Day 1 and 2

Trip Start Jul 22, 2008
Trip End Aug 06, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, July 25, 2008

Day One of our trip started at midnight Tuesday night. We let Jose take a nap during Tuesday evening, so that he could drive during the night to New Orleans.
We were all very comfortable in the van. The kids slept quite a bit, but also had other activities. Christian spent time on the laptop computer watching videos, texting of the cell phone and listening to music on his ipod. Bethany watched videos on her video now, and listening to music on her mp3. It seems like it took forever to get out of Florida, then the rest of the drive was easy. At 6am, we pulled into a rest stop for I and Jose to go potty. I noticed that the folks in the pickup next to us very sound asleep. The kids had decided to stay in the van. While we were in the bathroom, I heard a car alarm going off....yep, ours. So much for the folks next to us sleeping! Christian had decided to get out, but Jose had locked them in. Alarm goes off. Then, I come out, and Bethany lets me in....alrm again. Those folks in the pickup were NOT happy campers! Well, we'll never see them again.....
I had researched gas prices along the way at ,
and it really helped us find the cheapest gas. With driving at night, we got to New Orleans earlier than expected. I also forgot to figure in the fact that we'd be crossing a time zone, so we gained an hour. In Mobile, it was cool to drive over the bridge and get a good view of the Battleship Alabama, and then drive through the tunnel there.
10:00 am, so most of the businesses in the French Quarter were not open yet. It looked scary and abandoned. Jose was very unhappy about this. We circled the block of our hotel ( one way streets made it more difficult to make a simple 'around the block')
several times before we could find a place to temporarily park. After I checked in, I found that the hotel had a tiny parking lot that they valet parked us in ($25- but not other options are available). The rooms were very nicely decorated, and each had a balcony overlooking the small pool courtyard (these came in handy for Christian having some alone time with his cell phone). I convinced the family that it would really be OK to walk around, and I wouldn't get them lost. The architecture here (wrought iron porches) is so beautiful. The first thing we did was walk up Bourbon Street (1/2 block from hotel). It's amazing to see so many little tourist gift shop all selling Mardi Gras beads and T shirts, right next to strip clubs- quite the mix. So, what do we do next? Why, we go to the Catholic Cathedral at Jackson Square! Like I said, quite the mix!
The frescos on the ceiling, and the stained glass windows were beautiful. Unfortunately,
It started pouring rain while we were in there, so we hung out there for a while. Of course there would have to be a hurricane when we come on vacation. Luckily, there is a Mardi Gras museum right next door, so we walked around there, and took lots of pix. It was interesting, if not also bizarre. So many people of all ages and backgrounds acting totally foolish, and spending huge amounts of money to do so. We went to Café Du Monde for beneittes and frozen coffee aulate. The dough nuts were ok, but the frozen coffee was piled up like dog poop, and tasted pretty bad too. With the rain, it was hot and damp, and unenjoyable, so we were wet and tired; so returned to the rooms for a break (nap). Later, the rain stopped. Jose decided to stay back in room while I and the kids continued our exploration. We walked down by the river, but were disappointed by the extreme smell of oil, and the awful oily all over the river. We had considered taking the ferry across, but couldn't stand to be near the filth and stench. We instead decided to take an electric trolley car for a ride. It was very neat, like the old time kind. Unfortunately, we didn't get on the short line, we got on the line that sent us clear to the outskirts of NO, and past a lot of the Katrina damaged buildings. We also got to see the massive cemeteries with all the fancy above ground crypts- pretty scary. I must tell you that the kids were a bit nervous going through those sections. I was just worried that we were going to get to the end, and make us get off. Good thing, they let us come back. As we were getting near to our entry point however, the driver announced that she couldn't go back to the riverfront because " a big oil spill has the riverfront area shut down". Well, at least it was a bit of a relief to know that the oil thing was temporary. We walked back to the room to get Jose for dinner. I had a certificate for a seafood restaurant nearby. I had gotten a $50 off $100 cert because we were supposed to have Jose's parents coming with us. SOOO.... To take advantage of the cert, we each got appetizers along with a full meal. BIG MISTAKE.
The food was really good, but we ate until we were sick. We had the best crab cakes, barbequed shrimp and I got crab stuff tuna steak- it was sooooo good. ( I'm nauseated as I write this). I guess it's flopping in front of the tv for the rest of the night. Later however, I did get Bethany to convince me to go for a dip in the pool. I guess we're spoiled though, because we both thought that it was too cold, and only lasted a few minutes.
General observation about NO: It was great to see once, but it would have been a blast when I was about 20 years old, with all the bars and music, but I'm way too old for that kind of thing now.

Day 2 Began with me waking everyone up at about 7am, because we needed to get 'on the road again'. We had a small continental breakfast, and were in the van. Most of LA was a bit scary. Loooooong bridges over swamp, with nothing in between. What if you break down? We found out about half way through the state. We noticed that for the longest time, there was no traffic going east. Then, we saw why. There had been a accident where a car drove up under a gas truck. The car was totally burned up, and there were a dozen police and hazmat trucks there cleaning up. Then they had to keep that side closed for miles and miles behind. Then we had the weather. It was the leftovers of hurricane Dolly's outer bands, and really poured at times. For lunch we stopped at 'Whataburger"- what a stomach ache for Mom! Luckily I brought chewable pepto- always prepared. Driving through Houston was a bear, between rain, a lot of traffic, and construction. One thing that we decided was that Texas is cheap. Other states have rest areas every 50 to 100 miles. NOT Texas. At one point, everybody had to go, but no rest stops, and almost no businesses were to be found. We even started seeing these billboards every mile (like 'South of the Border' used to have) from a place called "Buc-ees". Their biggest selling point was the bathrooms :"'You have to pee it to believe it", "You'll love our beautiful restrooms". Well, that cute cartoon beaver had us hooked! The bathrooms were very nice, but they really wanted you there for the gift shop. Lots of interesting stuff. We all got Dippin Dots ice cream, and fudge. Got into San Antonio, and drove right to the Riverwalk Marriott. I'm soo glad that I didn't cheap out. We got a room on the 26th floor, with floor to ceiling windows- this is just way too cool!. We went wandering the hotel, and found the indoor/outdoor pool, whirlpool, and fitness center. Christian was thrilled with the fitness room, and all it's weight training equipment. It was getting to be around 7:30, so we thought that we should get some dinner. We walked out the back doors of the hotel, walked down a short flight of stairs, and were right on the river walk.
A 2 minute walk had us in the mall. Went to the kids favorite store- Hot Topic, then to the food court to get food to bring back to the room. Chinese for me and the kids, and gyro for Jose. Then, down to the pool and fitness room. I wanted to go to the hot tub, but it was closed for cleaning. It better be open tomorrow. Christian wanted to stay and work out. I and Bethany jumped in the pool. Since it's on the 7th floor, it's only 4 foot deep, and you can feel the floor vibrate-pretty weird. Here again, we whimped out and because we were cold. Christian was really into the workout, so he stayed. I and Bethany came back to the room and showered. Jose passed out early. We are soon to follow. Now to see if I can get the internet, and figure out how to work the travel blog...challenging for an old broad!
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