Staycation: DeSoto, Sabine & Vernon Parishes
During Spanish, French and early American ownership, the western border of Louisiana was called the “Neutral Ground, the Neutral Strip, the Neutral Territory, No Man's Land and the Sabine Free State. During this period of dispute Spain and the U.S. agreed that settlers and military operations would not be allowed in the area. This disputed area became a home to outlaws and semi-legal settlers alike until the Sabine River was agreed upon as the legal border in the Adams – Onis Treaty ratified in 1821.
Today getting there in comfort is easy and a lot more fun in one of Riverside's mini buses. With seperate luggage compartments and in the 18 and 24 passenger vehicles overhead storage for coats and packages there is plenty of room for what your group wants to take and memories they want to bring home. While on tour the professional chauffeur will keep the floors swept and ice chest full.
About an hour south of Shreveport, the origin of this parish's name is a topic of debate. One camp links the name to the Spanish Explorer De Soto. The other argues that credit for the name more appropriately links to Marcelle DeSoto, an early settler.
Our first stop is the site of a decisive Confederate victory, the Battle of Mansfield. This action late in the war prevented the Union from capturing Shreveport and controlling Texas.
Leaving the battle field we will lunch at Barbecue Haven. The ratings for their food are more like ravings from devoted fans. It's said that this is Denzel Washington's favorite barbecue restaurant.
Then procede to the Rock Chapel at Carmel Built by Carmelite monks in 1891 as a retreat for prayer and fasting the chapel it was in use until a fire in 1904 destroyed the monestary with which was affiliated.
From the Chapel we'll work our way to the Village of Grand Cane. Once a cross road for travel to Texas the community dwindled when the Texas and Pacific railroad went out of business in the 1950's. In 1993 funding was provided for the restoration and historical preservation of the community. Lod and Carole Cook donated the house which was the relocated to it's current site and named the Cook-Hill Bed & Breakfast.
The village offers art galleries, antique stores, historical building and great restaurants. For supper we'll go to Nonnies Place located in the historic Rick Brother's Building with it's beautiful, Louisiana themed murals.
The next morning starts with a lazy breakfast at Cook-Hill. The group can explore historic landmark and Main Street businesses like “The Wanderer” which features hand-made pottery, local artworks, gifts and oddments. Purchases can be safely packed in the roomy luggage closet of Riverside's Sprinter or Mini-bus.
While the group shops, your professional chauffeur will pick up lunch for the group from Village Cuisine & Catering. Once everyone is on board and purchases are packed away you'll enjoy visiting about what you've seen and eating a wonderful meal while traveling.
Our first stop after lunch will be the Fort Jesup State Historic Site. The fort was built in 1822 to protect the United States western border. Zachary Taylor established and commanded the garrison. Under his oversight, law and order was brought to the “Neutral Ground.” The historic site features the original kitchen building restored to it's original look, a recreated officers quarters and museum.
From the fort it is a short drive to Many where we'll embark on a Sunset Tour of Toledo Bend. As your group enjoys the beautiful sunset with wine and cheese the captain will point out special features and the lake's history. Once we return to the dock your group can relax while your chauffeur returns you safely to Grand Cane.
Day 3 we'll check out of Cook-Hill and drive to Vernon Parish, the “Wild flower capital of Louisiana.” The area offers outstanding bird watching and sites not usually identified with the Bayou State.
Just before entering Vernon Parish we'll stop at Hodges Gardens State Park. Openned to the public in 1956, the park is home to a variety of native and imported plant. A sand stone quarry and surrounding natural rock formations are the backdrop for it's beautiful gardens.
Places to see in the parish include the Ft. Polk Museum, The Museum of West Louisiana and New Llano, a utopian community from the early 1900's.
Ft. Polk is now the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center,. Originally “Camp Polk” the base was built in 1941 to prepare troop for deployment in WWII. Currently the center is used to train troops in highly realistic settings. Villages similar to those where troops will serve are constructed and locals serve as role players to familiarize trainees with scenarios they expect to encounter.
When the group is ready to clean up, rest and get ready for the evening we'll check-in to the Booker-Lewis Hotel. The hotel is actually a bed and breakfast consisting of several historic buildings. Highly rated: the hotel, it's restaurant and pub make it a very unique destination. Live music is offered some evenings. There are a variety of rooms to choose from.
After a wonderful evening, a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we'll load up the Mini-bus for the last leg of our tour. Your chauffeur will replenish the ice, water and cold drinks. Your group can add their choice of beverages. On the trip home we will explore Wolf Cave and Cooter's Bog in the Kisatchie National Forest.
