paperwork into the computer. Paul washed the truck and part of the camper then it rained (lol). A small cloud passed overhead amongst the wide blue skies.
Frieda cooked dinner for us all tonight then we sat around and chatted for a couple of hours. They are delightful people to visit. So glad we came here.
7 April 2014 (Mon) – Went food shopping at WalMart (of all places), then over to Pet Smart to buy food for Bonnie and Sheba. Wrangled an appointment with a gastroenterologist. I have been having some serious stomach issues that need attending. The doctor scheduled some tests. Hopefully, I won’t have to go under the surgeon’s knife. We’ll see.
On the way back to the camper, we spotted a sign for a water works museum. Sounded interesting so we followed the sign, but the place is closed on Mondays. We will have to go back and see what that is all about. We still have to get back to the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum.
After dinner, we visited with Sam & Frieda. Sam can sure spin a story. He is so interesting to listen to when he starts to recall some funny event in his psychology career. I enjoyed the visit very much.
6 April 2014 (Sun) – Well, we made it back safely. It was a whirlwind week. Seemed like we flew into town, ran around like nuts, then left. Our son’s wedding was near perfect. They made such a stunning couple. Windows on the Lake was a wonderful setting and the staff did justice to the occasion.
We got back to Dallas, TX, on Friday around 7 p.m. We dropped our luggage off at the hotel then headed out to find someplace to grab a bite to eat. The first street we drove down had about twenty bail bondsmen on it. What the heck kind of town is Dallas? Then we drove through town and saw police officers on every corner – in cars, on foot, riding motorcycles – they were everywhere! It was evident they were expecting something big to happen. We tucked tail and headed back to the hotel.
Parked the truck, walked next door to Doubletree Suites, and had dinner in their restaurant. The food was good. Returned to our room at Best Western, watched the news, and discovered that there was not only a free concert during the day but also the Final Four basketball competition that night (called March Madness). Guess the folks get rowdy around Dallas when these things take place.
We drove back to Shreveport, LA, yesterday. Picked up Sheba and Bonnie from the pet kennel. They sure were happy to see us. They enjoyed the opportunity to get out and stretch their legs when we got back to Sam & Frieda’s place. Frieda cooked dinner for us all, and we spent the evening visiting and catching up on each other’s news.
Today (Sunday), we went to church with Sam & Frieda. We attended the 8:15 a.m. service then went out for Sunday brunch. Unfortunately, they were no longer serving breakfast so we had to settle for lunch. It was a buffet service, something like Ponderosa. There were a lot of food choices. We returned to Sam & Frieda’s where they proceeded to teach us how to play a card game called Rook. It was very similar to hearts.
26 March 2014 (Wed) – Closed up the camper, then went in to say good-bye to Frieda. Sam was at a doctor’s appointment. Took the animals to the Good Going Pet Resort. Sheba was mad to be left and Bonnie was upset. The lady that runs the place, Penny, is supposed to be very nice with the animals in her care. Hope things go all right.
Left Shreveport shortly after 10 a.m. and drove the three hours to Dallas, TX. Stopped for lunch at Terrell Steak & Grill Restaurant along the way. Checked into the Best Western about 4:30 p.m. After looking over the room, we drove to one of the restaurants recommended by Guy of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Avilas Restaurant is a real Mexican style eatery. It was small but very neat and clean and well decorated. The food was quite authentic (spicy) and plentiful. Paul had beef brisket tacos and I had chicken mole. Returned to the motel to get ready for our flight to New York tomorrow. So looking forward to seeing our grandson and attending our son’s wedding on Sunday.
This is my last entry until we return to Louisiana on April 5th. See you then.
25 March 2014 (Tue) – Did some housecleaning and laundry this morning. Sam took Paul down to the coffee shop where he usually goes on Tuesday mornings to meet with his buddies. When they came back, Sam had his friend pull some of his antique vehicles out of the barn for us to drive (Paul drove, I rode). There was a 1941 12-cylinder Lincoln Zepher, a 1947 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, a Cushman motorbike, a Tragg motor cart.
We rode down to Johnny’s Best Pizza for lunch. It was like a pizza buffet. There was a salad bar on one side and a selection of different types of pizza on another bar. There were even dessert pizzas – peach custard and iced cinnamon. They were tasty. There was a windowless room in the corner of the restaurant (which wasn’t very large to start with), that had a door on it with three big locks. It looked to be about the size of a standard bedroom (10’ X 12’). There was a sign on the door that indicated it was their casino. It couldn’t have fit more than four to six machines with chairs. Weird!
After spending the afternoon playing around with all the antiques, Frieda cooked a superb meal of meatloaf, potato salad, corn, green beans, salad, and corn muffins followed up by coffee and ice cream.
We then spent a pleasant hour reminiscing with Sam about childhood and young adult experiences, before returning to the camper to pack for our trip back to New York.
24 March 2014 (Mon) – Whew! It was a busy day today. It started out cold in the high 30s – got up to the low 60s. We left for Bossier City to do some shopping. We stopped at Chick-Filla and got breakfast, then drove to Barksdale Air Force Base. The GPS ran us all over the place. We finally arrived at the air force base and they were doing construction that had one of the main gates closed. We went to the Air Power Museum and saw some displays on Generals Barksdale, Eaker, and Doolittle. The outside displays were far more interesting. There were so many historic aircraft lined up for viewing. We spent well over an hour walking the line and reading about each aircraft – the B52, the superfortress in many versions, the MIG 21, the Blackbird, etc. It was all quite interesting.
We stopped in the Class VI store but didn’t find what we wanted, so we left Barksdale AFB and drove back into Bossier City. Stopped at the Thrifty Liquor Store and picked up some wine. They had a drive-up window to get frozen drinks. Crazy.
Went to Dillard’s and bought a dress for me. Walked across the mall and bought a dress purse at Sears. We left the mall and drove across the street to Cheddar’s for lunch. What a mistake! The food was good, but the service was lousy. The waitress was stoned or something. She was surprised at some stuff and clueless about others. It was either her first day at EVER waitressing, or she was stoned out of her mind.
After lunch, we drove over to the Shoe Carnival and found a pair of dress shoes for me. The day complete, we returned to the camper. Went in and visited with Sam & Frieda for a couple of hours.
