Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The big uneasy

We spent the night at Bayou Segnette State Park, in Westwego, a west bank suburb of New Orleans (map). We had tried to get into this park three years ago, and it was full (we missed the last space by minutes, and had to stay in a commercial park across town). It turns out to be a lovely park, right next to the bayou, with 50-amp power, free wi-fi, and two swimming pools that were closed for the season -- one strictly for overnight guests, and a wave pool in the day use area.

We stopped here principally to visit with our friend Ben, who works at the Waterford nuclear plant west of the city. He met us at the park and we had a nice dinner, wherein he shared with us that he is basically fed up with New Orleans and is looking for work elsewhere -- a sentiment in which he is not alone.

Loyal and long-time blog reader Spyderman commented that New Orleans is one of their favorite stops, and I will say that it used to be one of ours, also. However, I can't really say that we look forward to it now. Perhaps we are somewhat jaded by having spent so much time there after Katrina, but there is more to it: the place is unsafe now, and, outside of a couple of blocks in the French Quarter, and perhaps the River Walk, the town is uninviting and even depressing, mired in its own corruption and indifference and helplessness.

Long time readers will know that it takes a lot for me to say a place is unsafe -- we've stayed all over the country in places that many RVers simply would not go. But New Orleans is snowballing into anarchy. Law enforcement is disorganized and indifferent, and the criminal element has been emboldened by the lack of enforcement. Property crimes and even murder are spiraling out of control -- one of the reasons we chose, this visit, to stay out at Bayou Segnette instead of in town at the French Quarter RV Resort where we stayed last visit (the other reason being that it is very expensive for what it is -- the state park was only $18).

In any case, we did have a lovely stay at Bayou Segnette, and a great visit with Ben, and even relished the opportunity to drive through the city again and see what's been fixed and what hasn't. And we hope some day to return to a New Orleans that calls to us in an inviting way.

After we left the city this afternoon, we drove east on US90 through the still run-down neighborhoods along Chef Menteur. There are few signs of recovery along this corridor, although we did actually see a brand new housing development before we got to Chef Menteur pass. 90 took us all the way into Mississippi, and I am typing this in Long Beach, along the gulf coast, at a little park along the road where we are regrouping (map). The towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis seem to have recovered quite well, although there are still plenty of undeveloped properties and closed businesses.

We crossed the brand-spanking-new bridge (the old one collapsed completely in the storm) from Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian. The recovery here along the gulf is still in slow motion. Many private residences have been rebuilt, but there are few businesses on 90 in Pass Christian. The Wal-Mart, in whose empty parking lot we stayed our last time through, has been razed. Long stretches of beach are officially closed, although for what reason we cannot tell.

We had hoped to find a road-side boondocking opportunity along here for the night, but many lots have been fenced off, and the unfenced ones are of indeterminate ownership, so it's hard to tell whom to ask for permission. The Wal-Mart property is now fenced. No transient RV parks are open, and there are no operating businesses to ask. The lot we are in now, a large city parking lot that is virtually empty and right on the beach, likely prohibits overnight stays, although nothing is posted. But we don't want to have to "move along" after dark. So we have the dish up for research -- we will probably end up at one of the casinos now open in Biloxi.

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