Journey’s End – The Road Trip Concludes

Tuesday morning we hit the road promptly; we were headed to New Orleans, had a lot of miles to cover, and wanted to arrive at a reasonable hour. We still wanted to get a feel for the Texas countryside, however, so we kept to US and State highways rather than the interstates. While Tyler drove, I got on the web and booked a room in the French Quarter.

There’s really not too much to say about the drive. The distances were long, the highways lightly travelled. We found a great little BBQ place in Lufkin; really good brisket and sausages, and signed pictures on the wall ranging from Larry Hagman to Sarah Palin to pretty much the entire country music world. Super friendly, too… all in all a perfect respite!

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We continued driving, and arrived in New Orleans around seven or so. We drove into the French Quarter, and found our hotel. Checked in, cleaned up, and went out to walk around and check the place out. It was hot and humid, and the sweat started to flow pretty much right away.

The French Quarter was interesting; parts of it were charming and parts of it were not. I found that the amount of “charm” was inversely proportional to the proximity of Bourbon Street. The distant side streets had beautiful architecture, quaint shops, and friendly people. Bourbon Streen, on the other hand, reminded me of a cross between 1970’s Times Square and Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Mostly strip joints, packed with loud, drunk, overweight tourists stumbling around carrying cheesy plastic hurricane drinks. Nothing against any of those things per se, but I think it is a shame that the most famous site in such an iconic city is so debased in this way.

After our walking tour, we had dinner at Arnaud’s, which was a bit tourist-oriented (no surprise I suppose), and the food was good but not great. Walked around some more, and decided to call it a night. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, took a walk around the Garden District, and got on the road.

Our destination for Wednesday was The Elms, an antebellum plantation house in Coosada, Alabama, just north of Montgomery. I have a boatload of cousins that live there, and we were stopping in for dinner and a night of accommodations. Not such an aggressive driving day, so we chose a backroads route through southern rural Mississippi and Alabama. Another day of stress-free, traffic-free, and truck-free driving on the rural highways, complete with another BBQ lunch!

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As always, our visit to The Elms was a beautiful time, lovely dinner with my aunt and uncle, my cousin Peter and his wife Janet (who so kindly hosted us!), as well as a half dozen other relations. We had a splendid dinner and breakfast and were lulled peacefully to sleep by the music made by the cicadas in the trees.

The destination for our final evening was Charleston, South Carolina. Again, we took the smaller roads, which was slow going at times due to construction, frequent towns, and inconveniently placed rivers and creeks. We arrived in Charleston in time for a late dinner. I had asked Karen to make a dinner reservation for us, as she had been looking at Charleston restaurants recently. She booked us a table at McCrady’s, a 200-year-old location with an excellent restaurant. As we had now officially made it from coast to coast, it was great to celebrate with a fantastic meal and delicious wines!

One of the things we celebrated during our dinner was the fact that we had made it coast-to-coast in a car with 125,000 miles on it, on tough roads with countless potholes, cattle guards, and railroad crossings, with no problems or breakdowns whatsoever. This all changed the next morning in the genteel and civilized confines of Charleston, when we awoke to a flat left-rear tire. So, instead of seeing the Charleston sights, we spent the morning watching Hoda and the Andy Griffith Show in the Firestone waiting room while the TT got a well-earned set of new tires.

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The repair work set us back a bit time-wise, and I had a flight to catch at Raleigh Durham airport in the evening, so we had to hop on I-26 and I-95 to make some tracks. Once we got comfortable with the travel time, we decided we had enough time to stop for one last picturesque Southern lunch, this time at Johnson’s Fish in Manning, South Carolina. After a tasty lunch of fried (and very bony) fish, hushpuppies, blackeyed peas, cabbage, rice with gravy, and sweet tea, we got back on the back roads for the final few hours up to RDU.

We got to the airport in ample time for me to make my flight, which would cover in six hours what we had taken eight days to drive. I hopped out at the curb and cleared my bags out of the car, and Tyler and I gave each other a big hug. With that, I walked off to catch my flight back to Karen and Brian in California, and Tyler drove off to his life as a graduate student, and beyond.

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Travel maps for the last part of the trip follow! Click to enlarge…

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