Got into our workshop space around Noon on Tuesday, actually. Just been too frickin' busy to write regularly. Or too laid back. Or something along those lines. Sorry 'bout that.
A few quick observations:
We were gone for three weeks and had a great time, but no matter how you slice things it's always great to be back among friends and familiar surroundings.
We stopped in Panama City, Florida, the area around the Florida and Alabama lines on the coast, journeyed over to the casinos at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and then headed over to the KOA Campground in Kenner, Louisiana for a week. Kenner is a convenient jumping off point to downtown New Orleans and I have stayed there many a' time over the last several years.
We considered continuing our trip for another few weeks and heading down toward the Tex/Mex border but a combination of illness, Land Rover maintenance, and business obligations scuttled that plan.
Several folks have written and asked how the rebuilding is going in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.
Honestly, in my opinion, it's going pretty piss poor in many places.
The French Quarter and the other touristy areas around New Orleans has largely recovered. Remember, the French Quarter was above sea level and suffered little damage from Katrina flooding.
The casinos in Mississippi have been rapidly rebuilt and expanded since our last visit 15 months ago; however, residential properties and small businesses have, in most cases, not rebuilt if they received more than minor damage.
This is a small modular home that was built as a permanent replacement for a FEMA trailer. Notice that it's not very large. Also notice that it's REALLY high off the ground in order to meet the local Waveland, MS codes. These things are springing up left and right as replacements for the fancier traditional beachfront resort properties that have not been rebuilt:
Vast parts of New Orleans remain largely uninhabited and local businesses are all gone. Hardest hit that we saw were East New Orleans along the I-10 corridor coming in from Slidell and downtown along Rt. 90 as you get within sight of the Superdome and downtown. Both of those areas range from being largely devastated to completely trashed for blocks and blocks.
In our discussions with local folks and small business owners the consensus was as close to unanimous as could be - business was down from pre-Katrina levels, and for many small business owners keeping the doors open was a daily struggle.
Largely overlooked by the media would seem to be Plaquemines Parish, which is the southernmost tip of Louisiana and extends over 100 miles south of New Orleans. The town of Buras was reportedly the first town hit by Katrina and possibly received Cat. 4 winds as Katrina impacted southern Louisiana (in contrast Katrina was "only" a Cat. 3 when she hit NO). While the petroleum industry would appear to have rebuilt quickly, most housing in those towns in Plaquemines has yet to be rebuilt. What were once prosperous small towns are now ruins as groceries, restaurants, and so forth have not been rebuilt. Far and away the most prevalent form of housing out there is the travel trailer, and you can see those suckers for miles and miles, scattered out along what is otherwise a relatively rural area.
While we were in Kenner one of the local parishes was pushing to get the FEMA trailers out by the end of May. Don't let that fool you into thinking that things are fine; FEMA was acknowledging that they still have quite a few folks in trailers whose applications to rebuild their properties had not been reviewed three years after Katrina struck. NO, Mississippi, and Louisiana still have vast communities comprised of nothing but FEMA trailers tucked in and slightly out of sight. And, perhaps most shocking of all, New Orleans is developing a large community of folks who are living in tents - if they can afford a tent - underneath the highway overpasses.
There were some sobering sights during this trip. But for the grace of God go you or I.