2008 May 19 | New Orleans

This tiny little cone cost $3.50. The mall in Aberdeen used to sell them for $1, and I remember the outrange when the price went all the way up to $1.15.

I bought an iPod because it was big enough to hold all my music, which my current MP3 player wasn't even close to being able to do. I really hate the thing, though. First of all, there's no included instruction manual, so you have to either just figure it out or go online. Second, you're supposed to use iTunes, which I refuse to use because it's a resource hog and has lots of privacy problems, so I had to download a different loader program.

That's a third problem, and a huge one for me; you can't just copy and paste songs from your computer to the iPod. You have to transfer them because the iPod uses its own file system. However, because a lot of my songs are really old, the iPod renames them incorrectly so they aren't in the right order. Worst of all, the iPod doesn't support folders, and I have all my music neatly organized into folders of folders. Therefore, every single sub-folder of songs has to have its own playlist.

My old MP3 player had none of the problems. It wasn't big enough to hold everything, but because of how much of a pain the iPod is, I'm seriously considering going back to my old one.

Wal-Mart doesn't seem to have the hand baskets any more. All they have are carts, and since I think it's just a way to trick you into buying more stuff and I hate wheeling them around the store, I refuse to use them unless I absolutely have to. So what do I do when I need to carry more than a few things, but not enough to need a cart? Just grab a bucket from the home improvement section and use it as a basket.

This thick foam would be great for costumes, but it's insanely expensive.

A lot of the apartments in Houston have the A/C drip into the bath tub. It seems like a somewhat efficient idea, except that if you take a shower while the A/C is on, you'll have super-cold water dripping on you.

Plus, this is what it does to the tub within a week after cleaning it spotless. I'm not sure if there's gunk built up in the A/C unit or if it's from the nasty Houston water itself, but it's not fun having to scrub until you're arms are about to fall off every single week.

On the way to Florida, I stopped at New Orleans for a few days. This was a drawbridge and the lights are supposed to let you know when it's safe to cross. Even though the lights were red, everyone kept driving, so I figured I'd just go with the crowd, although I was rather worried about it.

I'm completely addicted to using Google Maps on my phone for directions when I'm driving. However, right when I got to New Orleans it decided to freeze. I tried deleting it and re-downloading a few times, but it didn't work. I never realized how dependent I am on Google Maps until I couldn't use it. I even tried using Google Maps accessed through the internet rather than integrated into the phone, but it looks worse and it doesn't automatically update with where I am using GPS. There were many times when it took me a lot longer to get somewhere because I had to only use the major roads I knew about, and there were some stores I never found at all. Thankfully, Google Maps started working again after I re-downloaded it a few days later, but it was a pretty annoying few days when it was down.

The Superdome and other downtown buildings.

Jackson Square. I wonder how the black Southerners feel about the Confederate War heroes. Most Southerners love them, but since they were fighting partially to keep slavery, you'd think black Southerners would be at least conflicted if not outright against them.

Step 1 of being a tourist: find the local tourist information center, get their free maps, and get advice on how to do a self-guided walking tour to hit all of the points of interest. Step 2: Tear the maps out of the big packets they're in (or tear off all of the random info on the sides of them if they're just folded up) so they can fit easily in your pocket.

And step 3, which I just figured out here: ask the tourist info people what kind of discounts they have on nice motels. I had reservations at a cheap motel on the outskirts of town because all of the downtown ones I could find were really expensive, but these guys knew of some very nice ones downtown that they had special rates on which were basically as cheap as mine.

Step 4: look at postcards to make sure you don't miss any interesting sites and to get an idea of the best angle to see them all from. I always am annoyed when I see a postcard right as I'm leaving a city with some really neat buildings I never saw.

Royale street has a bunch of expensive shops.

But at one end of it is a Walgreen's, which kind of ruins the atmosphere.

There were lots of shops along Canal St, especially electronics stores. This camera had a remote, which is kind of neat, but seems a bit useless.

I love the funny t-shirts in the tourist shops. My favorite New Orleans one was, "FEMA evacuation plan: run, bitch, run!"

A storm tore down this street light. It was still connected, though, so it was displaying the right signals at the right times, which was kind of spooky.

The St. Charles streetcar was a recommended tourist attraction.

However, traffic seemed to get in the way a lot, especially when a vehicle wanted to go across the road perpendicular to the streetcar's route. Here, even the cops left their car in the way.

Some of the streets are really narrow. This semi couldn't make the turn and ended up taking out a bit of a tree.

This is the Riverwalk, a mall at the edge of river.

There were also paddleboats you could take for different cruises, but I never got around to doing that.

The World Trade Center has a bar/club on the top floor with glass all the way around, so it was a great spot to look at the city. This is facing west.

