On Thursday, March 3rd I kissed Chloe goodbye and ventured off into the quiet darkness of a Spring Raleigh morning. The sun was just poking through the clouds as I veered onto I-85 South into Durham. Interstate 85 was the first of many roads that would lead me to the last unexplored area of the United States (for me that is). I have been to Atlanta many times but have never traveled deeper into the pine savannas and arid deserts with cacti, and tumbleweeds that characterize the
Once through Atlanta, I jumped on I-65 through the Florida panhandle and into Mobile, Alabama. Alabama was full of green as Spring was in full bloom. Pine plantations and apple orchards lined the highway to Florida and one of the only routes that traverses the entire U.S. Interstate 10 is the southernmost route that connects the East and West coasts with 2,600 miles of pavement. It's official name is the "Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway".
My extended stay in Florida of twenty minutes began when I realized I had forgotten to bring cash for camping. Apparently grocery stores in Florida are not aware of cash back. My request for cash back on a purchase of chocolate, graham crackers, and marsh mellows was turned down by the cashier. She looked at me like I was trying to steal money... maybe I could pay for the campsite with smores!
My bad luck quickly turned into a string of misfortune as the campsite, Shepard State Park, in Biloxi, Mississippi was closed upon my arrival. Darkness had taken hold as I continued driving through Mississippi and into Louisiana with no end in sight. At this point I had already been on the road for 13 hours. I seriously debated sleeping at the Louisiana welcome center / rest area. Then it hit me, New Orleans was not far and if I stayed there I would have less driving tomorrow. Thanks to expedia.com I booked a cheap $50 room in New Orleans where I could get a good night sleep. At least that is what I thought would happen.
As I pulled onto St. Charles Street to check in at the hotel I heard a deafening noise. Then I saw people running in every direction, intoxicated with layers of beads dangling from their necks. It turns out I was in the middle of the first wave of what is formally known as Mardi Gras. I have never seen so many people in one area in my life. People (grandparents, adults, teenagers, college students, babies) standing on ladders, dancing in the streets and fighting over items launched from the giant floats. The parade went on for hours with police, floats, bands and dancers marching down the street till midnight. Nothing beat the old men dressed in tight gym shorts, headbands and tube socks dancing to "Give it to me baby" (See video below).
Day Two - Friday March 4, 2011
After a short sleep I headed out into a much quieter downtown New Orleans. As I left the city I was able to see the Super Dome where the citizens of New Orleans hid from Hurricane Katrina. I can't image what that must of have been like especially with the roof issues.
While driving westward on route 10 you can still see houses destroyed from Katrina. Much of the damage came from the flooding when the levies of Lake Ponchartrain (below) gave out. In Louisiana, route 10 is almost entirely a causeway. Just miles and miles of bridge. I was surprised to see that some Louisianans lived in shacks on the water below the causeway. Another interesting fact about Louisiana is that the state is divided into 64 parishes. To me, the word "parish" has always been a religious term. Signs along route 10 announced the entry to New Orleans parish and Baton Rouge parish. This was interesting to me because the word "parish" has always been used as a religious term.
Somehow I managed to arrive right on time to sit for hours during the morning commute into Baton Rouge. My drive time had to be perfect to meet Lisa at the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) when she arrived at 3:30pm Central Time. The morning was quickly turning into afternoon as I yo-yo'd with semis and pick up trucks. Everyone in the South East has a 4 wheel drive pick up truck... everyone. Eventually the traffic subsided and I cruised across the Sabine (Spanish for cypress) River into Texas. After driving for two days and 1000 miles I was finally in the Lone Star state!