The weather report today was for sunny skies, but winds from the north at 20-25mph. “Makes sense”, I thought “that’s my direction for the day”.
I saddled up and headed for downtown Baton Rouge on what I thought was Hwy 61. Absolutely miserable riding conditions. Huge eighteen wheelers and other commercial trucks speeding by only inches from my panniers. When a shoulder was available, it took all my focus to navigate through the obstacle course of 4×4 fence posts, car parts, broken glass, rusty wire, nails, broken buckets and assorted pieces of iron littered across it.
After two hours, it started to occur to me that I was lost. However, playing to stereotype, I continued on for another hour before I admitted my failure. This isn’t something new for me as my friends will attest. (Once I took a couple of buddies backpacking in the Sierras to a lake I had hiked to many times previously. Somehow, I got us lost for 11 days – and to make things worse, I was an Eagle Scout at the time). On the other hand, W.C.C. (Wife Command Central), being a mid-western girl, has a perfect pitch sense of direction. You could blindfold her, put her in one of these and then ask her which direction is north and she would instantly point it out – adjusting for magnetic declination. And, here I am, with not just one, but two maps; a compass on my watch and a GPS system and I get lost on a major roadway for several hours. I guess I’m just missing the directional chromosome.
Accepting defeat, I stopped at a small market and got directions (as well as some incredible pralines). Once out of Baton Rouge, I passed multiple oil refineries and then eventually the surroundings became more rural. I stopped at Port Hudson State Park and visited the museum and Civil War battlefield. (Kids, see what you’re missing!) This location was the site of one of the longest sieges of the war, preventing Union forces from gaining full control of the Mississippi River.
Twenty miles later, I rolled into St. Francisville, the best place I have visited to date. It’s a very small town, but with a true sense of community centered around the Magnolia – a local bar and restaurant. Kevin, one of the owners, has been running the place for almost 30 years. He put me up for the night in the 3V Tourist Court also located on the property. It consists of five small cabins each about 150 square feet in size, including bedroom, bathroom and study. These were built in the 1930s and have been restored with period furniture. Funky, rustic and great fun. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to a local cover band playing at the Magnolia. Kevin, who used to be in the music business, has been attracting serious musicians here for years. Dave Alvin, for example, is playing here on Tuesday. Considering the population is less than 2,000, this is pretty impressive.
I sat with Kevin and enjoyed a beer and listened to the band. A pod of small girls danced under pale blue Christmas lights, while their parents encouraged them from the surrounding tables. Looking around the room, I saw families, farmers, ranchers, business people of all ages eating, laughing and enjoying the music. I turned to Kevin and said: “You’ve got something special here.”