Friday, May 12, 2017

Rural Southern Louisiana, Part 2, Lake Charles and More

Our stay in Southern Louisiana wasn't all work and repairs. As hinted at the end of the last post, we did get out a couple times for some socializing and sightseeing with our hosts. The first time was the night we arrived, with getting to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next door, and getting to meet a couple of other people in their extended family.

Happy 50th to our hosts on January 20th!

It was our first time of experiencing a Mardi Gras King Cake, (click on the link to read more about the origin) which is a tradition in the area. The one shown is a mass-produced commercial version filled with cream cheese, but the original Mardi Gras King Cakes are much larger and much more elaborate, typically formed as a colorful ring, like a bundt cake, but with various toppings and fillings. They all have one thing in common... a tiny (usually plastic) baby (supposed to be baby Jesus) hidden inside, and the one who finds it gets special privileges. In our case, no one found the baby until the very last piece of cake was cut... by our host.

Nearly every store in the south sells these Mardi Gras King cakes from December through February.

The Mardi Gras King cake is actually a ring, although it's hard to tell by this one.

Inside every Mardi Gras King Cake is a baby Jesus.

A couple of days later, we went with them in their truck to Lake Charles, where after a tour through a newly built industrial section with oil and gas pipes everywhere (to give us a feel for the fantastic growth the area is experiencing), one of our first stops was at the visitor center.

Let the good times roll!

The Lake Charles Visitor Center from the park next door.

Two of the monuments next to the Lake Charles Visitor Center.

With Mardi Gras coming up soon, there was a contest of building "shoe box floats", with judging done by the public who visited and saw them all on display at the visitor center. They were all extremely well-detailed and very beautiful! As always, you can click on any photo to enlarge it, and then simply "X" out of it to return to the normal page.

A very nice shoe box float with the Mardi Gras Queen represented.

Mardi Gras shoe box floats on display for anyone to judge.

Among the other displays was a sample of the very elaborate and sometimes elegant Mardi Gras costumes that are used in the actual parade in New Orleans.

Examples of the very elaborate Mardi Gras Parade costumes!

There were a few other displays of excellent folk art done by local artists, including a huge ceramic tile-covered alligator and several wood carvings.

A ceramic tile-covered alligator.

A wooden folk art hand carved swamp shack.

A wooden statue of the pirate Jean LaFitte!

A hand-carved wooden folk art display with a musical theme.

The visitor center also has a nice sitting area and gift shop overlooking Lake Charles, although they didn't have much for food except drinks and candy bars.

The Lake Charles Visitor Center sitting area overlooking Lake Charles.

Upon exiting the building, we took the time to walk over to a fenced area in the lake-front park next door. There is a small pond in the middle of the fenced area where you can usually see alligators. Our hosts told us there used to be a large alligator in the pond, but he had gotten out, and they had to capture him and send him somewhere else. So now they appear to be starting over with a few small ones... and a turtle... and hopefully, a newly repaired fence!

Several small alligators and a turtle at the Lake Charles Visitor Center park.

This is the first time in over 24 years that we have seen a live alligator... anywhere!

At a nice city park on the east side of Lake Charles, we stopped to watch several kites being flown, including one of SpongeBob SquarePants, a spinning round kite, and a modern twin-tailed kite that we weren't sure what it was!

A SpongeBob SquarePants kite.

A spinning round kite.

A twin-tailed modern kite.

We continued on around the lake on the east and south sides, through a residential area, and got a glimpse of the I-10 high bridge we had crossed on the other side of the lake on the way to the visitor center.

The I-10 bridge over Lake Charles in the distance, from the south side.

Eventually we found our way out of the city and wandered toward "home". On the way, we stopped at a Ace Hardware store to get bolts for the solar brackets on the trailer, and also at a Walmart Neighborhood Market at Moss Bluff. Our friends told us about this one that they go to, where there is a deli that features dry-rub baby-back ribs, already cooked and hot! So of course, we had to try a couple of large packages that made enough for a couple meals for us! (Sorry, I forgot to get a photo!)

