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Published: January 5th 2009
This Christmas season we longed for a visit to Natchitoches, Louisiana to see the annual Festival of Lights but due to circumstances, we were unable to pull off the trip as we had originally planned.
A couple of weeks after our original plan fell through, one of my closest friend's mom died and we hurriedly made plans to head north to Jonesville, LA for her funeral.
The local weather had been predicting sleet/snow for our Baton Rouge area (which rarely materializes) on Thursday and Ms. Nita's service also would be on Thursday so we decided the thing to do would be to throw a few things in the RV and head on to Jonesville on Wednesday afternoon just in case we did receive some rainy or bad weather.
So the work began, getting things packed and loaded on the RV; making sure we had everything we would need for the funeral service; then the pet preparation, filling all the cat food dispensers and water dishes, bird feeders and of course watering the houseplants.
We finally pulled out about 3:30 PM which was much later than we would have liked. We generally do not like to travel at
night mainly because of all the animals on the roadways. If you hit a deer, neither vehicle nor deer win.
We took Hwy. 64 North through St. Francisville and it is a nice scenic route which we drive frequently when we travel north. We generally go through Natchez, MS then cross the bridge in Vidalia, LA to go to Jonesville.
Jonesville is a very small town that my friend Shelia grew up in. Many of her relatives still live there including her cousin Becky who is a dear friend of ours.
We arrived in Jonesville about 6 pm after driving in misty rain a good bit of the way there. Besides the rain it was bitterly cold for a December night in Louisiana. We went straight to the Church where they were holding the wake. The memorial service will be tomorrow morning and burial will follow at the family cemetery somewhere "up in the hills".
Now Louisiana is relatively flat so when people say hills, I do not picture "hills" like you would see in Tennessee or Arkansas. Most of the immediate family had arrived earlier in the day and we were able to catch up
with some of the people we don't see regularly. Ms. Nita had the most lovely flowers and anyone could see she was well-loved and will be sorely missed.
Around 9 PM we all left the Church to get some rest for the day to come. We followed our closest friends Buddy and Shelia, to her mom's place and would park the RV there for the night alongside theirs. We had spent a couple of days there last Thanksgiving with their family and had driven on to Natchitoches to see the lights after our visit. It was the best of both worlds~Good friends and Good sights!
Randy, Buddy, Shelia and I sat in our RV listening to the rain and started talking about last year and our trip to Natchitoches. We talked about being within a 2 hour drive and that we might head on out tomorrow after the burial and spend one night seeing the lights. We all watched the news and listened anxiously as they continued to forecast snow/ice for south Louisiana tonight and tomorrow morning.
We were glad we had decided to come today instead of waiting until tomorrow morning as we had originally thought,
just in case the weather did really turn out to be icy.
Randy and I both woke several times during the night and peeked out to see if we were getting any ice or snow, but nothing except slow, drizzling rain.
At 6:30 am, my cell phone rang and my sister was screaming that it was snowing at her house just outside of Baton Rouge. She was very emotional and going on and on about how beautiful it was. I told her we were out-of-town and she could not believe we were missing the snow in south Louisiana. That is truly an event that does not happen often and when it does, it is something of a HUGE EVENT!
You must understand that people around here can barely drive well when it rains, much less when it snows...Somehow I managed to drift back to sleep. About an hour later, our grandson Landan, called me screaming, "Maw Maw, it's snowing!!" We were thrilled that he was able to enjoy the snow. He has never seen snow except on TV and vacation pictures from our visit to Denver. He saw our snowball and even licked it, but nothing like
he was experiencing personally!
And that is how we started our day again, around 7:30 with coffee and continuing rain and temperatures hovering in the 30's. I called Shelia to see when they were heading back up to the Church where the service would take place. She will be buried at Manning Cemetary following the service.
Several speakers spoke highly of a beloved friend and family member who will be missed. A couple of people sang songs she loved and it was easy for all to see what a wonderful person Ms. Nita was and so truly blessed to have such an awesome family.
Following the memorial service, we were all quite surprised to see the sun shining brightly as we exited the Church. We all proceeded to the burial site and had a brief dismissal. A song followed and we all followed a path to Shelia's sister Pat, who died four years ago. She was a delightful person also and is sorely missed. How sad for a Mother to bury her child. Now Ms. Nita is "home" with Pat.
The ladies of the Church had planned a lunch for the family and friends after the
burial and Randy and I rode back to the Church with Debbie. We left the RV parked there with the dog waiting and we were soon there. After letting the dog walk around the adjacent lot for a few minutes, we enjoyed chicken, potato salad, corn, beans, along with numerous breads and desserts. It was not only a lovely gesture of love, but a truly wonderful meal.
Around 2 PM, Randy and I said our goodbyes and cranked up the RV. The weather had cleared and we were heading for Natchitoches to see the Annual Festival of Lights! It would take us about 2 hours however after taking the wrong highway, we were an hour off schedule. We try to be parked by nightfall or at least inside of a city so we don't hit any wildlife on the roads.
On our drive we only saw one small deer grazing along the highway but then, a huge deer ran straight across the highway in front of us several yards but causing the truck in the opposite lane to veer toward us to avoid hitting the beautiful deer. Fortunately for all 3 of us, Randy slowed down and the
truck had plenty of time to get back in his lane before we met. Whew, still too close for us. Luckily by then we were within 20 miles or so and made it with no other close calls.
We made it to downtown Natchitoches about 6 PM and found our spot from last year. It is a rather large parking lot on the side street by the police station and about 3 blocks from the river and the light displays. Last year there was one RV also parked there and several vehicles. The year before there were many various vehicles but this year only one car and our RV. It is well-lit and there is a spot around the trees where the dog can exercise.
After Woody had his time outdoors, Randy and I dressed a little warmer for the walk. We were both starving by then and knew a little place on the main street named Mama's Oyster House and we both thoroughly enjoyed our meal there last year. Years ago I would have never wandered into an unfamiliar place and had supper, but luckily as I age I take a few more chances. I love
seafood but not everyone can prepare fried seafood how I prefer it.
Some cooks think a lot of seasoning makes the food tasty but just the "right" amount can enhance the shrimp, fish or oyster taste without overwhelming it. So is the case with Mama's. They can prepare awesome fried catfish, fried shrimp, friend crab fingers and fried crawfish. The french fries are rather crisp and tasty as well. Large sized, fresh soft drinks and good service along with a festive atmosphere, provide a wonderful setting as you gaze out the picture windows and watch the lights twinkle. It sets the mood as you prepare for the river walk.
We left the restaurant with full bellies and headed down the street. We walked past all of the beautifully decorated shops until we reached the beginning where the lights start. We walked down the stairs until we reached the riverwalk and slowly made our way along. This year it is not rainy, windy and unbearably cold, so we do not have to rush.
There are many food and concession stands that sell things like hotdogs, cotton candy, nachos, etc. We are too full to even think of food
Lighted flashing Christmas Tree
This tree is gorgeous and flashes to the music being played in the downtown area
however if they had a candy apple, I would sure buy one for later. Never saw one though...
The centerpiece of the display is the bridge they decorate and it pulses and flashes to the sound of their music playing. There are huge Christmas trees, crosses, sleighs and other seasonal decorations. This year is the 82nd Festival of Lights. Each year they seem to make minor variations in the decor.
We enjoyed our walk and ended up at Santa's shop and he was actually in there. Wish we had our grandson Landan with us this year. Last year when he was with us, Santa was not in. I tried to shoot a picture of Santa but he was busy with some children and they had important things to discuss! After we got to the end we went back up to the street and climbing those twenty-five or so, semi steep stairs, we slowly walked along looking in the shop windows of the shops we had not seen earlier.
These shopkeepers painstakingly set up these gorgeous window displays and unfortunately we arrived too late to take advantage of any of the lovely items that are for sale. Last
year we bought my former boss a huge fleur-de-lis ornament and it was made of gold wire with glitter over every square inch. It was about 10 inches high and looked awesome on his 15' tree.
While gazing into one of the lovely windows, I was more than a little startled when an unexpected object jumped out at me! When I gathered my thoughts I realized it was a beautiful orange tabby cat inside the store! It really did take me a moment or two to figure out that he lived there. Randy and I had just read on the window a small note asking people to "PLEASE DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS". I told Randy I was wondering why anyone with any sense would tap on their window and now I understood. That cat was so sweet looking and so beautiful that it was hard to resist. He turned his head back and forth and really entertained me. If he had been in a shelter or animal store, I would have HAD to take him home.
As we talked and took care not to actually touch the glass, we played with the cat. A couple
of ladies walked by and I told them to take a look and see the cat in the window. They proceeded to tell me that there are actually two cats that live it the store and then one of them pointed to a little pillow placed in amongst the expensive and delicate Christmas ornaments. Wow, they sure trust these two cats! We looked a moment or two longer after wishing the two ladies a Merry Christmas, but never did see the grey and white cat.
As we reached the street we were parked on we headed up the hill and away from the main street and all of the gorgeous lights. There are still lights lining the street we walk up to get to our RV. After walking the dog one last time, we crank up the RV and head toward the local Wal*Mart. We only have one night and must head back in the morning so we appreciate being able to park overnight without having to spend a small fortune on a campsite. We know where the Walmart is, but not where the campground is and it is getting late.
After taking several obviously wrong turns, we
still do not see Wal*Mart however we see a police car in the Jack In The Box and pull in to ask directions. After a brief chat he tells us to keep going about two blocks and we can't miss it on the right. So, we had been on the right track just not going down far enough. THANKS OFFICER!
We pulled in and found an out-of-the-way spot and went in to do some shopping. I am one of those that can ALWAYS find something to buy at Wal*Mart whether I need it or not, but we did need Milk for a late night snack. As we headed toward to store, we could hear loud talking over an intercom and realized it was a local Radio station broadcasting live from their Walmart. They were collecting toys and money for local underprivileged kids for Christmas. Randy gave them $10.00 and we headed toward the door.
Of course we have to give the Salvation Army kettle a dollar each time we go to a store where they are collecting. That means every Walmart and most of our local stores in Baton Rouge. But that is ok and we do
not mind at all. I thank THEM for taking the time to collect for people who would otherwise not have the help they need and it is not just at Christmas. The Salvation Army does good things all year and all for many. We may end up donating $30.00 for the season a dollar at a time but we feel very blessed to be able to do so.
We head to the back isle for the milk and of course make a few impulse purchases and head back to the RV for the night. After walking Woody one final time we locked up to watch the news and have a late night snack. We finally hit the sack around midnight.
After waking around 7:30, we drank our coffee and watched some of the news. We returned everything to their riding positions and pulled out for Baton Rouge.
The further south we went we started seeing traces of ice on the bridges. Suddenly, I saw light snow on the side of the interstate and I screamed to Randy that there was snow. As he looked, the snow was gone. Just my luck. Now he thinks I am seeing
things. Then, there was more and more until we could see snow everywhere. By this time I am wanting out of the RV really badly so I can grab a handful and throw a snowball or two.
A few miles down the road we find the exit that looks like it has a decent accumulation and we exit the interstate. There is snow all over the road and as we stop I grabbed the dog leash so I can walk the dog while we check out the snow. I grabbed a handful and had a snowball ready before Randy even made it out. As luck would have it, the temperature was relatively warm and all we really needed was a light jacket.
After walking Woody, we got back in the RV and drove away from the interstate where the snow looked even thicker. I saw an awesome snow-covered house and could not resist taking a picture. I sure wish I had pictures of that at our house and who knows, maybe some survived with all of the shade we have in our yard. We travel a mile or two then turn and head back toward the interstate. After
stopping for gas, we continued on south and turned east on I-10. Slowly but surely the traces of snow became less and less until there was no more.
We had a rather uneventful drive the remainder of the trip home, at least until we crossed the spillway. It was then we started seeing traffic slow and as we approached Hwy 415 the traffic ahead was stopped for miles. We made the quick decision to exit and hit Hwy 190 and come in to Baton Rouge via the old Mississippi River Bridge. We hoped it was not bumper to bumper as well because that is usually what happens. Word gets around quick and everyone uses the old bridge. But as we approach the on ramp our fears are quickly erased. There is nothing but clear sailing ahead.
I did catch a glimpse or two of snow as we got closer into Baton Rouge and even saw a number of houses with snow topped roofs and some even on the ground on the west sides of buildings. Maybe there was a possibility of snow still being on the ground at house was improving...
As we turned the corner to
Cypress Knee Santa
Handmade Christmas items
our street, I could still see traces of the white snow lingering on the ground. As I got out of the RV, I looked around but could not see a single bit of snow anywhere. Oh well, I'll bet it was beautiful. They say we got between 5 and 6 inches. That has NEVER happened in my lifetime here.
As I went out back into our yard that had been battered by Hurricane Gustav, I see many limbs and branches that have fallen from the weight of the snow and then suddenly, I saw it. I tiny patch of snow by the back driveway! Turns out, after looking around my mom's place next door, that there was still a decent amount of snow that was shielded from the sun by all the trees that are still on the ground. We actually found several places that had an inch or so that we got to play with. More snowballs!
Well, that is our story of the Festival of Lights in Natchitoches and how we missed the record snowfall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on December 11, 2008!
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