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Draplin Design Co., North America
October 21, 2005
DDC:GAA:FT: 10212005:L07:D38
Posted at 11:34 PM


After some farting around in Oxford we jumped on I-55 and headed due south, and fast, towards that Louisiana border. Pretty country down here. Woods and woods and woods. Just about cut Mississippi in half with that interstate.

163. “Weathered.”
164. “Ryno Breakfast: Sierra Mist, Watermelon Taffy and Pop Rocks.”

As we neared the border, we wrastled with a tough question: Should we even go to New Orleans? Highway 61 starts there, right downtown. Our big trip up the Mississippi was about to begin and being the purists we are (…or, try to be…) we decided to go find the exact spot where the highway starts.

165. “Crossing Lake Ponchartrain.”

First thing you notice as you enter Louisiana is the change in the land around you. All that dry forest turns to wet swamp. Elevated highways are traded in and you feel kinda isolated as you whiz through air above the wet countryside. As we got closer to the city we started to see some of the Katrina’s destruction first hand. Tossed houseboats, collapsed shacks, uprooted trees.

The traffic was pretty intense as we entered New Orleans, whizzing by a very dark and ominous Superdome. The images I saw of the insanity that took place there are just, well, are “pretty heavy.” The grounds around the dome were gray and lifeless.

166. “New Orleans Superdome.”
167. “Crushed rig yet to be removed.”

We jumped off the interstate downtown and just sort “went quiet.”

New Orleans is a big city. Real big. I was here a year ago and the place was seething with so many kinds of people and music and lights and signs. Seeing the enormity of the devastation, it’s a wonder the town was as bustling as it was. The piles of debris are striking. I mean, you gotta watch out for them as you navigate the tight streets. The city is littered with dangerous piles of stuff, everywhere you look. Cars are still awaiting tows, in various states of complete disarray. Windows are broken or boarded up. Lights are off, and usually broken in the most amazing signs and storefronts.

People look kinda dazed. And tired.

We rolled through the French quarter, long enough to smell that famous “scent of puke” and were relieved to see folks strolling around, drinking, eating and dancing. The signs around were pretty inspiring, “We’re open again!” and “We’ll be back, New Orleans.” Beautifully hand-lettered and urgent, little reminders for the community to gain strength from.

168. “Come on in!”
169. “The French Quarter, slowly coming back to life.”

We found the start of Highway 61 North and hit the road.

This is where time stood still. The neighborhoods you roll through as you leave town were completely dead. No open businesses or any signs of life. Just this abandoned, gray and lifeless with an overwhelming sense of loss and destruction. Complete neighborhoods. We rolled a couple streets in off the highway to see some of the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed.

Marking on the doors about survivors, or, people who didn’t make it. Cars with lines on the insides of the windows where the water reached, and emptied out, leaving behind the gray decay of sediment. Houses caved in. Burned out. Ransacked. On their sides. Piles of bricks. Holes in walls. No people or dogs or lights. Very, very eerie, and, sad.

Please please please donate something to the Red Cross. These folks need so much help to get their lives back.

170. “One little house that sorta survived the wrath around it.”
171. “Abandoned neighborhoods…”
172. “…down every single street.”
173. “The Start of Highway 61 North.”

Things were real quiet as we left town for Baton Rouge just to the north. As you make your way outta town, you start to see things slowly pop back to life. Gas stations, convenience stores, a couple restaurants, FEMA supply stations handing out ice and food and water and tent cities of families and workers comnmuting back and forth to the city.

Heavy, heavy stuff.

174. “Supper time.”
175. “Road Dicks.”

Made it all the way up to Vicksburg, by way of the most beautiful and completely dark stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway. At one point we stopped to piss, only to hear a bone-chilling howl of some sort, that couldn’t be more than 100 feet away. Skunk Ape? Jersey Devil? Robert Johnson? Confederate Ghosts? Swamp Traders? Hard to say. We hightailed it right the fuck outta there and didn’t look back.

176. “Natchez Trace Parkway, just about 2am.”

Being a Saturday night and all, Vicksburg’s casino crowds had locked down all the available rooms. We had to jump the Mississippi river over to Louisiana where we found a reststop to call home for the night. Tight quarters.

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