Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Camino 2013: A Few Packing List Lessons

Well, I'm almost packed for my upcoming Camino.  Only 37 days before I actually leave.  You can never pack too early.  As I've accumulated the items I will be traveling with, I have managed to shed nearly 6.5 lbs (2.95 kg) - this is a guesstimate since by some lapse I never weighed my final Camino 2011 pack before I left.  I like to think that I learned a lot on my last Camino.  Here are a few of those lessons:
  • I am replacing my Golite Litespeed pack with a Golite Jam 35L.  The Jam is a bit smaller and lighter than my old one.  The slightly smaller size may make it a bit more challenging to pack but I have managed to get everything jammed in.  Most importantly, the bag is small enough I should have no problem carrying it on the airplane - no lost luggage this time.
  • I am switching from long sleeve "fishing" shirts (similar to this Cabelas shirt) to Icebreaker T-Shirts.  The T-shirts are lighter and pack smaller than the long sleeve shirts I took last time.  Those who know me know I practically live in t-shirts so I figure I should feel more comfortable.  Icebreaker T-shirts are made of merino wool which wicks moisture and is antibacterial.  I have heard about people wearing them for over a week straight while hiking and the t-shirts never smell.  This will reduce my need to launder shirts so often.  They also dry very fast which is always a good thing.  I wore Icebreakers during my China/Nepal/Bhutan/India trip and I really liked them.  I am taking a merino wool long sleeve half-zip on those days when it starts out chilly and for the evenings.
  • I am changing my electronic gear this Camino.  Last time I took a camera, camera bag, GPS, and enough lithium batteries to power both units the entire seven weeks.  The result was a total weight of around 3 lbs (1.4 kg).  This time I'm carrying a smaller camera that is waterproof and shockproof (no camera bag needed).  The camera also has a gps built in.  The camera uses rechargeable batteries so I will be carrying two extra batteries and a charger.  I am also carrying a small plug adapter and a 6" extension cord - the charger may cover more than one outlet and the adapter and cord will allow me to use the charger without blocking outlets.  Outlets in albergues can be a precious commodity in this day and age.  Total weight for all of this is around 1 lb (469 g) or almost 2 lbs lighter.  The one small downside is that the gps tracker in the camera is not the best.  It will be interesting to see if I can post walking maps like I did last time.
  • I am changing my shoes (some people reading this are chortling right now - family joke).  I am going from a high top walking boot to a low top hiking shoe.  Specifically a New Balance 956.  I am hoping the low top will reduce the chances of getting ankle tendonitis like I did last time.  I am using custom made insoles in the shoes.  The insoles help correct my overpronation and hopefully will reduce the stress on my ankles and knees.   I will be bringing a couple different pads in case I have issues with ball-of-the-foot issues.  I have a couple different types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
  • I am taking a pair of beach sandals (Teva Barracuda) instead of the flip flops I took last time.  These will serve as both shower shoes and after-walking shoes.  The advantage of sandals is that you can wear socks with them - not the most fashion forward but at least my feet won't be cold.  My flip flops, while lighter, were a major source of inconvenience on my first Camino.  I can fit the sandals in my smaller pack but I will probably hang the sandals on the outside of the pack to free up some room.
  • Another foot related item will be toe bandages.  Toe bandages are padded tubes that slip over the toes to protect from blisters.  I have two types - foam and gel.  I have found that the foam pads are good for some things (protecting my soft corn for example) while the gel tubes are better for others (blisters on the toes).  There really isn't any universal fix for blisters but I think I am narrowing down my options to things that work for me.  Your mileage may vary.
  • Some changes are small like taking a larger towel.  I know this sounds minor but towels can serve more than one purpose.  Besides drying yourself off after a shower, a towel can be used to dry laundry.  Merino wool t-shirts can't be put in the dryer.  To speed the drying you lay the shirt out on the towel, roll the towel, and then press, wring, and stomp on the rolled towel.  This will suck the water out of the shirt and allow it to dry faster.
  • I am packing a set of base layer bottoms to sleep in.  Last Camino I nearly froze a couple times before I realized that many albergues had blankets if you just asked.  This time I will be prepared.  Why not just ask for the blankets?  Bed bugs.  Early in the year there is not much of a bed bug problem ... at least there wasn't much of one when I was there last time in May-June.  Later in the year, like the Sept-Oct time frame when I will be returning, is totally different.  By then over a hundred thousand pilgrims will have moved through the albergues.  The chances of bed bugs will go up and I doubt those blankets get washed very often.  The base layer should preclude having to use a blanket.
  • Speaking of bed bugs, this time around I will be treating my sleeping bag liner and the inside and outside of my backpack with permethrin.  The insecticide is long lasting and is often used to treat the clothes and sleeping bags for hiking and camping.  I think that one application should last the entire camino.
  • I carried liquid camp soap last time.  This time I may carry a solid laundry bar soap instead.  No need to carry the extra water in the liquid camp soap.
  • I carried a headlamp last time.  This time I'll replace that with a small battery LED flashlight with an extra battery.  I only used my headlamp twice and I kind of used it like a flashlight.  The flashlight is about half the weight of the headlamp.
  • I'll be taking trekking poles this time to help relieve some of the stress on my legs and to give my upper body something to do.  I will be taking a pair of ice breaker glove liners on those cold mornings.
  • I'll be replacing my versatile, but heavy, leatherman skeletool with a smaller one.  The only tool I used was the knife.  My smaller version has a knife but, instead of pliers, has scissors.  The scissors will come in handy cutting medical tape and gauze as well as trimming my moustache.  It also weighs less than a third of the one I took last time.
After I made this list I realized that I'm changing my packing list quite a bit.  While a few things will not change, most of my new stuff is lighter, smaller, and often has more than one function.  My new pack is smaller than my last and will be a tighter fit.  A lot of the changes - shoes, insoles, toe bandages, trekking poles - are all aimed at reducing the leg and foot issues I had last time.  I really hope the changes I'm making will help.

Things will continue to change, of course, as I refine and rethink everything ... multiple times ... but I think I've got a pretty good handle on what I'll be carrying.

Those 37 days can not fly by fast enough!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Some Of My Favorite Things

When we travel the we buy a lot of stuff.  The Wife is very practical.  Most of what she buys can be used such as table clothes, shawls, scarves, and small tables.  I tend not to buy much but I too have purchased things on our travels.  This used to mean T-Shirts.  I have since moved away from collecting T-Shirts.  Looking back I think I cherish things given to us as gifts.

