Cajun Vacation: Day 1 and Day 2 Drive, Drive, Drive

Vacation came early this year.  Rick had his spring break start on March 4.  I decided that March might be a great time to go and check out Louisiana.  As long as I was paying, Rick was up for joining us.  Sure, why not.  Besides, his 22nd birthday would be during that week.  It’ll be like old times again.

Rich had his first distiller’s conference from March 1 through 3 for his new employer, Whiskey Resources.  Not exactly the best planning, but he could use the week to rest and recover.  Vacation planning went into full on mode in December and all reservations were made by January.

Rick arrived home on March 4.  He had finished up midterms the day before.  He managed to sneak in the door without my notice.  Sascha was right on it though.  Poor baby, she hobbled to the door so fast to greet him.  I ran to join her.  My babies were both at home.

As a side note, Sascha started to hobble on Tuesday pretty bad.  I was thinking she had bruised her paw somehow on the ice and snow.  By Wednesday, it wasn’t any better.  Being the worried mom I am, I took her off to the vet that afternoon.  After a big hit to my wallet with x-rays, visit, and meds, the diagnosis was a broken toe.  Yep, she had cracked it lengthwise down the second metacarpal.  No wonder it hurt so badly.  On the x-ray, it was pretty swollen.  The vet insisted on bed rest.  I told him that was next to impossible.  At least, she was going to the kennel for vacation and would be limited to what she could do.

Rich came in on Friday afternoon.  He was still pretty excited from the conference.  He had met so many people, tried so many distilled liquors, and had so much free stuff.  He also had the beginnings of a cold.  Darn!  This is no time to get sick.  He chattered away about his time with the distillers and I listened with lots of patience.  It was great to see him get so excited about this aspect of his new job.

We were all winding down that evening as we packed and got things ready for leaving on Saturday morning.  Rich still had to keg his Husky Paws beer before we could leave.  He got up and got moving without much prodding.  As he was moving the beer from fermenter to keg, Rick and I took Sascha to the kennel.  Everyone had to make over her paw.  As usual, she didn’t plan to stay, but could make a quick enough getaway.  We said good-bye and got in one last set of hugs.

Back at the house, Rich was finishing up.  Rick and I began to pack the car.  Wow, it was almost 11 o’clock by the time we were ready.  Breakfast was next.  I should say brunch, right?  We stopped into Island Café to get something good to hold us over until dinner that evening.  I had a plan.

It was almost noon by the time we got on the road.  Traffic was fair and we made good time out to the highway.  From there, speed was good and we were sailing along.  If you have driven in Chicago, you know it is mandatory 70 miles per hour out there.  I follow that run to keep from being run over.  Pretty soon, we were on 57 and heading south.

The trip was going well so far.  The temperature was hovering around 40, but I could blue skies up ahead of us.  Rich had checked his phone for weather and reported 65 in Cairo.  No way!  Warm weather was close at hand for us.  Just about Mount Vernon, we could see the line of clouds that outline the boundary between cold and warm.  Suddenly, sunshine was all around us.  The car was registering an amazing 55.  Vacation had truly begun.

I had been trying to visit a BBQ place in Southern Illinois for the longest time.  Today was the day we would stop and try it out.  The restaurant is called 17th Street BBQ.  The main restaurant is way off the highway, but they had a satellite open in Marion, which was right off the interstate.  We made it there about 5:00 and just ahead of a crowd.

We got seated and reviewed the menu.  Tracy, our waitress, made a suggestion to get Mike Championship Platter, which came with a little bit of everything they had.  We added several sides to that and were all set.  The food arrived.  Oh my gosh!  This was definitely some of the best BBQ I have tasted.  I do believe that Rich still makes the best, this ranked right up there.  We ate until we could eat no more.

It was back on the road.  We had a couple of more hours until we could stop for the night.  Blytheville, Arkansas was the destination.  This was the halfway point for our trip.  By 6:00 PM, it was getting pretty dark.  I saw deer hanging by the side of the road and worried that I was going to have to dodge one of these things in the dark.

