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Travels with Grama

New Orleans - 2007

Page 2 - New Orleans to Calgary

In spite of all our stops at every tourist attraction between Calgary and New Orleans, we finally made it to our "planned" destination and within our time guidelines.

It was a mixture of excitement and sadness as we drove into New Orleans as it was my first visit and unfortunately it was after "Katrina". We had both followed the news and seen the devastation either on TV or online but it's not the same as seeing it firsthand. Doreen had made the trip with her sister the first summer after the hurricane and it had been much worse then.

2007 New Orleans Photo Album

To Page 1 - Calgary to New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

We managed to find Canal Street and get a hotel close to Bourbon Street with surprising ease (especially since Doreen was driving and big cities and her don't get along well). We'd already decided we weren't driving around ourselves and would do city tours, cab it or walk to our destinations.

The Marketplace and Cafe du Mode

It was still early in the day so we headed down to the Marketplace. Before anything else, Doreen insisted on introducing me to Beignets - a french donut laden with sticky, messy icing sugar.


After a relaxing coffee and the beignets at Cafe du Mode, we shopped at the Marketplace.

We had to buy beads, masks, boas, every other trinket we could find, and, of course, gifts for the dogs and cats. I had already purchased mementos from all our stops, but this is where we stocked up with miscellaneous gifts for family,friends and co-workers.

Narrow Streets
Daily Chess Game
Hiding Behind A Mask
Blues Band at Gazebo Cafe

It's a good thing we were driving a bigger car this year or one of us would have had to fly or bus it home. Scary part was, this was only the half-way point of our trip. I bought a suitcase just to pack all the stuff I had purchased but somehow Doreen ended up dragging it around.

We hired one of the horse and buggy taxis to take us back to the hotel and got a small history and mini-tour in the bargain from the driver.

Bourbon Street

Doreen was quite insistent that no matter what - we had to go to Bourbon Street. We timed it right and arrived in New Orleans on a Saturday, just so we could take in the "street night life". Bourbon Street (French: Rue Bourbon) is a famous and historic street that runs the length of the French Quarter.

The most frequented section of Bourbon Street is "Upper Bourbon Street", an eight-block section of popular tourist attractions. The street is home to many bars, restaurants, strip clubs, as well as T-shirt and souvenir shops. The upper end of Bourbon Street towards Canal Street is home to many of the French Quarter's strip clubs. A place where just about anything goes.

We strolled up and down the street, stopped in at a Blues Bar for a drink, wandered in and out of the novelty shops and Doreen posed with New Orleans' finest. There were police officers everywhere and they were friendly - mingling socially with the crowd. Their presence was felt but not feared. What a concept !!!

Even representatives from the fire department are part of the hospitality package. They bring the fire trucks and park them in the middle of the street. After walking for hours, I was starting to poop out, but as you can see from the pic below, my "quiet" travel companion was just getting started - she only had one drink.

Our Tour Guide - Jamie

Louisiana Tour Company

We booked a combination City/Katrina tour for the next morning. Our guide, Jamie, was born and raised in New Orleans and her commentary was knowledgeable, informative and occasionally opinionated. She gave us a personal feel for what the people of the city had been going through. Exceptional tour guide.

We first toured the city sites and points of interest, then the Garden District and eventually, St. Charles Ave. which is where many of the old mansions are located. It was amazing to see the amount of reconstruction still going on.

Garden District
Garden District
Intermission Break

After the Garden District, we stopped for refreshments and washroom break before stepping out into the heat at the cemetery.

Jamie and her assistant took us through the grounds, first of all explaining why graves are above ground and how burials take place.

There are 42 cemeteries in New Orleans and on high ground, caskets are buried underground like most other places. Cities of the Dead

Where water tables are high, burials are above ground and various types of vaults, tombs, crypts, and mausoleums house numerous members of a family. Walls of individual vaults are usually found on the outside edges of cemeteries and often served a dual purpose as a perimeter fence.

The severity of hurricane Katrina caused caskets to float out of cemeteries just as though they had been buried in swampland.

Where The Levee Broke - 9th Ward

This picture was taken by Craig Morris on Dec 22, 2006 on top of the levee overlooking the 9th Ward where the breach took place. The force of the wall of water razed all of these houses. As far as the eye can see here (roughly 12 city blocks), not a house was left standing. A year and a half later the whole lower end of the 9th Ward was still in ruins but a handful of people were living in the few houses still standing.

Katrina 9th Ward Shambles
More devastation

Our guide gave us a thorough description of how searches were carried out for survivors. The codes written on the house in red spray paint describe who searched, when, and what the outcome was. The zero in bottom quadrant means "no bodies found".

