The Big Easy

The Big Easy

The Crescent City

NOLA

The Mardi Gras City

Incredible trumpet player at Waterfront Park, near the French Quarter

Incredible trumpet player at Waterfront Park, near the French Quarter

They are all New Orleans, Louisiana.  An incredible, fun, amazing, delightful, friendly, historical city.  Visiting here for the first time and trying to see the sights is akin to trying to drink out of a fire hydrant.  And if you have ever been here, you know exactly what we mean.

The view from our site, Lake Ponchartrain RV Park, New Orleans, LA

The view from our site, Lake Ponchartrain RV Park, New Orleans, LA

When we last left you, we had just arrived and checked into the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park, located on a canal, near Lake Pontchartrain, that connects the Lake to the Mississippi River.  It’s a nice place, fairly high class (meaning pricey), with lots of nice amenities, such a restaurant (of sorts) a huge dog park (so Charlie is happy), a pretty good bar and garbage pick-up at your site.   We scored a great space on the canal, in front of a dock where lots of boats are berthed.  Nice atmosphere.  It’s a little weird getting into this place:  you drive through a light industrial area (mainly boat building and repair), over some really nasty roads – fairly typical of most of the streets and highways we encountered in the NOLA area.

One of the nice services of this RV Park is a shuttle bus they operate that, for $6, will drop you off  (and pick you up) near the corner of Toulouse and Decatur Streets in the French Quarter.  We had the same shuttle driver all three days.  Now those of you who know me will agree that I am a world-class bullshitter.  Well, our driver was the consummate PROFESSIONAL – he made me feel like a total amateur.  Although he was not a native of New Orleans, he did seem to know a fair amount stuff, and what he did not know, he just made up.  And, you could truly believe about 30% of what he said.

Newer buildings, on the River side of the French Quarter

Newer buildings, on the River side of the French Quarter

Entrance to the French Market

Entrance to the French Market

Looking down Bourbon Street towards Canal Street and the downtown area

Looking down Bourbon Street towards Canal Street and the downtown area

View of street in the French Quarter

View of street in the French Quarter

Joan of Arc sculpture, donated to the City of New Orleans by French Prime Minister Charles de Gaullle

Joan of Arc sculpture, donated to the City of New Orleans by French Prime Minister Charles de Gaullle

Dee Dee and the Meals-On-Wheels lady, near the  Mississippi River Front and Jackson Square

Dee Dee and the Meals-On-Wheels lady, near the Mississippi River Front and Jackson Square

Two really honest, friendly, guys mooching for bucks, French Quarter

Two really honest, friendly, totally stoned guys mooching for bucks, French Quarter

Bicycles, near Jackson Square, French Quarter

Bicycles, near Jackson Square, French Quarter

Corner on Bourbon Street, French Quarter

Corner on Bourbon Street, French Quarter

We spent the better part of 3 glorious, sunny, warm days in New Orleans.  We had an absolutely delightful time eating, drinking, walking, eating, meeting interesting and friendly people, eating, walking, walking, walking and drinking.  And eating, too.  And walking.

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

Big mask, Voodoo shop in the French Quarter

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter

Voodoo shop window, French Quarter

 

Dee Dee and  her new friend, voodoo shop in the French quarter

Dee Dee and her new friend, voodoo shop in the French quarter

Mufuletta sandwiches, black beans and rice, and jambalaya, Napoleon House, French Quarter

Muffuletta sandwiches, black beans and rice, and jambalaya, Napoleon House, French Quarter

Coffee and beignets at the Café Du Mond, French Quarter

Coffee and beignets at the Café Du Monde, French Quarter

Café Du Mond; looking towards the French Quarter

Café Du Monde; looking towards the French Quarter

'Oysters Royal House', Hurricanes and stuff mushrooms, on the second story street balcony, Royal House, in the French Quarter

‘Oysters Royal House’, Hurricanes and stuffed mushrooms, on the second story street balcony, Royal House, in the French Quarter

The food here is incredible!  Several people we met asked us to recommend good restaurants – well, they are ALL good.  And, we got good advice from others on good places to eat.   I am sure we both gained at least 10 pounds, dining on a variety of meals, such as muffuletta sandwiches, for instance.  A traditional style muffuletta sandwich consists of a muffuletta loaf split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, and provolone. The sandwich is heated to soften the provolone.  Totally delicious!  (We had these at the Napoleon House.)  We also started each day with sumptuous coffee and beignets at the famous Café du Monde , located near the French Market.  Let’s not leave out delicious stuffed mushrooms and baked oysters (we had these at the Royal Restaurant) and Po’ Boy sandwiches (at the Remoulade Resturant), too.  Everything was soooo good!  As far as drinks go, you definitely got a full-plus pour of whatever you ordered.

