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New Orleans - 2007

Page 2 - New Orleans to Calgary


In spite of all our stops at every tourist attraction between Calgary and New Orleans, we finally made it to our "planned" destination and within our time guidelines. Karen had a mixture of excitement and sadness we drove into New Orleans as it was her first visit and unfortunately it was after "Katrina". We had both followed the news and seen the devastation either on TV or online but it's not the same as seeing it firsthand. I made the trip with my sister the first summer after the hurricane and it had been much worse then.
2007 - New Orleans Photo Album

To Page 1 - Calgary to New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

We finally made it. It didn't seem to take as long as we figured and we were pretty well on track timewise.

We managed to find canal street and get a hotel with surprising ease (especially since I was driving and big cities and I don't get along well). We'd already decided we weren't driving around ourselves and would do city tours, cab it or walk to our destinations. Works for me. It was still early in the day so we headed down to the marketplace. Before anything else, I needed to introduce Karen to beignets - a french donut laden with sticky messy icing sugar.

The Marketplace and Cafe du Mode

After a relaxing coffee and the beignets at Cafe du Mode, we headed to the Marketplace. We had to buy beads, masks, boas, every other trinket we could find, and, of course, gifts for the dogs and cats.

Karen ended up buying a suitcase (red! can you believe?) just to pack all the stuff she had purchased along the way. So? Why am I the one holding it?

We hired (for a fortune) one of the horse and buggy taxis and headed back to the hotel. Of course, Bourbon Street was on the agenda for tonight. You can't come to New Orleans and not hit Bourbon Street - can you?

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street (French: Rue Bourbon) is a famous and historic street that runs the length of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. When founded in 1718, the city was originally centered around the French Quarter. New Orleans has since expanded, but "The Quarter" remains the cultural hub, and Bourbon Street is the street best known by visitors.

The most frequented section of Bourbon Street is "Upper Bourbon Street", an eight-block section of popular tourist attractions. The street is home to many bars, restaurants, strip clubs, as well as T-shirt and souvenir shops. The upper end of Bourbon Street towards Canal Street is home to many of the French Quarter's strip clubs. A place where just about anything goes.

We strolled up and down the street, stopped in at a Blues Bar for a drink, wandered in and out of the novelty shops and I just had to pose with one of New Orlean's finest. There were police officers everywhere and they were friendly - mingling socially with the crowd. Their presence was felt but not feared. What a concept!!!

Even representatives from the fire department are part of the hospitality package. They bring the fire trucks and park them in the middle of the street. After walking for hours, Karen was starting to poop out, but as you can see from the picture below, I was just getting started - and I only had one drink.

Our Tour Guide - Jamie

City Tour

The next day we went on a combination City/Katrina tour. Our guide, Jamie, was born and raised in New Orleans and her commentary was knowledgeable, informative and occasionally opinionated. She gave us a personal feel for what the people of the city had been going through. Exceptional tour guide.

We first toured the city sites and points of interest, then the Garden District and eventually, St. Charles Ave. which is where many of the old mansions are located. It was amazing to see the amount of reconstruction still going on.
Garden District
Garden District
Coffee Break
Cemetery

After the Garden District, we stopped for refreshments and washroom break before stepping out into the heat at the cemetery. Jamie and her assistant took us through the grounds, first of all explaining why graves are above ground and how burials take place. There are 42 cemeteries in New Orleans and on high ground, caskets are buried underground like most other places. 

Cities of the Dead

Where water tables are high, burials are above ground and various types of vaults, tombs, crypts, and mausoleums house numerous members of a family. Walls of individual vaults are usually found on the outside edges of cemeteries and often served a dual purpose as a perimeter fence.

The severity of hurricane Katrina caused caskets to float out of cemeteries just as though they had been buried in swampland.

Katrina Shambles
Katrina Shambles
Codes - Search for Victims
Rebuilding after Katrina

Jamie gave us a thorough description of how searches were carried out for survivors. The codes written on the house in red spray paint describe who searched, when, and what the outcome was. The zero in bottom quadrant means "no bodies found".

