Friday, December 22, 2023

Trip Wrap-up (mostly pictures)

Location: Heart of Haynesville RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I made it back to my homebase after an uneventful tow of about 150 miles with one Walmart stop to stretch my legs and get a couple chicken strips to eat on the road. They were fresh and good. A good deal for $2.25. 

This trip began on December 6th and ended on December 20th. It was a short, local trip to see parts of south Louisiana that I hadn't seen before or it had been many years. This shows that trips don't have to be 1000's of miles long in order to see and do something new. After all, at least to me, it's all about seeing and learning new things. It's my way of keeping the memory demons at bay. As with all of my trips, I set a long range destination and then pick campgrounds and sites to see along the route. This route is never a straight shot. On this trip, the destination was to see the end, or as close as I could get, the Mississippi River. 

The trip lasted 15 days and I stayed at 5 campgrounds (1-Parish, 1-Casino, 3-State Park). The average cost of the campgrounds was about $17.00 per night. This only $4.00 per day more than when I'm here at my home-base. I towed Liberty about 800 miles. The cheapest gas was $2.11/gallon at a discount gas station in Westwego, Louisiana. I usually don't keep up with the per gallon price of fuel, but this low price was so unusual, I remembered it.

The rest of the post will be pictures with captions:

This was the view from the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. My campground is the spot on the top right side of the picture. It was a hub of barge and tow activity. All for $12.00 per night. 

From my ICW campground, I was able to explore the Louisiana/Gulf of Mexico area. It was a good exploration day.

This was a sunset from the door of Liberty while still at the ICW campground.

This was my second trip to Avery Island to tour the Tabasco factory. It is worth a stop.

This also from Avery Island's Jungle Gardens. It shows the Live Oak trees with the Spanish Moss.

This is one of the agricultural industries of Louisiana. A crawfish pond. Big business in South Louisiana. 

Another agricultural industry is Sugar Cane.

Locally known at the Belle Chasse Carwash, the tunnel was permanently closed on the 20th, about a week after I went through it. It was built in the year I was born. It won't be removed, it will just be allowed to fill with water. Yeah, what could go wrong with that. Look for future news reports. 

Shrimping and crabbing fleet. 

This is from Fort Jackson looking to the Mississippi River. That is a ocean going ship coming up the river. I still get the hibbie-jibbies just thinking about the fort. Something definitely is going on at the place. I feel as if I dodged a bullet by getting out when I did. If you think I'm going back, you're crazy.

This was a boat ramp from the Atchafalaya Swamp side of the levees. The swamp is in the distance, but's it there. 

If you're looking for a nice bayou to canoe on the is outside of the swamp, this is Bayou Teche. 

And just to show you that you don't have to be in the Atchafalaya to be in a Cypress Swamp, this is in the Sam Houston Jones State Park, located in Lake Charles, Louisiana which is just a stone's throw from the Texas State Line.

Since I had a picture of a sunset earlier in this post, I figured to balance things out with this Sunrise picture.

And now we are up to date with my current campsite at Heart of Haynesville RV Park in Mansfield, Louisiana. It may look desolate, but the Park has about 150 campsites with only about 30 or so occupied. I chose to get a section by myself. I have doctor appointments for the end of January. After that, I'm not sure how long I'll be here but I'll be looking over my shoulder to see if anything is catching up with me. 

Merry Christmas Ya'll

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Last Stop before Home

 Location: Sam Houston Jones State Park; Lake Charles, Louisiana

First question most people will ask is who was Sam Houston Jones? Well, he was the governor who beat 3-term Governor Earl Long (brother of Huey) back in 1940. 

This state park was destroyed by a couple of hurricanes and a wild fire a few year back and has been completely rebuilt. The state has done an excellent job. 

I specifically chose this campground because of the new, clean concrete campsites. I used them to do some inspecting of Liberty's underbelly. It is enclosed with coroplast panels. I needed to make sure they were still sealed up front so rainwater doesn't flow down Liberty's front end and enter the void between the coroplast and floor. I also checked other places,,,,, oh nevermind.

To avoid the rough U.S. 90 highway, I chose a state route that ran roughly parallel to the U.S. Highway. It was much smoother and only about 15 minutes slower. Good deal, Lucille

My campsite with clean concrete. The campground is about 75% full which is surprising for the middle of the week. 

The narrowest boat ramp I've ever seen but it makes a nice picture.

Nice lake in the middle of the state park. It is surrounded by the campground, picnic locations, elevated walkways, tents and cabins. They did a really good job at rebuilding.

