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Carencro, LA

2019-04-11 – Airstream Caravan Travels – New Orleans, LA

We left Carencro at first light.  Not too many Airstreamers were up and about…

We drove east on the 10.  After about 20 minutes we stopped.  And stayed stopped, despite the sign…

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We were there for 1 1/2 hours…  Apparently there was an accident about three miles ahead on the causeway, so they simply closed the freeway…  So everyone in their cars was able to catch up on their Facebook posts…

Eventually we were on our way.  We crossed the Mississippi river for the first time today…

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An hour later we crossed over the Mississippi for the second time today…

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By about 10:15 we arrived at our first destination:  Oak Alley Plantation…

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Oak Alley is one of the more famous “Big Houses” due to this lane of 200+ year old Live Oak trees… The interior tour did not disappoint.  (Unfortunately, no photos were allowed…)

The interiors of the Big House are quite grand – much more than I had anticipated.  If you recall, the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge is modeled after Oak Alley, but we were told that the governor’s mansion was much grander.  I’m not so sure… Certainly the governor’s mansion is bigger – 25.000 s.f vs Oak Alley’s 7,000 s.f., but the ceilings are tall (12 1/2 feet) and the rooms are large – there are only eight rooms and a large central hallway.  We were impressed.

The house was built in the 1830s, similar to Shadows -on-the-Teche, but this is far more sophisticated and grand.  The original owner died young, in the 1840s; the difference is that the owner of Shadows built a modest house, where as the owner of Oak Alley built a very grand house, way beyond his means, with several hundred thousand dollars of debt.  Where as Shadows was maintained after the Civil war, and newly freed slaves were hired for cash wages, the war ruined Oak Alley and its owners.  After the war it was abandoned by the family and sold for taxes.  It was unsuccessfully operated as a farm and as a cattle and hog ranch.  It fell into disrepair until the 1920s, when it was bought by the Stewarts, a family from Texas; they restored the house and added indoor bathrooms and a kitchen.  The Stewarts lived in the house for many years, as a vacation home and later as a retirement home.  Upon Mrs. Stewart’s death in 1972 the house was deeded to the Oak Alley Foundation, which restored the house (removing bathrooms and kitchen); it was then opened them to the public.

After the interior tour walked the grounds…

Slave quarters in the distance…

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Gardens…

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The Oak Alley…

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The rear of the house…

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The oak alley, looking away from the house… The Mississippi River is just beyond the levee.  In the olden days the levee was much lower and the river could be seen from the uppers verandas of the house…

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The oak alley extended from the front and the rear of the house… At the rear are the slave quarters…

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These are all double cabins, exactly as we saw at the Rural Life Museum.  They are reproductions.  The exhibits tell of the lives of the slaves, with very little sugar coating or white washing.  One cabin was filled with various shackles and other restraint devices…

The was even a slave chicken coup…

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A few interesting details…

The front door:

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The columns (as is the house) are solid brick, covered with plaster.  Sometimes historical accuracy gives way to modern technology…

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This is an appropriate time to mention that these houses were made to look like Greek temples, which were built of stone.  Of course, the Greek temples were copies of Egyptian temples, which were built of wood…  So here we see plaster mimicking stone mimicking wood…

Most rooms have French doors:

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Some rooms have windows to match the French doors…

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Typical tourist on the veranda…

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And so we moved on…

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Next stop is Evergreen…

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Evergreen was originally a simple one story three room house in the Creole style, raised up about six feet off the ground to ward against flooding.  It was built in the 1790s.

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In the 1830s the house was raised up so that three ground floor rooms could be added, and these stairs were added to give access to the main living quarters on the second floor.  In this way this house is very similar to Shadows.  Eventually the rear verandas were enclosed and additional rooms were added on the sides.

The entry door:

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Again, plaster and brick mimicking wood…

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The rear verandas were enclosed and exterior stairs became interior stairs.

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Gardens to the rear…

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The rear of the house…

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The kitchen in one of the dependencies…

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There are two VERY long oak alley’s here – one planted in the 1780s and one planted in the 1940s.  They are much longer than the alley at Oak Alley, but they are not centered on the Big House.

The interesting thing here is that these trees conceal the slave quarters…

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These are the original slave quarters; after the war they were occupied by former slaves and hired workers until the 1940s…

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Again, after the war the house was sold for taxes, and subsequently it was unsuccessfully operated as a farm.  Eventually the bank foreclosed and the Big House was boarded up.  However, the bank never noticed that more than 100 people were living on the property, both in the former slave quarters and in the various sharecropper houses further to the rear.  The people on the property let the house stay boarded up, but some of the former owners moved back in.  They let the grass grow un-attended and the place appeared to be abandoned.  But the people continued to farm the land and live in the many buildings.  In the mid 1930s the bank sold the property to a woman who had no idea that all these people were living here, but eventually they made a go of the farm.  This family still owns the property and it is still a working farm (although no one lives in the slave quarters, or the big house…).