We heard the horror stories first-hand of people missing and assumed to have left the city, to be found months later in the attics of their homes where they were trapped and died because they had no way to get through the roof.

Codes - Search for Victims
Rebuilding after Katrina

I had wanted to visit New Orleans since the early 70's and had never made it. The city is definitely rebuilding but as of last year, about 50% of the population had not returned and it is going to be slow in healing.

Tourism is the one commodity New Orleans has managed to hang onto and it will likely be it's salvation. Tourist dollars will help rebuild this magnificent, historical city so if you have the opportunity to visit, don't pass it up. And invest in tours. You get to see all areas in safety and comfort and the hassle of traffic, parking and restricted areas become non-existent.

Houston, Texas

We left New Orleans Sunday afternoon after the tour was completed and followed I-10 west, the first leg of the homeward trip. Our first stop would be "The Woodlands", just north of Houston to visit Doreen's sister Lois, brother-in-law Bruce and their 3 dogs - Ricki, Lucy and Sadie. We enjoyed a lovely visit, went for a walk with the dogs and then I cooled off with a dip in the pool. Ricki, the german shepherd, jumped in and went swimming with me. The dogs obviously "rule the roost" and Lois and Bruce are the "hired help" Beautiful home, fun visit and Doreen's sis is one of a kind.

Next morning, while we were packing the car and saying our goodbyes, a thunderstorm rolled in and the humidity was so thick you could slice it with a knife. As we were driving out of Houston, we left the black clouds in the rear view mirror, the sun broke through and it was clear skies ahead.

San Antonio, Texas


One of our original goals of this trip was to get to San Antonio and tour the site of the Alamo. Since Doreen had been there before, she had a couple other locations she wanted to show me, so we got a motel and cabbed it downtown to the Riverwalk area.

We went to the Imax theatre and viewed the historical movie about the Alamo, did a bit of shopping and then hopped on the boat tour around the canals. The San Antonio Riverwalk is a 2 1/2 mile stretch of beautifully landscaped waterfront. Along it are spectacular hotels, restaurants, night clubs, bars, shopping centers and businesses.

By the time the round trip boat tour was over, it was dark and most of the stores closed. We hailed a cab and paid close attention to the roads he took to get back to the hotel so we could drive back the next morning to the Alamo.

Ever been watching a movie and you look at the scenery backdrop and say, I know where that is??? Just recently I was watching an old movie named "Cloak & Dagger" with my grandson and kept thinking that same thought until it dawned on me why I was familiar with the location. A great deal of the movie was filmed using the Riverwalk as the setting.

The Alamo

Originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. The Alamo, established as a dusty outpost of the Spanish Empire in 1718, was the first of San Antonio's missions to be founded. Construction began on the present site in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio's five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents.

The Battle of the Alamo between the Republic of Mexico and the rebel Texan forces during the Texas Revolution, took place at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas from February 23rd to March 6th, 1836. Despite the siege of the Alamo by the Republic of Mexico, the 13-day holdout stalled the Mexican Army enough to allow Sam Houston to gather troops and supplies for his later success at the Battle of San Jacinto.

The city of San Antonio has literally built up around the remains of this old mission and has preserved several blocks of history. It's a strange sensation to stand inside these walls and know men died on the same spot you are occupying.

We took so many pictures that day, it was difficult to decide which ones to choose. I have a feeling I will someday have to come back and add a section to this site, specifically dedicated to the Alamo.

After spending most of the morning at the Alamo Mission, we headed out of town. Doreen had a hankering to see "Luckenbach" since she's a huge country western fan and had heard it wasn't far from San Antonio. Turned out it was just an hour or so northwest of the city off I-10 and was quite easy to find.

Lukenbach, Texas

This tiny hill country hamlet where "Everybody’s Somebody" was established as a Trading Post in 1849. The Post Office/ General Store/ Beer Joint, was first opened in 1886 by August Engel, an itinerant preacher from Germany. In 1970, Luckenbach, which remained in the hands of the Engel family the whole time, fell into eclipse. Benno Engel retired as postmaster and placed an ad in the local paper "TOWN FOR SALE" lock, stock and dancehall.

Luckenbach was purchased by Hondo Crouch, Guich Koock and Kathy Morgan. The trio began to use the nearly-abandoned buildings as a backdrop for anything that smacked of mirth and diversion - Hug-Ins, a Luckenbach World's Fair, Ladies State Chili Bust, the Mud Dauber Festival - and daily sessions of song-picking, domino playing and beer drinking beneath the 500-year-old oak trees.

