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New Orleans or Bust!

SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014

Clearly it doesn’t take much to get side tracked by some thrilling unexpected events.

Before we left Tickfaw State Park, we wanted to check out the bottomland/hardwood trail. I was hoping to see an alligator somewhere. It was a nice hike. I would highly recommend bug spray with deet. The mosquitos laughed at our deet-free stuff. On the way back to the car Thomas spotted the smallest snake I had ever seen. I wouldn’t have noticed him if he didn’t tell me to stop. This snake was the size of an earthworm, but had the looks of a full sized snake only shrunken down… so cool. This teeny snake still looked a bit frightening so we made sure to keep our distance even if he was the size of the gummy worm.

Today was planned to be a stop over in New Orleans on the way to Gulf State Park, Alabama. I have always wanted to go to New Orleans. I had to be sure that I had a chance to go since we were going to be so close. Plus the Grahams traveled there for the day while staying at Fontainebleau State Park, Louisiana in March 2, 1982. I had always wanted to go since I was a child. One of my oldest and dearest friends had an aunt that lived in New Orleans when we were growing up and she went often with her mother to visit. Upon her return from these trips she would have nothing but praise about what a city it was and have trinkets and stories. As I got older, I have met people that have lived and loved New Orleans with a diehard attitude.

The drive wasn’t long. I like most people had been completely saddened by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and had the images from the media imprinted on my brain. One of the scenes that stuck out the most was the image of the Superdome and the chaos and desperation. As we approached the golden gleam of the dome, I thought about all the people that lost so much so quickly and unexpectedly. I thought about the spirit of those that were ready to rebuild and bring the life back to this city and felt happy to be there.

As typical tourist, we started at the French Quarter, parked at a public parking lot and began walking around. There was so much spirit in the air and enjoyment on everyone’s face. Immediately we got caught up in the shopping, quick. First place was tourist/NOLA stuff with a wall of Mardi Gras masks and such. Around the corner was this amazing tea and spice shop, the Spice and Tea Exchange. I loved that place; the smells were delicious and the sights were sumptuous. I bought this dark chocolate tea and flavored sugar. We talked to the young woman working there and asked her questions about being a New Orleans resident. She suggested going to Magazine Street in Uptown instead of the French Quarter to experience a more authentic New Orleans.

We found Magazine Street (which I think was actually south) and I could so see myself living there. Everyplace was so quaint and cute and chic. This was the one time that I think Thomas had to call me out for being such a girl. He gave me that dude - “please stop being such a girl look” when I was trying to go into almost every store when he was famished and only had food on his brain. I believe he actually said that he could not go on walking and would fall out if he did not eat now. I scurried out feeling scared with the face of a colon and forward slash [:/]. We pop into Ignatius restaurant right there on Magazine Street. The walls were painted this soft butter yellow with dark walnut colored tables. Marc our waiter came over with a welcoming smile. He was perfect and attentive and after talking to him about our travels made a great suggestion about taking the Mobile Bay on the way to Alabama.

As the constant navigator, Thomas looked up the Mobile Bay Ferry to see how realistic it would be to now include it in our route. Unfortunately, even with some swift movement we would not make the last ferry. But we decided that we would backtrack from our next stop at Gulf State Park, Alabama to take the ferry back, from the east coast to west coast of the bay and drive back over. It was time to get going and we made one more stop that I was promised before Thomas growled at me. The shop was called Bootsy's Funrock'n and Popcity. We had stopped in there prior to eating but became overwhelmed with the whimsy and fantastic stuff and vowed that we would have to come back. I laughed at every silly thing. A few times I laughed so much it made my stomach hurt. From the front of the store, it reads all randomness. On the inside, it reads must buy everything. Things were purchased and we were happy. When we left the store, we both spotted the most fashionable woman by far wearing gold shoes. Not only was she chic but zippy. She and her gold shoes mounted her scooter and vamoosed.

As an aside, the shotgun homes of New Orleans are some of the most beautiful properties I have seen. Each home was flavored with its unique style. Some were colored like a box of pastels while some were very traditional with simply a dark hurricane shutter against white siding. One even looked like it belonged to the three little bears complete with a chair for momma bear, poppa bear and baby bear.

I was so grateful for this 3 hour trek from our point of origin in Tickfaw State Park and Gulf State Park that enabled us to spend time in New Orleans and feel more like humans and not traveling robots. To top off our visit, as we drove away from New Orleans, the sun said goodbye warmly with its orange glow, low in the sky. From our perspective in the rearview window, it looked like it was playing hide and seek with the skyscrapers, teasing us. Gulf State Park, Alabama popped up quick; it seemed to be city all of its own. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My idea of Alabama has never been of a beach resort town. When I think of Alabama, I think of it as another southern state minus the Gulf of Mexico. This place looked like Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach. It was a boulevard of stereotypical beach time with plenty of swimwear stores, restaurants, go-karts, mini golf, arcades and amusements. Based on how busy it was, I was the last person to know this was not just a southern state. Check in was easy. The place was another state park wallop of a surprise. Our cabin was perched on stilts overlooking Shelby Lake with a breathtaking view of the nearby twinkling lights of Gulf State Shores.

The kids in us made us find our way back out the main drag and go go-kart racing. What a fun ride. I had never been on a multi-level go-kart track. All Thomas and I could say to each other was “who knew?” Alabama would now and forever be in my beach town category.

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