A Travellerspoint blog

Driving around America: Part II

Clarksdale to Amarillo

sunny 27 °C

Day 8: Clarksdale

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We'd had a pretty relaxing time in Memphis over the past few days so we were ready to hit the road. The taxi driver that drove us to the airport was from Somalia. We didn't ask why, but he had funky legs and was using two metal poles which he'd adjust with his wrist to either brake or accelerate. I've seen people with crazy legs drive with a hand accelerator but not with this odd looking contraption. Either way, we made it to the airport safely and headed to the car rental desk. No issue picking up the car. In fact, the guy in the car bay asked us if we wanted to upgrade from a full size to a sporty Dodge Challenger. The answer was a big YES (from me, Michelle said the car was a bit ugly...).

We were into the Challenger and off to Clarksdale. We made a quick stop at the Blue and White Diner, an old place started up back in 1924! It was the classic American diner through and through. We both had a sweet tea and I had the blackened catfish with chilli cheese fries, Michelle had the pot roast. The food was pretty decent but the "classic diner" feel was fantastic.
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The new car was great! It had a 0-60mph timer function so you could time yourself from a stop. Had about 3 guys walk up in three days and tell us we were driving an American classic and that it was a work of art! Not the best car for long distance cruising (the seats and suspension are a bit stiff) but great fun for burning around.

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I hadn't told Michelle that we were staying in a shack so that was a pretty big surpriser for her! The Shack Up Inn is a yard full of old shacks from around the Mississippi river that have been relocated here. Each one seemed to have a different kind of mojo. Ours was the Cadillac Shack which had a small bar and an old TV that only played blues radio. The photos unfortunately don't do it justice. It just had SO much character! (check out the shower taps!!)
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We had dinner at the Ground zero nightclub (owned by Morgan Freeman). Listened to some blues music and made our way home in the pouring rain to our leaky shack.. Yeah we got the blues...

Day 9: Lafayette

The next day we had a massive 7 hour drive down to Lafayette to watch the Annual Louisiana beard competition. The hotel was a bit of a dive but the beard competition was pretty interesting. They had five different categories. The full beard, modified beard, lady beards, moustache and beard no moustache (including chops). We were kinda hoping that the comp was gonna be redneck heaven but we were disappointed. It was good fun but nobody there was really taking it seriously. We were dead tired after this so just crashed out ready for New Orleans.

Day 10: New Orleans

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We arrived at our swanky hotel- The Hyatt Regency in downtown New Orleans, another great bid on priceline. We wanted a hotel in the French Quarter but the best we could do on our budget was just outside. The hotel had been renovated last year so that far outweighed the extra 10 minute walk. We were starving after our drive and hadn't really eaten all day so we headed into the French quarter for some authentic creole food. We got to the restaurant- called Oliviers, as suggested by the hotel 15minutes before it opened so decided to grab a drink in the bar across the road. Strangely enough the bartender suggested that we go to the same restaurant, as well as a couple of other places in town. We headed over and got into some delicious rabbit and a seafood sampler (jumbalaya, blackened fish and crawfish). Pretty good grub but not the cheapest around.

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We followed our bartender's recommendation and headed down to Frenchmen St to listen to a bit of Music and check out the bars. Frenchman street is far less touristy and crazy than Bourbon St and we preferred it by far! On the way home, we walked through Bourbon Street- it is like the skanky version of Vegas. It really wasn't very appealing.

Day 11

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Our first plan for the day was to check out the Fisherman's Market. The market was pretty well laid out and had heaps of jewelery, souveniers and food. We passed through the jewelery and souvenier sections pretty fast and got straight into the food. It was Sunday so there was a big crawfish cookup at one of the stands which we headed straight for. I went and got the mango daquiris and Michelle sorted out the crawfish. This was the first time we had boiled crawfish like this and it was delicious. A little bit spicy but perfect to sooth our starving stomachs. We didn't quite get enough so we went back for seconds. Felt like forever though as we had to wait for the new batch. It was worth the wait though these weren't as spicy as the first lot :(.

