Meat Pies at the Chevron Station: Retirement Kickoff Road Trip

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Is your idea of vacation eating crawfish meat pies at the Chevron station? Well, that’s what we were doing a few days into our “Gumbo Trail Retirement Kickoff Road Trip,” as Mr. Groovy dubbed it. It’s a mouthful (pun intended), but ever since Mr. Groovy read about the Gumbo Trail a few years ago in Southern Living he was fascinated with taking a Gulf Coast road trip. Yes, we’re foodies—but food is often just the impetus that kicks our butts into checking out new areas.

Mobile, Alabama (Days One and Two)

First, we headed off to Mobile, Alabama, from our home outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. After a full day of driving we checked into our hotel and then hit Dauphin Street in search of a restaurant. Unbeknownst to us, the Witches Ride was in full motion. Over 500 people dressed as witches rode bicycles down the streets of Mobile. We stopped to watch and a funny thing happened—the witches started throwing objects at us! I said “WTF”! “Why are they hitting us with glass?” Mr. Groovy corrected me. They tossed Jolly Ranchers out to the crowd, not glass. Once he clarified this, I moseyed on out into the street fending off six-year-olds and retrieved my share of watermelon candy!

The festivities dotted the main downtown streets and culminated in a huge outdoor block party with beer and dancing—all for a good cause, the Delta Dogs.

After a couple of beers at the block party we headed over to Wentzell’s Oyster House. We started with the house specialty, chargrilled oysters—smothered with butter and cheese. It’s a Gulf Coast way of doing oysters I had never heard of. I theorize someone invented the dish to help those who gag over raw oysters. But, OMG! We wolfed down those half dozen jumbo gems in the blink of an eye. When we finished our fish tacos and catfish we walked over to the grilling station next to the bar and watched the cook perform her chargrilled magic.

The next morning we headed over to the USS Alabama. The temperature was in the mid-80s and we toured the outside first before the sun got too strong. Then we toured the inside of the ship. The gun turrets, ammo, living quarters, bridges, and medical facilities fascinated me. I almost killed myself climbing up a ladder through a child-sized hole (people were smaller during World War II) and Mr. Groovy banged his head. He looked so cute that night with a little lump on his head.

ussalabama

Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans (Days Three and Four)

The following day we left for Biloxi, Mississippi, an hour away. We arrived at our hotel, the Beau Rivage Casino, and the staff kindly accommodated us with early check in. We dropped off our luggage and explored the lobby and casino. The Beau Rivage is a beautiful facility owned by MGM, reminiscent of the high end Las Vegas Hotels.

Next, we visited Beauvoir, the historic retirement home and presidential library of Jefferson Davis. Davis was the only president of the Confederate States of America. We arrived just in time for a group tour, which I found to be far more interesting than I expected. Beauvoir lives up to its name—it means “beautiful view”.

Built in 1852, Beauvoir is considered a Louisiana raised cottage. The house is elevated with a front porch that wraps around the entire home. Although Beauvoir took a huge beating from Hurricane Katrina, the tedious restoration revealed a few interesting things that might not have been discovered—original paint colors on doors, mantles, and walls.

The library sits in a separate building and contains quite a collection of furniture, paintings, and books. I was most enchanted with the large, colorful parrot that lives in the gift shop—that is, until it bit its owner.

After we ate a barbecue lunch we headed back to the Beau Rivage to relax. The atmosphere was extremely upbeat—everyone was happy! It was a stark contrast to the casinos in Las Vegas, where patrons all look miserable, especially when they’re leaving. Maybe the Haagan Daz shop in the lobby had something to do with the festive mood? We were quite thrilled to eat ice cream for dinner!

As we walked off our ice cream, we passed by a couple we recognized from the Beauvoir tour. We stood in the lobby talking with Tom and Danielle for half an hour. Tom is from China and Danielle hails from Vietnam. They live in Orange County, CA and love to travel. We mentioned our plans to visit Thailand and Vietnam and they regaled us with stories about the Vietnam beaches and the bountiful, inexpensive food. They spent a week in Vietnam for $100 each and highly recommended a tour company for planning excursions. They also suggested booking cheap flights out of Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City.

The next day we drove into New Orleans and toured the Garden District with the Two Chicks Walking Tours. But instead of two chicks—our guide was one guy, Richard. Richard gave a great tour but Mr. Groovy looked forward to those gals in fishnet stockings. Oh well, next time we’ll take the burlesque tour and he’ll get an eyeful.

During the tour we saw historic homes, mansions, and the Lafayette Cemetery #1. Established in 1833, the same year a Yellow Fever outbreak hit the city, the Cemetery contains Spanish-style above ground tombs. Burials are difficult in a city mostly below sea level. When caskets were buried underground after the outbreak, they eventually bobbed back up to the surface.

