New Orleans

Thursday, 30 January 2014 15:30
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Bourbon StreetDown to the Big Easy.


After my stop in Vicksburg, I crossed the Mississippi for probably the tenth time on the trip (although it’s considerably wider down here than it was up in Minnesota) and headed into state #46 for the trip, Louisiana. I cruised through Talulah (partly because I liked the name, and partly because it the name of the daughter of a friend of mine) and checked out the sights there, then jumped on Route 65 (and then Route 15) south toward Baton Rouge and New Orleans because on the map it followed the west bank of the Mississippi and it looked like it would be a nice drive. However, I forgot that down here the Mississippi is completely contained within high earthen levees to control flooding, so one basically spends the drive down the river looking at the side of the levee instead of the water. Still, cruising the backroads through the sugar cane, corn, and cotton fields still beat driving on the interstate by a long way, and I had the payoff of actually visiting Natchez at the end of the trail after spending so much time on the Natchez Trace Parkway. I also got to see some of the giant machinery the Army Corps of Engineers built to control flooding, levels, and water distribution along the way, which was pretty neat.

Olde Times Not Forgotten Little pink houses for you 'n me Free coffee!
River control apparatus This picks up gates, trundles them across the river, and drops them in place Abstract flood control

I made a quick pit stop in Baton Rouge to meet the family of a very close friend of mine (lectacave, to those of you following the comments here.) They’d been following the blog and I’d heard all about them for years, so it was fun for everybody to meet everybody else in person. One of the highlights of the “in person” meet was that I got to meet lectacave’s dad, the fantastic bassist Jay Cave, who was big on the New Orleans jazz scene back in the early ‘60s before heading out on tour with Al Hirt, and then eventually to Vegas to hold down the rhythm sections on many  renowned house bands there. It was a great visit, and I’m really glad I got to stop by and meet everyone.

My final destination for the evening was New Orleans, where Steve, an extremely generous blog reader, had offered to put me and the car up for “as long as you want.” Steve and his wife have a lovely home in a nice neighborhood in the Uptown/Carrollton district, and a garage with an equally lovely 1972 BMW E9 (3.0CS) in it out back. I’m continually amazed by the generosity of the sports car community at large, and Steve was a stellar example of this. He’d read the article in Petrolicious about the trip, sent me the email, and next thing you know he and his wife are cooking me dinner in New Orleans. Pretty amazing (and a really good dinner.)

Datsun and BMW, happily playing together Triple Webers Steve getting the carbs re-jetted before our ride

The weather had gone from really cold to really nice over the couple days I was traveling to New Orleans, so the next day I put the top down and went on a little mobile exploration of the city. First stop was the Camellia Grill for some breakfast. I got a choice parking spot right out front, and my waiter Leon asked me about the car, and that evolved into a chat about the trip and how I got to New Orleans. That then escalated to a lengthy Q&A session with the entire place, with everybody at the counter asking questions about the trip and the car and offering travel suggestions. Some of the suggestions (places to eat, things to see) were more helpful than others (“you need to kick Harry Reid out of office as soon as you get back to Vegas”), but it was all really great fun, and a guy at the other end of the counter even paid for my breakfast, which was another stellar example of how awesome people have been in general for this entire trip.

My new friend Leon at the Camelia Grill

After breakfast, I jumped back in the car and followed the streetcars down St. Charles Avenue toward the Garden District, where I drove around and checked out all the amazing houses. I also stumbled across Commander’s Palace restaurant, where Emeril Legasse first started getting famous. From there, I went down to the French Quarter, had a few beignets at Café du Monde, walked along the riverfront for a bit, and drove down Bourbon Street. New Orleans was pretty quiet in general, as the busy part of Mardi Gras was still a bit off in the future, but it was definitely fun cruising through all the famous spots. One of the more amusing aspects of cruising around was listening to the woman who lives in my GPS try to pronounce all the funky street names like “Tchoupitoulas” and “Thibodeaux”.

Commander's Palace Down on the riverfront Moving some freight up the Mississippi
Jackson Square   Mmm....beignets

That night, I met up with another old friend at Emeril’s restaurant. He was in town shooting a movie for several weeks (my friend, not Emeril), and It was a fun coincidence that I was passing through town at the same time. We had a great meal there with some nice wine and spent a few hours catching up on life in general, which was a great time. It’s always fun to run into somebody you know in a totally out-of-context environment, and this was definitely that.

I figured I’d get out of town a little bit the next morning and see some of the surrounding countryside, and my hosts suggested a visit to some of the plantations outside of town, especially Oak Alley.  It was still top-down weather, which was great, so I took advantage of that again and headed out. Since I’d taken care of a few chores in the morning, it was approaching lunchtime by the time I got started, so I figured I’d go find a good example of another New Orleans culinary staple, the po’boy sandwich.  After a little judicious internetting, I settle on Crabby Jack’s, which was on my way out of town anyway. It’s a little hole in the wall place that has the interesting distinction of being owned and operated by an award-winning chef, Jacques Leonardi of Jacques-Imo’s restaurant. This meant that the po’boys had some pretty interesting ingredients, like duck or fried oysters with shrimp remoulade. I went for the duck, “dressed” (lettuce, tomato, etc.), and it was indeed sloppy goodness on a roll.

Crabby Jack's The decadent duck po'boy It sure felt like the world's largest

Full of duck, I headed down the road toward Oak Alley. The route took me along the river over various bridges and edifices named after “The Kingfish”, Huey P. Long, and again along the levees next to the Mississippi. Eventually, I got up to Oak Alley, which was really lovely—huge old live oaks, similar to the ones I’d seen at Wormsloe in Georgia, but much bigger and much older. Unfortunately, my po’boy stop pushed my arrival to after the point that they stopped running tours, so I didn’t get to see the inside of the house, but it still looked pretty great from the fence.

Oak Alley Amazing some of these trees have survived all the storms

By the time I was on my way back it was nighttime, so when I got back to New Orleans I wandered back into the Quarter to check out some of the neon at night (and pick up a couple more beignets), and it was still pretty light from a tourist standpoint, but still pretty as well, and actually kind of cool to see it not totally mobbed with people.

Pat O'Brians, home of the Hurricane Dedicated to the Preservation of Jazz Looking east on Bourbon Street; not a lot of tourists out and about

When I got back to the house, Steve was making jambalaya for the evening’s dinner, and while that cooked, we went outside to check out the cars. The original plan was to have Steve drive the roadster for a bit, but unfortunately he was too tall for the car, even with the seat all the way back—he could get in, but actually working the brake and clutch wasn’t going to happen. We abandoned that plan, and instead got his car up and running and went out for around Lake Pontchartrain in the BMW. It’s a beautiful car, and that inline six cylinder with triple Weber carburetors makes a wonderful sound when you get on it. Apparently, they’re kind of prone to rusting, but mechanically it was pretty fantastic. Steve drove out to the lake, and on the way we drove by the area where the levee broke after Hurricane Katrina. There were still empty lots here and there where houses hadn’t been rebuilt yet, but for the most part there were now new homes in the areas that had been devastated by the flooding. After a bit, we swapped seats, and Steve let me drive the car back to the house, with a few judiciously times runs through the gears to let the engine show its stuff here and there. It’s a great car, and his is a super clean and great running example. Once we got back, we stuffed ourselves with jambalaya, watched some television, and then everybody hit the sack.

I got up and said my goodbyes to everybody the next morning, then got back on the road heading westward into the bayous of Cajun country. The weather was just starting to turn into what would become the big ice and snow storm that shut down the South in general for a few days, so it was cloudy and chilly, but not too awful. I drove through Thibodeaux and a few other small towns, as well as numerous swamps that looked like Kermit and Dom DeLuise could pop up at any moment. I eventually made my way to Avery Island, home of Tabasco sauce, and popped in for the factory tour. The guy at the gate asked “Ain’t you ‘fraid of driving that little thing ‘round Louisiana? Could fall in a crack and get lost…” The tour itself was relatively uneventful; mostly a look at some historic Tabasco artifacts and a walk-by of the bottling line (actually kind of similar to the Tillamook Cheese tour I took back in Oregon, but smaller.) They gave out some sample bottles, and I also picked up a bottle of the new “Sweet & Spicy” sauce, which is really good. From there, it was westward toward state #47 of 48, The Great State of Texas.

Where the spicy magic happens Putting Tabasco into bottles
Out in the sugar cane (post-harvest) Trying for some different car pictures


Next stop: The Lone Star State


#1 FairladySPL 2014-02-01 17:54
"...fall in a crack and get lost." Great quote.

I've always liked the look/lines of that '72 BMW, there was an older one, the 2800, same style. Instant classic, even back when they were nearly new.

You've got in common the fact the hood opens from the back. And the roofline looks a bit like the Datsun Silvia coupe.

On reflection, again reading your extended story here, there's something about the Fairlady that disarms certain people who have premium cars and/or those that are highly collectible. It's a friendly car that stands on its own, not a rival to or in competition with others.

I think that's one of the reasons you keep getting such a warm and consistently good reception wherever you go.

The other, biggest reason is the way you are.
#2 lectacave 2014-02-03 16:03
Aw, such a lovely shout out, Scott! I'm so glad you made that stop - meant so much to my family to meet you. Will read the whole entry more carefully soon - computer dying here... you rock!

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