Posted on September 23, 2016
Baton Rouge, Louisiana- The Great American Road Trip
Louisiana has a special place in my heart. It is where I was born. More importantly, it is where my brothers and I spent time every year as children during summer vacation. We stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and played with our cousins making the best of memories. In all of the years we visited, we never made it to southern Louisiana. In the past few years, I have made it a priority to visit that area. It has become one of my favorite places in this part of the country. My cousin and her family moved there in the past few years and they welcomed us into their home in Baton Rouge.
Briefly here are a few highlights of the trip:
The swamp tour: It was a beautiful day when we went to the Atchafalya basin to take our boat trip into the swamp. We were met by a young tour guide from www.lastwildernesstours.com and the other passengers, who also happened to be on a road trip. With the weather being so warm, the only thing I feared was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I made sure that Bean and I were covered head to toe in our homemade mosquito repellent. We put on life jackets and we were ready. The guide told us to count to 3 and then he revved the engine and took off. I think I screamed! I didn’t expect a speed boat ride through the swamp! Once I got used to the speed, which really wasn’t that fast, I was able to relax and enjoy all of the wildlife that he pointed out. We saw so many varieties of birds, invasive plants and a few alligators. The most amazing site of all were the cypress trees. Adam explained that even the ones that we could see that may look only a hundred or so years old could be as many as five hundred or more years. They were so majestic and beautiful. I highly recommend a tour with this family owned tour company as they are genuine and care about the land and the area around it. They are involved in a project called the Atchafalaya Basin Keepers. It is much needed, especially when you realize the beauty of the area on one hand and the greed of the oil companies on the other…but that is another story.
Avery Island: Aunt Verna took us to Avery Island before we left the southern Louisiana area. She told us how my grandfather took all of the family down there from Shreveport so that they could see the natural science and history of Louisiana. He was a natural history teacher with six kids, I can only imagine what an adventure that turned out to be. What a beautiful magical place! Avery Island is the place where Tabasco sauce began. If you are a fan of Tabasco sauce, I would highly recommend a tour of this place. The original owner crafted the island into a place of great beauty. Of course there were alligators, which I never saw, but also an aviary, a Buddha on a hill in the Japanese garden, picnic areas, and acres of regal oak trees. It was an experience worth going back to Louisiana to see.
On the weekend we traveled up to Shreveport to see another cousin and her family. Bean had such a great time. She planted flowers, which Maria is still waiting to see bloom. She played with the super friendly Poodle puppy that followed Marie around like he was afraid to lose her. Maria and Bean blew bubbles, colored and road the carousel together. Bean had a blast. My favorite part of this leg of the trip was the food. We were headed out of the Real South and for some reason, something clicked inside of me, reminding me that I would not have this food for a long time. I started eating everything that was offered to me: Popeye’s chicken and biscuits, Southern Maid Donuts, red beans and rice, greens and hot water corn bread, grits and eggs and biscuits and gravy, peach cobbler, and more that I can’t even remember. I know that even though I was there a short time, I ate like I was there for months. It was so good and I have no regrets! It was finger lickin’ good!
The only occasion in Louisiana that caused me some concern was when we were travelling through the Baton Rouge area. It was at the same time as the gunman killed the three policemen. As my cousin Lauren and I were driving down the road, we notice the policemen had pulled over and surrounded two young African American males. While it isn’t unusual to see this, it was rather alarming that there were only 2 young men and maybe twenty police officers. It didn’t look good so we decided to lend our support to the young men by just being there and taking pictures, which we did. We didn’t stay that long as the cops started dispersing shortly thereafter. Once we got home, we turned on the television and discovered they were “persons of interest” in the shooting in Baton Rouge. They actually just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both were calm and behaving in a non threatening manner. It actually touched me how one young man was standing there, rocking from side to side and singing a song while he was in handcuffs. It would have broken my heart if I had heard he was shot When he clearly was behaving appropriately.
That was the one dark spot on our time in Louisiana. As I travel, I travel as an individual, a human, a single parent looking after her child. I don’t go outside thinking that I am a person of color who has to watch what I am doing so that I am not shot down. Unfortunately, while in Louisiana, all I could think of was that I was a female with brown skin and would I be treated differently even though I was just traveling through. It did weigh heavy on me, but over all, we had a lovely time in the South.
If you have been to Avery Island, on a swamp tour, tried Southern Maid Donuts or just enjoyed a drive through Louisiana, let me know about it in the comments below!