Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour

Author Message
Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:35 PM
5
Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour

Driving to me is fun. We had already put on 34,000 miles covering 29 states in the past three seasons but this is the first year both my wife and I are retired with unlimited time.

Our travel mode is a Freightliner. No, not a semi. It is actually a Mercedes Benz Sprinter diesel powered van badged as a Freightliner that has been converted into a Class B motorhome by Pleasure-Way Industries, a Canadian company out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. It has all the features of home. It has a refrigerator/freezer, two burner gas stove, microwave oven, kitchen sink, built in electric coffee pot, bathroom with vanity sink and shower, furnace, air-conditioning, propane generator, 30 gallon water tank, 6 gallon hot water heater, 19" HDTV/DVD and electric sofa that converts to a queen size bed. It is kind of small but the tight squeeze fanny to fanny moving around dances can be enjoyable.

The great thing is it is no wider or longer than an extended bed, crew cab Silverado pickup truck so you can park it just about anywhere and get in and out of restaurant parking lots which is important for roadfooding. Travel is economical as we average 22.5 mpg with our 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine.

This is it.



Here is our Photo Gallery and Slideshow showing it in great detail plus several of our past camping stops.

http://web.mac.com/davydd/Site/Vacations/Pages/Pleasure-Way.html

So it is now time to hit the road. Our destination this trip starting out in Minneapolis, MN is Acadiana Cajun country.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:36 PM
0
We headed out the morning of April 15th. Had I known ahead of time that this year I would not procrastinate on my income taxes as I traditionally do we might have headed out a few days earlier. Oh well...we were underway.

Courtney Levenhagen, the daughter of the owners of the Suzie-Q Cafe in Mason City, IA was doing a social studies school project. She e-mailed me asked me about my source information how I ranked the Suzie-Q the second best tenderloin. I told her that came from me right here on Roadfood.com here.

http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/tm.aspx?m=338704

You'll soon see why and we decide a return visit was in order.

It was magic! Our first stop was at the Suzie-Q Cafe in Mason City, IA. We got there a little after 1:00 PM and everyone was waiting for our pre-announced stop. Unfortunately, Courtney was in school. How often do you stop at a 10 stool diner (I counted them) and get a magic show of card tricks and disappearing sugar from Levey the Great, Troy Levenhagen, the owner. He also conjured up a great tenderloin. I tried his newest creation, the Spic-N-Span Melt consisting of a deep-fried tenderloin served with melted cheese, grilled fresh onions combined with reconstituted onions on buttered toast. It was a cozy, friendly place and fun to banter with complete strangers. I also took a picture of another patron's regular battered tenderloin  on a bun. Nancy had the BLT hoping to eat a little lighter while suffering through a head cold. We also sampled, without bun, their grilled tenderloin and one of their newest creations, the "Cow Pie", a battered and deep-fried Oreo cookie coated with powdered sugar and caramel sauce. We would like to have sampled some other stuff. Another patron ordered a Ribeye burger while we were there. It was a combination Ribeye steak and hamburger. So much food, so little stomach.

While we were there a KIMT TV video crew rushed over and interviewed me at the diner. I doubt I made the news cut being not so photogenic, tongue-tied and admitting I was originally from Indiana. There was a Tea Party protest just a block away and when I checked their web site that was the video news.

The Suzie-Q Cafe is worth a stop. It is unique in its size and being a Valentine prefabricated diner built in the 40s and transported to the site from Wichita, Kansas. It first opened in 1948. Here is a diner history...

http://www.kshs.org/diners/history.htm

Get used to me weaving architecture in with food in my reports. I'm an architect.

First stop of our trip - the Suzie-Q Cafe in Mason City, Iowa


The Suzie-Q is a 10 stool Valentin Diner. Here's looking from the entrance.


Here is standing in the corner and looking back toward the grill and kitchen


Troy Levenhagen, Owner and the Great Levy preparing a Spic-N-Span tenderloin


Our cook and waitress sporting the "Rated #2 in the Nation" tee shirt. I recommend they go with Rated #1 in Iowa even though the Iowa Pork Producers Association hasn't yet gotten around to discovering them.


This is the Spic-N-Span deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwich


This is the new Spic-N-Span Melt, a tenderloin with cheese, reconstituted onions and grilled onions on toast


This is a sample tasting of the grilled tenderloin without the Spic-N-Span


The Suzie-Q Cafe BLT


The rest of the menu


The new items included a Ribeye burger


Finally for dessert, the "Cow Pie", a battered and deep-fried Oreo cookie with powdered sugar and caramel sauce


From there we drove on to Lake McBride State Park in Iowa near Solon and camped. One tenderloin per day was enough so we were not too tempted to make a return visit to nearby Joensy's self-billed as the "Biggest and Best in Iowa".


Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:37 PM
0
After Lake McBride we did an uneventful drive down to Perrysville, MO south of St. Louis and camped. We also ate all our meals out of our RV. Departing the following day we were tempted to visit Lambert's famed for the throwed rolls but passed it by before it opened for the day. I guess if it has a series of billboards that it would be a tourist trap. Well we were tourist but the timing was wrong. So, on to Memphis. You might gather this was not an exciting part of our trip.

The next phase of our trip I call the Elvis Tour. First stop was Graceland in Memphis. You can buy tickets to tour an airplane, museum and the mansion. We opted just to tour the mansion. On one side of the road is a large parking lot, ticket headquarters, restaurants and gift shops. You board a bus that takes you just across the street to Graceland and also brings you back. By today's mansion standards Graceland is not a huge home. Rooms are actually fairly small and the kitchen is very modest. I suspect had Elvis lived Graceland would have been completely rebuilt or there would have been numerous additions because of the changing styles of the rich and famous since the 70s.

Graceland


Living Room


Dining Room


Kitchen


Jungle Room


Mirrored Stair to Basement (me looking up at ceiling)


Mirrored TV Room


Billiard Room


Elvis' grave site along with his parents on the Graceland grounds


We did not eat any BBQ in Memphis. We just passed through with the one stop at Graceland and drove on down to Tupelo, MS where Elvis was born and grew up. In contrast Elvis lived in this small shotgun design house.





I suppose you need food on a food forum, so here is a BBQ pulled pork sandwich from Eli's BBQ Deli in Tupelo, MS along with "Gater chips".  Eli's had a smoker and made their BBQ on site. It looked like it had taken over a former chain fast food joint. Most of the clientele was drive up window service.


That's the Elvis tour. We camped overnight in a small private campground near Tupelo right off the Natchez Trace Parkway. Would you believe we ran into another B-van couple from Ohio in this campground that we had met in Mackinaw City the year before? Small world or maybe like minds.

Next stop Natchez, MS and Louisiana after a drive down the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:38 PM
0
We drove down the Natchez Trace Parkway for about half its 450 length that starts in Nashville, TN and ends in Natchez, MS. The parkway is a two lane non-stop road with a maximum speed limit of 50 mph maintained by the National Park Service. Traffic on the day we drove it was minimal thus making it a very pleasant relaxing drive. There is activity, roads and settlements pretty much parallel and adjacent to the parkway but you never see any of it, just trees and fields. Consequently, unless you get off the parkway there are no food stops but one the whole way. That stop was French Camp. French Camp, as the name implies was first settled by the French. There is a general store and cafe right on the parkway so we stopped there for a timely right on the dot noon lunch. When we arrived there was a small musical ensemble entertaining the patrons.

Approaching French Camp


View of the Council House Cafe patio at French Camp


The Council House Cafe menu was modest as you can see


The sandwiches were modest but tasty


We stopped at the end of the Natchez Trace and camped at Natchez State Park outside Natchez. We had finally run into rain so our time was spent snacking in our RV. The next Sunday morning we drove around downtown Natchez before heading on. There was nothing open early to do any touristy stuff.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:39 PM
0
Moving on down the road and entering Louisiana we decided to make a side trip and visit a southern plantation. We chose the Oakley Audubon Plantation in St. Francisville north of Baton Rouge on the advise of a little old lady manning the tourist info center on US 61 entering Louisiana. Surprisingly by today's mansion standards the place was rather modest for what was owned by the richest man in West Florida, the area that was independent for about 74 days after the Louisiana Purchase but finally claimed by the Union.

The unique aspect of this plantation was James J Audubon was hired for 3-1/2 months to tutor the owner's 16 year old daughter. He taught in the morning and had his afternoons free for his birding and painting. He produced 32 of his famed paintings in that short time, the most he had done in any one place. 28 original Audubon prints were on display in the house and the welcome center museum. For you nature enthusiasts, Audubon killed is birds in order to pose them for his paintings.

The house with a unique shutter porch to keep the house cool


Since this is a food related forum it should be pointed out that fresh bread was baked in an adjacent oven heated by a fireplace. This oven was actually abandoned by 1821 and was in Audubon's room on the ground floor of the house.


The kitchen was moved to an out building. This is that reproduction. Note again the bread oven next to the fireplace.


The grounds had barns, slave quarters, foundry and other out buildings. Gus the turkey was a greeter and a peacock and rooster hung around.




Enough of that. Time for lunch. We stopped at the Magnolia Cafe in St. Francisville.


I had the Magnolia Special beef sandwich with fries. It was a pleasant informal place.


