Inaugural Retirement trip – Part 2
From Leeds we rode south on Hwy 25 through many areas of gorgeous purple wisteria. We finally stopped to capture one.
Spring was in full swing this far south, with beautiful white dogwoods and multiple neon colors of filmy azaleas, as we crested several mountains ridges south of Birmingham. We dubbed this our lake day due to the volumes of everything from tiny ponds to large lakes we saw through southern Alabama. Gradually, the terrain turned to flat sand, with rows and rows of pines as we approached Florida and at a bug-removal stop, we recorded 89 degrees (hot)!
In Florida, our aim was to travel west on Hwys 30 and 98 along the coast from Ft Walton Beach. Ugh…it was bumper to bumper and we bailed on to I-10 through Pensacola and Mobile, then over into Mississippi and then south to Pascagoula and west on US 90. I think I really am done with Florida. 😉
A unique diner entrance at a truck stop…
We didn’t have a destination for the night, so we checked online while sharing a wonderful flounder Pontchartrain dinner at Salvetti’s local Italian restaurant in Ocean Springs.
We ended up settling at the beach-facing Holiday Inn in Biloxi for the night. We had breakfast at Sharkey’s on the beach the next morning, then rode back east to take pictures of Biloxi 10 years post-hurricane.
We were struck by the lovely trees that survived the hurricanes, as well as, the beautiful wood carvings made of the trees that did not survive. It is amazing that there are so many open lots where homes once stood, and some new, big homes that have been rebuilt since the storm. We wondered how some things still endure, like the lighthouse and beautiful cemetery shaded by huge oaks, while stick and brick homes were totally wiped out, their owners never to return.
An interesting tombstone carved to look like a tree trunk. This poor soul only lived 40 years, from 1880 to 1920. Life was hard around the turn of the century.
After our photo op, we rode US 90 west along the Mississippi coast, right on the water. There was very little traffic, unlike the Florida version, and a wonderful breeze from the water. We were detoured through quiet neighborhoods then across the bay at Gulfport on I-10 because the US 90 bridge was closed. We got off I-10 at the earliest opportunity, at Waveland, and back onto US 90. Here we are about to cross the Pearl River into Louisiana.
We continued on US 90 toward New Orleans, and stopped to check out the Fort Pike historic site, which unfortunately was closed and fenced off. There was no information about the closure, so while we rested in the shade and drank water, we speculated whether it was storm damage or budget cuts.
Feeling refreshed, we headed into East New Orleans on the Chef Menteur Highway, and it was truly chilling passing through the flood gates right on the highway. The areas of devastation were incredible still from Katrina, with only pockets of new development popping up. The 9th Ward is still in a state of mostly blight, but there are bright spots even in the worst areas. It was a humbling experience, and an educational way to approach the city.
We arrived into the French Quarter and our hotel for the night, the historic Chateau Lemoyne, an IHG property. Our room was not ready so we left our bikes and luggage and riding gear with the Concierge Robert, (yes, this involved shedding our riding gear in the hallway, I am sure they were impressed, LOL) and then we went to have oysters at Felix’s. We had polished off a dozen raw, and a half dozen Rockefeller, when we got the text that our room was ready. OMG…we could never have imagined how wonderful this upgrade could be! By using an IHG credit card, and staying at IHG hotels whenever possible, we have reached Platinum status, and in this case, it paid off! Unfortunately, my WordPress account won’t let me upload a video directly, so you will have to check FaceBook if you want to see it. Suffice it to say it was a huge suite, with a living area with seating and fireplace, a full bath with tub, toilet and bidet, as well as, a separate ROOM with a giant shower and soaking tub! YES! We are living under a lucky star, or rainbow! Feeling very fortunate, indeed!
We ran around the suite with glee, then unpacked, spruced up and went out to tour the city. We walked through the Central Business District, and passed through Lafayette Square, where a Wednesday happening was just getting rolling. Bands, food and beverages…we will be back!
We really wanted to visit the Garden district via street car on St Charles Avenue, and waited for a long time at the Lee Circle stop. While waiting, we observed true ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time – NOT) attire. 🙂
We finally caught a streetcar, which was packed due to a reported fainting incident that backed up all the cars, and rode uptown to Jefferson. A couple so-so shots from St Charles Avenue, which is absolutely a showplace of fabulous homes.
With the streetcars so packed and delayed, we decided to just hop back on a downtown train and head back to the festival in Lafayette Square. It was hopping now!
We ate, drank and were merry for a while, then headed back into the Quarter via the Riverwalk.
They were setting up for the weekend French Quarter festival, so there were food and drink booths, as well as, stages, everywhere. Looks like a big deal, and if we didn’t have MotoGP tix for this weekend, we might have stayed!
We had a nice light dinner at Orleans Grapevine Wine Bar & Bistro, then took the remainder of our nice bottle of wine back to the suite for a jacuzzi. Bourbon Street was hopping on our way back to the hotel.
The next morning, we said goodbye to our lovely hotel and headed west on US 90. We went through areas still devastated from the storms, and many landfills and construction debris dumps. Rebuilding was mostly on stilts, a hard lesson learned. We spent literally hours crossing bayous, rivers and marshes in Southern Louisiana. The wind coming from the coast was enough to cause us to lean to stay upright much of the time!
We stopped for lunch in Abbeville, Louisiana, prior to detouring off US 90 to tour the Louisiana Outback Creole Nature Trail, which goes through miles and miles of marsh and along the shoreline, to a tiny ferry across the Gulf inlet between Cameron and Holly Beach.
On the ferry…
We were amazed at the size of the buildings that can be raised onto stilts. Government buildings, schools, hospitals, even double wides. Still devastating to see so many abandoned foundations. Many, many souls never returned to this storm-scarred region.
A huge LP gas plant on Sabine Pass. We saw an army of white buses headed toward this plant around 5 PM. Staggering to think how many people are employed in the gas and oil industry.
About to cross Sabine Pass into Texas, our home for the next several weeks…
Stay tuned, the MotoGP is next…unfortunately, it looks like rain is expected in Austin all weekend. Hoping the races go on.
For the next installment, go to Back in Texas.