Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mamou to Washington, LA. And our most extensive political commentary on this trip.

The campground in Washington, LA. It seemed like the campground served the bar as in, come here and get drunk and then you can stay here and not drive home. Not the best place ever.

However, we got set up with a nice little camping spot at the Washington campground under a metal roof and on concrete. At least we stayed dry.

This campground even had chickens living in a broken down camper trailer. Dani wanted to go in a look for eggs. Greg said she was crazy.

The French speaking Cajuns in Ville Platte. These guys were a real hoot.

Mamou to Washington, LA
Day 98
35 miles

Louisiana is a good place to be, especially after Super Bowl 44. We keep seeing signs that say Geaux Saints and Who Dat? Gotta say, it is pretty fun to travel and meet people who are in such a celebratory mood. Not only have the Saints just won the Superbowl for the first time ever, but Mardi Gras begins this weekend and promises to be a good time, if anyone has any energy left to party after the Superbowl celebration.

We had a good sleep at the impound in Mamou. We went to the hospital to get some breakfast before we left town. Greg went inside to locate the cafeteria, and nearly got lost in the maze of the building. They ended up not being open until lunch time, so we headed down the road. The next town down the road is Ville Platte. We rolled into this town and stopped by the Chamber of Commerce. There we met several very nice ladies who helped us find the best place in town to eat. They even went to the trouble of calling each place in town to see what the lunch special was. We were told that Ville Platte is the most French-speaking town in Louisiana. People speak French as a regular part of business and family life. Ville Platte is also the “swamp pop capital of the world” and the “smoked meat capital of the world.” We stopped by a Cajun spice shop called “Slap Yo Mama,” where they sold all kinds of spice mixes and loads of Mardi Gras party items. They had all kinds of cookbooks and a series of kids' book featuring an alligator named Gaston. I looked through one of these books called “Gaston drills an offshore oil well.” We got some hot sauce and spices and headed down to the Pig Stand restaurant to get some lunch.

We sat down at the Pig Stand and the waitress was very nice and asked us “What would you babies like for lunch?” with an unmistakable Cajun accent, which is very dissimilar to a southern drawl. We had a hard time deciding what to choose but eventually decided on some lunch specials. Greg ordered the crawfish etoufee, which is a wonderfully flavored sauce, much like gravy, with pepper and crawfish served over a bed of white rice. I ordered “stew shrimp,” which is a slightly sweet sauce/stew with shrimp over rice. Both meals were served with a creamy potato salad, a side salad, and two large fried catfish filets with tartar sauce. We thought about how every ingredient in this meal, from the rice to the crawfish, was grown or raised in this state. The lunches were absolutely amazing. We enjoyed every single bite. At one point during the lunch, a woman came into the restaurant with a large cardboard box, selling something. We thought it was kind of strange that a restaurant would allow someone to sell food to customers while they were eating. Each patron she approached bought something and she was met with appreciation instead of being ignored or asked to leave. When she came to our table we found out she was selling homemade pecan brittle and we happily bought one. We can't wait to share it later. Before we left the Pig Stand we talked to the ladies working there about our trip and their state. Our conversation flowed as if we were some regulars. It seems like most people around here treat you with the kindness and trust of a neighbor, not an stranger. We continue to feel welcome and have really begun to like Louisiana and see its unique culture.

After our meal at the Pig Stand we headed to McDonalds, the only place in town with wireless internet. As we walked in we spoke with a couple of old Cajuns. They told us that they come to McDonalds every day to get their coffees for 44 cents and talk for a couple of hours. They told us that we could sit down and listen to some old timers talk bull, but we could only understand about half of what they were saying. Their conversation flowed easily from French to English and back again. We used the computer to enter some blogs, and before we left, I asked them for a picture. We ended up talking to them for another half hour as they bantered back and forth. Sometimes they would say something in French to one of their friends, then turn to us to translate to English. One of the men at the table told me that their French dialects are very regional and that about every fifty miles the French is slightly different. We had a great time meeting and talking to these Cajuns, but we unfortunately had to cut our time in Ville Platte short and head down the road to our campground in Washington. On the way there, Greg saw a funny looking horse and said to me, “I think it kind of looks like a llama.” I thought he had said, “I think it kind of looks like Obama.” Naturally, I was offended and asked him what the heck he was talking about. He said, “you know, it has a long face and those pointy ears.” I was getting pretty upset at this point until I finally said “Greg, you are saying that horse looks like our president, Obama?!” He started laughing hysterically when he realized why I was so offended, “No, no, no, the horse looks kind of like a LLAMA, Dani!” Ohhh....hahaha. Now I get it. This is a good example of how hard communication can be at times when riding a bicycle. Most of the time you can barely hear what the other person is saying, and sometimes that proves comical.

Washington was established in 1720 as a French trading post. About 80% of the buildings in this town are architecturally or historically significant. There are many, many antique shops and no real grocery store. We found our campground in Washington, which was pretty minimal. The bathrooms were not functioning or clean. We saw an abandoned trailer with chickens roosting inside. When Greg told the owner that we were camping in tents, the bar got quiet. A man at the other end of the bar said quietly, in a voice no one should have been able to hear (yet they all did) “you want to a tent? Don't you know its cold out there?” Greg replied “Oh, we will be fine, we are from Montana.” Then, as if in a movie, the man replied “Oh, that explains why you're lookin' a little like a grizzly mountain man.” The music from the bar kept us up late. We had to laugh about bar music that night. Greg's Dad had told him that at some point in the night, in every bar in America, you will hear Cocaine, by Eric Clapton. That night we heard Cocaine played twice in the span of two hours and we had to laugh. We also had some good times listening to an oldies station on our portable radio and dancing by the river on a rickety bandstand.

Thankfully, we had decided to camp under an awning because it started to rain at about 6AM.


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