Read the previous blog post here.

Day 20: New Orleans, Louisiana

At last we get to head into New Orleans, apparently pronounced ‘new oar-lins’. Some people call it NOLA (as in New Orleans Louisiana) which seems simpler.

My first Viper spotted outside our hotel. Wonder if he would swap for the Challenger?
My first Viper spotted outside our hotel. Wonder if he would swap for the Challenger?

Our first attempt at finding parking does not go well. What? They want $15 for the first hour, then $10 per extra hour ON TOP? I don’t think so. We end up parking at the Westin Hotel Public Parking, which comes to US$25 for 4 hours. More than I wanted to pay, but at least better than the outside car park across the road.

Our Segway tour is booked in at 11am, and we get there just in time. Tim, our guide, takes us and 6 others around for a 2-hour tour of NOLA, in the French Quarter. Since we’ve already used Segways, no training required for us and we jump on them easily.

The tour is great and Tim is superb, but man it is muggy. We chew through the water quickly! A tour of Jackson square and its history gives us a place to go back to later in the day.

For lunch, we decided to hit Café Du Monde just off Jackson Square, which is like some sort of law when you are in NOLA – you have to go there. This means that every other tourist is also there, and just to place our order for coffee and beignets takes 20 minutes – but it’s worth it. Great coffee and the beignets (like square donuts with no hole, and loaded with icing sugar) are hot and delicious.

2016-drive-life-nz-USA-road-trip-week-3-4-update-8

That evening we did a ‘haunted’ tour of NOLA, along with every other tourist in town. Well it sure seemed like it anyway. Whenever we stopped at a house/building that the guide wanted to talk about, we had to wait for another group to move on. It was really busy, and this was a Wednesday. Still worth it though, although we did not see a single ghost or apparition. Our guide suggested we take as many photos as we could because there would be something to see in the photos later. Okay, right.

Perhaps that wording is required by law?
Perhaps that wording is required by law?

Day 21: New Orleans, Louisiana

Another day of sightseeing in NOLA. Today we used the Parking Hero app on my phone, and got parking for $12 for 12 hours – much better value.

We are booked in for a foodie tour this afternoon. The thing was it was so humid this morning, that by the time we walked from the car to the meeting point, we were hot, hungry and exhausted. It was only 32 degrees outside, but the humidity is incredible today. Even our foodie guide mentions this is a bad one.

Some beautiful tree-lined streets in suburban New Orleans
Some beautiful tree-lined streets in suburban New Orleans

Anyway we move around the French Quarter, going to 5 difference restaurants and sampling local food and drinks. The stories we were told by our guide were worth the money in any case – a great story teller and it just added to the experience.

That evening, we were going to do another night tour, but our legs and feet disagreed, so instead we got on a Streetcar for 90 minutes, just going to the end of the line and back again. On the way, while resting weary legs and feet, we see so many mansions we lose count. Too many of them we said, “Surely that can’t be a house?” as we felt they are big enough to be hotels. Eye opening to say the least.

Just one of many palatial homes seen from the streetcar
One of smaller palatial homes seen from the streetcar

Tomorrow our road trip continues, with a drive from New Orleans in Louisiana across to Mississippi and then finally to Alabama for the night. Only about 300 miles, so a pleasant day’s drive.

Day 22: New Orleans, Louisiana to Montgomery, Alabama

States covered so far: 8
States covered today: 3 Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama
Miles driving today: 358 (576 km)

A driving day today, but not as far as some of the previous ones – just a nice Auckland to Wellington distance.

We didn’t head straight to Montgomery today, as we wanted to divert off the interstate and go to Mobile. We’ve both always wanted to go there, guiltily for me because of the Cher song that mentions it. That place has always stuck in my head. Mobile (in case you didn’t know, is pronounced Mo-beal) is much bigger than I had imagined, and a whole lot more modern! Skyscrapers, industry…this is a big town.

Another coastal pic - in Biloxi, Mississippi
Another coastal pic – in Biloxi, Mississippi

Onwards we went, and stopped in Gautier for a haircut for me (too hot for too much hair!) and then on to a restaurant that Yelp found from the car, in Pascagoula for some lunch. The restaurant was called Scrantons, and Tracey had a Po-Boy sandwich while I had a pulled pork BBQ sandwich on sourdough. I mention what we had because it was excellent! They also served us home-made potato chips, which were the best either of us had ever had. Stock potato chips will never measure up to these – not even Pringles.

Parked next to another Challenger without the Super Track Pak - amazing the difference in body height
Parked next to another Challenger without the Super Track Pak – amazing the difference in body height

We filled up in Montgomery tonight and paid the highest price so far in 3 weeks of travel across the USA – $3.11 a gallon. That’s NZ$1.16 a litre! Really getting up there now, hopefully it starts to drop down again as we head north-east tomorrow. We’re going through a tank of gas a day so when you are talking about $1 a gallon price difference, we feel it.

