Friday, August 13, 2010

Things are Bigger Here

Waking up early we had our bowl of motel provided cereal, then hit the road. Time to say good-bye to Louisiana. And here we'd only just said hello.

I've been thinking about how affordable it is to live in motels. Seriously – when you start to break it down, it's foolish almost not to. I live in a world where cheap rent is something like 600 a month, so if you don't then that would explain why motel living is not for you – but... think about it, I've been seeing places where a weeks rent in a motel is $150.00 – so it's the same price, but here you get someone who cleans your room and makes you bed. The fun doesn't stop there – the utilities? Water, heat, electricity? All included. Then there's the free HBO cable package, as well as free wifi. All these things thrown in. You know, it's starting to look like a good idea.

But, no time for that – time to get on the road and press on out to Texas.

Leaving Louisiana wasn't as simple as one might think. It's not like you can just drive the couple of hundred miles west on the Ten – well you can, but where's the fun in that? As soon as signs start popping up for Baton Rouge, you know that you've got to take a quick break. Red Stick town? Fantastic – that and the place has name recognition.

As we drove along the river into the town it looked promising, but nothing came up and struck us worth getting out of the car for. So that was it with Baton Rouge – our next stop wouldn't be until Lafayette an hour down the road. Did we stop here just because it shares a name with the charming drug dealer from True Blood? That may have been my reason – but I didn't let on to that.

There was a free cultural centre here which contained a museum on the Acadian people – Cajun – and it turned out to make the ten mile detour off the highway pretty worthwhile. There were artifacts from the early days when the people were kicked out of Nova Scotia by the British, and then there was information on alligator clothing become all the rage. The images of the Alligator slaugter may upset some people – but my main question was where could I get some to eat?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

Finally there was a tickle trunk full of musicla instruments. Accordians (which the woman assumed I would know how to play – I don't know why she guessed this, but boy if I wouldn't like to learn... My ukulele playing is coming along much better than I thought it would be. Now I feel like I can take on the world.) and washboards that you wear over your shoulders filled this case. Some small children pushed past to start using them, but their parents then removed them, wearing and playing them for themselves, “I've always wanted to try one of these!”

That's a model of parenting I can get behind – out of the way teacup humans!

Another booth had a shiney red button which, when pressed, showed clips of Cajun stand up comedy. It was so perfectly terrible – and the curled mustaches? Wonderful.

A thirty minute video on the journey from France to Louisiana was played every hour, and just as we were leaving it started – there was a feeling of obligation. From what I was awake for, it wasn't too bad. Some folks from Quebec had come down to experience it. Quebeccers.

Then it was straight on 'til Texas.

We stopped in at the welcome centre which was themed like a Texas style building. It could just be that it was an actual Texas-Style building, being a building in Texas and all, but the wooden frames, and the long entrance, naw – it has to be for the tourists.

Katherine and I fought over who would pick up the Room Saver – it has become the hottest commodity on our road trip – more precious than even food. Getting a motel for the night without one just seems foolish. Room Saver not only reduces rooms from seventy dollars to forty, it also shows you what area they're in. You could be surrounded by sixty dollar motels, but in the scrum there is that one cheap one – you'd never find it without this beautiful little green guide.

It is the bible of American Road Trippers – and the greatest secret. I could envision a day when I would fight someone over the last copy.

Our destination was the Venetian Inn just outside of Houston – it was one of those cheaper places in the middle of expensive. It doesn't help that there's a state, city, and federal tax on motels adding 16% to everything, but when the cost is split it's still better value than a hostel – except for the ones in Asia – but those three dollar a night places are just nonsense.

And they didn't come with HBO.

Once we had our room it was time to head out for food. I plugged in a random Bar-B-Q place into the GPS – but it wasn't there. This area just outside of Houston has become a new China Town, so to speak – if we're assuming that all Asians are Chinese, which we should not. Especially when many of them appear to own Pho restaurants.

Within two miles we had past three Chinese restaurants, four Vietnamese, two Japanese, and two Hong Kong grocery stores. This was more concentrated than Markham, Ontario. And while I do love Asian food, I am in Texas. I want me some god awful truck load on my plate! And just as we were about to go home in failure, on the horizon appeared a great big ol' place with neon lights, and banners waving advertising thirty years of satisfied customers.

In we went. We first found ourselves a place to sit – forgive us, for we are new to Texas Bar-B-Q. You do not expect someone to come to you. No – you get up, make like you're dealing with the elementary school lunch lady, place your order, and wait for them to slap all that meat on your plate. I went with the ribs.

Now, we're still in Houston – so this is entry level Bar-B-Q from everything I've read, still it's best to start somewhere and work your way up.

The sign said, about the sides, if you can fit it on your plate – it's yours. This was a terrible thing to read. Scoopings of red beans (good for me – bad for everyone else) were added to piles of coleslaw, beside helpings of potato salad, and spear after spear of pickle.

When I reached the counter to pay we were told we could come back any time for more. You know, before my loaf of bead was teetering atop a pile of edible mush – that's when a good time to let me in on this secret would have been.

At our table we dug in. The food was good, mass produced, but oh so good. And the bread? I don't know how they did it – but the butter was baked right in. I could feel myself dying a little more with each and every bite.

As we waddled our way back home, I was still smiling from our terrible helpings. It was another meal to remember – and yet we'd only just got here.

Texas, if I do nothing else in the state, I still feel as if I've experienced it.

And yes, obviously I went back for just a wee bit more. Given the option, who could resist?

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