Strip Down to Texas Tour - Day 2: Four States, One Van, Deep South

Phase 1

Today the SUNSPOT rockmobile is traversing four states en route from Nashville to New Orleans LA (NOLA) – Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana – where Mike and Wendy are going to live stream a haunted pub crawl as a supplement to the weekly paranormal podcast they host, called See You on the Otherside. I’d link you to the podcast site, but I think I’ll let you seek it out on your own; it’s pretty easy to Google. Plus I’m lazy and rushed to get today’s travelogue drafted before we arrive in “Nawlins” and the non-stop party action begins.

You see, I got a late start on today’s entry because I volunteered for the first shift driving the van when we left Nashville at 10 AM and I was still relatively alert and awake from copious quantities of morning coffee and a concoction of Asian herbal stimulants. Then I took a feeble stab at an afternoon power nap when I was relieved of driving duty around 2 PM. Due to the late hour of our performances last night at the Douglas Corner CafĂ© songwriter’s circle and subsequent decompression from that awesomeness with snacks and boxed wine at the Comfort Inn (Franklin TN) afterwards, I got a very short amount of very shitty sleep. My brain was overstimulated and wouldn’t stop effing thinking. Though my phone alarm was set for 9 AM to allow ample time to prep and grub some free hotel breakfast, I of course woke up at 8:30 in the king bed I was sharing with fellow SUNSPOT roadie. Knowing I wouldn’t fall back to sleep before the alarm went off, I made use of the time to do my morning meditation for 20 minutes or so. I think it helped a little to calm my mind, but the caffeine and herbal supplements I sucked down after I got up kept me conscious and ambulatory. I felt pretty great actually as I helmed the van for the first leg of the day’s journey, which took us through the remainder of Tennessee and most of Alabama.

Somewhere west of Birmingham, Wendy relieved me of driving duties when we stopped for gas, snacks, and bio breaks (as we are calling pee stops). I settled into the back seat with a neck pillow and tried but failed to power nap, though I may have dozed slightly. When I realized the futility of achieving true slumber, I decided to turn the time into an extended meditation. It was the best I could do.

But now I am awake and pounding out Phase 1 of today’s post as furiously as I can before we arrive in NOLA in less than one hour to begin Phase 2. That’s when the fun action starts, if all goes to plan. Mike and Wendy want to get to NOLA by about 6 PM and start the haunted pub crawl live stream about 7 PM in Jackson Square in the mysterious (to me…a NOLA virgin) French Quarter. That pretty much meant putting the pedal to the metal and stopping minimally on the four state power road trip. As one Tenacious D likes to point out, “The road is @#$%ing hard.” But actually, it’s not so much hard as it is long. At risk of jinxing the shite out of this thus far successful SUNSPOT tour to the South by Southwest (SXSW) music fest in Austin TX, I’ll say that the van has been a reliable and cooperative workhorse so far. It still needs a name. I would favor something out of Norse or Greco-Roman mythology, but we’ll see how the van weathers the remaining days of the tour and determine if it is worthy of such an exalted moniker (Please, van, be worthy!!!).

Anyway, we are only about a half an hour from NOLA now, so I will sign off and report back on Phase 2 shenanigans as opportunity permits.

Phase 2

We rolled into NOLA right about 6 PM as planned and parked the van in a public lot by the river before making our way to Jackson Square, where Mike and Wendy kicked off their haunted pub crawl musical livestream. I manned the Twitter livestream using Mike’s iPad, which involved me walking around with it as we went from place to place to film Mike and Wendy give short spiels on the haunted history of the location in question and perform a relevant SUNSPOT song (Mike on acoustic guitar and Wendy on violin, both on vocals). It was a little cumbersome but fun, as long as I didn't trip on the uneven pavement and faceplant (I didn't). Stuart taped on his own gear for a Facebook livestream as well. I won’t reiterate details of the livestream here, because you can go view the archived video if you want via SUNSPOT’s social media outlets. Suffice to say, we traversed several blocks around Bourbon Street in pursuit of haunted sites to capture historical and musical footage.