The Blacksmith Shop Bar, Bourbon Street; one of the oldest bars in the United States, serving drinks libations continuously for over 250 years.  We had Bloody Mary's here at 10:30 AM, and that was pretty much the end of the day...

The Blacksmith Shop Bar, Bourbon Street; one of the oldest bars in the United States, serving drinks libations continuously for over 250 years. We had Bloody Mary’s here at 10:30 AM, and that was pretty much marked the end of the day…

The first day we were in the French Quarter, we went to a bar called ‘The Blacksmith,’ that was recommended by some folk we met.   It is one of the oldest bars in the United States and has been serving libations for over 250 years.  We had a Bloody Mary at about 10:30 AM and that pretty much destroyed the day…or made it better, depending on one’s perspective.  We had a few Hurricanes, a local drink composed of several varieties of rum; they will definitely kick your butt.  Let’s not leave out the local beer, either…lots of really great brews.

Street musicians, Bourbon Street

Street musicians, Bourbon Street

Street musicians, Bourbon Street

Street musicians, Bourbon Street

Street musicians and little kids dancing, Bourbon Street, French Quarter

Street musicians and little kids dancing, Bourbon Street, French Quarter

Almost everywhere you go there is great jazz and zydeco music…much of it right on the street.  The action starts everyday about noon and continues on into the evening.  And it’s really, really good stuff.

Historic Oak tree with moss, City Park

Historic Oak tree with moss, City Park

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

View of family tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

Dee Dee and The Boyz, Sculpture Garden, City Park, New Orleans

Dee Dee and The Boyz, Sculpture Garden, City Park, New Orleans

Giant safety pin in the Sculpture Garden, City Park, New Orleans

Giant safety pin in the Sculpture Garden, City Park, New Orleans

View of wall tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

View of wall tombs, St. Louis Cemetery #3, New Orleans

Although I am not much of ‘bus tour’ person, we did spend a few hours one day on a Grayline Tour bus, doing a ‘City-Wide’ tour that covered a majority of NOLA and the surrounding neighborhoods.  I have to admit it was worth the time, and we learned a lot about the history and culture of New Orleans.  We probably should have done it the first day we got there (we went the 4th day), as it really helped to put things into perspective.  And we had a great local guide who gave it an excellent personal touch.

Gin and tonic af the end of a looong day of walking around the French Quarter

Gin and tonic af the end of a looong day of walking around the French Quarter

All in all, we must get back to New Orleans again – very soon.  So far, it has been the very, very, VERY best place we have visited on this trip.  We saw a lot, but there is so much more to do.  Six days just did not give us enough time.

We were due to head out of The Big Easy on Friday, January 23, and head for Pensacola, Florida, but had to delay for a day due to some heavy rains and winds that have blanketed southern Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi and part of the Florida Panhandle, for the last 36 hours.  So, we are off tomorrow, Saturday, instead.  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode…

Waiting For The Sun…

Back-Track To January 1, 2015…

So, to bring you all up to speed, recall that we decided to depart Big Bend National Park (heading for Del Rio, Texas) a few days early due to impending snotty weather (which we escaped by a matter of hours) and just way too much humanity.

But, let’s back up just a bit.  I wrote all of the last blog post whilst still in the midst of a nasty bout with the flu.  In doing so, I left out some stuff I should not have (and left in quite a few typos…).

First of all, I forgot to post a picture of my friend Neil Miller and me, sitting in his classic Morgan roadster, while we were still at Lost Dutchman State Park, near Apache Junction.  A thousand pardons Neil…so here it is now.

