Monday, April 26, 2010

Mammoth Cave National Park

We made one sightseeing stop on the way north at Mammoth Cave National Park, a place I have always had an interest in because of a story the seventh graders read each year about Floyd Collins, a caver who was trapped and died in a nearby cave. When the park was authorized in 1926 only 40 miles of passageway had been mapped. Today, that number is 365 and geologists believe there could be an additional 600 miles yet to be discovered. The new exploring is done by volunteers who are given access to look for and map new areas. This massive cave has been created by water flowing through the limestone over millions of years. Only about seven miles have been electrified for tours by the general public. Tours range from 30 minutes to 6 1/2 hours and start from several different entrances, so there is something for everyone. We did the two hour two mile historic tour which was recommended for the time we had available for our visit. The ranger guides where excellent and very informative.
This is a great time of the year for a visit as this group in the summer would have had up to 120 people. Since you are going under ground where the temperature is always around 60 degrees it does not matter when you visit..
Stairs into the Historic Entrance and looking up at the last bit of sunlight from just inside.
In the early 1800's saltpeter, a key ingredient in gunpowder, was mined by slaves. Some of the pictures are the remnants of the old mine. The middle of the picture is the ranger with a lantern showing what the light was like for early visitors. Bottom right is a piece of fossilized coral.
In 1816 people began to tour the cave and, as you can see, in the early days it was common for visitors to leave their mark. Some of these are scratched into the stone while others are made from the carbon of the lanterns. Bottom left is a mark that has been found in a number of places in the cave that was left by natives nearly 4000 years ago.
The area of the cave we were touring had very little water so there was only this one column-like structure. The frozen Niagara area has more of these formations.
There were a couple of tight spots on this tour including one called Fat Man's Misery. We did have to watch our heads and duck down in several places.
The park is more than just the cave, with many miles of trails and streams on the surface. This is where the River Styx which flows through the cave emerges to run into the Green River.
There is also abundant wildlife. We saw this huge woodpecker and a number of wild turkeys.
The wildflowers were in bloom as the forest was just bursting with spring. A visit to Mammoth
Cave is a must do on your travel list. We do plan on returning some day so we can have more time to explore some of the other areas of this great national park.

On our trip north we had the same problem we had on the sprint to Texas in March, a dead car battery. What we discovered was the auxiliary brake in the car was leaking air which caused it to run until the battery died. I called Blue Ox and had to return the brake to them for repair. Fortunately, we are sitting for a month and the brake is still under warranty.

We are now in Washington and have been running around getting caught up on things and seeing friends. We are looking forward to getting together with as many people as possible during our stay.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the Road Again

Billy Thibodeaux's RV repair facility.
Looking at the problem under the rig. It was a little strange seeing our home hoisted into the air high enough that I could walk under it.
The Mighty Mississippi.
After crossing so many dry washes in the Southwest that they call rivers it was great to see a real river.

The shiny clean Dutch Star. I hope we can get back to PA without driving in the rain.

The day we left Betty's we went to Billy Thibodeaux's Premiere RV in Scott for service and to have them look at a couple of problems. We noticed an air tank leak when we did our Walmart overnighter and the fuel gauge and dash lights were acting strangely. They were very professional in their work and quickly found the causes and corrected the problems. Billy's is a repair facility that does not sell RVs so they are all about service. Finding good repair places on the road can sometimes be a challenge but from our experience here this is a good stop. They even followed up the next day with a phone call about one of the issues.

After the service was done we drove east of Baton Rouge and stayed at a Walmart. This is the first time we have been East of the Mississippi since November 2008. We then moved on to the Rainbow Plantation SKP park in Summerdale, AL for four days where we cleaned the rig. Nanc finished the ongoing interior spring cleaning and I washed and waxed everything on the exterior from the roof down. It had been a while since I had cleaned the roof and it needed a good scrubbing. Needless to say, I was very sore after two days of manual labor so we just took it easy on Sunday and cooked some more of that gulf shrimp on the grill. A real advantage of staying in the SKP parks is they allow you to do work that a lot of other parks don't allow.

