Caching Not So Easy in the Big Easy

Just returned from an epic New Orleans wedding.  Usually I’m not big into weddings, but this one was particularly cool, with the major events held in grand, old decaying buildings in a grand, old decaying neighborhood (Marigny), in America’s best city to visit.  The hosts spared no expense in making the event true to the place:  a second-line parade from wedding to reception and trumpeter Shamarr Allen and his band as the evening’s entertainment.

We stayed in a VRBO rental – a loft in a converted garage across the street from the church where the wedding was held.  A fascinating neighborhood, with old architecture, neighborhood bars and restaurants, and numerous music venues along Frenchman Street.  I’d go back in a minute.

But, how was the geocaching?  I was able to check off another state on my map (my 18th).  I enjoyed the searches but came up empty more than once.  Like many urban settings, you’re looking for micros, with a scattering a small caches.  I was not able to make a find until my second-to-last day there.  Its’ easier to get around New Orleans by bike, so I highly recommend renting a bike to look for caches.

The cache hunt took me to one historic site – a plaque outside of a train station commemorating the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.  I vaguely remember the name from high school civics class.  It was a challenge to a local ordinance requiring blacks and “octaroons” to ride in separate rail cars.  Plessy (the plaintiff) had the support of a local mixed-race citizens’ committee and tried to board the train at the Press Street station, but was arrested.  The challenge failed, but this story ends with an interesting postscript.  The descendants of Plessy AND Ferguson have joined forces to start a foundation to promote the teaching of the history of civil rights in schools.

Biking around the Bywater neighborhood, I found myself looking for caches placed by KBravo, a local geocacher.  One took me to a vacant lot, neglected by the city that the neighbors have reclaimed and turned into a green space filled with native landscaping, local art, and a fire pit. We were consumed by the search (I really needed to find a cache large enough for a travel bug) for five or so minutes.  After making my first Louisiana find, I was able to sit back and take note of the scene – a fire in the fire pit, a couple volunteers raking leaves and talking quietly amongst themselves.  At the far end of the lot, a trumpeter played a slow, mournful solo.    Beautiful.

Steamboat House in the Rain

Steamboat House in the Rain

On the final day, a Sunday, I figured we had an hour or two for geocaching before having to head to the airport.  I had a route planned, pass by 3 or 4 points of interest, ending in the 9th Ward.  But the weather was typical New Orleans when we woke up on that last day – driving rain.  Still, we headed across the Industrial Canal to a cache called “Steamship Houses.”  Saw these beautiful old octagonal houses, designed by an old riverboat captain to look like the bridge of a steamship.  Fortunately it was a quick find in the steady rain and the two ladies doing yoga on the porch didn’t even notice me on the street nearby.

Overall, two finds in four tries may not sound impressive.   But I enjoy using the geocaches as a way of touring the city, getting off the beaten path and seeing the town through the eyes of the locals.  New Orleans:  the food, the music the spirit, and its’ still nine feet above sea level (in places).