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Louisiana in the time of the Saints [Mar. 26th, 2010|10:12 pm]
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After carefully scouting the non-waterlogged routes from Blackwater River State Park, we got on the road bright and early for the drive into Louisiana. We’d made reservations at a lovely state park not too far from Baton Rouge; we’d driven up there last year when we were in the area for J’s work and were looking forward to a two week stay. We had just gotten on the freeway when my phone rang. It was the campground, calling to cancel. Apparently the rains that we’d been watching in the panhandle had completely flooded the campground as the Tickfaw River rose. We had to make alternate plans in a hurry.

Our trucker’s road atlas saved the day, as it showed two other state parks not far away, though further from Baton Rouge than we wanted to be to visit our friends. I called Fairview Riverside State Park and breathed a sigh of relief when they told us they had space available. The vagaries of the reservation system that most state parks use meant that we could only reserve one night over the phone, though we could extend our reservation until Mardi Gras weekend (when they were already fully booked) in person once we got to the campground in the afternoon. The woman I spoke to on the phone said she’d already had two other calls for space from people who were cancelled out of Tickfaw State Park, and I was worried that we’d be closed out if we waited that long

We stopped at a rest stop and got the laptop and the air card from the fifth wheel, and as we headed out again I dialed in to the internet to use the online reservation system. It’s not entirely clear to me why calling the campground is materially different than calling the reservation system or reserving online, but it is. I called back to double check which site she’d given us and was easily able to make an online reservation in that same site for the rest of the week. It was a cold and rainy week, and we spent it quietly at the campground, catching up on laundry and working on quilting.

On Super bowl Sunday we took the time to sneak in a little sightseeing. We drove over the causeway across Lake Ponchartrain and made our way down to Houma, south and west of New Orleans. J thought there was a plantation in the area that we’d like to go see. Once we got there, though, sightseeing plans were quickly put on hold for one of Houma’s Mardi Gras parades. Things was just getting started when we got there, and with the New Orleans Saints playing in the Big Game and the cold weather it was easy to get a great spot to view the parade. We struck up a conversation with some locals watching from the bed of the pickup next to us; they had friends and family riding the floats and they made sure we had a good time too. The parade was great, nice floats and nice people. They insisted on giving me starter beads (it’s a rule, the first beads you get are supposed to be a gift) and even a water mug from the Krewe of Hyacinthians. It’s great, it’s made of clear sparkly plastic with purple trim and what’s more it lights up with flashing red, blue and green led lights when you press a button on the bottom. I didn’t want to accept it at first (it’s a much nicer gift than you’d give a random stranger) but she pressed it on me saying she could always get another from her sister. I was delighted and in fact am drinking from it now as I sit and write this post; the flashing water mug never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Lots of people were collecting beads by the carload; we saw a couple of folks filling their hatchback, others packing beads in boxes. I wondered aloud what the allure was (the beads are cool, don’t get me wrong, but they’re cool the way fair souvenirs are cool.) She told me that a lot of folks, her family included, recycle them. Krewe members ride in more than one parade, and they are expected to provide their own “throws”, as the stuff chucked from the floats is called. These range from simple inexpensive beads through stuffed animals and Frisbees and those nifty flashing mugs, and the cost can run into the thousands of dollars. So, given that space is limited for us we happily contributed most of what we caught to the growing pile in the pickup. I did keep enough to drape over our campground site sign for decoration, as many other folks were doing.

On the way home we took the back roads along the river and listened to the Super Bowl on the radio. We missed the commercials but enjoyed the game, and we were really happy when the Saints won; fans by locale, that was us. The town went nuts the next day; everyone was a Saints fan for a few weeks at least, and black and gold décor was everywhere.