Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Music, Music, Music & More

The good times here at Betty's continue with another week of lots of music and more fun times. We went to listen to music at five different places in four days. It included country, Cajun and swamp pop and it was ALL fun. I talked about the Betty's shuffle and how people get caught in her web. Many, many times people extend there planned stay and many, many times people return for another visit. This has sure happened to us as we have been here for a total of six months during our five years on the road and this will be the first time we have stayed in the same site for our entire visit. Above left are Gervais and Joycelyn who left on March 5 and returned without reservations last Friday for a few more days. Of course, they had to shuffle to stay as Betty had most sites reserved. At the right are Buzz and Sandra who were here earlier and made a reservation to return on Friday because they knew what a big fun week was planned. Welcome to Betty's web.

The musical week started with Judy Bailey and the band whom we saw twice. Here are Joe, Kristi, Judy and Dave whom we went to listen to at Cullpepper's on Tuesday and at Touchet's on Friday. Here are a few people from Betty's on Tuesday night. Top are John, Don, Kathy, Stella Marvin, Carol and Tom. Bottom are Cookie, Merlene, Dan, Jim, Peggy and Paul enjoying the music. A few more RVers at Cullpepper's and Touchet's. Top left are Sandra and Buzz who were celebrating his birthday. Middle are Lou and Lorraine who tried to find a different place to dance every day. Top right Betty and Nanc are cutting the rug. Bottom are Dave and Sarah and Cal and Marie listening to the tunes. Here are a few of the people from the park who on Thursday went to Sounds in the Square in Abbeville to hear the Don Rich Band, a great group that played a lot of different types of music. Don's sister is Liz the Gator Queen and he sang the song he wrote about her gator hunting adventures. Betty roped herself a cowboy on the dance floor.On Saturday we did a road trip Mamou and Eunice for some more Cajun music and culture. Our first stop was Fred's Lounge where they have been having Saturday morning music for 65 years. Today Fred's is only open from 8 to 2 on Saturday for the music. The band this week, Johnny Sonnier and Cajun Heritage, had the place absolutely rockin. Here is a link to hear a bit of this great band.
Left is Fred who bought the lounge in 1946. Right is Tante Sue, today's hostess. She was passing out boudin so the tourists could get a taste of Cajun culture. For the last 50 years the Saturday morning session has been broadcast live on KVPI - Voice of the Cajun Country.
The minute we stepped through the door Nanc was asked to dance while I signed the guest book. Center is KVPI's Mark Layne who does the live show in French. Even though we could not understand a word it was wonderful. Right, Tante Sue on the dance floor. Fred's is all about having a fun time.Here are Jim, Nanc, Merlene and Dan having a fun time with our 10AM Bloody Marys.

The old sign at Fred's may say it all.

Please Do Not

Stand on the Tables, Chairs

Cigarette Machine, Booths

and Juke - Box!

Thank You. Fred

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

From Mamou we went to the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice. The center, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, has an excellent display covering the influence of the Cajun people on Southern Louisiana. Above is an old Cajun fiddle made from a wooden cigar box. On Saturday afternoons they have a jam session that includes a bit of history about the music and each of the instruments. Audience participation was strongly encouraged with people playing the spoons and triangles to accompany the band. After a long day we passed on another music event on Saturday evening at the Liberty Center.Also in Eunice is the Cajun Music Hall of Fame & Museum. This local museum is to honor those individuals who contributed to the Cajun music culture. One of the honorees was Grammy nominee D.L. Menard whom we met last year. Here is Nanc checking out the Hall of Fame.Among the items in the museum is a French Cajun CD that was carried into space aboard the shuttle Atlantis. A old squeeze box and the parts of the fiddle before it was put together.It was time for a new computer before we head North to Alaska as our old one, just like its owner, was using up most of its memory. This purchase resulted in three weeks of total frustration and so many hours on the phone that we used almost all of our minutes. I first purchased one at Best Buy (it wasn't) and after days of not being able to connect to the Internet (Dell even sent a tech out to change the wireless card) I returned it and bought another one on line. Guess what? It also would not connect to our wifi spot. After more phone calls on Monday I finally got someone from Cradlepoint, the router company, who could tell me what needed to be updated. It is unbelievable that the Dell techs could not figure out what the problem was. All that said, this is the first blog entry on the new machine and all seems to be well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More Cajun Culture and a Cajun Feast

People often ask, What do you do at Betty's? We have learned to not plan too much because so many things happen that we do not want to miss and this past week was typical with several unplanned happenings coming together.

Guitar player Mike and his fiddle playing wife Tesa showed up and so we had an expanded jam session under the pavilion. Country Music Association nominee Judy Bailey (yellow shirt) joined in so Dan (left) got to cross that happening off his bucket list. Along with Cal on the keyboard they sang Betty's RV, a song Judy wrote for Betty. Here is a link to hear the song that sure sums up our feelings about this wonderful place.

