Departing Destin, FL around 10 AM on Friday morning bound for New Orleans, LA (NOLA) we were excited about our next adventure. We expected a relatively easy 4 hour trip, mostly on interstate highway 10. It turned out to be a pretty windy day, though, making driving the motorhome (MH) more challenging and stressful. Siobhan was getting queasy just sitting in the co-pilot’s chair – not sure if that was Kevin’s driving skill (or lack thereof…) or the weather. Anyway, it earned Kevin a seat in the Captain’s chair for the entire four state drive from Florida through Alabama and Mississippi before arriving in Louisiana.
Our campsite was reserved for the weekend at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, LA. It turned out to be a beautiful park on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, just north of New Orleans. Good thing we had reservations though, as 80 other RVers were registering that day. Guess it’s a really busy place, especially on weekends. We thought about going into New Orleans for some fun on Friday night but, after the windy drive, the thought of another couple hours on the road just didn’t cut it.
Instead, we opted for a bike ride around the park and an early happy hour, watching as the many other campers arrived and set up their sites. We decided to include this as another bonafide activity – watching campers arrive or depart – it’s educational and very entertaining!
We spent most of Saturday morning unsuccessfully searching for internet connectivity on a secure wifi connection. Not at the campground, not at the local public library, just not easy to find. At least we got the chance to get some of our blog posts scheduled for delivery. It’s been fun hearing from some of you, keep ’em coming. More to come in a separate post about internet connectivity on the road.
Eventually, after a quick lunch at the MH, we drove across Lake Pontchartrain on the 24 mile long Mid-Bay Bridge to visit New Orleans on Saturday afternoon. Really, 24 miles long. You could use it (and a mile and one eight on each end of it) as a marathon course! We arrived in NOLA in the early afternoon and decided on a visit to the Garden District since gardening is one of Siobhan’s primary hobbies. Great neighborhood, lots of old southern architecture, small lots and large homes with small gardens and lawns perfectly manicured. Some were really charming. Clearly an upscale area of the city. We walked for a few miles touring the area and even visited the St. Charles Cemetery, a famous 19th century cemetery with above-ground tombs and statuary. This was the way bodies are buried in NOLA since it is only 3’ above sea level.
After that relaxing and enjoyable experience, we drove to the French Quarter to find a place to park. Big mistake! It was still early enough that the police had not closed the streets to cars (or Jeeps) but the pedestrian traffic was rapidly building and taking over the streets regardless. Even the GPS couldn’t help us get from one section to the next to get to the public parking areas as many times we would arrive at a location where it instructed us to turn right and the authorities had just placed a barricade to motor vehicle traffic in our path. About an hour of driving around in circles and constantly being redirected brought on our first real melt-down. Nothing like being trapped in a rat maze to get the tempers flaring!
Anyway, a quick stop in a local CVS parking lot to re-group and re-direct. We were off again to conquer this hill…found a convenient parking spot and even got rewarded by another city guest leaving town early that offered to sell us his still-valid parking ticket with four hours remaining on it for only $12 while we were just two people away from paying $40 for two hours in the same lot! Good karma…
We walked for hours, marveling at the architecture, crazy cracked and uneven streets, bar after bar, way too many people that had obviously been there much longer than we, and lots of interesting people to watch. Bourbon Street, Canal Street, Conti Street, Decatur St, Magazine St, Toulouse St, the French Quarter Festival at Woldenberg Park and the Streamboat Natchez (a paddlewheel ship that does tours) on the Mississippi River. Bars and restaurants everywhere and we might even have frequented one or two of them along the way.
And we had to stop at The Jackson Brewery since it was right there on the river’s edge. Really interesting perspective from the upper terrace overlooking the river and the dike protecting the city from flood waters. Clearly evident just how low the city’s elevation is from that vantage point. Certainly a downhill coast from the dike to the Fresh Quarter. From here, it was very easy to imagine the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 (fyi – 1,833 people died, millions left homeless, $108 Billion in damage, a category 5 storm with 175 mph winds, the most destructive and costliest storm in US history). Twelve years later, the recovery seems almost complete and the never-ending street party continues.
Once tired from walking around the city, we had dinner at Pere Antoine Restaurant / Cajun Kitchen before making the hour trek back across the causeway to Mandeville and the comforts of our MH.
Spent Sunday relaxing, bike riding (ask Siobhan about the long, black snake she rode within inches of on the bike trail…) visiting local AT&T and Verizon stores to learn more about wifi hotspots and hanging out at the campsite. Had to rest up before another travel day in the MH enroute to Red Bay, AL and the Tiffin Motor Home factory. More on that later.