Road Trip Eating

One of the fun things about a road trip is the food. While we are not averse to grabbing a cup of coffee or a coke at MacDonald’s on driving days for the sake of convenience, we are trying to mix up our culinary experiences. This means trying to hit some of the local favorites wherever we are. Here are some of the highlights so far….

In Austin, the order of the day, of course was barbecue, at Blacks BBQ. As I mentioned in a previous post, perhaps the best brisket I’ve ever eaten.

Believe it or not, one of my brother-in-law’s favorite eateries is Waffle House.  They are ubiquitous in the South, but he often laments that the closest one to The Cities is in Kansas City! On our drive from Austin to New Orleans, we stopped in for a pecan waffle! He was one happy camper!

A great resource we use in trying to decide where to eat is the website Hosted by Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the book Roadfood, 10th Edition: An Eater’s Guide to More Than 1,000 of the Best Local Hot Spots and Hidden Gems Across America, it has information on their favorite local eateries in every state. The book and/or access to the site is a must-have for any American road trip.

After consulting the site for off-beat places to eat in New Orleans, last night we settled on a place called Rocky and Carlo’s a non-descript little place across the street from an oil refinery.

It’s claim to fame, as noted on a local website, is “fabulously oversized portions of Sicilian dishes and New Orleans classics including veal parmesean and the most popular item on the menu, baked macaroni & cheese, served with brown or red gravy.”

In this case “red gravy” is marinara sauce!

I have never in my life seen such a large portion of food for a single order. That’s THREE pieces of veal parmesan, which in our case fed three people!

My brother-in-law and niece, who have a more adventurous culinary spirit, opted for shrimp and oyster Po’ Boys respectively.

After touring a plantation house in St. Rose on Thursday, we stopped in at the Port Side Restaurant and Bar. Some in our party had deep fried soft-shell crabs; others had meat loaf!

And then there is breakfast. Forget cereal and toast! We are in New Orleans, which means beignets, those deep-fried squares of yummy goodness!

The first morning, thanks to a tip from, we hit up the Morning Call Cafe in the New Orleans City Park. Oh my!

The second morning we went to the famous Cafe DuMonde, on the edge of the French Quarter. It did not disappoint!

On Friday, we roll out of town for Panama City Beach, Fl.

And I mean roll!

Oh, and today, my sister gets to choose where we eat because it is her birthday!

National World War II Museum

One of the main purposes of this year’s road trip was to give my 90-year old mom the chance to visit the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, something that she has long wanted to do. We had heard that the museum was amazing, and our 8.5 hours there today did not disappoint!

We saw every exhibit and watched almost every movie. While the rest of the family experienced it as history, for Gracie it was a chance to re-live memories:

Hearing the voice of Adolf Hitler on the radio;

Listening to Roosevelt’s speech to Congress;

The fear of a Japanese attack on Portland, OR, where she lived;

Her sister being in charge of the ration board in Bend, OR at the ripe age of 18;

A cousin piloting a landing craft on D-Day;

And of her brother, a Marine, fighting on Guadalcanal.

If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, it is a must see. Be sure to plan to spend an entire day to see everything. And if you aren’t in New Orleans, it’s worth making a special trip here to see it.

In thinking about books about WW2 to recommend, it was difficult because I have read so many. But in the end two stand out — these classic works by Herman Wouk:

The Winds of War

The Winds of War

War and Remembrance

War and Remembrance

It’s been years since I read them, but after today I’m tempted to go back and read them again.

What WW2 books do YOU recommend?


All the Tea in Austin

Our main reason for going to Austin on this trip was to visit my niece, who has fled the Minnesota winter for warmer climes. When not working at her day job teaching ESL, she and her boyfriend spend all their time on a business they started called Lost Pines Yaupon Tea.

Yaupon tea

Made from the Yaupon tree, a member of the holly family, it is the only caffinated plant/tea native to the U.S.

Here’s how the tea is described on their site:

Yaupon (YO-pawn) is naturally caffeinated. It’s also rich in the related stimulant theobromine (from Greek “food of the gods”), the pleasure molecule familiar to lovers of dark chocolate. While yaupon contains less caffeine than coffee or tea, it contains more theobromine. This more balanced ratio gives yaupon its focused, jitter-free buzz.

Here’s what the Austin Chronicle has to say about them and their tea:

Former coffee drinkers Jason Ellis, Heidi Wachter, and John Seibold launched Lost Pines Yaupon Tea earlier this year. Ellis had been experimenting with and enjoying the naturally sweet beverage for several years, but it wasn’t until the other partners tasted it for themselves that the group realized they were on to something. North America’s only caffeinated plant, yaupon (pronounced YO-pawn) is a cousin to South America’s guayusa and yerba maté. Known as “black drink” to Native Americans, yaupon tea was brewed strong and consumed on a daily basis for centuries. But with the end of the Civil War, and lifting of naval blockades, imported Chinese teas and coffee resumed their status as the beverages of choice.

If you’re in the Austin area, you can find them at local farmers markets on the weekends. You can also purchase the tea online from their website.

It’s delicious!

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Image credit: Lost Pines Yaupon Tea


Lady Bird and Lyndon

Today was “Johnson Day” on our visit to Austin, Texas. As in President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ), and his wife Lady Bird Johnson. This city was their home base and launching pad for his political career so their lives and legacies loom large.

In the morning we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a gorgeous arboretum on the edge of the city. Being that it’s November, there weren’t a lot of flowers in bloom; however we enjoyed the 80+ degree weather (it’s in the 30’s back in Minnesota!).

