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Friday, November 13, 2009

Basking in the Bayou

*Due to technical difficulties with the wifi, this post is a day late in being published. We are now in a hotel in Houma, LA and working to select a place for dinner. Big choices! Read on, my friends!...*

It's now Friday the 13th, which means there are four days that are unaccounted for of our trip! I better rectify that immediately...

We drove from Amarillo to Dallas Tuesday, arriving just as dusk washed over the HUGE metropolis of Dallas/Fort Worth/all the other suburbs that make up the hugely populated area. I am from a Minnesota town of under 25,000 so the hugeness of Dallas/Ft Worth was almost shocking to me. But with the fabulous driving skills that Matt has, and the superior navigation skills that the Atlas and I have, we arrived safely. Only one small detour needed and that was in the suburbs and not on the freeway. We met up with our friends TJ and Laura and their beautiful kids, well 2 of the 3. We hadn't seen them since we left Hawaii, so this was a joyful reunion for us all. TJ and Matt worked together in the Marines, and they are both done now. It was nice to see some familiarity from the last several years of our lives, the military life. The four of us headed to Texas Roadhouse for dinner while family watched the kiddos. Much needed chitchat followed while we talked about the last few months and about what's to come in life after the Marines.

Laura's mom was so wonderful and let us stay overnight at her house, along with the Ybarra family. It was nice to not have a check-out time in the morning. Matt and I experienced Whataburger for the first time on Wednesday morning and can I just say, I'm in LOVE? I forgot what the item I had was, but it's basically a breakfast burrito, starts with a T. If someone knows what it is called, add it in the comments section. It was the best breakfast food I've ever had, from a fast food restaurant. After some relaxation and part of the movie "Cars", Laura and I decided to engage in a little retail therapy, and two of the best stores for bargain hunters: Marshall's and ROSS. I was able to get some great [cheap!] pieces that will hopefully add some variety into my Minnesota-Winter wardrobe. The jeans and fleece zip ups got a little redundant last year. Matt and TJ hit up a place called Speed Zone, where they raced go carts, saw what they could do on a drift track, and raced drag racers. Needless to say, they had a blast. We were treated to a home cooked lasagna meal from TJ's mom, and we settled in at his parents house for the night. Again, such welcoming homes from both families. We were very thankful. Thursday morning, Matt and I experienced Chick-Fil-A for the first time; another southern sensation. We have to load up on these southern delights before we go back north where they don't have them! Another great choice for fast food goodness. [Life on the road... not exactly good for the nutrition conscious people...]

We said our goodbyes to TJ, Laura and the family on Thursday afternoon and navigated our way out of the city to I-20 East. It's always sad to say goodbyes when you don't know exactly when you'll be seeing them again. We invited them up to the chilly tundra for a good old fashioned Minnesota winter, so hopefully in a few years, they'll be able to see what our life is like up north. I consulted Rand McNally and discovered that from Minneapolis to Dallas, it is 991 miles on I-35, which was MUCH shorter than I expected. Add another 140 miles or so, and they'd be at our front door. I think that the kids need to experience real snow, right?? YES! My fingers are crossed.

We crossed into Louisiana and stopped for the night in Shereveport, LA. We scored on dinner at Wendy's for $5.06 [MY kind of bargain!] and decided on a Motel 6 for the night, because that was the easiest option without entering the 150,000+ populated city. I don't want to be a nay-sayer because the quality of a motel wholely depends on the management and even on the people who clean the rooms, but I was disappointed. We weren't given the option of smoking/non [she never asked], and so I assumed it was like Minnesota and Hawaii, and lots of other states across the country - No smoking inside. Nope. Matt and I were in a room that smelled very strongly of smoke. I know that we should have turned around immediately and requested another room, and from now on, I will. But we had already trekked all of our belongings up the stairs to the room. [For some reason, we have been given second floor rooms non stop the last week or so.] Plus, when we carry things up, we take everything in one trip, stumbling and bumping against walls, so that we only have to take one trip. Dumb, I know... but that's one of my flaws, I'd rather take one trip and carry everything at once than take multiple trips comfortably. I'm working on it... [not]. Also, I tried to mask the smell with a Bath and Body Works Nutmeg spray that I have, which failed miserably. We now have an Escape that smells of Nutmeg-ey smoke. We won't be in that situation again, I promise that one!

