Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

What began as an idea formed during a session at the National Council on Public History’s annual conference in 2011 is now a reality.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

A group of University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate students created a unique mobile museum exhibit.

It’s only fitting that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette History Department’s Museum on the Move (MoM) is a vintage Airstream, because the iconic brand has such a rich history of their own.

As Professor John Troutman, the history instructor that brought the museum concept to life told Airstream Life, “What vehicle to support a mobile museum is more historical, and timelessly attractive, than an Airstream?”

The university located the 26-foot 1954 Cruiser on an Airstream forum, and Troutman and a colleague picked it up outside of Birmingham, Alabama in February 2013.

Students from the School of Architecture and Design came up with concepts to remake the trailer into a functional and modifiable mobile museum . They hired a local contractor—and Airstream enthusiast—to gut it, rebuild the frame and floor, and rewire it.

All the retro comforts were replaced with wood flooring and industrial framing to accommodate museum panels.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

Troutman’s graduate students developed the museum’s initial exhibit, “Crossing the Line: Louisiana Women in a Century of Change” during the fall semester of 2013.

Students and Troutman worked out the lighting, exhibit panel mountings, and exhibit “flow,” as well as acquired the show’s artifacts and images, and wrote the explanatory text.

The exhibit features 10 Louisiana women from the late 19th century to the present who created extraordinary change in the state.

The exhibit is based on research provided by students in a Louisiana Women course taught by history professor Mary Farmer-Kaiser. Troutman’s students pared down the list of 40 women to 10 after focusing on a theme of activism.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

In the spring and fall of 2014, they toured the exhibit all over southern Louisiana—to historical association meetings, local civic group meetings, farmer’s markets, music festivals, and schools.

“That is one of our greatest successes in terms of developing this program—the Airstream draws people in, long before they read the exhibit description outside the door,” says Troutman. “Everyone wants to talk about the Airstream, tells us their Airstream experiences, and asks where we found it. That gets them in the door, so that they can see the exhibits that our students will design and install each year. Buying an Airstream to serve as the exhibit vehicle is the best decision we could have ever made.”

Troutman’s students love the MoM because it gets them professional, hands-on experience in museum work and gets them out in the community—even out into Troutman’s driveway, which he describes as being “ground zero for installing our exhibits in the trailer.”

The academic work for the museum’s next exhibit, covering the history of oil production in Louisiana’s oil-rich state, is now taking place in student seminars. In the fall, Troutman’s graduate student seminar will convert that scholarship into “Oil in Louisiana,” the next traveling exhibit.

Being a history professor, Dr. Troutman is eminently qualified to speak on the place of the Airstream in the historical record: “Airstreams are remarkable: Their popularity reflected the desire of Americans to learn about other parts of our country, and to expand the venues for their family time and their critical family experiences, beyond their homes, and onto the open road. The design aesthetic of these trailers is unmatched and a thing of wondrous beauty.”

Museum-quality beauty, it seems.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

Details

Museum on the Move (MoM)

Museum on the Move (MoM) is a project of University of Louisiana at Lafayette History Department.

Public History students outfit a vintage Airstream trailer with an interpretive exhibit that will then hit the road to take history directly out of the classroom and to the public. Exhibits will be created on a rotating basis and require the melding of two courses and a cohort of students.

The first course is a traditional history course where students conduct research projects geared toward the planned exhibit. The next phase of the project is for a Museum Studies course, under the direction of Dr. John Troutman, where students re-craft the research done in the first class to create exhibit components that they will install in the trailer.

Once the exhibit is up and rolling, the trailer will be sent out on short runs to venues around the state where the students’ (and the program’s) work will be on display.

Website: www.museumonthemove.com

Worth Pondering…

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

—Maya Angelou

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Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can

My favorite Mardi Gras tradition is the crown-shaped King Cake which evolved from the Twelfth Night or Feast of the Epiphany pastry of Louisiana’s early French settlers, who brought the tradition with them from Europe.

Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Presentation of the King Cake is part of the rich Christian celebration, all in homage to the three kings that bore gifts for the baby Jesus.

Our modern versions of this cake, an extra-large rich breakfast-type pastry is decorated with the purple, gold, and green toppings which are indicative of the Mardi Gras colors. Hidden inside each cake is a tiny, naked plastic or porcelain baby to symbolize the baby Jesus. In the early days, a Fava bean or coin, not a baby, was secreted into the cake.

Tradition tells us that the “bean finder,” the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby inside (and doesn’t break a tooth or swallow it in the process!), receives a year of good luck and is treated as royalty for that day—and must supply the next day’s king cake.