Next stop will be Cajun country of Lafayette, Breaux Bridge and Abbeville to socialize with other B campervan owners from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Virginia off the top of my head and maybe some other places I forgot. 21 B campervans in all.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:40 PM
0
We all agreed on a campground and a date on the RV.net forums. Everyone made his/her own arrangements after that. There generally are no rules, fees, agenda or whatever other than a potluck dinner that is becoming a center piece tradition and just getting together. During the day we are mostly on our own. We call this circling the lawn chairs. As more and more arrive the circle gets bigger. After a while agreements are struck in the circle for shared activities.



We early arrivers all decided to drive down to Shucks! in Abbeville for lunch. A couple from Arizona had been there before and recommended it. It can be quite a sight to see several B campervans converge on a restaurant parking lot. I know from experience the locals are always surprised.

Shucks!


Nancy and I got there a half hour early and waited at the bar so sorry no arrival picture of that parking lot scene. I had my first Abita Amber beer, a local Louisiana brew. Yes, I liked it and bought a 12 pack later.


David Bertrand, the owner of Shucks! stopped at the bar and offered us Oyster Shooters and volunteered to mix them for us. An oyster shooter consist of Bloody Mary mix, a raw oyster, a hot chili sauce and finally thinned with vodka. Here is Bertrand stirring them simultaneously. See the blur of his hands?


Speaking of oysters, there was a whole lotta shuckin' goin' on behind the window looking in from the dining room.


Why do owners like us? When you show up with 25 people just after the lunch rush it is pure gravy for them.


Ah! Now the food. This was kind of a fried food place as I found most Cajun to be. Here are some fried alligator bits.


Fried Shrimp and sweet potato fries


Crawfish Etouffee and Tails


All in all it was very enjoyable and a bonus since our social was not scheduled to officially start until the next day. Early arrivers have all the fun.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:41 PM
0
Everyone anticipating the potluck? OK, this is the way it goes. There were no fire pits or grills in this campground! Even the night before we had to make do with our own homemade fire pit in order to have an evening campfire.



So what do you do? You dig a hole in the driveway, dump some charcoal and start a fire. How's this for a setup?


I browned about 4 lbs of stew meat here and then added New Glarus Brewing Stone Soup Ale for liquid. I just thought it was appropriate. Driveway stone, soup, get it?


It took me 5 hours from noon to 5 PM to cook the meat super tender to the point it shred. I added potatoes, onion, tomatoes, garlic, carrots, peppers, okra and seasonings. OK, here's my recipe for an 8 quart Dutch oven.

Hot Stew for Potluck in Dutch Oven

4 lbs. cubed stew meat
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 chopped yellow onion
5 chopped fresh garlic cloves
3 cubed red potatoes
3 diced and de-seeded Anaheim peppers
1 cup of chopped okra
2 chopped carrots
1-1/2 tablespoon of Paprika
Dash of salt and pepper to taste
3 cans of New Glarus Stone Soup Ale (or any beer of choice)
6 chopped vine ripened tomatoes

Start at least five hours before serving time. Place pot on charcoals and brown meat with olive oil. After meat is browned add other ingredients two hours before serving time and add lid with 15 charcoals.


The cook shows up. My sous chef, Nancy, was back in the van chopping the vegetables. I was outside developing a nice tiger foot tan wearing my Keen sandals.


The hot stew delivered to the potluck table. Note the joke. The organizer begged us all not to bring string bean casserole. Someone walked around and stuck three string beans in every dish.


There were lots of contributions from the 21 B vans. This is the potluck table. My stew disappeared immediately and that's all I can ask for validation.


The potluck one night has been traditional for the B socials we have attended. This is the third time I've made my stew with variations. This is the second time I was forced to use the driveway for lack of fire pits. I did the same in Moab, UT last fall. I let the coals burn down and just recover the area with the driveway stones and you cannot tell it was ever done.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:42 PM
0
Moving on. The next day a few of us sought out more Cajun food. Our destination was not too far away from our campground, Prejean's Simply Cajun on the frontage road of I-49 north of Lafayette, LA in Carencro.







The cavernous interior. That's my wife Nancy in the foreground.


The stuffed gator centerpiece


The wall mural dominates the dining room


Let's get to what we come for now. To start us off I ordered an appetizer of Crawfish Boudin Balls. Yep, more fried food.


Around our table I'll start with Catfish Pontchartrain


How about a Crawfish Enchilada


Eggplant for the vegetarian


Seafood Gumbo


Stuffed Breaded Shrimp


And in case you are wondering, I managed to sniff out a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich Cajun style with French bread po-boy bun and onion loaf with remoulade sauce. This was my pursuit. It was excellent and worth the visit.