Since we did mostly straight, simple driving today, some observations:

1: I’m still trying to get used to cars not having front number plates – most don’t. It’s not law in some states, and they look so much better for it.

2: I’m still getting used to seeing so many cars without rear number plates too. To get a title for a new car can take 6-8 weeks, so you just drive your car with no plates until they arrive in the mail. This means we’ve still got no plates – and the cops don’t care. It works great on the toll roads that use cameras, too. 🙂

3: The USA has great interstate signage; we see heaps of them that say, ‘keep right unless overtaking’. They seem to be every 5 miles on the interstate. Other sensible signs include, ‘lights on when raining’. If only we had such signs at home. Sure, in New Zealand there are the occasional ‘keep left unless overtaking’ signs, but they are few and far between. It’s great to see the Americans put more emphasis on better driving overall than just concentrating on speed, as our own Police force does.

4: I’m still getting used to drivers going so much faster than the limit. On the I65 today, the limit was 65, we were doing 70 (trying to keep it down, memories of my run in with the Police the other day) and we were getting passed by drivers I think were doing around 85.

5: Today on the I10 and then I65, the scenery barely changed all day. All. Day. Just the same – trees lining the sides of the interstate, mile after mile after 350 miles. Mind numbing – but I still love driving here.

6: I love that the interstates have minimum speeds as well as maximums. Often you will see a sign that says if you ain’t doing 40mph, get off the interstate! Well, it actually only says “minimum speed 40”, but still, you get the drift.

Our long driving days are now over – tomorrow we head to Grantville, Georgia, to look at some The Walking Dead locations, and then on to Senoia (still in Georgia) for the same. After that we head to Juliette (still GA) to go to the restaurant that was used in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes for some lunch/dinner. We’ve been there before but it was a bit rushed, so this time going to take our time and enjoy the atmosphere.

 

Day 23: Montgomery, Alabama to Forsyth, Georgia

States covered so far: 9
States covered today: 2 Alabama & Georgia
Miles driving today: 175

An easy driving day for a change! Since we are both die-hard The Walking Dead fans, it was a must that we visit a few of the towns that are shooting locations for the show while in Georgia.

First up just across the border from Alabama was Grantville, which was the location for a few scenes in the show, including Morgan’s hideaway. After a few pics and a walk around the town, it was back in the car for AC – another stinking hot and muggy day today.

The small, sleepy town of Grantville. Building closest is where Morgan's hideout was filmed
The small, sleepy town of Grantville. Building closest is where Morgan’s hideout was filmed

Next town and not far away was Haralson, which has the feed warehouse where Rick and the Governor did their deal.

Then it was on to the main event: the town of Senoia, which became a town called Woodbury in the show. It was and is used for other scenes in the show – including the town of Alexandria (which was supposed to be miles away!), even though they actors are supposed to be in a completely different place altogether. The magic of television.

Woodbury, aka Senoia
Woodbury, aka Senoia

I had commented to Tracey on the way to Senoia that maybe it will be quiet there. Well, it wasn’t. As soon as we rolled around a corner, there were people everywhere. Cars going all over the place, and just general chaos. We did manage to find a park on the main street, which seemed impossible to start with.

After doing an initial recce of the Walking Dead Store (it was packed!), we headed down to Nic and Norman’s Café, which is co-owned by one of the producers and one of the actors of the show. Well, every other tourist had the same idea; a four-hour wait for a table.

Forgetting that idea, we headed down the road to Senoia Coffee and Cake, and waited for our food. While we were there, who walked in but Andrew Lincoln, the main star of the show. Well, at least it sure looked like him. Everyone else was gawking at him, and then the asking for selfies started. It was low key though, and we got ours. But something told us it wasn’t really him, even though he looked EXACTLY like Andrew Lincoln. I asked one of the waitresses, who answered, “oh no, that’s Alan”. Apparently Alan runs Walking Dead walking tours of the town, but he looks like a twin to the actor. I’m still contemplating that it actually is Andrew Lincoln doing some work on the side outside of shooting, he was that close in looks.

Andrew Lincoln's long-lost twin?
Andrew Lincoln’s long-lost twin?

Anyway, time to head back to the gift store and let my wife go crazy (she did). We did a bit of a drive around the town, following the printed guide we bought for $10, taking more photos, as you do.

It was so hot and humid in Senoia, more than 15 minutes outside and these two kiwis were melting. After Senoia, we decided to head to Forsyth, a small town well south of Atlanta, for the night.

Tomorrow we head to Juliette, location for the shooting of the movie Fired Green Tomatoes, so want to be close to Juliette to save time.

Observation for today: the boot of the Challenger is now full. The back seat is also looking packed. Surely we can’t fit any more ‘stuff’ in!

 

Day 24: Forsyth, Georgia to Atlanta, Georgia

Today is going to be pretty easy – drive from Forsyth to Atlanta, only a 2-hour trip. Since we have enough time, we are going to head to Juliette, Georgia, which is the shooting location for the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes.

