New Orleans and The 4th Annual National Beard and Mustache Championships

ImageI believe this photo is Beard Team USA’s pic.

I picked up my rental car on Wednesday morning, Sept 5th, 2013. My plans were to leave at 2 am, Thursday morning, the 5th.  I had my things packed and tried so hard to sleep during the day on Wednesday, but that did not work out for me. I was so excited, the most I could do was relax and just be peaceful. The car was packed and Toby and I were ready to go, so I figured with the route I was taking, I’d run to my bank and take some funds out, then drive just south of the route I was going to take to get to Starbucks.  This was around 1:30 am on Thursday morning, Sept 6th. I went to my bank, but when I left, I turned onto Cheney Hwy and made a right at the first light, thinking it was another road. I drove back a few blocks when I realized it was NOT the road I thought it was. (Yes, I do live in this city.) I turned around and headed back to Cheney and headed for I-95 to go south toward Cocoa and Viera (about 25 miles south to Viera). Viera has/had a 24 hr Starbucks and I figured I’d go the extra distance to get a triple latte with honey for the road. I get 3/4 of the way to Viera and realize I forgot my banner, and knew I had to go back after Starbucks.

I get to the Starbucks to find it’s not open, so disappointed,  I headed back to Titusville, 25 miles or so, to get my site’s banner. This is already over 50 miles!  After I pick up the banner, I decide to just take I-95 North to I-10 West. Well when I get to I-95, the northbound on-ramp was closed; it was being repaved. Great, just great. So I drive south thinking to turn at the next exit and get back on the highway northbound. I decided to keep heading south to 528 (locally known as The Beach Line) and head west to Florida’s Turnpike. This is around 3 am or so now and by this time, I’d been awake almost 19 hours. The trip was estimated at 10.5 hrs by MapQuest, but I had Toby and didn’t want him to stress too much, so I planned to stop at most of the rest areas, so he could get out and stretch and do his business. The trip was smooth, but oh so long. 14 hours later I arrived at the Sheraton New Orleans on Canal Street, just across from the French Quarter. Bourbon Street was just a few blocks away. I check in and go to my room.

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The Sheraton is a lovely hotel, but I have to say, I was ‘disgruntled’ with it for several reasons. The room had so much large furniture in it, it was almost ‘cramped’ feeling. The AC didn’t work too well and the only way to keep the room cool, was to turn it down to 66 degrees F. Anything higher and the room would heat up too much. There was also no ‘cold’ running water. The ‘cold’ water out of the sink was quite warm. The tub was a different story; the ‘cold’ water came out of the faucet warmer then the sink’s ‘cold’, but when you switched it to ‘shower’, it became so hot, I actually burned my hands testing it before I stepped in. Way too hot so I had to take a bath instead in the very warm ‘cold’ water.

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-Room 917, Sheraton New Orleans-

Anyway, I settled down, cleaned up and went downstairs to the Pelican Room to see who was going on the walking tour of the French Quarter. At the bar I met Paul Kaniewski of Bluebeards Original and we sat and got acquainted and chatted. It was our first meeting and it was a pleasure; he’s very nice. I had 3-4 beers (Bud LIght) at $6.49 a bottle and then went outside to hang and watch the goings on. While out there I met several beardies and took some pics and had introductions.

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The Pelican Room in the center of the Lobby of the Sheraton New Orleans.

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L to R Devin Cera, Gary W Norman, and ….?

This was taken on Canal Street, outside the Sheraton.

I had a wonderful rest, the beds in that room were the most wonderful I’ve ever slept in; like being on a cloud!  The next morning I woke up and took Toby out for a walk around the hotel and then went out later by myself. I wandered a few blocks in each direction just to get a feel for the place. Friday evening was the Press Conference, opening party, and check-in at the Sheraton in the Lagniappe Room, upstairs. It was quite crowded and all of the Sponsors had tables set up and one of them, Traveler’s Beer out of Vermont was giving away free beer.

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I had many beers and had to sample both types; Jacko was a pumpkin ale and was very good, and the other was the ‘curious traveler’ with lemon and that was awesome! So much so I had to sample it many times to be sure! 😀 After that I decided it was time to wander the French Quarter so I headed for Bourbon Street. Well it was only a few blocks away, or less, and I couldn’t see the sign. I eventually asked a young man who said ‘follow me!’  The street was closer then I thought and I was thankful the help. I started down Bourbon Street.

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Walking down Bourbon Street, New Orleans’ French Quarter.

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Found on Bourbon Street!

It was very crowded as you can see with all the people and horse mounted Police were roaming around keeping the peace. I stopped in a few places and picked up some souvenirs and the bartender at the Sheraton had suggested going to Frenchman Street for real Jazz. He said this was where the locals went for original live music, as opposed to cover bands. The first store I wandered in I asked how to get to the street and the told me, after they checked a local map. 🙂 (this should be fun!)  So I kept wandering down Bourbon St. The woman at the store had told me to walk down to St Anne and take a left. I wandered a bit past it and went back and turned onto it. Well St Anne street is NOT like Bourbon. The street was quiet and fairly desolate in comparison to Bourbon St. There were quite a few homeless folks sleeping at storefronts and doorways.  I took a pic or two I believe.

