New Orleans, LA
This was my first time returning to NOLA since 1981. I cannot believe it has been that long. The last time was a weekend trip from Dallas where I was attending training classes on Northern Telecom while working at PacTel. It was fun, but this time was much more fun. My friend, Jane, flew in from San Francisco for the four days. . Jane and I stayed at a lovely old, boutique hotel in the French Quarter on Chartres Street. Ralph joined us for part of the time. The first day we were wondering around the streets of the French Quarter we learned that the first parade of the Mardi Gras season was that very evening. We were thrilled to be able to see some of Mardi Gras without being there for the actual six days of Mardi Gras and all its craziness. We really didn’t know what to expect and were a little surprised when we realized it was the XXX Parade! We’re not prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but we were a little surprised at the floats and what they depicted. We looked at each other with WTF looks and then laughed really hard. There were several bands and marchers in costumes. Jane and I bought wigs to keep our heads warm (it was REALLY cold!) and we fit right in with our blue and red wigs. It was really fun.
Jane and I went to the Voodoo Museum the next day. It was in a small house and was very dusty and educational. I bet you didn’t know that Voodoo means spirit (usually for good, not evil) and Voodoo practitioners are Catholic! It is a mix of Catholicism and African spiritual traditions. We ate at some good restaurants and in the evening we went to Frenchmen’s Street to listen to the live music playing up and down the street.
We visited one of the very old cemetery’s; this one was in an Ashley Judd movie.
The last day Ralph came back to pick me up and the three of us took a city wide tour of NOLA, including the Garden District, the 9th Ward, Mechanics Street, etc. Ten years after Katrina and there are still remnants of the destruction.
We toured the Garden District and passed by the houses of John Goodman, Sandra Bullock, Ann Rice and Archie Manning, While we were in front of Archie’s house he came out and got in his car. The tour van driver stopped and Ralph rolled down his window and talked to Archie. Ralph had a message for Payton. It was good luck in the Super Bowl. In hindsight I guess he didn’t need luck. Archie smiled and said, “Ok”. Afterwards we had lunch and Jane took off for the airport and we returned to our campground just south of NOLA in Westwego.
And west we went! Our next stop as in Beaumont, Texas for an overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot. You cannot say I don’t have diversity in my life. From a five star hotel one night to a Walmart parking lot the next!
Our next stop was Austin, Texas. I’ve always wanted to visit Austin because I’v heard good things about it. It’s the Texas state capital and the home to the University of Texas. It also where Texas Hill Country begins and goes west to El Paso. It was a very picturesque town and reminded me a lot of Sacramento. We took a tour of the city on a double decker bus (where I lost my new hat and scarf due to the wind) and got a nice overview of the city. We then walked over to the state capital building and took a self tour through the capital. It’s a very beautiful building. Now I know exactly where the terrible legislation originates! We ended up at Stubb’s BBQ and I had the best smoked chicken I’ve ever eaten.
After the tour we met up with a work friend, Jay Jackson, and his new wife Anne. We met at the historic Driskill Hotel for drinks and then we headed to 6th Street for music. Austin is known for their music and they didn’t disappoint!
I would like to have stayed longer, so there may be a return visit in the future.
From Austin it was three very long days to get to our next tour area; Tucson, Arizona. Because of extremely high winds in West Texas, we were stuck in a Walmart parking lot in Fort Stockton, Texas. The winds were blowing 30 – 40 MPH with gusts of 65 MPH. It’s not a good idea to drive a huge box down the highway at 60 MPH with those kind of winds. I talked with one of the other RV drivers in the parking lot who had come from the west and asked him how it was. He said it was awful and a couple times the wind pushed him over a half lane before he could get it back! We made the right decision to stay in Fort Stockton another day. The following day it was blowing around 20 MPH, but it wasn’t too bad for Ralph. I certainly didn’t drive that day.I was happy to finally arrive in Tucson and start exploring the area.