Traveling to South Louisiana-the sights, the sounds, the food

Driving to South Louisiana used to feel as if I were traveling to the ends of the earth. I go through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi to get there and it takes anywhere from 11 hours to 11 and a half. I’ve done that trip so many times in the near-six years I’ve lived in this cove at Killian Knob that it no longer seems so long a drive. Don’t get me wrong: eleven hours in a car is no picnic–by time I arrive, do my thang, and then drive back home, I’m exhausted and drained.

But, what’s cool about traveling by car is all the sights and sounds and people, or even the big towns versus the little towns. And the landscape and flora, fauna, the music, the mood, even the types of vehicles I see on the roads.

Once the mountain ranges leave my rearview, and then the rolling hills recede, I enter the flatlands, and begin seeing swamps and spanish moss and egrets flying or by the side of the road fishing for crawfish and little fishes in the canals and ditches. Entering, or nearing, South Louisiana, I also see many many LSU bumper stickers and decals, and this time more than ever before, I also saw Saints stickers and decals.

I stopped for gas right at the Louisiana state line and while waiting for the tank to fill, I remarked to a woman standing near, “Wow; it’s really warm today, isn’t it?” and she replied, “It’s cold!” I blinked, “Cold?” … “Yes, yesterday was 84 degrees and today it isn’t.” I thought, “huhn,” because I remembered feeling that when I lived in the deep south, that it was “cold” if it wasn’t “hot.” Now my inner thermometer is quite different.

Maggie Valley is about 3000 feet; I live at about 3400 feet, and Baton Rouge is 50 feet (these are above sea levels)—New Orleans, at least part of it, is about five feet below sea level. It’s a strange feeling going to the flatlands after living in the mountains. Strange to think how low I am, how close to the level of the sea. How easy it would be for a big storm to come and blow millions of gallons of water over me and wash me away. My friends say, “Well, we could slide off’n your mountain.” Ha! What-ever.

The food is a whole ‘nother thing. If there are differences in sea levels above and below, and in flora and fauna, and in vehicles, there is a starkly huge difference in the attitude towards food in South Louisiana compared to the mountains and probably anywhere else in the United States. When eating breakfast, one begins to think about lunch, and when eating lunch, one is thinking about supper, and when eating supper, one is thinking about what will be consumed the next day! It’s true! I saw it! I lived it! I did it while down there! Somehow, crossing that state line into South Louisiana, my appetite increased tenfold. I ate more calories in one day than I sometimes have in several days here at Killian Knob. I ate crab. I ate shrimp. I ate fish. I ate and ate and swore I wouldn’t eat like that again the next day, but I did.

More later . . .

(For those of you in the area, my Secret Graces signing will be at Blue Ridge Osondu Books, this Saturday, April 17, 1:00 PM. My brother will be in town several days, so if I don’t post for a few days, that’s why!)

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