Alabama Mississippi Louisiana

Mobile, Alabama

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Lafayette, Abbeville, Beaux Bridge and Lake Charles, Louisiana

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Some Louisiana Adventures ** More Mississippi Adventures ** 2003 Travel Adventures


Mobile, Alabama

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Lafayette, Abbeville, Beaux Bridge and Lake Charles, Louisiana

Places Visited:

Mobile, Alabama. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Lafayette, Abbeville, Beaux Bridge and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Monday, April 28, 2003 We drove 67-miles to Chickasabogue Park (operated by Mobile County Commission) 251-574-2267 $16 per-night full hookup with 50amps: Mobile, Alabama

We left Pensacola around 10:00 this morning. Our trip this time is going to be a little different than normal. My 80-year old Mother is with us. Three of us traveling in our motor home is going to be different, how different none of us know right now. Everyone is hoping that we all adjust to the closeness that motor home living demands. We still intend to have fun, fun, fun from daylight until the midnight hour. That is what it is all about isn't it?

Mobile, Alabama 60-miles to the west of Pensacola was our destination. My brother, Steve, had invited us to stop by his place on our way west. He had our afternoon and night planned for us. Upon arriving in Mobile we headed directly to Chickasabogue Park and connected up the motor home. Without wasting any time we headed back downtown to the EXPLOREUM and IMAX theatre where we met Steve. The IMAX movies were Space Station and Lewis & Clark. We enjoyed both IMAX movies before heading to my brother's house to pick up his wife, Diane, and then out to Cock of the Walk for a catfish dinner complete with their signature coleslaw and collard greens.

After dinner Steve & Diane gave us a car tour of greater Mobile complete with a drive by the "Dew Drop Inn" restaurant some say was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's song "Cheese Burger in Paradise". Buffett is a Mobile native. When he was growing up, the Dew Drop Inn was "the" place in Mobile to go for cheeseburgers! Now we have viewed what some say is the inspiration for that song! Today the place is more noted for hot dogs than cheeseburgers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003 We drove 95-miles from Mobile, Alabama to Casino Magic RV-Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (N30º 20.119' W 89º 21.220') Site #50 50amp full hookup $24.61

This morning found us traveling in the motorhome from Mobile, Alabama to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. We stopped for lunch at our favorite place in Pass Christian, Mississippi. We just love this place and wanted Mother to experience it with us. As luck would have it they are closed on Tuesdays. For those of you visiting the area you need to try the Harbor View Café in Pass Christian, Mississippi on highway 90 at the Harbor (N30º 18.723' W84º 14.823'). There is a large parking lot across the street that we use for the motor home and car while dining. Their shrimp Po Boy is served with over 30 lightly battered, fried shrimp all for only $5.95. It doesn't get much better, when they are open. Since our favorite place was closed we opted for the buffet at Casino Magic not far away.

We were thinking about boondocking but opted for full hookups since it was warm and humid. The parking lot at Casino Magic is perfect for boondocking and usually has around 10 motor homes. Not today, it was too warm. The RV-Park regularly fills up on weekends but spots are available today. Casino Magic is the closest casino to New Orleans plus it has a really nice RV-Park. Many RV'ers stay at Casino Magic RV-Park and drive the 51-miles into New Orleans.

A Casino Magic hallmark is free entertainment between 7:30 and 11:00 each night. Tonight the featured entertainment was a 75-minute set by Pete Fountain and his Jazz Band from New Orleans. After Pete and his band completed their set another great band entertained until the wee hours. For those of you contemplating a stay on Mississippi's Gulf Coast this year you may want to remember that Pete Fountain will be performing "free" concerts in Casino Magic every Tuesday and Wednesday for the foreseeable future. It seems that 72-year old Pete has sold his place in New Orleans and "retired" to Bay St. Louis. Well, kind of retired. He and his group of musicians are now performing two nights a week at Casino Magic. Tonight was his first performance at Casino Magic and a large group of fellow musicians from New Orleans came over for the show. Some were invited to come to the stage and perform a number or two. We did not know any of the musicians but all the Jazz aficionados knew them and applauded wildly.

All together we donated $8.20 to the one armed bandits.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003 We drove 171 miles from Bay St Louis, Mississippi to Acadian RV-Park operated by the City of Lafayette. N30º 15.340' W91º 59.246': Site #70 with 50amps and water for $9.00 in a wonderful shady Park within several miles of downtown Lafayette.

