Day 7 (July 18th): NEW ORLEANS
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Now this, people, is what I call good eatin'.

Sure, I'm disappointed that it turned out not to be worth visiting here, because I was definitely looking forward to sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico and kayaking around out there. Sadly, the Army Corps of Engineers weren't yet through rebuilding the beach from Hurricane Katrina damage. Word is that Our President was finally jolted into mobilizing them when reports of the Myanmar typhoon began to hit the wires. Yes, a horrible performance, but at least it can no longer be claimed that he still hasn't heard of that pesky little storm which just brushed the GoM in 2005. Back here in the present, then, this meant no beach camping for at least another few weeks, so I just missed out.

Waitaminnit: Breaux Bridge! Where is it? What is it? How the heck did I end up here? Truth be told, you can blame whatever newspaper article it was I saw a while back that called it the "Paris of the South", and then you can blame these guys for an incredibly in-depth write up about something I love -- food -- and then mainly you must blame one Soggy-G, who coincidentally sent me the link just days after I had seen the article! Given all that, how could I not come here?

Let’s back up a bit.

First thing to note is that one does occasionally hear the word “Loosiana”. I let a cabbie hustle an extra dollar out of me towards a tip, but it was pretty damned funny as it was going down so we shared a laugh about it. I had expected getting out of New Orleans to be utterly nightmarish, but it went more smoothly than could have been imagined, as my departure was well in advance of (and therefore uncomplicated by) the less hardy, more hung-over souls still swallowing Advil by the fistful up in their rooms. I retrieved the bike and got to ride down a now-empty Bourbon Street one last time before leaving town.

Back onto the elevated highway and pulling out, it occurred to me that for all the times I’ve visited, I’ve never really gotten anywhere near the Superdome, which sits right downtown. There was some construction and a passing, momentary drizzle, but nothing of any consequence. The interstate hovered above wetlands and then followed the western edge of Lake Ponchartrain, which somehow made it seem even bigger than it did when I drove over the middle of it on the way in; a row of giant power transmission lines disappeared off into the horizon, and I couldn't even see the long Rte. 190 bridge that was somewhere out there in the middle of the lake, let alone the one on the eastern edge that I had come in on. There were some more basins to traverse and eventually a very long one which featured a roadway that did not divert at all from a straight line ride for what I would estimate to be about five miles, I kid you not.

At Baton Rouge I crossed high above the Mississippi River under my own power for the first time ever, calling to mind the lyrics to two songs which I could subsequently not get out of my head for hours -- Janis Joplin’s “Me & Bobby McGee” ("Busted flat in Baton Rouge...") and Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans" ("in 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty 'Mississip'..."). It was early enough, and my trip was short enough that I sought to visit a trailer service shop to ask what they thought of the condition of the trailer’s tires, having been ground down a bit, you'll recall, on Day One when coming into contact with the fenders. For this I drove one exit past Breaux Bridge to the next interchange and headed up another highway for about ten miles, away from Lafayette and towards Carencro, in doing so getting a lay of the land that would soon turn out to have been rather fortuitous.

Receiving good advice on the tires -- though being forced to conceive of an on-the-fly solution in classic The Chief (tm) style, I headed back to Breaux Bridge to investigate more closely. I drove around, got some more pictures, and passed by the establishment at which I intended to enjoy the “boudin” for the first time, it having received top marks by the Boudin Link crazies. I had passed by one or two other purveyors, but left the original target in the bulls-eye.

OK, now it was time to scope out the lodging, because the campground I had gotten wind of hadn’t had a website of any kind, so I knew only its street address. It wasn’t that easy to find, marked only by a small sign, and then over a rather bumpy road, parallel to but at least shielded from the interstate by a nice thicket of trees, so highway noise wouldn’t be too bad a problem.

The tent site fee of $12 was certainly agreeable, though it did not have electric hookups and that was to be key, since my cell phone desperately needed recharging, not to mention that I’d hoped to do some more website updating and I wanted to run the laptop on the adapter as much as possible. And the bath house was on the grody side, although I could have handled it. In the end, though I used it as an excuse, lack of electricity (or of anything else) was not to be the major issue here; let’s just say that I did not like the vibe at all.

First, the explanation of precisely where I should put the tent was rather vague. In itself that would not have been a problem, but as I stood there considering where to locate it, the surroundings just seemed to grow seedier and seedier. There was camping equipment that, by its age, may have represented “permanent” residence for some; but could anyone actually live in something like that? Then there was this one site which had nothing on it but a few satellite dishes; there was plenty of room for my tent and stuff, but would somebody think I was trying to move in on their "territory" ("backyard"?) or something? What I think finally did it for me was that there was a cruddy white Dodge van across from where I was standing, looking like it hadn’t been moved in quite some time. Suddenly, I noticed that a head had appeared in the front window. Had that guy been in there the whole time? If so, had he been sleeping in the thing? If so, is he just waking up? It’s 3 PM. Finally I realized, hey, man, would I really want to set up the tent here, and then leave it all behind to go get dinner? The answer to that question was “no way”. People, I was out of there.

I went back to the office just in time to see the proprietor pulling away in a golf cart towards the other side of the property, to which I would not be able to follow on the bike. I called out, not really expecting to be heard, and easily ready to bolt and sacrifice the $12 regardless. But the cart turned around, I mumbled something about the electricity, and got back the full amount even though I would have settled for $10, just for the right to stay alive.