I liked this picture because of the reflections. Right place at the right time.

I guess this is an appropriate picture for the last one on this trip. I'll leave it up to ya'll to guess if it is a sunrise or sunset.

Tomorrow is moving day and my next stop will be my home base campground. I'll do a trip wrap-up after a few days of de-compressing and allowing the recent memories to find their final resting places.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.   

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Indian Casino and Levee Gate

 Location: Cypress Bayou Casino; Charenton, Louisiana

There was a strong cold front coming out of Texas and was due to hit the Bayou Segnette campground around noon. I was hoping it would speed up so I could wait for it to pass over me before I needed to hitch up. But, when I checked Accuweather, it looked like it had slowed down and wouldn't get to me until after check-out time. So, I start hitched up and pulled out around 9:00 am with only a couple hour tow ahead of us. I kept a close eye on the weather radar while driving (only when no cars were around and I was on a four lane highway). I planned a stop at Morgan City Walmart which was about 30 minutes from my next campground. I figured I could park and wait the storm out if it came to that. After stretching my legs in the store and buying a couple things, I again checked the radar and it was moving even slower. It looked as though I may be able to make it to my campground about the same time the storm hit so I hit the road. Light rain started about 10 minutes before I got to my current campground but it wasn't too bad. The casino hotel had an awning that I could pull Freedom and Liberty under while I went in to register. It was still only a light rain. After registering, I made the mistake of letting my stomach make a decision instead of my head. At least I haven't let my heart make one in a very long time. My stomach made the decision to park Freedom and Liberty and get something to eat in one of the restaurants inside of the casino, with the thought that the storm would blow through while I was eating. So, we parked. It was still only a light rain. The food was good and I ate slowly hoping the storm would pass. I tried to check the radar while eating but I didn't have a cell signal in the casino. I'm cynically guessing they blocked the signal. I was greeted with a clap of thunder as I got to the exit. Oh crap, it was really coming down now. I could get a cell signal at the door and the radar showed at least another 45 minutes of heavy weather. With a heavy belly, I found the slot machines. I'm not a big gambler and can take it or leave it, but playing the penny machines just didn't seem right. I found a more expensive set of machines and after 45 minutes, I had lost $5.00. I was satisfied since I always expect to lose at a casino. The rain had changed over to a slow steady drizzle. Too much drizzle to set up camp, but slow enough for me to make it to Freedom in the parking lot without getting too wet. I drove over to the campground and found my pull-thru site. I jumped out of Freedom and went inside Liberty to wait out the rest of the rain. After about a 45 minute nap with Liberty's heater keeping me warm, the rain stopped enough to set up camp.

Once the front passed through, the air was clean and crisp. It reminded me of a chilly day in the Rockies after a rain.

This campground is mainly made up of permanent people living here. Some work at the casino and others are just here. I feel as though I was very lucky to have found a spot for the two days I'm here. 

I only had one thing to see at this location so my stay is only 2 days. I came here to see a set of quarter turn levee gates. They were built in 1951 to connect the Bayou Teche with the Atchafalaya Swamp basin by way of the Charenton Canal. Those gates were welded shut several years ago and the Corps of Engineers is currently replacing them with something bigger and better. It will be a big economical boost for this area once the people have a direct route to the Atchafalaya Swamp and river again. The project should be completed in about a year and maybe, just maybe, I may come back to check out the completed project.

This is the best picture I could get of the gates. I was disappointed I couldn't explore more but everything was secure and posted since it was an active construction project.

This is on top of the Levee. You can drive it but it isn't recommended unless you have local knowledge about it. 

One of the things that can damage a levee is a Nutria. Think of a cross between a large rat and a beaver except with orange buck teeth. They will burrow deep within the levee and can actually undermine them if left alone. Louisiana has placed a bounty of $6.00 per tail in hopes that local, licensed trappers can help. The goal is to get rid of 400,000 Nutrias. Several years ago, the state had a contest to see if the people could come up with some good ways of cooking Nutria in hopes of finding another cash crop like crawfish. I didn't hear out it turned out but since I don't see Nutria rat on menus, I'm guessing it was a failure. 

I had also planned to drive the levee road to see what I could see, but it was so "washboarded", I couldn't go any faster than about 5 miles an hour. I gave up and turned around. Yeah, I know, if you drive fast enough you will only ride on the tops of the washboard and it is smoother. That's true, but when you slow down you have to pass through the phase where the washboard is beating the heck out of you and creates a condition that is hard to steer. Very dangerous, especially in a place where the gators outnumber the people. It was OK though, I just made a slow drive back to the campground.

