Monthly Archives: July 2011

May the Force be with Roux – Part 1

Over the weekend two of our kids, Christian and Elisabeth, came into town for a visit. And Christian brought his long boat. I’d already written and titled this post and, after looking at his long black boat, I decided it kind of fit.

We got out up at 5:00 and were on the lake by 7:00. No other boats and nice smooth water.

The first order of business was to take the obligatory picture of the boat standing on end. I wish I’d taken a picture of this thing on top of  his Honda! It should be a great ride for him. And, that black kevlar really looks like something Darth Vader would like.

Darth, I mean Christian, got himself organized and had everything in place and, was ready to go. I  think he needs to get a black shirt and helmet for the Tour du Teche, don’t you?

The two of us went just a  little over 16 miles at about 4 miles per hour. I have to tell  you the force is strong with this kid. He is strong and ready to go for this race. He just needs to organize his  gear and he’ll be up there with the leaders.

Around noon, Sharon and Elisabeth stopped by with food, and Elisabeth took a turn with the kayak and the canoe. She looks right at home, don’t you think? Maybe next year she and Josh will join us for a race somewhere.

So, we’re making good progress for the race. Jim’s up in St. Louis working like crazy to  get ready, I’ve been working out with another guy from S’Port who’s entered the race, and my sister Liz is coming down (maybe  with her friend Mary) . They’ll all be entering a foreign land full of wonderful people, mysterious and forbidding bayous, an amazing culture, beautiful sights, and great food.

So, now that we’ve talked about the Force, let’s get on to the ROUX! Pay attention and study up, cher, because what follows is the result of my continuing investigation into all things Cajun. If you’re come down for the race, you’ll need to know this stuff.

If you know what Cajun people like, you’ll know what kind of fun to expect. Cajun people like some interesting things. I won’t list all of them. After all, you’ll need a few surprises when you come down here. But, here are a few.

Jambalaya, catfish courtbouillon, and hot sauces It had to start with some kind of food, didn’t it?

Cajun jambalaya has tomatoes, Creole jambalaya doesn’t.

That’s pronounced COO-bee-yon!

High school football “Pick up dat ball couyon!” “Block dat kick!” “Pass de ball to T-boy over dere!” I thought Texans were football crazy. Little did I know about football crazy.

Cracklins (grattons) These are crunchy, salty, almost pure fat, and really bad for you. Heart attack in a sack. But boy oh boy are they good! If you have a chance to pick some up (preferably with a cold beer) make sure they’ve just been made. They’re best when still warm.

Hmmm. It’s important to consume a lot of calories during the race. These are portable and certainly fit the calorie count requirement. Now, I just need a waterproof paper bag!

Crawfish Festivals Louisiana has more festivals than almost anywhere else in the country. And the best of the festivals have something to do with crawfish. And the best of the crawfish festivals is in Breaux Bridge. It’s the capitale mondiale de l’ecrevisse and, if you’re around in May you gotta go.

The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Po Boys South Louisiana’s answer to the hero sandwich except that it’s better. Made with French bread (what else?) stuffed with fried shrimp, fried catfish, fried crawfish, fried oyster, and/or roast beef. You’ll be asked if you want “your po-boy dressed, cher?” That means adding tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayo, and shredded lettuce. Of course, you can expect a side of fries.

Always grab a big stack of napkins – to take care of those juices that will run down your arm.

Boudin While it seems you can get etoufee, gumbo, crawfish, and jambalaya up north, boudin sausage is a little more rare. Take advantage of it while you’re on the Teche because it’s one of the most unique parts of Cajun cuisine. It’s cooked pork scraps, rice, onions, and seasoning. It’s the coonass fast food. If you’re really in a rush you can even get boudin balls! Little boudin balls deep fried and hot. Whatever you choose, make sure to pick up some paper napkins.

It’s been estimated that about 80% of all boudin purchased never gets out of the parking lot. The other 20% is eaten in the Car. In other words, it never gets out of Louisiana. Heck, it never gets home!