Today, over thirty years later, these events are still celebrated and the pickers are still pickin’ out under the big oak trees.

Luckenbach Texas became a massive hit for Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, bringing Luckenbach to its ultimate worldwide fame. Tour buses and tourists from around the world began to make Luckenbach a regular stop when visiting Fredericksburg area attractions. Willie Nelson returns to Luckenbach annually for his 4th of July Picnic with thousands of his closest friends.

Luckenbach Texas is a State of Mind, where you can kick back, relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It's like stepping back in time.

Bartender supplied the entertainment
Post Office in front - Bar in back
On Stage tonight - Waylon, Willie & Doreen
Out behind the bar

Luckenbach was definitely a highlight of the trip for Doreen, who's an old guitar picker herself. She was in her glory and would have gladly hunkered down for another couple of weeks to wait for Willie Nelson to show up on the 4th of July. Sadly, we had to get back to reality and she was forced to bid farewell and get back in the car.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, is seventy miles west of Austin in the heart of Texas Hill Country. The town was one of a series of German settlements from the Texas coast to the land north of the Llano River. The first wagon train of 120 settlers arrived from New Braunfels on May 8, 1846, after a sixteen-day journey. Each settler received one town lot and ten acres of farmland nearby.

We discovered the National Museum of the Pacific War and George Bush Gallery just off the main street as well as a motel village of rustic cabins in a park-like setting in the heart of town. They were absolutely charming. Not far from the cabins, we also found an old German cemetery we toured briefly.

The town seemed to be very tourist friendly with an abundance of B & B's advertised.

Interstate 10 - Texas

It's about a 500 mile stretch between Fredericksburg and El Paso and not a lot in between.  We did find a massive growth of cactus along the road and the state historic park of Ft. Lancaster on a hilltop but no gas stations. C'mon people, this is an interstate!!!!

Just as we were down to fumes, we came upon a turnoff that indicated fuel and we pulled off. The station was the only building as far as you can see in any direction at the junction of Hwy 11 and I-10 near Bakersfield and it was closed but at least allowed prepaid self-serve. With a replenished tank of fuel, we were now in search of a place to "freshen up" without fear of cactus needles poking our behinds.

About 30 miles from the station, we drove into Ft. Stockton and smack dab in front of us was this wonderful sign we'd grown to love. I should mention Doreen and I have a food fetish. We go out of our way to find an IHOP just for their desserts.

Banana Caramel French Toast (My favourite)
Stuffed with banana cream, this diamond-shaped French toast is drizzled with caramel, walnuts and sliced, fresh bananas. Dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with whipped topping.

Original Stuffed French Toast (Doreen's favourite)
Cinnamon-raisin French toast stuffed with sweet cream cheese filling, topped with powdered sugar, and your choice of fruit topping:cool strawberry, blueberry or cinnamon-apple. Crowned with whipped topping.

Not only did we not run out of gas, we found an IHOP with clean washrooms and the friendliest young lad to wait on us. Just how much better can it get when you're on the road??

After a relaxing meal and daylight burning, we crawled back into the car and added another 150 miles to the speedometer before retiring for the night at Van Horn, TX.

El Paso, Texas

El Paso lies at the far western tip of Texas, where the Rio Grande breaks through the rugged mountains to bring water to the harsh Chihuahuan Desert. Though the surrounding landscape is dominated by desert scrub growth on the low hills and mountain sides, the river valley is fertile supporting a variety of trees and plants. As we approached the eastern side of the city, we turned off I-10 to follow the signs of the El Paso Mission Trail.

Spain sought to protect its interests in the northern frontier by establishing a network of presidios (military forts). A presidio was built in 1684. The settlement that grew up around the presidio became known as San Elizario.

Presidio Chapel San Elizario

The flood of 1829 destroyed the original chapel, which was rebuilt in the same vicinity. The present-day chapel was completed in 1882. Since then, the exterior of the building has changed little, except for the front facade. The interior was damaged by fire in 1935 and has experienced dramatic changes.

Virgin Mary in stone wall
Socorro Mission

These two mission churches and the Los Portales Museum and Information Center are located along the El Paso Mission Trail. They are privately owned by the Catholic Diocese and are actively supported by their local parishes. They are listed in the National Register Historic Places.

I was unable to find any history on the stone wall encompassing the Virgin Mary. It reminded me of "Our Lady of Fatima" but I couldn't verify it's origin.