The king cake started out as just plain old dough and sugar. Cinnamon was added. Then in ’81 or ’82 bakeries started experimenting with the fillings, cream cheese, Bavarian cream. Then the icing and the sugar. It just kind of evolved.

Some are still just a cake and some have filling like Strawberry, Bavarian Cream, Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon Pecan, Strawberry Cream Cheese, King Creole Praline, Almond Bavarian, Raspberry Gooey Butter, Pecan Praline, Pineapple Praline, Raspberry Cream Cheese, Strawberry Bavarian, Black Forest, Cherry Bomb, Praline Cream Cheese, Oreo Cream Cheese, Kentucky Bourbon, and more. There are as many different flavors of the tasty pastry as there are throws at a parade.

Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And now, more and more bakeries are getting creative and stretching the boundaries of what can be stuffed between layers of brioche and still count as a king cake.

In recent years more restaurants are adding king cake-style desserts including a king cake bread pudding with purple, gold, and green sprinkles. Variations include a king cake bread pudding with lemon goat cheese ice cream and blackberry compote, and king cake bread pudding with goat milk ice cream and huckleberry compote.

One eatery serves a king cake flavored milkshake made from a traditional king cake; a king cake is soaked in milk and tossed into the blender.

Demonstrating that a king cake can be more than one dimensional, one pastry chef’s sundae version of the king cake pulls together contrasts in a way no bakery cake ever could. Three fried balls of brioche, each with a crunchy layer of Carnival colored sugar, alternate with scoops of strawberry, cinnamon, and cream cheese ice cream.

Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another recent trend is Savory King Cakes. One bakery has been selling crawfish king cakes for the past 10 or so Mardi Gras seasons; it makes muffuletta ones, too.

Last week a boudin-stuffed king cake topped with cane syrup and cracklins made the news. The next day, another eatery started making them too.

Another bakery has debuted three new savory flavors: Baked ham and cheese with jalapeno, bacon cheeseburger, and smoked sausage with cheese.

Brace yourselves. A King Cake burger is also available. Given all the attempts and varying degrees of fusion food available these days, it was only a matter of time.

But a King Cake burger? It certainly stops you in your tracks. And it could be in the running for one of the more efficient meals available. You can get dinner and dessert all in one intriguing handful.

Another savory note is the Elvis king cake which includes bananas, peanut butter, topped with marshmallow cream, and candied bacon.

Maybe it’s just more pushing of the envelope. And more uses for bacon, a decade-long trend that will not die.

Why the trend?

The savory ones seem to be taking off because not everyone is making them.

Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mardi Gras King Cake: Eat It While You Can © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everything is evolving. It’s the Internet, social media, and everything else including the Mardi Gras King Cake.

Mardi Gras and king cakes go hand in hand. After all, what’s Mardi Gras without a king cake or savory version of it! So few days in Mardi Gras season this year and so many king cakes to try.

Mardi Gras 2015 falls on Tuesday, February 17. Enjoy the party!

Worth Pondering…

It’s a great party, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy Mardi Gras is not of this world.
—Franklin Alvarado

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Top 5 Picks for 2015

If Time can  pick a Person of the Year and Good Housekeeping can put its seal of approval all over everything, I figured that it was time to designate a few things of my own.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I begin with five of America’s most historic places/natural wonders.

Grand Canyon National Park

John Muir saw the Grand Canyon and called it “God’s spectacle.”

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosion decorate the canyon that travels 277 river miles from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

Nearly five million people see the Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from the park’s free shuttle buses or from their car at overlooks along the South Rim. Open all year, the South Rim is the most accessible part of the park.

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim of the park, which lies just 10 miles across the canyon from the South Rim but is a 220 mile by car—all the way around the canyon. Averaging 8000 feet above sea level, rises 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, and because of its remote location, is much less accessible than the South Rim and closed during winter.

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter. Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cajun Country

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side.

With quintessential Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. Louisiana’s landscape and history create a culinary tradition unlike any place else—and that makes it the perfect RV getaway for anyone who loves to eat.

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Popular activities include dancing to Cajun and zydeco music, living history tours at Cajun historical villages, and air boat rides. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Grand Circle Tour

RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The American Southwest is famous for incredible scenery, red rock pinnacles and formations, brilliant sunsets and deep canyons. Some of America’s most diverse scenery can be found within the Grand Circle—1,500 miles of the most scenic highways in the country.

