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St Bernard Levee System

Just south of the entrance  to St Bernard State Park on LA 39 in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana is the Army Corps of Engineer’s newly completed 8.5-mile-long floodwall between Verret and Caernarvon.

These images are from on the adjacent and perpendicular Mississippi River levee  below the new floodwall.

The entire parish of 60,000 people was flooded in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. The area’s population has not recovered.

Before the storm, the corps says the average height of the levee system was 14 feet. Now, they stand at between 27 feet and 32 feet.

On the unprotected side of the Verret-Caenarvon levee is the community of Braithwaite and Plaquemines Parish protected by an 8 foot levee.

The contrasts between the two adjacent levees will be stark. The private levees protecting the Braithwaite community on Plaquemines’ Eastbank stand at just 8 feet. Those levees were overtopped in 2008 during Hurricane Gustav.

The levees from Verret to Caernarvon in the St. Bernard system will tower an estimated 26 feet.

This is the big picture.

28 Feb 2012

The North Shore End of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway: Abita Springs & Mandeville, Louisiana

Lake Pontchartrain, north of NOLA.

Now bridged and connected by a causeway.

I wonder about the impact up and down, good and bad to these small towns that at one point in time were out of the loop on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain but are now easily accessible?

The lure of the Tammany Trace Rail to Trail bicycle path and a recommendation from  a seasoned traveler in Eunice (St. Landry Parish) brought us this way.

The Abita Brewery, the town of Abita Springs and the bike path through the quaint-off-the-highway-small-town of Mandeville sealed the deal.

The Abita Brewery seeminglyhas made the transition from brew pub to serious craft brewery. Their new facility and brewery tour show it. They brew lots of different beers: 14 on tap for our tour.  The ones that attracted me were all strong brews of different  ingredients, different colors,  and different tastes. In the end Turbo Dog and this year’s batch of Christmas Ale captured the taste bud and buzz honors. Hourly-no-cost tours featuring beers on tap as long as you are not pushy when in line.

(Who Is That Pensive Beer Drinker?!?)

Their current marketing campaign slogan is ‘Taste the Colors of the South’.

Abita is going down the ‘green’ brewing road.

Some of their profits go towards local philanthropic endeavors: Save Our Shores and the nearby St Joseph’s Abbey among others.


(Hitting the draft (root) beer hard!)

Folks were friendly and talkative at the bar before and after the brief-exposure-of-a-tour of the brewery. By the time you got admitted to the brewery enough strong brew had been consumed that no one much cared.

Good beers, good people.


Back in town the Abita Brew Pub served up a good (half) muffuletta sandwhich and a Christmas Ale with big colorful flat screens looking at us from all directions: golf, NASCAR racing (Daytona 500 maybe) and basketball.

All very colorful and all very distracting. Made conversing tough.

The town of Abita Springs bisected by the Tammany Trace bike path has way nice community friendly facilities centered around the bike path; the same should be said of Mandeville.

Another positive instance  of local effort and ideas  and federal grant monies seemingly benefiting all; at least we heard no one complaining.

Abita Springs was removed some from the busy highways and byways. Nice. One had to get out of the car and on to the bikes to appreciate the Town of Mandeville. Get away from the crowds, strip malls and the highway; quaint and comfortable neighborhoods off the bike path in town.

The crawfish mac & cheese special was good comfort food at the Old Mandeville Cafe. The Italian Cream Soda gets high marks as well.


Fontainebleau State Park featured up to date and well  maintained facilities with immediate access to the Tammany Trace Rail to Trail bike Path. The park filled up on the weekend and we were glad to have made reservations.

Winter has become spring down here and folks are spending their time in the parks and out and about on the weekends.

26 Feb 2012

Eunice Mardi Gras Princesses

The Town of Euncie’s Mardi Gras celebration, as well as most of the small town’s in Lousiana’s Acadiana parishes, seemed to be family friendly.

The kids around us seemed to enjoy the revelers’ parade run as well as they enjoyed the camera.

Maybe future Eunice Mardi Gras Princesses!

Next time we are back we may not be able to speak Cajun French but we do plan on being able to dance!

Dance, dance, dance!

22 Feb 2012

Basile Mardi Gras on display at the Liberty Theater

The Basile Mardi Gras – Like Nothing I Have Ever Seen Nor Experienced Before!

