Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

The End of The Road

I love the End Of The Road.   The spot where you can go no further.  EoR towns are always fascinating collections of people who can't simply get any further away from the rest of us, but still need to somehow be connected. 

LA-23 runs down into the Mississippi River delta from New Orleans, and I decided that since I was here, I should drive the 75 miles down it to the end town, a place on the map called Venice.  And since the round trip would be 150 miles and I'd end up back in New Orleans and only able to go a hundred miles or so further, I figured I should stay another night and see some of the city.  I found a room near the French Quarter and so I set off from my hotel on the outskirts of town and headed south on LA-23, figuring I'd amble down and eat lunch in Venice and turn around and come back and go to my hotel downtown.

This was quite an interesting road in many respects.  First of all, it's a divided four lane and made of concrete. It was built for considerable traffic.  Almost freeway standards, but very much older, and after I left the fringe of New Orleans, it was almost desolate.   This was mid morning on a Saturday and there was no traffic.  I'd drive for miles and see no other cars on the road.   I passed houses yes, and while many were abandoned (I'm guessing post Katrina disaster) and there were more than a few new mobile homes (FEMA trailers?), there were no people or cars on the road.  No people outside working in the yard.  No people sitting on porches, washing cars, playing in the yard, hanging laundry to dry.  No one.  No dogs running around.   No cats.  There were no visible people.  There had to be, there were cars in the driveways, the laws were mowed, the occupied houses neat and tidy.   If there were people, they were shut up inside out of the heat, which wasn't bad -- about 85, and not humid.  Occasionally I'd pass a car going the other way, but hardly ever.   I even passed a handful of what looked to be airport style long-term parking lots.  They had helipads, and I expect were where workers on the off-shore rigs parked and were flown out for their tours of duty.  But no people.

And there are abandoned places all over.  Gas stations, homes, buildings, and stores -- including this entire whole grocery store, and this gas station, complete with pumps.   These pumps pre-date Katrina and have been abandoned longer than that, so I'm not sure what's going on there.
It was very surreal, and in a way quite unnerving.  As you can see, here was this huge nice smooth road, four lanes with a median, and nobody on it, yet I could see people lived here -- the homes were lived in, cars in the driveway and all -- but not a sign of life.   And there was industry too.  Lots of oil and chemical plants -- steam rising from them, and machinery humming, cars in the lots, but not a sign of anyone working. And among it all, scattered along the highway, were these abandoned places.

I took this one while riding along at 60mph so it's blurry, but ahead of me you can see a rise for one of the bridges over a channel of the river.  It's kinda like approaching a roller coaster, going up and up and up -- a great view all around, and then heading down again.   These bridges are a highlight of this run because everything is so flat, that elevation gets you a fantastic view.
As I watch the miles roll down, I'm anticipating the End of The Road, and what kind of view or spot there might be to mark it.   I'm expecting something at Venice -- the town the map says is where the road ends.  And with a name like that too!  Well the imagination runs rampant.   A nice place to eat, a historic boardwalk, some old buildings.   But no.  Like everything on this road, it seems to just fade away.  The "town", if you can call it that, was nothing more than a cluster of refineries, boat yards, chemical plants, and that abandoned grocery store.  There was no place to eat, not even a convenience store.  And once again, not a single solitary soul.  There were cars, and I saw a few cars driving, but the only person I saw was a sad looking teen age girl walking up the road in shorts, a halter and flip flops, carrying a suitcase of Bud.   She came out of one of the driveways and walked down a side road.  That was it.

The road kept going though, and I followed it as far as I could.   It was rather pretty though, once one got past the junk of the refineries and what constituted a town.  On both sides of me were the river, with plenty of green grass and some trees -- some white Cranes flew away as the bike rumbled past.   The river was so wide you couldn't really call it a river.
And there was even a bit of water running across a low spot and I drove through it, splashing the bike with water from the Mississippi and the Gulf.  She's also dipped her toes in the Pacific at Ocean Shores, WA, and I splashed a cup of the Atlantic on her at Key West.  I had figured out by now there was not going to be anything to mark the end of this road -- not like the bollard at the end of US-1 in Key West.   And as I rolled up, there it was.  The end.   And appropriately it was signed "Dead End", and marked with some rather severe warnings about it being "Private" and not to trespass.  It ran for about 20 yards and then ended.  I could see a junky moored boat on one side, and the river on the other, and that was it.   Thus the end of the road.  Once again I'd come as far as I could go, and now it was time to turn around and head back.  This is as far away from Seattle as I'll come this trip.  On a map you can see it -- that far tip of Louisiana that juts out into the Gulf.  
Now I head for home.   There is a part of me that wants to follow the Mississippi all the way up to the head from this point -- somewhere in Minnesota.  Then I could turn left and ride home.  I'd miss Salt Lake and I know I'd catch hell for that, but I'm thinking about it. 

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