You will visit six national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon; three national monuments—Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, and Grand Staircase-Escalante; one Navajo tribal park—Monument Valley; and pass by several state parks and other points of interest. Bold splashes of color, fascinating geologic shapes and the mysterious remnants of cultures await you at every turn.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Connecting two national parks—Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands. Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come in late spring for wildflower blooms (rhododendron, azalea); or, in fall (especially around mid-October) for Technicolor foliage displays.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

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North-South Snowbird RV Routes

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino at Redding, California,
RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino at Redding, California, is a great travel stop on I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Selecting a balmy snowbird roost is when all the fun begins. Choice is in rich supply.

Many snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada, and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Choice of route is also subject to your own inclinations. Do you want to sightsee along the way, or—as might be the case in mid-winter—do you prefer to go hell-bent-for- leather to the Sunbelt?

A successful—and stress free—trip requires a little homework  before you leave.

Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses.

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first winter storm, plan accordingly. Allow yourself sufficient time for cold-weather driving, and bring ample warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After settling into Flag City RV Resort, a 5-star RV park, we started our seven-day tour of the Lodi (California) wine area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since the interstate highways are generally well-maintained and have priority for snow clearing and sanding, they’re a good bet for safe winter travel.

With many interstate highways in America, the price one pays for fast speed convenience is a lack of variation in the scenery one passes through. North-south interstates are different, partly because they are north-south routes and therefore pass through varying climatic conditions and altitude changes.

Interstates 95 and 75 are the two preferred north-south travel routes from the northeast to Florida because they are direct and provide a wide range of service facilities.

“Along Interstate-95” and “Along Interstate-75” are two popular spiral bound mile-by-mile guidebooks with practical information on these two major north-south routes.

I-95 is the longest north-south interstate in the US, traveling through 15 states. It is the main highway on the East Coast of the U. S., paralleling the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida and serving some of the best-known cities in the country including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

Whiskey Flats RV Park (Hawthorne, Nevada) is conveniently located mid-way between Reno and Las Vegas
Many snowbirds from the Northwest use US Highway 95 for their north-south travel route. Whiskey Flats RV Park (Hawthorne, Nevada) is conveniently located mid-way between Reno and Las Vegas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Snowbirds who RV south for the winter from the northwest have a choice of several routes with most opting for I-5 or 1-15 for a major portion of the journey. But many RVers ask, “Isn’t there a better route?” That seems to be a common question on RV forums.

Although friends have shared little short-cuts with us (such as leaving I-15 at Dillon and going 41/55 to Whitehall and 69 into Boulder, avoiding the big climb to Butte), the result of our conversations and research have shown few strong alternatives to the I-15.

It’s winter, we’re not interested in the icy scenery and we just want to get out of the cold. Getting there is not half the fun. All of this points to the I-15 as the best Snowbird path south from Alberta, Montana, and eastern Idaho.

Snowbirds from the Midwest often use Interstate 35 and a combination of several other interstates and secondary highways to reach their Sunbelt roost.

Plotting a route in common mapping software or relying exclusively on a GPS generally produces the fastest or shortest route, which isn’t necessarily the best winter driving route for RVs.

Orange Groove RV Park, off US-99 in Bakersfield
Orange Groove RV Park, off US-99 in Bakersfield is a popular overnight stop for snowbirds. It’s a 40-acre orchard where you park your RV between row after row of beautiful orange trees. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Watch the weather and road reports. Leave when you have a three-day window of good weather and clear roads.

Mountain driving, with its steep grades and hairpin turns, can be scary enough in the summer especially for those accustomed to gunbarrel-straight highways. However, it’s really the ice and snow that are the big concern.

If you get caught in a winter storm, wait it out and give the road crews time to clear the highway.

Drive carefully leaving extra room between vehicles and allow extra time to stop.

If the weather looks like it will be getting bad, or becomes terrible overnight, then stay put. Much better to spend an extra day in a campground than in a cold RV stranded on a snow-bound highway.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

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Snowbird Migrate Southward To U.S. Sunbelt

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is an actual bird, the common snowbird, or dark-eyed junco, that migrates south from the cold in groups. John James Audubon, the great naturalist and painter, once wrote of the snowbird, “The migration of these birds is performed by night, as they are seen in a district one day and have disappeared the next.”

Then he added, “So gentle and tame does the snowbird become on the least approach of hard weather that it forms, as it were, a companion to every child. Indeed, there is not an individual in the Union who does not know the little snowbird, which, in America, is cherished as the Robin is in Europe.”

