South Louisiana

Mississippi & South Louisiana

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Some Key West Adventures ** More Louisiana Adventures ** 2001 Travel Adventures


Mississippi & Louisiana

Places visited:
Mississippi: Pass Christian

Louisiana: Covington, Ponchatula, Crowley, Jennings, Gueydan, Lake Arthur, Lake Charles Holly Beach & Grand Chenier

Friday, March 30, 2001: TREK mileage 24,858 We got away from Pensacola around 10:00am and headed west on I-10.

Roger Rockwell a friend of ours from Pensacola has often bragged about the Harbor View Café in Pass Christian, Mississippi. On Roger's recommendation we detoured south to hwy-90 and started looking for the Harbor View Café. There it was on the corner next to the Domino's Pizza across the street from the harbor. Unbelievable food and CHEAP! I had the shrimp Po-Boy, like Roger had suggested. It had more than 30 shrimp on it. Very good!!!

After lunch we headed west on US-90 until we could jump up to I-10 and I-12. A few hours later we stopped for the night at the Wal-Mart super center in Covington, La.

Saturday, March 31, 2001:
TREK mileage 25,044

We started the day in Covington, La. then drove west on La. 22 to Kliebert's turtle & Alligator farm located about 2 miles West of Ponchatoula, La. An hour or so of our morning was spent looking in the antique shops in Ponchatoula. Ponchatoula is the strawberry capitol of the world. Every town in Southern Louisiana is the capitol of something. They do grow a lot of strawberries around here. There is a strawberry festival in Ponchatoula next weekend. Vendors are selling fresh strawberries out of their pick-up trucks on nearly every
corner. Joyce and I polished off a pint without looking up. After touring Kliebert's turtle & alligator farm we purchased another pint to eat with ice cream later.

Got diesel fuel in Ponchatoula. 41.73 gal. Mileage 25,074

The turtle farm was really something. Just one of the ponds had 25, 000 turtles in it. They sell baby turtles for the pet shop trade. Most of their baby turtles are shipped overseas. If you have ever seen the little yellow and green turtles that are sold as pets, well, they came from Kliebert's. The turtles lay their eggs in the soft earth around the pond. Workers dig up the freshly laid eggs and put them in an incubator where they have a 95% hatch rate. Handling of the eggs is very similar to the chicken industry. The eggs are cleaned and sprayed for samanela (sp) just like chicken eggs. Shortly after hatching the baby turtles are shipped overseas.

The alligator farm was just as interesting. They have a pond with over 250 "breeder alligators". All of the alligators in this pond are 48 years old. There are about 50 males leaving around 200 females. The males are large with the females much smaller. Females start breeding around 6 years old.

Just like the turtles, as soon as the alligators lay their eggs around the pond workers steal them and take them to the incubator. Mothers fiercely defend their nest. They do not let the tourist see this action. To say the least it is dicey and the workers have to use big long sticks to beat the mother alligators off. In the video we saw of this action two to three men with sticks kept the mother alligator at bay while another worker stole the eggs. This part of the operation is definitely an adrenalin rush.

When the baby alligators hatch they are put into a wire mesh covered pond. That is to protect them from raccoons, blue herons, vultures and other predators. Once these alligators have reached 18" to 2' in length they are relocated to an uncovered outdoor pond.

The alligator pond is like a large donut with an island in the center.Many wading birds use the island as a rookery. Like the rookery at Avery Island, Louisiana the birds have a symbiotic relationship with the alligators. If a chick falls out of the nest it becomes alligator chow. However, as long as the alligators are present there will not be any raccoons raiding the nests. It seems that herons and other wading birds choose to have their rookeries protected by the alligators.

One of the interesting side exhibits was a huge snapping turtle they said was 140 years old. It was big. The tour guide said that they rented this big snapping turtle to Jeff Corwin. He is the other guy that does the nature shows like the crocodile hunter. They rented the snapping turtle to the film crew which took it up the road to a little swamp where they placed it for filming. I saw the show where Jeff walks around in the swamp looking for a big snapping turtle then bingo he reaches down and pulls this big boy out. Keilbert's had them
furnish an insurance policy for $10,000 in case the snapping turtle escaped.

