New Orleans to San Antonio to Galveston to New Orleans
I agreed to be best man for degenerate RVI's wedding a while back and
poked around the web and the group of friends to see if it would be best
to fly in and out, maybe swing by Austin, or make a road trip of it and
see New Orleans and other points of call en route. In the end degenerate
DN and I ended up renting a car and putting around 2200 miles on the
thing, most of them intensely boring miles of swamp. But at the end of
each long drive we were rewarded with good times, so buckle up for
safety - it's going to be a whirlwind trip.
The drive through south Georgia and across Alabama is mind-numbingly
dull. We left Thanksgiving morning (I learned my lesson long ago never
to drive on Wednesday before) so the traffic was light enough to speed
along, but not so light that we were the only ones speeding. Fortunately
the rented V6 Kia Sportage handles well and runs smoothly, even
approaching 100mph. The little
SUV was roomy enough for all our luggage and camping gear.
First stop, a Shoney's somewhere in Alabama. A burger and onion rings
for me, the turkey day buffet for DN.
|Then on through the swamps of south Alabama, Mississippi and
Louisiana, chasing the sun to New Orleans, hoping we arrive in
time to see a few things, or at least get a decent meal before
degenerating into after-dark distractions.
||I hate navigating New Orleans. It's one of those towns I can't seem
to get straight in my head. At best, I can remember which way to my
favorite bar once I'm in the French Quarter but outside of that few
blocks of neighborhood everything is an impenetrable maze. And it's not
the safest labyrinth in which to get lost, even in daylight.
||Fortunately, DN brought along a little GPS, which guided us
to our hotel when Googlemap directions failed.
We stayed at
St. Vincent's Guesthouse, a former infants' asylum. The building
is lovely, all brick and wrought iron, thought it could use some
refurbishing inside. The beds are squeaky, sway-backed, and mine
had springs that attempted to stab me to death in my sleep (when
I could get any.) And the bathrooms need a coat of paint and/or
a serious scrub.
But the location was convenient - a $7 cab ride to the French
Quarter or a couple block walk to the trolley line - and the
place was cheap - $60 a night for a double.
St. Vincent's by day.
DN had never been to New Orleans, so we started off on the
most famous street - Bourbon - at a bar named for one of the
city's most famous residents - Jean Lafitte's Absinthe House.
The room was lovely, but at $9 a drink no architectural details
are going to keep me in the place. We quickly fled the main
drag, eventually finding something more to our liking.
||Boondock Saint is on St. Peter a block off Bourbon, close
enough to be near the action but far enough away to have
non-tourist regulars and reasonably priced drinks. The film
Boondock Saints plays on permanent rotation on one of the
screens above the bar while lovely and friendly bartenders sling
drinks. The atmosphere is so easy-going we found ourselves back
there every time we wandered off in search of something else.
We asked some fellow
patrons for a food recommendation but the bartender overheard
and offered us Thanksgiving dinner from the buffet they'd be
setting up later that evening.
So we headed back out into the French Quarter in search of a
snack and some entertainment. If there's anywhere on earth you
can find the two, it's New Orleans. In fact, the first
came to drew us into The Krazy Korner, thanks to the raucous
sounds of an extremely energetic zydeco band.
|Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers had a few moments of
comparative calm, with Dwayne's accordion sounding like an
organ, but then they'd turn up the heat and pretty soon
everything is a furious blur. Seriously badass.
||After a set of the best zydeco I've ever seen we returned to
Boondock Saint in time for the buffet, laid out for the staff
and regulars (which, thanks to Southern hospitality, we became.)
Bartender Jenny B. cooked up the second best turkey I've ever
had, while others brought in trays of Thanksgiving standards,
most homemade and most fantastic. Two plate-fulls later I
needed to walk around a bit.
On a trip down Bourbon we were accosted by a huckster
offering to let us smoke cigars with the ladies in the strip club behind
her. I hadn't been in a strip club that wasn't the Clermont Lounge in...
I can't remember how long. We were cajoled into Sex Acts (the club, not
the activity) where we were immediately hustled by two strippers trying
to talk us into paying more for the VIP lounge. Chris Rock's song No
Sex in the Champagne Room echoed through my head as the ladies
worked us over. Despite one of them being familiar with our former home
town of Dahlonega, they couldn't get us to part with the few dollars we
budgeted for the trip, so eventually they gave up and moved on to other
Rather than pay another $7 for another Bud and watch some less-than-amazing
strippers from some distance in the rather scummy club, we
headed down Bourbon where DN recognized some of the
models on the covers of Hustler posted outside one of the
several joints owned by the magazine on the famed street. I
can't even remember which of the clubs we ended up in, but it
was very nice inside with very attractive dancers who,
ironically, don't hustle the customers as hard as the ones at
Sex Acts. However, a bottle of Coors is $8 - what is this, the
apocalypse? They don't carry Bud and their other beers are even
more expensive. But if you're in town on an expense account I'd
recommend it, if you're into naked ladies.
In the morning we felt exactly like you should when waking up in New
Orleans - hungover, sore feet, and hungry. Fortunately there is Mother's
Restaurant, on Poydras down by the riverwalk, serving shrimp omelets and
perhaps the best biscuits I have ever eaten. I got mine with roast beef
debris. Perfect hangover killer.
We wandered around a bit, seeing the French Quarter by daylight,
including Jackson Square, named after the hero of New
Orleans and my least favorite president.
The line at Cafe du
Monde stretched down the block so we took a gander at the mighty
Mississippi before heading out of town.
||Out through the swamps of Louisiana, some of which still
show the devastation of Katrina and Ike - trees stripped clean
of everything but bare limbs standing in black water as far as
the eye can see for hours and hours.
Finally into Texas where flocks of grackles cover everything as they
migrate south for winter. Can't blame 'em. Unfortunately we're headed
west, and it's only for the weekend.
Again we're racing the sun, this time to San Antonio, and this time
we lose. Brain dead after so many miles of nothing, we finally arrive at
RVI's and settle in for what passes as the bachelor party - a couple of
old dudes, the fiancée and her kids all sitting around swapping stories.