Day 27 – Avery Island

Down in Lake County, in that gumbo mud Where the mosquito bills, keep a-biting through her tub. —Sleepy John Estes, “Mary Come On Home,” 1940

You would think that, after all the driving we have done, another road trip would not be on the agenda. However, I have always wanted to go to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco Hot Sauce.

Our lovely friend, Pat (the best-looking Uber driver in NOLA), picked us up at 8:30 for the two-hour drive to Avery Island and the nearby town of New Iberia. Firstly, we stopped off for breakfast at La Boulanger, a trendy coffee/wine bar. The fantastic smell of freshly baked bread and pastries greets us as we open the door. Hoff and Bernie are off doing their own thing today. We will meet up at Chickie Wah Wah tonight as we have tickets to see Johnny Sansone with guests John Fohl and Anders Osborne. It will be a long day but well worth it. Also today Cara and Taylah will be flying in from their stop-over in Hawaii and they will land around midnight.

Pat said that the scenery may be a bit boring as we drive toward our destination, all swamp and bayous. It is not boring to me as it is not the sort of landscape you see in Victoria.

We arrived at Avery Island around 11:30 and were shown the process to make Tabasco Sauce from go to woe. It is a great set-up and the surrounding grounds are beautiful. We walked a couple of the tracks and found ourselves at a Bamboo Grove. There is a lot of old equipment and vehicles to view. That is after we passed a sign warning us to beware of Black Bears! There are eight buildings to walk through in total.

  1. A history museum that explains how the McIlhenny family got started making the most famous hot sauce in the world. There have been five generations of McIlhennu in all. 2. The hot pepper greenhouse. 3. Barrel warehouse, tabasco is brewed in oak barrels that are made by in-house Coopers. 4. Blending, a huge warehouse where the fermenting takes place. What a smell, I have no nose hairs left. The fermenting process takes three to five years. 5. The Avery experience. 6. A Salt mine diorama (salt is mined at Avery Island). 7. Bottling. 8. Branding. And then on to the mandatory Gift Shop (I now own a Tabasco t-shirt). We tried a sample of Tabasco ice cream and it was surprisingly good.

Avery Island is a huge tract of land. We drive around the tracks of the Jungle Garden. Bayous and huge old oaks abound. Signs saying beware of alligators.

Spot Pat and Rob

The township of New Iberia is 10 minutes away. One of my favorite crime authors is James Lee Burke. His fictional crime fighter Dave Robicheaux lives in the area of New Iberia. I have always wanted to visit the town but it was not as cool as I thought it would be.

We head back toward New Orleans taking a slightly different route which will take us to the Cajun town of Thibodeaux. Pat has been told of an excellent Seafood Restaurant (Saphr’s Seafood – Where Catfish is King) where we will stop for a late lunch. I had the Crawfish Pepper Jack Fettuccine and have declared it the best meal I have had on the trip.

We hit Chickie Wah Wahs at about 6:60 PM, as doors open at 7 PM with the show from 8 PM. There is already a line to get in. We wanted to be early as I know there is not a lot of seating at the venue. I went to the bar to get a drink. No Apple Cider but they do have a Seltzer. The bar lady leaned over to me and said that the drink I ordered was the marijuana version. I looked more carefully at the name of the drink and did spot THC in the description!

Johnny Sansone

We saw Johnny Sansone come in and said our hellos and presented him with the WOW 20th anniversary book. The show started a little late but it was worth the wait. Absolutely fantastic show. Each of the three performers sang two songs and then handed over the microphone to the next guy. They obviously enjoy each other’s company and musicianship. Anders and John Fohl have differently styled approaches to playing, but each is a master of their craft. What a great night. I am tired and thrilled at the same time. I ran into Roberto Luti a master guitarist in his own write. I have seen him play many times over the years. He seemed chuffed when I said goodbye and told him how much I enjoyed his playing. If you have ever watched any of the sensational “Playing for Change” music videos you will have surely seen Roberto.

Rob and Roberto