For the first time since 2008, the USBC Open Championships ("Nationals", for short) will not be held in Nevada. This year, the bowling tournament will be held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the first time since 2005.
The last time that Nationals was in Baton Rouge, we bowled in February, and My-Sugar-Na and I hit the New Orleans French Quarter the weekend after Mardi Gras. Even though the party had passed by four days, the Quarter was still a rockin' place. Before the tournament announced its return to Baton Rouge, I had vowed to myself (and everyone who listened) that some time in the future, I want to be in New Orleans in Mardi Gras (Side note; I had bowled Nationals in Mobile, Alabama in February 1994 during the Mardi Gras season, and went to a couple of Mardi Gras parades with (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Son, Mitten - who was almost two at the time - and his mother. Even back then, the pageantry intrigued me. Just missing it by a week 11 years later just ratcheted up the jones a few notches).
So even though the group that I bowl Nationals with prefers to bowl in May (and when the tournament moves back to Reno next year, we will almost certainly move back to our May dates) I talked most of them into taking a winter trip to the Bayou.
- I am driving down, leaving this Saturday morning before the sun comes up (My-Sugar-Na will be flying down and meeting me in New Orleans Sunday morning. Something about not wanting to start a vacation with an 18-hour drive, or the expectation that I will never get there because the car will become a burning shell somewhere in a ditch in Arkansas).
- By dinner time, I will have arrived in Memphis and Interstate Barbecue and their Pulled Pork BBQ Spaghetti (Side note; Thank you, TV food shows).
- I am staying Saturday night in Grenada, Mississippi, which is about 2/3 of the way from West Allis to New Orleans.
- I will be meeting My-Sugar-Na at the Louis Armstrong Airport in the early afternoon (Side note; there is something pretty cool about an airport named for someone OTHER than a military figure or political person)
- Sunday early dinner will be at the Crescent City Steakhouse (Side note; not only TV food shows, but this came from an episode of Treme, where some politicians had dinner there and commented on their butter-sizzled steaks. That was on my to-do list before the end of that scene).
- We have grandstand tickets for the Krewe of Baccus Parade (Side note; my wife bought BUB shoes. BUB shoes are supposed to be old shoes, but since she didn't have any, she bought a new pair so, using women's logic, she now had a pair of old shoes.)
- Because I cheaped-out, we will be staying Sunday evening in the eastern suburb of Slidell, LA, as there we will likely be too tired from travel to party too much after the parade, and we don't have any early morning to-dos to attend to.
- Monday afternoon will include lunch at Willie Mae's Scotch House and the best fried chicken in the south (Where do you think I got this from? Multiple TV food shows!)
- We did not buy grandstand seats for Monday's Krewe of Orpheus (with Marshalls Bret Michaels and Cyndi Lauper) and Krewe of Proteus parades, as My-Sugar-Na has gone all "separate activities" on me and she will go on a walking vampire tour of the French Quarter. I will go to the northern part of the parade routes (near the Quarter) and when done I will find her and we will head towards Frenchmen Street for some live music.
- We did get a hotel near the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, which is walking distance from the parades and the French Quarter, and a short ride on the Riverfront Streetcar from Frenchmen St.
- Tuesday (Mardi Gras day) will find us in grandstand seating for the Krewe of Zulu, Krewe of Rex, Krewe of Elks Orleans and Krewe of Crescent City parades.
- Next Wednesday, I will wait for My-Sugar-Na to bail me out of jail... "When in Rome...", then breakfast at Cafe du Monde (more TV), then drive to Baton Rouge and tour the Capital building.
- Thursday, February 23 we bowl all day. Team event is at 2:30 PM, and we haven't gotten any lane assignments, yet, but take a look at this webcam and see if you can find us. If you can, save an image, and I will use it in my next blog entry.
- Friday bowl at 9:20 in the morning (more opportunities to take webcam stills), then we head out of town.
- The road back will include nights at Harrah's Tunica Friday night, and Harrah's St. Louis on Saturday night (Thank you, Harrah's Great Race to Rewards for all those comp points). Unless, of course, Harrah's New Orleans bankrupts us, first.
So once again, bowling is just the excuse to take a vacation. Sure, I've bought three new bowling balls since May, learned about Dual Angle Layouts from Joe Cerar, created a spreadsheet of all of my equipment and how it reacts to which lane condition, bowl two leagues with lane conditions more challenging than a "house shot" and so on and so on. But I know that I'll never win the tournament, so I'll have my fun first, focus my mind next, and see where it leads me.
I can't wait. And I am sure that YOU can't wait for the compulsory trip report about a week after I get back. Till then, you can follow me on Twitter @mjames1229, as I expect that I will have posts and photos from New Orleans. You can also watch the parades live on this webcam (though we will be nowhere near this location, so you won't see us).
Saturday's weather looks clear all the way from Milwaukee to the Gulf Coast, so nothing should get in the way of a great vacation.