Traveling together is a very bonding experience, especially on a road trip. This Thanksgiving, with our nephew visiting from South Texas, we made a last minute decision to surprise him with a roughly 3,000 mile road trip over 8-days to spend the holidays with my Florida family.
Here’s some Road Trip highlights and travel tips from Texas to Florida:
On November 23rd, we departed Dallas towards our first stop — New Orleans, Louisiana.
It’s always a challenge to get out the door at a reasonable time, so it was a bit after noon before the wheels (which we had to fill with air) started to roll towards the Big Easy.
From road trips of long ago with my Cajun friends, we always stop at the French Market Express, on University Pkwy, in Natchitoches for Gas and a little fried treat or sweet.
Travel tip: Natchitoches is known for their Meat Pies, which you can pick up at this stop while getting a fill up and making a potty stop.
We arrived in NOLA after about 8 1/2 hours of travel. Our accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn on South St. Peter’s Street.
Travel tip: Staying downtown New Orleans is always more expensive, so I use Hotwire to get a better deal. I check all the travel sites, and usually Hotwire is the best – although you never know exactly where you are staying until you book it. But this Hilton ended up in a pretty good location and is nice – even has Sleep Number Beds – but the parking stinks (like always is my experience anywhere in New Orleans). There’s no self-parking, so they have Valet parking for a whopping $30/night (+ tax & tip). But, another hot tip, you can opt for the garage a block over for $10/night.
Our nephew wanted to see the Pay-Preview Boxing match that night. It was really hard to find it playing anywhere, let alone a place with good Gumbo like my Hubs wanted. So we decided to eat somewhere first, then the guys could go catch the fight somewhere and my weary bones could relax back in the room.
My husband loves Poutine, Canadian “gravy fries”, a delicacy we’ve not had in the States before. I found a restaurant there that actually serves it — Capdeville, which must be named after the street where it is located. We went there for dinner, but alas they don’t serve traditional Cajun/Creole food like the Hubs was craving.
A Burger connoisseur, I urged him to try one of their beef patty entrees. Set on Gumbo he almost didn’t, but reluctantly ordered the Capdeville Burger –with just lettuce, fried onions, and pickles. Surprised at how incredible it ended up being, it now sits at his highly ranked #2 all-time Burgers.
They dropped me back at the Hotel after dinner and the guys headed out to Rick’s Saloon for the fight. Unfortunately, by the time they got there, the fight was just ending. So they watched the highlights and headed down to Bourbon Street for the experience of it.
Since a road trip two years ago, my Hubby loves his Corned Beef Hash, Eggs, & Grits breakfast at the Gumbo Pot restaurant. Here’s a shot of my breakfast a la Gumbo Pot.
After that, he goes to get his coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde. The to-go line was really long that Sunday morning, so while we waited, my Nephew and I tooled around.
In the courtyard of St. Charles Cathedral, we met some girls from Austin that wanted their picture taken mid-air while jumping in front of the beautiful Church. Afterwards they told us we needed to do the same. When in Rome…
While waiting we caught a little show of entertaining guys. One of them even flip-jumped over 6 people kneeling on the ground! See him mid-air here:
We got an even later start from NOLA, (which, I’ll admit, I was expressive about my dislike of that) and we still had about 10 more hours until we reached my Dad’s. But, traveling with others does require give-and-take, right?!
Travel Tip: Using Smart phone apps is very helpful when on the road. I almost always look up “nearby” restaurants on Urbanspoon. This time I found a “Five Guys” coming up in Killearn, FL, and with the Five Guys App I was able to order and pay for our dinner before we even arrived – talk about convenient when traveling!!
We arrived after midnight at my Dad’s Florida home, tucked away in a gated Retirement community. We had traveled 2 days and 1,086 miles by that point.
At my Dad’s, my Hubs still had 2 days of work to put in remotely. I also did work (see my office with a view below), while my Nephew got to ride around with my Dad to see the area and later drove Dad’s Golf Cart around himself.
I loaded up on 2 days worth of groceries. We ate well: Day #1: Tacos; Day #2: My Nephew grilled Marinaded Chicken and Corn on the Cob, with baked Sweet Potatoes.
