When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!


Our first visit was to a RTE (Ride To Eat) put on by the local chapter of GWRRA.  They organized it at a local Italian Restaurant not far from us.  The Chapter Director sent out an email 24 hours before and they had about 3 dozen people show up.  That is an active chapter!  Kathy is in the far corner talking to A.J., the chapter director.  We were introduced and given the necessary information for the Tuck's Parade, the one we are going to ride in.  There are about 50 parades during the 3 weeks leading up to the final day, Mardi Gras itself.  This chapter rides in about a dozen of them.  We are only going to do one.

Before we had dinner we had toured the French Quarter.  We had parked at Harrah's Club secure parking and walked for hours.  We met up with A.J. and had a beer in the brew pub there.  He told us about the arrangements for dinner and went back to work.  We looked at handicrafts and junk, bought a couple souvenirs.  We marveled at the old French-style buildings and had lunch.



The French Quarter is the old city from pre-Louisiana Purchase days.  It is very interesting and has some interesting people in it.













Like the monster on the left or the bicycle-pulled pianist on the right.  And these were the professionals.  There were also a lot of regular people dressed in weird outfits, as well as the homeless begging for "spare change".

We took Friday off and cleaned and polished the bike getting it ready for the Tuck's Parade on Saturday and prearranged a meeting place.

Saturday morning, March 1st, we met up with Shaun & Lynne (from The GWRRA Chapter) near the campground and followed him to the marshalling place for the club.  It is a very good thing he led.  The traffic was bad and although I had the place in my GPS it would have led me through the middle of it.  Shaun took a round about route.  At the marshalling place we decorated the bikes, distributed the swag we were to throw to the crowd and had a rider's meeting after which we lined up and rode to the parade start.  We are the third group in the parade, right behind the police horse patrol!  That added to the things to watch out for in the road besides the potholes, trash, people, bottles, cans, cups, beads, etc.



The general process is the passenger has a bag of beads in her lap; there are bags of stuffed animals hung on the sides; the rider has a custom rack mounted on the handle bars that holds a bucket of candy/gum and more strings of beads.  The passenger throws breads and animals and the rider throws candy/gum and beads as well as drive the bike around the junk in the roads.  All of this at a walking speed without falling over!








Here we are ready to go.  The formation for riding is trikes singly and two-wheelers in pairs.  The pair is supposed to ride side by side, a neat trick in the stop and go movement with crowds and trash on the street.

















On the left is the crowd outside of the city core.  The black bike is my partner and I am supposed to be beside him.  Notice there is nothing between the crowd and us.  On the right is the city core with it's reviewing stands and barricades for the crowd.

This picture was taken by a fellow camper at St. Bernard St. Park.  (Shameless plug, They manage Lake Champagne Campground in Vermont.)

After we had thrown hundreds of beads, pounds of candy and dozens of animals we were finally done.  With that parade.  Now Shaun & Lynne are taking us to watch the Endymion Parade.  This one has dozens of huge floats.  They are 40 foot flatbed semi trailers pulled by a tractor, most have two trailers but the last one had seven 20 foot trailers hooked together.
















Each one is themed differently but with a common style.  There are two decks of masked and costumed people throwing beads, candy toys, medallions, etc to the crowd.









You can see the outstretched arms but you can't hear the yelling and screaming that accompanies them.  In the right hand picture you can see the beads and toys hung behind the masked people.  Now a couple more floats.










There were 30 or 40 of these floats interspersed with marching bands from local schools. We had eaten a hot dog at noon and then ridden the Tuck's parade until almost 4:00 PM.  We followed Shaun directly to the Endymion parade without stopping because it started at 4:30 PM.  But not to worry, Shaun & Lynne had it all figured out.  A large group of their  family and friends had staked out a viewing spot hours ago.  We just had to park and walk over to them.  They had lots of food and drink under their popup shelter for us and them.  They took good care of us and we happily thank them.  

Now one last parade picture; the seven trailer float that brought up the rear.


















The people on the floats discarded the bags and wrappings for the "throws" into the street.  The viewers discarded all their trash into the street, bottles, cans, wrappers, and broken or damaged beads by the hundreds.  (I was happy to see that Shaun's friends had brought a large plastic garbage bag, and used it.)  This made a huge mess that was immediately cleaned.









We hung around and talked for about a half hour while the traffic thinned and then Shaun & Lynne led us back towards our campground on the other side of town.  He lives near it so it was a help to have him lead on a known route instead of having to follow what the GPS thinks is best (it doesn't know about closed parade routes and traffic).

On Monday the 3rd, we took a run down the shore of the Mississippi to the town of Venice.  we stopped for lunch in Port Sulfur not far from Venice and found a Seahawk supporter at the local market.

This building, like many others, is a manufactured building brought in and set up on the concrete slab where the original building was standing before being ruined by hurricanes.






This delta was flooded and all buildings were severely damaged.  We saw several schools and hospitals that are brand new and raised up high to prepare for the next hurricane.






Homeowners have been doing the same, if they had the money.  Many homes were just abandoned.  Others had been replaced with a single-wide manufactured home.  All in all it has been a very rough and expensive time since Katrina in 2005.

I expect that construction contractors and building supply companies have made a lot of money, but most people have been hurt badly.









On Monday night Shaun & Lynne picked us up at the campground and took us to the night parades.

Through some connection of his he had gotten some bleacher seat tickets right near the Mayor's box.  








This meant that all the marching bands and dance teams were at their best performance level right beside us.  Not right in front of us but close enough that we got to watch them at their best.

Another big thanks to Shaun & Lynne for this event.  It was very cold (in the mid 30's F) and we would not have liked to ride the bike back to camp in the cold, dark, busy streets that night.

As I write this it is Tuesday morning, the Mardi Gras (which translates as Fat Tuesday).  This is the culmination of the Mardi Gras celebration before the fasting of Lent.  It is the day with the highest level of excitement in the French Quarter.  The King of Mardi Gras arrives and get the key to the city from the mayor.  There are two big parades today.  And it is cold and raining!  We are going to stay in camp and stay dry and warm.  We have seen and participated in some exciting events, had some nice rides, met some great people and are not going to join the crazies downtown on our motorcycle in the rain and cold.

Our last event in NOLA was to go to the GWRRA LA-K chapter meeting.  They have a very active chapter with lots of enthusiasm and fun tempered with safety and care.  Again Shaun & Lynne picked us up at the campground and took us to the meeting on the far side of New Orleans.  And it was raining when we left the restaurant.  The ride was very much appreciated.

We have really enjoyed our time in NOLA and we are a bit sad to leave.  But our reservations have run out and the next one is in Florida.

Next is on to Daytona and Bike Week.