All posts by Northern Secret

New Orleans (aka Nawlins) – March 20, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

New Orleans was good for us.


In my 3 original emails I wrote:

Part 1:

There’s a lot to say about New Orleans and I’ll have to send out at least a couple of emails on the subject…….but here’s a video that I uploaded to YouTube that will give you an idea of what the “Bourbon Street” experience is like. You are surrounded and suffused by a powerful living vibe. You’re in a constant state of sensory overload as there is so much going on all six directions and your eyes, ears, nose and skin can’t catch it all fast enough. Takes a bit to start filtering out the bland and focusing on the most interesting stuff.

This video was made later in the day…about 6 pm as there was enough light for me to shoot and the street had begun to fill for a fun Friday night. You could actually feel the anticipation and excitement in the air… was a bit of a rush……the crowd was all full of good humored people just looking to have some fun.
You just can’t capture the New Orleans night life in still pics……..and this video is a poor armature attempt…….but I hope it works for you.
At the end, as Pat walks past me and into the bar, look at what the guy on the right side of the scene is doing with the “creature”. People just want to have fun!
I did follow Pat into the bar………..more later.
And the Part Deux email:
Its a big city and varies widely from place to place like any other.

Early in the day we tried to drive into one of the more notable cemeteries and found we just couldn’t find a way in. Very strange… entry point? We’ve been using our GPS (aka Brunhillda) and she has been fabulous at getting us around….but seemed to be failing us here.
Side comment: I’m in love with Brunhillda…and so is Pat. We both agree that our GPS enhances the driving holiday experience in so many ways. She completely relieves all the stress of finding your destination………she tells you exactly what to do and you just drive. All of those moments where the driver is over-anxiously asking the co-pilot Left or right honey? Here comes the split….I gotta know RIGHT NOW……left or right?!?  And the equally stressed out co-pilot is wrangling with several maps..often upside down….and can’t even decide what their own left and right is anymore. All that screaming and crying and the near death experiences of impending car crashes are gone…..replaced with the perfectly formed, calm and authoritative voice of Brunhillda saying “in 800 meters stay left”.  Ahhh, what a pleasure!  I’m OK with driving in challenging city conditions and the brutal highway traffic jams that surround cities……….like most men I just need a good woman telling me what to do. I’m in love with Brunhillda!
Anyway…..we couldn’t get into the cemetery, and it didn’t look that interesting from the outside anyway so we diverted into a nearby section of rich homes. Some were very impressive…..southern architecture and the fabulous landscaping that is only possible in these tropical climates. We really only had 1.5 days in New Orleans so we had to choose where we’d spend our time so we went back to our hotel and walked to the French Quarter. Its only about 10 minutes from our hotel which was well situated between the business district and the French Quarter with the Bourbon Street entertainment area.
Tons to see and so you sort of map out a route and wander it. The goddess of good weather (Pat) has been holding up her end as usual…….it’s been just about perfect for us. We got a ~30 minute deluge while walking – see pic – and it was easy to stay under a covered section of the sidewalk and wait for it to pass.
At lunch we found a place where we got an outside table on the 2nd floor balcony – pic included – where we could eat and see the world go by……..Perfect!
More wandering after lunch where we saw both Royal Street and Bourbon Street. Royal is the place for whitebread tourists with great antique shops and high end hotels and expensive restaurants……..all swimming in that New Orleans risque persona…….. so it is the Gomorah side. While Bourbon is obviously the more of the Sodom choice…….all the really interesting stuff is there. The usual rules are relaxed here and from what I saw at night the city police seem to just be trying to keep it from exploding into full fledged rioting. They show their presence and even have mounted (horse) police out to quell any “crowd control” problems if they do arise. When they ride right beside you (I mean the horse is brushing against you) in a thick crowd you instantly know how intimidating a 1,400 pound horse can be… just know you do NOT want that animal knocking you down or stepping on you.  All the usual North American restrictions on perversion and gross activities are ignored here…….these “choices” are actually celebrated on Bourbon. In truth I think its obvious that the city wants to keep the Bourbon Street experience just what it is…….the touring draw is incredible. Its tame stuff but I included a pic of the Bad Boys bar where I think you can find anything you might want.