23 March 2014 (Sun) – Went to the First Baptist Church Sunday service with Frieda. Sam was not feeling well so he stayed home. The church – dubbed the Cowboy Church – usually has a classic service on Sunday and a service on Thursday for cowboys who ride in on their horses. Once a year (and it was today), they combine the two services for a Cowboy Church Sunday. There were many people there in jeans and chaps. The altar had a saddle on one side and a tree stand with cowboy hats on the other side. The service was nice – a woman gave testimony about how the cowboy church is drawing in people and the youth minister baptized four young men. We met the pastor who gave us a welcome gift of CD music, water bottle, book, and a pen.
When we got back to the house, we picked up Sam and drove to the Southfield Grill for brunch. We tasted okra, fried squash, and cabbage. Everything was very good. Afterward, we drove over to Shreveport proper. Frieda and I looked in Burlington and Labels for a dress for me but didn’t find anything. We returned to the house about 3:30 p.m. Threw some laundry in the washer, had coffee, then returned to the camper, fed the animals, and had dinner. We Skyped with our son and his family. That baby is adorable. He is talking now and that baby voice is so cute. Can’t wait to hug him!
We went to Sam & Frieda’s at 7 p.m. and watched the Huckabee Show. Afterward, we taught them how to play thirty-one. Frieda believes that her granddaughter would love the game.
22 March 2014 (Sat) – Frieda called this morning to say that a friend of hers was diagnosed with brain cancer. She is in the hospital and asked that all the ladies from her sewing group come in to see her. Frieda apologized but felt she needed to go see her friend. We agreed and said we would get together later for dinner.
Paul and I drove into Bossier to look for a dress. We went in and out of stores – bridal shops, department stores, specialty places. It was exhausting! And I never found anything. We stopped at the Men’s Warehouse and got Paul measured for a tuxedo, then sent the information back to New York. Had lunch at Logan’s Roadhouse. They brought a small bucket filled with peanuts and another one to put the shells in. The food and service were very good. We stopped in Petco and Pet Smart looking for the special food for Sheba only to discover that it must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Tried to call the vet Sheba saw in Branch but the office was closed. We will have to try to get in touch on Monday. Then we shopped in Kroger to get the baby food for Sheba, as well as a few other items.
Went to dinner with Sam & Frieda to a small place called Longwood Country Store. There were about ten tables in the place, along with a couple of shelves of goods. Sam’s friend and wife, Judson and Marvel, joined us for dinner. It was quite an enjoyable evening. Unfortunately, Sam started to have breathing problems and needed to get home to get on his oxygen machine. His portable unit was not working as well as it should have. We visited for a while then bid them good night.
21 March 2014 (Fri) – While Sam took his dog to the groomer, we drove to the kennel with Frieda to see about boarding Bonnie and Sheba when we fly back to New York next week for our son’s wedding. Penny was very nice and we were assured that our babies will be well taken care of.
Got back to the house and Sam returned with his neatly groomed Shadow. We then climbed in the car and drove to Gibsland, LA, home of the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum. Apparently, this couple were something of folk heroes in the town and the people in the area feel they were gunned down in cold blood unfairly (it doesn’t matter they killed some people or robbed banks). The museum was closed because the owner had to go home for medical treatment. It was expected he would be back in about an hour (he was waiting on the home nurse to arrive). We got in the car and drove seven miles down the road to the location marker where Bonnie & Clyde were actually shot (the museum is the location of the café where they bought sandwiches before they drove down the road to their deaths). The one marker was pretty beat up – looked like people had been shooting at it. There was also a lot of graffiti on the marker. There was also another marker to the government officials who shot the couple.
We drove back to the museum, but it was still closed. We had an enjoyable conversation with two couples who were also waiting for the museum to open. After an hour, we all decided it would not be opening and we left. We returned to Sam & Frieda’s, had coffee and cake and cheese, then returned to our camper.
Spent the night finding a hotel in Dallas to stay when we fly back to New York. Finally settled on Best Western and called to make the arrangement. We can keep the truck parked there for no cost for the week. That will save us a lot of money since it looks like parking is $10 a day.
20 March 2014 (Thu) – Drove to a nearby mall to shop for a dress for our son’s wedding. Tried on dresses in Dillards but didn’t find anything special. We then drove to Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish). They are celebrating their 300th anniversary as the oldest town in Louisiana. We wandered through the general store and hardware store. There were many interesting items to examine. We walked around the town and went down to the lake where a couple of colleges were doing scull training. There used to be two branches to the Red River. The Corps of Engineers cut off one branch and turned it into a long lake that now runs through Natchitoches.
We drove to Fort St. Jean Baptiste. It turned out to be a replica that was built based on architectural plans that were found in one of the engineer’s papers. It was a tight fort that housed fifty marines with a jail cell, a storehouse, a storage building, a barracks, a house for a shopkeeper, and a house for the commandant. It was all surrounded by a rough hewn fence.
On the way back, we stopped at another mall and looked at dresses in J.C. Penney, David’s Bridal, and Dillards (another one). Still didn’t find anything. Returned to our camper and went in to speak with Sam and Frieda about tomorrow.
19 March 2014 (Wed) – Went online and found that the Bonnie & Clyde Museum is closed on Wednesdays. Bummer. We walked over to tell Sam & Frieda, who were as disappointed as we were. I threw a load of wash in the machine, then in the dryer. We chatted awhile about where to go and then decided to drive to Jefferson, Texas. It is an old town on the border that is struggling to stay alive. There were empty buildings and many run down homes. But there were also a lot of historical buildings with markers outside. We stopped for lunch at the Hamburger Store. Every chair in the place had ripped upholstery, yet everything was clean and looked well maintained. There were license plates, auto related signs, and even a grill from a mac truck on the walls. The menu was everything burger. Frieda and I had hamburger in a bowl and the guys had sandwiches. Food was good, service was satisfactory, and price was decent.
After lunch, we walked through the Jefferson General Store. It was a real neat place, quite large, and gave you the feeling of an old time store. The ceiling was very high and the floors were wood planks. There were many unusual items packed around the walls and displays, and they even had a bunch of food items available to sample. It was very interesting. We walked over to the Blackburn Jelly distribution store and Frieda bought some items.
We left Jefferson and drove to Marshall, Texas. We drove around and looked at their historical buildings for a while, then drove back to Shreveport, LA. We looked at some pictures of Sam’s family, chatted awhile, got the laundry out of the dryer, and enjoyed coffee and pound cake together.
