Saturday, March 5, 2011

Of Swamps, Crawfish, and Tornadoes

In terms of miles traveled between RV parks, our drive of 120 miles from New Orleans to Duson (about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge) was a relatively short one.

We had camped in the far north-eastern part of New Orleans, not far off of I-10.

With a relatively short drive ahead of us, we could delay our departure so that we could miss rush hour. However, every hour is rush hour for truckers, so we still had a lot of company on I-10 out of the city.

Leaving Baton Rouge took us over the first of two major bridges on our drive. The Mississippi River Bridge is a massive 6-lane bridge with a mountain-like climb for land vehicles that is necessary in order to allow ocean-going ships to pass underneath.

Between Baton Rouge and Breaux Bridge, there's a whole lot of swampland--the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in the United States.

Crossing this swamp is the impressive Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. The Bridge is actually two parallel bridges with a total length of 18.2 miles; it is the tenth longest bridge in the world by total length.

Driving the length of this bridge it was easy to forget that this straight highway was actually a bridge--then you realize your are driving near the treetops along the highway.

To complete this amazing engineering feat, it was first necessary to construct a canal between the two bridges that allowed barges with cranes to operate. Wheeled vehicles would sink out of sight in the mud. Also this canal provided a transporta-tion link to move construction materials.

Before being "controlled" by the Corps of Engineers two-thirds of the mighty Mississippi used to flow to the Gulf of Mexico through the Atchafalaya Basin. Now huge levies hold back the Mississippi River and direct two-thirds of the flow through Baton Rouge and New Orleans. In times of high water more gates are opened to allow excess flow from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin.

To reduce the possibility of accidents, the speed limit was lowered from 70 mph to 60 mph for cars. The speed limit for 18-wheelers was lowered to 55 mph, and they must remain in the right lane while crossing the bridge.

Soon after reaching the western end of the Basin Bridge, we began seeing indications of Cajun Country.

The Louisiana legislature declared Breaux Bridge the "Crawfish Capitol of the World(!)" in 1959. Crawfish Etouffe was created here, and Breaux Bridge's restaurants were the first to openly list crawfish on the menu.

Then began the arrary of welcoming billboards.

Crawfish. Boudin. Cracklins. Here we come.

Travel Up-date: We have been in Duson for two weeks and this morning we were in a Tornado Warning area. Rayne, LA, is about five miles west of our campground and had a tornado touch down in part of the town. As of this afternoon, the report is that the F-2 tornado resulted in 1500 people being moved to shelters because of the possibility of additional gas leaks, many homes leveled, and one fatality. The Weather Channel will have a report from the town on Sunday.

We experienced a brief period of exceptional wind and rain during a thunder-storm, and at its peak, O.R. Deal, our 18-month-old (rescued) cat, was running back and forth from the bedroom to the living room--just about the time, the tornado was touching down five miles away.

Here he is checking on the weather after the storm had passed. We will be taking heed of his warnings in the future.

We were very fortunate.

1 comment:

mcraywood said...

WOW!!! Little O.R.Deal's catly "awareness" of the imminent, dangerous storm brings to mind L.J.Braun's famous "detective" cat - KOKO and his extraordinary talents. Seems like you are fortunate to have, as a traveling companion, the "Cat Who Could Predict the Weather!"
Thank goodness you are all safe!
Warm wishes from Wycombe! Mary