We passed by homes owned by Anne Rice, Sandra Bullock, and the Archie Manning House pictured below—where his sons Peyton and Eli grew up.

manninghouse

Next we drove to the French Quarter. I’d like to tell you we gorged on beignets at Café Du Monde—but I got the heebie-jeebies. We arrived after 3pm on a weekday and found navigating the small streets by car nearly impossible. Plus, the pedestrians looked like imports from the Bowery in New York during the 1970s. Instead, we drove to Charlie’s Seafood in nearby Harahan, where we had our first gumbo (delish) and took another stab at chargrilled oysters. These babies tasted even better than the ones at Wentzell’s in Mobile. And we had a heaping helping of alligator bites!

Biloxi to Lafayette, LA, by way of Des Allemands (Day Five)

This is the event Mr. Groovy dreamed about—meat pies at the Chevron Station! At 17178 Highway 90 in Des Allemands, this is no ordinary gas station—it’s home to classic meat pies and spicy boudin (pronounced booh-dan) balls. However that day, the cook prepared the boudin more like classic pork sausage. We enjoyed them—but the crawfish meat pies—oh my word! These were to die for. Too bad we didn’t plan to pass through Des Allemands on our way back—we could have indulged in more meat pies, corn dogs, wings, chicken tenders, and shrimp.

But hands-down my favorite part of eating at the Chevron station was getting to meet Miss Michelle. Talk about service with a smile. She lovingly tends to her customers and graciously agreed to pose for a photo. Isn’t she a beauty?

missmichelle

Later that afternoon we checked into our hotel in Lafayette and took a short drive over to the University of Louisiana. Mr. Groovy stopped the first young lady in our path who looked like a student and struck up a conversation. “Oh God,” I thought—you know how Mr. Groovy feels about  the college industrial complex. To his credit he didn’t recite his “education sucks” mantra. Instead he asked the student about her studies.

We ate dinner that evening at Prejeans—gumbo for Mr. Groovy, bisque for me, and a shared appetizer of Seafood Skillet Fondeaux, which is very much like a fondue or dip. The dish consisted of shrimp and crab sautéed with spinach, drizzled with crab butter cream, topped with mozzarella, baked, and served with garlic toast. Even Mr. Groovy, who’s on a no-bread kick, ate the garlic toast. It’s a must if you want to sop up every last bit of that creamy, cheesy, heavenly, dish.

Lafayette to Little Rock, Arkansas, with a stop in Breaux Bridge (Days 6 and 7)

We planned a brunch stop at Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge on our way to Little Rock, Arkansas. Breaux Bridge has a charming town center home to several restaurants. Cafe des Amis is rather eclectic—think New York West Village bar with a New Orleans feel. The Cafe features local art on the walls and zydeco musicians perform during the weekend brunch. We feasted on some of the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had (that’s high praise coming from an honorary southerner) and alligator quiche. The quiche was was more of a Prejeans-like fondeaux and equally delicious.


cafedesamis

Six hours later we arrived in Little Rock, had a nice dinner at the hotel, and then crashed. The following morning we toured the Museum and Visitor’s Center at the Little Rock Central High School. The Center features a display about the historic desegregation of Central High School in 1957 with the arrival of the Little Rock Nine. Afterwards we walked over to the school and grounds.

littlerockhigh2

littlerockhigh1

Later that morning we drove to Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs is much smaller than most national parks at 5,500 acres, with natural springs right in the center of the town. We toured the Fordyce Bathhouse which immediately brought the TV show I Love Lucy to mind. I looked at the row of steam cabinets and thought of the episode where Lucy tries to shrink her body to fit into a costume for Ricky’s show. Several bathhouses are still open to the public for spa treatments. Although it was established as a national park in 1921, Hot Springs opened in the eighteen hundreds and became famous as a spa where people “took to the waters” seeking relief from afflictions.

We capped off the day back in Little Rock with a stroll along Riverfront Park and the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.

Next stop: Memphis (Day 8)

The next morning we took off for Memphis. I’m rather ashamed to admit this but we drove straight to Graceland. We thought we’d find it cheesy and hokey and considered passing it up—but when might we be in Memphis again? So we forked over the $42.50 each (and the $10 parking fee) for the basic tour. And I’m so glad we did.

While we waited for the bus to take us over to Graceland, staff handed us ear phones and an iPad. The tour is narrated by John Stamos and self-guided. The iPad senses what room you’re in, provides additional photos and information, and even prompts you to email photos to yourself.

