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Published: March 5th 2018
We left John's with heavy hearts on Sunday, it was a late start, and after a long drive we parked for the night at the Alabama Welcome Center on I 10. Very nice stop, with well-lit and quiet parking well off the highway. The next morning we bailed from the Interstate to take a secondary road route I had planned out. Alabama went fine, Mississippi was also a breeze, and the first half on Louisiana worked well too, and we crossed the new Audubon bridge over the Mississippi as I wanted to do. After that though, we ran afoul the map demons.
I was working from the large scale map in our Rand McNally, not the (my excuse!) smaller scale individual state gazetteers I usually work from. It looked to me like we could take LA Rt 10 right across the west part of the state, which would put us into Texas on US190 well north of Beaumont and Houston. Great plan, but as we got a little west of the Mississippi River, Rt 10 just sort of disappeared. I looked on Google Maps on my phone, and I saw a way to take
some back roads to get back to it.
So off we went, down some narrow blacktop lanes following curving paths around one bayou after another. As we went along, the road got narrower and rougher by the mile, and we both got that sinking feeling when you begin to fear the end of the pavement is just ahead. Suddenly though, the road got wider, with painted lines again – oh joy! I checked my phone again and, sure enough, RT 10 was just ahead. Then we came to the intersection, and there was the LA Route 10 sign – on a muddy, grass-center wagon track leading along the side of a levee – horrors! Now all we needed was banjo music...
Just as doom seemed upon us, and the only way out would be to try to back and fill and get the whole rig turned around to retrace our many-mile steps back to the highway, an angel appeared. The angel, in this case, was an old African-American gentleman driving a very well used white Toyota PU. Clearly, he knew we were in dire need of assistance, and he was the man for the job.
He had a bit of a chuckle at the Rt 10 thing, telling us that it used to go through here, but that it had required a ferry to cross yet another bayou, and that the ferry had been discontinued years ago. He said that you could still get through, but only if you drove many miles on top of the levee, where there was no actual road. We didn't have to think too long to reject that notion. As an alternative, he said he lived just a couple miles from US 190, and if we followed him home, we could just continue on by his house when he turned in his drive, and we would be there. We took the deal.
And so it was. He lead us on down some very rough gravel roads. At one point we crossed a tiny one lane bridge over a swollen creek where the water was right up to the road surface. I glanced over at Cathy and saw that her eyes were closed for that one. I'd have closed mine too, but, after all, I was driving. Sure enough though, soon the roads got better, and then he turned into the drive of a very neat and tidy home – and we gave him a horn toot and a very grateful wave. A couple miles later we were on US 190, heading west toward Texas. Surprising? No -- after all, this was Louisiana, the home of Tennessee William's Blanche DuBoise, who famously said “Ah have always relied on the kindness of strangers” – that one was for you, Blanche.
We stayed that night in a small, out of the way campground a short way off the highway in Western Louisiana. It was an odd sort of place, and it looked like almost all the folks staying there were not travelers, but lived there full time. No one was at all friendly, and we never even saw the manager, but just put our money in an envelope and slid it in a slot. The only open spot was between a rather beat-up old Airstream, and a slightly better looking old Avion.
Louisiana is a different sort of place then what we are used to. As an example, there was a busy train line near our campground, and we had to cross the tracks to get there and back, over a unguarded level crossing! I don't know when the last time was I saw one of those in New York State. When we left the next morning, we saw a school bus full of kids go over another one – yikes! And don't let me get started on the condition of their roadways, I don't think they've seen new pavement since Huey Long was Governor.
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