Greetings from Austin! We made it to the Lone Star State just yesterday, after quite a few big driving days!
Last week, we left off having just pulled into Biloxi, MS for dinner and a little casino exploration. Turns out that the title “Vegas of the South” was quite the overstatement. We got dressed (as in, not yoga pants or athletic gear) and wandered into the Boomtown Casino. First, we were immediately greeted by the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke. Second, we walked the entire length of the casino in under 2 minutes and promptly noticed the sad state of affairs. Granted, it was a Wednesday evening, but the place was dead; there were only 4 tables open and the place mostly consisted of a few people playing video slots. We tried to make the best of it, we had a drink and Jim hit the craps table. That didn’t go so well so we tried our hand at video poker, where we at least just about broke even (neither of us are gamblers as it is, so this was more about checking out the place than trying to win anything). After an hour of fun, we called it a night and decided our time would be better spent driving to Slidell, LA, just outside New Orleans. We pulled into a Walmart around midnight and turned in.
Thursday we spent the day in Slidell, checking some things off our never-ending to-do list. One of those to-do list items included Heather getting up the Christmas decorations! We had Bertha last year for our two week maiden voyage, and we had hung up Christmas lights then…we had forgotten how awesome they are! Bertha transforms into a Christmas Wonderland and it makes us super happy, especially when combined with scented holiday candles and our cousin Eddie RV lit up. This was especially awesome timing given that we had just replaced all of our house batteries and repaired the generator, now we actually have the power to use the lights every evening! The remainder of Thursday was spent getting some work and planning done with a side of grocery shopping, Slidell was as surprisingly nice place to get some stuff done.
We intended to spend Friday doing some sightseeing in New Orleans! After breakfast we drove the 30 miles to just outside of New Orleans, parked Bertha, and unloaded the motorcycle for a day of fun. We navigated to the French Quarter, found a parking spot, and started wandering before quickly realizing it was lunch time. We sought out a decently priced lunch spot where we ordered a couple of Bloody Mary’s and some gumbo and jambalaya to share. Yum! After lunch, we meandered through a couple of shops and zigzagged the colorful streets as we walked toward the famous St Louis Cemetery. Upon arrival, however, we learned that it would cost $20 a piece to see the cemetery and
decided against entering. Instead, we headed back toward the French Quarter, into a voodoo shop and a historic jazz spot before heading to Bourbon Street. All the streets prior to this had been relatively quiet, a few tourists and some various street performers, but Bourbon Street was a different story. This was more comparable to Vegas than Biloxi was…Bourbon Street is just bar after bar trying to suck you in with drink specials, and you can walk down the street with your drinks. We ducked into a dive bar for a beer and walked the length of most of Bourbon Street, people watching and taking it all in. We ended up leaving just before dark (it was cold out and we were on a motorcycle!), but it was easy to see how that street was heading toward debauchery pretty quickly! In hindsight, it would have been nice to get in a live jazz show or to have visited outside of the French Quarter, but we had our fill and headed back to Bertha’s warmth. Since it was still pretty early, we decided to get some driving done and drove the 80 miles to Baton Rouge. We found a great spot to spend the night and tucked ourselves in for the rainy night ahead.
We’re trying to balance the work with the driving and the sightseeing, so we decided that Saturday would be a work day in Baton Rouge. We hit the YMCA for a swim (in the cold, it’s been really chilly down here all week!), and spent the remainder of the day tucked into Bertha and getting things done – Jim is chipping away at his coaching recertifications and will be done very soon!
Sunday morning we had another long day of driving ahead. It had rained pretty hard for most of the night and it didn’t let up at all the entire next day. We left Baton Rouge around 10am, in the pouring rain, with just under 300 miles to cover. We had a few small stops throughout the day (a stop for gas and a stop for a 30 minute nap at a rest area), but we didn’t arrive at our destination until 6pm that evening. Heather’s aunt and uncle live in Porter, TX, just north of Houston, in a beautiful neighborhood with lovely brick homes and perfectly manicured lawns. They invited us to visit and even offered us their driveway for the night, it was another Griswold’s moment to pull Bertha into such a nice home. Jim backed Bertha in like a boss and they set us up with power for the evening, before we headed in the house for a delicious dinner of steaks, grilled veggies, baked potatoes, and pumpkin pie. It was Jim’s first time meeting Heather’s extended family, and he and Frank bonded quickly over military stories and their love of flight. We ended the evening of catching up and telling stories as we headed out to the driveway, cranked up the furnace, and took some extra hot showers, as it was still super cold and rainy. We fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof, which sounds peaceful but can actually be quite loud when it hits the metal roof.
Monday morning we had a nice oatmeal breakfast with Uncle Frank and Aunt Tamara before disconnecting from their home and hitting the road once again. Today’s destination: Austin! It was just under 200 miles from Houston to Austin, we left around 10am and arrived somewhere after 2pm. Our first Austin stop was the Amazon Locker, where we had sent a few items we needed. This was such an awesome way to get our packages, you simply type in your code and the lockers open with your goodies; it’s like a jack-in-the-box style package pickup! Once we were loaded up with our goods, we headed toward downtown Austin, driving down South Congress to get there. Such a cool city, even just to drive through it you can see the eclecticness of the shops, people, and restaurants. We amazingly found a place to park Bertha near the river and headed out for an evening run, it was chilly out with a mist in the air that left us a bit wet as we finished the run. But it was beautiful, running along the water, under and over bridges, and taking in the sights of downtown at the same time. It felt especially good after all the hours of driving over the past few days.
We’ll be here in Austin for a couple of days getting more work done, sight-seeing, and even catching up with an old Marine Corps buddy of Jim’s who he hasn’t seen in almost 15 years. Then we’ll continue our journey west with another 1,000 miles to our holiday destination in Phoenix! As always, thanks for reading!
Total RV Trip Miles: 11,870