Saturday, March 26, 2016

Crazy Week Two at Betty's and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge

This week at Betty's was busy as usual with many things going on.  As always, all events involved food, music, friends and exploring more of Cajun country. 
The whole gang gathered at Black's in Abbeville for the Wednesday night half price seafood.  It was such a great deal that most of us overdid it with appetizers and entrees.  You won't find a better meal for the price anywhere in Acadiana.
On Thursday it was the wearin of the green for St. Patrick's Day.  Top are Joanne, John, Ginny, Susie (who was celebrating her birthday) and her daughter Chris.  Bottom Dan, Jim, Jean Paul, Rick and Richard drinking some green stuff while Lynn, Celine, Chari and Louie waited for the great corned beef meal to be served. 
Top are Gary, Doris and Jane with her Tarzen, Harold.  Bottom Rick and Barb and Cordell and Monica going all out with the green.
Saturday started early at the Kaplan Museum, a small local musee that celebrates the town's Cajun culture.  There are exhibits about Acadian life and the local Mardi Gras celebration.  We attended a Mardi Gras parade there a couple years ago and would recommend it for a neat small town experience. 
We were at the musee for the Saturday morning jam session, a new once a month event.  Judy Bailey, a Country Music Award nominee was a featured performer along with Dave Bouidan and a couple locals I did not know.  One of the featured guests was Dan Goan (left), one of Betty's RVers.  Dan started playing the guitar again just a few years ago after years of not playing.  He now often performs at the Cajun jams and with Judy and others at local nursing homes.
Another featured entertainer was 14 year old Ethan Hunt who plays a great variety of music from country to Cajun to Blues.  You can check him out and give him a like at his Facebook page Ethan Hunt Piano Man.  He sounds like an up and coming star to me.
If it's Saturday it's a Cajun jam session.  This week many of the regulars gathered at the Museum Cafe in Erath for an afternoon of great local music.  The people from Betty's are big supporters of the jams and often make up half the crowd. 
We got to spend the afternoon with our friend Ollie, who we met on our first visit to Abbeville eight years ago.  We call her the mayor because she knows everyone in town.
A few of the people at the jam.  Top are John, Sharon, Louie, Jean Paul and Celine.  Bottom are Gene, Merlene, Dan, Carol, Dee and Rene.
Right is Terry Huval, the leader of the Jambalaya Cajun Band,  playing the fiddle with his son.  Terry was named to the Order of Living Legends, an honor bestowed on those who have played a role in promoting and preserving the Cajun culture.  I was honored to speak for her when Betty was named a Living Legend in 2012. 
Of course there is often a bit of tomfoolery here during happy hour.  Betty told us she was cooking gumbo for a couple of attorney friends from Lafayette and she would like them to meet her RVers before they had dinner.  Since she was having important company, even if we were not invited for gumbo, Dan and I decided we needed to dress up to meet these important guests.
We must have made a good impression because Mike, one of Betty's important visitors, brought out the "leftovers" to share with the common folk:-)
Not one morsel of that gumbo, potato salad, and bread pudding went untouched as Dan and Bernie almost got down to licking the bowls.  We all sure know how to make a good impression.
Music is one of things we really love about being here and there are often many great musicians staying at Betty's.  For happy hour on Monday they were joined by local Dave for a couple hours of music from country, to Cajun, to blues and rock.  A grand time was had by all. 
On Tuesday Betty set up a road trip for everyone to go to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier.  The refuge was the idea of E. A. McIlhenney, founder of Tabasco, who was instrumental in preserving the Louisiana coastal marshlands for migrating birds.  He purchased the property of 86,000 acres and 26.5 miles of coastline in 1913.  In 1914 he convinced the Rockefeller Foundation to buy the land from him and established a fund to maintain the land.  In 1919 the refuge and the funds were turned over to the state.  
A few of the RVers getting ready for the presentation about the refuge.  One of the biggest issues they are facing at this time is rising sea levels and land erosion from global warming.  The refuge is 10,000 acres smaller today than is was a century ago.  They have just received funding to begin shoreline restoration in hopes of slowing land loss.   
The refuge was at the forefront of saving the alligators when they became endangered.  They still remove eggs from the nest and raise the gators until they are four feet long.  This gives them a 90+% survival rate and allows the gator hunting that has become important to the Louisiana economy.  Gabe did a wonderful presentation about the work at the refuge.  Their newest species recovery project is with whooping cranes.  We have seen these large, five foot tall, birds in Texas.  There is another flock in Florida.  This recovery effort was started in 2011 with 10 juvenile cranes at nearby White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area where, in 1950, there was only one crane.  Their goal is a self sustaining flock which requires about 120 birds and 30 mating pairs.  The refuge is doing great work and Gabe was a great spokesman who you can tell really loves his job. 
We even got to hold the gator.  As you can see it was pretty small, but we were warned it could still bit.  Once this little guy is four feet long it will be released into the wild.  Nanc said she did not mind holding a gator but would have passed had it been a snake.  
As you can see not all the wild-life at the refuge were birds and gators.  Check out the sign on the door.
After the presentation we got to drive around on the levy system that controls the water level for the migrating birds.  This is a cormorant.
A pair of black-necked stilts.
We are not great birders, but we believe this is a flock of common snipes that were on a feeding frenzy.  This is a good example of how they control the water level for particular species.
A snowy egret looking for food along the canal.
A flock of black-necked stilts.
We believe this a common black-headed gull.
Four cormorant.  The one taking off chased the other off its post.
A flock of spoonbills that were to far away for my camera.  We watched this flock for a long time as they were feeding in an area protected from the wind.
Whitney (Sandy's daughter), Sandy, Irene (Betty's niece:-), Deb (Sandy's sister), Betty and Mackenzie (Sandy's daughter).  We were happy to meet more of Sandy's family but were very saddened by the circumstances of the meeting.  Sandy's other sister, Wilma, passed away while here in Abbeville.  As always, their many friends here at Betty's gathered to support Charles and Sandy and their family.   We again want to express our deepest sympathy and send our condolences to them.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fun Busy First Week at Betty's

