Well it’s finally over, 3,500 driving miles, 8 states, god knows how many flying miles, staying with old friends and new friends .. and now we’re heading home in 2 days after a final day trip to Joshua Tree tomorrow.
Some final thoughts, recommendations, warnings in list form …
Car hire: Cheap compared to Australia but be wary of add-ons, our mid size from Alamo was great and I rented through economycarrentals.com which gives you full insurance as well, worked out to about $50/day.
Flights: Southwest were excellent, incredibly cheap, 2 free bags to check in (most airlines charge per bag), generous carry on allowances and lovely and frequently hilarious staff
AirBNB: Fantastic! Better than I expected, the places varied from the absolutely stunning (in Nashville) to the downright dumpy, but the hosts were all lovely people who were passionate about sharing their city with people and who couldn’t do enough to help. I’m setting up an airbnb room when I get home.
For the nights you can’t get airbnb use priceline.com – we took the ‘mystery $50/night” deal and ended up in a really nice 3 star hotel in Memphis.
Most disappointing: Austin – despite the fact it’s a great city, it just didn’t live up the hype it has created for itself, probably an impossible task
Texans on the other hand are the loveliest people – but then so are all Southerners, it goes with the gorgeous accents and exceptional manners.
Most surprising: Nashville, probably because people had talked it down, we loved it.
Least surprising: New Orleans – it is everything everyone says it is .. food, music, partying, bars, people – everything is completely wonderful and exactly what you expect it to be.
Most depressing: Memphis and parts of Mississippi except for Clarksdale, Mississippi is also hauntingly beautiful.
Best beer discoveries: Negra Modelo and Southern Pecan nut brown Ale from Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi.
Best town spirit: Clarksdale Mississippi, where people are really trying hard to rejuvenate and revitalise this incredibly historic little town. It has a great arts and music community and is a fabulous place to stay.
Best attractions: Memphis – Civil Rights Museum, followed by Stax and Sun Studios.
Best bar … this is too hard, probably the White Horse in Austin (best Margarita ever), Thirsty Crow in LA or 13 or Maple Leaf in New Orleans.
Worst bar: None, American bars are the best, but the smoking in bars everywhere except Texas is the worst thing ever! How did we ever work in bars when smoking was allowed?
Best BBQ: BBQ is a very localised thing in the South – each place has its own style and its all to die for. My favourite by a whisker was the Texas BBQ in Austin (we ate at John Mueller), deliciously melt in the mouth .
Best food: BBQ .. or pancakes .. or fried chicken.. or funnel cakes
Best fried chicken: Gus’s in Memphis – unbelievable, juicy, spicy, crispy
Best sides: Coleslaw and potato salad
Worst sides: grits or collard green
Most absent food: Salad
Most overused food ingredient: Sugar!!!! Sweet tea is undrinkable and everything is slightly sweet, even before they add syrup, sugar or some other kind of sweetener to it.
Weirdest food: Scones that were called biscuits and eaten with a rather disgusting white, lumpy, sausagy sauce they call gravy. Good with jam and butter though, which they provide at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, a famous biscuit place. I didn’t try fried gizzards, they probably would have taken first place had I done so.
Most anger inducing: Churches .. the poorer the town or area, the newer and bigger and smarter the churches seemed to be, as if they were feeding off the very souls of the people and sapping the spirit and fight right out of them. Small towns where people live in shacks and trailers with 2 jails and 10 churches, kind of sums up parts of the South! Wealthier areas and towns seemed to have more discreet churches .. just an observation.
Best roads: Texas
Best roadside food chain: Waffle House YUM
Worst roads: Louisiana
Most worth doing: Civil Rights Museum, Memphis and Eco Swamp tour in Lafayette LA, Al Green’s church service in Memphis (previous comment notwithstanding).
Best dancers: Texans! Closely followed by Lafayette
Best meal: breakfast – Americans do breakfast so well and the South does it better than anywhere else, it keeps you going until night time and is probably the most economical meal of the day, especially at a diner.
Not even going to pick best or worst music from the road trip … it was all (well nearly all) great. If I were pushed then I’d probably have to say the Time Jumpers in Nashville.
I’m sure I’ll think of more