Enough complaining though... we woke up in the morning and headed out of Shereveport. It was so lovely to see water again! I'm not entirely sure if the water in the ditches was because of recent rain or if it was always like that because of the swamps around, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We headed south on I-49 and approached a town called Natchitoches, LA. I saw a billboard that said 'ROMANTIC Natchitoches.' I was hooked. I dictated the exit and we followed the signs for the 'Historic Downtown'. At first, I was a little dismayed by the garbage in the ditches, but hey... maybe it is getting close to a ditch pickup day. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. We followed the flow of traffic past the Northwestern University of Louisiana and I saw my first full blown Sorority or Fraternity house, complete with great big letters outside of it. Yes, I know... not something that is very exciting to others, but I went to college in a town that didn't have any sororities or fraternities, so I never saw any houses. Only on TV. Pretty cool!

We ended up heading down a brick street that paralelled a river and the first thing that both Matt and I noticed was the unlit Christmas lights! The town was decorating main street for their lighting festival, so in between my ooh-ing and ahh-ing, I directed Matt down to the parking lot along the river so I could look around. We spent the next three hours exploring Natchitoches. We irritated some weird looking geese, took pictures of flowers, [I] ran away from bees, looked at unlit Christmas lights and wished it was dark and they were lit... We ate lunch at The Landing Restaurant, where Matt tried the Fried Green BLT. Since I am not a very adventurous eater, I didn't venture out of my comfort bubble much. I had a turkey and walnut wrap, which was fabulous. Oh, Matt had sweet potatoe fries for the first time ever, and fell in love. We did a few minutes of shopping, and walked around some more. Then, after getting some pamphletes from the Visitor Center, we decided to go walk around the American Cemetary, which is supposedly the oldest cemetary in the Louisiana Purchase. The oldest grave we saw was from the early 1800's, but we did a pretty quick walk through. There were graves there from the 1700's, which was when this town was founded. It was neat and pretty eerie, seeing those old grave markers, and seeing the life spans. Some people born in the mid 1800's lived for 90-100 years! That is amazing to me. It was also really eerie and sad to see the markers for kids that died at such young ages. One family had two graves which held sons of different ages, but who died 15 days apart. In 1903, I believe. My educated guess is some type of illness took the first brother and then shortly after, the second brother died too. What heartache for that family!

Anyway, after the cemetary, we headed out of Natchitoches. Oh, when we were in the Visitor Center, I asked the girl there how to pronounce the city name. Matt and I had been saying it just as it is spelt: 'Natch-i-toe-chess.' The correct way? 'Nack-i-tish.' Woahhhhh, way off. Haha, now we know though! We continued on south. We decided to settle in Lafayette for the night, to be closer to the bayou and Baton Rouge/New Orleans for the next day or two. It was kind of interesting trying to find a place to stay; Lafayette isn't exactly easy to navigate. BUT, after some grumbling, navigating, laughing, and sighing, we made it to a Comfort Inn, and thanks to a coupon in a lodging guide, we scored a deal and are staying in a Hotel for the first time on this trip! Hellloooo continental breakfast tomorrow! We headed to a Cici's Pizza for dinner and were absolutely pleased by the selection, the price and the food! Anyone been there before? I have been to one in Florida before, but years ago. It was as good as I remembered. We've been talking about one for the last few states, so I was so happy when the front desk attendant told us there was one in this town.

The plan is that tomorrow, we are going to make a call to a swamp tour and see if we can't get in on one. Then from there, I want to explore some of the smaller towns. We aren't all that from from the ocean, so I'm so thankful the bad weather has passed. [Knocking on wood right now... *knock, knock, knock*] So far, Louisiana has been good to us! We love the green scenery and the moderate temperatures. We don't get shocked every time we get out of the car anymore! On the not so lovely note though... I did see a mosquito tonight. Haha, simple reminders of home, eh?

Well, time to enjoy this luxurious Comfort Inn room. I feel like we're in the Ritz; the wall behind the bed is an accent wall - painted deep red with a coordinating chair and bedspread, there are beautiful photos on the walls, a high class desk chair screams class, and we have a big standing closet in addition to the dresser and night stands. The shower curtain even has leaves on it! Plus, there is [imitation, I'm sure] marbel or granite or something that looks just like it on the counter and floor in the bathroom! I'm in love. Yes, I will be taking photos of it all too. :) The simple things...

Until next time... I hope the Minnesota chill stays away for at least a few more weeks!


  1. It sure was! I hope I get to try their chicken nuggets in biscuits for breakfast once before we go back! I was told that was their specialty!


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