New OrleansĀ 

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. John F. Kennedy 

In the 1970’s Jeanne worked in Yosemite park as a nurse.  It was a life altering event in that it opened up her views of the world.  Her coworkers were amazing and bonded with each other.  They have kept in close contact and attempt to get together every year for a reunion of some sort.  Last year they came to Alaska and visited Jeanne and I. This year we came to visit Judy who resides in New Orleans.  She has shown us an amazing taste of New Orleans.  

New Orleans definitely is a town with atmosphere. Most cities are just cities, which can be interesting, but New Orleans seems alive, vibrant with multiple activities some time specific, some ongoing and localized.  From evening one when Judys sister and husband had made us jumbalaya, which goes over New Orleans style potato salad, to restaurants ,to the crawfish boil. The food is incredible.  

One Uber driver was worried if we had been getting a food taste of New Orleans.  He said hurricane Katrina made him realize how good the food was.  During the hurricane local food was not available and when it returned folks began to realize what they had.  

Day one we started at the World War II museum. We spent 3 1/2 hours and were overwhelmed with well presented information .  And we only saw a portion skipping the movie, and numerous exhibits.  It was intense.  I came away with the feeling of the millions of stories created and often untold.  As one historian said he found the closer to combat the participants were the less they talked.  It was only in the last years of my dad and his cousins did I discover the things they had been through.  It was the same for Jeanne’s dad.  Once again the museum reiterated the human nature of thinking I am far better than you.  

Day two we went on a swamp tour.  Oh my.  Very different than Alaska wilderness.  Alligators, wild boar, birds, trees living in water, snakes.  The tour guide was great and the more questions we asked the more interesting he became.  A good old boy who grew up locally.  He claimed he had only been a guide for a week and learned his information from u-tube videos, information which seemed to require years of accumulation including how to drive a boat through those trees, roots, and currents.   He had gotten up early to hunt for the elusive hot dogs which alligators like and marsh mellows which pigs like.  I have never seen those trees, marshmallow or hot dog trees.

Local resident alligator
Eastern diamondback water snake
Wild boar
Slidell turtles
Cypress and knees
Great blue heron – nobody messes with them as they will poke out an eye
Feeding time – wild hot dogs caught that morning

Day three was the purpose of visiting this time of year; the French quarter jazz festival – billed as the largest free show of Louisiana music.  Judy dropped us off as since she lived here she did not feel the urge to visit, and parking is a pain.  She offered to stay back with Jeanne who was increasingly sick with cough and sinus congestion.  We had gone to a doc in the box that morning and she received  a shot.  

We had schedules of bands, venues, times and activities of which by the end of day we ended up just wandering about for 7 hours trying and failing to fit it all in.  At one point I texted my sister saying I was sitting in front of police station with beer in one hand, a mint julep in the other just watching people and it was only 11 am.  (One can wander the streets with booze here, very nice as not corraled off as most places.  You just cannot have glass bottles)

Street music
Street mime
Extemporaneous poems typed out for you
Street musician -great music
New Orleans lunch
Lunch menu
Music venues everywhere and activities were to be found everywhere, but I was feeling tired as also was succumbing to the tiredness dogging Jeanne.  I decided to call Uber for an early ride home.  Judy would pick up the rest after rush hour at 6:30.  I had never used Uber but it was amazing.  The driver was a wealth of information and wanted to make sure I was enjoying New Orleans as it was his city.  And it was about half as expensive as a taxi and easier to get, knowing before hand where he was and who he was.   No wonder it has taken off.  

Day four Judy dropped us off at the trolley stop, where we boarded the longest continually operated city trolley in the world.  Apparently started around 1800. Great to travel the neighborhoods and university districts.  Tulane and Loyola universities are both here along with numerous others.  It 

Arrived again at French quarter and much more crowded being a Saturday.  More venues and fewer plain street musicians.  Very good but crowded.  We ate at a different restaurant again I had delicious oysters just different.  Still lots of garlic and excellent.  After Jeanne and I wandered a bit to show her the jazz fest then back to trolley and an Uber ride back to Judys.  

Day five. Drove across Lake Pontchartrain which I understand is the longest bridge in the world, being 24 miles long. (38.5 kilometer)

Lake pontchartrain bridge

We rented bikes to ride the rails to trail ride to Anita and the brewery there.  Delightful ride although I do not understand where comfort bike term comes from.  Sit straight up not allowing any power into the legs.  The big wide soft tractor seat with big springs was very uncomfortable.  After 20 miles I wanted my arrow saddle bent over bike.  Everyone was sore.  

Then on to judy’s family and a crawfish boil.  Oh my oh my.  They know how to put on a feed.  I envisioned a few crawfish on a plate, but we went through 2 20 gallon tubs.  Oh my.  They showed us the whole process – cleaning, takes 4-5 rinses getting out the detritus from the mud (which can include snakes and such) putting the vegetables (corn, garlic, potatoes, hot dogs, etc. and spices in pot. Boil and pour out on table, covering the table covered with newspaper.  Plates are about 50 cm  (20 inches) across and you fill them up.  To eat you break the crawfish in half then suck the head to get the spices, then pinch the tail for the meat.  

Being new to the process we timidly filled our plates and sat at counter .  Laura took my plate to demonstrate the proper way and filled my plate.  Apparently no one else in our group cared to follow suite.  We were actually astounded when a second boil (pot) was put on.  When he came ready Judy’s family had helped us finish our serving and went into the second.  They did not waste time on sitting and plates, just stood around table and feasted. They could go through 4-6 crawfish to my one.  And the conversation flowed.  Delightful!

Crawfish feed. Remainders on right with still to go on left
Second boil serving
Beginning of second boil
First boil neophytes
Crawfish boil table setting
Pouring the boil
Cleaned crawfish ready for pot
Ready for biking
Worlds most uncomfortable bike
Biking Louisiana

Day six and off to hike about Jean Lafitte national historical park.  The visitor center was closed due to funding cuts, but trails great.  Hike about 3 miles along mostly boardwalks.  Viewing numerous snakes, garter snakes, bull snakes?, copperheads, frogs, birds, and 3 alligators.  What a different world.

Alligator hiding estimated a 6-8 footer they barely move if at all difficult to see
Egret (they move very slow, unless striking)
Copperhead or water moccasin
Today “just a walk in the park “near home.  Delightful just walking watching birds, trees, the creek.  A three mile running track, a dog park, carousel merry go round.  At last some people who were not overly happy, but they were runners with headphones on.  

People here have been super friendly.  In the Avita bar a lady came up to us saying she had been easedropping on us and realized we were not fro here.  (Probably because we were only ones to not have an accent in the room). She wanted to wish us a delightful visit.  

It has been a wondrous visit and I now understand why people love coming here.  We should return.