Bellingrath Gardens, Alabama

Day 534

     Although Bellingrath Gardens, in Theodore, Alabama, is best known for it’s lush gardens, we went there in the evening to view it’s Christmas display which feature over 3 million lights with 1,000 set pieces in 13 themed scenes spaced around the estate.

     Originally this was the home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Walter Bellingrath was one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the Southeast, and with his wealth built the estate garden and home.

     Tidbit of Information: The garden pathways are composed of flagstone that had been obtained from the old city sidewalks in Mobile, where they had been in place since arriving as ballast in sailing vessels. 

     We arrived just before sunset so that we could see some of the flowers. 

     As the sun set, the lights began to shine.

     They had some unique displays

     Ok, is the moon waning or waxing?

Battle Ship Park, Mobile, Alabama

Day 533

     Battle Ship Park is located on Mobile Bay in Mobile, Alabama, and hosts a tribute to those who served in WWII. It houses an aircraft museum, the Battleship USS Alabama, and the submarine USS Drum. We toured all.

     The USS battleship Alabama was launched February 16, 1942, therefore it was not at Pearl Harbor. The battleship was in 9 battles, 6 bombardments, and shot down 22 enemy airplanes. This was the sixth navy ship named for the State. 

     In all those encounters, it was never damaged from the enemy. However on February 21, 1944, during the Asiatic-Pacific Raids, one 5-inch gun mount accidentally fired into another mount killing 6 and wounding 11 men. 

     Some short people probably could not serve on this ship, as they couldn’t see over the deck. 

     Barbara thought she could have been a gunner.

     The Alabama carried a detachment of 75 marines. They were responsible for shipboard security, and manned the anti-aircraft guns. 

     Tidbit of Information: The marines wore a leather collar to guard against neck cuts, and hence the name “Leathernecks”.

     Like most submarines, the USS Drum was named after a fish. Drum is a large sea bass found off the North Atlantic coast.

     The USS Drum was built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine, launched on May 12 , 1941 and commissioned on November 1, 1941. She did not arrive at Pearl Harbor from the East Coast until April 1, 1942. 

     The Drum had 10 Torpedo Tubes, 6 forward and 4 aft. When leaving port all 10 tubes were loaded and they carried 14 reloads for a total of 24 torpedoes. 

      The Drum was in 12 battles and sunk 15 Japanese ships. It is interesting to note that the crew claimed they sunk 27 ships. 

     Tidbit of Information: The United States had 254 submarines in WWII. 52 were lost during the war, with 3 by friendly fire and 2 by their own torpedoes. 

Mobile, Alabama

Day 529

     The city of Mobile, Alabama, gained its name from the Mobile tribe that the French colonists encountered living in the area. Spanish explorers were sailing into the area of Mobile Bay as early as 1500, with the bay being marked on early maps as the Bahía del Espíritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit). Hernando de Soto explored the area of Mobile Bay and beyond in 1540, finding the area inhabited by indigenous Muscogee people. During this expedition his forces destroyed the fortified town of Mauvila, from which the name Mobile was later derived.

     The European settlement of Mobile began with French colonists, who in 1702 constructed a fort. It was founded by French Canadian brothers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, to establish control over France’s Louisiana claims. These brothers founded many cities in this area (see day 316).

     In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Seven Years’ War, which Britain won, defeating France. By this treaty, France ceded its territories east of the Mississippi River to Britain.  During the American Revolutionary War, West Florida and Mobile became a refuge for loyalists fleeing the other colonies. While the British were dealing with their rebellious colonists along the Atlantic coast, the Spanish entered the war in 1779 as an ally of France. They took the opportunity to order Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Louisiana, on an expedition east to retake West Florida. He captured Mobile during the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780, as part of this campaign. The Spanish held Mobile as a part of Spanish West Florida until 1813, when it was seized by United States General James Wilkinson during the War of 1812.

     Went to the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico. The interesting thing about this museum is that it is built to resemble a container ship, with each exhibit in a separate container.

     Unfortunately, Christmas is coming, and we must head home. We see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Technical Information:

Ponchatoula, Louisiana to Mobile Alabama: 139.1 miles

2 hours 59 minutes

11.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.44

New Orleans, Louisiana

Day 525

     Back to New Orleans to visit with relatives. We stayed again in Ponchatoula (see day 280).

     Went to the National WWII Museum. We started with a 4D presentation, Beyond All Boundaries. A breathtaking experience.