Not all of the human variety may be similarly cherished, but they do become companions. As each autumn gives way to winter, most seem to be welcomed back — warmly — to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road. As we explore North America by RV, natural beauty abounds when least expected, and surprises wait at every turn of the road.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world
Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each journey we take represents a passage, whether it’s an adventure to a new state or province, a day trip to a new attraction, or an outing with friends.

Never driving our motorhome along a pre-arranged route, we vary stops along the way often taking two to three months to reach our southern destinations.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Even though many consider leaving their home constitutes a vacation, this popular lifestyle should really be thought of simply as being able to enjoy life as you relocate your condo-on-wheels to more desirable seasonal locations.

Selecting your balmy Snowbird roost is when all the fun starts. Choice is in rich supply, and for those who like to hop around a bit, a combination of spots can let you sample entire regions and states.

Superstition Mountain Museum
To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue tour the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum, near Apache Junction, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the biggest consideration should be on what kind of environment you’re looking for, as well what kind of activities you’d like to pursue. Do you crave white sandy beaches and tropical temperatures? Or dry air and rustic frontier homesteads? Perhaps a thriving music and arts scene? Or maybe you’re after a balance of big city fun and small-town charm?

Many communities seem tailor made for snowbirds, complete with popular tourism attractions, spectacular national parks and scenery that’s open year-round. Check out the RV shows, farmers markets, swap meets, festivals, sports events,  and other events occurring in your prospective destination.

You’re probably familiar with the snowbird hot spots in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California. Keep in mind that you can also find great snowbird roosts in places like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada. Great snowbird destinations thrive across the Sun Belt; all you have to do is find the one that’s right for you.

Many Snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses. You wouldn’t want your snowbird stay to be cut short by time on the road.

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first frost or snow, plan accordingly. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for cold-weather driving, and bring enough warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

Carefully plan the stops along the way, and give yourself some time to do some sightseeing on the journey south.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snow-bird life

behind the wheel.

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New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera

The newest RV park in Cajun Country, Cajun RVera celebrated its grand opening during the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival weekend, April 11–13, held at neighboring SugArena multi-purpose facility in New Iberia.

New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)
New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)

Campers enjoyed live entertainment, swimming, floating in the lazy river, and lots of family fun.

Cajun RVera has full service pull-through and back in sites and a pavilion available to rent for private events, special parties, and family reunions.

Owned by Acadiana Parish, Cajun RVera is located next to SugArena at Acadiana Fairgrounds on LA 3212.

Cajun RVera sits on 40 acres and currently has 185 sites for recreational vehicles; a country club-style clubhouse; 9,000 square feet of pools and water features, such as a splash pad; an arcade; washeteria; horseshoes; miniature golf; a pond; and smaller chalet-style cabins.

The SugaHouse clubhouse includes a concession area, game room, and laundry room. Outside enjoy a full bar, heated pool with a swim-up bar, splash pad, and even a lazy-river with inner tube rentals.

Other amenities include a stocked pond, free Wi-Fi, beach volleyball and more.

New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)
New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)

There will also be special activities on holiday weekends such as live music and different events for families and campers.

A second phase of construction will include an expansion of RV sites to about 300 and the addition of a pond surrounded with more cabins.

Following four opening delays customers finally began arriving in March.

Cajun RVera manager, Karl Vincent says taxpayers are already seeing a return on investment.

“We’ve taken in excess of $110,000 in the first fifteen camping days of the year.”

The plan with the parish includes a 66 percent plus occupancy rate for all camping days—for four years, according to Vincent. He says those are defined as days that campers would typically go out—weekends and holidays.

The entire project cost upwards of $7.3 million. Loans aside, he says, the parish council approved a $5 million bond request from the state.

RV sites include full hookups (water, sewage, and electric) along with complimentary Wi-Fi. All sites are 30/50 amp hookups.

RV sites are $30 per night; weekly and monthly rates are available upon request. Rates for special event weekends, holiday weekends, and live entertainment are an additional $5.
A 3-day minimum rental is required for holiday weekends.

Details

Cajun RVera

New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)
New Iberia Welcomes Cajun RVera (Credit: cajunrvera.com)

Location/Address: Acadiana Fairgrounds, 713 NW Bypass (Hwy 3212), New Iberia, LA 70560

Phone: (337) 256-8681 or (337) 365-7539 (reservations)

Website: www.cajunrvera.com

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou
—Hank Williams, Sr.

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Mardi Gras & History of Doughnuts

The history of doughnuts is intrinsically linked to the celebration of Mardi Gras with Fat Tuesday featuring dough deep-fried in fat as a main staple.

