Texas: Fredericksburg & Luckenbach
Louisiana: Lake Arthur, Abbeville, Gueydan, Lafeyette & Beaux Bridge
Mississippi: Bay St Louis
We went back to the exotic animal auction again this morning. The auction is two days each month on a Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was the BIG day. Today they were auctioning exotic goats and sheep. Adult exotic goats and sheep have huge horns that big game hunters are willing to pay big bucks for. The exotic goats and sheep being auctioned were young for the most part. Some were so small that they would have to be bottle fed for months. Watching individual exotic goats and sheep being auctioned is not as exciting as watching a cape buffalo or bull elk prance around the auction ring. Those big and dangerous animals keep the excitement level high, especially in the auction ring.
We wandered around back to see what kind of exotics we could see that had not been picked up by their new owners. It was there that we met a young lady in her 30s that told us she had purchased 5-donkeys. We were talking with her while stockyard staff was loading her donkeys into her stock hauling trailer behind her F150 pickup. At one time she told us she did not know what her husband was going to say when he found out she had purchased 5-donkeys. Joyce and I both laughed, neither of us could imagine either of us coming home with 5-donkeys. Hey, the donkeys were cute but still looked to weigh 600 to 700 pounds each. She lived outside San Antonio about 100-miles from here.
Someone else was loading rhea and emu he had purchased yesterday. He had purchased them for $35 each and said he was going to turn them loose with his goats. He told us that rhea and emu acted as guard animals. Under serious questioning he said that they really did not like dogs. According to this man both the rhea and emu have a large, sharp spur (or something) on or near their feet. It seems they can run down and slash open a coyote. What will we learn next? A guard bird! Who would have thought?
Ranchers originally purchased emu, rhea and ostrich for as much as $25,000 per- breeding pair. Then the market evaporated. Now emu and rhea roam the countryside. I have no idea how ranchers catch them in order to load and transport them to the auction. We see as many roaming the roadside as we see inside fences. Even those in fenced areas are roaming as free as deer and turkey.
We ended our day by driving out to Luckenbach and listening to aspiring musicians perform. The performances are outside under the shade of a grove of stately old live oak trees. Sunday afternoons are the "big" day at Luckenbach. Although you may stop by Luckenbach and luck into a cowboy picking his guitar and moaning some "Poor Poor pitiful me song" any afternoon of the week, your best bet to mingle with a crowd listening to music will be on the weekend.
This Sunday afternoon crowd has run the resident "Luckenbach" roosters into the upper branches of the stately live oaks. The roosters provided as much entertainment as the musicians by crowing at the most opportune time. One particular performer was "kinda-bad" and one of the roosters started crowing during his performance. While most of us were laughing at the rooster one of the bikers out back bellowed "don't give up your day job".
A time or two the rosters crowed after particularly good performances while the crowd was clapping and showing appreciation for a job well done.
After tiring of Luckenbach we took some scenic farm roads back to Fredericksburg. It is absolutely amazing to slowly drive these back roads in the Hill Country and see all the deer. It really is mind boggling to see deer like city folk see pigeons. Plan to spend some time slowly driving in the countryside in the early morning or evening when visiting the Hill Country. You will be rewarded.
July 21, 2003
We drove 412-miles to Shady shores RV-Park. Lake Arthur, Louisiana. Delightful Mom & Pop Campground full hookup with 30-amps on Lake Arthur, $12.96 per- night. (Although we like this campground it may not "fit" some individuals. It is 1- mile down a DUSTY gravel road under a grove of large shade trees and you may be the only RV in the campground. www.shadyshores.com
We were on the road by 8:30 this morning continuing our journey east. Our goal for the day was to put Texas in our rear view mirror.
Although we did not stay on I-10 all the way across Texas we were on if for much of the way. Thinking back, we actually got on I-10 at MM-6 north of El Paso last Friday. Today we crossed into Louisiana just after MM-879. I am going to say it again. It is a LONG way across Texas! We don't normally drive this far in one day (over 400-miles) but, we both wanted to see a menu that did not include enchiladas and pinto beans.
The Hill Country of Texas is green from recent rain. East Texas is likewise bright green from regular rain. GREEN is so beautiful. As we put the Hill Country of Texas behind us and transitioned into east Texas the land got flatter and flatter the farther east we drove. It also got greener. We passed through corn fields early in the day before they transitioned into rice patties as we neared the Louisiana border. Pastures are full of cattle not goats. In this region they measure land in terms of cattle per-acre not "acres per-cow" like out west. The only time we would see such concentrations of cattle out west was in dairies or feed lots. In southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana it does not appear possible to put enough cattle on a field to keep the grass less than knee deep.
