Monthly Archives: January 2013

Southern hospitality.

We left the heat and humidity of Louisiana early that morning to make our way to the heat and humidity of Georgia that night. To do so we had to drive through Alabama.

So that was fun.

Out of obligation, we played Sweet Home Alabama when we entered the state. We stopped around Mobile to get gas when a miracle happened.

Gas was $3.21 a gallon. It was like God reached out his hand and led us to this glorious place in America. A week before I bought gas in Los Angeles for $4.02 and was happy for my good fortune so this was like finding the gold at the end of the rainbow and then having the leprechaun show me how to make my own gold.

Or something like that.

The drive was very long, very green, and very flat. Basically we were driving through Texas again but instead of dreadfully boring brown we were staring at slightly less dreadfully boring green. Upgrade!

We were heading to Atlanta to stay with a mutual friend who lives and works there. It was Friday night, so we were excited to see the ATL nightlife. We arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon and our friend was still at work, so we walked to Olympic Park near his house. It’s a park dedicated to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta which also happen to be the Centennial games.

The park was cool. A nice open green space that we enjoyed for about 10 minutes and then walked aimlessly through for another 20. We then realized the Coke Museum was nearby and headed that way. We didn’t make it in time for a tour, but the gift shop was open. Never in my life have I seen so many Coke and Diet Coke related products. Shirts, bags, bottle openers, dog leashes, basketballs, hats, hoodies – you name it, they either had it or it was on back order. They also had a few cups there to choose from:

THIRSTYSoon our friend called to tell us he was home so we needlessly purchased Coke paraphernalia and headed back. Our friend’s apartment was glorious. Not only was it big, but there was a rooftop basketball court, volleyball court, and tennis court. And everyone up there was young. Jerks.

We went to dinner and relaxed for a bit before heading to a pregame with some of our friend’s coworkers. Oddly enough, when we got to the pregame I met someone from Hershey, which is 15 minutes from where I grew up and also where I sold my soul for 3 years working. When I found out he was from Hershey, I got excited and started naming my friends who I knew from high school. He didn’t really seem to care. So my joy was left cluttering my head while he talked to other friends. The night was starting with a bang.

We got called a cab and took it to Buckhead, a downtown of sorts in Atlanta. We were driven by a portly woman named Yolanda whose card I still have in my wallet for some reason. She was hilarious and also probably wanted us out of her cab as quickly as possible.

We trolled around Buckhead all night until decided it was time to leave and get a cab to Waffle House (you could say we were well over the legal limit to operate, well, anything really). Best. Choice. Ever. We sat at the “bar” in the diner and I got what seemed to be an endless amount of food. Every time I finished one plate, another one was placed in front of me. Cheesy grits, bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese, toast, pancakes. I inhaled every morsel. It was the second time in one day the Lord blessed me with good fortune.

I was so focused on my food that when I was done I looked over to see my two friends asleep at the bar. One slumped forward, the other backwards. I looked over to see people at a table nearby laughing and making fun of them. I got irrationally angry at them for making fun of my friends so I made everyone leave and gave the mean table a dirty look. Gotcha good ATL.

I woke up the next morning on a deflated air mattress using my jacket as a pillow. My friends are so hospitable.

I’ll take my beer to go.

The Superdome was right in front of us as we got off the highway. It was cool in a “I’ll never go in there and have no desire to ever go in there” kind of way.

The first thing I noticed about New Orleans was that every other street name is in French. Which makes sense if you know anything the history of New Orleans. Well, that’s what I would guess. I know nothing about the history of New Orleans. The first street we turned on to was Tchoupitoulas Street. My guess is CHOO-PA-TOO-LAS but who really cares.

Stepping out of the car was the most disgusting thing I’d done all trip. The air was so thick you could have sucked the water out of it with a straw. It was the complete opposite of what I’d been living in for the past two months and the past five days in particular. One thing I sure did not miss was humidity. And mosquitoes with their diseases.