Polish paczki are dense yet puffy fruit-filled doughnuts that have become a Fat Tuesday mainstay in Polish communities. (Credit: Emily Hilliard/ npr.org)
Polish paczki are dense yet puffy fruit-filled doughnuts that have become a Fat Tuesday mainstay in Polish communities. (Credit: Emily Hilliard/ npr.org)

Over the centuries the period of penitence and fasting known as Lent, gave rise to varied decadence in the days leading up to it, from parades to masked balls to sinfully rich foods.

During medieval times most Christian European traditions developed a version of fried dough for Shrove Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent. The rich treats presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar, and fat in the house prior to the self-denying diets of Lent.

Traditionally it was an opportunity for indulgence, a day when, once a year, communities would go through the labor-intensive process of deep-frying in order to enjoy a luxurious treat.

The English made pancakes, the Poles jelly doughnuts called paczki, and Germany women fried up doughnuts called fastnachts (German for “Eve of the Fast”).

In Poland and Polish communities in the United States, such as in the Midwest, Fat Tuesday is known as Paczki Day, referring to the dense yet puffy jelly-filled doughnuts enjoyed on the occasion. Paczki were traditionally filled with rose hip jam or a stewed plum concoction called powidla, though today they often contain a variety of different jams and custards.

Fastnachts (or fasnachts) are yeasted doughnuts of German descent that bear the same name as the traditional pre-Lenten celebration, which translates as fast night. (Credit: Emily Hilliard/ npr.org)
Fastnachts (or fasnachts) are yeasted doughnuts of German descent that bear the same name as the traditional pre-Lenten celebration, which translates as fast night. (Credit: Emily Hilliard/ npr.org)

The history of colonization and immigration from the Old World to the new can be traced through the evolution of doughnuts such as paczki. These celebration foods were important, and were both preserved and altered as they interacted with new ingredients and other influences in their new homes.

Portuguese malasadas, also enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday, or Malasada Day, were another such confection. The raised doughnuts were brought to Hawaii by sugar plantation workers in the late 1800s. Though originally they had no holes or fillings, they have evolved there to include fillings with Hawaiian ingredients such as guava and coconut. They are also popular among Portuguese communities in New England.

The German take on pre-Lenten doughnuts, fastnachts (or fasnachts), bear the same name as the traditional Carnival celebration, which translates as “fast night.”

Traditional fastnachts are fried in lard and, like malasadas, do not have a hole or contain filling. Most German fastnacht recipes consist of milk, sugar, shortening, yeast, eggs, and flour.

The Pennsylvania Dutch version generally includes mashed potatoes in the recipe, making a heartier and denser doughnut. A rectangular shape was usually specified, which after cooking was sliced in half like a bagel and spread with syrup or molasses—something to stick to your ribs until the end of Lent.

Others followed the German tradition of making all sorts of shapes, from knots and braids to pretzels and ladder-like rectangles. The pretzel itself has a Lenten derivation, and according to legend, the shape was invented by a seventh-century monk who wanted it to symbolize two arms crossed in prayer.

In Maryland, the same doughnuts are called kinklings.

Beignets are like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. (Source: joepastry.com)
Beignets are like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. (Source: joepastry.com)

Beignets (pronounced bey-YAY) are the most widely known Mardi Gras doughnut. The word beignet comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning “to raise.” It is also French for fritter. The recipe for the light and eggy pillows of fried dough was brought to Louisiana by the Acadians when deported from Nova Scotia during the 18th century.

They’re made with deep-fried choux paste, which differs from a traditional yeast-based doughnut dough because it relies on moisture in the dough to create steam as the leavening agent, rather than yeast.

Beignets are usually about two inches in diameter or two inches square. After being fried, they are sprinkled with powdered sugar. When served hot, they are absolute perfection.

Beignets were most often enjoyed with café au lait. In New Orleans, café au lait is strong dark roast coffee and chicory, served with equal part hot milk. Originally used as a cheap way to boost coffee during the Civil War when the bean was scarce, chicory is still blended into coffee because it tastes good, and, well, it’s tradition.

But what exactly is it? The root of endive lettuce, believe it or not, which is then roasted and ground to soften the bitter edge of dark coffee. The chicory also created a smoother, richer brew.

At Café du Monde, there is only one food item you can order—beignets. (Credit: theeatenpath.com)
At Café du Monde, there is only one food item you can order—beignets. (Credit: theeatenpath.com)

The most famous place to get a plate of beignets is the iconic Cafe du Monde.

