Three Relatively Uneventful Days

Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday, February 20, 21, & 22, 2012

I forgot to mention something that happened yesterday at the Mardi Gras parades.  I told you that LaKisha was a big hit, but I failed to mention that as we were watching the parade, a man and woman approached us and said they were with the local newspaper and would like to take a picture for the Monday edition.  I suspect they really wanted a photo of Lucy and used LaKisha as a ruse to get it.  Either way it worked and they got their photo.  So this morning we had to hang around Houma until the paper came out, which turned out to be 1:00 pm.  Well there was indeed a photo of Lucy and LaKisha.  Not the best photo but our only claim to fame so far.

After that we drove south to an Island called Grand Isle.  There was a bridge to the island that was 8 1/2 miles long.  That makes it the 2nd longest bridge we have crossed since our journey began.  The longest is still the San Mateo bay bridge at 13 miles.  Anyway is was an impressive structure.  One thing that made it different was that there was a junction in the middle.  Another bridge from a small island with an oil refinery on it joined it about half way across.  We drove on and ended at a state park at the end of the island.  We looked around the island a bit, but there was nothing much except lots of houses up on stilts.  We ate dinner at a place called Arties, Big Daddy’s, Bar and Grill.  Nothing to write home about, but we had a conversation with some locals, who told us that the building code requires all structures to be 16′ off the ground.  Big Daddy’s was only about 4′ off the ground, but it was an old building that was Grandaddy’ed in.  The park was nice and the advertising said it was only $18 per night, but the advertisement failed to mention the $6 transaction fee.

We got up this morning and did our morning chores with the idea of heading back north to the outskirts of New Orleans.  The idea was to stay the night outside the city on Fat Tuesday and then check out the city on Wednesday after the wildness is over.  That was the plan.

Before we left, we met a couple in the site next to us.  Bob and Linda are from Kentucky and come down here to visit Linda’s relatives around New Orleans where she grew up.  They gave us some tips about what to see and what to avoid as we visited the city.  We are very grateful for their advise and will heed it well, but one thing they told us did not turn out so well.  More on that later.  The drive north along the canal was very pleasant and scenic.  Lot’s of boats on the canal, some old and beaten down, others quite nice.  It seems that people take an old tug boat and remodel it into a very nice house boat, some small, some quite large.

Back to Bob and Linda. They told us about a restaurant on 4th street called Schnell’s.  They said it was not fancy but the food was good and affordable. Sounded like just the thing, so we located it and went in for dinner at about 5:30.  The waitress was friendly and prompt to take our order.  She warned us that it might take a little while.  We could see that there was one large group of people in the room and figured that was the reason.  We were not in a hurry so we said we were okay with that.  Thirty minutes later we were given a small dinner salad that looked like the lettuce had been sitting under a heat lamp.  That seemed a long time to wait just for a pre-made salad, but we were still okay and we did have some crackers and butter on the table to stave off the hunger while we waited, so what the heck.  We waited another 45 minutes for our main course, which turned out to be overdone grilled shrimp in barely warm angel hair pasta with some kind of gravy that had skinned over as it sat and cooled.  Lucy liked the shrimp, but Lucy likes her shrimp overdone, so…  I was starving by this time and the crackers and butter were nearly gone so I ate it without complaint.  The special we ordered came with desert.  That turned out to be stale white cake with what might have been banana pudding (also skinned over) on top with whipped cream and a cherry, all served in a styrofoam cup.  Really?  When we were ready to leave, by this time about 7:30, we asked for the check.  Then we waited for another 15 minutes.  Finally, I went to the counter to get the check.  When I approached the counter, there were three ladies, including our waitress, standing there having a conversation.  I stood there about 2 minutes waiting to be acknowledged.  Finally I told them that I hated to interrupt, but that I had been here for more than two hours and wanted to get out of there so could I please have my check.  The waitress apologized and gave me the check, but before the transaction was complete the conversation resumed.  I did not tip this waitress.  If you know me, you know that I always tip generously, and honestly if it had not been for the encounter at the counter I probably would have just blamed the cook and took pity on the waitress and left a tip anyway.  I understand that things happen, one of the cooks calls in sick or the wait staff is not all there, or they are just having one of those days when everything goes wrong, but this was just too much even for an understanding person.  Bob and Linda, this is obviously not your fault.  The last time you visited Schnell’s it was probably great, but something terrible has happened in the interim.  Maybe they need a visit from Gordon Ramsey.

