Sending Our Love Down to Baton Rouge
Hi friends! So much excitement since I last wrote and I’m glad to report that the last few days of this trip have been completely incredible. We’re wrapping up today with our last destination, which is always sad, but I’m gonna put off those feelings for a bit while I reflect on all the fun stuff we’ve been doing.
When we left Las Vegas, we did a quick stop at the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign — I’ve been to vegas countless times but never stopped to see it. It was totally packed with tourists, showgirls, Elvises, and everything vegas offers. We grabbed a quick picture and left for New Mexico.
After enduring a long drive on a two-lane road trying to avoid getting obliterated by a definitely sleep-deprived trucker, we arrived in Albuquerque late at night. We had a full day planned starting bright and early the next day so we grabbed some shuteye to prep for the next adventure!
We woke up a little before 6 to get ready for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I found out about the Fiesta last year when we were planning our stop through Santa Fe, but I think we were a week or two too early to catch it, so it was really exciting to see that it would coincide with our trip this time around. We wanted to get to the balloon field by sunrise, as the day started with a “morning glow,” where all the balloons stay on the ground but light up during the sunrise. Sounded amazing, but when we got to the area we wound up waiting in traffic to get in for about a half hour, and by the time we got into the actual park the sun was up.
We grabbed some mini donuts and parked ourselves in a spot on the field while we waited for mass ascension, when all the balloons take to the sky at once to begin flight for the day. Unfortunately, the winds weren’t on our schedule. It was definitely a cool morning in ABQ and there was a light breeze, but it wasn’t crazy windy or anything that made the wait uncomfortable. I guess hot air balloons are a little more finicky about what kind of wind they can endure though, so we wound up having to wait around another hour before we got the green flag and could begin mass ascension.
Once it began though, the views got crazy. The field is split into a grid and spectators and balloon pilots (is that what they’re called?) alike were all mingled together as balloons took flight from left to right across the grid. Everywhere you looked there were people setting up balloons, frequently right in front of your face. It was such a special experience being able to be so up close with all of the balloons! By the time flight began, the sun was harsh overhead and not the soft dawn light that I think would’ve been so beautiful, but even so, the visual experience of seeing all these balloons in the sky was so amazing. The delay put us behind schedule but we couldn’t bear to leave until all the balloons had taken flight.
After the fiesta, we drove up to Santa Fe. We loved Santa Fe last year and were really excited to catch some of the things we missed last year, like Meow Wolf. Unfortunately, we pulled into the Meow Wolf parking lot about a half hour after it opened and were greeted by a line out the door and nearly around the block. We were devastated; with our time constraints and the crowds in there unfortunately it looked like we just weren’t going to make it yet again.
We hopped back in the car and headed over to the Pantry, a local spot our friend Duggan recommended to us. We had absolutely delicious breakfast burritos then headed back to Albuquerque, where we grabbed the dog and got back on the road again.
Our next destination was White Sands National Monument, sand dunes just north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. As the name suggests, the dunes were pure white and absolutely stunning. The sand was cool and we had almost no wind — very different from our last sand dunes experience in Colorado. Kids were sledding down the dunes everywhere you looked. We got there just as the sun was beginning to go down and the evening light turned the sands blue-purple in the shadows. It was incredible. We watched the sun set over the dunes and drove out to Roswell for the evening.
The next morning we dipped into Texas, planning on visiting my mom for a quick drink in San Antonio then heading to Austin to check out the city and spend the night. We got to San Antonio around 7 or so, cutting back into central time, and wound up having a few more beers and snacks than anticipated. The Eagles were winning and it was nice to catch up with my mom, but by the time we left for Austin we knew it would be nearly too late to see anything we wanted. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb we wanted to move into, but other than that we are adding Austin onto our list of cities we’ll need to go back and check out again.
From Austin we headed east through Houston on the way to New Orleans! Traffic definitely picked up here as the roads got smaller, the speed limits got lower and the entire infrastructure of the state of Louisiana appeared to hang by a thread. We definitely weren’t out west anymore.
We arrived in New Orleans and met up with Dyl’s roommate’s brother, who kindly offered to host us for the weekend in his gorgeous home. We caught up a little then headed out to Bourbon street — I’ve never been to New Orleans so we gotta go full tourist.
