Open Road

Topsy Turvy Trip to Biloxi

This year has been very different than previous years. The main reason has been because this year's Biloxi trip was the same week as Jet's Spring Break. We knew about that fact, so had planned on doing a road trip with Jet instead of having his grandparents come to stay with him. Plans we hadn't known were going to be as appropriate as they ended up being. Part of the reason for that included Jet asking plaintively, last year, if he could come with us.

On top of that, the NCAA was having the Final Four in New Orleans on the ending weekend of our trip, so it was impossible to find hotel rooms for that weekend. Instead, the group decided to stay in New Orleans for the first weekend instead of the weekend after working all week. So it was all upsidedown.

Our route was straight east on 70 to the middle of Kansas, then south on 35 until Dallas, and swapping to 45 to Houston to stay at Bob and Mei's. From there we headed east along the coastline to New Orleans, and then from there to Biloxi.



We left as soon as Jet got home and unpacked from school. We'd been packing for a couple of days, knowing that we might be spending a night or two in the van, and several nights through the hotel. John took the first turn to the Eastern edge of Colorado, stopped in Burlington for dinner at a steak house.

After dinner I took the wheel, just long enough for Jet to digest. We stopped at a truck stop and brushed our teeth, and Jet got into his PJs. John strapped him into the back bench seat, and got the blanket over him. John and Jet went to sleep, and I drove until 1 am. John took over then, and I slept sitting up in the backward sweat behind the driver's seat. It was a pretty good sleep, and I just kept going back down whenever I awoke and the car was still going.

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When John finally pulled over at a rest stop to stay, the sun was touching the horizon. It was 6 am central time, and I went for it until about 8 am, when I saw Jet stirring. I stopped at an IHOP, where John decided to sleep instead of eat, and Jet and I went in and had a good breakfast before hitting the road again. That was when I saw the green fields of north eastern Texas. It was definitely Spring, heading right down south to Summer. Dallas was a bit of a scrum with a few too many freeway changes to make it easy, but I got through it all right and was happy I took the busy city part of it all.

Around 11:30 a.m. I was fading again, so John took over, and got us to the Woodlands, just north of Houston. It's a planned city far enough from Houston to be its own creation, and it's all in the midst of the trees of the forest north of Houston. It was humid and 80, and everything was green. The trees were in full furl, the grass bright green, and the wildflowers were brilliant reds, blues, and yellows. Everyone was in shorts and muscle shirts, and Mei and Bob were at the ER for a medical problem Bob was trying to figure out. Luckily, while it was very urgent in the morning, by the afternoon, things were under control enough that they were planning on having dinner with us.

Mei told us to look at the Woodlands Malls and shops, so we took a few hours and wandered about looking at all the shops. There was a man-made waterway through the whole complex, that had a water taxi that could take people to different parts of the business park and shopping. It went by a park as well, that had a series of fountains and falling water features. Jet and I ended up with our feet in the water. *laughs*

That was cool.

Dinner was great, too. Chinese food delivered to the house with rice. We sat around, talked, and ate together, and that was really fun, as we hadn't seen either of them for so long it was great to just catch up. For dessert, we went back to the shopping area, at Hubble and Hudson, bistro and grocery. It is a really high-end grocery store, with a great deal of pre-made foods, including a lovely little gelato array, a truffle bar, a cafe, a full-fledged bakery, a deli, a grill, and all kinds of other things as well. The desserts were amazing, and we all picked what we wanted. Jet was ecstatic about a lemon and a chocolate mint chip truffle. I had a slice of opera cake, and other folks had a lovely chocolate mousse.

We just took them all home to nibble on with hot beverages.

Sleep took us over quickly that night. We had breakfast, and a good walk around some of the paths right by the house for the morning, and left at about noon. It was like full-blown summer, with flowers, lots of bugs, a lovely pond with ducks and geese, and allthe trees were in full leaf. It was amazing, coming as we did from where the trees were just getting bold enough to bud. We know that we're going to get snow before Mother's Day, too.

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Heading East and South we followed the bayous and waterways, seeing deep black caves of mirrored waters under the curved branches, and unbroken green otherwise. The roads turned into continuous bridges over swamps, miles of pylons and concrete. Dinner was in Morgan City, an old sea port by the water, that had to dig a channel for a while for business, but then let it silt up again when they didn't need it anymore. We found a local seafood shop that had boiled crawfish, softshell crabs, and shrimp by the pound. It was tasty.

Heading into the city, we went by Ridell, which was in the direction of the airport, so we got to go into the city the same way we usually do. This time there were far more houses that were lit at night, there were none of the blue tarps I remember from the very first trip, and we could see people on their porches. We ended up just outside of New Orleans, at a super 8 that only cost $50 a night, but was this lovely three-story structure with wrought iron front, and all the doors facing an interior corridor. The pool was completely unheated, and the boys both popped out nearly as soon as they got in. That was pretty much of an indicator for me and I never went in.

Sleep was easy that night, too.

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We were up early this morning, went out to the Beignet Cafe for breakfast right by the NOPD department. I checked out their t-shirts and doubloons. The beignets were hot and crisp and lovely, and the chicory coffee was smooth. We walked the Quarter, went to Jackson Square to find Jet a hat just like John's, and then found the Mississippi and walked along the water. I seriously thought about getting one of those enormous brimmed lady's hats, but knew I didn't have a dress to match it. We watched the tug boats out on the water, and Jet watched one pushing barges, another pushing a huge ship, and said, "They should be tug o' wars, not tugs, they push and pull."

We were near the historical paddleboat that also did a Blues cruise for lunch, but while it was just docked by Jackson Square, it was using its steam to play its pipes. The eerie, half-out-of-tune whistles made cheerful tunes strange and distorted over the water. On the land, standing at the high edge of Jackson Square, however, the whistles were all in tune! That was very odd. I think the reflection of the sounds were interfering somehow or something, but it was eerie sounding.

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From there we headed toward the Acme Oyster House. I got pralines, and we got to Acme when there was actually no line! I've never been to the Acme Oyster House on a weekday, and it was amazing to me to not see a line out the door. We got seated instantly, and got our dozen grilled and half a dozen raw oysters far more quickly than we got the hush puppies and sweet potato fries that were supposed to go with them. The grilled oysters were tender, salty, rich with shaved hard cheese. The bits of baguette that came with them were perfect.

We headed back to car and left soon there after.

We arrived at Biloxi around 2, when it was in the 80's, and headed to the Mission, where we unloaded our stuff, and decided to stay in the dorms. The local hotels were far more expensive, and if we were going to stay three or four nights, it would be cheaper than anything else we could find. The only concern was sheets, and there was a whole cabinet of cleaned sheets that were left for volunteers to use! So we were all set. I even got my Indian blanket as my blanket, and I'm going to enjoy that a great deal.

I called Darkprism after getting a text from her about the manuscript, and I know I'm leaving her to deal with it, but we did think the proofreading would be easier than the edit pass. That isn't so, but I trust her completely, and she seems to be figuring out a method to the madness.

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We then headed to the work site, and passed another one that was doing the roof as well. We finally found ours and found the guys with a roof already stripped off, and two more people taking the floor out from two of the rooms. The roof someone had put on a couple years after Katrina hadn't been done right, and it leaked, ruining the inside ceiling and the floor underneath it. So it all had to be taken out, and the whole roof had to be redone.

So they did the hard work of filling an entire dumpster with the remains of the ruined roof, all this morning. The roof was cleared, had the particle board put down, and we're going to be ready for tar paper tomorrow. Jet got to do some errand running, and when the site leader came by to look things over, Jet was running boards into the dumpster, and no one said anything. So it looks like Jet is going to be able to do some of the easier things. There's likely to be painting done tomorrow, so he will likely have a job he can do and will like.

So that worked out well. I did a little lifting of debris to put into the dumpster, but not much, and will probably hit the roof in the morning, in more than one sense. The Florida group that is also staying at the dorm were starting to leave when we got there, as they had to make their dinner.