We heard the horror stories first-hand of people missing and assumed to have left the city, to be found months later in the attics of their homes where they were trapped and died because they had no way to get through the roof.

The city is definitely rebuilding but as of last year, about 50% of the population had not returned and it is going to be slow in healing. Tourism is the one commodity New Orleans has managed to hang onto and it will likely be it's salvation. Tourist dollars will help rebuild this magnificent, historical city so if you have the opportunity to visit, don't pass it up. Invest in tours. You get to see all areas in safety and comfort and the hassle of traffic, parking and restricted areas become non-existent.


Houston, Texas

We stopped overnight at Houston and visited my sister. We enjoyed a lovely visit, went for a walk with the dogs and then Karen cooled off with a dip in the pool. Ricky, the german shepherd, jumped in and went swimming with her. The dogs obviously "rule the roost" and Lois and Bruce are the "hired help".

Next morning, while we were packing the car and saying our goodbyes, a thunderstorm rolled in and the humidity was so thick you could slice it with a knife. As we were driving out of Houston, we left the black clouds in the rear view mirror, the sun broke through and it was clear skies ahead.


San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the second-largest city in the state of Texas and the seventh largest city in the United States. One of our original goals of this trip was to get to San Antonio and tour the site of the Alamo. I had been there in 2005 and I really wanted Karen to see some of the highlights.

Riverwalk

We got a motel and cabbed it downtown to the Riverwalk area. We went to the Imax theatre and viewed the historical movie about the Alamo, did a bit of shopping and then hopped on the boat tour around the canals.

The San Antonio Riverwalk is a 2 1/2 mile stretch of beautifully landscaped waterfront. Along it are spectacular hotels, restaurants, night clubs, bars, shopping centers and businesses. By the time the round trip boat tour was over, it was dark and most of the stores closed. We hailed a cab and paid close attention to the roads he took to get back to the hotel so we could drive back the next morning to the Alamo.

The Alamo

The Battle of the Alamo between the Republic of Mexico and the rebel Texan forces during the Texas Revolution took place at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas from February 23rd to March 6th, 1836.

Despite the siege of the Alamo by the Republic of Mexico, the 13-day holdout stalled the Mexican Army enough to allow Sam Houston to gather troops and supplies for his later success at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. The Alamo, established as a dusty outpost of the Spanish Empire in 1718, was the first of San Antonio's missions to be founded. Construction began on the present site in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio's five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents.

We took so many pictures that day, it was difficult to decide which ones to choose. I have a feeling I will someday have to come back and add a section to this site, specifically dedicated to the Alamo.

Alamo - Wikipedia

After spending most of the morning at the Alamo Mission, we headed out of town. Being a diehard Country Music fan, I wanted to see "Luckenbach" since it wasn't far from San Antonio. Turned out it was just an hour or so northwest of the city off I-10 and was quite easy to find.


Luckenbach, Texas
This tiny hill country hamlet where "Everybody’s Somebody" was established as a Trading Post in 1849. The Post Office/ General Store/ Beer Joint, was first opened in 1886 by August Engel, an itinerant preacher from Germany. In 1970, Luckenbach, which remained in the hands of the Engel family the whole time, fell into eclipse. Benno Engel retired as postmaster and placed an ad in the local paper “TOWN FOR SALE” lock, stock and dancehall.

Luckenbach was purchased by Hondo Crouch, Guich Koock and Kathy Morgan. The trio began to use the nearly-abandoned buildings as a backdrop for anything that smacked of mirth and diversion: “Hug-Ins”, a Luckenbach World’s Fair, Ladies State Chili Bust, the Mud Dauber Festival — and daily sessions of song-picking, domino playing and beer drinking beneath the 500-year-old oak trees.

Today, over thirty years later, these events are still celebrated and the pickers are still pickin’ out under the big oak trees.

Luckenbach Texas is a "State of Mind", where you can kick back, relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life like a step back in time. Luckenbach was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

Luckenbach Website

"Luckenbach Texas" became a massive hit for Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, bringing Luckenbach to its ultimate worldwide fame. Tour buses and tourists from around the world began to make Luckenbach a regular stop when visiting Fredericksburg area attractions. Willie Nelson returns to Luckenbach annually for his 4th of July Picnic with thousands of his closest friends.