Facing northwest, with Harrah's in the picture.

Facing north, with Canal Street running a long ways.

And facing northeast.

A view of the club.

After that, I went to Harrah's casino to look around. They happened to be having a World Series of Poker tournament going on, so I watched that. They also had the satellite games going, so I got in one of those for $65. They wanted us to play quickly because they needed the table for some of the pros in a few hours; I saw Doyle Brunson and a few others playing around us.

I only really played in three hands very aggressively. The first one I completed an ace-high flush on the river, the second one the only other guy in the pot caught a full house on the river, and the last one I was just low on chips and went all in with a relatively weak hand, with almost everybody else in the table staying in, too, so I got knocked out on that.

It was fun to try out, and not all that much different from home games, except it's more expensive and not as enjoyable because you play a lot less (since you need a really good hand to even consider staying in to see a flop). Most of the time there are only two people in the hand, but they kept us moving pretty quickly, so it wasn't too boring. We also had the 4th highest money maker in that tournament at our table (out of hundreds of players), but I don't think he even played one hand before I left, and I think there was a semi-famous player to my right, but he got knocked out right away, so I didn't really have a chance to get a good look at him.

The entrance to Galatoire's, an expensive restaurant on Bourbon street. They require dinner jackets for dinner and long pants for lunch.

Since it was way too hot out for that and I didn't want to spend a ton of money anyway, I ate some Cajun food at La Bayou restaurant right across the street. The pecan pie was delicious.

There were a lot of buildings with pretty balconies along Bourbon Street.

The cemetaries are all above-ground due to the flooding.

The Botanical Gardens was pretty, although there weren't that many different types of flowers.

It did have some water lilies.

And lots of very fast little lizards.

There was also a cheap concert going on. This woman in the white top and black slacks was obviously one of the organizers. They had more people than they expected and actually ran out of chairs, so she was running all over trying to find more. Then again, if you're going to have a problem at a concert, too many people is hardly the worst one you can have.

I like the exclamation point after "restrooms;" I'm sure that's how some people feel when the see the sign.

This tree had blown down, and most people tried to drive by carefully. However, they usually ended up with the branches scraping against the side of their vehicles. These guys weren't going to risk scratching their paint, though; they got out and hauled the branches out of the way before they went past.

These jeans changed color from blue to purple depending on your viewing angle, which I had never seen in jeans before.

At the motel, the remote was hidden behind the TV, so I had just changed the channels one-by-one the first night before I found the remote. Considering that I like to watch about four shows at once, usually many channels apart, that was almost physically painful for me, and finding the remote was like a shot of morphine.

Mick had mentioned that the defrost setting often uses the A/C to help keep the windshield clear, and it's really obvious in the Jeep. It stays just as cold using defrost as using all-out A/C.

The motel had advertised free wireless internet. I saw a network with the name of the motel, but it was password protected. So I went to the front desk to ask for the password, and the manager said they didn't have internet. I tried to figure out exactly what was going on for a few minutes, but we weren't getting anywhere, so I gave up. In the morning I took my laptop with me downtown because New Orleans supposedly has free wireless there. I could see available networks, but it wouldn't connect. I didn't want to haul my laptop to a coffee shop because it was pouring rain. I was rather annoyed about the apparent abundance of wireless but my inability to connect to it.

I took the ferry across the river. The ferry building was one of the few places I saw a few bums, although I tended to stay in the tourist areas, so maybe I just wasn't in the right spots to see more of them.

The reason I took the ferry was to see Mardi Gras World, where they make the floats. However, apparently you're not supposed to wander around the area on your own but instead pay for a tour, so I didn't hang around long.

One of the bigger floats.

A fellow tourist I met on the ferry. We ended up wandering around the downtown area together the rest of the day. Here we are drinking hurricanes and having lunch at Pat O'Brien's. Meeting each other actually worked out pretty well because she had a Lonely Planet guide book with a few places I hadn't planned on, and the tourist info people had given me a few places to see that weren't in her book.

Eating Beignets at Cafe du Monde.

And oysters at the Acme Oyster House. I generally don't like any seafood that has a shell and crawls around in the mud, but these were chargrilled, so most of the oyster taste was thankfully burned out of them.

Some women on a balcony trying to get people to come into the strip club.

The Tropical Isle, which serves a drink called the Hand Grenade. That explains the grenades inside the bar...

...and the guy in the giant grenade outfit outside. I really liked the hurricanes, but this drink was way too sweet for me.

A voodoo shop.

I'm not sure what exactly could crawl through that little space above the gate, but apparently the owners though it was a potential threat worthy of completely covering the hole in razor wire.

The Royal Street Inn happened to be having a free (although donations were highly encouraged) crawfish boil as we were passing by, so we stopped there for supper. It was a really laid-back atmosphere, but since it was close to Frenchman street, a very hippy-ish neighborhood, it was rather expected.

