The journey into New Orleans was an easy 50 miles, but it is ALWAYS the last 2 miles that make for tense moments – and the search for French Quarter RV Resort was no exception. Having replaced our Rand McNally GPS with a “new and improved” Rand McNally specifically for RV travel, we hoped for better results. However, such was not the case, as we have now determined that the unit chooses to change destination addresses sometime during that day’s journey. This time, it put us a block past our destination and on the wrong side of a divided street. The Captain, however, skillfully kept making right turns on wide/major streets and we safely navigated to our destination. Our friends, Bob & Sue Grote, however, missed a critical right turn and ended up in “all the wrong places” which required them to unhook their toad and back their bus up almost two blocks – with the aide of several gentlemen drinking out of brown paper bags.
Settled in to our sites, we headed out for an afternoon of sunshine, char-grilled oysters and the sites of Bourbon Street in the daylight. Little did we know it would be some of the last sunshine we would see for five days!
Sue, Bob & Bill beside Contessa, Acme Oyster Bar (top right),
Dualing Pianos and Bill & Bob at Pat O’Brien’s Bourbon Street
The next day was primarily dedicated to the National WWII Museum – and what an amazing place! Originally established as a D-Day Museum, it has flourished with support from many around the country. Why, New Orleans, you might ask? The primary landing craft (LCVP landing craft, vehicle, personnel) for the invasion of Normandy in 1944 was conceived and built in New Orleans by Andrew Jackson Higgins. It could hold a 36-man platoon, a jeep & a 12-man squad, or 8,000 of cargo.
Beyond all Boundaries, shown in the Victory Theatre at the museum, is a 4D journey through the war narrated by Tom Hanks. It is an awe-inspiring experience that no one should miss and yet is only shown at the Victory Theatre.
The museum now comprises four massive buildings and construction continues on a fifth building and canopied pavillion. Memorabilia from tanks to uniforms and letters to personal quotes take you “there” in a way that few historical facilities can achieve. Building 4 houses a sample of the aircraft used during the grueling and wicked four years of battle (1941-1945) in which the US participated.
Entrance to Museum Complex, B25 (above) and B17 Flying Fortress (below)
When we entered the Museum, it was a warm and sunny day. When we exited some five hours later, the clouds had rolled in, the temperature had dropped and the promise of rain was evident. Galatoire 33 on Bourbon Street was our dinner haven for the evening.
Friday morning, we ventured out with umbrellas – headed for Cafe duMond for a classic beignet & coffee. However, none of us are fond of standing in long lines – and theirs was longer than a Disneyland ride. Having already purchased tickets for the Hop On-Hop Off excursion, we elected to pass on the sugary delights – and how fortuitous that was! We were able to get seats on the upper level of the double decker, but under the canopy should it start to rain. Perhaps 10 minutes into the 2 hour trip, the rains and wind appears with gusto. Again, fortunes smiled on us, the bus stopped at the “Visitors Center’ – almost everyone got off, and we were able to secure seats down below for the remainder of a wet, cold and windy ride!
After a quick bite at Cafe Beignet (gumbo & muffaletta’s – no sugar!), we returned to our coaches for the afternoon. The evening was a delight – taking the recommendation of looper friends, Denise & Mark Gillespie, we summoned an Uber and headed for Katie’s in MidCity. Service was great and the ribs were AMAZING!
We departed New Orleans in cool temperatures, never imagining what the next days would hold. As we continued west on I-10, having joined it about 15 miles north of New Orleans, we were humbled by the miles and miles of bridges that make the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys seem short. Because of the endless miles of bayou as well as the southwestern portion of Lake Pontchartrain, the bridges seem to last forever. Or, perhaps, it is because the bridge side barriers combined with the endless concrete barriers around the multitude of construction sites seemed to encroach on the traffic lanes – and the ride felt like a roller coaster with major bumps, humps and rolls.
This was our longest day of the journey – 375 miles to Houston/Katy, TX. We were traveling on Saturday, thus minimizing the risk of rush hour traffic, so we elected to go further and get west of Houston, making our next leg of the journey easier.
We were in a lovely campground just a couple miles off I-10, but it was so cold and rainy that we never even got a picture! Sunday morning was spent attending a local Episcopal Church – sure made us homesick for the warmth and friendliness of our St. Philip’s!
After lunch, we decided the warmth of the Johnson Space Center was an appropriate way to spend a cold, rainy afternoon. So much for planning. Even though the main Center housed a theatre and some amazing exhibits, the vast majority of an hour tour was on an open-air tram! We were, of course, not attired for such an event, so it was not as pleasant as one would have liked. However, Mission Control was an exhilarating experience and the Saturn V rocket warehouse took your breath away.
