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2019-04-13 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Seaside, FL, and a shocking discovery…!

We spent the day in Seaside, FL.    WARNING:  Architectural rantings and discussions approaching!!!

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Seaside is an unincorporated master-planned community on the western Florida panhandle.  One of the first communities in America designed on the principles of New Urbanism, ot Neo-Traditional Town Planning, the town has become the topic of slide lectures in architectural schools and in housing-industry magazines world-wide, and is visited by design professionals (like me…) from all over.  

The idea behind Seaside came in 1946, when the grandfather of future founder Robert S. Davis bought 80 acres of land along the shore of Northwest Florida as a summer retreat for his family.  In 1978 Davis inherited the parcel from his grandfather, and aimed to transform it into an old-fashioned beach town, with traditional wood-framed cottages typical of the Florida Panhandle.  Davis, his wife Daryl, and architectural partners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company did painstakingly detailed research; they toured the south, studying small towns, armed with cameras, sketch pads, and tape measures; this became the basic for the planning of Seaside.  While a few houses were built in 1982 to “test the waters”, the final master plan was complete around 1985.

The developers used the master plan to write their own zoning codes.  Seaside’s commercial hub is located at the town center.  The streets are designed in a radiating street pattern with pedestrian alleys and open spaces located throughout the town.  There is a mix of uses and residential types throughout the community.

Individual housing units in Seaside are required to be different from other buildings, with designs ranging from styles such as Victorian, Neoclassical, Modern, Postmodern, and Deconstructivism.  Seaside includes buildings by many different architects, including such notables as Robert A. M. Stern, Daniel Solomon, and Samuel Mockbee.  Architect Scott Merrill designed the Seaside Chapel, an interfaith chapel and local landmark.  Seaside has no private front lawns, and only native plants are used in front yards.  The picket fences, required to be in front of all houses are all different from each other…

The result of all this work and planning is a remarkable little community.  Streets are designed first for pedestrians, and secondarily for automobiles.   We walked for hours, and every time we turned the corner a new delight was seen.

We arrived at about 9:00 on a Saturday morning.  The farmers’ market was in full swing; we stopped by one of the many Airstream “Food Trucks” for a breakfast crepe and coffee…

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We then headed out for a stroll along the beach.  There are seven access points to the beach, each one with a tower-type structure to mark its presence, each tower designed by a different architect.  This tower and stair is the ONLY public access to this stretch of beach…

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Yes, that’s right.  The beach is private, and all the other access points have locked gates.  Not only that, but there is a solid wall of buildings lining the Gulf Coast Highway (30A), so that as you walk or drive along the highway you wouldn’t even know the beach and the gulf are there!  I think Florida could learn a thing or two from other States which treat the beaches and oceans as a public resource to be enjoyed by all…

But, in any case, the beach is beautiful, with the same powder sugar sand like we saw in Mississippi…

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Lynda tested the waters.  Cooler than what we expected, but warmer than any beach in California… (You did not know that California beaches and the Pacific Ocean there are cold???)

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We were also surprised to see the waves, which were non-existent in Mississippi…

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These are some of the houses that block off the beach from the highway…

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We had a lovely walk on the beach, but we came here to see the town…

All buildings appear to have the form of this type of vernacular, although there are many different styles of homes…

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The streets are delightful…

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This tiny house is set back far from its neighbors…

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Not all the houses are traditional…

 

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These townhouses surround a courtyard just a short block from the business district, and many have businesses on the ground floor…

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This is the interfaith non-denominational chapel.  We wished our schedule would have allowed us to attend services on Sunday…

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More streets – each one more delightful than the next…

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Finally, by mid afternoon, we were ready for a break.  The beach was much busier now, and the patrons of the restaurants were hopping…

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We had a lovely lunch on the terrace overlooking the beach…

We walked around the business district and did some shopping…

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The troubadours were playing adjacent to the farmers’ market…

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There is this large central park shaped like a amphitheater.  On Friday evenings they show movies on the lawn…

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The farmers’ market…

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We returned to the Villa.  Happy Hours ensued.

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…

2019-04-06 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Eunice, LA

The most fun I have had in a long time at a music venue happened today!
We set out early for the tiny town of Mamou, LA.  We went into Fred’s Lounge, a 70+ year old institution.  Why were we going into a bar at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning?  Because Fred’s has a Cajun band that cannot be beat, and they broadcast a live radio show from here each Saturday morning!

