Today was a great day!! I can’t think of a better way to spend New Year’s. We finally left the hotel room at 2 PM after resting from our late night on Bourbon St. This is Jeff”s first trip to New Orleans so we had to go back to Cafe Du Monde. Along the way, we made some very interesting stops. First, the Cigar Factory; stepping into the store felt like crossing the ocean to Cuba. There is not a thing in the store that I would want to purchase, especially in my condition. However, it was still very entertaining to watch these folks hand roll their cigars.
Next, we caught some more great street entertainment. We rolled up to some acrobats just as they were about to perform their “Leap of Death.” With several audience members lined up on the ground, a performer did a flying front flip over them landing on the ground in a somersault; impressive! There was also a ZZ Top looking guy on a newspaper stand dressed and painted to look like a statue. Jeff joined him to display how it’s really done; far more convincing.
Then, we made it back to Cafe Du Monde. I challenged Jeff to go head to head with the beignets. After 4 1/2 beignets and a cup of cafe au lait, I was super energetic for about an hour before I crashed hard.
After walking around the French Quarter shops for about an hour, and crashing from Cafe Du Monde, I needed some lunch quick! We ate at the Napoleon House, a historic building originally intended to house Napoleon after he had been exiled. Their outdoor courtyard was like an oasis from the city. I had some jambalaya and loaded it up with Louisiana hot sauce. Come to find out it was already very spicy, but I managed to work through the pain and eat it all. Overall, not the New Orleans jambalaya I was looking forward to, but still good.
After several days in the city, I was ready for a change of pace. I grew up in the country, feel most relaxed in the country. For our next destination we chose a hotel in the parish of Houma, LA. As we rode through the countryside we came across a stretch of the highway with a firework stand on each side of the road. I grew up with an addiction to fireworks. As kids, our grandparents would bring my brothers and I an arsenal of fireworks on their drive home from Florida each year. We would divide, trade, and anticipate the fireworks until we finally lit them off on the 4th of July.
I couldn’t resist reliving this childhood fascination. We turned around and went back to one of the stands. I asked the salesman for their single best piece. What did he recommend? The chopper!! Seeing that New Years was practically over, and they were packing up to head home, I asked for a discounted price from the listed price of $39.95. After much hesitation, he reluctantly told me he would give me $5 off. Just for fun I had to push him, “$7 off and its sold.” Annoyed with my miserly ways, he agreed.
I was excited and ready to light it off. We were already in the middle of nowhere, so I looked for the first side road. The perfect spot, a farm field access road. Not my first choice Uncle Kevin, but Jeff insisted. With the steady wind, I struggled to get the lighter to stay lit. As I stood in the pitch dark field for several minutes trying to get a flame, I couldn’t help but think about all of the Louisiana wildlife that were probably lurking. We set the car up for a quick escape, and when the road was clear I finally lit it off. It was very impressive; a great New Year’s celebration.
With muddy feet, we all loaded into the car and hit the road. A little way down, we stopped at a gas station/casino. While Shannon and Mom picked up some snacks, Jeff and I decided to try our luck at the slots. I risked it all, $1, on Bayou Poker. That gave me four hands, and I lost all four. Jeff doubled down and fed the machine another $1. Now we’re both broke. However, we happened to be there just as they were performing a raffle for everyone in the casino, all 12 of us. How could we lose with these odds? Again, we lost. It had to be rigged??
As we met up with Mom and Shannon, they had an equally interesting experience. They were intrigued with some alligator heads on the display. When they inquired about where they come from, the clerk told them they are all over the area and routinely block traffic as they cross roads. Reading Shannon and Mom’s shocked reaction, she replied “you’re not from around here are you?” I always think in terms of movies, and in this case Deliverance quickly came to mind. So glad I didn’t know about the gators before standing in the pitch dark in the middle of the field by a drainage ditch.
We reached the hotel and settled in for the night. Exhausted we decided to grab some microwavable dinners from the hotel rather than heading back out. After some good ole Kraft mac n cheese we had a new years toast with champagne. Dad, or at least his photo, stopped by on his bike to join us; you’re here with us everyday Dad!