We have now turned north and after another night at a Walmart in Alabama we are spending two days at Singing Hills Campground near Mammoth Cave National Park. We plan on being in WashPA by Friday for a month long stay of catching up with friends, family and doctors. We have a lot of celebrating to do while there, as Rick & Denise and Tom & Georgie are both having their 25th wedding anniversary in the next couple weeks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Farewell to Betty

We ended our stay at Betty's with more of the usual good times. Several of us went to see the Abbeville Players production of Social Security, a comical play that was very age appropriate. We had a couple more great meals, one a return to Suire's and the other, one last taste of crawfish. The happy hours were really special with our last having a Mexican theme. Everyone prepared their favorite Mexican appetizer and there was even a "little" booze involved. A grand time was had by all. If you see George be sure to ask him how many pieces of pie he had.

We made margaritas, there were also tequila shots, Mexican liqueur, and Betty had a quart of good moonshine that proved to be very popular.
We had entertainment that you can tell by the smiling faces everyone enjoyed.

The Mexican Connection.

At another happy hour Betty showed us a pair of panties she wore before becoming the biggest loser:):)

Saying good-bye to Betty was not easy. This is the third time we have been here and we have made plans to return next year for Mardi Gras. When we stared fulltiming we had plans to visit many sights around the country but those plans included only one RV park that we knew we had to visit and that was Betty's. We really love everything about this place including the food, music and the people but the real reason we keep coming back is because of Betty. She is just an awesome lady. Those we meet on the road often ask what our favorite place has been and after three stays here we have to say it is Betty's RV Park.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

The group from Betty's waiting outside Cafe Des Amis.
Jim, Nanc, Mado, Lionel, Florence, Rick, Judy & George

The line stretching down tho block.
Nanc getting ready to bite into one of the delicious beignets. MMMMMMMMMM!!!!
Nanc trying to get into the band with the washboard. She never wanted to use one of those before.

Eating, drinking and dancing the morning away.

Saying good-bye to our friend Ollie at the Museum Cafe. Ollie told Nanc that her philosophy is; There are no old women, there are just old clothes. What a lady. We are already looking forward to seeing her on our next visit.

Nova Scotians, Sylvia and Omer, entertain us at happy hour to end a perfect long day of music

Up at 5:00 AM, even setting the alarm, WOW there are not many times that has happened since we went on the road but we wanted to go to breakfast at Cafe Des Amis in Pont Breaux for the Zydeco breakfast. This is not the IHOP and you can't get a Grand Slam or McMuffin but you can have a great Louisiana breakfast while listening and dancing to great Zydeco music. Our group of eight from Betty's arrived at the door at 6:50 and were the first in line waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 "on the dot". As a line quickly formed down the sidewalk, we were glad we were up front because those at the end of the line when the doors opened did not get a table. We learned the last time we were here to order and eat slowly so you can stay at the table as long as possible. We started with coffee and beignets, a tastey fried dough they said is lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar, but it was more like a blizzard than a sprinkle. Shortly after eight Joe Hall & the Louisiana Canecutter got the place rockin with lively, loud music. We then ordered omelettes with decidedly Acadaian flavor that offered a choice of tasso, boudin or crawfish etouffee. After eating to get a little food on our stomachs we then had a Bloody Mary so I could loosen up a bit for the dance floor. The floor was crowded shoulder to shoulder with the happy crowd dancing wildly even though it was not yet 10 AM. This place is a must stop any time you are in the area on a Saturday morning.

After our early morning wake up we decided that we needed a nap before heading to Museum Cafe in Erath for the jam session. We did not want to miss this since this would be our last Saturday in Abbeville. The music there was great and we said good-bye to our friend Ollie. We then went back to Betty's for happy hour and where new guests, Omer and Sylvia, entertained us with his wonderful guitar playing and their beautiful voices. Even with the nap, when our heads hit the pillow we were fast asleep after a full day of good food, good music, good times and good friends.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Houses, Birds, Flowers & Of Course Music & Food

