Tuesday April 22, 2003.
To avoid the interstate freeway I headed temporarily west from lake
Charles and back across the Sabine River into Texas via highway 90 so I could go around the west side of Sabine Lake and then
follow the coastal highway 82 east back into Louisiana and through the wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to
see the ocean again and walk on a beach after so many weeks of being landlocked in the deserts and mountains.
This is swamp territory, complete with alligators. The landscape
is flat, with water along both sides of the road in most parts, and the wetlands are a haven for birdlife. What I didn't
expect was the number of oil refineries. There are offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, visible from the beaches,
and the refineries are in stark contrast to the surrounding nature reserve.
After walking on the beach for a little while, the dark clouds started
zapping the earth with lightning, so I continued my eastward journey to New Orleans, followed all the way by heavy
rain. It rained for many hours, easing up only when I finally parked in the street near the New Orleans French Quarter
district later that night.
Being an Australian, I'm not very knowledgable about American
history, and so it wasn't until this trip that I came to learn that France used to own the whole middle section of the United
States between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Hence the "French connection" with New Orleans.
It was in 1803 that France sold the whole of her American territory to the United States for US$11 million. Napolean
was an idiot. This month is the bicentenary celebration of that "Louisiana
Purchase" which changed the whole future of the U.S. It's interesting to consider what the world would be like today
if France had not sold that middle section of America to the U.S. And what if Spain had kept California?
I walked around New Orleans looking for a place to eat dinner, having
had nothing but a small chocolate bar all day. I wanted a "New Orleans experience". I settled for a main course
of fried alligator in a Cajon restaurant which had a live jazz band playing. Alligator - Cajon - jazz - it doesn't get
much more New Orleans than that, so I kept going east after dinner, satisfied that I'd seen enough until the next time I can
come back with Janet.
Leaving New Orleans city in the dark offers little in the way of
views, but I knew I was on a very long bridge. Bridges and elevated freeways are a trademark of New Orleans, being on
the delta of the Mississippi River as it is. That very long bridge took me over Lake Pontchartrain, and soon after that
I was crossing the border into the state of Mississippi.
Keen to get onto scenic byways again, I veered off onto highway
90 which runs along the Gulf coast. I settled for the night in a place called Waveland. From here I can follow
the coast all the way into Florida.