April 2007               

          

            It was great to get back on the road again after spending 4 months in Richmond.  We headed east on I-10, our destination being Baton Rouge, LA.  As our Freightliner RV Haulers rally will be in Rayne, LA in a week, and we had never visited the Louisiana state capital we decided this would be a perfect time.

            We stayed at the Baton Rouge KOA.  We had a nice paved site and the park employees were busy planting flowers, building a miniature golf course and generally tiding up the park. 

            Rosedown Plantation is a beautiful example of some of the restored homes along the Mississippi River.  It is located in St. Francisville, just a short drive from Baton Rouge.

            The home was built by Martha Barrow Turnbull and Daniel Turnbull in 1835.  On their wedding trip to Europe, Martha was inspired by the beautiful Versailles gardens and created a large garden at her home.   She spent more than 60 years caring for her beautiful gardens.  She was one of the first to plant camellias and she imported her first azaleas in 1836. Some of those plants still survive in the gardens.  Sadly, these plants were nearly finished blooming when we visited but it was easy to imagine how beautiful these grounds must have been just a few weeks earlier.

            In the spring of 1956, Rosedown was in a state of disrepair when a group of garden club ladies visited.  Catherine Fondren Underwood of Houston, TX saw the potential in the property and her husband purchased it for her from the Turnbull heirs.

            The Underwoods spent 8 years in the restoration of the gardens and home.  Mrs. Underwood was adamant that authenticity and perfection were her goals.  85% of the furnishings are original to the house. 

            The gardens covers 28 acres and is one of the nations 5 most important gardens.  Thank you to the Underwoods for saving this wonderful treasure for us all to enjoy. 

            As per our original intent, we visited the Louisiana State Capitol.  The building was constructed in the art deco style and completed in 1932.  It was the dream of influential politician and governor, Huey Long.  A special session of the legislature was called to pass the funding for construction.  The vote was 4 short of the two-thirds majority needed.  A roll call vote was ordered by the Speaker of the House and Governor Long had time to convince a few legislators to vote in favor of his building.  The vote passed and funding was provided. 

            The building was completed in 14 months, standing on 27 acres of grounds.  The main approach is made up 48 steps of the grand staircase.  Each state (at that time) is represented by a step, listed in order of their entrance into the Union. 

            The tower is 450í high with 34 floors.  2500 rail cars carried in the limestone and marble used in the building.  It was built at a cost of $5 million.   An observation platform is located on the 27th floor which is at the 350í point of the tower.  From there vistas of the Mississippi River and Baton Rouge are seen.

            The legislative chambers of the building contain many kinds of stone and the desks are of walnut and Australian laurel wood.  The ceiling is of celotex, made from a by-product of sugar production.

            Huey P. Long was assassinated in the capitol building in 1935; the site is marked in the hallway near the elevators, and is buried on the capitol grounds.

            After having lunch, we visited the Old State Capitol and Political History Museum.  The Gothic and Victorian style building was built in 1850.  The stained glass rotunda and beautiful circular cast iron stairway has been restored to its former beauty.

Exhibits concerning political history in Louisiana are well presented. 

            Our last stop for the day was the Old Governors Mansion.  This is another building that was inspired by Huey Long.  It replaced an earlier home on the site.  Huey Long wanted a newer, more impressive residence.  The house is modeled after the White House and is said to even contain details such as the light switches in the same places as the White House.  This was due to the fact that Long had aspirations of becoming President and he wanted to be able to find his way around in the White House. 

            The house was built in 1930 at a cost of $150,000.  According to our guide, the legislature had refused the request for a new residence so Long brought in a crew of prisoners on night and when dawn broke, the old residence had been torn down.  The legislature had no choice but to authorize a new one!  Governor Huey Longís bedroom is restored and also his office, which contains a hidden staircase and entry. It was the home of 9 Louisiana governors.  A new residence is located near the capitol building.

            On another day, we visited the Louisiana State Museum.  We enjoy visiting state museums and learning about each stateís history and culture.  This museum focuses on the Louisiana Purchase, The Mississippi River, Slavery, Civil Rights and has a great exhibit on Mardi Gras.

            Our last day we visited the Rural Life Museum of Louisiana State University.  The museum has 52 building located on 20 aces of the Burden Research Plantation.  It contains exhibits on lifestyles and cultures of the 18th and 19th centuries in Louisiana. 

            The Barn is an area containing articles of everyday life in rural Louisiana.  The Working Plantation is dedicated to showing early plantation life and the Folk Architecture section consists of buildings of the different forms of construction in the cultures of Louisiana.  The day was sunny and comfortable and very few people were there, so it was a good day to visit and stroll the grounds. 

            On Friday evening, our daughter Debbie, son in law Russell and grandson Chad came from New Orleans to have dinner with us at Ruby Tuesday.  We had a good evening visiting with them.  We will be seeing them again next month.

            On Saturday, we hitched up and made the short trip to Rayne where our Freightliner RV Haulers Club Rally was being held at the Rayne Civic Center.  This city has an excellent rally facility, with many sites having full hookups.  We had about 70 rigs in attendance. 