Upon leaving Keilbert's we headed west on La. 22 then in Springfield we turned North to US 190 West to Denham Springs, La where we jumped down to I-12 which shortly turns into I-10 west through Baton Rouge then over the Atchafalaya basin/swamp. The 18-mile bridge over the Atchafalaya basin is purported to be the most expensive stretch of interstate highway in the United States. I can believe it. The Atchafalaya Basin, is America's largest river swamp and is one of the last of its kind. The Atchafalaya Basin is part of a complex flood control system that helps to drain two thirds of the contiguous United States. It is made up of over 1,000,000 acres, and is America's largest forested wetland complex. The difference between a marsh and a swamp is a marsh is grassed and a swamp is wooded. The Atchafalaya Basin is 31/2 times more productive in fish and wildlife resources than the Everglades.

Upon reaching the western side of the Atchafalaya we exited I-10 at Henderson, La and headed north on La. 686 to Opelousas, La. then west on US-190. We were looking for the Cajun Campground in Eunice, La. A number of friends had recommended this campground. However, we did not find it. Several individuals later told us it was closed. When we did not find the Cajun Campground it was time to make other plans. Joyce located a Wal-Mart super center in Crowley about 15 miles south of Eunice so we headed there for the night where we shared the Wal-Mart campground with about 5 other rigs.

The Wal-Mart Super center in Crowley, La is located at Lat: 30° 13.90' Lon: 92° 21.93'. Wal-Mart management arranged for me to use the phone-line in lay-away to download my e-mail.

Crowley, La. is the rice capital of the US. Their neighbor community to the east is Rayne, the "frog" capital of the world. Like I said earlier every community down here is the capitol of something. Crowley is crowded with rice processing facilities. Large silos on the edge of town are festooned with advertisements for Mahatma and Minute Maid brands.

Sunday, April 01, 2001:
Trek mileage 25,232
We had intended to attend church this morning. Absolutely nothing worked right. We did not even get out of the Wal-Mart parking lot until after 10:00 am. You would think that we would be able to do better than that. Oh, well! We will do better next week.

Joyce located a mom and pop campground about 20 miles to the southwest in Lake Arthur, La. on the north shore of Lake Arthur. Shady Shores campground is located at the end of Bonnie Rd. off La. 14 about 2 miles west of Lake Arthur (Lat: 30° 04.04' Lon: 92° 41.95').

We spent Sunday afternoon touring the Lake Arthur area in our Saturn. The area consists of miles and miles of rice fields in various stages of being flooded. Many wading birds can be viewed in the flooded rice fields. I suspect they are after crawfish since most birds are in the fields with the crawfish traps. Joyce and I saw many little blue herons and glossy ibis. These are "new" birds for us. A wood duck roost is here on the RV park property. At dusk the wood ducks start flying in to the roost. We are seeing a lot of geese flying overhead
in the fading light at dusk heading for the city park 2 miles away where they spend the night.

Monday, April 2, 2001:
TREK mileage 25,265

We toured the town of Jennings, La. today. Jennings bills itself as the "Boudin capital of the Universe". There is a very good General Merchandise Museum and Telephone Museum in downtown Jennings. Every local told us to try Don "E's" restaurant for lunch. It is located ¼ m. north of I-10 @ exit 64 LA-26. Do not expect to see a sign advertising Don "E's" it is the place with all of the cars beside the Budget motel. A buffet is served from 11:00 to 2:00 daily. The buffet is what everyone bragged about. Another restaurant in town the
"Boudin King" is heavily advertised but the locals say it is for the tourist. A real nice man running an antique mall told us that the BEST place to get boudin was a small store _ mile north of Scott, La. Look for a small store with several gas pumps they have the best meats. They sell ready to eat or frozen_.. no facilities to eat on the premises. We will save this information for our return trip since we have already passed Scott on our journey west.

In addition to touring Jennings we drove back to Lake Arthur and headed east on La. 14 to Gueydan, the "duck" capital of America. During the winter Gueydan, hosts a tremendous number of ducks and geese that forage in the rice fields and winter over in the marsh that stretches 30 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico. The best reason for a cursory traveler to stop in Gueydan is to pick up a stock of locally grown Ellis Stansel's "popcorn rice" at the G&H seed company. Joyce and I purchased a 2# bag of this popcorn rice to add to our stock of eats. If it is anything special we will let you know.

