Day 34, November 13, 1997: Lake Charles to Galliano, LA

After today, I think that I understand just a bit of the bayou and the local lifestyle. My drive today took me to the very edge of Louisiana and the remoteness is amazing. The overall effect of the scenes there are weird to my northern eyes but beautiful.

The most obvious common factor all over this part of the state is water. And flatness. Water is everywhere, salt, fresh, and brackish. Water is the key to much of the economics here which seems to center on fishing (shrimp, crab, crawfish) and sugarcane. Even the oil industry is heavily centered on the water with drilling platforms being the main form of production. Production of the platforms and service ships keeps an impressively large assortment of shipyards operating. A surprise to me was the number of canals that have been cut through this flat landscape to augment the rivers and lakes that nature provided.

The water also serves as a trap for the unwary. At the irritant end of the trap spectrum are drawbridges. They are everywhere and are operated frequently for the many shrimp and other boats that use the waterways. Everything stops for them. A slightly more serious irritant was a ferry that, according to my maps, crossed a river. In reality it hasn't existed for some years and the way around to the other side involves a 50-mile drive. At the deadly end of the spectrum is the killing effect of the water. I came across the scene of a crash with a car inverted in the water. A mother and her two children were in the car and according to the police all survived but it was a close thing trying to get them out before they drowned.

Water also affects the architecture. In many areas all buildings are raised on stilts. This includes mobile homes which makes for some really odd looking neighborhoods. Another bit of architecture which most of us take for granted is in the graveyard. Down here, a Cajun is more likely to wind up six feet above rather than six feet below the ground when he finally cashes it in.

I found that I really enjoyed just getting out of the car in the remote areas and absorbing the ambience of the bayou. There are noises of insects and frogs. There are abundant birds including herons, egrets, kingfishers, and many sorts of ducks. One other sort of absorbing which I might have done without was the mosquitoes, still active despite the month, and eager to make my aquaintance whenever the breeze died down enough for them to zero in on my scent.

Oh, by the way, the Cajun culture is alive and well down here. The people are still involved in the same things there great-great-grandparents were. Overlaying this are the accouterments of modern life but the underpinnings are still strongly traditional (and yes, the Francophone speech patterns are just what you have heard on the radio).

There are two pictures today. One is a bayou in the morning. The other is one of the prevalent above-ground necropolises. I wish I could capture a picture of the shrimp boats outside in the canal by moonlight. Unfortunately my digital camera just isn't up to it.

I visited Avery Island where Tabasco sauce is made this morning. Probably not worth the trip if you want to see the actual production process as they don't allow you to see that. All that a visitor gets is a 5-minute talk, an 8-minute video, a walk past a window on the bottling operation, and then is herded into the gift shop to spend some money. On top of this, they charge you $0.50 to drive onto the property for the "free" tour.

The weather was in transition today. I managed to avoid several severe storms which were visible on the horizon and never got more that a misting. Tomorrow it is supposed to be clearing up considerably (it is clearing even as I write this and the moon is visible). I'll be doing a bit more of edge travel in Louisiana tomorrow and then head for my next state as the 13,000 mile solo journey around the edges of the USA continues.


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