Chronicles of the Louisiana Trip Part I

I like old things. A lot. Especially when they enable me to take a free (for me) trip. Now you're wondering 'what on earth...?' Well, Mom has an antique gas stove. She really likes it because it is practically indestructible, 'cute', cooks far better than most modern stoves, and will probably still be in working order a thousand years from now. It only had one problem. Occasionally, the flame would go out, but the stove still kept pumping propane. Usually, someone smelled the gas and turned it off before anything happened, but a few times the stove re-lighted itself, and all the accumulated gas, causing a 'boom!' that blew the oven door open. Concern was expressed that, one day, the oven door wouldn't be the only thing blown open by the explosion. The solution? A safety feature that would shut off the gas when the flame went out. Why go to Louisiana? Because 'The Stove Man' (Hugh) is one of the few people in the U.S. who still knows how to service antique stoves, and he just so happens to live in Louisiana.

All that to explain why, at 5:30 on Monday morning, Mom and I found ourselves driving down the road with a very large gas stove weighting down the back of our little black car. Seeing new places is one of my favorite things to do, and Louisiana had been on my list of places to visit for awhile. Needless to say, I was very excited to be going!

The scenery began to look more Southern even while we were still in Missouri. Apparently, cotton can be grown in the boot-heel. Most of the fields had already been harvested, and they stretched out brown and bare to the skyline. Huge bales of cotton stood about lonesomely here and there, covered by tarps in garish hues of purple, yellow, and blue.

The roads in Arkansas gave meaning to the term 'washboard'. We were mildly concerned that one of our tires would go flat, and we would be stuck alongside the interstate,with our spare buried beneath a stove neither of us could lift. But the noise was what was most nerve-jarring. One single, isolated rattle, when we hit a bump on one of our smooth Missouri roads wasn't too bad, but the series of continuous bumps that made up the Arkansas roads caused every part of that stove to complain loudly and unceasingly. The ride sounded rather like this: Bump! Rattle! Rattle! Clang! Bump! Rattle! Clang! Rattle! BUMP! RATTLE! CLANG! CRASH!!!

We were barely in Tennessee long enough to sing, 'In Dixie-land where I was born, so early on one frosty morn...' Before we passed into Mississippi. The Mississippi landscape was interesting. For awhile. But the endlessly continuing pattern of massive stands of huge oaks and pines, interspersed by the occasional town, field, swamp, or group of convicts doing roadwork soon became monotonous. We turned to Father Brown for diversion. Mississippi is a long state. By the time we were three-quarters of the way through it, even Father Brown was failing to relieve the tedium, and we were literally counting down the miles to Louisiana.

Louisiana felt different. More tropical, more exotic. Banana, pineapple, and citrus trees growing in people's backyards. Huge, flowering crepe myrtles. Swamps filled with bare cypress and flocks of snowy egrets. Mysterious, forbidding woods in which grew strange, spiky-leaved palmetto. And road work. LOTS of road work. Endless miles and miles of roadwork. We were thankful when, in spite of detours, closed traffic lanes, sketchy Mapquest directions, and carefully hidden signs, we at last found ourselves safely in our hotel room.