WHAT THE HELL, AMERICA? - My Journey Through the Southern States, Vol. 2 - Road Trippin’ Part Two. Followed by New Orleans, Part One.
Ok, time to pick up where I left off. Will try to be less enthused with Mountain Dew this time…
So, once we were stocked with various tasty goodies and beverages, we returned to the road.
This really confused me to no end. That sign says 'Beef puts u 2 sleep', verbatim. WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY TRYING TO CONVEY?! I really can’t even guess at this. Is it some kind of warning? Like, "don’t eat beef and drive" ?! What the hell is this for?! Dear America, PLEASE TELL ME WHY THESE BILLBOARDS EXIST. Yours Sincerely, Matt.
"What’s this?", you might ask. Well, it’s a photo taken on the approach to Atlanta. Which I thought was awesome. If you watch The Walking Dead, you’ll understand why. We drove straight through Atlanta, but it seemed pretty cool.
Food in the USA. Encounter 2.
Ok, so it seems I can’t get too far without coming back to food. I guess it’s because not a whole lot of interesting stuff happens on the road - just a whole lotta road.
I was keen to get a good taste of American culture, and what better way to taste a culture than through its food? Well, in America, I’d argue there are plenty of better ways, but my curiosity resulted in a stop at Wendy’s for lunch.
Here’s the Wendy’s logo. It has a red headed girl on it & says Wendy’s. This would lead you to assume that the girl is, in fact, Wendy. I guess you’d be right.
It’s not exactly the most effective branding in the world, which I assume is probably part of the reason Wendy’s never got very big outside of the states. It’s either due to that or the square burgers.
"what?! no way!"
THE BURGERS ARE SQUARE.
…but not the buns. This perplexes me somewhat.
Here’s a Wendy’s cup. It proclaims, “Quality real food made fresh is our recipe.”, which seems a little vague to me, but fair enough. I’m glad they strive for quality, that’s great. I’m sure you’ll agree that knowing it’s fresh is also a bonus. But why do they need to state that it’s real?? Tell me, Wendy, are other American fast-food chains producing food that is not real?? What exactly is this stuff they’re marketing as ‘food’?! Questions abound. But it’s great to know that if you want actual real 100% food then you can get it from Wendy’s. Grand.
Contains: quality real food.
Rating: 7.0 (when judged against other forms of fast-food)
On the fast-food scale, it seemed better than both Burger King and Mc.Donalds. But only just. It’s very much still within that sort of realm. Don’t worry, you’re not missing much.
Anyway, back to the road…
After Wendy’s, it wasn’t long before we got on to some pretty awesome stretches of road as we drove through Mississippi. We were pretty much surrounded by swamp land. This was very cool for someone like me, who at that time had little-to-no swamp experience.
These here photographs depict some of the awesome structures we drove across - elevated roads built through the swamp.
This looks a little boring, but actually it’s pretty cool. See that grey bit? Yeah, that’s the road. See the green bit between the road and the sky? that’s swamp - as far as you can see - in every direction - swamp. It looked pretty stunning, unfortunately the photograph doesn’t do it much justice, but basically there were treetops all the way to the horizon, every so often broken up by stretches of fresh water and grassier, more marshy areas. It was cool.
Food in the USA. Encounter 3.
It’s that time again.
It had been a few hours since Wendy’s, so we stopped to grab some drinks. When we got our Wendy’s, it must have been 30 or so degrees out. This was pretty warm. By the time we were in the middle of Mississippi though, it was around 40 degrees. That’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit (100 is just a cooler number than 40… or warmer, I guess, in this case).
What did I get this time? Well, I finally had the opportunity to experience one of natures most magnificent gifts*. The Twinkie.
Contains: corn syrup mixed with synthetic sweetners and flavourings, forced into a spongey cake-like form and wrapped in plastic.
They weren’t bad. They were better than the Twinkie I had a year earlier in London anyway. That’s probably because they didn’t cost me £4…
*ok so in actuality this is probably the least natural thing I’ve ever eaten. Ever.
Back. To. Da. Roooaaaaddddd!
It wasn’t long before we were in Louisiana and rapidly approaching our destination. On this stretch of the drive, I noticed a few interesting things.
