I woke up early this morning, 6:30 to be precise, but I always have a hard time sleeping in hotel rooms. I made the unfortunate mistake of trying out Horst’s recommended continental breakfast which actually turned out to be left over WWII German Army rations. However, they say that military life builds discipline so I’m happy to say I muscled my way through.
I hit the road right after breakfast and made my way down beautiful Highway 71. If, you’ve never had a chance to make your way through the Quachita National Forest, I highly recommend putting it on your list. It’s really a beautiful area of the country and I hit it at a perfect time. There was a heavy rain last night and a mild morning which meant beautiful patches of mist hovering on the sides of the hills and making its way through the trees. The other thing I’m really noticing is that these road trips are really improved by my lack of smoking. There are a lot of smells that I’ve been missing for a long time. The smells of fresh cut wood, rain and smoke were rampant in the morning air. All in all, probably one of the better pieces of road I’ve been on.
There was one little amusing incident along the road. I don’t know how many of you keep up with the conspiracy racket, but I have to admit that it’s one of my dirty little pleasures. Basically, Art Bell is a great way to cure insomnia. Anyway, a few years back a conspiracy surfaced about George Bush Sr., the CIA and then Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton were importing large amounts of drugs into the United States in order to support their old Contra buddies. They were supposedly importing all of these drugs through the thriving metropolis of Mena, AR, which happens to be right in the middle of the Quachita National Forest. Anyway, somewhere between Fort Smith and Mena (and no, I’m not getting any more specific) what did I see about 50 yards off the highway in a clump of trees, but a very large crop of the “weed of bogosity”. For any law enforcement who reads this diatribe, I didn’t sample any of the products. ;)
The rest of the trip down, 71 was fairly uneventful. I stopped for lunch at a small bar and grill in Shreveport that’s the home of the Fat Chick sandwich (basically a very large chicken sandwich) though I went for the Hot Chick instead. ;)
I took the I-49 between Shreveport and Alexandria which, like most interstates, was completely uneventful. However, in Alexandria I made my way onto State Road 1 which led through some very beautiful and isolated landscapes; rich farmland dotted with small (and sadly crumbling) towns.
One of the, for a lack of a better word, sad things about traveling this way is to see the death of the small town. Somehow, my sense of the South involves scenes from To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sound and the Fury and Robert Johnson myths. The fact is that most of these tableaus have been swallowed up by modernity. However, there is still a great many remnants to see and little bits and pieces left intact. This is definitely old sharecropping land evident by the large number of now abandoned juke joints and shotgun shacks all of which make for good photos. I also found a great little road side hole-in-the-wall that served freshly boiled crawfish cooked right in front of you. Great stuff!
I had dinner at a nice little place south of Baton Rouge and went searching for a place to stay. I actually ended up in Gonzales which is not on my route, but I’ll make it up by getting an early start tomorrow. More soon . . .