Just to recap, last week we had our new solar panels installed, which seemed to be fine, but we were having a little trouble installing the inverter (the device that enables us to use our plugs, microwave, etc via our batteries rather than having to plug into a mains).
Late on a Friday, of a public holiday weekend, we believed we were fixed and ready to go (on top of some other ‘necessary work that would only take 1-1.5 hours’, but took nearer 8 – but that is another story, for another day). We just wanted to get out of the garage and as far as we believed, all issues had been resolved.
Oh, how we wished!
Nope. We parked up on the Friday evening, 2 hours outside of New Orleans, to see our battery charge plummet at the 5% a minute rate again. Grrrr. Time to just unplug everything & worry about the inverter at a later stage.
But, on to more interesting things, and this travelling around the US of ours.
We needed a beach. We needed to just relax for a few days (oh, cos life is so tough travelling around. A few days in a garage, and suddenly we’re all soooo stressed. How have we lost perspective on reality so quickly?!). Pensacola, Florida was our first stop. Not sure why it is so recognisable a name, but I had definitely heard of it. As it was a long weekend, it was pretty rammed, but for a couple of nights we managed to park up pretty much next to the beach, and get ourselves a holiday sunburn (always happens, yet a few days later, always mildly satisfying). We then followed the Gulf Coast and drove past some amazing little tourist towns – proper picture postcard in which both of us were like, ‘this is proper Truman Show type town’, and lo & behold, a google informs us that it was. It really was something out of the movies. Everyone all smiles, chatting, cycling, perfectly manicured parks & lawns, etc, etc. (a little freaky if I’m honest!)
We then holed up in Panama Beach for another couple of nights, generally just chilling (& yes, me constantly checking the State of Charge on our solar panels), before a final little jaunt to Savannah & Charleston – our next stops up the coast.
So, not a bad little week all in all. This is what we were meant to be doing, just slowing down and taking our time with things. Long may it last I say…
Week 18 – ‘So, what you’re saying is we came in because one thing didn’t work, and now it doesn’t, but something else is broken?’
This week has been trying, to say the least. We have loved our time in New Orleans but knowing we’re leaving soon has given us itchy feet and we were ready to leave, but just a quick stop to get some solar power installed, and then we can hit the road. A guy at work who was quite handy had agreed to help us out with installing the panels, and we were assured it was quite easy. Bonus. Save us some cash, huzzah… yeah, something like that.
But first, we finished out our time in NOLA fantastically, the Bayou Boogaloo was going on in our front yard which was nice (yet another free festival of food music and merriment). We also met up with some fellow travellers (www.tilthemoneyrunsout.com) and they filled our heads with ideas of how to make money on the road and where to go. And to be honest it was nice to spend time with someone other than just Jonathan. I adore him, but 24/7 for 4 months is a lot, plus we had run out of things to talk about so it was good to add some new people into the rotation!
I finished up work while our contact put on the panels. All was well, they were taking in energy, our battery levels were going up. Fantastic! But then he looked at the inverter, and wasn’t confident he could install it, so we decided rather than having someone who wasn’t sure they knew what they were doing have a go, we would try to find someone to do the last part. He had done the bulk of the work so we weren’t too upset. The first place we pulled into wasn’t confident so we tried another, they were good, they said they could do it no problem, it’ll be a mere two hours. Tops. 4 hours later we’re still sitting there…. 5 hours later they say it’s in, our battery was mysteriously at zero but we were sure they had just unplugged it for a bit no worries…. Drive on, sing ‘on the road again’, get excited to get moving!
In the morning we switched on our brand new inverter* (having stayed at an RV to recharge our batteries) to find our batteries draining at 5% a minute. A lot of time was spent on google, we had theories, we called the RV place, we called the guy who sold us the inverter, and just couldn’t get to the bottom of it?! Ladies and gentlemen, 3 long days spent at the mechanics, a relay switch, a transfer switch and all of our wits, including theirs, ends later and we are none the wiser but we couldn’t sit there anymore we just couldn’t.
It’s a bit better… sort of… Jonathan has become obsessive about checking it’s “state of charge” and googling possible solutions and for now we’re living with, and driving to figure out what our next move should be…
* for those who an inverter means nothing to, it basically allows us to run our wall plugs (so we can charge laptops, run fans, etc) as well as the, microwave, TV, fridge, etc without needing to plug into an outside plug. It ‘inverts’ the 12v coming from the battery, into 110v mains (although naturally it needs pretty big batteries to start powering all that stuff, but that’s for another lesson!)
Our time in New Orleans seems to be sadly drawing to a close, so this week it was time to tick off all those things on our NOLA wish list.
To begin with we watched an outdoor performance of the ‘roving village’. It’s a bit hard to explain, but essentially an arts/performance/social type charity built some temporary structures, in a bit of a steam punk style, and turned them into musical instruments. For example, there was a coat hanger on a wire that made some screeching noise, and some cow bells, that rang via a pulley system, etc. They are moving these installations around the city, but it was in City Park that we saw them. Meg was quite into it, and whilst musically it didn’t do it for me, I definitely appreciated the art side of it.
Next on the list, and not necessarily particularly cultural, was the 60 nugget challenge. Being Billy big balls, I had claimed that I could eat 100 McChicken Nuggets, as they are just so easy to eat. Meg said 60 seemed like a fair amount. As we were out & about looking for curtains, bath mats, and other such exciting items, we took a detour to put my money where my mouth was. I must admit, I was a little nervous, and half way through I hit the wall. I ploughed on for another 8.5 nuggets, but that really was all I could stomach (38.5 in total. Nothing to be particularly proud of!). I am blaming the fact we ordered them all at once, as they were very greasy. So, undeterred, this challenge will be back, and I shall succeed.
