This week has been a good one and a busy one and my last one in Louisiana. I traveled a bit across the North Shore area, north of Lake Ponchartrain and then ducked back to Baton Rouge for the wonderful 3rd Street Songwriters Festival. After a great weekend of music and new friends, I headed back to my former home city of New Orleans to get some work done and prepare to move on to Alabama, which I plan to do the minute this post is published. It’s been a great two months here in The Pelican State, but it’s long past time for me to be moving on, and I’m looking forward to it.
After I finished writing last week, I did indeed go for a couple of beers at the Abita Brewpub in Abita Springs. I had forgotten how cute a town Abita Springs is, and I enjoyed a little walk around before ducking into the brewpub. The bartender was Rita. Rita at Abita! She was very friendly and I enjoyed talking with her as I tried some of the Abita beers I haven’t had the chance to taste yet. When I was done there, I headed down the road and stopped by Ruby’s Roadhouse for a nightcap. This is a great old dive bar and music venue in Mandeville, and if only they’d make people go outside to smoke it would be even better. It’s a cool place though, and I’ll have to get back some day when they have live music on.
I woke up Thursday to torrential downpours and thunder so I made the command decision to stay in bed a little longer. I made a cup of coffee and watched some TV from the cozy confines of the back of my van. It wasn’t what I had planned, but that kind of weather isn’t great for taking photos or really much of anything, so I took advantage of it in the best way I could think of. I may have to do that more often.
When the rain finally let up a little bit, I ran some errands and then recorded my podcast at the great little library right there in Mandeville. It’s a pretty good episode, even if I’m still a month behind with it. In it, I’ll tell you some more interesting stories from my time in Florida. You’ll get the very different stories of two great Florida artists: permed painter Bob Ross and front man for the Doors, Jim Morrison. I'll also tell you about the wreck of the old Spanish Galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha which went down in a hurricane in 1622 and wasn’t rediscovered until 1985. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas was an inspirational journalist and author who spent most of her life in Miami, protecting her beloved Everglades. I’ll tell you her whole story in this episode too. And lastly the story of the contentious election of 1876 in which Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote and only through some last minute maneuvering won the election. This episode also features music from the Florida based jump blues band Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones which I recorded live at the Bradfordville Blues Club. You can find the episode HERE, or by searching “American Anthology” wherever you get your podcasts.
When I finally got that done, I headed into Ponchatoula for the night. They have a cool little downtown area with some cute little bars. I also loved the fact that they had a town pet-alligator named Old Hardhide who lives right next to the Tourist Information booth. I didn’t really do much there but wander around and hang out with Old Hardhide, but it is a neat little town. I remember being there for the Strawberry Festival many years ago which was one of my best memories of my life in Louisiana.
On Friday I headed straight for Baton Rouge. I was there to volunteer at the 3rd Street Songwriters Festival, and I wanted to get to town early enough to see the Old State Capitol and the Capitol Park History Museum before I had to report for duty. The Old State Capitol is a beautiful building, and looking quite castle-like is one of the more unique state capitol buildings I’ve seen. The central rotunda under the done was one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever been in, and I loved just standing there and soaking it up. There were also some great historic displays throughout, which were very interesting as well. I loved the Capitol Park museum too, which is the big statewide history museum for Louisiana. It’s not a huge museum, but is definitely big enough and very well done. The first floor looks at a lot of the history of the state from the native people to the present, and the second floor has cultural displays on Mardi Gras, music, food etc. I would have loved to spend an extra hour or two there, but I had to get moving.
Back over on 3rd Street, I headed to the Register Bar for the opening of the festival and, of course, a crawfish boil. It was fun, and I got to meet some nice people who I would hang out with throughout the weekend. When this event was over, we headed out to the awesome Red Dragon Listening Room, about a mile from downtown Baton Rouge. If you ever get the chance to catch a show there, you really should. It’s a great venue and I really loved it there. The evening had an opening round with some wonderfully talented female songwriters, and then was headlined by C.J. Solar and Jim McCormick. It was a great show all around.
Saturday was a whole day of music with songwriters rounds at several different venues around town. It culminated with a big show at the Manship Theater which is also a really great venue. After the big show, I ended up hanging out late with a small group of songwriters on a street corner, listening to them play and swap stories. This late night meet-up was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend.
Sunday was more songwriter rounds all day, with the festival finally ending about 7 p.m. I helped clean up and then headed just north of the city to visit my old friend at his bar Teddy’s Juke Joint. Teddy’s is one of the last great Southern juke joints left in the country, and Teddy and his wife have been running it for many years now. It’s a truly special place with great music and great people in a great atmosphere, and you really must go if you’re ever in the area. At their invitation, I ended up spending the night there in their parking lot which I thought was really special. I loved waking up outside of this amazing old establishment.
From there, I had some fun plans for the day, but as I was driving I heard a noise under my van and then a dragging sound. I pulled over and found my sewage pipe had dropped off, no doubt due to all the wonderful roads I’ve been traveling down this whole journey and their amazing collections of potholes. This was not a good thing, though, and clearly something I would need to get fixed before moving on. Thankfully, I pulled over right next to a hardware store, so I got some heavy duty zip-ties and strapped it up underneath my van. Then I took the backroads back to New Orleans, where I knew I had a place to stay if I ended up stuck for a few days.
In the morning I called the wonderful guys over at RV Masters in Kenner, after reading some great reviews on Yelp! They were really kind and helpful and very understanding of being on the road. They got me in right away, and two hours later I was back on the road and Shadow Catcher was whole again! Thanks RV Masters for taking such good care of us. I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up on some work and then went out to play some baseball with my friend Luke and his son out at Audubon Park. Thanks to Luke as well for offering to let me stay as long as I needed to to get back on the road.
And that leads to today. I’m just going to finish this post up and then get on the highway towards Alabama. I still have several posts to get to from Louisiana, but I can do them from a beach on the Gulf Coast just as easily as I can do them here. I’ll spend a couple of days down in the far south of the state, and then hopefully get into Mobile for the weekend. From there it’s anyone’s guess right now, but I am definitely heading north and towards home. I’m only going to have a month in Alabama, so I want to make the most of it. I’m going to be super busy, but I’m also really looking forward to it. If you have any ideas of things I should do or see, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments. I’ve spent some time in Birmingham over the last few years, and am familiar with a few other places around the state, but not many. It will be full of new adventures I am sure.
By this time next week, I hope to be to and through Mobile and making my way out into the Heart of Dixie. You’ll have to tune in next week to see where exactly I end up. I hope you’re all enjoying the start to spring wherever you are. It’s one of my favorite four seasons, so I hope you’re out making the most of it. I know I will be, and you know I will be too. It’s been a good week of old friends and new and even strangers keeping me on the road and I feel truly blessed to be doing what I’m doing. Thanks, as always, for reading, and I’ll see you right back here this time next week.