When thinking of Louisiana, caves don't usually come to mind - but we do have them – they're just hard to find. Leaving Leesville we'll drive through the forest to Wolf Cave. It's a short hike from the parking area. In the cave there is evidence of use by primative people. During the “Neutral Strip” period it was also used by outlaws. It is reportedly the longest cave in Louisiana.
Our last stop, Cooters Bog is know for beautiful flowers and birds. In the Calcasieu Ranger District it features a variety of many different plants and flowers. Be prepared to walk where it may be wet.
Leaving “No Man's Land” we'll head home. Your chauffeur will drive so you can recap with your friends all the interesting sites you have seen and experiences enjoyed. Once back in town we'll drop you at your house, assist you with your luggage and packages and make sure you are safely home.
Remember - “We drive...you have fun!”
There's a chocolate cake you buy at the store … and then there's a chocolate cake you make during Hurricane Issac with Hershey's Especially Dark Chocolate and a poured icing with pecans, granulated sugar (because you don't have confectioners sugar in the house) and coconut.
There's a vacation full of technology and thrill rides … and then there's a staycation immersed in reality and history and especially dark chocolate memories – in Louisiana.
Traveling with your group in one of Riverside Limousines' professionally chauffeured mini buses allows you to sit back and enjoy your trip. You can listen to music, view videos, visit intensely and enjoy refreshments. At each stop the chauffeur will help you with packages, luggage and exiting the vehicle. The chauffeur will keep the vehicle fueled, refreshments on ice and the trash picked up. All you need to do is enjoy and explore.
Natchitoches, Grant, Red River Parishes are all part of the older, historic, deep south. Established in 1714, Natchitoches is the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase. Los Adeas, thirty miles east of the Sabine River was the official capital of the Spanish province of Tejas (Texas.) Events in these parishes were pivotal in ending reconstruction efforts following the Civil War. This is all part of Louisiana I never knew.
Known as the bed & breakfast capital of Louisiana, this town is also known for Christmas lights, meat pies, Northwestern Lousisana University and festivals. It's the home of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Folk Life Festival. We'll stay in Natchitoches and venture out into Red River and Grant Parishes. Your group can split up and stay in several of the numberous bed and breakfast homes.
2014 is it's tri centenial. Created April 10, 1804, Natchitoches Parish is one of the original 12 parishes. It is one of two Preserve America communities in the state. There are so many things to see and do in this area your group will need a special strategy of sampling many sites and choosing where to spend significant time; like shopping. In our Sprinter or Mini-Bus the group has a lot of schedule flexibility.
Once your group has checked in we'll stroll downtown and then gather for a guided tour or boat tour of the Cane River followed by supper at Merci Beaucoup on Church Street. It serves Cajun Food and the famous food of Natchitoches - meat pies. Afterward we'll visit the Pioneer Pub to sample their beer selection.
After breakfast at our seperate B&Bs the second morning we'll get onboard and travel to Colfax, the site of the Colfax Riot or the Colfax Massacre depending on your source of history. Reconstruction was a turbulent time while the south struggled to recover and political conflicts were constant. Parishes were realigned by the Union protected Republicans and Carpetbaggers to strengthen their voting bloc. Elections were contested and both sides vied for control. In Colfax both sides gathered supporters; both sides were led by veterans of the Civil War. In the insuing melee an estimated 100 blacks, and 3 whites were killed. There are only a few reminders of this pivitol event remaining.
Colfax is the home of Fairmont Plantation a working cotton plantation and the home of Plantation Pride Pecans. It was in built 1869 and is also a bed and breakfast. Your group can shop the store for pecan products and treats.
We'll return to Natchitoches and get cleaned up for another night on the town. There many restaurants to choose from. We'll try Mama's Oyster House/Papa's Bar & Grill.
Red River Parish
The third day we''ll start out in Coushatta, the parish seat of Red River Parish. This parish was one created after the Civil War to support the Union's effort at “reconstruction.” As an unintended consequence, it was also the birth place of The White League; formed to protect white interests. One famous carpetbagger, Marshall H. Twitchell from Vermont spent 11 turbulent years as Provost General for the Freemen's Bureau, State Senator, plantation owner and businessman. After an attempt on his life that resulted in the amputation of both arms, he left the state.
Agri-business is still the backbone of the area. We can visit Ed Lester Farms and enjoy fresh seasonal produce and fruit from historic Cabin Point Plantation.
To end the day we'll drive to Kisatchie National Forest to see it's unique terrain and if you still have enough energy stay to stargaze. Kisatchie is noted as “the best place for stargazing in Louisiana,” due to the altitude and absence of artifical lighting.