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St Anne Street, New Orleans’ French Quarter

I get to the next intesection, St Anne and Decatur Streets and I see the Cafe Du Mond. My thoughts switched to coffee immediately so I crossed the street and entered the busy shop. One of the employees seated me and then a waitress came over. She asked what I’d like and I ordered a triple latte with one honey and she says ‘oh we don’t serve espresso here.’ We only serve Cafe Au Laits and Beignets. I looked around to see what that was…and she said ‘they’re French donuts!’ So I ordered some of them with a cafe au lait. Very nice inside and I hung out a bit there to relax.

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Cafe Au Lait and Beignets at the Cafe Du Mond, New Orleans

I was ready to head out and thanked the waitress for her help and the food and drink and wandered outside again. I kind of looked around to get my bearings, which I had none as I started this journey with a good beer buzz going on. They have these bike rickshaws so I stopped this guy and asked how much and told him I needed to get back to the Sheraton. Well I’d wandered 10 blocks away from the hotel and was so thankful for the ride. It was $1 a block to ride these things. He took me back to the hotel and I called it a night.

The next day was Saturday and was a busy day indeed. I was there to help Paul with Bluebeards Original, so we had the car brought out and loaded it with his supplies and banners and other goodies and headed for the House of Blues. We got everything unloaded and I left to take the car back. I had to get ready for the Opening Ceremonies and the parade. I tried on my robe from a good friend, Mike, to see how it would look and if I’d wear everything I brought. Well it was near 90 degrees F that day, so I decided against the cloak on top of the robe.

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First try on of the Egyptian robe from Mike J.

I was very pleased with how it looked and fit and besides the heat, figured I’d hate to cover this lovely robe with a brown cloak. I gathered my goodies for the Opening Ceremony and jumped in!

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L to R; Traveler’s Beer Girl, Paul Roof, Myself, unnamed young man, Jim Daly, and other Traveler’s Beer Girl.

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In the Lagniappe Room at the Sheraton.

We were all taking pics, having pics of us taken, and sorting into our states. There was one flag for each state represented, and I think that was around 40 states, plus the US Virgin Islands, the UK, Canada, and Gibralter. After a bit, Phil Olsen now downstairs in the Pelican Room started speaking and calling us down in alphabetical order, by state/country. As they called each state, they played that state’s song. It was quite the spectacle with everyone there.

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Pelican Room, Sheraton New Orleans. Photo by Oana Langum.

There was a Jazz Band in the lobby and as we started to head out for the parade, they played and led us on!

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not my photograph, but this is the Jazz Band!

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In the Lobby of the Sheraton New Orleans. This was everyone from Florida who was here for the competition.

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All photographs are mine unless specified otherwise. This was the start of the parade on Canal Street.

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I believe this was taken by Oana Langum, or it’s BTUSAs pic. This is on Canal Street.

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This is a pic taken by Jeff Langum’s wife, Oana, I believe.

Canal Street

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Canal Street

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Then we turned south on Bourbon Street. It’s quite a buzz to have paraded down this world famous street!

We march in 90 degree heat until we get to Decatur St and the House of Blues, where I rest in the shade, and drink some Gatorade to cool down. I headed inside via the competitors entrance and get up to the backstage ‘Green Room B’ which was jammed with competitors and there was a bar in there too, so a few were having beers and other drinks to cool off. Unfortunately my phone battery was running out of juice, so I opted not to take any pics, but did get a short video of the room for atmosphere feel.

The following pics are by other folks. Either Oana Langum or BTUSA I believe.

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This is Full Beard Natural, B Group. This is the group I was in. See me on the far end?

Pic by Oana Langum

I was in the Full Beard Natural Group, the largest of all categories with about 25 guys I guess. They’d split us into groups of A, B, and C. with 7-9 in each group. I was in group B with Jeff Langum. Surprisingly I tied for 3rd place and was in the top 10! I’m still amazed at that part. How many folks get to  parade through the French Quarter and  also get to stand on the stage of the House of Blues in Nawlins?! What a trip this day was!!!

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BTUSA’s Photo I believe.

My trip home was another story altogether, and that gets it’s own blog. It was that memorable. lol and long, very, very long.

I hope you enjoyed the read and pics and I do thank you for your time!

Sincerely,

Gary W Norman

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About Gary W Norman

54 yr old Beardsman, Pipe smoker, Network Creator/Webmaster, College Grad, Dog Lover, Coffee & Tea Fiend, Romantic, Photographer/Artist, Music lover, Nature lover, budding superstar and Coffee Shop Philosopher, OCD, bipolar.
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