“Is that for here or to go?” – Baton Rouge Beach Marathon Weekend, Part 1

Amanda and I headed out to Baton Rouge, Louisiana this weekend for the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. We knew we definitely wanted to spend some time in New Orleans since neither of us had ever been there, so we flew out at an ungodly hour on Friday morning and headed straight to the city. We didn’t really know anything about where to go, so we just Google Mapped “French Quarter” and hoped for the best. What could go wrong?

We somehow made it there, found parking, and headed to Jackson Square. A quick google search had told me this was where all the touristy stuff was. I have to say, I was totally unprepared for the French Quarter on about a thousand levels. First of all, the houses, stores, etc, are absolutely gorgeous. I was blown away by how cool everything is there. It’s just cool. No other way to describe it. The buildings all have these wrought iron balconies that are incredibly intricate, and I was bizarrely obsessed with the crown molding. Not something I typically care about, by the way.

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I don’t want to say it’s better than Charleston, but…

Then  I saw a sign that said “Cocktails and Beers To Go.” Wait, what? TO GO? As in…to leave the establishment? To drink outside? Surely not. BUT YES. So the next order of business was immediately to get a mimosa, in honor of AJ’s mother, with whom I recently discovered the joy of drinking mimosas at early hours of the day. “For here or to go?” To go, bitch. Always to go.

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I’m drinking outside at 11 am and life could not be better.

Immediately after getting my mimosa, we started walking around and were blown away by all the street art. For the record, I am not a person who particularly cares about art. My parents had to forcibly buy artwork to hang on the walls of my house because they said it looked like a prison. Therefore, it is significant that I noticed how awesome this stuff was. Immediately, my attention was drawn to a woman who had a bunch of paintings of elephants wearing capes and masks, like superheroes. My first thought was “I wonder if she can make me a T-Rex superhero painting…in the next 4 hours?” So I asked her. And she was a little taken aback, but she agreed to try. After a complicated process of sending her my logo and giving strict instructions, she set about her work and I could not have been more excited.

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The finished product! Try to tell me this is not awesome. You can’t.

If I can say one thing about how this blog has helped me grow as a person, I would say it has encouraged me to do things that I would normally not do for fear of embarrassment. Before this, I would probably not have asked someone to paint me a custom painting of my random blog mascot. Now, I figure that in the worst case scenario, it will give me something funny to write about. As a result, I have an awesome painting of a T-Rex that I have no idea what I’m going to do with. Win?

Next, I saw Cafe Du Monde and told Amanda I was pretty sure that the place was totally famous and that we should go there. As it turns out, I was right, and she was happy because they had both coffee and donuts. I don’t think they are actually called donuts – I think they are beignets – but this is a minor detail. All of the waiters and waitresses there were wearing these sassy paper hats, so I asked one of the employees who was outside smoking how we could go about obtaining said hats. He just said “how many do you need?” and went and got them for us.

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“How can you tell we are tourists? Is it the hats?”

We then continued to look at street art, somehow buying pretty much all of the art in New Orleans in the process. We seriously agonized over what size, colors, sayings, etc we wanted for about an hour. The vendors undoubtedly thought we were insane, which is pretty valid. I bought four pieces of art while I was there. Four! That’s more artwork than I have in my whole house right now! Ridiculous. We also perused the Farmer’s Market and ended up buying some extremely tacky beads with chickens on them, since the “running chicken” is a theme of the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. Interesting fact: there are some extremely offensive and horrifying Mardi Gras beads available for sale. I’m not one to typically shy away from extremely profane or offensive things, but I can not even repeat the things I saw. My mind is forever unclean.

In addition to street art, New Orleans also has a lot of street performers and a lot of homeless people. I can pretty successfully avoid giving money to random homeless people (I buy them food), but for some reason I feel obligated to give money to street performers. Since I had no cash, this meant that Amanda was now obligated to give money to street performers on my behalf. New obsession? Random tap dancers on the sidewalk.

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I not only made Amanda give money to random street performers/tap dancers, I made her take pictures with them. This kid liked our hats.

Next on the agenda was an authentic New Orleans po’ boy sandwich, which I had, of course, extensively researched via Google on our ride into the city. I learned about many of the pros and cons of each of the famous restaurants and decided to stay away from those that were deemed too touristy. On the way over to the chosen location, we stopped in Jackson square to take a picture with the iconic statue.

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Why yes I WILL continue to wear my paper hat.

We made the journey over to Johnny’s, which the interwebs had assured me is the only authentic and legitimate po’ boy sandwich shop within spitting distance of the French Quarter. Along the way, we ended up passing by a film set – I believe the set of Matthew McConaughey’s new movie. While we didn’t see anyone famous, one of the film crew did ask me as I walked by “Wow, why are you running away with my heart?” I responded with “Because I’m hungry. It’s time for food.” I am always charming.

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The internet tells me it’s legit.

