Tag Archive | Texas

Let the good times roll!

February 9-15, 2011 – Houston, TX and New Orleans, LA

Cicely and I on Bourbon Street

For a good portion of my life, I have had a small obsession with New Orleans, LA.  It has always had a certain allure and mystique. Then, I discovered Cajun and Creole cuisine in college. I was sold. I had made several plans to visit through the years. One year, I was supposed to go with some college friends to Mardi Gras. An overprotective guy friend put a halt to that. He didn’t like the idea of me “earning beads”. Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. For a moment, I thought I would never see the city. New Orleans recovered slowly, but surely. At one time, Rob was working on-location for the “Great Debaters” in Louisiana. We made plans for me to meet him in New Orleans. Again, those plans fell flat. Last year during our cross country roadtrip, Cicely and I were going to make a side trip to New Orleans. Our driving schedule fell apart and we didn’t make it. I was beginning to feel like it just wasn’t in the cards for me to visit the Crescent City.

Last summer, Cicely put her foot down and said that we were definitely going to go. One way or another, we were going to make it happen. New Orleans is a short drive from Houston. I was told that if I found my way to Houston, we would find our way to New Orleans. While I was in Denver, I signed up for the Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans. I sealed the deal.

I flew into Houston where Cicely happily awaited my arrival. I won’t bore you with the Houston portion of my trip. It was brief and not particularly noteworthy. Besides, I’d visited Houston several times. The only thing I like about it is that Cicely is there. The only things worth mentioning is that I finally met… FRASIER! (Cicely’s Boston Terrier)

Frasier C. Puppykins

and I had some heavenly Chinese food.

Pan-fried Noodles with Chicken and Chinese Broccoli from Tan Tan

Beef and Scallions on Flat Rice Noodles from Tan Tan

Once we handled some business in Houston, we headed for New Orleans.

Bridge on the way out of Houston

After a few hours on the road, we had arrived… New Orleans! At last!

Jackson Square

We met up with a few friends. I met the lovely Julia Pretus who I knew from Twitter. Our friend L joined us and eventually D rounded out our party.

The guys give their approval to the highlights of a NOLA bar

We had a simple agenda – enjoy a few sights and all the food and drink our stomachs could handle. Oh yeah.. and I was supposed to run a half marathon.

A motto I could live with

It wasn’t difficult to stick to our agenda. We ate a lot. New Orleans is a gastronome’s dream. You can’t get a bad meal anywhere and you don’t have to spend a lot for a delectable meal. This put my eating in Denver to shame. In New Orleans, I ate like someone who had been lost in the wilderness for months and ate nothing but nuts and berries. Here are a few of the tantalizing meals.

Shrimp and Grit Cakes from La Bayou Restaurant

Seafood Gumbo from Coop's Place

Oyster Po' Boy from Coop's Place

Rotisserie Beef with Burgundy Mushroom Glace from Zea Rotisserie & Grill

Thai-style Ribs from Zea Rotisserie & Grill

Mini-cupcakes from Kupcake Factory

Cobbler from La Bayou

Bananas Foster from Palace Café

Beignets from Cafe du Monde

For more of my food exploits, feel free to checkout my Foodspotting account.

You can’t go to New Orleans without drinking. Alcohol is plentiful and readily available. Again, I won’t say exactly how much we all drank. It’s not because I’m being discreet. Frankly, I’m not sure how much was imbibed. All I can say is that this is the most inebriated I’ve been in YEARS. I am a happy, giggly drunk who loves everyone. So, Cicely, L and D were in for quite a treat.

Daiquiri Shop - the daiquiri bar in the 'Hood with the awesome drink names

Hand Grenades from Tropical Isle

Hurricanes from Pat O'briens

I won’t share any more photos. I think you get the drift. Don’t worry.  Despite being blitzed beyond belief, I retained my dignity and didn’t try to “earn beads”. Besides, it was cold out 😉

It’s not a startling revelation that this was not my most stellar half marathon performance. Between the eating and being hungover, I did not fare well. In fact, it set me up for some serious asthma issues in the middle of the race. There was a moment were I even considered pulling out of the race. I was given the option, but decided to continue and finish. The course while flat and scenic was peppered with potholes and very uneven roadways. I saw quite a few people take spills and roll ankles. It wasn’t pretty. The worst part is that many of the water stops were undermanned. There wasn’t enough cups of water ready for those of us that started towards the back of the pack. It was such a rough go that D and I didn’t even stay for the post-race festivities. This is easily my least favorite half marathons of the ones I’ve done thus far. I’d be hard-pressed to run it again.

