Just to fill everybody in on the last few days…….Sunday morning after we checked out of the lovely B&B, we called a taxi to drive us to the visitors center where we had parked our RV; all the while hoping and praying that maybe we would get lucky and the RV would have been stolen; or sitting on four bricks, with doors swinging open and empty– but alas, that was not the case. So once again, we decided to try and make the best of it—and of course believed that things could not get worse—HA!!!!!
I was still feeling under the weather, and not able to walk very far, but I did not want to leave New Orleans without at least a glimpse of the city. So we thought that taking a sightseeing bus around the city for a few hours was a great idea, and then we would head to Houston, a five hour ride away. Lucky for us there was such a bus right near the visitors center. (Just keep in the back of your mind it was sunny and hot at that time). With Ilan’s assistance, we slowly made our way to the upper deck of the bus and snagged two seats under the awning, excited to hear an in depth historical narrative about New Orleans. That was where our luck ran out once again. This particular bus was guided by what can only be described as the worst tour guide in history, who refused to move his microphone away from his mouth which garbled his words. We knew we were in trouble when he opened with…”and to your right you will see a restaurant, and just next to it, the Marriott Hotel; and across the street, is a Starbucks”. Compounding our mounting irritation with him, a group of people, who clearly had already had a few drinks, and it was only 11:00 am, sat close behind us and began shouting to each other across the bus. Luckily, a few minutes later we spotted the WWII museum and decided to get off and head to the museum. I knew I could find a place to sit there and read the paper while Ilan toured the museum. Things were really looking up. Ilan is a real WWII history buff—the sand he impermissibly removed from the beach at Normandy and keeps in a glass bowl is set up like shrine in our den. Into the museum we went. The entrance hall had an actual landing vehicle from D-day; as well as a Spitfire, a B-52 and other WWII vehicles and planes. Each day, another WWII veteran sits at the front desk there and answers questions. They were showing a movie, so we both decided to watch it as the theatre was close to where I was sitting. It was a 4-D movie about the war narrated by Tom Hanks, (that was a bit disappointing–no where near the caliber of Saving Private Ryan). Afterwards, Ilan spent about an hour and half exploring and when he returned, we headed towards the bus stop–hoping that the next hop-on hop-off bus would be guided by someone else.
Just as we headed to the bus stop, I said to Ilan, honey, look at the grey dark cloud over there, it looks very ominous. He was suddenly very quiet. The sun disappeared and it was growing darker by the minute. Ilan suggested we move under an awning–and just in time–because–you guessed it, the heavens opened up. We figured that it would stop shortly and waited for the bus. A short while later it indeed stopped raining, and then the bus came. We climbed back up and were once again excited to see New Orleans. The bus pulled away from the curb, and as the tour guide opened her mouth, the skies opened up again, but this time with strong winds. They passed us rain ponchos, but because of the high winds, and the limited visibility due to the rain swirling around and the air filing up the paper thin ponchos, we went right through the garden district and never saw a single thing. The rain and high winds continued unabated. The bus turned into Mardi Gras World, which houses all of the floats used during Mardi Gras, and is located near the river. The tour guide warned us that it was going to get real windy—and she was not kidding–it was like a hurricane up there. As the bus headed toward the French Quarter the wind abated a bit, but the rains continued, and once again we were unable to see anything. Just as we were heading out of the French Quarter, the rains stopped. Drenched and dejected we headed back to the RV. I need to digress a bit here, because I realize that I never did share with you the “routine” we needed to follow right before driving the RV. Ilan had to go around and re-connect all the bungee chords—-because all the cabinetry (doors, drawers, refrigerator, freezer, etc) opens in the RV while you are driving (due to the turns, horrible road conditions etc.), so Ilan, aka McGyver, bought two dozen multi-sized bungee chords to address this issue. Because everything shifts around during the drive, he bungeed the tea kettle, to the electric fan, to the kitchen faucet. He hung the dirty laundry bag from its own bungee chord as well as the garbage the sun tan lotion and bug spray bag and of course our knapsacks. So in essence, he created something like a spider web of bungee chords going around the RV, I was constantly worried that we were going to seriously injured if one of them snapped–no joke–but the system worked like a charm.
We consulted the map, and saw that our next destination was Houston, which was nine hours. We headed east on 10-E, a real engineering feat. It is a two line highway in each direction, which is on cement stilts, over water, which continued for miles. We knew we didn’t want to drive too many hours, so we looked for an RV park that was about four hours east of New Orleans. We found one in Lake Charles, LA and headed towards it. We arrived at around 10:30 pm and sure enough, it started to really pour (what a surprise)…. At that time we checked our emails and then wrote the blog post sharing with all of you our decision to abort the mission.
