Greetings from Louisiana! We are here for a few days until our trek over to Biloxi to meet up with Jason, Meghan and family. It’s been a busy week, so here we go!
Monday, the 11th we were still in Corpus Christi, so we got to head over to tour the USS Lexington. What a treat that was. A little history on the Blue Ghost from Wikipedia:
USS Lexington (CV/CVA/CVS/CVT/AVT-16), nicknamed “The Blue Ghost”, is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II for the United States Navy. Originally intended to be named Cabot, word arrived during construction that the USS Lexington (CV-2) had been lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea. She was renamed while under construction to commemorate the earlier ship. She was the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington.
Lexington was commissioned in February 1943 and saw extensive service through the Pacific War. For much of her service, she acted as the flagship for Admiral Marc Mitscher, and led the Fast Carrier Task Force through their battles across the Pacific. She was the recipient of 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. Following the war, Lexington was decommissioned, but was modernized and reactivated in the early 1950s, being reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA). Later, she was reclassified as an anti-submarine carrier (CVS). In her second career, she operated both in the Atlantic/Mediterranean and the Pacific, but spent most of her time, nearly 30 years, on the east coast as a training carrier (CVT).
Lexington was decommissioned in 1991, with an active service life longer than any other Essex-class ship. Following her decommissioning, she was donated for use as a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 2003, Lexington was designated a National Historic Landmark. Though her surviving sister ships Yorktown,Intrepid, and Hornet carry lower hull numbers, Lexington was laid down and commissioned earlier, making Lexington the oldest remaining aircraft carrier in the world.
It was an awesome tour, and you have access to almost every area of the ship. Here are some shots from the day:
It was a great day all in all, and the wind actually died down a bit at night for a final shot of the Camp Ground:
We decided to head North and West on Tuesday, as severe weather was predicted for the Corpus area. We made quite a long drive to Houston, where we made camp at the Westlake RV Resort. Nice place. While we were on the road, a truck passing us kicked up a rock, and we now have a nice long crack on the passenger side of the windshield.
As it turned out, Corpus did not get any bad weather at all…San Antonio did. We made a quick call on the 13th to Lance and Melissa who are still at Fort Sam, and they related they got pummeled by hail and strong thunderstorms, but weathered the storm very well. I’m glad we pushed further west, as we had talked about going back to Fort Sam.
On the 13th, we stayed close to home, and I started the process of the insurance claim. This happened to us last year on Oregon on the driver’s side, and we had it fixed within a week, as there was a facility in Oregon that had our glass in stock, and our insurance company worked with them to get it replaced. Not so lucky this time. I told the claims person we would be in Biloxi for about a month, and she agreed that it would work best for her to get glass shipped out there and someone to install the windshield. I got an e-mail the next day stating she found a shop to do the replacement…in Florida! Near Tampa in fact. I have a call and an e-mail into them to explain we have no plans to be near Florida for a while. After we are done at Jason’s, we are heading North. We will see how this all turns out.
On the 14th we were up early for another long drive to a small town on the East side of Baton Rouge. We landed at a really nice park called Lakeside in Livingston, LA. We originally reserved the 14th – 18th, but may extend for two days, as our reservations in Biloxi start on the 20th, and Biloxi is only about two hours away. We will determine what we will do in the morning based on the weather forecast. Right now, it looks good in Biloxi, but overcast and rainy here through Thursday. If that forecast holds, we will call the FamCamp at Biloxi and see if we can get in early. We had real good travels to get to Livingston.
On Friday afternoon we headed into Baton Rouge to visit the Old State Capitol. More good info on this place from Wikipedia:
The Louisiana’s Old State Capitol is a historic government building, and now a museum, at 100 North Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A.. Built in which housed the Louisiana State Legislature from the mid-19th century until the current capitol tower building was constructed in 1929-32.
It was built to both look like and function like a castle and has led some locals to call it the Louisiana Castle, the Castle of Baton Rouge, the Castle on the River, or the Museum of Political History; although most people just call it the old capitol building. The term “Old State Capitol” in Louisiana is used to refer to the building and not to the two towns that were formerly the capital city: New Orleans and Donaldsonville. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 for its architecture.
Restored in the 1990s, the Old State Capitol is now the Museum of Political History. Most recently, the exterior façade has been refurbished with shades of tan stucco, in noticeable contrast to its former gray stone coloring. Numerous events are held there including an annual ball wherein the participants re-enact dances and traditions of French culture while wearing 18th- and 19th-century dress.
The museum’s location downtown in Baton Rouge is within walking distance of the current capitol tower and of many culturally significant buildings. These include the Old Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, St. Joseph Cathedral, and the widely-acclaimed Shaw Center.
In 2010 the Museum of Political History’s visitor experience, designed by award-winning “experience designer” Bob Rogers and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, opened with attractions and immersive exhibits showcasing the building as an architectural treasure and displaying unique historic artifacts. In addition to highlighting Louisiana’s political history, the exhibits include an interactive gallery featuring past Governors, including the infamous Huey P. Long.
When we were done with the tour, we heard a lot of music just outside. Apparently most of the year they have live music called Live After Five downtown each Friday. We decided to grab a bite to eat while they finished setting up.
Up early on Saturday and at it, as we had about a 1.5 hour drive North of Baton Rouge to the Angola State Prison (Louisiana State Penn) for the annual Angola Rodeo. Here is some history on the rodeo and the prison from our friends at Wikipedia:
Louisiana State Penitentiary is the largest correctional facility in the United States by population. In 2010 the prison had 5,100 inmates and 1,700 employees. In 2010, the racial composition of the inmates was 76% black, 24% white; 71% of inmates were serving a life sentence and 1.6% had been sentenced to death.