This tour was less about the house and dependencies and the grounds than it was about pushing the agenda of the owners.  What we heard was that slavery was wonderful, slave owners were wonderful, slaves were happy and well taken care of, no slave-owner would ever mistreat a slave because it would hurt his investment and profits, and the slaves knew they would have to work somewhere, somehow, so they might as well be happy working as slaves.

Poppycock…

We moved on.  We crossed the Mississippi again:

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Our third Big House today is called Destrehan.

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Destrehan was also one of the oldest Big Houses, built in the late 1780s.  Originally it was a one story house build up above the ground similar to Evergreen, but after the river levees were raised they enclosed the ground level and enclosed the rear verandas.  During the Civil war the owner, who was a French citizen, abandoned the house and sailed for France to try to become the French ambassador to the Confederacy.  Obviously, that didn’t work out.  Federal troops took over the house in about 1863.  After the war they turned the house and grounds into a settlement house for freed slaves who had nowhere else to go.  The owner, upon returning from France, convinced the Feds that he had always been loyal to the North, so they gave him his plantation back.  The family continued to live in the house until 1916 or so, when the plantation was sold to an oil company.  An oil refinery was built and the house was used for offices and as a residence for the manager.  In the early 1960s the oil company torn down the refinery and abandoned the property.  The house was looted and ransacked by vagrants and squatters, and fell greatly into disrepair.  Finally a restoration society was formed and the house was restored.

This is the “warming Room, where the food was brought from the kitchen, plated, then delivered to the butler’s pantry before being delivered to the dining room.  I had never seen this arrangement before…

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When the rear verandas were enclosed they used this Egyptian motif for the door trim.  Note the tapered jamb casings…

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The house originally had simple wood columns with corbels at the top.  Later, brick columns were built around the wood columns and a fascia was built to give the house its Greek revival facade.  But on the veranda you can still see the wood columns and their corbels… The wood columns still support the house today…

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The slave quarters are all reproductions, and they were originally not in this location directly behind the house…

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I’ll save you from the more repetitive photos… after a while, all interior photos look alike…

The day was getting late.  We returned to the truck and the Villa and drove into New Orleans – the French Quarter…

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We parked the Villa in a parking lot at the Visitors Center and walked around a bit.  I think if the French ever saw New Orleans they would roll over in their graves… But some of the street scenes were interesting.

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This streetcar was NOT named Desire…  These RR tracks run right along the waterfront.  Most enlightened cities today have removed RR tracks from their tourist oriented waterfronts…

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The Mississippi was still mighty…

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The massive basilica facing Jackson Park:  We’ll get a better picture tomorrow…

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We returned to the Villa, changed into our dress-up clothes, and walked to dinner at Meauxbar Bistro.

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I wish we had a place like this in Redlands.  Or any where in the IE, for that matter… Cozy neighborhood place, small bar, very French, but very contemporary menu and recipes…

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We each had two courses, which is more than either of us can comfortably eat, especially with a fine wine (Gigondas…)

Lynda ordered Pom Frites and Aioli, and their house special French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich, of which she could only eat one of the four pieces…

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I opted for two simple dishes – Escargot and Beef Tartare.  Both were fabulous and, since they were small appetizer courses, I could actually finish them…

We walked back to the parking lot, snuck into the Villa, and had a wonderful night’s sleep…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-10 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Carencro and Lafayette, LA

Today was our last day of caravan activities… All we did was eat…

We began with breakfast in the meeting room, served by fellow caravaners.  Our local Airstream club always serves hearty breakfasts, which I always enjoy.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, casseroles, corned beef hash, yogurt, cereals, etc.  This was not one of those breakfasts…

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There were tiny silver dollar size blueberry pancakes.  Nice start.  Next we had what were reported to be beignets, but they were nothing like the beignets we’re familiar with.  As usual, they were covered with powdered sugar… But these were not puffy little balls – they were more like flat pancakes.  Maybe a regional thing…

Then… crawfish ettouffe, served over grits (a semi-edible combination of cornmeal and fiberglass…).  And ice cream on top.  I’m sorry.  Maybe the others enjoy food like this, but it is not part of my culture…

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But it’s always fun hanging out with the group for a meal, even if we didn’t eat much…

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After breakfast we walked around the park again…

Adjacent to the campground there is a house with a motorhome in a lovely carport…

