Hi, everyone. Just got back from a two-week road trip Friday afternoon. My fellow road warrior, Andi Marquette, and I hit 14 states! We started in Colorado on Sunday, July 19, headed southeast through Oklahoma and Texas, then drove along the Gulf Coast through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, then down to Orlando by Thursday for a writers’ conference. (Andi, by the way, won an award for Best Mystery Novel.) On Sunday, we headed farther south to Ft. Lauderdale to visit a couple of friends of mine, then hit the road again on Tuesday, heading north. We went through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and finally New York.
The adventure begins…
We had a few adventures on the road, starting with that first Sunday. In fact, starting with the first 20 minutes. We’d just gotten on the road in CO and we were driving on a two-lane canyon road. The vehicle right in front of us was a truck pulling a camper pulling a boat on a trailer. The trailer blew a tire and we watched in horror and this boat fishtailed more and more wildly. Finally, this sucker blew right off its hitch, veered violently and flew off the right side of the road, going briefly airborne, until it plowed in a massive cloud of dirt, taking out someone’s mailbox and landing who-knows-how. We kept expecting the driver to notice but he never did. Andi and I tried to get the driver’s attention by honking, flashing the headlights, and waving our arms out the windows. Nothing. Finally, 20 miles later, Andi was able to pass him, whereupon she blew her horn and I held up a sign I’d written, saying, “BOAT GONE! PULL OVER!” The look on that poor man’s face. It was a serious situation but I almost peed my pants. They pulled over, as did we and five other drivers, all of whom were trying to get this guy’s attention. I really did feel sorry for the couple, who were probably on their way to a nice little lakeside vacation. They were actually quite lucky that it went off the side of the road to the right. Had it gone left, it would have plowed into on-coming traffic; had it gone backwards, Andi and I would’ve been toast. Lesson learned: When towing large vehicles, always have extended side view mirrors so you can see what’s going on behind you.
While in South Carolina, we were going to go farther east to travel along the Atlantic coast but we had a little problem. You know those loud, annoying buzzing sounds that interrupt your music on the radio that are followed by the words, “This was a test. This was only a test of National Emergency Broadcast system. If there had been a real emergency…” Well, that is one sound you never want to hear NOT followed by the words, “This is only a test.” Yep, there we were, driving along, la, la, la, making our way toward Hilton Head to go up to Myrtle Beach, when that sound came on the radio. Okay, in truth, we were already watching some pretty ominous clouds above and behind us. Andi had said to me, “We have to be careful. These big thunder boomers down here spawn tornadoes.” Well, that annoying buzzing sound on the radio was not followed by those calming words, “This is only a test.” No. Instead, the announcer came on to tell us that a tornado had touched down and was heading east at 10 miles per hour, right where we were going! Needless to say, we stayed on the road we were and high-tailed it north as quickly as we could.
But the real specialness of this trip was the FOOD!! We stopped for a few hours in New Orleans, which is a foodie heaven. I stopped in at the famous Central Grocery, where I had an original muffuletta (click here for the history). We walked around and it was just so hot and humid that it was in our best interest to get daiquiris—two for one at Mango’s! Andi had a piña colada, while I had a mango-green apple mix. YUM! No trip to NOLA would be right without have beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde. They were three for $1.82 and with a cup of chicory coffee, you’re looking at an amazing (and historic) dessert for a mere $3.64. Click here for the history of chicory coffee.
Then there were the throwed rolls in Foley, AL. I kept seeing these signs along the Gulf Coast for throwed rolls. We just so happened to be spending the night in Foley, a beach town and home of throwed rolls. They are a well-known specialty of Lambert’s Cafe, “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls.” (That tag is actually a registered trademark.) I went in for a half-dozen rolls to go and asked why they were called throwed rolls. The cashier told me it’s because they (the servers) throw them at you. That’s right. They come around with hot rolls on a serving cart and throw the rolls at customers. I guess if you go there often enough you get really good at catching. They were pretty good and served me well as breakfast and snack items over the next few days. They were fresh and nicely browned and had a tasty, slightly sweet flavor. Not bad at $2.75 for a half-dozen. Lambert’s is reminiscent of Cracker Barrel, with country antiques/Americana decor. If you’re ever in Foley, AL (or Ozark, MO, or Sikeston, MO), it’s a fun place to stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can even buy stuff at the store or online HERE. I picked up a jar of sorghum molasses. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but I’ll find something.
And, of course, there were all the farmer’s markets and road-side stands that we passed along the way, from guys selling watermelons from the back of their pickup trucks to the wonderful little country store that had ducks and chickens in their front yard, sold local products, and offered barbecue dinners, complete with red-and-white checkered tablecloths set on a wraparound porch.
Somewhere in the South, I encountered deep-fried peanuts, or as Southerners refer to them, Shell-N-Alls. They are exactly what they sound like: unshelled peanuts deep-fried so they can be eaten shell and all. The frying softens the shells to make them edible. I said edible, not palatable. The only real benefit I see in these is that they’re easier to eat if you’re in a car or walking around a festival. You know I had to try them, right?
This country is huge. And within it are so many different landscapes (we were by mountains, desert, beach, forests, swamps, and urban landscapes), with so many different people, and so many different kinds of foods. Being able to try all these new and wonderful things reminded me of how lucky I am that I’m able to partake of these things and how there are so many others in the world who are not as fortunate. While I would never recommend dining out all the time (particularly in our current economic crisis), I do encourage supporting local establishments, where you’re sure to get good food at good prices, and supporting local producers. It’s better for you and for your community.
Have a great week, all. Peace.