I've mentioned a few of these things before.  In Peru I was given a glass llama and a small reed boat made by the Uros Indians.  The boat is one of my favorite mementos of my travels and has hung from my desk lamp ever since our return.  From our Jordan trip we were gifted two small camels - they sit on my computer speakers.

From our last big trip to China, Nepal, Bhutan, and India, we received gifts in India.  We received little carved elephants - one intricately carved with an elephant within an elephant and another colorfully inlaid.  In Tibet I bought a small stone with the Buddhist mantra on it.  In Bhutan I bought a small mask of Chagna Dorje, a deity signifying power and looking quite evil even though he is said to be benevolent.

But my favorite, after the Peruvian boat, is the one I bought in New Orleans: A Sugar Skull bobble head.

Sugar Skull Bobble Head from New Orleans.
I'm sure he was made in China is is just made of plastic but he makes me smile.  He has a prominent place on my desk next to my computer monitor and when I type with extra force he looks like he is agreeing with what I'm writing.  I think I'll keep him.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wedding Bells, Chit Chat, Kayaking ... Fun

This last weekend was a busy one for us.  We drove up to Minneapolis to do a bunch of things, all of them fun.

The first was attend the wedding of one of the Wife's relatives.  Don't ask me their relation.  The years I spent doing genealogy are not much help to me in that regard.  The wedding was short, sweet, and very nice.  The reception was held in an old theater and was full of people wanting to party and celebrate the newlyweds.  I enjoyed the food and my piece of wedding/birthday cake (it wasn't really a piece of birthday cake but it was in my head).  A lot of people wished me a happy 50th birthday (thank you Facebook - what would we do without your birthday reminders?).

On Sunday we joined the Matron of Honor (MoH) and Best Man (BM) (our Matron of Honor and Best Man, not the one from the wedding the night before) for breakfast before driving to the Godson's house in St Paul.  The house is perfect for the Godson, his wife, and two adorable daughters.  We followed them to the MoH and BM's new house.  Yes, it was a day of new homes.

There we met up with the Altar Boy, his wife, and their two adorable daughters.  They house was full of little girls laughing and giggling.  The MoH and BM's new house is huge and located near a nice park, lake, and easy access to the Minneapolis trail system.  It was still empty of furniture when we visited but it will soon be full and will truly become a home.

We spent the night at the Godson's.  Their oldest daughter, just turned two a few months ago, declared that I was happy and good.  Made me smile.

Our Monday plans changed a little as Sunday went by.  We were scheduled to paddle tandem kayaks out on Lake Superior (near Split Rock Lighthouse).  Unfortunately ... or maybe fortunately ... the weather didn't cooperate.  Instead our Monday kayaking adventure was moved to a small lake just north of Duluth.  On the smaller lake we could take out solo kayaks, the water would be warmer so wet suits would not be required, and the weather would be nicer.

Kayaking on Fredenberg Lake under gorgeous skies.
Our kayak adventure was hosted by Positive Energy Outdoors, the same non-profit group that hosted our dog sledding adventure in February.  Our guide talked us through kayaking basics and helped us into our kayaks.  We all learned the basic pretty quickly.  For the next couple of hours we paddled around lake Fredenberg.

Blooming water lily.
The weather turned out to be perfect with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze that picked up just as we were finishing.  We saw turtles, fish, heron, and eagles.  We visited a beaver dam and admired the blooming water lilies.  It was so relaxing.  While there are some homes on the lake, most of the shore is forested with old pine forest.  It was nice to paddle a little and coast a little, letting the wind gently push you along the shore.  It was totally opposite the high energy rush of the dog sledding.  Can't wait to do it again sometime.

Relaxing kayaking through the lily pads.
Our four days finished with a tour of the Godson's school (he's a principal) and driving home.  Another very nice four day weekend on the road.  I was ready to get home - this is the last time I will be on the road this summer before going to the Camino - especially since I had the birthday brownies and ice cream my Mom brought waiting for me in the fridge.

Kayaking pictures can be found in my 2013-07-22 Kayaking Google Photos album.  Pictures with people in them can be seen by friends and family in my 2013-07-22 Kayaking Facebook album.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Outliving ...

Today marks the half century mark of my life.  I started drafting this post a few months after my forty-ninth birthday - I wanted to have time to reflect, refine my thoughts, and not let this post be a last minute thrown together affair.

When I think of fifty, I think of my Dad.  He was fifty when he died.  My Dad died in a private airplane crash.  He was the pilot and was flying alone.  I suspect he may have had a heart attack or stroke.  In fifteen days, on August 3, a Saturday, I will outlive my Dad.  Is this fact important?  Is it pertinent to my life?  Why do I feel strange when my thoughts go there?

I have outlived other people in my family.  On October 10, 1987, a Saturday as well, I outlived my brother, Mark, who died in a truck accident somewhere in Mexico.  I didn't put much thought into that fact.  I didn't have a blog ... not sure blogs existed yet ... so my feeling about outliving my brother's time on this Earth were never recorded.  I clearly remember not thinking much about it at all, actually.

But matching my Dad's time ... I have thought about that.  I've thought about it for a few years as I saw fifty approaching in the distance.

Dad and I were not close.  I think my eating habits irritated him quite a bit.  I remember him saying at the dinner table once that I was weird.   Not exactly what a teen wants to hear.  By the time I started eating 'normal' food the damage between Dad and I was pretty much done.  I did my best to avoid him.  When Mark died, we were returning from viewing the body just he and I, when he turned to me and said it was "up to you now."  I sensed an undertone of disappointment in his voice.  I never knew what he expected of me.  He died fifteen months later.

All of this happened so many years ago.  I've been thinking about fifty for ... years ... and in those years my attitude has changed.  After the Wife and I started traveling and I started hiking, my thoughts were often full of regret.  Why hadn't I done all of this earlier in my life?  When I started this post it quickly turned towards regrets.  But as I've edited it and re-edited it, I've realized the regret I've felt in the past is starting to fade.  Since I walked the Camino, and I decided to be more positive, I have changed ... changed ever so slowly ... and the regrets I once stewed over are fading into the past.  I have noticed this over just the last year since I started this post.