The original Cafe du Monde coffee stand was established in the New Orleans French Market on Jackson Square in 1862 and still operates today. The cafe is considered a New Orleans landmark that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At Café du Monde, there is only one food item you can order—beignets. Beignets come in orders of three on plates completely covered in powdered sugar. Expect to wait in line if you arrive during peak hours—and even longer if you want a table.

In 1986, beignets became the Louisiana State Doughnut.

Again, all you need to know: Beignets are delicious!

Worth Pondering…

Eat dessert first. Life is uncertain.
—Ernestine Ulmer

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Five More Must-Have Louisiana Souvenirs

In an earlier post, I detailed Five Must-Have Louisiana Souvenirs. Take a piece of Louisiana on the road with you and tuck these five additional Bayou State souvenirs into your RV.

1. Louisiana-Made Hot Sauce

Since Cajuns like their food with a little kick it’s no surprise that there are numerous other hot sauces produced in Louisiana. The appropriately named Louisiana Hot Sauce, Crystal Hot Sauce, C’est Bon Gourmet Cajun Pepper Sauce, Bayou Butt Burner, and Cajun Power Sauce will bring a taste of Louisiana to your meals back in the RV.

Traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold colors. The purple symbolizes justice, the green represents faith, and the gold signifies power. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Traditional Mardi Gras colors are purple, green, and gold colors. The purple symbolizes justice, the green represents faith, and the gold signifies power. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. A King Cake Baby

King Cakes are a vibrant part of the Mardi Gras tradition with literally hundreds of thousands of King Cakes consumed every year. Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now). Take at least one King Cake baby in the RV with you.

Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold.

In more recent years, some bakeries have been creative with stuffing and topping their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings.

3. Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras beads have been popularized for their widespread use on Fat Tuesday. Each year, crowds of people line up to snag as many beaded necklaces as their necks can hold.

During the late 1800s, inexpensive necklaces made of glass beads began to be tossed into the crowds by the parade krewes.

Over the years, other Mardi Gras souvenirs have also been passed out to the crowds during the parades such as plastic cups, toys, Frisbees, figurines, and doubloons. Despite all of these other souvenirs, bead necklaces remain the most popular trinket passed out during the celebration. Today, Mardi Gras beads can be found in various sizes, shapes, and colors.

The most popular size today is about thirty three inches long. They are also now made with cheaper and safer materials like plastic and aluminum rather than glass.

Traditional Mardi Gras beads are purple, green, and gold colors. The purple symbolizes justice, the green represents faith, and the gold signifies power.

Make sure you snag numerous Mardi Gras beads—they make for colorful decorations around the RV.

4. Café Du Monde Coffee and Chicory and Beignet

From Beignets to Café Au Lait, Café Du Monde has been a New Orleans tradition since 1862.

The Original Café Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice.

Café Du Monde coffee is available in Coffee and Chicory, Coffee and Chicory Decaf, and French Roast.
Café Du Monde coffee is available in Coffee and Chicory, Coffee and Chicory Decaf, and French Roast.

The Café Du Monde Coffee and Chicory is traditionally served Au Lait, mixed half and half with hot milk. Chicory is the root of the endive plant. Endive is a type of lettuce. The root of the plant is roasted and ground. It is added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roasted coffee. It adds an almost chocolate flavor to the Café Au Lait served at Café Du Monde.

Beignets are square French -style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians. These were fried fritters, sometimes filled with fruit. Today, the beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar.

Beignets are nearly impossible to find outside of Louisiana, so your best bet is to buy a box or two of the mix and make your own back in the RV. Café Du Monde coffee is available in Coffee and Chicory, Coffee and Chicory Decaf, and French Roast.

5. Louisiana Brewery Trail

It was only a matter of time before Louisiana’s craft breweries heeded the call to make flavorful beers that complement the state’s food culture. Many Louisianians’ first taste of craft beer came from Abita Brewing Company after opening for business in 1986. Abita beer is a staple in many Louisiana recipes and has become a favorite of chefs and eaters alike.

Louisiana Craft Beer
Louisiana Craft Beer

Now, amidst the American craft beer boom, malt and hops are flourishing along the bayous of Louisiana. Seven craft breweries are open for business, each unique in their efforts, their people and their beers, yet similar in their quests to create flavorful beers that pay tribute to Louisiana’s culinary traditions.

