Congrats! As for New Orleans, a buddy and I did that exact ride in the fall. NYC (well, my apartment in North Jersey) to New Orleans. Hit the blue ridge parkway, you will love it. Also, follow the coastal roads (not slab) in the panhandle to LA and you will have a great ride. We were surprised how much of an impact Katrina still had on the landscape down there, even years later. Btw, great ride report. Keep it coming!