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Causeways and Palmettos

On Saturday, I decided I needed to escape from the conference for a while, so I left the Convention Center and walked over to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

That visit highlighted something I appreciate about New Orleans and Louisiana, which is the distinct aesthetic that resides there. The "Fleurs-des-lises all the things!" aspect is silly, but they're harmless compared to the Texas-Shaped-Everything. Anyway, the top floor of the museum was full of incredible landscape paintings by Simon Gunning, which cover distinctly Louisiana subjects and provide a sense of the light and color one can experience in the area. There was also a fascinating collection of outsider, self-taught, and visionary art, providing a different cultural perspective.

The art museum trip also sharpened my desire to take an indirect, coastal route for my drive from New Orleans to College Station to visit friends. After cursorily examining some maps and online resources (like this one), I determined that if I queried the Goog with a requested route to Cameron, LA, the smart-o-phone and I could make the expedition happen, and from Cameron the smart-o-phone could take me to Texas.

The drive did not disappoint. Although I couldn't afford to stop anywhere or take any pictures, I have to tell you that the drive through the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area was otherworldly and gorgeous, and I highly recommend it. All my life, I've had this recurring dream that involves driving an old Volkswagen Beetle on narrow wooden boardwalk roads through swamps, and this drive spoke strongly to that part of my subconscious (even though the real roads were concrete highways).

In addition, while I didn't wind up driving back and forth over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, I had a gleeful time on the half-dozen or so other causeway bridges I crossed, including a bridge crossing over the Mississippi River at the beginning that offered a broader view of the New Orleans cityscape. Causeway bridges are the sorts of arched bridges where, when you get close to cresting the top, you almost feel as though you're going to launch up into space. They also offer fabulous views of the surrounding area.

After enjoying all the fat-bottomed swamp trees in the Atchafalaya, I entered yet another foreign landscape as I traveled further west towards Cameron. The trees disappeared and were replaced with infinite marshland threaded with waterways - the sort of place that feels like a huge, mysterious maze. Soon I noticed that all the houses I drove past were up on stilts or pilings of various heights so they would survive the watery onslaughts the region must periodically experience.

My plans experienced a hitch when I reached Cameron. I hadn't noticed it initially, but there's a break in the highway that I'd been hoping to follow that occurs just west of Cameron. When I reached that spot on the map, I discovered a small, very desolate and empty-looking ferry terminal with a DETOUR sign posted towards a road that came to a dead-end.

Now, as of today the internet seems to completely believe that the ferry is up and running, so maybe I should have paused to try and sort things out. At the time, I was starting to get concerned about making it to College Station at a reasonable hour, so given the discouraging signs I U-turned and nosed north and then west through Beaumont, TX.

Altogether, it was a satisfying drive, and has cemented my sense that Louisana's an interesting corner of the United States. It was also nice to have that bit of quiet time to think, to the degree that one can think while operating a motor vehicle.

By the way - I will post a handful of photos separately, sometime soon.



( 2 remarks — Remark )
Jan. 11th, 2017 02:40 am (UTC)
It's a bit dated but a chunk of the John McPhee book "The Control Of Nature" is about the Atchafalaya River Basin and the extent that the US Corps of Engineers has gone to keep the rivers therein within their current banks and doing what they currently do.
Jan. 17th, 2017 09:32 am (UTC)
In my to-read stack on my desk is "Southern Waters", which ought to discuss some of the same topics.
( 2 remarks — Remark )

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