N’awlins, the Natchez Trace and on to Shreveport LA

On Day #3, June 20, 2018 of the cross country adventure I was feeling loopy about my plan of looping down through New Orleans LA to play tourist and on to Shreveport LA. I mistakenly anticipated a restful evening the night before and a sound nights sleep in Biloxi MI now that we were 600 + miles into our journey and my exit of Florida was a fait accompli with no further  untoward events.  Knowing that my head had been churning for days, once settled on the bed, I thought it wise to make sure my credit card bill was paid and not overdue.  I was quite shocked to discover my credit had decided to purchase, unbeknownst to me, $759.00 worth of items from a website that sells guns and ammunition. I conjectured that it had been skimmed at a pay-at-the pump gas station transaction earlier that day but will never know for sure.  So I had to report credit card fraud and begin to deal with all of the ramifications that evening. This was not a good sleeping tonic for sure. I imagine over the next few months I will be getting emails about my automatic renewals and recurring payments being rejected.  

The intended plan was to loop down into New Orleans (NO)  since it had been many, many years since I had visited there . But still feeling unsettled about the credit card fraud issue I began a back and forth debate with myself about spending that half day going into New Orleans. I found myself  engaging in something I rarely ever do — i.e.putting a negative spin on everything and projecting the worst case scenario — imaging traffic, no place to park, crowds, getting lost … I became acutely aware that  a doom-and-gloom person was inhabiting my body?  Fortunately I reclaimed my brain and a + attitude and headed on down into New Orleans to be a real tourist and cruise Bourbon Street and Cafe Du Monde.

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Though none of the things in my minds eye worst case scenario occurred, I did discover that the NO French Quarter is NO place to be walking with 2 dogs. Weaving in and out of the mass of bodies, avoiding “splatting”on the dirty cracked sidewalks,  and keeping the pups from snacking on the discarded food waste required intense focus. Kili was intent on “shopping” I think because he strained to enter every shop with an open door —  though it is more likely he was trying  to get out of the hot humid weather that NO is known for.

The  Cafe du Monde  is definitely a more widely popular destination than I recollect it being many years ago. But since I committed to being touristy today, I got in a long line for the classic order of cafe au lait and beignets — the original Acadian fritter. Nary a table to be had at the open air cafe but the line moved quickly and a heavy rain spatter added an element of squeeze to the line, all of us trying to get under the overhang and not fall over Kili and Simba.  I was a bit surprised to see several groups of young children, probably 5-10 years of age, getting beignets and sodas. I would not imagine this to be a health giving outing for a day camp or school group.

After scalding my mouth on the cafe au lait and dragging the dogs onward,  I wanted to saunter down Bourbon Street.  So I took a right turn on one of the first streets— onto St. Peter’s Street and looking up I saw the sign for Pat O’Briens Bar. Like a flash bulb going off, erupting out of my aging memory bank was an all too vivid recollection of one of my LEAST fine moments in those years of partying and drinking. 

My husband was at a convention and on this trip without children, I was free to roam about for the afternoon. It was in the early 1970’s. The destination was Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. During my wanders I happened upon Pat O’Briens and it’s infamous Hurricane Punch drink and naturally was inclined to try one, or, two, or three… I got hooked into sitting with a group of male conventioneers and the hours flew by. I do remember having quite a few, being quite drunk, and one of the men trying to desperately coax me up to his hotel room. Thank goodness for that moral training I received from the nuns at Immaculata High School in Detroit Michigan, so that resolve to be a good moral Catholic wife won out and I finally found my way back to where I was staying (how I do not recall).  It now was at least 8 o’clock and of course my husband and brother-in-law were frantic and were ready to call the police. So how ironic it was to randomly turn down that street to jog my memory of a way of living I would never choose to today. I wandered on down to Bourbon Street and was so sorely disappointed.  It seemed so well worn and quite shabby and nothing like the memories of 40 + years ago. Granted, younger eyes see things with a different hue than the eyes of an adult with a few more years under their belt, but I recollect just wandering into Preservation Hall, listening to the jazz for a while and meandering on.  Seems like today it is by reservation and show times. I opted not to walk much more than 6 blocks due to so much construction and infrastructure work being done and the street torn up in sections.  But I knew in my gut I was not wanting to see any more of the 21st century transformation of an area that had shown brighter in my memory of years gone by.

So the dogs and I  loaded up and I wound my way out of the city with the destination being a LaQuinta at sterile interchange in Shreveport LA.   I needed by now to avoid the interstates so I back-roaded after getting through Baton Rouge northwest to the town of Natchez  — the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. This National Parkway, operated by the National Park Service commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and traverses  sections of the original trail. It runs 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee.

IMG_5294 2This a historic corridor was used used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, and soldiers. I like to engage my mind imagining what it might have been like centuries ago  Though I could only drive 50 miles on it,  it was a perfect offset to the stress induced by the chaotic traffic of New Orleans and vicinity.  It was a bucolic traverse of lush woodlands and brilliantly green fields with almost no cars and NO advertisements. It was disappointing to have to head off but it meandered east and north instead of northwesterly. Since this was a 500 mile day I succumbed to expediency and imprisoned myself yet again on the interstate grid . This being my first time traveling with my dog Simba since he was diagnosed with diabetes,  i was faced with the dilemma of sticking to his feeding and shot schedule.  It was getting late so I had to provide them with a Love’s Truck Stop dining experience in the back seat of the Jeep at the appointed time and had a very awkward time giving  Simba his insulin shot.

At this point i was grateful for the interstate and finally settled in in Shreveport late in the day.. 

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