RUMI-NATION … OR BOWLING FOR SOUP
By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers
Don’t expect to reach your destination, for then you will stop traveling. That’s not a thought about RVing; it’s a theme espoused by Persian poet and mystic Rumi. I have just been reacquainted with the depth of Rumi through a beautiful program on public radio’s “Onbeing” [www.onbeing.org].
That fits well with what Monique and I have experienced over the past three weeks, always staying within a skipping-stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. Since leaving our Mardi Gras rally in New Orleans, we put 1,400 miles on our GMC, burning more diesel than we are comfortable with while having the opportunity to ingest more scenery and knowledge than we can ever retain.
I’ll get to a synopsis of our experiences in a moment, but first, I’ll list where we have paused since February 22: in Louisiana, the Jean Lafitte National Park Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux and on westward to Lake Charles, then circling back to New Iberia. We met my sons and their families at Palmetto Island State Park, and drove down, down, down La. Hwy. 1 to Grand Isle State Park in the Gulf of Mexico. It was then down Hwy. 23 to Belle Chasse to meet Mississippi-based son Gary with his tribe and again down, down, down to Empire at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
We hitched up after three days, crossed two state lines and went back down to the seaside at Gulf [Shores] State Park, Alabama, with a side trip about ten miles into Florida’s “Redneck Riviera.” We are currently in Biloxi, heading back to New Orleans Monday for my 50th high school reunion.
Jean Lafitte National Park Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux — The National Park center in this town is an excellent place to become acquainted with the Cajun culture. The building’s contents tell the story of Acadians who settled along the bayous and wetland of southeastern Louisiana. The building was originally a warehouse on Bayou Lafourche where boats unloaded needed supplies for the area’s residents.
Lake Charles – A mecca for lumber barons and other prosperous businessmen, each erected homes more lavish than the last. Ultimately, 40 blocks of mansions lined the streets of the old town area, many of which still stand and are restored. The historic downtown faces the beautiful blue lake.
New Iberia – A quaint little city, best known as the town above Avery Island, home of Tabasco, salt domes and Jungle Gardens.
Palmetto Island State Park – It’s probably not on the map or your GPS. This new Louisiana State Park is a gem surrounded by marshes. We are constantly surprised by the quality and features of Louisiana’s parks.
Grand Isle State Park – Climb over the dunes along the park’s linear embankment, and you’re on the beach, watching either the waves or the fog roll in. The town hosts the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, reputed to be the largest fishing rodeo in the world. This barrier island was mostly destroyed by Katrina, but it now boasts hundreds of stilted, colorful camps and numerous places to park your rig.
Plaquemines Parish – The toe of the Louisiana boot, Hwy. 23 charges downward through the oilfield supply facilities and fishing boats deep into the fabled wetlands. Like the scenic trip to
Grand Isle and the other roads among the swamps, the heavy industry, fishing villages and patches of wetland surrounded by ponds, lakes and bayous all along the way kept us interested.
Gulf Shores, Alabama – Gulf State Park has 496 spaces. We were lucky to get the last one after being told we didn’t need a reservation – others weren’t as fortunate. The good news is there are dozens of RV parks and two Walmarts on the way down to this Gulfside resort area. Golf, fishing, lolling in the sunshine, the sense of community and enjoying seafood are all attractions that bring
hundreds of snowbirds down there.
Biloxi, Mississippi – Not as favored a destination as Gulf Shores, Biloxi has the same attractions as Gulf Shores with one big plus – 8 major casinos. We decided to set our stabilizers down at the congested Keesler AFB RV park (FamCamp for active and retired military) because of the number of local events happening along the coast, where I spent many summers with my family in the ‘50s. Saturday was our night “on the town,” the town being Bay St. Louis, where we joined in a novel celebration, the “Souper Mud Fest 2012.”
Purchasers of ceramic (mud) bowls for $20 walked Main Street, where each proprietor ladled out her or his own homemade soups and chili. My favorite was a tomato-curry soup. Throw in the free wine, music, eclectic shops and a chance to mingle with hundreds of locals and visitors, and it was a wonderful night that
would make Rumi proud of us.
We have two resources on our side to make the past few weeks possible. Although mindful of what we spend, the costs have been tolerable. And, more important, we have time. Visiting with family, the Mardi Gras Rally and the reunion are anchors around which we have traveled, but the rest has been pretty much on whim. Monique has gotten an indelible vision of what much of Cajun country is all about, including the people and culture, plus seen the resort-lands of the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast. When we depart, she will have satisfied her Louisiana seafood cravings until our next visit.
I leave you with these thoughts: “We must risk going too far to discover just how far we can go.” ~Jim Rohn
“How far can you go? You’ll never know until you get there!” — Anonymous
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
P.S. Congratulations to Mark Polk on his new e-Magazine http://rveducation101.com/
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved