About a month ago, having packed up our stuff and in possession of all the appropriate official stamps and stickers, we said our Chinese goodbyes and went on a much needed (by some) break.
We considered practicing some more Chinese (well, one of us) and seeing more of China but the public transport hassle as well as the time of year made us reconsider. We did not want to be cold.
Various scenarios later we booked our flights from San Francisco to Las Vegas, rented a convertible, and then prayed we would have our passports back in time for the second big crossover. Just one day before the flight both countries’ officials had sufficiently looked at them and they were handed back to us (no, it was not too tightly planned). United airlines had a go as well by cancelling our flight from Shanghai to San Francisco but eventually (after a whole day spent at Pudong airport) managed to get us there via LA, just in time for a nap and a bite to eat before heading back to the airport for our Vegas flight. By then we both did really need that holiday…
Our 17 day road trip took us through nine states from Las Vegas to New Orleans, stopping off at Zion National Park, Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park, then via Route 66 across the country to end up in the South (we pretty much raced through Oklahoma and Arkansas…), Louisiana being the main attraction, which is also where we acquired the bulk (literally) of our calories of this trip.
After finally spending some money in Vegas (our first visit in 2001 was pretty tame in comparison), we headed out into the big wide world.
After Monument Valley, where we got blown away by the scenery as well as by a sand storm, we visited some cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people at Mesa Verde National Park, and then briefly crossed into Colorado to eat some lovely Fired Up Pizza and buy a t-shirt in Durango. Crossing into New Mexico we found that you need a four-wheel drive to drive over a mountain pass in March, the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid would be the ideal place to start drinking in the afternoon and that Santa Fe is full of old people.
Oklahoma. Did we pass through there, I can’t remember…
The Ohio Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas had the best burger of the trip and it had a pretty nice bar too. Lots of historic gangsters thought so too as many hung out there back in the day. We got our taste for Louisiana in Monroe and then briefly popped into Mississippi to spend the night in Natchez, where we listened to Mojo Mudd in the Under The Hill Saloon after which we were forced to climb through the window of our room in the historic inn, where they had a ‘last in locks the door’ policy, which turned out to be ‘second last in locks last in out’…
Once we got back into Louisiana we booked a cabin on the bayou and went on a great airboat swamp tour in the Atchafalaya Basin. It took a while to find some alligators but our guide Tucker was persistent (the 1,5 hr tour lasted almost 3 hrs!). We spotted many baby alligators and in the end came across a pretty big one hanging out by the water. Apparently he had his eye on the female specimen in front of him…
In Louisiana lunch and dinner time is the best time of the day! Some of the highlights were the amazing shrimp & grits at Cotton in Monroe, crawfish boil at Crawfish Town USA in Henderson and the Southern tapas at Restaurant IPO in Baton Rouge.
Once we got to New Orleans, the good stuff just kept coming. Oysters, po-boys, gumbo, and a surprising amount of deviled eggs! Not having had a lot of cheese in the last eighteen months, I really really put a dent in the delicious blue cheese and fig torte at EAT. And did I mention the Cajun Bloody Marys…?
After cycling around Nola for two days (one day on a culinary bike tour…), we spent our last night at The Three Muses, and managed to get lunch at Cochon Restaurant (Anthony Bourdain’s idea) before flying back to San Francisco. Great end to a great holiday!
My ‘picture a day’ can be found on peanutfinds Instagram feed.