On another night, our friends invited us to go with them to the Coushatta Casino Resort, where they had heard that the band Mustang Sally would be playing... and it was free! The Casino is just a couple miles north of Kinder, LA, so it was less than a half-hour drive to get there. The Casino has several nice restaurants, and the offerings sounded great, but since we had already eaten we just wandered around for awhile until it was show time.

The casino stage with Mustang Sally, taken from our seats.

Mustang Sally onstage at the Coushatta Casino Resort!

We have sometimes been known to put a little money in the slot machines, often called "one armed bandits", but only when we are prepared for it. We normally buy a "package" deal before going to casinos, and not once have we ever lost money to a casino... yet! We have always come away with more than we spent. But something just didn't feel like it was in a winning state of mind that night, and I always follow my hunches.

At 9 PM, the Mustang Sally Band took the stage and that's where we remained until the show was over. The video is of another venue at which they played previously, but it gives you an idea of what their high-energy show is like!

If you like what you see in the video above, remember that YouTube has a lot more videos for this band. Just do a search in the YouTube search bar for Mustang Sally Band, and follow the links!

There were other trips we could have gone on with our hosts, but we had plenty to do at their lot, with getting the trailer and other things repaired. Also, our friend, Ed Helvey stopped in for a few days on his way to California, so we made time to visit with him. The weather was very pleasant while we were there, and we were often at our hosts screened gazebo or wandering their yard, enjoying their little gnome and rock garden.

Our host's screened gazebo... a necessity in the south!

Our host's gnome and rock garden.

Our hosts have a nice propane grill outside, so we made use of it a few times while we were there. The first time was when Sharon butterflied a couple of huge chicken breasts. I couldn't believe how well they turned out... very juicy and delicious... done to perfection!

Grilled butterflied chicken breast with green beans! Yum!
One of the last days we were there, our host and a couple friends went to a thrift store, and she came back with a very beautiful and very large Victorian doll nearly three feet tall. Although she has some "back home", this one was apparently intended for a friend who also collects them. And the price was ridiculously inexpensive!

The beautiful auburn-haired Victorian doll our host bought!

We decided to head out early from our host's place, and get an early start toward Florida. Besides sewer problems at our host's compound, we also found out that Sharon's sister was going to be in Florida until March 1st, so we wanted to give Sharon and her sister time to visit while she was there.

The next post will be about the remainder of our trip to Florida, and then a few posts about the places we were staying while there. Thank you for reading the blog and following along with our travels. Be sure to read Sharon's blog, too, as she has different photos, sometimes with slide shows, and a different perspective on our traveling. There's a link to it in the top right margin. She got a little behind in posting, too, after returning from her cruise in Alaska, but is gradually getting caught up, as am I.

And thank you for using our links to make your online purchases, no matter what vendor you buy from. Our links are only suggestions to products, so remember, you can always choose another product once you get to the vendor site, and we still get the credit for the referral. The commissions we make help to fund the repairs to our RV and expenses involved in getting our travel stories to you.

As always, if you have a question or comment, please let us know. If the comment form isn't showing below, just click on the word link, "Post a Comment", and the form will open up. Thanks again, stay well and safe travels to you!


Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

It was great meeting up with you and Sharon there in Reeves, LA at Bud & Jean's place. I totally enjoyed my several day stay. And, I certainly enjoyed meeting Bud & Jean and going on daily walks with Bud. I had never been to that part of LA before, so a first for me, John. Thanks to all of you for inviting me.

John Abert said...

That was our first time in southern Louisiana, also. I think we were lucky to have great weather during the entire visit. The day after we left is when that tornado hit New Orleans. It seems January is the best time to be there, after hurricane season and before the spring storms start. That's not much of a window, but again, it's why I wouldn't want to live there!