Friday, May 9, 2014

Son of a gun, we had big fun on the bayou

April 27-May 5, 2013
Betty’s RV Park
Abbeville, Louisiana

Our plans for our first Sunday here were something I have looked forward to for a year: taking our friends, Mike and BJ, to the locally famous Whiskey River Landing bar where they hold a weekly Zydeco dance from 4-8 p.m. As luck would have it, our favorite Zydeco band, Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie were playing, and friends from Bend, Oregon were going to stop over and join us on their inaugural VW Westfalia Van road trip to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Another couple from the park, Jim and Donnalyn, were meeting us there so we were looking forward to “having some big fun on the bayou” as Whiskey River Landing is right on the banks of the Atchafalaya Basin.

scotts photo by wrl

For a $10 cover charge, you get four hours of non-stop live music. Geno has a few guest musicians relieve him and his band members during the dance, so there is never a lull in the music. The dance floor is huge and looks out to the bayou.

There is a long bar that parallels the dance floor, plus another whole separate bar with open seating looking out to the dance floor. The nice thing about this configuration is we were able to get a table near the back bar where it was not crowded at all making it possible to still visit if you are not on the dance floor. Another thing that makes this a fun place is the diversity of the crowd itself. Most are here to dance and range from tattooed twenty-somethings to zydeco music lovers well into their eighties. It’s hard not to have a great time in such a lively atmosphere.

bj and mike dancing

jim and donnalyn silly dancing

And now for the much requested video of Vic and me dancing.

My friend Pam and her husband Scott were not able to spend much time with us here as they had their five-month old Jack Russell with them and it was too warm to leave him in their van. The bar actually allows dogs inside but the owner’s fierce Chihuahua happened to be visiting so it wasn’t a good option. Pam managed to come in and enjoy the music for a short while Scott was happy to hang out with Axl down on the bayou.

The big event of the Sunday dances at Whiskey River happens during the band’s last song: the tradition is for people to dance on the bar. I was amazed this actually took place last year so I was pretty confident Mike and BJ would be able to see this wild revelry. Our friend Donnalyn had big plans to get up on that bar. BJ and I said no way. You can see how good my resolve held out. Definitely a first for me, but Donnalyn said, “speak for yourself.”  A memorable evening for sure!

One might think Mondays are pretty quiet at Betty’s, but it turns out it is a perfect evening for crawfish feeds as the garbage comes on Tuesday morning.  I was pretty happy to hear about this routine as our friends, Pam and Scott, were coming to spend the night at Betty’s and they were able to partake in Betty’s famous happy hour with crawfish and shrimp on the menu.  Suffice it to say, it was another great evening with special friends.

The rest of the week, we definitely slowed down in our quest for live music and touring around. Betty arranged for a bus trip one night to the Cypress Bayou Casino about an hour away. About 16 of us from the park signed up for the trip which was a very good deal. $7 a person included the bus ride, a free buffet dinner, live Swamp Pub music with dancing, free cocktails, and $10 credit for gambling. Of course, the secret to this being a good deal is NOT to put any more money into their machines. We came out with a loss of $5 additional dollars. Not bad for a whole evening of fun.

Our next big Cajun adventure was going to the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge on Saturday. We heard about this festival last year when we were at Betty’s and made plans specifically to be here for it this year. Mike and BJ, our faithful companions, braved the crowds with us to spend a warm day in the sun near the Main Stage to see a Cajun and Zydeco dance contests, and listen to three different bands: Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. One amazing feature of the Louisiana festivals is the big dance floors they have at outdoor venues; these Cajuns are serious about their dancin’. 

Here is a little flavor of the Cajun dance contest:

We were surprised to see the festival included a big carnival with rides alongside the two music stages and food booths with crawfish prepared just about every way you can think of.

crawfish festival stage with little girl

We brought our folding chairs and were able to have a comfy spot to retreat to after dancing or walking around the festival grounds. Of course, people watching may have been the most fun activity here, especially in terms of the outfits.

Sunday was our friend Donnalyn’s birthday. We surprised her with a special breakfast on the patio complete with mimosas. Later that afternoon we gathered for hearty appetizers and cake to complete the celebration. Several of us talked about a return trip to Whiskey River Landing that night, but by week two we were just all talk. Besides, I couldn’t top dancing on the bar for the first time (and most likely the last).

Our final day at Betty’s was way more subdued but no less pleasant.  Mike, BJ, Vic and I drove out to Rip Van Winkle Gardens and the Jefferson House, about a twenty minute drive from the park. Vic and I had been to the gardens and café before, but did not tour the house last time. Joseph Jefferson, the primary owner of this former plantation, was best known for his adaptation of Washington Irving’s famous story, Rip Van Winkle. Jefferson performed the role over 4500 times around the world for over 40 years of his life. His former home is now a museum that doesn’t allow photos, but I can assure you it’s worth the $8 charge as each room is beautifully furnished in a combination of original and period pieces from the late 1800s that are quite elegant and unique. 