18 March 2014 (Tue) – Left Ricky & Helmut’s at 10:15 a.m. We had a great time visiting with this side of the family and look forward to swinging by this way again.
Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch. The service was soooooo slow. OMG. We are really in the deep south now. Not only that, we had to push for the biscuits and they didn’t come out until the end of the meal. We wound up taking them home. There was a work crew paving the parking lot at Cracker Barrel so we couldn’t pull forward. I walked into the street and helped direct Paul back onto the roadway while holding up traffic. It is so “fun” to drive a big rig. It has its special challenges.
Pulled into Sam & Frieda’s drive way in Shreveport, LA, a little after 3 p.m. Frieda was working down at her church with a sewing group. Sam was in the garage with one of his friends. He has been ill and is quite depressed about his condition. I hope that our visit will help to cheer him up.
When Frieda got home, we sat out on the porch and chatted for a while as we let Bonnie run about the yard. Unfortunately, they have a dog that kills cats so we can’t let Sheba out. This is too bad since she is finally starting to feel so much better. Around 7 pm., we left for the Chinese Buffet for dinner. They had quite a selection and it was all fresh (unlike most of the buffet places back home). We agreed to meet at 11 a.m. tomorrow to go to lunch, then the Bonnie & Clyde Museum.
17 March 2014 (Mon – St. Patrick’s Day) – Saw no parades today and no real signs of celebration.
A cold wind blew in last night from the north, dropping the temps down to the 40s. Woke this morning, and the temp was still in the low 40s. Put on our winter coats, hats, and gloves and headed out to Champagne’s Swamp Tours on Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge.
Stopped at the post office on the way and mailed off souvenirs. Arrived at the swamp tour five minutes late. There were four other people waiting to go on the tour, too. It was cold, and the tour guide was trying to gather up some coats and sweaters for the ladies (a grandmother, her daughter, and two granddaughters). We got in a flat bottomed aluminum boat with ten swivel seats and the tour guide standing in the back steering with an outboard motor. The tour was almost two hours long. It was too cold for the alligators to be out, but we spotted a barn owl, an osprey, cormorants, white egrets, blue herons, and dozens of purple martins skimming the water. The cypress trees in the swamp were covered in Spanish moss which made it both beautiful and spooky at the same time. The other tree common in the area is a Tupelo gum. There were water hyacinths that were not yet blooming. There was a rookery on the road that we were not allowed to come near with the boat (we drove by it later). We saw this rookery last week with Ricky. There were more birds in the trees this time, but still not 20,000. We saw white egrets in the interior and blue herons on the outer ring. There were two roseate spoonbills that we spied as well. I bought a t-shirt.
Drove back towards home. Stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel. Picked up some cracklins for Paul’s brother, Sam. Spoke with our son by phone tonight. He was feeling pretty depressed. Sometimes, life just sucks. Prepared to move tomorrow. Headed for Shrevesport, LA.
16 March 2014 (Sun) – It rained on and off all night; at some times, accompanied by thunder. Sheba came running into the bedroom to hide in the closet. When we got up, we found she had had a bowel movement. Guess the thunder scared the shit out of her.
Went to church with Ricky & Helmut this morning at the Mowata Baptist Church. Everyone was very friendly and we ran into Duane, who promptly continued our education on rice farming. After church, we went to Chef Roy’s for lunch. The food was very good.
At 3:20 p.m., Ricky came by to pick me up and we went back to her church. Two Mexican women (members of the church) were cooking up some food for the membership. The large kitchen was filled with sixteen women, plus the two women cooking and a young man interpreting Spanish (they didn’t speak a word of English). The kitchen was filled with the sound of women chattering; asking questions, English and Spanish flying around the room, and the smell of cooking food filled the room. They made green and red salsa, wheat and corn tortillas, refried beans, shredded chicken, and flautas. The food was good (but the salsa was too hot). It reminded me of working in the kitchen at our church back home during a Christmas fair or other dinner event. It was lots of fun.
15 March 2014 (Sat) – Ricky & Helmut drove to Washington to pick up a table they ordered some weeks ago. It is made out of re-purposed cypress tree wood and pieces of an old tin ceiling. We hung around the yard, trying to get Sheba to move around. She is in a great deal of discomfort and just sits where you put her. Poor baby.
When Ricky & Helmut got back, we helped them move their new table into the kitchen. Then we drove into Rayne to do some grocery shopping. Had lunch at the Candy Cottage – ordered Frito pies followed by a piece of butter pecan fudge. Filled up the truck, did the food shopping, then returned to the camper.
After dinner, we walked over to Ricky & Helmut’s and taught them to play thirty-one. We tried out a new wine we bought (I didn’t care for it), and we munched on veggies and olive salsa while Helmut showed us what a card shark he can really be. It was lots of fun.
14 March 2014 (Fri) – Spent the morning giving the animals play time. Bonnie always gets so goofy. Poor little Sheba is in great discomfort. She does not want to move. We picked her up and put her a little ways away in the yard. She simply snuggled down and refused to move. We tried to get her to do a little walking but it is obvious she’s hurting. The vet gave us laxatose for her. It is a thick, viscous, dark brown medication that smells strongly of molasses. We are supposed to give her a teaspoonful two or three times a day. It is very thick to get into the syringe but we struggle with it. Hope it works soon. Poor baby is so tender.
We left at noon to drive to Louisiana Spirits, home of Bayou Rum, in Lacassine, LA. The owner gave a tour of the plant. Unfortunately, they were going through some renovations so no bottling, labeling, or packing was going on. We saw the tanks and learned how they make rum. It was informative. The tour finished in the bar room where we got to taste Bayou Rum Silver and Bayou Rum Spiced. Then we got a drink of some kind of sangria they were experimenting with (not bad – I would drink it at a party but wouldn’t go out to buy it), followed by a hot buttered rum drink (WOW! We will DEFINITELY have to make that one). We bought a bottle of spiced rum and continued on our way.
Stopped at Lil’ Cahon’s Meat Specialists for lunch. It was a small place with a deli counter and four tables in the place. Paul had boudin balls and cracklins; I had boudin links. Everything was quite tasty.
