WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.5 - McComb, Mississippi
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 19:47:24 -0800

    Wisps of pleasantly chill morning mist slowly swirled upward from the placid surface of Big Darbonne Bayou. The silvery Spanish moss draped from tree branches to trail in the gentle current. A carpet of bright green vegetation and water moss diffused the boundary of land and water, rippling every now and then with the leap of a frog. There is a ready dampness in the air, waiting to make its own leap to humidity. This is a peaceful place. Bud's home is a former sportsmen's club "get away from it all" lodge at the edge of the Great Atchafalaya Swamp. Ya done good, Bud.
    As I saddled up to leave, Sassy, his big black lab watched me with attentive curiosity. If dogs invented vehicular means of travel, I'm sure something like a motorcycle would be prominent in their choices. She looked like she yearned to go, but she settled for a mournful howl in tune to the freight train crossing the grading on the levee road. I howled with her as I rode off.

    Yesterday and today were relatively short days with a lot of slow back country sightseeing. From Clute, I finished the few miles to the very shore of the Gulf of Mexico and rode along the beach to and through Galveston. The miles of sea wall and beach walkway south of the city have weathered their transition from semi-isolated vacation spot to attract-the-masses family-fun-destination relatively well compared to other locations in the US. It still seems greatly overdeveloped from the last time I visited years ago, but that is the way of life in America.
    Follow the Bluewater Highway to its end, and a free ferry completes the link with US87 on the other side of the bay. If you are not in a hurry, this is a nice diversion from city traffic through Houston. From there heading east, the road to Sabine Pass is still closed from whenever the last hurricane decided there should no longer be terra firma there. A jog up to Port Arthur was necessary for me to follow the beach road back into Louisiana. As lovely as the open spaces are, this section of our continent should be more properly called the Chemical Coast instead of the Gulf Coast. I lost track of how many refineries, glycol plants, and 'industrial solvents' production facilities there are.
    When mapping out my path, I tried to look for the tiniest roads I could find in StreetAtlas which passed through what appeared as white space on AAA maps. AAA generally shows only "tourist acceptable" roads, whereas StreetAtlas shows goat trails. The problem is identifying which goats are paved - StreetAtlas does not indicate paving. Sometimes I guess wrong. This time, I guess right about LA690 which does not show on the paper map. It is paved ... except it does not exist like it shows on the computer map. If there ever was a bridge across that bayou where the screen phosphors show a solid line, someone sure did a fine job of obliterating all traces. Oh well, it's only 20 miles to the next bridge over the Vermillion River.
    Speaking of 'vermilion', I am reminded now of that image in Arizona where I said it would compare and contrast with swamps. How short a time for being a world away. One undeniable aspect of travel is to give definition to the transience of what we perceive as permanent in nature when we see the same thing everyday.
    Up through the center of Cajun country I swayed with the roads following the Bayou Teche. Picturesque St. Martinsville, Breaux Bridge, and Arnaudville are all worth a visit.

289 miles
Clute TX332 Bluewater Hwy TX87 TX124 TX73 LA82 (LA690)
LA14 LA675 LA182 LA31 LA741 US190 Bayou Cortableau

    The calendar tells me it is March, but I keep seeing June. Corn farmers have a saying "knee high by the 4th of July", which means in June it ought to be tickling shins. It was at least that high already in southeast Texas. Then the weather reporters are saying these are normal temperatures - for June. Then the parking lot at the breakfast diner where I stopped this morning is covered with - June bugs. The little diner in Livornia is nothing to write home about (but I will anyway :). It is so old, the 'golden oldies' from the 60's playing on the sound system are probably 'current' hits. And the happy chef sang to each of them as she danced back and forth at the grill. It is barely 8 am and the etouffé for lunch is bubbling on the stove, filling the room with a most enticing aroma.
    I wish I had more time to sample local items. Then there are those I just note in passing, such as a sign in Pointe Coupee: Hot Pig Tails and Turkey Wings.

    For many the Mississippi River is the dividing line between East and West. For me, that line is the appropriately named Continental Divide, but crossing the Mississippi somehow always seems significant. Today I chose to take another ferry, from New Roads, LA. Very interesting. This is the first side loading ferry I've ever seen. Because the river current is so strong, the ship has to always face upstream to keep moored, so a front loader would not work. As traffic rolls on, it makes a circle around the wheelhouse which sits like a maypole dead amidships. When the circle fills up, the long loads (trucks/trailers) come last and face straight across. Nice system.
    The deckhand warned me not to leave my bike on its stand when we docked. He said it often hit with quite a side jolt. Boy was he ever right! Even prepared for it I nearly lost balance - it was as someone giving a mighty sideways shove. Be careful!
    This ferry is marked on the map as "toll". Since they didn't collect on board, I figured there would be a road booth. I did pass a sign that said "Toll effective July 1 1989", but that must have been the only day it was because there was no collector.

    McComb is a pleasant small town in the farmland of central southern Mississippi. I'm sure most of the people are pleasant also, but my first impression was that at least 1 in 4 enjoys being unfriendly. I arrived before motel check-in time, so I went to a local shopping center to wait and rest. I parked the bike at the end of the lot near an empty building, sat in place, and leaned back to rest my head. Literally every fourth driver going through the exit either blew the horn, shouted "wake up", or screeched tires to startle me. One teenager in a car full threw an empty soda can against the wall near me. Funny how his humor wasn't funny to him when thrown back as his car had to stop at the exit.
    Luckily, I have met the good people of McComb - represented by Shane and Karen who are hosting a little feed for 250 of their friends. Shane claims to have 650 pounds of crawfish ready for Saturday night. I've been meeting lots of faces matching names on the IBMWR and LDRider mailings lists, and re-greeting friends from past events. So far, Jeff and Bill have been telling the best stories. Oh yes, I learned I already knew another native son whom McComb may claim among its fame - Mr. From The Bunker himself: Bob Higdon - who is here, he claims, for his annual carburetor adjustment.

120 miles
Bayou Cortableau LA190 LA78 LA1 LA10 LA421 Norwood Road
LA19 MS33 MS48 MS24 McComb
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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