Yep. Just like that.
So, it’s been pretty quiet around here, the past week or so, and with good reason. With the kids out of school this past week for Spring Break, we decided to take a road trip. To make it even more fun, we partnered up with another family, with whom we’ve become great friends since moving into Ward Manor 2.0 thanks to their daughters and ours going to school together and our living a couple of streets apart (easy walking distance via the lake in our little neighborhood). They’re just the kind of folks with whom I’d want to undertake a little road tip adventuring, which for me is saying something, since many of you know I’m usually rather content to hate most of my fellow humans to one degree or another. See? I’m meeting new people and trying new things! There may just be a slim ray of hope for me, after all.
The idea was simple: Kansas City to New Orleans, via a “scenic route” that would let us spend a few nights at different places along the way and provide opportunities to check out some sights. We spent the first night on the road in Branson, Missouri, pretty much for the sole purpose of honoring the kids’ request to see the Titanic Museum located there. What at first looked like a gaudy roadside attraction in a town full of such things turned out to be a neat little interactive experience tracing the Titanic‘s history. Guides in period dress wander about interiors fashioned to recreate parts of the ship while assisting visitors, and the exhibits feature a mix of artifacts recovered from the wreck site as well as items of interest from its various Hollywood depictions. James Cameron’s 1997 film is well represented, with costumes, props, and all eleven of its Academy Award trophies on proud display. Since the movie celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (you read that right), the attraction is planning a variety of activities and events to tie into that. If you’re a Titanic nerd (and I can claim such status without shame, since I was into it years before the wreck was even found), this is a decent way to kill a couple of hours.
Departing from Branson, we made our way through southeastern Missouri via pretty much every back road, walking path, and deer trail we could find until we made our way to Grand Gulf State Park, tucked away in a quiet little corner of the Ozarks. We took advantage of the gorgeous weather to walk the trail in the park and have a picnic lunch before hitting the road again and making our way to layover destination #2: Memphis, Tennessee.
We opted to spend two nights here, which was a good thing, since we found out the bar at our hotel of choice was well stocked and their restaurant had pretty decent food. The hotel also had one of those combo indoor-outdoor pools, which was all the entertainment the kids needed that first evening. I discovered the joy that are fried dill pickles on the restaurant’s appetizers menu, and it would take a couple of days before my newfound addiction was reined in.
For the one full day we spent in town, we opted to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the historic Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in April 1968. The museum itself is “fused” to the former hotel, preserving the exterior just as it was on that tragic day, while the interior offers visitors a rather sobering history of what continues to be the struggle for equality and social justice in America. It is absolutely worth spending a few hours here. I found it unsurprising – and more than a little infuriating – to confirm once again and in such stark fashion that the same horseshit arguments used to perpetuate bigotry and division in today’s politically charged climate aren’t even close to new. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. If you don’t come out of this place angry, ashamed, and even determined to do something to make things even a little better for all of us, then you quite simply have no soul.
The afternoon’s excursion took us to the famous Beale Street, where we found good food, a few drinks, and live music at B.B. King’s Blues Club. I should’ve seen the warning signs earlier, but this is really where the whole “So. Much. Food.” part of the vacation really kicked into gear. Ho-lee Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit was there some good eatin’ on this trip, and yes, we washed it all down with some fine adult beverage action. And what’s that on the apps menu? Fried dill pickles? I’m in.
(Not my pic. My pics were during daytime, and they sucked.)
Recharged from our brief layover, our little convoy hit the road yet again, heading south this time toward New Orleans. However, we found time for some more trail walking and another picnic lunch, this time in the Mississippi Petrified Forest. Once again, the weather cooperated during our little jaunt through the woods, but by early afternoon we were ready to finish the driving part of our journey and get on to the Crescent City.
Our arrival in New Orleans brought with it another first for me: Our inaugural use of AirBnB. Thanks to our friends, who have serious mojo when it comes to planning things and getting good deals on just about anything under the sun, we were able to secure a very, very nice condo just a short walk from the French Quarter. Plenty of room for all eight of us, and easy access to food and fun. My first go with AirBnB has set the bar pretty high, y’all.
We landed at the condo just long enough to drop our gear before heading into the Quarter for some dinner. Boom! My first meal in New Orleans was in a little Bourbon Street diner, where I helped myself to a truly massive po’ boy sandwich stuffed with shrimp pulled right from the Gulf of Mexico.
Oh, and they also had fried dill pickles on the appetizers menu.
So. Much. Food.
(Again, not my pic. My nighttime pics were horrid.)
For our first full day in town, we ended up dividing and conquering, with our daughters going with one of their friends and her mother to the Audobon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, while Michi and I along with our friend’s other daughter opting for the National World War II Museum. What Kansas City did for the First World War, New Orleans has done for this conflict, creating an exceptional interactive experience which can be appreciated by all ages. I could’ve spent all day here without breaking a sweat.
Day 2 started with a walking tour of the Quarter as well as one of the more prominent cemeteries, and more food. OH MY GOD THE FOOD, PEOPLE.
So. Much. Food.
At this point in our trip, we had learned the value of eating bigger lunches and light dinners, allowing us to savor the local cuisine without going to bed feeling like beached whales needing to be rolled back into the sea. I enjoyed wandering the Quarter, checking out the various shops and other sights. I found several old book shops, and even curbed what at the time was a nearly insurmountable desire to drop serious coin on a signed first edition of a long-sought book.
Close one, there.
The next day was when we had to part ways with our friends and head home, as Michi had a previous commitment looming on the calendar. With the other family continuing on to visit relatives in the region, I pointed our Jeep north (more or less) toward Kansas City. We made it to Little Rock, Arkansas before deciding it was a good place to hang for our last night on the road, and found a nice hotel with an indoor pool for the kids to burn off some excess energy while Michi and I took advantage of the bar’s Happy Hour. Sufficiently rested and refueled, we made our way home, our week-long excursion now officially in the books.
Many, many thanks to our good friends and traveling companions, who are due home today or tomorrow, as they’re taking their time and enjoying a few more things on the road here and there. Safe travels to them, and we’ll be seeing them soon.
For me? It’s back to work.
Seeing as I accomplished very little in the way of writing on the trip (and I didn’t care, to be honest), I’ve got some catching up to do. The current novel-in-progress is my biggest priority, though I did build a buffer for the trip into my schedule for completing the manuscript. I also have an outline for another novel to finish in the coming weeks, and there are pitches for a couple of other projects I’d like to get written up, as well. I also need to shake some trees and rattle some cages so far as other projects supposedly in the pipeline. Hopefully there will be more to report on any or all of those items in the near future.
If you need me, I’ll be in my office.