As we knew we were heading back, we awoke to several texts and emails warning us about a tropical storm bearing down on the Houston area and its environs, and urging us to “get out of dodge”. We checked the weather forecast and were advised that there was a tornado watch in effect with high winds and 12″ inches of rain expected. We couldn’t shower and pack up fast enough. We drove out of there and out of Louisiana as if we had just robbed the RV laundry!! Soon Ilan was doing 80 mph on two lane tractor-trailer filled highways, and for once, I did not comment on his driving—for that Ilan was grateful to Tropical Storm Bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were so eager to get home, that we drove ten hours that day, stopping only for gas. We were somewhere near the border of Georgia and Tennessee and wanted to go to an RV camp close to the highway. We found one, or we thought we found one. We were following Waze which led us up one of the Great Smokey Mountains, almost to the top. It was pitch black and quiet—eerily so—without a light in the horizon. It was like a scene out of Deliverance. The problem was that we could not even stop to turn around, the road was too narrow. Even cool, relaxed and calm Ilan looked nervous.–Did I mention that it was me driving??? Ilan had been too exhausted to continue the last hour, so I had taken over the driving. Then all of a sudden a man with a banjo hopped out into the middle of the road………………………………?????????? Actually, what we saw then, was like an oasis, it was a large yellow KOA (Kampgrounds of America logo) sign. We had found the RV camp. Ironically, this was probably the loveliest, quietest of all the campgrounds we stayed in. However, it was a bit spooky and I needed Ilan to walk me to the bathrooms. Keep in mind that it was now close to midnight. As we walked closer to the bathroom/shower, we heard the unique twang of a country music song emanating from inside the bathroom. Deliverance in mind I was very hesitant to enter, but sometimes, ‘ya gotta go, so in I went. Someone was in the shower, and had taken a radio with her. I hurried in and out and we went to sleep. We were on the road by eight in the morning and again, decided to drive for as long as we could. It was very bittersweet seeing the names of the cities we had been to on the exit signs, as well as the cities we had planned on seeing but never got to—. I think that we were both very reflective during this journey home. We were both silently wondering if we would every see any of these places again.
Once again Ilan did most of the driving—–A few words here about the actual driving itself. Just to let you know, driving an RV is like driving a truck. It is a truck, a light truck, so when a tractor trailer going 90 miles an hour, passes you buy, you feel like a burst of wind has hit you and you get really knocked around—and this happens every couple of minutes–the whole time you are driving. Once you are hit with this force, you need to overcorrect, grabbing the steering wheel very tightly, all the while, trying to stay in your lane. On the trip to La, I drove alot, and it was very challenging. I gripped the steering wheel so tightly, that my fingers were numb for hours afterwards. Because I was not feeling very well, on the way back, I could only take over the driving occasionally, but Ilan needed a break and a chance to rest his arms a bit, but I did not have the strength or stamina to contend with the tractor trailers for very long—so he wound up in the driver’s seat for most of the day. By hour number eight, I suggested we call it a night, but Ilan insisted on continuing through to NY and so we did, arriving at home at about 1:45 am. We took out some basics from the RV; plugged in the RV to the electric in our house, and fell into bed close to 3 am.
This morning we unloaded the RV—it was literally like unpacking a full studio apartment’s worth of stuff. It was physically exhausting and emotionally difficult. By 11:30 we were done and ready to drive the RV back to Roslyn. Having learned from our mistakes, we knew we could not take any parkways back to Roslyn, so on a tip, we did a map quest (if you click the options button, it allows you to “uncheck” highways) and printed out the route. We started out, me in front in Ilan’s car and Ilan following me. I personally could not not wait to get there and give back “hell on wheels”. We were about ten minutes from “hand off” and then it happened. Here is the scenario. There was a car in front of me and a cement mixer in front of that car and we had all come to a stop. Why, because thirty feet in front of us was an OVERPASS and the cement mixer was trying to make his was under it. He inched his way forward. Our eyes were riveted on his progress. And then it happened. He hit the overpass, softly. Clearly realizing that he could not make, he inched his way back and drove away. What were we going to do? The end of this journey was so close, we could taste it. I looked in my rear view mirror. Ilan had a strange look on his face. I looked back at the overpass. There was a sign on the overpass that said, Clearance 11’. Just then, my phone rang. It was Ilan. He said with a fierceness I have rarely heard in him, “Amy, we are going for it, we are not stopping here, we can make it” and we did.
While we were waiting for our papers to be processed, I observed a family of seven come out of a SUV Taxi with many suitcases and head to the RV office. There were 2 adults, 5 children. I overheard them saying that they were from Norway and were heading towards an RV just like ours, for a cross country trip. I was really torn. I wanted to go over and tell them they were making a huge mistake, but I knew it was not my place to say anything. As I got into the car, the employee that I met the very first time we came to see the RV came over to me and said, “too much driving for you, I guess….feel better.” We pulled out of the driveway and went down the road to Whole Foods, did some shopping and then headed towards Target to return almost everything I had bought for the trip as the stuff had not been used—-including, you guessed it, the BBQ grill that Ilan never assembled. It was still in the sealed box.
After Target, we came home, I threw in some laundry and we proceeded to put away everything we had taken out of the RV earlier in the morning. It was back breaking work, but in a few hours, the house was neat, and it looked as if we had never left. To all of our blog followers, thank you for being with us every step of the way.
By the way, we are thinking about renting a motorcycle with a side car for next year’s road trip, stay tuned.
Amy and Ilan