On a slightly sappy sidenote, D and I celebrated Valentine’s Day in New Orleans.

enjoying popsicles from Meltdown

The verdict? New Orleans was better than I could’ve dreamed. Although, I couldn’t live there. I’d be bigger than a house even with all my running. Also, I won’t be running any races there again, but I’ll certainly be back to eat.


Taking it easy

February 20, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 3

I am well-rested. Can't you tell? (photo by Cicely)

After 8 hours of much-needed sleep, we started the day bright-eyed and busy tailed. Or rather, I started that way. Poor Cicely was fighting off the beginnings of a cold. I think the 16-hour day where she did 10 hours of driving did her in. I offered to take the first shift of driving.

photo by Cicely

photo by Cicely

We headed off to Dallas. Somewhere en route the piece of crap Magellan Roadmate 1440 I purchased at Best Buy decided to stop working. When I say stopped working, I mean total malfunction. The damn thing would not map ANY address in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. We’d put in an address or do a search and it would tell us that the GPS needed to be restarted. Of course, this would happen when we are in the first major metropolitan city on this trip, a time where we needed the GPS the most. I called Magellan Tech Support for assistance. They told me I needed to download an update. I explained that I was on the road. They told me that I could send it in for repairs. I asked if I could exchange it at another Best Buy. They explained that it would probably also need to be updated. At that point, I gave the customer service rep an earful. That poor pathetic thing had no idea what hit her.

Thankfully, we used my trusty iPhone as plan B. As part of our taking it easy plan, we decided to meet @KyraTX from Twitter at the Grand Luxe Cafe in the Galleria Dallas.

Cicely had a Pomegrante Margarita

I played it safe and just got a strawberry lemonade

Cicely was smart and got a few tapas plates

I had the Chicken Picatta, which was terrible.

We both REALLY enjoyed the crème brûlée

Even the Hello Kittys wanted in on dessert

Cicely with Kyra, and Kyra's husband

After lunch, we did a little browsing around the Galleria.

I used my trusty iPhone to find a cupcake bakery nearby - photo by Cicely

The Hello Kittys shopped at Sephora until a crazy sales associate ran us out while screaming gibberish - photo by Cicely

Cicely and the Hello Kittys

We found this awesome shirt, but unfortunately it only came in kids sizes... Boo!

Cicely and I with the Dallas skyline WAY OFF in the distance

Even though we had dessert, we headed off to get some cupcakes. We went to Society Bakery, which was highly recommended by many Dallas locals.

photo by Cicely

Because of the malfunctioning GPS, we got there right as they closed. I tried to park the car and Cicely got to take pictures of the storefront. She even got to wave at the people closing shop inside.

The place closed at 5PM. We got there at 5:05. photo by Cicely

The Hello Kittys hanging out at the door - photo by Cicely

To console ourselves from our failed cupcake purchase, we went for the next best thing… Outlet Shopping! There was even a Best Buy. I was able to exchange the terrible Magellan for the incredible and reliable TomTom XL 340s. The difference in the two gadgets was surprising.

The Hello Kittys at Allen Premium Outlets - photo by Cicely

After some retail therapy, we headed to Shreveport, Louisiana. Cicely’s cold was worsening. So, I happily drove. I even tortured her with some off-key singing. I make even the worse American Idol contestants sound gifted. A secret vice of mine is 90s Slow Jams. I know the lyrics to most Jodeci songs. When they come on, I will sing them as badly as I want.

For Cicely’s sake, we made it to Shreveport in fair amount of time. I’m not sure her eardrums could have handle anymore of my bad singing.   We tried to get Popeye’s Fried Chicken because supposedly it’s really good in Louisiana. I can neither confirm nor deny this since they were closed. It was a failure kind of day. At least our room was nice.

photo by Cicely

I was so starved that I settled for a dinner of a Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Wendy’s and bourbon, which turned out to be the best way to end Day Three.  It really was a laid-back day. We only drove 6 hours and covered 350 miles.

photo by Cicely

Longest Day

February 19, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 2

We started out bright and early. By 7AM, we were on the road. For those that know me well, that  is a superhuman feat. Our ability to get up and go may have had something to do with the sketchy Motel 6 where we spent the night. We left Tempe, AZ and headed East.

Oh-so-classy decor

We stopped at the Horseshoe Cafe in Benson, AZ for breakfast. We got a little more than we bargained for…

At first, we were all smiles and kidding around. We thought the waitress was a little grumpy, but we didn’t think anything of it.

photo by Cicely

Then, we received servings of the most sour orange juice either of us have ever tasted. Keep in mind we were the ONLY customers in the restaurant at this time.

photo by Cicely

It wasn’t until a caucasian couple arrived that we realized that our waitress wasn’t grumpy… we just weren’t welcomed in their establishment because we weren’t caucasian. She was all smiles and bubbly with the caucasian couple. Whenever she returned to our table, she was sour and rude. We couldn’t complain or leave because quite frankly there wasn’t anywhere else to eat for miles.

Cicely discovers that "our kind" isn't welcomed.

The irony is that they had the best country-fried steak and biscuits and gravy Cicely has had in a long while.

My scramble was ok. I think the horrific service ruined my meal.

We quickly paid our bill and headed out. While on the road we stopped to take a few pictures of the Arizona landscape. The desert is more picturesque than most people realize. The sky was clear with amazing cloudscapes.

photo by Cicely

Cicely admires the unusual signage

We blew through New Mexico. {Read: I sped while Cicely snoozed} By lunch time, we were in El Paso, Texas. To play it safe, we had lunch at Red Lobster. We had some Hurricanes to take the edge off our unpleasant breakfast.

We also stopped to get cupcakes at Cupcakes and Cookies by T.

photo by Cicely

Cupcakes by T has cake and icing flavors of the day. You can mix and match your cake and icing. They ice all their cupcakes as you order. We sampled their Pink Lemonade, Red Velvet, and Slamming Chocolate. We were quickly reminded that cupcakes make everything better. Even our Hello Kitty driving mascots got in on the delicious fun.

Cicely enjoys her cupcake

After nearly putting ourselves into diabetic comas, we continued on. Cicely drove while I enjoyed the scenery. We noticed the houses seemed really rundown in El Paso. I jokingly commented that El Paso was a dump. Then, I looked at the GPS. I wasn’t looking at El Paso. I was staring at the shanties of Juarez, Mexico. We had no idea that I-10 took us that along the Mexican border.

We were so close to Mexico that my iPhone picked up a Mexican mobile carrier.

Driving through east Texas felt endless.

That is until we got to a section of I-20 where the speed limit was 85 mph. This, of course, meant Cicely drove a touch faster than that.

I was so jealous. She got to drive MY car at racing speeds for a prolonged period. I told her to let me have a turn. No dice. There was no place to stop… unless you count the five prisons we passed along the way.

Again our stomachs chose an inconvenient time and place to begin growling. We stopped in Odessa, Texas at a Sonic Drive-In.  It was a poor choice. Without getting into details, we got another taste of racism, only this time it was a touch scarier. Thankfully, we were safe and continued on for another 4 hours. We thought we could make it to Forth Worth.

Somewhere around 2AM, we decided that 16 hours on the road was enough. We found a La Quinta Inn in Eastland, Texas where the night manager felt sorry for us and gave us a room at a discounted rate. A hot shower and comfy bed never felt so good.

In a day, we were on the road for 16 hours and covered about 956 miles. Despite the long day and the crazy run-ins with the locals, we kept our cool, didn’t kill one another, and managed to enjoy ourselves.