More to come in Acadiana or Cajun country...

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:43 PM
0
Prejean's Simply Cajun was lunch with just a few people. Even knowing the whole group was going out for a Cajun dinner, I just simply could not put off pursuing that pork tenderloin sandwich. So, the evening meal was at Mulates "The Original Cajun Restaurant" in Breaux Bridge, LA. Mulates was selected by the group because if was one of the few places that had live Cajun music during the week (Wednesday in this case).

Mulates outside is an unimpressive building. You could easily pass it by.


Menu cover. They also have a restaurant in New Orleans.


The live band is in the middle with a dance floor. Our group flanked it separated by those log poles. The place was very dimly lit and my camera battery was running down so I was trying with difficulty to get enough photos in without a flash. My photos are a little disappointing.


Two restaurants in one day with a plethora of fried food? That's punishment but I went ahead and dove in with more fried alligator bits.


There were fried alligator, crawfish, catfish, oysters, crab, frog legs. It all looked alike and I am not sure I can separate them out now from memory. I do recognize the Shrimp Etouffee and the Shrimp and Oysters wrapped in Bacon. It is the Cajun seasonings that separate fried in Louisiana from fried in the Midwest. I like it.




Shrimp Etouffee


Fried shrimp and oysters wrapped in bacon


Three meals of fried. As I said, I like fried. This also means for the sake of my heart I will mostly eat veggie and light in the RV. Will it ever end. Not yet.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:44 PM
0
It's spring! It's time for a field trip boys and girls. Thursday morning we decided to drive down to Avery Island and tour the McIlhenny Tabasco Factory. When we got there it was mobbed with grade schoolers with bright yellow tee shirts from one school and bright green from another. We flicked their little ears and elbowed them aside to get in for a tour. As it turned out the tour was not much. A tour guide with a deep nearly undecipherable Cajun accent explained how the Tabasco plant was setup, its family history and how tabasco sauce was made. I did learn that tabasco peppers were picked when they achieved a deep red color and that color was gauged by a red stick they carried to judge the peppers. That stick was called a baton rouge. So there is a city in Louisiana named after a little red stick. The shuffle you into a little room where they show you a movie that explains the same over again and then you proceed through a glassed in corridor that overlooks the factory then out a door across from the country store.

Not to bore you like the grade schoolers here is a web page that explains the history and tabasco sauce if you would like.

http://www.tabasco.com/tabasco_history/mcilhenny.cfm

This is a model of Avery Island. It is a salt dome where the Avery and McIlhenny families lived. On the island they grew the tabasco plants. Now they grow only plants for seeds and have diversified their fields elsewhere. Also on the island is a salt mine, bird sanctuary and wildlife habitat. Most of the island is private and off limits so this model had to suffice.


This is the factory. There was no charge for the tour. It did cost a buck to cross onto the island.


You get ushered into a room for the start to get the pitch I mentioned. There were lots of information on placards around as well as this wall mural at the beginning of the tour.


This is the tour. Just a lot of bottling lines.






Then you can go into this Tabasco country store and sample all the different tabasco sauces they make. And of course buy stuff.


Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:46 PM
0
After we toured the McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce Factory on Avery Island we stopped off at Vermilionville near the Lafayette airport. Vermilionville is a 23 acre park on the banks of Bayou Vermilion with several restored and preserved homes and buildings reflecting the culture of Acadians and Creoles who settled the area from 1765-1890.  Here is a sampling of some of them...

A typical house


A small house


Period costume role players were throughout Vermilionville


A church


Boat works


A barn and foundry


The bayou ferry


Typical kitchen


The outdoor clay oven. Note that I am obsessed about building one of these for myself.


A sign about cooking in clay


After that intermission, back to the subject at hand - food. You knew there had to be food in this report. We had lunch at La Cuinsine De Maman "Mama's Cajun & Creole Cuisine" on the Vermilionville grounds. The dining room was modeled after a Creole plantation overseer's house. The menu was supposed to represent traditional Creole and Cajun cuisine. Nancy ate very light with just beans and rice. Since this was hopefully my last bout with fried foods in Louisiana I ordered chicken and Sausage gumbo followed up with a fried catfish po-boy sandwich.

Menu


The dining room fireplace


The dining room. We got there just before they closed at 2 PM.


Beans and Rice


Chicken and sausage gumbo


More fried food - the catfish po-boy sandwich


That evening we just hung around the campground and had a light snack in our RV and drinks while circling the lawn chairs. BTW, beer is not a good antidote for fried food bloatiness, but Wild Turkey 101 straight Kentucky bourbon with ice does seem to do the trick.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:48 PM
0
The BEE Social officially ended that Thursday night but some of us had some unfinished touristy business so we planned to stay around one more day at the campground. It would be a doozy of a day. Think alligator.

