Texarkana & Shreveport - Cajun Country - Lake Charles
- Swamps & Thickets - Diamonds, Mountains and Caves
Trip Time: Left Wed., Oct. 4, returned Tues., Oct 10, 2006
Destination: Lake Charles, Louisiana - Bill, 1961 graduate Lake Charles High School, 45th Year Reunion
Map and routes
The trip of over 1800 miles began with a sunny, 75 degree day, at 10AM, Wed., Oct. 4.
Headed south on MO13 Hiway, arrived Osceola about 10:55AM.
We left a little late, because Bill has been doing a 15min. paid political radio program at the Warrensburg KOKO station. Bill was a candidate on the Libertarian ticket for 121st Dist. Mo. state representative.
Then, traveled MO 82 west where we past converge of the Sac/Osage rivers and Civil War Missouri Brigade camp.
We also passed on 82 to El Dorado Springs, the WahTahNah prairie area.
Then, at El Dorado turned on US 54 west which eventually goes all the way to Liberal, Ks., and onto Tucumcari, N.Mex.
Took our first break at Nevada, Mo. and then turned onto US 7l south to Texarkana, Ark.-Tex.
As we traveled the soil became a reddish color.
At 1:19PM crossed into Ark. Went through Bella Vista, stopped there at the tourism center, and went into the mountain area at Bentonville.
Lunch at McDonalds, Bentonville.
Boston mountains are south of Bentonville (home of Walmart) where the mountainous area is very scenic.
Continued on 71 south to Ft. Smith.
Saw towns named "Y" City, Ark., Needmore, Ark., Bales and Fawndale, Ark.
At this time, only 122 miles to Texarkana.
Took a quick break at DeQueen, Ark., which is mostly Hispanic, but Bill made a wrong turn and was going for Texas before he realized the error.
Arrived at Holiday Inn Express (HIE) in Texarkana about 7PM.
This HIE is NOT on our list of saying "stay here when you travel to Texarkana."
While in Texarkana, and at 8AM or so, we went downtown which I saw at that time to be absolutely deserted. Very strange.
The town is a dead downtown: Nothing put the restored Sanger Theater.
Businesses are gone and buildings are vacant.
Took pictures of the Scot Joplin impressive wall mural depicting Joplin’s life since he was born in Texarkana.
It was very unusual seeing the post office half in Arkansas and half in Texas!!
(When I stood in front of mural, I thought of the Sedalia Scot Joplin festival).
We traveled many two-lane roads, colorful, quiet, no traffic, until we visited Bill's friend, Janie, in Shreveport.
Janie is a true Southern lady who lives in a mansion with formal garden for her business, weddings and receptions.
I saw my first front-yard banana tree and orange trees: A visual experience in southern hospitality and grand introduction to a true southern lifestyle.
After visiting with Janie, we toured the Norton Gallery, Shreveport (lots of Russell small bronzes).
Soon we entered the Louisiana south, 95 degrees, sunny, and pine tree thickets along the hiway.
In Natchitoches, we drank sweet tea and ate fried pies at the Cotton Patch drive-in and drove through the tourist town of French architecture and 32 B&Bs!
The town is along the Red River, and many businesses and homes reminded me of the French Quarter.
Fried pie reminded me of Cornish pasties, but fried.
Were told to go to Papa's steak house and Mama's oyster bar next time we were in town.
Went to Mamou, La., for a beer to honor our cajun neighbor, Rufus, who recently passed away of cancer.
I promised Rufus I would be at Mamou for beer in honor of him.
Mamou is the heart of Cajun country and Fred's bar is the epicenter of Cajun music.
Well, Fred's bar wasn't open, so we went to Frenchie's bar across the street
(Mamou's population is about 2,000 with one main street).
We learned about the true experience of going on a Cajun "chicken run/race" (that is another story to write about).
I also saw the Cajun way of buying beer. Just in that area of Louisiana I saw big tubs of ice.
Couldn't figure out why until I looked what was in the ice.
Folks around the Cajun area we were in just go to the ice tub and pull one large Budweiser can.
Then, this large can of beer is wrapped in a correct sized brown sack. Sacks were free.
At this day of the trip, we stayed at a HIE at Breaux Bridge, La., and would recommend a real Cajun restaurant, Kyles' Cajun Restaurant (saw my first brochure for a Cajun smoker barbeque that looked like an old-fashioned tub washing machine or ice box).
When in Cajun country listen to KBON 101FM. That was our station from Mamou and to the Lake Charles area.
See Texarkana-Shreveport pictures
The next day we stopped at St. Martinville, where moss hangs from Live Oak trees.