On stage this week - Willie, Waylon and ME.

Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg, named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, is seventy miles west of Austin in the heart of Texas Hill Country. The town was one of a series of German settlements from the Texas coast to the land north of the Llano River. The first wagon train of 120 settlers arrived from New Braunfels on May 8, 1846, after a sixteen-day journey. Each settler received one town lot and ten acres of farmland nearby.

We discovered the National Museum of the Pacific War and George Bush Gallery just off the main street as well as a motel village of rustic cabins in a park-like setting in the heart of town. They were absolutely charming.

Not far from the cabins, we also found an old German cemetery we toured briefly. The town seemed to be very tourist friendly with an abundance of B & B's advertised.


Highway I-10, Texas
It's about a 500 mile stretch between Fredericksburg and El Paso and not a lot in between. We did find a massive growth of cactus along the road and the state historic park of Fort Lancaster on a hilltop but no gas stations. C'mon people, this is an interstate!!!!
Just as we were down to fumes, we came upon a turnoff that indicated fuel and we pulled off. The station was the only building as far as you can see in any direction at the junction of Hwy 11 and I-10 near Bakersfield and it was closed but at least allowed prepaid self-serve. With a replenished tank of fuel, we were now in search of a place to "freshen up" without fear of cactus needles poking our behinds.
About 30 miles from the station, we drove into Fort Stockton and smack dab in front of us was this wonderful sign we'd grown to love. I should mention Karen and I have a food fetish. We go out of our way to find an IHOP just for their desserts.

Banana Caramel French Toast (Karen's favourite)
Stuffed with banana cream, this diamond-shaped French toast is drizzled with caramel, walnuts and sliced, fresh bananas. Dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with whipped topping.

Original Stuffed French Toast (My favourite)
Cinnamon-raisin French toast stuffed with sweet cream cheese filling, topped with powdered sugar, and your choice of fruit topping:cool strawberry, blueberry or cinnamon-apple. Crowned with whipped topping.

Not only did we not run out of gas, we found an IHOP with clean washrooms and the friendliest young lad to wait on us. Just how much better can it get when you're on the road??

After a relaxing meal and daylight burning, we crawled back into the car and added another 150 miles to the speedometer before retiring for the night at Van Horn, TX.


El Paso, Texas - The Mission Trail

El Paso lies at the far western tip of Texas, where the Rio Grande breaks through the rugged mountains to bring water to the harsh Chihuahuan Desert. Though the surrounding landscape is dominated by desert scrub growth on the low hills and mountain sides, the river valley is fertile supporting a variety of trees and plants.

These two mission churches are located along the El Paso Mission Trail. They are privately owned by the Catholic Diocese and are actively supported by their local parishes. They are listed in the National Register Historic Places.

El Paso Mission Trail

San Elizario Presidio Chapel
Socorro Mission

Spain sought to protect its interests in the northern frontier by establishing a network of presidios (military forts). A presidio was built in 1684. The settlement that grew up around the presidio became known as San Elizario.

The flood of 1829 destroyed the original chapel, which was rebuilt in the same vicinity. The present-day chapel was completed in 1882. Since then, the exterior of the building has changed little, except for the front facade. The interior was damaged by fire in 1935 and has experienced dramatic changes.

Socorro founded October 13, 1680, took its name from Socorro, New Mexico, from which the Piro Indians fled following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. When the 1740 flood destroyed the original structure, the parishioners replaced it nearby. That second structure was also lost to flooding in 1829. Rebuilding was completed in 1843.

The mission was completely restored through a ten-year, community-based collaboration and reopened for use with a Mass on December 7, 2005.


Silver City, New Mexico

From El Paso, we followed I-10 north into New Mexico and west to Hwy 180 where we got off the interstate and back into touring. Hwy 180 took us to Silver City, another town rich in history of the old west.