Bob and Neil, in Neil's very cool historic Morgan.  Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Bob and Neil, in Neil’s very cool historic Morgan. Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona.

Next, fast forwarding to Big Bend National Park, I neglected to mention a side trip we took into an area called Chisos Basin.  It’s about an 8 mile drive off of Highway 385, turning off not too far from the Panther Junction Visitor Center.  The drive into the area offers some magnificent views as you pass through several different desert and high desert ecosystems during the roughly 2000 foot elevation gain on the way in.  An extremely magnificent part of the Park…at least until you get to Chisos Basin.  What the NPS has allowed to happen there (for whatever reason) is a total atrocity.   After passing through a beautiful environment on the way in, you are dismayed to find a hotel, restaurant, bar, incredibly horrible traffic and a campground that is so cramped and crowded that it comes close to resembling tenement housing.  OK, this is just our opinion.   Also, unless you are either tent camping or pulling a small tent trailer, you won’t even make it down the road.  Perhaps this place would be more palatable during such a non-busy time of the year, and yes, the time between Christmas and New Year’s is probably about the worst time to be staying almost anywhere.  But, that’s just our opinion.

January 3, 2015 – San Antonio, Texas

Don't mess with Texas

Don’t mess with Texas

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

The Bob, San Antonio River Walk, Texas

The Bob, San Antonio River Walk, Texas

Ceviche, San Antonio River Walk, Texas

Ceviche, San Antonio River Walk, Texas

We arrived in San Antonio, Texas, with me still fighting the flu and a persistent, horrible cough.  Despite this, we did some normal tourist stuff, like going to The Alamo and then to the River Walk.  The Alamo on a Sunday was predictably crowded.  But, still and all, it’s an extremely informative historical site, about 30% of which has been preserved (the rest falling to ‘progress.’)  The monument is maintained and funded by a Historical Society, composed totally of volunteers; they have done an extremely commendable job.  It’s free to get in, but there are copious donation boxes spread throughout the site.  What is somewhat disappointing is what now surrounds The Alamo: a sprawling mass of places like ‘Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not’ and numerous other establishments of the same venue.  Sorta takes the air out of the piece of history you have just visited.  The River Walk area is OK…but touristy as one would expect.  We had a couple of over-priced margaritas and some damnpretty good ceviche.  Another kinda cool thing we did was take the city bus from the RV Park where we were staying into the downtown area.  Not bad at all getting there, but the trip back proved to be somewhat of a challenge for two old geezers who have not had to figure out a bus schedule in years.  After about an hour or so and walking more than a just few block, we finally found the right stop.   The Bob was so excited on the way home that he pulled the ‘stop cord’ about ½ mile too early.  You could see Dee Dee mouthing the words ‘Dumb Ass.’

January 7, 2015 – Corpus Christi, Texas

We are now at the Mustang Island State Park, located on Mustang Island, just South East of Corpus Christi.

It has been 10 days since we last saw the sun (except for a brief moment in San Antonio).  We feel like we are doomed.  And, we gulped down our last dose of Vitamin D several days ago.

Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Blowing sand and barrier fence, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Blowing sand and barrier fence, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Beach cabanas, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Beach cabanas, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Wahooo!  Charlie is in Doggy Heaven on the beach, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

Wahooo! Charlie is in Doggy Heaven on the beach, Mustang Island State Park, Texas

This Texas State Park has a good campground, complete with a cabana to provide shade from the sun, which we did not have to worry about the whole time we were there.  It rained hard and was very windy most of the time.  The only saving grace in all of this was the fact that the rattle snakes stayed ‘indoors’, which certainly provided Dee Dee with a certain degree of relief.  We were almost right on the beach – maybe only about a 3 block walk.  Charlie was in doggy heaven; he got to chase a tennis ball and swim in the surf until he could hardly lift his tongue off the sand.  Wahoo!  Texas State Parks has an interesting fee structure:  the campsites are fairly spacious and have water and power (there is a sewer dump conveniently located on the way out.)  The rate is $20 per night, which seems reasonable until you factor in a $5 per day, per person, park use fee.  That brings your stay there to $30 per night.  Still and all, given the locale, not too bad a deal.

