I’m in Louisiana, camped next to a lagoon at Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles. Frogs are croaking, crickets are cricketing, the neighbor family is playing a fun, danceable tune, but not too loud.
We’re in for the night after a walk and then sitting outside, me drawing, Cody lying down, head up, taking it all in. It’s been raining on and off all day so we’ve been in and out all day, walking the forest trail, over to the boat launch, around the campground. I’ve been tolerating, almost enjoying the moisture here in Louisiana-it’s like a thin film, not a drenching, and there are no mosquitoes.
And I’ve been practicing that Abraham Hicks quote that was circulating on Facebook this week: “Content where I am, Eager for more.”
I’m settling into this big thing. I love experiencing all these different state parks and trails and the birds and trees and sounds. I’m less interested in the towns, or shopping or historical sites. And I’m learning to be ok with that.
But, with the storms and the mugginess, it’s been difficult to want to spend much time outdoors. And I was getting cranky.
So I took some deep breaths and asked myself, what do I need? I was tired of the weather. And the storms. And the bugs. And I realized I didn’t have to visit my friend in FL since we weren’t doing a Heart Sparks thing together. So why not go a different way?
So, I’ll be leaving the muggy, buggy coast and heading north in a few days. I’m going to explore the back roads of Mississippi and Alabama along the Natchez Trace, ending up in Atlanta on May 7 for the beginning of lots of Heart Sparks connections. Without making reservations for every step of the way, just seeing where I want to stop for the day, and hoping that I can get a space on the weekend.
Before I went to bed, I thought about having a leisure morning and not leaving until 11, maybe trying lunch at Harry’s, a local fried food dive, before the 102 mile drive to New Iberia.
Turns out a storm was passing through, green, yellow, and red on the radar, so I stayed put for a while. Cody and I played between downpours, perfectly timed so he could pee, then poop. I worked on some Mac newsletters, checked in with my Facebook friends and did the dishes.
And then it was 10:30 and I was watching the radar and wondering if I was ever going to get on the road. The leisure of the morning was over and I wanted to take some kind of action. But I didn’t want to be driving in heavy rain and thunder.
I called Marika and, of course, I cried for half a minute, then we chatted about her movie and dinner out the night before, her bronchitis, and Mabel, and we talked about the pending storms. She gave me the courage to drive, reminding me that if it got too bad, I could always pull over and wait it out.
So I packed up, unhooked the electricity and drove into town for a stop at the supermarket where it was barely drizzling. It was an easy drive on the freeway, no rain, no wind. Trucks seemed to be going faster, maybe to make up for lost time.
I got to New Iberia and was planning to tour the Tabasco Factory down the road, but in this weather, the adjoining gardens were probably sloppy and muddy. And the bottling tour is only Monday through Thursday. So instead, I did laundry and watched TV with the free wifi, settling into a relaxing Saturday afternoon.
That evening, I was so proud of myself. Michelle, the woman in the office, had recommended I try Landry’s Cajun Seafood Restaurant, that the Saturday seafood buffet was great and they had live music in the evening. I didn’t want to go alone so I went to the office and asked her if she wanted to join me. But she worked until 7 and she had just eaten lunch.
On my walk back to the RV I told myself, I can’t not do things because I’m by myself.
So I unplugged the RV and drove the seven miles down the road to the restaurant. The parking lot was almost full except for the 3 spots in the back corner. I backed the RV into the spot up against the grass line so I was only taking one space. I turned a fan on, gave Cody a chew bone and I went in. Big long picnic tables covered in plastic red and white checked tablecloths filled the barn-like room.
I sat at a table for one, right near the buffet and watched all sizes of people walk away with piled plates of fried fish and shrimp and onion rings, rice and beans, salads and pies, and red cafeteria trays piled high with palm-sized bright-red, right-out-of-the boil crawfish.
It was $17.97 for the buffet and $10.00 extra if you had the boiled crawfish, too. I perused the buffet three times, but nothing on it appealed to me. I asked about the sautéed seafood platter, but it was made with a butter sauce, not what I like. I thought about getting just a 2 lb order of the boiled crawfish to try it, but what if I didn’t like the seasoning. I hemmed and hawed, and then I left.
I drove home, backed in, hooked up. and started to make my own dinner, then remembered that Michelle said that the Chinese place delivers! So I ordered a combination dinner- boneless spare ribs, pork fried rice and an eggroll. And an order of Chinese donuts. It was fine, not great, but the donuts, my favorite, were divine.
In the evening we walked over to the pond and I watched the flying fish propel themselves out of the water and into the air, three to six feet. I heard myself ask, why do they do that, and I smiled at my answer, because they can.
I drove 30 minutes north and enjoyed brunch at the house of a friend of a long time ago friend. Katy, the chef, served a delicious spread of egg scrambles made in muffin tins, hash browns, fruit, and blueberry-blackberry cobbler for dessert. When she heard I lived in Cayucos, she couldn’t believe it. She learned how to smoke fish and meat from the owner of Rudell’s Smoke House there!
I drove an easy hour, again on I-10, alongside the scenic Atchafalaya River, east bound on one side of the river, west bound on the other, and all between a gorgeous sideline of gorgeous green trees. I cried when I drove over the Mississippi River. Because WOW! I was driving across the Mississippi River! All the way from California!
For the next few days, we’re camping about a mile from the mighty Mississippi at an Equestrian Center in Baton Rouge, waiting out a few more big storms. The view is wide and green, with trees and grass and an occasional rider in the horse pens.
Last night we walked over to the pavilion area where a group was gathering. In the parking area nearby, a man was leaning against the bed of a pickup next to two very large aluminum pots, smoking from a pack of Salems. I said hello, he nodded and I asked, “What’s going on?”
“Railroad neighbor congress bowl,” he said. His words were like a long train that didn’t stop at the station.
“Oh,” I said. He could tell I had no idea what he was talking about. “River Road Neighborhood Crawfish Boil.” he said, again, still with that long, slippery accent. “They do it every year.”
I said I’d never eaten crawfish before. He opened the lid on a thirty-gallon heavy duty trash cans and inside were those bright-red little creatures that actually looked like shrimp with a few more appendages.
He picked one up and said, “You snap it, then pull it back.” He wiped the roe with his little finger as he peeled the tender white meat from the shell and offered it to me. It was sweet and salty, tender, all in one quick bite.
“How do you cook them?”
“Boil ‘em, in some seasoning, some salt.”
“Where do you get them?”
“In the swamp.
“What do you use for bait?”
“They use wire boxes now, and modern day they use manufactured bait, but we used to use fish for bait.”
He switched the cigarette to his left hand and reached out his right. “I’m Doc Watkins.” He smiled and I noticed the deep trough lines on his face like he’d spent his whole life outside in the swamps.
“Ruth Davis,” I said, shaking his hand. He asked were I was from, I told him why I was traveling. We grinned in agreement about the simple things in life.
So I had my quintessential bite of Louisiana seafood. And I’ve experienced the crazy scary weather of the Gulf Coast. Honestly, I’m ready for some sun, some biking, some walking, some easy breathing weather days.
But another storm is due tomorrow and I’m choosing not to drive in it. Instead, I’m going to settle in to this new pace, going with the flow, inching my way on the map to Atlanta with a constant eye on the weather and on my heart while I do a lot of deep, deep breathing.