Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Swamp Tour and Bush Library

180 year old live oak
A couple of days before we left New Orleans we took a drive to Morgan City (aka the "Cajun Coast").  We took a 2 hour Cajun Jack swamp tour.  The tour which traveled 20 miles into the Morgan City bayous was interesting as much for the hosts, Capt Jack and Dawn, as it was for to wildlife and scenery. 
The tour included 10 tourists traveling via a 25ft aluminum boat. Capt Jack and Dawn provided a lively  narrative on area history and cajun culture.
It was necessary to traverse a lock to enter the Atchafalaya River.

Most of the trees were cyprus.
We were passed by a number of fishermen working their Cayfish  traps.
Although the water too cold with many of the alligators hibernating, we did see one large gator (approx 8ft).  The gator was in very shallow water submerging after only a few minutes.
There were several homes in the swamp apparently being used on a seasonal basis.  Access was only by boat.  The houses usually get fresh water by capturing rain water in large tanks.  The homes also have a separate building resembling an outhouse were residents place their electric generators.

Note the cypress roots known as knees emerge from the water and eventually grow into adult trees.
A beaver den.
We saw several  bald eagles.

We left New Orleans on Friday,  Feb 21st. 
Ina captured this picture of  a typical New Orleans cemetery.  Note the absence of underground graves due to the very shallow water table.

It was a long drive to Conroe, Texas - more than 6 hours counting lunch and bathroom stops.  It was nearly dark by the time we were set up at Conroe's Thousand Trails RVpark.  We spent the next day, Saturday, relaxing and doing some local grocery shopping.

Sunday morning, after a Cracker Barrel breakfast, we headed northwest to College Station, Texas (home of Texas A&M). We passed a wagon train enroute.

George Bush was the youngest WWII naval aviator at that time.

George and Barbara Bush with young George W.
The young Bush family purchased a new 1947 Studebaker Champion and then moved to Texas from the George's father's home in Kennibunkport, Maine.
They paid $1675 for the new car with a $150 trade-in for a 1941 Plymouth.
The museum had State dinner table setup with the gown Barbara wore for the reception for the President of Poland, Lech Walesa.

"President" Johnson relaxing in the oval office.
George Bush had springer spaniels named Millie and Ranger. 
This was an antique door presented by the Emir of Kuwait in appreciation for the effort against the Iraqis.

The horse sculpture in the courtyard outside the museum is amonument to freedom and commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall.

We enjoyed the Bush museum and decided to visit George W.s library in Dallas.  After some trip planning we left Conroe for Dallas on Feb 25th.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World War II Museum

Well, it's been a while since I posted. We are still at Naval Air Station, New Orleans. A day or so after our arrival, we enjoyed an evening diner at Dragos restaurant with a former co-worker; Ken Hayes, his wife Ellen and young son.  No pictures.  However, we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner and conversation.  The blackened oysters on the half-shell were excellent.

On Monday and Tuesday, we visited the World War II museum. We had seen the museum several years ago during a trip to New Orleans for an American Chemical Society National Meeting. Since then, the facility has at least tripled in size.  Now occupying three large buildings, there are a many displays of WWII weapons and vehicles. 

 The museum was originally named the D-Day museum and was mainly founded to memorialize the landing craft which were produced by the local Higgins boat company. The landing craft with the fold down ramp in the bow are seen in countless war movies.

The example on display here is a re-construction of the last model produced for the war. Although over 14,000 of the plywood boats were built for the war; they were considered expendable and none survived the post-war era.

President Eisenhower commented after the war that the Higgins boat was the single piece of equipment essential to win the war. There were no readily available alternative vehicles.  Without the Higgins boats, the several score of amphibious landings in both Europe and the Pacific would have been delayed and could have involved a much greater loss of life.
WWII Digital Collection

One of the most fascinating things about the museum is its coverage of major battles of the war in first person accounts. In war movies and television shows on the war it is often hard to tell what is accurate and what is "hollywood hype".  Throughout the museum key battles and events are punctuated by video and audio interviews with actual participants (both friendly and enemy veterans).  The war is nearly 70 years in the past.  In only a few years, these former 18-20 year old solders will no longer be with us.  Understanding and honoring their sacrifices for the country is really important.  Let us never forget what they did for us. I’ve seen no other museum that brings the war to life as effectively.

There is also an imax style multi-media theater presentation on the war which is quite good (vibrating seats, light and sound effects, with a mix of video and real props).  According to the museum literature; “a 4D cinematic Experience featuring Tom Hanks”.  

There is also a movie presentation, “The Price of Peace” which left everyone in the audience with tears in their eyes.

We spent two days and still didn’t see it all.   If you visit New Orleans, this is a “must see”.  

 On Sunday we took a sight-seeing drive to the northeast thru Slidel, Abita and Covington.  Although we were too late to tour the Abita brewery, we enjoyed a nice lunch at a nearby brew pub (Jambalaya and a smooth amber lager).

Apparently, Pensacola is not the only community with the pelican as its official bird.  There were many of these in and around Slidel.

The return route to New Orleans included about 40 miles of elevated highway with mile-after-mile of stereo-typical Louisiana bayou country (many houses on built on wood pilings with a boat the only apparent vehicle). 

We traveled  to Morgan City on Tuesday, Feb 18th.  I'll post on that trip soon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans

After a good eggs and bacon breakfast, we hitched up and got underway on Friday morning by 9AM. The route to New Orleans was mostly on I-10 with light traffic. Although our destination was only about 200 miles away, the route passes through three states.

After checking with the iPhone app, Gas Buddy; I decided to wait until we got to
Mississippi buy gasoline.  The best gas price in the Pensacola vicinity was $3.21 per gal.  Gasoline at the first Mississippi Flying J on I-10 was $2.99 per gallon.  We pumped nearly 68 gallons for about a $15 savings – worth the wait.

The bridge over Lake Pontchartrain at over 20 miles is the longest in North America.

Traffic became much heavier as we entered New Orleans. it was only 2PM.  We wondered how much worse it would have been during rush hour.  About 12 miles past city center, we arrived at the Navy Base main gate.

The park is an open area without trees.  A gravel road loops around a grassy area with full hook-up concrete sites.  A nice park with a strong Verizon 4G cellular signal.  No need for the Wilson amplifier here.

My lower back began to bother me on Saturday.  So we spent both Saturday and Sunday pretty much staying around the RV.  Only leaving for a Commissary/PX run (less than a half-mile away).  

Late on Saturday, an RV park neighbor knocked on our door to alert us to a water leak.  A small geyser of fresh water was spilling out of one of the rear compartments. 

It seems the hose that connects the on-board pump to the RV plumbing system had come loose.  Since the pump was turned on and the coach was connected to the city water bib;  water was being pushed out from both sources; filling the storage bay and running out on the ground.

After turning the water off and examining the hose, it seems the manufacturer used a plastic hose too large for its plastic tee fitting.  The hose clamp could not compress the plastic sufficiently.  A layer of self-fusing rubber tape and a generous coating of RTV sealant on the tee fitting seems to have fixed the problem.    

Hopefully my back will be less painful on Monday.  With the weekend crowd gone we can do a little tourist activity.  More to blog then.