Morgan City to Garden City. 20.4 miles/1343 total
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I'm just east of the railroad bridge outside Morgan City, headed down Route 182 to Highway 90 and on through the countryside to a spot a few miles east of Franklin.
I'm taking U.S. 90 for most of the walk because Louisiana 182 runs in a serpentine fashion along Bayou Teche for most of the way, whereas 90 cuts straight across, saving several miles. As a result, I'll be bypassing most of the little communities along the way.
It's another cloudless day, in the mid-50s, expected to get into the mid-60s. It doesn't get a hell of a lot better than this.
Morgan City will get short shrift today. I do pass the entrance to the City Convention Center, which says it's the home of the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. That's an interesting-sounding combination. "Boy, this shrimp is good. What's on it?" "Well, we use a special blend of petroleum and Cajun spices."
On the ascent up the bridge exit ramp I can look down to the left at downtown Morgan City, which is a few blocks along the river. There's no one else walking across this bridge today, which isn't surprising. Pedestrian traffic outside of large cities is almost nonexistent in 21st century America. Occasionally you see young people and extremely poor people on foot, or grown men on bicycles (which, unless they're wearing lime green spandex outfits, means they've lost their licenses due to drunk driving). This is not a country of walkers, by any means. To be on foot, especially at my age, implies a certain failure of other options. That's why an undertaking such as mine is better understood and accepted when it has a charitable purpose. The generosity and self-sacrifice help to justify the eccentricity. And if one's resolve starts to flag in the middle of the day (as it invariably does), one can tell oneself to keep going for the sake of those poor little crippled children or the women with cancer.
This is a large truss bridge, with four lanes divided by Jersey barriers and shoulders the width of cars, so it's fairly safe to cross. It crosses the Atchafalaya River and is called the E. J. Lionel Grizzatti Bridge. Safe or not, I'm just as glad to be over it. Underneath, the Atchafalaya is wide and brown.
At a little over six miles I enter Bayou Vista. I can see the water tower. This is where I stayed last night. A little past Walmart is a billboard that says, "We're Loving Jesus."
Wag-a-Pak is the name of the convenience stores connected with Conoco gas stations. That may be the silliest such name I've seen, and I've seen quite a few of these little stores. On the sign is a little white dog with black spots holding a Wag-a-Pak bag in its mouth. Up in Arkansas they have a chain called Kum-N-Go, another unfortunate name.
About halfway into this walk and things have been uneventful. Here's the water tower for Patterson, another community I'll be bypassing. But to give you your money's worth I'll tell you that it's a city of about 6,500 originally settled by Pennsylvania Dutch back in the early 1800s. The settlement was called Dutch Town or Dutch Prairie. Then in 1832 a guy from Indiana named John Patterson came through and opened a store and the place became known as Pattersonville, and later Patterson. And here's something you don't see every day. A big sign indicating that bears cross here.
At this point the stores and churches and other buildings pretty much disappear and the rest of the walk will be along the marshes and woods. Some of the trees have red buds on them and are getting ready to bloom for spring. No live oaks out here in the middle of nowhere--those are found mostly in yards and the edges of open fields. I cross another bayou--this one without a name that I can see.
I just saw a freshly-killed armadillo, with its shell cracked open and some pink flesh showing. A long time ago I speculated that the reason I saw mostly bits of armadillo shell and not many whole animals was that their meat must be especially tasty to the scavenging animals. And indeed it does look like pork. Some people eat armadillos, and in east Texas during the Depression they were called "Hoover Hogs." Apparently they are good barbecued and in chili. However they do seem to have a tendency to carry leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease), so I guess you have to be careful about handling them too much. Also I assume it's best to eat them well done. Well, that's an adventure that awaits me.