By admin on March 3, 2012
We were up and out to the car by 4:38 Thursday morning, bleary-eyed, but determined and braced for adventure. Armed with a vigilance and a healthy concern for the deer we were warned we would undoubtedly encounter darting across the narrow highway, we traveled through the Paisano Pass and the many dark miles beyond Marfa honking the horn every few minutes or so just in case. This makes me laugh as I write this, but it made perfect sense at the time. Barb and Cori were keen lookouts, each taking a side of the road as I looked straight into the beam of my headlights.
With a beautiful sunrise over the horizon in front of us, we relaxed a little as the sky lightened and were almost giddy with relief…until… we ran straight into a 50 miles stretch of milky, solid alabaster fog. An entire tractor trailer was swallowed up in just a few yards and we moved as through a bad dream.
Entering the hill country of Fredricksburg and other small towns, we finally enjoyed our first patches of green. Shaggy fescue and gnarled oaks replaced the dun colored landscape we had traveled through for so many days.
After a tearful goodbye at the Austin airport, I left, once again alone, to find my next destination. I had planned to stay in Austin, but it was only 11:30 in the morning and already in my rearview mirror, so I pressed on. After 784 miles of the kind of road Ken Whitley of Marfa had so aptly described, and seeing nowhere I wanted to be, I ended up crossing the entire state of Texas before I rested for the night. When I could go no further, I pulled into a Hampton Inn on I-10 in Jennings, Louisiana for one of the softest and most fortunate landings of the entire trip. Stunned with weariness, I stopped in the hotel parking lot filled with big, shiny,over-sized pickup trucks, many hauling golf carts, of all things. Parked in between them, my little car looked like the club mascot. I unfolded my stiff body, got out, and just like that I knew I was back in the South, not the south of Texas, but my South. The soft and balmy bayou air, the musical language of the men in loud conversation who all seemed to know one another, and especially how they stopped in mid-sentence to hurry to see who would help me with my bags and the door.
I found out at the desk that I was in real peril of not finding a room here at all. I was given the very last room available for the night – and it was perfect. Jennings is famous for its many shooting ranges, but especially for the Creole Elite Shooting Range. This weekend happened to be the Browning, something…Briley? Tournament and everyone here was enthusiastically participating. I was told by my companion on the elevator up to my room -completely unmenacingly-that if I were not here for the shoot, then I was the only one not packing a gun. I told him,”Well then, that must make this the safest place to be in all of Louisiana!”
Although I was bone-tired, I needed something to eat that didnt come from a gas station and I wanted to get a feel for where I had ended up. The perfect spot, even for this non-meat eater, turned out to be Boudin King, just down the road and through a residential area of small frame houses, screen doors opening to small bright rooms and flickering television sets. Clearly a favorite among the locals getting their supper after a long day of work, ordering in line at the counter and eating there or taking it home, it was interesting to notice for the first time that I had not been in a single place since leaving Little Rock on February 7 where the faces in one room spanned the spectrum of skin color. A welcome realization that reminded me I was definitely nearing home – that and the wonderful fried okra in my basket.