As we say goodbye to Galveston and complete our travels through Texas, we are excited about our adventures to come in Louisiana. After a few weeks of staying on the coast, our rig was covered in salt and sand, so we decided to get our truck and trailer washed on our way out of town. I found this list of truck washes that also cater to RV’s. It took about an hour because of long lines, but it was worth it! Salt can be very destructive…we had a lot of rust form in the two weeks on the Gulf Coast, so we wanted to prevent more from forming.
We only like to drive 200-300 miles per day, so we stayed for a night in White Oak Park. This park is small, but relatively quiet and clean. There isn’t a whole lot to do there if you don’t have a boat, but it does have a playground and centralized bathrooms with showers. Ironically, of the three travel trailers staying the night (us included), one of the other two was also traveling in an Outdoors RV (the Oregon-made brand of RV we own). We ended up chatting with the owners, who are from Vermont and are traveling a reverse route from us, heading westward and hitting a lot of the same spots as us. After checking out each other’s rigs, we managed to delay our departure by an hour, but it was fun to hear about their journey and exchange helpful tidbits with each other.
The Fairview-Riverside State Park is located on the Tchefuncte River and is a sister park to the much larger Fontainebleau, which is just 20 minutes away. The Louisiana state parks seem to be well kept and are affordable, so I would recommend them for your stay if you are visiting in the area. Our stay was peaceful, and featured the Otis House (a late 19th-century Queen Anne–style house once owned by a lumber baron) and a nearby steam powered sawmill on display. The Otis House is undergoing renovations, so I’m not sure if you can go inside at this time.
The park has two areas for camping and we were in the smaller one, which is tucked away closer to the river. Each area has centralized bathrooms with showers and laundry; however, the laundry facilities were limited to 2 each in the larger area and 1 each in the smaller area and the cost was $1.75 each machine. There is no change machine and the park employees do not have change, so make sure you get quarters elsewhere. We went on a short boardwalk near our campsite, and explored the area around the Otis House, but otherwise didn’t spend a lot of time outside since the weather got very cold during our stay.
The communities of Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe and Slidell are situated on the “north shore” of Lake Pontchartrain and have been connected via the “Rails to Trails” project of the Tammany Trace. Dan, one of the Habitat for Humanity (HFH) volunteers, told me about this gem, so Matt and I took advantage of our weekend off from building to explore the area and enjoy the sunshine. 🚴♀️
We started our ride at Covington Recreation Complex, which had ample parking. From there, we biked to the official Tammany Trace Covington Trailhead and saw decorations for Mardi Gras already set up for upcoming festivities. From there, we biked along a pedestrian bridge over to Abita Springs. Next to the trail is the Abita Springs Brew Pub, where we decided we would definitely need to return for a happy hour. The trail is relatively flat and straight, tucked in among the shade of trees and we continued until we ran into road construction that currently cuts off the southern half of the Tammany Trace.
The web site suggests the closure should be reopened in summer of 2022. If we had more time in the area, I would have explored the southern part of this trail since it passes through the Fontainebleau State Park where you can enjoy beautiful views of Lake Pontchartrain. The portion of the trail we biked was in good condition, and it’s a great way to enjoy the area.
Our Care-A-Vanners (CAV) team leader suggested dinner with the CAV team, so we met up over the weekend to visit and enjoy a meal together, so we went to Cucina Cangemi. It was nice to see everyone all cleaned up instead of in our grimy work clothes. 😆 The restaurant was very busy and featured a large variety of Mediterranean, Italian, Creole and Cajun food, so there was something for everyone to enjoy. Our server was super friendly, which is typical of this area and made us feel so welcome. Everything was delicious, and I would highly recommend this place if you are visiting the city of Mandeville. Sorry, no pictures. 😕
Before the weather turned freezing cold, we vowed to head back to the Abita Brew Pub for a happy hour after our Wednesday build day was done. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect afternoon…warm and sunny with a slight breeze. 😎 We sat on the front patio, which is right next to the bike path. Matt ordered the Office Party stout, I had the PB & Jams lager and we got an order of boudin balls as well.
