Leaving Marlow, OK behind we headed SE toward the Great Cajun Land. Since we have some time we wanted to journey a leisurely route through the country on two lane roads, visiting many a roadside eatery, antique shop, and Zydeco Bar. I was lucky to have mapped out some of the good spots to visit on our trip thanks to a good map of Louisiana and the advice of a good friend and Native Cajun, Jesse Shanks. Although we left a day late due to propane issues, we spent our first night OTR in Broken Bow, OK satisfied to have crossed the state this day. We boondocked at the Choctaw Casino www.choctawcasinos.com/choctaw-broken-bow/
The next day about 40 miles from Shreveport the 'check engine' light came on again; this time with a DEF warning and gave us a countdown clock of 99 miles. We stopped at a truck stop in Marshall, TX and sure enough filled the DEF reservoir with an entire 5 gallons of fluid. This reset all the lights and warnings. Apparently the Chevy dealer did not fill the tank with much fluid at all when replacing the tank and sensor. Fingers crossed! We arrived in Shreveport where there weren't any reasonable boondocking opportunities so we camped at Diamond Jacks Casino RV Park with full hookups, pool, sauna, laundry, showers, and of course a casino at a reasonable $25/per night. A nice park right off I-20 near the Red River, but you are next to dual railroad tracks which can provide plenty of noise at night. http://www.diamondjacks.com/
NOTE: This should have been titled 'In Search of the Perfect Mudbug". I love Cajun food and it is also my favorite meal to prepare! Although I will post about stops, venues, and adventures......there won't be regular restaurant reviews. There is so much culture, tradition, hospitality, and food in Louisiana to try that I would have to post a restaurant review 2-3 times weekly. Suffice it to say that I will post pictures of dishes and locations w/URLs we tried and loved. .
After a day of sight seeing and exploring the riverfront shops and downtown historic district, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Herby K's, a Shreveport original since 1936. www.herbyks.net This very small joint is located in Old Shreveport in the west central part of town. It takes a good GPS and some exploring to find this one. It is immensely popular with limited seating, and a line inevitably forms around lunchtime. GREAT food and an incredible staff!
Shrimp Blaster & Baby Shrimp Blaster Sandwiches
After some more running around we took a break to let the furbabies get some 'outside time' we decided to have dinner at The Blind Tiger, known for it's myriad assortment of eclectic Cajun cuisine. It is located in the Red River District right a block from the river. http://www.allmenus.com/la/shreveport/229654-the-blind-tiger-restaurant--bar/menu/
Top: Muffaletta Sandwich
Bottom: Gumbo, Blackened Catfish, Fried Corn o' cob,
Dirty Rice, Meat Pies, Crawfish, and Jambalaya
You might wonder where I get the ideas for where we do our dining. For us it is a matter of online research, brochures, and talking to locals. They are often our best source of information, but
sometimes times they just reinforce what we have already discovered. Sometimes, it is the Food Channel as well.
After gassing up and visiting our favorite RV/Truck Wash @ Blue Beacon www.bluebeacon.com to get another 2 months of road/weather grime off our rig next up for us was Natchitoches, a mere 64 miles down I-49. Again we went the 'RV Park Route' staying at Nakatosh RV Park just west of I-49. Nice park with full hookups, $30/night. www.nakatoshcampgrounds.com Unfortunately, the day we arrived my old buddy the Stomach Flu arrived and I was off my feet for about a day and a half so we upped the ante and stayed for 4 days.
Natchitoches is elegant and energetic. Set beside the Cane River & Bayou, Natchitoches might be considered New Orleans’s older, calmer sister. Settled by the French in 1714 the state’s oldest town spices up its white-columned, Southern plantation lifestyle with hearty amounts of Creole and Cajun influences. It was also the venue for filming the movie "Steel Magnolias".
Amazing that on the 31st of January the Magnolias were in bloom.
One of the houses used for the filming of the movie "Steel Magnolias"
The Historic District is filled with Antebellum homes and businesses. I would love to
have the wrought iron franchise around here.
The riverfront in the Historic District is filled with parks, lush gardens, Magnolias, Live Oaks, and still flowers aplenty, but not like spring I'm sure. It was a beautiful Sunday here, 78 degrees.
We also stopped into Kaffie-Frederick Hardware for a bit of shopping. It was worth it to see our purchase rung up on the original cash register, circa 1917.
There are, of course plenty of business and restaurants (including Wal Mart) in the 'other business district' of Natchitoches, but we chose to eat our last evening meal at the original.......Papa's Bar & Grill, Mama's Oyster House, and Mama's Blues Room. www.mamasoysterhouse.com Nothing like a good meal then some southern blues to settle the evening. It was a local house band, but at this point it is ALL GOOD. Barb just says that means we're saving our CRAZY for NOLA.
Top: Fried Gator, Crawfish, and Froglegs
Bottom: Seafood Gumbo
What else for dessert, but King Cake
Our last stop enroute to the Big Easy was Opelousas. We found the South City Park & Campground which offers 67 campsites with water and electric for $11/night. There is a dump station. It is nothing fancy, but clean and the park is patrolled 24/7. We were greeted on our arrival by 78 degrees, 90% humidity, and a tornado watch in effect throughout early evening. We got set up and just waited out wave after wave of rainstorm and a bit of hail, but no severe weather. Good afternoon for lunch and a nap.
Established in 1720, The city has a deep Zydeco music tradition with dancing at nearly any local club or festival. Opelousas is Louisiana's third-oldest city and is part of the state's Main Street Program with its downtown cluster of antique shops, boutiques and restaurants serving Cajun cuisine. Visitors can see antebellum, Victorian and early 20th-century buildings on a walk through town, including the "Hidden Capital of Louisiana," which served as the governor's mansion during the Civil War. With our arrival there is 1 week left till Fat Tuesday, but evidence existed for plenty of party left. http://www.cityofopelousas.com/ First on the agenda for us (me) was Tony Chachere's where they make my favorite Cajun spice. Unfortunately, it is just the factory business. They offer no tours.
The entire historical district of Opelousas is actually within a couple of block area unless you drive back streets looking for examples of architecture. We toured the Jim Bowie homestead, the Orphan Train Museum, the Zydeco Museum, the Jim Bowie Oak Tree and had a wonderful lunch at the Palace Café downtown.
Interestingly, the Jim Bowie Oak Tree was planted by himself over 300 years ago in front of his blacksmith shop in Opelousas where it still stands today. It is the largest Live Oak Tree in America and has a 19' circumference.
We finished our day with a wonderful dinner at Soileaus Dinner Club. Although I was still hungry for Cajun Barb hankered for something a bit different and found it. http://soileaus.com/
Top: Fried Gator
Bottom: Cajun Crab Eggplant Casserole
The next day we broke camp and set sail for the final 165 miles to Slidell, LA as our base of operations for New Orleans and Mardi Gras 2016. Laissez les bon temps rouler.......here we go! (Oh yeah, the 'check engine light' is still intermittent)