Socorro founded October 13, 1680, took its name from Socorro, New Mexico, from which the Piro Indians fled following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. When the 1740 flood destroyed the original structure, the parishioners replaced it nearby. That second structure was also lost to flooding in 1829. Rebuilding was completed in 1843.

The mission was completely restored through a ten-year, community-based collaboration and reopened for use with a Mass on December 7, 2005.

Silver City, New Mexico

From El Paso, we followed I-10 north into New Mexico and west to Hwy 180 where we got off the interstate and back into touring. Hwy 180 took us to Silver City, another town rich in history of the old west.

Once an Apache Indian campsite, later the boyhood home of the notorious gunslinger Billy the Kid, and more recently a silver and copper mining boomtown, Silver City, N.Mex. (pop. 12,500) is as strikingly beautiful as it is historic. Cradled nearly 6,000 feet high in the rolling Pinos Altos Mountains, the town is adjacent to both the Gila Wilderness and the Continental Divide. Recently selected as one of America's healthiest places to live and retire, Silver City boasts a mild climate, Victorian charm and low-key lifestyle that have long attracted visitors.

1870's era log cabin situated next to Billy the Kid's home site. Producer/director, Ron Howard, donated the cabin after fabricating it for his 2003 movie, The Missing, situated in 1885 New Mexico Territory, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, and Val Kilmer.

Silver City began as a rip-roarin' tent town in the spring of 1870, when a silver bonanza was discovered one half mile west of the present-day courthouse. Within less than a year, over eighty buildings had been constructed,, and in 1871, Silver City became the seat of Grant County. When the boom ended, the people stayed.

In those early years of development, all of southwestern New Mexico was plagued by Apache raids. Bands of these fierce warriors roamed the area, led by famous chiefs such as Chato, Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves), Nana, Natchez and Victorio. Because of the rough terrain and strategic lookout points, the impenetrable Gila Wildness area was an important stronghold where the Apaches felt safe from US Army pursuit. Geronimo is said to have been born in the Gila Wilderness area.

We weren't able to tour this area but researched it when we got home. The City of Rocks and multitude of ghost towns in the area definitely put Silver City on a high priority list for us to revisit.

In the late 1800's, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were familiar with every saloon and soiled dove in Silver City. Between robberies, they worked as cowhands at a nearby ranch.

Billy the Kid spent his early years in Silver City, and his childhood home is now the downtown site of the distinctive Murray Ryan Visitor's Center.

Four Corners

From Silver City, we followed Hwy 180 northwest into Arizona connecting with Hwy 191 at Alpine.  At this point we were concerned about finding a motel before dusk so we boogied up to I-40 and found a nice little motel called the Chieftain Inn.

The next morning we pulled into the adjoining gas station to fill up and nearly had a stroke at the exorbitant prices on the pumps. This was June/07 and throughout our travels, average prices were $2.90 to $3.30 /gal. Their price was $4.19/gal. In all the miles we'd put on over the years, this was truly the first time we'd come across outright price gouging. We put in only enough gas to get us to the next major stop, got back onto I-40 and then north on Hwy 191 again. At the very next station, the gas was $2.88/gal. It puts a whole new meaning into the phrase highway robbery.

After several road trips in and around this area we finally managed to make it to the Four Corners Monument. This is the only point in the United States where four states meet (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado).

The Four Corners marker was erected in 1912. In 1992 the original cement pad was replaced by granite with bronze disks for the four state seals.

This is Navajo country and at the Four Corner's sight is a visitor center and outdoor market where assorted native artifacts, jewelry, rugs and pottery are sold.  The dreamcatcher still hangs from my rearview mirror as a good luck traveler's charm.

A visitor can put hands and feet in all four states at the same time which, of course, Doreen and I had to do.

Bluff, Utah

Our visit to Bluff is never complete unless we stop at Twin Rocks Cafe, a delightful gift shop and restaurant at the foot of a pair of natural sandstone towers.

Each year we head home with more treasures than a couple of pirates. The food is really good, too.

Bluff is bordered on the south by the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation, to the east by farmland to the west by vast panoramic landscapes of Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley, and to the north, 300-foot sandstone bluffs, from which it derived its name. Bluff was founded in 1880 by the famous "Hole in the Rock" expedition of Mormon pioneers, whose mission was to establish a farming community on the San Juan River.

The pioneers built their cabins in close proximity to each other to form a fort. Remains of the historic Fort Bluff are still are preserved.

Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods Slideshow

Valley of the Gods is a small scale version of Monument Valley, but, without a doubt equally as impressive and beautiful.

