Week 51 of 52
Who knew part of Florida was in the Central Time Zone? When we showed up an hour early at Sharon and Tom’s home near Destin, a popular resort area on the Florida panhandle, we learned that, indeed, the western end of Florida is not on Eastern Time! But they welcomed us anyway into their beautiful waterfront home, complete with lighted dock and boat. Sharon ran Sharene’s company, Bed & Breakfast International, in the 1990s, and she went to work for Sharene at WorldRes after that. She and Tom then relocated to Hawaii and have recently moved to Florida where they are both in the real estate business with Keller Williams. Check out Next Stop Paradise for some great investment opportunities with true white sand beaches. As we learned on our beach walks, Hawaii might boast of beaches, but none of them have sand this gorgeous and not nearly this shade of white.
Interestingly enough, we had two connections in this same fairly obscure area. Harrison and Caroline went to the University of Minnesota elementary and high schools together from the third grade on and have kept in touch all these years. She and her partner Ben just moved from frigid Minneapolis to Navarre, Florida, just a few miles from Sharon and Tom. This is the first January Caroline has ever spent not shoveling snow. Instead, she and Ben are hitting that white sand beach!
Leaving Florida on our way to New Orleans, we drove through the southern tip of our next state, Alabama, but found nothing exciting to report. (Our apologies to John Dirgo of Hawaii Holiday who is from Alabama…) But passing through Biloxi, Mississippi, we traveled right along the gulf and saw both interesting and sad remnants of Hurricane Katrina.
On the left side of the road was the Gulf of Mexico and gorgeous beaches, with no sign of oil remaining from the Deepwater Horizon spill. In the median strip were beautiful carved wood statues of birds, fish, and other objects. After seeing so many, we realized these pieces of art were carved out of tree trunks left standing after the hurricane ripped them apart. For a quick slide show, see Biloxi’s Katrina Sculptures.
The right side of the street had a few glorious old mansions as well as some obviously new construction, interspersed with many empty lots in between. Even now, you can see foundations or an odd fireplace on lots where, before Katrina, stately southern homes stood with views of the gulf.
New Orleans may have been crushed by Katrina, but after spending two nights right in the heart of the French Quarter, we can tell you at least that part of town is pretty much fully recovered and as wild and crazy as ever! Music blasts from club after club, and although we were there during a very quiet time of year, there were still lots of people out enjoying the Big Easy.
Blues legend B. B. King happened to be in town our first night and we lucked into two seats that had just been released that morning. At age 86, his voice is still strong, his guitar, Lucille, still sounds as sweet as ever, and the touring schedule with his band would tire both of us out! He proved to us that The Thrill Is NOT Gone yet!
The highlight of the following day was a three-hour bus tour of New Orleans led by a knowledgeable, talented, and hilarious guide who sounded straight out of the Bayou. John gave a comprehensive introduction to the history, areas, and fascinating architecture of New Orleans and the devastating aftermath of Katrina. While some sections of the city, including many of the beautiful homes in the Garden District, were not badly flooded and appear much as they always have, the Ninth Ward, which we all saw in the Katrina news reports, is still struggling although almost seven years have passed. We saw several new housing developments, such as Musicians’ Village targeted to the many musicians who make New Orleans home and Make It Right, spearheaded by Brad Pitt, that features a number of interesting energy-efficient designs from a competition. But there are vast areas of empty lots, as well as many abandoned but still standing homes, such as the one pictured above that stands next to a rebuilt home. Many former residents have clearly moved elsewhere, and the long-term future of this area is very uncertain.
We left NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) and took the LONG trek to the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. We weren’t on horses but our butts felt like it! We only know a few people in Texas, but two sets of friends not only live near one another, but also both work with dogs! How odd is that? So Sharene was in doggie heaven visiting these old (or should we say “long-time”) friends of Harrison’s.
Margaret was a broadcast engineer Harrison recruited in the early 1980s, and after a 30-year career in broadcasting, she left to start her own business in portrait photography of dogs and their owners. She turned out to be just as talented a photographer and businessperson as she was an engineer and has won a number of awards to prove it. We saw lots of works from her impressive collection; check out some of her wonderful photos at Bryant Dog Photography.
We had a great lunch of Texas-style barbeque with Margaret and her partner Teri, and then off we went to visit Catherine, a friend of Harrison’s from his Seattle days. Catherine is the General Manager of a high-end doggie hotel called Woodland Park Pet Resort where some of the pet “rooms” even come with TVs (no kidding)! Catherine has three English Labs herself, and after spending some time with her, we can see why she is in the perfect job!
We’re on our way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and since it was too far to drive in a day we decided to stop in Lubbock, Texas, for the night and visit the Buddy Holly Center. Lubbock-raised Holly was one of the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll who died much too young in the infamous plane crash of February 1959. Although his career was short, he and his group, the Crickets, had a major influence on the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hollies, Bob Dylan, and other future rock stars. West Texas is the home of many influential American musicians including Bob Wills, Leadbelly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and others, but Holly definitely put Lubbock on the map!
We leave the south behind and, as our Texas friends would say, “We’re fixin’ to head west for a spell.” But on our way out, we were happy to see this bumper sticker proving there is at least one Democrat (besides the ones we know personally!) living in the Lone Star State.
Oh, just to give you a head’s up, this weekly update is Week 51 of 52, but we won’t really be finished next week. We began our “year of being homeless” on February 4, 2011, and we sent our first weekly update shortly after we arrived. That first update was at the beginning of Week 1, so by the end of Week 52 we will be on the 53rd update. (Got that?) So our year of weekly updates will go to 53, possibly 54 weeks. We’re coming around the bend as fast as we can, but we’re not there yet!
A hui hou and Yee Haw!
Sharene and Harrison