We followed the road down south to coastal highway 82, called America’s Scenic Byway. It was a lot like driving down Ocean Parkway on Fire Island back home. There was lots of open swamp land with water, cattle grazing, and exotic birds flying around. The horizon was dotted with off-shore oil rigs, and there were many refineries, holding tanks, and pipeline terminus’ along the way. We even had to take a ferry across a bayou to continue on the road.
13 March 2014 (Thu) – Took our cat, Sheba, to the vet this morning. She has only had one bowel movement in the past seven days. She had a serious calcium deficiency when she was a kitten and this resulted in a skeletal deformity. One of those deformities resulted in a narrow pelvic canal, making it difficult for her to go to the bathroom regularly. She eats a high fiber dry food and we add fiber to her can food, but apparently it’s not enough. The doctor prescribed a laxative for her and suggested we change her diet to include pumpkin and squash baby food. We’ll see how she does. Because we did not have an appointment but walked in, we waited over two hours to get in this morning to drop her off, then an hour and a half to pick her up at the end of the day.
Drove into the town of Eunice and had lunch at Ruby’s Restaurant. The street was an old, narrow main street with high curbs and trees planted in the intersections you had to drive around. The restaurant was surprisingly spacious compared to the small store front. There were two large bars and lots of tables that were nearly all full. The place was quite popular. The food was good, as was the service.
After lunch, we walked over to the Jean Lafitte National Park Acadian Cultural Center. We started with a very moving video of about 20 minutes, than wandered the museum area reading about the different areas that make Cajuns so different from everyone else. They are, in fact, French Canadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the English. Their story is an emotional one and you had to marvel at their resilience in making a new life for themselves down in the swamps of Louisiana.
We had a delightful conversation with the park rangers about the Mardi Gras celebration in Eunice. It is so very different from what they do in Mobile and New Orleans. A group of people go from house to house, dressed in costumes (nothing like those worn elsewhere) and beg for food. The homeowners give them a chicken and it’s a race to see who catches the bird. Other donations include sausage, potatoes, and other foods. At the end of the roadside trip, all the contributions are brought back and a huge meal is prepared for everyone in town. It was so interesting to see how the same holiday is celebrated in such a different way.
Got our laundry and threw it in the washer, then ran to the natural food store to pick up pumpkin seed extract (recommended by the vet for Sheba). They only had capsules, and the lady at the store told us we could puncture the capsule and squirt the oil on the cat’s food.
Threw the wash in the dryer and drove over to the vet to find out about Sheba. The vet was unable to do an enema on her because the feces is still high in her intestines. We discussed what we could do for her, then took her back home after picking up the laundry.
When we got back, we went over Ricky & Helmut’s for wine and cheese. They gave us a tour of their family home. It is a wonderful place rich with history of Ricky’s parents and siblings. They have done some interesting things to the house and are still working on renovations.
After enjoying wine, cheese, and boudin balls (they were scrumptious!), we went to dinner at Hawks. This place is only open during crawfish harvest season. People were ordering platters of four pounds of boiled crawfish. It was an orgy of seafood! People were breaking the crawfish apart, sucking the meat from the head, peeling the tail, dipping it in sauce, and popping it in their mouths. And there was no resting between fish – they can’t seem to shovel the stuff in fast enough. Tables were strewn with hundreds of crawfish bodies.
Paul and Helmut had a fried crawfish salad, Rickey had a burger, and I had a crawfish etoufee. Because of the snacks we had at the house, my appetite was low so I wound up taking a good portion of my meal home. Everything was very good.
12 March 2014 (Wed) – Took a tour of Mr. Charlie, an old oil rig turned training institute. This was the first floating drill platform used in offshore operations. It had a platform that sat on the ground and the legs filled up with water to weight the rig. When done drilling, they let the water out, raised the platform, and floated the rig to the next site. The rig was named after the guy who invented it. The rig was only two stories high (today’s rigs go as high as eight stories). There were 50 people who worked on this rig. We saw their bunkroom, galley (set up as a cafeteria with four meals a day served), and rec area. Outside, we saw the drill operation explained – the form is dropped onto the ocean floor and the double sided drill pipe is fitted through the center of the form. A special mud is pumped down the drill pipe and returned on the outer side of the pipe along with the debris they dug up. Forms are continually fitted one on top of the other to keep the sea water out of the drilling operation. Drill pipes are connected to each other as the drilling goes deeper until they hit oil. The oil is then piped to an oil platform, which is moved on via other pipelines through platforms until it reaches the terminus back on shore. It was a fascinating and very educational tour.
We had lunch at Rita Mae’s Restaurant in Morgan City, LA. It was a little house converted to restaurant. There were four small rooms. The room we were in had two and a half tables (one table seated one person who sat in the corner facing the wall). The room adjacent to us had four tables seating four to six people each. Another room off that one, adjacent to the kitchen, had one large table that could seat eight people. There was a counter on the porch with about six stools, and one table that could seat two people. The silverware was plastic and wrapped in a napkin. There was one waitress serving all the tables. The customers kept coming and going – the place was quite popular despite its tiny, one-man showmanship. All the signs around the place were scrawled in black marker. The food was good, but the cost was pretty high – $30 for the two of us.
We got back to the camper about 6 p.m. It was a full day.
11 March 2014 (Tue) – Had a great day today! Ricky brought us over to her Cousin Duane’s farm. He raises both rice and crawfish (also called crayfish, crawdads, and mud bugs). He took us on a tour of his 1,200 acre farming operation (he owns some of that land and rents the other part of it). It was raining this morning and the fields were muddy.
In the wild, crawfish burrow into the ground to the water. In the process, they leave a mound of dirt on the surface to breathe through. Ricky has several of these mounds dotting her yard. When the crawfish are farmed, the fields are filled with water and then the fish are dropped into it. The crawfish mate and the females dig down and incubate their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the babies swim out of the burrow. Because they are a prey food for birds, turtles, frogs, mammals, etc., a female lays thousands of eggs at a time.
The crawfish farmer puts baited nets in the water, about 50 feet apart on the side and 60 feet along the row. There are approximately twelve nets per acre. The crawfish crawl into the net through one of three tubes and can’t get out. The nets have to be emptied every day once the harvest season starts. The harvester rides up and down the aisles in a flat bottom boat he steers by foot, lifts the net out, empties the contents in a bin, re-baits the net, and then puts it back in the water. As the bin fills with crawfish, the harvester puts the crawfish in a bag for weighing. Crawfish currently sell for $3 a pound. Duane told us they pull in about 14,000 nets a day.
