Frogs to Friends

From Hackberry and Holly Beach we moved east along I-10. We took the exit to a little town named Rayne, Louisiana. We left the freeway because I have a nephew named Raine. Curiosity got the best of us.

Official Mascot, Rayne, LA

Imagine our surprise when one of the first things we saw upon entering the burg was a giant metal sculpture of a frog, complete with tails and a top hat. One thing you need to know is that BJ’s and my mascot for the southern tour was Jerry, a small stuffed frog whose job it was to deal with assorted frustrations and any potential road rage.

Poor Jerry looked like a tiny, forgotten tadpole by comparison.

Base of Statue

BJ parked the car without thinking twice. She had to get a picture of the statue, the various business signs that declared Rayne, LA “The

Across the Street from Police Station

Frog Capital of the World,” and sundry other items. The ironic part was the fact that this twelve foot tall example of creativity gone ballistic stood in front of the police station of Rayne.

When you stop to think about it, it’s a good way to get people to slow down as they enter town. We rested for a while, looked at the nearby shops, and took a short break from traveling. The tree-lined residential streets exuded southern comfort and a down-home welcome. People waved and smiled. It was one of those towns that you could become a part of on short notice and be content while you were there.

As most people know, mid-January isn’t the prime time to visit any town to see it at its best, but Rayne looked good regardless of the month.

Picture it–surprise that left us stunned as we sat in Oklahoma that first week in March, listening to the terrible reports coming in of the tornado that tried to wipe out Rayne, LA. We were concerned for those friendly people and their tidy homes. One woman died protecting her child from the storm, as a tree crashed into her home, crushing her.

Others were injured and 100 homes destroyed. Two months—that’s how long it had been since our visit, and now we wouldn’t recognize the community, much less enjoy it. The area had seen so much devastation in the past several years. Though the town had missed a direct it by Katrina, they couldn’t dodge this storm out of Mexico.

The town has since begun the long process of rebuilding lives and structures. They’ve kept their Frog pride and moved on toward a brighter future. For that we must give them kudos.

If you get a chance, stop by the little town that loves frogs. Talk to the people and enjoy the hospitality shown you. Take the time to see what they’ve come from and envision where they’re going.

When we left the Frog Capital, we sailed through bayous and around Baton Rouge at dusk. We’d passed rice fields—some harvested, some still underwater. It continues to amaze me that Louisiana is one of the top rice producers in the U.S. Then again, I’m always surprised each time I’m reminded that rice is grown anywhere in the U.S.

Once we got past the capital—it was too late in the evening to really see anything–we pulled into Hammond for an overnight. We met friends, who’d come up from New Orleans, for an early breakfast the next day. We would’ve been staying with them for a few days if one major block hadn’t reared up to strike down our plans.

New Orleans has few free parking places and no freebies that are safe. Ask any resident. To secure a safe space a person pays an average of $30 per day/night for the privilege. Sorry, our budget couldn’t stretch that far. We were adventurous, but we hadn’t lost our minds entirely. As a result, staying in New Orleans was not an option this trip.

After a marvelous visit with our friends, BJ pointed the car east again and slipped onto I-10 in pursuit of more to see and things to learn.

 Links for Rayne, LA


Tornado of Mar. 5, 2011





Southern Breezes and Beach Combing

Driving in the winter tends toward the unpredictable. We scooted along the I-10 from Texas to Louisiana. We’d hit several days of mostly clear skies and warmer sunshine—a plus for us. Another adventure awaited us.

We crossed the state line into Louisiana, and a few miles later we came to one of the state’s Visitors Centers. It looked inviting enough to lure us into an unscheduled stop. We were glad we did.

Nobody creates welcome, warmth, and Visitors Centers like the South. We’d discovered that in Texas. Louisiana’s didn’t disappoint. It was large, gracious, friendly, and waiting to be explored.

The picnic facilities dotted the grounds with a taste of whimsy. Made for rain or sunshine, the airy little structures beckoned the traveler to take time to sit and enjoy the scenery. The inlet on the south side provided a marvelous view toward the gulf, while signs warned of the wildlife.

The center’s spacious rooms drew us in with their colors, forms, and pride. Mardi Gras had come to show off its finery. It seemed the only thing needed to complete the tribute to the grandeur of the festival was a miniature float in the lobby.

Fresh hot coffee spread its aroma throughout the displays. For travelers the scent was welcome and much appreciated.

We learned from one of the greeters about the alligator hibernation cycles. We also discovered that the nature hike trail that we would have explored out to the point was closed due to hurricane activity during the previous season. We were disappointed, but when we learned of the wetlands a few miles further east, we gathered in details and headed out.

We try to take advice from locals when we can. She told us we should find the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge Wetland Walkway and Creole Trail. We tracked down the town of Hackberry and followed the road south off the I-10.

We drove through the inter-coastal wetlands of the Refuge—picture the Everglades here with an occasional oil tanker moving along the channel—to where the road dumped out at Holly Beach.

The few houses guarding the beach stood on stilt pylons and occupied the road’s elbow. That pristine beach offered up more perfect sea shells than BJ could find pocket space in which to carry them. The occasional dollop of oil sludge from the Gulf off-shore rig debacle lent an air of disappointment to beach excursions.

While a watery sun came out to play that day, brother wind was determined to cause discomfort for those outside. After picture-taking and shell-reaping, BJ returned to the car and pronounced herself officially frozen. Hence, the move back to the Refuge for photos of birds.

Canals paced both sides of the highway. Turnouts allowed serious birdwatchers to stop, snap photos, and watch the intense egret and heron techniques of fishing. The occasional brown pelican dropped in to tutor the bigger birds on handling food volume.

The small ibis kept its dainty ways to itself without socializing. The kingfisher-like bird (species unknown) seemed to ignore all other contenders for the canal’s menu dishes.

We’d been told that alligators had gone into hibernation with the cold temps that currently reigned in the area. We missed seeing ‘gators in their natural habitat. We spent a peaceful hour and a half with the birds, sunshine, and sea breezes.

From this small exploration we hit the road again for more discoveries to come. Another day, another road, another new place to see.

We’ll continue our sojourn through Louisiana next time.

Further information can be had at: