TV and Texas

Wake up calls at 4.30am are never pleasant, and this one wasn’t welcome. However, it was for a TV interview on the local station and I was cooking the flounder and shrimp that I had bought the night before. So off for a pre-dawn ride with all the truckers and got to the studio just about on time, only to find that they had no pots or pans of any description. I mean zip. Motel 6, who had set up the interview had warned me that they didn’t have much and I should bring pretty much everything - the baking tray, knife, presentation plate etc. But, what I failed to manage to stuff into the back of the Harley while in Wall Mart the night before, was a frying pan, called skillet over here. One measly frying pan (or an oven) was all I needed, but no.  So a mad dash ensued with producers flying out the door to find a frying pan at 5.30 in the morning, whilst I started my interview.  I was prepped, ready and prepared for my cooking demonstration with all the ingredients before me, praying that someone would get my a frying pan in time before the camera started rolling. Literally 30 seconds before ‘on air’ was called, a frying pan was shoved into my hand and I was off. A close shave by even my standards … all terribly Masterchef last minute panic stations but hopefully I looked calm on air.

Getting back to the Studio 6 I was staying at I wanted breakfast after the eventful interview. Toast with marmite I had ‘acquired’ from the breakfast bar at the Crowne Plaza, Heathrow and a smearing of Philadelphia did the trick, but I wanted more. Rummaging in my bag I found a jar of 
Mayhew jelly - a jelly (what American’s use as jam, but it really is spreadable jelly) that I had picked up along the way. This jelly is made from the Mayhew berry - a native berry to the southern states and to be found growing naturally around, so right up my street. This was also great on toast, albeit a bit sweet, as it was catering for the American palate. I don’t mind sweet though, and was pleased I had been able to try something made from local berries. This was teamed with a huge papaya I bought the night before with the juice of a key lime squeezed over the top. Great, I was finally ready to roll and get back on the road.
Leaving Lake Charles over its huge bridge was again stunning as the sun shone down and I started to sweat in my leathers … nice.  I was off to Texas today and couldn’t wait for whatever I was going to see.  I was really getting into the bike now and relaxing into the rides, which were becoming more and more enjoyable as I saw the landscape changing around me.
Taking the long way round, down to the coast and along the Bolivar Peninsular was one of the best decisions I have made so far this trip. What a stunning ride, it was.  There were birds galore, derricks still being used and an amazing long stretch of road with the sea lapping at the sides and pelicans flying overhead. The beach on my left hand side was deserted, so parking the bike up I went for a stroll. Before I had gone 50 yards I had found samphire. Fantastic! Samphire in the States. Extremely pleased with my find I rolled on to the end of the peninsular where houses have been built on stilts.  And I don’t mean small bits of wood raised above the ground. The houses are 20 feet high off the ground, and the views would be amazing across the Gulf of Mexico, but I don’t think they did it for the views but rather the storms that come through and can cover the whole peninsular with water. This happened, but on a much bigger scale a few years ago with the hurricane, and again, as in New Orleans, you could see the remnants of houses that had been completely swept away, leaving their naked wooden legs behind. The waters were 15” high over the land … I’m not sure if the locals are brave or just mad resettling after that ! I can see why they do though and its where I’d live if I was in the area …

My grumbling stomach encouraged me to stop at what seemed to be the only open joint in town. Set off the road and looking a little ramshackle, but well loved I strolled into the kind of bar that I knew existed in America, but hadn’t yet experienced. A ‘howdy y’all’ greeted me and after my eyes got used to the change in light, I saw a long bar with stools perched up against it - most of which were taken with locals escaping the heat with an ice tea or beer. Signs were hung up all behind the bar and juke boxes and other games scattered the room. I settled myself down and ordered from the menu, after being served an ice cold beer from the attentive and charming server. 10 minutes later I had crawfish nachos, stuffed jalapeños, shrimp kisses and soft shell crab in front of me. Oh, and a bowl of green chilli salsa made from, I think, green tomatoes as a base.  The whole thing was absolutely delicious. The vegetables (yes, vegetables - pretty much the first ones I had found on a plate served to me since I had arrived) were cooked well, still with a crunch to them, which can be difficult when serving a mixture, including green and yellow courgette, which have a tendency to run to mush very easily.

Admittedly, I was hungry before I walked in, but the combination of the warm welcome I received along with the superb food and an ice cold beer meant that Tiki Bar had just served me the best meal I have had since being in America. So much so, I had to thank the owner Amanda, and have a quick picture taken with her. Everyone was charming and if I can I intend to return to the houses on stilts, where all you need to do all day is hunt for samphire, go fishing and, once you’ve had enough of the sun, have a drink at Tiki bar, before going back to cook your supper over a BBQ. Bliss.

At the end of the peninsular is a ferry, that not only is amazing for its capacity to fit two long lanes of vehicles onto its small decks but also because as you travel across to Galveston the pelicans fly in a formation next to you, occasionally veering off to crash into the sea, catching some tasty fish. An amazing sight by anyone’s standards - especially when it’s free!

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