Wed. Aug. 28, 2019:
New Orleans, Louisiana to Houston, Texas:
I woke up around 7am to go to the bathroom but it was actually 8am our time and by the time I came back to bed Brent was awake. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t manage it. Brent ordered a southern continental breakfast for us to split. Apparently, our hotel was renowned for their buttermilk biscuits. The menu said to allow 35 minutes to prepare. We both made jokes about it being Claire the cat making biscuits. The biscuits lived up to the hype. They were warm and soft, the butter melted right in, perfect for topping with strawberry jam. I don’t even like buttermilk biscuits and I was all for these. The coffee had some chicory in it, another thing to check off my list of must-eats (or in this case must-drinks). The smell was making me nostalgic, I used to drink straight chicory “coffee” in high school (no regular coffee mixed in so no caffeine). I did briefly worry for a moment that my morning coffee was not a true coffee. But no headache came about so I guess it was a mix.
It was a 30-minute walk to the car rental place. The first part of the walk was great. We walked down Bourbon St., except it was like 8:30am. Instead of revellers we saw street cleaners. The sidewalks were being hosed down, all the cups shot into the street with jets of water and then scooped up by the cleaning truck. The streets were sprayed from the truck with soap and water. It was oddly satisfying to watch. It was incredible how many bars we walked by. Some had really funny names like “Big Ass Beers.” We wondered how they all stayed in business (little did we know). The second half of the walk up Canal St. was pretty crappy and not much to see.
In the car we listened to the latest episode of Stuff You Should Know, How Punk Works. We stopped at Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli in Baton Rouge for an early lunch. because it was a deli counter in a supermarket, we were unsure of the hours and whether it would be open this early. Thankfully it was and it was not busy at all. I ordered a catfish po’boy because the market specializes in live fresh catfish. Brent ordered a half muffuletta. The name, in addition to being impossible to spell (I think every time I wrote it I had a slight variation), is also very unappetizing. It also slowed down our order. As I was standing around, wondering if they had forgotten about us, the lady said she was waiting on it. There were no appealing drinks in the cooler. We pondered the Cajun gator chips and wondered if that was just a name or did the chips contain gator in some form? They did not. Tony’s also did not have a bathroom. Back in the car we decided to go next door to Raising Cane’s Fried Chicken because apparently, they are famous for their chicken fingers, they’ve been included on Top 50 fast food item lists. And they had a bathroom. We walked in and there was no one there. Brent went to the bathroom, I stood there waiting to order. He came back, I still had not seen anyone. Eventually someone came out, she was surprised when we ordered just 3 chicken fingers no meal. Brent joked that it was too early in the morning. She was also amazed that we were from Canada. Brent was going to eat his sandwich in the car while I waited for our order. Except as soon as he had grabbed his sandwich, I showed up with our order. I actually spooked him.
One of the (many) bonuses to not driving is two free hands. I tore into the catfish po’boy after removing the tomatoes, leaving me with breaded & fried catfish pieces, lettuce and mayo on a white crusty roll. Each bite was heaven. It was the perfect sandwich. I ate half, thinking maybe we might trade if the muffuletta is good. The chicken fingers were alright, the real winner was the dipping sauce. The chicken fingers were made with higher quality meat than expected for fast food, but also the sheer size threw off the meat-to-breading ratio. I stole a bite of Brent’s muffuletta sandwich and it was good yes, but not quite good enough for a trade. There was one meat in there I did not like, pastrami maybe? It was a flat bread with three types of deli meats, an olive tapenade and melted cheese. It had potential but that one meat, threw it off. We didn’t go halfsies but Brent still got some of my sandwich as I was too full to finish. I regretted not getting a soda but we were going to stop for gas at some point.
We tried listening to an Australian podcast about food and travel. The episode was about Canada and it was so funny how little they knew. The lady asked the guy if he knew any other places on Canada’s east coast besides Niagara Falls. Once they had someone who worked for Tourism Canada on, we lost interest and switched to Giant Bomb. We drove through the pretty bayou swamp. It was crazy to see hydro towers out in the water. I needed the view to distract me, my allergies were in hyper-over-drive and the mini Mr. Big chocolate bars were a sorry melted mess (regardless, I ate what was left- I needed it to keep me awake). As we passed over Lake Charles, all the industrial towns and refineries smelled so strongly of broccoli, it was awful. There were so many ugly refineries in the (too-obviously named) town of Westlake. We passed by so many terrible billboards, most notably a Louisiana ad for sweet potatoes that said “yam it up,” nope. A guy had tried to go around an oversized load truck but the accompanying guide car, blocked the guy like it’s not safe to go around. The guy tried again and the guide nearly rammed him off the road and the guy sped around. It was all scary to watch, such stupidity.
Soon after we were in Texas, and it smelled of farts. There was no welcome sign until we were off the bridge and past the river. It was just past the welcome centre, but it was too late. I had cheered once we were across the river and saw the tiny border sign on the bridge, aka when we actually entered Texas. The first ad we saw once in Texas was for Dr Pepper- not helping, I was so thirsty. Texas is huge, we saw a sign saying that Beaumont was in 23 miles and El Pas was 857 miles away. We stopped at Flying J gas station. I got Brent a cherry Dr Pepper and I finally got my Sunkist fix. I also found a smooth almond butter Snickers and a triple chocolate Twix. Back on the road we saw an 18-wheeler blow a tire. Except at first, we had no idea what was going on. Debris was flying from under the truck and we thought maybe it had hit something? Thankfully it was one of the middle tires and he didn’t lose control.