     The museum, consisting of 5 buildings, was divided into two sections, The European War, and the War in the Pacific. It covered all the battles of each. The museum was so expansive we did not have time to see two of the buildings dealing with the vehicles and planes used in the war, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) scientific advancements made in World War II.

Technical Stuff:

Duson, Louisiana to Ponchatoula, Lousiana: 116.8 miles

2 hours 22 minutes

12.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.40

Lake Martin’s Swamp, Louisiana

Day 524

Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7852_Fotor

     Lake Martin is one of Louisiana’s swamplands. I enjoy swamps, and so we took a swamp tour. This was done in a 16 person swamp boat that took us on a leisurely 2 hour tour. This swamp is situated between Breaux Bridge and Lafayette, Louisiana. It is composed of about 9500 acres. Lake Martin, also known as Lake La Pointe, was formed in 1952 by constructing a levee around the existing natural lake. The flooding of the surrounding area is what forms the swamp (an area of flooded, standing water).

Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7849_Fotor

We met the inhabitants of the swamp: Turtles

Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7909_Fotor


Day 524 Lake Martin's Swamp LA7878_Fotor




Rayne, Louisiana

Day 523

     The city of Rayne has a lot to croak about!

      In a small town in the middle of Louisiana’s Cajun prairie, a stone’s throw from New Orleans, is a town called Rayne, where frogs have gained iconographic stature. Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s, when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants. Word of Rayne’s frog delicacies spread like wildfire, and soon attracted the Weill Brothers from France, who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants like Sardi’s in New York boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana. (Plagiarized from “The History of Rayne”, published by the town)

     The city of Rayne goes back to the 1800’s when the railroad came to town. The city was first called Pouppeville, but changed their name to honor the engineer who laid the tracks.

     We are in the heart of Acadia. The Acadians were run out of Nova Scotia and a lot of them went to Louisiana, so there is a heavy French heritage down here. Those decedents are now called Cajuns.


     Because of it’s frog heritage, there are frog statutes throughout the town:

     Rayne is also known for it’s murals:

     Many murals represent the business on who’s wall it is painted, and of course, feature frogs:

Duson, Louisiana

Day 522

     Originally known as “Duson Station”, the village of Duson was incorporated on December 16, 1909, named after the legendary Louisiana lawman, Curley Duson.

     Cornelius C. Duson was born August 31, 1846 in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana  He was the sheriff of St. Landry Parish, Louisiana from 1874 to 1888. In 1906, Curely Duson was appointed to the position of US Marshal for the Western District of Louisiana by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his brother, William W. Duson, played a leading part in the development of southwestern Louisiana, including the town of Crowley, whereby an extensive area of almost worthless marsh lands has been transformed into the largest rice-producing section of the United States.

     We visited the town of Crowley which was born on January 4, 1887 with the construction of the town’s first building. By virtue of the town growing to 5,000 residents, it was officially declared a city on December 16, 1903. The town was named after Pat Crowley, an employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad, who was persuaded by the Duson brothers to lay a spur from the railroad to their town. 

     The city government of Crowley is located in the Crowley Motor Co. building. Built in 1920, this building was one of the first Ford Dealerships. With the introduction of the Ford Model T, Henry Ford built 1000 dealerships throughout the Country. He would ship his cars by railroad to these dealerships for sale. This is only 1 of 4 left of those 1000. 

Day 523 Crowley LA7945_Fotor

     When the cars arrived, they were loaded on an elevator to be lifted to the upper floors. The elevator still works, and is now used as an introduction center for the museums. 

Day 523 Crowley LA7934_Fotor

     The City of Crowley purchased the building in 2000, restoration began in August 2006 and City Hall moved in. The building is also home to four museums, The Rice Interpretive Center, the History of Crowley, J.D.Miller Music Recording Studio and Ford Automotive Museums.

     Tidbit of information: In building the Model T, mountains of sawdust were produced daily at the factory. Looking for a way to recycle the huge amounts of sawdust, Ford in 1920 hit upon the idea of pressing it into small blocks called briquettes and converting them to charcoal which could then be burned for clean, smoke-free heat. His sideline business encouraged recreational use of his cars for picnic outings. E.G. Kingsford eventually bought the process and the familiar Kingsford charcoal has remained a staple of backyard barbecues to this day.

Technical Stuff:

Beaumont, Texas to Duson, Louisiana: 124.7 Miles

2 hours 25 minutes

10. 8 MPG

Diesel: $2.50