This was particularly impressive. You’re probably wondering why. Well, see that KIA sign? Yeah? and that flag? I guess you’re assuming the flag is next to the road, and thus much closer than the KIA sign. You would be wrong.
The flag is, in fact, a fair distance from the KIA sign, and quite far from the road. It was MASSIVE. Absolutely HHHUUUUGGGEEE. You could see it for miles. It was absolutely the most enormous crazy-massive flag I ever done gone seen with my two eyes.
Every now and then someone had a custom number plate, and if it was any good (and often even if it wasn’t), I took a photo. This guy(or girl) was clearly awesome, as their number plate was ‘WOWZERS’.
Finally, after many hours of driving (between 10 and 12 - that’s a lot of driving) we arrived in New Orleans. As we approached, it was possible to see some of the damage done by hurricane Katrina. At either side of the road were new developments, where neighborhoods had been rebuilt - often between these were large barren expanses of concrete with the odd sign still standing here or there, just enough to inform you that it used to be a Walmart or a neighborhood mall. It wasn’t hard to imagine the devastation that swept the city.
Unfortunately I have no photographs of this.
Anyway, on to less gloomy things.
Once we got into New Orleans we made a quick job of checking our stuff into the hotel before heading out to explore the French Quarter, where we staying. This is a pretty touristy area, but it’s also pretty lively, and it’s really what New Orleans is all about - music, food and drinking, though often not in that order.
This place was just off of Bourbon street, the main ‘party’ street in the French quarter. It was called Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodo.Which I obviously thought was the most awesome thing in the whole universe ever. And as it was a hed-shop type place, I spent a fair amount of time there; visiting it at least once on all three days we were there. It was like theultimatehed-shop. They had everything from authentic voodoo dolls (of course, it’s New Orleans after all), to aligator heads, a huge range of both African and Latin-American sculptures and masks, and to top it all, their very own reader, who resided behind a beaded curtain at the back of the shop. The people that ran the place were clearly awesome as they played Deftones.
This is a picture of a train track leading into down town New Orleans. Now, if you imagine turning to your left…
This river is, of course, none other than the Mississippi.
And now turn a little back to your right (because you turned so quick the first time you didn’t notice)…
Here’s a good traditional riverboat. It’s pretty big. It was awesome because it had a jazz band playing on board, and you could go for tours down the Mississippi while listening to live jazz. Live music was absolutely EVERYWHERE in New Orelans. It really was a brilliant, lively and vibrant city.
After a bit of stroll we grabbed some dinner. Unfortunately I have no photographic evidence of this, but I assure you it happened.I ordered a plate that contained a mix of local foods. This something I absolutely had to do as it contained Jambalaya and Gumbo.
For those of you who, like me, have always been curious as to what these are, I’ll enlighten you. Gumbo is a kind of thick soupy stew. It contains quite a few spices of local/french origin, and a very distinctive smoked sausage that gave the whole thing an incredibly smokey taste. I’d not tasted anything quite like it. Jambalaya clearly derived from some of the same culinary roots, though was a rice-based dish, similar to a paella, sort of. It also had a very distinctive smokey taste, due to the sausage. Had I written this at the time I perhaps would have provided a more accurate description, but I think that pretty much sums it up.
Oh and I also had alligator to start. From my experience, I can tell you this much: it’s somewhat similar to crocodile, though less tender.
This has been quite a long post, but I figured I needed to make up for the somewhat shorter previous entry. Anyway, the following seems to be a good photo to end on…
Remember I told you there’d be guys with huge-ass beer signs? Wellhere it is. HUGE ASS BEERS.
Sorry, it’s a little blurry… ok, a lot blurry.
This was taken on Bourbon street. The guy was advertising for a bar that really did have huge ass beers.They were enormous. They had a range of different beers in beer bottles that were the correct ratio of body-to-bottleneck, but they were HUGE. Huge. Ass. Beers.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any decent pictures of Bourbon street, but basically if you can imagine a bustling street with loads of bars and small venues, with live jazz and blues filling the air, then you’ve got a good idea of it - but I really recommend you check it out yourself - there’s nothing quite like it.
And on that note, I’ll end this post. Next I’ll be introducing you to a traditional southern breakfast, venturing deep into the swamp, finding out what the hell a bayou is and watching alligators eat hot dogs. Until next time!