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Our group got showered, drank some beers, and then headed to the Shed.

Rumor had it they'd burnt down, and they had in February, but were reopened just a couple of weeks ago! We arrived to find the still-burnt shell of the old place sitting out around the old stage where they used to have all kinds of Blues performances. They rebuilt further down the parking lot, next to a pond. Someone put a sort of dock out over the water for a new stage, and the tables were by the water. They were using the metal skeleton of a Model A truck as a smoker, and had a white trailer in the back as the "kitchen". The menu was a little more limited, they didn't have banana pudding or key lime pie or the desserts anymore, but they still had all four standard sides and six kinds of meat. And two lines of people coming to order their food and wait for it at wooden picnic tables.

It was still amazing food. The waitress had been hired before the fire and was just grateful for having a job now, and didn't know what happened to the desserts. The decor was still found Stuff and brought Stuff, but it was now a set of tables surrounding the pond and dock. The bathrooms were portapotties, but with a whole water-based hand washing system next to it.

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It was really cool to see that The Blow Fly, another local restaurant that we love a lot, had lent the Shed a catering truck, probably for use in all their catering gigs. It was just really neat to see that the local restaurants helped to take care of each other. As we were leaving a man was running a log splitter to feed the old truck smoker, and everyone stopped to talk to the man that owned and ran the place. He was a big guy and seemed determined to just keep making a go of it. The waitress said, "No one around here ever quits."

And I have to admit that that pretty much sums up anyone that's still here...

We all had a great dinner, and left after the mosquitoes came out, and went back to the dorm and just settled in to talk and catch up. I finally got a chance to write this and download some of the photos. We're doing pretty well, even with everything in the other order and way of things. Jet's now sleeping in the dorm with us and do what he can do.

I'm gonna go to bed as the pictures upload. I'll come back to this with more pictures tomorrow...
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Road trips are a blast. Neat to have everyone's schedule work so smoothly together.
My family lives in the northern part of Houston near the Woodlands and it truly is a lovely area. Especially the scattered bluebonnets on the roadside. So cool for you to see places I see quite often.
All of the food sounds delicious though I've yet to try a raw oyster. However, my husband loves them. Someday, perhaps. *determined face*

Very cool that your son was able to participate and lend a hand. That sort of thing really builds character along with building a home. Have fun the rest of your stay and be safe driving back home.

Yes! It was nice to have everything finally work out.

Ooo!! So you know!! Yeah, the Woodlands are really pretty, and we did see the bluebonnets!

*giggles* Raw oysters do take determination. I'm really impressed that Jet dove right into them, as he just seems to naturally like the critters, unusual for an 11-year-old, but he also likes a lot of various types of sushi, too.

He really does prefer to help, but he's also been good about making sure that I'm not trashing myself completely. That's been useful, too. It's nice having a mitigating influence. *grins*
Wow! That all sounds like a good time. And you like your road companions, double bonus.
This is something you do every year, right? Is this with Habitat for Humanity?

I wish we had been able to do a meetup. That would have been all kinds of fun.
From what you wrote, however, it doesn't seem like you were in Houston long enough.
Maybe next year?
CKN
It is a bonus!! I really do like traveling with my boys. *grins*

And yeah, it's been something we've done every year, and it's through the UCC's mission in Biloxi, they've had work parties here since the 20's, and have a beautiful facility for housing volunteers.

It would have been cool! We didn't even get all the way to Houston, sadly... just got too busy with our friends to the north. Beautiful place you live in, though!
Sounds like a lovely trip, and how great that Jet wanted to and was able to go with this time. I do so admire you and your hubby for making time for this worthwhile work every year - and you are setting wonderful examples for Jet, too.

And... oysters and beignets and pralines!!! nom nom nom nom nom ♥
It was all really delicious and I'm very very glad, actually, that we brought Jet along this time, too!! He got to do stuff, and make his own example and see how hard everyone else was working. So it was good all around...