August 18th


    My day started off with Annita shaking me awake at 3:45 in the morning.   I had just played our "every other week" session of D&D until just after midnight or so; needless to say, I was well refreshed and ready to go (sarcasm is wasted in cyberspace).  At least she let me "rest" on the drive to Wichita, where I was going to climb into a plane for the first time in my 35 year young life.   I was really looking forward to the entire "plane ride" stuff.   After a 3-1/2 hour trip (at least by the time I kept in between snores), we arrived in Wichita 2 hours before we needed to board the plane.  We were really cutting it close!!!!  We did have to stop at Wal-Mart so I could get some clean socks (in other words, socks that hadn't been stained with mud or cow manure from work).  That only left us 1 hour and 59 and 1/2 minutes to burn.  We decided that we had just barely enough time to eat breakfast at IHOP.  BIG mistake.  I've scooped moldy feed out of bunks at the feedyard that tasted better than that.  Once at the airport, she again took the time to give me shit about the suitcase I bought.  I purchased it at the Wal-Mart in Garden City for $40. It isn't quite big enough to fit my Mustang in, but it's close.

    Since I took my digital camera on the trip, I took my laptop along to download the mem-card once I filled it up (it can only store about 380 pictures at a time).  Annita was constantly bagging me about the time it was going to take to search my computer bag at every stop.  She even bet me $10 that I'd get searched at Wichita.  She still hasn't paid me the money.  We crawled on the plane early that Sunday morning.  She let me have the window seat since I'd never been on a plane before (scenes from the Wedding Singer flashed in my sub-conscious).  It was a fairly small plane.  There were two seats on the port side and three on the starboard side (is that terminology only used on ships???).  I was filled with self-relief that there were only a handful of people on the plane.  I doubted that Al-Qaeda would bother to blow up a whole plane with only 6 people aboard.  I'm a little confused.   We were going fly from Wichita to Memphis, but the stewardess was showing us how to inflate our life vests.  Once achieving cruising altitude of 27,000 feet, if there's a problem with a plane, we're going to hit the ground like a lawn dart.  The only thing the life vests are going to do is confuse archaeologists thousands of years from now.  They're going to uncover our bodies with life vests around our necks and think there was an ocean here.  I was impressed with the acceleration the "puddle jumper" plane had.  It ALMOST accelerated as fast as my race car!!!  I was doing my best not to let Nita know that I was even a tiny bit nervous.  The plane left the ground and banked to starboard, the side of the plane I was on.  I could see the shadow of the plane on the ground as we lifted.   If my digital camera wasn't in my computer bag on the floor, I could have gotten some TREMENDOUS pictures.  I was still grinning from ear to ear when I heard an extremely loud "clunk" beneath the plane.  I'm sure that I visibly flinched before realizing that it was the landing gear raising.  Thankfully, Nita didn't notice.  She was busy reading the propaganda provided by the airline found in the pocket of the seat in front of her.  I did finally dig my camera out of the bag and try to take pictures of the landscape.  Unfortunately, I skimped on the camera and only got a 5X zoom, and that, coupled with the fog and the dirty windows on the plane, didn't allow me to take very many spectacular photos from the air.  There was also the "tiny" fact that the SMALL window was like trying to take pictures out of the eyehole of a door.  I was hunched down trying to look out the "cracker-jack box" sized hole for most of the flight, even after loosening my seatbelt and scrunching down in the seat.  Again, when the pilot achieved cruising altitude and throttled back, I'm sure I paled again.  Thankfully, Nita was still perusing the magazine.  We didn't encounter any noticable turbulence during this trip.  We touched down in Memphis without any problems, although, I have to admit that while I was gawking out the window looking for Graceland for a snapshot, it felt like the pilot had stalled the airplane enough that it was going to fall out of the sky like a rock.  I told Nita about this once we arrived in New Orleans and she said she didn't think I was even a little nervous.  Maybe I should be an actor???  Once on the ground, we had to hustle to make our connecting flight to New Orleans.  We didn't even have time to stop and get Nita's daughter a T-Shirt, or me some aspirine to clear up the monster headache I had after peering out the tiny window the whole flight.  We scrambled onto the DC-9 preparing for our flight into New Orleans.  Annita had said that this was the only flight that she couldn't pick the seats we would occupy.  I'm looking at the ticket stub showing 21B on it.  I get to row 15 and I'm looking at the back of the plane thinking "there isn't 21 rows on this plane!!!!!"  Actually, there was 22 rows.  PLENTY of room.  The bad thing was being seated right next to the growling whining engine with a splitting headache.   We heard them call for the "last boarding" for the flight.  I had settled into the seat and was admiring the larger view out the window when I noticed two gentlemen walking down the aisle.  Lots of terms come to mind, but I'll just say that "they looked Arabic."  Needless to say, my butt puckered considerably as I looked at Annita.  She was looking at me, having already noticed them.  I'm guessing she was trying to gauge my response to their "nationality."  I did a quick head count on the plane, and didn't like my figures.  But, I couldn't see a fuse sticking out of any of their shoes, and that didn't give me any relief at all.  This wasn't the worst of my anxieties on the four flights for the vacation, but I'll get more into that when I start talking about the flight out of New Orleans.   The landing at New Orleans was a relief, but I did take a few snapshots on the way down, including a picture of this house.  I'm not sure I like the "cul de sac" in the front yard.  Yes, that white spec is a house out in the middle of a swamp.

Nita was thankful for the landing, which gave her a chance to smoke a quick cigarette, and to give me another chance to give her a hard time about it.   That was when I noticed the limo that was going to take us to our hotel.  Just kidding, we actually caught a "taxi" (a van) that took us where we needed to go:  The French Quarter. 