Return to Baton Rouge
After a good nights sleep and breakfast your group can decide what they want to see before we return to the Capital City.
Remember, with Riverside, “we drive … you have fun!”
Driving north through Central Louisiana into the Piney Woods it's easy to think this is how it's always been. Passing through small towns now famous only for their speed traps there is a deceptive feel of backwards. But, when I begin to peel back the layers of time it's eye opening. Just thinking about visiting these parishes evokes an eerie sense of walking on history – like visiting a Civil War Battleground where 1000's fought and many died; their blood soaking the ground.
Traveling with our group in Riverside Limousine's Sprinter, Turtle Top, Limo Coach or Mini Bus allows us to watch documentaries, listen to related music or even hook up a laptop to review historical documents. In the Mini Bus we can even get a “step on guide” to share the local history over the PA system.
Most Louisianians know very little about their own state history. If asked where Atlanta is or what Urania is named for they would simply shrug their shoulders. A staycation to Caldwell, LaSalle and Winn parishes will be a road trip of discovery. To begin we'll drive to Columbia on the banks of the Ouachita River.
Like other places in the area, in the past this town was very important. Described as beautifully preserved and aggressively maintained by louisianatravel.com, Columbia is the home of the Louisiana Art and Folk Festival. Columbia was the home of Gov. John McKeithen and Sec of State Fox McKeithen. Governor McKeithen was a decorated WWII veteran.
While in town we'll enjoy the Riverside Park, Martin Homeplace, Schepis Museum and spend the night at the Captain's Quarters. We'll check out the entertainment at the Watermark Saloon which is the oldest saloon on the Ouachita dating back to steamboat days.
La Salle Parish
If we time it right we can enjoy bluegrass in Urania. Named after the Greek mythical muse of astronomy by visionary forester Henry Hardtner and industrialist William Edenborn this community was on the forefront of 20th century southern forest reforestation. Hardtner; a lumberman, police jury commissioner, state representative, state senator became well known for his reforestation efforts. Years have changed the community but traces of former resorts like White Sulphur Springs, a WWII POW camp at Whitehall and forest related industries can still be found.
Those not involved in forestry have little appreciation for how important the timber industry is in our state's history. The early timber industry literally changed the face of Louisiana with virgin forests clear cut. Edenborn with Henry Hartner led the way in renewable resources. During the 1930's and early 1940's a summer camp for Yale Forestry students was held here. In the early 1900s Teddy Roosevelt hunted in the area. Several leaders from the area attended Roosevelt's Conservation Conference.
Winnfield is the birthplace of Huey P. Long and Earl Long; OK Allen was born in Winn Parish. Several other governors were born in neighboring parishes. It's not surprising that the Louisiana Political Museum would be located there too. As the City of Winnfield's website says, “In some ways visiting the city of Winnfield, La is like taking a step back in time.”
German Immigrant Industrialist William Edenborn owned over 1,000,000 acres in the state. He lived on a farm south of Winnfield he named Emden. We'll search for the farm and other locations mentioned in histories of Winn Parish.
The shift in attitude experienced when learning about amazing past events is to the change in attitude when you meet an old man – then learn he was a medal of honor winner in WWII. Uncovering buried history is like finding buried treasure. Louisiana has lots of buried treasures.
When we are done treasure hunting pack up and head back to Baton Rouge in one of Riverside's professionally chauffeured vehicles. Remember, “we drive … you have fun!
When I'm out of state and mention Louisiana the conversation goes to New Orleans and Mardi Gras. That's because over the years those are the stories that have repeatedly been told. Other areas of the state have stories too. The oldest city is Natchitoches not New Orleans. The third city was Opelousas. In exploring the Bayou State I'm amazed how much of our history is hidden or forgotten. It's time to re-tell the stories.
The Tourism Week barnstorming trip around the state in May 2013, my eyes were opened to Concordia Parish. Until visiting Frogmore with the group my exposure to this area was limited to getting through it as fast as possible while watching for speed traps. After that short visit I realized I really needed to slow down and smell the magnolias.
Concordia Parish (Latin for “harmony”) has a unique and colorful past. Frontiersman Jim Bowie with his Bowie Knife fought what came to be known as the Sandbar Fight following a duel in 1827. He lived in central Louisiana before moving to Texas and fighting at the Alamo. The Sandbar fight is reenacted each fall in Vidalia during the Jim Bowie Festival. On our way to Frogmore we can go by and see the site by the river.
