Monday, August 11, 2014

French Quarter Festival, Oh My!

Having had an easy three hour cruise into New Orleans, I settled into my home for the next month, Jude Travel Park. I’m delighted with the location and my site here, tucked away immediately behind the shower house, which hardly anyone uses besides me. The building shields me nicely from the road noise, and I am far enough away from the railroad siding at the far back of the property. No view, but I get my views elsewhere in New Orleans.
My Ladeze friend Calicia met the next day to discuss the French Quarter Festival schedule and who's shows we wanted to catch. We went out to lunch for my first po’ boy (sandwich, like a sub.)
Just an “ordinary” gate near the café.
I wanted to come to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival. The French Quarter Festival, April 10  - 13, wasn’t really on my radar. Once I got here, however, oh, boy, what a treat. It is a free festival that takes place in the French Quarter, which provides an unimaginably peerless backdrop.
Thursday I took the bus from the RV park to the Quarter, piece of cake. Met up with Calicia and had a fine, fine lunch, best po’ boy I’ve had so far, the fried shrimp BLT from Galatoire’s food booth. Probably the only time I’ll afford to eat at Galatoire’s!
For good reason they pride themselves on their local seafood around here. These shrimp were sweet and tender, and the cooking oil was really fresh. They had their festival food production system down to a science.
The Pfister Sisters were pfabulous.
I have too many photos to insert into this post. Here’s a photo album, you can view the slide show. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Caught in Betty’s Web

Awoke early to a sound, light and rain show in the Walmart parking lot. Even though it was full daylight, the thunderclouds were dark enough to make me wonder. Some trucks kept going on I-10, but most sane people stayed off the road during the deluge. I made myself a fresh pot of coffee, got comfortable and watched the show through the panoramic back windows of my sweet Lazy Daze.

Once the storm front passed, it was time to go shopping at Walmart. The unspoken rule is that if you stay overnight, you shop. I've been wearing my limited wardrobe pretty hard these past few months. I'm also quite short of clothing for hot and muggy weather. Aaaannd, I'm thinking I want to look good at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, 'ya know!  So, Walmart it is, and a pretty successful clothes shopping trip it was. You might spot a new dress or two in later posts.

After the rain, I went outside to run the Tracker engine and lubricate the transmission. It was deader than a doornail, not even a glimmer of a turnover. Rats! I had left the key in the accessory position, and I think it drained the battery dead. Note to self: when remaining hitched up for the night, remove the electrical umbilical cable and the key, then reinstall the next morning.

What to do?  Just tow it as is, fortunately the turn signals still worked? Or, unhitch, turn the Lazy Daze around, jump the battery, run the engine for awhile, rehitch and then depart?  I elected the first option.

I was only about an hour's drive away from Betty's RV Park in Abbeville. The drive to Betty's was through very flat, bucolic, rural south Louisiana Cajun country, passing through little towns with names like Meaux (pronounced "mow" as in "mow the lawn"), Mermentau, Gueydan (pronounced gay-dan), Le Gros, Lejeune, and of course finally to Abbeville, in Vermillion Parish.

Rice fields were all along the way, flooded in preparation for planting. It was curiously nostalgic, reminding me of the flooded rice paddies of my childhood in Japan. Except that there were these curious mesh pots with red lids,  spaced regularly and mostly submerged in the fields. My intense curiosity didn't help to identify these objects.


Betty's RV Park has 17 sites and is in a residential area in Betty's back yard, at the outskirts of Abbeville. Betty is very friendly; there is a de rigeur happy hour at 4:30 pm when all the campers get to introduce themselves. Various instruments come out of the RVs. The world comes to Betty's RV Park in Abbeville. Everyone makes a reservation, then extends their stay, too much fun.

My spot, right in the front row.



Upon arriving at Betty's I unhitched, jumped the Tracker, left it running for a half an hour, and got settled into my site. After registering, my first question to Betty was about those doggone things in the flooded rice fields. 