I suspect that a bunch of people come to New Orleans to satisfy their “appetites” because like Vegas…..What happens on Bourbon Street stays on Bourbon Street.
We went back to our hotel shortly after lunch for our Senior Living after lunch nap….to recharge our batteries for the evening’s action…….holy cow we might be out till 10 pm!
Love Don and Pat
PS…..we’re in our condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama and we have a great internet connection here which makes this a lot easier. More later……
And finally the Street Music email:
We got back into touring the Royal and Bourbon street areas later in the afternoon. The sun was going down at about 4:30 which lends that golden sort of colored light to everything.
We found a bunch of street music was going on. I filmed a bit of a 5 piece group playing “Everyone wants to be a cat”. I apologize for the shaky camera work. I haven’t done much video before and I’m just learning.
Take note of the footwear and socks on the players…….casual and fun? The Rasta guy is holding a yellow-green drink that is called a “grenade” and is sold in a couple of places here. It rained hard for 30 minutes earlier in the day….a good thing …. I think that helped clean the streets…..the explosive result of too many grenades had been splashed out here and there and the place needed to be hosed down.
Folks were putting money into the Tip Pail with amazing speed. I can’t guess how much they were making but it seemed considerable…..the pail was 1/3 full when I looked in.
Two girls, Tanya and Dorise, were playing in another street and they were also quite talented. I searched and quickly found this video of them and it’s interesting to see they have their own website and a ton of people have posted videos of them…….one link provided here because I didn’t really get any good video of them myself.
It was fun and some of the street music is really quite good.
Don and Pat
Another email about the evening “party” experience:
As the sun went down the street action rose. It was Friday night, 80 F and we’re in the middle of March break…..a perfect time to be in Nawlins.
Its hard to describe, but at about 7 pm the streets suddenly were closed to cars and sort of magically, in what seemed like about 15 minutes, they were flooded with hoards of people all looking to have some good natured fun. It was like some sort of spontaneous event they way these people just appeared out of nowhere. One moment there were small groups of people watching the street music……and then suddenly the streets were completely full from side to side. And everyone was drinking.
The street people were outrageous. I know this sounds bad but it was sort of like being at a zoo where you see weird animals that you don’t want to get too close to …… but you want to see them live. The “horny” girl in the pic with the pasties was one of the tamer semi-nude performers. One girl who was about 25 years old was wandering the streets with a hand made sign that said “Tips 4 Pics”. She was wearing only a pair of women’s underwear. Nothing else. The underwear was not really clean and it was light colored and pretty revealing. She had painted out her nipples into black stars – it looked like she had done it with a Sharpie? She was a bit on the flat side and not really an attractive girl ………and most damning, her sign indicated that she had poor cursive skills. Just another Nawlins street person trying to make a few bucks.
We wandered the streets – in and out of bars (pic included). We avoided the “Hand Grenade” drinks….I’d seen the potential of an explosive voiding event… was splashed on the street in a bunch of places. The bar music was great. The beer may have been helping ……… but Pat and I really enjoyed it. We saw a bunch of different performers and styles…..most were definitely affecting a southern jazzy touch to their core style.
Finally we found a restaurant where we wanted to eat…..and we snagged the best table in the house. We were literally on the edge of the street. We had great food and we could see the tourists and the freakazoids rolling right past and close enough to touch. Yeah, a couple of kids leaned across the planter right over our table space and tried to hit me up for money but it just added to the fun of having dinner right in the street flow. Its worth noting that some of the other tourists were really freaky looking. I know there is a wide range to human body shapes and sizes but OMG!
By the time we got home we felt like we’d had a real Nawlins experience.
We drove out of town the early the next morning to get to the swamp tour in time for the 11:30 boat…….more on that later.
Don and Pat

The 3 Plantations – March 18, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

These plantations are right out of the movies. Its the Live Oak trees….