There was a new group of RVers in the park so Gator Wrangler, Kristi (left) and Gator Queen, Liz (between Nanc and I) stopped by again to autograph pictures, hats and shirts. Liz told us she, her husband Troy and Kristi are getting to go to South Africa this summer because someone saw the show and wants to use the Gator Ladies to promote safaris. It is great to see how much they are getting to do because of being on the show Swamp People.

Here are Nanc, Merlene, Cookie, Lori and Marie getting a few tips on how to wrangle gators from Kristi. We can't wait to taste that gator the ladies are going to bring in.

Here is another example of something we got to do at Betty's that was totally unexpected. Betty got a call from Warren Perrin, a local attorney who is a director of the Acadian Museum in Erath. Here is our blog post about our first visit to the museum when we met Warren. Warren is famous both here and in Acadian Canada for getting the queen to apologize for the expulsion of the French from Nova Scotia in 1755. Here is a link to that story. Warren invited everyone at Betty's to his farm to join a feast of Cajun food he was holding for a group of grad students from New York University. The students were taking a week long seminar on the food ways of New Orleans and Acadiana. Above is Kyle showing Marie, Lori, Nanc and Steve how to make a big pot of jambalaya. He also fried some gator.

Glen (right) boiling a pot of crawfish. Talk about fresh, these mudbugs had just come out of the pond we were standing by that morning.

The NYU students getting up close and personal with Cajun cooking as they learn how the crawfish are boiled.

Top left is gator and hush puppies with a few mudbugs ready to be devoured. There was also crawfish fettuccine, enchiladas, salad and sauce picante, as well as, a few other Cajun favorites. There were many desserts to top off a great meal. Needless to say we were all stuffed.

Nanc and I got to talk with Warren's uncle Jonas, a WWII Navy veteran who was stationed in Hawaii. It was great sharing stories of the islands and also to learn more about Acadiana.

After filling up on all that great food a few of us went out on the crawfish boat to see how they are really caught, not the way Marvin showed me in an earlier post. The boat is quite unique as it is driven by a wheel extending out of the back that rides on the bottom and it also has tires on each side so it can be driven over the levee from one pond to the next.

Ross Hebert sorts the crawfish as his helper dumps them on the tray. They then rebait the trap with fish and a food pellet as they are moving toward the next trap. The trap is stuck to the bottom with the spike and the next trap is removed as the process starts over again. The traps are checked ever three or four days. It was neat getting to go out on the boat as we have seen the crawfish ponds all over Southern Louisiana and always wondered how they were farmed.

As with most people we meet here, Ross was very happy to tell us all about the Cajun culture. He told us that in the early days they walked through the ponds and pulled the boat as they harvested their catch. It is no wonder the Cajuns live so long with all the hard work they do. Top are Cal, Jim, Ross and Dan. Bottom are Marie, Nanc, Ross and Merlene. I think he liked posing with the ladies more then with us guys.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Betty Shuffle and More Cajun Good Times

The fun times continue at Betty's with the usual and the unusual of food, fun, music and more Cajun culture lessons. One of the things that often happens at Betty's is that her RVers get caught in her web and want to extend their stay. These extensions usually require the RVers to move to another site in what we call the Betty shuffle. So far we have avoided the shuffle this stay by extending our stay by a week when we registered, but others have been on the move within the 17 space park. Cal and Marie first added a week and had to move then decided on an extra month that meant another move. Dan and Merlene came in a day early because of a party we were having so their assigned spot was not available. So after a couple of days they shuffled. They have since added a couple of months so who knows where they will have to move to next. Not all moves are for long term stays. Bruce and Laina decided they were having so much fun they wanted three more days which meant another shuffle. All this is just part of what Betty's RVers are willing to do to spend more time with her.

A usual event here is the Cajun jam session at Touchet's (2 checks) in Maurice. These sessions happen every Saturday and we love to go to listen to the music and meet the people.
On our first stay here we did the Betty shuffle so we could go to the Cajun jam session. It was there that we first met Ollie who we now make sure we see on every visit. She is a wonderful lady who seems to know everyone in town.

Here is the whole park out to dinner at the Riverfront. The food in Cajun country is some of the best we have had on our travels.

A group from the park did a road trip to the woodman, Gerald Judice. Gerald goes into the Atchafalaya Basin and collects cypress that was left from the logging that took place between 1800 and 1927. When the original logging was done they left the stumps that are up to 1000 years old. This wood is well preserved because most of it has been under water since the logging was done.

Gerald brings the wood to his shop where it takes from two to five years to dry out enough that he can work his magic on it. Here he is turning a small bowl. He and his children make a variety of products from the wood they collect. This is another example of how many resourceful Cajuns live off the land.

Another Saturday, another Cajun jam session. This one, at the Museum Cafe in Erath, was attended by a few of Betty's RVers.

We don't always have to travel to be entertained. Here Cal, Marie, Steve, Dan and Judy perform for happy hour.

Dan even had instruments so others could join in. Here Merlene, Nanc, Betty and Carleen do their part to keep the beat.

