New Orleans, LA—The nine hours in the car today were not very fun. First came the late discovery that the drive from Nashville to New Orleans was going to be almost two hours longer than I thought. Next came the drive itself.
The weather was beautiful and Tennessee and northern Alabama were pleasant (or at least innocuous) enough to drive through. Once I was past Birmingham, though, I started noticing long stretches of I-59 densely lined with trees, which induced an unexpected claustrophobia. If driving through Ohio was like hiking through the desert, this was more like spelunking. At least with the former, you know you’re in the middle of nowhere. With the latter, you don’t know anything. And that can be somewhat disconcerting as the daylight is fading on your maiden voyage through sparsely populated areas of the deep south.
I was glad to put I-59 behind me, especially because it meant I was getting pretty close to New Orleans, but just as I started counting down the miles, those fateful words appeared: Road Closed. Detour. I hadn’t examined the map of my route very carefully, so when the poorly-marked detour took me and the guy tailgating me onto an endless bridge across what I now know was the massive Lake Pontchartrain, I couldn’t be certain I wasn’t going to end up in Cancún. Or Atlantis.
As it happened, I ended up in New Orleans, where tomorrow’s first full day without driving will be spent. And it turns out a very nice hotel room in the French Quarter is good medicine for a long and uneasy day on the road.