As a reminder, here we are circling those lawn chairs and discussing what to do on our leftover day after most departed.

The "Leftovers"


Some of us decided to take a Cajun Swamp Boat Tour at Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge. For $20 you get a two hour guided and narrated small flat bottom boat tour of the lake, sloughs, swamps and bayous. I'll say in advance it was well worth it if you ever get the chance.

Settling in the boat. The tour guide is the fellow standing in the back.


This is the cypress swamp


Dead alligator. Male no doubt if you hadn't noticed.


Live alligator


Menacing alligator


Egret meet alligator


Departing the boat


That was just an afternoon warm up for what I thought I was really coming down to Cajun country for. Several years ago I had driven from Houston, TX to New Orleans inspecting Target stores under construction along the way. I picked up a co-worker at the Lafayette airport and he suggested a place near the airport for dinner. We went there and I made the mistake of eating safe tried and true fried food. I had ordered before realizing the specialty in the place was BOILED CRAWFISH!. I had been wracking my brain all week trying to remember the place and I had finally figured it out. It was time, on our last night in Louisiana, to rectify that old mistake. I was calling the shots on this one. The "Leftovers" all agreed.

The place - Gator Cove


I've got to give Gator Cove's stuffed gator equal billing with Prejean's


The Gator Cove Menu


We ordered and we are now waiting for...


Hot Cajun Seasoned Boiled Crawfish!


Most of the table ordered the three pound plate


I loaned my camera so you could all get a picture of me cracking those tails. I was getting a lot of coaching. I never did master getting meat out of those tiny claws.


Funs over. Time to wash up to get that sticky hot Cajun seasoning off you fingers. Sinks are right in the dining room.


Hands clean? Now we can enjoy some dessert.

Key Lime Pie


To die for Peanut Butter Cream Pie


That was an eventful and enjoyable day. The next morning we did break camp and drove the coastal blue highways in Louisiana over to Port Arthur, TX without any real agenda. When we got to Port Arthur we decided to head north. We got as far as a primitive state recreational area campground on a reservoir in Texas. We were the only campers in the campground. We ate in no diners that day and the next day we crossed over into Arkansas at Texarkana. We had breakfast at a Waffle House. No photos. I didn't even take my camera in. This was my first Waffle House and I just wanted to satisfy my curiosity since the most prolific non-moderator poster on Roadfood.com seems obsessed with them.   They're OK. Heck, I'm known to stop at McDonalds too for a breakfast on occasion. I'll give you a good breakfast in my next report.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:49 PM
0
We made our next destination Hot Springs, Arkansas and stopped at Lake Catherine State Park about 15 miles from downtown Hot Springs. It was one of the nicest state parks we have stayed in. We had a nice level site right on the lake with electrical and water hookups for only $17. Our nightly cost to stay in campgrounds ranged from $0 to a high of $25 on this two week trip and we didn't spend a free night in a Walmart parking lot.

Our campsite


We drove into Hot Springs to visit the hot springs of course. We parked right downtown in a parking lot on Central Avenue, the main drag. This is why we like our B campervan. We can park almost anywhere like this but we cannot park in garages like the big municipal one shown in the background of this photo. Yes, that is a duck boat in the foreground. They give tours there.

Parking downtown


Hot Springs National Park is a forested area adjacent to town but the main reason for the park is a row of once private bath houses right downtown the rich and famous visited. Hot Springs developed a resort industry revolving around bath houses that utilized 143 degree hot springs. Nancy had visions of bathing in a resort like hot spring pool. That's not what it is.

This is the bath house that is open for tours operated by the National Park Service.


Kind of nice, no?


The reality is they were porcelain tubs, sitz baths, steam cabinets and torturous showers. Mostly medicinal to cure arthritis, just about everything else, and . . . syphillis!

The reality. Well the springs, at least, were hot.


So what has this got to do with food? We did not eat in a restaurant that evening. We went back to the campground and grilled ourselves up some ribeye steaks on park grate.

Ribeye Steaks


The next morning we continued on the blue highways north and stopped at the Home Plate Cafe in Hot Springs Village for breakfast. It was Monday morning and the place was filled with locals. It was a pleasant enough place with major league baseball pennants hanging on the walls for decoration and the breakfasts we had were kind of unique and good. I had what they called Loaded Hash with Sausage and Nancy had the Southern Bennie.