In my original email I wrote:

We visited three and stayed overnight at one……the Oak Alley Plantation… a cottage they had on site. Very nice.

The Rosedown Plantation is owned and run by the State of Lousiana and it has the best tour of the bunch. We didn’t bother with the house tour at Oak Alley as we’d already seen so much in previous house tours and this one looked too crowded to be much fun. The St. Joseph Plantation tour was interesting because it is a working plantation that makes most of its money from sugar cane.
There are mosquitoes here. That wasn’t something we expected. And in our tours the docent explained how the original inhabitants had to use netting on their beds at night or the mozzies would practically carry you away.
Lots of sea food in the area……80F with mixed cloud and sun……We’re lovin’ it.
Now in New Orleans and will be doing a walking tour of the French Quarter today.
Don and Pat.
Here’s the link to pics on all 3 Plantations with comments:

Graceland – March 14, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

Graceland – a critical social icon for aging Boomer – Geezers:


In my original email I wrote:

Both Pat and I agree that the tour of Graceland was very well done. We were able to take plenty of time and there was a good amount to see. The IPAD tour aids were pretty good. Its a well run operation and must be immensely profitable.

Lots of young people there. We wondered if anyone would want to go to Graceland in another 25 years and we were wrong…………there were lots of young Elvis fans. We met a young lad (16?) touring Graceland with his parents in the pink Cadillac last night and were surprised at his interest.
I couldn’t find an Elvis bobble head anywhere……..I’m heartbroken……..but still looking.
Drove on down to Clarksdale, Mississippi. Travelled part of the way on the old highway 61 – The Blues Highway – and the poverty in some of the small towns was shocking. Lula is the town that money forgot. OMG…….what a disaster. There’s something about “southern poverty” that is really stark. The many groups of broken down shacks surrounded by piles of garbage are really sad.
While in Tulia we drove around and found our way to see the actual Mississippi River for the first time…….its a lot of water and its really flowing strongly…..maybe because of the spring runoff?
Will go out to a number of Blues bars tonight. Drove around to find them first and they look so run down….they test credibility as real going businesses. I guess we’ll find out tonight.
Don and Pat
PS:  I was partial to the Elvis outfit on the left. It has a cape………. since
Elvis I haven’t seen anyone other than Batman wearing a cape with that sort of confidence. Love the belts too. Overall, his outfits were just outrageous when you look at them today; but they worked for him.
Here’s the link to the pics:

Cotton Pickin’ Mississippi – March 15, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

Staying in the shack, named Sunflower, was great. Seeking something more than the Best Western experience.


In my original email I wrote:

OK – we stayed overnight in a shack in the cotton fields. It was wonderful; I’m bored of Best Westerns and Hampton Inns. This was much more authentic….but still far from a real shack….these are fully set up for tourists. Some guy got a good idea and his business seems to be advancing strongly. They have > 500 reviews on Trip Advisor now.

As the Senior Living Delta Poverty Tour 2015 progressed we drove through miles and miles of industrial agriculture areas. These farms are so big that all you see is endless fields of brown earth. These areas are so huge that the tractors must go for a 1/2 mile or more before they turn around to plow the next set of furrows. And it seems to me that as a result of the rise industrial agriculture these areas have been emptied of almost all people. There are only a few small towns from time to time and they are mostly a collection of abandoned homes, businesses and churches. The jobs are all gone and the people have left; the few houses that remain are in bad shape…….what remains is just poverty.
On to Vicksburg tonight where we’ll do the Civil War stuff.
Love Don and Pat
Here’s the link to the pics:


Clarkstown – crossroads of the Blues – March 14, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

Clarkstown is at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49. Self promoted as the true home of the Blues.


In my original email I wrote:

After an appropriate period of pre-drinking that local bourbon we drove to one of the local bars with a name that brings to mind a funny story.