Our first week at Betty's got off to a really quick start with a birthday celebration the first happy hour, a great Cajun meal the second, music at the Cajun Jam session, great food at local restaurants, dance lessons and, of course, seeing our many, many friends we have made at Betty's and in Abbeville.
We were greeted by "The Hostess with the Mostess" Betty.  Since we first stopped here in 2008 for a five day stay we have made return visits a priority and have been here nine times.  The only place we have spent more time is back in WashPA.  She sure has confirmed our original thought that this is the best RV park we have stayed at during our nine years on the road.
I always say we have made so many friends here and to prove the point of the 29 people in the park when we arrived we already knew 23 of them.  And we had heard so much about one couple we had not met that we felt like we already knew them.  Here are Chari and Louie, Jean Paul (the birthday boy) and Celine, Marvin and Shirley, Jeri and Randy, Jerry and Ginny and Cookie all getting ready to celebrate the birthday.
Here are Mackenzie and Sandy and Mackenzie and Grover.  We met Mackenzie and Grover at Charles and Sandy's (who are their daughter and son-in-law) in Tennessee in 2013. They  came to Cajun country for a visit and to see how these RVers live.  Bottom are Wilma and Linda and Lynn and Richard.
A big part of the birthday party was a beer tasting and as you can see there was a very good variety of different kinds of brews. 
Bernie and Dodo are the couple we had heard so much about, but never met.  They proved quickly that all the tales we had heard were true.  Bernie served up a new concoction, Alligator Farts, to the enjoyment of all and Dodo served as the beer sommelier, if there is such a thing.  The next day Dodo used her librarian skills and lined up all the empties while eliminating all duplicates.
The next day was another great day and great meal.  Calvin and Donna Touchet, who own Touchet's bar where the Cajun jam sessions are held, showed their appreciation for Betty's RVers support by cooking up a big pot of jambalaya.
Calvin stirring the pot while his friend T-Bar looks on.  They started by cooking the meat, then making the roux.   Next they added the broth and the Cajun trinity, onions, celery and green peppers along with copious amounts of Cajun seasonings.  Finally, they added the rice and let it cook until it was all cooked to perfection.  The whole thing took at least three hours not counting the delivery and setting up of all the equipment.
Betty with her jambalaya along with black eyed peas and macaroni salad that they also provided.  This is another example of the generosity of the Cajun people and why we love coming to Betty's. 
Finally the cooks got to eat.  Donna and Calvin were two of the first people we met here eight years ago and we always look forward to seeing them.  
More friends old and new.  Charles who goes with Sandy and Nanc.  Bottom are Greg and Joanne, who have been full timing for about a month and were happy they had found Betty's.  Susie, who has been a Facebook friend for some time, and her daughter Chris enjoying crawfish on their first visit to Acadiana.
Another Betty's tradition.  Because everyone becomes friends, when someones leaves most of the people in the park come out to say their good-byes even if it means getting out of bed a little early.  Here we were saying so long to Shirley, Marvin. Jeri and Randy.
More wonderful food.  Nanc had never eaten raw oysters before she tried them here on our first visit.  We have both been spoiled and are now very selective about where we have them.
If it is Saturday there is a Cajun jam session.  This week it was at Touchet's.  We have gotten to know most of the musicians and were sad to learn a couple had passed away since our last visit.
More people form Betty's, Sharon, John, Dan and local Joe.  The RVers are big supporters of the jam sessions.
RVers Merlene, Dodo, Bernie, Deb and Jim at Touchet's.  They are all gathered in what Joe calls the horny corner.
And more of Betty's RVers, Louie, Chari, Celine and Jean Paul.
Chari even sat in for a few songs.  California Cajun Dan was also up on stage, but I did not get a picture.
Of course, for those of us who don't have two left feet, the music is great to dance to.  There is always someone there willing to take the ladies for a spin around the dance floor.  
In addition to the regulars at the jam, like Dave on guitar, you never know who will show up to play.  On accordion is local recording artist Johnny Sonnier.  Another reason we love coming here is the music and jam sessions that are all about preserving the Cajun culture. 
There is always something we have never done here and on Sunday we went to Smily's Bayou Club to hear Donny Broussard.  As you can see, Smily's has been around for some time and the place was packed with locals dancing and enjoying the music. 
What a treat!  For happy hour on Sunday Charles brought a cooler full of mudbugs for all to enjoy.  They had just been harvested down the road that morning.  It does not get any fresher than that.
With all that dancing and so many wallflowers Lynn and Richard held dance lessons on the deck one afternoon.  Here is Lynn showing Keith the two step while Richard leads Nanc. 
 I did give it a go, but even though the instructors were great I continue to believe that when it comes to dancing I am genetically challenged.  Next Saturday we will see if the lesson did any good.