New Orleans-Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

The following entry is our last post about a race that we ran prior to starting this blog. Although it is ridiculously belated, our trip to New Orleans was one of our absolute favorites on this quest so I am sharing our adventures to perhaps inspire others to add it to a travel checklist.

We figured that running in New Orleans would be fun.  And it was.  But experiencing NOLA, as we learned it was referred to, went beyond our expectations.  In keeping with our goal of escaping from Maine winters, Mike had proposed the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans in February 2014.  We dutifully put in our long miles despite desperately cold temps and snowy roads.  As we trudged along, visions of a warmer climate kept us going…literally.

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We arrived at Hotel Provincial on Rue Chartres and were delighted to find that the city was decorated for Mardi Gras although the height of the season was still a few weeks away.

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After a few minutes in the room, we hopped on the elevator to head out to the packet pick-up.  We were excitedly chatting when we realized the elevator wasn’t moving. Pushing buttons did nothing to change this.  We were stuck in the elevator.

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I snapped a photo while we waited in the elevator to capture this moment…and to help distract me from my impending claustrophobia.  I had the hotel number in my phone and amazingly there was service in the elevator

“Hello, I’m calling because my husband and I are stuck in the elevator and we wondered if you could help us out.” They said they would call the elevator repair people and offered to send someone over to us while we waited. Shortly, we heard the pleasant voice of the lovely employee dispatched to attend to us.  She kindly offered to sing to/with us but we opted for small talk. In a surprisingly reasonable amount of time, the elevator repair people arrived.

They worked for a while but we remained contained in our little space. Eventually, after some movement, the doors opened and we found ourselves at eye level with the floor. Although we could have hoisted ourselves up and out, they cranked some more and the next time the doors opened we walked right out – back at the floor where we had started. We took the stairs down a flight and saw the employees that had been sent to keep us company chatting outside the closed elevator doors. We introduced ourselves as the couple that had been stuck in the elevator, thanked them for their help, and left the building.

We boarded a trolley for the Convention Center where the packet pick-up was located.   Another couple about our age sat across from us and mentioned that they were running the race.  We told them we were running, too. They told us that the woman was trying to run a marathon in every state.  We told them that we were trying to run a race (albeit not a marathon) in every state, too. As we chatted, they told us their son was getting married on June 7th and we said our daughter was getting married on June 7th, too. At this point I began to worry they thought we were some sort of copy cat weirdos despite the fact it was all coincidentally true.

After picking up our packets we returned to the vicinity of our hotel to look for a place for dinner.  The Palm Court Jazz Cafe  looked intriguing and they had a table available so we went in.  We were exhausted, having begun our travels from Maine before the crack of dawn, and gratefully relaxed with a drink while a band assembled on the stage just feet from our table.  When we heard the first notes of jazz music I began to realize just how integral music is to New Orleans.  The music was absolutely phenomenal.  We truly couldn’t stop exclaiming over our good fortune to have happened into this spectacular restaurant with amazing food and unexpected and absolutely fabulous live jazz.

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We returned to our hotel, took the stairs to our room, and fell into a blissfully deep sleep.

The next day we walked the few blocks from our hotel to Jackson Square. Those blocks were lined with quintessential New Orleans architecture.

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Jackson Square was filled with artists, performers, and musicians.

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As we strolled along we encountered a young man sitting behind an old-style typewriter perched on a tiny table.  His sign said, “Pick a subject. Get a  poem.”  We, of course, told him about our quest.  He told us to come back in half an hour and he’d have a poem for us.

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This is one of our most unique and cherished travel mementos.

A number of canine friends caught our attention.

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This dog lay perfectly still and drew a great crowd and plenty of donations for his “proper burial”. When I bent over to add my dollar he turned his head and opened his eyes which elicited a laugh from the spectators.

Although we didn’t venture into the Lower Ninth Ward where Hurricane Katrina had wreaked the most devastation in New Orleans nine years earlier, the impact that catastrophe had on the city was still widely evident. Artisans in Jackson Square used materials salvaged from the wreckage to create works of art.  Bookstores sold reading material on the subject. The event was mentioned in conversations. Virtually every aspect of the city offered a reminder of what the residents had endured but also reflected their strength in rebounding from this tragedy.

On a much lighter note a bonus of our trip was an opportunity to visit with Victoria, a great friend of Matt and Amelia’s who would be a part of their upcoming wedding. Not only had she provided us with a fabulously detailed list of possible places to visit and things to do while in the city, she also arranged to take us out to dinner at a popular seafood restaurant, Superior Seafood.  Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening and Victoria’s gracious company and conversation.

It was still dark the next morning as we left our hotel to walk to the race. The streets were foggy as other runners silently joined the stream of people heading to the start until a veritable parade of runners poured into the staging area.  The race was organized by corrals and we walked several blocks and turned down another street before reaching our starting spot.

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The scenic course traveled through various New Orleans neighborhoods with musical entertainment including jazz, rock, Cajun, blues, country and high school bands lining the course.  We particularly appreciated the sense of divine support from the gospel singers clad in choir robes as we approached the finish line.

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We crossed the finish line in our traditional hand-in-hand fashion.

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Although there was some post-race entertainment, we were ready to hit the town to truly embrace NOLA after having refrained from all of the “fun” the city offers prior to the race.

We  celebrated with po’ boys and a Hurricane,

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a drink that the day before we had enviously watched people sip while strolling through the streets.

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Our spur of the moment decision to take a pedicab tour provided us with an unexpectedly rich insight into New Orleans.

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Our driver recommended Three Muses on Frenchmen Street for dinner.

027 (3)The restaurant was cozy and lively, offering a variety of music, delectable food, and opportunities to easily converse with fellow diners seated inches away. We loved it. On our walk back to our hotel we gathered with others to watch several boys tap dancing on the sidewalk. This was one of many impromptu performances we enjoyed during our stay.

We loved immersing ourselves in New Orleans.

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This description of a potential residence caught our attention.

The food,

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the architecture,

and the culture

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created an experience that made our run in Louisiana particularly fabulous.

As we reluctantly checked out of our hotel the next morning we were amused that the desk clerk encouraged us to write a review of our stay on an online site.  We thought that perhaps she was a tad optimistic given our elevator adventure. But actually that experience had just added a fun story to be woven into the myriad of others that are giving dimension to these quest journeys.

State: Louisiana

Quest Race #: 16

Date: February 2, 2014

The Bottom Line: The Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon was a flat, festive race but New Orleans itself was the true prize in this trip.