Sunday, April 14, 2013

Acadiana and New Iberia

Yesterday was spent on another full-day bus trip, this time west of Houma to several points of interest.

The first stop was “Mr. Charlie,” an oil drilling rig and training facility located on the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City. It was built in 1953 and was the first transportable, submersible drilling rig. But it could only go in water as deep as 40 feet, and later technology has developed rigs capable of going into much deeper waters.

Here’s the best picture I got of the main rig, which includes not only the drilling mechanism but also living quarters, galley, dining room and rec room for the trainees to live aboard.


Here’s a closer view of the derrick.


We watched members of the current roustabout training program go about several tasks.


These are a few of the different sizes of drill bits.


Below is a production rig, with no living quarters, used after the pipeline has been established in the oil source.


The tour was interesting, but I had feelings of vertigo walking across the extruded metal walkways and going up and down the steep steps. I couldn’t look down when I took the first picture below, just aimed my camera and clicked.


Going up the steps was okay, but I had to hold onto Don’s shoulder going down the steps and I couldn’t look down or I’d lose my balance.


Our next stop was Shadows on the Teche, an antebellum historic house museum.



Photography wasn’t allowed inside the house, so here’s just one more picture, part of the gardens surrounding the house. I love these old Live Oaks with their Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, neither of which are parasites. The tour was interesting, and we learned more about the family who built the house and lived there.


After a stop for lunch, we went to Avery Island and toured the Tabasco plant.



Of course, we had to visit the gift shop.


We managed to resist buying a tie, apron, T-shirt, stuffed animal or any of the other hundreds of items, including these giant-sized bottles of sauce.


Instead, we came home with a modest collection of goods. The 6 tiny sample bottles in front were free for taking the tour. We bought the other items, chili starter in original and spicy versions, and one of the new flavors of pepper sauce: garlic. Yumm, I love those jolts of flavor on just about any food!


Although Don and I have been to Avery Island and the Tabasco plant and gift shop before, it was still interesting to again hear the story of how this popular pepper sauce is produced, how it’s different (and better, of course) than other sauces, and learn more about the families named Avery and McIlhenny.

But we had never toured the Jungle Gardens, so this was a first for us. The gardens were built as one of the first drive-through attractions in the U.S., the first of its kind in the South. E.A. McIlhenny built a bird sanctuary and fostered the survival of snowy egrets who were being slaughtered for their feathers, used in ladies’ hats. Thousands of egrets were visible but we couldn’t get very close to them, and this is the best my camera’s zoom could do.


A crop of yellow iris captured my interest, with an egret posing in the distance.


Mr. McIlhenny also loved bamboo, azaleas and camellias, and lots of these plants are in the jungle. Alligators, deer and raccoons also live there, although we didn’t see any.


This Buddha was a gift to Mr. McIlhenny from someone who said he had everything in the jungle except a Buddha. Vandals broke off an ear, so a glass enclosure was built around the statue to protect it from further harm.


This beautiful pagoda leads the way to the Buddha, amongst huge live oaks, bamboo, palms and other plants. The jungle is a peaceful place in spite of all the tourists exploring it.



Toward the end of our tour, we received the sad news that Paul McIlhenny, chairman and chief executive of the company, recently died at age 68 of an apparent heart attack. Still, the McIlhenny company and Avery Island remain in the hands of descendants of the founders.

Fortunately the weather cooperated, and we enjoyed sunshine and clear skies all day, with the wind, rain and thunderstorm holding off until we were safe and snug back in our RVs. One of our 3 buses wasn’t so lucky, however. Due to mechanical problems and the need to bring a substitute bus from Biloxi, MS, that group got a late start on the day’s tour, experienced more problems during the day and ended up returning very late in the middle of the rainstorm. Oh, well, as they say in this area, C’est la vie (That’s life). (However, I’m sure I would have said a few other things if we had been unlucky enough to be on that bus!)

In closing, I’m including a picture of the Acadian flag. It’s the only region in the United States with its own flag, which is flown lower than the flag of the State of Louisiana, which in turn is flown under the flag of the United States. Click the link above to learn more about this colorful and interesting flag.



  1. Now, that's what I call great tours. That oil rig would be one I would like to see. But, I think I might go for the Tabasco one first and come away with a few of those samplers!

    Great post and photos!

  2. I've been to 'Charlie', but it wasn't open the day I was there. Just got to look around outside. Luckily Max had been there before and taken the tour so I got to hear all about it. Very interesting. If you haven't been, go to the museum in Galveston on oil rigs. It is also built on an older, out of use oil platform.


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