Architecture of downtown buildings in true French style.
Walked throughout the Longfellow-Evangeline State Park and toured the buildings there which illustrate French style plantation living quarters.
Also, a small world moment. We met one of the interpreters - who just happened to know Dr. Mary Ellen Rowe at the university here!
The French trader re-enactor at the Evangeline park also has done re-enacting at Ft. Osage, Mo., just a few miles from here.
Also at the park, met an 85-yr.-old Cajun lady named Marie.
She was demonstrating how her family survived on the rivers there by catching catfish, and she told stories of living on the rivers.
She was making fish netting.
So, if any one says they are too old to do much, I'll just whip out a picture of Marie!
Before Lake Charles, we visited our favorite little town of Gueydan, La. A Cajun community.
Bill's great grandfather left Missouri after joining the Confederate army, fought in many battles throughout the south, married a gal from Alabama, and settled in Gueydan to become the founder of the First Baptist Church of Gueydan.
We visited W.L. Truman’s (yes, a member of the Harry Truman, northern Mo. family tree), cemetery grave and then followed the canal road (marshland area at Gueydan) to a duck hunting camp.
That surprised me.
I thought a camp was a camp not a luxurious hunting lodge built in 1911.
We visited with the editor of the Gueydan Journal as we have always done in past trips.
And, I had a shrimp poor boy sandwich at the local restaurant.
However, the Gueydan Historical Society members have restored a classic older building of stature on the main street of the town.
We got to know everyone there, and we were so proud that volunteers in a little have changed an old building into a community arts center for tourism!
Gueydan showed some damage from the hurricanes, but Rita was the hurricane that got the town.
Since Gueydan, is about 60 miles east of Lake Charles, we arrived at the HIE early (great HIE to stay at), and prepared to go meet Bill’s '61 high school buddies.
Three parties to come.
See Cajun Country pictures
Lake Charles High School is no more.
The building is the same, but name different and not exactly the same.
The alumni of the original Lake Charles High erected a very impressive monument to the students in a local park.
At the monument with names of students and some famous folks who graduated from the high school is the statue of a Kiltie.
The Kiltie girls were a marching group of girls dressed in kilts. They performed all over the state.
Bill's reunion group met at the dedication memorial for an afternoon of remembrances. Very beautiful monument.
First party was meeting everyone again after several years at a local country club for dinner.
That evening was fun and wanted to be adopted by all of Bill's buddies, but I went to Northeast, 65, Kansas City, so I must always be a "tag along" at Bill's high school reunions.
The next party was on a Sat. afternoon at one of the homes of the reunioners.
There they watched an LSU football game on t.v.
I sampled my first boudin, and at first didn't like it - to me it was mashed potatoes in a sausage tube.
It's white. So, I sucked the insides out of the tube and decided boudin wasn't bad at all (with all the Cajun spices).
Very tasty. Just like sucking the open end of a white hot dog.
Also, had the best gumbo made by Butch LaBlanc, an All-American football star from Lake Charles High.
Food was a-plenty and I got into everything.
The last party was at a private party room at a housing development.
Music was of 1961, shrimp good, lots of beer, wonderful summer night in Louisiana, and how to win at Sudoku.
Yes, the group got into a Sudoku puzzle game!
Bill took pictures and then got into the circle of Sudoku problem solvers!
I went outside with beer and visited with those who didn't get in on competitive Sudoku!
My group talked about Rod Serling, Tony Hillerman, Edgar Allen Poe, and how to write a mystery, a life history, or other great literary notions after several beers.
Lake Charles is getting back on its feet from the hurricane that wiped out the Harrah's Casino and other lake front buildings with the biggest, Las Vegas style casino I have ever seen outside of Las Vegas.
The L'Auberge du Lac (called locally "The Barge") casino took $5.00 from me, but sure had a good time just walking around that to-be-ever expanding casino.
Bill drove around his old neighborhood, his childhood home is fine, and the "gators on parade" throughout downtown Lake Charles and McNeese University there need repainting!
Gators are statues of gators painted - like the painted ponies of New Mexico, etc.
However, the gators' paints are fading.
And, I think the promotion of "painted gators" is a great tourism hook, but Elvis, the gator, doesn't look too good with his top notch of chipping paint!
See Lake Charles pictures
On Sunday we left Lake Charles and headed for Texas.
The, Orange, Texas tourism center is still the best of most centers.
At the center, there is a wooden walkway into the swamp.
Too cold for alligators to be out napping, so we just took pictures.
We drove around the Big Thicket National Preserve and met the worst park ranger I ever met.
He was unfriendly, growled, and stared.
