The Great Escape (Almost)

We chose to get an early start to beat the weather that was heading our way. It was just starting to sprinkle as we pulled out of our campsite, becoming a steady rain as we drove through NOLA 20 minutes later. We hit Lake Pontchartrain and the bottom fell out.

The last time we drove in rain this hard was leaving New Orleans in 2015! Our windshield wipers were going full speed.
A waterspout as we crossed the bridge.

We soon got ahead of the weather, and probably would have stayed ahead of it IF we hadn’t noticed this sign:


The Science Center serves as the Visitors’ Center for NASA’s largest rocket testing facility, the John C. Stennis Space Center.

The Saturn 5
THE SATURN 5 ROCKET weighs 100,000 pounds by itself, but when it’s on the launch stand fully loaded with rocket fuel and liquid oxygen, weighs 800,000 pounds.
Space Station workspace
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION MODULE  Port and starboard are printed on each end of the module to help astronauts stay oriented.
Sleeping pod
SLEEPING POD WITHIN THE SPACE STATION MODULE  The sleeping bag keeps the astronauts from floating out of bed, and their heads are strapped onto the pillow. Clean socks are a priority since no shoes are worn on the Space Station.
Werner von Braun's office
WERNER VON BRAUN’S OFFICE  German-born von Braun developed the V-2 rockets that devastated London during World War II.  He was captured by the Americans and brought to our country where he became the father of the American space program.

The center also has extensive earth science exhibits, and we were drawn to the one on hurricanes. Six rotating alphabetical lists (excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z) are used for Atlantic hurricanes. If a storm is memorable (like Katrina in 2005) the name is retired and replaced. If there are more than 21 storms in a season, the Greek alphabet is used: Alpha, Beta, etc)

Atlantic Hurricane Names

When winds reach 39 mph, it’s considered a tropical storm and is given a name. Once it hits 74 mph, it becomes a Category 1 hurricane.

Category 1-5

“Robert Rick’s NWS warning for Hurricane Katrina got people’s attention – and changed the way hurricane warnings are written. Rick’s warning used clear language with attention-getting phrases for the first time in the National Weather Service’s history. Read for yourself. Would you pay attention if you read this?” 

Katrina Warning

After our good intentions of beating the weather, we ended up slogging our way through “so-loud-you-can’t-hear-the-radio” rain before arriving safely at our next destination several hours later.

NOLA – The French Quarter

We couldn’t leave New Orleans without a visit to the French Quarter, so we hopped on the Algiers Ferry ($1 for Sr. Citizens) and took a 6 minute trip across the Mississippi.

We opted for a 2 hour walking tour with the historical society, but for me, it was too much information.  I bailed after an hour to do some walking on my own, and met up with Russ when the tour was over.


MONUMENT TO THE IMMIGRANT by Franco Alessandrini.  “Dedicated to the courageous men and women who left their homeland seeking freedom, opportunity, and a better life in a new country.”  March 19, 1995
Jackson Square
Drago’s charbroiled oysters – we each got a dozen and called it lunch.  Best oysters ever!


Because New Orleans is practically a floating city (our guide told us it has more canals than Venice, but they’re all underground), burials are done above ground.  We walked up to Saint Louis Cemetery to pay our respects, but found out it would cost $20 each if we went to Saint Louis Cemetery #1 (the oldest and most famous, dating back to 1789).  We opted for Saint Louis Cemetery #2 a few blocks away, dating to the 1820’s and free.

For those of you who missed Mardi Gras, we stumbled across a storage lot on our way to the library. Let the good times roll!

City Park – New Orleans LA


When we tried to visit City Park in 2013, it was raining cats and dogs, but today the sun was shining.  We loaded up our bikes and set out early, before it got too hot. Five hours later, happy and exhausted, we called it quits and headed for home.

Established in 1854, 1300-acre City Park offers miles of hiking/biking trails, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, the Botanical Garden, the world’s largest stand of Live Oaks, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park – truly something for everyone.

“Diana” by Augustus Saint-Guadens


It’s also home to the outstanding New Orleans Museum of Art, which provided a cool respite after our visit to the Sculpture Garden. (Margaret, put this on your “to do” list when the 95th is in New Orleans next fall!)


