I have been spending my free time slowly working my way through Ken Burns’s documentary project on our national parks, and I’ve been feeling a ridiculously strong urge to go enjoy our natural heritage. Mostly I’m missing mountains, though. I grew up in mountains and there’s just no substitute. But I’m 638 miles from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (yes, I’ve been doing a lot of googleymapping, wishing I were rich in time and money), and those don’t really count as mountains anyway–not when you know about the Owyhees, the Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Tetons. But there’s a National Historical Park right here in the French Quarter, preserving the legacy of New Orleans jazz, so I packed up my National Parks passport, hopped on the bike, and rode downtown in the soppy heat. The place was fairly empty, so I took a seat right in the middle of the screening room and settled in to watch the informational film. Now, I don’t know anything about music. I know I like to dance, but other than that, I’m pretty much just listening to whatever you play for me. I’ve never been a big jazz fan, but maybe that’s just because nobody’s ever sat me down and explained to me how to listen to it. The movie walked me through a genealogy of jazz and explained to me what was so new about Miles Davis, Mingus, and John Coltrane. The National Park system, man. Incredible resources, there for the taking, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Oh, I hope I get to ride through many, many, many of them in the rest of my days.