Return of the Bear Team, Part I: Bears in New Orleans

“Well hello there!
My it’s been a long, long time.
How I am I doing?
Well, I guess that I’m doing fine.
 It’s been so long now,
but it seems now,
 that it was only yesterday.
Gee, ain’t it funny, how time slips away?”

Nothing like a little Willie Nelson to relieve the awkward feelings that come when you haven’t seen someone in awhile. Of course, in the song, the narrator obviously hasn’t seen the person he’s talking to in years. In this case, I’ve only been gone for about three months.

Not that I was ever really gone. I wasn’t taking a nice little vacation or anything. I’ve actually been busier than ever, writing articles for the Yahoo Contributor Network, and blog posts for SB Nation. If you have a few minutes to kill, please check them out!

But back to the business at hand. I’ve been neglecting this particular blog, and for that, I apologize. I’ll make it up to you, faithful readers, and I’ll start by telling you about a little trip we made to a very colorful destination.

New Orleans, Louisiana, also known as “The Crescent City” due to the abundance of crescent rolls eaten in the area, is unlike any other city in the United States. In some ways, this is a good thing. After all, the last thing we need is an entire country which sits below sea level and breeds mosquitoes the size of full grown bald eagles. But we’re not here to talk about the negative aspects of this great city. Not exclusively, anyway.

Leaving from San Diego, we hit the open road and headed east, enjoying the scenery as the coast gave way to the mountains. This enjoyment lasted approximately half on hour, after which time we found ourselves in the Colorado Desert.

For those of you who have never been to a desert, count yourselves lucky. There is no reason to go there unless you enjoy unbroken miles of dirt and scrub grass and triple digit temperatures. This lack of redeeming qualities is the main reason why we blew through such cities/towns as El Centro, Tucson, Las Cruces, and El Paso at 85 miles per hour. I did see a roadrunner in Arizona though. Very cool.

After a stop in Austin, Texas, which is ultra cool by the way, we hit the final leg of our trip. We crossed into Louisiana early in the afternoon, relieved that we were almost there. Or so we thought.

Whoever gave New Orleans the nickname “The Big Easy” apparently wasn’t referring to getting into the city. Making it to New Orleans requires crossing unbroken miles of swampland, slogging through torrential rainfall that would have made Noah consider dragging out the hammer and nails, creeping through untold highway patrol speed traps, and dodging suicidal motorists whose only goal appears to be taking someone else with them when they end it all.

We finally made it into the city limits and headed for Drury Inn and Suites on Poydras Street, where we had made a reservation ahead of time. We checked in and took our luggage, including our “sons” Pip and Squeaky up to the room. After freshening up a bit, we headed out in search of dinner.

Exhausted from the drive, and preferring something near the hotel, we ended up at Walk On’s, a bar and grill that was voted ESPN’s #1 sports bar in America in 2012. The inside of the place was decorated with NFL and NCAA memorabilia, and the food was awesome. Nothing like beer and crawfish etoufee after a long day.

The next day, we ventured out into the city. We took a street car to the garden district, where we spent the next few hours alternately looking at huge old houses and wiping sweat from our brows. Have I mentioned how hot and humid it is in Louisiana? Even for a person who was born and raised in Georgia, the heat was draining.

We held out long enough to visit Lafayette Cemetary No. 1, which is one of several historic cemetaries in New Orleans. At Lafayette, all of the graves are in above ground masoleums, and the architecture is a site to see. Many of the graves are from the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, and the cemetary is definitely worth a visit.

Needing to get somewhere cool, we decided to get lunch. I am a huge fan of the Travel Channel show “Man vs. Food,” and I watched an episode filmed in New Orleans a year or two ago. On the show, host Adam Richman visited three well-known restaurants. On that September day, we visited two of them: Mother’s, and the Acme Oyster House.

For lunch, we headed to the first of the two, Mother’s, a  New Orleans landmark. The restaruant opened in 1938 and is famous for its po’ boy sandwiches and baked ham. I got both of these things on the legendary Ferdi Special, which combines ham, roast beef, and the Mother’s staple “debris;” bits of beef that fall into the gravy while the meat is being cut. Best sandwich EVER!

Our next stop was the world famous Bourbon Steet in the French Quarter. New Orleans oldest neighborhood, the Quarter is home to more bars and restaurants than you could ever visit in one trip. But we gave it a shot, hitting Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Old Absinthe House, and Pat O’brien’s in a whirlwind tour. Or maybe the whirlwind was just in my head, a result of the beer, mint juleps, and hurricanes I sampled along the way. We wrapped up our little bar hopping extravaganza by standing on the bank of the Mississippi River. Not bad at all.

After walking around all day, what could be better than a swim; on the roof of our hotel no less! Nothing like looking out over the city while relaxing in the water. Plus, due to the rain that had fallen earlier, we had the pool all to ourselves. Nice.

That night we hit the Acme Oyster House, which is the place to go for fresh oysters. We sat at the bar in approximately the same place Richman sat during the show, where you can watch a guy shuck the oysters you are getting ready to eat. I also indulged in a sampler plate, which had several New Orleans favorites: gumbo, jambalaya, etc. Absolutely delicious!

The next morning, it was time to leave the city and get back to our lives. As we left New Orleans behind, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer this unique city will be around. Even with the awesome recovery effort put forth by the people of Louisiana, I’m not sure New Orleans can withstand another Hurricane Katrina.

As an added bonus, here are a few things I noticed during our stay in the Big Easy:

  1. If I lived in New Orleans, I would become one of those guys that has to have a wall removed in order to get out of the house. The food is that good.
  2. There are always bands playing on the streets and in the bars. Even at 1 pm on a weekday.
  3. The police in the French Quarter ride BIG horses. Seriously, those things are massive.
  4. New Orleans has, per capita, the most strip clubs/burlesque shows/sex shops of any city in the entire world.
  5. People there love their New Orleans Saints. And they hate the Atlanta Falcons.
  6. The weather is extremely hot and humid. Think Albany, Georgia in August in a sauna while wearing leather, drinking coffee, and doing jumping jacks.

Well, that about does it for today’s post. It feels good to be back among friends. I’ll try not to let so much time go by before the next one. As always thanks for reading. I always appreciate it. Until next time, take care of yourself. And take care of someone else too, will you?

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