The 2011 International Rotary Convention was in New Orleans, LA. We couldn't resist another visit to The Big Easy. Jim hadn't been there in many years, but I had visited in 2008 on a mission trip for post-Katrina rebuilding. Flying has become such a hassle that we decided to drive. That enabled us to visit folks between here and there. It was a great trip with lots of unplanned adventures.

North Carolina Cousins - used to be Connecticut cousins Hop, Jim & Betty

Our first stop was in Durham, NC, where we visited with ME's Pease cousins. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of Jim & Wendy Pease, but here's one of Hop & Betty Pease Hopkins with Jim.

Mama Dip's was a mighty fine place to have lunch. Good southern cooking!

We had a great time seeing the Peases again and catching up with times old & new.

Ocean Springs, MS Ocean Springs pier

From Durham we made a swing through SC for a brief visit with an old friend and then headed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Jim had not been there since Katrina. My pictures of those times aren't online yet, but the bridge on the left replaced one that was completely destroyed.

This wooden pier is located at the site of the older bridge ruined by Camille where we used to go crabbing. It isn't open yet, but is expected to be completed soon.

Ocean Springs mosaic Mosaic

On the far side of the new bridge are several mosaic panels depicting Gulf Coast nature. These call to mind some of the work of Walter Anderson.

We had already been trying to find Shearwater Pottery in the maze of Ocean Springs streets. Some helpful policemen that we met here at the bridge told us how to get there.

We were glad to see it back in operation after the hurricane.

New Orleans French Quarter French Quarter View

We had signed up to stay in the Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street for old time's sake. This was where ME's parents and grandparents always stayed.

We asked at the front desk for a "room above the 5th floor with a river view just like Daddy always had" and they obliged!

Even though the river is lapping at the tops of the levees, it doesn't look any different that it normally does from here.

Bonnet Carre Spillway Bonnet Carre Spillway

One of our first stops was the Bonnet Carre spillway. The Mississippi River was experiencing an historic flood and this spillway had been opened not long before our visit.

We were here once before in 1999 or thereabouts. In normal times there is no water to be seen from the control structure shown here. Now there is plenty.

Don't let the water go to waste Bonnet Carre fishing

Never ones to let a good fishing opportunity pass, many locals were out looking for a fresh dinner.

The refinery in the background - one of many in the area - is a key reason that the spillway, and it's upriver cousin the Morganza Spillway, were opened.

Boiling water Bonnet Carre throughput

Water is pouring through the control structure. We chatted with a local couple who came out to view the situation. They said that the word was out that the entire volume of Lake Pontchartrain would be replaced with Mississippi River water from the spillway. It will turn from brackish to fresh as a result with significant environmental consequences.

To put that into perspective, Lake Ponchartrain can be viewed as a cylinder roughly 26 MILES in diameter and 12-14 feet deep. That's a lot of water.

Water gauge Water gauge

Here is a close-up view of the control structure and the gates. The closest gate is still closed, which enables us to see the depth gauge - 23 feet. Remember that this structure is usually high and dry.

The gates are opened by lifting them to be parallel to the water surface.

Somewhere I have a picture of the structure in normal times - need to find it and scan it in for comparison.

Life along the levee Louisiana levee town After leaving the spillway, we travelled along the river road back to the hotel. The low rise on the left is the levee.

River levee politics have filled books, but there is a good summary on the web site of the Mississippi Historical Society.

It always amazes Jim that people could live in the shadow of these levees. Of course in normal times the levee itself is well away from the river. This is not a normal time.

The levee trail Levee trail

Later we made another stop and I climbed to the top of the levee, which was somewhat higher here than in the picture above. As you can see, the water is up to the levee, but nowhere near the top. This is largely due to the open spillways upriver.

The heavy industry can be seen in the distance beyond the cyclists.

From where I stand I can hear a large ship being loaded just on the other side of the trees.

And here's the ship Ship loaded

People can say what they like about the futility of trying to preserve New Orleans in a vulnerable situation - someone called it "the inevitable city in an impossible location" - but the fact is that the Port of South Louisiana alone is the largest in the US in tonnage. The combination of the ports of the lower Mississippi (Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, New Orleans & Plaquemines) ranks among the 10 largest in the world.

Too large to just write off!

Destrehan Manor House Destrehan

Just below the levee above was this lovely house, which was built prior to 1790. It is a reminder that this area has survived floods and hurricanes for many years.