Ferry docks, Mustang Island, texas

Ferry docks, Mustang Island, texas

ferry view mirror dee dee

Barrier posts in surf, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Barrier posts in surf, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

We drove down the island and took the FREE ferry (there were FIVE of them running full-tilt boogie) off the Island and over to the mainland, and then drove a big circle back through Corpus Christi and back to Mustang Island.  The next day, we headed over to Padre Island, driving over a small causeway that links it to Mustang Island.  At the end of the road is Padre Island National Seashore.  Located on the south Texas coast, Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world, with nearly 70 miles of sand and shell beaches, windswept dunes and seemingly endless grasslands.  And the majority of the 70 miles is roadless.  But, you can drive on the beach (most of the time, except certain portions that are closed when sea turtle are nesting) and camp.  Four-wheel drive is almost required to do this.  There is an excellent campground there as well, but it’s total dry camping.  The cool thing about this campground is that it is RIGHT on the beach.  The surf seems to almost break into your campsite.  This place is first-come-first-serve, and it was pretty full.

Due to the still crappy weather in the area, we opted to spend an additional day here and wait out the weather.

January 11, 2015 – Galveston Island, Texas

It’s been more than 2 weeks since we have seen the sun (well, it did manage to peak out for about 5 seconds one afternoon.)  Our skin is taking on a bluish tint and our hands are now perpetually wrinkled due to the rain.  One piece of good news is that finally, after more than 2 weeks, my case of the flu and cough seems to have almost totally dissipated.

Diesel price, just outside of Galveston, Texas.  We drove a mile further down the road and it was $2.49/gallon

Diesel price, just outside of Galveston, Texas. We drove a mile further down the road and it was $2.49/gallon

Galveston is a very cool place.  And, it’s really a ‘summer-time’ place as you can see by the multitude of tourist business that dominate the 14+ mile long Seawall Boulevard.  It almost resembles Coney Island in many ways.  As your drive down this long stretch, the city is on one side of the road and the Gulf of Mexico is on the other.  We are staying at this very neat place called Dellanera RV Park, which is run by the County Parks.  Our site is right on the beach – so close that we hear the Gulf of Mexico surf breaking, all the time.  As we look out our back window, and especially at night, we can see a few off-shore oil rigs and several anchored tankers, waiting to be off-loaded at the several refineries in the area.

Dee Dee and the Boyz, Dellenera RV Park, Galveston Island, Texas

Dee Dee and the Boyz, Dellenera RV Park, Galveston Island, Texas

Fence, washed out beach and surf, Dellenera RV Park, Galveston Island, Texas

Fence, washed out beach and surf, Dellenera RV Park, Galveston Island, Texas

One issue we encountered, however, is that the beach immediately out front was being reconstructed because it was pretty much destroyed during the last hurricane.  This is accomplished by essentially hauling tons and tons and tons of sand and re-positioning it on the beach.  This is really a minor issue as we can walk about a block through the RV Park and take a small path down to portion of the frontage that is still in good condition.  Once again, Charlie is very appreciative of the surf-and-sand environment we continue to provide for him.  And, he now seems to spend an equal amount of time in the surf as he does chasing a tennis ball.  We need to get him a board.

Prop and ferry dock, Galveston Island, Texas

Prop and ferry dock, Galveston Island, Texas

New house foundation, Galveston Island, Texas

New house foundation, Galveston Island, Texas

House, Galveston Island, Texas

House, Galveston Island, Texas

Houses, Galveston Island, Texas

Houses, Galveston Island, Texas

As we drove around exploring, we came across another of the FREE Texas ferries, off the north east side of Galveston Island.  Very efficient operation.  We counted 5 ferry docks at this location.  Another thing we noticed is that almost all the houses on Galveston Island are built on ‘stilts’ – 12” X 12” pressure-treated timbers (or in some cases, telephone poles) driven into the ground.  The actual house sits about 12 – 18 feet in the air.  The reason is obvious – protection from flooding caused by hurricanes.

January 15 – still no sun!  We depart here (Galveston Island) this morning, headed for Carencro, Louisiana, where we will be staying at the Bayou Wilderness RV Park.  Stay tuned…