Nightlife is where New Orleans really shines. Sure the historical places, the cathedral, and beignets and coffee are all great, but the never ending party that is Bourbon St. is something all together different. Being from Pennsylvania, my friends and I were amazed that you could buy liquor in a gas station down south. In New Orleans it was taken a step further, my companions could wander the closed off streets with open containers as we went from bar to bar. I was surprised at how large the crowd was (it was a Sunday after all) and how many of the bars had live music. The streets and bars were littered half naked women painted silver, mechanical bulls, beads and drinks inside of grenades and fishbowls. I thought I had seen it all until Cola and I had to shoo away a lady of the night on our walk home.
The next morning began at the French Market were Cola and Jeff tasted a traditional New Orleans sandwich, the mufalletta. The sandwich was described to me as a stromboli with olives. The bread, a hard loaf with sesame seeds on it, held the contents of salami, ham, provolone cheese and olive salad. I was jealous when their hot sandwiches came out and I could see the melted cheese and greases coming out of the side, but I was saving my hunger for another New Orleans treat. After wandering the French Quarter for a couple of hours we arrived at Coop's Place. Coop's is a hole in the wall bar and from what I had read, had the best jambalaya in the city. My first sign that the joint would live up to it's reputation was having to wait in line to get in. Once we were seated I placed my order for one jambalaya supreme and did not have to wait long for the order to come out. The traditional Creole rice dish did not disappoint. The rabbit, pork sausage, shrimp and tasso (Cajun smoked ham) combined with tomatoes, onions and bell peppers was absolutely delicious. It was a fine note to end our trip to The Big Easy.
The next two days were our first camping days. We spent the first night in Sam Houston Jones state park, which is a Lousiana swamp. Needless to say, the mosquitoes were awful and it was ever so muggy trying to sleep in a tent with two other guys. The second night we camped on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, which was awesome (yet still infested with mosquitoes). We met some really great people including a middle aged couple who helped us figure out my grandfather's stove I had brought along (for mostly boiling water, and yes Dad, I forgot your tutorial) and lent us some bug spray. We also met a cyclist who traded us stories about his years as a bush pilot in Indonesia for beer and burgers. After our night on the Gulf Coast I had created a hypothesis; mosquitoes love when you have low platelets. I could have played some crazy connect the dots with my mosquito bites after our first days camping.
Our second and last night spent with family friend's in Temple, Texas was amazing. My mother's friend Sue Ann, her husband Gary and their children Jenna, Chad and Eric could not have been more hospitable to us. They invited us into their beautiful home, folded our laundry, let us sleep in their beds (a special thank you Jenna, your bed was most comfortable), and provided us with beer, some good Texas barbecue, enlightening conversation and the most amazing puppy to play with. The next morning the hospitality did not stop. We woke up to coffee, breakfast burritos and a full load of snacks to take with us. We cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for us.