I’m sure the motorhome cost way more than the house…

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We prepared the Villa for travel.  Cleaned up, hitched up, slide-in, tanks emptied and filled.  Tonight is the final banquet, a long-standing tradition of these caravans.  Of course, in the not too distance past these were formal affairs, with dinner jackets and long formal dresses.  Thankfully, this is a thing of the past…

We gathered at an old Lafayette institution – Don’s Seafood and Steak house… We started with happy hour…

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Then dinner and pronouncements…

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We were joined for the evening by a fellow Airstreamer, and a local Cajun himself.  Beaudreau is a common term for any Cajun, but this just happens to be his name. (Sorry – no picture)  He was the originator of this caravan and he lead it for many years.  He also told a few jokes about people named Beaudreau and Thibodeau… Ask me later if I remember them…

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We were entertained by our own caravaners who had brought their instruments along…

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We bid our farewells to our new friends, some of which we will see again in two weeks in Kentucky…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-09 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Carencro and Lafayette, LA

We began our day again with a nice walk around the perimeter of the campground… Yesterday I posted this field of colored weeds.  Today the horses were out standing in their field…

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The swamp is looking as swampy as ever…

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Today we have our last official caravan outing.  We carpooled out to central Lafayette to the Vermilionville Historic Center.

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This is the Vermilion River or Bayou.  The river has a reddish hue.  The town was originally named Vermilionville after the river; in the early 19th century the Catholic Church created a new parish in this area called Lafayette, so they renamed the town… This location is not the original city center – the Cathedral we saw  yesterday was at the original city center.  This land was originally one of the many plantations surrounding the city, and the buildings we saw were either moved here or they are re-creations of typical buildings of the era.  This place is very much like the Rural Life Museum that we saw in the first days of the caravan, so I will try not to repeat information here…

We spent about two hours walking the various buildings.  Again, the guide was really not interesting to me, mostly talking about the families, weaving, crocheting, and nonsense like that.  I wanted to know more about the architecture and construction techniques I was seeing, but she was clueless…

But the buildings are interesting in their own unique way…

This is a large Acadian plantation or ranch home from the early 1800s .  It was very substantial, obviously owned by a prosperous land owner.

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It did have an interior staircase…

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I immediately noticed the shutters.  Some are hinged like doors, and some are hinged at the top.  I asked if this was just a personal preference or was there a functional reason to use one or the other?  The guide was clueless – I don’t think she understood the question, maybe she never noticed that they were different, or maybe she didn’t know what shutters were… All the houses had different configurations:

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As we walked amongst the houses several opinions and ideas were expressed, but as soon as we thought we had a good theory going the next house proved us wrong… I guess that just did whatever they wanted…

This next house is an urban house, built in central Lafayette in the 1880s, post-Civil War.  What was neat about this was that the original house is in tact, but they were also showing the additions, made in the 1920s, of a indoor kitchen and bathroom…

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Another interior stair…

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1920s bathroom:

(I have the same bathtub in my 1905 house…)

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The kitchen:

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We strolled near the swamp.  Wait!  Is that a… an alligator!

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He seemed harmless enough.  Alligators are not naturally aggressive – he slinked away into the lake as we walked nearer.  (Crocodiles ARE very aggressive…!)

This is the church and the pastor’s house…

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This next house has an interesting floor plan, and it helps to explain some other features of these various houses we have seen on the caravan…

Note the layout here in this exhibit:

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The center front room is the “great Room” for living, dining, and entertaining.  To the right is a bedroom for the younger children; to the left is the room for the parents and infants.  Behind the parents’ bedroom is a bedroom with no door except into the parents’ room; this was for the older daughters.  Behind the children’s room is a bedroom with no door except a door directly onto the rear porch.  This was for the older boys.  All older boys had jobs, either on the plantation or ranch, or as an apprentice at a local tradesman’s place.  The boys slept here, but they often had their own schedules that might have been different than the family’s; also, they may have taken meals away from home.  Thus they needed their own entrance so that their comings and goings did not disturb the family…

Door to the older girls’ bedroom directly from the parents’ bedroom…

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Door to the older boys’ bedroom directly on the rear porch…

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This concept also explains why these exterior stairs that we have been seeing also made sense – the older boys slept upstairs, but they had their own entrance…

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One mystery solved, another mystery still unsolved…

At the Rural Life Museum I had asked about these weird ridge shingles.  I asked here again, to no avail… Some houses have them, some don’t; they face all directions, so prevailing winds wouldn’t determine anything.  There was no consistency between Cajun, Creole, French, or Spanish influences…  I guess we’ll never know…

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This is the school house from the 1920s.  Note the Spanish Moss in the trees:

Also note:  It is not Spanish, nor is it Moss.  It is an air plant an (epiphyte), which takes its nutrition from the air.  It is not a parasite, and it does not harm the tree… Its proper name is tillandsia usneoides.  It is a bromeliad—a perennial herb in the pineapple family, and most bromeliads, including Spanish moss, are epiphytes.  So there you have it…

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In 1916 Louisiana banned the speaking of French in the public schools.  Here we see on the blackboard that some student had to “write lines”.  They read, “I will not speak French”.

