The Land Between the Lakes, part 2

Welcome to the truck stop

I arrived at the Hampton Inn at sunset. The sky was ablaze with ribbons of orange, gold and red. I watched the colors fade behind the hotel; when the last drop of red drained from the black stage of night, I walked into the hotel and checked it.

It must be said: no one tries harder to please their customers than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. It was Memorial Day Weekend. You would be hard-pressed to find a hotel more patriotic than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. Their staff were uniformed in red, white & blue; a variety of patriotic flair pinned & clipped to their torsos and heads. The hotel lobby was festooned with red, white & blue decorations… It was amazing. U.S. Flag key chains were free at the counter. The staff were all pleasant and helpful. Free breakfast in the lobby everyday, including a waffle maker. Free lemonade and treats throughout the day; come back from a long day of outdoor adventure — a cold glass of lemonade is waiting for you. Free toothbrushes! Forget to pack your toothbrush — they have you covered. Clean rooms with refrigerators and wi-fi.

The most memorable hotel worker was the night-shift desk clerk. Imagine Penn from Penn & Teller, covered with red, white & blue flair, and just bursting with enthusiasm about the holiday weekend, and with eagerness to help hotel guests. I couldn’t help but think: this guy loves his country, loves his job, loves helping people, and it’s 2am and he has to deal with drunks and whatever maniacs are awake in the middle of the night. What a mensch!

Hampton Inn in Kuttawa KY

The truck stop featured three or four gas and diesel stations, two burger joints, two hotels, a steak & country music restaurant, a Huddle House, a drive through liquor store, and a lady who sold barbecued meats from a grill she towed behind her truck.

I know what you’re thinking: “how many times did you drive through the liquor store drive through?” Sadly, zero times. Instead I just walked there (and bought many PBR tall-boys).

And “did you fall in love with the lady who sold barbecued meats?” Sadly, no. If I did, I would still be in Kentucky.

Drive Thru Liquor Store in Kuttawa KY

PBR, country music wafting through the night air, and taking photos of gas stations at night. Once the cicadas are quiet, that’s how I do it.

Exxon in Kuttawa KYBP in Kuttawa KY

Local Stores

The next day, while cruising around the Land Between the Lakes area, listening for cicadas (why I was in the area in the first place), I made sure I stopped by local stores and markets to get an idea of what local life might be like.

The local flea markets were intense, and possibly magical. Imagine a roadside lined with rows of shacks made from plywood and hope. Inside each were antiques, toys, clothes, Christmas artifacts, knives, preserves, dolls, cellphone cases, drones, and other dreams without a home — you name it, they had it. I walked away with pickles, a knife and some LP recordings of the Bible.

Red Door Antiques was pretty good. They had a wide variety of antiques and collectables. I picked up a vacuum tube tester and some rhubarb preserves. I enjoyed seeing a Big Jim vinyl camper that I think I had as a child (I vaguely remember destroying it by peeling the vinyl from its cardboard frame because I liked the sensation of the vinyl tearing).

Big Jim vinyl truck

I visited an outlet store mall. Only 10% of the stores were occupied. I bought another knife — this time a multi-tool. I was surprised by the overall lack of activity in the area — maybe it was because of the holiday weekend. Maybe not that many tourists were visiting the park?

But no, the Walmart was backed to the rafters with people. Probably all looking for a USB cable, just like me.

Oh well.

New Orleans in 3 Hours

Is is possible to experience a city in only three hours? No.

However… if three hours are all you have, you can still have a great time. This article will show you how to have the maximum amount of fun in a limited period of time, using New Orleans as an example.

#1: park your vehicle, because you’re going to walk the town. Choose your parking space carefully. I chose to park near the place I wanted to visit the most (Red Truck Gallery). The streets are narrow in New Orleans, so fold in your driver-side mirror, so a truck doesn’t knock it off your car.

#2: if you’re going to drink, do that first, so you’re sober by the end of your improvised tour of the city. I recommend Muriel’s (801 Chatres Street). This bar/bistro serves amazing fancy drinks (or regular drinks, if you’re not into fancy drinks). It is also an opportunity to use a clean bathroom (so rare when you’re on a multi-city road trip).

Fish Mouth Down Spout in New Orleans

#3: Observe everything. As you walk around the town, notice everything quirky, unusual and unique about the city. Record it all in your memory, and put photos of it on Instagram, Flickr & Facebook (if you use those sites). In New Orleans, be on the lookout for: drain pipes that look like fish, koi fish painted on the sidewalk, fleur-de-lis symbols, ornate drains along the foundations of buildings, the occasional Mardi-Gras bead embedded in a sidewalk crack, random things like wreaths made of snow cones, and of course the amazing New Orleans architecture. Remember: you might never get another chance to return, so soak it all in, so you have no regrets later on.

A snow cone wreath? Why not. #nola Koi on the side walk. #graffiti #nola

#4: Pick a primary destination, and spend an hour there. You might chose to check out some jazz music, or maybe your thing is to feast on gumbo and muffuletta, or maybe you just want to chill in a park and watch some street performers. Again, notice every detail — every sight, smell and sound. Soak it all in, and participate if you can. Tip performers.

My primary destination was the Red Truck Gallery (938 Royal St). The art they feature really resonates with me. I’ve met them at art fairs like Scope in NYC, but to visit their gallery in person, was really something special. I made sure that I connected with the people working in the gallery, I took a free card advertising their latest show, and I soaked every detail in. I got to meet artist Bryan Cunningham, and bought one of his paintings.

A wall of art by Bryan Cunningham in the Red Truck Gallery: Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans

Generally speaking, if you like one destination in a neighborhood, you’ll enjoy others near by. Royal Street in New Orleans has many unique galleries and shops, and I made sure I visited as many as I could.

Art by Jill Ricci at Orange Gallery (819 Royal St.): Jill Ricci art at Orange in New Orleans

Art by Chris Roberts-Antieau at Antieau Gallery (927 Royal St.): Antieau Gallery in New Orleans

#5: Connect with people. Smile. Make sure you talk to people. Try to get an interesting story or two from them. Even if you’re in a city for only three hours, don’t be a ghost.

#6: Eat Something! Eat something unique to the city. My “food” of choice was pralines. America’s greatest art forms include music and food — New Orleans has both, so make sure you experience them.

#7: Visit the touristy side of town, and load up on souvenirs. In New Orleans you specifically want to get boxes of pralines, beads (and get the fancy ones), and hot sauce, in addition to the standard t-shirts, magnets, stickers and shot glasses. Get plenty of stuff with the color scheme purple, green & gold; stuff with the fleur-de-lis on them, plenty of alligator heads and jesters.

#8: Have some fun people watching. Checkout the performers, musicians, shopkeepers & barkers. Check out the tourists. Check out the locals. Check out the locals checking out the tourists. Don’t be surprised when a women on stilts, wearing a purple, green & gold bikini, hands you a flyer for an exotic revue or for a nearby poorboy shop.

Once you’ve achieved all these steps, you are free to go. Unless you are not sober — if so, hang out until you are.

Remember: you only live once, so experience all you can without harming others, and without regrets.