            It was good to see friends Loyce and Laney Finch, Henry and Kay Hauff and Buddy and Maria Rickles, all members of our Travel Supreme Club. 

            We had a full week of activities at the rally.  Seminars were held by representatives of transmission manufacturers, engine manufacturers and other topics of interest to RVíers.  Millie attended craft classes on card making, quilt paper piecing and making a beautiful heart needle case.  She also attended the Red Hat Ladies Luncheon, which is always fun.

            Of course we had entertainment every night and on the last night a dance that was fun for everyone who attended.

            We caravanned to Eunice, LA to visit the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, a unit of Jean Lafitte National Park.  We attended a ranger program on the Acadian music with members of our group participating by playing various musical instruments.  We learned about the music of the area and how it evolved. 

            One of the things we learned about was the accordions played by the musicians.  Did you know that most of the accordians made in the U. S. come from LA?  LA is home to over 100 manufacturers of accordians, most of them small home type operations. 

            Some of the group attended a program on Cajun cooking and others of us viewed a film on the culture. 

            We then went next door to the historic Liberty Theater where a weekly radio program Rendez-dous de Cajuns is sponsored by the park service.  The first half of the program was music by a Cajun band from France.  We enjoyed the music, but as all the conversation was in French, we did not understand it and would have liked it if it had been interpreted for those of us do not speak French.  The second half of the program was presented by an entertainer who was billed as the local Jerry Lee Lewis.

            A bus trip to a casino was on the agenda and Millie had a good time, even if she didnít win a bundle.  She had lunch with the Finches and several other folks and before they boarded the bus for the return home, they make their way back to the restaurant for desert.  The deserts were all huge portions and most of us (with the exception of Laney, who had a banana split) brought home take home boxes. 

            The rain came down and a couple of activities had to be rescheduled, but most of the attendees didnít let the rain stop them.

            On Thursday morning, we had a truck parade through town.  All of the trucks lined up were quite an impressive sight!  It always is a surprise to us to see all the trucks and how no two are alike.  Everyone has their own idea as to how to design the bed and graphics.  The most unusual one we have yet to see was parked across from us.  The owners have used a nautical theme down to portholes in the cab.  They didnít stop there though; this rig has a hot tub on the back!!  It really had a lot of us looking.

            Friday the 13th we all said our goodbyes and hitched up to head off in various directions.  We are going north to Missouri, with our destination tonight being Texarkana.

            On Sunday, the 15th we arrived at Stockton Lake, Missouri, where we will be volunteering with the Corp of Engineers at Ruark Bluff East Campground.  We found our site and got set up.  As it was our 50th Wedding Anniversary, we showered and changed and drove into Springfield for a nice dinner at Steak And Ale.  We got back late, watched the news and off to bed.  It had been a busy day.

            The next morning we were up early and after breakfast, we walked up to the entrance booth to see if anyone was around and when we would begin working.  As we arrived we were greeted by Dub and Patty Urton who are the park attendants and Don and Jerri Swem the other volunteer couple.  Patty went over some of the procedures for us and we started to work that day.

            We will be working at the entrance booth, 3 days on and 3 off.  Working 5 hours a day between 10-3.  In exchange we receive a full hookup site.  At this park we have 4 volunteer sites, three of which are paved.  As we needed a site with clear view for our internet satellite, we chose to use the 4th volunteer site that is gravel.  The park custodianís site (Tracey Blum)  is between us and the other three sites.  The sites are very large and away from the general campground population.  The view from our front ďporchĒ is of the woods.  No looking at our neighbors sewer hose!

            Our principal duties are answering questions, issuing passes and directing campers to their sites.  We do not collect fees or do registrations.  It is really an easy job and we think we have probably landed a great situation for our first workkamping experience. 

            When we arrived in the Springfield area, we noticed many, many trees with damage.  At first we were wondering if a tornado had passed through the area, but on further observation, none of the buildings, etc showed damage.  Also, the damage was extreme over many miles.  We found out there had been a massive ice storm here in January and the damage was extensive.  It was sad to see.

            It didnít look like spring here either; trees still seemed to have dead leaves on them like early winter.  Well, as if the ice storm wasnít enough, just a couple of weeks before we arrived they had a hard freeze that took all the new growth.  The fruit trees all froze in bloom so there will be no fruit this year. 

            We are enjoying working and our fellow employees are fun.  We have been made to feel so welcome by the people in the area also.  It was so strange to us to go to the store and have strangers say hello to us.  Our campers are friendly and very patient with us also. 

            The only negative to the area is that it is remote.  It is 8 miles to Greenfield, which is the nearest town.  We have to drive 28 miles to Boliver to do any significant shopping (Wal-Mart, etc) and if we need pet supplies, etc we have to go to Springfield, an hour away.  So, we are learning to consolidate all our shopping into one day, going into Springfield on Fridays, getting our shopping done and having dinner before coming back.  We also do not have a laundry here so we go to Bolivar to get that job done. 

            We think it is going to be a good summer. 

 

Next month, Missouri and back to Texas.  See you later!