Free, for the moment, from the need to reside in Canada full time, after returning to our house in Tucson, Arizona, I’ve started on a road trip of about 4800 miles / 7700km.
There’s something “zen” about long distance, solo driving for me (Scott) and this trip is no exception. The route is Tucson, Arizona to Lubbock, TX, on to friends in East Texas, a couple of days to party in New Orleans, a visit with a colleague from long ago in St. Petersburg, FL, rendezvous with Kathy in Orlando and a couple of days at Disney, then on to the Florida Keys where Kathy’s dad has a house. And that’s just half way – we still have to drive back to Tucson.
The trip has been long but cathartic. I had initial trepidation: had been “torn” from the comfort of my urban lifestyle in British Columbia to our lovely if relatively (compared to Vancouver) “rural” Arizona home, then after just a few days, starting a road trip, mostly solo eastbound, with no pre-identified time or route back.
Our trusty-steed, a 2007 bright red Toyota RAV4 is much easier to spot in a big, unfamiliar parking lot, and eminently more practical for long distance touring than a dark blue BMW. Much as I miss the bimmer, our little SUV is the right vehicle for us now (much as I remain nostalgic over the Teutonic precision). Anyway… as I write I’m in New Orleans Louisiana at a bed & breakfast outside the din of the French Quarter in the adjacent Faubourg-Maringy neighborhood. Its quiet-ish and you can park a car – both safely and for free. Neither of those is an option “in The Quarter”.
But once en route, armed with trail mix, tortilla chips, a surfeit of pop/soda and enough audiobooks to get us to the at least Argentina (hypothetically), plus our 3rd generation of “Priscilla” (our GPS), I didn’t even need a rendition of “On the Road Again” to experience the joy of The Road Trip.
The first stop was Lubbock, Texas – my first experience with a couchsurfing host, and I picked a great one. I’ll skip the details, but “a good time was had by all”.
Second stop was Gladewater, Texas, a town rural enough that many Texans haven’t heard of it. But it is home to decades-long friends – we’ve seen their kids grown into adulthood, experiencing some of their growing pains (and their parents’) vicariously. They’ve all turned out well, and two out of the three find themselves back in Gladewater. The visit was short but sweet – just two nights – and the next, about 400 miles across Texas and Louisiana, I find myself in…
I’ve been here many times – perhaps a dozen times. The city is at the same time dynamic and invariant: on one block are scenes I remember from being here in the 1990s, yet others have changed completely. Case in point North Rampart street; when I was first coming to N.O. I was admonished not set foot there particularly a night. Walking along it today towards Armstrong Park, I noticed the signs for “luxury condos”. At the same time, New Orleans institutions – Cafe du Monde; many of the French Quarter joints – are frozen in time.
As I age (I am 57 + 11/12ths as I write this), my reasons for coming to New Orleans shift. A decade ago (still not exactly a youngster) I was attracted to the French Quarter “scene”, the drunken adolescent revelry I never really experienced as an adolescent, as if I could somehow reclaim that period of my life vicariously. Now it is more nostalgic: old haunts whether visited or not; restaurants that I associate with some long-ago pleasant memory. I guess it doesn’t really matter why I return, only that it is enjoyable and… harmless. I was about to stop at an old-favorite bar but I was a bit hungry. I asked for recommendations and they suggested a place with which I was already familiar. After a tasty burger there I’d lost the motivation to hang out a bar, and headed back to my comfy bed. The previous night’s Bacchanal might have contributed to that decision. Perhaps I DO learn from my excesses.
I did a couple of different things (from past visits) in New Orleans. First, I went on a long rectangular walk from the Faubourg-Maringy neighborhood where I was staying, out to Armstrong Park (which is lovely), down to the CBD (Central Business District) – and along the way I stumbled upon Covenant House (I volunteer with them in Vancouver). We chatted for a while, comparing the needs and offerings between the two “chapters”. Vancouver (to my knowledge) doesn’t do anything special for the change in weather: New Orleans has special programs for when the weather is freezing – uncommon there but dangerous. Otherwise, the programs themselves and the clientele are about the same. It was an interesting happenstance. Along the way back to my B&B, I had a “Ferdi Special” at old favorite “Mothers” in the CBD. Costs more, but still delightful. That evening I met up with a fellow (Vancouver) volunteer – Sofia – and her husband — we’d been working together and discovered we’d both be in New Orleans at the same time. Remarkable coincidence (and nice to have company).
Next: Bob Hessinger after 30 years, a meet with The Mouse, and holidays in the Keys. Watch this space.