Frogmore near Jonesville is an 1800 acre working plantation. When there is cotton in the field to be picked, visitors can try their hand picking cotton – hands on history. The house was built by Daniel Morris in 1818. It was one of 18 plantations owned by John Gillespie in the 1800's. Now this property is a one of a kind illustration of a historical and current cotton plantation. The restored buildings include slave quarters, the plantation store and church. Different tours feature various events acted out in period costumes.
After enjoying the plantation grounds and tours we'll drive into Jonesville for lunch at Jackie's Riverside Steak and Seafood. The Little River into the Ouchita and then becomes the Black River before joining the Red River. This restaurant is highly rated for food and friendly service.
Rest and regroup on the way. It's time to head for a glimpse of Louisiana's musical past in Ferriday, the home of the Delta Music Museum. Famous musicians and cousins Micky Gilly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggert all called this area home. Talented musicians and popular in different music genres, all three are internationally know. Exhibits representing Blues, Rock, Gospel and Bluegrass show the variety of musical styles represented in our state.
While in town we can also visit The Jerry Lee Lewis Museum. Run by a cousin this site preserves more personal memorabilia. In addition his cousin gives her first hand account of this flamboyant performer's youth. Also featured is Jerry Lee's sister, Linda Gale Lewis who is also popular to international audiences.
For supper we'll head to Duck's Nest II on beautiful Lake St. John. This ox bow lake is a popular spot to catch blue catfish. But we're going to let someone else catch the fish. Instead we'll relax at the outdoor tables and watch the sun go down over the lake. For an appetizer we can share their seafood platter then follow it up with individual entrees. Bon appetit'.
The next morning we'll explore the Sicily Island area of Catahoula Parish. After a good nights sleep and our morning coffee we'll head for the Skillet Cafe for breakfast.
Prior to the state tour all I knew about Sicily Island was they were a 1A high school. There is a lot more to know about this area. DeSoto explored this area. A Jewish farming colony was attempted here. The Catahoula Cur has it's roots here. And the flood of 1927 covered all but the highest points of this parish. In Catahoula Parish History it is noted that in 1835, 243 bear skins were shipped on keel or flatboat. Settled early in Louisiana's historic past this is the heart of “Sportman's Paradise”
Our destination after breakfast is Sicily Island Hills WMA. This is an extremely rugged part of the state. It supports a very diverse selection of plants and animals including some endangered species such as the Cooper's Hawk and the Louisiana Slimy Salamander.
This area is close enough to Baton Rouge to make a day trip and there are things to see that will fill several days. In our 24 Passenger Mini-Bus the whole family or a group of friends can travel together. Refreshments can be brought on board and supplies for a base camp stored in the luggage closet.
Remember, “We drive … You have fun!”
Christmas Light Tours
One Christmas Eve several years ago a client requested that I dress as an elf and drive he and his wife (dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus) to the airport. With a bag full of candy canes they were headed across the country to visit the grandchildren. They dressed in Yuletide character intending to spread cheer along the way.
Holiday traditions and family events that bring together generations fill our memories and fuel stories to be shared year after year. Getting together during the season to enjoy Christmas displays is one great way to make these memories.
Last winter I chauffeured four generations of one family in Riverside Limo's 24 Passenger Mini-bus to see Christmas Lights in Denham Springs and Baton Rouge. The family met at the grandparents home in Baton Rouge. Along the way they enjoyed snacks. Coats and baby needs were stored in overhead bins. Strollers were kept in the rear luggage closet for easy access. Seasonal music played on the stereo system. In our area the winter weather can change from cold to wet and muggy. Having the room to keep coats available but out of the way is a big plus.
Between stops the family belted out carols and traditional tunes. When we arrived at the display the group unloaded and I found a close spot to wait until they were ready for pick up allowing the group to enjoy the decorations – without the transportation hassles. On the way home at the end of the evening we drove through their neighborhood to see the winners of the best display contest.
Many towns throughout Louisiana light up for the holidays with parades and events scheduled for the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Natchitoches a seven week celebration features lights, fireworks and entertainment from November 23, 2013 through January 6, 2014. Next year marks the city's tri-centenial. It is the oldest town in the state. Already one of the most picturesque locations to be found anywhere, the town's “Festival of Lights” presents the Cane River Lake and historic district in a magnificent way.
During this seven week extravaganza there are:
- Christmas Lights
- Arts & Crafts
- Carriage Rides
- 5 K Runs
- Northwestern Christmas Gala
- Christmas Festival
- Holiday Tour of Homes
- Historians, Re enactors and Period Merchants
- Holiday story telling
- Theatrical Presentations
- Photos with Santa
Whether for a day, a weekend, or a staycation traveling with your group to Natchitoches for the Festival of lights in one of Riverside Limousines chauffeured limos, buses or our Sprinter van will greatly enhance your fun.
Baton Rouge and 225 Area
There are holiday displays to see close to home too. The best known local display is the Messenger's in Denham Springs. At their home in Plantation Estates they have offered their homemade handiwork to the public since moving it from Red Oaks several years ago. Built one piece at a time, passed from father to son it has grown for 47 years. Easy to find, their Winter Wonderland attracts lots of visitors each year.
Also in Denham Springs, one of the most unique displays in the area features - inflatables.... a lot of inflatables. Located on Weeping Willow in The Willows off Cockerham Road this is a fun site to visit. In addition to the giant figurines there are displays to see and a very festive atmosphere.
Of course every year there are new displays. Some neighborhoods hold decoration contests and have their own parades. So do your research, schedule your family gathering, prepare your snacks, plan your family tour and give Riverside a call.
Remember, “we drive … you have fun!”
Madison, Tensas & Franklin Parishes
Researching rural parishes to write up staycation ideas; at first it seems there is nothing of interest. But every parish has a history, has people of interest and activities to experience – so I research. Sure enough if you get past Disney expectations there are authentic experiences to enjoy, not just fairy tales, in our backyard.
In 1807 the territorial legislature of the Orleans District passed an act dividing the territory into 19 parishes. Over the decades especially during Reconstruction it was further divided until it reached today's 64. Areas what were very important at one time became obscure. Every place has it's story. They fade into obscurity when their story stops being told. To visit forgotten areas and hear their stories gives us new appreciation for them.
The most important consideration for a road trip is comfort. Details such as the ease of getting in and out of the vehicle, room to store coats, cameras, packs; room for luggage and types of seating are important. Riverside Limousine's 10 Passenger Sprinter or 18 Passenger Limo Bus offer great comfort options. And traveling with a small groups enhances the flexibility of your schedule. In addition the option of refreshments on board and an audio video system enhance the joy of travel.
The parish where our staycation will start had the first airport in the state, first used crop dusting to fight boll weevil, had the first covered mall and first self-made American female millionaire . It also has a claim to being the home of Delta Airlines. During the Civil War this parish was the site of the Battle of Miliken's Bend. Our first stop will be Tallulah in Madison Parish. To get there we'll go north from Baton Rouge on Hwy 61 to Vicksburg and cross the river on I 20.
For lunch we'll stop at the Country Pride Restaurant. They have an interesting menu including the “Gator” Burger. After a quick bite we'll visit sites in Tallulah.
Crescent Plantation was saved from destruction by a sick woman. A Union troop with orders to burn down plantations was met on the property by the owner who informed the officer in charge that his wife was sick in bed and the doctor said if she was moved she would likely die. The officer answered, “Sir we do not murder women. I wish you a good day” and left the house unharmed.
Then we will visit the Hermione Museum to learn about Madame C.J. Walker (the first American, self-made, female, millionaire), aviation in Madison parish and hard fought Civil War battles. From there we'll travel to the Tensas River Wildlife Refuge the home of ivory billed redheaded woodpeckers, black bear and many other species.
We'll check in late to our rooms at The Fowler House and the Jackson Street Guest House. Both are given glowing recommendations and ratings by visitors. Our professional chauffeur can shuttle between the two locations and coordinate schedules. The Fowler House is a restored country farm house on a working farm.
Tensas is the least populated parish in Louisiana – and getting smaller. Winter Quarters State Historic Site is located near Newellton on Lake St. Joseph. This site was damage by a tornado in 2011 and is schedule to re-open in 2014. It was one of few plantations not destroyed by Union soldiers in the campaign of 1863.
St. Joseph is the parish seat. It was incorporated as a town in 1903. It's historic district is designed with a New England style village green and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nearby St. Joseph is Lake Bruin, one of the state's many ox bow lakes. Like the other numerous parks and refuges in North Louisiana it is an excellent location to bird watch and see wildlife. The state park is located in the area described as the Louisiana Black Bear Critical Habitat. There are many spots to observe wildlife from trails, fishing piers or rented boats.
With our hosts at the Fowler House and the LSU Ag Center we'll arrange to tour farms in Franklin Parish. The Fowler House is itself located on a working farm. At the end of the day we'll be returning to Baton Rouge.
Remember, “we drive … you have fun!”
Northeast Louisiana is an agricultural and outdoor wonderland. In the top right corner of the Cajun boot are Richland, West Carroll and East Carroll parishes. A century ago cotton was king in this area. While cotton is still a major crop, today a new king, the sweet potato is increasing it's challenge. Our staycation there will dig in to the past, ancient and antebellum and look into the future. And like all parishes in the Mississippi flyway birdwatching opportunities will abound. You might even see a black bear.