Orion Mission Control (top left), Saturn V 1st Stage (top right) and 2nd Stage (bottom)
We all agreed, however, that the 747 with the shuttle on its back was the highlight of the Center! This particular 747 was one of three purchased from American Airlines in 1974 and retrofitted to be the “carrier pigeon” for the Space Shuttle Program (Enterprise, Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis, Challenger and Endeavor). The Program ran from 1972-2011, with two failures – Challenger was a launch failure on January 28, 1986, where 7 crew members including a civilian school teacher lost their lives. Columbia was a re-entry failure where another 7 astronauts were lost.
We will always hold dear our memories of May 2011, when Ivory Lady was making her spring journey from Marathon to Charleston and we were anchored immediately off Cape Kennedy for the launch of the final Endeavor mission. Atlantis embarked on its 33rd and final mission of the Space Shuttle program on July 8, 2011, landing at the Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, having orbited the Earth 4,848 times and traveling nearly 126 million miles.
Our second day in Houston was spent doing inside chores, while Bob & Sue went to the movies. Dinner was spaghetti aboard Contessa, the consummate comfort food for a cold and rainy night. We did, however, brave the cold to prep the coach for travel the following day, ie. holding tank empty, water tank full, etc. Even though it was to be a short day and we therefore couldn’t leave until 9:30a to coincide with check-in time in San Antonio, we were sure it would be more pleasant to do the outside chores in the afternoon rather than early the next morning with a freeze warning in place. What – freeze warning in Houston! Yes, sirree!
And, again, the best laid plans – while we were preparing the coach and toad at 8:30a for a 9:30a departure, Captain Bill identified a serious issue with the Jeep. Evidently the roller coaster ride on I-10 between New Orleans and Houston had loosened the nuts from the Blue Ox mounting bracket that allows the toad to be connected to the coach! We wouldn’t be attaching to the Jeep until it was repaired. And, to add insult to injury, it was beginning to snow!
With the magic of the internet and the kindness of the Texas people, we were connected to Gary’s Tire & Auto only about a mile from the campground. After alerting Bob & Sue, we were off to meet Gary. After about an hour, they determined the issue and confirmed their ability to repair – BUT – they had to take the Jeep to a body shop to have the bumper removed before they could accomplish the repairs. Another two hours passed, Bob & Sue departed for San Antonio and we arranged to either depart late or stay another day, when Gary proclaimed we were “good to go”.
We calculated we could easily make the 175 miles to San Antonio before dark, even though we would be arriving later than our preferred 3:00p. While the rain and snow flurries had subsided, the wind was a force to be reckoned with – and it gave Captain Bill a work-out as we headed west. As we made our way toward San Antonio, blue skies and sunshine appeared and it was a very welcome sight. Somewhere close to San Antonio, we crossed the halfway point for our trip to our “western destination” – sure felt good!
Again, the last two miles added a couple elements of anxiety with low hanging power lines, abrupt railroad crossings and the GPS changing destination address, but we made it to our destination without issue and what a relief it was.
We awoke to clear blue skies, no wind and warming weather – so after an abbreviated workout in the lovely fitness center at the campground, we pointed the toad toward New Braunfels, northeast of San Antonio. Dear friends, Gayla & Ferril Sorenson, have purchased a fabulous lot on which to build their “next home”. It was so nice to see the land and be able to picture its progress into the lovely spot we know they will make.
A visit to Gruene Historical District and then a cruise through New Braunfels, complete with a visit to the Gruene Dance Hall where many a country singer got his/her start and a stop at the “smokehouse” for good German meats, was a great way to spend the day. We topped it off with a late afternoon visit to the Alamo and an evening on the Riverwalk.
While history focuses on the Battle of the Alamo in March, 1836, the Alamo served as home to Spanish missionaries and Indian converts for more than 70 years. Texas became the 28th state in 1845 and seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America, until the end of the Civil War. Except for the Civil War period and until 1877, the Alamo was used as a supply depot by the US Army.
Today has been a lovely day — a workout & yoga, getting both the coach and the toad washed, doing a few chores and just basking in the sunshine and noticeably warmer weather. The sunshine is giving way some clouds, but there is no rain in the forecast and we are to have two lovely days for our “next leg” that begins tomorrow morning. We will depart early for 315 miles to Ft. Stockton, TX, overnight without even unhooking the toads and then off on Saturday morning for Las Cruces, NM. (All on I-10!)