2016-drive-life-nz-USA-road-trip-week-3-4-update-14

The movie is now over 25-years old, and yet pulling into the small township – no parking. Cars everywhere. Not quite as bad as Senoia a few days ago, but the small street is packed.

Nothing like some fried green tomatoes!
Nothing like some fried green tomatoes!

We find our parking spot down the road, and again the heat and humidity give us a smack in the face when we get out of the car. It’s only 33 degrees, but boy can you feel the air.

We’ve been to the Whistle Stop Café (the one that was the main stay of the movie) before, but again we order Fried Green Tomatoes off the menu, as you must do. The place is packed – and no air con in here, they are old school, just using fans on the roof to try and cool the place down. We are sitting at the counter and can see into the kitchen – pity the staff working in there, they must be sweating like certain meat products they are cooking.

This Sheriff's car could do with more than a buff! Seen in Juliette
This Sheriff’s car could do with more than a buff! Seen in Juliette

After being fed and watered, we took a walk up the main street, Tracey stopping at every single shop to look/buy stuff. This heat is unbearable, and at one point I give up sitting outside and head in to the AC in one of the shops. The shop keeper tells me that he is struggling too – this is hot, even for him. Apparently this heat wave has lasted 5 weeks, and everyone has had enough. Not much you can do about it though.

American flag painted on a shed roof, anyone?
American flag painted on a shed roof, anyone?

Once we get to Atlanta, we had time to stop at a couple more shooting locations for The Walking Dead, including Rick’s house and Terminus. All very exciting to see in the flesh.

Tomorrow is another easy day, we have a Walking Dead tour at 9.30 for three hours, and then it’s an easy 4-hour drive to Charlotte, North Carolina for the night.

We are starting to feel the end of our 5-week holiday coming up too quickly!

 

Day 25: Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina

States covered so far: 11
States covered today: 3 – Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina
Miles driving today: 259 (416 kms)

This morning we did a Walking Dead (TWD) tour in Atlanta, mostly on a bus. It was a great tour though, and the guide had been in TWD more than a few times as a zombie – one of the key times was as a zombie that Rick and Darryl cut open and pulled his guts out. This made it even better, as he gave us much background info on filming, makeup, being an extra and so much more.

Terminus! If you don't watch The Walking Dead, it will mean nothing to you
Terminus! If you don’t watch The Walking Dead, it will mean nothing to you. BBQ anyone?

A highlight was visiting the ‘hospital’ which was used in episode one, a pivotal scene and also looking from the overbridge that overlooks the freeway that was used in episode one.

Some of the locations used in Atlanta for TWD are also used for other movies and TV series, and on the day we were there they were filming for The Fast and The Furious 8. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere near where they were filming, naturally.

After our tour we hit the road and crossed into South Carolina for lunch, then onto North Carolina for the night. Tomorrow should be another easy driving day, a five-hour cruise to Virginia for a night.

Day 26: Charlotte, North Carolina to Richmond, Virginia

States covered so far: 12
States covered today: 2 – North Carolina, Virginia
Miles driving today: 330 (531 kms)
Average fuel consumption today: US28.mpg, NZ33.6mpg, 8.4l/100km

Another easy driving day! We start off getting breakfast at an IHOP – which is short for International House of Pancakes – totally our sort of restaurant. We’ve eaten at IHOP before and loved it, and this one is on the same lot as the hotel, so it’s a no brainer.

We are aiming to get away relatively early, but again travelling takes its toll and we don’t get into the IHOP until 9am. Oh well, give us coffee and breakfast and we’ll be good to go.

We ordered and waited. And waited. Some more waiting. Second and third cups of coffee, still no food. The waitress comes over to apologise, and says it will be three minutes for our breakfast to arrive. The people behind us who came in 20 minutes (!) after us, get their food. We are still hungry. Finally, the food comes out – mine is almost cold, and now we are really late to get away, so it’s a wolf down a luke warm breakfast, and then hit the road. We get away from IHOP at 10.45 – an hour and three quarters after walking in the door!

Anyway, the road is easy although the speed limit is lower here, just 70mph, and this gives us a great result for fuel consumption for the day.

We did stop at a Love’s Truckstop at one point to get gas (less than US$40 to fill the Challenger from almost empty!), coffee and food on the run. We decide to be brave and for the first time, get a hot dog from the warmer. Picture this: six or seven different flavoured hot dogs, all on heated rollers. They look totally unappetising and almost dangerous to eat – but we get one each anyway. They are pretty bloody good, and at $3 for two, we aren’t complaining about the price.

We made great time today, until we hit the city of Richmond and then the traffic jam started. It was horrendous. Our SatNav girl suggested an alternative route and this got us moving at least.

We’re in Richmond for a night, tomorrow we get to Washington DC for two nights. It’s a short few hours’ drive, so I’ve booked the car in for an oil change in the morning. It’s now done 5,000 miles (8,000ks) so even though the manual suggests the first oil change at 10,000 miles, I’d rather be cautious and get it done at 5,000.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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