I knew this was going to be my type of town when a guy staggered across the street in front of the "taxi" and asked the driver how to find a certain bar.  He was holding a plastic cup of beer at the time.  I LOVE this country!!!!   The driver was very helpful and told us about several places where we could do this or do that, showed us the park, told us not to miss eating at "Cafe Du Monde,"   and also showed us where the French Market was located.  He then deposited us in front of the Omni Royale.  After arriving in our room, I immediately grabbed the remote and looked for TNT to find out how Marlin was doing at Michigan (NASCAR).  He was doing pretty well, but every time I turned around, Nita had changed the TV to watch GOLF of all things.  Whenever she let the remote out of her hand, I changed the channel back to a REAL sport.  With only 28 laps remaining, and Marlin back in the pack after a series of pit stops, Annita announced that we were leaving.  I stood my ground and replied, "Yes dear."

We made our way to Decatur (I hope I spelled that right) Street.   This was my kind of town.  All up and down the street the buildings were the same: a bar, a trinket store, a restaurant, then it repeated.  We took off in one direction (I was clueless which way we were headed) and ran into Canal Street.  We turned left and started down the street.  This was the direction the taxi driver said would take us to Hooters.  After taking one more turn, I took us straight as an arrow to our destination, without even asking for directions.  Amazing isn't it??   Just a second, Annita is trying to tell me something.....She doesn't remember it happening that way, but if you listen to her, she'll try to tell you that I paid $20 for a shoe shine on a $16 pair of sneakers.  You just can't believe everything she tells you.

On the way to Hooters, we saw another place that we needed to visit.  Once we arrived, we grabbed a seat and were quickly joined by our waitress, Rachel.  I love coming to Hooters.  The women are usually beautiful, wearing tiny orange shorts and tight T-shirts, and possessing massive amounts of cleavage.   This Hooters wasn't disappointing me.  That is until Rachel opened her mouth.   "What can I get you sweetie?"  The problem with this question?   She wasn't talking to me.  Nita's eyes popped open and she ordered a wine.   Rachel then turned to me and said, "What can I get you?"  I didn't get a "sweetie."  Every time she came by, she called Annita sweetie.   She did finally call me sweetie once:  when she handed me the bill.  This didn't deter me from buying a hat, a bumper sticker, and a beer mug while there.

We left Hooters and strolled down Peters Street until it connected with Decatur.  This intersection also contains the Hard Rock Cafe, which has a really neat neon sign in the window.  We continued down the street for another block and decided to walk towards the river.  As luck would have it, this is where the Natchez steamboat docks and takes paddleboat tours up and down the Mississippi river.  We decided to take the tour and climbed aboard.  There was a band playing on the upper deck at the front, and a huge dining room on the main level where they were serving dinner.  We had just eaten, so we skipped the main course.  Instead, we wandered around the ship looking at all the sites.  Shortly after coming aboard, there was a MAMMOTH cruise ship that passed by on our starboard.  There were probably 10 or 15 people on the steamboat that were yelling and screaming and waving at this boat.  I thought that it was a common thing until I spoke to the lady that turned out to be the bartender.   The bartender told me that one of the ladies that works on the steamboat had been saying for 20 years that she was going to be on that cruise ship one of these days.   She was always very giving and spent most of her money buying stuff for her grandchildren.  Finally, her church group had decided to take a cruise and the other people on the steamboat put some money together and got her a ticket.  It was a really nice story.  The bad side to this story?  I ordered a Bud Light (what else?) from this bartender and she told me that they only have Miller Light and Ice House for beer.  What she was trying to tell me is that they didn't have any beer on board.   I ordered an Ice House and got Annita a Jack Daniels on the rocks.

I was running around the boat like a Japanese tourist with a new camera and snapped a picture of Annita when she noticed the boat moving (the whistle blowing should have given that away).  I think I embarrassed Annita with all of my picture taking, especially this picture of Annita and Jack.  She even took some great pictures of the skyline and sunset.  The 50 pictures she took of me will probably "accidentally" get erased when I transfer the files from computer to computer......Probably a virus of some sort.  I leave her alone for two minutes while I'm making a nature call (and take this incredible shot of the sunset), and when I come back, she's talking to a couple of strangers (and strange is the NICEST thing I can say about them!!!).  I can safely say that Andy and Marilyn were the two nicest Canadians that we met on the trip.  But then again, they were the ONLY Canadians we met on the trip!!!!   I knew we were going to get along great when Andy started complaining about flying.   I said a couple of things about my flight experiences and had them rolling in laughter.  They suggested I become a comedian, but I think I'm only good with drunk Canadians so that won't work well.  I snapped that first picture and was showing them the picture when Andy dropped the camera on the floor.  He literally crapped his pants.  After we rounded up and installed the batteries, I snapped another picture of them to show him that it still worked.   That was the big joke for the week.  It was at some point around here that the boat turned around and started back towards the dock.  We spent the rest of the cruise just chatting and laughing and drinking fermented hops beverages (I refuse to call it beer).  Afterwards, the four of us went bar hopping.  We started off at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and later went into one of the many bars on Bourbon Street that had a live band playing.  They were very good and were playing 80's hard rock.  I can't remember what the song was, but at one point (while I was dancing and singing), I turned around and the singer was right beside me.  He stuck the microphone in my face and I belted out a verse.  It sounded an awful lot like a cat having its tail pulled out.  We didn't last much longer after that but made a date to meet at Hooters for supper the next night.


On to August 19th

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