Southern Bennie


Loaded Hash with Sausage and biscuit (other options were ham or bacon)


We then drove on right through Branson, Missouri. We did not stop in Branson or succumb to it even though an Elvis impersonator show might have been a fitting cap to the earlier Elvis tour we made going to Louisiana. I just felt out of place there in not owning a pair of Sansabelts.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/3/09 11:50 PM
0
Heading north we started to get into more familiar territory. It was also getting colder and once again we were starting to see trees just getting around to budding. What a reminder. Our last stop at a restaurant was in southwest Missouri for a late lunch on our 13th day on the road. The destination, Smith's Restaurant in Collins, Missouri. It was located at the intersection of two minor highways 13 and 54. You won't find this place in anyone's road food book and Collins is hardly a town. I'd like to say I have an uncanny way of sniffing these places out, but that would be a lie. How did I find this place? You've heard the stories of through a friend of a friend, well it was almost like that. Last year when I was in Indianapolis we visited our niece to see her new house. She introduced us to her roommate, a college student. She remarked at how much I looked like her dad. I made an offhand remark that he must like breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches too. She said, yes!, then got on the phone and called her dad. It got around to her dad making a suggestion to go to Smith's Restaurant in Missouri. He couldn't even remember where it it was other than Highway 54. This was all relayed on the phone through his daughter. I never talked directly to the guy. Now keep in mind, this guy lived in northern Indiana, not Missouri and Hoosiers will tout their own BPTs over anyone else's. So there must have been some credibility to the recommendation. From that I managed to sleuth it out.

So let's find out. On the outside there was nothing special to draw attention.


Inside seemed fairly small town typical with plaid shirts, gimmie caps and American flags.


The first clue, the menu cover that there was something unique to brag about.


By golly, they came through. It wasn't the biggest I ever had but it was tender and the breading was especially tasty.


That pretty much wraps up this tour. We camped overnight at Harry S Truman State Park in Missouri and then made a bee line for home (pardon that pun). 14 days on the road covering 3,162 miles over mostly two lane back roads as much as possible. Thanks for bearing with me if you got this far. Don't go away without first sampling our final dessert...

Smith's Restaurant Peach Cobbler. Sorry no ala mode. We're on diets now.


mar52
  • Total Posts : 7599
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/17/2005
  • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 12:18 AM
0
Gotta say... you really know how to live!

Any one know what the CA Lotto numbers will be this Wednesday?

iceomat
  • Total Posts : 97
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 1/23/2005
  • Location: guthrie, OK
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 2:16 AM
0
Great report! What the heck is that corn-in-a-mini-pie-shell? Never seen that before. Maybe it's a Cajun thing?

Nancypalooza
  • Total Posts : 3778
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 6/17/2004
  • Location: Columbia, SC
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 7:26 AM
0
I think that's what passes for vegetarian food where they are.

Davydd, imagine me standing and clapping--excellent pictures and excellent commentary, and you threw in a Sansabelt joke, so all is right with the world.  Also I loved the idea of all you RVers noodging the kids out of line for the Tabasco tour.  And how delightful must it be for Courtney to have a childhood around that adorable little diner (well, I imagine her folks work like dogs).  Thanks for taking us along on your vacation.

MiamiDon
  • Total Posts : 4306
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 9/8/2006
  • Location: Miami, FL
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 7:55 AM
0
Great photos, Davydd.  I'm feeling like I had waaay too much fried food this morning!

jellybear
  • Total Posts : 1135
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 10/15/2003
  • Location: surf city, NC
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 8:08 AM
0
Whew! Man I am worn out after this report.

wheregreggeats.com
  • Total Posts : 4530
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 7/13/2003
  • Location: Northampton, MA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 8:12 AM
0
Excellent report.  Thanks for the effort, it was well worth it.  Thanks.

rouxdog
  • Total Posts : 1421
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 3/18/2005
  • Location: Carrizozo, NM
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 8:16 AM
0
Davydd, I truly enjoyed the trip!!!!! Tell us about the ingredients of that cooked roux-looking cajun rice.

Ahi Mpls.
  • Total Posts : 922
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 6/9/2008
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 8:24 AM
0

 Wow, very nice!!! you are living my dream, travel and FOOD!! Funny, I'd never seen the insde of Graceland before and I must say it was nothing like I would have imagined....looked just like any of my friends Grandparent's houses circa 1975 !  somehow I thought that the King would have favored Danish Modern....   Great trip, glad you're back. WJ has been running amok wthout you to keep him in check!!   

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 9:35 AM
0
rouxdog


Davydd, I truly enjoyed the trip!!!!! Tell us about the ingredients of that cooked roux-looking cajun rice.


rouxdog, On the menu it is described as Gumbo. So I imagine the usual gumbo recipe spices would be in it.