The other part of his operation is rice farming. The fields are smoothed out so the seedlings will take root. They spray the grass with Roundout and then fill the fields with water that acts as a natural weed control. The seeds are dropped by airplane and in about two weeks, the seeds have set in the soil. The plants grow about waist high, then a combine (like they use for wheat crops) is used to harvest the rice. The rice is brought to a grain silo where it is dried to a specified moisture level before being shipped out. Temperature plays an important part in the rice growth – if it’s too cold or too hot, the rice won’t grow properly. The stubs from the rice plants are used to feed the crawfish when they are seeded into the same fields. They eat the plankton that forms on the stalks. It is all interconnected.
After the tour of Duane’s farm, we drove to Lafayette to do some shopping. Returned to the camper a little after 5 p.m. The sun was still up and shining warmly (it got up to 76 degrees today). We took a pleasant walk out around the rice fields (Ricky has a couple of hundred acres that she rents to a rice farmer).
10 March 2014 (Mon) – Left with Ricky at 9:30 a.m. We drove through several small towns between Branch and St. Martinville. We toured the African American Museum and the Acadian Museum. They were small but very informative. We learned that before the civil war, there were three classes of peoples – slaves, free people of color, and whites. After the civil war, our society was reduced to two classes – blacks and whites. The free blacks were the real losers in the war between the states.
The Acadians were French persons who were ousted from Nova Scotia by the English. Some went back to France, some were deported to other states along the east coast, and some retreated to Louisiana. Over a 30 year period, the displaced Canadians found their way to Louisiana. Some of the Acadians were offered land grants by the Spanish to come to Louisiana. Every four or five years, they have a big reunion of the original 50 families that settled in Acadiana.
After the museums, we walked over to St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church founded in 1765. It was a beautiful old church with figures along the walls and a domed ceiling made out of wood. There were two statues in niches as you entered the church.
Next, we walked over to a local restaurant for lunch. Ricky, Paul, and I all ordered the crab cake with potato and a tossed salad. Yum! We walked back to look at a memorial to the Acadians. There was a wall with 3,000 names on it, and across the room a mural was painted on the wall. A narrative accompanied the mural that told the story of the Acadians who were thrown out of Nova Scotia. In the courtyard was a diaspora cross, tiles with names of the early settlers laid out on the ground, and an eternal flame.
There was a town square with the Evangeline Oak and a bust of Henry Longfellow (who wrote the poem to Evangeline). The park sits on the Bayou Teche. It was all very pretty and many years old.
The cardinal has managed to circumvent our Mardi Gras beads and was still attacking the windows. We strung up a plastic garbage bag hoping that the wind would make it move and scare the bird away. This is one determined bird!
9 March 2014 (Sun) – Woke at 7 a.m. to find Helmut’s friend and son already working on the pipe. It turned out that the water in the pump froze, which caused it to pull away from the pipe. They were able to get everything working again, and Paul and I were happy to have running water again.
Ricky came by at noon to get us and we drove to Washington to see about picking up an antique table they ordered some time ago. We had lunch at a wonderful place called the Steamboat Warehouse. The ceiling beams were rough hewn and you could see the cedar shingles through the slats on the ceiling. The walls were brick with some of the cement covering crumbling away. It was very rustic looking. We had fried catfish and shrimp etoufee (a shrimp and rice dish with a creamy sauce).
After lunch, we went to the antique mall which was made up of vendors set up inside an old converted school gymnasium. The table Ricky wanted to pick up was not ready. We walked around the building and looked at the antiques for sale.
After we were done exploring the mall, we drove around the small town of Washington which was established in 1817 (eighty percent of the town is on the National Historic Register). It is so amazing to drive around this state and see mobile homes sitting next door to brick houses sitting next door to three story frame homes sitting next door to run down shotgun houses. There is such an amazing mix of architecture around here. And much of the land is wet. The rice fields are flooded with about a foot of water, and they also raise crawfish in the same fields. We will be going to Ricky’s cousin’s farm on Tuesday to hear more about rice and crawfish farming.
Some crazy cardinal keeps attacking our camper. It sees its reflection in the windows and thinks there is another cardinal invading its territory. We strung up some of those Mardi Gras beads to chase it away from the windows (everything in a camper does double duty). Hope it works.
8 March 2014 (Sat) – Went to Avery Island today. Avery Island is actually not an island, but a plug of salt that pushed up to form a huge mound on a peninsula. The McIlhenny family has been mining rock salt here for over a hundred years. When you drive up to the entrance, there is a small shack with a very old, wizened man sitting by a window who greets you by passing out a long stick with a clothespin on the end. He passes you a brochure and you pay him a $1 entrance fee, all on the stick.
Once inside the park, you follow the signs to the Tabasco Factory. They grow peppers here, and make pepper sauce as well as export seeds to South America to other farms. The Tabasco label is printed in over 20 languages and Tabasco is sold in 160 countries around the world. They ferment the pepper mash for three years! It is one of the most recognized labels, next to Coca-Cola. The tour began with a short video about how the family started the business, followed by a walk through a hallway that looked through a glass window onto the factory floor where they produce many of their products. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday and no one was working, so we looked through the window and guessed at what each piece of machinery did.
After the tour, visitors are invited to visit the country gift store where you can sample several Tabasco products. We tried pepper soda pop, raspberry chipotle ice cream, and other spicy treats flavored with Tabasco (jelly, mayo, mustard, etc.). There were all kinds of Tabasco products for sale – aprons, t-shirts, kitchen ware, etc. We were each given four tiny little bottles as part of the tour. And there was no charge for the tour! Each little bottle cost $0.55 in the gift shop. I used to get these little teeny tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce in the MREs we were issued in the Army. I remember being so impressed with how far along the pre-packaged meals had come compared to the K-rations from Korea/Vietnam.
After the Tabasco Factory tour, we drove to Jungle Gardens (still on Avery Island) and paid an entrance fee to drive along a five mile scenic roadway that featured all kinds of plants (few were in bloom) and various wildlife (we spotted a couple of alligators). The highlight of the drive was a stop at the Bird Watch. Back in the day, the snowy egret was facing extinction because it was hunted for its beautiful white feathers. McIlhenny brought seven young egrets to his plantation where he built a bamboo platform for them to nest on. Fifty years later, there are over 20,000 snowy egrets that come to the rookery to breed and raise their young. A man standing on the observation platform with us said that when the eggs hatch, you can see the alligators hanging out below the platforms trying to get the chicks that fall out of the nest. There were the most gorgeous live oaks around the property. One had a limb that stretched out longer than the tree was high. Many of the trees are more than 300 years old.
