Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Orleans LA to Bay St. Louis MS

New Orleans LA to Bay St. Louis MS
Saturday, October 22, 2011

Successful end to our journey down the Great River Road!  At 10:45 we reached the end of the road in Venice LA so 24 days after we left Lake Itasca MN we ended our journey from the headwaters of the Mississippi to as close to the Gulf of Mexico as roads go. What a fascinating journey it has been!

We left our campsite a little after 8 AM and found the West Bank Expressway a lot less congested early on a Saturday morning. We turned off US90 on LA23 and headed south. We finally saw a LA Great River Road sign and since we were not sure we would see another we stopped and took it even in bad light. Lucky we took it too because we only saw one more and it was covered in mud.

We had expected a two lane road in a very rural area for this 70 mile journey – surprise!  The journey today was down a peninsula – we are calling it a delta peninsula. On one side of our road was the Mississippi River levee – often ½ mile or more from the road or sometimes as close as 50 feet. You could not see the river but you knew it was there because every once in while you caught site of the upper portion of a freighter or container ship.  On the opposite side was slightly more land as we began the journey but midway down the peninsula we could see a levee there as well and as we crossed a high bridge over a bayou – there was water as far as we could see.
The road was four-lane more than half-way to Venice and then became two-lane.  Today was Election Day in LA, so political signs were everywhere and supporters were lining the road in groups both large and small.

Mostly there were small communities every 15 miles or so.  Small homes and large farms were seen frequently. We saw a several cattle farms and a fair number of hay fields. One had round hay bales so close together the fields looked like a cemetery – very high yield!  There were numerous citrus groves – very short trees heavy with fruit. We discovered they were Satsuma – a fruit similar to clementines or tangerines. The fruit has very thin skin, sweet flesh, and no seeds. We bought a bag later in the day and they were great. Seems they are ready for market the first of November and usually sold out with pre orders. 
 Yes all those tiny specks are hay bales!

 Several petroleum producers have huge refineries along the river. We also saw two huge coal yards- the coal comes down the river on barges – is unloaded here and then loaded on freighters for journey to anywhere. Remember early in our journey, we saw coal barges being loaded on the Ohio to begin their journey down the Mississippi. 
 One of numerous refineries we saw
Another very interesting business along this road was the heliports. There were several businesses with helicopters and huge parking lots full of cars and mostly trucks. The workers come here leave their vehicles and are taken by helicopter out to their work on the oil rigs in the gulf. When we reached Venice half the business operations were related to the oil business – lots of names you would recognize and others you would not.

The other half of the business in Venice and all along the lower half of the peninsula was fishing and shrimping – either for sport or for business. At mid-way down the peninsula and at the end were more shrimping and fishing boats than either of us have ever seen. One unusual sight was a small shrimping boat with an outboard motor…guess they could go where the larger boats could not.  We drove all around the area. We took some photos at the end of the paved road but we explored around several other roads. Before we left we stopped at one location with a Shrimp for Sale sign and bought 6 pounds of shrimp for a grand total of $20. Sure wish I could have gotten more in my tiny freezer in the camper!
 Scenery at Venice LA

 Cabins to rent while you fished - note how high up

End of Road - less than exciting - we could not find anyone to take a photo for us!

We started back up LA23 and stopped at Fort Jackson to explore a little and have a picnic lunch. This fort was built in the early 1800’s and then had some armaments added in the late 1800’s.  It had only reopened 3 months ago after the damage done by Katrina.  Fort Jackson, while built in the same style as other forts along the MS and AL coast, it was smaller and less formidable than the others. The fort was managed by  Plaquemines Parish and the man staffing it explained how high the water had been. He was talking to us in a room inside the fort that had been a museum before Katrina. He says “tourist stuff” comes last in getting repaired. The water was up to 2 Bricks from the sloping ceilings – probably 5 feet at least in the fort. 
 This was taken from top of Fort Jackson - overlooking Mississippi

We continued about half way up the peninsula where a LA ferry took us across the Mississippi so we could continue our journey on the other side and avoid going back into New Orleans and crossing in all the traffic.  The ferry was small and held maybe 10 vehicles at the most. There were 7 trucks and us on this trip. The trip across took less than 5 minutes. This ferry travels back and forth every half hour from early morning to late evening.  We crossed the McKenzie and Yukon both on ferries when in Alaska. Those rivers were much wider than the Mississippi we crossed today near the mouth into the Gulf of Mexico.   
 Ready to drive on the ferry.

Both sides of the river were very similar. When we reached the top and came back into the outskirts of New Orleans, Mr. Brit took us on a couple roads and suddenly we were through Challamete, Slidell, and over Lake Ponchatrain and headed into Mississippi.

We stopped about 4:00 at Buccaneer State Park near Bay St. Louis. The park is right on  the Gulf and very newly remodeled having been totally destroyed by Katrina. The ranger who checked us in showed us how high the water had been 22 feet! They built their new park offices very high to avoid water that high again!

 During Katrina water was 22 feet. They built new office 24 feet above ground!

Katrina damage to their water park - still not repaired yet.

The Silver Slipper Casino is a couple miles down the road. We have been intending to eat a Casino Buffet somewhere this trip and tonight is our last chance. Knowing what slim pickings were left in my cooking drawer – the decision was not a hard one at all! The Buffet did not disappoint at all. They had all you could eat of anything – 3 kinds of crab, roast beef, many varieties of seafood and other main dishes, soups, oriental, Italian, salads, and desserts. Jane’s favorite thing was the coconut shrimp bisque – it was out of this world!  Everything we ate was good. We forced ourselves to eat dessert – Ben having 2 pieces of pecan pie. Jane had a funnel cake with sugar and strawberries….no one left that place hungry.

No gambling for us – off for a quiet evening of TV shows, blog writing and picture transfer.  We planned the shortest route home.

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