Saturday, January 18, 2020

Avery Island: Tabasco an Iconic American Brand

One of the highlights during our trips to the Southern Louisiana bayou was the Tabasco Plant and Jungle Gardens on Avery Island.  Tabasco, an American Icon in the hot sauce trade, has been produced here since 1868.  Tabasco is one of the few American brands that supply the Queen of England by royal appointment.  Located in the Bayou of lower Lousiana west of New Orleans, it seems to be a place frozen in time.

Crossing on to the Island on a small wooden bridge gives you the feeling of stepping back into a different world.  The trees covered in Spanish moss and the brick Tabasco Hot sauce factory that could be from the civil war, it gives you the ghostly sensation of past unwritten history.

Their free tour gives you the Tabasco story; you even get to take a walk through the production lines.   It is still a family-owned business.   There are 136 shareholders with an estimated worth of over 1 billion dollars.  If you do the math, each man, woman, and child family member is worth about 7.5 million dollars. 

Tabasco is named after the pepper that is used in the hot sauce. It originated in the state of Tabasco in Mexico.   All the peppers used in the sauce at one time were grown on Avery Island.  Today the plants on the Island are used for seeds stock for the peppers grown in South and Central America.  This guarantees a constant flow of peppers to be processed at the factory.

An additional bonus was the Jungle Gardens, which is also on the Island.  It was started by Edward Avery McIlhenny, the second son of Edmund McIlhenny, the Tabasco founder.  The gardens span 170 acres of semitropical foliage.   Along with the gardens, you will see alligators and Egrets.  It is a beautiful place, with a collection of Camellias that is one of the best in the Nation.  It also contains a rare Buda Statue from 10th Century China that was purchase by Mr. McIlhenny in 1936.

Avery Island is not an island in the traditional sense.  It really is just a hill in the swamp in the middle of the Bayou.   There is an Egret breeding ground that was started with a single pair when they were endangered.  Now the flock runs into the thousands.  Avery Island is one of those unique American sites that must be seen.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Riding the Cajun Riviera: The Creole Nature Trail

When you go somewhere, do you ever feel like you have unfinished business there?  That you just didn't see enough of the sites, ride enough of the roads, or eat enough of the good food.  I felt like this after riding the Cajun Riveria.  This stretch of beach lies between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Port Authur, Texas.  What did we like most about it?  It's not a tourist destination yet!!! That it is relatively desolate and remote.  To me, motorcycles are meant to be here.

You're not going to find Ripley's Believe it or not here, but you will find some great motorcycle roads.  Some roads with no traffic running along the ocean.  In the bayous and swamps, some high speed turns that will take your breath away. We left Lumberton, Texas,, on a foggy 62-degree morning headed to the Cajun Rivera. After a quick stop at the Big Thicket National Preserve, we ride through Port Arthur we take Texas 82 towards Cameron and Holly Beach. We are riding the Creole Nature Trail. That is a circular loop along the beach and through the Bayous of Southern Louisiana.

As we cross the Sabine Lake Causeway Bridge, you can see the Louisiana Marshland and the Ocean in the distance. It stretches to the horizon. Most of Louisiana south of Interstate 10 is one big swamp, along the coast is a strip of land that forms partial Barrier Islands Running along the ocean on Highway 82, which is mostly a straight road with some High Speed turns. A right road with almost no traffic with swamp on one side and the Ocean on the other traveling 70MPH. It’s a unique experience.

We ride through the metropolis of Holly Beach, which in reality, is a sleepy little town on the beach with just a few beach homes and an RV park.  We stop in Cameron for lunch at the Anchor Up Grill for the world-famous Kick-in Shrimp Po-boy. It was worth the 140-mile ride one way. After lunch, we catch the ferry and head back up the bayou on Louisiana 27, then it’s Interstate 10 for a quick trip back to Lumberton.  These are some magnificent high-speed roads with highspeed turns running through the bayous.  Not a soul for miles except the occasional lake fisherman parked on an access road into the swamp.  

I wish we could spend more time riding more of these roads, but the weather is getting ready to turn, plus we are running out of time. So maybe on the next trip.  So there is unfinished business here, I just hope they don't run out of Oysters before we get back. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

An Old Spanish Road,Natchitoches and Nacogdoches

I love riding great historic roads.  The El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail in Texas and Louisiana didn't let me down.   The old Spanish road that runs from Mexico City Mexico to Natchitoches LA.  The road was key in the Spanish settlement of Texas and Louisiana,. We took a chance and went down Christmas week, we had great weather and great riding. 

Our first day we rode up to Natchitoches, LA.  A chilly 59 degrees at the start, but over 70  on the way back. Once we got there we had lunch some gumbo and a meat pie with red beans and rice.  It’s going to be serious YMCA time after this trip.  Great town a mini New Orleans but unspoiled.  Lots of history originally a Spanish settlement, then Part of New France.  The oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.    Also, the movie Steel Magnolias was filmed here.  We walk by the house and the graveyard where part of the movie was filmed. 

The next day it was off to the Texas Nacogdoches following the El Camino Real.  They say everything is bigger in Texas, well it is.   On our ride to Nacogdoches, TX you immediately know this.  When crossing the state line which is Toledo Bend Lake the speed limit jumps to 70 miles per hour on better roads.   Normally these roads would be 55 to 45 MPH in Tennessee.  If you don’t do the speed limit you’re going to have to pull over every so often.  Plenty of passing lanes for traffic traveling 80-90 MPH.

We rode about 260 miles on Christmas Eve, with about 200 on the El Camino Real.  The section between the two Natchez’s has some dramatic changes in the countryside.  Going from pine barrens to hardwood farmlands much like roads in Tennessee.  There are lots of hills, high speed turns and intermittent twisting turns.  Much of it is rideable at the speed limit if 70 MPH slowing to 60 MPH in unincorporated small town crossroads.  In the twisties 30 MPH warning sides. 

There are historical markers every couple of miles or so, too many to stop at all of them.  The one we did stop at told a story about the Spanish leaving Louisiana ceding it to France.  Those Spanish settlers resettled in eastern Texas.  Making it the earliest European settlement in eastern Texas.

On the way back from Nacogdoches we rode around to the Toledo Bend Lake Dam.  We stopped to watch the sunset over the lake and Texas.    It was a great couple of days riding.  We are now headed to the Gulf Coast and the Cajun Riveria.   Better get those Po Boys ready.