As we pass through Houston refineries dot the horizon and continue through Beaumont, and on into Lake Charles, Louisiana. Gasoline and diesel is much cheaper near the refineries. We saw diesel for $1.31 within 100-miles either side of Houston. In comparison we saw it for $1.89 in Taos, New Mexico.
I-10 in west Louisiana and east Texas is BAD! The stretch of I-10 in Louisiana from Lake Charles to the Texas border is so bad that you can damage your motorhome at 55-mph. The next time we head west I think we are going to travel on US-190.
We decided late in the day to make Lake Arthur, Louisiana our destination for the night because it was in the middle of rice country. As much as we have visited Louisiana we never seem to be around during the rice harvest. Some fields have already been harvested. We did not see a harvester operating in any of the fields today but that is high on our list of things to see.
Rice fields are flooded during much of the year but are drained for harvest. We have never seen dry rice fields. Every time we have visited "rice" country, fields were flooded with crawfish pots strategically placed throughout or green with rice plants.
Rice stubble that remains after harvesting looks like a golden haired boy with a neat flat-top. While we did not see any rice harvesters at work, we did see hay rakers and bailers working on fields of coastal Bermuda. Rain is scheduled for day after tomorrow and they are frantically trying to get it out of the fields during this brief respite from daily rain.
One of the things we like to do in this park is walk around on the family property looking at the birds and wildlife. Remember, we are in south Louisiana and wildlife is abundant. Great horned owls live in the trees in and around the campground. Alligators are in the lake, (don't take poochie down to the lake and play fetch the stick) deer are in the woods and in the winter fields are covered with ducks and geese.
After getting the motorhome set up we headed in to the city of Lake Arthur for a bite to eat. Thankfully, we are out of pinto beans and enchilada country. We have now entered "po-boy" country. I got a shrimp platter while Joyce got fish. Down here seafood is always fresh and does not have the heavy batter so prevalent on seafood away from the coast. We "high-fived" as soon as we saw that menu sans pinto beans. Ain't it always the simple things in life that we get the most satisfaction from?
July 22, 2003 Shady shores RV-Park. Lake Arthur, Louisiana. Delightful Mom & Pop Campground full hookup with 30-amps on beautiful Lake Arthur, $12.96 per- night. (Although we like this campground it may not "fit" some individuals. It is 1-mile down a DUSTY gravel farm road situated under a grove of large shade trees, and you may be the only RV in the park. www.shadyshores.com
We had a long day yesterday that led to sleeping late this morning. However, Cajun Country was calling. I wanted to see rice being harvested and Joyce wanted to eat in Abbeville. Those activities complimented each other since the drive to Abbeville was through rice country.
Heading east out of Lake Arthur on Louisiana 14 we crossed over a high rise bridge over one of the bayous feeding Lake Arthur. At the foot of the bridge Joyce noticed a sign for the La Maison Des Chenes Restaurant on the shores of Lake Arthur. With a name like that Joyce wanted to know more. We drove down to the restaurant and found a marina, dance hall, restaurant, bed & breakfast and RV-Park. This RV-Park would be a good place for snowbirds looking for a place to spend time in south Louisiana during the winter. It would also be a good RV-Park for duck hunters hunting out of Gueydan or Lake Arthur.
Here is the information we were able to get: La Maison des Chenes B&B, Marina & RV-Park 337-536-7066 337-536-9520 800-888-0960
Lake Shore Club (dining and dancing) 337-774-1000 The owner told us they had dances every Friday and Saturday night with up to 600 in attendance. Information on scheduled dances is posted on their web site; Lakeshoreclub.com That is the website the man verbally gave us. You may have to play with it to make it work.
The RV sites were surrounding a marina in a clean area with no shade. Shade is not necessary during the winter. During the summer we think it is a necessity.
As we continued our drive east we began to notice occasional fields of soy beans. As we got close to Abbeville we started seeing sugar cane. The predominant rice fields were heavy with grain. Fields continue to be flooded until just before harvest. Since rice is a grass that grows to around 3-feet tall it is impossible to see water in the field. All that is visible is a bright green carpet. As the grain ripens it turns golden while the blades remain bright green until water is drained.
After harvest the fields are again flooded where some of the rice plants will produce a second crop that ducks and geese feed on when they arrive this winter. Rice stubble remaining after harvest is approximately 18" tall. Stubble also provides food for the crawfish crop that will be harvested through the winter months. Many rice farmers produce double crops on their fields; rice in the spring & summer then crawfish in the fall & winter.
East of Lake Arthur is the crossroads town of Gueydan the duck hunting capital of Louisiana or possibly North America. Gueydan is home to a rice mill and one of the best outfitting stores anywhere. This area caters to duck hunters and the store has everything they need. If you are in the area make sure that you stop and browse around this store. By the way you will not miss the store it is the largest business in Gueydan.
Meanwhile, after eating at Black's in Abbeville we drove down the street and watched rice trucks unloading at the Mahatma rice processing plant. Big 18- wheel tractor trailer trucks arrive at the plant from 6AM to 6PM to unload freshly harvested grain. The remainder of the plant operates 24-7 every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of their employees says management grouses every year about shutting down for those two days. Arriving 18-wheel tractor trailer rigs drive over a hole in the ground and open chutes on the bottom of their rigs. In a matter of minutes the entire trailer load of rice, from fields as far away as Texas, has disappeared into that hole.
Several augers in pipes that appear to be around 24" in diameter transport the rice from that hole to giant silos. I am calling the storage containers silos but some may be more appropriately called dryers. These dryers are large round storage bins around 100-feet tall and 25-feet in diameter. These silos or dryers are constructed side by side for a city block or more. Augers take the raw grains of rice from that unloading pit to the top of these storage bins. Another auger runs on top of those storage bins from one end to the other. Raw rice from the trucks is transported via these augers to the selected storage bin.
Once rice in the dryers has reached the desired moisture level it is transferred to the processing plant where each kernel of rice is separated from its husk. The processed rice is then graded. Whole kernels go into top grade packages while broken kernels go into other packages. This plant is packaging rice under a variety of labels. The only difference I could see was the markings on the package. In addition to the packaged rice they also sold bulk rice to foreign markets. They ship 3-railroad hopper cars full of rice every other day to a designated port city where it is loaded onto ships.
While I have been explaining what goes on with the rice kernels, the processing plant has to deal with those husks that were removed earlier in the process. We watched as an 18-wheel tractor trailer rig drove under a series of chutes that opened and dropped husks into the trailer. I talked with the driver of that 18- wheeler as he was pulling a tarpaulin over his load. He was hauling husks to the electric generating plant in Lake Charles where they are burned to make electricity.
As the sun went down we went for a walk around the "Broussard" family property surrounding the RV. The property is a beautiful piece of high ground on the banks of Lake Arthur covered with well spaced large hardwood trees. Great horned owls patrol the open ground under the canopy of these beautiful trees. We quickly spotted one near the motorhome and watched as it fed. It would drop onto something on the ground then return to a nearby tree limb to eat. Other times it would pluck something off the trunk of a giant oak tree. Although we could plainly see the large owl in our binoculars we could not identify what it was eating. The big owl was not fazed in the least with us watching his every move. This is the longest time we have been able to watch a great horned owl. We finally went inside to watch the ABC special covering the deaths today of Sadam Hussein's two sons.
July 23, 2003
We drove 58-miles to KOA (Keep On Adding) of Scott, LA. This KOA is located at exit 97 on I-10 which is the junction of I-10 and Louisiana 93. This KOA is for all practical purposes in Lafayette. A very nice, full hookup, RV-Park $32 per-night, amenities like 50-amps and cable are extra.
We moved the motorhome to Lafayette today. We have some maintenance scheduled, with the local Chevrolet dealer, tomorrow morning. Our maintenance is scheduled for 7AM so we are staying in this KOA located less than 5-miles away. Normally we stay at the Acadian Campground operated by the City of Lafayette but that would mean an across town trip through the heart of Lafayette, during rush hour, to deliver the motorhome.
The drive east along Louisiana 14 to Kaplan then north on Louisiana 35 to Rayne was a beautiful journey through Louisiana rice country. Shortly after turning east on US-90 in Rayne we spotted something crossing the road in front of us that was the size of a squirrel but did not hop like a squirrel. We finally got close enough to tell that it was a bull frog. Rayne is the frog capital of Louisiana or the United States. They are known for their frogs. That bad boy we just saw made it across the highway in 3-jumps. Like I said it was not moving like a squirrel. Duh!
