Archive for May, 2008

Lake Charles and Alexandria, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi

May 31, 2008

 

As of a few days ago, I had planned on visiting Louisiana and Mississippi during this next week.  Even though I have been to Lafayette, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, I can always come back to those places and check them out again.    I decided to drive to Alexandria, LA, which is located directly in the middle of the state, to see what that city is like.  And then I wing it from there…stay in LA or go over to Natchez, and start exploring MS.  If I have my fill of MS, then I will go and check out Lafayette and Baton Rouge again.

 

I left Lake Charles, LA this morning.  I did go and check out their downtown, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!  If Lucinda Williams can write songs about it…how bad can it be? Ha.  They have a boardwalk along the lake, and this really cool “fountain” that kids can run and play in.

 

I got to Alexandria, and I should have skipped it. Nothing is going on here.  I did want to check out the Bentley Hotel, which is supposed to be where Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley… pow-wowed back in ?? 41-42 while army troops trained at the nearby army base.  But alas, it is now closed.  However, I looked in the windows, and all the furniture and everything is still there.  It would have been a splendid fancy hotel, with a majestic lobby with chandeliers, nice tile flooring, murals on the ceiling, fountains…

 

There is a Dollar General store [with a bunch of cars in front] in every little town that I go thru. 

 

I then made my way to Natchez.  When you cross the MS River and arrive in Natchez, the visitor center is right there.  I got there exactly at 5 pm and they were locking the doors.  I grabbed some info but found the curse of my travels…Saturday nites and finding a place to stay. 

 

I’m ended up staying at this historic hotel downtown – Eola [which claims that the flag in the lobby is the first flag draped over Grant’s casket].  I paid up for a balcony room and enjoyed sitting outside on the balcony listening to the fountain in the courtyard.

 

Natchez IS really pretty, however, they lack nite time activities.  They were actually putting on Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which started at 8pm.  I really like that opera, and would have loved to see it, but I chose to ride around and explore the town on my bike.

 

I had forgotten how much I love to ride my bike around town.  It is so much fun and I cover a lot of ground.

 

There were 2 music options for the evening.  One was a guy with his guitar, but he was smoking a pipe.  Sheesh. The venue was named “biscuits and blues”.  Now, I can dig that name.  However, they only had one type of biscuit…mushroom biscuits.  Yuck…even though I didn’t try any.

 

The other place for music is the saloon, “Under the Hill”, which is in an historic area.  Natchez is on the river, but it’s up on a bluff, very high from the water.  The Louisiana side is even with the river.  When Natchez was a booming town and lots of river activity, down by the water front is where all the illicit activities took place.  And the building where Under the Hill is, apparently has been around for a long time.  Unsure as to how long, since most or maybe all of the places have eroded away.

 

Inside, the place was packed and it seemed that everyone smoked.  A local couple tells me to go in and look in the back room.  This is a cool room with lots of “memorabilia”, and had plants growing out of the walls.

 

There were 2 guys and a woman [probably in their early 20’s] playing darts.  The woman asked if I wanted to join them.  I said sure.  So, we’re playing darts, and I start getting this “weird” vibe from the woman, but didn’t think too much about it.  Then she starts playing songs on the jukebox…and starts singing and dancing.  Do you remember the Jodie Foster character in the film “Accused”, and how she looks and how she’s dancing at the bar?  Well, that is her.  She’s dancing with the 2 guys, and dancing for me.  Ding, ding, ding in my head.

 

Back outside…I asked a woman working there what kind of music the band plays.  She replied “good music”.  Getting more specifics was difficult.  I spoke with a local couple outside for a bit when a guy walked up carrying a guitar.  I asked him what type of music his band plays, and he replied “good music”.  Ahem.

 

When they did start up, it was a not so good cover band that was incredibly loud.  So loud that I couldn’t talk to the couple anymore… we were outside and the front door was closed.

 

They rent out 3 guest rooms, located above the saloon.  On the brochure it is written: “weekend entertainment in the saloon is not overpowering, but one demanding complete silence before 2 am should probably stay elsewhere”.  I would say this is NOT accurate.

