April Road Trip: Louisiana and Florida

Avery Island

Our next stop was the Tabasco Factory. Our GPS took us the strangest way- up, over, around and back down with LA-89 and US-90 W. It ended up being through neighborhoods and farms. There was almost no one on the road and half of it was shady with huge oaks covered in Spanish moss. We didn’t go the other “faster” way but this way seems better. 

Once there we chose not to do the gardens, just the walking tour. We spent a considerable amount of time in the museum. It chronicled the invention, their military involvement (feeding soldiers), and even all the movies Tabasco has appeared in. There was also fan-art displayed. Very cool and different museum. Then you follow the directions and start at the very beginning – growing a pepper in the greenhouse. This smelled fantastic already. Then you see the barrels – all covered in salt.  This was an great smell and the barrels went back almost as far as the eye could see.

After they peppers have been in the barrels for 3+ years they they separate the seeds and skins. This part smelled almost too strong. Finally you (and the peppers) go to packaging – bottle, lid, label, seal and then into the box. A sign showed where that days Tabasco was headed (I believe that day they were printing labels in Spanish?)

The on-site restaurant had all local foods – we had gumbo, red beans and rice, and etouffet (a sampler). They had 10+ kinds of Tabasco on all the tables to put on the food (which had already been cooked with Tabasco and quite frankly didn’t need more flavor but who isn’t going to take advantage of 10+ flavors?)

New Orleans

While we have been to some of the largest cities on the planet, we have never driven through them. We’ve been through Denver, but come on, that’s nothing. So when we decided to visit New Orleans, we got a bit nervous. We were actually so nervous we were looking into cancelling at the last second. The biggest problem was that our hotel was right off to the side of the French quarter, and the roads were all one way and super narrow. To make things easier for ourselves (and because a man screaming into his phone about a booted tire was a cautionary tale) we paid to have valet parking and peace of mind.  We stayed at  The Old No. 77, an old warehouse that was really modern and neat. It was within walking distance of everything too, so that was nice.

We walked around a bit. There didn’t seem to be all that much to see or do in the daytime in April. We made it to Bourbon Street and got a to-go cup of some green jungle-juice alcohol. We threw 1/4th of it away since it became quite clear you really shouldn’t get drunk. There were so many scammers and freaks it was not a good idea to be less than 100% observant. People did the typical scam “I betcha I know where you got them shoes.” But they also did something far more annoying – they would spray foam or junk on people’s shoes then start cleaning it off. No one asked them to clean but the scammer would demand payment for the service. One guy was in a shouting match with a scammer and you could tell it was going to end with that guy just forking over a few bucks. Another guy didn’t pay and the scammer followed him around for a few blocks shouting. Ugh.

The wrought iron balconies were pretty enough but no different than things we’ve seen in Europe so that didn’t hold our attention for long.

We did enjoy some of the street performers – one guy wrote poems on any subject of your choosing on atype writer. Another guy harassed everyone (playfully) in rhyme (I managed to find a video of the exact same guy here). He had a huge crowd of people just listening to him.

We picked some wierd restaurant (The Gumbo Shop) – we tried alligator sausage (made from the tail) and gumbo that was probably actual vomit. At least we can say we tried the sausage.

This was not the New Orleans we had expected so we went to a liquor store and bought some local beer – Purple Haze (with raspberries in it). We drank some in the hotel and enjoyed a real shower and not sleeping in the back of a truck.

We went to the very famous Cafe du Mond  for breakfast. It’s extremely packed all the time (and open 24-7) but we got a table. We got beignets and coffees. The coffee is brewed with chicory which is posh (but actually a war-time thing when people needed to stretch coffee). We bought a can but every time we brewed it at home we must have been doing something wrong because it wasn’t as good.

We love NPS and had a book of stamps we wanted to fill out. So we walked to the Jean Lafayette Visitors Center. It was pretty informative about the architecture which was really neat. It explained the wrought iron balconies more and the designs of the buildings to allow carriages to go into the courtyard. Other than that it was mostly local lingo and music.

New Orleans, like San Antonio was maybe just not for us. There were some pretty things. Lots of really neat old meets new construction. Other than that unless you’re comitted to getting S-faced on alcoholic slushies you should probably avoid the downtown altogether. I wish we would’ve done a swamp tour or gone to the World War 2 Museum instead. New Orleans has a lot to offer but we didn’t pursue those things. Now we know.

