8/7/09

Stage 6: New Orleans, LA - Wildwood, TX

India and I awoke remarkably well rested after our night in New Orleans. We had given ourselves plenty of time to get out of town and on the road to Texas in case we ended up making a late night of it, but now we were left with the morning and noontime to kill. Naturally, we woke with a craving for coffee and beignets, so we rousted Burns, cleared a back seat in the car and headed for the French Quarter and Café du Monde. Again, if you’ve been to New Orleans and haven’t been to Café du Monde, you’ve been running with the wrong crowd and have been painfully and sadly misled. A café au lait and order of 3 beignets is all you need to start your day properly in the Quarter. Something about drinking hot coffee on a humid 90-degree morning makes the strangest kind of sense; not when you fisrt think about it, but when that first sip hits your lips then your stomach and starts to heat you up from the inside to match the air around you, the stars begin to align and you get the slightest glimpse of the natural order of things, the way that the world is still trying to work, and the thought that maybe everything really will be alright in the end. In another, though less metaphysical epiphany, we realized that it is practically impossible to eat beignets heaped with powdered sugar without sullying your black shorts. Maybe this is why all the local Quarter folks seem to be wearing white pants…

But, we didn’t come to the Quarter this August morning just for breakfast. We had a mission: to seek out a famous bar called Pat O’Brien’s and purchase a Hurricane glass for India’s grandfather, Dick Miller. Her grandfather made occasional trips to New Orleans when he was in college at Mississippi State and frequented Patty O’s. In those days, when you bought a hurricane you paid an extra dollar as a deposit on the glass. When you returned it unbroken, you got your dollar back. I can’t even imagine how many of the tall, thin curvy glasses wound up smashed on the patio bricks and the stone floor of the piano bar by the end of the night, but one glass had been safely carried through the madness, out of the French Quarter, and through all the years in between by India’s grandfather. Then, Hurricane Ike tore through the Texas gulf coast, right over the Millers’ longtime home on the Bolivar Peninsula, and all the way inland to Houston before it was downgraded from hurricane status. Their home was wiped off the map, replaced with a field of mud. They recovered what they could, including a most of a set of prized heirloom china that had been miraculously preserved in a protective casing of mud and silt, but the hurricane glass was lost to the wind, water, and mud. We thought (inspired by India’s sister, Ajyra) that a new hurricane glass from Pat O’Brien’s might make a nice housewarming present for their new home in Wildwood, Texas. We knew that O’Brien’s was off Bourbon, but the tight, narrow streets of the Quarter tend to confuse even Burns, our faithful local guide. We marched around the quarter for a while to find Bourbon Street, and then walked nearly the length of Rue Bourbon to find destination, just around the corner on St. Peter. The door was open, the air inside cool, dark and inviting. We found the atmosphere to be a welcome change from the sweltering heat outside, took our seats at the bar and ordered three waters and a hurricane glass. As we sat and sipped, between conversations about Burns’s experience teaching English in China, enforced national pride, and the Chinese way of eating, I realized that it would be a shame to make a gift of a hurricane glass that had never had a hurricane in it, so I asked the bartender to fill ‘er up. Burns followed suit and ordered an Abita, while India stuck smartly to the water. The hurricane was delicious, but nowhere could I find a recipe for the tasty, fruity rum drink aside from buying a jug of their special drink mix. Too bad. If anyone out there reading this has a reputable and authentic recipe for a New Orleans Hurricane, let me know. Feeling the rum doing a happy dance in my belly, we finished our drinks, rinsed the treasured glass and made our way back out into the street for another wander to the car, parked somewhere off Esplanade. We found our way with the help of a kooky old French woman on her way to happy hour on her day off, scorched our bottoms on the flaming hot leather seats, and headed back to Burns’s place uptown to pack up and head out.

We said our goodbyes to Burns and Maxx the house cat, climbed into the car expecting a quick 3-1/2 hour drive to Wildwood, a small community outside Beaumont, TX. We were expected for dinner around 6:00, and expected no real trouble or delays. However, we were soon informed that our quick and easy drive would take somewhere around 6 hours, making us woefully late for dinner. "Well, we'll get there when we get there," we said to ourselves, and resolved to do the drive as quickly as possible, with minimal stops for food, gas, or nature breaks. On the way, we crossed over the mighty Mississippi River, passing into a land unknown and unexplored, the western frontier that our adventure will take us across, all the way to the edge of the great North American continent and our final destination in Portland, Oregon. Please forgive the poor quality of these photos. Taking photos from a car moving at 70mph with a bug-splat-strewn windshield is not an easy job.

Up...

Across...

And Over!

We blazed west across the remainder of Lousisana and made the all-important border crossing into Texas, a state wrapped in family history for India and both her parents.

We were soon welcomed by a beautiful, big Texas sunset.

Next to getting to Portland and riding some of the best singletrack in the country, getting my Texas education was a big priority for this trip, but we had no time for history lessons tonight. A chunk of eastern Texas still lay between us and our final destination. We cruised through Beaumont, turned north toward Wildwood and made the trip in less than 5 hours, but still much too late for a steak dinner with the grandparents. The Millers greeted us warmly in the driveway when we arrived around 9:30, and we presented them with our little housewarming present. As happy as everyone was to see each other, the celebrations would have to wait. We made some quick sausage and cheese sandwiches for a light dinner, washed it down with a cold beer, and climbed into a comfortable bed, thoroughly worn out.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Ryan & India, I'm really enjoying your transcontinental odyssey blog! Ryan, you are an excellent writer...you know me from my quilts, I know you from your words..and I am impressed. Welcome to the west and we hope you live long and prosper here (with nods to Star Trek). love to you both--Amy in San Diego

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  2. Noting Evidence A ,'Up...', your trip across The eastern United States rivals the holocaust... I do know one thing for sure,

    Hitler was never a King.

    All in all, I'm chalking this one up as a win due to that my heart for the two of you far outweighs any fondness for the continuum of insects that stretch the bayou.

    To get an omelette, ya gotta crack a few eggs...

    Nothing but a little blood on your hands... it'll wash out.

    Glad the trip is going so well.

    Sam_

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  3. By the way, the aforementioned photo the middle 1/3 of a black desktop on my powerbook.

    The entomological remnants of the shield lend a wonderful patina.

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