We wish him well and hope to see him again
when we return to Lafayette.
We're not lost in the swamp . . .
April 9, 2009
and apologize for promising to bring you
along on the caravan then not following through. When we committed
to blog we didn't appreciate how different the caravan would be compared
to our touring alone. There have been two obstacles: time and internet
When touring by ourselves, we generally
visit one attraction in the morning and then take Casey to a park in the
afternoon. If you read past chapters you'll see our daily blog posts are
generally about the one adventure we had that day.
On this caravan, by contrast, we rendezvous
no later than 8:30 a.m. and tour two or three attractions before lunch.
The group has lunch together most days, and then always makes another
stop or two in the afternoon. We often have social hour together,
followed by a community dinner. In addition, on the evenings prior to
changing campgrounds the leader holds a Driver's Meeting to brief us on
the following day's trip.
Then there's Casey. After leaving him alone
for most of the day we feel guilty and try to do a pooch activity in our
It's been difficult to find the stamina for
blogging before bedtime.
The second problem has been reliable
internet access. Since our last post we've been able to get on line only
one day. In this campground it just began working a few moments ago
after being down since our arrival yesterday.
So, as much as we'd like it to be
different, we don't expect regularly scheduled posts until after the
caravan finishes. That's next Monday.
Footnote: we're seeing a lot and having a good time.
April 1, 2009
Will not enlarge
Up early this morning for a coach trip to
Baton Rouge where we'll tour half a dozen sites.
To prepare for our 8:15 saddle-up,
yesterday we bought a bag of
Community Coffee & Chicory. This is Cajun High Test that's
downright good coffee. The chicory (roasted root of the Endive plant)
imparts a complex, but not bitter flavor. We won't nod off on the bus.
Awaaay! Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Waiting until Sunday morning to leave Tryon
turned out to be a good idea. The weather was beautiful and Sunday
traffic was light. Much to our delight (and surprise), we drove about
six hours, making it to
Sherling Lake Campground, a very nice city-owned park in Greenville,
AL by late afternoon. Even more surprising to us, we made it the rest of
the way yesterday, arriving at the
rendezvous campground by
3:00 p.m. The total distance was 740 miles.
This is a much larger caravan than we
expected. It includes 24 Airstreams (trailers and motorhomes) with 52
people. In fact, the caravan is so popular with Airstream owners that
it's split into two separate groups. The first caravan of 25 units took
place two weeks ago. The Ontario Canada caravan we're scheduled to join
later this summer, by contrast, is only 11 trailers.
The caravan doesn't officially start until
3:00 this afternoon when we gather for an orientation meeting and Cajun
Two-step dance lessons. In the meanwhile we'll visit a local welcome
center for a pre-orientation orientation.
Two sirens lure us to Cajun Country: food
In his Cajun History & Culture 101
post our 'Guest Cajun' talked about the importance of music and dancing
to the Cajun culture, and how families dance together -- even teenage
brothers and sisters -- and seem to have been doing so all of their
lives. You'll see this in action when you watch this video of Heather
and Adrian dancing in their kitchen. If it were not for the considerable
difference in their body types you might think one person is dancing in
front of a mirror. There movements are perfectly coordinated. The music
Ardoin'sDouble Clutchin) is pretty sweet, too.
Click on the video to play
Clicking a second time will take you to YouTube for more
Weather delay Friday, March 27, 2009
The terrible weather of the past few days
continues along the Gulf Coast. When Judy telephoned Mary Anne Thompson
in Mobile today, she learned that they have had torrential rains, and
expected another storm today. We're not too concerned about rain, but
high wind is not good when towing a trailer, and the possibility of hail is
too horrible to contemplate when the trailer we're towing is aluminum.
Sooo, we asked Mary Anne to let us visit
her on the return trip and postponed our departure until Sunday. The
delay means we'll arrive at the caravan rendezvous campground with just
a few hours to spare prior to the organizational meeting. We won't be
there a day early as originally planned.
History & Culture 101 Thursday, March 26, 2009
As you can see from this little map,
Cajun Country is the southwest corner of Louisiana.
version (edited by us) of how it came to be and what makes it special today. (every source
we've read says pretty much
the same thing):
History - The Cajuns of Louisiana came from Nova
Scotia as a result of the “Great Derangement of 1755” when these French
pioneers of northeastern Canada were forced to either swear allegiance
to the British Crown or be deported. They were mainly poor and
illiterate people with a deep faith in the Catholic religion and most
refused. Families were divided and thousands were killed outright or
died during forced sea voyages to France, New England, Louisiana and
even the islands of the Caribbean and South America.
Spain controlled the lands west of New Orleans and was eager to have it
settled. They offered generous land grants to anyone who would develop
this inhospitable region. The Acadians, desperate for a homeland, got
the least desirable area consisting of the swampland and wet prairies
south and west of New Orleans.
Today Cajun country stretches approximately 300 miles from New Orleans
to the Texas Louisiana border along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in a
triangle pointing north to the city of Villa Platte. The geographic
center is the city of Lafayette which is also considered the Cajun
capital. Flat and wet are two words that best describe the geography.
Hot and humid also comes to mind. Imagine the first Acadians coming from
the winters and frozen lakes of Nova Scotia to land of moss and
alligators. I am convinced that part of the “Cajun Pride” originates
from the history of peoples who have survived in lands that no one else
seemed to want or use.
