Monday, March 28, 2005

Leaving the USA!

After a 10-day stay at Carley’s parents’ house in Tupelo, MS, we were really eager to hit the road! Despite all the good things we accomplished in Tupelo – securing a reliable vehicle, wedding planning, paperwork, family time, etc – the true purpose of our visit was constantly lurking just beneath the surface and tugging at our consciousness. We finally hit the road on the afternoon of Thursday, March 17. It was St. Patrick’s Day, but we didn’t think twice about it, as we had other things on our mind.

We didn’t drive very far that first day, spending the night in Starkville, MS (home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs) with one of Carley’s best friends from childhood, Susan, plus her husband Bill and their new daughter, the adorable Harper. We were treated to a delicious lasagna dinner and the coziest bed we’d slept in for the past month.

Susan and sweet baby Harper in Starkville Posted by Hello

On Friday morning we headed south, and late in the afternoon we rolled into one of our favorite cities in the US, the musical heartbeat of the country, a world unto itself, the Crescent City, New Orleans. This place never ceases to amaze us, with its vibrant & laid back culture, and the astonishing plethora of good music pouring forth from every nook & cranny. We checked into a reasonably priced bed & breakfast on Esplanade, on the edge of a seedy neighborhood just outside the French Quarter. The room was in a large, converted old house, and included a very satisfying breakfast in the dining room the next morning. After some large beers and tasty New Orleans grub, including crawfish etoufee, we met up with our guide for the evening, local resident and music aficionado Cathy Hughes, with whom Rob had corresponded on the on-line discussion list for one of our favorite bands, New Orleans’ own Galactic. We were hoping that since Galactic weren’t on tour, we might encounter one or more of the band members sitting in with one of the other local bands, but it turned out that the local music we found was quite entertaining in its own right – especially since we had been completely starved of good live music for almost a month at this point. Cathy steered us first to the intimate Funky Butt on Rampart St., at the edge of the French Quarter, where New Orleans legend and founder of Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Kirk Joseph, was performing with his latest incarnation. The band consisted of several excellent horn players, plus two guitar players, and they entertained us with modern brass band renditions of old standards and familiar covers. Next Cathy took us over to the buzzing locale of Frenchman St., just outside the Quarter, where all kinds of good music poured out of the rows of bars on either side of the street. Eventually we settled into an unassuming joint with no cover charge (we can’t remember the name now due to the many large beers & hurricanes) where a young band with no mics or amps swung our hips to some Louis Armstrong-style jazz. Finally we were ready to drop from exhaustion (even though it was still early for New Orleans standards) so Cathy dropped us off at our room. Big thanks to Cathy and New Orleans for sending us off on our trip in style!

After that it was off to Houston, TX, to catch up with a couple of Carley’s friends: her high school friend, Carisa and her college roommate, Rachel. Although Carisa’s fiancé, Clay, was away at his bachelor party that weekend, he gets an honorable mention for his toys including a Mercedes convertible that we cruised around in and a boy-room complete with a huge plasma TV and massage chair (that Carley seldom left, even when she spilled hot tea all over herself while in “pulse” mode). That night we sipped wine at Carisa’s and then sipped cocktails at a local bar where Rachel’s friend’s band was playing. The next morning we were treated to a yummy tex-mex breakfast by Rachel’s mom Maryann, and then we were off to Laredo.

Rob relaxes in Carisa and Clay's massage chair Posted by Hello

Carley and Carisa in Houston Posted by Hello

Rachel and Carley in Houston Posted by Hello

Laredo is a dumpy border town, and the only upside for us was whetting our appetites for authentic Mexican food and practicing Spanish. We did get caught inadvertently in the town’s Sunday night cruising ritual, which was pretty comical. Somehow our bass just wouldn’t go loud enough to compete with the other folks. This was the last stop in the good ole U.S. of A. ¡Adios Uncle Sam!

On to MEXICO, DAY 1: Monterrey