As I head north out of Florida via the I-95 highway, I find myself reflecting on the last week or so that I have spent on the second leg of my Major League Road Trip. In the first part of this leg, I travelled through the Southwestern portion of the U.S. (Arizona, New Mexico and Texas). Despite getting off to a rocky start, I really enjoyed myself in the Southern states.

However, my first mistake was leaving Houston right after the Astros game instead of hanging out and enjoying the city for the rest of the night. I have a feeling I missed out on a very cool scene and set myself up for the first miserable night of the trip.

It all started with a re-arrangement to the MLRT schedule. I realized that by cutting short my time in Houston and New Orleans I could hit the Braves game in Atlanta on the 4th instead of the 14th. Not only would this put me ahead of schedule, but allow me to catch a Nat’s/Padres game in DC with my buddy Jason. So in my in sage and unplanned way of doing things I struck out from Houston towards New Orleans via the I-10 freeway east. I enjoyed the views of the gulf from the highway and lamented that I should have stayed and gone to Galveston, but pressed on nevertheless.

Being that the Houston Astros game let out sometime after 10, and I drove around the city for an hour or so before actually hitting the road, the 5 hour drive to New Orleans was destined to be interrupted by the need for sleep. I pulled the van over on a dark, rural road that cut its way through one the many fields of endless grassland in southern Texas. With the ambient night temperature somewhere in the 70s, I rolled down the windows and bedded down for the night. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes discovered me rather quickly and I spent the next few hours either being eaten alive by those tiny vampires or attempting to roll up the windows and sleep with in the stifling stale hot air inside the van. Finally, I gave up trying to sleep there and found a little respite in the parking lot of a car wash in some nameless little town down the road.

The next day I made a beeline for the Louisiana border and the promised land of New Orleans. Having only 24 hours to enjoy the city and sights, I checked myself into a local hostel called India House, took a much needed shower and embarked out to find Bourbon Street and whatever else this fabled city had to offer. The French Quarter is easy to find via the trolleys and contained all the food, drink, music and vice I was looking for. Needless to say, I loved it there. In the morning, spring showers lasting just a few minutes each drenched the city regularly and I embraced the rain. Perhaps it was nature’s way of washing away the hangover from the night before. I noticed things certainly smelled better after the rain.

All good things must come to an end and I had a schedule to keep. More than 450 miles stood between New Orleans and Atlanta and I had that evening and the next morning to get to a 1pm day game. The rain showers from New Orleans turned into a storm once I crossed into Mississippi. As I approached Biloxi, the sides of the highway were littered with spun out vehicles and it reminded me of rush hour in Seattle when it snows. The I-10 passed through Biloxi and the storm gave way to the great state of Alabama where I turned north and headed up through Montgomery. I finally called it a night in a darkened pull-off near the Tuskegee airfield. Nearby, is the Tuskegee VA medical center, where (I believe) some disreputable medical experiments involving Syphilis were conducted back in the 1950s. I found this area to be an unsettling place to sleep and left early in the morning.

5/3/2012 - Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves

My arrival in Atlanta, Georgia would have been quite timely had I accounted for the 1 hour time difference between Alabama and Georgia. As it was, I arrived for the Braves game in the 4th inning. Turner field is an older stadium and has a labrynthian quality to its concourse and park. The field itself is grass and has a convenient viewing area above the home team bull pen where the fans can watch the relief pitchers warm up. Unfortunately for the Braves, they got shut out at home by the Phillies. However, I got a great inside scoop on the game winning grand slam by Chipper Jones the night before.

Apparently, the ball came crashing down in the dinning area of the Turner Field restaurant and was scooped up by a fan, his wife and their baby in a stroller. As they posed for pictures with the ball, some of the other fans realized who had gotten the ball (keep in mind this is a game-winning grand slam ball from a probable hall-of-famer who has 450+ home runs). The unruly, drunk and jealous fans chased this poor guy (at a dead sprint) through the stadium concourse and out almost to the main gate before security caught up with them and surrounded the guy being chased. Then the inevitable happened; the radios crackled… “Kkkkkzzzkk… Chipper wants the ball.”

As I always say, “you can’t be chased if you stand your ground.” Actually, I never say that but I think I am going to start. I hope that fan takes Chipper to the cleaners for that silly ball.

The rest of my time spent in Atlanta was uneventful, but I found it and the rest of Georgia to be a friendly place that I look forward to visiting again. The hostel I stayed at was a strange place, but not so strange as the hostel in Kuau’i where I was the only guest. I’ll chalk up the lack of a shower curtain and the extended siesta hours as a lack of exposure to how other hostels operate. It was the only hostel in the city from what I could tell. I spent the evening chatting with a double PhD candidate in the field of nanotechnology who was from Pakistan and attended the Georgetown sister campus in France and was in town for commencement. Finally someone I could relate to!

When the morning rolled around, I spent my final hours in Atlanta getting a leaky tire fixed and doing mundane errands. Today was Cinco de Mayo and I had a game to catch in Tampa Bay. The tire took forever and I ended up having to purchase a new radial, receive a lecture/sales pitch on vehicle alignment and tire rotation but I finally hit the road and pointed the nose of the van to the southern state of Florida.