We drove to New Iberia to tour Shadows-on-the-Teche, a very well preserved plantation house that is a National Trust Historical Site. Shadows, a blend of Classical Revival and Louisiana Colonial style, was built in 1834 by David Weeks and remained in the Weeks family until 1958 when it was turned over to the Trust. The first floor of the home was used by Union soldiers during the Civil War but was not burned when they left. The story is that this was because of the strong will of Mary C. Moore (the remarried wife of the original builder) who continued to live on the second floor, and died there, while the Union soldiers were using it. After the war Mary's son, William, lived there until his death in 1895 and ran the sugar cane plantation with former slaves hired to do the work. It then fell into disrepair until 1922 when Mary's great grandson, William Weeks Hall, an artist, moved in and began to repair the home to its old grandeur. William restored the gardens as well the the house. Many famous people from Cecil B. DeMille to Walt Disney visited the home during this period. Many of these famous visitors signed their names on one of the interior doors. The Weeks family were all pack rats so the lives of the family members are well documented and the furniture is about ninety percent original since they threw nothing away. Over 17,000 documents were found during renovations. This is a beautiful example of homes of the plantation era and also a reminder of the fact that the wealth of the owners was acquired through the use of slave labor. That said it is well worth a visit.

The front entrance of Shadows. The stairs to the upper floors were on the exterior. The families main living area was on the second floor.
Today's visitors walkway to the home. The azaleas were beautiful.
The back of the house, with its second story porch, faced the Bayou Teche. The house has large porches on both sides so windows could be open for cross ventilation. We are seated under an old, old oak.

Beautiful flowers with the muddy brown Bayou Teche in the background.

Our second house was at the Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island near Lake Peigneur. This home was built in 1870 by actor Joseph Jefferson who often played the role of the Washington Irving character Rip Van Winkle. The island and home sit atop a a salt dome that was mined until 1980. In 1917 the land and home were purchased by John Lyle Bayless and E.A. McIhenney of Tabasco fame. In the 1950's they began to develop the gardens with plans to turn it into a conference and entertainment center for meetings and weddings. These plans took a real hit on November 20, 1980 when an oil drilling rig pierced the mine and the lake began to rapidly drain into the salt mine below. The fifty people in the mine were all able to get out safely. The Bayless home, a 1/2 acre conservatory, new welcome center and even barges working in the lake were sucked into the vortex that swallowed the entire lake and 65 acres of land. A temporary waterfalls was created as the water in the channel, that used to flow to the gulf, began rushing in to refill the lake with salt water. The new welcome center, cafe, theater and the restored mansion were opened in 1984. This is a nice stop and the video on the draining of the lake is very interesting.

A huge bird rookery on Lake Peigneur at the entrance of the gardens.

The restored Jefferson mansion is a combination of Moorish and Steamship Gothic architecture. We did not get to tour the house as it was very busy the day we visited.

The chimney is all that remains of the Bayless home destroyed in 1980. There are still some trees that were toppled into the water and telephone poles that were once on dry land.

The garden has many sculptures, a fountain and an Oriental pavilion along the paths that wandered through the large variety of plants. The peacock and turkey had the run of the place.

We returned to Betty's for a short happy hour and then the group went to Magdalen Square to listen to the music of the Donny Broussard All-Stars. The concert was to raise money for the restoration of the Frank's Theater in Abbeville. There was much toe tapping and a few dancers in the crowd. After a couple hours of music we all headed to the Riverfront for dinner. Music, food and culture are all important when visiting Betty's and Acadiana.

Friday, April 9, 2010

More Local Flavor

Another day and another spicy road trip with the people at Betty's. A caravan of three vehicles drove to Ville Platte to tour some local Cajun businesses. As usual for this area, the trip involved food and music.

The first stop was Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning where they sell great Cajun spices. The business is run out of an old house and sells a limited line of excellent seasoning for all tastes, but leaning to the hot side. We had used the spice before and bought some of the shrimp boil to cook up more of those fresh shrimp we purchased off the boat last week. If you like spicy you have to try Slap Ya Mama. Above is the house in which the store is located and the owner with Betty. Next we had lunch at the Cajun Smokehouse and, as expected, it was a very good Cajun meal.

We then went to Floyd's Record Shop, the home of Cajun, Swamp Pop and Zydeco music. They have a great collection of hard to find Louisiana favorites, clothing and a big selection of instruments. They were very helpful in leading us to a couple of reasonably priced samples of the local music. As you can see by the sign, Floyd's has been around for over 50 years and going into the store is like stepping back in time while still offering the latest in local music.

