In just three days making our way from Wisconsin to New Orleans, starting the next segment of Our Next Chapter for the winter of 2018/2019.
New Orleans, Louisiana! We left River Falls, Wisconsin, on Monday afternoon and arrived in Westwego, southwest of New Orleans, Wednesday around noon. We made two overnight stops on the way down from Wisconsin, one frustrating one in Iowa and one easy one in Missouri. The cats were really mad the third time they got locked in the shower. This method seems to be working, we still have several thousand miles traveling in the shower without “issues” to clean up. However, all of us don’t like traveling 1,300 miles in such a short amount of time. The cats tried to hide for a while, ran from us so they could not be shoved into the shower again and really did not appreciate the Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter working 500 feet from our campsite all day for three days straight.
In Iowa we had identified a Casino overnight parking space from a website, talked with the management and it did not seem like a good idea to stay there. So we continue a mile up the road to a beautiful park on the river and we were too tall of a rig to fit into it. There were many low hanging branches and a steep incline from the road down to the river bed. If we had a small rig, say a campervan, then we would have had a great parking space for the night along the river. Since we still have the 5th wheel, we had to try to turn around on a extremely narrow dirt road in the mosquito infested evening hours while keeping our eye to the west on a storm cloud approaching. We found another campground at the City of Kalona about 10 miles to the West where we could use a pull through site without unhooking for the night just as the downpour started.
Our second night went much more smoothly with a stop in Missouri at an Army Corp of Engineers park called Hernando Point Campground, about 5 miles outside of the village with the the same name. The national parks access pass gives the normal 50% discount, so we stayed there for $10 and had full (water, electric and sewer) hookups with an amazing sunset view. We added this to our map as a stop over point for the future. Unfortunately, it has ZERO AT&T and Verizon coverage so it won’t work for Jason to work there a week. The sites were being renovated and piles of sand were everywhere. Unfortunately, those piles were full of ants and our rig got completely infested with ants.
Ants were our nightmare once we made it to Louisiana where we were staying about 10 miles outside of New Orleans on the “west bank” in Westwego at the Bayou Segnette State Park. The ants that joined us in Missouri were just a nuisance really. Barb’s thumb smooshing them out and several trips to Home Depot for different types of ant bait eventually took care of them. But the red ants that attacked Jason when he stepped on their hill in the dark were really bad. Jason has little sores all over his foot and hands from the bites that are healing slowly. We had lost power at about 4 AM and Jason was headed to his training for the day. He was trying to hook up the generator, in the dark, so Barb could continue to run the air conditioning in the near record heat being experienced in the region. (Again, we were in more record setting weather, uhf dah we have a bad track record with weather.) Those issues aside, this is a great state park with quick access to everything in this bayou region.
Our purpose for being in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) was for Jason to attend training and participate in a conference. Traffic was very good from Westwego which is a suburb of New Orleans across the river on the west bank. The Bayou Segnette State Park is right on the Bayou Segnette channel, part of the flood control system. They have a very quiet campground and also have cabins for rent right on that waterway. This is one of the best parks we have stayed in and would highly recommend it. Site 58 is NOT big rig friendly, stay away from that with big RVs! With the help of our neighbor we eventually got parked in it after he moved his vehicles.
The campground is just inside the flood control system, 500 feet from the walls. The cabins of the park are actually outside the containment on the channel. We monitored the news daily to see how the local media were responding to the approach of hurricane Michael, which hit landfall well East of us but we received a lot of rain for days leading up to it. In our area they never did close the gates to the walls, the hurricane was really a non-event in the area.
There is much to do in New Orleans, plenty of food and plenty of tourist things. We usually try to find other things to do. We were looking for fresh gulf seafood and experiences away from the classic bourbon street. One afternoon we did take a double-decker bus tour of the city and learned things like “Bourbon Street” is named after some guy and not the drink. We learned the cemeteries are actually mini-natural crematoriums above ground and not because of the high water table, as the tour guide pointed out there are below ground burials not popping up out of the ground like lore says they do. We got our beignets at a local cafe in Westwego and were amazed by the food at Shaya a restaurant we learned about on a Netflix television series. Barb had a list of many restaurants for us to try based on that show, but we also found some great local seafood at Charles Seafood and at the Westbank Grill where we had the classic gumbo and shrimp Po’ Boy. Another neat foodie experience was rolled ice cream. Jason had the s’mores, where they combined a graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow and the ice cream mix together.
Barb is returning to this area, after spending time here with her dad here pre-Katrina. On this trip, she was able to fulfill a dream of visiting the Mardi Gras World company. Jason’s conference had a closing event at the facility and we got to get up close with the floats and the various pieces they use on them. Of course she was able to find the one penguin and we had to pose for a picture in front of it. There are dozens of parades that happen during Mardi Gras and they are all sponsored by different groups with different themes. Our bus ride took us along the route and the trees were littered with beads still dangling from their branches.
The highlight of our week though was our last evening in the area. Our daughter highly recommended an air boat tour they had here on their honeymoon. It was an amazing time with Captain Shaw and Captain Wade, of the Bayou Bad Boys Bow Fishing Charters, on their new boat. They have eliminated their air-boats and the new boat can go through 1″ of water and is quiet but still just as fast and agile as an air-boat. Their sunset tour took us through the local bayou showing us the real natural wonders. They also pointed out the devastating impacts that 100 years of oil industry have had on the bayou and the conservation efforts of the region. We saw 5 alligators as we crept along stealthily and also saw plenty of fish jumping as we sped along too. We were the only two on this charter and the experience will stay with us for years to come. There is a campground in the marina and we plan to come back here for many more opportunities, including a night time tour. Their boat is equipped with lighting for nighttime bow fishing but they say that is also amazing for tours at night to see below.