 

I then meandered to the casino/steamboat which was docked nearby.  I don’t gamble, but thought I would check it out.  The place was packed.  I ended up deciding I would give the casino a buck.  So, I found the penny slots…there were lots of them.  And bet on five lines at a time…so I was betting 5 cents a shot.  Yes…big spender.  After a bit I won something and then had 101 “credits”.  So, since I was ahead by a penny, I decided to take my winnings and cash out.

Leave a Comment

Port Arthur, Texas

May 30, 2008

 

I am leaving Houston and will be making my way to Baltimore.  I plan on exploring Louisiana and Mississippi on the way.  My only constraint is that I need to be in Baltimore by June 11th, so I can fly out of BWI on June 12th to go to my niece’s wedding celebration.

 

I started off later than expected yesterday, and planned on spending the nite in Port Arthur, home of Janis Joplin.  With apologies to anyone with family and friends in Port Arthur, but ahhh, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  You know how there is a section of town that you don’t want to stop in?  Well, the whole town seemed like that.  

 

Pretty much, the downtown area is abandoned, except for gov’t buildings, which seemed new or newly refurbished.  It was 5.30 and not a car in sight. I could have stopped in the middle of the street and left my car to look around.

 

They have received money somehow since there seems to be a new performing arts center, a new multi purpose building, and as I mentioned above, the gov’t/city buildings look new.

 

I needed directions and decided on a certain gas station to ask.  Inside there was an older woman, younger woman and an older man scratching off Lotto tickets.  I asked how to get to 82 and there was a conference amongst them and the younger woman started rattling off directions a mile a minute…talking so fast and with an accent, I couldn’t understand a word she said except Valero this and Valero that.  And then there was more discussion between them cuz they decided that I would get lost that way.  I did manage to understand and they actually got me where I needed to go.  I am going along hiway 82 which hugs the coast/Gulf of Mexico.

 

Port Arthur goes on my worst cities list, right next to Manchester, NH.

 

So….being in the oil and gas business, especially production offshore [Gulf of Mexico], I have heard for years of various places where the gas/oil hit the beach.  So, I drove along this 2 lane road near the coast and went by places like Johnson’s Bayou, Sabine Pass, Holly Beach… and saw all these plants, compressor stations…that I have heard of for years.  I had a nerdy blast!

 

It seemed the only people on this road was myself and guys in big white trucks [going to/from work].  There are just 2 lanes coming up out of the bayou/water.  There is NOTHING along this highway.  Nothing, besides oil/gas infrastructure.  No gas stations, no bait and tackle, no 7/11’s, no grocery stores…nothing.  Now and again there would be housing, which means it was either trailers/trailer park or these really expensive, huge houses built up on 15’+ stilts.  Johnson’s Bayou had a school, and a health clinic.  That’s it.  Nothing was at Holly Beach.  I was so glad that I stopped to get gas before Port Arthur, cuz without a doubt, I would have run out of gas.  I drove for 2 hours in this area, which they call Cameron.  I would have kept thinking there has got to be a gas station sooner or later.  Yes…in Lake Charles!  I didn’t see anyone on any of the beaches, no one anywhere [except the white trucks].  Pretty much deserted.

 

The area smelled like how a new shower curtain smells.

 

In the middle of all these plants/refineries….is a pelican sanctuary.

 

At times I thought it was raining, but it was really just bugs splatting on my windshield.  

 

I saw a sign that mentioned “ferry”, I turned the bend…and the road stops.  So, the ferry took me over to Cameron.  The ferry lady told me…duh…that hurricane Rita took out everything.  That is why there are no stores/businesses.  She said it was pretty dumpy before Rita, so it was nice that Rita came and wiped everything out, but now they are rebuilding with expensive homes…which is quite the opposite of what was there before…so the whole feel of the place is slowly changing.

 

I then headed to Lake Charles to spend the nite. It was much later than I had planned…I checked into a hotel and it was 9.30 and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet.

Leave a Comment