October, 2018 – Pensacola, FL to New Orleans We were scheduled to meet our best friends, Amy and Terry, at Fort Pickens Campground on the Gulf Island National Seashore the second week in October. They had a one week vacation and wanted to bring their new camper and their 4 dogs to the beach. We suggested the Pensacola Beach area because it was the most dog friendly of the locations we were considering.
The Fort Pickens Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is pretty amazing. It has a great campground, miles and miles of generally uncrowded beaches, and an old Fort to explore. We planned to stay Sunday through Thursday nights as the Friday and Saturday nights at the beginning and end of the week were booked many months in advance.
We had been closely watching a tropical disturbance for almost a week that appeared it might impact our plans. On the morning of our arrival it still looked like we might get by with only a rainy day or two in the middle of the week. Later that day and into the next morning it became more and more apparent that this storm was growing and was going to cut short our stay.
We made the most of what time we had. As soon as we got set up we headed for the beach. We had an awesome afternoon sitting in the sun and playing in the surf.
Monday morning Amy and I enjoyed a walk of several miles on the deserted beach while the boys explored the fort. The surf was starting to getting really big and just when we thought we were in the middle of nowhere we noticed surfers in the water and knew we were close to civilization.
We then loaded the dogs up and took them to the dog beach. Pensacola Beach has two dog beaches, one not far outside the national park gates. The surf was getting intense at this point and the blowing wind stung our legs. But the dogs loved their first dip in the ocean. This is what pure joy looks like on an old dog.
After we took the dogs home we decided to have lunch out. Peg Leg Pete’s is one of our favorite restaurants and a visit to this area would not be complete without a stop there. It was challenging to eat on their 2nd story deck as hard as the wind was blowing. You had to hold on to your napkin and food to keep them from blowing away. Even the bottles of beer would occasionally make a run for it! But it was totally worth it and we had yet another epic meal there.
After heading into town to run a few errands we arrived back at the park. We looked for signs of what the park’s plans for the storm were. There was no sign at the entrance gate and no one on duty. We stopped by the campground office and it simply had its closed sign up. We checked their website and it said nothing. We had already decided we were leaving first thing the next morning and that we were going to head west to New Orleans.
But when we got back to camp the campground was practically deserted. There were half a dozen campsites still occupied. We each went home and rested up a bit wondering if we were going to get a knock on the door telling us to leave.
Finally about 4 we took a walk. A fellow camper was out and we asked if someone had told all these people to leave. He said yes, about 2 o’clock they had come around and told everyone they had to be out by 7. We were a little miffed. They could have put a note on our door, or on the campground office, or even on the electronic sign they have at the entrance gate. Nothing!
We were processing this information when a park ranger drove through and we flagged him down. He confirmed we had no choice but to leave. I was certain we’d have a heck of a time finding another camp nearby but miraculously we got the last two sites at a park just off I-10 in Pensacola. It was only a 24 mile drive so we packed up and moved and were settled for the night by 6.
The park turned out to be pretty great. Five Flags Park had wide roads and sites, so backing in was no big deal, even though we were worn out and a bit frazzled. The owners (or possibly managers) were super nice and someone clearly had a sense of humor. There were lots of fun details, like laundry rooms made out of old streetcars.
Since we no longer had to get up early to move the next day, we sat up late playing dominoes. We kept seeing people going in and out of this gate which we decided was probably a portal to another dimension.
Amy and I had to know where they were going. So we walked through the portal and found ourselves in the parking lot of a BBQ joint. We remembered there was another portal in the park and decided we would return via it. But after walking to it we realized we needed a gate key to get back in. Oops! We walked back to our own gate and phoned the boys to come let us in.
The next morning we made the three hour drive to Louisiana. We stayed in Slidell, about 30 miles outside New Orleans at Pine Crest RV Park. The place was pretty wet when we arrived. Their lake was out of its banks and our friends had trouble finding a site that was dry enough for their pups to play outside.
Despite the campground lady saying there was nothing to do in Slidell (way to sell it!) we found the town very nice and enjoyed exploring it our first afternoon. They had a lot of retail options which we enjoyed for a short while. They had some interesting flea markets and a slew of antique stores in the historic district. We ended the afternoon at a bar downtown called The Brass Monkey working on our very rusty shuffleboard skills.
The next morning we hailed an Uber and set off for New Orleans. We started our day at the St. Louis Cemetery Number 1. The last time Jim and I visited we wandered through it on our own. Since then they have had too much vandalism and now you have to have an approved guide to visit.
This gentlemen offered his services and we forked over $20 bucks apiece, best money ever spent! Our guide was top notch and he was very informative and entertaining. We really enjoyed our tour and when it wrapped up about 11 AM we asked him for lunch recommendations and he gave us several all of which were in the first block of St Louis Street southeast of Bourbon.
We walked the third of a mile over and checked out our options. Then we had a bloody mary and decided lunch could wait so we wandered up and down Bourbon Street for a while. We’d hit a shop or two, then a bar for a round of drinks, then visit some more of their funky shops.
About 1 we decided we were satisfied with our explorations of Bourbon Street and we made a lunch choice. Antoine’s restaurant serves a casual lunch until 2 every day (at dinner there is a dress code). They have a $20 lunch special that includes several options for an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. They also serve 25 cent cocktails! The food was extraordinary. The cocktails were about the size of a double shot, they were pink, made with vodka, and they were yummy. The guys passed but I said “keep them coming.”
The building was historic and very cool. They have a ton of different dining rooms. The wait staff start in the main dining room and move up to the fancier ones over time. There was a waiter that had been there for almost 50 years!
We called it a day after that and caught an Uber back to Slidell. The Ubers were $40 each way including a $5 tip. Well worth it for a worry free day for 4 in New Orleans.
The next day we drove the truck in and paid around $12 to park downtown. We browsed the shops in the French Market and around Jackson Square.
We then had a nice lunch while listening to some great music at the Gazebo Cafe.
After that we went to the Garden District and strolled up and down the streets enjoying the many beautiful homes. While there we walked through the Lafayette Cemetery No 1 which didn’t require a guide.
The next day we parted ways with our friends and Jim and I headed for Florida again. We passed through areas hit hard by Michael. The damage we saw just from the interstate was devastating. There were miles and miles of shredded billboards, property damage, and forests just devastated.
We were ready to get to our home in Goodland and we made the trip in 4 days.