So, how do I feel about outliving my Dad?  My feelings have changed from a sense of impending doom to a hope for my future.  One realizes as you grow older, ages that seemed so old to your younger self, are no longer considered old.  Fifty?  That ain't old at all.  I have many years yet to fill.  So, am I happy to have outlived my Dad?  No.  My feelings towards him have softened over the years.  It's not a time to gloat that his weird, disappointment of a son made it further in this race than he did.  It's a time to cherish the good times, learn from the bad, and to look forward to all the things to come.  Fifty ... Fifty is just another number.  No regrets.

Friday, July 19, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Museums And Monuments

After an incredibly delicious and filling breakfast we said our goodbyes to the Wife's Aunt and Uncle and headed into Dallas to visit the Sixth Floor Museum.

The Sixth Floor Museum is located in the book depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John Kennedy.  The first impression upon arriving is just how small Dealey Plaza is.  The films you see make everything look much bigger.

Waiting for the elevator to go to the Sixth Floor.
We entered the museum, picked up the audio tour thingamajigs and took the elevator to the sixth floor.  The audio tour takes you through the early 60s examining the state of the country and the election of President Kennedy.  It briefly covers the ups and downs of his presidency. Then it goes in detail about the events on that November day almost fifty years ago.  The museum was very well done.  You could see as much or as little as you wanted.  There were several optional audio tracks covering interesting side issues related to the Kennedys and the 60s in general.  They also covered the conspiracies surrounding the killing.


Parts of two mosaics:  The President made from a portrait of Jackie
and Jackie made from a portrait of the President.
Looking out the window next to where Oswald shot from, seeing how small Dealey Plaza is, and taking into account the fact the car the President was in has to slow down to get around a sharp turn, I think it would have been an easy shot for someone who was moderately skilled at shooting a rifle.  Not conspiracy needed.

We took our time walking through and listening to the commentary before heading out into the plaza and walking around.  There are exes on the street marking where the car was when the three shots were fired.  People would run out between street lights to get their pictures taken by an X.  We never really could determine which of the knolls was the "grassy knoll".  The three pictures posted here are the only ones worth posting in my opinion.  They did not allow pictures in the museum and I had a hard time getting good pictures outside.

We left Dallas and headed north.  We left later than we expected and only reached Oklahoma City that night.  On the way in we passed through Moore, OK, the location of the devastating tornado earlier this year.  You could see some of the destruction from the freeway.  This is turning into a bad habit.  First when we went to Kansas we went to Greensburg, wiped out by a tornado in 2007.  Then in 2011 we drove through Joplin, MO also devastated by a tornado.  This year it was Moore.  I swear these visits are not planned.

When we drove through Oklahoma City in 2011 during our Route 66 roadtrip we forgot to visit the Oklahoma City Memorial, commemorating the bombing of the Murrah Federal building.  We corrected this oversight by visiting on our way through the city.  The memorial is one of the best I've visited.  In the footprint of the building, chairs are set up for each of the victims.  The chairs light up at night.  The street in front of the building is now a reflecting pool.  Either end of the pool are walls with the start and end time of the tragedy.

A panorama of the memorial.
We arrived at the memorial fifteen minutes after the museum had closed. Fortunately pamphlets explaining the memorial's symbolism were available and we were able to tour and appreciate the memorial.  It was hard to walk through it without being moved.

Empty Chairs.
Pictures can be found in my 2013-06-24 Oklahoma City Memorial Google Photos album.

We ended the day in a hotel just north of the city.  It was an interesting day visiting the locations of two national tragedies (Three if you include the drive through Moore).  Both have been remembered in wonderful ways.

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The next day was our last vacation day and was solely a driving day.  Our travels through the middle of the country and in New Orleans were very satisfying in so many ways.  We both learned so much.  We experienced so much.  We enjoyed being with family so much.  One of the more fulfilling vacations I've had in a long time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Few Steps Passed The Goal

At the beginning of the year I set an informal goal of walking 500 miles before I went on my Camino.  I am pleased to report that I reached that training goal a whole month ahead of schedule.

I reached the goal during my walk today.   My original plan was to do a fifteen mile walk to just cross the 500 mile point.  I plan my hikes using Google Maps and I've found that the distance estimates are always off a little bit.  This time the error wasn't Google Map's fault.  I chose a route that, I discovered too late, crossed a bridge without biking/walking lanes.  Not wanting to risk my life dodging traffic I decided to detour around the bridge.  I figured the detour would add a mile or so to my original route.  Boy was I wrong.  I ended up walking 19.31 miles (31 km) - almost four miles farther than I'd planned ... on a day with temps of 90°F plus ... and blue skies.  That sun felt heavy on my shoulders.

I think I came close to heat stroke a few times avoiding them by stopping at convenience stores to buy liquids.  Everything ended well.  I'm a little bit sore and my legs are a bit wobbly but my feet feel decent.  I have a strange rash where my socks were - not sure what's up with that.  Doesn't itch and it is already fading.  Probably a heat rash.

The most important thing is that I did manage to cross the 500 mile goal (505 miles as of today) and I think I may even make it to 600 by the end of August (almost three times the amount of training walks I did before my 2011 Camino).  Add in the estimated 600 miles I will be doing on the Camino and I am on the way to walking close to 1,200 miles this year.

1,200 miles.  I will be very happy with that number.  50% better than my last annual record and half of an Appalachian Trail.  Nothing like progress to make you feel awesome.  And now ... I just need to get some sleep.

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: On The Way Out

On Saturday (June 22) we checked out of our hotel and left the city.  We only had one stop for this day but it was one of the odder stops for this vacation.  All our domestic vacation have at least one odd destination.  The odd one for this roadtrip was the Hansen's Disease museum in Carville, LA.

Most people have never heard of Hansen's Disease but they probably have heard the more common name: Leprosy.  The Hansen's Disease museum is located at a former Leper colony attached to a prison.  The complex is now a National Guard base and a job corp center.

The museum is well stocked with items from the colony as the facility was just closed down in 1999.  It covers the history of the disease, how patients were treated and mistreated, and told of the people who took care of the victims of the disease.

After touring the museum we drove a small tour around the former colony.  Unfortunately this part of the tour was a cell phone led tour and we are still cellphone-less ... at least we don't have a cell phone with a loudspeaker.

The museum didn't have a gift shop so there were no magnets.  They are missing an opportunity there.  The colony mascot was an armadillo.  The seven banded armadillo is the only other known animal that is susceptible to the bacteria that causes leprosy.  There is a farm attached to the colony where armadillos were bred for testing.  Armadillo magnets would be a tasteful way of remembering the museum.

We left  Carville ... there isn't much there except the museum and industry ... and headed north-west ending the day in Natchitoches.  It was a nice little town with historical buildings and a downtown area along the Cane River.

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We went to Mass in a church near downtown Natchitoches, had breakfast, and headed towards Dallas, TX.  We reached the Wife's Aunt CH's place mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day seeing cousins, eating, and enjoying each others company.

One of the highlights was a visit to the Pilot Point Opera House to attend the Songwriters Festival.  We were there only for a short time ... enough to use some of the free drink tickets ... but enough to listen to four singer-songwriters perform.  The first three were incredible.  Most had a country vibe.  Then came the fourth act.

There is some need for backstory here.  The artists really don't know when they will be performing so they have to be at the venue until they perform.  While they wait their turn they are supplied with drinks.  The fourth act, apparently,  had been drinking for most of the day.  He introduced himself as Sticky and I think that might be an accurate description of the guy.  He had trouble with his guitar ... which he had borrowed since he didn't have his own.  He started to perform with a couple of his equally inebriated friends on the harmonica and tambourine.  After about thirty seconds or so of unintelligible sound he stopped, said "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry. Can I start again?"  This happened at least three times before we gave up and left.  I think if the guy ever cuts an album, the first song should be named "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry. Can I start again?"

We stopped next door to a small bar to see Lowla.  Lowla is kind of a local star as she's had a movie made about her.  Here is the unofficial trailer.  I didn't take any pictures of the last two days except for one of Lowla.

Lowla, Pilot Point, Texas.
The rest of the evening was talking.  The Wife's cousin wanted me to get home so that we could restart our Scrabble game.  Not exactly sure why she was in such a hurry to lose (HA!  Just Kidding!).  It was nice to enjoy the company and to sleep in a real, non-hotel bed.

Tomorrow a brief stop in Dallas and then we head north.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Filling In The Blanks

For the past couple weeks I've been mainly posting about our New Orleans vacation.  I've neglected a few things along the way and so I'm going to use this post to catch up a little before I finish the travel posts.

First off, I would like to wish everyone a belated Fourth of July.  We missed the holiday last year as we were in Beijing last year.  Being Wienered is not the same as seeing and hearing fireworks going off.  This year the fireworks lasted from the weekend before all the way through the week.  The towns around Omaha have legalized the sale of fireworks around the fourth and this year it seemed like everyone had their own pyrotechnic displays.  Every night starting at sunset the skies would light up.  The fourth itself was spectacular.  From our deck, across the farm fields, the fireworks were spread out along the horizon and they lasted for over two hours.  Gorgeous.

Our independence day celebration continued the weekend after the fourth when we went to the In-Law's lake house to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, win third place in the annual boat parade, and watch the lake's fireworks display.  We celebrated the anniversary with a small gathering of friends and family with a catered lunch and the taking of a family portrait (the first one with me in it).  Happy anniversary kids!

The Mother in Law entered the 21st century, beating the Wife to the punch, when she bought a Nexus 10 tablet.  The niece and I helped her by loading apps she might need, removing icons that were not needed, and helping her get accustomed to the touch screen ... something that I am still doing with my Nexus 7.

Finally I want to wish the Wife a happy sixteenth wedding anniversary.  I know that celebrating the anniversary in a hospital (for routine tests) was not the most romantic but next year we should be doing it in style somewhere in Africa.

That about covers it for now.  I'm sure I forgot something but the summer is passing so fast this year things are becoming a blur.  Before you know it the summer will be over, school will restart, and I will be walking the Camino for a second time.

Friday, July 12, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Wrapping Up The Odds And Ends

The last full day in New Orleans was filled with odds and ends - things we'd wanted to do earlier in the week and just couldn't manage to do them.  This resulted in a slightly eclectic but busy last day in New Orleans.

We started the day by sleeping in late.  We left mid morning and headed to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.  We stopped at a subway to buy a soda.  An older man was sitting at a table and ask the Wife if she was going to finish her soda as we were leaving.  She asked him if he wanted a drink.  He said yes and asked if we could buy him an orange juice.  I was happy to help the man since at least he was picking a healthier option.

We reached the Insectarium right after a school field trip had arrived.  This enhanced our experience immensely.  It was hilarious listening to the oohs, ahhs,  and AHHS! that came out of the kids as they went from one display to the next looking at all the creepy, crawly insects, millipedes, and spiders.  We stopped to watch the short 4D movie which included seats that moved like there were things crawling down there.  I have to admit the buzz of the bees felt good on my butt.  Everyone, child and adult alike, screamed and jumped when the seats squirmed.  The last stop was the butterfly garden which reminded me of the one at the Omaha Zoo.

A butterfly at the insectarium.
From the insectarium we walked the block or two to the Canal Street ferry station and caught the free ferry (free for pedestrians) to Algiers.  We stopped at a small restaurant near the Algiers ferry terminal to have lunch before walking around the historic neighborhood.  It was nice to visit a normal neighborhood without any of the glitz and tourism.  I could see myself living there.

An iconic New Orleans water meter cover.
Our stay in Algiers was fairly short.  We rode the ferry back to the other side of the Mississippi and caught the shuttle to Mardi Gras World.  We took a tour of one of the fifteen warehouses where Mardi Gras floats are built.  Most of the figures on the floats are carved styrofoam covered in paper mache.  Others are fiberglass.  As we walked through the warehouse we passed artists carving, covering, and painting the various figures for the 2014 Mardi Gras parades for one of the krewes.  Building of next years floats starts the day after Mardi Gras.  One of the floats we saw costed close to $1.1 million and was over 300 feet long.  These floats are serious business.  Despite all the Disney and Marvel characters, among others, no corporate sponsorship or advertising is allowed on the floats.  All the funds come from the krewe dues and krewe fund raisers.  It was fun walking around the giant figures.  After the tour we stopped at the Mardi Gras World cafe and had a free piece of  King Cake.

Mardi Gras World float figures.
Mardi Gras World was the last stop of the day.  We took the free shuttle back to the ferry terminal and then walked back to the hotel.  It felt like one of the hottest days yet by the time we got back to the hotel.

That evening we had a light dinner followed by gelato (two scoops for me - dulce de leche and dark chocolate).  Before we called it a night we wandered around a bit to complete our New Orleans magnet collection and listened to street musicians (This is Tanya and Dorise - an awesome duet).  It turned out to be an early night.  Being Friday night, staying in was a good option considering the crazies out in the street partying.

