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My New Orleans trip report

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Old 04-10-2007, 12:53 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Rock Island, Illinois mile 480 UMR
Posts: 3,865
Default My New Orleans trip report

Ok, I've gotten most of the wreckage cleaned up which my 'kids' caused while Mom was away, so here goes with some observations and pix from my visit to NOLA and the NATCHEZ April 3-8. When I arrived last Tuesday, it was 87 degrees. When I left Sunday, it was raining and 40 degrees. I always bring the cold air with me from the north! At least this time it was gradual: 87, 73, 69, 63, 53, 40... I planned this trip to coincide with the stay of Franz, Carmen, and Leonie before they cruised on the GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS, and it just happened that the NATCHEZ' narrator wanted some time off, so I got to narrate Wednesday-Saturday. I always stand on the roof so I can see what is occurring, and I use the pilothouse as a shield against the wind. It was sunny until Saturday, so even with the cooler temps, it was fine up there in the sun. The NATCHEZ is running more trips now, some subject to cancellation a day ahead if it looks like there won't be any business. She is running at least one trip every day, the 2:30. This week we ran the 2:30 and dinner on Wednesday, the 11:30 and 2:30 on Thursday, and all three on both Friday and Saturday. We never went over 300 pax a trip and the lowest count was 96. Most were in the low 200s. This is much improved over my last visit in November, when fewer trips were made and sometimes the pax count was 25. Of course, under normal circumstances during this week the counts would be upwards of 500 for all 21 cruises during the week. So, like the city itself, the NATCHEZ business is improving, but it still has a long way to go to get back to profitability. What they are making now will keep her running, but the debts incurred to this point are staggering. They have sold the two swamp boats and closed the restaurant there, they are trying to sell the JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, and are looking for smaller office space in the WTC. So basically the New Orleans Steamboat Co. is now the NATCHEZ, period. She is still carrying a minimal crew, but she's steaming along. Capt. Steve is now living on the second floor of his home while finishing the first. He just got rid of his FEMA trailer, which is a milestone. Capts. Don and Troy are still working on their homes, as are most of the crew members. Tuesday night Doc and I went over to our favorite burger joint, Ruby Reds, on the westbank. Since Doc doesn't have a car, the only time he gets over there is when I'm in town. Doc is doing just fine, playing the calliope occasionally and working at the auction house. He'll be on the Memphis-Cincy DQ race trip. Wednesday :After driving around the city and checking out the progress - and there is progress -, I narrated a trip and then went out to MSY to pick up Leonie and parents. A PT Cruiser rental car does not have much trunk space! They stayed down the street from me at LE Richelieu and had a pleasant stay there. I was able to keep my car in that lot, free, so we didn't have to jockey cars around in our driveway. Free parking at a hotel in NOLA is a rarity - LeR is really a nice place and a good deal, a family run hotel. Thursday: I drove them around on the 'disaster tour' and then we rode the N. both trips. We then had a gathering in my courtyard for the crew. Ever since I gave my neighbor Ott the recipe for Planters Punch, he looks for any opportunity to make it, so we cohost the patio party every visit. Friday: we zipped through Robin St. wharf. The only remnant of the DQ Co. days is the huge "Welcome Steamboaters" sign hanging over the arrival area (its still there, too big for my suitcase) Otherwise the shed is stripped of everything. The La. State Police are storing some of their cars in there. I dropped them off at the AQ at Erato St, where they boarded and visited with Keith Tinnin and got the grand tour. I'll let them tell you about their findings. After narrating the 2 day trips, I took them across the river to Ruby Reds. Alas and alack, it being Good Friday, it was closed. So we ate hamburgers at a Sonic, good but not RR good. Then it was back to watch the AQ leave. It sure sounded like Steve Spracklen on the calliope as she turned and headed upriver under the bridges. Saturday: This brought cooler temps and a cloudy and sometimes rainy day, but I was able to stay out on the roof to narrate anyway. Leonie got a good look at her ship as we turned by it on the 11:30 trip, and on our 2:30 trip they got to see the N. from their ship. I stayed on the N. and photographed the departure of the GRANDEUR at 5PM, and could see our .org crew waving farewell. I rode the dinner trip, which still features the wonderful Dukes of Dixieland - there is no better place to hear Dixieland than on the N. Preservation Hall is not open every night, and many musicians have left the area due to lack of work. Sunday: The cold rain and 40 degrees made me not sad to leave town this time. Hopefully the next time I go down it will be to clean up and reclaim my apartment. They are now giving Marion a target date of June 1 for their house to be ready - barring delays. And there are always delays and problems. The fortitude of the people is amazing to me. It is one frustration after another, and as Don pointed out, waiting in line forever. I found the big WalMart on Tchoupitoulas open and well-stocked, but they had 20 checkout lanes. 3 were open. I got through the 'speedy checkout' in 14 minutes... I left NOLA this time feeling much better than previous visits. There IS progress, There are more businesses open, there are more tourists around. The port is operating at its pre-Katrina capacity. The cruise ship companies aren't all back yet, but the cargo tonnage is approximating the old days. There is so much to do yet and so much frustration. I think Capt. Steve Nicoulin summed it up well. He said that when he moved down there in 1975 to start up the NATCHEZ, they were still talking about and building up, from Hurricane Betsy, which had struck 10 years earlier. This devastation was much more widespread and more severe, so it obviously isn't rectified in a year or even two or three. New Orleans and the NATCHEZ are alive, they aren't well yet, but they are alive and steaming along. Following is a potpourri of pix...1) This is Ground Zero for Katrina. This is the lower 9th Ward. The levee collapse occurred a couple of blocks away, this side of the blue bridge. The progress in this pix is that this area, about 3 blocks deep and 10 long, has been cleared of the destroyed houses. 2) Well, not totally cleared. This is from the same spot, but turning and looking downriver. Buildings can't be torn down without owner's approval, and although its obvious they aren't salvageable, the wait goes on... 3) A couple of blocks away from the canal. The flags are flying on St. Claude Avenue.
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