New Orleans – A Place To Ride
I started this as part of a recap for 2015, but as I started writing, I realized there was more to say about New Orleans.
During this past summer, we took our first family vacation in 5 years – a much needed break. This time, we went to New Orleans – close enough to drive, but far enough to feel like we went somewhere. We stayed in an Airbnb in the north side of town, outside of the touristy French Quarter. I discovered that the locals weren’t fans of out-of-town folks staying in their neighborhoods. I overheard one woman in a coffee shop say, “I don’t like them…They’re not invested in the neighborhood…They just park anywhere (parking was awful and extremely limited)…They’re just using it like a hotel room.” As a homeowner, I completely understand how they feel and would probably think the same way if there were some Airbnbs in my neighborhood. However, as a visitor, I highly recommend an Airbnb stay. It’s much better than a hotel room, where we felt like out-of-town guests, instead of tourists. Just try to be respectful and treat each neighborhood as if it were your own.
I brought my bike and I’ll discuss that in a bit. First, I want to give my overall view of New Orleans. Although I’ve been there a few times, it’s always been in the tourist areas, eating lots of touristy foods, drinking lots of touristy booze. Going as a family, we wanted to get a taste of how a local would experience the city – with a little bit of sightseeing in the mix. We drove a lot, and now I have a love/hate relationship with the Google GPS App. Since the streets are extremely confusing to a non-local, the GPS was helpful, until it took us 10 blocks out of our way to get to a place just down the street. Once we were more familiar with the area, we only used it for pre-trip mapping and going the last mile(s). It was funny listening to the voice prompt attempting to pronounce some of the French street names. Dupre was referred to as “Dupper.”
As expected, New Orleans is truly different than my north Texas suburb. If you’ve ever coveted the idea of living in a more dense city infrastructure, you should visit a city like New Orleans. At first, you’ll find yourself complaining about how crowded and overlapped the buildings are, as well as how narrow the streets get with limited parking. But when you settle in, you start to notice how well the people exist around each other, how well transportations syncs and how nearby destinations are actually more of a convenience—because they are actually nearby. I started to view the wide-open space of my suburban sprawled neighborhood as less of a luxury and more of a burden. There is something really nice about and old, dense neighborhood with local coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants within walking distance. It makes you hate those drive-thru Starbucks and mega-marts even more.
Riding a bike in the city of New Orleans is much different than in my city. My first impression of a cyclist in the Big Easy was more of a shock, than a familiar comfort. As we were driving back from dinner, our first night, I saw a cyclist queue-jumping and running red lights. It was late, she didn’t have any lights or helmet and she was weaving all over the road. We saw a few cyclist who rode like this, so I started to equate all New Orleans cyclists as scofflaws. As it turns out, everybody is like this in New Orleans—cyclist, drivers AND pedestrians. Transportation was an awkward, clumsy ballet of wrong, where everybody was making up their own rules—but somehow, it all synchronized well.
I was able to sneak in a few morning rides around town. I even managed to ride down to the French Quarter. I discovered, even riding my slowest, I was still one of the fastest cyclists around. Slow and easy was the pace in New Orleans, and I was ok with that. I was also one of the few wearing a helmet. For a while, I was worried that it would give me away as a tourist, but I think having air in my tires was already doing that (see pic above). In the end I realized that nobody cared about me, my full tires or my helmet head and I was able to enjoy some really nice rides around town. There were also some nice bike lanes, with more on the way, which made the slow pace easier around the not-so-slow traffic. Riding early in the morning helped as well. Overall, if I lived in that area and with parking as bad as it was, I would definitely ride my bike much more often.
We loved visiting New Orleans. It was good to get a new perspective of an old city. Although the city is known more for it’s tourist attractions, and less about it’s strong neighborhoods communities, I can see how folks are proud to call it home.