Dateline New Orleans: Coco and Bigote Discover America, Part Two

Picacho Peak, AZ - Ry looking manly
Originally uploaded by Julia_h_j

Today we leave the beautiful, bizarre and steamy city that is New Orleans. In the last 48 hours, we've ran through rainstorms in Jackson Square, visited the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, wandered through Louis Armstrong Park, which is still under construction from Hurricane Katrina, stuck our fingers in the Mississippi River, ridden the trolleys down St. Charles Place and watched the U.S. come back to tie Slovenia in the 84th minute of the World Cup Soccer game.

Our stay in New Orleans was a welcome treat after sweating through the night at Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, Texas--a fascinating and lively park near the border of Texas and Louisiana, in the aptly-named Big Thicket. Many, many thanks to Shirlee and Rick, who have given us the opportunity to stay in an amazing condo here in New Orleans. There really is no comparison between sweating through the night in your underwear, surrounded by frogs and crickets and birds and snakes and swamp rabbits (yes, there is such a species!), and staying in an air-conditioned room with a kitchen and a bathroom and access to ESPN during the World Cup. Muchisimas gracias!

Once we crossed the Texas border into Louisiana, it struck us both that we are finally, ultimately and definitely in the American South. There are times when Julia has to listen two or three times to understand the accent, and there are times when both of us can't help bragging to the person sitting next to us that "yes, we're from California, and actually, we drove here."

Perhaps the best moment last night was when we wandered down to Frenchmen Street, past the insanity of Bourbon Street and the raucousness of the French Quarter. We slipped into a lively little dive bar called Checkpoint Charlie's, where we had seen an advertisement for a burlesque show the day before. We both have taken to carrying little notebooks with us, and before the show started, a young musician with long, black curly hair got on stage and started playing a mean slide guitar. Julia took out her notebook and began doodling -- a rough sketch, really, of the musician with his bushy beard and tight pants and snappy boots. When the bartender came by to refill our drinks, she saw the drawing and squealed with delight, then asked to show the picture to all of her friends. By the end of the evening, we had gotten the singer to autograph it himself -- Domenic was his name -- and Julia was then inspired to draw both the stuffed deer on the wall (with beads hanging from its antlers) and the stuffed raccoon on the top of the stage, framed by a small placard that read "Je t'accuse."

Drawings to come, once we have access to a scanner.

Our next step from here is to visit the lovely Pat and Dale Bibee in Slidell, Louisiana, before turning northward in our continuing search for America.

Yesterday, Julia asked Ryan, "Do you think the humidity will get better as we move north?"

To which he responded, "Definitely not."

In other news, neither of us have had to unpack a sweater yet.