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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

East to Abita Springs and Back West Again to Natchez

Tuesday March 25, 2014 Quality Inn Room 123 Natchez Mississippi 4:41 PM CST

Yesterday, after seven wonderful sleeps in Lafayette, we departed in the morning to head east to Abita Springs and the brewery to savor fried oyster po’boys and some seasonal Abita Beer at the brewery Brew Pub. Bill loves, and so do I, the Atchafalaya Swamp and the causeway over it at Breaux Bridge so off we went the back way to BB and I 10, which crosses the watery Atchafalaya Basin including Whiskey Bay. We have criss-crossed this area so much that it is difficult to find a way we haven’t traveled it. Looking at the map, however, I discovered a heretofore neglected path, an innocuous black line running through the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. The map legend indicated that 975 to Krotz Springs is two lane paved. Well, let us just say, Louisiana’s idea of two lane, let alone paved, is not the same concept to us Yankees. Despite this slight difference of interpretation, the 17 miles of the one and 1/4 lane—oh,okay, with a little give we were able to pass oncoming pick-ups with no problem—gravel road was quite pleasant. On one side the Bay with camps all along it and a power line marking our way and the other side the wooded scrub area. In time the road left the Bay and so the power lines and camps were replaced by the levee that separated us from the Atchafalaya River. With such low land, almost all rivers are obscured from view by the iconic Southern levee, which is privately owned, mostly by oil companies, and strictly off-limits. Though the area was pretty rural and natural we saw no wildlife at all. Well, not animal wildlife—the woods were golden with lovely daisy-like flowers which grew in great profusion. In time we reached 190 and proceeded across the Morganza Spillway, which you may remember was opened up a few years ago, sacrificing agricultural fields in order to save New Orleans from incredible flooding. With the Northern snow pack this year I really think the same thing will happen again this Spring.

At Livonia we chose the same path we’d taken from St Francisville to Lafayette in February. We always enjoy the lovely Oxbow Lake known as Lost River at New Roads. The Mississippi once flowed here but over time its path has altered and this lake was left behind, silted in as the mighty river changed its course. In what seemed an incredible short time we reached the Audubon Bridge which replaced the St Francisville Ferry about five years ago, much to our disappointment. I don’t know if I’m finally so used to the bridge or what but its height did not bother me in any way. I do really think it is a beautiful structure.

As long as we were passing through St Francisville we stopped at Grandmother’s Buttons. I’d bought a pendant there last year made with a button having a rather long shank. It protruded from the back of the pendant and prevented it from lying flat on my neck. I took it in to ask if the shank could be bent down—the lady took it right to the shop and they bent it for me in seconds. The salesgirl remembered us from February when I’d made some purchases and had them send Betsy her necklace for her birthday. This time I bought the other necklace with which I’d fallen in love.

We then hopped over to the IGA where I snagged a last six pack of Lazy Magnolia Pecan Stout, two six packs of Abita Strawberry lager and one of their Grapefruit IPA. There was also a six pack of LA37’s Passione. Headed to the bank for some cash and left St Francisville in our dust until next year.  Passed through all the old towns along La 10—Jackson, Clinton, Darlington, Greensburg, Fluker and Wilmer. We then turned southward on a road new to us, 450, and suddenly we were in an entire new world—a land of thoroughbred horses and cattle ranches. But these are for sale, a ranch with show and breeding cattle and horse outfits that have signs designating the Mare Division! Huge spreads, some visible from the road and others discreetly hidden by forests and screening landscaping. At a surprisingly shabby crossroad 450 connected with La 25 which took us into Covington. Picked up La 21 to La 33 and the Brew Pub only to find THEY ARE CLOSED ON MONDAYS!!!!!! Do you remember the guy we met in Oklahoma last year who was down from Ill or In  doing business in Texas, only to find that business does not get done in Texas on Sunday or Monday?  He claimed that is why the South lost the war—I’m thinking he may be right!

So back we trekked to Covington and Outback, where to console myself I had the lamb with baked sweet potato, spring vegetables , mint jelly and cabernet sauce. Helped to make-up for a trip that was totally out of our way and not all, but mostly for naught. Met a cute young guy from Mississippi who was a friend of our young barmaid. He is out of work and hoping to hook up with a friend’s father on a construction job tomorrow. He left Mississippi because he was getting into drugs and felt he had to leave his friends, some of which he’d known since grade school, in order to avoid a bad end. He said it was so hard to do and giving up work was hard, too but he just knew if he hung out with them any longer it would not end well. I hope things work out for him. He also taught me the proper way of saying Natchez—Nahchess—no T and no Z!  As for Kiln, he said he’s always called it Kiln and no one ever corrected him so forget what the kid at Lazy Magnolia said. LOL

Back to our room, probably later than we should have stayed out—but we are usually in by 6 and Bill is asleep by 8. Every so often I get to stay out to socialize and not have to retire like an old bag—I like to socialize. Still in before dark and managed to watch The Blacklist. How do you like my new nail job?  Optimistically, hoping the colors will encourage an early arrival of Spring after we get home to the deep freeze in Vermont!

