Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The French Quarter and, some very sad news...

On Sunday morning we took a drive to Gulfport and walked along the boardwalk there before going to a Waffle House for breakfast. We thought we’d better try a Waffle House because there’s one every mile or two down here.

Pictured is a wharf along the boardwalk at Gulfport and, inside a Waffle House. These places are about as busy as a Tim Horton’s is 24/7 in Canada. The food is cooked in front of patrons, the coffee's good and the meals are reasonably priced and decent.

We left Biloxi under sunny skies on Monday morning. Normally we stay off the interstates but it didn’t look like there was much to see along the way so we made New Orleans in an hour-and-a-half on I-10.

Settling in at Ponchtartrain RV Park, we had lunch and then went to get the oil changed on the truck.

At 3:45 we took the $5 shuttle from the park to the French Quarter - what a deal. Strolling around Bourbon and Royal Streets, we took in some sights that wouldn’t be seen anywhere else. Of course the architecture is typical of what you’d expect to see. The art galleries were very interesting though - not your usual run-of-the-mill variety where the art is the same in Mississippi as it is in Manitoba. There were some very unusual home d├ęcor shops, Voodoo shops and, of course, restaurants, bars, strip clubs and souvenir shops. There’s a hustler at very corner and barkers at almost every doorway doing their best to draw unsuspecting neophytes into seedy nightspots.

Pictured are: A river boat on the Mississippi at dock in New Orleans; some shots of Bourbon street and some of the shops.

As recommended by the people at our RV park, and the shuttle driver, we went to The Oceana Grill for dinner. We had been told that you can get ripped for up to $25 a drink at some clubs, and that most restaurants are vastly over-priced, so it was a nice surprise to find we could get a decent bottle of wine for $24 and our entrees, Crawfish Etouffe for Janice and a Crab Cake Platter for me, at $20 each. With tip we were out of there for $75.00.

After dinner we went to the Bayou Zydeco Club and saw Waylon Thibedeaux and his band entertaining a small but lively crowd. They had a lot of fun getting patrons to strap on the washboard and trying to play along with the percussionist.

In the picture below the real percussionist is on the right - the girl enjoying herself so much is just drunk. In the next picture the guitar player on the left looked remarkably like a guitar player I used to play with - same hat and everything.

The shuttle picked us up again at 8:00pm as scheduled. When we got back to the park there were about ten people partying at the outdoor Tiki Bar there. We went to have a look. It turned out they were all from a small company that paints locomotives and are staying at the park while they complete a contract here. The boss, Jimmy, was buying Las Vegas Bomb shooters and insisted we join them. Ok, just for one. A couple of shooters later we decided to join Tom and Mary Beth back at their trailer for a night cap. Tom looked like our friend Jack Young from Barriere and Mary Beth was a Sissy Spacek look-alike. We left about midnight and Tom had to be up at 5:00 to go to work. Ouch.

The morning after, Janice and I took a drive around New Orleans and had lunch at Zydeco’s restaurant. Janice had crab-filled-egg-roll-kind-of-things and I had corn and crawfish chowder. If you were to ask us, besides the French Quarter, there's not a lot else to see in New Orleans. Mostly it's run-down and dirty.

Pictured is the Superdome and downtown New Orleans.


One of the prime motivators for us taking this extended trip in the first place was the loss of our long-time friend Dave (Big D) Jenneson, to cancer. His ex wife, Charlie, was also fighting her own battle with cancer. Janice’s dad died of cancer last year too and, although he was seventy-six when he died, that age doesn’t seem so far off when you’re sixty years of age yourself. A couple of other acquaintances of ours had also died that year.

We decided that it was better to travel now, while we still could - damn the expense.

When Bill, (Janice’s dad) was on his death bed, he asked if we wanted any last words of advice. Sure we did. “Travel now, pay later,” he said. While it’s not our style to do things we can‘t afford to pay for up front, we got the drift.

On June 1st we hit the road. We hadn’t been on the road a month when we discovered that one of my colleagues at CFIB, Bruce Grimes, had come down with cancer. That was July 1. We had been going to try and meet up with Bruce at his summer place at Lake of the Woods in Ontario, but the timing didn’t work out and we missed him by a couple of days. Man, did I regret not having hung around a few more days to make that happen when, a month later, we got news that Bruce had died suddenly as a result of treatments he was undergoing.

We couldn’t believe it. He was fifty years young, and so vibrant.

I never reported on Bruce’s death in my blog for a couple of reasons. One: Most people on my contact list that receive my blog didn’t know Bruce. Two: Charlie regularly reads the blogs and, because she was undergoing cancer treatments herself, I didn’t want to scare her.

I had only known Bruce for a couple of years but it felt like more because we got on so well. He was an outstanding individual. A natural born leader with great people skills, a ready sense of humour, an incredibly wide knowledge base and a keen interest in just about any subject. He made a big impression.

Because I hadn’t reported on Bruce’s death I thought it inappropriate to report on another momentous occasion: The marriage of our good friends Debbie MacArthur and Peter Gilmour. They got married on October 10 last year. I’m sure they probably found it strange that there wasn’t a peep about it in my blog, especially because we had been hanging out with them more than anyone else before we left on our trip. Peter and Debbie, my reasoning might have been misguided, I'm not sure, but now you know why.

Now, our long-time friend, Charlie, who’s been unbelievably courageous and upbeat while fighting several bouts of cancer over the past seven- year stretch, has been told she has several large brain tumours.

Thankfully we got to see Charlie when we went home for Christmas. Janice had time alone with her and then we all had Christmas dinner at Janice's mom's.

We love you Charlie.


  1. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.