Mid-Life Ramblings; Sanity Optional

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Forgotten Highway

This afternoon, E and I set out for an adventure. It was the perfect Louisiana winter day for a drive. The sky was nearly cloudless and the temperature hovered in the upper 40's. I threw my camera in the car and we headed north.

Louisiana Highway 1 runs from Grand Isle in the south diagonally northward to Shreveport. In its heyday in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, LA 1 was THE north/south highway in the state. It was dotted with quaint little towns filled with Mom and Pop grocery stores, cafes, and filling stations. Both cotton and sugar cane were moved along that highway in their respective seasons. But Interstate 49 was begun in the 70's and when completed in the 80's, gave folks a much faster route from Lafayette northward. On the southern end, US 90 was 4-laned from Lafayette to New Orleans. Businesses on LA 1 began to dry up as folks stopped traveling through its little towns.

Today, LA 1 is named as one of Louisiana's scenic byways. E and I have explored it south from Baton Rouge to Grand Isle in several occasions but we'd never been north of New Roads. Today we struck out and traveled northward to the town of Marksville, which is near the center of the state. Our journey included the towns of Innis, Morganza, Simmesport, and Mansura.

We learned that Jesus is king in Lettsworth and apparently lives at Prayer Lake. We crossed the Morganza Spillway, floodplain for the Mississippi River, as well as the Atchafalaya River coming into Simmesport. In Morganza, we got to see the entire Christmas parade as it meandered up the road parallel to LA 1. There were red-tailed hawks circling in the air and blackbirds in huge colonies on the sides of the highway. We could see white pelicans dotting the trees near little lakes along the spillway. And we saw the remnants of stores and cafes closed long ago because people quit coming.

We ended our official journey with dinner at the Paragon Casino in Marksville. As we left we were treated to a spectacular sunset, with a rose-colored sky and finger-like clouds running across. E and I agreed that neither of us had been this relaxed in a long time.