Jackson, MS to New Orleans, LA
Day 6 March 23
Jackson, MS to New Orleans, LA
We had such a nice room in Jackson at a Courtyard Mariott, and we were only 2 ½ hours from New Orleans, so we decided to give ourselves a slow morning. I got up and went to the fitness room, then sat outside next to the pool in the strong late morning light. The water in the pool was the temperature of bathwater. I was the only one sitting out next to the pool. Mike caught up with his on-line classes and I got some internet time too. We finally got underway around 11:30 A.M. and drove into a superb sunny southern day, with the temperature a very pleasant 70F.
Mike said he heard a fish crow calling when we came out to our car. I heard a crow, but don’t know the fish crow’s call. Spotted our first palm tree on a boulevard. Mike wanted to take photos of the state capital, an impressive stone edifice encircled by great live oak trees and other southern species. We had passed an interesting looking restaurant on our way there – Chimneyville – and I suggested we try that for lunch. It looked to be a soul food focused place. Lots of people were in line, so we had a chance to look at the options on the board before we got up to the counter (cafeteria style). I chose the fried catfish (in batter), turnip greens, black eyed peas and cornbread. Mike ordered the beef brisket, black eyed peas and squash casserole. We also ordered a side of coleslaw. Neither of us had ever had the peas (Mike first asked for the beans because they did look like typical canned beans) – they were good, although we thought they needed some hot sauce. The greens were not to my liking – a strange aftertaste, the squash casserole was good, as well the catfish. Mike really enjoyed the beef too. I sampled the sweet ice tea, but had to add regular to cut the sweetness. This place was popular with both white and black folk, which leads me to comment that since arriving in the deep south, I have not noticed any difference in the interactions or relationships between the races than we see in Minnesota. It may be superficial, but everyone seems to be going about their lives cooperatively and respectfully. Those of us in the north I think, may still imagine the South as a place of separation and it isn’t, I’m happy to report. At the same time things aren’t perfect, as recent events in Florida have demonstrated dramatically.
We left Jackson, full and happy. We knew the afternoon was going to be a straight shot to New Orleans, and once again the sides of the highway were heavily forested until we got just north of the Big Easy and started to see water mixed with fields and forests. Then we were on an elevated highway for miles and miles, looking out at water that we couldn’t quite place on our map. Saw our first great egret slowly flapping over the water. Then the skyscrapers of the city below sea level began to appear. Our GPS did a pretty good job of leading us to the Holiday Inn, just near the Superdome, which we would describe as a giant tire wheel. I have to admit that it’s more interesting than the dome we have in Minneapolis, but still not what I’d call beautiful architecture.
Got checked in and had enough time to take a quick walk over to the French Quarter, just six blocks from our hotel. More on that later.
The Audubon training for volunteers from the Mississippi Flyway began with a dinner and presentation by the regional V.P. for this region – Chris Canfield. He is fairly new to Audubon, but spoke with passion and optimism for the causes Audubon represents. There is a return to an emphasis on birds and their habitat. We would also learn a great deal about the Restore Act which recently passed the Senate – a huge victory, but now that it’s in the house, it is being lost in the bipartisan mess. It will be a terrible loss for the Mississippi and Gulf if it does not pass. We encourage everyone to write to or call their representative and tell them to support this bill, which will do so much to restore that which was destroyed or badly injured by the BP oil spill. This part of our country has been slowly degrading as the river has been forcibly channeled. First Katrina and then the oil spill really stressed the entire system. It is a long way from Minnesota, but we are closely connected ecologically through our songbirds and waterfowl, especially our state bird – the loon.