Here at Betty's any event is a reason for a party. We discovered that Sandra (center) was having a birthday so a potluck and party were in order. As always, there was a great variety of food for all to enjoy. While there are always many Cajun dishes at these events, Sandra, who is from Ohio near where we lived, brought one of my personal favorites, haluski, a cabbage and noodle dish that I love.

Here are Jim, Dan and Jim monkeying around. This is the way it is around here, hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.

You never know what will show up at Betty's. Here is an unusual scene, Marvin showing off another fisherman's big blue catfish. His friend had five of these big guys that weighed in at over 25 pounds each. He was not noodling like the TV show, he caught them on a trot line.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Betty's Lagniappe

Mardi Gras is over but the great times continue here at Betty's. The week after all the parades was typical of what goes on here. On Saturday we went to Cafe Des Amis in the morning and to see the Abbeville Players perform Steel Magnolias in the evening. A few people attended the Cajun jam session at the Museum Cafe in Erath that day, but we opted for a nap and passed on it this week. On Sunday most of us went to Cypress Bayou Casino for a bit of gaming and a free meal and party. On Monday we celebrated a 58th anniversary and on Tuesday Nanc and I did a road trip to Baton Rouge. On Thursday a couple of local celebrities visited the park and on Friday we went out to eat crawfish. In addition to all of this, there are the daily happy hours where we all gather for food, fun and telling tales and lies.

An almost daily point of discussion at happy hour is an ongoing disagreement between Marvin and Betty about the true location of the Heart of Cajun Country. Marvin seems to think it is somewhere along I-10 near Jennings while Betty knows it is right here in Abbeville. We saw this billboard, which I modified a bit, that backs Betty's argument that we are staying in the middle of Cajun Country.

Along with Joycelyn, Gervais, Judy and Bob we were on the road at 6:15 AM Saturday morning so we could get into the first seating for the Zydeco Breakfast at the Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge. As always it was a great time with good food, music, dancing and Bloody Marys all before 10AM. Here is a link to a short video showing some of the fun that morning. If you want a fun time, a stop at Cafe Des Amis for the Zydeco Breakfast is a must for anyone travelling I-10 through Louisiana.

We did a road trip to Baton Rouge to have dinner at Tsunami, a sushi restaurant, with Richard and Valerie. It is on the fifth floor of the LSU Art Museum with a great view of the Mississippi River. Richard has finished the project he has been working on and they are making plans to get back on the road real soon after sitting in one spot for over a year. We have a lot of common interests and always love getting together with them when our paths cross.

When Betty found out that Judy and Bob were celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary it was just another excuse to have a party, so we all gathered in the Louisiana Room for a fun, fun evening.

And what is a big party without entertainment? So the Country Music Association's 1982 new artist nominee, Judy Bailey, stopped by to play for all of us and especially for the honorees. Here is another short video of Judy singing a song she wrote in honor of Bob and Judy on their big day.

Top left are Cookie and Joycelyn, right are CeCe and George at the party.

Bottom left are Joycelyn, Gervias and Betty singing a French song while at left are Dick and Natalie enjoying the show.

Top left are Steve, Wendell & Jim and right are Dan and Merlene who heard there was a big party at Betty's so they came in a day early.
Bottom left are Marie and Darlene and right are Jim and Marvin.

Top left are Jim, Marie and Rick and right is Ruth.

Bottom left are Judy and Cal listening to Carleen as she joined Judy for a song on the right.

Here is Betty on the left with Liz Choate, Gator Queen and on the right with Kristi Broussard, Gator Wrangler from the History Channel show, Swamp People. Check out their web sites for more pictures and information on these two gator ladies. Liz, who lives on nearby Pecan Island, was recruited for the show last season when she worked with Troy because she and her husband Justin had already caught their limit of gators. For this season's series, which was filmed last September, she and Kristi teamed up to form a female team.

Here is everyone at Betty's with Liz and Justin, kneeling in the center. It was great talking to them and learning how they are trying to make the most of this opportunity. They have hunted gators for years and being on the show is just an added bonus. For most of the year when gators are not in season they hunt nutria for the bounties that are paid on these invasive pests that are taking over the bayou.

Here we are with Liz and Kristi. It is hard to believe that these beautiful ladies go out into the bayou and hunt these big dangerous monsters.

Here is everyone with Kristi, center by Betty. That evening we all gathered to watch the latest episode of the show in which they killed a 900 pound gator that was over 13 feet long.

We ended the week with a trip to Big John's in Erath for a dinner of mudbugs. Top left are Wendell, Ruth, Max and Judy and right are Dan, Merlene and Steve. Bottom left Nanc & I are between Betty and Marvin to keep them from arguing about the Heart of Cajun Country. Right are Dick, Natalie, Carleen and Tom. In the center is a rare blue crawdad that the guys in the kitchen showed us when we went to see how they were able to get all those mudbugs on the table so quickly.

This was all in one week and there are already things planned for four or five days next week. This is the longest we have stayed at Betty's and we will sure need a rest when we leave next month.