Bourbon Street was wild and filled to the brim with tiger bait — looks like Georgia fans had the exact same idea as us and decided to party in New Orleans the night before the big game in Baton Rouge. We enjoyed some boozy slushies (no hand grenades unfortunately), got harassed by countless shot girls, and saw plenty of stuck up Georgia fan frat boys taking time off from Trump’s re-election campaign to be appalled by the down and dirty bourbon street antics we saw all over the place.
We left bourbon street and walked in the direction of Cafe du Monde, because again #tourists. We got a little distracted by the casino though and dipped in to make a quick mint at blackjack and share a table with even more ridiculous Georgia fans. This guy next to us was completely donezo, absolutely shmammered, cashed like $800 at the table demanding it all in $25s, spread it out in front of him, ordered two tequila shots for himself, and proceeded to walk away for an hour and a half, chips still on the table, without even playing a hand. He was a total shitshow and completely hilarious. Once he surfaced again he traded another THOUSAND in 25s and played a few hands, betting low and losing many of them. He was an absolute treat.
Dyl left up and we walked over to Cafe du Monde for some late night beignets. Sad to report they are high key overrated, or at least the ones they serve at midnight were not anywhere near as fresh and delicious as you’d want. We called it a night after that and turned in for the early morning start tomorrow at LSU.
We got to LSU early, ready for the tailgate before the 2:30 start. Admittedly I only really saw one area of Baton Rouge, but it was honestly like night and day from the outside of the campus once you cross into LSU territory. It was honestly a little sad — you’d think such a big program would be able to pour more money into the surrounding communities, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. The area was certainly a little rough around the edges. Either way, once we crossed into campus, it was beautiful. My school didn’t have a campus really so I’m always fascinated when I see schools like this in these closed off little areas. The campus was gorgeous, green and open and lots of the architecture was a mix of old southern and almost southwestern-style buildings. It was very pretty.
We stopped into the team store and geared up, ready to go all in. I’m completely obsessed with the whole “tiger bait” thing — easily one of the all time chants to an opposing team — so I had to grab a shirt with that on it. As much as I love buying in on college football teams I have no association with, I hate the color purple so couldn’t bear to head in that direction, buying all gold stuff. Worked out as they wound up going gold helmets and gold pants on the field, and also I was the only one who thought about this as all.
We stopped in at Mike’s habitat before heading to our tailgate. I literally cannot believe there is a live tiger living on this campus. He is EXTREMELY CUTE and I love him the most. I am all in on being a tiger.
After some searching around campus, we arrived at a tailgate hosted by the people who run the SB Nation LSU site And The Valley Shook. Lemme tell ya I have not been to a ton of tailgates but LSU is something special. I really wanted to immerse myself in this high key SEC culture and I got it. These tailgates were just tents in grassy areas in the middle of campus — no parking lot nonsense — complete with all the tailgate fixins. Bottles on bottles of champagne for mimosas, 6 huge coolers of beer, pounds of pulled pork and mac and cheese, TVs and plenty of seating. And while their tailgate was fantastic, it was nowhere near the most through the roof one we saw. I could absolutely get behind this lifestyle. I loved it.
After tailgating for a while it was finally game time. Like I’ve said, I have no real ties to college football. I support Virginia Tech for the sake of my relationship but overall I’m just here for a good time and I’m generally fine rooting for any non-problematic college football program. After spending the day at LSU i’m super comfortable saying I am HERE. FOR. IT. I’m movin to the bayou y’all I am a TIGER NOW. This game had so much potential, and so much potential to be a nightmare. We’ve been watching LSU all season just getting ready for what we were in for, watching them climb and fall in the rankings and anticipating the atmosphere of the matchup. Taking on the second ranked Georgia Bulldogs, we were rooting for the upset of the century. It did not disappoint.
We were deep in Bulldog territory but our seats were great (big ups to Dyl for committing to the hustle and securing the good location), had a wonderful vantage point and a few good LSU fans nearby. The game was slow and exciting at the beginning as LSU slowly crept ahead and held off the dawgs at nearly every turn, but it wasn’t until the second half that it really got off the walls. A few turnovers and an invigorated Tigers offense basically secured a blowout win that culminated in the student section rushing the field as the final seconds ticked down. How could we resist? We ran from our seats and hopped the fence onto the field to join the crowd. It was an absolutely surreal experience. I’m moving to Baton Rouge.
Like I said at the beginning, we’re en route to our final city. It’s always bittersweet knowing the trip is coming to an end, but we’re excited to make the most of our last day on the road!