I’m sure a peanut butter and jelly beer sounds weird, heavy, and gross, but it was actually very delicious, refreshing and perfectly balanced, as was Matt’s stout. And our server was sooo nice! 🤩 She and her partner moved from California to Abita Springs for his job in the military, and she shared her experiences and must-see sites with us. We all agreed that the people of Louisiana are wonderful, welcoming and lend a helping hand when you need it. It’s part of what makes this place special. ❤️
We wished we had the opportunity to stay at the Fontainebleau State Park, but they didn’t have the dates available that we needed. However, we couldn’t resist visiting ever so briefly to watch the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain after our happy hour at the brew pub. This lake is actually a shallow, brackish estuary and is so large that they built the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to save time traveling between New Orleans on the south shore and the cities on the north shore. The causeway is the world’s largest continuous bridge over water, and we experienced first hand that the older route heading south is a wavy, rhythmic driving experience compared to the route heading north. So, if you get seasick, you might need dramamine. 🤢
NOLA night on the town
We couldn’t leave Louisiana without taking the opportunity to visit New Orleans. This city holds a special place in my heart with its unique architecture, food, music, and history. There truly is no place on earth like it. 😍 Previously, I visited in pre-Katrina days for both Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, and have been wanting to come back ever since. It was our last night before heading eastward to Florida, so we cut out a little early from volunteering and headed into NOLA on a cool but sunny afternoon.
Once parked, we walked around downtown, wandering toward Jackson Square to check out the views off of the Mississippi River. On the way, we saw some beautiful houses all decked out for Mardi Gras and encountered a Second Line. It was also our second time experiencing this fun tradition, the first time being at our friends’ Molly and Joe’s wedding back in Portland, OR in September. 👰🏻♀️🎺💃🏻
On our way back to dinner, we stopped at the Bourbon House for a drink and watched a football game. The drinks were strong, so we ordered some Brussels sprouts as well, and I think they are the best Brussels sprouts I have ever had, I swear! The sprouts were crispy and complemented by the tanginess of the goat cheese, the subtle sweetness of the syrup the pecans were roasted in, and a slight kick from the hot sauce. 👍
For dinner, we went to Bésame, which serves fresh seafood with a Latin twist. We were glad we made reservations, because this place filled up in a hurry! Though their drinks were just ok, their food was amazing! 😋 Everything we tried was so delicious: salmon ceviche, crispy cauliflower, picadillo empanadas, pork arepas, and Caribbean fish. We were definitely full by the time we left, but very pleased with our selections. If you want to try something a little different from the food you traditionally associate with NOLA, you are sure to love this gem.
A Trip to the St. Tammany Hospital
Unfortunately, our last night in Louisiana didn’t end so well. I was feeling awful on the way back from dinner and thought maybe I had a case of food poisoning, so I went straight to bed. I woke up two hours later and my left side was in a lot of pain. 😰 Matt suggested I take a couple of charcoal pills and I opted to take some Ibuprofen as well and go back to bed. Four hours later, I woke up at 2am and the pain in my left side was back.
I got up to walk around, drink some sparkling water and try to take my mind off of the pain. However, by 2:30 it felt like something exploded in my side and I was on the floor, writhing in pain. 😫 Matt ran into the room and said, “That’s it, I’m taking you to the ER.” Once I was recovered enough to put on my shoes and coat, we headed to the nearest emergency room at the St. Tammany Hospital.
Despite COVID being on the rise, I was surprised by the fact that they put me into a room right away, even though my pain had subsided by the time we got there. They ran a urinalysis, blood tests and ordered a CT scan while I was hooked up to an IV of fluids and given medication for the pain. They suspected that I had a kidney stone, and this was confirmed by the CT scan. 😲 Kidney stone susceptibility doesn’t run in my family, so this diagnosis was unexpected. They told me I was likely to experience pain as it passed over the next few days, and sent me on my way with a bunch of prescriptions to fill. Everyone was really nice and I was thankful to have such excellent care. We arrived back at the trailer around 5am and tried to get a little more shut eye before the nearest pharmacy opened.
The next morning we headed over to Walgreens to see if we could get the scripts filled and still get on the road at a decent hour. The pharmacist shared that her husband once had kidney stones, so she was familiar with what it entailed and filled my prescriptions in less than 20 minutes! I was so appreciative of her kindness and understanding. If you’re going to have a medical emergency, you couldn’t ask for a better place to deal with it. 😂 This kindness and generosity is indicative of our entire experience in Louisiana. The people here are some of the most wonderful human beings, willing to help those in need and providing that sense of community that we often seek, especially during hard times. I hope this is not the last time I have the chance to visit this special place. 💜 💛 💚