First, I’m going to apologize to Bridget for using the term “mooch docking”. She feels (and rightly so) that the term “mooch” is the antithesis of hospitality, and I totally agree. I did decide though to put it in that context in the hope that people who are doing research will find this post and use it as a guideline for exactly how to open your home to someone who is a full time RVer.
We met Bridget and Pat briefly back in 2014 at the RV-Dreams rally, and then again at the 2015 Reunion Rally. Because Bridget’s mom was ill, they were staying close to home in Louisiana, but were very much looking forward to spending more time on the road. When we determined our route back east would take us near them, I reached out to see if we could stop by. Two reasons; first and foremost I wanted to see them again, and spend more time with them, but I also had never been to Louisiana before and really wanted to learn about it from people who grew up there. Unfortunately, about 10 days before we were due to arrive, Bridget’s mom passed away and I was very uncertain about what to do. After some soul searching, I decided I wouldn’t make her choice for her and reached out. Not only did she still want us to come, but she was grateful for the visit. Anyone who has been through it knows the grief process when losing a parent is a long and difficult process and she was happy for the distraction. So we made arrangements to stop for a couple of days with them and headed down route 90 into the bayou.
From the moment we arrived they were absolutely amazing. They have a longish driveway on a somewhat busy street, so they both stopped traffic so we could have the time to back in. The angle was a little tough, but we pushed up against their garage and then Pat hooked Lee up to 50amp electric and water. Just so you know, 50 amp is not required. Most full time RVers can stay on a property for a couple of days with no services at all, but having access to electric and water was a nice bonus. Both Lee and I felt a little uncomfortable that we were taking up so much of their driveway, but they really couldn’t have cared less, and were so excited to see us that we felt more comfortable about the imposition.
It’s important to note here that as long as you have a driveway or piece of land long enough to fit the camper (and local regulations don’t restrict it) people can stay with you. We don’t mind if you don’t mind, and are always grateful for a free place to stay. Once we settled in we got a tour of their home and wow is it amazing. Pat is a retired State trooper and Bridget was the principal of the local school, and after several years of marriage they built a beautiful home on a piece of Pat’s parents land. My favorite part of the house was the kitchen which was huge and full of handmade cabinets and furniture that had been created with reclaimed wood from both Pat and Bridget’s parents old homes. Out of respect for them I didn’t take tons of pictures of the home, but I couldn’t resist the kitchen. Bridget retired after 32 years in the school system, and then started a small home kitchen cookie business, Cookie Clutter. Her cookies are not only beautiful, but absolutely delicious, so what started as a hobby has turned into a 20-25 hour a week job, and she has the kitchen to support it.
We spent the first evening touring the house and grounds, catching up, and talking. They had a lot of questions about how life has been on the road and we had a lot of questions about living in Louisiana. Plus Bridget cooked an amazing dinner of Shrimp and Crab corn chowder and Shrimp and Crab cakes. She walked me through how she cooked as she did it and what can I say other than crazy impressive. You hear about southern hospitality and southern cooking, but to experience it in someone’s home was a very special opportunity for us. I have read in cookbooks about certain techniques, but the opportunity to see them in action from someone who has been cooking like that her whole life was on a whole different level. She also wasn’t at all possessive about the kitchen, which was nice. There was no expectation, but if I wanted to jump in and help she was all for it. They also are incredibly generous people. Many people say “my house is your house” but Pat and Bridge take it to a whole new level. Oh you were looking for local rice, here take this bag. You think this wine stopper would work in your camper, please take this extra one we have we aren’t using. I could go on and on. Let me just say in all seriousness I have never received this level of hospitality in my life. No disrespect intended for anyone who was ever kind enough to let us stay with them, but this was a whole other level. It was funny though when I took them at their word and after dinner got up and started to do the dishes. We have a rule that whoever cooks doesn’t clean up and when Bridget fussed at me a bit, I said you wanted me to feel at home, and to her credit she sat and talked to Lee and let me do them!
The next morning though Lee and I woke up and felt slightly uncomfortable. The very last thing we would want to do would be to take advantage of anyone and it sort of felt like that. So when we went over in the morning we sort of stumbled through explaining how we were feeling and asked for them to please not go to any trouble. To their credit they listened patiently and then kindly dismissed everything we had just said 🙂 Well alright then, let’s just go with it. They weren’t sure what we wanted to do during the day, but I just asked for them to show us the area as locals. I think they thought we would be bored initially, but as we went through the day and they saw how excited we got they understood. The opportunity to see and experience a place as the locals do is a rare opportunity when traveling. Unless you have gotten to know someone in the area, you often end up doing the more touristy things, which is fine, but not nearly as rich of an experience in my opinion as “going native.” So we visited local stores, saw where Bridget and Pat worked, and went down and toured the bayou…and what an amazing day.
