Sunday, May 31, 2015
Friday, May 29, 2015
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015
We are enjoying our stay at Betty’s RV Park although we are dodging much of the rain plaguing Texas and Arkansas. We seem to be in a pretty good location since we have missed most of the severe weather and have only had rain every now and then. We usually get in a walk of 3 miles or so everyday or occasionally venture away from the park to do a different walk.
One such day we decided to take a drive over to Lafayette. We have visited the University of Louisiana Lafayette (ULL) before but since we were close by we decided to enjoy a nice walk around the campus. As we have said many times before we love to visit Universities as they are always so beautifully landscaped with interesting architecture. There is always something unique at each university we have visited.. At ULL its uniqueness can be found in the swamp located in the center of campus.
ULL is a nice sized campus and a few buildings are interesting. A good place to start is their visitor center as it is a beautiful historic building and a great source for information. We checked into the building where we were greeted by a very friendly young lady who gave us a campus map as well as a parking permit to place in our car window to park as long as we wanted in their lot. We told her we wanted to walk around campus and she let us know about a few places and when we mentioned we were going to the swamp she gave us some food to feed the turtles and fish. Now, how friendly is that!
It turned out to be yet another great day for us enjoying that scenic walk around the ULL campus. We will be leaving here Sunday to a yet undetermined location. All this rain is playing havoc with our planning. We had been planning to make a run through Arkansas but if the rains and flooding don’t stop we will have to look elsewhere. Maybe Mississippi and then Tennessee…
Sunday, May 24, 2015
While here at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, La we were looking for a nice place to hike and found the Cypress Island Preserve. We drove about 30 minutes over to the Visitor Center at Cypress Island Preserve located between Lafayette and Breaux Bridge. The preserve is being managed and maintained by the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana.
The Visitor Center is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekends year-round and during the week from Wednesday through Sunday during the busy springtime. We checked out the visitor center and there really isn’t much to see but at at least we were able to obtain a trail map of the preserve.
We were fortunate that the trails were open as the levee tail that we wanted to hike will be closed soon for the alligator nesting season from June through October. Before making our way over to the levee trail we found a small loop trail on a boardwalk that led out into the beautiful cypress-tupelo swamp. The preserve protects 9,500 acres of cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest habitat. This area is critical to nesting wading birds that can be seen along Rookery Road.
There are some beautiful cypress and tupelo in the swamp covered with Spanish moss along the boardwalk trail. The swamp is part of a bigger body of water in the preserve, Martin Lake.We also spotted a beautiful male Prothontary Warbler. Other species such as White-Eyed Vireos and Pine Warblers could be heard singing from the treetops.
After enjoying the boardwalk trail we found the entrance to the 2.5 mile levee trail. This distance is one way so we planned to continue the hike back along the Rookery Road making the hike around Lake Martin about 5.5 miles. The trail begins in an area covered with some beautiful old-growth live oaks mostly draped with Spanish moss. The preserve has a goal to restore an additional 20,000-acres of natural cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest. We had just entered the trail when Sharon spotted a majestic Red Fox, a good start to the hike…
Although the rookery season is waning we were still able to see lots of the birds that nest in this preserve. We saw Anhinga, Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Wood Ducks and Great Blue Heron. We also spotted several Red-Eared Turtles making their way across the levee, some as big around as basketballs.
There were lots of scenic views of Lake Martin after the first mile or so and it wasn’t until we could see open water that we started seeing all sizes of American alligators. Since it is nearing their nesting time several of them would slap their tails in the water trying to scare us away. I have to admit it was a bit intimidating especially on the narrower portions of the trail with water on both sides. We really scurried along this levee where the alligators were more common.
We also came upon a Cottonmouth snake. These are identified by their dark olive to black color and their paler belly. They also are called Water Moccasins and they are poisonous. One of their unique behaviors is their ability to "stand their ground." When agitated cottonmouths often coil up and threaten intruders with their wide open mouth exposing their fangs. Mostly visible is the white lining of its mouth when open, so this gave rise to the common name, the cottonmouth. We gave him/her plenty of space and were even more cautious while moving along the trail until we finally hit Rookery Road.
The walk along the road was less interesting but we did hear lots of Barred Owls hooting their song that birders often describe as sounding like “Who cooks for yoooou… who cooks for you allllll.” We were almost back to the car when it began to rain and by the time we got to the car we were pretty darned wet. Nevertheless this was a great hike with lots of scenery and birds to see. The only recommendation other than bringing water is to bring some mosquito repellant or “Chanel No. 5 Fly” as some Cajuns refer to it…
Friday, May 22, 2015
Sharon and I love both Zydeco and Cajun Music so I wanted to learn more about their history. The Cajun people of Louisiana are said to have left France to settle Nova Scotia in Canada around 1605. By 1755 the the British ran them off and those seeking asylum found their way to south Louisiana. These exiled French people or Acadians (as they were called) brought with them a musical heritage that likely originated in medieval France. The word Cajun is said to have derived from the word Acadian. The music the Acadians preserved evolved into what is known today as Cajun Music!
Meanwhile another genre of music was developing in Southern Louisiana, Zydeco. The French-speaking Black Creoles of African descent were also evolving their historical music. It is said that Zydeco began as jure or hand-clapping and foot-stomping mostly used by black field hands. As jure evolved it became known as LaLa or la musique creole. Then in the late 1800’s local stores imported inexpensive accordions and both Creoles and Cajun musicians soon adopted them into their music.
While the Cajuns were adopting the diatonic or button accordion Zydeco later adopted the piano accordion and the washboard. Cajuns also later added the steel guitar, bass, drums, and and the fiddle. The Cajun music later incorporated the sounds of jazz as well as country and western into their music while Zydeco had adopted more soul and jazz. They both incorporated some elements of the blues as well.