We did lunch at "T-Coons" in downtown Lafayette with the downtown crowd. This little restaurant is only open for lunch and does a landmark business. Their crawfish etouffee is always out of this world. Another day without pinto beans on the menu! Ain't life great?
July 24, 2003 Trek mileage: Beginning 45,054 Ending 45,065. 11-miles Acadiana City Park, Lafayette, Louisiana. $9 per-night with 50-amps less than 2- miles from downtown. It is wooded and has 50-amps. The down side is there are no shower or restroom facilities. A hurricane late last summer dropped a large hickory tree on the bathhouse and the city has not funded the repair. If you plan to do Lafayette on the cheap this is the place for you.
We got up early and delivered the motorhome to the local Chevrolet dealer for some service work. After dropping the motorhome off we did some shopping for necessities before heading to Beaux Bridge for lunch.
Café De Amis is our favorite restaurant in Cajun Country. The last time we were through here with my Mother they were closed for the annual Crawfish Festival in Beaux Bridge. My Mother did not get to experience Café De Amis. We hated that because we so wanted Mother to experience that. Things did not work out then, but Joyce and I made up for it today. The corn & crawfish bisque was out of this world, the filleted chicken breast smothered in crawfish au gratin was award winning then we finished off the meal with bread pudding & their special white chocolate sauce.
The worst thing about eating there is deciding what you are NOT going to order. Everything is SO good the decision is excruciating! Plus NO pinto beans were on the menu.
After picking the motorhome up we headed to the Acadiana City Park in Lafayette for the night.
July 25, 2003 We drove 169-miles to Casino Magic RV-Park @ Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. A full hookup 50amps, cable, concrete streets and pads. First Class! $22.15
We got up this morning and headed east toward Pensacola and home. The only thing even half-way exciting was our stop for lunch. For years we have heard about Middendorf's. We have heard about Middendorf's from several sources, the book "Roadfood" features it plus the owners from Whistler's Walk in Gulf Breeze rave about it. It is not an easy place to find when the explanations always include a bunch of "you-knows" in the directions.
My directions are as follows: From I-55 exit #26 in Ponchatoula, Louisiana go south 10-miles. Take the exit at Manchac, Louisiana. I suppose that exit would be around MM-16. Once you get off at the exit drive south on the "frontage-road" US-51. It is confusing since I- 55 is also US-51 but along some of this drive there are actually two US-51s. Middendorf's is officially on US-51 but you have to get there on I-55/US-51. The second/alternate US-51 in this area is what I would term a "frontage" road.
Middendorf's call to fame is fried catfish. It is wildly popular. Middendorf's is NOT a 5-star place. More appropriately it could be categorized as an extremely casual "catfish-destination" restaurant of New Orleans even though it is over 40- minutes north of the "crescent city".
If you are into catfish this is the place for you. They also have a variety of seafood on the menu but virtually everyone was diving into piles of catfish.
Our primary reason for stopping in Bay St. Louis tonight is for the quality "entertainment" at Casino Magic. Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Casino Magic feature Pete Fountain and his band. Entertainment on other nights is equally as impressive.
As always we enjoyed the "free" class entertainment. Tonight it was the band "Night Life". We have seen them perform here before.
The drive home via I-10 was uneventful as most interstate drives are. The one thing that we noticed was RAIN. It started raining about 8-miles from our house. We got more rain in those 8-miles than we have experienced in the past 3-months out west.
Now that we are back in Florida I am going to publish an I-10 report for RV'ers. You folks in automobiles do not pay nearly as much attention to road conditions at we do in RV's.
Here is my assessment: I-10 is just fine from Pensacola, Florida through Alabama and Mississippi and into Slidell, Louisiana where most folks continue west on I-12 instead of dropping down to New Orleans on I-10. I-12 from Slidell to Baton Rouge is in good shape.
I-10 through Baton Rouge is TERRIBLE. This includes the old concrete I-10 for about 10-miles and the portion of I-12 from Baton Rouge to Denham Springs is all TERRIBLE.
I-10 is good from the Mississippi River Bridge to somewhere west of Lafayette.
I-10 from the Louisiana border into Houston is fair to BAD. Traffic is heavy but the interstate is so bad that speeding is NOT a problem.
The interstate is so bad around Lake Charles that we have decided that we will take US-190 west the next time we are traveling through there. The US-190 route also has the advantage of eliminating Houston and that traffic. That is two very good reasons for us to travel US-190 next time.
That is all until we hit the road again.
Until next time remember how good life is.
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Until next time remember how good life is.