Back to civilization, I headed back towards the Bayou Cabin, figuring to (1) eat and (2) inquire about lodging, even though I knew that the minimum price was $70 per night and not really wanting to spend that. When I got back there I saw a sign indicating that the room rate included a “sample platter” of dinner-type food, and breakfast, thus partially mitigating the room cost, so maybe it would be the right call. Sadly, I then also noticed this sign and wondered aloud, “Does Louisiana have it in for The Chief (tm)?”

So NOW what, smarty-pants? I gots me no food and no lodging, and it is getting into the five o’clock hour, and having been ahead of the curve earlier, I felt like I was suddenly slipping behind. But I had passed several motels up along the earlier Carencro stretch, so I knew they would give me options...even if it meant that I ‘d have a real tough call as to whether to enjoy any beer with my chow and then ride the bike back to the crib, because that is A Rule I have not broken since acquiring the ST1100.

Remembering having seen another boudin shop in my travels, and then managing to find it again, I pulled into the parking lot at Charlie T's. Chatting with another biker on the way in the door, I learned what “boudin” was (sort of like a sausage with meat, spice, maybe a rice or potato filling, I couldn’t tell), how to say it (“bou-DAN”, though I kept getting nervous about making a mistake and asking every time), and what “cracklin” was (or, maybe, what “cracklins were”, I didn’t really catch the terminology -- and at any rate it is/they are fried pork rinds). And I’ll tell ya, at this point I decided I would break The Rule and have one (1) ice-cold beer with my chow, but this was not to be an option as the place didn’t sell any. Little could I have known that days later I would learn that ROOT BEER is the way to go when you’re talking boudin!

Armed with my boudin (wrapped in paper), crackling (in a small paper bag) and Coke, I headed out to sit at the picnic table in the parking lot like the locals do, except that the locals don’t do that when it is quite this hot outside. No, when it’s that hot they take their food to go and eat inside, y’know, somewhere air conditioned. Not an option for This Guy, however, so there I was. Still, eating outside allowed me to chat with more nice folks coming into the shop, many of them in the oilfield services biz, which made for some interesting conversation in which I learned things I did not know.

I really liked the boudin (eaten simply with your hands), and while I didn’t care for the crackling at first, it grew on me a bit and I could see where it fits in (for some, though, the cracklin is the attraction, not the other way around). On a second visit inside the store, during which I intended to order another boudin, the friendly staffers then asked me if I wanted another “regular” one or the “seafood” one with shrimp and crawfish inside. Well, of course I had to go for the variety and, truth be told, if in the future I was presented with the choice of only one type, it may be that I’d need to choose the seafood. It had more of a spice and jazziness to it, and I thought it was fantastic.

At some point it occurred to me: what if I had stayed at the campground, then walked the 1.2 miles to the boudin place I first wanted to try, as I had initially planned? I would have found it closed, and this place was at least another mile distant. I would have had to decide whether to keep on going, and risk getting back to the campground after dark, or to simply head back at that moment, and have driven to a town specifically to eat boudin, only to be stuck eating at a Taco Bell something. Glad it worked out!

OK, well, right now you’re thinking, “But, The Chief (tm), for the moment you don’t have a roof over your head, so has it really ‘worked out’ yet?” And that would be a fine question. As I said, during the trailer-repair search I had passed a few national-chain type motels, or billboards for others, and I had zeroed in on one of them for cost, location and amenities, so I headed towards it, on the outskirts of either Lafayette or Carencro proper, if not both.

As I did not name names regarding the campground, I will similarly not do so here either. The billboard on the highway had read, “One Person, $35.99”. When I got there, the sign on the motel marquee read “$37.99”. OK, whatever. Do you have a room, I axed? The reply was affirmative, and I said something like “Good, because the prices keep going up as I get closer.” Chuckles all around.

Apparently, though, the joke wasn’t over yet. The prices actually hadn’t yet stopped climbing; because it was the weekend (about which I hadn’t really had any idea), the base rate was $41.99. Ah, well, at least there’s the pool, right? Well, no, the pool was out of service (until “tomorrow morning”). Uh-huh. Well, at least there’s the wi-fi.

No points for guessing correctly whether or not the wi-fi signal reached my room at all.

Now, folks, after all that, what do you think my first thought was as I pulled down to my room? My first thought was, “maybe the campground wasn't such a bad idea.” Here again I noted increasing seediness as I made my way down the parking lot, occupied mostly by rejects from “Pimp My Ride”-- the early rounds. At least I was able to park directly in front of my room, and as I was shuttling all of the stuff I’d never use into it, a guy from next door noted my license plate and asked where in SC I was from. While the answer was “Myrtle”, and he lived in Columbia, we struck up an ongoing conversation anyway and after getting the lowdown from Willie and roommate Robert, in the area together to complete some contracting work, I felt more assured that things would be OK.

They went out to grab dinner while I stayed behind and changed the grease on the trailer’s hubs, a somewhat annoying, but necessary ninety minute process, made easier by borrowing a jack they happened to have in the truck (I had first asked for a cinder block, just like back on the morning of Day Two). I was done about the time they returned, we swapped more stories and hung out for a little, and we shared in some of the ever-present Crown Royal Cask No. 16. I needed to do some web updating so I returned to my room and, though the night was noisy with the sound of breaking bottles and children running around outside at one, two, three in the morning, mercifully I slept fine and discovered no damage to the rig (accidental or otherwise) the next morning. The trip was to  continue unabated!

Breaux Bridge

Breaux Bridge


Eclectic Decor

BB Cemetary

The Bayou King


Sign Close-Up

Charlie T's

Boudin & Cracklin'


Seafood Boudin