Luck was with us.  We had no suicidal deer, traffic was quiet, and we managed to drive in the warm night to our resting place.  That evening, Rick and I hung out in the hot tub talking while Rich rested comfortably with his box of Kleenex.  Vacation is good.

The next morning, it was breakfast at Perkins and then out on the road.  We made a stop by Walgreen’s for more cold supplies.  Memphis was relatively quiet.  Sunday mornings must be a good time to circle the city.  We’ll be back on Thursday though.

We headed south and skirted the Delta for now.  The road took us down to Jackson, Mississippi.  We did manage to get Rick to pronounce it like the locals:  Missippi.  I was amazed to find that traffic was running pretty fast today.  I was pushing the upper limits of 75 to 77 while a lot of cars and trucks were blowing by us pretty quickly.  What is this the autobahn?

Rick took over and drove for a bit.  He was nervous, but probably with good cause.  He had to manage not to hit the group of black kids crossing the highway at one point.  Then there was the guy who was halfway up an exit ramp and slammed on the brakes so he could do a U turn and cross the grassy shoulder to get back on the highway just to try it again at the next exit.  Rick did manage to avoid all of this and get to the Louisiana Welcome Center in one piece.

From there, I drove to Lafayette.  That’s not without issues though.  We got to I-10 and the world went crazy around us.  Everyone started driving 90 miles an hour.  To keep from being injured, I felt obliged to join them.  I swear that the roadway automatically turned into the Daytona 500 and the vehicles all had decals of some sort on them.  I was actually keeping up in the race for a bit, but was getting left behind pretty quickly.  We raced on until just west of Baton Rouge when all of the participants seemed to melt away.  I didn’t realize that NASCAR was invented in Louisiana!

We got off the interstate and onto the main road leading into Lafayette.   Once again, it became a race track.  The speed limit was 40, but I swear everyone around was going 60 through town.  I was trying to keep up to prevent getting run over.  The turn for our hotel came and it led to a nice, calm street.  After several turns, we found the inviting lights of our hotel.

Inside, we talked to the clerk about the area.  He was quite humorous and had a lot of jokes to tell.  I asked for a recommendation on a restaurant.  Being Sunday, I figured most things would be closed and I was right.  He gave a coupon for Prejean’s, which I had looked at.  He assured us the Cajun food would be great.  We unpacked and headed out

This took us back out to the main road and the race was on again.  I even got passed by a sheriff’s car racing with someone else.  I guess it was just is the normal mode around here.  We made it up the road and off the expressway to Prejean’s.  Luckily, it wasn’t too busy.  The hostess tried to seat us directly in front of the Cajun band that was playing.  I asked to be seated at least one table back.  It was hard enough to hear and talk.

Scotty was our waiter.  He took our order without writing any of it down.  We had gator bites to start.  Rich got duck and andouille sausage gumbo while Rick had chicken and sausage gumbo.  It came with rice on the side and a nice yeast garlic roll.  I had the crab cakes with corn macque chow and rice pudding.  Rich got crawfish etouffee.  Rick ordered the seafood Alfred with crawfish, shrimp, crab, and some other seafood offerings.  I tasted it all just to be sure.  It was all so wonderful.  We had no room for dessert was the only regret.

Back out to the car and get gas in this out of the way location.  Then  it was back to the race track and a fast run down to Kaliste Saloom Rd.  Even the semis were trying to drive the route at 60.  It was impressive.  I wonder if it is better during the week.

Well, that’s the first couple of days of vacation.  Tomorrow, we are touring the Tabasco Factory at Avery Island.  From there, we plan to see a plantation, if I can find one that is open on Mondays.  The Acadian Village is closed so there went that plan.  Still, there is good food to be had out here and we plan to find some more.  Where is that crawfish boil?