Given the utterly homogeneous appearance of the I-10 and the ubiquitous proliferation of chains (McDonalds, Subway, Chevron, Comfort Inn, et.al.), at every exit, I think I should be forgiven for my immediate reaction upon seeing the Louisiana Visitors’ Center/Rest Stop. I took one look at the swamp surrounded by moss-covered cypress and thought, “Surely this place was created by Disneyland imagineers.” They even got the exposed roots of the cypress trees in the water and the signage (“Look Out for Snakes”) right.
I chided myself for this initial response, recalling the time I drove through the Central Valley in California with my windows open and thought, “Wow, this smells just like the produce section of Safeway.”
In both instances, I chided myself, “It’s the other way ‘round, honey.”
Bodies of water seem to be to Louisiana what saguaro cactus are to Arizona. Louisiana is positively water logged. Even I-10 is built up on tall concrete footers. I wondered whether (how often?) the water rises up to cover the freeway.
I-10 in Louisiana is built on stilts.
The deeper I drove into the South, the more uncomfortable I became. My accent, my California license plates, and my barely disguised gawking at prominently displayed Confederate flags and park rangers (park rangers!) smoking cigarettes prevented me from keeping the low profile I craved.
My fear of the Deep South dates back to the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties, when young white men went to the South to march – and were never seen nor heard from again. Then there are the stories of being thrown into jail for no good reason, apart from not belonging in Mississippi. I also vividly recall vowing to never put myself in Texas after seeing photos in a September 1961 issue of Life Magazine of HUGE snakes floating on the water in the aftermath of Hurricane Carla. Then, of course, should I somehow become lost (Me? Lost? When has that ever NOT happened? ), there’s Deliverance to think about.
Once I arrived in Florida I started to relax. Big mistake.
You may recall that I gave myself a full four weeks to get from New Mexico to St. Augustine, where I was meeting up with an RV’ing Women (RVW) “Rolling Rally” traveling the East Coast. The reasoning behind this lengthy timeframe was a combination of my slow pace of travel and the possibility that I could be stuck somewhere waiting for an obscure — or even common– RV part.
So there I am on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico and across from Pensacola, when heavy rains started the night before and continued to come down the morning of my departure. Since my power cord was partially under water, I took a photo of it with my phone so that I’d leave proof of how I’d died (electrocuted). I was thoroughly soaked, so much so that my fingers actually wrinkled. I now realize that I should have just thrown on a bathing suit when I went outside.
I was on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island.
Cause of death: electrocution
In any event, when it came time to bring in my slide-out, it wouldn’t budge. I had to call a mobile RV repair crew, who had to brave 10+ miles of flooded island roads to make it to my site. To make a long story short (and I’m one of the very few people I know to trot out that phrase before telling the long story), I ended up waiting a week for a part of come in. Pretty much as I had planned/feared/prepared.
Next Post: “Not Slytherin.”