The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Harley takes his role as navigator seriously!

Welcome to Atchafalaya

If you have ever traveled east or west across the country on I-10, you have gone past this unique rest area. Next time, be sure you stop because it is one of the nicest rest areas you will find anywhere. It is part of the Atchafalaya National Heritage area. There is about a 20 mile bridge across lakes and swamps in this area.

In addition to three separate parking for semi-trucks, one for cars, and one just for RVs, they have great restrooms, security, and a museum visitors center.  Yes, you read that correctly, there is a separate area for RVs far away from the semi-truck area so a boondocking overnight stay can be very nice.

Be sure you take the time to go in the Visitor's Center. It is really nice and they have fresh coffee.

You will see plenty of these in Louisiana wherever there is water.

The displays are very interesting.

They provide all kinds of information about the area.

There is even a section on cooking Louisiana Cajun style.

You also won't want to miss the video in the movie center. The movie isn't very long but it is interesting and the little movie center is beautiful.

More displays.

The fireplace was decorated in popular Mardi Gras colors for Christmas.

This is a great place to stop for a rest and learn about the area.

Touring Lovely Lafayette, LA

We headed into Lafayette LA for lunch and guess where we ended up? Yes, we ended up at Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe for lunch. We had ice cream sundaes for lunch just because we could. The Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe is the last Borden's in the world.

Carolyn ordered the Goldbrick Sundae and she really liked it. Although Goldbrick is a popular famous candy, I had never heard of it. It is chocolate and pecans. They melt the candy to make the topping.

Mary Jane and I ordered the chocolate nut sundae. It was hot fudge with walnuts. The walnuts were not just sprinkled on top.....they are in a maple sauce and were liberally poured on the sundae. It was delicious.

The Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe was owned and managed by the Levy for generations. When Flora Levy died in 1981, she willed much of her property including the land and the ice cream business to the University of Louisiana Lafayette foundation. The foundation ran it for many years. In 2009, the foundation sold property and the business to Red Lerille.  He remodeled it while keeping the same nostalgic look. His daughter Kackie manages the ice cream icon these days.

You will find lots of great items on the menu including the Gold Brick Sundae and the Chocolate Nut Sundae. Some day I ill get back there and I think I will order the Gold Brick Sundae just to make sure it is really as good as Carolyn said it was.

Once we got lunch out of the way, we decided to tour downtown Lafayette. The weather was less than great so we did our tour in the car.

There are lots of interesting buildings downtown and the Christmas decorations that were still up were really nice. It's a great downtown.

This house is already prepared for Mardi Gras. Those are strings of beads covering the whole fence.

Carolyn pointed out several very popular restaurants.

The whole downtown area is laid out really nicely. Next time we will have to do a walking tour.

They have some beautiful murals on the buildings.

In addition to some nice Christmas decorations, the lamp posts were sporting some other interesting decorations depending upon the location.

Some areas really reminded me of the New Orlean French Quarter.

This is one of the public buildings....kind of looks like a jail.

This former gas station is now a unique restaurant.

This building with the interesting observation post on the top is a museum.

I think this building with the unique head statues is the courthouse.

Next up was the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.

It is a beautiful building.

The cathedral even has a cemetery on it's extensive property.

I look forward to seeing more of downtown Lafayette in the future.

Hot Time on Avery Island

Many of the rally attendees made the trek down to Avery Island although not all on the same days. The Mcllhenny family has made their famous Tabasco sauce here on the island for five generations. Built on a salt dome, the island is where the red peppers are grown, home to the factory with tours, a store, restaurant, and the Jungle Gardens. I visited once before but the tour through the factory is much improved. Unfortunately, they were not bottling when we visited. You start the tour with a visit to the museum.

You will find all kinds of information on how the whole story began, members of the family, the Tabasco itself, and the island itself.

Edmund Mcllhenny started the whole process in 1868 because the diet of the south at the time was pretty bland especially for Louisiana tastes. Mcllhenny was given seeds of Capsicum frutescens peppers that came from Mexico or Central America. An avid gardener, he sowed the seeds, nurtured the young plants, and was thrilled with their spicy flavor.

The first commercial pepper crop was grown in 1868 and, one year later, he sent 658 bottles of sauce at one dollar apiece wholesale to growers around the Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans. He gave it the name "Tabasco" name based upon a word of Mexican Indian origin which means "a place where the soil is humid" or "place of the coral or oyster shell". A patent was obtained in 1870 and by the end of the decade the sauce was sold throughout the U.S. and even in Europe. The sauce was packaged in a bottle similar to a perfume bottle with a spout on top as it was definitely meant to be sprinkled not poured on food.

Today the sauce is aged in barrels for up to three years and fine quality vinegar is used. It actually comes in 8 flavors. Tiny bottles were included in soldiers MRE packages.

Part of the tour took us through a greenhouse showing all different kinds of peppers.

When you get to the storage area, there is a film about the process as well as a view of all the barrels in storage. The Tabasco is aged just like fine liquor.

The pepper mixture is sealed into a barrel using a salt crust before the lid is put on.

The tour is a little out of order due to the arrangement of the processes.

The is part of the bottling area where vats of the peppers and vinegar are mixed.

This represents the salt mines right there on the island where the salt is obtained to store the sauce while it ages.

When you visit the restaurant, you will find every variety of Tabasco available to try on your food. The store also has lots of sampling opportunities including ice cream made with Tabasco.

We also took the Jungle Garden tour. Both tours of the factory as well as the gardens are self guided although the Gardens have a phone number that you call so you can be guided through the whole garden and given information on what you are seeing.

There are also signs along the way.

This is where you buy tickets for the Jungle Garden Tour but, if you are doing both the factory tour and the garden tour, buy your tickets together at the factory area as you will get a significant price break.

The Jungle Gardens are famous for their camilias and we were there while they were blooming.

I never realized there were so many different kinds and the smell was quite nice.

The oak trees on the grounds are amazing. In addition to the Spanish moss, they are also covered with ferns which I have never seen before.

All in all, it was a great day and well worth the drive down to the coast.