In the heart of Acadiana, Parish Brewing Company and Bayou Teche Brewing represent the soul of Cajun heritage. In Baton Rouge, Tin Roof Brewing Company plays a melody of hops that awaken the spirit of Louisiana’s capital city. Covington Brewhouse and Chafunkta Brewing Company join Abita Brewing Company on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore.

And in the Big Easy, NOLA (New Orleans Lager and Ale) Brewing Company captures the essence of jazz, the heart of Mardi Gras, and the flavor of Louisiana life.

So while in Louisiana, drink like a local and take a six-pack or two in the RV with you.

Please Note: This is Part 22 of an on-going series on Louisiana Cuisine/Travel Ideas

Worth Pondering…

Way down yonder in New Orleans

In the land of dreamy scenes

There’s a garden of Eden

You know what I mean.

—Louis Armstrong 1901-1971

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Five Must-Have Louisiana Souvenirs

Louisiana’s landscape and history create a culinary tradition unlike any place else—and that makes it the perfect RV getaway for anyone who loves to eat. But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food.

Tuck these five items in your RV and take a piece of Louisiana on the road with you.

1. Avery Island: Home of TABASCO

Following the tour you can also spend time in the TABASCO Country Store and check out a wide array of products and souvenirs for sale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Following the tour you can also spend time in the TABASCO Country Store and check out a wide array of products and souvenirs for sale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avery Island is the home of Louisiana’s iconic hot sauce: TABASCO. See how it’s made during a factory tour then spend time in the TABASCO Country Store and check out a wide array of products and souvenirs for sale.

Seven delicious hot flavors are available at the Country Store: Original Red Sauce, Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce, Chipotle Pepper Sauce, Buffalo Style Hot Sauce, Habanero Sauce, Garlic Pepper Sauce, and SWEET & Spicy Pepper Sauce.

2. Cajun-specific spices

Cajun food is some of the best food in America and that’s partially thanks to those amazing spices. Cajun-i-fy your food in the RV with the help of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning.

Tony Chachere (sa-shur-ee) was a real man, a man who loved life and knew how to cook. The folks in Acadiana referred to him as the “Ole Master” of fine Cajun cuisine. That was almost 100 years ago.

Cajun-i-fy your food in the RV with the help of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Cajun-i-fy your food in the RV with the help of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

Today, the Tony Chachere’s Brand has grown from the simple Creole Seasoning to almost everything you’d like to pour it on or stir it in. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etoufees, Gravies, and Rouxs; stuffed chickens, smoked sausage, and boudin, good flavor spreads fast. And it all began in a little Louisiana tow.

Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasonings include: Original Creole Seasoning, BOLD Creole Seasoning, More Spice Seasoning, Spice N’ Herb Seasoning, and Gumbo Filé.

The award winning Slap Ya Mama brand seasoning is recommended for everything from popcorn to popcorn shrimp, breakfast to late night snacks, and gourmet foods to French fries.

3. Community Coffee

Community Coffee has been a Louisiana tradition since 1919. For more than 90 years, this family-owned company has been helping Cajuns wake up. Buy a bag or two of beans for a Louisiana-flavored breakfast on the road.

A variety of flavors are available including Dark Roast, Columbia Classico, Café Special, New Orleans Blend, Coffee and Chicory, Whole Bean Louisiana Blend, Whole Bean Sumatra, and Whole Bean Brazil Santos Bourbon.

Take the genuine flavor of Louisiana with you wherever you RV. Consider joining the Community Coffee Club and receive 10 percent off every order and free shipment on all orders over $50.

4. Boudin

Cajun boudin is made from pork, liver, rice, onion, and a combination of seasonings including spicy cayenne red pepper. (Source: food.com)
Cajun boudin is made from pork, liver, rice, onion, and a combination of seasonings including spicy cayenne red pepper. (Source: food.com)

Boudin is made from the parts of the hog that can’t be preserved—liver, hog jaw, belly, heart, and kidney. All the good stuff is ground and mixed with rice, green parsley, green onions, onions, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and other secret spices then squeezed into a sausage casing.

Don’t hesitate to pack the RV with a few dozen links for future eating pleasure. Frozen boudin travels well and will be ready to be re-heated.

You can steam it, simmer it, grill it, or throw it in the oven or microwave. Just remember you only need to heat it through; it is already cooked.

5. Cracklins

Folks in Cajun Country don’t just hang their hats on boudin, and you should eagerly sample some of the other traditional and creative regional foods they’re baking, smoking, frying, or pouring. Next to the boudin, usually under a hot lamp, are fresh cracklins, one of the most decadent snacks around—and they are delicious.