The etouffee dishes came with an ice cream scoop of cold potato salad that was almost like mash potato but not quite - a little more texture and salad ingredients mixed in.

ann peeples
  • Total Posts : 8317
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 5/21/2006
  • Location: West Allis, Wisconsin
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 9:52 AM
0
A truly enjoyable report to follow along!!

Bobs
  • Total Posts : 244
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 6/28/2003
  • Location: Jackson, TN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 10:23 AM
0
Fantastic report, looking forward to more!  All the food looked great. Which dining establishments were your favorites?

will_work_4_bbq
  • Total Posts : 400
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 1/11/2006
  • Location: Birmingham, AL
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 10:29 AM
0
What a fun and delicious trip!  I enjoyed it!

Tony Bad
  • Total Posts : 5114
  • Reward points : 0
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 10:38 AM
0
Amazing report! Thanks for taking the time to do all that traveling and eating for our benefit!  

ScreamingChicken
  • Total Posts : 4729
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 11/5/2004
  • Location: Stoughton, WI
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 11:10 AM
0

 
Brad

TnTinCT
  • Total Posts : 442
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 7/24/2008
  • Location: East Granby, CT
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 12:37 PM
0
Great reading, thanks for all details, loved the pics!

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 4:10 PM
0
I discovered something interesting. In order to notify my Facebook family and friends including those that attended the BEE Social Group gathering I posted on my Facebook Wall a link to this message topic. I discovered by posting the link it automatically generated a Roadfood.com logo and the title of the topic which is clickable to go to. I compressed the rather lengthy url address using http://is.gd/ I don't know if is.gd generated this link or not because at the BEE Social Group on Facebook I used the actual long url address and it did not generate the logo and link as shown here.



CajunKing
  • Total Posts : 6317
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 7/6/2006
  • Location: Live at Saint Clair
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 4:42 PM
0
Davydd

I must say that your trip was magnificent.  I would love to get away and just enjoy the trip that way.

I love how Levey the Great also advertised outside.  That spic and span looked scrumdilliumptious.

Graceland - I have that same stained glass lamp shade that is in the kitchen.  I had forgotten about it being in there.

You gotta LOVE that billiard room.

Then you came to my "Home", LA.

Your stew looked awesome, I can see why it went so quickly.

Prejean's & Mulates - ahh  {{{sniff sniff}}} food of love.
How was the music at Mulates?

Gator Cove - dem crawdaddys looked yummy, but BRIGHT green key lime pie 

All in all your trip was a great adventure, thanks for sharing it with us.


wanderingjew
  • Total Posts : 7386
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 1/18/2001
  • Location: East Greenwich/ Warwick, RI
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 8:55 PM
0
Davyyd,

As usual, an outstanding report...
It looks like the Suzie-Q Cafe will more than likely be a stop for me on my planned "Heartland" Baseball Trip for 2010....

Now, you do realize that only "Tourists" eat Cajun food in Louisiana, and that all the locals are actually going to Hmong and Vietnamese restaurants!

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Mon, 05/4/09 9:58 PM
0
WJ, I actually never saw any Hmong and Vietnamese restaurants in and around Lafayette. There were the customary Mexican and Chinese all over. Looking at the parking lot and the people, Prejean's seemed touristy. Mulates is reputedly touristy but on a Wednesday night with live Cajun music most of the people seemed like regulars. Gator Cove appeared to have serious locals who knew how to crack open a crawfish. I never did manage to get any meat out of the tiny claws but the one native to the area in our group had no problem. I take it if they were sucking the brains out of the crawfish heads they were locals. If they let most of the meat go to waist like me they were tourists. Keep in mind, late April is not exactly the tourist season.

What was intriguing were the many independent restaurants that had signs posted for Plate Lunches. I didn't have time to explore that aspect of roadfood. It took me until the last day to get to boiled crawfish. There were lots of small places serving crawfish. We were a week too early for the crawfish festival. We didn't do any breakfasts while in Lafayette either. Most every morning the group gathered in the clubhouse and drank Community Coffee. Community Coffee is bigger than Starbucks down there.

John A
  • Total Posts : 4295
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 1/27/2006
  • Location: Daytona Beach, FL
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 6:32 AM
0
You've outdone yourself with this one Davydd. Of all the food, to me the standout is the BLT at Suzie - Q's.

douginvirginia
  • Total Posts : 462
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 1/27/2005
  • Location: Luray, VA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 7:29 AM
0
Absolutey outstanding trip report!! For me, it is just the right mix of food and attraction/scenery.

My wife is interested in a class B vehicle. I'm leaning towards a good size truck camper (Northern Lite) to go on my long bed Chevy 2500. I'm thinking it would be more appropriate for the back (dirt) roads to get to my out of the way fishing spots. Either way, we hope to be on the road a lot when she reitires in the next couple of years.

