Three Stories And A Breakdown

Arkansas / March 11, 2012 / by Gelb
Three Stories And A Breakdown

The dog days of March are at it again, and we find ourselves once more broken down. An exhilarating week for all of us on the bus, but also a rough one.

We started the week in Houma, Louisiana interviewing Wayne Bunch about his project to raise money for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure. He, his dad, and his sister all need to raise money for the race, and their innovative idea involves planting pink flamingos in unsuspecting people's lawns then 'charging' $25 to remove them. Another $25 will allow you to 'flock' someone else, and you can pay $15 for insurance against being flocked. It is such a great story and an innovative and fun way to raise the money needed to participate in honor of Gina Bunch, Wayne's mother.

After meeting the Bunchs, we ate some Southern Louisiana seafood at Big Al's seafood, and then headed back to our Campground. The really nice folks at the Cyprus Lake RV Resort let us stay for free when they found out what we were doing. We couldn't have picked a better place to stay - Cyprus Lake was by far the nicest campground we had stayed in to date - beautiful trees, lovely people and (most importantly), amazing bathrooms and shower facilities. If you are ever in southern Louisiana, be sure to check them out.

On Tuesday, we made the drive into New Orleans. Amy managed to find a killer deal on a hotel for two nights and all that we had to do was to find parking for the bus. One would think that would be relatively straight forward, right? Not in New Orleans. Lots either didn't permit large vehicles, or wanted to charge $150 per night to hold them. Chris managed to find someone that he called who proposed that $450/night would be a good price - ridiculous! Finally, Amy Rose found that the Convention Center was fine with us parking for $20/day, and with that, only 2.5 hours after we arrived, had we safely parked Stanley.

After checking into our hotel, we started exploring. We went to Mothers for Po-Boys and gumbo - quite delicious - and then walked around the French Quarter. After relaxing a bit in the afternoon (and watching some of the Super Tuesday returns), we went out to explore the city at night. We stopped into the Royal Sonesta for a classy bit of Jazz, then continued walking around. We managed to find our way to a great sounding outdoor bar - really hopping music, and then witnessed the police come in and shut it down. We (and the band) were quite disappointed. It was late, and we all needed some food and refused to fork over $4 for a slice of pizza. We found the Clover Grill - a little diner on Bourbon Street with a hilarious waiter/owner. It was just the right kind of food and humor we needed to finish off a long day and our first in New Orleans.

Wednesday, we went to Our School at Blair Grocery in New Orleans' lower 9th Ward. We were there to do a story on the founder, Turner's project to create a working urban farm in the middle of the lower 9th. OSBC seeks to train locals and young people the importance of sustainable, local growing while also trying to arm the same people with the tools and knowledge to start to build a future for themselves. The whole experience - getting to hear Turner's story, and to witness the effect the hurricane had on this particular area was emotional for me, and I'm sure, the rest of the team. I really hope we are able to do justice to what they are doing down there. People need to know about  projects like Our School at Blair Grocery. This story is the one that has most affected me so far - I find it difficult to describe or explain the feelings associated. 

As we drove back to New Orleans, we all talked about what we thought of the story, and of the situation. It was certainly a very emotional experience for me as well as the others.

Amy Rose wasn't feeling too well, so decided to stay in bed, while the rest of us went out for another walk. We had a po-boy and then found ourselves back at the Sonesta. Along the way, Amy saw on the street The Hairy Bikers - a duo from Britain who have a television show about food. They were very nice and gave us some good tips about places to go to catch great music. We saw Irvin Mayfield play - his band was great - he was a little full of himself. All in all, a chill, nice evening.

On Thursday we began our drive up to Little Rock. After getting settled in for a long, seven-hour drive, things seemed to be going fine. Too fine. As we were driving, a smell of gasoline started to fill the bus. I thought we might be just passing through some smelly areas, but because the smell was so strong, we stopped to check it out. We stopped in Ponchatoula around 1pm. The smell was indeed coming from our bus, and we managed to track down the valve source. After waiting until 6pm for a tow truck to take the Bus up less than a mile to a bus repair facility, we set up shop in a local hotel. Our story scheduled for the next day wasn't going to happen, and though it could be something minor, the thing that was going through all our minds was that we've heard that before.

Morning came and more problems came with it. The fuel leak could be quite serious if the source is within the fuel pump, however the tow truck driver's aggressive handling of the bus led to the breaking of our gear shift rod. So now we have two problems and the first cannot be solved without fixing the second. The problems that continue to plague the bus worry me a great deal. We have planned for a few major breakdowns, however the degree to which we are having to deal with many mechanical problems so early on is worrying. Nothing we could do until after the weekend, so after getting a rental car, we continued our drive up to Little Rock for our story on Saturday.

On Saturday, we met Ron King in Little Rock to do a story on his very innovative Recycled Bikes for Kids project. It was such a fun morning, learning about the history of how he stared with only one bike, and now has so many he and his team of volunteers can barely keep up. It is clear that he operates with such devotion and love for both the purpose - to give away bikes to people who need them - as well as the repairing itself. After the story, Ron very kindly took us out to a fantastic lunch at Stickyz - a really cool music venue in Little Rock. The burgers were some of the best I've had, and it was great to get to hear more about the project and about the city.