Once an Apache Indian campsite, later the boyhood home of the notorious gunslinger Billy the Kid, and more recently a silver and copper mining boomtown, Silver City, New Mexico (pop. 12,500) is as strikingly beautiful as it is historic. Cradled nearly 6,000 feet high in the rolling Pinos Altos Mountains, the town is adjacent to both the Gila Wilderness and the Continental Divide. Recently selected as one of America's healthiest places to live and retire, Silver City boasts a mild climate, Victorian charm and low-key lifestyle that have long attracted visitors.

1870’s era log cabin situated next to Billy the Kid’s home site. Producer/director, Ron Howard, donated the cabin after fabricating it for his 2003 movie, “The Missing,” situated in 1885 New Mexico Territory, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, and Val Kilmer.

Silver City began as a rip-roarin' tent town in the spring of 1870, when a silver bonanza was discovered one half mile west of the present-day courthouse. Within less than a year, over eighty buildings had been constructed,, and in 1871, Silver City became the seat of Grant County. When the boom ended, the people stayed.

In those early years of development, all of southwestern New Mexico was plagued by Apache raids. Bands of these fierce warriors roamed the area, led by famous chiefs such as Chato, Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves), Nana, Natchez and Victorio. Because of the rough terrain and strategic lookout points, the impenetrable Gila Wildness area was an important stronghold where the Apaches felt safe from US Army pursuit. Geronimo is said to have been born in the Gila Wilderness area.

In the late 1800's, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were familiar with every saloon and "soiled dove" in Silver City. Between robberies, they worked as cowhands at a nearby ranch. Billy the Kid spent his early years in Silver City, and his childhood home is now the downtown site of the distinctive Murray Ryan Visitor's Center.

We weren't able to tour this area but researched it when we got home. The City of Rocks and multitude of ghost towns in the area definitely put Silver City on a high priority list for us to revisit.


Four Corners

From Silver City, we followed Hwy 180 northwest into Arizona connecting with Hwy 191 at Alpine. At this point we were concerned about finding a motel before dusk so we boogied up to I-40 and found a nice little motel called the "Chieftain Inn".

The next morning we pulled into the adjoining gas station to fill up and nearly had a stroke at the exorbitant prices on the pumps. This was June/07 and throughout our travels, average prices were $2.90 to $3.30 /gal. Their price was $4.19/gal. In all the miles we'd put on over the years, this was truly the first time we'd come across outright price gouging. We put in only enough gas to get us to the next major stop, got back onto I-40 and then north on Hwy 191 again. At the very next station, the gas was $2.88/gal. It puts a whole new meaning into the phrase "highway robbery".

After several road trips in and around this area we finally managed to make it to the Four Corners Monument. This is the only point in the United States where four states meet (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado).

The Four Corners marker was erected in 1912. In 1992 the original cement pad was replaced by granite with bronze disks for the four state seals.

A visitor can put hands and feet in all four states at the same time which, of course, Karen and I had to do.

Navajo vendors sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods nearby.


Bluff, Utah
Bluff is bordered on the south by the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation, to the east by farmland to the west by vast panoramic landscapes of Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley, and to the north, 300-foot sandstone bluffs, from which it derived its name.
Bluff was founded in 1880 by the famous "Hole in the Rock" expedition of Mormon pioneers, whose mission was to establish a farming community on the San Juan River. The pioneers built their cabins in close proximity to each other to form a fort.
Our visit to Bluff is never complete unless we stop at Twin Rocks Cafe, a delightful gift shop and cafe at the foot of a pair of natural sandstone towers. Of course, it couldn't possibly be the gift shop that draws us. Each year we head home with more treasures than a couple of pirates.

Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods Slideshow

Valley of the Gods is a small scale version of Monument Valley, but, without a doubt equally as impressive and beautiful. There is a 17 mile trail winding its way through the Valley connecting Highway 163 to Highway 261 at the bottom of Cedar Mesa. Although the trail is relatively well maintained, it can be very rough and bumpy and subject to washouts. Some areas have rocks exposed from the shifting sands and scraping bottom is a strong possibility.

There are no tour busses or tourist traps in the area. There are no gas stations, gift shops, coffee shops, washrooms, and rarely any other tourists. Most are hesitant to bring their vehicles on the trail.