Nothing but pictures left.

A public boat ramp into the Atchafalaya basin. It was prettier than this picture shows.

A lift bridge over the Bayou Teche. Louisiana has about 160 movable bridges. 

The view of Bayou Teche from the bridge. It's a nice looking bayou. Long history behind it but too long for this post. 

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed to a state park in the western part of the state. No exploration planned since I intend to use their newly re-built concrete campsites to slid under Liberty to inspect her underbelly. I'll only be there 2 days before heading back to base camp at Mansfield.  

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.


Friday, December 15, 2023

Where the Mississippi River Ends

 Location: Bayou Segnette State Park; Westwego, Louisiana

I left Cajun Country and headed towards the big city of New Orleans. To get here though I had to travel over the worst U.S. Highway I've ever been on before. Once I get out of here, I will never be back because I know the roadway won't be repaired or replaced in my lifetime. Just shamefully bad.

This state park is great and in the perfect spot to explore this area. I camped here the last time I was here back in February of 2016. I made 3 posts back then and you can find them by looking up Feb 2016 on the archives to the right >>>>>.

This is the typical campsite here at Bayou Segnette. The campground is only about 10% full which I guess is pretty good for this time of year. 

This state park is on the west side of the Mississippi River while New Orleans is on the east side. I do not plan to cross the river and will be staying out of the Big Easy. So far, the trees around me have muffled the gunshots from New Orleans (it's up to you to decide if I'm kidding or not. For there to even be a question in your mind that I may not be kidding says it all)

My only reason for coming here was to get as close as possible to the mouth of the Mississippi River. I explored the beginning of the river at Lake Itasca in Minnesota back in September of 2014 (another archive search date?). So, as with so many of life's circles, I needed to complete this one. The circle being, see the beginning, see the end.

This picture is from September of 2014 and shows the beginning of the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota. That is Lake Itasca in the background. The elevation at his spot is 1,475 feet which is the total fall of the river since the Gulf of Mexico is elevation zero. The length of the river is a little over 2,500 miles but if you drive there it is only 1,500 miles. That means the river meanders 1,000 extra. If you put a drop of water in the river at Lake Itasca, it will take 90 days before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. 

Many people think New Orleans is sitting right on the Gulf of Mexico, but it isn't. The Gulf is about 70 miles south of New Orleans. There is a narrow strip of land that parallels the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. That narrow strip is what I came here to see. It is hard to find places to actually see the river because there are levees on both sides to prevent flooding.

This state park is in the city of Westwego (pronounced wes-twee-gow). According to stories, the city got its name from train conductors back in the late 1800's. As they pulled out of the local train station headed west, they would yell,,,,, West We Go. Like most things, it got slurred down into today's pronunciation.

To begin the exploration, I headed to Belle Chase which is a town between the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and the Mississippi River. It is essentially the beginning of the strip of land I wanted to see. When I got to the ICW, I was reminded that Louisiana has roadway tunnels and one of them was on my route. The tunnel won't be there for long since the state is building a bridge over the ICW and plan to close the tunnel early next year. There was only one lane of traffic through the tunnel and having to turn on your windshield wipers while in a tunnel is a little "disconcerting". Yep, a lot of water was leaking from the roof of the tunnel. I've never seen that before and hope I never see it again. Geez,,,,, But, I got through OK and knew on my return route I would be going over the newly built portion of the bridge.

I hope I never pass through a tunnel like this again. I understand the reason they aren't maintaining it is because the it will be permanently closed soon. This is when bad things can happen. This is also the reason for the extremely bad roadway on the way to the New Orleans area. It is eventually going to be replaced with Intestate 49. The logic is, why waste maintenance money when the entire roadway will be replaced soon. That's fine as long as soon is soon, but in this case soon has already been about 10 years with probably another 10 years to go. The 3 P's strikes again, "Piss Poor Planning".

After leaving the tunnel and checking my drawers, I headed south with about 65 miles of road in front of me. I think I'll let the pictures and captions tell this part of the exploration.

There is a lot of existing industry along the river road. I lost count of the number of tanks at 25. There is a small to medium refinery between the tanks and the river. 

This was a massive industrial construction project. There must have been 500 personal vehicles in the parking lot along with a dozen or more buses. The work force must be close to 1,000 people. When I got back to the campground I did some checking, and apparently, this will be a "Liquefied Natural Gas Plant" with the ability to load ships directly on the river.

