Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Beaumont to Biloxi, MS

The departure from Gulf Coast RV Resort was uneventful, and we were on the road around ten a.m. This is pretty good for us, as we are notoriously late getting started in the mornings when we don't have to punch a clock. The problem with this is that we lose a lot of daylight that we could use putting miles behind us. If we're trying to make 300 miles a day, which is about as much as we care to do, that puts us at our destinations very late in the day. This is clearly going to be a struggle, and we're not sure how it will turn out.

We got on I-10 and made our way eastward and, by the time we reached Lake Charles, we were famished. We turned Hornet into a run-down neighborhood in search of another seafood restaurant that had gotten good reviews on the internet, and we were disappointed to find it had closed. While maneuvering in a parking lot nearby the closed restaurant, we suddenly lurched to a panic stop, even though my foot was not on the Hornet's brake pedal! Homer's brakes had fully engaged, and it wasn't moving another inch! I was terribly puzzled as I exited Hornet to take a look, and it immediately became evident that, during the maneuvering, the emergency trailer brake lanyard had pulled out of its receptacle, and Homer's brakes locked up exactly as they were supposed to do. I replaced the lanyard fitting back into the receptacle, and all was okay. I guess it was good to find out the system worked, but I'm not sure the surprise was worth it. I made a mental note to get the lanyard extended when we get back home.

After we recollected our wits and drove a little farther, we came upon a neighborhood barbeque joint that had all the earmarks of a classic good find for foodies like us. It was in a very modest building with an equally modest hand-lettered sign that read, "Famous Barbeque." A goodly crowd had already gathered, even though it was only 11:30 a.m. Much to our dismay, there was no place for the Hornet and Homer in the smallish parking lot. Fortunately, there was a large open lot across the street, and we pulled in there, anticipating a good meal. We weren't disappointed. We had to wait in line to give our order and, in front of us was a small display case with heat lights, illuminating several styles of fresh pork cracklings, whose aroma was wafting up at us. I was powerless to resist and ordered a quarter-pound of the soft and spicy variety. I should have gotten more; they were positively wonderful. Sandy and I had a sliced brisket sandwich apiece, and these were marvelous. The meat was smoky and tender, and we licked our fingers clean enough to do surgery afterward. This will definitely go onto our list of places to revisit. Famous Barbeque is at 709 Hwy. 171 in Lake Charles.

The rest of the leg to Biloxi was uneventful, and again, we got to our camping spot after dark, but not before stopping at Pass Christian, Mississippi, to have dinner at the Harbor View Café (again, found recommended on the internet). This modest little restaurant overlooks the white sandy beach right on the Gulf of Mexico and was mobbed with hungry patrons. We ordered one of the specials, an overstuffed shrimp po-boy sandwich, and it lived up to its hype. I also ordered a soup and salad, but the sandwich alone would have been plenty for both of us. Although the shrimps were small, they were fried to perfection and spilled out all over the wonderful hot French bread. With a serving of remoulade sauce poured over all, it was heaven. We ate like pigs. This one goes on our list, too. The Harbor View Café is on U.S. 90 across the street from the Pass Christian yacht harbor. Ask anybody.

You can probably tell by now that Sandy and I are not bashful in our quest to find good places to eat. Both of us were raised in homes where our mothers were good cooks, and we became accustomed to a high standard for food preparation. We also developed an appreciation for our mothers' ability to prepare tasty meals with very modest ingredients. Since both families had a rural heritage, we came to love fresh fruits and vegetables that were always plentiful at the farm. We're both pretty fair cooks ourselves and, unfortunately for us, we don't scrimp on all the stuff that is bad for you and but makes food taste good, like butter and bacon grease. We generally avoid chain restaurants at all costs. To us, their food all seems prepackaged and uninspired. We will occasionally pop into a fast food place out of desperation, but these times are rare, and we're very picky about these, as well. Trying new places to eat is, admittedly, entertainment for us, and using our instincts and the advice of locals often leads us to some outstanding dining and social experiences. Unfortunately, we can't bat a thousand; many of the places that have all the earmarks we look for turn out to be stinkers. In those cases, we graze on what we can and move on. We're also not bashful about telling the proprietor why his place sucks. But, I digress.

It was almost dark when we reached the Cajun RV Park on U.S. 90 in Biloxi. Since we knew we were going to be late (a theme that will be repeated often), we had called ahead and gotten directions from the staff about where to park. They were very friendly and gave us a specific spot number along with directions how to get there. They told us we could settle the bill the next morning. This was a nice park, but there was no concrete or gravel parking pad—just turf; I was astonished that I accidentally parked Homer in such a way that it needed no leveling at all. What good luck! The wi-fi connection worked well, but we were too tired to do much internet surfing. Sandy just checked our e-mail and that was about it. This campground didn't have all the amenities of the one we had just left, but it was very nice and quiet, and we appreciated the good rate of around 20 dollars with a discount. The next morning, we had a couple of learning experiences. As we walked to the park office to pay our bill, it started to rain. Sandy, predictably, was prepared, having snagged an umbrella as she surveyed the sky upon exiting Homer. Like most guys, I would have been clueless—and soaked. I was gratified that she let me share her parasol as we walked back to Homer. The rain ended on the way back to Homer, and upon entering the bathroom, I noticed the plopping of my shoes in a water puddle. Experience number two: Besides remembering to take an umbrella when it looks like rain, think about closing the bathroom vent fan cover, as well.

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