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Road Trip, day ten

I was told that while in New Orleans I have to try authentic jambalaya and gumbo so Erin takes me to a place close to where she works. The jumbalaya is excellent, not exactly what I expected but good, with a mix of rice and sausage creating this wonderful flavor. I also try the cajun gumbo, but it isn't as spicey as I figured it would be. There are oysters in it which kind of overpowers everything and makes it fishy.

After lunch she also introduces me to another NOLA favorite - the snowball. To say this is a sno-cone would sell it short. The ice is shaved much finer, almost to the consistancy of snow and flavored with more syrup choices than you can imagine. With a sno-cone the tendency is to go with a fruity flavor, and I go along with this by getting lemon-lime, but with a true New Orleans snowball the choices are endless and include things like vanilla ice cream, chocolate and velvet cake. The shop itself is little more than a counter and a doorway with other customers gathered on the sidewalk outside. Other snowball places we pass range from converted storefronts to a cart on the street.

I also get to see the sad part of New Orleans. It's been years, but the storm still overshadows everything here. The place where we stop for lunch is across the street from an old hospital which is being completely rebuilt because of all the damage it took. Erin also drives me through the ninth ward, where the worst of it occured. Even though I have never been here before it seems familiar. It reminds me of Detroit.

After the storm, rescue crews painted X's on the sides of houses with the dates to mark what houses had already been checked. You still see those X's. In some cases the home owner repainted but left the X as a reminder. In others the house was too destroyed to salvage and the ruins still sit there.

There are signs of life. Several groups led by people like Harry Connick Jr. and Brad Pitt are helping to rebuild. Some of those homes are rebuilt in classical style to fit in with the French-inspired archetecture of the Quarter. Others are more avant-guarde, with roofs that look twisted, but are meant to look that way. You also see a lot of solar panels. Erin tells me those were non-existant in the ninth before.

I avoid taking pictures here. I know I want to document this and I know there are some here who want it documented, but I'm constantly reminded of the term for the pictures of run-down houses in Detroit - ruinporn. I leave the camera in my pocket.

In the afternoon I leave NOLA behind and continue west on I-10. This time it's slow going. I get out of rush hour traffic and into the swamp lands northwest of the city, but soon run into road construction and later a car-b-que. Then just past the exit for Ramah, LA the rains start and with it comes an accident that turns the highway into a parking lot for almost an hour. I'm on a bridge going through the swamp, with open water between me and the eastbound lane on my left and trees on my right. I put the car in park and sit. It ends up taking me three hours to go 100 miles.

Once I get through that there's more construction and more slow going until I get to Iowa, LA. I remember that it's Pi Day and the only place I can find with anything resembling pie is the Burker King with its Hersey pie. I stop and eat and while I'm there the place degenerates into a mess as they first run out of fries, then lids for drinks, then screw up a family's order so badly it looks like we may have a riot on our hands. I get out of there before it gets ugly and soon cross the border into Texas where the first thing I see is mile marker 880. I'm guessing there aren't too many of those in this country.

Houston is just over the line, and in Texas terms that means 100 miles. Now everything starts to seem big and the distances begin to overwhelm me. Yesterday I zipped through Florida, Alabama and Mississippi into Louisiana. Now the other side of Texas is a 12 hour drive. I begin to wonder where I'm heading as I stop for the night at a motel in Huntsville, just up the road from a giant illuminated statue of Sam Houston.

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