On the way out of town we saw a sign for Chalmette Battlefield NPS. We took a chance and made the exit at the last second. This was a real adventure because we had no idea what war that was or who won or anything. So we were going in blind. Turns out its considered the last great battle of the War of 1812. Which I had never learned about in school so it was time to learn. Chris knew about it just from being interested in history but he never learned about it in school either. #Coloradoeducationalsystemsucks. So for your educational enjoyment, here is a bit of history!

The War of 1812

The war of 1812 happened while Napoleon was conquering most of Europe. It all started when the UK blockaded France, and America declared the blockade illegal. To get back at England, the USA invaded Canada. This went pretty poorly for the US (probably why we don’t learn about it in school). Meanwhile, the British dominated the seas, raiding the Eastern Coast and burning down the White House.

Back in Europe, Napoleon was finally defeated, so everyone signed a peace treaty that basically said “let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.”

Before the news of the peace treaty got to Louisiana, the British invaded near New Orleans. And, just like a terrible sports movie, a ragtag group of swamp yokels (the Americans led by Andrew Jackson) defeated a vastly superior force of professionals (the British). This came to pass because Jackson built a pretty impressive trench (still there today) that the British were forced to walk towards (to their complete slaughter).

It’s significant because it made Jackson a national hero, and because it helped Americans forget how terribly the war had gone. It’s also notable as being the last land battle ever fought on American soil against a foreign invader.

Boom. History. We walked around the land and saw the trenches.

Through Mississippi and Alabama

We had to keep going so we crossed the border into Mississippi. We saw this hecking cool NASA thing with a huge rocket ship parked out front. It was right there but we blew by it at 70 miles an hour and there was just nowhere to turn around. Feeling really disappointed we vowed we would absolutely pull over at the next thing that looked even remotely interesting.

We crossed into Alabama and just outside of Mobile we saw a battleship. This was “remotely interesting” so we turned around and busted butt to get to the battleship. Entry was over $30 per person so that wasn’t happening. So we just looked at the old tanks and things out front. It absolutely did not replace the rocket ship so we don’t recommend. At least we tried. (If you haven’t gathered that’s the theme of this post. Try and then whatever if it didn’t work out).

To Florida

We crossed the border into Florida and went to the visitors center since they had had signs for the past 30 miles saying “free orange juice”- well obviously we were getting free orange juice. We got about a thousand brochures and then got the dreaded Sun Pass (more like Dumb Pass or Sun Ass or something else that expresses displeasure about it in a witty way). Florida has loads of toll roads and thinks their Sun Pass is the only (if not final) solution to toll roads. “Your money is no good here.” The Sun Pass declares. “We will only accept the pass.” “But you have no excuses for not having a Sun Pass because we sell them everywhere.” So knowing we would be bullied (or fined a million dollars) for not having one – we got ours. Then spent the next 2 hours on the phone trying to set it up. Chris was positively seeing red by the end of the 2 hours. And it still wasn’t set up. The website didn’t work. The phone line didn’t work. Nothing about the Sun Ass worked at all. Holy crap bad start. Free orange juice does not make up for 2 hours of lost time.

So we got back in the truck and I started calling the Dumb Ass Sun Pass line over and over. Finally after literally hitting random buttons (I read online that could work) I was finally connected to a real human being. Who set it up in a few minutes. Moral of the story – just hit random buttons to activate your Sun Dumb Ass Pass.

Cool campsite

Near Pensecola there is an island with an old fort on it. The beach makes up part of the Gulf Islands National Sea Shore. It had what looked like an amazing camping site on it. Once you get on the island, you have to drive slow to protect an endangered bird species that like to walk in the road. Driving slow isn’t a problem, but the tailgating idiots who want to drive fast sure are. The camp site was crowded but nice enough. Across the street was the beach. Nearby were World War 2 guns you could explore around.

It was also easy walking distance to Fort Pickens, which was built in the 1830’s. Fort Pickens has a huge history but a particularly interesting part was that Geronimo was housed here as a prisoner of war. His family (and many Native American POW families) were held in Fort Marion (where we would eventually accidentally end up later).

Here’s Battery Worth – a pre-WW1 gun that was so concussive men bled from the ears and mouth. It shot 700 pound projectiles 7-9 miles away.

It seemed you couldn’t drive anywhere without passing a bunker or battery or old fort. This was a really pleasant surprise as we had gone only because we liked the campsite.

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