I couldn't get a better picture but this is the Empire Locks that connect the Mississippi River directly to the Gulf of Mexico without having to go all the way to the end of the river. Obviously small boats only.

Once you get about 3/4 of the way, a lot of the industry stops and you have some empty land. Notice the four lane highway that is used to entice business to build here.
This is a residential street between the highway and river. To the left is the Levee. Usually they don't like trees growing that close to the levee because the roots may undermine the levee. 

There are access points where you can drive up to the top of the levee but the river may still not be seen due to trees. You can drive along the top of the levee but you better know where you're going and hope to be able to get off the levee or not meet someone coming in the opposite direction. You may have a lot of backing up if things go wrong. It is best to not drive on top.

I found a spot where I could see the river. This is looking directly across. Towards the end, the river is about 3,000 feet wide and the strip of land is 2,000 feet.

Same viewpoint as the previous picture except this is looking upstream. That little spot on the horizon just to the right of the pile is an ocean going ship.

Same viewpoint, just looking downstream.

This is one of the larger fishing marinas in the area. Those mostly shrimping boats with some crabbing boats. 

Some crab pots that were strangely off by themselves. 

I timed this just right. The concrete structure to the right is a Gun Emplacement at Fort Jackson. You can easily see how a ship would be vulnerable to the shore cannons.

Just turning 90 degrees from the previous picture and you're looking at Fort Jackson. It is 40 miles from the mouth of the river and was built around 1830. It and a sister fort on the opposite side of the river were to safeguard the City of New Orleans from enemies coming up the river. It was built after the war of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans (actually at Chalmette). Little did they know it would be used by the South to defend New Orleans during the Civil War. In 1862, about a year after the Civil War began, Admiral Farragut of the Union Navy sailed up the Mississippi River intent on capturing New Orleans. Fort Jackson stopped them for a while, but after 12 days of Farragut shelling the fort, a mutiny happened within the Fort and Farragut captured the fort and ultimately New Orleans. 

This is from inside the fort. You can walk around but not inside any locked doors. The places with the arches are cannon emplacement locations. I was the only one there. As soon as I entered the interior of the fort I got the heebie-jeebies. Something definitely wasn't right. Bad ju-ju for sure. I fought the feeling for a while but quickly left after only exploring about 10% of the place. I won't be back.

This is the end of the road. Actually, the road ends about 1/4 mile past that concrete truck in the picture. But this was close enough. I had seen Venice, Italy while in the Navy and now seen Venice, Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Wow, two life circles at the same time.

 Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed back west. I have reservations at a Casino Campground near the boundary of the Atchafalaya Swamp which is the largest swamp in the country. By the way, it is pronounced "a-chaf-a-lie-a" with all of the a's being short a's.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.  

Monday, December 11, 2023

Cajun Country and Tabasco Factory

 Location: Palmetto Island State Park; Abbeville, Louisiana

It was another easy tow of about 120 miles with a Walmart stop along the way. Walmart stops are great when towing since you can stretch your legs and buy stuff to put directly in your refrigerator. 

Palmetto Island is not a real island. It is just an area that is a little higher than the surrounding area. Louisiana decided to build a state park on the island and I decided to give it a try. My campsite is nice with full hook-ups. I'll use it as a base camp to have a visit with my sister who lives near by and also to explore Avery Island, home of the Tabasco Factory. 

If you come here, you need to know two things and put them high on your list of priorities. There are two animals here that can not only kill you, but also eat you for their breakfast, lunch, supper and midnight snack. Be careful with the Black Bears and Alligators. Although I haven't seen either because I haven't purposely looked for them, the campground host says they get reports almost daily from other campers. Basically, they won't bother you if you don't bother them.

This is a crawfish pond. They average about 15 inches deep so the ground must be extremely level before flooding. Most of the ponds are still dry but some, like these have been flooded. For those who haven't had crawfish, well bless your heart.

Another industry in the part of Louisiana is sugar cane. Many fields are being harvested now. When I lived down here back in the late 70's/early 80's, they had to wait until the cane browned out so they could set the field on fire. The fire would burn away the leaves so the cane could then be picked up and hauled away. Now a days, it is harvested with a combine type machine. Man, the eco people would have fit now a days if the cane farmers went back to the old ways. 

This is the entrance to the campground. Just a subliminal reminder to be aware of your surroundings since they are still laying around while sunning themselves to stay warm.

Snuggled into my campsite. 

I keep my eye out the back window for the Rougarou,,,,,that would be werewolf to those not in the know. So far, so good.

These are the palmetto plants which grow a lot on this island. 

