June 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Excuse me, but how does this work?” Paris Hilton is in Biloxi, Miss., trying to get the attention of the weary worker behind the cash-only register at Cajun’s Fabulous Fried Chicken. Faced with an extensive buffet of artery-clogging dishes — not to mention the concept of serving herself — Paris and her partner-in-glam, Nicole Richie, shoot each other uneasy looks. It’s their day off from filming ”The Simple Life 2: Road Trip” (premiering June 16 at 8 p.m.), the sojourn-across-the-South sequel to last winter’s hit. Paris in a buttercup yellow minidress with matching hair clips, and Nicole, sporting a turquoise-and-white-striped strapless dress and platformed Puccis, are excited — sort of — to experience a little local flavor.

Having managed to load up their disposable plates, the girls dig into white rice, refried black beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, the butteriest of buttery biscuits, fried chicken, and a big ol’ brownie for Paris, and scoff at how OVER last season they are. ”It’s so much better and so much more interesting this year because every episode is a different family and a different town,” Paris says, slurping an icy Coke. ”Last season we just felt so trapped, being stuck with that family and all those curfew things,” Nicole adds. So all those promises of staying in touch with that sweet Arkansas family, the Ledings, who cried when the girls moved out? Drawls Paris, ”I changed my number.”

Such caviar-out-of-water antics helped ”The Simple Life” draw an average of 13 million viewers (some of whom were also undoubtedly curious after viewing a certain sex video circulating on the Internet), so it was no surprise that Fox signed up Paris and Nicole for another go-round. But the question was, where, after finally scrubbing themselves clean of Arkansas mud and manure, should the trust funders head next? ”Everyone should have to endure a road trip at one point in their lives,” explains executive producer Jonathan Murray, who nixed other ideas like sending the duo to military school or college. ”And the only way to see the girls in bikinis in springtime would be down South…. We’re not doing radio here.”

Murray ordered up a bubble-gum pink GMC truck and a 25-foot Airstream trailer and mapped out a four-week Miami-to-Los Angeles route (stopping in Biloxi; Lafayette, La.; Kissimmee, Fla.; and Austin) that maximizes culture-clash opportunities: The girls will crash with local families, including Ewing-esque ranchers, apocalyptic gospel singers, and a Cajun family with a tomboy daughter who will score some catwalking lessons from Paris. They’ll stuff sausages at a factory: ”I was trying to get the sausage into the intestines and I left my finger on for too long and I let it go and it exploded and there was all this sick, disgusting s — -all over the ceilings and the walls,” Nicole recalls with a shudder. They’ll work as chambermaids at a nudist colony: ”Nicole and I walked into their disco, and they were sitting naked on the barstools and dancing to, like, the ‘Macarena,’ naked,” Paris says while Nicole whips out the digital camera to give a slide show of the less-endowed members’ members. And they’ll further disrupt Southern comfort when Nicole jumps out onto a highway to ask drivers for toll money (”I got out on the freeway and begged for money like a homeless person in a Diane von Furstenberg dress!”) and Paris nearly sets the Airstream on fire twice — once while attempting to microwave a can of soup and once while lighting candles: ”We were in a trailer park, and it smelled like raw eggs!”

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