I was particularly taken by this piece, “Far Away Thoughts” by British artist John William Godward (1861–1922)

.On our way back to the truck, we decided to take a quick look at the Botanical Gardens – WOW – It became the highlight of the day for me!


Well designed and  filled with beautiful, well-tended plantings,  it showcases 14 works by Mexican-American artist Enrique Alfred (1901 – 1999). When he was 12, he ran into Pancho Villa’s army, and was given the choice to join them or die.  He stayed with them for 10 years before coming to the US to study sculpture in Chicago. In 1929 he moved to New Orleans and initially was employed by the WPA to create sculptures and bridge adornments for City Park.


We stopped at a seafood shop on the way home and bought some redfish to cook on the grill.  Russ was a happy camper, and cooker!

Fish place


Some Like it Hot – TABASCO and Avery Island

Bott;esLouisiana is the home of TABASCO®, founded in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny (pronounced mackel henny) and still owned and operated by his descendants. It’s located on Avery Island, an ancient and vast sea salt deposit that has been pushed up 160 feet to form an island-like landform surrounded by bayous. TABASCO® has brought much culinary happiness to our family, so we felt a pilgrimage was in order.

The original TABASCO® sauce consists of just three ingredients: Vinegar, red pepper, and salt. Only one variety of red pepper is used (Capsicum frutescens variety Tabasco) and is grown on small parcels of land (less than 5 acres) by local farmers in Central America, South America, and Africa. The peppers are ground into mash and shipped to Avery Island where it ages for three years in barrels sealed with salt.

One of the descendants was very much into conservation and established a wildlife refuge on the island. A rookery of nesting Great Egrets and an ancient Buddha encased in protective housing are highlights of the park.







The Louisiana Gulf – Part 2

We knew it was going to be a good day when a Barred Owl flew across our path early in the morning. We paused for a brief visual exchange, and went our separate ways.



On the way to Palmetto State Park, we noticed a parking lot with over 200 pick up trucks and a line of helicopters parked nearby. We guessed correctly that this was where workers catch a ride to their oilrig stations.


We asked if we could come in to take photos and, to our surprise and delight, the manager gave us a personal escort, Carol, who drove us around the facility.Carol and Russ

As we were heading back, we met one of the pilots, Troy, who was waiting for the fog to lift. These helicopters don’t fly until they have 3 miles of visibility and a 500-foot ceiling when they leave the mainland. Since they get paid by the minute once the engines start, their clients don’t want them to be turned back because of weather. Troy let us climb into the chopper and patiently answered all of our questions. (We’ve since thought of a dozen more we wished we had asked!)Troy and Russ

It turns out that it’s the Mississippi River that’s the culprit for the Gulf’s brown water, at least around here. This mighty river picks up silt as it wends its way for 2500 miles through the middle of our country, dumping it into the Gulf just south of New Orleans. (They don’t call it the Big Muddy for nothing!) Troy says that about 140 miles out, the shelf drops and the Gulf becomes very deep and very blue.

There are about 2800 production platforms in the Gulf (down from 4500 several years ago). Some are unmanned, but all are checked daily, weekly, or monthly. Currently they’re drilling about 50 new rigs. Shifts vary for the 10,000 offshore workers: 7 days on/7 days off or 14 days on/14 days off. Cooks often stay out for 4 or 5 months.

Russ and guys

And now a word from our sponsor…


I can’t remember the last time I had a Big Mac, so you may be surprised to find out that McDonald’s is a regular stop on our travels. Despite campgrounds advertising free WiFi, it’s grossly inadequate for transferring photos to a blog.  McDonald’s advertises “FREE WIFI SERVED DAILY,” and it has proven to be a reliable place to have a Diet Coke and make a post.  Thank you McDonald’s!

Louisiana – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


There’s a price we pay for the luxuries oil and gas bring to our lives, and it’s very visible here on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The Gulf itself is brown, not blue, and industry outcroppings are around every bend. 75% of the spill that gushed for 3 months after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 still lies on the ocean floor. Eleven people lost their lives in that explosion. While the Gulf is amazingly resilient, the long-term environmental effects won’t be known for decades.

Despite all that, nature preserves are just a few miles away, and the beauty of the bayou flourishes.