Well, we did well heading south! By the end of the day we were at the Louisiana border and everyone was sounding very southern - as a consequence, we both sounded very English, it's very strange hearing yourself talk in a place like this! :-)
This was prehaps the 5th night on the trip we couldn't find anyplace to camp. The state park had shut the camping for the season and the RV parks were all closed up for the night, so we headed into a little town in search of a motel. We found one - £17 a night! It was you typical cheap motel, we even had a dead cockroach in the corner, lol! But the bedding was clean so that did us, it was also a bit warmer and Dan's toothpaste didn't freeze which was a bonus. We got a pizza from Pizza Hut, I think we were hte only people in town that night and settled down for a night in front of the tele (which means I got to watch Basketball all night, heaven :-) ).
The next morning was Dan's Birthday! Wahoo! 36 Today! I'd managed to sneakly get him a pair of long fingered Mountain biking gloves without him knowing at Rim Cyclery in Moab so I think he was quite pleased, although he then moaned because apparently that means he's got to buy me a pressie on my birthday. Grumpy git. Although I'd planned to cook him pancakes for breakfast as we were in a carpark next to the road we passed on that idea and just got going instead.
We were only abou 4 hours from New Orleans so pushed on only stopping for lunch at a Drive Inn which was quite cool! We'd planned to visit one of the old Plantation Houses on the Mississippi and have a look around the City before heading to the French Quater. We arrived a bit late to get all that done, so resolved to do the Plantation house tomorrow and headed into the city.
We looked around in the best way possible - we got lost! Well, not really, I knew we were rounghly heading in the right direction, but the devestation from Katrina was still plainly evident. Beautiful old houses were standing either half in ruin or abandoned and borded up, the roads were more like a rollercoaster ride and I was quite glad we had Charlie Camel and not my little Mini as I think getting down some of them would have been interesting! Everywhere you looked though there were messages of definance, many houses had sprayed on the boarded up windows 'we'll be back!' and you oculd see people working to clear debris. There were RV's and caravans scattered outside houses obviously holding the occupants whilst they worked to repair their properties yet everywhere we went people waved and smiled at Charlie, clearly the only way to cope is to get on with things!
The thing to remember - Katrina came through in 2005.. we're now in late 2007.. can you imagine neighbourhoods in New York or Washington still being in ruin over two years later? These neighbourhoods need help and I don't think they're getting it.
10blocks later and we were in the French Quarter - this is on higher land and was largly uneffected by the flooding. Well, the buildings were, apparently most of th workers come from the 80% of New Orleans that was effected so the businesses lost alot of workers and tourists that cancelled vacations, taking a hit financially. It is a stunningly beautiful part of the city with French/Spanish and Mexican influences in the buildings, this is clearly the toursit part of town as we looked at an old Paddle Steamer and the large numbers of bars and cafes.
We did our bit to boost the local economy by having a few beers in a micro brewery ;-) and of course to celebrate Dan's birthday.
As darkness drew in it was clearly time to find a place to camp so we headed out to one of the local state parks. 8ish miles on the map and 20odd later we found it, nice and secluded with free wifi (lol!), clean showers, free laundary... mm, why so many facilities? Ok, there's Aligators (which grow upto 20ft), Lynx, Coyote's... quite glad we've got the rooftent then! Still, a bargin at $18.
Birthday Pancakes this morning: