But we have to get there. We started out from San Antonio doing a couple hours on
I-10, then turned south to Galveston. Galveston is on a sand bar off the mainland
of Texas. We are now going to travel as close to the water as we can starting with
a ferry ride to the next sandbar east of the Galveston city limits.
We then followed straight, flat two-lane roads for the rest of the day. I doubt
if we got above a dozen feet in elevation all day, unless we were on a bridge over
the Inland Waterway where we would get up to about eighty feet. I think that Louisiana
has the roughest roads we have seen since Romania. The are often made of concrete
slabs that are no longer flat. And patches to potholes haven't been properly done
and now the raised patch has a hole in the middle of it.
Along this road we saw evidence of Hurricane Katrina in the number of houses that
were less than 8 year old, mostly manufactured homes, and that they were now raised
up 8-20 feet above ground on pillars. Not all were manufactured homes, we saw one
very nice two-story home that was raised up two stories. It had parking for vehicles
on the ground, above that was a nice shaded deck the same size as the house, and
then the two-story house above the deck. Sometimes there was an abandoned house
but most had been clean up and replaced. And we are not even in New Orleans yet.
But first we have some things to see. After running all day along the coast yesterday,
today we head inland to Avery Island. Yes I said inland to an island. When I think
of an island I think of land surrounded by lots of blue water. Not Avery Island,
it is a hilly rise in the swamp. Yes, it has water all around it but it is water
full of trees and brush. It is a salt dome and the salt is mined underground, 1700
feet down at this time. The salt has been mined for hundreds of years by whomever
lived there. But we went there because this is the only place in the world that
Tabasco Sauce is made. A plantation owner on the island was given some Mexican pepper
plant seeds during the Civil War. After the war he developed his recipe and started
selling it. Now it is probably the best known hot sauce in the world being sold
in over a hundred countries.
That afternoon we went to a replica Acadian Village. The Acadians were French speaking
people from the New England/Nova Scotia area. They had left France to avoid religious
persecution and then were driven out of there. Over time they settled in the swamps
of Louisiana, also French speaking. They were poor but hard-working people who managed
to eke out an existence where others couldn't.
Next we went to two very different plantations, Nottoway and Laura. There were some
400 plantations along both shores of the Mississippi River. Most were owned by English
speaking whites, some were owned by French speaking Creoles and a few were even owned
by blacks. Nottoway was owned by an English speaking white family. It had 65,000
square feet and was built to show off how rich was the family. It is made of virgin
Cypress and is impressive. Laura, on the other hand, and also virgin Cypress was
built by a French speaking Creole family and was built to be utilitarian and practical. Whereas
the English speakers family succession was to the eldest son, the Creole succession
was to the "smartest" offspring. This meant that Laura was run by women for much
of its history. In both cases the families also had very nice houses in New Orleans
for the party season when the crops were in.
That afternoon we had a very late lunch at a Cajun cafe. It was themed with decorations
and sayings the suggested that Boudreau and Thibodeau were a pair of uneducated red-neck
alligator hunters. The food was good and gave us our first taste of Cajun cooking
That night we had picked a campground (Grand Bois) that was, unknown to us, in a
Cypress swamp. We picked it by location and it was too late to change our minds. We
chose a campsite that was raised above the general ground level by about 6 inches
on a gravel mound. And a good thing too, it rained several inches that night. It
had the most terrible restrooms we have seen in America.
The next morning we waited until almost noon to pack up and leave. It was raining
hard early but lightened up as the morning went by. Our next eight nights are at
St. Bernard State Park and we made it there.
Tomorrow we try out NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana).