New Ibiera, Louisiana has long been a center of rice production. On the east side of town is the Conrad Rice Mill, the country’s oldest rice mill still in production. They have been processing rice here since 1912.
The production facility consists of a few old metal buildings, which have a great weathered look.
Next door is a general store that they start their tours from, as well as sell a number of their products. Our tour was lead by a veteran of the more than 40 years with the company.
The interior looks like it should – nearly all vintage equipment.
While there are a number of different types of rice grown and processed, the Conrad Rice Mill only processes short and medium.
It is always good to see buildings continue to be used for their original purpose into a second century, and with new owners it appears the Conrad Rice Mill will continue for years to come.
With Avery Island’s location in southern Louisiana the main agricultural business is sugar cane.
With the year round warm, wet weather it is the perfect climate for nature to grow. In the late 1800s the son of the founder of Tabasco sauce, Edward Avery McIlhenny, created the botanical gardens known as Jungle Gardens.
The gardens cover 170 acres of Avery Island.
There isn’t a large number of different plants, flowers and trees, but the gardens are well laid out, and immaculately kept up.
As with most of Louisiana, water is always nearby.
Including this nice pond, with a warning sign to not feed the alligators (which seems like anyone would know that).
We did NOT feed this alligator.
The turtles were safely out of harms way.
A few buildings remain from the early days of Tabasco pepper growing.
This drive is appropriately named Wisteria Lane, as you make your way under the Wisteria arch.
The highlight however is Bird City. In 1895 Edward raised eight egrets in captivity, releasing them in the fall for their migration. The next year they returned with more egrets.
Ever since then thousands of egrets return to Avery Island in the spring and reside there until late summer.
When we arrived for the Tabasco tour we were one of the few who opted to purchase combination tickets for the factory tour and the gardens. It was money well spent!
Deep in the bayou country of Louisiana is the town of Morgan City.
Located on the Atchafalaya River, it is located less than 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. With the offshore oil industry centered off of Louisiana and Texas, Morgan City is an important industrial town of support companies.
One of the highlights of Morgan City is The Rig Museum. This museum has a nice collection of diving and submersibles that has been used in the industry since it’s inception.
While outside are some retired items.
The highlight though is located outside in the river. It is the world’s first offshore oil drilling platform.
The rig is named Mr Charlie, after the financial backer of the venture when they started up in the 1950s.
While it might be dwarfed by today’s platforms, the main deck is still an impressive 50’+ above the water, offering a great view of the bridges and docks of the river.
Our guide, industry veteran Bryce, was very thorough in explaining the design, and use of the rig. Here he shows us a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used in the construction of platforms.
Everything is supersized in this industry, including this massive hook.
The drills bits aren’t available at the local Home Depot.
The pipes come in 30′ lengths.
The drill itself – with all of the large equipment, all of it in movement in the ocean, an oil platform is a loud, dirty, dangerous place for the crew to work.
Drilling requires pressure and water.
Drilling mud is also used to carry rock cuttings to the surface, as well as lubricate the drill bit. There is a massive storage for this that at times requires somebody to descend this long ladder into the mud hold.
Oil platform workers work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. If the weather is poor and a boat can’t come pick you up, or the helicopter can’t land on the helipad atop the rig, you throw your stuff and you into this cage and hang on as they hoist you into the air.
Our time with Bryce at the Rig Museum was insightful. The next time I stopped to fill the car up with gasoline, I thought more about the work that went into getting that product to market.
With a few days in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to search out some ‘time travel’ photo ops.
Carondelet Street at Canal Street. The buildings on the corners seem similar in size, but very different. Looking down the street reveals one that is still the same.
Chartres Street in the French Quarter.
The Cotton Exchange. As noted in a previous posting the Cotton Exchange Building was torn down in the early 1920s and replaced with a more stable, but less opulent, building.
The End of Canal Street. There used to be a statue at the streetcar turnaround. The statue still exists, just a few blocks away in a park (which is shown in the Public Art posting). The streetcars are still there, just not horse drawn.
The French Market. The market has a checkered past, but now is a coffee shop.
The Opera House. This building was located in the French Quarter. It has been torn down and replaced with a new, but period correct, hotel.
St Charles Street headed into the CBD. The first block is very similar, beyond that are dramatically different with the skyscrapers replacing the smaller buildings.