Our first stop was for dinner at a restaurant whose name is escaping me. We chose it because it served pretty authentic (or at least authentic to the tourists) Creole food. Needless to say I was excited. Betz and I took a seat near the back that gave us a view into the kitchen. We ordered our food and watched the cooks prepare it. I accidentally made eye contact with one of them. He asked me “how’s it going” and instead of responding “good” I averted my eyes looked straight down and grabbed my glass of water. I made a promise as a child not to talk to strangers and I don’t break promises damn it.

Our food came out. Betz ordered alligator and gumbo. I got rabbit (herein referred to as bunny) with dumplings and boudin. Boudin (or boudain, depending where you get it), from what I remember, varies in ingredients but generally includes a type of sausage, rice, and mixture of spices. Mine was fried. It was like hearing Susan Boyle sing for the first time in my mouth.

But here’s the big guy:

BunnyBunny. And to be entirely cliche, it tastes like chicken. I could tell it wasn’t chicken, but probably only because I knew it was Bugs’s cousin. It too was great. Betz’s food was good too, although I wasn’t crazy about the gumbo.

Off we went. The sun had already gone down, but there was no way we were going to the campsite before strolling down Bourbon Street. For those who are unaware, Bourbon Street is in New Orleans’s famous French Quarter. It’s beautiful area of the city that has elaborate French architecture. We walked through a bit of it before getting to our destination.

Although it was Wednesday, Rue Bourbon still gave off the stench of sin. Bourbon street has no open container laws, so we got a beer from a “to-go” bar that was really just a window facing the street.

Walking up and down that street forced me to reconsider my definition of eccentric. Every bar had people yelling at you to pressure you to come in. Strip clubs linked the bars together and the strippers were in the street yelling at you to come in. Street performers weren’t your typical singing act or magician. They were this:

Crazy monsterI think that picture speaks for itself. Mostly because I can’t say a damn thing about it.

The best part of the night was the end. Just as we were nearing the end of the street, we heard a band playing. As we got closer, we saw a huge group of men playing everything from the trumpet and saxophone to the bass drum and snares in southern big band style. Two women were dancing around to the music in front of the band (they were either with the band or on drugs, or both). We watched until they stopped playing. It was the most authentic New Orleans I could have seen in my short time there. It’s a memory I will never forget.

We headed to the campsite. As I laid the tent out to set it up I looked over to see the biggest rabbit in the wild. This thing was huge. I scared it away by letting it smell its nephew on my breath.

Remember the humidity? Well if anything, it had gotten worse. As we laid in the tent, sweat was pouring down my face. I didn’t move an inch and yet the sweat didn’t stop. I don’t know how people in the Deep South do it, but I give them props.

And I give them deodorant. Lots of deodorant.

 

BONUS: here’s a middle aged woman acting exactly as you’d expect a middle aged woman to act.

Crazy monster and guy in weird costume

 

Don’t hold your breath.

Now that we separated ourselves from the situation in the living room, we got ready and hit downtown Austin. If you’ve never been to Austin, go there. It’s awesome. We headed to 6th street which is packed with bars and, on the weekends, is closed to vehicles. Also no open container laws exist. Which is heavenly for the drunk on the go.

We bar hopped a bit until finding our way to Pete’s. Pete’s is a dueling piano bar. We stayed there for a while, listening to the best live piano I’ve ever heard and having a few beers. We decided to check out a few other bars, but alas, we ended up going back to Pete’s and (poorly) singing the night away.

Pete'sAt one point Betz rode a mechanical bull. Those pictures (and the video) mysteriously disappeared from my camera roll. I have my suspicions as to where they went.

Anyway, the next day we got up and headed out for our longest drive of the trip – a nearly 9 hour trek to New Orleans. We woke up at 10, so needless to say we got a much later start than intended. And, as always, we had to suffer through the desolate landscape. Only this time my old friend Mr. Hangover poked his ass into the car. Dick.

When we were nearly out of Texas, we realized that we hadn’t gotten any true Texas food. We stopped in Beaumont to pick up some brisket. It was one of the best choices we made on the entire trip. It melted in my mouth and was the perfect hangover food. I ate it so quickly that I may or may not have eaten a few pieces of the paper wrapper and my fingers.

Although I crossed the Mississippi in Iowa on the way out to LA, I was excited to see it down south where it’s the behemoth that I’ve always heard it to be. I checked the map every so often to make sure I didn’t miss it.