On the way home we checked out some of the street performers and soaked up a little bit of sun. We followed that up with a nice dip in the pool and a little nap in the deck chairs at the hotel.
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Day 12

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Today we were running late. We'd booked a tour of the St Louis Cemetery but it seemed like everything we did after waking up took twice as long as it should have. Turns out we were only 10minutes late and the guide hadn't finished his introduction so we were safe. The tour took us through parts of the french quarter where he told us all the different ways that fathers in the past used to keep men away from their daughters. There were some mean spikes that were on the balcony supports that looked like pretty deadly hooks. Supposedly they were there to strip a man of his manhood if he slid up or down the pole. Sounds like a cool story, not sure how much truth there was in it. The houses in the french quarter looked a bit backward to us. All of the front doors and patios are out the back of the house and the street side of the house has plain old doors and nowhere to stand. Most people wanted to spend time sitting in their nice backyards rather than on the smelly streets. Makes sense I guess.

The tour then took us through the cemetery where we saw the graves of some famous New Orleanians. We saw the grave of the guy who first thought to granulise sugar. It was always sold as a molasses prior to this. Imagine life without this guy! There was also a New Orleanian gentleman named Lionel Batiste who thought it rude to sit at his own funeral and decided to have himself propped up for the whole ceremony. What a champ, think I'll copy that for my funeral one day! The cemetery itself was a lot different that what we see back home. Each family has a tomb that sits above ground (as its not a great idea to bury someone in a swamp) which they use kind of like an oven. When someone dies they put that person in what I like to call the "baking" section and leave them for a year. After a year in this hot brick oven there isn't much left but bones and ashes. They then slide the rest down another section inside the tomb with the oven ready for the next family member that dies. I've simplified the whole system but it sounds like its a hell of a lot better than burying a loved one only to have them float up during the next storm or flood (which did happen).

Granulated sugar man's tomb - what a champ!
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The "oven" tomb. Three centre oven sections with space down the side for 40 or 70 family members ashes!
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Once the tour was over, we decided to head back to the Fisherman's market for more crawfish- it is so addictive. Unfortunately, being a Monday- there was none today, must have sold out over the weekend. So we settled with some plain boiled crawfish at a cafe nearby- still pretty yummy though.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting by the poolside chilling out.

Day 13: Houston

We picked up our rental car from New Orleans airport and we were off again.. on the road. We initially had a Cadillac XTS - Blake was so excited because he was hoping they had a Cadillac at the airport, but when we drove it out, we were told the someone had booked it for the afternoon. The other premium car they had was a Chrsyler 200 convertible which we couldn't fit out luggages in, so they got us a Chrysler 300.

It took us nearly 6 hours to get to Houston. It would have been faster if there wasn't an accident on the I-10.

We caught up with Amy (Blake's friend from uni who is working in Houston) for dinner at Taste of Texas and a drink at a bar just around the corner. The gave us bandana's as it was our first meal in Texas. We hadn't had a big steak in weeks so we were really keen for this! We got to our hotel at 11.30 and got our room cards from the after hours safes. Luckily there was still someone working as neither of our cards worked. After that it took us all of about 5 minutes to get to sleep.
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Day 14

We had planned on checking out the museum quarter this morning but neither of us really had the museum vibe going on. We decided to check out a couple of the more weird Houston sites. The orange show monument was built by one man between 1956 and 1979. They must have had some good drugs in Houston back then. The place is filled with mechanical models of paddle steamers and cannons but they weren't running when we were there. In fact, on the way out we realised that the place was actually closed and we just happened to sneak right in the main gate. So we saved $2! Yay!
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After this we went to the beer can house which is pretty impressive. Back in 1968 the owner decided it would be a great idea to cover his house and yard with beer cans. Not sure how long it took but there's meant to be around 50,000 beer cans on the property. Drinking them must have been a full time job. This place was closed too so we just took some happy snaps and headed to the Galleria for some retail therapy and a cheap lunch.
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We had a bit of a stroll around the shops but basically everything was too expensive for us so we went for lunch. Halfway through lunch Michelle noticed a guy on the floor above dancing for seemingly no reason. The best bit of it was that he was doing all the girly moves that you see on film clips. After a good 20 minutes laughing at him we decided to do a "walk by" to check out his skills up close. Turns out he was playing some dance game on the Kinect, but must have only chosen the female dancers? Each to their own I guess...