Crayfish traps! Aha! Betty has one hanging in her eclectic collection of art objects at the happy hour pavilion. The rice farmers get two crops per year, rice and crayfish. Later I saw these very shallow flat boats with a paddle wheel contraption at the bow, harvesting the traps. It is the height of crawfish season in these parts, every little corner bar advertising crawfish boil.

Betty recommended the Saturday morning brunch and Cajun dance at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge. I'm sooo right there. I even got to dance a couple of numbers by standing near the bar at the dance floor, bouncing in time, smiling, and looking hopeful. Here's a photo of me and Leon, who is justifiably famous in these parts for his Zydeco dancing. I was immensely pleased to dance two dances with him. Except that at one point I tripped up and Leon laughed and said "Caught 'ya thinkin!" Guilty as charged. Don't think, just dance.


Saturday afternoon, I went to the Cajun jam session at the Museum Cafe in Erath with Louie and Chari.  Chari writes and sings country and gospel music. She performed a set of her music at the jam session. The musicians that came on and went off the stage were all really good. Got to dance a little bit there too, check it out!

Chari and Louie.


Joe, a friendly local musician.


The jam session gets going. Dave, the guitarist in the blue shirt is really good.



My waltzing partner.


Chari, singing.


I also got a chance to go to Angell's Whisky River Landing, in Henderson, LA. Its a dance hall on the swamp side of the levee holding back the Atchafalaya River and swamp. The band was advertised as Cajun but it was really what they now call "swamp pop" with much more heavily amplified instruments, and an electric bass instead of a stand up bass. Couldn't get anyone to dance with me there. But we left and went to Randol's in Lafayette for dinner and to listen to the band there. There were very few dancers, but one couple was really good. I struck up a conversation with them, and lo and behold, Lester was originally from California and knew all about the Eagles Hall and the Friday night zydeco dances there. 

Chari and I took quite a liking to each other. When she found out I didn't have any sisters, she offered to be my sister and for some reason, this offer really moved me. When I left Betty's RV Park, I wept at leaving the unexpected friendship I received from Chari. I hope our paths cross again soon.


A couple of lagniappe photos from around Abbeville.

The Zatarains section at Robies grocery store.


Pre-cut Creole seasonings.


The mural at the Museum Café. Musician is playing a homemade guitar.


The songs were all sung in Cajun French.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Galveston, Gulf Coast and Petroleum

My friend the great blue heron returned early morning, in full view this time. I hope that's what it is - a better birder can correct me.

Misty morning departire over the causeway towards Galveston.

The vernacular architecture. I guess sometimes you need a soft-story structure in order to accomodate storm surges. There was mile after mile of this type of house, some of them very grand indeed. (not this one)

Wasn't particularly motivated to visit city stuff, but did enjoy taking the ferry across Galveston Bay. Its a free ten minute ride, once underway. There are five ferry docks and ferries, plying the route. If the ferry can carry this truck, it can carry me and my Lazy Daze.

See my little rig tucked in there cozy as you please?

Selected the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont for a look at the oil industry view of the oil industry. Beaumont seemed like a ghost town. There was plenty of on street parking right downtown, and I had the museum pretty much to myself.

The museum was small, but very well done and very well funded.  Still, I learned a thing or two. The diorama of how an oil refinery works was interesting. I had no idea.

I was also unaware of the extent that the carbon molecules from petroleum are so almost infinitely malleable into so many different forms that permeate our lives. Chemistry was not my long suit.

The nice lady at the museum was kind enough to discuss my route with me, even calling on her boss to weigh in on my questions. I elected to get back onto Interstate 10, which I've been avoiding for quite awhile. As soon as I got on the freeway, I remembered why. The truck traffic whizzes by my 55 mph self at breakneck speed. Still, it was tolerable, the worst part was the bridge into Lake Charles. Not the widest bridge, especially at rush hour, and especially with large trucks surrounding me. No, I didn't take this photo, too busy driving, found it on the web.

Slept fitfully in the Walmart parking lot in Jennings, Louisiana, listening to the hum of the I-10 traffic a quarter of a mile away. I'm anticipating a quieter time tomorrow in the town of Abbeville, in the heart of Cajun country.