Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Orleans, Part 1

We got an early start on Saturday, Oct. 6th. I was roped into being one of the drivers after our fearless leader's mother died and he had to bow out. We had two vans: a big freaking hit-every-bump-destroy-your-kidneys 15-passenger van, and a smooth-riding Chrysler Town and Country. I was one of the drivers for the Chrysler, which quickly made its way into contention for when the Coffeefamily has to trade in one of their fun cars for a family car.

I was the second in a line of three vans. Another group brought their own van along, so I tried my best to maintain caravan etiquette. Not everyone liked my "white on rice" style of sticking with the lead van. In my defense, my driving when paired up with a certain driver for the other van cut our travel time down. I'd bet on it.

I would say that the drive down was uneventful, but I'd be skipping over a good story. On the first day, we stopped for lunch at a service station housing a McDonald's and a Subway. I opted for Subway, and for the first time ever encountered the option of a spicy pepper cheese for one of my choices. I sat down with a family unit, the husband of which pastors a church down south in our Association, and enjoyed getting to know them better. I also became thankful when they told me about the lack of civilization down in their area, because I'd considered this church back when I was in Search and Call.

Anyway, all of this is to say that this family had opted for McDonald's. The wife (also a pastor, UCC but serving a couple tiny Presbyterian churches) had a conversation at the counter that went something like this:

"I'd like a fruit parfait please."
"Okay, here you go."
"Wait...this says it expires today. I'd like another one, please."
"Oh, it should be fine."
"I'll go ahead and eat it, then."

So about half an hour to an hour later our caravan had to frantically find someplace to stop before she exploded in the car.

We ended up stopping at a winery. She ran on in, and a few of us meandered around looking at the selection of wines. I took notice of one option called "Trappist Red," which in central Kentucky made sense...a reference to the monastic order that Thomas Merton was a part of. So on principle I picked up a bottle, and a few others made purchases as well. It would be mean to call our vanmate's intestinal issues providence, but our group did end up using it for communion later.

The church where we stayed over the duration of our trip was in a nicer neighborhood. I was struck by how close the houses were to each other; how close to the road they were as well. There were some truly magnificent homes in this area. We basically had full run of the church...save for one evening when a group came in to make dinner for us, we didn't see much of the congregation. The arrangements were bunkbed frames with air mattresses, so every movement added quite a lot to the night's noises, along with the pair of chainsaws sleeping across from me. If I hadn't borrowed earplugs from somebody, the week would have been a lot more unpleasant.

But the week was very pleasant. I haven't even written about the work we did yet. But I don't have time to do that right now.