welcome to Alabama

Day 2 of our trip took us from Nashville, and through Alabama, and Mississippi. I’d been this way before, but Amy and Mary hadn’t been so they were surprised by the huge rocket at the Alabama Welcome Center. This is what you see from the road from a few miles away…giving you time to get in the right lane to pull off at the center.
Alabama welcome center_1
And this is it up close…it’s huge. Why is there a rocket in Alabama? Because the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is in Huntsville.
rocket up closeThe sign at the door to the Welcome Center made me pause, as these signs always do when I’m travelling in the States. I’ve never seen one at any venue in Canada, so it’s a bit of a culture shock each time reminding me I’m in a different country, with a different culture.
culture-shock_compOnce we stopped and oohed and aww-ed at the rocket, we got back on the road, switching so I took over driving in Birmingham and drove through Mississippi.
Mississippi welcome centerSorry, Alabama and Mississippi, but take a look at the picture of the Welcome to Alabama sign at the top. That is basically all you see through the two states. Lots of tree-covered berms on either side of the interstate, that block any view of the land around. Hours and hours of trees and few landmarks. 🙁

We’d programmed Amy’s GPS to stop in Slidell, just on the other side of the Louisiana border. Partly because I have a major hatred of big bridges. It’s something about the way the car tips as you head up the ramp and all you can see is sky. So we knew Slidell was approaching from the mile markers, so when Mike told me to take an off-ramp I figured he was leading us into the town itself.


Mike got mixed up again, and guess what I saw a few minutes later…
Mississippi welcome center
Yup, he’d lead us away from Louisiana and back across the Mississippi border, and on this different route, he made me drive over a huge ass bridge over THE MISSISSIPPI. Did I mention I don’t like doing big bridges. I do them when I have to, but OMG talk about white-knuckle driving.


Yeah, I’m pretty sure I looked a lot like that picture above. It didn’t help when Mary mentioned how we were above the tree tops. I, uh, may have sworn at her. I don’t quite remember though because, yeah, panicking!

Once we got down to the other side, I admit, I broke the law. I used one of those emergency turn around spots and pulled over and let Amy take the wheel. I should mention that Amy was pretty much as nervous as I was since as part of her upcoming drive, she faced going over the six mile Twin Span causeway over Lake Ponchartrain. Yes, that’s right. It’s a six MILE bridge!

I knew I’d been over it before. But I couldn’t remember any of it, which said to me that either it was horrible and I closed my eyes while my hubby drove over it, or it was a piece of cake and made no impression at all.  I just couldn’t figure out which… so Amy was almost as freaked out as I was about the Twin Span until we realized, although there was a minor ramp in one place, most of it was flat road. And while there was water on either side, it wasn’t…too bad.
causeway to NOLA sideYou can see the old bridge in the very far distance there.
Causeway to NOLA_frontBut there is something eerie about being on a bridge with land so far in the distance. (Note to self: do not attempt the Centennial Bridge to P.E.I. which is far far longer and higher than the Twin Span.)

As you can tell from the photos, the sun was on the horizon by the time we arrived at New Orleans City Limits. There were still a lot of houses that are boarded up and abandoned after Katrina, even in the nicer districts. It was so sad to see.

As we approached the French Quarter where our hotel was, we discovered Mike wasn’t done with us yet. Instead of taking us straight along the I-10 and get off at Canal Street (the blue path on the map), which would take us straight to the hotel, he got us off early and took us through some parts I’m not sure I would have wanted to go through in the daylight, and then he took us right through Jackson Square and the French Quarter. (the pink path)


Mike in NOLA3

If you’ve never been in the French Quarter, the streets are narrow, and people can wander around with their drinks in hand. And usually they wander around down the middle of the street.

Poor Amy. She looked like this too…


We fired Mike right after that. I still have plans to torture him if Amy ever lets me close to him again. Anyway, we finally made it to our hotel, and this beautiful view. And vowed never to drive the van until it was time to leave..

NOLA at NightOver the next few days, we snuck out of the hotel and did some sight seeing…the Cafe du Monde for their famous coffee and beignets.
cafe du monde line upsRight across from it is Jackson Square — which we got to see in daylight this time, with fewer drunks wandering around.
Jackson Square 2

And much cooler than it was last time I visited in September 2000. In fact, one day it was down as low as 55, and I needed a sweater. Luckily I’d packed one, but I never would have guessed I would need it south of Cincinnati…

French Quarter

Lots of pretty streets, with their wrought-iron balconies, and lots of flowers…

Royal and Iberville

NOLA balconies

And I had to chuckle at this “truth in advertising” sign for a local restaurant/bar…

bar sign

More tomorrow about RT itself…and then the trip home…

Road Trip to NOLA, part 2