I usually tag along after park rangers like a puppy dog waiting for a park ranger program, but this guy we met, I wanted to bite!
The Big Thicket is over 100,000 acres of walking trails and park drives.
We had lunch at a great little cafe' called the Texas Star between Cavalla and Colmensheil, Tex.
It's home cooking and very cute. Met a guy in the parking lot who said he had been to Branson many times.
Had to explain to him where Warrensburg was in relation to Branson.
Spent night at a HIE in Hope, Ark.
This is home of Pres. William Clinton and home of the biggest, largest collection of FEMA trailers, unused, from the hurricanes.
We discovered white humps of trailers in the distance along a back road from Hope.
Let's say 40 acres of FEMA trailers lined in rows and rows and rows protected only by a rusty open gate and barb wire fence needing repair.
See Texas pictures
The last big stop of our trip was digging for diamonds!
I really don't care much for diamonds, and if I had found any in the dirt, I would have sold them pronto.
But, as greed took over, Bill and I envisioned that we would find diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.
It only costs $7 for entrance, a shovel, a bucket, and greed to start digging.
The wet version of digging for diamonds cost more (this involves piling mud humps on sorting tables - think of cleaning fish).
Diamonds are found, but I came back all kinds of pebbles, pretty rocks, and determination to go hog wild on that 40 acres of diamonds in the rough again!
Folks from all over the country go to the diamond field to crawl around in the field plowed dirt rows staring at small pebbles that are suppose to glitter in the sun!
It was getting hot in that field with the sun beating down on those diamond-hunting crawlers!
Diamond fever was rampant!
We stopped at a good Comfort Inn in Harrison, Ark., but other Comfort Inns have left us with no sort of praising.
However, the Comfort Inn in Harrison is recommended, and most important is the Dixie Cafe' next to the CI is amazing.
Great food, especially the deep-fried corn on the cob, jalepeno cornbread, rolls with honey, baked squash, and a huge mushroom covered hamburger steak (Bill finally got his chicken fried steak)!
Go to the Dixie Café!
Also, toured Mystic Caverns near Harrison which I recommend,
but the most interesting is the complete National Register town of Old Washington, Ark., which was settled in 1700s.
Wish we could have spent some time touring the buildings, and folks really reside in that town, a complete historic site.
Go there after recovering from diamond fever and cool that fever down by a tour of the Mystic caverns.
The last day of the trip was a quickie stop at Dicks Five & Dime store in Branson, saw the new development in Branson, and met the folks at www.branson.com.
At that website is the Branson Tourism Center.
The center's staff will design a complete Branson trip for tourists.
I was impressed and very thankful the Center's publicity group did my local Warrensburg tourism radio program while I was out of town.
Returned home by 2PM on the last day. Scruffy didn't recognize me anymore!
House was well-cared for by Bill's buddy, George.
And, next day was laundry, sorting brochures, and back to the usual routines here at the B&B and farm.
See Arkansas pictures
SOME UNUSUAL SIGNS ALONG THE HIWAYS OF OUR TRIP
- At the Quachita National Forest: "Bear Crossing"
- Duke's Junkton is real close to Mena, Ark.
- In Mena, Ark., there is a crystal, witches, and crafts store
- Fantasy Forest in Mena
- Old pottery and new pottery can be found in Mena
- By 3Pm arrived at Witcherville where Martha Stewart is running for a county office
- Buck's Ducks business is near Texarkana
- The Mud Bugs are a sports team near Ida, La.
- What about slow fish, when John has the "The Best Fast Fish" in Shreveport, La.
- Lizard Flat Hunting Club near Mamou, La.
- Listened to a radio program where listeners could call in and tell their mayor of New Iberia, La., just what they thought of the mayor doing his job!
- Near Evangeline Park was a business known as the "exreme" frozen ice cream stand.
- Listened to the local Cajun radio station and learned what "Swamp Pop" was.
Lake Charles Cajun stations: 1470AM, 1290 FM.
- Visit Emma's Museum of Junk near Jasper, Ark.
- Near Beau Bridge, La., there's Speeds Auto Repair. Speedy service by Speeds.
- Near Mount Ada, Ark., there is the Possum Unlimited. Possums replaces ducks?
- Buck's Bait and Computer Service is near Emma's Museum of Junk.
- Near Gueydan is a sign for Matt's Corner where there is the biggest crawdads in the world!!
If any of you would like to have photos of what you have seen with this journal, just let
us know, and I will print them from CD. Just email me or call.
REMEMBER you can enlarge any of the photos by just clicking onto any of them.
Enjoy "your" trip to Louisiana and Arkansas by way of us!
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