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Judy took this in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Lake Superior with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the background.
Chapter Eight - Cajun Heritage Caravan


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OMG! We met Adrian!
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Can you believe it? Last night at Randol's Restaurant & Salle de Dance in Lafayette we met Adrian, the fellow who danced with his sister, Heather, in our Zydeco dancing post. He is a wonderful dancer, and a great guy. Unfortunately, Heather now lives in Houston so we couldn't meet her.

We wish him well and hope to see him again when we return to Lafayette.

We're not lost in the swamp . . .
Thursday, 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 access.

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 spare time.

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.

Community Coffee
day, April 1, 2009

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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.

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.

Zydeco dancing
Friday, March 27, 2009

Two sirens lure us to Cajun Country: food and music.

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 (Chris Ardoin's Double 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.

Cajun History & Culture 101
Thursday, March 26, 2009

As you can see from this little map, Cajun Country is the southwest corner of Louisiana.

Here's one Cajun's 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.

Language - 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 Times Roll.”

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.

Music - 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 Cajun culture.

laissez les bons temps rouler !
Thursday, March 26, 2009

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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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Chapter Seven: Installation Rally

Chapter Six: Creekwood Rally

Chapter Five: Extra Cheez, Pleez!

Chapter Four: Say Cheez!

Chapter Three: The winter of '06-'07 when not much happened

Chapter Two: The Three T's Tour: Truck, Trailer & Terrier

Chapter One: We buy an Airstream trailer and set off on a shakedown trip