Driving the back roads into the Deep South’s dark heart

A Louisiana alligator making its way through the undergrowth and water.

A Louisiana alligator making its way through the undergrowth and water.

Through West Texas and into Louisiana–we were heading east again toward who knew what, frantic oblivion quite possibly.

We hopped off the main highway to take some smaller roads “for a change of scene.”

It was a very different America to the one you saw from the highway: boarded-up houses, rusted cars, overgrown vegetation, dilapidated diners, unused silos by the railway tracks and, despite lots and lots of churches, one didn’t get an abundant sense of salvation prevailing among the weeds and broken windows.

By sunset we retreated back to Interstate highway 10. We’d been thinking of pushing trough to Baton Rouge, but it was getting late and we ended up driving slowly through the streets of a little town called Breaux Bridge–known for its crawfish-emblazoned steel bridge over the Bayou Teche that announced the town as the “crawfish capital of the world”–looking for somewhere to stay.

We found a hulking building with a bed and breakfast sign outside and negotiated a cheaper price by taking the attic bedrooms from the large lady who ran it and never seemed to leave her chair.

Dinner comprised fried alligator listening to a Cajun band in a nearby restaurant, topped off by some pool and beers in a bar, while the locals eyed us and we eyed them eyeing us.

Next day, before we continued on our way to New Orleans, Pete was determined we take a swamp tour.

Having found a jetty and a boat with a guide, we got a taste of provincial politics when one of our fellow  passengers piped up how the president would get assassinated  sooner than later and that he had it coming, while another person grunted something in agreement.

I didn’t know whether I was more uncomfortable about the alligators we were off to find or the bigoted cretins in the boat with me. The alligators turned out to be very civil and the boat captain didn’t have to discharge the gun by his side.