The Jefferson House and Gardens also have another intriguing story associated with their location on the top of a salt mine dome and at the shoreline of Lake Piegneur  In 1980, A Texaco gas company accidentally drilled into the salt mine causing the lake to be sucked down in a whirlpool, destroying over 65 acres of the gardens. The new owner of the Jefferson House had just built a new home for himself close to the lake. It was sucked into the lake along with four or five barges that all still reside at the bottom of the lake. Within thirty minutes, after the water filled the salt mines, a massive surge of water came in from Vermillion Bay filling in the destroyed acreage and tripling the size of the lake. This chimney is all that remains of the newly built home.

We missed the grand show of camellias at the gardens, but enjoyed a peaceful walk through the woods after a hearty lunch under the massive live oaks that grace the property.

One of the other highlights of going to the gardens is stopping to see the rookery full of egrets and roseate spoonbills near the entrance way. I posted photos of the spoonbills last year, but never was able to get a shot of one flying before. This photo sure put a smile on my face.

This time of year is mating season so the males are pinker than usual. I think of all the shorebirds we have seen in the south, the spoonbills are my favorite.

Well, wouldn’t you know when we returned, it was almost time for our last happy hour at Betty’s. Since it was Monday and some of the new campers had never tried crawfish, we had our last fling cracking open the red mud bugs. By now we were quite proficient in snapping off the claws, sucking their heads, and scooping out the tale in one smooth move. I also joined the seasoned crawfish eaters in wearing rubber gloves for easier peeling.

pam and bj with crawfish

Departure day always seems to come too soon. I tried not to let the sadness of leaving creep into the pleasures of the day on Monday, but BJ and I had a few moments of tearing up Monday night. The extra challenge in saying goodbye this time is our plans to stay on the West Coast next winter seem to be taking hold. I am hoping our collective fun-seeking spirits will find a way to bring us together for another adventure sooner than we think.

Goodbyes to Miss Betty are never easy either. We have sure grown to love and admire her joie de vivre and ultra-friendly hospitality. The people you meet here start to feel like one big extended family. As I was sitting on the swing on her porch yesterday, I commented on how her place feels like a protected harbor in a storm. All the cares of the world seem to lie outside Betty’s when you’re communing with others at her table. This state of mind is part of the seduction of getting caught in Betty’s web, or as one camper we missed seeing this year, Marvin, explained, “the real magic is from the Jedi spell Miss Betty casts on you.”  You know you are out of the spell when you find yourself trucking down Interstate 10 to Houston, hoping to avoid costly tollbooths and gnarly traffic jams. The blessing ahead of us is plans to visit Vic’s college roommate Jim and his lovely wife Simora in Houston, whom Vic reconnected with last year after a forty year span of time slipped by. One of the best perks of this lifestyle is keeping those connections alive as we roll on down the highway.


  1. We really enjoyed following you as you danced and toured away the time at Betty's. It is easy to see why you hate to leave. Sure was a whole lot of fun going on down there.

    It was quite funny as John and I opened your post a few mins apart. I am telling him to go to the second video. He says the dance contest. I said no that's the first one but it was suppose to be Pam and Vic dancing. He says it is. I said not on mine. He can't find the one of you dancing on the bar!!! I see that you changed it to a photo only...haha!! I got in in time to see you dance on the bar!!! So glad I got the whole action scene. Good job on that bar, Pam! Glad you fixed the two of you dancing!

    Happy travels as you move on west. You most definitely leave with many wonderful memories:)

    1. How funny that you both opened the page with two different views. You are probably the only one to see the actual bar dance!

  2. Boy you sure had a great time during your stay at Betty's. Where did you two learn to dance like that? I can see we'd better figure this out before we show up at Betty's. I missed the dancing on the bar though. DARN! Love that spoonbill picture. Wintering in California means we won't see you. Now that makes me sad.

    1. We used to take dance classes, but now just rely on improvisation. Zydeco dancing requires little instruction; it's more of a feeling.

  3. Betty's is definitely the place to be! Made me want to get up and dance too......
    Love the picture of you on the bar...that will stay with you forever!

    Safe travels and enjoy Houston!

  4. We were actually at Whiskey River Landing for our 29th wedding anniversary. A night to remember.

    You may have a second career as a bar dancer...hehe

    You two sure have been living the good life! Safe travels to Houston...our second home.

  5. Such a fun stopover! That pic of you dancing on the bar is a classic! What memories you have made here!

    It's great to hear you are heading west next winter...perhaps we'll manage to hook up again!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  6. What a great time you have had. Memories, memories, memories!

  7. Looks like lots of fun, but I think I would need a few drinks to wear some of those outfits:)

  8. Sounds like so much fun! I have close friends from B Bridge & Abbeyville. I'm looking forward to visiting those areas. But I am bummed to find out the crawdad festival is in May. I will most likely be there in Mar/Apr. I hope there will be some crawdads to eat at that time? Definitely looking forward to staying at Betty's. I've heard so many great stories!

    1. The Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge celebrates the end of the season, so they should still be going strong in March and April. Last year, we really enjoyed going to the Catfish Festival in Washingon, La. which is held in April.

  9. There is something to be said about the Cajun lifestyle, FUN!


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