Today we left Bryan for the drive to Houma, Jeanne’s home town. Bryan is right next to College Station and outside of Houston. From Bryan we took route 105 across southeast Texas to Beaumont. As we drove towards the gulf, things got greener and more lush. From Beaumont we took I-10 to Lafayette, and then Route 90 south to Houma.
Even before we got to Lafayette, I started seeing signs that we were now entering the South. 3,083 miles from home, I saw the first use of the term ‘Bubba’ (Bubba’s Restaurant.) 3,153 miles from home, I saw my first Cajun restaurant, just 22 miles after the first bayou.
Unfortunately, with the swamps came the love bugs. These little black critters appear for a few weeks out of the year, and because it’s been so hot, they’re out earlier this year. (Lucky us.) They fly around connected in pairs (hence the name). On one stretch of highway, the entire front of Jeanne’s van became covered in them. When you stop for gas or just to stretch, they start landing on you. They’re really annoying. But high heat, humidity, and bugs are good practice for the Amazon basin, so we scraped ’em off and continued on towards Houma.
Jeanne’s brother recommended a place in Lafayette called the ‘Gator Cove’. It’s a little ways south of the airport on Route 90 in Lafayette. We were keeping an eye out for it, and we saw a huge billboard advertising it, but no restaurant in sight. We went up the road a ways, asked a state trooper who told us it was back by the billboard, and turned around.
We finally found it. You need to go down a small paved road, which winds behind some buildings. A sign positioned parallel to the road points the way, and you might see the sign if you were passing it and glanced out of your passenger window. That is, you would see it if the sign wasn’t 6′ up in the air. Finally you go down a hill, park, and enter an unmarked door into a barn/the restaurant. Inside, families sit at tables with red checked tablecloths. On each table is a roll of paper towels and an assortment of hot sauces. The place smells incredibly of boiled seafood and spices.
We were seated. Shay ordered 3 pounds of boiled crawfish, I ordered the crawfish platter, and Jeanne got a platter of crawfish ètouffèe and fried oysters.
Shay’s boiled crawfish came first. It was served in a large Tupperware container filled with bright red bugs, and another container was provided for the shells. Jeanne showed me how to tear off the tail, suck the head, and pull the meat from the tail. Yum! My crawfish platter had boiled and fried crawfish as well as crawfish etouffÈe. Everything was delicious. Jeanne and I briefly rerouting the trip to the great Cajun restaurants of southern Louisiana.
After settling the bill, we continued southeast towards Houma. We arrived at around 10 pm, pulling into the driveway of Jeanne’s sister Queen Eileen and her husband King Roy. (Featured in Jeanne’s dispatch ‘An Insider’s View of Mardi Gras’.) Eileen and Roy live in a huge new house by a pond, the sort of place that would sell for multiple millions of dollars in the Bay Area. Jeanne’s family was there to greet us, and soon her sister Sybil came over as well. It’s obvious that Jeanne’s gregariousness is a family trait. Everyone was sitting around the table talking simultaneously. It reminded me of my family back in Massachusetts. Anyone from a quieter family would be totally overwhelmed, but I felt right at home.
It was fun, but I was exhausted. I used their shower to try to get somewhat cleaner, and now I’m about to go to sleep. Tomorrow is our first free day, and I plan on sleeping in before running the errands I need to run.