Our destination today was Lafayette, Louisiana. We chose to travel on I-10 and I-12 as we worked our way west. Louisiana has done much improvement to the interstate system. Not so long ago the ride across Louisiana on I-10 and I-12 was absolutely abysmal, at that time the interstate was more akin to an advanced mogul slope than an interstate highway. Today the ride from Slidell to Lafayette was great. Once west of the Atchafalaya swamp/basin we stopped at the Boudin Shop exit 115 on I-10. They have fried crawfish boudin balls to die for. We knew that this "shack" was something Mother had to experience. In addition to the crawfish boudin balls Mother sampled regular link boudin, red beans rice and sausage. I am proud of Mother for jumping in there and experiencing new delicacies. You can say that she is going to return to Panama City as a cosmopolitan girl!

After setting up the motorhome in Lafayette we got in the Saturn and headed to the wading bird rookery along the southern edge of Lake Martin.

The rookery is actually called the Nature Conservancy's Cypress Island Rookery. For those of you with GPS & mapping programs it is located at N30º 12.204' W91º 54.034 on Rookery Road just off SR-353 about 8-miles south west of Beaux Bridge. In the spring thousands of wading birds (Rosette Spoon Bills, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and night herons both Black Headed and Yellow Headed congregate in the tree filled swamp to raise their young. Every tree and bush is filled to capacity with nests and courting birds. They are drawn to this location every year because the swamp beneath the rookery is crawling with huge alligators. If a baby chick falls out of the nest it will become "gator-lunch". However, the alligators keep the rookery free from marauding raccoons, opossums and mink that would eat the young as well as the eggs. It is a chance the birds have to take in order to keep their nesting sites safe from those hungry mammals. Not only did we see thousands and thousands (literally) of nesting birds we were able to see the huge alligators. By huge I am talking alligators 10 to 13 feet long! Mother also got to view her first nutria. Nutria's are large (up to 40#) South American semiaquatic rodents with webbed hind feet. They were introduced to Louisiana by the McIlhenny (Tabasco Sauce) family. They have now become a major pest in the state and trappers are paid $3.00 per-tail turned into the State. Nutria look like a beaver and their fur is nearly identical.

For dinner we took Mom to Mulate's in Beaux Bridge. Mulate's is a famous Cajun restaurant featuring live Cajun music and a dance floor. Mother continued her cosmopolitan streak by having fried crawfish and frog's legs. No, Mother did not join in the dancing. That will have to come later.

Thursday, May 1, 2003 Acadian RV-Park operated by the City of Lafayette. N30º 15.340' W91º 59.246': Site #70 with 50amps and water for $9.00 in a wonderful shady Park within several miles of downtown Lafayette.

Lafayette is home to the Jean Lafitte National Park Acadian Cultural Center. Like Yellowstone the job of this National Park is to safeguard for all time the National Treasures of our great country. Jean Lafitte Park here in Lafayette is showcasing Acadian history. We watched several movies. One told of the expulsion of the Acadian's from Nova Scotia and the other about how they adapted in their new home here in the swamps of Louisiana.

Next on our schedule was Vermillion Ville, a Cajun-Creole Heritage Park. Vermillion Ville is a series of preserved period houses (1790 to 1890). Each of the houses has a docent in period dress performing a normal function of life from that era. One was conducting a cooking class, another was spinning cotton, another was whittling, while another was a fiddle player and yarn teller.

In the schoolhouse we were reminded that school children were prohibited from speaking French in school. An early 20th century Louisiana law forbade the speaking of Southwest Louisiana's principal language even on the school playground!

While watching the cotton spinning demonstration we all tried our hand at extracting cotton seeds from the raw cotton. It was a laborious process. The docent told us that it was a job for the children every night. Each child had to fill their shoes with seeds. That way the bigger and older children had to extract more seeds. I can say for certain that Eli Whitney's cotton gin was a "LABOR SAVING" device like no other! After the seeds were removed the cotton fiber had to be carded then spun to make thread. Thread could then be weaved into fabric from which clothes could be made. As hard as this process was they did not have many changes of clothes.

After noon we headed to St. John Cathedral, Cemetery and 500 year-old live oak. The Dutch Gothic Cathedral built in 1916 is located in the old down town area of Lafayette. This magnificent structure serves as the seat of the Diocese of Lafayette. Equally impressive was the 500 year-old live oak. We have seen historic live oaks before but this one was head and shoulders larger than the others. This tree has a girth of 28' with a limb span of 145'. The cemetery inters many of Lafayette's founders plus several Civil War generals and an Ambassador.

To finish off the day we stopped by the "Blue Dog" café, a white table cloth place. Mother had crab and corn bisque plus bread pudding with pecan praline sauce.

Every time we stay in this RV-Park we are reminded of our friend "Berliner" that told us about the place. Thanks, Berliner!

Friday, May 2, 2003 Acadian RV-Park operated by the City of Lafayette. N30º 15.340' W91º 59.246': Site #70 with 50amps and water for $9.00 in a wonderful shady Park within several miles of downtown Lafayette.