On several of our drives along La-14 around Lake Arthur we spot "craw fishermen" tending their crawfish traps in the flooded rice fields. These wire traps about the size of a beach ball obviously have a flat bottom with a hole in the top that always is above the waterline. The water appears to be 3" to 6" deep in the fields. The crawfish pots sit in rows about 50' apart. The men tending these crawfish traps do so in aluminum boats with a fairly large wheel mounted about 4' in front of the boat. The wheel pulls the lightweight boat through the
rice field. The man sits on the right hand side where he can scoop bait into the trap while maintaining a speed of about 6 mph. When baiting the traps the man uses a scoop to get the bait out of a 6-gallon plastic container then as he passes by a pot he just dumps the bait in without even slowing down, it is a motion that the fisherman has down to a science. When emptying the traps he does not slow down either. As he passes by a trap again at about 6 mph he picks it out of the water turns it upside down where the crawfish fall out then with a deft motion he returns it to the flooded field just in time to grab the next pot and repeats the process. This is a truly unbelievable sight, especially the large wheel in front of the boat
pulling it along.

Nott's corner restaurant, on La-14 in Lake Arthur, is a favorite with locals. One of the locals said his favorite is the crawfish platter. It is closed on Monday (today) so we will have to try it on our next visit.

Lake Arthur's main street dead-ends in a cul-de-sac at the lake with a very nice dock extending into the lake and a nice city park. On the eastern side of the cul-de-sac is a heritage live oak tree. This oak is not advertised a being a heritage oak but from the looks of other heritage oaks we have seen it has to be between 200 to 300 years old. The trunk appears to be about 18' in circumference about 4' above the ground. A flock of Canada Geese roost in the park at night.

All day and all night we hear what appears to be gun shots (cannons) at random intervals. Actually, it sounds like a small war. Upon questioning the locals we find that these are propane cannons placed in the rice fields to scare away the ducks, geese, blackbirds and other birds that descend on the newly planted rice fields and devour the seed rice. From all of the birds that we see these noisemakers are essential. Earlier in the day we watched as an airplane made low level passes over several freshly flooded fields sowing rice seed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2001
TREK mileage 25,314
Lat: 30° 17.736' Lon: 93° 15.853'
We hitched up the Saturn and moved to Sam Houston Jones State Park (337-855-2665) just north of Lake Charles, La. Sam Houston Jones is a nice State Park with 85 spots for RV's. There is a river, several lakes and many opportunities to view wildlife and walk on trails.

At Shady Shores RV Park in Lake Allen this morning we got to view a barn owl and a pileated woodpecker. Once we got to Sam Houston Jones SP the first bird we saw was another pileated woodpecker. All along the road we were seeing shrikes and little blue herons in large flocks.

We have been in Louisiana for 4 days and have not eaten any boudin. Enough is enough. Today we stop by a place and get some hot boudin balls and ate them driving down the road. Life does not get any better than this.

As the sun started to set deer came out of the woods at Sam Houston Jones State Park. On a short walk around the campground we could see as many as 20 deer at one time, while groups of 3 to 6 were common. Even my deer hunting buddy, Galon Hall, could get one of these. VBG
(Very Big Grin), actually, I do not hunt but Galon does, or says that is what he does in his bubba truck.

Wednesday, April 4, 2001:
TREK mileage 25,314

We put 180 miles on the Saturn today while circling Grand Lake on the Creole Nature Trail. Grand Lake is located south of Lake Charles. From Sulphur we took La. 22 south through Hackberry, the "crab capital of the south" to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge where we toured their headquarters and visitors center. They had a series of wonderful dioramas that are an excellent presentation of the entire ecosystem. Four miles south of the visitors center Joyce and I stopped and took the Sabine NWR nature trail through the marsh refuge.The raised walkway offered some of the best wildlife viewing imaginable including lots of alligators. Numerous ducks and other wading birds were readily identifiable. We drove through miles and miles of marsh. The marsh spread from horizon to horizon in all directions with virtually no trees. Leaving the nature trail we continued south to Holly Beach. Holly Beach is known to denizens of South Louisiana as the "Redneck Riviera". Do not expect to see a condo there ain't one. The place is a collection of the most dilapidated fishing camp housing and 50-year-old campers and house trailers ever assembled in one place.

