Ken had been watching the weather predictions and decided that to get the nearly 300 miles from Rainbow Plantation, Summerdale, AL to Betty’s RV Park, Abbeville, LA, we needed to get on the road early as the winds were going to pick up as the day went on. This was unfortunate since Joann and Doug were headed back for brunch at Tin Top Restaurant which I understand was just as awesome as the meal we had there on Friday evening. And this time, I’m sure they could hear each other talk since there wasn’t torrential rains falling on the tin roof!
We went next door to say ‘see ya down the road’ (RVers don’t say goodbye!!) to Joann and Doug. Of course, Ditka and Sox had to say there ‘see ya’s to Fillmore as well!
The drive took us over Mobile Bay and in to the city of Mobile, past the shipyards and the Battleship Memorial Park.
Through the Mobile Tunnel.
Then out of Alabama, into Mississippi and then on in to Louisiana. It’s not often we can say that we’ve driven straight through 3 states before lunchtime.
This was not one of Ken’s more enjoyable driving experiences since besides pushing the number of miles we were doing today to 300 versus his preferred 200, we were in very gusty winds and dealt with city traffic in Mobile, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. It didn’t help that we also had a lot of bridges, with one 18.2 miles long over the Atchafalaya Basin, the 10th longest bridge in the world.
Our route also took us through the middle of Lafayette when their appeared to be a university sporting event going on, further slowing our progress.
We arrived at Betty’s RV Park about 4pm an hour later than we’d expected but still in time for happy hour!!
Like we were told, Betty’s is really just a gravel parking lot with full hookups around Betty’s house.
There were not many rigs here. Betty said she had just had 5 rigs pull out earlier in the day. One of these was Molly and Bob whose blog we also follow and with whom we are Facebook friends. So sorry we just missed them as Betty confirmed what was in their blog, that the group had quite a great time!
Sunday evenings were also not the best nights for eating out in Abbeville since most of the popular restaurants were closed. After a few drinks on the patio with Betty and another couple, we decided to follow the lead of the other couple and go to the local Chinese buffet which also happened to serve local shrimp and gumbo. While it wasn’t the type of restaurant we expected to be visiting when at Betty’s it was really not bad and a huge selection on a $7.75 buffet.
Betty had suggested, based on the types of activities we like that we be sure to get in Bryan Champagne’s Swamp Tour. Ken called on Monday morning and found that there was nothing available on Monday but made a reservation for noon Tuesday. Instead he called to the Crystal Rice Heritage Farm since we both were intrigued by the combination rice/crawfish farms in the area.
We are apparently here in the slow season as far as tourism is concerned and so we were Mona’s only tour participants for the day. A lot of the tour was really more of a classroom education with videos and explanations on the timing of how the fields are flooded, the ‘seed’ crawfish added, the rice sown from an airplane, the fields drained, the crawfish digging down deep in the soil as the ground dries and becomes warmer, the rice harvested, milled, polished, then the fields flooded again so the crawfish, now the female crawfish with young attached come back up to the water and then the largest of the crawfish harvested from the traps.
The natural enemies dealt with in this kind of farming are different from our more traditional Midwest farming. Hurricanes can ruin rice fields by salinating the waters. Nutria rats (look like our muskrats) burrow holes in the little levees between fields causing problems maintaining the right levels of water at the right times for the rice. Turtles, egrets and other birds make a feast of the baby crawfish. It seems they have also had some serious problems when man has tried to ‘better’ the process, for example, several years ago when a supposedly well-tested pesticide Fipronil (ICON) for the rice killed off the crawfish and much of the other wildlife in the area.
The land here is particularly suited for rice production because there is a tight clay layer about 2 feet below the surface that acts as a sort of liner to hold in the amount of water needed for rice paddies. With the cost of fuel for pumping and the scarcity of fresh water as a resource, there are several ways these farmers optimize getting the water in and out of their fields. The one that is not immediately obvious is how the various fields are built up a slightly different levels so that they pump water in to the highest field first and then after a time, drain that water in to the next slightly low field, and then the next and so on.
They are also very careful on this particular farm to insure that there is no contamination of the rice crop by things such as petroleum products. For this reason, their crawfish harvesting boats are actually run off of a vegetable oil based fuel.
There is a hydraulic rotor in the back of these crafts that is operated with pedals that allow the man in the boat to operate he boat with his feet so both hands are free to pull in and dump the traps. They dump the trap contents onto a type of slanted tray with holes on the end that allow the smaller crawfish to fall back in to the water.
After the tour Ken and I took some different back roads to zigzag our way back to Abbeville, again, just in time for Happy Hour!
This time there were several new arrivals at the park that joined us and the hour extended well in to dinner time. That’s Betty in the center of the picture in the pink top.
The suggestion restaurant for the evening was Shucks which is famous for the wide variety of oysters served. They have a separate room next to the kitchen for doing nothing but shucking the large quantities of oysters they serve.
The proprietor was great. When we told him we were from Betty’s, he said, “Ah, Happy Hour has let out!!” He saw us personally to our table and then proceeded to suggest different ways as visitors we might get the best overall sampling of what was best at Shucks. He also told us about some combinations not officially on the menu that gave us a good taste across the menu.
Ken and I decided to order a variety of different things to share, the crawfish etouffee, along with a combination tray of oysters served in 4 different ways, with crab au gratin for the main course. The six of us at the table shared 2 bread puddings for dessert that were also absolutely spectacular.
It was also decided that we now have 4 more people joining us on the swamp tour tomorrow. This is great for us for two reasons, first, because it sounds like the more people going at one time, the longer Bryan extends the tour AND because when she heard we were all going, Betty, called Bryan to send back something special with us for her to cook up for us tomorrow night….hmmm….tomorrow sounds really cool!!!
Stay tuned…..if I don’t post for several days, you best come looking though to see if the gators got us!!