20 Feb 2012

Saturday Morning Jam ~ Savoy Music Center

Its 9 AM the Saturday morning of Mardi Gras weekend at Savoy’s Music Center outside of Eunice in St Landry Parish Louisiana.

And its raining: pouring buckets, coming and going in sheets and waves, never truly letting up.

Tornado and flood warnings are being broadcast and still they come: Cajun musicians, young and old alike, multiple generations and an audience that appreciates the music and musicians of Acadiana.

The front room of Marc Savoy’s Music Center quickly fills up with damp musicians and a damp but eager audience

Good warm boudin, fresh beignets and hot coffee are on hand but they are not the real attraction.

Miss Esther Lejeune

Milton Vanicur ~ 94 Years Young

An accordion player (never more than one center stage), folks that can both sing and recollect the words, fiddle players, guitar players, the youthful and gifted piano player, a pedal steel player, a triangle player or two (nobody was enforcing the rule of no more than one); all up front.

No amplification; no amplification needed!

The audience came and went very little and swelled quickly to fill the chairs and space in the room. Locals and folks from away. Musicians got seating preference. There seemed to be an unstated recognition among the musicians of one’s talent and skill by whether one was accorded up front facing the audience seating in the music circle. You earned your seat and access to it. Deference was paid in kind and subtle ways to those musicians that had put in their time, so to speak, and knew the old French Acadian tunes, and, most importantly, knew the words: a culture being cultivated, celebrated and kept alive through its music.

Later: a harmonica player floated around on the fringes of the crowd, an out of place trombonist stood in briefly, a stand-up bass player, a banjo picker, a couple of concertinas.

Marc Savoy

Milton Vanicur’s grandson

Freddie Hanks ~ 84 Years Young

Last year’s Savoy Jam images, a different weekend.

19 Feb 2012


Women beseeching you as ‘Sir’ invariably want something.

19 Feb 2012

Lejeune’s Sauage Kitchen ~ Eunice, Louisiana

Three thousand pounds of pork and beef processed weekly.

Three thousand pounds of sausage and tasso smoked weekly.

Three thousand pounds of tasso, pork sausage, pork and garlic sausage and mixed sausage sold face to face across the counter weekly to customers in the community and beyond .

The Lejeune Family Sausage Kitchen

108 Tasso Circle

Eunice, Louisiana

In the family for generations.

Nita and Kermit Lejeune : 35 years

Ryan Lejeune : 35 years

John and Lechia Lejeune : 20 years

Nick Guidry

The Lejeune family secret:  only the best ingredients, cleanliness, real wood, time, hard work, word of mouth…

and last but not least pride in product and pride in the family name.

This is a small family business that supports an extended family of three families and pays a living wage to an employee as well.

Interesting process and quality great tasting products.

Special order processing and smoking – your venison sausage.

Very friendly folk, very proud of their business, their product and who they are and what they do.

Cutting, trimming, weighing and grinding.

Green sausage in the fore ground.

John with the dry seasoning measured and mixed by Lechia.

Wetting the dry seasoning.

Adding the wet seasoning.

Tight clean 3-man work space.

Ground, seasoned and mixed bulk sausage on its way to the cooler to ‘set and season’.

Green sausage in the foreground.

Into the cooler.

Nick having filled the sausage stuffing ‘piston’ with bulk sausage that has ‘set’.

Bulk sausage into casings as green sausage.

The end of a ‘piston’ run.

Sausage stuffing ‘horns’ from back in the day.

Antique wood splitting ‘machine’ from back in Kermit Lejeune’s day: pecan, hickory and oak smoking woods.

Smokehouses – two of three.

Ryan with smoked tasso – ‘Cajun ham’

Pounce : Cajun pork roasts!

End of the day ‘smoke’ out first.

Sausage comin’ out of the smoker and on it’s way to the cooler.

Cooler packed with tomorrow’s sales.

Tomorrow’s fresh ‘smoke’ wood.

Boxed and on display the next day after cooling overnight.

Cajun commerce!

Get yourself down to Lejeune’s Sauage Kitchen!

Thank you Ryan and John Lejeune!

Nita and Kermit you raised your family well!