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Not that I’m dating myself, but the two-room schoolhouse I attended in my early years had desks exactly like this…

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Some other utilitarian buildings:  The boat house:

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The trapper’s cabin:

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After over two hours of wandering amongst these great old buildings we enjoyed lunch in the museum’s cafe – Red Beans and Rice, Chicken Gumbo, and Shrimp Po-Boys.  Very good!

We returned to the truck, and Lynda found several Egrets nearby…

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We turned to the Villa.

That evening Lynda joined into the fun of Left-Right-Center…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-08 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Carencro and Lafayette, LA

Our fast-paced schedule of activities is slowing.  As we near the end of the caravan people are using their spare time to prepare for trips home or to other destinations.  Today we didn’t leave the campground until 11:30 am!

We had a chance to walk the neighborhood around the campground…

Lovely colored weeds in this field:

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More swamp – a continuation of the swamp we saw here yesterday…

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At the appointed hour, we traveled into the heart of Lafayette today, to Johnson’s Boucaniere.

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While I don’t know how to pronounce “boucaniere”, it is a smoke-house.  They sell smoked meats and sausages, including Boudin, a Louisiana specialty.  They were closed.

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But they were prepared to serve us lunch.  We had our choice of Po-Boy sandwiches: pork, brisket, or chicken.  Also included was cole slaw and bread pudding for dessert… We sat on their spacious deck, covered, of course, in case of rain.

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The old building has been nicely remodeled, with the new deck and metal siding.  Interestingly, next door is an architect’s home and office that uses many of the same materials and details…

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Lunch was quite good.  But not what I had been lead to believe a Po-Boy was.  These were just meat sandwiches.  No seafood, no lettuce/mayo/tomato.  Very good meat, for sure, but nothing special otherwise…

Before our scheduled tour of the adjacent Cathedral, we took a walk through the old neighborhood… This old house stood out as being quite remarkable…

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Other scenes in the neighborhood…

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We arrived at the Cathedral – St. John the Evangelist…

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Of course, it has its own cemetery, dating back to the early 19th century…

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While the exterior is a bit bizarre, with no discernible architectural style, the interiors were quite nice…

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The tour guide told about the history of the church.  This is the third church on this site, built in 1916, and it was extensively remodeled in the mid 1980s.  The organ was added in the 1980s remodel.  The organist was there to explain the many functions of the organ and he played a bit for our enjoyment.

Outside the church is the Cathedral Oak…

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The Cathedral Oak is almost 500 years old, and it is one of the largest is the US; the trunk is over 9′ in diameter, with a circumference of almost 29′.

And then it started to rain.  We were soaked while running back to the car.  We returned to the Villa, walked a bit after the rain stopped, and Happy Hours ensued.

Some of the Airstreamers gathered in the meeting room for a game of Left-Right-Center… Never heard of it?  Neither had I…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-07 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Travel to Carencro, LA

This is the last travel day for the Caravan – our next stop is the final one – only 4 nights left…

We walked the park again a few times, then hitched up and left Eunice about 11:30 am…  Of course, we soon were delayed by a train… And I love trains!

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It was 50 miles to Carenco, on the outskirts of Lafayette.  We stopped for a quick lunch at GoBears!

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Unfortunately, their tiny lunch room was closed – no idea why… So we walked next door to McDonalds.  They have all automated touch screens for ordering.  During the lunch rush there was one cashier, wandering around with nothing to do… Progress???

We arrived at the Bayou Wilderness RV Resort.  Nice place with full hook-ups, including cable, plus clear skies for satellite TV.  The sites are a little rustic, though…

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We hooked up, set up, checked out the store and other amenities, and walked around a bit.  There is an actual swamp out back… lots of Bald Cypress trees growing out of the water.  Those funny little pointy stumps are roots growing up out of the ground.  They are called, “Knees”.

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At about 4:00 pm it started to rain, with thunder and lightning, of course.  It was still pouring down when it was time to meet the other Airstreamers in the meeting room here in the RV park for pizza and ice cream…

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By the time we were ready to walk back to the villa after dinner it was still raining, but not nearly so hard.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

The McAnoy baseball team…

Ian, almost 5:

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Roisin, age 6:

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