My favorite spot on the tour was the living room where we got a glimpse of Elvis’s grand piano. I also enjoyed the meditation garden where Elvis and his family are buried.

gracelandlivingroom

gracelandcemetery

That night we we walked by the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel as it was closing. We viewed the balcony were Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The museum preserved his motel room along with a few classic cars parked beneath the balcony. Afterwards we walked along Beale Street, which gave me a minor case of heebie- jeebies (compared to New Orleans, anyway). Too crowded, noisy and dirty—not my idea of fun.

lorrainehotel

Memphis to Chattanooga by way of Nashville (Days Nine and Ten)

We drove several hours to Chattanooga the next morning but stopped in Nashville to lunch with Mr. Groovy’s former boss and her husband. We were right by Vanderbilt University and hoped to see Mr. Groovy’s cousin, a pro baseball player who lives in Nashville during the off season. But he was tied up at Vandy with a baseball clinic. Perhaps we’ll see him in Florida during spring training. We arrived by early evening in Chattanooga and had a light dinner at a nearby pub.

The following morning we drove over to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. From there we hiked down to the Chattanooga Riverwalk and over the Walnut Street Bridge. Afterwards we strolled around the Bluff View Arts District, which is a neat little enclave with outdoor art. It spans a few short blocks near the Hunter Museum of Art and contains several quaint galleries, a few B&Bs, and a bakery known for its chocolate challah bread. Sadly, given Mr. Groovy’s bread restrictions and my proclivity for overindulging in baked goods, we refrained.


chattanoogachoochoo


bluffdistrict1


bluffdistrict2

Home, Sweet Home (Day Eleven)

We were psyched to go home to Groovy Cat. He was alone for ten days and we felt so sorry for him. We also left him with a new cat sitter, Missy. The first day she visited, Groovy Cat did not come out of hiding. That night was Halloween and I’m sure he was rattled by all the kids ringing our doorbell. The next day he still didn’t show himself. But by the third day, Groovy Cat and Missy were best friends! She texted me this photo, while he sat on the sofa next to her purring. I’m so happy! My baby has a new friend.


ashby

So that was our groovy retirement kickoff vacation. Many wouldn’t find our trip earth-shattering. We didn’t do anything spectacular or dine anywhere fancy—we never spent more than $60 for a meal, including a tip. But we saw a whole lot of history, a whole lot of country, and met a whole lot of nice people along the way. And that’s all we need to be happy.


A very special thanks to our blogger friends—Penny at She Picks Up Pennies, Fritz at Retirement Manifesto, Maggie at Northern Expenditure, and Gary at Super Saving Tips. These amazing bloggers covered for us while we were gone and shared some terrific advice, tips, and stories. We loved hosting them and hope you enjoyed their posts.

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42 Comments

  1. Your trip sounds lovely! I’m sure it’s only the first of many for you guys.
    If you head back to Chattanooga, don’t miss Rock City. Yes, the signs will make it seem cheesy, but it’s incredible.
    You’ve also planted the seed for a burrito tour of the Southwest!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Julie! We considered it, along with Ruby Falls, but I’d already been to Rock City years ago and we were in the mood to stay more local. Next time, for sure! Mr. Groovy would love the burrito tour. Me, not so much but I could simultaneously do a quesadilla tour!

  2. Sounds like a Groovy trip!! Good for you for heading out within a month of your retirement date, start the new life early!

    I used to go to Lafayette on biz, had some very good friends there who were lifelong locals. Cajun guy named Darcy, talked with the strong Cajun French accent, took me to some “local only” places. Great memories, your story took me back.

    Welcome home, and thanks for the “shout out” for your vacation coverage. It was an honor to guest post on your awesome site!!

  3. I’ve had some of the best food at gas stations. Just last night we were reminiscing about some burgers we had at a gas station in Maine.

    Being a big foodie as well, this post had my mouth watering. We have been talking taking a road trip to check out New Orleans and the Chatanooga for a while. Looks like a sweet trip!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Burgers at a gas station in Maine? Who knew! It never occurred to me to look for gastro-delights at the pump until Mr. Groovy found that article.

      I look forward to hearing your tales when you take your road trip. Thanks for stopping by Mr. CK.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Mrs. Grumby. When we got to that party it was almost like an alternate universe. We were among very few people not in costume. And bikes were sprawled all over the place – nice bikes, not even locked up. As a former New Yorker I noticed that right away. Even know I recall 20+ years ago when my nephew’s first bike was stolen from outside a store in Manhattan where it was left for less than a minute.

  4. Man, that reminded me of all the food and fun stuff I miss about living in that area. There is delicious food almost everywhere you go around there.