16 Feb 2012

Kevin Naquin & the Ossun Playboys ~ The Liberty Theater ~ Eunice, Louisiana

This felt like the start of a ‘road’ tradition.

The Cajun Country of Louisiana, the Cajun Triangle:  Acadia, Evangeline and St Landry Parishes are someplace to which we seem to return.  A different culture in an America, and during a time, that tends to  homogenize culture. Good and distinctive food, music and dance played with pride, a common history and one’s own language.

Lots of parallels with the Quebecois of Quebec!

Kevin Naquin

Kevin Naquin and the Ossun Playboys livened up the well restored Liberty Theater in Eunice, Louisiana for the live recording of the Rendezvous des Cajuns . (Ossun being a small unincorporated town in Lafayette Parish named after a village in France.)  Kevin and the night’s emcee Pete Bergeron traded reminisces. Kevin talked of a grandfather who looked after him in his youth and  brought out the accordion playing gift in his young grandson.

Rendezvous des Cajuns: Every Saturday evening 6:00 – 7:30 PM live Cajun music and two-step dancers congregate at the Liberty Theater in Eunice to celebrate themselves and the ‘joie de vivre’ that is part of their culture.

After the show I asked Pete Bergeron about accessing the stage in the future for better images. He referred me to the secretary at the Eunice mayor’s office;  the beauty and simplicity of small town America.

Seth Guidry


Back to the ‘road tradition’. We have attended the live music performance of Rendezvous des Cajuns at the Liberty Theater and had dinner afterwards across the way and down a bit at Nick’s On 2nd Street two years running now. After a run on their boiled crawfish earlier in the evening Nick’s served us up grilled spiced shrimp and a grilled tuna steak.

C’est bon!

12 Feb 2012

Lacassine NWR – Lacassine Impoundment – Illinois Plant Road – Cameron Parish, Louisiana

This is the State of Louisiana.

The State of Louisiana and the Marine-Coastal Oil/Gas/Energy Industry have a back scratching relationship. One that does not always result in balance where Nature is concerned.

I missed the Illinois Plant Road turn off.  A heavy duty tractor-trailor tanker truck was pulling out. The signage referenced the Lacassine energy company and something about side roads being private. My lack of Louisiana back-country awareness had me mentally checking that off as not being a NWR access road. Wrong. After finding my way back I drove down the black-top-going-to-gravel Illinois Plant Road passing marshland that had been drained for large scale agriculture, with oil and gas installations along the way and on the horizon.

A National Wildlife Refuge and the oil and gas industry side by each, one dominating yet allowing the other.

I guess it is better than nothing. The birds gave no indication of being bothered other than by their diminished numbers.

Lacassine NWR is further removed than Cameron Prairie NWR in that it is farther off the main drag. My guess is more folks visit the Pintail Wildlife Drive in Cameron Prairie NWR than the Wildlife Drive through the Lacassine Impoundment.

The Lacassine Impoudment and Lacassine NWR in general has great marshland habitat and lots of it.  Raptors: lots of them, perched and hunting on the wing. Ducks and geese; but not the numbers I expected. On the lookout for spoonbills but disappointed. The wildlife at Cameron Prairie NWTR/Pintail Wildilfe Drive was less put off by activity on the road than the wildlife at Lacassine. A difference in the amount of exposure?

Snowy Egrets abounded for photography this day. Feeding behavior was on display. One bird in particular ran the gamut for me: the underwater wiggle-waggle of the yellow feet as bait and ‘strike’ to running across the top-growing mat of vegetation with wings spread driving his quarry out of hiding.

(Note the yellow foot out front underwater being wiggled around as bait!)\

(Bam – Gotcha!)

Quite the display; I felt privileged to be included.

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10 Feb 2012

Pintail Wildlife Drive ~ Cameron Prairie NWR ~ Cameron Parish, Louisiana

Pintail Wildlife Drive, Cameron Prairie NWR, Cameron Parish, Louisiana just prior to the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, Louisiana RT 27.

Could have, may have spent a couple hours making the  3 plus mile one-way loop  wildlife drive mid afternoon.

Lots to see.

Visited here last year as well.

Will go back again.

Tomorrow Lacassine NWR.

8 Feb 2012

Recumbents Over Southwest Louisiana!

7 Feb 2012