This was my first time at AAD (Authors After Dark) and the fact that it took place in New Orleans this year at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter was just powdered sugar on the beignet. I had a fantastic time at the convention and met tons of wonderful people. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and I’ve never had a better time at a convention. I hope to attend again soon.
Since I hate flying and try to avoid it as much as possible (and, really, you would want me to avoid it too, if you were flying with me. I’m the one sitting rigidly in her seat, clutching the arm rests with white-knuckled hands, an expression of mingled terror and determination on my face as I fight to keep the plane in the air through sheer will power, and you’re wondering if I know something you don’t and feeling the first flutterings of panic in your belly), I decided to travel to New Orleans by train. Relaxed travel. Beautiful scenery. Civilized dining. No plummeting from the sky.
My eldest son, Sebastian (frontman for Kingdom Under Fire of Portland, Oregon) was traveling with me. He’d never been to New Orleans and hadn’t had a proper vacation in years. He took the train down from his home in Vancouver, Washington on August 2nd, and on August 3rd, we both boarded Amtrak for the first leg of our journey, a 27 hour trip to Los Angeles. Now, I’d only booked a sleeper car for us going to and returning from NOLA. I figured we could survive riding coach during the Eugene-LA, LA-Eugene portion of the trip. Ha! Silly me.
Folks, always book a sleeper car if you are riding the rails for twenty-four hours or more. Trying to curl up in those seats and sleep while the air conditioning is icing your toes isn’t advised unless you’ve had a few drinks first. Then you’ll no longer care about such trivial things such as comfort and warmth.
We arrived in Los Angeles on the 4th, then took a cab to an inexpensive hotel I’d found online. Our train for NOLA wasn’t leaving until Sunday night, so I’d found us a cheap hotel. Well, relatively. It cost $135 a night, so I’m expecting something halfway decent. We stroll into the hotel and the front desk clerk is behind a cage. Never a good sign, but we’re committed. Once we’ve been given our key and the TV remote (!!!), we go to our room and I notice that the hallway is bare of carpet, just a concrete floor. Again, not a good sign. The room is stuffy, but has two queen beds, a bathroom, TV, all the basics, so I’m starting to feel better. After all, we’re only there for a short time. We’re starting to relax, watching a little TV, then Sebastian asks, “Is that blood on the dresser? Down at the bottom?” No, of course not. But I take a look and try to come up with a reasonable excuse for the dark stuff spattering the wood. Soy sauce. BBQ Sauce. Hair dye. Then I notice that the drapes have random spatters of the same dark stuff.
We decide it’s best to not mention anything about bloodstains in our room. Maybe that’s why there’s no carpet in the hall and front desk clerk is in a cage. We lock the door and go to sleep.
On the 5th, we spent over 10 hours at Union Station waiting for our train to NOLA. Fortunately, the station was not only beautiful with comfortable seating, but it had several eateries and stores. The time actually passed quickly. The time to depart finally rolled around and then we were boarding our sleeper car for New Orleans. Due to the misleading angles used in the virtual tour of the compartments on Amtrak.com, the tiny size of the compartment surprised me. But it worked fine and traveling first class (all meals included) was great. And the scenery was beautiful as we traveled through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. We met interesting people in the dining car and, all in all, had a relaxing ride.
We arrived in New Orleans on the 7th, taking a cab to our hotel in the French Quarter. No front desk clerk in a cage, no supposed bloodstains, just a fabulous hotel with gorgeous rooms and a warm, friendly staff. It was great to be back in New Orleans! The weather was hot and humid and full of thunderstorms. Awesome thunderstorms–since we don’t get many in Springfield, Oregon. I showed my son around the Quarter that first night. Since the convention didn’t officially start until the next evening, we had time to explore.