We left the “island” and stopped at a Mexican restaurant for lunch. We each had a big mug margarita, and some typical Spanish food (taco, enchilada, refried beans). The place was decorated nicely, but was a little on the seamy side with ripped upholstery, peeling paint, and plastic forks wrapped in little napkins. Enjoyed the experience.
We drove back to the house and found that Ricky and Helmut were home from their cruise to the Caribbean. We chatted for a while, met their three dogs, and planned out some activities. Paul and Helmut looked at the pump for the well but couldn’t get it to work. Helmut called a friend who said he would be over tomorrow morning to look at it.
7 March 2014 (Fri) – Went shopping at the commissary and did some laundry this morning. Stopped by the office and got some of those delicious red beans and rice when we picked up a FedEx package from Escapees forwarding our mail. With everything cleaned up and tucked away, we left at 12:30 p.m. for Branch, LA.
We stopped at a visitor’s center in the Atchafalaya Basin. What a great place! They had a video about the area, and animated critters singing and joking with the audience in a swamp like setting. There were loads of brochures and flyers about activities in the area, and they were offering free coffee.
Back on the road, we arrived at Paul’s brother’s wife’s sister’s place in Branch, Louisiana. They are away on a cruise to the Caribbean and will be back tomorrow. They have a large land area and directed us to park in the back where her brother parks his motor home every year when they visit at Christmas. There was not enough maneuver room and the truck got stuck in the mud. Paul had to jack up the truck so we could put some wood and stone under the wheels for traction. That didn’t help much and we wound up leaving the truck. We were unable to level the camper so we will be living on an angle for a few days.
People just don’t understand the amount of room required for a fifth wheel RV to maneuver. Our camper is almost the same length of a motor home, plus the truck. We have to drop the RV, then unhitch the truck. The ground must be solid for a greater amount of area. The same with height. People just don’t seem to be able to imagine how much clearance we need for 13’.
After we stopped fiddling with trying to level the camper, we tried to hook up. The electric and sewer were fine, but there is no water. The faucet turns on but we are not getting any water. This is probably a well and there is a pump somewhere that needs to be switched on. Guess we’ll have to wait until Erica (Ricky) and Helmut get back from their cruise tomorrow.
Sheba is not feeling well. She only took a few bites of her breakfast this morning. She is listless and not interested in interacting. She turned her nose up at dinner – didn’t even come over to sniff at it – and I haven’t seen her drink anything all day. We will have to keep an eye on her.
6 March 2014 (Thu) – Went to Mardi Gras World today. It is a huge warehouse where they make floats and figureheads and other animated figures/items for Mardi Gras. About 30% of their business comes from making items for Disney World, Universal Studios, Las Vegas, and other places around the world. We saw a 15-minute video on Mardi Gras, had a piece of King Cake (a kind of bread pastry with icing), then walked through the warehouse. We saw one artist placing paper mache over Styrofoam pieces, and all the floats that were used this year were lined up in the warehouse. They have 15 warehouses to store floats and figures, as well as a work area to create their artistic pieces. The best time to tour this place is right after Mardi Gras. The staff was cleaning out the floats, which were full of so much stuff – beads, bags, insulated bags with food stuff, and all kinds of give-aways. They were offering visitors to take whatever they wanted – and there was stuff on every float.
We discovered that a basic float costs about $60 to $80 thousand to build, and that they build in a bathroom (port-a-pottie) on every float. Revelers are on the floats about six to ten hours, and they are all drinking. We saw the Zulu krewe with a port-a-pottie that was being used during Tuesday’s parade. We didn’t realize every float had one.
We left Mardi Gras World and looked up Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on my iPhone to find a nearby place to eat lunch. We followed directions to Parasol’s Restaurant & Bar. What a dive! It was a tiny little place with four rooms – the main dining area had six small round tables adjacent to a small kitchen. There was also a side room that you stepped down to with four small round tables. You passed through a narrow doorway into a bar area. Paul ordered a muffaletta (an Italian sandwich on a huge sesame seed bun), I ordered a Po Boy Firecracker Shrimp, and we shared an Irish sundae (potato salad with roast beef drippings). Everything was quite good.
On the way back to the campground, we passed the Audubon Zoo. On a whim, we stopped in. What a great decision! The place was old, but they had animals here that we have not seen in other zoos. The cages were clean (there were no scuzzy left-overs gathering mold or animal droppings that needed to be cleaned up), the animals all seemed healthy, and the cages seemed appropriate to the particular type of animal contained in it. It was a large zoo and easy to follow the lay out. The only complaint we had was with the reptile house. There were several signs where the lights were out and/or the cages were empty without explanation so that you were standing there trying to find the critter in the cage where there wasn’t, in fact, anything in the cage.
We stopped at one of the cafes to warm up with a cup of hot coffee. Got a cup of gumbo that was pretty good. All was hot and tasty. The zoo closed at 5 p.m. We crept back home in the rush hour traffic, arriving at about 6:30 p.m.
5 March 2014 (Wed) – Went to the NASA Stennis Infinity Science Center in Mississippi. It is a rocket engine test facility where engines for the space program have been tested since the early 1960s. The visitor’s center and museum had the feeling of being newly established and not quite finished, despite the age of the test facility itself. I think the federal government said, “The tourist industry brings in loads of funding – open up the space programs to visitation.” The standard fee is $10 per person (we arrived on seniors Wednesday and got to pay half-price).
We took a bus ride over to the concrete pads where the engines are set up and ignited. Back in the 60s, when a rocket test took place, people could hear it up to 100 miles away. It caused ear damage and broke windows within two miles of the test. Today, you can go up to a quarter of a mile of an engine test without injury.
The museum had display boards that told the story of how people came to expand their horizons and travel beyond their shores. Seems it all came down to commerce – people traveled beyond their shores and traded with the people on other shores. From Phoenecia, to Greece, to Italy, to Europe, and so on.
