Start: New Orleans, LA
End: Panama City Beach, FL
Miles Driven: 330.0 (8277.6 total)
The French Quarter was a lot different by daylight. The frozen daquiri machines had stopped swirling, bars were closed, and the street revelers were nowhere to be found. We picked up a chicory coffee and "beignet" (donut-like local specialty) as we checked out Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. We also stopped at St. Louis Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, to see the impressive above-ground tombs and mausoleums.
On our way out of New Orleans we drove through the lower 9th Ward. It was astounding how devastated the area still is a year and a half later and how little rebuilding has taken place. Home after home is marked with FEMA spray paint and still abandoned. There was a church with nothing left intact except for its front wall with two columns with the pews that used to occupy it piled alongside.
We saw the same in Biloxi, Mississippi where beachfront property stretches out for miles with vacant lots. The restaurants and tourist shops that formerly lined the road were evidenced only by the battered signs that remain.
After driving through southern Alabama, we reached Florida and had to choose a spot for the evening. As Patrick has many fond memories of his Spring Break days in Panama City Beach, and finding that the hotel rates are drastically lower in early January, we checked in to the Sandpiper Beacon for a night on the Gulf of Mexico.