Sunday, January 16, 2005

We're in New Orleans! We are parked at the charming (not!) Mardi Gras RV Park, in a very industrial area northeast of town.

We came into town yesterday from the north, over the Lake Ponchartrain causeway, just because we wanted to see it (it's marked as scenic on our map). The view of the lake was wonderful, but the construction of the causeway had Odyssey pounding up and down over the expansion joints.

We then crossed the Mississippi on the Hugh E. Long bridge, which we had crossed a few years back on the train (the railroad and the roadway share the same bridge), and proceeded directly to Westwego and the Bayou Segnette state park, which we had heard was a nice place to camp. Unfortunately, the fifth-wheel just ahead of us in line got the last space, and we had to go back to the books for an alternative campground. (We pulled over in a bank parking lot to consult our directories, where the Westwego police department came by to check us out. Officer Mike was so appreciative of Odyssey that he radioed for another car -- we ended up giving three officers tours. We felt very safe in Westwego!)

Wal-Mart and its ilk were out of the question, since we wanted to leave the coach for several hours at a stretch to explore the French Quarter and other New Orleans sites. Reluctantly, we headed for the Mardi Gras campground, on the diametrically opposed side of the city, resolved to look it over before deciding what to do.

Fate made the decision for us: on the way across town, we ruptured an air hose on the right front suspension valve, and the coach immediately dropped onto the suspension stop in that corner. Of course, we were on an elevated section of freeway at the time, having just re-crossed the river, heading for I-10 (we were taking the expeditious route to the campground). Fortunately, we were able to pull into a breakdown lane to asses the damage. One consequence of having, effectively, no suspension at that wheel is that we can go no faster than, perhaps, 15 mph without risking serious damage.

Given that the airline components for the suspension are German and not stocked by any roadside truck-repair outfits, we knew this was going to be a lengthy repair, with a possible multi-day wait for parts. We quickly made the decision to continue on to the nearest campground, where we could better deal with the problem. We drove two more exits on the freeway with our four-way flashers on, and exited down to US-90 (a city street at this location) where we proceeded five miles further to the park at speeds between 10 and 15 mph.

I must say that the Mardi Gras campground is not the sort of place we would normally want to stay. However, the sites are level, ample electricity is provided, and the facility is secured with a fence and electric gate, so it was a great "port in the storm" for us. We checked in for a two night stay (knowing we might need to extend that if we needed parts) and got Odyssey settled in to a space. The suspension issue could thus safely wait until morning.

It being Saturday night, and this being New Orleans, we made dinner reservations at Antoine's in the French Quarter -- one of the grand old restaurants (1840) of New Orleans. We dressed for dinner, called a taxi, and headed into town.

Dinner was excellent, and, in spite of being dressed to the nines, we spent some time walking up and down Bourbon Street before and after dinner. By the time we came out of dinner, things were heating up and the street was fairly crowded. It's only three week to Mardi Gras, and the women are already flashing for beads on the street. We stopped for cocktails at the Old Absinthe House, where we had a good view of the revelers on the balcony across the street.

Today we were hoping to take a river cruise to the Chalmette Battlefield, but, of course, I spent most of the day working on the suspension. I'm happy to report that I was able to salvage the parts from the ruptured line and replace it with a spare line that we happened to have with us. (The big challenge was carefully removing the compression ferrules for re-use -- this is normally considered a replacement item, but, with no spares in town, careful surgery on the old hose ends was our best option.)

Odyssey thus safely restored to road-worthy condition, we hope to do some touring tomorrow morning before packing up and heading out. Tonight is up in the air, but we are thinking about a jazz dinner cruise on one of the paddlewheelers.

Today is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary... Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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