Drive Through Daiquiri Shops One of the greatest innovations in recent years and you can thank Louisiana. Here’s the way it works. 1) Pull up to the daiquiri place and give them your order. Many places offer sizes ranging up to a gallon! 2) Pay the nice attendant, and feel free to tip. 3) Take your daiquiri! Sound too easy? Well, as long as you don’t take that little piece of tape off the straw hole it’s all perfectly legal. And it makes perfect sense to the legislature. After all, that little piece of tape could never be put back on the top of the drink, could it?

Alligators Cajuns really like alligators. As a matter of fact, alligator hunting season closes just a few days before the race. Everyone reading this is expected to pray for a REALLY BIG harvest of ‘gators this year. Especially around the Bayou Teche area. We’ll have enough to worry about out there on the water without saying hello to these big guys.

Here’s one on the Bayou Teche!

Making fun of themselves If you’re from way up north (that’s Minnesota, not Shreveport) you may have heard Ollie and Lena jokes. Well, down south it’s Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes. Besides beer drinking, coonasses like nothing better.

Boudreaux, Thibodeaux, and Gautreaux was playing a big round of golf for $200. At the 18th green Boudreaux had hisself a ten foot putt to win dat round, and the $200. As Boudreaux was lining up his putt, a funeral procession started to pass by. Boudreaux set down his putter, took his hat off, placed it over his chest, and waited for the funeral procession to pass him by. After it passed, Boudreaux picked up his putter and returned to lining up his putt. Seeing this, Thibodeaux said, “Mais cher, dat was de most touching ting I never seen befo. I can’t believe you stopped playing, possibly losing all you concentration, to pay you respects.” “Well”, Boudreaux replies, “we were married for 25 years.”

The LSU TIGERS! Most Cajuns think LSU is a football team, not a university. You should see the looks I get when I walk around Shreveport in my Mizzou Tigers shirt. And LSU isn’t even IN Shreveport. Nuff said.

Lent What’s not to like about being asked to give up meat every Friday? That means a mandatory day of eating crawfish, catfish, and shrimp. And, after Mardi Gras, most people need 40 days to recover anyway.

That’s a start. Study up because there’s more to come.


Training update

Well, it’s back in the kayak again! Got out on the lake last weekend for my first real workout. My new friend, John (another old guy who’s signed up for the race), and I managed 15 miles. It took us about 4 hours. At the end we both got out of the boats, sat on the ground for a while, looked at each other, and asked what the heck we thought we were doing. At this rate we’ll be paddling more than 16 hours a day for the first two days of the Tour du Teche. I guess we can both forget showing up for the paddler’s dinner and party both those nights.

I do have a schedule worked out.  This weekend I’ll try for 20 miles. Then 25, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, back to 40, 45, 50, and 50. That leaves one weekend before the race – and I don’t plan on more than 10 or 12 miles, if that. During the week it’s weight training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Aerobics on Tuesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, my partners are hard at it. I talked to Christian a couple of weeks ago and he’s already hitting 30 miles at a shot. Jim’s hard at it, too. Not sure what kind of mileage he’s up to but he accuses me of trying to kill him so I  can split his  life insurance with his wife. I have faith that he’ll be able to do it, though, because he’s really in better shape than I am.

As all this is going on the ground crew is shaping up. Sharon has signed on for another adventure. And my sister, Liz, and her friend Mary will be coming down (if  we can find a ride for one o f them). So, for the four racers (Jim’s friend Joe is coming from St. Louis) we’ll have three Coureur’s des Boise in two vehicles. I figure Sharon can concentrate on Christian, since he’ll be out in front, while Liz and Mary take care of Jim, Joe, and me.

On the gear front, my sense is that I’m ready to go. I don’t know about the rest of these guys, though. I hope they’re thinking about all the little things they’ll need for something like this. Waiting until the last week to discover you’re not comfortable or your lights don’t work right, or you’ve forgotten something isn’t a great idea.

12 weeks until the boats hit the water. Lots to do to get the bodies in shape, and a lot of gear to accumulate and get used to. The invitation still stands to anyone who’d like to take a few days off and join us in south Louisiana. They’re billing this as the longest race interrupted by parties in the world.

By the way, thanks to those of you who’ve encouraged me once again with e-mails and comments on the blog. It’s good to hear from you.

OK, off to get my stuff together and in the car so I can be on the water at 7:00 tomorrow morning.