Louisiana – Take It – Leave It

Louisiana started out so great.  Happy to put Texas in the rearview mirror after two weeks, we bombed across the border into Louisiana, and slid immediately into Comeaux Restaurant (on the advice of the ladies in the Welcome Center).  omg!  I found myself eating cheesy cajun fries.  For breakfast!  Kind of a shrimp-y, cheesy, spicy sauce over double-dipped french fries.  Unbelievably wonderful.wpid-20150320_104612.jpgWe rolled into the KOC Kampground (not KOA), in New Iberia.  James Lee Burke sets his Dave Robichaux series of mysteries in this town, and, being fans, we wanted to see some of the locations, and have breakfast at Victor’s Cafeteria, one of Dave’s hangouts.  Corny, but….  For any of you who enjoy audio books, this series is the best.  The reader, Will Patton, simply carries you into the action.

Our campground was nothing special, but we didn’t have many choices.  We’ve spent far too much time in RV parks this trip, and it has taken a toll on our attitudes.  It’s just not camping.  But, sometimes, to get to the location you want, there are sacrifices to be made.  This one was one of them.  The bonus is that there are HUGE grassy areas in the park.  Room to wander around with Jezzy.  A “stocked” pond for fishing.  The first day there, I was horrified to wander over to the pond and see Asian carp jumping out all over the place!  Anyone from the Great Lakes area knows the huge battle we have on our hands to keep these invasive predators out of our Lakes.  One of the campers was out there with a bow and arrow, trying to shoot Gar.  (This may have been the beginning of the whole Louisiana slide).

Move to Day 2.  Our plan was to cycle to Avery Island, home of Tabasco Sauce.  They offer factory tours.20150321_103341We checked out the roads to the area, and decided that they were NOT cycle friendly – 55mph State highway with zero shoulder.  So, we tossed the bikes in the back of the truck, and drove out there – intending to take the tour, then cycle around on the Island.

The tour is LAME!  We were shown a film that was at least a dozen years old, and SO hokey!  It showed the McIlhenny family members personally hand-selecting peppers for production, stirring the pepper mash, etc.  Really??? We were led past the bottling line (not running), and into the ‘museum’, where a another film (sorry, the audio isn’t working) was the star.  It was all so stupid.  Then, they herd you into the store, and go get the next group of suckers for the ‘tour’.20150321_110756We allowed ourselves to get further sucked into Avery Island, and pay $8 each to cycle through Jungle Gardens.  But, this was beautiful – we passed by amazing, gigantic Southern Live Oaks20150321_11483520150321_11501320150321_130432saw a nesting ground for egrets20150321_12515620150321_121452passed under an amazing arch of wisteria, which must have been ancient, judging by the thickness of the trunks.20150321_124211and saw alligators20150321_115726and tiny little alligators!20150321_122338Azaleas were blooming, and it was gorgeous everywhere.20150321_122954There’s a Japanese garden, complete with a Buddha which was created back in 1100.  But, if it was stolen, should it really be in Avery Island, LA?  20150321_12273020150321_122821But, it certainly is in a gorgeous setting.20150321_122446It’s a gorgeous area.  Happy that we were able to spend time there, and especially happy that we could do it on our bikes.  I added to my snake sightings with this one,20150321_130650and had a rather large snake of unknown origin practically crawl over my foot.  He moved quickly into the hole in the base of this tree.20150321_125718A German tourist, with a rather excellent-looking camera, and I had a brief conversation about this situation.  I felt he should get up close with his camera to peer inside.  I’d be ready a safe distance away to video the action.  He didn’t bite, and couldn’t convince me to reverse roles.  Bummer.  Would have been fun.  I am WAY over my snake quota for this trip !

We did manage to have breakfast at Victor’s Cafeteria on Sunday morning on our way out of town.  OK.  Guess you have to be a fan to appreciate it.

The drama accelerated about 30 miles into our journey to Vicksburg.  As we rolled along I-10, a semi passed us, and gave us a little honk.

“What’s that?”, I asked John.

Just an “I like your trailer”, he thought.

Odd….???

About a minute later, he hollered, “Holy shit!  I gotta pull over.”  The Fireball’s wheel was smoking.  We’re not going anywhere.  About two hours later, the AAA wrecker finally gets there, and it becomes obvious, after a while, that he doesn’t have quite the right equipment to get the Fireball onto the flatbed.  It’s ugly.  He’s plowing up turf with the rear stabilizers of the Fireball.  We’ve got all our blocks and gear out, trying to help.  Finally, the Fireball is on the trailer.20150322_151503We follow the tow truck into Baton Rouge.  This is a sight you never want to see…20150322_152541The loading problems were multiplied at unloading time.  The angle of the flatbed was too steep to offload the Fireball.  The rear stabilizers were dragged along the concrete, and the trailer jack dragged across the bed of the truck.  We feared that the Fireball was actually going to be dropped off the back of the bed.  It was agonizing.20150322_161348Again, John stepped in – got our Lego blocks and cone out.  The tow driver had a semi-faulty jack which he maneuvered into place, and we finally got the trailer off the tow.  Our jack is all screwed up from being dragged across the trailer bed.  That will be a whole ‘nother episode with AAA.

