As we approach the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that made landfall on the gulf coast on August 29, 2005, I am reminded of the gulf coast as I once knew it. I visited the Mobile, Biloxi, Gulfport & New Orleans areas many times before that fateful day.
I haven’t been back to Biloxi since the storm. The satellite images made me sad. I have been back to New Orleans a few times since the rebuild.
In late February 2005 I had a flood of my own. I had just got back from one of my many road trips that Saturday afternoon. I got up from my chair and walked to the bathroom and I saw some water on the floor and thought it was odd. I looked for the source and realized it was coming from underneath the the tub/shower…. That didn’t seem right. I immediately walked into the adjoining room and noticed a squish beneath my feet which I will not soon forget. The carpet was very damp. I opened my front door and water came pouring in.
Later, I learned the water main had broken in four or five places, three of them right outside my unit. Water was gushing in. It was this event that made me realize the grade as not completely level. If it had been, the water would have gone all the way to the back of the unit. It stayed mostly towards the front. That was fortunate, but the carpet still soaked up some of the water and it all had to be ripped out. I was devastated to say the least. I was about 2 1/2 months from a “Go-Live” date for a new multi-million dollar computer system at work and I was the project manager. My home was under water for a short time. I didn’t need the extra stress. I was working 80-100 hours a week during that time leading up to the flood. I can talk about it much easier now but it was a dark time for me. I learned that possessions are just stuff we have, not who we are. There were a few other life lessons to come later on but I’ll save that for another time. I had no idea that the events of August 2005 with Katrina would provide me the perspective I lacked because the things I had endured were bad, but not life threatening. My troubles were nothing compared to what those people were suffering. There’s nothing like a reality check to change your way of thinking.
In the fall of 2005, my travels took me to San Antonio Texas where I was a guest of the famous Menger Hotel. The beautiful hotel is literally a stones throw from the Alamo landmark.
It’s right outside the front entrance of the hotel. All my life I have seen pictures and artist renderings of the Alamo and I always thought it was off by itself in the middle of nowhere. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The city of San Antonio is built up all around the Alamo.
Anyway, because of the Hurricane, the New Orleans Saints had to play a few of their home games at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio Texas, a reasonably short walk from the Menger Hotel.
How convenient for me that they were at home on that Sunday October 16, 2005 and they happened to be playing none other than my beloved Atlanta Falcons. It was my first chance to see the Falcons on the road and I jumped at the chance. As I got closer to the stadium that Sunday morning, I held up a sign that said “I need one ticket”. In less than five minutes, I had an offer at face value and I was quite happy to be going to the game.
The Falcons rewarded me with a 34-31 win over the Saints.
If you’ve never been to San Antonio Texas, I recommend it. I thought the Riverwalk was really special. There was an entrance to it located very close to our hotel.
The Menger Hotel itself is beautiful in the lobby and the atriums, but my room reminded me the hotel was over a hundred years old. Many modern conveniences were added much later. The hotel was established in 1859. They don’t build as many ornate buildings these days. The craftsmanship is just too expensive in most cases. The facility has been visited by Teddy Roosevelt, who in 1898 returns to the Menger Bar with Colonel Leonard Wood to organize the first U.S. Volunteer Calvary, the “Rough Riders,” which saw battle in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
The restaurant has welcomed United States Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley, in addition to Robert E. Lee, General George Patton and Oscar Wilde.
The Colonial Room Restaurant’s famous mango ice cream was served at both of President Clinton’s inaugurations. I thought someone told me the ice cream was made form a cantaloupe, but regardless, the ice cream is fabulous.
I hope to visit San Antonio again someday when I will have more time to enjoy it. Business kept me busy and tired on my first visit. If you are ever there, be sure to walk into the Menger hotel. It is a real piece of history. Happy travels!