Okay, remember a minute ago when I said there are day’s when things just go wrong all day?  Well this day may be in that, hopefully short, list of days.  After the Schnell’s fiasco, we went back to the Walmart we had scouted out earlier and found a place to park for the night.  Before we settled in for the night, we decided that we should find a laundry mat and get our weekly chore done.  So we asked Gizmo, our trusty GPS to kindly find one for us.  She graciously complied and we headed off to the laundry, just a mile away in a community call Harvey, oddly enough.  Gizmo led us right to it, but it was just closing.  So we asked Gizmo to find another.  She told us there was one 2.6 miles from our current location and she was kind enough to lead us to what turned out to be a closed dry cleaners.  Gizmo is not perfect and we understand that so we decided to give her another opportunity.  She informed us that there was a coin operated laundry just 1.5 miles from us.  She told us to go .5 miles and turn right on such and such street, then she said to go 1.6 miles and turn onto another street with the word “tunnel” as part of it’s name. Now I am pretty good at math and I know that 1.6 and  .5 is a little more than the original 1.5 miles promised.  I was also a bit concerned about the word “tunnel”, but I reasoned that maybe the 1.5 miles was as the crow flies.  We arrived at the tunnel street and turned on it and Gizmo told us to go 4.3 miles and take a ramp on the left to a freeway.  I did not want to do that, but the traffic was getting quite heavy and when we emerged from the tunnel we were in a lane that entered the freeway and I was forced to take it.  As we entered the freeway, we were in the right lane, but almost immediately another freeway merged on the right and we found ourselves in the center of about 8 lanes at 65 mph with bumper to bumper traffic.  There were lots of exits at first but no way to cross the 3 or 4 lanes to get to them.  I resigned myself to the fact that we were going where ever this freeway took us until we could somehow get off and back down on a manageable street.  About the time I thought I might be able to work my way over to an exit, I looked ahead and saw that we were approaching what appeared to be a toll plaza.  Sure enough, it was a toll plaza and the lane we were in was for prepaid tags only.  I was able to swing over one lane to the left which seemed to be the only cash lane.  We paid the $1 toll and proceeded to cross an enormous bridge across the Mississippi river into downtown New Orleans on Fat Tuesday night.  I was not about to leave this freeway and exit into downtown, which turned out to be the one thing I could not do even if I wanted.  In fact I was in the 2nd lane from the left on an eight lane freeway and there was no way to change lanes.  The traffic did slow to a crawl a time or two, but we were well out of town headed for Baton Rouge before we could even think about finding an exit. At some point Lucy partially recovered from her temporary paralysis and was able to navigate, and guide us to a town just north and east of Lake Pontchartrain, called Hammond.  Luckily, they had a Walmart and we crashed for the night.

After our morning chores we decided to get some things done in Hammond before deciding if we still wanted to see New Orleans.  So we first found a UPS store and shipped home our three shopping bags full of Mardi Gras beads.  We sent some to all the grandkids and some to Trina for her and Ben and the rest to Barbara to dispose of as she sees fit.  She will save a few for us as memorabilia.  After that we found a coin laundry and did the laundry.  Lucy, being Lucy, met an elderly lady and before the laundry was done they were fast friends and we were invited to Maggie’s house for beans and cornbread.  It seems that Maggie has had a difficult life.  She was born 73 years ago with a heart condition which she lived with and worked as a cook and even owned a restaurant in New Orleans for a time.  About 20 years ago she had open heart surgery.  She showed us the top of her scar.  Maggie has a very deep southern Louisiana accent and that combined with her age and the fact that she whispered a lot made it difficult to know all that she told us, but she was quite entertaining and funny.  We thanked her for her kind invitation, but declined as we were about to leave town.  Maggie insisted on giving Lucy her phone number so we could call next time we got to Hammond.

After that we found a Camping World and stocked up on toilet chemicals and such.  Got a new light bulb for the porch light on the van and off we went.

We had decided to head back to New Orleans and find a Walmart to stay, so we could get up tomorrow and see the city.  We drove across what is now the longest bridge we have encountered so far.  It is 24 miles long and it crosses Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans.  It is an amazing drive.  There are actually places where you can turn around and go back the other way if you want.  Mostly it is just a highway up on concrete columns about 20′ off the lake, but there are a few places where it goes up much higher, presumably to allow for lake traffic, although we did not see any boats on the lake for the entire distance.  This lake looks more like an ocean.  There was a point at which you could not see dry land in any direction.  I have not yet seen the Great Lakes, so maybe this is no big deal, but it was certainly the largest lake I have seen.  It also seems amazing that they would think it necessary to build a bridge across it.  If you look at a map you will see it is just a big, almost round, lake.  By building this bridge, you may have saved 40 or 50 miles of driving to go around it.  That seems like a very large expense to save 50 miles of travel.  But what do I know.  I intend to look into the history of this bridge.  If I find something interesting I will let you know.

So we are back in New Orleans.  We found a very nice park and took a walk and let LaKisha run a bit and now we are bound for another night in the Walmart Arms.  And again we are grateful for their generosity in allowing us to stay with them.

LaKisha watches me as I write, hoping I will mention her name.


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