From Holly Beach we drove west approximately 12 miles. This is absolutely the most remarkable drive we have ever experienced along a beach. While standing in the middle of the highway one can easily throw a rock into the Gulf of Mexico then turn around and throw another rock across the barbed wire fence into the rangeland where cattle are grazing. As far as the eye can see to the north there is nothing but grasslands (no trees). There are no sand dunes the small beach becomes the highway and immediately north of the highway is the
rangeland. Literature of the area says the average elevation of the entire Parish (Louisiana County) is only 2' above sea level. I can believe it.

Upon returning to Holly Beach we continued on the Creole Nature Trail heading east to Cameron where we have to ride a ferry across the ship channel. Cameron is an impressive collection of crew boats and other industries that service the offshore oil and gas industry. We continued east on La. 27&82 to Creole then to Grand Chenier. Chenier is a French word for where oaks grow. Out in this area people live on the cheniers because they are the only places over 2 feet above sea level. Even the cheniers look to be only 10 to 15 feet above sea level. Grand Chenier appeared, to me, to be the dune line of the Gulf of Mexico thousands of years ago.

From Grand Chenier we backtracked to Creole, (another Chenier) where we took La. 27 back to Lake Charles. The most notable sights heading north on hwy 27 were the wild iris growing in the ditches for miles and miles. They were blooming profusely and were simply beautiful. What a sight, miles and miles of gorgeous wild iris in full bloom here in the middle of the marsh.

For future reference we noted several RV parks along the way. 1. Holly Beach: Tides Inn RV Park, hwy-82 Holly Beach, full hookup & laundry right on the Gulf. Phone 337-569-2369 2. Grand Chenier: Twin Oaks Park (RV) there were a number of mobile homes as well as about 20 spaces for RV's. Nothing special but appeared to be full hook-up.$8.00 phones 538-2682 - 538-2154, the area code is probably 337.

Thursday, April 5, 2001:
TREK mileage: 25,344

We used today to tour several places of interest in Lake Charles. We enjoyed a driving tour of historic old homes located in a 6-block area constructed between 1885 and 1920. A publication from the visitor's center gives a variety of interesting details on each of the historic houses and their original inhabitants. Next was the Imperial Calcasieu Museum located at 204 W. Sallier. It is a very nice museum with a 300-year-old live oak tree on the property. Then we located the Cajun Café 1317 Broad Street for lunch. This little place had been recommended highly. We will add to the recommendation. For any of you RV'ers heading through the area Broad Street, where the Cajun Café is located, is also US hwy-90. It is located a mile or so south of I-10 and is on the eastern side of the historic district where we toured the old homes. It is a ramshackle blue building with a gravel parking lot. No matter the condition of the premises, the food is great and the parking lot is full, $6.00 for lunch.

Finishing our time in beautiful Lake Charles we headed toward Texas. On hwy 90 while going through Venton, La we were looking for Charlie's Cajun take out that was located at the intersection of La. 108 and US-90. They have been reported to have the very best boudin in the area. Our plan was to get some to take into Texas with us. We found the store but a sign on the window said they had moved to 1905 West Street next to the Burger King. Not to be out done we plugged the address into Street Atlas and found the address located several miles down the road and it was right on our way to I-10. When we got to Burger King and the address we could not see any building with Charlie's Cajun take out on it. Now the question is where is Charlie's Cajun take out? Does any one know?

Our next stop was the Texas visitor's center then on to Mobile Manor RV Park in Beaumont, TX. (409-842-1551) Lat: 30° 02.050' Lon: 94° 09.047'. We chose this park because of the modem hookup in the laundry room. It is a nice enough place and the Manager, Abbie Baradar, is wonderful people.

We spent Thursday night downloading and reading e-mail and balancing checkbooks.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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Until next time remember how good life is.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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Adventures by State ** 2001 Travel Adventures


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