The day turned out to be a full but quiet end to our stay in New Orleans.  Tomorrow we start our trip home with a few more stops along the way.

Pictures of the last full day in New Orleans can be found in my 2013-06 New Orleans Google Photos album.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Gator Bait

Our luck, in terms of the weather anyway, ran out on day four.  We walked to the Camellia Grill for our second excellent breakfast there and it started to rain while we were there.  The rain would be on and off for the rest of the day and this on a day when our main activity would be outside.  Today was swamp tour day.

We paid extra for a pickup at the hotel and for a ride in a smaller airboat.  The tour van picked us up on time and, after a couple more stops to pick up more people, headed just outside of New Orleans to the town of Jean Lafitte.

Now, I have to talk about my expectation for this swamp tour.  I expected to ride an airboat and to see a swamp - no brainer there.  I thought that if we were lucky, we might see alligators at a significant distance from the boat.  I was going to take my DSLR camera because it has a better zoom and I expected it would be needed to get any salvageable pictures of alligators.  When the rain started coming down, bringing the DSLR became impossible.  The DSLR camera is not waterproof.  So I carried my smaller waterproof camera with the mediocre zoom and hoped for the best.

We arrived at the tour office and we examined the live alligators in the pen including an albino alligator.  Right before the airboat tour was about to start the skies opened up and it began to really pour.  The crowd swarmed the gift shop as we all bought ponchos.  One side note: the gift shop didn't have any magnets.  What's up with that?!?

An airboat on the way to the swamp.
We put on our ponchos, followed the guide out to the boats, and the Wife and I got in the front seat of our airboat.  Our small airboat carried six passengers but we only had five when we cast off.  The captain of the boat explained what we were going to do.  He explained that noise restriction stopped them from going top speed until we were farther out.  After a short run we would leave the lake and enter the swamp.

We puttered across the lake for a while as the rain poured.  We reached the noise restriction limit, the captain asked us to put on hearing protection (we used to call them mickey mouse ears when I worked on ships), and the captain revved it up and off we went.  The boats go about 50 to 55 mph (80 to 88 kph).  This is when I learned my lesson of the day: raindrops, hitting your face at 50-55 mph, sting ... a lot.  It was hard to keep from looking down to protect your face but I managed to do it.


This is where my waterproof camera came in handy.  I had the camera in my hands taking video and pictures in the pouring rain without a worry.  The guys behind us only had cell phones which, most of the time, were under their ponchos doing no good.

Entering the swamp.
We slowed back down and turned into a channel.  We'd been on the channel maybe a minute before we saw the first alligator.  It wasn't far away or on shore as I'd feared it would be.  It was in the water and it swam right up to the boat.  It didn't take long to find out why.  When the gator was close the captain tossed something in the water.  They sometimes refer to it as alligator crack.  We call them marshmallows (MARSHmallows ... we're in a swamp ... that's a marsh ... there's a joke in there somewhere or at least a bad pun).  Turns out the alligators are hooked on sugar.  The guides feed them sugar so when the alligators see a boat they head straight to the boat for a treat.


We ended up seeing quite a few alligators while we were in the channel.  It was much better than I expected.  I got a lot of pictures and we learned a lot about alligators and swamp flora and fauna.  The captain pulled out a baby alligator and passed it around.  The things was just over a foot long and was very used to being handled.  One of the guys behind us let it bite his finger.  The little guy seemed more irritated than mean.

Me holding a baby alligator.
We returned to the dock and got back on the bus.  The whole bus load of us were sopping wet and the driver was nice enough to not have the air conditioning on.  We got off the van a few blocks from our hotel when it hit some traffic.  We got back to our room and, like all of our afternoons, after putting on some dry clothes, passed out on the bed.

That evening we went out for another awesome dinner - we didn't have a bad meal while in New Orleans - where the Wife continued the theme of the day and ate alligator.  I shied away from it when I heard it tasted like sausage.  I'm not a fan of sausage.  We topped off our eating for the day with a stop at CafĂ© du Monde to try another mandatory New Orleans activity: eating beignets.  Beignets are fried dough, kind of like doughnuts, buried under mounds of powdered sugar.  We each ordered the standard order of three beignets.  I have to admit we were both a little underwhelmed and about one and a half beignets were left uneaten.   I'm not much of a fan of doughnuts either.  Having said this, I'm glad I tried them.

Beignets: pretty but not that awesome in my opinion.
We hadn't watched much television this vacation until game six and seven of the NBA finals.  After our beignets, we retreated back to the room and watched game seven.  Tomorrow we would finish all the little things and complete our stay in New Orleans.

Pictures of the fourth full day in New Orleans can be found in my 2013-06 New Orleans Google Photos album.

Monday, July 08, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Into The Ninth Ward

Our third full day in New Orleans only have one event planned, a bicycle tour of the lower ninth ward.  We walked the eight or nine blocks to a park where we met up with a guide from Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours.

There were a total of four of us and a guide.  The bikes were the old pedal-backward-to-brake kind with large tires.  The bikes reminded all of us of our childhood as most of our childhood bikes braked this way.  We started by pedaling around the park to familiarize ourselves with the bikes.  The large tires made the steering a little squishy and I weaved around like a drunk until I got the feel of it.  Not being able to back pedal made it a bit hard to get started and there were no gears to make the riding easier.  Fortunately our tour would be relatively flat and the skies were overcast so it wasn't too hot.

We followed the guide down mostly residential streets.  The rules, as he explained to us, was to pretty much ignore most stoplights and stop signs as long as it was safe to cross.  This struck us a little odd but it did make staying together a little easier.  Along the way we briefly rode on Desire street, inspiration for Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire".  Another stop was to see the markings left on houses by search and rescue teams after Katrina.  Some of these markings are being repainted as a combination protest and memorial to those lost during Katrina.

The ninth ward is divided by a canal.  We crossed a drawbridge to get to the lower part of the ninth ward and rode on a levee along the Mississippi river for a while until it was time to ride into the streets of the ward.  Our co-tour people were Canadians who had been told by their hotel concierge that they absolutely should not go to the ninth ward.  People would chase you, rob you, and hurt you.  She even refused to make a reservation for them so they made it themselves.    Our guide found this mystifying and, after our tour, I am mystified too.  Our ride was quiet, peaceful, and felt very safe.  Everyone we saw either ignored us or, more often, waved.  We were not chased, robbed, hurt, or harassed in any way.