Our excursion today included New Iberia, Delcambre, Abbeville, Intracoastal City, Kaplan then back to Lafayette. In New Iberia we planned to tour the Konriko Rice mill and Avery Island. Konriko Rice mill was not doing a tour for 45-minutes so we decided to skip the tour and opted for a tour of the antebellum homes along Bayou Tech in New Iberia. Then we headed to Avery Island for a tour of the Tabasco plant where the world famous Tabasco sauce is bottled. We always enjoy this factory tour. This time Mother enjoyed the tour with us. She was fascinated by all the mechanical gadgetry involved in the bottling, labeling, capping and boxing necessary to pack and ship Tabasco sauce. Next we toured "jungle gardens" also on Avery Island. Part of the jungle gardens is an alligator filled, 250-acre, lake with a large Snowy Egret rookery in the middle. This rookery has a lot of help from man. The McIlhenny family that owns Avery Island hire workers annually to construct nesting platforms in the lake. The platforms have ordinary pilings with wooden cross members. Bamboo is laid across the long platforms like boards in a dock. Over 20,000 Snowy Egrets nest on these platforms every year.

Our next stop was a tour of Delcambre noted for one of the Gulf's largest shrimping fleets. Then on to Abbeville for lunch and a history lesson. A French priest who named Abbeville after his home in France back in 1843. The town is noted for its two town squares that give it a distinctly Old World Charm. Steen's Syrup Mill stands waiting for the fall sugar cane harvest. Just down the street Riviana Rice Mill is processing Water Maid and Mahatma rice. We can only imagine the activity around this place in the fall when rice is being harvested.

Like in Canada the French influence is so imbued in this area many plaques are in both English and French. Around 45 percent of the people around here still speak French as a second language.

We lunched at Dupuy's in down town Abbeville. Our intention was to sample some crab bisque but the lunch special was flounder with a good French cream and crawfish sauce. So much for the bisque, it will have to wait. Dupuy's is a place we will return to. Abbeville is known for their exquisite dining. Not the "high-end" fancy places but the good places people drive out of their way to sample. Comeaux's in downtown is supposed to be good, Black's and Dupuy's we guarantee to be good. Black's and Dupuy's specialty is oysters with seafood of all types following close behind.

After lunch and a "drive by" tour of Stein's Syrup Mill and the local Mahatma Rice Mill we headed south of Abbeville to Intracoastal City. This is flat country just a few feet above sea level. Cattle ranches and rice fields dominate the land. Rice fields double as crawfish ponds once the rice is harvested. Intracoastal City is home to a huge fleet of Gulf shrimp boats. We wanted to show Mother the plethora of huge, brightly colored steel shrimp boats. They were beautifully painted and in top condition. Vietnamese fishermen who migrated to the area after the fall of Vietnam back in the late 60's and 70's own these immaculate vessels. These 150' steel vessels represent multi-million dollar investments. These vessels indicate these immigrants to our country have done well. Virtually all these gigantic steel boats had names with a Vietnamese flair. The Vietnamese work ethos has severely impacted the "good-old-boy" Cajun shrimper.

From Intracoastal City we headed north to Kaplan. Kaplan is noted for their rice mills and as being the hometown of Sammy Kershaw. A large plaque in downtown proclaims the place as Sammy's birthplace. For those of you that do not know Sammy is a Country Music artist with multiple platinum albums. He is also married to Laurie Morgan. (Another Country Music artist)

Between Kaplan and Lafayette rice fields cover 90% of the countryside. This is rice country.

Saturday, May 3, 2003 Acadian RV-Park operated by the City of Lafayette. N30º 15.340' W91º 59.246': Site #70 with 50amps and water for $9.00 in a wonderful shady Park within several miles of downtown Lafayette.

We headed to Beaux Bridge a few miles east of Lafayette this morning. Beaux Bridge is a historic turn of the century town on the banks of Bayou Teche. Many homes from the turn of the century line the bayou north and south of town. We wanted to participate in the "fun" at Café Des Amis in historic downtown Beaux Bridge. Café Des Amis has a history of providing live Cajun entertainment on Saturday mornings. We have enjoyed the live entertainment and dancing on other visits to Cajun Country. However, the Crawfish Festival is in town this weekend and a sign on the door says they are CLOSED until Tuesday! We were disappointed to say the least. This has happened to us twice this week. We would normally go to the Crawfish Festival but it would require much too much walking for Mother. We change gears/plans and decide to show her the western levy system around the Atchafalaya Basin. The levy is located on the east side of Henderson, Louisiana a short drive from Beaux Bridge. The levy constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers runs from the Mississippi River around 70-miles north of here all the way down to south of Morgan City, Louisiana. It is 18-miles across the Atchafalaya Basin between the eastern and western levies. The flow of the Mississippi River historically ran through here. However, the Corps of Engineers designed a levy system that now channels 2/3 of the flow of the Mississippi down the channel past Baton Rouge and New Orleans. By channeling the river past these two cities commerce was routed that way also. As the Mississippi River flows past New Orleans the river is about one mile across but over 200 feet deep. When the Mississippi River floods the Army Corps of Engineers can open huge gates and divert the extra flow down the Atchafalaya Basin. With it being 18-miles wide the basin can handle flood waters much easier than the main river channel that is only 1-mile wide. Riding atop the levy we can only marvel at the engineering feet construction of this levy represented.