Such wishful thinking Sad smile  Well, until next time. KandB

Back again: still in Natchez:6:35PM on Tuesday March 25

Forgot to tell you about the Feliciana Parishes in Louisiana. Originally settled by Indians, the area was taken over by the Spanish by right of exploration and remained in Spanish hands until around 1699.LaSalle had explored the Mississippi in 1682 and claimed all the lands drained by it for France in the name of Louis XIV. Spain also had claimed Florida by right of exploration.  After the French and Indian War, Spain ceded the Florida territory to England and France ceded Louisiana to Spain. England determined that the Feliciana or Happy Land portion of Louisiana actually was part of Florida and so this area became known as West Florida. Over time, land grants, emigrants from British areas and British loyalists began to fill West Florida. American colonists wanted West Florida to revert to American territory and with Spain’s support the West Florida Territory became Spanish once more—until 1810.

In 1800, Spain had to cede Louisiana back to France and Napoleon sold it to the US in 1803. West Florida was not included in this transaction and though Jefferson insisted that it was American the Spanish did not agree and remained in control. Soon, however, the settlers became unhappy with Spanish rule, revolted and set up a short lived Republic while petitioning the US to annex them. In 1810, President Monroe assumed control under the determination that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase. When Louisiana became a State in 1812—Feliciana was included as a County made of four Parishes. Eventually, Feliciana Parish was divided into East and West Feliciana and that is how the division exists today.

We think of Louisiana as so French but in actuality there is a very old Spanish culture including in New Orleans which predates the French culture that is so prevalent today. 

To continue with today’s adventures, we left Covington with a tip from an anti-Serta ovine. Back across the Bogue  into the country and horse farms and cattle ranches of yesterday. The day was so sunny and the trees and flowers, including the beautiful wisteria, just screamed SPRING! One nursery had a sign that said when I see and smell Spring I just wet my plants!  And that’s how we felt—just singing hearts and smiles and the urge to wet some plants somewhere. One of those horse farms even has a private race track—to test out a thoroughbred before purchase???

There is a vine down here that climbs on the trees before they have even leafed out or as they are just leafing out—it has the most beautiful yellow flowers and with my telephoto I was able to see that the blossoms are bell-like. So beautiful. After Fluker we took I 55 to get a bit farther north but the wind was so strong and the road just so brutal, especially once we entered Mississippi that I sought a less traveled and more protected route. Found rte 24/48 which traveled due west to Liberty and then continued on 24 to the little town of Gloster. By this time we were starved and found the Gloster CafĂ©. Let me tell you the place was hopping.

I ordered a hamburger with bacon and American cheese. It was huge and freshly made. Bill had a chicken salad on white and we both had Sweet Tea. The waitress, the lady in the blue shirt, came over and said that she had no quarters, dimes or nickels and hadn’t had a minute to get to the bank to get change. Bill offered to sell her $10 worth of quarters for which she was very grateful. Used the bathroom while waiting for our food and it was a hoot—go in the door and there is a platform with a wrought iron fence around it and three steps up. Here is the sink and commode—literally, the throne!  Used the last of the toilet paper and opened the cabinet door and, just like home, there was the extra—so, just like home, I replaced the empty roll!  LOL

While we were eating I noticed the two gentlemen at one table over each had a brownie sundae—after each eating that huge hamburger!! Well, Bill and I couldn’t resist—but we ordered one, with two spoons. The young cook also put on two cherries—LOL

As we were leaving the waitress, the owner, asked where we were from—when we said Vermont she shrieked and told the young girl—go get Murdock!  As her husband, who had been seating people and getting their drinks and was now taking a deserved break as the crowd had cleared, appeared, she declared these folks are from Vermont!  Apparently, Murdock is a retired history teacher and she’s been after him to put up a big map with pushpins because all sorts of people come passing through!  I guess there were some from Ireland the other day and they had to ask Ireland, Ms or the country?  It was the country and they were doing what we do—happily traveling back roads to see what there is to see. Murdock said that they are building a pellet factory outside of town and one of the guys is from New Hampshire. He was complaining that the red mud was thicker than NE mud in mud season and his work boots were quite encaked the other day. Bill said but I bet he isn’t having any trouble with this weather! All laughed and agreed to that. Murdock said people ask how they can put up with the heat but particularly the humidity of summer and he said we just stay indoors. I guess that’s what we do in snow-time, too.

Murdock was impressed that I had navigated us to their establishment and that I knew where we were headed through the Homochitto National Forest. He said when we cross the Homochitto River that that area has many Indian relics still buried in the mud. A fellow a few years back came across an ancient weir the wood of which was pretty intact but the willow weavings just fell apart. He also said that a flood knocked the bridge out several seasons ago and two men were washed away. While looking for their bodies an old canoe was unearthed. He said there is so much history in the area and you never know what can be found even today from the Indian settlements.

Well, after wishing us a safe trip and urging us to return someday we shook hands and were off. Out to Crosby and the old mill town it was—the mill houses are still there and the huge school is empty and the blinds all broken on the windows. From there basically 17 miles of woods ‘til Route 84 west into Washington and then south a few miles into Natchez and the motel. Over the office door, a cluster of hot peppers and a lime to ward off evil spirits—I think it is just a handy bunch of flavoring ingredients for something Mexican! It is pretty no matter and just seems to be another colorful reminder of spring and harvest time in California and the South.

Bill has gone over to the Mexican restaurant for an appetizer—I’m going to catch up on the newspapers and get ready for NCIS and NCIS LA. The regular one is set in New Orleans tonight—how appropriate since I’m just filled with Acadiana spirit by virtue of temporary adoption through exploration. So, take care. We are officially in the East now, having crossed the Mississippi but happily for now, we are still in the South.

Tomorrow, the Trace to Tupelo! Til then KandB

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