We finally left in search of a hotel.  John was back on site at 7am  Long story short…..they were able to get a new bearing and brake shoes for the damaged side.  It was unknown if they would fit or not, or if the axle was too damaged.  Fortunately, it all fit.  But, as we are pulling out (seven hours later), the trailer brakes don’t work.  Back and forth, on and on…..they finally tell us that “the supplier” says that the brakes may not work for 40-50 miles until all the coatings on the parts wear off so that contact can be made.  I’m not buying it.  We had new brakes and bearings installed last year (in Louisiana, CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT??) and they worked immediately.  Frustration boils over on all sides, and the service manager tells us that he doesn’t even know if we had brakes when we came in, and he has done everything he can do to make things work.  He tells us to drive 50 miles, and return if the brakes still don’t work.  He’ll adjust them.  Yeah, right.  We’re confident that the truck brakes can handle stopping the relatively light weight of the trailer, so we pull out at 4:30pm.  It’s been a very long day.  We’ve spent $600 for a new bearing and brake, plus another $100 for a hotel room. Exhausted and a wee bit cranky.  Nervous and unhappy.  Don’t know if we can actually stop the Fireball if push comes to shove.  Get the picture?

We’re now in Vicksburg, MS.  Not sure if we have brakes or not, but we’ll probably find out for sure tomorrow morning when we hitch up.  (trip was flat, we never had to back up) In any case, we’re confident that we can get home without incident.  The only brakes I want to worry about between now and then are those on my bicycle.

Vicksburg is pretty cool.  But wet!  They had 5″ of rain here last week.  Our campground (another weird spot) is saturated.

 

 

Good News….Bad News

What a difference a day makes.  A 30 degree increase in the temperature, and a bit of sunshine, and things don’t look quite as grim these days.  To recap.

When we pulled into our campsite at Fontainebleu SP, I was whining about our picnic table being too close to a ditch.  Like this…..wpid-20140104_094418.jpg Turns out that wasn’t our table, so that was the start of us turning over a new leaf. On Saturday, the weather warmed up so we headed into New Orleans, via the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, about a 45 minute trip. Our original idea was to cycle around town, but it’s not a very bike-friendly looking town, so we deciding to hoof it. Our first destination was Joey K’s, recommended by my foodie-friend Maribeth.20140104_12040520140104_120420Good, but not great food, but we had a fabulous 2.5 mile walk over there, through some very interesting neighborhoods. New Orleans is colorful and beautiful. Temps in the 60s boosted our morale.

After lunch, we headed to Lafayette #1 cemetery to wander around. It’s hard to imagine how trees old cemeteries can keep going when they appear to be crumbling away. It’s a great history lesson. We later visited St. Louis #1 cemetery.20140104_12551520140104_130022

We wandered past a bike shop with some really fun single bikes hanging on the wall. I want one!  Sorry about the crappy photo.20140104_114013

Onward toward town…20140104_11513720140104_13353920140104_14262120140104_13114620140104_13160720140104_14080820140104_145931Oh, how I want this monkey lamp….

Past a bar with a funky Zydeco band.

Just in time for a beautiful sunset.20140104_170928

We listened to the Saints beat the Eagles that night in the last second of a really good football game, and were greeted the next morning with this sign on the Causeway,20140105_162146

Day 2 in new Orleans began at the World War II Museum. The film and other interactive exhibits are very intense. We wandered around for a few hours, but we’re “warred-out” after a bit and avoids to get back outside in the warm air.

Our best encounter of the day was with two homeless gentlemen hanging around the riverfront area. As we passed by, one looked me in the eye and declared “Ma’am, we’re just $.47 away from our next alcoholic beverage!” Who could resist a pitch like that?  I dug in my pocket, and all I could come up with was a quarter and two dimes, which I named over. We all laughed, and we continued on.

I’ll close with more photos of this amazing city. Can’t wait to come back.20140105_12525820140105_160248a little touch of Michigan here in New Orleans.20140105_13510620140105_140355seen in a souvenir shop window

20140105_14144720140105_153942-00220140105_14044620140105_15302020140105_16052120140105_134956

And lastly, we passed an interactive art project which caught our attention.

The exhibit covered nearly an entire block. Interesting.20140105_155812-00320140105_15593920140105_155730-002

We’re hanging out this morning again at the RV service dealership, trying to get our brakes fixed again. We are probably not going to make our planned destination of Sea Rim SP in TX  tight, but that may be for the best. It’s going down into the teens here tonight, so we will probably want to be somewhere enter we can plug in. So, Sam Houston Jones is our new target.  Yikes! John just got back from talking to the service guy….. they’ve got the brakes all apart. New a bunch of new parts – $750!!!  Ow, ow, ow! but I guess there’s no choice here. Gulp.