River Boat's Captain's House seen from Mississippi river levee.
There was only one incident during the entire ride.  The bikes we were riding, as I've mentioned before, were sometimes hard to get started.  At one point, as we all tried to get started, the Wife ran into a parked car.  The car was fine.  The Wife's leg was bruised as was her ego.

The destruction we saw after Katrina was no longer visible.  The only thing that remains are overgrown vacant lots where flood houses and businesses had once stood.  The guide pointed out that before Katrina there were few, if any, vacant lots in the lower ninth.  Now there are many (This picture shows the destruction - Red areas are now vacant lots).

We stopped for lunch at a local sandwich shop run by a vietnamese family.  New Orleans and Louisiana have a large Vietnamese population who had been invited over by churches.  I ordered a pulled pork Po-Boy which is basically a pork sub sandwich.  We took our food to go (our bicycles had baskets naturally) and we rode a few blocks to the house of Ronald Lewis and his backyard museum the House of Dance and Feathers.  We ate our lunch on the picnic tables outside the museum while we waited for Mr. Lewis.

Ronald Lewis is a member of a Mardi Gras Krewe.  A Krewe is a social club that puts on events and Mardi Gras parades.  He runs a small museum displaying handmade costumes and awards he and his krewe have won.  He told us stories about Mardi Gras and how his organization works.  He answered our questions and I think we probably could have spent all day talking with this fascinating man.  We all donated to the tiny museum and bought a copy of his book ("The House of Dance and Feathers: A Museum").

Hand bead work on Mardi Gras costume.
The next stop on our bike tour was Fats Domino's home followed by a ride through the streets to see all the vacant lots.  This last part really gave you a sense of just how much was lost after katrina.  Our tour of the ward ended with the new houses being built by Brad Pitt's organization.  They are a bit controversial as they are so modern and don't quite fit in with the old architecture of the ward.  I liked them.  They were raised off the ground to protect against flooding.  They all had solar panels to provide electricity in emergencies.  They collected rainwater for later use.  Most importantly, they were all different.  Each painted a different bright and happy color.  It would have been so easy to build a bunch of identical square cookie cutter boxes on stilts.  These all had character and, in a few years, I think they will fit right in once people have added personal touches.  It's also nice that they are only sold to former residents of the lower ninth.  They are not trying to bring new people in but to revive those who are already there.  They also have contracts that prevent short term flipping of homes.

Brad Pitt's New Homes.
Drinking in New Orleans is ... common.  Many bars had sidewalk walk-up windows where you could buy drinks.  Walking around with a glass of beer, or something stronger, was not a rare sight ... at any time of the day.  With this drinking culture in mind, our last bike tour stop was, naturally, a neighborhood bar where we relaxed and had drinks.  There was a slightly drunk patron in the bar who, after hearing our guide telling us about the history of the area, decided he needed to fill in a few details while he played video poker.  He was entertaining and his language was ... colorful.  Our guide said that riding your bike with a glass of beer was encouraged though only he actually biked home with a beer in his hand.

The bike tour, which was supposed to be four hours ended up being five and well worth the money and time.  I would encourage everyone to do it the next time they are in New Orleans.  Part of the tour fee is donated to lower ninth ward charities.

The day ended with another good meal (blackened chicken on a bed of pasta alfredo) and me wandering around a little bit taking more pictures.

Pictures of the third full day in New Orleans can be found in my 2013-06 New Orleans Google Photos album.

Friday, July 05, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Second Day Shenanigans

On our second full day in New Orleans we had a number of things to do.  The first was get an awesome breakfast and the Camellia Grill turned out to be the place.  As a matter of fact, the Camellia Grill is the only restaurant we ate at twice during our New Orleans stay.  The counter-only diner sits everyone elbow to elbow at a serpentine counter.  The staff is engaging, funny, and helpful.  The chefs stations are on one wall and visible to the diners.  The staff yell orders to the chefs and you get your food hot and fast not to mention good.

Today was also going to be trolley day.  After the filling breakfast we walked to the Toulouse trolley station and caught a trolley down river.  We missed our first transfer which ended up not being a big issue.  After transferring to the Canal street trolley and then the St Charles Trolley we made our way to the garden district.

The St Charles Trolley in front of the Robert E. Lee memorial.
The garden district is the historic American sector of New Orleans.  Canal street separates the French from the American areas.  They are so separate that streets that cross Canal street change names.  We walked a couple blocks from the Trolley stop to Lafayette Cemetery where we would meet our walking tour guide.  This turned out to be Katy.  Katy was an 80-something New Orleanian in a lovely blue caftan.  Right away she looked like a character and she turned out to be a hoot and a half.  She started the tour in the cemetery giving us a lot of history and explanation about New Orleans burial practises.  We learned about the saying "giving you the shaft" which has to do with the dumping of decomposed remains through a hole in the back of the tomb to a pit in the bottom so that the tomb could be re-used.

After a lot of cemetery talk, and right when we were worried that the whole tour would be in the cemetery, we left and headed through the streets of the garden district.  Katy pointed out different homes owned by celebrities (Trent Reznor, Nicolas Cage, Sandra Bullock among others).  Katy told interesting and often funny stories of people and houses in the district.  It was well worth walking in the heat and humidity.

A home in the Garden District of New Orleans.
After the tour we hopped back on the trolley and headed back toward Canal street getting off at the national World War II museum.  We ate at the restaurant in the museum.  This was the first museum restaurant I've ever eaten at with the chef's name on the door.  The chef, John Besh, has appeared on Top Chef Masters and other television cooking shows.  The food was pretty good.

A bomber on display at the WWII museum.
After the excellent lunch we toured the museum and watched a forty-eight minute movie about WWII.  I was surprised what was left out of the movie.  I guess you had to limit it because of the length of the movie.  The movie was 4D meaning it included motion and special effects in the theater to enhance the movie.  It was fun.  The other thing that I found nice was the number of WWII veterans that were in the audience.

After the museum we got back on the trolley and headed back to the French Quarter.  We staggered back to the hotel and nearly passed out on the bed.  I think the heat snuck up on us and, combined with all the great food we'd eaten already that day, we both bloated up.  You've seen bloated roadkill by the side of the road on a hot day?  Well, that's what I felt like.  We decided to skip dinner that night and ended up just snacking and drinking lots of fluids.