The process of making cracklins—also called cracklin, crackling, and gratins—involves two stages of frying. Because frying in pork fat once wasn’t sufficient, Cajuns decided to do it twice.

Cracklins begin as small cubes of seasoned pork skin, fat, and meat. They are first fried in a black iron pot at a lower temperature for about an hour or so and then taken out to cool. Once they are cool they are dumped back into the pot until they give a popping noise, hence the name cracklin.

Please Note: This is Part 21 of an on-going series on Louisiana Cuisine/Travel Ideas

Worth Pondering…

New Orleans…there are few who can visit her without delight; and few who can ever leave without regret.

—Lafacadio Hearn

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5 More Things You May Not Know About Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras.

Two little words with an infinitely large explanation. For different people it’s different things—an event, an idea, a day, a way of life, piece of history, state holiday, or a million parades and countless memories.

King’s Cake — which is a wreath shaped purple, green, and gold cake — is eaten for six weeks!! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
King’s Cake — which is a wreath shaped purple, green, and gold cake — is eaten for six weeks!! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. King Cake

One of the most popular Mardi Gras traditions is the King Cake, an extra-large oval rich Danish pastry that is made during the Mardi Gras season. It usually dawns the purple, gold, and green toppings which are indicative of the Mardi Gras colors. Some are just a cake and some have filling like Strawberry, Bavarian Cream, Chocolate, Pecan Caramel, Heavenly Hash, Apple Cream Cheese, and more.

Also a plastic toy baby is inserted into the cake and the lucky person who gets the piece of cake with the baby inside (and doesn’t break a tooth or swallow it in the process!) will supposedly have good luck for the rest of the year, and in turn will supply the next King Cake.

2. Mardi Gras Beads

The tradition of throwing beaded necklaces started in the 1880s, when a float had a Santa Claus throwing glass beaded necklaces into the crowd. It was such a hit, that other krewes followed suit  and it soon became a tradition, and that is what Mardi Gras is known for today.

Over the years, other Mardi Gras souvenirs have also been passed out to the crowds during the parades such as plastic cups, toys, Frisbees, figurines, doubloons, and moon pies. Despite all of these other souvenirs, bead necklaces remain the most popular trinket passed out during the celebration.

Today, Mardi Gras beads can be found in various sizes, shapes, and colors.

3. Floats Throw More Than Just Beads

kreweof musesb5f33b29113594ca6967fe8f17f73112Mardi Gras is famous for its beads. But there are much better ‘throws’ — the name given to the goodies flung from floats to eager spectators.

A hand-decorated shoe from the Krewe of Muses is perhaps the most sought-after Mardi Gras treasure. Each unique shoe, adorned with glitter, feathers, bells, and rhinestones, can take days for a Muse to make.

Another desirable throw is the Zulu coconut, painted and handed out by the all-black krewe. Zulu used to toss them to revelers, but stopped the practice after a series of lawsuits, including one brought by a 74-year-old retired Orleans Parish teacher. In 2010, she alleged that being beaned on the head caused her to lose interest in Mardi Gras and have nightmares about flying coconuts.

4. ThrowmardigrasKOHlogo2xs with a Little Personality

Anyone can come home with beads. Only those in the know get dinner.

The Krewe of Highland throws beads, cups, and frisbees, but their signature throw is the hot dog that comes from the sub-Krewe, the Krewe of Barbecue. They grill hot dogs on their float, wrap them in foil, and throw them to the crowd.

They also have thrown spam sandwiches, ziploc bags of spaghetti and meatballs (made by a gourmet chef), tacos, marshmallow peeps, packages of chicken flavored Ramen noodles moon pies, candies, and stuffed animals.

The motivation for the throws is audience amusement. Now there is the sense of curiosity on the route: what will they think to throw this year?

5. You Never Know What They’ll Throw

tucks2Bathroom humor never grows old. The Krewe of Tucks is known for its irreverence and satirical floats, including the King’s Throne, a giant toilet.

The screaming crowds line the street begging for their bathroom-themed throws, including monogrammed toilet paper, sunglasses shaped like toilets, and mini-plungers.

The Krewe of Tucks began in 1969 as a group of Loyola University students. The club takes its name from Friar Tuck, an uptown pub where two college students decided to create their own Carnival krewe after unsuccessfully trying to become white flambeaux carriers.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part article

Part 1: Think You Know Mardi Gras? 5 Things You May Not Know

Worth Pondering…

Mardi Gras is in our soul.

—Kim Priez

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