Sunday, January, 18, 2015
Good day to y’all from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Our last installment ended as we were departing Galveston, Texas, headed for Lafayette, Louisiana. As we were leaving, the weather seemed to be breaking – we had actually seen the sun peek through on occasion. Not much, but it gave us some degree of hope…
Almost all of the roads we travelled in Texas were pretty good. (Certainly better than the I-5 through California, Oregon and Washington, which, in many places, is in dire need of maintenance.) However, once you cross over into Louisiana, the freeways, at least the I-10, deteriorated somewhat. It seemed that truck traffic, for whatever reason, increased markedly, and the lanes and shoulders were narrower. You have to be on your toes all the time when driving. Also, the pavement was generally poured concrete slabs, so you got this constant ‘wumpa-wumpa-wumpa’ feeling. When you get off the freeway, the roads really turn to crap. Skinny, with lots of potholes and uneven pavement…and almost no shoulders.
But, we survived and ended up at this place called ‘Bayou Wilderness RV Park,’ about 10 miles or so off the freeway, and it really was in bayou country. When we checked in we asked about alligators. They said there were none there (at least that they knew of), except for one, about 4 feet long, that mysteriously appeared in the swamp there several years previously…but he has since departed. Anyhow, this place was OK; a bit pricey for what you got, and it looked a little tired and worn out. But, it was quiet and the folks there were friendly. So, no real complaints.
We ended up in Lafayette on the advice of our primary care doc back home in Toledo, Washington, who was from there (Lafayette). She told us that if we wanted some of the best Cajun food in Louisiana, then Lafayette is the place to go. And she was spot on! It seems the whole area is nothing by eateries, with the main fare being boudin (pronounced ‘bo-deen’) and cracklins – fried pork rinds. Boudin comes in two forms: primary is a pork and rice sausage. In Southeast Louisiana, folks take boudin, remove it from its casing, and form it into balls that are then breaded and deep-fried. Both are excellent, but are an acquired taste.
We ate at a couple of places that were highly recommended by the locals: Prejeans (pronounced ‘prey-johns’) and Don’s (pronounced ‘don’s’) Meats. Twice we had fried green tomatoes smothered in a shrimp sauce, also fried catfish (the best I have ever had!), also covered in the same shrimp sauce, boudin balls, and shrimp wraps. Gads…the food was soooo good. And, if you ate out a couple of times a week, for a week, you most likely would suffer from cardiac arrest: everything seemed to be fried and covered with some sort of shrimp sauce. Oh well, you only live once…and then that’s it for y’all.
We stopped in at Cajun Harley Davidson in Scott, not too far from Lafayette. Bought some over-price clothing and also talked with a really cool biker salesman, Sean, who turned us on to the best eateries in the area. We also talked a lot about Harley Trikes. This is the largest Harley Dealership we have ever been in…they must have had 100+ new bikes on the floor, and who knows how many more were in their warehouse. “Get’n stocked for tax season,’ Sean told us.
On a whim, we took off down to Avery Island (about 25 miles south of Lafayette) and visited the Tobasco manufacturing facility. They do a pretty good tour: you learn the history of Avery Island (which sits atop a mountain of 97.5% pure salt that is purportedly as deep as Mt. Everest is tall.) The Tobasco brand is wholly owned by the McIlhenny family; the creation and manufacturing facility is huge, and still uses several of the original buildings. Anyhow, once you finish the tour (they give you several mini-bottles of their sauce), you can visit their on-site store which features lots and lots of free samples. Basically, you take a pretzel stick and dip it into your sauce of choice (no ‘double-dipping’…remember George in a Seinfeld episode?) and take a taste. The first one I tried was called ‘Family Reserve’; it was being re-released in limited quantities. I put ONE drop (ONE!) on the end of the pretzel. Two seconds later they had to call the paramedics and sew up the whole it burned in my tongue. (OK, I exaggerate slightly, but not much.) It was incredibly HOT. Dee Dee was most attracted to the tobacsco/cherry and jalapeño ice creams.
Our last day in the Lafayette area we partook of more of the local cuisine and then sought out a place to have the tires on the truck rotated. The first place we checked wanted $15 PER TIRE. We passed on him and found this commercial tire place that told us (over the phone) that they charged $20 for the whole job (pretty much a normal price.) We headed on over and, yes, it was really a commercial tire place. I think the smallest tire we saw in their yard was about 5 feet tall (see attached picture of Dee Dee to illustrate this.) They got us right in; the guy in the office turned us over to a couple of good ol’ boys out in the shop who really know their stuff, and also how to have a good time. As they were removing and moving the tires around, one of them found this GIANT thorn we had picked up (probably in Corpus Christi, Texas) on the edge of a sidewall. He told us that technically it was right on the edge of (legally) being repaired, and he was not supposed to fix it (it had poked all the way through), but he went ahead and did it anyway. These guys were so good and so happy. I slipped him a ten spot for his courtesy. When I went back into the office to pay, the manager told me not to worry about it and just be on my way. So, our already high opinion of the friendly people in the South was elevated another notch or two! And it was not just these folks…EVERYONE met and talked with was so polite and gracious.
On our way back to the park where we were staying, I managed to miss the last turn, about a mile away from our destination. ‘No problem,’ says I. ‘We can keep going strait and still get there.’ (Dee Dee jast sat there and shook here head…she had ‘been here’ before with me.) Wahl….about 30 minutes later we were still not there, actually about 25 miles away (go figure)…and it took us another 40 minutes to find our way back (using the GPS Guy.) It was not a totally wasted trip, however, as we got to see a lot of the bayou country surrounding us. It seems as if most of the newer houses we saw were built of brick. We surmised that brick houses are harder to blow down in hurricanes and that brick must be cheap in this part of the country.
We departed Lafayette on Saturday morning (January 17) and headed off to New Orleans, where we are now. The roads continue to suck, and once you hit New Orleans they REALLY, REALLY suck. Most of the drive here from Lafayette was on causeways through more bayou country swamps. Despite the roads, it was beautiful drive.
So here we are, in exciting and historic New Orleans, Louisiana. Oh, and one more little thing…THE SEAHAWKS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!
Stay tuned for the next installment – NEW ORLEANS.