After that, we listened to the band at the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club.

In the evening they close down Bourbon Street to traffic and people wander around everywhere.

Inside Utopia, one of the clubs on Bourbon Street.

We hadn't planned anything at all; we just wandered around and stopped at whatever looked fun, so it kind of put a kink in my plans for the next morning (which were get to bed at 4am, sleep until 10am, and then take off after an almost full-night's rest) when she mentioned at around 3am in a nightclub that she had a flight leaving at 7am. I hadn't even considered that because it was Friday night / Saturday morning (who leaves on Saturday and not Sunday?).

She was completely stunned that it was that late already. She was pretty tired, too, so I didn't dare just take her back to her hostel, let her sleep for a few hours while I peacefully slept at my motel to stick with my plan, and then have her take a shuttle to the airport; I was certain she would have slept right through her flight. So I ended up taking her to her hostel, waiting for her to pack up (which took a tremendously long time because she kept falling asleep), and then driving her to the airport myself.

That meant I didn't get back to my motel until about 6:30am, which left about four hours of planned sleep; still not too bad. Then, the wonderful people staying next to my room decided to make a gigantic racket at 8:30am and wake me up. Thankfully I've had enough experience at varying my sleep schedule that my body adapted well enough so I could drive for a few hours to Tallahassee and get to bed in the middle of the afternoon in a quieter motel.

Even though my plan for that morning had been shot to pieces, it was worth it considering how much fun the night before was. Then again, that's why I try to leave my sight-seeing schedules fairly vague. I usually plan what things I want to see but not necessarily the exact times I want to be at each unless there is a scheduled starting time. That way I can adapt if something which sounds like it will be more interesting comes up.

This was on the pump when I pulled up. If that were me, I would have put in an extra 50 cents to make it an even $100. Actually, there are notices on the pumps that some credit cards will max out at $50 or $75, but most of those limits have been raised due to the increased prices.

Since I had a bunch of suitcases, bags, and backpacks in the back of the Jeep, I decided to cover them with a sheet so it wasn't so obvious I was carrying a lot of stuff. Then again, covering them up means I've obviously got something to hide under there, so it works both ways, like putting really expensive locks on your luggage.

The Jeep doesn't have as much room to put things as the Explorer, and since I live by the Boy Scout motto of "be prepared," I tend to have a ton of stuff, even if I don't plan on using any of it, so it's been a challenge getting it all to fit around inside of the Jeep.

I got new glasses from UHCO right before I left. These were ones I'm planning on leaving in the truck in case I have to take out my contacts for some reason (more of that "be prepared" thinking), so I ordered some with clip-ons. Except that apparently the clip-ons didn't come, and I had to leave before they would arrive, which decreases their planned effectiveness some (although I can still throw a pair of big sunglasses over these if I have to).

That's a lot of lights.

Daytona Beach. I guess they don't have nearly as much of a parking problem as most beaches because you just park in the sand.

I think this is one of the reasons people bring chairs to the beach. The wind was blowing the sand around a few inches off the ground, and it was blowing enough that a nice pile built up around the outline of my arms and book.

Daytona also has a Daytona 500 Experience where you can ride or drive around the track, but it was really expensive and you only got to do a few laps, so I decided against trying it out.

Monnie and Peter's guest condo in Fort Lauderdale.

This guy at Publix offered to help me take my groceries out of the cart and put them in the Jeep (for a tip, obviously). He had a Publix vest, but the whole situation just felt off, so I kept thinking he had bought the vest at a Goodwill or something and wasn't an employee at all, which would be a kind of sneaky way to make some money.

Oh, wonderful, now what. Hmm, green fluid means radiator, so knowing my luck with vehicles, that's probably $1000+ because the whole thing will have to be replaced. It drives OK to the Meineke shop, though (I went to Meineke because that's where I got the A/C fixed, and perhaps something is wrong with that, too, so at least that will be under the last Meineke shop's 1-year warranty). Yep, he agrees it's probably the radiator because it's green. A few hours later, and actually some good news: apparently Jeeps have orange radiator fluid, and the green is the dye the last shop put in the A/C to trace any potential leaks, so the entire job is under warranty. Whew.

I used to be able to use pretty much any kind of contact solution, but in the past few years I've gotten really picky. If I use anything other than Opti-Free Express, I can't wear my contacts nearly as long during the day. Unfortunately, Opti-Free has a new version called RepleniSH which will probably eventually replace Express, and RepleniSH is not much better than any of the other brands; my eyes still get tired early if I use it. I'd stockpile 50 years worth of Express, but since the expiration dates are only a few years away, that won't work. Hmm, I wonder what I'm going to do.