As another year passes from present into our memory it is time once again to reflect on the blessed life I lead. I am astounded how each year can be better than the last. 2013 brought with it new beginnings and solidifying endings. At the start of this New Year I cannot quite imagine what 2014 will bring, but I know that this year I will be making my best attempt at noticing the small blessings each day holds. Who knows how long each of us has on this earth, each day is filled with so many blessings and wonders, and it is time to take those into account. The world isn’t such a dreary place, I am optimistic, for without optimism success isn’t likely. I think Winston Churchill said it best, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

To finalize 2013 and celebrate the beginning of 2014, my partner in crime, Ashley, and I took yet another trip in her Piper Cub. This one wasn’t quite as far as Ohio but not any less spectacular. We left Conroe for New Orleans on Dec. 30th. Flying along the gulf coast the entire way, swarms of Egrets & Pelicans consumed our attention. Seemingly thousands of white birds, flying from marsh to marsh, looking quite similar to tossing a freshly cleaned white sheet across a bed. I never quite knew the expanse to which marsh lands fill our gulf coast. As far as the eye can see in all directions is marsh and wetlands. Surprisingly it is incredibly beautiful. The cypress trees and grasses make for some very interesting patterns and shapes. I’ve always said pilots are just like little kids, looking skyward finding shapes in clouds. Only we look down, to find familiar shapes on the ground.  Every once and a while, out of nowhere, a huge refinery or storage facility would pop up in the marshlands. Pipes coming up from the murky waters below in all directions.  Some so large, that they looked like cities, picked up from a metropolitan area, and dropped here, in the middle of nowhere. Then there are the bridges. It is a joke that one can tell when they drive from Texas to Louisiana simply in the change of road conditions. It is no wonder Louisiana roads are in such poor shape… they spend all their money on bridges! I have never seen so many bridges in the life, some stretching as far as the eye can see.  A testament to how much oil and gas drive the southern economy.  As we drew closer, the last and most nerve racking void we had to cross was the Atchafalaya River Basin. The Atchafalaya is the largest wetland swamp in the United States… in a single engine 1946 Piper Cub at 600ft it looks as BIG AS THE UNITED STATES! This swamp is gorgeous but for an hour of flying time we saw nothing but groves of bald cypress, small rivers, wetland, and in my imagination thousands of alligators & snakes. We didn’t see a person or anything resembling humanity for endless miles. This is not a place I wanted to think of our engine quitting. Amazingly we did see a few airboats navigating the swamp. To me, navigating around the world in an airplane seems easier than navigating the basin. How on earth those guys know where to go is incredible.

Once we arrived in NOLA our fun was just getting started. Our time was spent eating the world’s best food, listening to the world’s best music, in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A stop to New Orleans isn’t complete without a few Beignets and Café au lait at one of the many local establishments. This time Ash and I tried a new (to us) place called Morning Call in City Park. To anyone visiting NOLA I recommend this place over Café Du Monde. It was authentic New Orleans, not a tourist trap. There were even real locals working in there with thick Cajun accents happy to tell you all about their city. City Park in itself is worth a visit. Big, huge, and beautiful southern Oaks and Cypress line the park, quite nice for a romantic stroll in the rain with a girl you love. We rode the trolley (or as it is known in New Orleans, the street car) all around the city ($3 buys you a pass to use all day long). My favorite part was riding it down St. Charles into the Garden District. Huge Acadian and Victorian style homes lined with ancient trees interspersed with more fantastic dinning.

On New Year’s night we headed out for a grand dinner followed by a few hours on the infamous Rue Bourbon. I can tell you that the Royal Sonesta Hotel has the world’s best Bloody Marys. I can also tell you that sitting in Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Lounge in the Royal Sonesta whilst sipping on a Bloody Mary listening to famous jazz classics being played by a local big band is the best way to end a year. After all, a trumpet solo followed by ear watering clarinet run will make your skin tingle all the way through 2015.

We made our way to Jackson Square and the Jax Brewery for the city count down and Fleur-de-Lis drop, followed by a 10 minute firework extravaganza. With emotions on high, and our blood flowing with green, yellow, and purple New Orleans pride we paid Bourbon one last visit. A toast to 2014, to health and prosperity, but most of all too enjoying life; something these Creole’s and Cajun’s have down pat.

After one more day in the Crescent City it was time to fly home.

Low and slow we would go.
In our little yellow antique plane.
Flying over fields of sugarcane, none of it in vain.
I’ll tell you this, I cannot lie.
I hope I can fly this plane until I die.

Happy New Year everyone!

Video & Photos below

New Orleans NYE in a Piper Cub from Mark Brown on Vimeo.

Ashley and I flew her Piper Cub from North Houston to New Orleans to close 2013 and celebrate 2014. A quick video I put together from GoPro footage throughout our 4 day trip.

Happy New Year!

Louis Armstrong & the Dukes of Dixieland
Bourbon Street Parade

Harry Connick, Jr.
With Imagination

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