Tiger Moon Does The Big Eee Zee
Tunica, MS Visitor Center. Awesome.
Driving through the Deep South is just what you would imagine it would be. Once we passed the coolest Visitor Stop we had ever seen in Tunica, MS, we continued rolling through an ever deepening mass of lush greens and browns, with black creeks and bayous loping away through my rear-view.
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited, courtesy of Wikipedia.
We took Highway 61 South, in honour of Bob Dylan’s album Hwy 61 Revisited. It’s a historic highway following The Mississippi River, and is known worldwide as the birthplace of Blues Music.
Driving an ’81 VW Westfalia along the interstate highways of the USA is taxing on the mind and on the vehicle; all of the other vehicles were traveling at least 20mph faster than us, and there were hundreds of massive semis rumbling down the road in excess of 80mph. They were all very unhappy that we were in their way. So, Highway 61 it was.
We rode the historic Blues Highway all along the mighty Mississippi River, catching glimpses of it to the West as we hurdled through towns. As we passed Baton-Rouge, LA I half-expected to see Mama Boucher and Coach Klein zipping across the bayous in an airboat… And believe me, there’s a LOT of people that talk like Farmer Fran down there.
We stopped at a little spot in St. Francisville, LA called Magnolia Café. This is where we had Catfish… And it was delicious. We were given a tip at the LA Visitors Centre to stop, and we didn’t regret it. It’s a little hovel surrounded by towering Magnolia Trees. We only wished they were blooming at the time, but regardless it was gorgeous.
The sweet little café in St. Francisville, LA.
We got into New Orleans in the evening and scored some free parking by the Convention Centre, and immediately took off to see what The Crescent City had in store for us. It was Thursday Night, and I couldn’t help but notice Saints jerseys on everyone – men, women, children, and mannequins. (Oh yeah, I guess in the real world there was some sort of major NFL playoff game going on…)
This town was football crazy… Not the football crazy that Buffalo claims to be, I’m talking twisted voodoo cult crazy. I literally saw Seahawks Voodoo dolls, complete with names like ‘Carroll ‘, and ‘Wilson’ embroidered on their backs. It was creepy.
Then we got to Bourbon Street.
We came, we ate, we wandered, and we conquered. Bourbon Street was very cool, but a little overwhelming for the two of us. We could only lope behind masses of hammered people for so long before we needed to get off the damn street. That night we tucked ourselves in on the West Bank, across the Mississippi.
The next day was another exploring day, wandering around the French Quarter to see the voodoo shops, check out the food, and write some music. New Orleans is an extremely friendly place – we fell in love with the town. It seemed like every local in town lived a gypsy lifestyle, running a small shop or restaurant to carve out a humble, happy existence. I had a long conversation with a copper light builder at Bevolo Copper Lanterns about beards… We were talking about Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, and Wild Man conditioners, it was a good talk.
My beard seems to get more attention from men than from women, and furthermore, my beard receives more attention that my beautiful girlfriend.
RIGHT!? Doesn’t make any sense.
We found a Walmart to exist in for the next couple of evenings. It was close to Uptown, where we wanted to explore the next day. The free overnight parking at Walmart is the single greatest thing to happen to us on this trip. We met another young couple from Wisconsin – Meghan and Alex. They had just started a trip not dissimilar to ours – and were doing everything to avoid the cold in Wisconsin. We also met another Westy owner from Montreal who pulled up beside us, also named Dan. It was a relaxed evening with a pint, and long discussions about travelling our great continent.
Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy of uscw.mil
There was no evidence of Katrina’s wake that we could see – and we looked for it. It wasn’t until we travelled down Chef Menteur Highway and into Bayou Sauvage that we saw stark evidence of the Hurricane’s path. In the city along the banks of The Mississippi, palms were growing strong and tall, buildings were intact, and shops were open everywhere. As we headed East toward the bayou – it was a less fortunate sight. Closed shops, destroyed low-income housing, and the palms were weak, shredded, or snapped. The bayou was beautiful, but the jungle-like foliage that had taken centuries to grow and thrive was gone. Save for a few Live Oak, Cypress and Sweetgum trees, the bayou was bare. There were sure signs of recovery though, as Alligators, hundreds of bird species, bobcats and even wild pigs were returning to the area to turn the land.
Next we crossed the massive Lake Pontchartrain, gaping at the sheer size of it, and rolling into a Marina on the opposite side in Slidell. We hopped out and wandered into the little bar for a beer. The bartender was a middle-aged lady who wasn’t done living out her glory days. With big blonde hair, tight blue jeans, a black tassel leather jacket, and heavy eye makeup she wandered over to us.
“How’re ya doin’ darlin’?” She asked, heavy Louisiana drawl. Think of a sexy Farmer Fran.
“Doin’ well thanks, what do you have on tap?” I said.
“All the regulars – Bud Light, Bud, Miller High Life, MGD.” … I guess that was it.
“Can I have a High Life?”
“Make that two, please.” Kasey added.
“Sure thang, anything to eat for y’all?”
“Not yet thanks,” I replied, “But maybe we’ll keep the menu. Can we smoke outside?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot, and handed me an ashtray.
“Door’s locked, but yer welcome to smoke in here love.”
I was dumbfounded, and watched her walk back behind the bar, crack our beers open, take a long puff from her Marlboro Red 100, and wander back with the beer. I didn’t know what to do – I’ve never smoked in a bar before. I thought it was more than a decade ago that smoking was banned from indoor public places, and frankly, we had never done it before. Out of curiosity, and maybe a little bit of courtesy, I gingerly pulled a smoke out of the pack and lit it. Kasey did the same…
It was awful. The smoke wouldn’t get out of our faces, and our throats were raw halfway through. It was like a first cigarette all over again – there was no enjoyment in it whatsoever - it sucked.
(For all you young readers out there – smoking sucks in general. Don’t start. We’re quitting after this roadtrip. Hold us to it – you’ll see.)
The beer went down easy, and before long we were off. We were headed West from here, after so long out East, it was time to start loping back West. To date, New Orleans has been our favourite stop… What’s next?