There are some things in life to which you just can't say "no." Shakira and the IRS come readily to mind, as do a box of Fruit Roll Ups and Shakira. A free road trip is another. Now, I know what you're thinking: no, actually, I don't know what you're thinking. But you might be thinking that there's no way, what with gas, tolls, lodging and inevitable car wreckage, that a road trip could be free. You might be thinking that spending five days on the road, rocking out, is five days I could've spent, say, at work, and thus this road trip is actually costing me those wages I'm missing out on. You might even be thinking that I'm so monumentally poor that I can't even afford "free." Or you might be thinking about reality TV. Who knows anymore.

There are also some things in life that just shouldn't happen, and topping that list – far above ill-advised foreign invasions and having intimate relations with "that girl" (you know, "that girl") – is the bequeathing of a company van and credit card to a group of reckless youths for their proposed road trip to Mardis Gras. Yet, thanks to a blessing straight from the heavens – or Albany – that unfathomable situation occurred two weeks ago, when the parents of Mike the Roommate thought it was a great idea for Mike the Roommate, along with "Voetsch," Nate and I, to take their charge card into the international epicenter of frivolity and irresponsibility. After much deliberation, we agreed that this was indeed a great idea.

Now I really know what you're thinking: it was completely unnecessary for me to go to New Orleans for a third year in a row. And in many ways – namely, all of them – I would agree. But this was Mardi Gras, and I knew that the numbing amount of boobs being flashed around Bourbon Street was going to be different and more enlightening than the numbing amount of boobs I saw during my last two visits to New Orleans, for the Final Four and spring break. Add to this the fact that the unparalleled Nicole Kone, Loyola student extraordinaire and shameless plug-requester, put us up for free in her apartment, and our trip was completely free. As has since been established, you can't turn down a free road trip. It's not healthy.

I should clarify, though: the trip was free aside from my communications tab. As something of an avid text-and-picture messager, I long ago signed up for Verizon's "250 text messages, 25 photos" plan. On a given month, those numbers generally last me a week before I start running up a staggering tab and wonder aloud, "why don't I boost my plan?" This being a road trip, however, and with me having set up a camera-phone weblog, my monthly quotas almost made it out of Manhattan before I was in the red. But the cell phone bill won't be coming for a month. Road trip expenses are purely out-of-pocket. This little journey was still free.

Being that our goal for this trip was to have as much cost-effective fun as is possible, our first destination in New Orleans was the casino. Fortunately, the money lost there – $50 at the craps tables by your impoverished author, $60 and $100 at blackjack by "Voetsch" and Mike the Roommate, respectively – was not "spent" as much as it was "gambled." There is a vast difference between spending money and gambling money. Spending money entails a purposeful decrease in monetary holdings in exchange for some product or service. Gambling money entails an unintentional decrease in monetary holdings in exchange for absolutely nothing. Though I lost some money, it was not spent on anything pertaining to the trip. Therefore, in a deluded and masochistic sense, our journey remained free.

Digressional note on Mardi Gras: if you gathered the most depraved, sexually repressed, alcoholic, immoral and deviant people in the world and put them on Bourbon street, they would be terrified and overwhelmed by the Mardi Gras revelers. The other Mardi Gras revelers. We're all good.

But at least being a perverted bead-waving degenerate is free, which is less than I can say for our lodging on the second night of our visit (the first and third nights were free thanks to Ms. Kone, though her impromptu trip to the ER after falling from a loft complicated night number three plenty). On that central evening the fellas, wanting to truly experience the French Quarter, talked me into getting a hotel room at a place so deep into the French Quarter that it was likely closer to Paris than it was the New Orleans downtown. If there's any way to judge this $30 expense, it's to say that I was against staying in the hotel in the first place. Thus, it was more a matter of extortion than anything, and the forced dispensing of money cannot be misconstrued as spending. $30 for the hotel stay, yes, but this trip was free as a bird.

Which only leaves the ride home. Here it gets hazy, but fortunately I can invoke an ages-old road trip mandate: whenever traveling in the South, at least one trip to Waffle House is required. It is under that clause that I can write off the money spent at an Alabama Waffle House, and by association the beer we had at the neighboring Hooters. I was just doing my part as a road-tripper. A free road-tripper.

And there you have it. Aside from minor expenses on negligible incidentals (mainly candy, which is considered in the same vein as "air"), I spent five days in New Orleans for free. It may have been hard to resist temptation, and even harder to justify it when I succumbed to temptation, but in the end I succeeded at both. That I'll barely make this month's rent, if at all, is completely irrelevant. I blame that on exchange rates. Foreign markets. Inflation. It has absolutely nothing to do with the five days I spent at Mardi Gras.

The trip, after all, was free.