Day 38(Thursday, May 26):Livonia to Denham Springs,LA–65 miles
May 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Today was full of wonderful surprises: great people, great roads, great bridges and that great big river, grown to mythical proportions in our minds over the last two weeks.
We leave early; we start modifying the route within a few hundred yards. Joe sees a sign for New Roads, sure why not; it’s in the general direction.
Joe stops at the town of False River to chat with Trooper Thibodeaux for a spell. Besides giving some nice directions, Trooper T imparts both history and anecdotes to us. False River,is so named as this 22 mile long oxbow lake, was once the main Mississippi. It truley looks like a false river. It is lined by plantations from the 1750s and gorgeous homes, one area is called the “Million Dollar Mile”. This quiet country route is s great way to start our day.
Trooper T further tells us about all the French family names here in Cajun Country; he rattles them off so fast, even I cannot keep up. He says the folk here refer to themselves as Coonasses, that it is not meant to be derogatory. He says just ask anyone and they’ll have a joke about some Devereaux or Beaulieu and his wife Marie, fishing in some Louisiana swamp…
Another trooper pulls up; we are all laughing. Trooper T gives us advice on how to find the new John James Audobon Bridge: “You’ll be crossing over the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, in flooding of historical proportions, over the third largest river in the world, the mighty Mississippi.” He mentions a man traveling by horseback around the world who got a trooper escort across the old Highway 190 bridge a while back. Yes, we could have gotten an escort; too bad we didn’t know this yesterday. Honestly, this is a better adventure.
About that bridge:At 2.44 miles, the John James Audobon Bridge, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It opened on May 15, 2011, earlier than planned, due to extreme flooding on the Mississippi River, which rendered the ferry unusable. It is the only bridge between Natchez and Baton Rouge, a river distance of 90 miles. Furthermore it is the only way for us to get across the Mississippi using our own power for miles and miles.
Thus the detour.
We are on our way again, asking more people about the bridge that has no signs to find it…we are now riding parallel with a huge dirt levee and suddenly we see the bridge. We drag our bikes across a dirt ditch near the construction site(easier than backtracking to the real road access) and cross this engineering marvel. It is so new, opened by emergency 10 days ago, there are only a few cars crossing with us and workers are still finishing last minute touches. Yes, there is water everywhere. Worse, the bugs seem to live on this side of the river; they swarm on us even as we stop to view the immense river below us.
We are now on Route 61, the birthplace of the Blues. First, a stop for an emergency can of Off! Begone bad bugs!
We cruise into Baton Rouge, unprepared for the crush of traffic.
Joe and a car have a difference of opinion; Joe signals with his arm and expects the car to let him in, but the car ignores him. Joe goes down, luckily he is not hurt. Through the whole trip I ride more cautiously and conservatively, stopping at every merge area, looking for oncoming traffic, before continuing. Maybe Joe will try my methods? No, at the next merge, it does not look to be the case, he continues to ride directly in the path of cars.
We stop for Soul Food; I figure this and cool fluids are a remedy for the situation. We have 14 more miles; I found a paragraph that made the motels around here sound mysterious; however the reality is way too many pawn shops for me.
Excerpted from Abandoned Baton Rouge.com “Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, also known as the storied Highway 61, is famous for its sketchy motels. Sketchy motels are an essential part of our cultural heritage: that’s where nearly all the murdering and philandering and all sorts of untoward business goes down. Just look at every movie from No Country For Old Men to…well, almost every other movie ever.
It was at one of these Airline motels a little further south, Sugar Bowl Courts, where Jimmy Swaggart met with disgrace in 1987, along with his ladyfriend the prostitute. They don’t still exist in the numbers they used to, but kind of shockingly, these mom & pop motels do still exist in this era of chain hotels and motels.
A few such establishments have already appeared here on Abandoned Baton Rouge: Ten Flags Inn and The Bellemont, the latter which you can see in happier days above. All of the historic “before” postcards in this post were found online or otherwise by Ken Freeman and posted on his website dedicated to remembering his hometown, Alexandria Retrospective. After he contacted me recently, the historic postcard section about Baton Rouge on his website gave me a new idea for finding sites for this blog: work backwards from historic photos and their addresses. Seeing those motel postcards prompted me to make a trip to Airline and see what was still standing.
The exercise reinforced a lesson I’ve been learning: seek and you shall find.”. End of excerpt….and on to other pastures.
I try to coax Joe to go a few miles farther; the winds are with us. No, he is done for the day.
So I write this from the cool comfort of a brand new motel in Denham Springs, watching Nadal at the French Open…
Bye for today…