Good times in New Orleans

Some of you might know the old Duke Ellington tune “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Little did I think that the title applied to me.

I mean, I get out. I go to McPherson for errands, I’m in Hillsboro several times a week, and sometimes we even get to Wichita for special occasions. I’m no stranger to larger metropolitan environments, or at least I didn’t think I was.

It was odd then, how I resisted when my hubby invited me to come along to a business conference. Usually I stay home and keep tabs on the kids and critters. Someone has to, after all.

But this conference was in New Orleans. I’d been there before, in my younger, wilder days. Part of me wondered how much fun could possibly be had there if one remained sober.

I hesitated, weighing the possible attraction against asking my intrepid mother if she could handle both kids plus all of the chickens while we were gone. Then hubby sweetened the pot. He mentioned that we could rent a car, take a few days, and have a second honeymoon of sorts in Hot Springs, Ark., before the conference began in New Orleans.

Still, I wavered. Extra days away? What if the horses got out? What if a possum ate the chickens? What (God forbid!) if a snake made its presence known to my mother inside the house? Gasp! I’m still not sure what made me say yes, but eventually I agreed to a road trip with my darling husband.

The trip started uneventfully enough. We picked up the rental car and set out, both of us with a slight feeling of disbelief. We were really doing this. The day wore on, and we started to relax. We put an audiobook into the CD player and enjoyed the quiet.

Darkness fell gently as we wound our way through the back roads of Arkansas, which Google Maps assured us was the fastest route. That was all fine and good, until we realized that said fastest route did not include the highest concentration of gas stations or restaurants. I won’t say we panicked, but I do believe that both of us exponentially sharpened our eyesight that night.

We finally got to our first hotel and settled in for an uneventful night. The next two days demonstrated that what I had thought were perfectly comfortable shoes in fact were not. That wasn’t a problem, or so I thought. I had brought other comfortable shoes, and besides, we had a rental car. I wouldn’t have to walk.

When we got to New Orleans, the hotel service was impeccable, even the valet parking. Several things soon made themselves known to me. Possession of a car means nothing if you cannot park in reasonable proximity to your intended destination.

For those who have never been there, parking in the French Quarter is notoriously hard to find. Addition­ally, since your destination can include every other shop for the length of the street, moving your car is more of a hassle than just hoofing it. So, I chose another pair of shoes—so as not to aggravate the first blister. I found myself covering far more territory than I had intended, even before the debacle of the bus.

You see, I had located a knitting group I wanted to visit, but it was out of walking range. Not wanting to brave the traffic, I thought taking the bus would be the ideal solution. I checked times and stops, and hashed out a plan. I then promptly headed down Canal Street in the opposite direction from the bus stop. When I realized my mistake, I beat back the right direction and made it to the bus stop with moments to spare.

I boarded the bus with a feeling of accomplishment. That is, until I realized the bus had reached the end of the line some time later, and I had missed my stop. This hick from the sticks had forgotten you’re supposed to pull the cord so the driver can stop where you need to.

Fortunately, the bus driver and his superiors were incredibly understanding and dropped me and the other remaining passenger off at our desired stops.

When the problem of returning to a bus stop reared its head at the end of my knitting group time, a lovely local lady offered to take me back to my hotel as long as I solemnly promised not to “make her disappear.”

The rest of the week passed in a blisterfully happy haze of solo shopping—and three more blisters plus two additional pairs of shoes—and relaxation, with romantic dinners and nightly calls home to round out the days.

I was almost sorry to leave. For a big, bustling city with such a bad reputation, I managed to find some wonderful people and have a terrific time, and do it sober.

As we pulled into the driveway at home, we knew we were back where we belong. So I may not “get around much anymore” but that’s OK. Home is pretty sweet, indeed.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at