We left Panama City and headed west along the Florida Panhandle. Our next major stop was New Orleans, but that was too far to drive in a day. Rather than staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, we looked for an appropriate campground. Mobile, AL was about halfway between Panama City and New Orleans and, much to my surprise, there is a state park on an island in Mobile Bay, Meaher State Park.
Meaher State Park is on US-98 as it crosses Mobile Bay just north of I-10, making it not far off our route. I was impressed by this little park. There are plenty of trees, the sites are all full hookups, it had a boat launch for us to launch our kayaks, and three geocaches. We were able to ride our bikes across the road to Five Rivers Delta Center and explore the complex. If you are in the area this is another great place to launch kayaks.
We had explored Mobile and the Battleship Alabama on previous visits so we took advantage of this time to just relax and enjoy the setting. Our first morning we kayaked in Ducker Bay and Bay John, at the north end of the larger Mobile Bay. It was a good thing that we did it then because the next day we were hit by a big storm with high winds. There were white capped waves on the Blakely River.
After three days, we hit the road for New Orleans.
We had already run into one glitch in our travel plans. We had reservations to stay at Joint Base Belle Chase, but we were notified that our reservation had been canceled because the RV park was closed due to the pandemic. That caught us by surprise, but we recovered and were able to get reservations at nearby Bayou Segnette State Park. Bayou Segnette is a nice park with good-sized sites and good areas to ride bikes and walk. The downside of the park is that it is in a wetland and there were large areas of standing water throughout the campground. We made the best of the situation.
We were able to ride our bikes, for exercise, almost every morning. On Easter Sunday, we were able to attend an actual church service, our first since the beginning of the pandemic. The pastor of Aurora United Methodist Church was especially thrilled that we chose to join them for worship that Sunday.
On Monday, we drove to the town of Algiers and took the Algiers Ferry across the river to New Orleans. For a buck apiece, this is much easier than driving and finding a place to park our one-ton dually! Our first stop was Café Beignet for breakfast. We had eaten at the more famous Café Du Monde before and wanted to try a new spot. The beignets were a little heavier than at Café Du Monde, but I liked them better.
From there we wandered the French Quarter. We followed a cell phone app that gave us a walking tour. It was fun to listen to the street musicians as we toured the buildings. We stopped for an adult beverage at the Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Piano Bar and Lounge and enjoyed their outdoor patio. After wandering through the Shops at the Colonnade, we took the ferry back across the river.
The next day we again took the ferry across and walked about a mile and a half to the National World War II Museum. The Museum was originally the D-Day Museum but has expanded to encompass all theaters of WW II. You will need at least one full day to tour the museum and many take two days to fully explore it. It is an excellent experience. You can pick up a “dog tag,” register it, and follow your WWII participant’s story at kiosks throughout your Museum experience and online after your visit. The displays cover a wide variety of historical information. I found the display about war correspondent Ernie Pyle very interesting. He was a spokesman for the common soldier. After covering the campaigns in Europe, he continued his covering of the war in the Pacific where he was killed by a Japanese sniper. I really liked the personal stories that were highlighted in almost every display. It helped me to relate and more clearly understand what the display portrayed. For example, I discovered that movie star Clark Gable flew five missions as a B-17 waist gunner
After touring the museum, we walked back to the French Quarter and had dinner in a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. While we enjoyed our dinner, we could watch the crowd and listen to the action and entertainment of the French Quarter.
The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is made up of six sites; the French Quarter Visitor Center, the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, the Acadian Cultural Center, the Wetland Acadian Cultural Center, the Barataria Preserve, and the Chalmette Battlefield and Cemetery. We visited two of these areas. At the 26,000-acre wetland of the Barataria Preserve, we hiked along the boardwalk. Wetlands are a unique ecosystem that never ceases to amaze me. In addition to providing habitat to a wide range of animal and plant life, they act as a filter, preventing much pollution from traveling downstream.
We also toured the Chalmette Battlefield where General Andrew Jackson, with federal troops and volunteers, including colored freemen, fought and defeated a superior British force in the last major battle of the War of 1812. Ironically, the battle was fought two weeks after peace had been negotiated, and the Treaty of Ghent had been signed. I always imagined that the battle was fought over a larger mass of terrain, yet it was confined to a relatively small area.
They day before we left we were hit by a huge rainstorm that brought even more flooding into the campground. Fortunately, the campsites are located on built up land and most were high and dry, although a few families looked like they were camped on small islands.
On the morning of April 11th we were back on the road and headed for Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.