Week 14.5: New Orleans
After a fantastic time at the beach in Destin, Florida, we headed further west on I-10 towards New Orleans. We generally try to stay in every state we pass through, but unfortunately we didn’t really have time to visit Alabama and Mississippi, since we had to be at a wedding in about a week. Sorry, deep South! We’ll have to take a rain check until our next yearlong RV road trip.
The drive to New Orleans was entertaining for these Yankees, traveling over and past long, flat bridges through marshy terrain. We saw the longest docks there we have ever seen. The drive into New Orleans was a lot less fun, since we arrived on a Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m., and needed to get across the entire city in an RV pulling a car. Luckily, having a giant vehicle usually driven by the elderly, with out of state plates, tends to earn a certain… caution from the locals.
Plus, as we discovered, if you really need to go across five lanes of bumper traffic in about 1/4 of a mile, it helps to be driving something huge. Who’s going to stop you?
We stayed in an RV park just on the other side of the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans and took a ferry across to the French Quarter. We did your classic New Orleans tourist things: ate beignets and drank chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, then headed down the street for a muffuletta. Heather says that muffulettas are “gross,” but objectively, she is wrong. They are delicious.
(Ed. note: Heather would like to clarify that the “olive salad” on the muffuletta is what makes it gross, the rest of the sandwich is fine)
We had fun walking around downtown New Orleans and observing the revelry on a Friday night. Since Louisiana has an enlightened policy towards open container laws, we were able to engage in a little revelry of our own as we walked. As the night went on, we paused near a large group of teenagers in prom clothing, a group you might describe as “literally falling down drunk,” and just people-watched for a while. Sure, the French Quarter is dirty, expensive, and crazy, but not many places party so well (or serve such wildly alcoholic drinks).
We promised our friend that we would be try to be cultured and not just visit the French Quarter in New Orleans, but of course that is exactly what we did. We did salvage things somewhat, by doing an activity Jake had been dreaming of since his previous visit to New Orleans (six weeks earlier): RIDING IN AN AIRBOAT!
Yes, we took an airboat ride through the bayou, and it was pretty great! The airboat we took was a little bit lower to the water than the one pictured below (read on for why that matters). And the swamp we toured actually bordered the state park that we were staying in, which was somewhat alarming. So, we figured that the airboat tour, aside from being an exciting ride, was a good way to scope out any potential visitors to our RV.
Unfortunately, there weren’t actually many alligators out because the weather was unusually cool (70F), but it was fun just to ride around in the airboat. There’s no motor sticking out below the water, so there’s nothing to get caught underneath as you drive around. As we quickly learned, that means the drivers can and will drive them over and through anything: lily pads, tall grass, logs, the shoreline, even giant piles of sleeping alligators (probably).
Our tour guide was a crazy redneck from the Louisiana bayou with a complete disregard for his own personal safety, in a good way. He drove us to, and then parked directly on top of, the spot he claimed he saw a mama alligator with her babies earlier that day. He then told us how that mama alligator had almost grabbed him unawares after he took one of her babies and posed with it for a picture, all the while just repeatedly poking the tall grass and the water with a stick he found.
Everyone onboard scrunched as far away from the menacingly opaque swamp water as possible. Our guide then told us how a large alligator had actually jumped onto one of the boats earlier that year. “Don’t worry, it didn’t get that close to the people, so nothing to worry about,” he said. “Although… this boat is actually much, much lower to the swamp.”
It went on like this for a solid hour, blasting through creepy swamps at unnecessarily high speeds. It was certainly a memorable tour. We did get to see a few gators – they draw them close to the boat by tossing marshmallows into the water. Apparently, gators like to eat marshmallows because they look like turtle eggs.
Unfortunately, that was it for our visit. Just like most of the places we visited during this stretch, we wish we could have had more time in New Orleans. We liked the taste we got, but there is a whole lot more we didn’t get to see.
However, we did have one final bit of excitement on our way out of the city, when the clips holding up our exhaust pipe broke after a long stretch of bouncing on Louisiana’s crummy roads. We thought we heard people honking us at, and figured it was because we were driving too slow. Turns out they were honking because we were dragging our exhaust pipe on the highway! We eventually figured out what that scraping sound was, and pulled off at a Flying J, where we bought bungee cords and automotive tape. We proceeded to MacGyver the shit out of that pipe.
After successfully strapping our exhaust pipe back into place with the bungee cords and a roll of tape, we headed out towards Texas. With all the tape-related excitement, we didn’t make it as far as we had planned, so we stopped for the night about halfway there. The town we stayed in? Cannot make this up: Sulphur, Louisiana. Oh, and you know how we mentioned Louisiana’s “enlightened” attitude towards open container laws in New Orleans? Well, in Sulphur (and elsewhere in the state), you can actually get drive-through cocktails. Margarita for the road, anyone?
We figured we probably shouldn’t do much driving in a place where you don’t even have to leave your car to get you drink refreshed, and we ended up parking for the night at the Wal-Mart. (Interestingly, the money-transferring station inside the store was preposterously busy – a lot of oil workers, we guessed.) We rented Mad Max: Fury Road from the Redbox outside the store, made popcorn, watched the movie inside our RV (5 stars!), and then returned it, all without leaving the parking lot.
Night out without actually going out? Check and check.
What’s now: We’re staying for two weeks in Riverside, California, where instead of blizzards it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Your move, Northeast.
What’s next: We don’t know. Umm… stuff?
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