If you remember from your early calculus classes, an inflection point is a point on a curve where the curvature changes sign. On an S-curve, the inflection point occurs at the transition point between the increasing-slope segment and the decreasing-slope segment. I like Wikipedia’s illustration of an inflection point- “If one imagines driving a vehicle along a winding road, inflection is the point at which the steering-wheel is momentarily “straight” when being turned from left to right or vice versa.”
Sometime today we hit the inflection point of our cross country drive. Up until today the slope of our S-curve has been positive, it seems like we were packing more and more into each day (and eating more and more calories). After today, it seems like there will be less and less to do (and less and less amazing things to eat). At this point, the high points of the drive have passed us, and all that is left is the ridiculously long monotonous drives through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before finally arriving in California. So we’ve hit the inflection points in our drive when it comes to fun activities per day, calories consumed per day, and possibly miles driven per day. Coincidentally, sometime today we also passed the midpoint of our cross country drive.
I flew into New York late on Sunday night. Few people know that I’m not a huge fan of New York. Part of the reason is the smell. The faint smell of urine mixed with garbage and sewage wafted into my nose before I even left the airport, and lingered until we were across the river into New Jersey. From far away though, New York is quite beautiful, and I was able to get some cool night shots of the skyline from the New Jersey side.
On Monday morning we started our drive back to California. It started to rain and by the time we hit the Shenandoah valley it was both rainy and foggy. Visibility was poor. It’s a shame because Shenandoah National Park was supposed to be a scenic drive. There are vista points all along the drive through the park, but because of the fog they all looked the same, a dreary, foggy gray color. We decided to just drive as far as we could into Tennessee, and ended up staying in Nashville.
Nashville is known as the country music capitol of the world. It’s famous for it’s country music hall of fame and museum, so we decided to make a quick stop there. I’m not a huge fan of country music, but still enjoyed the museum exhibits. After our whirlwind tour of Nashville we decided to take a short detour to Lynchburg to see the Jack Daniels Distillery. It was pretty interesting to see how the whiskey is distilled. Sadly they did not have any samples, but I did leave with a souvenir bottle that’s supposedly only available in Lynchburg. It will be saved for a special occasion.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only good things that come out of Tennessee are Jack Daniels and country music, and since we experienced the best of both, we decided to ditch the state and drive all the way down to New Orleans. It was a long grueling drive partly because Lynchburg was a pretty big detour. We drove through part of Alabama, where we tried some southern comfort food at a local diner, then back to Tennessee to Memphis to try some Memphis barbecue. Big disappointment. From there we headed straight south, straight through Mississippi, finally arriving at New Orleans at 2am.
I’ve been wanting to visit New Orleans for a while, both for the food and the culture. It did not disappoint. This morning was probably the most gluttonous morning of my life. We started by getting coffee and beignets at New Orlean’s famous Cafe Du Monde. I’m not a big fan of coffee but I seriously enjoyed the Cafe Au Lait there. The beignets were incredible– pillows of dough with just the right amount of crisp on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside, covered with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Afterwards we explored the French Quarter for a bit then I had a poor boy sandwich while waiting for the gumbo place next door to open. The gumbo was amazing, almost worth driving to New Orleans for on its own, but we also had rabbit/sausage jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp creole, and fried chicken. All of it was good. We hit Bourbon street after that. We washed down all that food with some concoction called a “hand grenade,” some sort of ridiculous mix of everclear, midori and other random stuff. They give it to you in a plastic grenade shaped container. While walking down the street, hand grenades in hand, we were serenaded by a street performer singing into a plastic bucket. Around the bucket were some beads, and when he hit the bucket like a drum, the beads made a sound sorta like cymbals. He sang a song about a couple of asian type guys who were drinking hand grenades while walking down Bourbon street. It was really good, he had an amazing soulful voice. Unfortunately we didn’t have any cash on hand, but he replied he didn’t do it for the money, he did it because he had to.
Afterwards, more gluttony. We hit up a place near the shore that served crawdads. We ordered a plate of boiled crawdads and a cup of crawdad bisque. Probably the only place where I can eat crawdads is New Orleans. The cajun spices make them not only bearable, but quite tasty. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to handle the fact that I’m basically sucking on crustacean guts and brains. While we were sucking on those little crustacean bugs, a live jazz band across the street was playing, “When the saints come marching in…” It was an amazing experience.New Orleans was amazing. From there we drove into Houston. That’s where I am right now. It’s an inflection point, because from here on out, it’s just downhill. Texas will be a grueling drive (it looks like an all day drive to get across the monstrous Lone Star State), New Mexico and Arizona will probably be even more boring. It’s also a reflection point, I’m reflecting upon the experiences of the last couple of days, also on the RV trip last week, and of the upcoming drive back to California and work on Monday. Inflection points signify change, but at this point I’m ready for the change, ready to wind down these last couple of days before heading back to work.