A side trip sounded expensive. Even if the LA Swift bus was $5 and bicycle friendly.
“Would you be willing to split a hotel room?” I asked the other cyclist I’d just met at Perry’s heading to New Orleans. He leapt at the idea.
The scales weighed heavily on my mind all night, tossing and turning in my tent. Save money and get work done here at Perry’s like I planned or spend money I don’t have to go to a city I’d probably never get a chance to see again and maybe bankrupt my trip?
“Thanksgiving would best be spent…” I asked myself trying to let the blank get filled in with what I really wanted. The answer was, “drunk at a soup kitchen in New Orleans standing in line for church handouts.”
Donated turkey and gravy from the can. Mashed potatoes from the box, just add water. Stand in line with people who really live on the streets, the whole time thinking that only a bicycle and a couple hundred dollars in the bank separate us.
That’s what I wanted.
Almost 100 people showed up for the last bus out of Baton Rouge before the holiday. We’re packed on the bus and I notice that the two of us are the only ones reading. Everyone else stares blankly ahead, stares blankly into the cell phone or listens to their headphones, while staring blanky ahead.
“I’m actually kind of excited to have this time to read,” the Dave other cyclist says burying his head in the post modern intellectual novel the size of a dictionary he brought along, giggling randomly during the drive at how smart and clever the author is. Meanwhile I’m back in the Philippines during World War 2 fighting a guerrilla campaign, trying to set up a radio network for MacArthur on Leyete.
The bus drops us near the French Quarter, where else would we go in New Orleans, and he calls the hotel for directions to the room he reserved. By the look on his face the hotel doesn’t seem to be downtown, probably not even close. “Drive out I-10…” I hear him saying, “I’m sorry we’re on bicycles…”
I don’t hear the rest of the conversation, the part I do hear while looking around Canal St. is, “… ok, well then I’m going to have to cancel that reservation.”
I exhale slowly. No buses run tomorrow. No place to stay tonight. I could have been writing.
Some of the worst people I have met on this trip work at the New Orleans visitors center. The couple of harpies perched there had told us that $100 a night hotel room was our only option unless we wanted to become their prey. I told them they were wrong. After walking in, wondering why Dave, the other cyclist hadn’t come out after 10 minutes to get simple directions to the LA Swift bus stop, they had quickly turned evil, “Well if that’s what YOU want to do, WHO am I to tell you otherwise?” She almost hissed in my face and ripped a map from under the counter and started scribbling on it.
There was one last bus out and maybe we could catch it if we hurried. I had called Joe and Flo’s Candlelight Hostel, the only place with a single bed left, and they had offered to put up the other one of us in a side room they used for overflow. But when we tried to bike out to the address I had for them Dave was worried about the neighborhood. (*I’m now sure the address I had was wrong which is too bad)
So waiting at the bus stop Dave decides to try a couple of the hostels that didn’t answer earlier. Turns out that most of them don’t have anyone in the office except to check people out in the morning and to check people in after 4 or 5pm at night. Marquette House has space and we ride over and check in, just in time for me to work on the Thanksgiving plan. You know, getting drunk and eating at a homeless shelter or church handout line.