|Last week, the wife and I went on a little fly-then-drive trip from Austin, TX to Pensacola, FL. I'd never been to a bunch of the areas along the way, plus I was able to check two states off the list: Louisiana and Mississippi. This was the second trip we've done that was relatively unplanned. We had plane tickets, a rental car, and a general plan, but we decided on the specifics as we went.
Day 1: Flew to Austin and stayed in a somewhat crappy hotel. I figured it wouldn't be too bad since it was close to the Omni, which is a fancy chain. I was wrong. Austin was nice and clean and new. Southeast Texas and Louisiana had a lot of oil industry infrastructure. The beaches in the area were mostly ugly and looked dirty. I'm not sure if that's related.
Day 2: Walked around Austin including the University of Texas and South Congress Street. I thought I would enjoy this city more. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, and it could be largely dependent on the spots we visited, but it just wasn't all that great. I didn't feel bad about leaving mid-afternoon and driving to Galveston. On the way, we drove through Smithville, which I'm told is featured in the movie Hope Floats, and also La Grange, which is the subject of an excellent ZZ Top song.
Day 3: We stayed in Galveston near the beach, which had its ups and downs. It was sort of a cool little beach town, minus the fact that the main road that runs through town is loud with trucks and motorcycles. The town seems to have a history of getting destroyed by hurricanes, but it had some cool old buildings. After lunch, we headed to Jennings, LA, but not before taking two ferries and stopping at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge where we saw a ridiculous number of alligators and some weird birds.
Day 4: From Jennings, we headed to Lafayette, LA for some awesome local food at Johnson's Boucaniere and a brief tour of the Acadian Cultural Center, which played a really whiny video about how the French settlers in the area were forcibly displaced from Nova Scotia. Then we drove to New Orleans and tore up the town a bit on Bourbon Street. My favorite t-shirt said, "I got bourbon faced on shit street."
Day 5: We stayed in a bed and breakfast that was an old mansion, so it had a 22-step staircase and 15-foot ceilings. And it was cheap. We walked around some big houses and a graveyard in the Garden District, then spent the day walking around the French Quarter, before getting dinner at a jazz club.
Day 6: Headed in the direction of Mississippi, and happened to stop at NASA's Stennis Space Center for an impromptu museum visit and rocket test facility tour. Drove along the coast and took a ferry before finally ending up in Gulf Shores, AL.
Day 7: Drove to Seaside, FL, which was nice but disappointing, before finally heading to our hotel in Pensacola to relax.
New Orleans was old and dirty. I liked the live music and bar scene of the French Quarter, but I could easily imagine that getting old. Pretty much the entire city smelled like urine, the streets were dirty, and the sidewalks were all torn up and crappy, even in front of the rich houses. I'm sure it's related to their history with hurricanes, but the sidewalks were crumbling because of tree roots, not flooding. Not a huge issue, but still. I was disappointed by the number of scammers walking around the touristy areas, offering to guess where you bought your shoes or whatever. Despite all this, I would go back.
The beach areas in Alabama and Florida were a lot nicer, but a lot more built-up. I've already spent a bunch of time in Florida, so I wasn't too pumped about the endless strip malls and beach towns. After seven days on the road, we were pretty exhausted.
All in all this was a cool trip. It was fairly cheap, helped by some credit card points. It was good to see some faraway parts of the country, and to experience some authentic southern things. Driving was easy, and we tried to keep it under four hours per day. The constant unpacking and repacking at a new hotel every night got a little old. It might've been better to rent an RV. #travel