Then it was our Ghost tour. Even though the guide wasn’t your atypical Ghost tour tour guide (a large Goth lady is what springs to mind), the stories of murder & ghosts was actually really fascinating. Highly recommended (as is American Horror Story, which we downloaded as a lot of the series were filmed in New Orleans). After that, we found a tarot reader to read our fortunes. Having had a couple of readings/fortune tellers, etc in the past, I am always quite open to it, and am never too cynical. However, the moment this woman thought we were from Australia, I realised whatever came out of her mouth was clearly going to be nonsense (if she can’t get that basic fact, then she definitely can’t ‘read’ my future). It was a bit of a garbled nothing’ness, but hey, tarot card read in one of the Voodoo capitals of the world. Tick.
In keeping with our packed week, the next night we were back at the NOMA sculpture garden watching an Am Dram take on Robin Hood. It was good fun. They got a few of us to participate as ‘henchmen’, and it was really well done, with the cast surrounding us, and walking through us, etc.
Whilst Meg was at work I finally managed to get myself to the WWII museum. Trip Advisor’s #1 museum in New Orleans, #6 in the US, and #11 in the world. That’s a big reputation to live up to, and to be honest, they did. There was a great 4D film about the landing in Normandy, and then a fantastic exhibition about the ‘Road to Berlin’. Really, really well done. Modern, interactive, and just spot on. It was such a shame, as 3 hours later, the museum was closing, so I didn’t get a chance to visit a whole floor about the War in the Pacific.
Phew. And that was our week. Jam packed to say the least. But, I feel like we can leave New Orleans, having confidently seen a lot of it, and with very fond memories. And we still have another 3-4 days to go…I’m exhausted.
To say our experience in New Orleans has been different than our time in Austin would be a gross understatement. It could be the weather, it could be the fact that we’ve parked up in a good location, or it could (likely) be that New Orleans is just a vastly superior city. This city just keeps giving and giving, there seems to be always something on, and the people are relaxed, free and friendly. We watched a short film about New Orleans where one person said “New Orleaners have more rhythm in one finger than the rest of the country has in their whole body”, I’ve got to admit, I might believe her. There is a restlessness in the energy here and they always seem to have a reason celebrate, parade down the street or just dance. Yes, we are quite taken.
It was a busy week but it kicked off with Jazz Festival, the reason we had planned our trip here to begin with, Sir Elton John was playing. One of the earliest nights I remember with Jonathan, he spent fairly intoxicated singing loudly along with My Father’s Gun in the wee hours of the morning. Suffice to say he was excited to see him. It was crowded, very very very very crowded. Which is unfortunate - there was a lot to see but rather than risking being unable to see Elton, we decided to suck it up and plant our feet in front of the main stage. It was a good decision, he played for 2 hours straight and I’ve got to say he seemed to be enjoying himself, I really enjoyed him. He sounded fantastic and the crowd was LOVING it. The sprit of Jazz Festival and New Orleans carried on outside the festival grounds where ordinary citizens were selling jello shots and bottles of soda on the streets, people were dancing and pound after pound of crawfish were being steamed. Much merriment was had.
The only downside to New Orleans is it’s hot, really hot. Rather than sit about the next day, and knowing there was a free RV dump on the way, we chose to head to Biloxi for a day at the beach. A good choice. It was relaxing and cool, two things we needed. We played tourist later on in the week, taking the ferry across the river and doing a French Quarter tour. Additionally, we hugely recommend the Katrina exhibit. We’ve been trying to learn about it, but there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of conflicting information, but I think the exhibition does a wonderful job of showing what happened, how it happened, and how it affected the city - it’s heart wrenching but well worth your time. The city continues to be beautiful and delicious and we continue to look at houses and think hmmmmm…. That’s 5 times the size of Jonathan’s London flat and half the price. But of course there’s lots more of the world to see.
Meg briefly eulogised about New Orleans in her last post, but I am going to expand on why New Orleans is by far my favourite city so far.
We chanced on a pretty good parking spot for Milton for the month. Behind a local restaurant, next to their car park, and what we can only guess is a bit of a no man land’s area (i.e. we haven’t been bothered so far, and we are not outside anyone’s house, etc). We’ve even managed to park over a drain, and there is a tap/faucet/spigot (how can such a simple item have so many words for it?!) for us to *secretly* dump, and fill up, our tanks under the cover of darkness - when the restaurant is closed & no one is watching (although we have been a little more brazen when needs must and we’re desperate for a shower in this stinking heat).
So, this week we have just been getting to know NOLA a little better. I have started volunteering at the New Orleans Film Society (who run the Film Festival and various other events throughout the year), to give me something interesting to do with my days (and I could get quite used to working 4 days a week, 10am-2pm!), which even though I am doing the office intern jobs of a 14 year old, I don’t really mind. We’ve been on a lot of bike rides as well as filling our evenings as much as possible with what we can. This week we went to the ‘Wednesdays at the square’ where they put on live music, food, etc in one of the squares in the city, attended a couple of film screenings, and celebrated the start of Jazz Fest by going to some local bars, and ending up at some random person’s house eating crawfish out of a wooden boat – apparently all par for the course in the ‘Big Easy’.
I’m going to put it out there, but give me a (part time) job, a massive old colonial mansion down a tree lined street, with a bar on one corner and a café on the other, and I will be more than happy. Come on universe….