The language of Cajun Country is a combination of Acadian French, Creole
or Black French and Standard French. This is remarkable when one
considers that Cajun children were not allowed to speak French of any
kind in the public schools and were punished for doing so. Present day
Cajuns often speak a dialect common to one of the three main regions:
south or swamp, midland around Lafayette, and upland or prairie. Many
phases are so delightful; one does not have a good time but “passes” a
good time or would “pass” a look at a pretty girl. And of course, one of
the most famous of all, “Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler” or “Let the Good
Food - Oh my gosh! If you were to draw a circle 50 miles
out from Lafayette and pick any state or county road, you will find a
small, inconspicuous eating establishment, often as an extension of
someone’s home with the most unforgettable cuisine and the most
incredible price, about every 10 miles. Many are connected to dance
halls where you eat and then dance. With names like Rita-Mae Kitchen,
Mama Goulas’s, Mulate’s, Mathilda’s, Thibodaux’s Boudin and Cracklin,
how can you go wrong? There are gumbos, jambalayas, smoked tasso, rabbit
and quail, alligator and seafoods. The biggest misconception is that all
Cajun food is hot and spicy. Many dishes are very light and delicate
with rice and yams as a base.
But where ever you are in Cajun Country, crawfish is king. Never ever,
ever, say “krayfish” or you will stick out as foreigner, as one Cajun
told me, “like a damn duck on a gator’s back.” Crawfish is consumed
literally in every Cajun town larger than 10 people, by the tons day
after day. You get a steaming 5 lb pile on a round plate. Then you pinch
off the head, schuck out the tail meat by squeezing, and pop it in your
mouth, no sauce needed. We saw children as young as two or three
pinching and schucking as though they have been doing it since birth. If
you are a true believer, you also squeeze out the head juices into your
mouth before you toss the head in the pile, thus the phase, “Pinching,
Sucking and Schucking” “Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler”. Out of the 5 lb
pile you actually eat about 3/4 of a pound of the most delicious,
succulent meat available. It is truly “poor man’s lobster”. Sara would
not pinch, suck or schuck but had no trouble eating the tiny tails. The
crawfish are raised in watery fields that line both sides of the road
for miles which are later used to grow rice. Also catfish is king and
more popular than smelt in Wisconsin.
The other most popular food is Boudin (B00-dan), never (Boo-din) another
Yankee give-away, a rich and well seasoned rice and pork sausage that
sometimes includes varying amounts of giblets. There is more rice than
pork by far and not what we think of as sausage. Boudin is sold
precooked and still warm in literally thousands of towns across Cajun
Country. You simply cut the link in half and squeeze the stuffing into
your mouth.Oh my God, is it good. Sara even tried boudin. These links
are so popular that a “seven course meal” in Cajun Country has often
been described as “a six pack of beer and a pound of boudin. One sign
read, “Rubber Boots, Hardware, Tackle, Bait, Kerosene and Boudin. It is
a treat not to be missed when visiting Cajun Country.
Also consider andouille (and-Do-we) a spicy but very lean pork sausage,
boulette (Boo-let) a ball shaped fritter similar to a hush puppy,
cracklins which is fried strips of pork skins, not a health food but oh
so good, and crawfish etouff’ee (pronounced eh-two-Fay) a dish of peeled
crawfish tails in a stew of fresh peppers, onions, and garlic simmered
in butter and served over rice……and of course the dirty rice, gumbos,
jambjalaya and Po’boy (never a poor boy) which is a sandwich made with
tomato, lettuce and crusty French bread and just about anything from
shrimp and catfish to pork or spiced beef.
Besides the food, the music of Acadiana is probably the best know aspect
of Cajun culture. Be it Cajun, Zydeco or Swamp pop, the native music is
the antithesis of most modern music heard on the radio today. It is the
music of working people, both young and old, and if it has one common
characteristic, it is for those who love to dance. To hear it all you
have to do is turn on your car radio, roll down the window, or visit one
of the literally thousands of dance hall scattered across Cajun Country.
These dances began as “bals de maison” or house dances in private homes
where children were rocked to sleep in a “fais-do-dos” or separate room.
Have you ever been to a wedding dance and seen a couple that looks like
they have been dancing all of their lives together? Well, we attended
several dances, usually Friday or Saturday night, even during Lent, and
EVERYONE looks like they have been dancing together for their lifetime.
And there is a reason why. It is because they have. Grandma dances with
the baby in her arms. Dad dances with his teenage daughters, junior
dances with his mom, everyone dances with everyone. And, but Oh Boy,
when mom and dad start to “cut the floor” you’d better get out the way.
Whether it is the unbelievably fast Zydeco, a two step that makes you
tired just watching, or an occasional stately, sweeping waltz, the
people of Cajun country can dance and they do it with style.
We apologize for the length of this post.
It's much longer than we like, but there's so much to say about the
This Saturday we leave Tryon to join an Airstream caravan to Cajun
Country in southwest Louisiana. We're excited because caravanning is one
of the reasons we wanted an Airstream, and although we've owned the
trailer for three years, this will be our first. The trip will be led by
Airstreamers who live in the New Orleans area so we’ll get an insiders
view that we’d never have if we went by ourselves. The caravan will
probably include about a dozen trailers.
The rendezvous campground is about mid-way between Lafayette and Baton
Rouge on I-10. Getting there will require two overnight stops. The first
will be at a campground convenient to the interstate in eastern Alabama;
and the second night we'll stop in Mobile to visit our friend, Mary Anne
Thompson. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is for rain and
thunderstorms this weekend. If it’s too threatening we’ll postpone our
departure until Sunday, but if we can keep the original schedule, we’ll
at the rendezvous Monday afternoon – a day early.
We're anxious to get going -- Let the
good times roll!
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