There’s a cottage behind Red Secret on a steep cliff that is maybe 20 meters high. 25 years ago a guy in the clothes manufacturing business from Toronto bought the property and blasted out a foundation for his cottage. Then they used high pressure hoses to “clean” the cliff area; washing everything down into the lake. Actually they destroyed all the small trees and grasses that were growing all over the cliff……the ones that create that Muskoka look ……… so that in the end the property was ugly and brutally denuded. These folks had the gall to name their property “Fawn Ridge” and Steven gets the credit for quipping that it looks more like “Ground Zero”. That name stuck and its irony still makes me laugh every time I pass the property.
So after all that…… the bar is called Ground Zero.
It was half full of suburban looking white folks by 7:30 when we got there. The catfish was great. The Blues band began to play about 9:00 and the bar was mostly full of prosperous looking white boomers with a few young folks sprinkled around ……. and the band was led by a young kid of 16 who has a big following in the Delta.
He’s certainly talented……but Pat and I agree that his music is sort of like one long guitar solo. If he lives for 10 more years he will have had time to grow his range but he’s just so huge (> 400 lbs. ?) that I don’t know if he’ll live that long.
We went to another bar – the Red Dog – and it was interesting – such a hole. Somehow deep poverty seems to be part of the the whole persona of the Delta region? Seems like everyone here accepts it and “it is what it is”.
We’re staying here in Clarksdale in a shack out on the cotton fields tonight.
Don and Pat
Here’s the link to the pics:

Mammoth Caves – March 13, 2015 on our Mississippi Delta Tour

It was dark down there.


Here’s what I wrote in my original email:

Worth seeing. Met our expectations.

Raining fairly seriously as we drove to the Visitors Center so it was a good day to be underground.
The cave tour was well done. It was about 90 minutes underground and we saw both dry cave and wet cave where the flow stone creates those weird formations.
About 60 in our tour so not too crowded. Only disappointment was when the guide turned out the lights and asked all to be perfectly quiet with the expectation that the light and sound deprivation in that environment can produce an interesting mental experience. Too many teenagers who weren’t willing to play along squashed that potential…….oh well.
Drove to Memphis after the cave. 4.5 hours and as we closed on Memphis the rain became ridiculous…….like driving in a car wash. High speed wipers were not enough……but we arrived fine. Like driving my Pilot when conditions are not great. 4 wheel drive creates (false) sense of confidence. And I just put on all new brakes and full tune up for this trip.
Pics turned out OK. Had to push ISO to 3200 to get shutter speed down to where I could hold it without too much camera shake showing in the pics. But note how grainy the images are at ISO 3200. Interesting trade off scenario. Ty could do a lot better with his new camera with the huge sensor and fast lens. But at least I got some useable images.
Love Don and Pat
PS – We’re staying just 100 meters down the street from Graceland and we can feel the vibes. We’re getting picked up by a pink limo taking us to a fancy BBQ place in about an hour. Is that an oxymoron……….fancy BBQ place?
Anyway we’ll be visiting with Elvis tomorrow and I’m expecting a semi-religious experience. We’ll be preparing our souls by feasting on ribs and then testing the bourbon we bought later tonight.
Here’s the link to the pics. I wrote explanatory comments on most:

Starting out on our Mississippi Delta Tour – March 11 and 12, 2015

Leaving Ontario’s Polar Vortex Version 2.0  was certainly part of the goal of the Mississippi Delta Tour 2015.



I started by sharing my pics and travel experiences with friends and family by email. Since then its become clear that a blog would be a better medium; it better respects people’s time use. In my original March 12 email I wrote:

65 F !

Its tough work……..but we’re putting up with the strain.

Went to 2 bourbon makers today and toured the facilities and tasted their whiskey. Bourbon is not too different from Rye. Same process but bourbon uses mostly corn in their mash.
Also toured the Civil War museum in Bardstown. It was pretty good. We learned a fair amount.
Another nice day. We ate a small picnic lunch outside in the sunshine.
Drove on late in the day to Cave City …….. and it is really poor. Some of the homes on the back streets we drove around are so bad. Real poverty.
Will do the Mammoth Cave tour tomorrow then on to see Elvis in Memphis. I want an Elvis bobble head on the dash for the rest of the trip.
Here’s the links to the Flickr photos:
There’s comments I’ve added to most pics explaining what is going on.