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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Big Thicket

Our motel was at exit 18 last night so we had to head north an exit to pick up 190 west. For one fleeting moment we had the option of going to Lafayette but no, we decided last night to forgo it so we stuck with our decision. I swear the car tried to swerve out of Bill's hands but he was firmly in control and off we went through downtown Opelousas. I was so distraught I didn't think to take even one picture!  Don't think we missed much though.

As we came around a bend in Lawtell a red truck caught my eye and it looked so much like a toy that I knew it had to be vintage. Knowing my friend, Glen, likes such things I took a quick shot of it--unfortunately, not my best picture of the day. When I enlarged and cropped the windshield I think I found that Glen probably wouldn't care about it since only the chassis seems to be original. Even the paint job is new. Oh, well, it WAS cute. We passed a bone yard and there were several vintage autos--Bill suggested I take a picture of that for Glen but I knew seeing those poor old rusty neglected cars would make him sad---so I didn't. Should I have, Glen?

On we  continued through the last of Acadiana and its crawfish growing rice paddies. I love how the shallow pond is used for both. There were several fields that have been drained and I was amazed at how shallow those ponds really are. There was a man in a flat boat in one of them collected crawfish. I'd not seen that before in our travels.

Entering Elton we came upon the first of several rice dryers and storage facilities along this highway. The chutes feed the dried rice into trucks to be taken to rice mills and packaging plants. Bet there are a few vermin in there and maybe a few big cats to keep them in line. What do you think, Jack?  Those Konriko kitties ain't seen nothing yet! ( Konriko is the rice plant in Lafayette-New Iberia area that I wrote about several years ago )  Also in Elton we stopped at the PO to mail Betsy's birthday card. ( Which reminds me, I forgot to get one for SIL Sally and a sympathy card for my cousin's family. He died last night of cancer--at about 6 o'clock. Sad but he has been ill for awhile and did well until fairly recently--it was not unexpected.)

At Ragley 190 joins 171 and heads straight North toward DeRitters. The railroad had run right next to us from Opelousas but now it took a slight southern path and we went North. Both of us would meet again in Merryville.  When we came to 110 I realized that it went to Merryville too and that it was a diagonal shot. Going to DeRitters took us slightly north of the town and then we had to swing southwest to reach it. Driver never blinked --just made that left when I said to.  He's pretty cooperative even though I've gotten us into some interesting situations in the past. Anyone remember the levee road yesterday?  But, like a Navy Seal, I try to have several alternatives in case the first idea doesn't pan out.

Fortunately, this time it not only worked but it saved us about 20 miles. This part of Louisiana--which by the way is NOT Arcadiana is a little higher and much drier. It is piney woods and rolling hills--much like the Texas to which we were headed. The scenery is pretty unchanging for many miles and tends to bore me but travelling with Bill makes it interesting. He enjoys it because he understands what is going on here. A forestry operation that works over a 50-60 year cycle. The thickly wooded area of young trees, the culled areas that are maybe 5 years older, the thinned areas that are another 5-10 years older, the really thinned area where controlled fires have eliminated the understory and the trees are growing tall and straight another 10 years older, the area that looks the same except the trees have more girth, probably 20 years older and ready to be harvested. And then the areas that look awful because they have been harvested recently and the pretty areas with all the small seedlings where the area has been reseeded--instead of the old seed tree method. When you have such narration by someone who has studied and taught forestry you realize that the scenery is NOT the same after all!  And to think Botany was my least favorite of all my major courses and the least interesting to me to teach. I got better at teaching it by being married to Bill. And when I tutored my last student he was my guest lecturer who took us on several field trips and taught us both so much.

The time passed so quickly and before long we reconnected with 190 in Merryville, which wasn't much of a place, and crossed the humane bridge across the Sabine and entered Texas. With a pang, I left Louisiana behind. Who knows we may return through the upper part on the way home but not Lafayette this trip. :-(

There was no welcome center on this entry and the local information center in Newton is not open on Mondays. We stopped at a gas station and BOUGHT a map--unheard of---where did I leave my maps of the southern tier?  This map does not show the farm roads and so I'm a navigator with an inferior tool. The roads here are long  roller coaster rides.

