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Arachnophobia in New Orleans; Now Who’s Afraid of a Little Spider?

June 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Our Australian Terrier, Rocky (RIP) took me on some memorable walks: “George and Rocky’s Late Night Adventure,” “When Things Go Bump in the Night,” and “So Long Rocky, It Was Good To Have Known You.” And then there are the as-yet-unpublished walks involving coyotes, alligators, snakes, and this one. It takes place, as many of our more memorable walks did, late at night and, this time, a few short blocks from author Ann Rice’s ancient and infamous New Orleans French Quarter and its blood thirsty vampire residents (run tape of rusty hinges, thunder, moans and blood-curdling screams).

While visiting New Orleans during the Spring of 2010, we decided to stay at the French Quarter RV— “FQRV”— Resort, located off exit 235 of I-10 at 565 Crozat Street (or 500 N Claiborne Ave; depending on who you ask), New Orleans, LA 70112. With a standard rate, as of June 1, 2011, of $79, it’s not cheap. If you plan to visit during Mardi Gras, it’ll cost you $199 per night for 2 people, with a 2-night minimum. Other holiday or special event dates are priced from $89 to $129 per night. Being there off-season, we paid a lot less. The park is located between Toulouse and St. Louis streets just off I-10, whose traffic roar might be considered objectionable to RVers seeking peace and quiet. But that’s not why people go to New Orleans, right?

The FQRV Resort’s somewhat small total area (52 paved sites, though all at least 30’ wide and 60’ deep) is surrounded by a high block wall with tall iron security gates which isolate it from the rest of the former industrial park/shopping center property that it seems to be a part of. There is a nice brick reception building/clubhouse with a fitness room, laundry, and office center. Outside is a small salt-water swimming pool, with an outdoor kitchen/barbeque area and ice machine. It’s all high quality and neat as a pin.

Many, if not all, of the sites are privately owned and non-member reservations will depend on whether any sites are not occupied by their owners when you plan to visit. The park’s managers do warn that you may be asked to move to a different site if the actual site owners show up. IMHO, you stay at this park not to enjoy the amenities, but to take advantage of its proximity to the French Quarter, and its many attractions, which are just a few blocks away (don’t miss Cafe du Monde and its famous Beignets). It’s walkable, but, again IMHO, you’d be safer taking a cab or your toad, especially at night. New Orleans does have its problems, not to mention those vampires.

So much for describing what you should expect while staying at the FQRV Resort. What you might not expect, at least I didn’t, was what Rocky and I came across while walking along the perimeter wall late one night. First of all, I NOW (since “George and Rocky’s Late Night Adventure”) always carry a flashlight when I go out at night, it makes it easier to locate Rocky’s poop when it’s time to clean up and it’s wise from a security standpoint. But from what you might ask; what might be threatening inside a resort surrounded by an 8-foot wall?

Well, Rocky and I have come across a lot of wildlife during our walks, but that night’s discovery was a doozy. Rocky was taking an especially long time in one dark corner, sniffing and sniffing. I stepped forward and flipped on my flashlight to see what was so interesting. And gasped.

There was a small pile of BONES lying at the bottom of the wall. I could make out what appeared to be the skeletal remains of several mice/rats (the resort owners would, of course, argue that they were only mice) and what might have been the remains of a Chihuahua (just kidding, it was more likely a Papillion… no, I’m still just kidding… maybe).

As I stepped smartly backward away from this little horror, my flashlight beam swung upward and caught what was clinging to the wall right over Rocky’s head. Now, I’m an animal lover and not very many things shake me up; except for large snakes and SPIDERS. There, that night, clinging to the wall, near a crack in the masonry and a few feet above the little boneyard, was something straight out of a Stephen King novel, or maybe the 1990 comedy horror film, “Arachnophobia.”.

It was the biggest, nastiest looking, jet-black, something-out-of-a-nightmare, make-you-run-screaming-for-your-Mommy spider that I have EVER seen. Think tarantula-sized, but about as big as my outspread hand, and I’ve got big hands. Unlike most big spiders I’ve seen, like a tarantula and a mean wolf spider that once chased me down a road (I am NOT a sissy!), this one had no hair on its body. It was shiny. Alien. YECCH!

Rocky, bless his soul now that he’s passed away, never moved so fast away from that wall. Or, that might have been because he was on a leash that I was pulling on as I back-peddled away from that monster as quickly as I could. In fact, I walked backwards all the way home to my RV, while keeping my flashlight beam centered on that spider, just to make sure that it wasn’t following us. Did I say YECCH? Double YECCH!

Of course Maureen didn’t believe my story, but wisely refused to go and see for herself after I told her where to look and handed her my flashlight. I didn’t leave the RV for the rest of that night and I checked the rig from stem-to-stern the next morning for any more creepy characters from one of Ms. Rice’s or, maybe more appropriate, Mr. King’s books. I also spent a few hours on the web, searching sites both entomological and not for any mention or photo of the spider I had seen. Not much, except for a few photos of big, black spiders, like the one shown above; which may or may not be the one I saw. I searched the New Orleans area, southeastern America, and just about everywhere else. NADA. Now SOMEONE must have discovered that creature, named and catalogued it, and knew something about it. But not that I could find. If anyone out there has come across this arachnid from Hell please let me know.

BTW, for those of you out there who might have just changed your mind about staying at the FQRV Resort, please don’t let this story scare you away. It’s a really nice place, the closest to the French Quarter, and I’m somewhat positive that that spider was just passing through on its way to some… distant planet. Really. Besides, you don’t believe everything that you read on the internet, do you?

Thinking about why I couldn’t locate any mention of the spider anywhere nearby (or far away, for that matter), I realized that it could have come from just about anywhere. At least anywhere that an RV may have traveled to before coming to New Orleans. I remember that, in the late 60s or 70s, I believe, Gypsy Moth caterpillars were decimating deciduous trees all over the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Brought to the United States in 1869 in a misguided attempt to start a silkworm industry, it — guess what — escaped and reeked havoc among oaks, maples and many other of our cherished trees.

At the time, there was a great effort to control the spread of and eradicate the Gypsy Worms. Regardless of what was done, they continued to spread. I got a glimpse of why this was and how easily it was accomplished when cleaning up our camping equipment after a trip through New England way back then. Firmly attached to my tent and trailer were several Gypsy Moth caterpillar cocoons. The little buggers were hitchhiking all over the U.S.; riding unseen on trucks, RVs and whatever.

And so I wonder from what faraway, somewhere-I-never-want-to-camp-in, place that spider came from. I, for one, am going to check my RV and outside gear very carefully from now on before heading on to our next destination.

Till next time,

Traveler

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