The next stop on this road trip was Jack Miller's. This is a small (4 person) operation that makes bar-b-que sauce with a Cajun accent. They mix, cook, bottle and ship the finished product to stores all over the South from a tiny little factory. Jack started making the sauce in the 1940's for his restaurant and it became so popular that he began making it for stores to sell. His son Kermit now runs the business. Above is Kermit explaining the cooker, bottling and labeling machines. The large vat is mustard for the sauce. Top left is the very small office where the whole thing is run from. These businesses that all specialize in local Cajun items are within a couple of miles of each other. It is great to see that not all our food comes from large mass production companies.

To top off the day we returned to Betty's where we had takeout crawfish that we ate with a little Slap Ya Mama. These are just a few more examples of why you need to spend more than a few days in Acadiana. This is a great place where there is a lot to do and, of course, it is more fun under Betty's direction.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Easter Birthday

We celebrated Easter with all the people at Betty's. One thing about this place, you never have to worry about a lack of food. Everyone pitched in and brought a covered dish to accompany Betty's jambalaya. There was more than enough food and a we had a wonderful dinner.

Lining up for Easter dinner.
The crowd enjoying their meal.

Sunday was also Tony's birthday and he celebrated with cake and kisses.

Marcel provided the guitar music for a group sing-a-long.

The crowd in their finest Easter wear. Betty's RV Park Easter egg colored t-shirts.

In the AM MaryBeth, Raymonde and Nanc colored eggs.

After dinner and entertainment we had an Easter egg hunt. The grand prize, a fine bottle of champagne, was won by Jean Paul who found Betty's specially decorated egg. It was another great day of music, food and friends at Betty's.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Louisiana Lagniappe

I would like to start by saying there was a hidden message in the April 1 post. Look carefully at the first letter of each word in the last sentence:) We do love this place but our home has wheels and they will soon be rolling again.

Here are just a few extra things we have been doing while at Betty's.

We took advantage of being close to the gulf waters and purchased fresh shrimp from the boat, Lil Man, and Captain Rene' Gregoire. How much fresher can you get than when you have to wait for the boat to dock. One family had driven four hours for these jumbos. The group from Betty's bought fifty pounds and then had a cleaning party back in Abbeville. Nanc cooked a great dish with the shrimp that had been swimming 48 hours earlier. In our excitement to try it we failed to take a pic. Trust me it was great and we are looking forward to more great meals.

Captain Rene' unloads his fresh catch.
Upon seeing the full moon rise over the RV park I told Betty Jane Bernard about my mother, Betty Jane Tidball's, belief that if you shook your empty purse at the full moon and said "Fill er up" three times you would have good luck. Betty got the biggest purse she could find and was rewarded the following evening at the Cypress Bayou Casino with a very nice win. I only showed my small wallet but it was good enough for a $160 jackpot on the nickle slots. Make sure you remember this next month.
Another Saturday and another Touchet's jam session. Top - Some of the crowd from Betty's and Donna Touchet who told us she and Calvin are planning to go full timing in a couple years. Richard and Valerie, their daughter Margeaux and son-in-law Jeauxl drove down from Baton Rouge for music, food and friends. Make sure you check out Touchet's Bar on Facebook.

A new group of visitors to Betty's decided they wanted to go to Cajun Claws for crawfish so we volunteered to go put our names on the list for the 5:00 seating. Top left are the people waiting for the door to open at 4:00 to put their names on the list. Bottom left are Marvin, Doug & Eunice, Cookie and Gary & Devota. Top right are Oliver & Mary and Rodney & Terrie. Everyone but Marvin is a first time visitor to Betty's and Cajun Claws. Bottom right is a Cajun appetizer - a Bloody Mary that included all the fruit and vegetables they had behind the bar. We were forced to have one since we were there so early to put in our names for the group.

More crawdad eaters. Left is Emile & Raymonde, whom we met at the Rose Parade HOP, and their friends, Noella & Marcel. They had planned a four day stay but as so often happens here they have decided to extend for a few more days. Right is the Frayer family. Jeauxl is a native Cajun and said the mudbugs were great. We had another great day visiting with our friends and soaking up more of the local culture.