Well, our 11-day trip ended up getting a day longer before it ended, but we made it home safely yesterday in the late afternoon. That was the longest trip my wife and I have ever taken together (we've been together for almost 19 years now) and taking the kids along added an extra dimension of fun and an extra layer of challenges. I'm thankful to report that we also managed not to lose anything, and we are van-packing masters now.
The reason that our trip was extended was that we wanted to take the kids on a steamboat ride on the Mississippi River, and (despite the brochure and website info) they were only running this in the afternoons during this season, so we stayed in New Orleans and enjoyed the boat trip before heading to Baton Rouge that evening.
The boat was a big hit with all four kids. My two older kids took a lot of pictures with their cameras, and I've enjoyed watching them reminisce about the trip already. My son particularly enjoyed sitting at the front of the boat with the wind in his hair, and our baby (who recently learned to walk) decided to attempt walking:
- on a slanted surface
- on something that is moving
I have little doubt that this improved her ambulatory skills in a dramatic way.
We took a ride up and down St. Charles Avenue, and we explained to the kids that this was the same one referenced in "Monopoly". Some of the homes there are truly remarkable, and I like the fact that even the McDonald's, Borders, and Chase Bank are forced to comply with the strict historic building codes in that area.
We visited Beckham's Bookshop, which held a lot of promise, but didn't deliver in my humble opinion. It looks like one of those old bookstores you see in movies, where couples meet and eventually marry, but it was sort of sad and rundown instead, and the books themselves seemed like something that might have been found at a yard sale, assuming the yard sale was held by people who didn't read very much.
We wanted to eat in New Orleans, but we didn't want to pay to park yet again, so we ended up finding a nice restaurant next to our hotel in Baton Rouge instead. Although the food was excellent, the portions were pretty darn small. I thought it was just me, but my wife also mentioned it, so I was not alone. Ironically, the kids were served giant, oversized portions for their meals. What?!?
We spent some time at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, which looks like an actual castle outside, and a cathedral on the inside. It also contains a lot of information about the late Huey Long, who was assassinated. After that, we headed out for Houston. We had intended to stay with family, but my wife's dad just got released from the hospital that day, so we opted for one more night of hotel living before returning home. My wife had an opportunity to meet some of her blogging friends for lunch, which was a treat. They're a lovely couple, and they met via blogging, which I found to be incredibly cool.
Upon arriving home, I felt relieved and suddenly tired, although all of us were a little sad to see this trip come to an end. We are already thinking about our next adventure. If things work out, we might do this again in May, when we travel to Washington, DC. I've never been there, but I am anxious to see it!
Here are the cities where we actually slept during our trip:
- Shreveport, Louisiana
- Jackson, Mississippi
- Birmingham, Alabama (possibly where I will retire)
- Marietta, Georgia (just outside Atlanta - thanks again to Ken and Myra Cook!)
- Mobile, Alabama
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Houston, Texas
I had never been to Mississippi, Alabama, or Georgia before, and some of the scenery, hills, and trees were breathtaking. I think one of the things we all learned is that we are both tougher and more flexible than we might have realized. I am thankful to have made some awesome memories with my family.