Culturally speaking the Cajuns and Creoles have borrowed and influenced each others music over the years. Even today their sound is really not that too far apart, yet it remains distinct. I bring this up because if visitors want to immerse in not only the Cajun culture but into the Cajun and Zydeco music of southern Louisiana then Betty’s RV Park is a great place to be.
We have already enjoyed great music at a few classic locations here. The Museum Café in Erath hosts a Cajun Jam every other Saturday right next door to the Acadian Museum in the Le Café du Musée. The café also hosts the "Living Legends" program is a true Road Treat! Not only can one experience great Cajun Music here, but if you happen to be there on the right Saturday you might also witness a living legend become inducted. We were lucky to see both on this last trip as Lafayette Parish sheriff Don Breaux was inducted and, as you may or may not know, the owner of Betty’s RV Park, Betty Bernard, has also been inducted as a Living Legend!
Another day we visited Poppa’s on Dat River in Lafayette, La to enjoy another great Cajun band. Another treat on this day was when the band invited yet another living legend up to sing a few Cajun songs in French, Arconge Touchet, affectionately known as “T Coon. It really was cool listening to this 87 year old Cajun bellowing out his lyrics… One can only wonder at all this fellow has seen during his lifetime here in Southern Louisiana. It's that colorful mix of music, food, language, southern Louisiana culture, friendly and welcoming people that makes visiting here so absolutely delightful…
Laissez les bons temps rouler…
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Leaving Texas to drive all the way over to Abbeville Louisiana was not our typical drive.It is 291 miles from College Station to Abbeville! What were we thinking? Well I can tell you what we were thinking… we were trying to get the heck out of all the rain pummeling eastern Texas!
Of course it rained on us off and on but by 4:15 we pulled into Betty’s RV Park.This is the latest in the year that we have ever come to Betty’s so it was strange to see some empty sites as it is usually packed to the gills in the spring. Betty usually closes the park for the summer to travel and see some of the great places her guests have been and told her about so we are here just prior to her closing time.
Those who have been to Betty’s before know the significance of our arriving at 4:15 pm. It meant we arrived just in time for HAPPY HOUR! Betty's is well known for hosting a daily happy hour at 4:30 pm where those staying at the park bring a small dish and their drinks to engage in fun and jovial conversation on Betty's porch. For those of you who haven’t been to Betty’s you don’t know what you are missing! This is the friendliest place on Earth!
Of course it helps if you enjoy Cajun music, Cajun food, and meeting many lively current and future friends. We certainly do, so upon arrival we set up camp minimally and quickly to make our way over to happy hour where we were greeted by past RV friends Reg and Karen, Jim and Nancy as well as Dan and Merlene. We happily met some new friends as well. After driving about 6 hours we certainly were ready for some happy hour fun…
At Happy Hour we were told the town is buzzing with excitement because one of the final four singers featured on the TV show The Voice hails from Abbeville. Vote Koryn signs are posted everywhere around town as the townsfolk are rallying around one of their own as she competes for the grand prize. Betty is pretty excited about this and had several folks over to the house to watch the finale. Sadly Abbeville's prize singer didn’t win but all of us in attendance feel sure Koryn will receive a big recording contract soon…
We are in Abbeville until the 31st and hope to figure out where we want to go for our summer journey before we leave. We are leaning toward spending some time visiting Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Maybe we will also venture to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana but we well let serendipity (and weather) decide that for us. Until then we plan to get our fill of Cajun food and Cajun music while visiting wonderful Acadiana…
Monday, May 18, 2015
Just shy of two months and after driving nearly 1200 miles in our RV we finally left the state of Texas. Since Texas is our former home state we always love to do the slow crawl through it. Besides all the great food and friendly people one of the big draws to returning to our home state is reconnecting with good friends.
When we lived in Bryan and College Station Sharon and I had lot of good friends… or were some of them just friends? Just what is a good friend? While we were working we each had our unique work friends, we each had our unique social friends but we also had our “together” friends. Living in College Station more than 30 years the makeup of those friends changed somewhat over time yet there was always our core group of good friends that remained..
As our children grew up we began to notice some of our stronger friendships became stressed especially when our daughter became involved in sports as our lives changed since we traveled a lot to and fro encouraging her development in her sport of softball. Sadly we lost some friends during that time but we also gained some new ones… our softball friends. Towards the end of our stay in College Station other strong friendships became stressed when some of our friends took umbrage at our leaving our “home” to begin our RV lifestyle… Sometimes even the strongest of friendships seemingly cannot survive big changes. So were these two groups of people good friends?
After returning to our old hometown each of the last four years it is funny to realize that we now have a different set of good friends than we had when we lived there. Each time through town we see most of our friends but always miss seeing a few due to one reason or another. Some we have seen every time we hit town and others only occasionally. These good friends are those that we not only love and respect but also know will always have our back. They reach out to us not only in moments of need but also to share moments of simple joy and happiness. Being with them feels like we pick up right where we left off despite the time span between these meetings. So has your list of good friends changed and what is a good friend to you?
We are now in our fifth year of living our dream and traveling all over the USA in our motorhome. As a result of these travels we have made many strong connections among our new group of friends – our RV’ing network of friends. We decided while it is sad that we lost some good friends back home we are happy that new ones appeared. The nature of our good friends has expanded more in the past four years than in any other time in our lives (and we were both military brats). We now have more good friends whom we have met since RVing than we ever did back home.…
Did you “lose” some “good friends” back home after hitting the road? Has your core group of friends changed after hitting the road? Reflecting on our friendships over time and the joy they have brought to our lives makes us even more convinced we made the right decision in embarking upon this RV lifestyle. Life is good…