The lights of Bourbon Street.
I recovered a bit by early evening and went out with my camera and wandered around a bit.  My first destination was Bourbon street.  The Wife really didn't want anything to do with Bourbon street and I can understand this.  It can be a bit chaotic and full of drunken people.  I decided that it would be wrong to come to New Orleans and not see Bourbon street at least once.  I got there before the unclean masses reached critical mass so it wasn't too bad.  I watched street performers and listened to the rock, jazz, and zydeco music wafting out of the bars along the neon lit street.  I got my fill and heading off the street and made my way to canal street, down to the ferry station, and walked along the river.

I wandered around until I was sweaty again and headed back to the room.  We hadn't done everything we'd wanted to do that day but we did learn to pace ourselves.  There would be plenty of time to finish what we'd skipped. We also learned that two meals were our daily limit.  A third meal and I think I would have exploded.

Pictures of the second full day in New Orleans can be found in my 2013-06 New Orleans Google Photos album.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: On The Way In And First Looks.

After leaving Jackson, MS we drove the last three hours to the New Orleans area.  Since we couldn't check into our hotel until 4PM we changed our itinerary slightly and headed for the plantations.

There are four plantations that are close to New Orleans, close together, and show the diverse types of plantations.  We chose two sugar plantations: Laura Plantation and Oak Alley. (One little side note.  The plantations are located in Saint James parish ... a little Camino coincidence.)

Laura Plantation is an example of a Creole plantation.  Creole means anyone born in a French colony.  Laura was built by a French criminal who was granted his freedom if he would emigrate to the French Louisiana territory.  He accepted the offer, emigrated, fought the British during the American Revolution, and was granted land by President Jefferson.  Soon after building his plantation manor house, he died and his wife became the "president" of the plantation.  From then on the plantation was run by the women of the family.

The colorful Creole Laura Plantation manor house.
The plantation is a typical Creole plantation.  The manor is brightly colored as opposed to the customary white of American plantations.  French was strictly spoken on the plantation.  If you did not speak French you would not get past the front porch.  The more they liked you the deeper into the house you could go.

An engagement fan and portraits of some of the women of Laura Plantation.
Our guide walked us around the manor house and the surrounding gardens and grounds of the plantation.  He explained the history of the Creole and how their culture slowly faded after the American acquisition of the Louisiana territories.  He explained this through the history of the family who owned the plantation.  The last owner, Laura, was not really interested in the Creole lifestyle and prefered the new American ways.

Pictures taken at Laura Plantation can be seen in my 2013-06-16 Laura Plantation Google Photos album.

After Laura we went to Oak Alley plantation.  This example of an American plantation is named for an oak lined path leading between the manor and the Mississippi river.  We ate lunch at the cafe before touring the manor and the grounds.  The old oak trees that form the alley predate the current manor house. No one is sure who planted them.  The view through the tunnel formed by the ancient oaks is spectacular.

Oak Alley's namesake oak alley.
Pictures of Oak Alley Plantation can be found in my 2013-06-21 Oak Alley Plantation Google Photos album.

After finishing the interesting tour ... and finishing the ice cream I bought ... we got back in the car and drove the hour to New Orleans.  I don't like driving in strange cities but I managed to find the hotel with only a relatively minor hissy fit.  The hotel, the French Market Inn, is located in the French Quarter not far from the Mississippi river.  It turned out to be in the ideal location to walk everywhere.  For places too far to walk to, there was a trolley stop a block away.  After getting the car valet parked (your only choice) we never needed the car until we left.  The Inn is actually four buildings combined into one.  This results in odd configurations.  Our room was a cheap inside room.  The room had two windows that open out into a hallway.  The hotel also has a house cat named Patrick who roams the courtyard and greets the guests ... when he isn't sleeping.

Our first evening was spent orienting ourselves, eating dinner, and walking along the river.  This evening was one of the cooler ones.  It would be hot and muggy the rest of the time ... exactly what I expected New Orleans to be in June.

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We were awoken by the phone ringing.  It was a call to confirm our reservation for a French Quarter walking tour later that morning.  We got up, stopped at a coffee shop to buy some breakfast snacks, and walked the couple blocks to meet up with our tour guide.

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One.
The walking tour was a continuation of our Laura Plantation tour of the day before.  The guide explained, through the eyes of the Laura Plantation owner, life in old New Orleans.  We visited old homes, an early pharmacy, and an opera house.  We visited the oldest cemetery, Saint Louis Number One, where we visited graves of Laura's family and other New Orlean notables.  The cemeteries are built above ground due to the high water table that would normally flood any holes dug in the ground.  The cemeteries are very similar to what I saw in Spain on my Camino.  Each tomb holds multiple generations of the family.  When there is a need for a new burial, the last burial remains are simply dumped into a pit at the bottom of the tomb.

One thing I learned on the tour is that the architecture in the French Quarter is not French.  The old French city burned to the ground while under control of the Spanish (Did you know the Spanish once controlled the French Louisiana territory?  I sure didn't) .  The city was rebuilt in a Spanish style which explains all the balconies and the spanish street name plaques on some of the buildings.

The tour took two or three hours as we walked from one air conditioned area to another (The guide wasn't stupid).  I learned quite a bit about the history of the city.  The guide, as would several other of our tour guides, shared his harrowing Katrina survival experiences after his house was completely flooded.

After the tour we went to lunch before walking through the Saint Louis Cathedral.  The Wife was not impressed and I have to admit, I've seen better.  The Wife did get a rosary and I got a magnet.

Inside the Saint Louis Cathedral.
Next was a visit to the Ursuline Convent.  The building in not used as a convent anymore but it still has a long history and the museum items were interesting.  As you enter the chapel it's hard not to miss the shell motif in parts of the entryway.  No one could tell us the significance of the shells.  I doubt it has any connection with the Camino (Saint James' symbol is a shell) but it is another Camino coincidence.

Inside the Ursuline convent chapel.
We left the convent and walked through the french market area.  The market was full of the usual tourist chachques.  Unfortunately it was much hotter and more humid than the day before and we had to retreat to the hotel room to cool off, rehydrate, and to take a late afternoon nap.  This first day made me understand why most tours in New Orleans are in the morning.  This would also be the start of the napping-in-the-afternoon ritual.

Rested, we went out and had another good dinner before going to stand in line at Preservation Hall.  Preservation Hall is a jazz venue where they try to honor and protect New Orleans jazz.  The place is tiny.  It holds about one hundred and only about thirty of those get a seat on hard backless benches.  This being said, the band, which changes members depending on who is available and who is in town, was incredible.  They played a lot of classics and got a lot of people in the audience singing with them.  Their set was short but, with the heat in that small box of a place, we couldn't have stayed much longer I think.

