Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Robert St. John: Westward Wandering, Part II

The wife and I have been on the road for nine days. Just two people, one truck, and way too much luggage.

I am typically a very efficient packer. I’ve spent three months each year in Italy for the past several years and have become quite proficient at travel packing. All of that was thrown out of the window on this trip. I think I was too busy in the days before we left, and I ended up just tossing stuff into a suitcase. Luckily it was my Europe suitcase so there were some essentials in their already, essentials that I may have forgotten in the rush, otherwise.

The first four days were full of driving as we were steadily making our way to Whitefish, Montana, which is almost Canada. Actually, the original idea of the trip was to go into Canada and stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Alberta, and the Fairmont Hotel in Banff. But Canada isn’t letting Americans in at the moment, so I looked for the closest spot to Canada that we had never visited and chose Whitefish as the place to officially start the longer stretches of the trip.

The initial days were filled with eight to 10 hours of driving per day with BBQ lunch stops in Memphis and Kansas City (where I ate the best baked beans, ever at a place called Q39). Neither one of us minds the driving at all. We download books on Audible and listen to them as we drive. There have been times we have driven all day and arrived at a location late at night, but still drive around for 30 minutes trying to finish the book. The stories pique our interest as the scenery changes. And what diverse scenery we have encountered.

The first night was spent in St. Louis. We didn’t do anything other than spend the night. Though nothing else would have been possible as the city seems to be almost 100% shuttered. Not so in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Other than people milling around in masks, one would never know that there is a global pandemic out there. We loved Sioux Falls and the people we met.

The next day took us to Cody, Wyoming. We ate dinner at a hotel Buffalo Bill built in the early part of the previous century but were too exhausted to go to the rodeo that was going on directly across the street from our hotel. That will probably end up being the biggest regret of the journey. Cody claims to be the “Rodeo Capital of the World,” and they have a full rodeo every night during the summer, so it’s first on our list of places to return to on another visit when we have more time.

Whenever I’m on the road, I search out great local breakfast joints. They tell me as much about a town as the local convention and visiting bureaus and travel brochures. All one has to do is sit and listen. The locals always discuss what’s going on in and around town among themselves.

Some would call that eavesdropping. I call it touristic research.

One of the early memorable meals was a breakfast at Our Place Café in Cody which was owned and operated by a father, mother, and young son— a true family operation. It was obviously the popular local spot as there were a dozen or more locals standing outside with me waiting for the small cafe to open. I might have been the only person in the place who wasn’t called by name. But the owners had corrected that before I left.

I clearly hit another local favorite during our three-day stay in Whitefish, Montana. It, too, had locals waiting outside for the doors to open. The Buffalo Café is home to the best hash brown potatoes I have ever eaten. Seriously. I can tell you where I was— and who I was with— when I ate the best salmon of my life, the best pasta of my life, the best orange, the best lamb, applesauce, steak, mashed potatoes, eggs, truffle fries, and on and on.

I can now confidently state that I was in the Buffalo Café in Whitefish, Montana when I ate the best hash brown potatoes of my life. They were shredded into a wide, thin cut and came from a produce supplier in Idaho (makes sense). I am going to reach out to the supplier when I get home.

Everything else about the two breakfasts I ate at the Buffalo Café was as tasty as Glacier National Park is beautiful.

Today we ride horses into Grand Teton National Park. I am not a horse person. Not even close. I had several traumatic childhood experiences on horses. I think when it comes down to it, the entire equine population has it out for me. Horse people say, “Don’t act scared. Horses know when your scared.” I think they also know when one is trying not to act scared. I’ll ask the people at the riding center to give me the one who is in his final days, old and tired. I want an old paint that’s like watching paint dry. Give me Ol’ Pokey and let me walk— not trot, and certainly not gallop— through the mountains.

The wife and I have seen amber waves of grain, spacious skies, and fruited plains. We have walked through majestic mountains and made new friendships in towns we had never visited before. But, most of all, we have enjoyed time spent together, just the two of us. That hasn’t happened a lot since the children were born. We typically travel as a pack. No complaints, we like it that way. The two of us have been to Italy together a lot, but those are working trips. This is nothing more than westward wandering and it’s been a blast (and a much-needed break).

Ultimately, it’s nice to know that the person you have dedicated your entire life to for the past 32 years is even closer today than decades ago. For that I am grateful.


Cookout Baked Beans

1 lb Bacon, thick-sliced, diced

1 1 /2 cup Onion, diced

3 /4 cup Bell pepper, diced

1 tsp Barbeque Seasoning

1 cup Barbecue sauce

2 Tbl Honey

2 tsp Yellow mustard

1 Tbl Liquid Smoke

1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce

1 /2 cup Chicken Broth

2 large cans Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans, drained

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large saucepot render bacon. Add onion, bell pepper and BBQ seasoning. Cook five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place in a 2 1 /2-quart baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Yield: ten servings

BBQ Seasoning
1 /3 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 /3 cup Paprika

2 Tbl Onion Powder

2 Tbl Cayenne Pepper

1 Tbl White Pepper

5 tsp Garlic Powder

1 Tbl Black Pepper

1 Tbl Dry Mustard

1 tsp Oregano

1 tsp Thyme

Mix thoroughly. Yield: one cup


Green Acres said...

I'm enjoying Robert's posts and envious of his trip. He's exploring my old stomping grounds from college days, 1970's. The best rodeo I've seen was the Calgary Stampede in Canada. Second best was a rodeo near Guadalajara, MX. I guess I traveled so much for my career followed by international travel in retirement that I usually under-pack clothing for trips, which is fine because I can always buy whatever I want to wear.

Anonymous said...

These musings from RSJ are WAY better than some of that other drivel that you post on here, Kingfish. I know it's your blog, but I'm just saying.

Anonymous said...

That picture struck a note with me. I had always heard the term "Big Sky Country" for Montana and the region. But until I drove up there and saw that, I didn't understand. Great folks. Wonderful summers. Horrible winters.

When I win Powerball, I'm building a summer home up there.

Good story, and, yes, find the breakfast place and meet the regulars. Good folks. If you break down, everybody stops. To help.

More Bob, Less Sid, No Bill said...

I agree with @10:46 and @10:49. This is way better than Sid Salter, and Sid is far more readable than Bill Crawford. Thanks for sharing these and giving us a break from the "Two Minutes of Hate" that we all get 24/7.

Anonymous said...

Quote from Robert: "There have been times we have driven all day and arrived at a location late at night, but still drive around for 30 minutes trying to finish the book."

So cute. The wife and I drove to Lake Jackson, TX once, and stopped for 45 minutes on a Walmart parking lot to finish a book. I thought we were the only crazy people to do stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

" That picture struck a note with me. I had always heard the term "Big Sky Country" for Montana and the region. But until I drove up there and saw that, I didn't understand. "

You're right.

That's some of the most beautiful parts of the nation.
Personally, I'm partial to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.
I could live up there if didn't get so cold.

The snow is beautiful but brutal.

It's a tad bit more intense than a few January flurries spotted at the Gluckstadt exit on I-55 North.

Kingfish said...

11:34: You won't believe me but Salter gets a little more traffic than St. John.

Anonymous said...


But St. John is still a more interesting read.

Anonymous said...

I very very much enjoy his writing and his cooking and I appreciate JJ carrying his column. And I'm not a repeat poster about the topic.

Side note, if Salter gets more traffic, its because people click on it with an expectation to disagree and rant about it. And that's media 2020 style. But I actually read the whole RSJ pieces.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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