Stuart had a friend in NOLA named Tomahawk (Tommy for short) who had invited us to a pub called One Eyed Jacks for a burlesque show, and we were intrigued enough to immediately accept. After finishing the livestream, we scored a mediocre but satisfying dinner of pizza slices from a storefront vendor. One Eyed Jacks was a cozy little pub and the burlesque show, called Vixens and Vinyl, was a pretty straightforward affair involving erotic dancers stripping down to their pasties while dancing to vintage music spun on old school vinyl records by a DJ. It was an entertaining beginning to the loooooong end of the night...

Phase 3

At the conclusion of the burlesque show, Tommy was supposed to take us to another pub called Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop a few blocks away for a little more haunted trivia about the Pirate Jean Lafitte, who reportedly founded NOLA. However, this plan rapidly devolved into more of an impromptu art walk, as Tommy, bless her heart, paused at nearly every art gallery storefront to tell us her thoughts on the art within. There was some decent stuff, like a sculpture of a giant Andy Warhol head and a mosaic of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator composed only of computer keyboard keys. Conversely, there are a shite tonne of art shops in NOLA and after a time, Wendy and I came to the same realization, to wit that we might be musing over art with Tommy well into the afternoon of the next day if we didn’t get the group back on track toward concluding the action packed evening. So Wendy and I opted to diverge from the larger group and bee-line it to Lafitte’s in hopes that might compel the rest of the group to follow suit. The temperature in NOLA had dropped into the 40s at night and notwithstanding getting our pulses up dancing to vinyl records at One Eyed Jacks, the seemingly eternal nocturnal wanderings thereafter had substantially lowered our core temperatures.

Lafitte’s was thankfully still open when we got there and had a fire going that we warmed ourselves by after Wendy scored a round of drinks in anticipation of the rest of the group’s impending arrival, which never did happen. Things became somewhat disorganized thereafter, as they often do when a group of partying people tries to regroup in a fun, strange, and confusing city. But regroup we did, at the Golden Lantern pub far off the main drag, after some trials and tribulations that included a thrilling walk through NOLA’s seedy “mug zone,” as a local who guided us through said zone called it, carrying ALL the drinks Wendy had bought at Lafitte's, so as not to waste booze (open alcoholic beverage containers on the street are totes legal in NOLA), and her violin (not a mugger magnet at all!).

Arriving at the Golden Lantern (aka, the Golden Latrine, as Mike called it) safely and without incident, a super friendly bartender named Jackie chatted with us and made us feel welcome. She even had a cool story about a haunted NOLA mansion that was featured in a season of the TV show "American Horror Story." Eventually Wendy called an Uber and we all piled into it to go back to where the van was parked. As it was after 4 AM, I cannot deny I was a little surprised to find the van was still there and intact, but there and intact it was. Not only that, but the parking was free (rather than $40) because the parking attendant wasn’t on duty at that wee hour of the morning and the exit boom arm was up. As designated driver, I stealthily crept the van out of the parking lot and drove us about six miles to a Knights Inn motel that Mike had booked rooms for us at online earlier in the evening. Our late arrival to the motel threw the front desk manager for a loop because he thought we were actually checking in early for Thursday night rather than ridiculously late for Wednesday night, but we got it sorted out. Most of the group was partied out by then, but Wendy awed me by extending the party a little farther than its tolerance specifications, swinging through the motel’s morning continental breakfast (already open to guests when we arrived), for some last ditch carb loading. I headed straight to the room I was sharing with Stuart, dosed up on sleep aids, and immediately succumbed to a power slumber of unbridled proportions - deep and fulfilling, albeit too short.

I’m finishing writing this from the van as we start Day 3 of the Strip Down to Texas Tour a little after noon on Thursday 3/16. We don’t have anywhere to be today except just get to Austin TX some time late this evening and find something fun to go do. It’s about an eight hour drive. So I’ll conclude here. Tune in for the next installment tomorrow.

Here's a video of a "fire fountain" at Paddy O'Brien's pub in NOLA.

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