Saturday, June 04, 2011

Driving away from interstates

I drove to Natchitoches, Louisiana on Thursday and then drove back on Friday. For the unitiated: Nack-i- dish.( In Texas, their cityis called, Natch-i-toach-es.)
Nice little Louisiana city, has old Creole population and Native American too. Oldest settlement in the Purchase, officially a few years older than New Orleans itself. Home of meat pies (crawfish pie is wonderful) and Steel Magnolias, the Hollywood movie. City itself? Charming, has some smart people. Seriously divided between rich and poor (which means between black and white in Louisiana) and full of festivals.
Oh yes, they got buggies too
crawfish pies
Half Shell Seafood catfish

Both days using state routes, I got to leisurely view the water levels, the small towns and peek at the culture of my state as I drove at speeds ranging from 35 to 60.
I always take 190 from Baton Rouge to Opelousas then catch one of the most boring and brutally sunlit highways sections, 1-49 between Opelousas and Natchitoches.
This time, on the way back home, traffic was forced off 1-49 over to state route 71 South, so I just stayed on that until 190 this time. I might just switch over to 71 to Alexandria from now on. It was much more pleasant.
71 was much less populated but I was able to ride through Bunkie LA and a few other small towns that were clearly built as railroad crossing towns. A water tower and one church (usually Baptist) identifies some life back there.
I'm a fan of traveling on state routes;maybe it comes from reading Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon's classic book from the early 1980s about traveling the blue routes (state routes were blue on the old highway maps) and the people he meets along the way in a van he names Ghost Dancing.

In any case, traveling along those means you drive slowly through little towns (sooo many speed traps back there) and can stop for boudin, or cracklins or some chicken at places with first names only (Miss Jean' or Charlie's) and see buildings up against these old roads advertising for car repairs, boat repairs or just hanging out places (lodges and bars).
190 is heavily traveled always and now with the Spillway open even more so. (At certain points, the police were flashing blue lights and had signs to warn about wildlife crossing (due to the floods). Still the drive was mostly peaceful and calm. Maybe someday (peak oil days) the state routes will be full of bicycles, tramps and mule-driven carriages rather than cars and trucks and then all of their glory will be revealed again.

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