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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

COVID and Plan B's

~Wednesday, December 30, 2020~

Day 199

After a few discussions, Jeff and I made the agonizing decision not to go to New Orleans at this time due to COVID. Being only 2 hours away makes it all the more difficult to say “another time”. Touring the French Quarter during COVID just doesn’t seem like a good idea. We’d rather wait until things return to some normalcy so we can thoroughly immerse ourselves in this particularly unique state. New Orleans is unlike any other state culturally speaking with its Creole cuisine, annual celebrations and festivals, music, unique dialect, and architecture. They also have a very distinctive government with no counties, but what they call “parishes”, which are governed by police juries. Government aside, we will certainly circle back around to the ‘Birthplace of Jazz’ in a few years.

We were looking forward to an amazing visit at Avery Island for the Tabasco tour. Avery Island is not really an island, but one of several salt domes in the area. Jeff had looked at the website earlier in the day and didn’t see anything about them being closed. We drove 30 minutes to get there, and came to the gate only to be turned away due to COVID. We really couldn’t believe it since we’ve had so much luck thus far getting into places. But the fact they’re closed actually makes sense since the main purpose of their business is not giving tours, but running a factory. Jeff remembers how much his parents enjoyed the tour years ago, so it was disappointing we couldn’t experience it. I think moving forward on our travels, especially in the South and on the East Coast, we’ll have to call ahead with any tours or “inside” type visits we plan on doing. Things just vary too much from state to state with the current state of affairs. Most everything we’ve done so far on the trip has involved outdoor activities, where COVID hasn’t really affected us too much. Hopefully this pandemic and all that it has altered, subsides soon so that the world can begin healing in more ways than one. Until then…...always have a plan B.

Plan B for today…..Rip Van Winkle Gardens at Jefferson Island. Jefferson Island is not really an island but a salt dome as well (similar to Avery Island). On the way there, we followed behind several sugar cane trucks (they’re everywhere), and saw fields upon fields of sugar cane. The warm, slightly humid air, and the tropic smells, even that of burning sugar cane fields, reminded us so much of Hawaii. When we ultimately arrived at the Gardens, we entered a long, tree-lined driveway leading to the charming, Victorian-style home that American actor, painter and avid hunter, Joseph Jefferson built in 1870.

The home is situated among the most glorious 350 year-old live oak trees we’ve ever seen.

Joseph Jefferson’s most famous role was playing the part of Rip Van Winkle over 4500 times on stage, hence the name of the Gardens. The garden was developed by John Bayless in the late 1950’s after selling the salt mine that tunnels under the island and nearby Lake Peigneur. But, disaster struck in 1980 when a Texaco drilling rig located on Lake Peigneur pierced one of the giant salt caverns, flooding the entire mine and swallowing the lake, 65 acres of native woodland and Bayless’ new home. The chimney from his home protrudes from the lake, like a beacon reminding everyone of that tragic day. Miraculously, no lives were lost. This disaster created the largest man made sinkhole in the world in only 10 hours. Our private tour of the home was lovely, though the tour guide’s presentation might have been an audio tour. The self-guided garden tour was beautiful.

On the way back to our site, we stopped for a few groceries. When we were unloading our bags, we noticed quite a large branch next to the trailer, that, thank goodness was not ON the trailer. It was a windy day, so we weren’t too surprised that this happened. It also missed the power/sewer connections (barely). While I put together a pesto pasta dish for dinner to go with our leftover fried catfish, Jeff made a nice campfire. Since we’ve arrived in the South, we’re getting used to the sound of nightly fireworks, I guess leading up to the BIG day. There must be a firework stand at nearly every intersection, some as big as circus tents, something we’re certainly not used to seeing in California.

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