Saturday, April 2, 2011

Grambling, Ruston & Monroe, Louisiana

Monday, March 27th - Monday, April 4th We moved eastward to Ruston, Louisiana on I-20 between Shreveport and Monroe. We found a beautiful campground just a couple miles north of Ruston at Lincoln Parish (County) Park. There are dogwood trees blooming everywhere. All of the campsites have 50 amp hookups, water and sewer for $20.00. There are many miles of hiking and biking trails thru the forest of this 260 acre park. Our campsite is right on the 30 acre lake which is surrounded by a paved path, on which I have done six miles of roller blading each of the last three evenings. We've gone hiking several miles in the mornings before it gets too hot. It was 90 degrees this afternoon. This is a picture of a dogwood that grew up right next to a pine tree and actually has pine cones growing on the dogwood. The park was featured in Mountain Bike Action magazine for it's challenging bike trail. They hosted the Xterra qualifier last May. Contestants vied for the national championship which was held in Bend, Oregon in September.

We hiked five and a half miles of it yesterday and the same today. We saw quite a few bikers, but I surely wouldn't want to try it. It's very steep and scary looking in lots of places. Visitors at our campsite. I thought they were ducks, but I guess they are snow geese.

I liked the sign on the back of the life guard's chair. Only Trashy People Litter. Hummingbird filling station. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species in the eastern U.S. and weighs about 1/10th of an ounce. Their wings beat up to 90 times per second and they can hover like a helicopter and fly forward or backwards. It flies 500 miles non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico during migration. Sunset from our campsite. It was so beautiful and peaceful here, we decided to stay for a week.

Tuesday we went to the free Eddie G. Robinson Museum at Grambling State University. He was football coach at the All-Black college for 56 years starting before WWII. He broke Bear Bryant's record for most wins in 1985 with 324 wins. He ended his career in 1997 with 408 wins out 588 games coached, all at the same school, the record at that time. It has since been surpassed by John Gagliardi of St. John's College in Minnesota, who started his career at Carroll College in Helena where our favorite son-in-law works. Over 200 of his players went on to play for the pros. Grambling is also famous for their show-band-style marching band that Coach Rob got started at the beginning of his career to support the team.

In the afternoon we went to the Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston, also free. This Maxim Model 1908 Heavy Machine Gun was a standard of the German Army in WWII. It was called "the Devil's Paintbrush". Ironically, the death machines on either side were the brainchild of an American inventor who became a British citizen and was knighted for his achievements, Sir Hiram Maxim. He died in 1916, appalled by the devestation his inventions had created, when his only dream had been to create the ultimate weapon to end all wars. His last version, the 1910 model was used by the North Koreans and was the best gun the Chinese communists had during the first year of the Korean War. It was still in use in the 70s.

Did you know that Hitler sucked children as young as 8 into his army. The Nazi movement attracted over 60% of German youngsters. They were eager to join and became some of the Nazi's most ferocious killers, fighting till there were no survivors when they were outnumbered.

The Star-Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. Francis Key Howard, his grandson, was one of many southerners in Maryland jailed for his confederate sympathies by the Lincoln administration.

On Thursday we went to the Biedenharn Museum in Monroe. They were the first bottlers of Coke and the only independent contractors to be still bottling in the 1900's due to a contract they made with the owners of the coke formula when they agreed to teach them their bottling operation. They sold out to Coca Cola in 1996, over 100 years later.

The tour included a 5 cent coke from the upright cooler above. This shows the current bottles and the little plastic slugs they start from. They are expanded with a heated gas or something which blows them up to form the bottle.

The tour includes the Biedenharn home and gardens next door and the Bible Museum which was created by the daughter. The home tour was really nice, but no pictures allowed. The whole tour only cost $6.00

The Bible Museum is an extensive collection of bibles, paintings and religious icons in another home next door. It includes a page from the original 1450s Gutenberg Bible.

This is a Russian Orthodox Cross. The upper cross piece represents the sign placed on the cross by the mocking soldiers, the middle piece where Jesus' hands were nailed and the lower piece is a stylized footrest common in early Christian crosses. Later folklore says the left half points toward both the forgiven thief and Heaven, while the right half points toward the angry thief who cursed Jesus and his final destination, Hell.

On Friday we headed to Monroe to visit the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Monroe is surrounded by several bayous and wildlife management refuges. Every year 2% of the remaining wetlands in the U.S., 290,000 acres, are lost to agriculture, development, mining, etc.

Happily, the only alligators we saw were these babies in the visitor center. Alligators can run up to 30 mph at full speed, 14 yards in less than one second. They have between 74 and 80 teeth at a time. As they wear down, they are replaced and they go thru 2,000 to 3,000 in their lifetime.

Hey, it's Spiderman! Did you know there are over 30,000 species of spiders? They are careful to climb only on the non-sticky strands of their webs, so they won't get stuck. You are rarely more than 10 feet away from a spider. There are about 10,000 in a forest the size of a football field. Do you think he's stuck?

As we came around the corner of the trail, I about jumped out of my skin until I realized this bear was a statue.

At the end of the trail, we reached this huge u-shaped pier out into the Black Bayou Lake where there were a few people fishing.

It's just like you think it would be. You can hear all kinds of birds and critters and bugs chirping and squawking and croaking.

The only snake we saw was a garter snake, but last night as I was roller blading around the lake, I came around a corner and almost ran over a black snake that was slithering across the path. It was at least 3 feet long and over an inch in diameter. It scared the heebee geebees out of me and I swerved around behind it as it slithered down into the lake.

After our adventure in the bayou, we headed to Catfish Charlies to try the crawfish, since my brother said you have to try the crawdads when you are in Louisiana. I just wanted to try a small sample, but the smallest amount you could order was three pounds. The waitress said it's not that much, that her and her boyfriend order the 10 pound platter to share.

It looked like a lot to me. I think there were at least 50 of the little buggers. They are served boiled, with a bucket like an ice cream pail upside down on the tray. You just lift the bucket and they come spilling out all over this tray. They are like tiny little lobsters. You just break off their heads and peel the shell off the tail and eat the tiny little shrimp-like piece of meat in the tail. It's like a minute lobster tail, about a half a bite. I never thought I'd be able to eat them all, but it really wasn't that much food. They were very spicy and garlicky and extremely messy. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, because I'll never order them again. But I'm glad I tried them.

Going across northern Louisiana is very pretty. We will be heading further east on Tuesday.


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