Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Monday morning was get away day. It doesn’t take long to ready our rolling stock for travel. It’s a little foggy out but not too bad. We say goodbye to our friends across the field- Mooooo! The plan is to avoid any road that starts with LA, meaning a State of Louisiana administered and maintained road. I use maintained loosely as the last LA road was just short of a disaster. A big rig likes to have a road shoulder and LA’s do not have shoulders. Eight foot wide big rigs like wide travel lanes, not the ten foot LA roads. Big rigs don’t like pot holes or rough surfaces such as those on LA roads. The route today is take US 84 to US 165. Notice no LA anythings in that formula.
We motor to Winnfield (4800 souls), home of three previous Louisiana governors, looking to stay on US 84. US 167 and US 84 merge on the west side of town. I see a road sign that I interpret as LA 34 turns to the left and US 84 continues straight. Wrongo Cowboy!
Twenty miles down US 167 Jil says we are heading towards Alexandria. NO! But YES! We are at a place called Dry Prong, a village of 400 souls. Legend has it that a family moved to the area in the 1870’s, built a sawmill powered by a water wheel, only to discover the creek on which they built the wheel went dry in the summer- the relocated it to a year round creek.
Dry Prong is definitely on US 167. Crap! It seemed the farther we go the loster we get sometimes. Not having a built in GPS system in the rig, a temperamental navigator and no compass has cost us time and distance more than once. So we backtrack towards Tullos utilizing a dreaded LA! LA 123 actually was the best LA road that we had been on. Not straight by any means, and not wide but well maintained. It spits us out on US 165 and we head north. We only lost 24 miles of distance and 45 minutes of time, which included a stretch for the mutzos. Good catch, navigator!
Now on US 165 we pass Georgetown (324 souls), Tullos (386 souls), Grayson (440 souls), Banks Springs (1190 souls). Columbia is on the bank of the Ouachita River. Back in its heyday its harbor was a busy port for shipping cotton by steamboats or packet boats- until the arrival of the railroad. Its population has actually reduced to around 390 souls. From Columbia huge fields have been cleared. This is farmland. Miles and miles of farmland.
OK, now we are getting into more populated areas. Richwood (2100 souls) and Miller’s Crossing are on the outskirts of Monroe . To refresh your memory, Monroe is the home town of the Robertson Clan of the Duck Dynasty TV show fame. Many of you will remember Phil and Kay, Phils brother Uncle Si, kids Jase and Missy, Willy and Korie, Jep and Jessica, and a few of their many grandkids John Luke, and Sadie. One would believe after watching their TV show that Monroe is a small town. On the contrary, Monroe is a city of 49,000 souls!
Finally, we hop on Interstate 20 eastbound towards Vicksburg. The interstate highway system has a bad habit of bypassing small communities. The automobile traffic that once passed through now favors the interstate highway. Sometimes the bypassed towns flourish, sometimes they don’t. We bypass places with names like Rayville, Start, Bee Bayou, Holly Ridge and Delhi. We graze Richmond (400 souls), bypass Mound and Delta.
About 20 miles from the Louisiana/Missisppi border is the town of Tallulah, LA (7500 souls). This place is 77% African American: the surrounding parish is 80% African American. This reflects the regions history of an agricultural economy based on cotton plantations which employed numerous African Americans, first as slaves, then after emancipation as paid laborers or sharecroppers. A history lesson: In the late 19th century some immigrants from Sicily moved into the area where they established small stores. In 1899 a mob of white residents lynched five Sicilians because they felt that they did not observe Jim Crow rules: they made white customers wait their turn behind black customers already waiting rather than give the whites preference.
The Vicksburg Bridge lies ahead, we cross it with the historic town within sight to our north. Six miles to the south is our home for three nights, the Rivertown Campground. We are really looking forward to exploring Vicksburg once again.