Saturday, February 11

Change of Plans

The plan for Friday was to go to Hammond, LA, about 30 miles north to buy fuel as Top Gun Aviation there had a really good price. We were impressed when they offered us sandwiches from a very good place at no cost.
After breakfast, Gene checked the weather and, to his surprise, found a large area of rain and thunder storms just to our west. After a conference, the men decided that discretion being the better part of valor, we would sit it out. We had, after all, left Florida a day early as a precaution against bad weather. As Peggy and Sheryl anticipated a day of touring New Orleans, the men made arrangements. Alas, it was the weekend and there was not a room to be found for less than the price of a King's ransom.( A Madi Gras King) Therefore, we went to Plan B, which was to fly on up to Hammond and spend the night there. A van appeared to take us to the airport driven by a young man from Bosnia. He told us how as a young child he was sitting in his bedroom when a mortar round hit the house next door and his arm was mangled by the blast. We take our safe lives for granted sometimes.
The short flight was a gloomy one. There was thick haze making everything we saw from the windows appear largely to be the same color. Much of the flight was over Lake Pontchartrain, again adding to the grayness of the landscape. Just before our arrival in Hammond, we ran into a wall of water and Jim came back from the cockpit for paper towels to stem the flow through the emergency hatch which was dripping on the pilots. In spite of challenging conditions, Capt. Jacobson made a nice instrument landing and taxied to Top Gun.
Four young men immediately approached the plane in the driving rain and helped secure it, depositing four golf umbrellas into our open doorway. They then backed a van up and loaded our luggage, then escorted the women to the FBO under the umbrellas. As we approached the door, it flew open and a lovely blonde woman greeted us with a broad smile. This proved to be Ava, who had made all the arrangements for our visit. There were several other members of the ground crew, the airport manager and other folks inside. Soon a reporter arrived and began to interview us.
Now I have traveled fairly extensively with the plane and never received a reception like this one. We felt like rock stars, or at least the crew accompanying one. To a man (and woman) everyone was wild about our airplane and interested in hearing about her. In spite of the pouring rain a few people toured the plane, including the reporter and Jake and Peggy retrieved literature to share with our new friends. Ava appeared with a huge platter of mufalettas and we repaired to the break room for lunch. Then we were presented a Top Gun tee shirt, which we all plan to wear when we launch for Laredo the next day.
We then headed to our hotel, passing through the downtown area of Hammond which looked quite charming. We were armed with the recommendation of a restaurant there called Tope La which everyone said was the place to go. The staff at the hotel could not have been nicer and put themselves at our disposal. After long naps, we gathered in the lobby for what Bubba Jake called vespers, but turned out to be margaritas. The quest for a good one is what keeps the crew going day in and day out.
Tope La lived up to our expectations. There was a short wait for a table during which cheerful young staff members informed us of the progress. We were then led to a large booth where we met our charming server, Shane. Peggy observed that everyone here in Hammond is so pleasant and helpful. The same folks who ordered half dozen oysters the night before, got a dozen each tonight and again pronounced them wonderful. Again, all the dishes were great, but tonight it was Gene who got the prize with Chicken Maurepas. This was a chicken breast stuffed with crawfish, and crusted with Japanese bread crumbs. It was crispy on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside. Oh, did I mention that Friday is $3 margarita night??

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