N’awlins

Work took me to New Orleans this past Friday through Wednesday. There’s nothing like business travel over the weekend. It does wonders for training.

I was in town for the American Trucking Associations annual Management Conference and Exhibition, and in general, it’s was a great time. While the event this was scheduled to be a celebration for ATA’s 75th Anniversary, the conference was kept in check by the somber mood caused by the economy. The topic of conversation was clearly how to survive during tough economic times. Fortunately, our company was the new kid on the block, which drew plenty attention to us.

New Orleans RiverfrontThe mood of the show spilled over to the nightlife…N’awlins was a major let down. This was my first trip to the Crescent City and I anticipated eating great food and enjoying raucos sites and sounds. Being there for 5 nights gave us plenty opportunity to try a variety of restaurants. Sadly, none of the food we ate was impressive. In fact, it’s probably a better description to say that none of it was good! All bad. We tried everything from a street fair to a local dive to upscale dining in the French Quarter. Where are all the great New Orleans restaurants that I’ve heard so much about? I don’t know if we made bad choices or, as many folks discussed, if this is merely lingering effects of Katrina–many people commented that the city isn’t even close to it pre-storm glory.

We stayed at the host hotel, the Hilton Riverside, which is downtown on the riverfront. The hotel has great views (you can actually see from the executive lounge on the 29th floor that the city is lower than Lake Pontchartrain!) and it was convenient to be at the center of all the action. I was excited to learn that the hotel had a full service gym and health spa. I wandered up on Saturday morning and found spin cycles, free weights, Nautilus equipment, a cardio theater…everything I would need to maintain my training schedule. Sweet! Oh yeah, and a $12 daily use fee! I’m generally not a tightwad, but I refuse to be nickled and dimed for services that are normaly offered for free. (I also passed on Internet access, which was $15 per day!) So, I spent the week running outside and working out in my hotel room. While I missed riding, I actually enjoyed the break from the bike. Hopefully that won’t come back to haunt me at the race this weekend!

Overall, I have to give New Orleans a very poor rating. The city gets 2 stars; the Hilton Riverside, 2 stars–everything was overpriced; food, 1 star; and hospitality, 2 stars. That’s a terrible average of 1.75. Hopefully the city leaders and tourism department can improve things. Otherwise, the city might as well pack up and close down, cultural history aside, of course.

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