On the morning of Monday, December 20th, I knew that it was not going to be the days, certainly not the way that I wanted to start a vacation. We stayed the night in Harvey, LA, just a few miles from downtown New Orleans at a Holiday Inn Express (thanks to the gazillion free nights that I have due to my travel with work). As we sat in the breakfast area half of one of my back teeth broke off at the gun line. It wasn't that painful, but I knew that it would soon and I was just on the first day of vacation.
We got directions to the area for the boat cruise that we had planned and got to town quickly. The parking seemed to be standard at $10 a day, so I was pretty delighted to find a free spot on the street just across from the convention center. There were signs pointing to the Delta Queen and it appeared that was just a few blocks from there. So we thought that we would enjoy a little walk and we parked. After walking a couple of blocks Mary reminded me that I forgot to lock the back of the Suburban. I told her to go ahead with the kids and get the tickets and I would catch up. I walked a couple of blocks back, locked the door, and then started back to the dock. When I got to almost exactly the same place Mary called and said that they had free parking right there and that it might be nice to not have to take the long walk back. So I walked back and got the truck and found the free parking area. As soon as I got out and locked the door Mary called again and said that it was the wrong cruise company, the one that we wanted was about a mile down the Mississippi. So we all packed back in the Suburban and drove down to the other end of the Riverwalk. Sure enough the IMAX and aquarium. I told Mary to go ahead and get the tickets at the cruise office for the IMAX, aquarium, and cruise; I would go back and see if there was a chance of getting that free space still.
I drove back to the parking space and it was still there. I couldn't believe it. I parked, double checked all the doors, and headed back towards where I left the family. As I got to the meeting place Mary called and said that to buy the combo package that we wanted she had to walk down the river to a place called "The Lighthouse", and Caroline was starting to whine a lot because she had to go to the bathroom and there was no place close. I told them I would wait where I was until they got the tickets. I decided to do a little investigating myself because it seemed odd that the boat, IMAX, and aquarium where all in the same place, but to buy the tickets you had to take a hike. I called the cruise line and they said that they were right in front of the boat and they had the combo packages. A minute later I was there. I called Mary and she was getting frustrated finding a bathroom. I told her I would buy the tickets, and we decided to meet in front of the IMAX so that Caroline could take care of things.
The aquarium was incredible and I shot through my film in 30 minutes. I whipped out the digital video camera and found that the battery was dead. Then I grabbed the digital still camera and the battery was dead on that too. Rats! So we walked around and looked at fish and I couldn't take but a few pictures. A guys stood next to me with a Canon EOS 20d with a huge lens. I immediately was envious. Then, as if it wasn't bad enough, he switched to another awesome lens. I just sulked.
After the aquarium we wandered to the river and waited for the paddle wheel steamer to depart. At 1:30 we climbed aboard and they began serving lunch. We had purchased the lunch tickets so that the kids could experience authentic Cajun cuisine. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find the tickets. I was heart sick. I double and triple checked every pocket and space that could hold the tickets. I then went back down to the dining area thinking that maybe they had fallen out when I bought our coffee. Nope. So I left the ship and went down to the ticket office, just in case someone returned them there. Nope, but she said that it was okay and handed me 6 more lunch tickets. Cool! That was $42 that I just didn’t have to spend twice. So I got back on board and was relieved to hand out the lunch tickets.
We had staked out a good place on the top deck at the front of the ship. The wind was slight and a little cool, but the view was incredible and I knew that it would be worth it. I decided that the girls could get their food while we held the tables and then we would go. After about 30 minutes I became concerned and went down to see what the delay was. The guy serving was the absolute slowest worker I have ever seen and took 5-10 minutes to serve each person (from a cafeteria style line). It was excruciating just to watch him slowly move from place to place. The girls just finished when I got down there so I told them to send the boys down. As I waited in line a lady walked up to the boy in line in front of me and explained that no one had claimed the tickets that her son had found. I was glad that they hadn’t just blown overboard and that someone was getting some use from them, especially since mine had been generously replaced. Finally, after waiting in line for about 30 minutes myself I reached the front of the line. As soon as the idiot serving started to make my plate the captain announced that we had arrived at the battlefield site for the tour and that we should exit the ship. I couldn’t believe it! The drone making my plate must have also been deaf because he didn’t react to my newest anger. I took the plate and tried to wolf it down as fast as I could while the rest of the passengers got off the boat. But, as I watched, the gate to the park was locked and all of the passengers just stood on the pier waiting to have someone open up. I just laughed; it was like the rest of the day. Soon a park ranger came to the gate just as I got finished with lunch.
The rest of the day went wonderful. We enjoyed the IMAX, although it had an evolutionary slant that wasn’t just over-biased, it was bad science. However we really loved being together.
The rest of the vacation got a lot better, except for the 24 hour blackout in Texas and the snow storm down there on Christmas day. We loved spending the time with my folks and my aunt and uncle. We had some of my parent’s friends let us use their home while we were there (they went away for Christmas). It will be tough to wait the 2 years (720 days) until we return, but at 2,700 miles for the round trip and about $700 I think that we could use the break to recover.