There is a 17 mile trail winding its way through the Valley connecting Highway 163 to Highway 261 at the bottom of Cedar Mesa. Although the trail is relatively well maintained, it can be very rough and bumpy and subject to washouts. Some areas have rocks exposed from the shifting sands and scraping bottom is a strong possibility.

There are no tour buses or tourist traps in the area. There are no gas stations, gift shops, coffee shops, washrooms, and rarely any other tourists. Most are hesitant to bring their vehicles on the trail.

However, the solitude and serenity of the area is well worth the extra hour or so it takes to get through it. And on the plus side, it leads us right to the base Highway 261.

Highway 261, Utah

I wish there was a way to put a feeling into a photograph!! Highway 261 is definitely a "feeling". No matter how often I describe it, I'll never convey the emotion or the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you crest the hill and you see what's in front of you.

Traveling this road has become a focal point in all our trips. We have somehow managed to include the area touring from both east and west coasts. I think we've secretly claimed Hwy 261 as our own personal road. I'm sure the state of Utah would like their taxes but they'll have to catch us first.

I absolutely love the signs here. The spelling of Mokee Dugway (Moki Dugway) changes from the top of the butte to the bottom. It says not recommended for trucks over 10,000 lbs. and the next sign shows a tractor trailer going down the hill. It also says not recommended for RV's and we've seen several trying to round those curves. The drivers either can't read or think the 30 ft. beast they're in is called a minivan. Backing up is sometimes the only option - such as in the picture below.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area established in 1972, covers 1,254,429 acres of mostly desert, encompassing the area around Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona. The recreation area borders Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park on the north, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on the west, and Grand Canyon National Park on the south.

Capitol Reef National Park

On August 2, 1937, in Proclamation 2246, President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef area, making it a National Monument. An Act to Establish The Capitol Reef National park in the State of Utah - became Public Law 92-207 when it was signed by President Nixon on December 18, 1971.

Capitol Reef National Park is 10 miles east of the town of Torrey, and 37 miles west of the town of Hanksville.

Behunin Cabin

In 1882 Elijah Cutler Behunin and his family built this cabin, and stayed a brief time until the rising river washed out their crops. Behunin was one of the first settlers in the area.

A family of ten lived here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor. Ends of dress materials became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in, and a water supply near the door. The family probably ate outside.

Father, mother, and the two smallest children slept in the cabin. The post bed almost filled one side of the room. By widening a dugout in the cliff, the older boys had a place to sleep. The girls made a bed in an old wagon box.

In this day and age we'd be lucky to get two children to sleep in the same room, let alone share a wagon box - outside.

Hanksville, Utah


We stayed at Hanksville for the night. We would have liked to stay at Torrey but it was just too late in the day and we figured there would be "no vacancy" if we kept going.

At the junction of Route 24 and Route 95 there is a unique gas station called appropriately "Hollow Mountain Gas and Grocery" and the store is built right into the rock.

Torrey, Utah


Torrey is in Wayne County in the south central part of Utah ten miles from Capitol Reef National Park. The town was settled in the 1880’s by Mormon pioneers. The population of the town itself is 120.

Doreen and I stayed in Torrey in 2005 so it was fun to stop here again. We loaded up on goodies at the General Store before heading out for the day's travel.

Montana to Home
Although we were still a very long way from home, for the better part, our touring was basically ended. We traveled up highway 24 to Salina, connected with I-15 into Idaho, Montana and home.

There is nothing prettier than Montana in the spring. One of my favourite drives is through the Wolf Creek area. Before we knew it, we were back at the border.

I had bought so many souvenirs and gifts this year, I knew I was over the allowable "free" limit at customs and was dreading the outcome. My children are all grown, so giving up my first-born wasn't an option. With a sinking heart, I handed my tallied receipts to the official behind the counter and after several calculations (my heart kept sinking lower and lower) was issued an invoice for $37.34. I almost fell over. All these years I have been so careful not to exceed the limits and when I really blow the budget, my charge was a piddly $34.37. I almost wanted to climb back in the car and go back and finish all the shopping I'd missed out on. Anyway, the customs clerk was happy he'd made my day and wished us a safe trip home. We were back in Alberta.

It's always good to be home but sad that we have to wait another year before heading out again.

As I finally sign off this page - hopefully there will be no more changes or additions - Doreen and I will be leaving for our 2008 holidays in 19 days. Where are we going?? - to be determined. We've discussed a west coast run from Vancouver to San Diego. Possibly to Tombstone or Silver City. Or maybe follow the original old highways of Route 66 from Chicago to LA. But wherever we go, I'll be sure to take you along for the ride.

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