    No judgement here, I want to check out Graceland some day too. 🙂

  5. What a great trip! I’m glad to see that retirement is suiting you both well 🙂 And how adorable is Groovy Cat??

    Have you started talking about your next trip? I’m all about the food when traveling so I completely relate to trips like these!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Groovy Cat is totally adorable. Thanks for noticing, Kate.

      We have a road trip to MA in February for a wedding but I don’t know of any food stops – yet. You’ve given me something to think about. We may drive to FL this winter. That trip would present many opportunities to chow down!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I agree, ATL. I’m usually pretty disciplined with my diet the rest of the time so it’s a good excuse to go a little crazy. Thanks for your comment.

  6. You traveled to so many places on my dream list! And I’m totally that sad panda person leaving Vegas. EVERY TIME.

    I would totally be lying if I said that a trip to the gulf became even more compelling now that I learned I can use My Vegas rewards there, too. 😉

    These photos are awesome. Thank you for sharing!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I’m glad you liked the photos. Thanks! Vegas rewards can be used in the gulf coast? Awesome.

      FYI, if smoke bothers you, the Palace Casino is entirely smoke free. The Beau Rivage had a smoke free room in the casino but it only slightly cut down the haze.

  7. What a fun trip! That’s a great way of kicking off retirement, and hopefully you’ll get to make some more as you’ve freed up your schedule. Jon keeps talking about the “Great North American Barbeque Tour” he wants to do someday, but frankly I’d be happy enough with a Great NC Barbecue Roadtrip.

    Also smart not to post it until you got back! I’m always concerned about the blalance of sharing too much and not letting folks know we aren’t home.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Emily. We hope this is the first of many more trips.

      Have you been to Lexington, NC for barbecue, Emily? More than 200K people attend the barbecue festival held there there every year in October. We’ve gone other times, when it was less crowded.

      I never like to post while I’m away. Even more so around Halloween. We get car loads of folks who show up to trick-or-treat who aren’t from our neighborhood. Not that any of them read our website, but it’s just not smart to broadcast an empty home.

      • I haven’t been to Lexington. As an Easterner, that’s not REAL BBQ. Nothing belongs on the pig but vinegar and some spices!

        Okay, kidding. We’ve hit up some real NC BBQ havens like Stamey’s in Greensboro, Prissy Polly’s in Kernersville, Bill Ellis’s in Wilson, and the Pit in Raleigh. There’s a lot more to go, though.

        • Mrs. Groovy

          I’ve had BBQ from the Pit and I heard of Stamey’s. I’ll have to check some of these out if we’re in those areas (although it would not be unheard of for us to take a 3-hour drive just to eat BBQ). Thanks for the recommendations, Emily.

  8. Awesome trip! Thanks for sharing all the details and photos…I almost feel like I was there. I’ve never been to any of those destinations, but I’d definitely like to in the future, especially New Orleans. Glad you had a good time, and thanks for including me in your guest post coverage.

  9. It’s a great time of year to visit the Gulf Coast, not as hot & humid. A driving tour is something on our bucket list once we move past the diaper stage in life.

    I didn’t know Chattanooga had all those attractions in the arts district. I’ve been to the Choo Choo, the railroad museum, and the Aquarium as I used to work down there some and did some sightseeing. We like to visit Asheville to get satisfy our health eating appetite and window shop.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I liked Chattanooga but for some reason I was expecting it to be a quaint, little small town. I had no idea the downtown business area and water front are so large.

      We’ve been to Asheville many times. We attempted a trip this past Labor Day but tried to book a hotel/airbnb too late and prices were crazy.

      In case you’re not familiar, NC also has a large region full of wineries. A few are in/near Asheville, I believe, but the larger area is in the Yadkin Valley.

      Thanks for commenting, Josh.

  10. What a trip, Groovies! I hope that when you guys saw the Alabama battleship, that you also had time to see the USS Drum submarine across the way. It takes much less time to walk through. That was the first submarine that my grandfather served on. I was actually just there for the first time in June for a Reunion/Memorial Service. There were still 2 guys left. My dad and I did a little mini road trip to Mobile from New Orleans. I experienced so much kindness in Mobile. A different place than CA.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, TJ! How cool that your grandfather served on the submarine! Yes, we toured it. We got a real kick out of the stack of bunks 4 levels high.

      We also toured the aircraft museum and watched quite a bit of the historic interviews playing on the TVs. Fascinating stuff.

      Yes, people in Mobile are very friendly. Our waiter in Wentzell’s sat right down with us to go over the menu and wine list.

  11. Sounds like an awesome trip and what a great way to kick-off retirement! Just cruising around with nowhere to be and no time to be there. The descriptions of the food made my mouth water!

