My work partner and I decided to make a 1,000+ mile south on our slow season to go work down south in the Katrina affected areas. On a flooring site I frequent, a Baton Rouge retailer was advertising looking for installers for work in the devastated areas, to which I replied and all seemed to go well so we made the plans to go. Well, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and here is living proof. We make the trek in my new (to me) 2000 Chevy cargo van. All goes well on the 15+ hour trip, and we arrive as planned on schedule safely at the motel I booked. At $280 a week, you can't expect much out of a hotel....but man was it bad. The motel ended up charging $705 to my card unauthorized, but I did eventually get it all back without too much trouble. Upon our stay in Baton Rouge, we went to Casino Rouge were I lost some dough in the slot machines, broke even playing $50 hands of blackjack, and saw N.O. Saints receiver Joe Horn in there as well. I wanted to have him sign my cell phone, but forgot to bring it in. NFL pro or not, dude sure doesn't look very big in person. We left 10pm our time, and arrived Monday afternoon at the retailers shop we had arranged to subcontract through. Funny, Baton Rouge seemed untouched from the hurricane even though the retailer told me they were hurting for help bad in the areas. Day one was "settle in" say, so we booked no work for that day, planning to go out in full force on the next day. Tuesday came along, and we went to pick up our work. We drove over 1000 miles, and had ONE freaking bathroom to do our first day on the job (maybe a 30 minute job). We weren't happy about this, and it didn't end up going anyway since the customer had no idea we were coming. 2 days, no work. Day three comes along and we have two jobs, one took about 3 hours, and the other blew off from a salesman error throwing up a major brick in his material estimation, making it impossible to make it go. Since we had the afternoon off, we decided to go for a trip to famed New Orleans. We had lunch on world famous Bourbon Street, did some sight seeing, and picked up a local paper before leaving. In the classifieds, there was an ad from a retailer in desperate need for help, to which we gave a call to. Not to trivialize the problems and damage New Orleans took from Katrina, but to the naked eye there are only some windows and roofs damaged, along with the obvious flood damage that it took. Again, not to trivialize, but to the naked eye it didn't look as bad as the picture the media painted. It was apparent that the original store we went to didn't have the work, but were merely trying to line up enough work to aggressively persue the work to be had in the hurricane areas, and cash in. Needless to say, we didn't bother with them anymore. Since I had the motel in Baton Rouge paid for for the entire week, we ended up commuting from BR to Waveland, and Bay St. Louis to the new shop we were working out of (114 miles 1 way) for the rest of the week. I cannot believe there was little or no news coverage of the waveland area, as the majority of the area is in total devistation. I'd guess that after 4 1/2 months, MAYBE 10% of the businesses are back up and running. The entire 40 mile stretch of coastline on the gulf of mexico is in complete ruins. What used to be luxury beachfront homes, are now nothing but a concrete slab. Waveland is 24 feet above sea level, and a good 3 miles from the coast, but it still got 8-10 feet of water as far as 20 miles inland, on top of the 100 to 160 mph winds due to a direct hit of the eye of Katrina. Words and pictures do no do it justice, you truly must see it yourself to grasp the extend of the destruction. We finished out the week working for the new shop in Waveland, and everything has been going great with them. I met up with my tb hero Mike_v_s for a chat and drinks on Sunday night. Very cool cat! Nice to meet ya Mike! Monday morning is where the good luck started to go to bad again. My truck wouldn't start, and to make a long story short I had to drop $600 on a fuel pump for it. Then, the computer apparently took a crap in it, and it STILL sits in Waveland waiting to be looked at Monday. I bought a WAY overpriced plane ticket and flew home last night. I plan to return for another 2 week stay leaving the 30th of this month. After the motel, fuel, truck repairs, and other incidental expenses, I lost about $1300 on the work trip, even after the wages we were paid. On the good side, we have all of our ducks in a row for the next trip, housing and work all taken care of, and my luck with my truck couldn't possibly any worse. I plan on this being my final trip down there, but who knows what may happen! I cannot stress enough how great the people are down there. EVERYONE went WAY out of their way, practically taking their shirts off their own backs to make sure we were accomodated and well taken care of. Without a doubt, some of the toughest and greatest people I have ever met .....who have all been through hell. The owner of the store we are working at now completely lost his home, now living in a FEMA trailer, and had 8 feet of water inside his business....and couldn't be a cooler or more positive fella. Anyway, on to some pics. Heading into New Orleans on I-10. The now famous superdome on the left. Some displaced household goods from a New Orleans home. Note the water line on the side of the home to indicate the level the flood waters settled. Here is another New Orleans home. On the right side you will see the infamous search painting. The bottom number on the X indicates the number of victims found. Sadly, this particular home shows a 3. More debris: Still lots of this strung all over town. Now onto the town of Waveland, MS. This is the Waveland Pharmacy, one of the places we worked at. It is in great shape now, but took on about 8 feet of water, and was also looted badly as well. Pretty much EVERY other shop in the area is still in complete ruins, as is pretty much my van these days (this is while it still worked!). Here's what's left of a nice little cafe, about 100 feet from the pharamacy pictured above. All that remains from inside a badly flooded, and looted store right next to the pharmacy. Apparently these guys weren't worth stealing, but they made for a great photo IMO. This is pretty typical of what you start seeing as you get closer to the coastline. As you can see, the closer you get, the less that is left standing. Still lots of destroyed vehicles around everywhere. Typically, this is what the entire coastline looks like, even FOUR MONTHS+ after the storm. These all used to be luxury beachfront homes, some over 200 years old. The stilt structure in the background of this pic used to have one of those luxury homes upon it. Classic Corvette anyone? This is still sitting where the garage used to be. I am guessing someone moved it back since nothing else is in it's original position anywhere else. Looked to have been mint before the obvious happened. More of the "usual" I actually just stopped taking pics since you can only take so many pictures of basically nothing. This camper didn't fare too well. No clue where these homes came from, but it is quite obvious this isn't where they belong. Stilts that once held someones home, and a car that came from ?????? More beach area that used to be houses. Probably my favorite pic. Right on long beach in the Bay St. Louis, MS. area. This U-Haul truck apparently went out into the gulf, and returned. Someone spray painted "S.S. Katrina" on the front. Another former site of a luxury beachfront home. All that remains is the slab it was built upon. A sidewalk that used to lead to someones home. More beachfront mess This was right next door to one of our jobs. I spoke with the home owner a couple of times. Believe it or not, it was a very nicely mannered middle aged lady. All for now, I may shoot a few more pics when I return on the 30th.