|Today is the day to travel from New Orleans to Houston. This is the longest drive of the trip, 364 miles. We planned to get up early and spend the day driving. However, we decided to make 1 stop along the way, at Avery Island. We had breakfast at the hotel and were on the road at about 10 AM. The drive to Avery Island is about 2 hours.
Avery Island is the home of McIlhenny Food, makers of Tabasco Sauce and related products. Actually, Avery Island is not an island as we usually think. It is actually a block of salt projecting through the ground higher than the ground around it. That makes it appear as an island. The salt is still mined today for use in the products. We arrived at about 12 noon, and went to the ticket office. There weren't many cars in the parking lot, and no line at the ticket window. There were two tickets you can get; one for the factory tour and the other for the nature preserve on the island. Due to the hour and the drive ahead, we opted for the factory tour only. We received badges to wear and a paper bag with something in it. More on that later.
The tour is a self guided tour around the grounds of the factory. It starts in the museum where we walked around various displays and videos telling the history of the company, how the packaging has changed, the various products introduced along the way and promotions and logoed products. The McIlhenny company was started in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny on Avery Island. Through four generations the company has remained and grown with this family.
The next stop on the tour was in a greenhouse about 100 yards away. We walked down a path, past a sign warning us to be on the watch for bears, and to the greenhouse where there were samples of the peppers being grown. From there we moved on to a warehouse showing how the "fermenting" barrels are made, another location showing how the peppers are made into a mash, put into barrels for three years of storage, and finally on to the factory where the aged mash is mixed with salt and vinegar to make the sauce.
From there it is bottled and sent around the world. The tour finished in (are you ready?) the gift shop. There we saw everything imaginable with a Tabasco logo on it.
After the tour, we decided to have lunch in the on site restaurant. The menu had a number of dishes, all made with Tabasco products. I had a pulled pork sandwich and Cheryl had a shrimp salad, each spicier than we were used to. Both very good. While eating lunch we watched video screens showing various movie and TV clips using Tabasco products either as a prop or as set decorations (product placement). We also looked into the paper bag we received at the start. It contained eight small bottles of assorted Tabasco products. Nice touch.
Lunch finished, we were back on the road. On the way back we ran into a terrible rain storm. At one point I decided to pull off the highway to refuel the car and sit out the rain. It lasted about 15 minutes and we were again on our way. We arrived in Houston at about 7:45. We called Dave and had him meet us at our hotel and we all went to a nice dinner. After chatting for a while, we decided to meet after his work tomorrow to continue our visit. We then went to the hotel to turn in for the evening.
Tomorrow: Meet friends in Houston.