The population of all these parishes declined in the first decade of the 20's. In the 1950's it was normal in a rural area like this for over 90% of the population to be involved in agriculture. With technology and modernization that shrinks to less than 5%.
In February during the build up to the Superbowl I drove a group of Tim McGraw fans in our 24 passenger mini-but. They were in town as the audience for a special TV broadcast from the House of Blues. I didn't realize he was a Louisiana native. Traveling to our destination we'll drive through the community where he grew up – Start, Louisiana north of Rayville. On the way we can listen to his albums or watch the “Blind Side.”
In Start we'll get on Hwy 80, the “Dixie Overland Highway” to Delhi. Hwy 80 was the first coast to coast all weather highway. Before I-20 this was part of a main cross-country highway linking Georgia to California.
Near Delhi we'll check into our cabins at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. This beautiful park has a 2300 acre lake and nature trail. All this add up to a great place to relax.
Supper the first night will be at the Waterfront Grill at Black Bear. This restaurant was developed as offshoot of a popular establishment with the same name in Monroe. It's knowns for the beautiful surroundings, great steaks and seafood.
West Carroll Parish
The second morning we'll wake up and have a relaxed breakfast at the cabins. After an early morning walk we'll get on board and take the short ride to the Poverty Point Historical Site for a guided tour. We'll pack a lunch and picnic on the grounds after our tour. Poverty Point is described as in Wikipedia as "the largest and most complex Late Archaic earthwork occupation and ceremonial site yet found in North America" it is a registered National Monument.
When the tour and picnic lunch are over we can load into canoes and take the Paddling trail on Bayou Macon. We'll get up close and personal with nature on this gentle trip. We'll see birds and wildlife. Maybe we'll see an alligator. It's a gentle paddle. We can take out in Delhi and shuttle back to our cabins.
We can pick up pub food from Hot Wings Heaven and take it to the cabin or stay there and eat. They have 16 flavors of wings as well as seafood and other choices. At the cabins we can sit around and talk about the things we've seen, play cards or break out a table game. If it's cool we can build a fire and make s'mores.
East Carroll Parish
On day three we're going to drive to Lake Providence and visit the State Cotton Museum and Panola Pepper Company.
The State Cotton Museum houses equipment displays, a ginning demonstration, farm buildings and historical exhibits. The economy of cotton country has changed drastically due to techniques such as low till and modern equipment. At the museum we will see many of those changes.
The Panola Pepper Company is a unique family company. This pepper sauce was started as a business to provide jobs for farm employees outside the growing season. Panola produces and sells numerous pepper products made with peppers grown on the farm. Over their 30 years they have increased their product line to include over 100 products. While we're there we'll shop in their store.
As we pass through Transylvania – yes that's right Transylvania. We'll stop in the General Store for a burger - and bats (bat paraphernalia that is.) The town was named in the early 1900's in honor of Transylvania University in Kentucky by an alumnus Dr. W.L. Williams.
After 3 days it's time to go home. Leaving the park after loading the Sprinter we'll stop by Common Grounds Coffeehouse in Delhi for coffee, tea and fresh baked treats before we head home. For lagniappe we can stop on the way home if you like. Frogmore is about half way and Natchez is beautiful any time of year. Remember, “we drive … you have fun!”
Staycation - Ouachita & Morehouse Parishes
The drive from Baton Rouge to Monroe in our Mini Bus or Luxury Sprinter usually takes about 3 ½ hours. Taking Hwy 61 North we cross the Mississippi River at Natchez. If the group wants to make a stop at Frogmore we can detour toward Jonesville … or keep rollin' north. Along the way we'll pass through Sicily Island in Catahoula Parish. This area has a very interesting early Louisiana history.
As we get close to Monroe we'll visit the Louisiana Purchase (Monroe) Zoo. This is an old, relaxed and worn zoo with character and charm. The staff is very friendly. One especially noteworthy exhibit is the hippo. You can get up close to the moat and safely see the beast face to face. There is also a boat ride with zoo personnel giving an interpretive tour that is a must do.
Hamilton's Bed & Breakfast
From the zoo we are about 30 minutes from Hamilton's Bed and Breakfast in the West Monroe Historic District. Highly rated by past clients the B&B is located in West Monroe's Historic District near the river. Reviewers rave about the accommodations and care they received during their stay.
Ouachita River Cruise of good hunting grounds...and sparkling silver water"...