    I have to go get a snack…

    • Mrs. Groovy

      LOL! Thanks Jon. It was so nice to be on a trip without flying. No airports, security lines, or worrying about what stuff can and can’t go on a plane. And no email reminders (or delays). Although we had specific hotel reservations, we made sure to book major chains where we could cancel within 24 hours if something else struck our fancy.

  12. Great getaway Groovy’s. All part of your new found retirement freedom eh. I’m coming over to visit the USA next June as my brother lives in Denver and I’ve never been over there. I’m planning for a month at this stage so will do some sightseeing similar to yours but further north than you guys. I’ll have to plan a road trip like yours and of course great food along the way. Thanks for your insights and experiences. Plenty more to come I bet.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Martin. We’ve been in Denver for one day, en route to Estes Park (the city outside of Rocky National Park). You might want to seriously heed any warnings you should find about Denver concerning altitude sickness. It affected me just a little bit the day we arrived. A day or two prior to the trip start drinking lots of water. If anyone in your family is prone to altitude sickness they can take a Dramamine or Bonine tablet (these are over the counter here and generics are available) which are for motion sickness.

  13. How fun!! First off, you can find the best foods in the most unlikely of spots. I remember a friend telling me the best pasta he ever had was in Ireland…Ireland? Another friend and I rave about the pizza at IKEA (though they have since changed the recipe), and now I’m hearing of crawfish pies at a Chevron in Des Allemands. Fascinating!!

    Thanks for keeping us update on your travels. Memphis has been on my go to list for years. Perhaps I can squeeze it in still!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      That’s too funny about IKEA. FYI, at least the crawfish were chopped up. The restaurant Charlies had crawfish sandwiches on the menu and I asked what exactly that looks like. The waiter told me the legs stick out of the bun!

      I didn’t even mention where we ate barbecue in Memphis — Central Barbecue. You can ask a dozen people about the best barbecue and get different answers but this one consistently came up on “best” lists. I had the brisket which was amazing.

      Thanks for your comment, Miss M.

  14. Thanks for sharing your trip – loved the pictures! It sounds like you had a wonderful time!Of the places you’ve listed, I’ve only visited Memphis (yes, I went to Graceland) and Little Rock.

    I ate breakfast an hour ago and already I’m craving meat pies at the Chevron.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Too much talk about food, LOL. Luckily we walked so much – I was prepared to gain 5 pounds but didn’t.
      Glad you liked the photos – thanks for stopping by, Amanda!

  15. What an awesome trip! I will have to bookmark this post for ideas to use when we go on our big road trip a few years from now. I’m super jealous of all the seafood. I love, love, love the stuff, but Mr. Smith and the kids are not huge fans (unless you count fish sticks). Great photos too! We are really looking forward to seeing tons of historical sites on our travels. It’s so nice that you were able to take your time and see everything that you wanted to see. Where are you two headed next?

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Harmony. I love seafood too. Mr. Groovy not so much. But lets face it – grill or deep fry anything, smother it with butter and cheese, and it’s amazing.

      Your mentioning fish sticks reminds me of a line from the TV show King of Queens we always laugh about. In the episode, Doug and Carrie are trying to convince themselves they’re leading a wonderfully exciting life. They refer to it as their “wild ride”. Then Doug asks Carrie what’s for dinner and she deadpans “fish sticks and corn niblets”.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Yep, so many stories. One of our best was from the one day we spent in Denver. We went to buy tickets for the Rockies baseball game and a guy comes up to us with two tickets and asks if we want them. Being from NY we assumed he was a scalper who wanted to overcharge us, or rip us off. He tells us there’s no catch. They just had some no-shows in their group. So we took them and tried to pay him and he wouldn’t take the money. We end up sitting among app. 25 military people from his church group from Colorado Springs!

      Thanks for commenting, Claudia.

  16. Awesome trip and pics! I love road trips especially when you’re not in a rush…and of course you guys aren’t because you’re retired! What other trips do you have planned for the future?

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Our niece is in Tucson for another few years and we’d like to visit her. My nephew just moved to Orange County CA so maybe a trip there (especially if we want to go south of the border for healthcare, LOL)

      We definitely have more extended trips to Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Montana and Ecuador we’d like to make. We want to spend a month or so away. Given the distance involved in the first three we probably want to do those in the next several years. We’re a bit up in the air until we find land, build a house and move. Then I have to line up care for Groovy Cat that won’t stress me out. He’s very social and dependent on us for entertainment. Leaving him for a month is going to be a challenge.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, it was a great adventure. We’re still dreaming about some of the food, especially that seafood fondreaux!