We kept seeing all these stupid (and sometimes plain confusing) billboards for some place called “Buc-Ees” and we couldn’t even figure out what it was. They sold “beaver tots,” didn’t like litter and the most confusing one: “Oh fudge! Buc-Ees is Coming Up!” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! As we drove by, we saw that it was an enormous gas station/truck stop. We had never seen one that big. We had to go to see it, I regretted not having stopped in. I made it my mission the rest of the drive to keep an eye out for another one. Surely it couldn’t be the only one out there?!
We made a pitstop before going to our hotel in Houston to check out the Menil collection. (My plans of checking out Buc-Ees would have to wait until tomorrow’s drive). I didn’t expect such a varied collection. The collection ranged from ancient stuff to a great selection of works by Magritte (further cementing my love of him). There were a few other buildings in the museum aside from the main one. As we walked to the Cy Wombly collection it started raining lightly. I was not impressed with his work. Things kind of only went downhill from there. The Drawing building consisted of some very repetitive work by one person that felt like an art school project (maybe it was?). Back outside it was raining much harder, the sky was black and it was thundering. It was so loud and close that it kept scaring me. There was one lightning strike that was pretty much next to us, even though we didn’t actually see it, it happened at the same time as the thunder. We ran through the rain to what was once a grocery store but was now supposed to house a cool exhibit made of lights only to find out it was closed. Why didn’t they inform us when we arrived at the main building?! The last stop on the tour was the fresco chapel. That one we at least knew it was closed for renovation but at least we could look at the outside. Given how close the lightning still was and how hard it was raining, it was not really worth it. We had a scary speed-walk back to the car, through a neighbourhood full of trees.
We got to the car just as the rain intensified. By the time we got to the hotel it was pouring. At first, I could see Minute Maid park just up the block. A few minutes later I could see nothing out the window. It was a torrential downpour and the thunder kept setting off the same car alarm- every few minutes it would wail for a few seconds. We sat in the room trying to plan out what to do. We didn’t want to stand in line in the rain, we would wait until just before the game started before heading out. Just as I opened up my ebook, Brent noticed that it had started to clear up a bit. We ran for it to the stadium, the sky looked like it wasn’t finished.
We did a full lap of the concourse and assessed all of our food options. Brent got a beer from Crawford brewery which had been on my list of top food items, as they made a beer especially for the ballpark. It came in a souvenir cup and wasn’t that bad of a deal actually. One of the first vendors I had seen was selling cider and they were the only one. The St. Arnold’s cider also came in a souvenir cup. The guy filled it to the brim and I had to stand there sipping it until it was no longer threatening to spill over. On our walk Brent had noticed a sign for Torchy’s Tacos, a well known Austin place. We had to take a minor detour to the second level. We had gotten to the park early and really hadn’t eaten much since the sandwiches in the car. These would be a nice snack to tide us over until later. We split two tacos: “trailer trash” (fried chicken) and a pork one. We had opposing views, I was dead-set on the fried chicken one being the better of the two. On the way to our seats Brent got a second beer (that’s how long we wandered the concourse). I really liked the name of it, Hopsadillo. Except now we had three souvenir cups, because apparently draft beer is better than in a can? I was still slowly working on my cider.
In the 3rd inning Tampa Bay hit a home run and it landed in the bullpen just below us. A few minutes later Brent checked Reddit to see if we had gotten on TV and at the same moment Ryan sent a very grainy screen cap of us sitting in the stands.
In the middle of the 4th inning I suggested we go for food at the end of it. I knew I was risking missing a home run and not getting to see the train full of oranges ride across the outfield board but I was hungry. No sooner had I said it, Yuli Gurriel hit a home run! The streak was broken! San Francisco was an anomaly! The train was so cute, puttering along and blowing its whistle. (We later saw that they had an actual guy in there dressed as a conductor). We split an oyster po’boy and an order of pork burnt ends tater tots from Street Eats. This just added to our souvenir collection, the tots were served in a plastic baseball helmet. The po’boy was delicious but unruly to eat, and why why why would they include tomatoes?! The pork burnt ends were tasty but overall the dish was just too heavy and too much, I could only eat it in little increments. We had gone back to St. Arnold’s for my final round. When getting my cider, I had noticed that they also had a margarita machine back there. What I only found out as I now stood in line was that the margarita was served in, of all things, a giant souvenir flute with a baseball base. Great, add it to the pile. It was called a “yard margarita” and it did not disappoint. I had a swirl of regular and strawberry. Of all the souvenir items we only kept one of the St. Arnold’s pint cups and one of the Crawford ones.
During the 7th inning stretch almost no one sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” but when “Deep in the Heart of Texas” came on right after everyone started singing it. The 8th inning was the most eventful. There were a few instances of “bases loaded” walks and a few singles. At the time there was a lot of excitement about it all. At the top of the 9th we booed Osuna. In the elevator back at the hotel we met some Tampa fans who complimented the Skydome and downtown Toronto. By the time we were back in the hotel room I was so tired, it was 10:45pm and I still had to shower and write everything down in my notebook.