The Last Word: All About the Journey
Recently, I took the opportunity to drive a box truck from Little Rock to New Orleans. I choose to use “took the opportunity” here, instead of the more accurate “had to,” because, well, we need more optimism in today’s lost world.
Every little bit helps and all.
That said, the AC went out at White Hall. For perspective, that represents roughly mile 34 of a 430-mile trip. In August. And it rained through much of the Mississippi leg.
But, on the bright side, I didn’t get another ticket in Lake Providence.
Making the New Orleans drive a few times a year now, and having made it maybe 100 times in my life, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle and underappreciated beauty of the Delta. Lush fields of cotton, soybean and corn; crop dusters skirting tree lines and highways to deliver their necessary payloads; white pillows of happy clouds filling an immense blue canvas.
It’s hard, on these drives, not to imagine an angelic Bob Ross floating above the oxbow lakes, a pallet of titanium white on his arm, making tiny little circles with the corner of his brush…
Montana can market it ‘til the cows come home, but the Delta landscape across eastern Arkansas and northwestern Mississippi is Big Sky Country. I don’t care what they say.
Taking U.S. 65 into Lake Village, we cross the Big Muddy (and avoid the aforementioned speed trap) to ride Highway 1, running roughly parallel to the river, through Onward – of Teddy Roosevelt fame – and ultimately to Vicksburg.
The stretch of Highway 27 between Vicksburg and Crystal Springs, which bypasses about 75 miles of interstate and more importantly, Jackson, is another good drive. The stretch of rolling hills that extends southeast from Vicksburg reminds me a little of Arkansas.
The good thing about driving a rolling box through a rainstorm with no air conditioning and a leaky cabin is that it forces you to focus on your destination.
Sometimes it’s all about the journey. The final third of this particular trip wasn’t one of those times.
Our ultimate destination was Uptown, a Drew Brees post from the Tulane campus. And the thing about New Orleans is, it’s old. Which is part of the charm. Unfortunately, that applies to most of its streets, which are narrow to begin with and beaten up after sitting under so much water the last half-century, it seems.
Many of the Crescent City’s streets, especially those off the beaten path and Uptown in particular, resemble a pockmarked teenager.
Having finally delivered the payload, our grad-school son moved in to his new place, we reset a couple of blocks over to help his friend get moved in. And the friend was moving into a second-floor duplex.
The thing about second-floor duplexes in New Orleans… Well, three things: They are narrow, steep and twisty. Fortunately, the friend’s aunt was there to help. Because she is ripped.
Apparently having just missed the cut for “She Hulk,” she brought a six-pack, and it wasn’t Abita. Frankly, she was the lead dog on this sled team. Two healthy, college-aged young men and I could hardly keep up.
But hey, it was refreshing to be emasculated in person for once instead of by virtually everything on TV.
I’ll never understand the reasoning behind the decision to set up shop where New Orleans lies, wedged in the middle of a giant marsh between the Mississippi and what essentially is a shallow inland sea, Lake Pontchartrain.
In 1762, when the Frenchman Bienville claimed the “high” ground for his country, 95 miles upriver from the mouth, was he just ready to call it a day? I suppose there was some strategic value in the location, maybe a lot, but still.
Some 250 years later, the city works. Literally and otherwise. Somehow, it keeps drying off, drying out, and coming back for more.
Once you pass the Dixon Road exit on Interstate 530 and crest a rise, Little Rock pops out of the piney-woods nowhere. The off-kilter skyline beckons a hearty welcome, arms outstretched like that little boy just delivered back to school — wait, young man just delivered — used to do when you walked in at the end of the work day.
Another trip, safe and sound on both ends.
Think I’ll hit the dumbbells when I get home. If only I could remember where they are.