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The place was packed, with beer drinking Cajuns and 50 or so Airstreamers.  (I know – sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference…)  It is a tiny space, with barely room for a bar and the band and a few booths and tables.  Mostly it was standing room only…

At 9:05 the radio announcer came on and introduced the show.  The band started playing and there was not a stationary person in the place…  Most Cajun bands are relatively quiet, with little or no percussion.  Not here!  It was LOUD, with booming bass and pounding drums.  It was fabulous!

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The announcer waiting for his cue to start the show…

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I finally realized that it was better to stand BEHIND the speakers than in front of them…

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Note the shelf, about 7′ above the floor, to set your beer down whilst you are dancing…

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It was fabulous!  We stayed as long as we could, but we had another item on the day’s agenda… We sadly left Fred’s and Mamou and headed back towards Eunice…

Our next stop was Savoy Music Store.  It is a regular music store, except that on Saturdays anyone who wants to jam and play or listen to Cajun music can drop in…

Frankly, it was a real snooze. After Fred’s it was a big let-down.  Just ordinary Cajun music…

We returned to the Villa…

We hung around a bit, then at 2:00 we visited the Verizon store to try to get my Jet-pack hot spot fixed.  Failure.

We went into downtown Eunice, visited the Railroad museum, had an ice cream cone, and visited another Acadian Cultural Center.

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This is a statue of Eunice…!

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The best part of the cultural center was the cooking demonstration.  They made Red Beans and Rice. We all got to taste samples…!

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The town of Eunice is past its prime…

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Back at the Villa we walked around the park.  It is quite nice:

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At about 5:00 I called Verizon Tech Support.  They ran diagnostics and decided my device needed a new sin card.  So back to the Verizon store we went… They put in the card, and it worked fine in the store, but the signal began to fade about 1/2 mile away.  Back at the campground there was no signal at all.  I will call again tomorrow…

At 9:00 we went to the barn dance!  The campground has a barn they use as a music venue.  The band playing was One Trick Pony.  They were nice and loud, with a good beat, but everything they played sounded the same…

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Most of the Airstreamers were there, but we left relatively early and retired to the Villa…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-04 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Abbeville, LA – We almost meet the Mayor!

It thundered all night long, with a rare glimpse of lightning.  At 7:00 am it started raining in earnest.  It was a real downpour – not the sprinkles that we in California call rain.  The skies opened up and it dumped, with crashing thunder added for effect.  We were supposed to leave at 8:40 am to meet the Mayor of Abbeville and do a walking tour of the town, but this was postponed at about 8:15…

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At 9:45 all of the day’s activities were cancelled… While the campground was not in any danger of flooding, 2″-3″ of standing water makes walking about problematic.

At 11:15 another Airstreamer picked us up in their truck and we drove two miles into Abbeville, to a seafood restaurant called Shucks!  We had a great lunch with good Old Fashioneds, and tasty Louisiana delicacies.  I had oysters on the half shell (raw…) and Gator Bites – deep fried little morsels – way better than chicken… Lynda had crab cakes and fried shrimp, not being the adventurous type (at least when it comes to food…)

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By the time lunch was over the rain had stopped.  We returned to the Villa, then set out again to see what we could of the town of Abbeville…

They have a nice town square – there is a music festival here every Thursday night, with food, dancing, etc., but tonight it was cancelled due to the rain…

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There is a nice big Catholic Church…

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And, in general, it is a fairly nice place, despite there being no viable businesses here (other than attorney offices around the Parish (county) Courthouse…)

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We eventually found our way to Kelvin’s Piano Bar – in a store that sold Kelvinator appliances in the olden days…)

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We had some good drinks and a few bites.  A piano player entertained us for a few minutes.

We returned to the Villa and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-03 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Abbeville, LA – Crawfish!

We began our day with a trip to Crawfish Haven…

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Today we harvested Crawfish, learned more than we needed to know about crawfish, and ate crawfish for lunch…

We began by walking about 1/2 mile out on the levees around various small ponds where the crawfish are raised.

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These red-topped devices are the crawfish traps.  They are baited with a piece of fish; the crawfish crawl into the trap but cannot crawl out.  Don’t ask me how this is accomplished…

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They have these strange flat bottomed boats which actually roll along on the bottom of the pond – the water is about one foot deep.  The boat is propelled by this strange drive wheel (almost like a paddle wheel) that rolls along the bottom of the pond and pushes the boat.