 We headed for Lufkin by way of Jasper and Zavalla. We'd travelled farm roads that criss-crossed 63 and 69, which we took today after the accident in Tulsa that totalled our Cobalt. Our Westward motion was stopped and we took farm roads south to Beaumont, where we turned eastward making a large loop through Louisiana and other parts of the South and then home.

Just outside Jasper we came to an historical sign about the Forestry Service and the industry. After Bill read it he commented on two things--the area forested is as big as Vermont if not bigger and that the value of the board feet figure was a little off. I pointed out that the sign had been placed there in 1968!  A short while later I saw smoke drifting lazily through the trees on Bill's side and a sweetish smell, like new mown hay filled the air. On a rise we could see that off in the distance there was a controlled burn going on. The smoke traveled through those spaces between the rows of trees, quietly and eerily, over a very long distance.

 In Zavalla we found that 69 had been widened and repaved and the road has sort of changed around the farm route intersection. It would be almost unrecognizable but for the fact that the Eagle's Nest Cafe is right where it was two years ago when we passed by and ate lunch there. I wondered if they ever found the bull they had posted a missing bull sign about on the outside bulletin board. We post for lost dogs and cats, in Zavalla Texas a bull goes missing and they ask if anyone has seen him outside the cafe. Farther down the road stands Zavalla High School with the wonderful carving of an Eagle right on the edge of the road. I suspect he was carved in woodshop or maybe art class by a student or students. I wonder how long he has been there--I know he's been there four years. Quite realistic. This is the town where I spent a half hour chatting with the postmaster but today I didn't notice the PO.

Came to the former location of Jonesville--we had not seen this marker having traveled both times in the opposite direction. We passed the road to the cemetery and would have loved going down to check it out but we were getting tired and traffic was picking up. Arrived at the motel where we'd stayed to sign the insurance release on the Cobalt and where we stayed again two years ago. Checked in and then went downtown to my favorite antique shop. Had hoped to find a replacement for my change purse but no luck. Got a sugar and creamer and two antique silver spoons--one from Lansing Mi and one from NeuAmsterdam.

Made the dreadful mistake of chatting up a woman who was looking for a small creamer and sugar to use for toothpicks. She was quite a sight--a wig of blond and light brown braids and teeth that I wished I could stare at. Many of them were gold which was easy to see but some in the front appeared to be another metal that was etched--like flat silvery plates etched with floral designs. In an odd way they were fascinating but I so wished I could get up close and look at them. Her complexion was cafe au lait and looked so smooth and soft I wanted to touch it. The reason chatting with her was a mistake is because once started it was nearly impossible to extricate myself.

She went to the check out lady before me and continued to chat--the lady came and unlocked the spoon case and returned to her. I then busily examined the spoons, hoping that she would check out and the lady could help me. No such luck, I chose my spoons and went to the desk. My new friend decided that she didn't want the items for which she already paid--so that whole transaction had to be voided. Mind you, this is a consignment antique mall so voiding the sale is not a simple procedure--in the meantime she continued to chat us both up. I was actually becoming a little uncomfortable, wondering if, by chance, there was some kind of scam or distraction ploy in play. Eventually, she purchased other items and went on her way.

After she left the saleslady said that she comes in often and that she has laid away items but that, once she was allowed to do that, she has returned and wanted to do it again and again. It is a complicated process because she chooses things from various vendors and when she makes a payment the store has to divvy it up among the vendors. So, because it is always many items not amounting to much and the process so time consuming and complicated they have refused to do it anymore for her. The lady says she feels badly but that it is just too much bookkeeping and there is too much chance of mistakes.

By the time we got back to the motel, I was hot and tired and my joints were incredibly stiff. There is a wonderful restaurant in the hotel and so I had pork medallions in a Madeira mustard sauce with fresh asparagus spears and steamed broccoli. The vegetables were perfect with just the right amount of snap and the pork and sauce made me want to lick my plate. I opened a bottle of  Barefoot Riesling to go with it ( part of my have wine will travel cache). There is also a salad with bleu cheese dressing that I'll use as later snack.

So ladies and gentlemen, a little OReilly Factor, a bit of wine and maybe something on TV.  It is very difficult to find show since there never seems to be a guide channel or a paper listing shows. Oh, well, perhaps a book might be better. I KNOW what is on tomorrow!  LOL

I will close now, having no idea where we are going though I think Wacko--oops I mean Waco and Abilene look like they may be in my future--and your, vicariously. Til then--happy trails!

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