In the afternoon we headed over to the University of Texas campus to visit the LBJ Presidential Library. It’s an excellent museum, and was a good reminder of fading memories from my childhood.

If you find yourself in Austin someday, I’d recommend both sites.

And of course we topped it off with a wonderful Texas-style dinner at Blacks Barbecue. Best brisket I’ve ever had!

Image credit: Janet Wachter

Road Trip | Interstate 35

After three “shorter” road trips this year (Oregon in April, Kansas in July, and Montana in August), we’re finally getting around to our annual epic road trip. Being that it is November, we decided to make a swing south, with stops in Austin, New Orleans, Panama City Beach, and Memphis, visiting relatives and taking in some of the sights.

The first leg of our journey was a 2-day drive on Interstate 35 (I-35). We got on the freeway in Roseville, MN, and got off 1200 miles later in Austin. Just one highway (except for a detour to avoid a crash in a construction zone between Waco and Austin).

I-35 cuts through the heart of the country, from Duluth, MN to the Mexican border in Laredo , TX, traversing 6 states along the way. (Note: most descriptions of the highway have it starting in Laredo and going north; I, obviously, think it’s the other way around.)

Along the way we stopped to have lunch with my cousins at a BJ’s Restaurant and Brew House in Dallas and in Waco to visit Magnolia Markets.  If you are a fan of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”, then you’ll know why we stood in line for 20 minutes to buy cupcakes!

While there is, to be honest, a certain monotany in driving 1200 miles along one highway, it is an interesting way to watch and experience the variations in geography, climate, and language as you make your way south. We left behind corn fields being harvested in Minnesota for the “home on the range” terrain of central Texas, with a few cotton fields thrown in for fun. Bare trees in Minnesota slowly gave way to ones that were still colorful to the still-fully green trees of Austin.

And somewhere along the way the accent of American English shifted from the nasal whine of “Minnesotan” to “southern.” Based on my numerous trips up and down the interstate I would say that  the shift begins to take place at about the Iowa-Missouri border. What I’d love to do sometime is stop at every truck stop along the way and ask a clerk to read a short sentence to see if I can plot the shifting of the vowels as I move south. Another time.

I-35 is an important part of life in the Twin Cities with 35W going through Minneapolis, and 35E going through St. Paul, so it’s easy to forget that it is not “our highway.” This also means that it is strange to go to other cities that give pride of place to the highway. I find myself wanting to say, “hey, that’s OUR highway, not YOURS.”

But maybe that’s the point; it doesn’t belong to Minnesota, or Texas, or any of the other states along the way. It’s Middle America’s Main Street!

If you’re into American road trips, or just find yourself traveling on freeways and wonder how they got built, then you might enjoy this book: The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

Image credit:

95 Theses in Chinese

In honor of Reformation Day, here is the list of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in Chinese (simplified). It is taken from the Baidu Baike, the Chinese version of Google/Wikipedia all rolled into one.

( 1 )当我们的主耶稣基督说『你们应当悔改』的时候,他是说信徒一生应当悔改。
( 2 )这句话不是指着告解礼,即神甫所执行的认罪和补罪说的。
( 3 )这句话不是仅仅指内心的悔改而言,因为内心的悔改若不产生肉体外表各种的刻苦,便是虚空的。
( 4 )所以罪恶的惩罚是与自恨同长久,因为这才是真正内心的悔改,而一直继续到我们进入天国。
( 5 )教皇除凭自己的权柄或凭教条所科的惩罚以外,既无意也无权免除任何惩罚。
( 6 )教皇不能赦免任何罪债,而只能宣布并肯定罪债已经得了上帝的赦免。那留下归他审判的,他当然可以赦免。他若越过此雷池,罪债便仍然存在。
( 7 )上帝赦免人的罪债,未有不使那人在他的代表神甫面前凡事自卑的。
( 8 )惩罚教条仅是加于活人身上,对临死者不应有所惩罚。
( 9 )所以圣灵借着教皇用宽仁对待我们,使他在教会中总将死亡和必要定为例外。
(29)从圣瑟威立努(St. Severinus)和圣巴斯噶(St. Paschal)的传奇来看,炼狱里的灵魂是否都愿被赎出来,是没有人知道的。
(59)圣劳伦斯(St. Lawrence)说,教会的穷人便是教会的宝藏,但他如此说,乃是用当时的说法。

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


There’s More Than One Way to “Go Green”

In February of 2001, the International Olympic Committee made their final inspection visit to Beijing to see if the city would be up to hosting the 2008 Olympics. In preparation for that visit, the city got a major “spruce-up.” Office and apartment buildings that had been a dull gray since their construction decades before were painted bright colors. Well, three sides of the buildings were painted — only the ones that face the highways that the Committee members would travel on. Every surface of the city was scrubbed clean.

My personal favorite was the grass. During a stroll through Tiananmen Square I noticed that the newly installed grass was green. “Green grass in February?” I was puzzled. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the entire “lawn” had been spray-painted green.

I thought of that today when I read this post in the The Beijinger about the city’s current effort to “greenify” in the run-up to the Communist Party Congress that will be held next month. All the power boxes are being covered with fake vines:

As the British say, “BRILLIANT!”

Related Posts:

Where the Grass is Greener

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Photo: The Beijinger

Friday Photo: Old Sedan Church

During a short trip to Montana last week, we took a drive into the beautiful Shields Valley, north of the town of Livingston. Along Highway 86, about 5 miles west of the town of Wilsall we spotted this old (but nicely restored) church.

Old Sedan Church

According to this site, the congregation was founded in 1898, but this structure dates to 1910.

The door was not open, but we were able to look inside and see nicely restored pews and lectern.