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The crawfish farmer generally does this work alone, but sometimes they have paying guests.  Here we are waiting for the first group of us to get out of the boat as it arrives at the shore…

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Before the next group can board they want to move the boat to another adjacent pond.  It simply rolls out of one pond, rolls across the land, and rolls down into the next pond…

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They did off-load the “catch” from the previous trip – two bags of crawfish…

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Once we board the boat and we set out into the pond we see how it works:  The driver has these red-topped traps.  He throws in a piece of fish and he sets the trap in the water, picking up another that has been sitting in the pond.  He dumps the crawfish out onto this odd table…

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The table has bars that slope towards openings where the bags are attached.  You sweep the crawfish towards the openings and they fall into the bags.  Small crawfish fall between the bars onto a surface which allows them to be swept back into the water…

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Lynda tries her hand at assisting the crawfish in sliding along the bars and falling into the bags…

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After twice around the pond our two bags are full and we land and climb off the boat.

We watch the next group board, and we walk back to the crawfish house.  Here we gather for lunch.

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But before we eat we learn a little about the crawfish.

Crawfish grow for about one year, molting about once per month and growing one size each time.  If they are not caught sooner, they might live two-three years.  The growing season starts in September, and, depending on the weather, the farmer might get two crops per year.  The optimum water temperature is 72 degrees; it is a little cold this season… They can harvest about 500 pounds of crawfish per acre per year.  Major predators are otters and minks.  Alligators keep them away, but there are not many alligators around these parts…

Lesson over, we get in line for our crawfish.  These have been boiled, the most traditional way to cook crawfish – similar to boiling lobster.  In case you don’t know what a crawfish looks like, it is a miniature lobster, sort of like a fresh water lagostino…

Here is what each of our lunches looked like:

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This is my platter (I asked for a small portion)… Before…

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After…

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You see, you pull off the tail, pull out and eat the meat from the tail (the meat is about the size of a tiny cocktail shrimp), and throw the shells back of the platter.  It is quite a labor intensive operation.  I believe your fingers will wear out before you get full…

Along with our meal we were treated to a Cajun singer and musician…

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We enjoyed our meal; soon we were on our way back to the Villa.

We had a relaxing day; the GAM scheduled for 4:00 was called off due to about 20 minutes of thunder showers…

At 6:00 we set out for The Barn, to hear Cajun music…

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The building was built in 1946 as an cattle auction barn.  There was a small rustic amphitheater overlooking a pen where the animals were brought in to be bought and sold.  Today the amphitheater seats are still the same, but they built a stage atop the animal pens…

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We found a place to sit fairly close to the door, because you never know when leaving is the best option… The rest of the Airstreamers found their seats, too…

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There were three musicians, being introduced here by one of the owners of The Barn…

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When they got to playing it was a real toe-tapping scene…

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They finished after more than two hours – longer than I can sit on a hard, backless bench… But it was a fun evening to see how the locals have fun, and to hear (more) Cajun Music…!

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-29 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Traveling to New Iberia, LA

Travel days are generally slow and relaxing, especially when we are only traveling 41 miles…

We left Breaux Bridge (actually closer to Butte La Rose…) and proceeded on the route.  We are traveling in a clockwise manner around southwestern Louisiana…

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GPS devices on the computer, on our phones, and in the truck all told us to turn right when exiting the RV park.  Our leaders, and our caravan driving instructions, said turn left.  Apparently to the right is a pontoon bridge with overhead clearance of 9′-6″ (most Airstreams are just under 10′-0″…); also there is a levee to be crossed – steep up, then a steep down, leaving a rig bottoming out at the top.  Bad idea!

So we turned left.  We stopped to fuel the truck and to restock the refrigerator.  Then we stopped for a flagger at road construction.  Then we stopped to wait for a coal train… This is why a 41 mile trip took almost 3 hours… But the countryside was beautiful.  This is a prosperous part of the state, with many McMansions and starter castles lining the highway…

This RV park is part of the Sugarena, sort of a fairgrounds type of place.  The parking spots all have concrete pads and full hook-ups, including cable.  And no trees to get in the way of my satellite TV…

Shortly after we arrived most of the folks set out to do some shopping… very few trucks to be seen…

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As a side note, when we were at the State Capitol yesterday we saw these water-filled areas next to the Mississippi River:

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What you don’t see here is that for most of the year these areas are parking lots.  There are floodgates in the levees that are usually opened in April to help relieve the spring flooding down stream.  This year these floodgates have been open, and these parking lots and other overflow areas have been fully flooded, since February.  And the spring surge hasn’t started yet…

So after a relaxing afternoon we gathered at 4:00 for a GAM – Get Acquainted Meeting.  We will have four or five of these in the next few days.  We met with five other couples and we, well, got acquainted.  Tomorrow is our turn to host another five couples…

After the GAM/Happy Hour broke up some caravanners got together to play a little music…

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We turned in early, as is out custom.  And speaking of customs, here are a few pictures of some of our grandchildren

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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