There were many interactive displays for the kids that were quite educational. We stopped in the gift shop and picked up something for our grandson. Also picked up a dehydrated ice cream bar. It was surprisingly good. Tasted just like a slice of Neapolitan ice cream. As you put it in your mouth, your saliva rehydrated the ice cream. It was quite an experience. Having gotten the taste for ice cream, we stopped at the Dairy Dip on the way home and got hot fudge sundaes. Yum. Once back on base, we stopped in at the Class VI store and picked up some wine.
Although it has not rained today, it is still overcast and dreary. Hope tomorrow is nicer.
4 March 2014 (Tue) – Left at 7:45 a.m. for the ferry. The day was rainy and cold. The temps ranged in the high 30s to low 40s. When we parked in the lot near the ferry, the guy tried to charge us $40. (He charged us $20 two days ago for a spot that was supposed to cost $10.) When we balked, the guy only charged $20.
Arrived on Canal Street and decided to go into Harrah’s for their breakfast buffet. It wasn’t bad, but a bit expensive. After we finished eating, we put up our hoods, donned gloves and hats, and walked to the French Quarter to see the Zulu krewe parade. The crowds were six to eight people deep. People were crowded together and those with umbrellas were poking people in the head, back, and eye. We couldn’t really get very close to the parade route where the Zulu krewe was handing out painted coconuts along with other throws.
We decided to walk around the parade route into the French quarter. Walking down Bourbon Street, we decided to stop in a place called Bourbon Heat. They had a really great courtyard, nicely decorated for Mardi Gras, but all wet from the pouring rain. Upstairs on the second floor was a bar and small eating area. The place was decorated with old, peeling walls – paint over brick – and dark wood floors. The food was tasty and the service was good, but the price was pretty steep.
At 11:45 a.m. we continued down Bourbon Street to St. Anne’s where they were conducting a gay costume judging contest at noon. There were ten judges on two balconies, split on either side of the street. Music was playing and they were dancing and cavorting around, throwing beads to the crowd below. Some of the guys in the contest put women to shame; they were so beautiful. We are sure there would have been many more contestants had the weather been nicer. As it was, there were entertainers and contestants prancing, singing, and strutting their stuff.
When it was over we left the judging area and walked over to Café Dumond for coffee and beignets. The place was packed. The coffee was nice and hot, and the beignets were a mess of powdered sugar. We then traversed the Moon Walk from Jackson Square to the ferry, where we rode the boat back across the Mississippi.
On the way back to the campground, we stopped at Copeland’s Restaurant to pick up red beans and rice for dinner. This is the place where the campground folks got the beans and rice the other day that we found so delicious. I had to wait twenty minutes and wound up with two dinners to go that had not only the red beans and rice, but also Andouille (pronounced Ahn-doo-wee) – a very spice sausage. We got back to the camper at 4:30 p.m., cold, wet, and partied out.
It was so funny to watch the local news coverage of Mardi Gras. These folks take this holiday very seriously. The king of Mardi Gras, Rex, challenged the mayor of the city last night. He demanded the mayor halt all business and proclaim the next day (Fat Tuesday) a holiday and direct the people to party. The mayor capitulated and awarded King Rex the key to the city.
A reporter was interviewing the officers of the Zulu krew – the president, the historian, and the witch doctor. These guys are elected by their fellow krewe members, and serve for the year. They sat in their chairs dressed in bright, sequined gold suits with gold and black striped bowties, holding instruments of their office (a scepter, a book, and a voodoo spear with skull), speaking very seriously about their respective roles. The news reporter, likewise, was very serious.
The reporters covering the parades today showed up wearing wigs and other costume items. In fact, walking the streets today, we saw every kind of costume imaginable. People wore some of the most ridiculous items. There were also all kinds of street performers trying to make money from the revelers, as well as groups of religious fanatics standing in the middle of the sidewalk blaring out news of everyone’s demise over portable loudspeakers. Drunk kids threw water balloons and other items at them. Music blasted out of all the bars and restaurants we walked by.
3 March 2014 (Mon) – It was overcast, cold, and blustery today. After breakfast, we walked over to the community center and did some laundry. When that was done, we went over to the office to share some information about a website with the clerk. They had some rice and red beans available for lunch. It was delicious! Paul and I both had two bowls each.
After that wonderful lunch, we drove to the Chalmette National Cemetery & Battlefield. We took a small ferry that cost $1 to go over, but nothing to come back. There are over 15,000 graves in the national cemetery - over 6,600 of them unknown soldiers. In their place are just small square blocks with a number. It is sad that no one should know who they were, and families who pined for their sons and husbands never knew what happened to them. There are personnel buried in the cemetery spanning five major battles, starting with the War of 1812 and ending with the Vietnam War. Some of their dependents are buried there as well.
The battlefield was from 1815, the last fight of the War of 1812. Unfortunately, the visitor’s center is open from Tuesday through Saturday. Furthermore, this national park will be closed for Mardi Gras tomorrow (a state holiday). We were able to walk around the battlefield a little. There were many signs that made it easy to self-guide the park. There was a large monument to the men who fought and died there, as well as a replica of a plantation home that was on the battlefield that day. At about 4 p.m., a ranger showed up and told us he was locking the gates so we had to leave.
On the way back, we stopped at Zydeco’s for some Cajun cookin’. Everything was outrageous! We started with a gumbo, then followed with a crab au gratin for me and a BBQ shrimp dish for Paul. Each of our meals came with a half loaf of French bread brushed with melted butter. Wow! After the last two days experiences with poor service and bad food, this was heavenly.
While we were driving along the levee, you could see ships behind the mound of grass (the levee) literally in people’s backyards. The ships stood higher than the houses and you could imagine the levee breaking and the Mississippi River pouring into the area. Scary.
2 March 2014 (Sun) – Watched some of the local news last night. There was a special about the Edymion Krewe parade that took place during the day (the one we WOULD have seen had we been able to get around the parade). The organization held their extravaganza in the Superdome. There were 18,000 attendees, all dressed in formal gowns and tuxedoes. They lined the parade route as the floats came in through the middle of the crowd. There were several high school bands playing and the whole thing was led by the New Orleans Motorcycle Police brigade. There were lights flashing, sirens blaring, bands playing, people yelling, and horns blaring. It was an incredible cacophony of noise and costumes and color. The news reporters were trying to yell above the noise. They were saying that the parade participants ha marched five miles to the dome and were still as fresh as when they started. Amazing!