Once checked in and refreshed we will get on board a pontoon boat for a 90 minute Sunset Cruise on the Ouachita River. The river's name comes from the Indian word “washita” meaning “River of good hunting grounds and sparkling silver water.” Wildlife abounds in the area and the birdwatching is excellent."River of good hunting grounds...and sparkling silver water"...
On our return we'll crossover the river to the restaurant “Cotton.” The award winning and winner of “Chopped” chef Cory Bahr and his staff offer a dining experience seldom experienced. Cotton's beautiful interior, creative food and excellent staff provide a culinary treat that alone makes the trip to North Louisiana worthwhile.
After a busy first day in Ouachita Parish we'll head north to Morehouse Parish. We will visit a few of the sites in and around Bastrop. First we'll swing over to Black Bayou for a quick stop at the Visitor's Center. This refugee is a great place for birdwatching. You can click here to check the list of recent bird sightings in the refuge.
In Bastrop we'll stop at Granny's in Bastrop for a quick lunch before Line Dancing lessons at the Visitor's Center. Lessons are only scheduled certain afternoons and it's a great way to mix with local citizens and get the feel of the community. Participants come from a wide area to join in.
From Bastrop we'll drive to Collinston, home of the Kalorama Nature Preserve. Kalorama is Greek for beautiful view. It was the summer home of Mr. & Mrs. William B. Reilly of New Orleans. It is known for birds, butterflies and beautiful flowers.
Starr Home Place
Another unique and interesting site is the Starr Home Place near Oak Grove, living history center with a mission to build a creative economy. Volunteers and qualified visitors are allow to use the tools on display. The Home Place features one of a kind exhibits such as the Chink Files Outhouse. I told you it would be different.
If you still have the energy we'll head back to the B&B, get cleaned up and head to the Mohawk Tavern Seafood Restaurant for supper. Known for being “were the locals eat” this tavern is known for great seafood in a casual atmosphere. Locals say the Mohawk has the best tartar sauce around.
On the third day, after a good nights sleep on Hamilton's Memory Foam beds we'll see attractions in West Monroe. First an early morning walk at Restoration Park. The park was formerly a gravel pit that became a trash dump. The site has been re-mediated and turned into a picturesque nature area with trails and board walk. Close to the interstate the park's a relaxing place to start the day.
From the park we'll head to Duck Commander Headquarters to get our “red neck” on. The A&E hit “Duck Dynasty” features local duck hunting legend Phil Robinson and his family. Before the show he was probably more familiar to hunters in other states. Now the Duck Commander Headquarters is a must see in north Louisiana.
As we head to the Biedenharm Museum we'll stop for an early lunch at the Creamery. Known for great burgers and shakes it has that old time look.
Joseph Biedenharm owner of the Biedenharm Candy Company was the first to bottle Coca Cola. The home hosts a museum of Coke memorabilia, a Bible Museum, the Home tour and self paced tour of the Garden.
Relax on the way home. If you're like me you didn't realize how much the Monroe area had to offer – and we only scratched the surface. Sit back, relax, reminisce and prepare for your next staycation while your professional chauffeur does the driving. “We drive … you have fun!”
To many people in Baton Rouge, Central North Louisiana has always been a remote, unvisited area. The main attraction has been La Tech. On this staycation we'll visit some of the other sites in the area from the comfort of a Luxury Sprinter or Mini Bus. Your professional chauffeur will be close by to load your shopping purchases, transport you to the next stop or drive you to your lodgings after a day of exploring. Known for excellence in limousine service in Baton Rouge for over 36 years we can also be part of your staycation statewide.
On our way to Ruston we will drive through Jackson Parish the home of Governor Jimmy “You Are My Sunshine” Davis. It is one of several parishes that were created from parts of Union, Ouachita and Claiborne Parishes. During the Civil War troops were sent to this rugged area to round up conscripts hiding in the area seeking to avoid service. There are several sites on the National Register to see in the Jonesboro and Hodge area.
Lincoln Parish was part of Sportsman's Paradise before Louisiana was purchased. The parish was created after the Civil War in an attempt to alter the political landscape of the state. Throughout the area east of the parish there are numerous Indian mounds from centuries of hunter gatherer communities. Today Ruston is the center of commerce for parishes to the north and south.
We'll stay at the Lewis House. Built in 1900 and recently restored this B&B is highly rated by reviewers for comfort and customer care. It is convenient for walking to restaurants and local attractions.
Once we have checked in we can check out the Eddie G. Robinson Museum. Coach Robinson's teams won 408 games. He coached over 4000 players and 80% of his players graduated. He was truly legendary and a coach with widespread impact as his many awards illustrate.
The first night we'll eat at RAW! This sushi restaurant is known as the best in north Louisiana and offers creative options. Reviewers on Urbanspoon and Yelp recommend the “Cajun Rolls.”Located downtown it will be the springboard for an evening out.
The second morning we'll enjoy the “breakfast part of B&B at the Lewis House at 9:00. We'll take our breakfast bags and get on the road to the Louisiana Military Museum. According to the Secretary of States website this museum “... will fascinate anyone with even the slightest interest in how Americans, and our enemies, faced the challenges of combat. Indeed, few museums can boast of a collection as extensive and rich as the one painstakingly pieced together here.”
We'll go from the museum to the Blue Light Cafe for the best soul food in north Louisiana. One patron says, “don't go if you are on a diet!”
To walk off lunch we'll head for Lake D'Arbonne State Park . You'll have time for a short nap along the way. At the park there are several short trails and a Frisbee golf course. After our hike we'll finish the afternoon and evening at Lester's on the Lake, relaxing on the covered porch, watching boats and listening to fish stories. Their burgers, steaks and seafood are all said to be great – and their service warm and friendly.
On our last morning we'll visit the Idea Place on the Tech campus for some hands on science. Tech is a renowned engineering school though most of it's most famous alums are athletes and entertainers like Terry Bradshaw and Trace Adkins. After a morning of brainstorming we'll finish up our trip visiting your choice of locations discovered during our visit. On the trip home you can wind down and rest. You don't have to dread the long drive home. We'll drive … you have fun!
Staycation – Webster, Bienville, Claiborne and Lincoln Parishes
When I get away for a long weekend or staycation I want different, local and unique. Looking online for information about these North Louisiana parishes I found some really great possibilities. For our tour we will make our base camp at Lake Claiborne State Park. We can easily explore Webster, Bienville, Claiborne and Lincoln parish's points of interest this state park. Plan on staying three nights and bring your walking shoes.
In order to get there in the early afternoon we need to leave between 8:00 and 10:00 am. In route we can watch Bonnie & Clyde or Year One on the flat screen. These are just two movies that were made in or feature historical events in the area. If you want we can play Trace Adkins cd's or music from many other musicians with roots in these parishes.
Lake Claiborne near Homer in Claiborne Parish is a great example in North Louisiana of the old state motto “Sportsman's Paradise.” The lake is known for it's excellent water quality. There are boats and canoes for rent. The park also features swimming, hiking trails and a golf course. There is plenty of room in the luggage compartment of Riverside Limousine's Mini Bus or Luxury Sprinter for everything your group needs and golf clubs too.
For supper we' will go to Port Au Prince for it's famous fried catfish. . This lakeside restaurant is family owned and operated. It has been featured in Southern Living Magazine.
The next morning we'll be stepping back in time. Before we take off the next morning for Minden Main Street, the Germantown Colony and the abandoned movie set from “Year One” we'll have breakfast at the cabins. You can bring along ice chests of groceries and picnic fixins' or plan on eating in Minden.
Year One starring Jack Black was filmed on a set outside of Sibley. The set build to depict the ancient of Sodom still exists waiting for another opportunity.
Minden's historic Main Street and Residential District feature homes and business' that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking and driving we will visit these residences and, shops. Before leaving for Germantown eat lunch at your choice of local restaurants.
The Germantown Colony and Museum is only 7 miles northeast of Minden. Germantown established in 1835 was a Harmony Society Colony. The grounds are open to visitors. The museum is open by appointment.
On the way back to Lake Claiborne drive through Shongaloo – just because! At the park spend a few hours swimming, hiking, canoeing or maybe play a round of golf or take a nap.
Folks from the area, Shreveport and southern Arkansas travel to Moon's Grocery & Deli near Homer for steak or ribs. Once upon a time a gas station, this unique grocery store/restaurant sounds like a great place to eat and have a lot of fun!
Day three starts with a trip to the community where Bonnie and Clyde met their end. From a monument to a museum with B&C artifacts – this major event in crime history put the parish on the map.
At 535 feet the highest point in Louisiana is found in Bienville Parish. It's east of Ringgold, south of Arcadia, west of Ruston and north of Jonesboro. We'll park at the Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church and hike 0.8 miles to the summit.
The third night we'll venture into Ruston for supper and night life. Depending on the groups tastes we can go to Rabb's or the Dawg House. On another visit we'll enjoy the sights in Lincoln Parish. We have to be back at the park by 9:00/10:00 (depending on the day of the week) before the gates close.
On the last morning it's time to pack up and head home. Load up the memories and our professional chauffeur will drive home while you continue to relax, rest and reminisce.
Remember, "we drive ... you have fun!"