I was completely unprepared for the experience that is Johnny’s Po’ Boys. First of all, there are about 500 options for Po’ Boys. Amanda and I were pretty determined to get shrimp, since that is the “original,” which made our selection easier. We decided to split one and also get a cup of real New Orleans Gumbo. The restaurant itself is small, and seating is limited, but everyone sits together – locals and tourists alike. One of the employees told me I was beautiful and asked me for my autograph, so if AJ and I ever break up, I’m going to move to New Orleans. They like me there.

The po’ boy itself was pretty tasty, but the gumbo? Oh, the gumbo. First of all, gumbo apparently comes with AN ENTIRE CRAB.

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?!?!?!?!?!?!

Aside from the whole crab situation, the gumbo was pretty good, but I couldn’t help but be a little disturbed. Nonetheless, we left glad that we had experienced authentic New Orleans food.

Our journey then took us to the Mississippi River, which Amanda did not know was the river that runs through New Orleans. What is with my friends and geography? I think I was expecting greatness from the Mississippi River, having seen it before, but in New Orleans, it’s not particularly scenic. Also, a lot of homeless people hang out by the river. After enjoying a few songs by the famous Natchez Steamboat (which plays such classics as “How much is that doggy in the window?” on a steam organ), we headed back to the city.

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If you’re wondering why there aren’t very many pictures of us together, it’s because it was hard to find people who were not absolutely guaranteed to steal the camera.

We next saw a building that was called “Jackson Brewery” and indicated that it was the “Home of Jax Beer.” Seems perfect, right? Seems like a place that a) brews beer and b) sells it, right? Well actually, this building is instead apparently just a maze of touristy stores selling progressively more offensive beads and varying types of pecan pralines, because we got totally lost in there. Eventually, we were able to find the bar…only to learn that they don’t brew their own beer there anymore and haven’t since the 70s. They did sell local beer, though, which was good enough for me. And then the bartender said the magic words “For here or to go?” and all was right with the world.

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Does life get any better? I think not.

For our last stop on our short little trip to the Big Easy, Amanda and I decided to go to one of the famous cemeteries. The only problem was  that Google told us that the best and coolest cemeteries were also the most dangerous and were in less than desirable parts of town. The interwebs suggested that the safest way to see them was on a guided tour…but ain’t nobody got time for that. Figuring that it was daylight and the area didn’t look that bad, we decided to risk it (sorry Mom!). Turns out, it was totally fine. These cemeteries are seriously SO cool. All the tombs are all squished together, and because of the water levels, they are all above ground. There are centuries-old graves next to brand new ones, which made me wonder who they got rid of to put a new one in there. The strangest part was how these old tombs were juxtaposed next to the very modern skyline of the city itself.

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It was actually way too interesting to even be creepy.

After avoiding being mugged in the cemetery, it was time to head back to Baton Rouge so we could get to the race expo and dinner. First, we checked into our hotel, which was right downtown. Unfortunately, that meant it didn’t have a parking lot and we had to park in the parking garage. On the way in, I noticed a sign listing the “garage hours,” and Amanda and I realized that the garage actually CLOSED. Meaning if you wanted to get your car out during the off hours, you couldn’t! Thank God I saw that sign, because the garage didn’t open until 8 am on the weekends. Seriously?!

The race expo was a small but festive affair, with free pizza, jambalaya, gumbo and salad for the runners and their families. The gumbo and jambalaya were absolutely delicious, and I had never had jambalaya before. While at the expo, I saw a facebook message from Denis, who had decided that morning that he absolutely had to run the marathon, so he hopped in his car and drove 11 hours to Baton Rouge from Missouri. See? Y’all think I’m crazy. We picked up our stuff, and I was able to meet Craig, the race director, and his wife. Craig had been amenable enough to allow me to interview him a few weeks ago, and although that interview hasn’t gone viral quite the way Thomas’ has, he was a funny guy with great ideas about how to put on a marathon. I was also supposed to meet up with Chelsea at the expo, where I would deliver the Team T-Rex shirt she had ordered. While waiting around for her, we hung out with Steve and Paula Boone at the 50 States club booth.

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A picture with the sock monkeys was obviously necessary

Finally Chelsea appeared, and she was oddly enough exactly what I expected her to be like. I don’t know how that is possible considering we have never met, but she was just as funny and quirky in person as I imagined. Also, for some reason her voice sounded just like I thought it would, although I have absolutely no idea why I was thinking about what she would sound like. We clicked instantly and I was excited to learn that she would be rocking her Team T-Rex shirt in the race the next day.

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She hugged me when we met. I like her.

While at the expo, Denis asked Amanda and I if we were doing the early start. We didn’t even know there was an early start, and the idea of showing up for a 6 am start after waking up at 4 in the morning on Friday to catch our flight on only 3 hours of sleep, it wasn’t exactly appealing. Nonetheless, with the high temperature for the race forecasted in the mid-70s, it seemed like it might not be such a bad idea. Besides, it would give us plenty of time to get back to the hotel room and shower before leaving for the airport, so Amanda and I begrudgingly agreed. Ugh, marathons are stupid.