We departed around noon from mid Florida to go further south, past Miami, to my brother’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Florida has some really nice rest areas, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, we grabbed some Wendy’s.
Since we tried Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Ft. Lauderdale a year and a half ago, my Hubs has searched high and low for something similar – to no avail. So that’s where we ended up for a delicious family-style dinner with 8 of us now in tow.
Thanksgiving was that perfect mix of all good holiday things: Savory dishes that many hands lovingly prepared, desserts, thankfulness expressed while holding hands in prayer, Tropical Sanchez’s (my bro’s signature drink), calls to out-of-state family, Basketball, movies, cigars, and memory-making with family.
On Friday the 29th we set out for a change of scenery. But before leaving the Hollywood area, my Nephew needed to experience some good Cuban food. We went to Las Vegas for a big old lunch.
We also couldn’t leave without him getting an eyeful of the daytime Atlantic Ocean view – even if it was windy and cool for South Florida.
Then we were off across “Alligator Alley” to Ft. Myers. We showed up early evening at the Edison & Henry Ford Summer Estates for the Christmas tree lighting. Growing up in Dearborn, Michigan with the Henry Ford, it was interesting to see the summer recreation side of such geniuses.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a hot meal at Cracker Barrel. It’s always fun to shop in their little country store as well – we all walked out of there with a little something.
It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to get back to Dad’s home. There we grabbed a quick night’s sleep, before our morning departure.
Trip home, Day #1: Lady Lake, Florida to Jackson, Mississippi.
We ate a steady artery-hardening fast-food diet that day; but, might I add that the Whataburger in Crestview, Florida was the nicest one I’ve ever been to, and very friendly too.
Travel tip: The Country Inn & Suites in Jackson, MS was a disappointment. They are undergoing a renovation – so the pool, hot tub & exercise room were all under construction simultaneously. The carpet in our room looked like a tractor had parked there, and there was a bug in the Bathroom. I wouldn’t consider that property 3 stars; but it was quiet, and we slept OK, so we made it through.
Trip home, Day #2: Jackson, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas.
Driving to Mass, we saw one of the oddest post-accident car scenes ever. One of the hit cars was stuck in reverse, looping around backwards in a perfect circle with no one driving or even in the car. Bizarro.
We started Advent with 10:30 am Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral – a beautiful Church, rich in history. For my stained-glass loving Hubby, he snapped a bunch of pictures at this Church.
Travel tip: I use my Mass Time App, by theCatholicDirectory.com, to find nearby Churches, check their Mass schedule, and get directions.
We asked some of the locals where to find a proper lunch. A friendly local directed us to the Piccadilly Cafe, but that seemed to be everyone’s idea as well – the line was tremendous. So, I got on my Urbanspoon and found the Broadstreet Baking Company & Cafe. They had fresh baked breads, a tempting dessert counter, and many locals enjoying a Sunday brunch there. My Hubs loves his Espresso, so I was glad to hear that their coffee was delicious, as I savored delving into my first Croque Monsieur.
We were on the last stretch of road home around 1:00 pm. Things were smooth sailing until we hit the final 2 hours on I-20. There were 3 car accidents during that time, but my Hubby used smart navigating to save us some time.
Travel tip: My Hubs loves the “Waze” Social GPS, Maps, & Traffic App. Drivers keep other drivers informed on the roads, from accidents to speed traps, it gives you some useful info to help make your trip go smoother.
Our last stop before home was in Canton, Texas. We like to Gas up and grab some grub in the final stretch.
Travel tip: Duke’s Travel Plaza in Canton, just off I-20, is a nice stop. The Bar-B-Q is pretty good, and you can get a family dinner there with 2 lbs of meat and some sides for around $25.00.
We spent about 7 1/2 hours on the road today, and are finally enjoying the comfort of home. This Texas to Florida road trip was about 3,000 miles, filled with family, and more memories than calories if that is possible. Glad we got to surprise our Nephew, who has never really left Texas, with such a great adventure. Most of the time, he had no idea where we were going. Great fun, but as always, nothing like being home!