Last week I finally got some real time off and hit the road heading due north: Lake George, NY then Lake Placid, NY with the destination of Montreal, Canada. Montreal is an amazing city and if you haven’t been make the trip, it’s closer than Chicago (from Philly) and what they say is true – It’s like the Paris of this continent. We also happened to be in town during the Just for Laughs festival and I got to share an elevator with Jim Breuer and in a separate elevator ride, Alonzo Bodden past winner of Last Comic Standing. Most of our time was spent walking around, exploring the city. It’s a huge city and there’s a ton to see and do. One of the standout events was a free (2 nights) concert by an all women’s choir from Belguim called Scala and Kolacny Brothers. They had a huge video screen and performed behind it while lights, fireworks and a full orchestra went down. The first night they performed, it rained the whole way through and was still pretty great. We watched it again the next night (no rain) and it was a second great show. I will definitely go back to Montreal again someday (hopefully not in the Winter).
Amy and I finally decided to take a real vacation. The plan came together very quickly and a destination was set. New Orleans, LA. The reasons were three fold. First, it is warm there. Most days the temp was around 68 degrees. Secondly, we wanted to go away, not somewhere just around the corner. Third, we wanted to be someplace new and interesting. Amy had never been to New Orleans, and I haven’t been in about 10 years.
I like to drive at night so we left late and made it through Baltimore, DC and Virginia in that first long drive. We ended up in Asheville, NC around breakfast time and found ourselves near the Biltmore Estate. The tour of the estate was too expensive for us, so we settled for the world’s nicest McDonalds, which is right outside the gates. This Mickey D’s had a fireplace, tin ceilings and a baby grand player piano (playing christmas music, of course).
Our next stop was just outside Nashville, Tennessee. We had driven quite a ways and needed a good nights rest. The next day we continued west towards Memphis. On the way Amy noticed signs for Loretta Lynn’s dude ranch. We took the excursion and explored the home of the famous country star. She had quite a spread, complete with a motocross course and much more.
We made it to Memphis around 11PM on Sunday night. This was poor planning on my part and the city was shutting down. The BBQ we wanted was closed, so we headed downtown to Beale Street. It was kind of quiet, and after a quick look around we decided to head south towards New Orleans.
The following day we rolled into New Orleans. The weather was amazing and after checking in to our hotel we started exploring. The made our way into the French Quarter for Cafe Du Monde and some beignets. A lot of walking took place. It’s just a fun city to walk and see. The architecture is unique (for the US at least) and a new place to be always feels good. The next day we got tickets for the Hornets vs. Wizards basketball game. We ate more good food, Cochon was a standout favorite. We learned out the biennial art expo Prospect 1, and just kept on going.
New Years eve was great. The city was filling up with party people and football folks in town for the Sugar Bowl. Bourbon Street was nuts. We watched the fireworks from the root of our hotel. There were fireworks in every direction, all around the city.
The next day we headed out of town. Before leaving we decided to drive to the 9th ward to see the state of things post Katrina. You hear a lot of stories about rebuilding, about Brad Pitt and Oprah but it’s hard to know what’s real. The reality is this – the 9th ward is still to this day a mess. Yes, there are some new houses and some recovery. Most of what you see is destruction and poverty. I immediately felt like someone who slows down on the highway when they see a car crash. My wife wanted to see the scope of the situation, and after some coaxing I agreed. It’s so much more complex when you see what’s really going on.
We took a slightly different route home, passing through Mississippi, Alabama, back to Nashville, and then home through Virginia. We headed straight to Lancaster county, where our hairy kids, Snoop Dogg and Punkass were staying. We really started to miss them on the journey. After picking up the boys we headed home for a 36 hour rest before I had to get back to work. This trip was much needed for Amy and I. I honestly feel very rested. Driving is a great peaceful time for me. I can’t check email, play web games, check Facebook, twitter, and check email again while driving. It gives me much needed time to think – and also, much needed time to not think.