Preservation Hall drum.
After the live jazz we crossed the street to a voodoo store.  The Wife was hoping to get some good information about authentic voodoo but we found it hard to find anyone who would talk about it.  They would talk about the tourist voodoo but not the real stuff.  Voodoo is strongly connected with Catholicism.  When african/haitian slaves were brought to New Orleans they were forced to convert to Catholicism.  Voodoo was the result of the slaves combining their animist beliefs with the christian ones.  Each catholic saint had an alternate name that corresponded to an animist god.  This way they could pray to their old gods while appearing to be good Catholics.  Only Mary was kept whole without an alternate name.  The store was full of ... interesting things.

This first day and a half were full ones.  The rest of the week would be less packed but just as enjoyable.

Pictures of New Orleans can be found in my 2013-06 New Orleans Google Photos album.  The pictures in the set are roughly in chronological order.  As I post I will add pictures.  New pictures will be at the bottom of the Google Photos page so you may have to scroll down to see them.

Monday, July 01, 2013

New Orleans Adventure: Getting There - A Literary Roadtrip

This year's summer vacation turned out to be both one of the shortest one we've had in a few years and also a very satisfying vacation full of rest, relaxation, and new discovery.

We planned our vacation as a rather open-ended two week roadtrip.  Our main destination was New Orleans, Louisiana but all our other plans were a bit nebulous.  The uncertainty made me pack a bag with a full two weeks of clothes.  This required me to unpack my Camino pack for clothes to take along.  Yes ... I pretty much had my Camino bag packed over six months before I am actually going.  And yes, I packed for a two week vacation the night before.  Thems are the differences between packing for a car trip and a trip that requires you to carry all your stuff.

We left on Friday the 14th of June which is an odd thing for us.  We usually start our vacations on Saturdays or Mondays, not Fridays.  We had one stop for the day: Hannibal, Missouri.  Hannibal is the childhood home of Mark Twain.  We arrived there in the early afternoon after driving through rain most of the morning. We toured the museum and saw the houses where childhood friends (inspirations for Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher) lived.

Hannibal turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.  It felt very commercial.  It reminded me of the over commercialized OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ.  Every store was named after Twain or one of his characters.  The one high point was the Wife blowing the museum's simulated riverboat whistle.  The Wife, who had attended a teaching workshop in Hartford, CT (Twain's home later in life) decided that she was "Twained out".

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn statue in Hannibal, MO.
At our last stop before leaving I bought some huckleberry gummy bears. They were good but I ate them way too fast and gave myself an upset stomach.  I can't handle sweets like I used to.

We got briefly lost on the way out of Hannibal due to road construction and detours but the Wife successfully navigated us back.  After hitting traffic in Saint Louis, where we'd gotten lost on our Route 66 trip, we ended the day in Cape Girardeau, MO.

I think the highlight of the first day was the beautiful green scenery along the drive in Missouri and the burgers at the Tastee Treats in Brookfield, MO.

A few pictures can be found in my 2013-06-14 Mark Twain Boyhood Home, Hannibal, MO Google Photos album.

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Woke up after one of the most restful ten hours of sleep I've had in a long time.  The hotel had been noisy (sports teams) which kept the Wife up but I slept through it like the dead.

This day we drove to Memphis, TN and visited Graceland.  Yes ... that Graceland.  Not exactly a literary stop like Hannibal but it was more interesting and entertaining.

Graceland Mansion.
Graceland was not quite what I expected.  I thought it would be further outside of the city.  I thought it would be a bit more grandiose.  It turned out to be in the city ... or the city has grown out around the estate.  The house was large but I've seen fancier, more grandiose, mcmansions.  I guess the standards for opulence have changed a bit since the 70s.  Not sure it was a change for the better or not really.  The place was very touristy but here it fit in with my expectations.

First Floor Living Room in Graceland Mansion.
We toured the house and grounds (via a pre-recorded audio tour).  The house, as expected, was stuck in the 1970s.  The only place off limits is the second floor.  Apparently Elvis never took people up to the second floor, always entertaining on the first floor or basement, and the estate respects his wishes by keeping the second floor off limits for the tours.  As we followed the crowd through the different rooms and the attached museums showing off his gold records and other memorabilia I have to admit there were fewer weird people in the crowd than I expected.  Everyone seemed fairly ... normal.  It was also nice to see some foreign tourists in the crowd.

Basement Pool Room in Graceland Mansion.
Pictures of Graceland can be found in my 2013-06-15 Graceland Google Photos album.

After the tour we ate lunch at the Rock and Roll Cafe and bought a couple magnets (I was disappointed that they didn't have any Elvis magnets with swiveling hips) before heading to our second stop of the day.

The second stop was a more literary stop: Rowan Oak in Oxford, MS.  Rowan Oak is the home of William Faulkner.  It took us awhile, and two stops to ask for directions, to find the home tucked back on the wooded hill hidden in the college town of Oxford.  The home was nice but nothing out of the ordinary.  It's location, on a wooded acreage, was more interesting to me.

Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner.
A few pictures of Rowan Oak can be found in my 2013-06-15 Faulkner's House, Rowan Oak Google Photos album.

We ended the day a little farther down the road in Jackson, MS.

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The third day started with an unpleasant surprise for the Wife.  She found a tick on her stomach.  We're still not sure where it came from but we suspect she picked it up at Faulkner's place.  The rest of the day we both had that itchy paranoid feeling.

The Rowan Oak docent, while talking to the Wife, had mentioned Eudora Welty's house.  Since the Wife sometimes mentions Eudora Welty in her class, we decided to add it to our itinerary.  Fortunately for us, her house was in Jackson.  Unfortunately for us, the house is closed on Sundays so we would not be able to tour it.  I have to admit this didn't bother me much.  I am finding that touring old houses, to me, is as interesting as touring museums, something I have never been that fond of.   I wouldn't skip going through homes or museums because I always learn something but I always feel myself rushing through them.  I'm sure people who linger through museums get more out of the places than I do but I just lack the patience for most museums.

After our drive by, and a few exterior pictures of the house (you can see a couple in my 2013-06-16 Eudora Welty House Google Photos album), we headed towards our main destination.  Next post will cover a couple places on the way into New Orleans and our first day in the city.