However, the solitude and serenity of the area is well worth the extra hour it takes us to get through it. And, of course, as is always our delight, it leads us right to Highway 261.

Valley of the Gods - BLM Website


Highway 261, Utah

I wish there was a way to put a feeling into a photograph!! Highway 261 is definitely a "feeling". Take a supply of nitro and depends just in case.

Highway 261 Page

This route provides some excellent scenery and some nice overlooks, but it is not for those who are afraid of heights. Karen and I have come to claim it as our own special road.

5 mph? How about 3 mph just to be on the safe side? Stay on the designated roads? OK sure. No problem. Where else would I want to go? Where the "designated road" ends a 1100 foot cliff starts - straight down!! Did I mention - no guardrails?


Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area established in 1972, covers 1,254,429 acres of mostly desert, encompassing the area around Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. The recreation area borders Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park on the north, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on the west, and Grand Canyon National Park on the south.

Capitol Reef National Park to Torrey
On August 2, 1937, in Proclamation 2246, President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef area, making it a National Monument. An Act to Establish The Capitol Reef National park in the State of Utah - became Public Law 92-207 when it was signed by President Nixon on December 18, 1971.
Capitol Reef National Park is 10 miles east of the town of Torrey, and 37 miles west of the town of Hanksville.

Behunin Cabin

In 1882 Elijah Cutler Behunin and his family built this cabin, and stayed a brief time until the rising river washed out their crops. Behunin was one of the first settlers in the area.

A family of ten liver here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor. Ends of dress materials became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in, and a water supply near the door. The family probably ate outside.

Father, mother, and the two smallest children slept in the cabin. The post bed almost filled one side of the room. By widening a dugout in the cliff, the older boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a bed in an old wagon box.

Fruita

Fruita is the best-known settlement in Capitol Reef National Park in Wayne County, Utah. It is located at the confluence of Fremont River and Sulphur Creek.

It was established in 1880 by Mormons under the name "Junction"and then became known as Fruita. In 1900 Fruita was named The Eden of Wayne County for its large orchards.

Today only a few buildings remain, except for the restored schoolhouse and the Gifford house and barn. The orchards remain, now under the ownership of the National Park Service, and have about 2,500 trees. The orchards are preserved by the NPS as a "historic landscape" and a small crew takes care of them, pruning, irrigating,replanting, and spraying.

The one-room schoolhouse was built and opened in 1896. The few students were instructed mainly in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but when the teachers were capable, they also studied other subjects such as history or geography. The room was also used for balls and religious services. It was renovated in 1966 by the National Park Service.

Hanksville

We stayed at Hanksville for the night. We would have liked to stay at Torrey but it was just too late in the day and we figured there would be "no vacancy" if we kept going.

At the junction of Route 24 and Route 95 there is a unique gas station called appropriately "hollow mountain gas and grocery" and the store is built right into the rock.

Torrey

Torrey is in Wayne County in the south central part of Utah ten miles from Capitol Reef National Park. The town was settled in the 1880’s by Mormon pioneers. The population of the town itself is 120.

Karen and I stayed in Torrey in 2005 so it was fun to stop here again. We loaded up on goodies at the General Store before heading out for the day's travel.


Homeward Bound
Although we were still a very long way from home, for the better part our trip was basically ended. We traveled up highway 24 to Salina, connected with I-15 and home.

There is nothing prettier than Montana in the spring. Everything was so lush through the Wolf Creek Canyon area.

Before we knew it, we were back at the border.

Karen bought so many souvenirs and gifts this year, she knew she was over the allowable "free" limit at customs and was dreading the outcome. With a sinking heart, she handed her tallied receipts to the official behind the counter and after several calculations they invoiced her $37.34. She almost fell over.

All these years she had been so careful not to exceed the limits and when she blew the budget, the charge was a piddly $34.37. She wanted to climb back in the car and go back for more shopping. The customs clerk was happy he'd made her day and wished us a safe trip home.

We were back in Alberta. It was good to be home and sad that we have to wait another year before heading out again.

 



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