As of 2011 the prison has about 1,600 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the State of Louisiana. Over 600 “free people” live on LSP property; these residents are LSP’s emergency response personnel and their dependents. In 1986 around 200 families of employees lived within Angola property. Hilton Butler, then Angola’s Warden, estimated that 250 children lived on the Angola property. Many prison employees are from families that have lived and worked at Angola for generations. Laura Sullivan of National Public Radio said “In a place so remote, it’s hard to know what’s nepotism. There’s simply no one else to hire.”
The Angola Prison Rodeo, staged at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is the longest running prison rodeo in the United States.
It is held on one weekend in April and on every Sunday in October. On each occasion, thousands of visitors enter the prison complex. Various prisoner organizations sell food at concession stands. Many of the prisoners use family recipes to craft the concession stand food. Prison guards conduct the financial transactions at the Angola Rodeo.
As part of the prison rodeo, there is an Arts and Crafts Festival that is biannual. Prisoners make handmade work. Melissa Schrift, author of “Angola Prison Art: Captivity, Creativity, and Consumerism”, wrote that “In addition to introducing innovations into vernacular prison art forms, Angola inmates find enormous value in creating works that embody or mimic the everyday images and goods so readily available in the outside world.”
The idea of the rodeo was born in 1964. The Rodeo, a collaboration between prisoners and employees, began in 1965. Cathy Fontenot, the Assistant Warden, said that originally prisoners and staff backed pickup trucks into a field “and would go out there and play around on horses.” In 1967 LSP opened the Rodeo to outside spectators. As time passed, LSP erected bleachers and adopted the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In addition the administration added an Arts and Crafts festival, and added stock animals and rodeo clowns. The current 10,000-person stadium opened in 2000.[5
Started in 1964, the Angola Prison Rodeo began as a recreational activity for the inmates and officers, and originally was closed to the public. A few years later, people began to flock to the rodeo and watch from apple crates or car hoods outside of the fence. When its popularity grew, the prison took notice of the economic opportunity and began selling tickets and building seating for the spectators. The Rodeo is still in operation today, 50 years later, the oldest operating prison rodeo in America.
Here are the events that we got to see…man it was a blast. We did get some pictures, which I’ll include, but they do not do the events justice…I guess you will have to come see it for yourselves. These guys are crazy!
- Grand Entry – Angola Rough Riders enter the arena at full gallop and colors are presented. Very impressive riders and horses.
- Bust Out – All six chutes open simultaneously, releasing six angry bulls, with temporarily attached inmate cowboys. The last man to remain on the bull wins the event. This one goes real fast as you can imagine. What a hoot!
- Bareback Riding – Riders are expected to keep one hand in the air, and must stay on the horse for eight seconds to qualify. A few of the inmate cowboys did real well at this. The horses were really tough.
- Wild Horse Race – Six wild horses are simultaneously released into the arena with short ropes dragging behind them. Three-man teams attempt to grab the ropes and hold the horse long enough for a team member to mount. The first team to cross the finish line while still on top of the horse is the winner. All out madness and laughter on this one.
- Barrel Racing – This is the only event in which inmates do not participate. It is a tour stop for The Girl’s Rodeo Association. Contestants race their horse in a pattern between three carefully placed barrels. The fastest time wins. Some good riding gals were here.
- Pin Ball. Six to eight inmates have to stand inside of a hula hoop, while a bull is released into the ring. The clowns encourage the bulls towards the inmates. Last one to stay within the hula hoop wins. Nuts! You bet!
- Bull-Dogging – The animal is placed in a chute, with two cowboys positioned just outside the chute. Their job is to wrestle the animal to the ground as quickly as possible. 1.1 seconds won this event.
- Wild Cow Milking – Teams of inmate cowboys chase the animals around the arena trying to extract a little milk. The first team to bring milk to the judge wins the prize. Craziness in action! Wild cows is right, and they all had long horns too.
- Bull Riding – This dangerous and wide open event is what the fans come to see. Inexperienced inmates sit on top of a 2,000 pound Brahma bull. To be eligible for the coveted “All-Around Cowboy” title, a contestant must successfully complete the ride (6 seconds). The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules govern this event. No one made the 6 seconds when we were there.
- Convict Poker – Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a game of poker. A bull is then released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players. The last man remaining seated is the winner. Again…nuts!! But real fun to watch. We saw several of these guys launched into the air by bulls today. Some limps and gimps, but other than that they fared well.
- Guts & Glory – A chit (poker chip) is tied to a Brahma bull. The object here is to get close enough to the bull to snatch the chip. Again…what??? These guys get right in the face of the bull to pull the chip off. It’s worth $500 to them, so they go all out. Saw more guys stomped, kicked and tossed with horns again.
Wow is all we can say. It was a fun day. We were also amazed at the vast amount of crafts these inmates had for sale. You name it, and it was there. The 18,000 acre ranch is also impressive, and a very well run working ranch, mostly by the inmates. Some photos of the day:
What a blast, and completely unexpected. Terri outdid herself finding this one. If we are ever back in the area in April (or every Sunday in October) we will definitely do this again. Don’t miss it if in the area. Buy tickets early! We would have had much better seats if we had planned further ahead. This is a real popular event in this area, and tickets were limited.
We stopped for some traditional LA cuisine on the way home at the Francisville restaurant in St. Francisville, LA, a place suggested by the folks we’d met at the Capitol City Grill the night before, and it was great! I had Crawdads and Terri had fried Catfish.
Well, that about wraps it up for now. As always, we hope you are Happy, Healthy, and Living your Dreams!!