Thanks again for your report.

agnesrob
  • Total Posts : 1790
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 6/4/2006
  • Location: Park Ridge, NJ
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 7:56 AM
0
I really enjoyed your report, Davydd! Thank you for sharing with all of us!

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 10:12 AM
0
douginvirginia

My wife is interested in a class B vehicle. I'm leaning towards a good size truck camper (Northern Lite) to go on my long bed Chevy 2500. I'm thinking it would be more appropriate for the back (dirt) roads to get to my out of the way fishing spots. Either way, we hope to be on the road a lot when she reitires in the next couple of years.

Doug,

I gave truck bed campers a passing look since I have a pickup but decided they really weren't much different than having a trailer since you could not conveniently use them while driving. Also, the overhanging width can be parking lot killers.

There are a couple of options. One is Sportsmobile can build you a Class B campervan per your design on a four wheel drive chassis. The second is the Provan Tiger made in South Carolina. The Tiger is a converted Chevy pickup 4WD that is similar in size and appearance to a B but you can get out of your cab seat and enter the RV. It is classified technically as a Class C but many think of them as Bs.

analei
  • Total Posts : 533
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 10/9/2008
  • Location: ONTARIO, CANADA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 12:45 PM
0
this was a pleasure to read through, and read, thanks so much,  Davydd.

analei
  • Total Posts : 533
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 10/9/2008
  • Location: ONTARIO, CANADA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 12:46 PM
0
sorry..i meant to also add, view. Nice array of pics.

Greymo
  • Total Posts : 3663
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 11/30/2005
  • Location: Marriottsville, MD
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 3:44 PM
0
I loved reading your report.  Your RV looks perfect for two people.  Glad that you had such a geat trip.

janicks
  • Total Posts : 72
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 10/23/2002
  • Location: Huntington, IN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Tue, 05/5/09 4:13 PM
0
There are a couple of options. One is Sportsmobile can build you a Class B campervan per your design on a four wheel drive chassis. The second is the Provan Tiger made in South Carolina. The Tiger is a converted Chevy pickup 4WD that is similar in size and appearance to a B but you can get out of your cab seat and enter


The good thing is Sportsmobile is made in Huntington In and that would mean you could come to Nicks Kitchen and have a Breaded Pork Tenderloin YAY!!!
Jean Anne

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Wed, 05/6/09 8:59 AM
0
Speaking of Nick's Kitchen, we begin our second RV tour May 11 and will be at Nick's Kitchen for lunch around 11 AM, Thursday, May 14th if anyone is in the area and cares to show up. Dave Clapp, of Mr. Dave's in North Manchester, MN has been anxious for us to drop by. Since we have gone to considerable expense of buying two inflatable kayaks and the means to haul them we are going to try to stay in that northern Indiana area at an SRA more than one overnight dash, stop and dash and give them a try. After Nick's Kitchen we will drive on to Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio for another few days at a B Rally, then on to Washington, DC, then Indianapolis for the Indy 500 Race, and finally a one day dash home so Nancy can catch a plane for Cochabamba, Bolivia. I will then do our third tour alone on Minnesota's North Shore but accompanied for the first time with our cat, Callie.

BelleReve
  • Total Posts : 1137
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 8/4/2005
  • Location: New Orleans, LA
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Sun, 05/10/09 1:06 PM
0
Davydd - I thoroughly enjoyed your pictures and reports, thanks for taking the time to show us - I have a good friend who just recently retired and moved outside of Lafayette, can't wait to get to Prejean's.
 

stresssolutions
  • Total Posts : 2
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 11/23/2011
  • Location: Rochester, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Fri, 11/25/11 11:19 AM
0
Yep, great report, thanks for sharing.
 
Couple notes....Lamberts is very good...great tenderloin, too.
My favorite beer is New Glarus.  Abita is good too.
Thanks so much for the SusieQ info...we'll have to take a run down there next year.
 
Giant tenderloins?  Have you been to St Olaf Tap, in St Olaf IA?  good eats.

Davydd
  • Total Posts : 6224
  • Reward points : 0
  • Joined: 4/24/2005
  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
Re:Elvis, Cajun, Crawfish and Alligators - A Two Week RV Tour - Fri, 11/25/11 1:01 PM
0
Yes, I have been to St. Olaf Tap. I'm pretty sure there is a photo in the Pork Tenderloin thread in the Sandwich forum here. There are few good tenderloin places I have not been to as I try to make it to the best.
 
Still haven't stopped at Lambert's Cafe. In fact I passed one up in Foley, Alabama last month.