Shopping for dinner the same day is something I enjoy and because the seafood is so plentiful, everyone here buys it as fresh as they can and then cooks it right away. Next we drove down to the bayou, where Pat fishes frequently, and ate lunch at Schmoopy’s and toured the area a bit. Almost all of the homes are built on stilts due to hurricanes and flooding and it is a mixture of modest homes and much nicer ones right next to each other.
At lunch we grabbed the check and poor Pat (who is a true southern gentleman) was extremely uncomfortable. Bridget, sweetheart that she is, put her hand on his arm and said let her do this. Very, very sweet. Next we checked a box of my long time bucket list. I adore gulf shrimp, think it is the best in the world, and I have always wanted to buy it fresh right from the docks. So we went to Martin’s Fresh Shrimp, where Lillie helped make that happen. When Lillie found out I had never done this before, she spent a ton of time explaining the process and gave me a little extra, explaining the Louisiana concept of lagniappe. We ended up getting 4-1/2 pounds of shrimp (caught the night before) for $20. Amazing and I loved the whole experience. Pat brought a cooler with ice and after making our purchase we headed back to their house.
Along the way though we started talking about geocaching and Lee felt the best way to explain it was to do it, so we all found a geocache on their local college campus.
Once we got back to the house, Pat and I sat outside on chairs and cleaned shrimp. I had never cleaned shrimp with heads on before, so asked for some plastic gloves, but after we did a few it was pretty easy. Then Pat used his commercial vacuum sealer to make us some beautiful little packages of shrimp. He also froze them in one of his big freezers so the next morning we could just load them in ours. Then Bridget took us into their orange and lemon grove and we picked some fresh oranges and lemons and we went over to her mom’s house to look at books. Bridget knows how much we love to read and since she is planning on donating her mom’s books anyway, wanted us to take what we wanted. As a side note most full timers use Kindles but we still like paper books and after reading them we drop them off in whatever local town we are in at the library or campground. Plus, Bridget was giving me a bunch of old, local cookbooks..so yeah, I was excited. On the way back to her parents house we were looking at the pond and I got to see my very first wild alligator. It was about 4 feet long, and just hanging out. I went back to get my camera and told Pat there was an alligator. He said, “Ok I’ll take care of it when my son gets here.” Naively I asked what taking care of it was and he looked at me kind of strangely and said, “We will catch it and eat it” Well, sure, why not? I have no issue with people hunting and fishing if they eat what they take and it’s not like they are rare down here or anything.
So here are my thoughts on my very first crawfish boil. The veggies were spicy, although you can control that with what you put into the boil, the meat on the crawfish was sweet (sort of a cross between lobster and crab) and tasted great but it’s some work getting to it. Of course Bridget and Pat were much faster at it than I was, so that would probably improve over time. Most of all it was totally fun. You only eat the tail part and the head gets thrown away (or used later for gravy) so the grossness factor was much less than I expected. Plus it is a true Louisiana experience and a must try at least once for everyone. Oh and they used Zatarain’s Boil mix for seasoning and Bridget’s Go To Cajun seasoning for almost everything else is Slap Yo Momma . She of course gave me generous portions of both to take with me. And she taught me about Kary’s Dry Roux which is a fat free alternative to traditional roux and much easier.
After dinner we sat around and talked until very late, when Pat and Bridget’s daughter arrived. She is a beautiful and sassy 23 year old and I thought she was terrific. When we went to bed finally we realized it was 10:45pm!! What?? I never stay up that late, but the company was so good the time just flew by. Do you ever talk with people and cover 50 topics in an hour, but the conversation flows easily? That is what it was like for us. It was conversational magic and later Bridget said it was exactly what she needed to help “shake her out of her fog.” The next morning, they packed our freezer with fish, shrimp, gumbo mixture, and sausage while I made us a big mid-western country breakfast. It wasn’t fancy, but they seemed to like it and I loved cooking on that amazing stove. We are so very grateful that our first experience staying on someone else’s property was a positive one and they set the bar pretty high for future experiences. It was such a great weekend that I suggested they package it and sell it as “The Louisiana Experience”, but Pat says they will be too busy traveling the road themselves 🙂 Glad we came for the visit in while they are still there. Next up New Orleans and Dave and Sharon of Two Lanes Of Freedom fame. I really can’t believe this is my life!
Bridget’s Maque Choux Corn
- 1/2 stick Butter
- 2 TBL Flour
- 1 can Rotel Tomatoes Mild
- Sweet or bell peppers (optional)
- 1 large onion, cut into small pieces)
- 1 stalk celery (thinly sliced)
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 cans Green Giant Niblet corn or 16 oz bag Green Giant Niblets frozen corn (fresh works the best if in season)
- 1 packet Splenda (use with canned or frozen corn to sweeten, not necessary with fresh)
- Melt butter in pan
- Saute garlic, onions, peppers, and celery in butter until slightly soft
- Add flour, stirring constantly until thickened
- Add Rotel tomatoes and stir constantly until warmed
- Add corn
- Add 1 packet of Splenda to sweeten the corn and stir
- Let simmer on low, stirring frequently until “smothered” in the sauce.
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