Austin to Baton Rouge

Morning commute traffic on the 35 South was bumper to bumper and not moving.  We quickly moved to plan B, hopping on the 79, then taking the 36 to the 290.  The 290 (eventually) connects to the 10.  It is a very picturesque road, with lots of quaint towns and farms.  And while it is not considered an official FM road (got you there!  FM stands for “Farm to Market”), it gives you an idea of the FM model.  Farm fields carried rolled bales of hay, housed cows, horses, and the general morning activity you’d expect to see.  What I hadn’t expected to see was a town with my hometown’s name Belleville, except here it dropped one of the e’s in the spelling.  In another life, perhaps?  Maybe not.  There were no “DIESEL FRIED CHICKEN” signs that we saw strung along the El Paso to San Antonio segment of the trip, but there were a lot of homes that fronted shingles for occupations such as taxidermist, clothes, foodstuffs, and personal services.  Small town, in a big way! Not to mention cotton fields in various phases of harvest. No rest stops on these roads. Instead, plenty of McDonald’s harboring early morning retirees convening with their neighbors over coffee.  All too soon this phase was over, and back on the infamous 10 we rolled.  One thing that I have noted was a remarkable absence of the southern drawl that we have all come to know and love.  Historically criticized by the masses as sounding ignorant, I have come to rely on its soothing cadence and life-savvy (versus city-savvy) truth.  Life takes its time in these parts.  In the east we grew up trigger fast, scanning our environment for fear of losing out in a link of fast-moving events.  In the slower moving environment, it’s being intimate with every detail of what surrounds, noting the slightest nuance of change.  Both are valid perspectives.  Whatever works.

That said, it seemed to me that once we reached east of Houston, the familiar drawl was more vocal – there was less of an apology of who they are, more of an acceptance of, and no shame, in “this is what I am”.  Life is good again.  We shed miles in the wake of the road, driving through downtown Houston and its arresting skyline (and who are those four statues placed just where the city skyline jumps up at you?), then through Beaumont, and over the state line to Louisiana.  It took quite a few miles for me to get used to the idea that we were out of Texas.  But as the landscape shifted to the dense green swampland, it finally sunk in.  Sugar cane fields replaced cotton.  The distant mountains gave way to long, flat horizons with dots of green outlining the highway.  Clouds announced recent rain and threats of more – or not, billowing high and large shapes with their own stories to tell.  Eight and half hours later we are checked into our Port Allen hotel, engrossed in the now-familiar ritual of transferring our belongings from car to room.  Time to eat.

One of the fun parts of traveling is eating where the locals eat – not the chains.  The hotel receptionist recommended a Louisiana style restaurant – the Bayou Bistro.  We ran into the Sheriff as we entered the back of the restaurant and read that as a good sign.  Blackened Redfish Lafitte, Crawfish Étouffée, fried alligator, mustard greens, apple andouille salad dressing – a veritable feast.  And now, to sleep, perchance to dream, and get a good rest for the road to Madison.  Miles to go, indeed – almost 500….

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