This morning Kim was the first one up, followed by Athena and Aurora. I got up last and began getting things packed up. Arianna woke up very last. She slept in the bottom bed with me. Aurora and Kim slept up top. Athena slept with Angel and Ashton.
Ashley made a breakfast of sausage patties and eggs. There was also a bunch of watermelon my grandfather bought. We were worried that there wasn't going to be enough food, but after cooking everything there was just enough to fill everyone's bellies.
Kim and I slowly got everything ready and eventually got things on the road. After leaving the camp grounds we stopped by a Tom Thumb gas station for some ice and gas. We then went across the street to Wal-Mart to get some other needed supplies, including letting the kids spend a little bit of the money we got for them to buy a toy to entertain them on the road. Arianna got a mini version of the classic Fishing Game. Athena bought herself a toy pony, and Aurora just got a bag of Skittles.
We kind of took our time in Wal-Mart because being in the air conditioning was feeling pretty nice. However, we eventually drug ourselves back outside to the van and left around 12:30.
The initial estimation our GPS gave us to arrive in New Orleans was a little over four hours. We had planned our trip so that we wouldn't be spending much more than four hours on the road each day. I don't think the Google navigation software does a good job at taking into account the time that in-town driving has on stopping, going, and just generally having to drive slowly.
We stopped after about two and half hours on the road at a restartaurant called Saucy Q's. It is a local Bar BQ place with some really great Bar BQ sauce in Mobile, AL. Kim found herself eating french fries just to have something to dip into the sauce. Everything there was really good, and it was worth pushing our already late lunch back a little bit to have some great local cooking.
One of the great things about taking the back roads is all the cool towns you get to go through, and all the really nice scenery. Interstates have a habit of looking almost identical no matter how far you travel them. The back roads of west Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are absolutely gorgeous. The bad part, and this was really rough, is that our actual time from leaving Pensacola to arriving at our destination was almost eight hours, including gas and food stops.
The kids where absolutely amazing. For them to be on the road that long and maintain the mostly (mostly being a strong word here) good attitudes was unexpected. The Nintendo DS, and CR-48 laptop (tethered to my Android phone) helped a lot. So did the toys the two girls purchased.
I drove the first leg of the trip, and Kim took the second. Athena got the treat of riding in the front today, something they are taking turns doing each day. So Aurora played with Arianna a lot, which was very helpful.
The coastline in Mississippi is something you don't here much about, but it was really great to drive through. Kim was pretty jealous that she was having to do the driving at the part because the sites where so great to look at, but she had to keep her eyes on the road. Aurora was very taken by the sites too. There where a lot of old houses along the way that where just magnificent. You could also see the remaining foundations of many other homes that where presumably swept away by Katrina. There was also a lot of brand new homes that where probably built sometime after Katrina came through in the remains of fallen homes.
The entrance to Louisiana is really awesome. There are beautiful swamps filled with tall swamp grass that go on for miles and miles. We also noticed a very strong coffee smell which we think might be Chicory plants growing in the area, but we'll have to research that later.
New Orleans appears to be a very diverse town where lots of cultures have taken route. We passed by a very large Catholic monastary-looking area, followed by lots of Catholic churches and other Catholic features. There was also a decidedly Asian area with what looked like Buddhist temples, and lots of other Asian culture buildings like restaurants and Buddhist worship areas.
There was also jumps from very poor looking areas that suddenly, and the turn of a single street, turned into very ritzy neighborhoods with mansions for houses. What we didn't see much of was any sign of regular middle-class sections.
Finally towards the end sanity began to break down as we made our last few turns to get into the state park. Finding the campgrounds was confusing because the signs didn't exactly lead you to them. We first found ourselves at a boat landing area, and then we turned around and found ourselves going down what looked like a road under development with big tractors and dirt movers parked everywhere.
I used the Google map to try to guide us into the camping area but what looked like an entrance to the camp area was in actuality roped off. By this time Kim was freaking out so I took over the wheel and just drove around the rope and into the campsites. It looked completely empty when we first entered. All the sites where vacant. I continued to drive until we finally found a few sites with occupants. Finally, we found our site, and there was even someone else camping in the site next to ours, so we felt reassured that all was well.
When we pulled in and parked Aurora began freaking out, after a very long trip of being very calm and in good spirits. She was absolutely inconsolable. She started getting a very nasty attitude towards her sisters and I had to put her at the bench away from everyone else.
I set up a tent we brought with us, so that we could put our stuff in it to keep the van empty. As I got everything set up and moved everything we didn't need into the tent Aurora finally slowly settled down and then Athena got very grumpy.
We where going to have Kim take all the girls to shower so that I could get the bus set up and we could sleep. I was going to shower the next morning. However, Kim was not up to taking all three girls with Athena acting the way she was, so we all went up to the bath house and Athena bathed with me.
She cried very loudly the whole time, and Kim and sisters could hear her through the wall. When we where finally bathed we went to wait in the van and I let Athena lay down on the bottom bed, which I had pulled out. Upon laying down she was instantly settled down.
When we got back to the site we got the bus all setup, and finally got each of the kids quited down and sleeping.
We are thinking about taking the Interstate, at a slow speed, for some of our future drives to save on time, even though the scenery won't be nearly as beautiful, because that much time on the road can really be draining, and we where really planning on keeping our road time to a minimum since a two week vacation of mostly driving isn't really much of a vacation at all.