Near Henderson there are a number of fish-camps, boat ramps, restaurants, juke-joints etc., all located along the water's edge inside the levy system. We visited several of these to get the "flavor" of life in these parts. Hundreds of boat trailers were parked around each of the boat ramps and fish camps. Each fish camp had docking for house boats. In these parts everyone who is anyone has a house boat. On weekends the family spends time here on the river. Houseboats are their Shangri-la.

McGee's fish camp/restaurant had a mounted catfish that weighed over 100 pounds and an alligator gar over 200 pounds.

While inside the levy we drove to Butte La Rose. If you inspect a map Butte La Rose will appear as a city. Ha! There is a country store, a boat ramp and an intersection. Joyce and I have done this trip before and enjoyed the drive. What makes the drive so interesting are the private fish camps along the narrow road. Many of the fish camps have names or catchy signs in the yard. The one I liked best was "Dad's Pad when Mom's Mad". Next best was "The other Woman".

As night approached we drove to Eunice to partake in the Saturday night "event" at the Liberty Theatre. Liberty Theatre is part of the National Park System. Every Saturday night from 6:00 to 8:00 Cajun musicians perform in the Theatre while the performance is broadcast on local radio. What makes the performance unique is that most of it is in French. Remember it is the "French" Acadian influence that the National Park is trying to preserve. If you are ever in the area it is a fun thing to do.

From the Liberty Theatre we drove to Prejeans Restaurant located in Carencro just north of Lafayette. Prejeans is a world famous Cajun restaurant. There was a 40-minute waiting list when we arrived at 8:40. We waited! We enjoyed! The food and entertainment were great. In addition to the wonderful food, Prejeans has many wonderful mounts on display. One of a Jewfish in excess of 500 pounds, an alligator that is 14 feet long, a 200 pound alligator gar plus many other fish and ducks. When in Lafayette Prejeans is one of the places that should be at the top of your list of things to do. Prejeans is worth a lunch date just to view the incredible menagerie of mounted fish, ducks, turtles and mammals not to mention the wonderful food.

Sunday, May 4, 2003 We drove 92-miles from Lafayette to Sam Houston Jones State Park, Lake Charles, Louisiana $12 per-night full hookup 30-amp. The sewer at most spots is not really accessible.

As a point of interest, Catholicism was the only religion legally allowed to be practiced in Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The early settlers practiced "la messe blanche" (a prayer service conducted by laymen) since the priests visited so infrequently. Slaves practiced the religion of their masters. Free men of color enjoyed social prestige, were economically independent, engaged in many trades, and worshipped in the same churches used by whites. Slaves sat in small pews on the side isles.

In 1803 France "owned" New Orleans but by treaty it was being governed by the Spanish. The Spanish Governor had suspended the right of the "Americans" to use the Port of New Orleans. The ability to ship goods out of New Orleans was of such importance that the United States sent statesmen to France to negotiate the use of New Orleans as a port. At that time all commerce west of the Appalachian Mountains was via the Mississippi River. The western boundary of the United States at that time was the Mississippi River. All the United States wanted was the ability to safely ship goods out of the port of New Orleans. France on the other hand realized that Great Britain was going to attack what was then Louisiana from Canada in the North and the Caribbean in the south. France was so strung out that they knew they could not hold Louisiana so instead of granting us right to use the port of New Orleans they instead offered to sell the United States the area of Louisiana. That is how the United States acquired much of the continental United States west of the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. The selling price was $15-million dollars.

I told you that piece of information so you could understand that in 1803 when the United States made the Louisiana Purchase the land officially became part of the United States. One of the things our constitution grants and guarantees is "religious freedom". So, after the Louisiana Purchase settlers could worship as they pleased. Isn't that a neat piece of history?

After stopping by Edie's for lunch we moved the motorhome to Lake Charles, Louisiana where we spent the afternoon in Sam Houston Jones State Park.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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Until next time remember how good life is.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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