Friday June 10, Hammond, LA

I crossed into Louisiana early this afternoon after sitting in construction traffic for what seemed like forever in Vidor, close to the border. The drive through Houston and Beaumont was pretty uneventful, and perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I swear the air felt different when I crossed the Sabine. One thing is different—I don’t think I’ll be needing the chapstick anymore. The air is heavy with water, and I’m reveling in it.

I sat in traffic in Baton Rouge—combine a traffic accident with a place where the highway goes from three lanes to two and you get a parking lot. It took about 45 minutes to go 2 miles, but once it cleared, I flew past the old familiar exits from that time when I would pick up my daughter on the weekends and return to Hammond—Denham Springs, Walker, Satsuma, Holden, Pumpkin Center, Baptist.

It seems appropriate that I should be returning to a hurricane. Arlene is in the gulf, and I’ll be racing her to Pensacola and beyond. After two years of weather that was positively boring if benign, and considering how many times I wished for some interesting weather while living in The City (as the Examiner still refers to it), it’s funny that instead of hauling ass from a hurricane, I find myself heading into one. I tell myself it’s just a baby, not even a real hurricane yet, but tell that to the people of Pensacola who have yet to fully recover from Ivan last year. I guess I’ll get to see just how much I miss the weather around here.

The most incredible part of the drive today is one I’ve done before, numerous times. It’s the Atchafalaya Freeway, a 38 mile stretch of I-10 that runs between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, that runs through the last remaining cypress swamp in the US. It’s a bridge with three or four exits over the span of the 38 miles, but there’s not much in the interior. It’s just beautiful swamp, leafy and green, and on the Lafayette end of it, cypress trees and their knees poking up out of the water. That section is called Henderson Swamp. The best part of it, I think, is that it’s damn near impossible to take pictures of it, because there’s literally nowhere to pull over and get out of traffic, no matter what you’re driving. I know, that sounds strange from someone who gets such joy out of photography, but there is something special about not benig able to capture a moment anywhere but in your memory.

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