Days 111 & 112: Celebrating the End. And my Birthday!

Day 111: Night of Arrival
Wohoo! Unlike finishing my 4K for Cancer trip, there is no celebration with lots of people waiting for me at the finish line. Instead, I eat, rest, and take off for the NOLA Social Ride this evening. NOLA Social Ride is a casual organized ride that occurs regularly in the city. I heard about the rides but I am not sure what to expect – all I know is that this particular ride is ugly sweater and mustache themed, so I try Goodwill. Too late in the season – I settle for some too-short Grinch pajamas. Should be fine.
First celebration: the bar. I manage to get a 1/2 off special at the Grand Isle for being part of the Social Ride, then the bartender buys me a shot of whiskey after I tell him my story and he hears it’s my birthday. Okay, this is definitely a double. Two beers and two shots and the ride has not even started! Good thing I brought a box of wine…
Second celebration: the ride. It’s an eclectic crowd – young, old, and everything in between dressed in a motley of Christmas attire, including a woman wearing one of the skirts you put underneath your Christmas tree. Almost everyone is on some type of cruiser and almost no one is on a road bike. Several people are blasting music, some even pulling gigantic speakers along on trailers. The music is just as ridiculous as the dress – some play classic Christmas tunes but Nat King Cole, a few prefer more modern renditions by T-Swift and Michael Buble, and some just drop the bass with whatever music they want.

 

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People take the Social Ride seriously… in a very casual, anything-goes kind of way.

 

We twist and turn through the city at a nice slow pace, passing through what I assume is the famous French Quarter. Along the way we stop in a few parks where people drink, smoke, and be merry. I chat with all kinds of people, especially a guy who helps organize some of the rides and tells me all kinds of things about NOLA. Eventually we end at Poor Boy’s Bar where I hang out until the band begins to play – it’s some kind of metal or scream-o and it is way too damn loud for this tiny bar. Peace out. I find my way somewhere with food and order something to fill my growling stomach. Then I ride the magic carpet home.
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Compared to the impressive light show and thumping base of the regulars, my ride seems sad. That’s my ride lying off to the right.

 

Day 112 (2016-12-16): The Morning After
Typically, I do not get hung over because I rarely drink a LOT at once, and always stay smart about food and water. So I regret getting out of bed this morning after such a long, long day. Hell if I am going to eat oats this morning. I very slowly let myself wake up and re-hydrate, then walk down the street to Russel’s Marina Grill. I am worried about walking in wearing my too-short Grinch PJ’s but no one seems to notice – later I will realize NOLA has a very uh..lenient culture.
Third celebration: epic brunch. This is where my blog gets real foodie. The place is supposed to have an excellent brunch and the menu does not disappoint. First up: chocolate milk and an appetizer of sweet potato beignets. If you’re unfamiliar, beignets are sort of like donuts: dough deep-fried and topped with a heap of powdered sugar. They are a NOLA staple and I have never had them – I expect something a bit over-hyped, but when I take my first bite I am blown away. These are non-traditional beignets though – they are round balls, actually have a verifiable amount of sweet potato, and are smothered in some kind of honey-based glaze. AMAZING. I wash it down with a big glass of chocolate milk, topped with a tower of whipped cream and a little extra chocolate, for good measure. This is my introduction to NOLA’s food culture – something I will soon learn holds nothing back.
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I am often not easily impressed by food when I eat out – I feel you often pay for the service more than the taste. But hell, these are scrumptious!

The main course is this ridiculous eggs-benedict spin-off consisting of two identical mounds: a half of biscuit sitting underneath a fried tomato and a generous helping of alligator sausage, topped with a poached egg. The whole shebang is doused in a cajun-spiced hollandaise sauce. A small bowl of grits comes on the size, a heap of butter quickly melting on top. I can feel my arteries tingling just thinking about all this. But damn, it is so good.
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Talk about rich food – everything here is a richer, crazier version of the typical eggs-benedict. Replace the mild english muffin with a hearty biscuit, switch out the Canadian bacon for lavish alligator sausage, add chocolate milk and grits to replace the tea, and throw in two random orange slices. At least I can think about fruit for a second.

No matter how hungry you are, there is only one reasonable response to a brunch of this magnitude: nap. Plus, it helps me through the worst of the hangover. Against my typical rational I call an Uber and ride to the Freret neighborhood. I could ride but it is a long, bumpy ride and this is all about relaxation.
Fourth Celebration: massage. I called ahead a few days ago and booked a massage for this afternoon. I enjoy an hour of relaxation and feel the tension building up over the last two weeks begin to fade. The woman was small but seriously strong: I can feel that I will be sore after this, but the big knots between my shoulders and in my lower back are gone. I stroll around town, just letting myself breathe and take in my surroundings. Eventually I make it downtown and hop on one of the iconic streetcar lines to take me home. Not to ruin the mood, but these things suck. We went about 2.5 miles in a little under 30 minutes, or about 5 mph. I could have walked almost that fast! But I make it back, just in time to join Hyo and her roommate for dinner!
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One of New Orleans’ iconic streetcars.

Fifth celebration: gumbo. While technically not in New Orleans, Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop is a short drive from where I am staying and offers some excellent, affordable gumbo. Gumbo is a lot like grilled cheese: there is really no right” way to make it, with infinite variations depending on what you have and what you’re craving. Plus it is absolutely comfort food, albeit with a rich cultural heritage spanning several continents. Afterwards we drive to city park for some traditional style beignets and enjoy the Christmas village lights outside of some kind of Christmas carnival. What a successful rest day!
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