Monday, November 09, 2009

new orleans, race recap, and lots of photos

Our home away from home during our stay in New Orleans. 

This past weekend Nathan, our friend Amy, and I traveled to Louisiana for the New Orleans Urban Adventure Race. I'll do my best to break down our adventure without making your eyes bleed from reading. :)

Thursday! We left Nacogdoches at about 3pm and started the six hour drive to our destination - New Orleans! The drive went by quickly and was fairly uneventful - just the way a long drive should be. Amy used to live in New Orleans and got back in touch with an old friend of hers, who very kindly allowed us to sleep on his floor. We couldn't have been happier or more comfortable! He lived a short bike ride from the French Quarter, which was perfect. Since we got in to town pretty late, we went to a neighborhood bar and had a few drinks while listening to live blues. A very good introduction to a very cool city.

Coffee, New Orleans style.

Friday! Our race wasn't until Saturday morning, and we knew we wanted to get a good night's sleep beforehand. Therefore, we decided to spend all day on Friday sightseeing, hanging out in the French Quarter, and having a drink at any bar that struck our fancy. Our fancies were struck often. I had my first ever Bloody Mary, checked out a variety of shops (records! voodoo! jewelry! coffee!), biked up and down every street that looked inviting, and watched an amazing group of street performers, dressed like 1920's musicians and going to town on their trumpets, washboards, and fiddles. I love New Orleans!

A vegan po'boy and sweet potato fries from Cafe Bamboo.

Amy and I playing dress-up. (Photo compliments of Amy.)

Super cool street performers. I gave them many dollars.

Saturday! Race day! This was my and Amy's first Adventure Race, urban and otherwise. Nathan had done races in the woods and parks before, but never in a city. We were all nervous and didn't know what exactly to expect. The race started at 9am, and at 8:30 each team received a map with instructions and locations to which we'd have to bike, run or canoe. At each location, we would find a hole puncher, and we would punch our passport. At the end of the race, we'd have to hand in our passports with all holes punched. Tricky business!

Team Pink Whiskey, ready to race!
(Photo compliments of Amy's self-timer.)

There were 18 checkpoints in all. I won't go into two much detail, because it mostly involved a lot of moving. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot - 7 miles of running, 13 miles of biking, and 4 miles of canoeing, total. The coolest aspect of the race were the mystery challenges. At some of the checkpoints, we would have to complete a challenge before we could get our card punched. One challenge involved running through a dark wax museum looking for Frankenstein. Another had us run up 13 flights of stairs at the Shell building. My favorite challenge was in the French Quarter - we had to find the Crescent City Brew House. Once there, we were each given a tray holding two full drinks. We then had to carry our drinks to two other bars in the Quarter, where we had to pick up yet more drinks, and then finally make our way back to the first bar with all the drinks intact. If any of us spilled any of our drinks, we would have to start over. I thought for sure I would spill something, but somehow I made it back in one piece. Super fun and challenging.

All in all, the race took our team five hours and 45 minute to complete. Not bad, for two first timers! We celebrated by going out to dinner at Cafe Bamboo again (hey, it was the only vegetarian restaurant in all of New Orleans, AND it was delicious. What more can a vegan ask for?). We had grand dreams of partying the night away, but all that racing took it's toll. After a huge dinner and a few drinks, we were beat. New Orleans wins again!

Post-race and pre-dinner posing at the fountain in City Park.
Thanks for the photo, Amy!

Sunday! Coffee and breakfast at a neighborhood cafe, and then the long drive home. I wished for a moment that I had neighborhood bars and coffeeshops, and then I remembered who my neighbors are. Nevermind.

To summarize: New Orleans is amazing and beautiful and brimming with interesting characters; Urban Adventure Racing is an ideal way to explore a unique city; and drinking for 7 hours straight is not as easy as you'd think. I give NOLA five our of five stars, and cannot wait to go back!