Tchoupitoulas, Ellen Trout Zoo, and Texas State Prison Museum

July 16, 2011

Friday, we spent the day in eastern Texas. In the morning, we visited the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin. It’s small – takes perhaps three hours to see at a leisurely pace – but has a nice selection of animals. The paths are well shaded. There are peacocks everywhere.

We then drove to Huntsvilleto visit the Texas State Prison Museum. The exhibits and stories were fascinating, and left me with a strange mix of emotions. There were times when the prisons were under the direction of individuals intent on helping prisoners to become contributing members to society. Both the prisoners and community ultimately benefited. But then these men would be replaced with others intent on punishing rather than reforming those incarcerated. Conditions degenerated and those in charge abused their positions. Eventually things became so bad that the Federal Government had to step in and take control of the entire Texas prison system.

On a looped recording, those responsible for performing and witnessing executions, related their experiences. It made me want to cry. Perhaps the death penalty should be abolished, if only because of the anguish it creates among the innocent.

An excellent article about the museum can be found at RoadsideAmerica.com.

We spent the night in Crockett, and had dinner at Tchoupitoulas (Chop-eh-too-las), a local favorite in the oldest section of the historic downtown. The food showed a rare attention to detail. The salad was a mix of romaine and fresh vegetables. The cucumbers were crinkle-cut. There were shaved carrots, and a sprinkling of bacon bits. The blue cheese dressing was outstanding. The salad was served with warm, fresh-baked bread.

I ordered the surf and turf. The filet mignon, ordered medium-well, was done perfectly with just a hint of pink. The marinated meat was flavorful and tender. It was accompanied by a soft-baked sweet potato.

The waiter was friendly and attentive, without being intrusive. The owner stopped by to see if everything was to our liking.

A definite thumbs-up!

Lufkin Texas and Ralph and Kakoo’s

July 15, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Lufkin. Once we got to the hotlel, hubby took a nap, while I worked on my blog. Later, we were off to dinner at Ralph and Kakoo’s [New Orleans-Style] Seafood Restaurant. It was tempting to order a steak, because the prices for beef were much more reasonable than they are inArkansas. But it seemed wiser to order a dish that a restaurant specializes in. As though to stamp their cuisine authentic, a group sitting next to us spoke Cajun.

I had the Catfish Acadiana, catfish stuffed with crabmeat. It was a little heavy on the salt, but otherwise quite tasty. The steamed vegetables were done to perfection – tender with just a hint of crispness. The blue cheese dressing on the mostly-Romaine dinner salad was the best I’ve had in years. The rolls were fresh0-baked with just a hint of garlic.

Getting back to the hotel, which was less than 3 miles away, was a real challenge. Most cities are laid out in a grid systems. Here the streets seem to be a series of loops, with slightly overlapping loops running nearly parallel to one another. It’s hard to get a sense of direction – and hard for the GPS to determine which similar street you’re on at any given moment. After driving back and forth past our hotel several times – without being able to actually reach it – we finally saw a pet hotel that we’d passed on the way in. From that point, my husband remembered how to get to the hotel. Had I been alone, I’d have tried to reset the GPS from that point, since it had directed us in earlier without problem.

This morning, Ellen Trout Zoo. This afternoon, The Texas Prison Museum.