This is what surrounds the island. I took this picture from the road as I was coming to the campsites.

There is a nice little pond in the middle of the campground. Notice the red warning sign

This is the bathroom, made up like an old Acadian style house. Lots of spanish moss.

This is part of the Vermilion Bayou that runs along the edge of the island

Another picture of the Vermilion Bayou

This area is the heart of Cajun Country. The area includes about a 70 mile radius around Lafayette, Louisiana. Lafayette is about 20 miles north of me. By the way, it is usually pronounced, Laugh-e-yet. The area is generally bounded by the Atchafalaya Swamp to the east, Lake Charles to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the city of Ville Platte to the north. 

Cajun Country is also called Acadiana. The Acadians were French people who were living in eastern Canada back in the early to mid 1700's. In 1755 the British King required them to swear allegiance to the British Crown. The Acadians said, "no thanks, we are independent and swear allegiance to no crown, that is why we left France" (I paraphrased that, but when you read it again, do so in a French accent). So the British, being British, kicked them out of Canada. The Acadians call it the Great Expulsion. There were about 11,500 Acadians deported and about 5,000 died during the deportation. Well, lots of the Acadians were deported to New Orleans which was under French control. When they got there, they weren't welcomed by the Creoles who had been there for a while. So, the Acadians said, "ok, you Creoles can have the big city, we will head west and settle out there in the country.". They settled in what is now Cajun Country which also has the fancy name of Acadiana. But how did they end up being called Cajun? Well, after a few generations, their French language had changed some due to being so isolated that when people asked them who they were, their answer was "a-cajun-ian". Due to their accent, most people only heard Cajun, so that is what they became know as. Most people think of Creole and Cajun as being the same thing. They aren't. Creole are city folks with fancy ways and fancy foods while the Cajuns were country folks with country ways and foods. Eventually, some of the Cajuns wanted to be a little more fancy, so they called themselves Acadians. Both cultures, while different, have great people, food and music.

One of the things made in Cajun Country is Tabasco Sauce. There is a lot of history behind it but I'll try to make short and sweet with my fingers crossed that I don't screw it up. A lawyer with the back name of McIlhenny lived in New Orleans and married a country girl who was raised on Avery Island in the heart of Cajun Country. The War for Southern Independence was about to break out so the couple fled the big city and took refuge at Avery Island with her family. While there McIlhenny planted some pepper seeds he got from someone (not sure who) and when he got back from the The War of Northern Aggression the pepper plants were doing great. (Notice how I used two of the three Southern names for the Civil War??) Ole Mc decided to make some sauce from the pepper plants and the original tabasco sauce was born. Lots of people liked it so the sold it and it became a big business, even today. I'll say more about it in the captions of some of the pictures. 

Tabasco museum on the left and the Tabasco General store on the right. Out of the picture and to the right is their restaurant which I didn't try.

This is part of one of several very large warehouses. It is the pepper mash aging in oak barrels with a salt top sealing it off. They will age like this for about 3 years. The warehouses are open to the weather and not climate controlled.

This is the blending stage. The pepper mash from the oak barrels come here after their 3 years of aging. Here it is mixed with vinegar and some salt. It rests here for about 3 weeks with occasional stirring. The stirring is done by that blue thing on top with a timer. 

This is the bottling factory. You can see inside but it is hard to get a good picture. 

The two big bottles are my purchases from the General Store. You can taste all of their different products put they even had tabasco flavored ice creme. The one on the left is a new flavor for me and is called, Rasberry Chipolte. The one on the right is an old favorite named Sweet and Spicy. The miniature bottles were gifts with the one on the left having a Navy label.

Also on Avery Island are the 170 acres of Jungle Gardens. It is a botanical garden created by Old Man Mcllhenny's son. It includes a bird sanctuary and a Budda from the 1100's. You can drive through the Gardens in about an hour or two depending on how often you stop. It is a nice place and I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the place. Although I had been to the Tabasco Factory before, this was the first time to see the Gardens. They would be even better in the spring time. 

Some nice live oaks with spanish moss.

Another tree with some spanish moss

A little grove of cypress trees with lots of cypress knees. They like water so it is rare to see them dry like this.

I found a bench

Another bench. This one is made out of bamboo since they have large stands of them growing in the gardens. It is looking at the back side of the Buddha.

The Buddha sitting in his enclosed glass cage.

Buddha's view.

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed east towards New Orleans, but plan to stay on the west side of the river.

This is a longer than normal post and I do feel like proofreading it before posting. If there are any major errors I'll fix them some other time.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.