The other end of the spillway Bonnet Carre outflow

Unfortunately neither of us took any pictures at the Rotary convention, which was held at the Morial Convention Center. It was HUGE!

After our stay we decided to swing up through my home town of Vicksburg to see how the flood had affected it. Interstate 10 crosses the outflow of the Bonnet Carre. I took this photo from the car. Traffic was pretty slow as everyone rubber-necked.

Vicksburg depot Vicksburg depot

This is the picture that the papers were carrying as the flood crest passed Vicksburg. The flood wall can be seen to the left of the depot protecting most of the lower downtown area.

Vicksburg itself is on high bluffs and not affected by high water. Outlying areas to the north and south, however, are.

The water here is not the Mississippi. This is the Yazoo canal, which runs by downtown.

Flood wall paintings Flood wall The flood wall itself has been decorated in recent years with murals. This is an example. But this wall is still very functional!
Flood wall at work Flood gates Here is a picture of the flood wall doing what it is designed to do. This gate to the waterfront is just to the left of the panel above. The staining on the timbers shows how high the water reached on the far side. It has receded about two feet from the crest, but is still well up against the wall.
Vicksburg Harbor Vicksburg Harbor

Although it is located so far inland, Vicksburg is considered a deep-water port. The harbor facility is still functional although the canal appears to be lapping at the top of the harbor levee. The road north out of town was under water so we weren't able to get any closer than this view from Fort Hill in the National Military Park.

We had a fishing camp on a lake behind the harbor. During floods we would take a boat down the road to get there, but we never saw the water this high.

River Bridges Mississippi River Bridges

These bridges cross the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg. The closer bridge is the old one. A true rite of passage for local teenagers was driving across this narrow bridge. (I remember it well!) It is no longer open to cars although the train tracks are still functional.

The bridge in the background is the Interstate 20 bridge.

I'm taking this picture near one of the "riverboat" casinos. It floats in a cofferdam that was surrounded by sandbags to keep the actual river away.

The Natchez Trace The Mighty Pearl

After spending a night in Vicksburg we headed north on the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is a lovely and peaceful drive. This stop is along the Pearl River just north of the Barnett Reservoir. Ironically there had not been any flooding along the rivers other than the Mississippi because there hadn't been any major precipitation within the state borders.

Twentymile Bottom Twentymile Bottom

Here the Trace comes down into some swampy bottomlands. It was apparently a miserable area during the early 19th century when this was a major transportation route.

All along our route we saw the remnants of the devastating April, 2011, tornado swarm with trees down and broken off. In the Starkville area the parkway was still closed to remove trees and we had to detour around it.

Indian Mounds Indian Mounds At Pharr Mounds we saw the remnants of several Indian burial mounds from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Shortly after this stop we left the Trace to head east to Florence, AL, where we were to stay the night.
Lu Parbery Lu and Jim Lu was the breeder of my late mare Kimber. We had recently reconnected and when Lu heard that we would be traveling through her area, she graciously invited us to stay with her. Although she has lived all over the world, she is happy to be in Florence now.
Memorial Wall Memorial Wall Lu took us to see the stone wall built by Tom Hendrix as a memorial to his great-great-grandmother who was a Native American of the Yuchi tribe. This was a remarkable site and no picture can do it justice. The wall symbolizes the travel of his ancestor as she was taken away to Oklahoma on the trail of tears and as she returned alone and on foot - the only person documented to have done this.
Kathryn and Jerry Davis Kathryn and Jerry

After bidding Lu goodbye, we traveled to Mooresville, AL, to visit my old friend Kathryn and her husband Jerry.

On the way we passed more devastation from the tornadoes that ripped through Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia in April. Mooresville had escaped a direct hit, but was without power for several days. The Davises said it was a good time for neighbors to get together, contribute food from dormant freezers and have a pot-luck cookout.

It was wonderful on this trip to see friends and relatives that we haven't seen in years - decades in some cases.

The Delta Queen Delta Queen

For our final night on the road we stayed at the Delta Queen Hotel in Chattanooga, TN. We had always wanted to take a river trip on this boat, but never got around to it. (OK - we were cheap.) Now that it is serving as a floating hotel we at least got to spend a night. In the bar that evening we chatted with the managers who are still hopeful that they will be able to restart the riverboat trips. If so, we'll definitely be aboard.