Then I zoned out and missed it. We passed through Baton Rouge and I kept staring at the buildings instead of checking out the river or snapping any pictures. I’m not sure if I have some type of mental disability or am just really, really stupid.

Finally, for the first time since we left Los Angeles, we saw grass. Grass! Turns out, Louisiana has a ton of it. And it’s always soggy. That state is really low. Like super low. Below sea level low.

A cool thing about the change in scenery is that we got to see a lot of bayous – something neither of us have seen before. They’re basically lakes with trees growing out of them. Cool for 5 minutes, just there for the next 3 hours. And it was pretty irritating that I didn’t see any racist Disney characters floating along in a canoe playing a banjo.

The BayouSee – lake with trees sans Disney characters. I assume there is an alligator or two in there.

After what felt like an eternity, we finally saw the New Orleans skyline. You can see it from miles and miles away as you cross a huge bayou on a raised highway. When you’re in southern Louisiana, it’s like you’re always driving over a bridge.

I can’t imagine how many little kids have passed out trying to hold their breath.

Prepare for liftoff.

With the gas debacle over, it was time to find a place to sleep. The only way to camp at Carlsbad is to skip the bat show letdown, so we made a great choice there. At the Visitor’s Center we were told that all around the entrance to the park is what’s called “public land”. It’s exactly what it sounds like – land that anyone can use for anything. So we found a dirt road and started up it.

We crept up a hill until we found an opening to camp. We could clearly tell it had been used recently because of the various beer cans laying around and the abandoned fire pit. Just like the night before, we set up camp using my car headlights and cooked a mediocre meal over the flimsiest gas stove ever made, anywhere.

The night sky was amazing. There were no lights for miles and the clouds had disappeared. We laid on the hood of my car (which now has a huge butt shaped dent in it) and stared at them for a while. I imagine it’s what the Badlands would have looked like if the clouds wouldn’t have been there.

Bedtime turned us into 3 year old little girls who wandered away from her Mom and just now realized she’s alone in Target. It was pretty scary being solo in that wide open space with nothing around but the wind and mysterious wildlife. And by mysterious wildlife, I assume there were flesh eating mutants roaming the land searching for 22 year old guys camping alone driving a 2002 white Honda Accord. These mutants have very particular tastes. Good tastes, obviously, but particular.

After a sleepless night waiting for the foodie mutants to arrive, it was time to head to Austin. We entered Texas to see this glorious sign:
True

Never in my life had I seen a speed limit so high. It was like God reached out and touched my soul. Pedal to the metal – we were getting to Austin ASAP. (I recently heard that they raised it to 85. At that point, is there even a need for a speed limit? Strap some wings onto your car and prepare for lift off.)

Unfortunately, the drive peaked there. Texas is terribly flat and boring. At least in Arizona we had cacti and mountains to look at. Texas has sporadic brown grass. I’m not sure why everyone that’s from there has so much pride it in. Sure, it’s big, but so is Montana and you don’t see them waving their flags in your face.

Of course about 7 people live in Montana.

Hours and hours later, we finally saw signs for Austin.

AustinThat’s a view of the city from an overpass. There are a ton of overpasses in Texas, and they’re really big.

We used AirBnB (if you don’t know, now you know) to find a place to stay. For those unfamiliar with the service, you essentially rent a room from someone’s house. They let you stay there for however many nights you want, and you pay them. It’s way cheaper than a hotel, and way more authentic.

Luckily, the guy we were renting from was in Mexico for the night, so we got to use his bedroom instead of the couches. Unfortunately, his roommates were not in Mexico for the night. They were nice enough – casual, helpful with places to go, etc. – but then, as Betz and I were having a drink before we went downtown for the night, Tim showed up.

Tim walked in wearing an ensemble that he most likely stole from a fry cook who just got off of work, part of which he then exchanged for the contents of a homeless man’s trash bag. His long curly hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in ages, and most of the things he was saying sounded like some sort of euphemism neither of us understood. When he realized we were there, he sat down beside Betz, stared forward, and introduced himself. Then, without missing a beat, he offered us drugs.

Betz and I took our drinks to the bedroom.