Left for New Orleans a little around 9:30 a.m. Got to the ferry at Algiers Points without incident (whew!). It cost $20 to park in a lot that we were told would only cost $10, then had to pay $2 each for the ferry when the website said it was free. This town can’t seem to get any of its digital information to line up with what is actually happening. The trolley had a sign saying the cost was $1.25 each and that you had to have exact change. The gal at the information booth told us they have machines on board the trolleys now and have just not adjusted their signs.
The ferry ride was all of five minutes (if that). The exit deposited us on Canal Street. Harrah’s Casino was right across the street from the ferry depot. There were people everywhere with all kinds of costumes, beads, ballet skirts, and other colorful paraphernalia. We stopped in a couple of souvenir shops to find something party-appropriate. I got a black sequin hat with flashing lights and a colorful crown to put on the hat. Paul found nothing he liked. We also picked up a Christmas decoration.
We proceeded to walk down the street to the French quarter. We got to the Court of the Two Sisters and decided to pop in for the Jazz Music brunch. Things were very confusing. The gal at the reception desk told us to stand on line – no, wait a minute, wait until the line goes down – no, stand on the line – no, sit down on the bench. We weren’t asked to pay anything and people were walking past us and getting on the brunch line. Finally we jumped up and got on the line (which didn’t seem to be moving at all). I peeked around the corner and saw that we were, indeed, on the brunch line. No one had asked for any money and I couldn’t see where we were supposed to pay. A couple walked up to a second reception station. Asked if they had reservations, they said yes and were shown right in – the waiter didn’t even ask their names. Greatly aggravated, we left.
Back on the street again, we discovered there were small parades from local groups taking place aside from the large, scheduled parades. We walked down to Jackson Square, then up to Decatur Street near Café Dumond. The line from the café was miles long! OMG. We decided to just leave. Walked back to the ferry and drove back to the base.
On the way back, we pulled into The Original New Orleans Breakfast and Pancake House, intending to get some lunch. There was a woman chatting with another woman who, we thought, was the receptionist. When five minutes went by and she did not acknowledge us or stop her personal conversation, we figured she was not an employee and turned to the reception station. There were two women standing there smiling away. When we asked about getting a table, we were told to wait for the woman who was chatting who was, in fact, the receptionist. When the woman saw the receptionist was not finishing up her personal conversation, she offered to take us to a table. A few minutes later, the receptionist appeared at our table to take our order.
Everything on the menu was eggs and something. Eggs and steak; eggs and pancakes; eggs and catfish. I ordered a seafood omelet with smothered hash, and Paul ordered biscuits and gravy with eggs. We waited over a half hour for our food. The waitress at the table next to us was telling her customers that they had been overwhelmed with a big order and begged their patience. There was a table with seven people at it. That was overwhelming?
Finally, the waitress brought my food. Nothing for Paul. She gave me grits and said the smothered hash was coming. I never ordered grits. Ten minutes later, the waitress tending the table next to ours brought Paul’s order. It looked like they had scraped the bottom of the pot to get what was left of the gravy onto the biscuit. It didn’t cover half the biscuit and was dried out. The sausage patties looked like hockey pucks. The waitress also told us they were out of hash browns – had been for two hours. Then why did our waitress take our order for them? Paul pushed the plate aside in disgust and asked our waitress for the check. She apologized and said she would take his meal off the bill, yet we still paid over $17. They kept complaining that they had been slammed with orders. There were five tables with two people each in addition to the one table with seven people. Two waitresses were serving the tables. They certainly would not be successful in New York!
1 Mar 2014 (Sat) – Grrrrr. Wasted three hours sitting in traffic trying to get to the ferry. We were driving along when we came upon a Mardi Gras parade. The road was closed and all the side roads were congested with parked cars. We slowly crept our way down a side street onto a road by the levee, cut across the lower end past the parade route, then tried to head back up towards our destination. We outsmarted ourselves and found ourselves wedged into a narrow street where people had simply parked their cards in the middle of the road and walked down to watch the parade. We turned the key off and waited for the parade to pass. After 45 minutes, we saw some people walking past us and asked if the parade was over. She said, yes, it was almost over but the parade would be coming back. Apparently, they loop around and come back down the same parade route.
We tried to back down and around, then go back up the narrow street. It was blocked by a police car and two cars behind him. A traffic cop appeared and told the two cars to back up. One of the cars had no reverse gear, so the cop called on the bystanders to help push the car out of the way. The party revelers, with one hand full of throw downs from the floats and drinks in the other hand, boisterously joined in to push the car to the side of the road.
We got down the road then had to sit in a long line of cars trying to get out of the side streets. People were driving the wrong way down one way lanes; they were cutting across a major roadway to jump onto another byway; and driving up and over medians. It was a mess.
We finally got through the mess and headed back to the campground. We were supposed to meet a couple we had met in Mobile, Alabama in the French quarter and have lunch together at 1:30 p.m. Since we never got to the ferry, we called and cancelled the date. We came across Lil G’s Kajun Restaurant on the way back to camp and pulled into the parking lot. We walked in and saw three booths and one table occupied. We stood at the reception station for 15 minutes. The waitress passed us four times, and never even acknowledged us. She did not look at us, nor offer to seat us or tell us to seat ourselves. We left and posted a very negative evaluation on Trip Advisor.
After we got back to the campground, we had wine and cheese for lunch while the animals played in the sunshine and grass. Later, we barbequed steaks for dinner.
28 Feb 2014 (Fri) – Left Hattiesburg, MS, at 10 a.m. and arrived at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Aviation Arbor RV Park in New Orleans, LA, at 2 p.m. We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel along the way. The weather was clear and cool, and the ride was uneventful.
When we checked in, the clerk overwhelmed us with information about New Orleans and Mardi Gras “stuff.” The charge is $20 a night; $120 for a week (that makes one night free). We got full hook-up and the campground is right on the base, two blocks down from the commissary and exchange area. We are in the heart of the base and right on the other side of the runway. Can’t wait to watch some of the flights take off and land.
After we gave Sheba and Bonnie some outside time, we headed over to the commissary to pick up some groceries, then the Class VI store to pick up some wine. We came back and snacked on wine and cheese while we read all the material Kenny gave us. Dinner was left-overs. Called and made a reservation for the Court of the Two Sisters tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. We should be able to catch a 4 p.m. parade in the French quarter.