TravelUSA

Deep South Day 5: Hitting the Road

July 7, 2014

The Cube
An authentic Southern road trip requires an authentic Southern vehicle, The Cube.

Some days when traveling the world smiles upon you. Everything seems to go your way and unexpected and pleasant surprises await you at every turn. This was not one of those days. The world shat upon us. We probably deserved it.

Following a morning of some work (Chris) and laundry (Gordon), we had to get over to Gretna, a suburb of New Orleans on the other side of the river, to pick up our rental car. We had hoped Enterprise would help us with that trip. It’s only a 15 min drive and their slogan is “We’ll pick you up!” Well apparently the true slogan is “We’ll pick you up if you’re not on the other side of the river!” so we had to get a cab.

During our extended wait for our car at the Enterprise office, we saw the silliest looking box of a car, a bright blue Nissan Cube, in the lot and joked about how funny it would be to rent such a thing. Why the rental company would buy cars such as that one was beyond us. It looked as aerodynamic as a fat hairy man swimming the butterfly and completely un-appealing to Enterprise’s mostly Southern pickup and made-in-America loving clientele. Lo and behold and to our bewildered excitement, we were told that the Cube was for us. For this next three days, this flamboyant box-on-wheels would be our car. The rap group Outkast may have been “Two Dope Boys in a Caddilac”, we were “Two Dopey Boys in a Cube”.  Exito!

Just before 2pm we were finally on our way. We headed to Thibodaux in Cajun country, hoping to find something interesting there. I did find two things that interested me: 1) The people there appeared much more fit and sporty than the city folk we’d seen in Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. If not for their fantastic accents, I’d have almost mistaken them for Canadian. 2) The word “Cajun” is actually a bastardization of the word “Acadian”. Cajuns are descendants of Acadians (French-speaking people from the East of Canada), so it made sense, but I’d never before put two-and-two together.

Unfortunately that was all there was as interest. The restaurant we were hoping to eat at was closed and the lady at the very impressive visitor center was, despite her efforts, not at all helpful. She was new to the job and lived in New Orleans, so knew nothing of activities in the area and could only hand us pamphlet after pamphlet of random swamp tours, museums, and hotels, none of which she knew anything about. We gave up and decided to head to Breaux Bridges, a town that the guidebook Gord bought said had a nice downtown and had a great restaurant. It was a half hour detour from our desired final destination for the day, Chicot National Park, but sounded like it’d be worth it.

It was not. To our dismay, the restaurant we were hoping to go to — and everything else in the city for that matter — was closed and there was really nothing of interest to see in the town itself. We were forced to look elsewhere. To make matters worse, it was approaching 7pm, the campsite we were going to closed its gates and 9, and we were still and hour and a half away. We sped off, hoping to find something that looked appealing, local, and quick along the way.

We found nothing. For the next hour, we didn’t go by any Cajun-looking roadside diner, just McDonald’s, Harvey’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s and the like. Closing in on the campsite and having eaten nothing but some fruit all day, we gave up and made a stop at the very un-local and uninspiring Taco Bell. There we dejectedly but hungrily stuffed our faces with processed cheese and meats covered wrapped with tortillas. We did develop a small fan club amongst the girls working there though. The chick who took our order, upon finding out where we were from, asked if we could take her back with us. Similar to the expression relating to a square peg in a round hole, we knew we couldn’t fit a round girl in a square car, so we politely declined her request.

Immediately after leaving Taco Bell, and exiting the highway, we passed three or four of the most Cajun, Dirty South looking dining establishments we could hope for. And they were open! Words cannot describe the disappointment we felt for having wasted our appetite on processed cheese filled burritos.

By the time we arrived at the campsite it was dark, but still hot and muggy. And buggy; there were tons of mosquitos. This drove our plan to both sleep in the car to ruins. We couldn’t open the windows or we’d get eaten alive by the bugs, so the car became a sauna. By one in the morning, we gave up. Gord set up his tent on the pavement behind the car (the rest of the campsite that we had thought to be wood chips when looking in the dark turned out the be large pebbles, terrible for sleeping on) and I decided to crack the windows and take my chances with the skeeters, hoping the next day would be more full of exito.

Tips:

  • Avoid the main highways as much as you can. The highways are soulless, with franchise restaurant after franchise restaurant and strip malls as the only scenery. The side roads are much more unique and interesting.
  • Restaurants in the South evidently are not open every day. If you’re targeting to go to one, call in advance to avoid disappointment and wasting your time
  • If you’re looking for an entertaining podcast to listen to (and especially if you are Canadian), and appreciate immature masculine humor, I cannot recommend the Jay and Dan Podcast more highly. The guys are Canadian sportscasters who now work for Fox Sports in LA and get together once a week to shoot the shit. They barely talk sports and instead joke around, share funny stories, and mess around with guests from the sports world (usually ex-athletes) who drop by.

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