After a quick rest in the room we headed out to meet Amy at Top Golf. Its a multi story driving range that serves up food and drink while you're in your bay. There are a couple of choices of games to play there too. Each ball is tracked so the game knows where you hit it and how to score you. Pretty addictive! We're life members now.
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After a quick dinner at Topgolf, we went out to the Wild West bar which is a cowboy hat, plaid shirt, polka dancing bar. Real cheap drinks and a Mirrorball in the shape of a saddle. What a crazy place! From the looks of the photos our camera must have been drunk. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Day 15

We really couldn't be bothered today. We we stayed in only leaving the hotel in the evening to catch up with Amy. She took us to a place for called Brazil cafe for dinner. Blake had some chicken tamales, and i had a yummy duck salad :). After, Amy took us out to meet her 'happy hour' friends. Not really happy hour drinks, but friends who meet up to socialise after work. One of Amy's friends so happen to be a mate of Blake's from uni who is also an engineer, working in Houston. What a small world. It seems like Houston is the place for Australian engineers. We finished the night back at Amy's apartment, while Blake and Amy chatted about engineering stuff for like a whole 2 hours.. i tried my best to keep my eyes open till Blake was ready to go.

Day 16: San Angelo

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After failing to find our tv remote, we checked out of our hotel (without telling them about it.. hopefully they don't charge us for it) and drove to Lockhart for lunch at a place called Black's BBQ. Amy and her friends spoke highly of this place and we were pretty keen on some texan bbq beef rib!! We ordered a giant beef rib and some moist beef brisket with creme corn, potato salad and beans. It was the best BBQ meat we've had. The beef brisket was so tender ; The rib was a little bit salty and a little bit smoky, it was just so good!! Absolutely MUST try it if passing through.

We continued on our drive to San Angelo which took another 2 hours to get to. We'd booked into a B&B with a room in the old chicken feed silo. Fortunately they'd done some renovations since that time and the place was immaculate (also not a chicken in sight). It was pretty wierd going to sleep in a round room, woke up having strange nightmares about laying eggs and being chased by foxes. Not sure what any of that is supposed to mean... The room was in an artist complex which we didn't really get a lot of time to explore. Looked quite interesting though.
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Day 17: Amarillo

We checked out of the hotel early and headed to an event in town at Fort Concho called Frontier Day. As per usual we just managed to fluke this so we were pretty happy. This place had an old telephone museum and a very nice (but hard of hearing) 90year old lady showed us how she used to operate the telephone switchboard back in the 40's. We then took a look at some of the local Native American tribe's tools and were told a bit about how they used to live and work with the soldiers at the fort. The best thing of all was to watch an old gatling gun and a cannon fire on the parade ground. The gatling gun was one of the handle cranked ones which was brilliant. The one legged ex-army guy was telling us that the cannon was far more versatile (could shoot solid shot, buckshot and fused bombs) and just as heavy to carry so the gatling gun was pretty unpopular...

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We once again hit the road and it took a good 4 hours to drive to Amarillo which wasn't as bad as we'd thought. We checked ourselves into our hotel at the Holiday Inn, then headed out for a nice big streak at the Big Texan. We were both really hungry as we hadn't eaten lunch so the steak went down a treat. They also have their own brewery there so got to try a couple of beers. Unfortunately we weren't hungry enough to attempt their 72oz (2kg) steak challenge. If you finish it, you get it for free!! Hahaha.. Yah.. no way. We were hoping someone will give the challenge ago, so we could watch. Luckily for us, some Aussie dude was game enough for the challenge. He started just as we finished our meal, so we didn't stick around to find out if he finished it, but we went down to cheer him on and gave him a pat on the back!! Told him to do it for Stralya.
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This aussie is attempting to eat 72oz (that is 2 kgs) of steak in 1 hour:
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Day 18

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Our first national park since Wakulla springs. Just a little bit different... Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the United States and its not far out from Amarillo- only a 30 minutes drive. We decided to do the 6 mile (10km) round trip to the lighthouse formation. We intended to get there nice and early but made it just in time for the hottest part of the day. Go us! Most of the walk was easy but just before the lighthouse you have to climb up out of the canyon which was pretty slippery at some points. Absolutely beautiful views up top. We walked/climbed/slid back down the slope without any broken bones and made it back to the car in about 3 1/2hours. We got back to the car, cranked up the A/C and headed off.
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Next stop was Cowboy Gelato, time for an cool reward! Cowboy Gelato is on 6th Street, Amarillo which is part of the old Route 66. We tried to look into a couple of the antique shops but most things were closed on Sunday. We finished our day with a nice piece of steak and some BBQ ribs for Michelle. It sure did went down a treat!!

To be continued..

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 21:15 Archived in USA

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